Community Sharing Life
Read the heartfelt contributions.
What does it mean to have heart?
As the principal of The Community School, the importance of ‘having heart’ is a foundational part of our culture. We designed our school with the commitment that we could create and maintain an environment where every person was free to be all of who they are. A safe and inviting school where our hearts are just as important as our minds.
These commitments are captured in our beliefs, beginning with the powerful statement that ‘Every individual has infinite worth.’ By holding this belief, we allow for the full expression of every student and staff member. Having infinite worth means we are supportive of each other’s growth and discovery. This requires having an open heart–relinquishing judgment and being curious about who we each are and how we belong in this community. Having an open heart means I share who I am and honor who you are. It means seeking to understand the other, creating acceptance of those who experience the world differently than me.
The OneHeart project started with an encounter, an idea, and a shared belief in the power of relationship. While we honor and support each other’s unique individuality, we also paradoxically hold the notion that we have so much in common. The constructs that can divide us — race, nationality, gender, age, religion, politics–fall away when we realize that our lives are entwined by our human connection. The OneHeart project is the embodiment of this truth–that we can break down the walls and barriers that create separateness and open our hearts to each other–with respect, and tenderness, and Love. Even at school. And I would say, especially at school. Children learn to trust, take risks, and thrive in an environment that is loving and accepting. I am so fortunate to be part of this community.
I am also incredibly grateful to the gift of the OneHeart Call, to have been invited to join Christina’s vision that is reaching so many people by connecting us through word, art, music, and dance. Through the most primal of all rhythms, our heartbeat. This is the universal language that brings us together — to appreciate both our uniqueness and our ‘one heart.’
When I was in my twenties...
When I was in my twenties that’s a time of life when there are so many things that are uncertain, what are you going to do for a career, where are you going to live and the thing that was really important to me or of a concern to me was when I meet somebody to marry. I kept getting a year older and I hadn’t met anybody, and I would pray about it and asked God to help me find the right person. And what it made me realize is that if I wasn’t happy being single I wouldn’t be happy being married. And that was just an illuminating thought and I took that and it changed the way I approached everything. I went about my life just being happy doing whatever came up, making plans and very soon I did meet my husband, not immediately but soon and as it turns out I am six years older than he is. So when I was twenty had I met him he would have not had is driver’s license, would I had met him when I was a senior in high school he would have been in sixth grade. So God has a plan and a reason, and I feel very much that he guided me through it. My husband and I are a great match. We work together every day, we are compatible and we have a very happy marriage. We have been married, I forgot how many years, over forty and it is wonderful.
I was born during World War II
I was born during World War II in Berlin and actually an uncle of my husband bombed at that time in Berlin. He was embarrassed to tell me that he had been bombing Berlin at the date when I was born, but I told him I said “Who started the war and it was the Germans fault, so I can not complain.” I grew up during the poor time, we children did not notice it that we were poor because everybody was poor, but we had a very good life. When I got older, Berlin was rebuilding and there was lots of work available. Anytime you wanted to make some money there was work available in the factories or in department stores and young people used that and made money there. I was fortunate that I was able to attend the highschool and was able to go to the University afterwards. The year that I graduated from highschool, that was 1961, is when the wall in East Berlin was built, and up to then we had been able to go into East Berlin, and we saw the different life that a communist country had versus the Western world. I have from that time always been very grateful to the Americans who lost so many lives during the war and who gave Berlin and Germany a new future. It bothers me very much that in Germany people seem to have forgotten that part and have no respect for this country.
So we lived in Berlin and up to 1961 we could go over into the East, we could even shop there, not that they had much to buy. The stores were usually quite empty and if something was available long lines of people would form at the stores and they would get into the line without even knowing what was being sold because they figured it was something that they could not normally get and when you went over there everything was kind of grey. You had to be very careful what you said. You could not say anything critical because there were so many people over there that would spy on each other, and you never knew whom you could trust. It was just so grey over there as if dark clouds were hanging over everything, and you were relieved when you got back into West Berlin where everything was colorful and lively and life was just good.
Looking back on the time after the War and the rebuilding of Berlin and of Germany, I realize how grateful we have to be to the Americans and the other Allies who fought for us to free us from Hitler’s government and to take us out of the War. I am grateful for so many people that died for that purpose, and I feel very much for the families who lost their fathers or brothers in the War. It makes me very sad when Germans do not realize that nowadays anymore and are so critical of the United States. I feel there is some gratefulness in order. Germany does owe a lot of gratefulness to the United States for their sacrifices that Germany benefitted from.
Then when I was about twenty-three or so, I met my husband when I had a small job at the army base. I met him there and we became friends and decided that I should come to the United States and get married and we did that. I lived for a month with his parents and then we got married and moved to Portland, Oregon, and I got pregnant immediately and that took care of my desire to continue the schooling that I had started in Berlin. That was always on my mind that I wanted to go back to school and when our son was maybe fifteen or so I went back to a Community College and took some classes. I worked hard and I did very well and later on I chose the subject of Biology because that interested me. I attended different Universities and Colleges, and I graduated in California at the University of California at Irvine. This made me feel very good that I finally had achieved my goal. Then we returned here to Spokane and I had trouble finding a job. At that time the Californians were not very welcomed here and the company where I worked it seemed they brought in all their relatives and friends before they let in any outsiders. I worked for a small company, I won’t mention the name for a few years and from there on got into a bigger company where I worked for the rest of my working life. I enjoyed the work, I worked in a laboratory. We tested pharmaceutical products before the FDA allowed to sell them, they had to go through procedures of testing to prove that they were functioning or that they were what they were supposed to be. So we were always actually under pressure, we worked hard but I worked with good people. I enjoyed the people that I worked with, and I enjoyed the work.
I am a firefighter by trade
I am a firefighter by trade and I work in Spokane Valley. We are having a pretty busy day, had a lot of calls and it was later at night. We got a call for an auto versus a pedestrian on Evergreen. This girl and her brother and brother’s friend were riding their bikes east to west across Evergreen, and this car hit the girl. She was probably ten or twelve years old. She was in pretty good shape for just being hit by a car but her bike was extremely broken. She had a few injuries across her body and a head injury, some injuries on her legs and arm, her arm was pretty messed up too. We were able to call her mom and get her mom down to where she got hit. The lady who hit her had pulled over as well and she was crying on the side of the road because she just hit this girl and it was dark. She was in a complete accident, unable to see this girl and connecting with her. The girl was not wearing a helmet either. The mom of the auto pedestrian victim when she got there she made sure her daughter was okay and then she actually went over. I was expecting to see an altercation between the two. The mom actually hugged the lady who hit her daughter. I thought that was pretty inspiring to see that this lady who just hit her daughter with a car and then the mom show up and be able to actually hug this lady, I thought that was a pretty powerful moment.
We generally see people get pretty upset with each other getting into a minor fender bender or anything like that. This lady just hit this twelve year old girl super hard with the car and the mom was able to go over there and hold the other lady and not yell at her. That showed a lot of character I think.
I actually started out in nursing after I left Mount Spokane High school, I went to WSU (Washington State University), actually I was in the army as a nurse, left for a little while came back went to SCC (Spokane Community College) for a little bit and ended up at Washington State doing nursing. When I came back from Afghanistan I was able to do an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) class at Spokane Community College and that kind of changed the course of everything after that. After I took that EMT course I knew I wanted to do Fire or Police. I chased both of them and ended up getting hired at Spokane Valley Fire Department in 2016. In Spokane most fire departments in this area anyways until you get to big-time fire departments like Seattle or Chicago or Detroit, all of us do EMS (Emergency Medical Service) as well, so we are EMT’s or Paramedics. I am on an ALS (Advanced Life Support) Paramedic Engine company, I have a Paramedic and two EMT’s and about eighty percent of what we do are medical calls.
Ann's Art by God's Love
I am a sexual and physical and spiritual abuse survivor
Hi, I am Alison Dyer and I am a sexual and physical and spiritual abuse survivor. I wanted to share my story with you in connection with the heartbeat because when you experience trauma you heart feels like its been shattered. Your body is no longer your own. If you suffered spiritual abuse you loose that connection with God, so it [my abuse] was in the Christian context, my abuser was my pastor, and I lost that connection with the church.
All my years of therapy brought me up to the IFS [Internal Family Systems]. I started therapy when I was 23 and it was the tailend of the sexual abuse with the pastor and I was really depressed and suicidal. And what I noticed throughout my years of healing and being in therapy especially the last five years working with an Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapist is that you actually do not loose your core self or that soul spirit of you, that part of you goes through life undamaged and for me that was a game changer.
So your world has been shattered, I remember telling my therapist when I was recounting my childhood abuse, I looked at my life and it looked like a bomb had gone off and I was in millions of pieces with no hope of coming back together.
Then in my thirties from my childhood abuse I had one memory, a huge expanse of wasted space, where I had no memory and then I had an end memory and I knew intuitively that something horrific had happened to me inbetween those two spaces of memory. So in my early thirties I believe it was divine guidance, I decided that I needed to report the pastor to the church. So I did, found out that there were twenty of us involved total throughout his ministry and as I was at the tailend of dealing with that I was overwhelmed with these feelings of shame and my body and my heart. I remember sitting one night on my couch and I could literally feel and hear a click in my brain, and I was flooded with my childhood memories. PTSD, you know for twenty, forty years.
Fast forward to a lot of other stuff that happened in my world, I moved to Spokane. My nephiew comimitted suicide. It put me back into therapy. The trauma therapist I was working with she moved to Sacramento, and my nextdoor neighbor was seeing my current therapist now for cranial sacral work and so I wanted to work with her just on my hip pain. I wasn’t going to deal with the emotional sexual abuse because in my mind I was done, been there done that didn’t want to touch it again.I said upfront to the therapist I am not going to work on sexual abuse, I just want to work on my hip. That lasted maybe three sessions and I dumpster dived into my abuse and it was the best thing I did for myself but for at least a year maybe more I had this part that I swear every session with her I like… that is the stupidest thing I ever heard of, I can’t believe we are doing this but its working, so I’m going to keep going, but this part of me that thought it was so stupid was one of my protector parts. So, I am grateful and grateful for the guidance. I have always felt that the people I needed to meet have always come into my life when I needed and I was ready to hear them. So I really can speak from authority when I can say this particular therapy is hands down the best I have used and I have been in therapy since my twenties, I am fifty-eight. So I have a lot of years of experience with therapy and reading different books, trying different ways of helping, and I have never felt like it was getting to the core of me because it wasn’t, it wasn’t accessing my Self energy so that I could go back
You go to the amygdala in your brain where all those memories are stored and if you do not go there you will not be able to truly heal because your brain has changed; when you have trauma it changes the chemistry in your brain, your brain is no longer the same. It is not unfixable, it’s not, but you have to go there and you use your imagination to access that. You don’t use your frontal cortex, the logical [part of brain] bless its little heart, but you have to go to your mammalian reptilien brain to deal with trauma and you can safely with Internal Family Systems heal. It is very safe.
So through years of hard work, through years of facing my demons, for getting help, I realized that I could put myself back together in a way that allowed my heart to actually be bigger, the fragmentation actually made it stronger and bigger and more open. I remember seeing this puzzle years ago where it had on one side a human body, this whole person and on the other side [of the puzzle] was the heart; so when you put the whole human back together, there was the heart all back together or you can put your heart back together [and] you flip the puzzle over and your whole body was back together. That image really struck me then and in thinking about what I wanted to share today with the heartbeat and the recordings that you make of hearts beating that really correlates with my experience with abuse and this notion that you loose the life that you had. Your heart literally feels like it is broken.
Also, what I wanted to share is the hope, the hope that you can put yourself back together and for me truly the greatest piece of that was through the IFS work and this understanding that I can have access to my self energy. I have access to that connection with the divine, I was able to get that back, that it was mine, I can heal myself, I can contact that part of me that was not broken, that was not damaged and that part of me can work with these other parts of me that experienced the abuse, not only mentally but in my body. Your body has its own story. Your body remembers everything and so to be able to reconnect including your heart, to be able to reconnect with that is phenomenal; and well, certainly grief. Certainly I have grieved the loss of my life from my childhood on, it was a huge loss for me. I am not minimizing it, I am not minimizing the hard work it takes and the devastation that it brings to a person but I do want to offer hope. Your heart does continue to beat. Your body can come back. You can come back home to yourself after you have been abused. It is possible.
Internal Family Systems
Internal Family Systems is actually a therapy modality that was brought together by Dr. Richard Schwartz in the eighties. He is a family therapist Ph.D. and in working with his highly traumatized clients he was not getting anywhere. They were acting out with cutting or addictive behaviors. There was no way he was connecting with those parts and the client couldn’t change that. So when he listened to them he started noticing that they were talking in parts, like… a part of me feels like I want to cut myself,… a part of me feels like I am incapable of doing anything, … a part of me feels like I am a super star. So when he started hearing those, and he started actually addressing those parts as their own person, showing curiosity, having compassion for those parts he was able to listen to those parts, those parts could tell their own story and they could heal.
And he also found out that we have what he calls the protector and the firefighters. Those are the parts of us that protect us from the exiles, those really little young parts of us that have been hurt. He realized if he could work and make a relationship and heal those protector parts of us, he could get to the exile part, the part that has been really wounded and then that part also could become unburdened and could come and live in the present.
When you access your self energy, that internal leader that you have, you can really on your own and with other people make that connection. You can literally become reconnected with yourself.
I loved it so much I’d been taken the [IFS] training to be a Level I IFS practitioner because I found it to be the most helpful and probably the only thing that has truly helped me feel like I am healed, and I am back home in my own body.
And more and more recently there has been this marriage of IFS and the somatic [trauma work]. In Richard Schwartz’s newest book, second edition of IFS has a whole chapter on bodywork.
That is something I have done a lot with my own therapist not only with my sexual abuse but I also had five surgeries on my hip and one on my shoulder from a car accident and the trauma in my body went through from that. Yes, your body holds.
You can listen into your body, if you are experiencing a trauma and when you listen in and you say where in your body do you feel the tension, where are you feeling the tightness, that is one way to access those parts because they live in your body. They show up in your body, but another thing that I found fascinating for myself is thay my hip is its part with its own story, so I can listen in to the hip that has been hurt with surgery or traumatic sexual abuse. I can listen to the body’s story and the body can actually release that energy that it stored. When you have experienced an abuse it leaves an energetic imprint in and on your body. So yes, you can use IFS to release that energy and to heal you body the same way that you do with your emotional and mental wounds. You can do the same with your body which is my passion.
You can also find several books Dr. Richard Schwartz wrote and other people have written that you can read if you want more information and if you want to start off kind of figuring it out on your own.
The IFS-Institute.com, you can type it in and go online. You can also find IFS trained therapists or IFS practitioners in your community and you can reach out to them for help.
Since this interview Allison successfully graduated from the IFS Institute as a IFS practitioner and now practices in Spokane.
I know I made the right decision
Amanda Avery, just recently I went back to school. I did banking for ten years, I did enjoy banking but it just was not my passion. It was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life and so I made a big change. I quit my job and went back to school. So now I am almost done. I will have my bachelors next year  for elementary education.
It has been great working with children and just all the support from our community. It was huge for me. I grew up in Coeur d’Alene and went to the schools there and so just even working with teachers that I had in elementary school or middle school they just have been great and so supportive. Working in their class rooms and just being there with the students it has been just a great change.
It was scary not working. I have never not worked in my entire life, so I am back in school and doing it all over again but it has been amazing. It was definitely a feeling, the company I was with was great but there were some changes happening that I wasn’t comfortable with which I didn’t agree with and so my husband knew that I was not happy. He just said ‘what would you like to do’ and I always wanted to be a teacher and so, ja, I made that next step. My husband has been so supportive and he is in school as well. We are constantly at home studying all of our schoolwork. It is busy but it’s definitely worth it.
The University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho has actually a satellite campus in Coeur d’Alene now. So I am able to take all those classes in Coeur d’Alene and they are about half and half, like right now I am taking seven classes and about five of them are in an actual classroom. Some of them are online and then I am also in a practicum. So I am at an elementary school, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays working with co-teaching with another teacher and seeing how her classroom management style is and getting comfortable with it and then just meeting more people and teachers and adding to that portfolio. It is a four year program. I already had my two years that they took from ten years ago and they counted all those credits, so that was nice and so it was just another two year program.
I chose elementary, my endorsement is K through 12. I love Kindergarten through fifth grade so I think that’s where I want to be. Just every day working with the children and hearing their stories and just being a part of their life in that positvie way that’s exactly where I wanted to beI know I made the right decision, a beautiful experience. I don’t regret it for a second.
So every semester we are in a practicum. Every semester I can choose a different school or if I have a particular teacher that I would like to shadow and so going with them and just spending as much time as possible with them and just learning from them. I will do my student teaching next semester, so I will be in a classroom Monday through Friday and then hopefully start my own classroom.
I would like to stay in the Coeur d’Alene school district. There is not one school that I particularly have to be at but I have a couple in mind. It is about you have to work with a team that you get along with and that you agree with the principals, you know the way that they design it and the way they run the school and so I think that is huge. I have been at quite a few different schools where they all have been so welcoming and helpful. We will see where I end up.
In our school district we do have a couple of elementary schools that are magnet schools [public schools with specialized courses or curricula and attending them is voluntary]. They do focus on either science or math. We do have one school that is focused on art and it is primarily donations from the parents, the PTA (Parent Teacher Association) and the community. A lot of local businesses donate funds so they can buy art supplies and dance, and theater and all the movements that are along with that. I think it would be great if more schools focused more on not just one thing necessarily but bringing in the arts to all of the schools. There is another school that is like an outdoor research type of thing and they do a lot of art with nature and learning with math and science. So they focus on the World Arts more often than like theater or music.
I think it is harder on us teachers because we are focused so much on our state tests and standardized tests, so we are constantly teaching to make sure that we are meeting our common core standards which are math and literacy. I think it would be really important to try to incorporate more of the arts with math and literacy instead of just teaching to the book and like social studies now is not as important. We can easily add art with social studies. I think it would be great for children to do plays and reenact. Social studies would be a great way to bring in some of the arts; music would be awesome.
Life is kind of interesting
I am Deborah and life is kind of interesting in that in the middle of chaos or in the middle of when you think things are very horrible if you slow down you and you realize that undoubtably there are people who have things worse than you do, whether it is medical, or home or finances.
I think if you take a breath and step back that you would come to realize quite quickly that you do not have to look far because there are a lot of people who do without many many things and who are very very ill and some of them have no answers to why they are ill. So that’s even more catastrophic then you know someone who is ill and they know the answer. It adds this level of uncertainty when people don’t know why they are ill and saddly there are very many people out there that we can’t figure out why they are ill. And so I think when people are struck with illness they have all this negative why me? What happened? What did I do wrong? How could this happen to me? The reality of it is, I think that things happen for a reason. I think there is a message in most things that happen to us and we get blinded by the burden of what is happening so that we are then unable to see what’s the story.
We get that way I feel because we take it just right to the end of our nose so to speak, and we don’t pick our head up and say ‘well wait, you know there are so many people out there that have things so much worse, let me see what I can do with what I have, even though what I have isn’t ideal’.
It’s interesting how life carries us to different places and to see different people and to do different things and to learn different things and to my point previously about how we don’t look at the next thing maybe the thing that’s happening now is preparing us for something that is happening later. I started out my career in critical care medicine, in pulminary and cardiac critical care actually.
So interestingly, I thought I would do that for my whole life, I loved it. And then things changed in the way the administration of the place changed, and I wasn’t loving it anymore; I thought it was dangerous to the very people that I wanted to care for. So I left and went back to school and then got advanced degrees so that now I can try to help people prevent needing to be in the hospital and that was what drove me to actually do that because I felt like I was a daylight and a dollar shorter, I am putting all these people back together again, but really, how about if someone works harder at preventing them from being here, so that’s why I turned to receiving advanced degrees.
Then I did family practice for quite a little while but I tend to be obsessive in some ways and so the family practice didn’t feel like I had enough in certain areas so then I did several different specialty areas at the same time. As that evolved and I decided that I really liked the concentration in one area because of how things work, it is easier to nail down when you are focused on more of a limited thing. Well low and behold then it came to my attention that I didn’t really love medicine. I didn’t love pharmaceuticals, that’s what I didn’t love. I loved the act of trying to keep people healthy but when it came to ordering things it just made me very uncomfortable. Isn’t there another way, isn’t there a more natural way to do things; and so as I moved further on I had the opportunity to work in pulminary medicine and that was linked with sleep medicine and that’s how things unfolded the very best they could have for me, of course divine intervention.
Where I work now although I do prescribe medicines sometimes, generally at that point people are critically ill and they are passed the point of me doing anything that might be more natural and preventative at that point.
Sleepmedicine, sleepmedicine is so amazing because we don’t give people or people don’t give sleep actually the credit it deserves. Everyone thinks they can do without sleep and I will just short myself on sleep and the ramifications of which are so huge and guess what, there’s no medicines, just help people learn how to sleep and get them to tune things out and turn things off and have a quiet mind and be focused and get some time outside and really make your mind still for a while and guess what, then sleep is a lot easier for you and it is a lot more beneficial to you and there is not a medicine in the world that can compete with sleep.
Interestingly what I have found for me, the love of medicine now has come to a place where I can feel good about it. I personally can blend some other avenues of prevention using functional medicine, ayurvedic medicine, all things that can be preventative like meditation and acupuncture. I recommend many of those things all the time to both my pulmonary patients and my sleep patients because they are good and they will help people find some peace even though they may be ill.
The four directions leading me home
With me in the center, to never fell alone
The ancestors guiding me and leading the way
A path less traveled by those who stray
The cycle of past trauma ends with me
To not pass it on to my children, so that they can be free
Four chambers corresponding
to the four directions
Four valves to carry the prayers
located in the center of the human body
The seat of emotion guides us
throughout our entire lives
Whether it’s joy or sorrow
our heart holds steadily
Expanding and contracting,
making more room to love at
an expansive level
Beating with intention,
aligning to the rhythm,
The drum beat of Mother Earth
taking shape in nature,
showing compassion in human form
We are all aware she is powerful
She has the ability to destroy and create
So why do we neglect her suffering
Offering so little reciprocity
will seal our fate
She is our first Mother and without her
We wouldn’t even exist
Truth is she can survive without us
A universal call to action
is what we continue to resist
Climate change is increasing rapidly
With alarming signs and warnings
we can no longer ignore
The time is now to stand up for her
The light and the dark forces
of the universe are at war
That kid’s all heart. He needs to toughen up.
To “have a heart” typically means one is kind and sympathetic. It also might describe someone with the will, determination or courage to accomplish something difficult. Some coaches like to say their most successful athletes “have heart” because they are dedicated to their sport.
But for many boys and young men in various parts of American culture, “having heart” is actually a negative trait that draws criticism, attracts bullying, and can even threaten a child’s safety.
When I was growing up, I was the kind of kid that people described as “all heart.” Well, at least that’s the kindest way I heard it said.
The kid I was
I grew up in rural Western Kansas in the 1970’s, where it wasn’t okay for a boy to be sensitive, emotional, empathetic and sweet. I figured out at an extremely early age that I was different, and part of that difference would eventually emerge, in part, because I was gay. Like most gay kids, I was a little gay boy long before I grew into my sexuality, and that difference put me at risk – emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and of course physically.
I was empathetic and emotional. I was very intellectual, a reader, a reflective thinker and extremely creative. As the baby of the family, I was also fun, playful and sweet. At home and in public, I was often described as “a sensitive boy.”
On the outside, I probably always seemed to be having fun. In my internal world, I was horrified by so much of the suffering and cruelty I saw and sensed all around me. I was acutely aware of injustice and I could sniff out another person’s emotional pain in an instant. As soon as I could talk, other people’s sadness and suffering was part of my vocabulary.
I strictly avoided people I sensed were mean, cruel and intolerant, but I sought out people I thought might need some encouragement, a kind word or some cheering up – and always I tried to make their day a bit brighter. Actually, I still do.
I loved nature and the freedom of being outdoors. I loved animals — from cute pets to livestock — and I would get wildly distressed about cruelty anyone might show toward any animal. In fact, cruelty of all sorts was horrifying, mystifying and heartbreaking to me.
Thanks to my parents’ and grandparents’ example, as well as a few of the more compassionate teachings from our conservative church, I was always gentle and patient with other kids, animals and adults. But there was an innate programming that arose from deep inside my individual self – part of my built-in operating system – that guided me to be more or less obsessed with kindness and being helpful.
A lot of the time, my heart was filled with love and excitement for the world, just as any child should be! But I was also living in the shadow of some pretty big, scary stuff that made my overall childhood far less idyllic than it seemed on the surface.
Good Boys are Tough
There are so many examples of me chafing at the ill-fitting expectations that came with my boyhood… One of the earliest I recall arose because I liked to crawl around in the yard as a toddler and I would quickly wear through the knees of my little jeans. I preferred jeans because my legs were so skinny and I didn’t like people teasing me for having little “bird legs.” In the very early 1970’s, my exasperated mother bought some “ToughSkins” jeans for me. ToughSkins were these jeans from Sears that had reinforced patches inside the knees so they would resist wearing through & developing holes. This was a great idea, and I loved the notion that I wouldn’t have to feel so guilty about ruining my clothes. I also didn’t have to worry so much about skinning my knees as easily. But I also remember cringing at the idea of wearing pants that were for “tough boys.” From a very early age, I was super uncomfortable with this kind of traditionally boy-ish identity.
In rural America, honestly both then and now, there are really only two gender archetypes – one for boys and one for girls, and expectations remain pretty rigid. Unfortunately for me, my nature was never going to fit into the mold of an idyllic “tough boy.” In fact, when I was young, comparing me to a more masculine, hetero-normative boy actually frightened and upset me. I felt certain that this kind of essential shortcoming was disappointing for my family and would actually diminish their love for me. I knew that being a “different kind of boy” eroded my friendships and put me at risk of being an outcast. At home, at church and in social situations, those embarrassing comparisons happened regularly throughout my early developmental years.
At church I was at risk of going to hell. At school I was at risk of becoming a target for intimidation and violence. In the community I was at risk of embarrassing my family and being publicly ridiculed. At home I believed I was at risk of being rejected for being unacceptably different, and even perhaps cast out of the family if they found out how different I truly was.
Being a disappointment to others is one of my earliest memories of heartbreak. It was devastating to feel so often that I was on the verge of losing all the love in my life because I was so far outside the norm.
My Father – god bless him – was a naturally manly guy. Very tall, athletic, really handsome and blessed with a big, open and very likeable personality. He was authoritative, confident, strong, charismatic and gregarious. He was an excellent example of what a man should be.
And I constantly tried to emulate his example. But I wasn’t the son you would expect from such a manly man.
He was never a macho jerk, but he was raised in the 1950s so his programming sure hadn’t accounted for having a son like me. He rarely said anything disparaging, but deep down I just knew I had to be a big disappointment to him. I was certain he wanted me to be more like the son he would have imagined and hoped for – what father doesn’t want a son who emulates his most lauded qualities?
Now, my dad was actually an incredibly good father, and as the years have come and gone I have realized just how generous, kind and loving he is. He’s also grown and adapted to the world we live in today with a very open heart, and today I see him as my greatest champion. One of the few regrets I have in life is that my Dad didn’t get the pleasure of having “the ideal son” – the boy he could play catch with, the star athlete who won games and earned scholarships, the celebrated soldier, perhaps – but then, I wouldn’t change a thing if it would change or diminish the relationship I have with him today. In fact, as an adult, my family holds the lion’s share of my heart.
As a boy, I did hear people remark that I was “all heart” – but it was usually paired with a disapproving or even threatening declaration that made it clear that this kind of sensitivity was a bad thing. People would warn me that I’d wind up being physically hurt because I was “soft” or “girly.”
I knew I wasn’t a “good” boy because I wasn’t boyish enough. I wasn’t necessarily bad, but I knew I wasn’t what I was supposed to be, and try as I might, I couldn’t be that. By being too effeminate, I was sure I was making it very difficult for my parents and family to love me.
I remember hearing an older man at church tell my father, “That boy’s a real sissy. He needs to toughen up. You might just have to beat it out of him.” Because it was the 70’s, spanking and “the belt” we’re occasionally part of the disciplinary code at home, so I took that threat of violence very seriously.
Butch it up.
That interaction with that “Godly man” at church was one of the events that set me on a quest to present – at all times – what I thought might be a more masculine version of myself. Of course, I was a child. I would often get lost in imagination and play, and I’d let my guard down. It never took long for something – or someone – to remind me that “my sissy side” was showing. Cue: shame, embarrassment and often tears of self-loathing.
I can think of 3 occasions when grown men (men who weren’t my family) actually slapped me across the face and told me to “man up” or “stop acting like a sissy.” One interesting aspect of those experiences is that all 3 of them had an immediate look of surprise on their face after they’d hit me, like they didn’t know what had come over them. But as they backed away, they let me know it was MY OWN fault, and they admonished me for not being boyish or masculine enough – at least not enough for their liking. (I’ve often wondered what other feelings those men may have been struggling with in those instances… because I was also the recipient of unwanted sexual advances from several men and older boys as I was growing up. Some of those encounters were eerily similar…) All of these experiences put more fear in my heart than I knew what to do with for decades.
I also recall grownups scoffing at what a “sissy” I was, and a couple of older WWII vets often called me “Dolly.” I’m not aware of the intent behind that particular pet name, but in one instance I felt it was an affectionate moniker, and in the other I definitely did not.) Occasionally adults would wonder aloud to one another – in my presence – how my father must feel about having such a girly, sissy son. That kind of thoughtless criticism has an immeasurable impact on a child.
So yes, being a little “sissy boy” did put me at risk of verbal humiliation from adults, but in social settings it definitely put me at risk of physical harm from other boys – especially boys who were slightly older. Typically, with boys my own age, I had time to establish rapport in classes or in group events, but older boys only saw me as a target – and they easily spotted me in the crowd and singled me out. So boys, for the most part, just weren’t my thing.
Partly because I had an older sister whose friends were fun and quick to include me — and defend me — and because there were a lot of girls in my neighborhood, and they thought I was wonderful fun to play with, I began very early to feel much safer with girls. Instinctively, I built most of my childhood social circle around the company of girls. Boys were too unpredictable, and their interests just weren’t at all aligned with mine.
You know, for all our sophistication and comforts, the modern world really isn’t so different from life in the jungle or on the savannah. By that, I mean that I learned quickly that my world was fraught with danger and had great potential for many kinds of harm. But also, kids are resourceful and adapt to stimuli – both positive and negative. I learned quickly that there were safe places & safe people. Naturally, I was drawn to situations and relationships that helped me feel safe.
Also, like most children, I equated feeling safe with feeling loved. I know it would break my parents’ hearts to hear this now, but because my childhood home life was rooted in fairly strict discipline and my family unit was controlled by fundamentalist Christian dogma, I often found myself questioning the degree to which I was actually safe and loved at home. Discipline can mold a child, but it can also break a child and cause trauma. Rigid dogma can undermine a child’s healthy development and pervert their sense of self.
Without doubt, I now know my parents and family loved me, but my childhood memories are all tinged with a constant uncertainty about familial love and acceptance – particularly because I wasn’t a masculine boy. It was the fundamental “problem” of my childhood.
Like nearly all parents at that time, spanking and “the belt” were punishments that came quick and forcefully if we got out of line. I was often told that if I didn’t like the rules, I was welcome to find somewhere else to live. If I didn’t like the food my mother prepared, I was welcome to find someone else to feed, dress and house me. If I didn’t do my chores or wear my hair as my parents liked, I was threatened with being sent to military school. This is just how parenting was DONE in the ‘70s.
And I had no reason to doubt these warnings. I accepted these threats as facts, and it led me to feel I could be ejected from the family unit for just about any infraction. I spent countless hours trying to sort out some kind of plan for what I’d do when I’d eventually get kicked out of the house for displeasing my parents.
So, yes, there was often a feeling of inevitable dread in my heart that was driven in particular by a frightening and constant awareness of my own unacceptable identity.
For years I tried to compensate for the fact that I wasn’t “naturally” macho, or dominant, or “tough-enough.” I worked hard, in front of the mirror, and observing my own shadow, trying to “butch up” my mannerisms. I sent off for the Charles Atlas body-building plan advertised in the back of a comic book. I was looking for ways to safely “pass” in the hetero-normative world. Masculinity became a kind of Drag I was performing each day, and although I was never gonna fool everybody, I was determined to get by and thrive in a frequently hostile & dangerous environment.
I guess I was lucky to realize very early that there was something more than just my sissy nature that put me at risk of violence and rejection.
When I was five, I joined an older neighbor girl and an older neighbor boy as they looked at a Playgirl and Playboy magazine, respectively. The boy asked me: “which do you like better, the naked women or the men?” It was easy to answer, because I knew exactly what looked good to me. “Oh, the men’s bodies, definitely!” That boy jumped to his feet and spun to face me, shouting “Oh my god, that means you’re a fag!”
But that girl was quick. She shot back, “Oh leave him alone. He’s way too young to know about that. It doesn’t mean anything. How could he possibly know what he likes?” I loved her for standing up for me so forcefully (and I still do), but I knew in that instant that there was something fundamentally wrong with me, and it was something I was going to have to hide from everyone if I was going to survive.
(Interestingly, that boy would soon begin grooming me for sexual encounters that, while interesting, validating and exciting on a certain level, I was entirely too young to process. He would not be alone in such pursuits. Until recently I would have indicated that these experiences were likely just a natural part of any young boy’s sexual awakening, but I actually suspect these experiences may have occurred many years prematurely. This is a fact that only now in my 50s am I beginning to process.)
Still, I cannot deny that I was incredibly fortunate as a child, despite any hardships or challenges I faced. I was part of a loving and secure family unit. We were prosperous enough that all my basic needs were more than met and I was afforded privilege, access, care, education and advantages that most children simply are not.
Many of the advantages I enjoyed were innate, built right into my operating system. I was tremendously lucky that my childhood social skills translated into highly effective survival skills. I quickly learned how to establish rapport, how to build alliances and make people feel good about themselves so they didn’t feel the need to make me feel bad about myself. I intuitively understood a lot of the interpersonal dynamics that would allow me to easily forge even unlikely friendships, which created forms of “social insurance” that helped maintain a kind of détente, even with potential bullies and adversaries. Over the years, I have learned to leverage those skills that compensated for what I saw back then as shortcomings. Those strategies and adaptations have helped me create success in business and in my adult life.
Eventually, in my later childhood, I was actually somewhat successful in limiting the expression of some of my more feminine qualities… I got better at “butching it up” to create a safer space in which to exist and hopefully thrive. As I conformed in that way, I both gained and lost. But my heart remained intact and I was eventually able to be open enough to find, give & receive love.
Just as importantly, I have learned to love those formerly disowned and unwelcome parts of myself. I no longer try to hide my gentle, fun and sensitive nature. As the world has changed, I’m still a little shocked to find that these qualities are now celebrated and welcomed in men by many, many people.
Today, I have mixed feelings about the fact that I worked so hard – and was somewhat successful at – suppressing my more effeminate qualities. I’m certain that if I hadn’t, I would likely not have survived to middle age, and I probably would never have achieved the life I enjoy today. In a way, I gave myself a bit of “personality plastic surgery,” that made it easier to navigate a dangerous world. But like all Queer people, I felt constant fear and vulnerability, and I gave up a lot in order to survive.
Let’s not forget that as recently as 5 or 6 years ago, the public diminishment and vilification of all gay people was commonplace. We had to listen to the most vile, devaluing, threatening and hateful rhetoric on the street, in everyday conversation and even on the broadcast news, as if the age-old fearmongering and lies about us were unassailable truths.
So there was a very real need for strategies and tactics that kept us safe. It was sensible and essential that we push aspects of ourselves down whenever and wherever we could. We hid, we lied, we pretended and we did what we had to do to survive.
Many people still refuse to see that those social & professional circumstances were horrific and deadly for many of us, and however noble or godly their intentions, they were perpetrating psychological warfare against people who were no threat to them or their way of life.
I mean, in what way has my marriage diminished anyone else’s marriage since it became legal? How has my relationship done anything but benefit the community, my family, and humanity as a whole? How does me – and others like me – living our lives more fully and openly, joyfully and positively, with open and full hearts, do anything but benefit the common good?
Yeah, you may want to unfurl of the flag cue some John Phillips Souza here, but honestly so much toxicity has been washed away with the light of truth and the advancement of freedom.
I can see now that when I was investing so much energy in hiding, suppressing and disowning so much of myself, I never felt authentic. I never got to know who I really am, and I promise you that kind of distortion affects your life in incredibly unhealthy ways.
Bit by bit, year by year, my heart was corroding, hardening, blackening and being further walled-off. Every time a situation made me hold my wrists stiffer, lower my voice and assume the “man stance,” my authentic self was withering a bit more.
So it came as a very welcome – but also wholly unexpected and totally disorienting – shock when American laws and social norms so swiftly changed to decriminalize gayness and legalize our existence and relationships. It is still taking many of us a long time to unpack all the layers of social and individual meaning as we emerge from a lifetime of hiding and suppression. So many Queer Americans are still learning what it means to us personally to live in a world where we are no longer outlawed. We are still finding new ways to reintegrate pieces of ourselves and own what has been, for so long, disowned.
It’s so interesting that as I began to accept more aspects of myself and fully embrace who I am, the world was simultaneously opening up and embracing people like me. For many gay and lesbian people today, the world looks unimaginably improved. Many, many people still struggle, live in fear and face horrible discrimination, persecution, and even risk death by being a sissy, by acknowledging their sexual and gender “difference.”
But on my path, on my journey, I have found a life that accepts, embraces and fully integrates my identity as a gay man with lots of co-existing masculine and feminine traits. I have found that I actually possess plenty of toughness, that I am appropriately competitive, aggressive and dominant in ways that serve my needs, while still embodying all the compassion, sensitivity and heart that comes naturally to me.
I no longer worry about coming off as “manly,” but I’m much more comfortable with my masculinity – and I’m also increasingly accepting of and comfortable with my femininity. I have discovered that when I’m just myself, I actually like my own company and I feel far more joy than I could have possibly felt when presenting a conjured façade.
My husband and I have traveled back to my little hometown to isolate from this pandemic as best we can. While we have been here, I have had time to digest a lot of the pivotal and formative experiences I’m referencing here — experiences that built the foundation upon which my whole life has been constructed.
When Christina asked me many months ago if I wanted to participate in this project and start thinking about what it means to have heart – to consider more deeply the ways that “heart” affects and manifests the world around us – I had no idea what a deeply personal journey that would become.
As Christina described back then her vision for a visual, and tactile, and auditory song celebrating One Heart, I instantly recalled that phrase I heard in my childhood: “That kid has a lot of heart.” At first, I shuddered to recall some of those feelings that were attached to that memory, and several times I’ve considered declining the offer – it just felt sometimes like I was being invited to tiptoe into a minefield. But I just can’t say no to anyone working to make the world a better, more beautiful place! So here we are.
For several months now I have been peeling back layers of my own personal history and thinking about the delicate and finely-detailed ways the tapestry of my personal narrative has been stitched and woven together. These questions have been lingering and percolating, almost haunting the back of my mind for weeks and weeks. Particularly since I arrived here this spring, back at home, I have been challenged daily to confront uncomfortable and upsetting memories and consider aspects of my origin story that all along I’ve been all too happy to leave buried.
As I’ve examined many of these challenging, uncomfortable and even occasionally traumatic experiences, it has all been cast in a new light with the backdrop of a global pandemic upending the world economy and, sadly, already ending the lives of a few friends and even family members.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has added some rather dramatic perspective to the past that I could never have seen without all this grief and uncertainty.
The surprising result has been an odd sense of peace and acceptance, and a feeling of re-integration of many long-disowned aspects of myself. I literally feel that my heart is more whole – more whole than it has been probably since childhood.
I honestly feel that, by taking the time to honor and embrace the skinny, frightened, sissy-boy of my youth, I have found a new way to connect more fully with the man I am now, and the one heart all of humanity shares. Far too many of us live our lives completely disconnected from our own hearts – and the universal heart.
I hope this project helps and inspires a few more people to explore, nurture and possibly even heal their own heart journey. I also hope that everyone who experiences any aspect of this remarkable project, regardless of their age, circumstance, or history, has the opportunity to feel the sun dawning on their own heart, just as I have.
My name is Dustin Daugherty. My pronouns are He/Him/His. I am a 50 year old gay cis male professional, who has lived in Spokane, WA for 25 years, and was born and raised in Russell, KS. I’ve been very happily married to a South African man named Raef Baard for 18 years. Neither of us is macho. We are both well adjusted, successful and happy in our lives.
Growing up in Minnesota
I am Evelyn Egland. I grew up on a farm in rural Minnesota and went to a one room school. Our farm was one and a half mile from school, and we walked unless it was raining or snowing. I started first grade at the age of five because we did not have Kindergarten. I was the only person in my class. There were only eight to ten children in the school. The older children often helped the younger ones. In winter when it was cold my mother had us wear long underwear and long stockings. I did not like the long underwear but it kept my legs warm. There was an old empty house on the way to school. My sister Leona and I would stop here, take off our long underwear and then continue on our way. And when we walked back home after the school day we would stop at the old house and put the underwear back on. Our parents never knew that we did not wear the underwear at school. Saturdays my sister and I were often joined by some of the neighbor kids and we got our sleds and slide downhill.
We didn’t have a telephone until I was sixteen. In those days about 1900 to 1940 the telephones in rural area were all party lines. Anyone at that time could listen to the conversation of others in those times. You could not call out if someone else was using the phone. Doctors made house calls and would even drive to the rural areas if needed. I had a brother Clarence who would have been five years older than me. When he was a baby he became very ill. My father tried to call the doctor. There were two ladies talking on the phone. He explained to them that the baby was sick but they refused to hang up the phone. He needed to call the doctor but the two ladies refused to let him. After nearly an hour the ladies hung up their phones but it was too late. The baby died. My father ripped the phone from the wall, and we didn’t have a phone until twenty years after that. I am ninety now and it is still amazing to me to see so many people with their own cell phones. Technology has really changed the world.
To be posted soon
Irmi Kleih and husband Gerhard
It is Easy to Look Away
By the Grace of God
When They Had Left
It Wasn’t What I Thought
The Way of Happiness
Eine Fotografie Von Meiner Mutter “Photograph of My Mother”
I am a marriage and family therapist.
My name is Jack Stell. I live in Spokane Valley and I am a marriage and family therapist.
I’d like to share with you some things about my life that have taught me so much about how I interact with other people. My story, my life story has helped me to better understand other people’s life story as I have gone along. So I’d like to share some of that with you.
I was born to a mother and father who had very very difficult lives as they were growing up and today we would say that they were probably pretty seriously mentally ill. When I was born for about the first of five to ten years of my life I lived in a very violent unpredictable family environment where I was pretty much beaten by my dad every day which made it very difficult for me to function in a positive way outside of the house. I started developing a police record when I was nine years old for shop lifting and because the abuse at home got more and more difficult so did my acting out. So I started hanging out with people that were like me having difficult family lives.
I progressed then into things like auto theft and had quite a police record. The court decided finally and told my parents either they find a place for me or they were going to put me in the state reform school in Beaumont, in Richmond, Virginia. So my mom found a couple in Pennsylvania, a young couple that decided to give me a chance for that summer, and I owe them a lot for that. And from there I went to a place called Cal Farley’s Boys ranch in Texas for about two years. It also was very violent, but it was predictably violent where at home it was not. I stayed there for two and a half years developed a kidney disease that almost killed me and I was transferred back home again and shortly thereafter the court put me in a place called Fairfax House which is a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed boys. All of these points that I am sharing with you are going to be tied together by a concept at the end of what I am sharing. So, after I was a boy at Fairfax House, I was psychiatrically hospitalized and had what back then it is called electro shock therapy for forty sessions, basically it was like doing a reformating of a harddrive on a computer. It took me a year to learn how to talk again, and so I have the distinction of having in my high school career three years of the ninth grade, skipped the tenth, one of the eleventh and two of the twelth but I did graduate.
After I got out of Elba hospital I spent what I called my four years, the four lost years and during the lost years I did a number of different jobs like being a leaf raker for the county, yellow cab driver, a number of different things until finally through an amazing series of events I was accused of a crime that I did not commit and I was sentenced to a year in prison and I spent five months of that year and got out on good behavior. That’s when my life really changed dramatically because one of the ministers that came to do therapy in the jail and I got to know each other and when I got out he hooked me up with a way to get into college. So I got into college in early 1972 and in 1974 ran out of money to stay in college.
I got married and we moved back to the Washington DC area where I came from. I am not sure why things started going as well as they did for me then but I think the one thing that remained with me constantly was the feeling of hope. I did not know how or why things were going to change I just knew that they would and I had faith that they would change. I spent six months as a laborer working on a concrete highrise site when there was a strike that shut it down and I said I got to do something to keep food on the table and a roof over my head for myself and for my wife.
I looked around and decided to join the military and took the entrance test and I almost aced it. I could not go into what was then the nuclear power program because of my police record but I was able to get into the next tier of assignments as an advanced electronics technician and at that time navy electronics training was the best in the world. So I went to bootcamp and many many stories from bootcamp that were amazing for me but it was a very positive experience going on to my advanced training and then finally having an opportunity to become a person who was selected for the US Navy Submarine service. It was like I went through the eye of a needle to get in there given my past record but I did well. I served on four US Navy Submarines. I stayed in the Navy for twelve years and after I got out I spent the next eighteen years working in intelligence. I worked in almost every type of inelligence that there was at the time, communications intelligence, signal intelligence, image intelligence, the rocket launch signature intelligence, the only one I did not work in was human intelligence or what they called human. When I was working for eighteen years it was not a pleasant experience because there was a lot of infighting, it was a very toxic place to work.
One night when I was in therapy I made the decision to get out of that field and go into the marriage and family therapy field. I have been in the marriage and family therapy field now for almost eigtheen years and its not a job for me, it is not even a passion for me, it is who I am, it is part of my identity. So I told you that I would tie this together in a way. In the first semester of my marriage and family therapy masters program I was doing a project where I was to go back and find people in my life that were meaningful to me in my life journey. So I went back and I found now this would have been in 2004 and I went back and found the psychiatrist that I was treated by with the electric shock therapy. He was practicing in the same physical office as he was when I saw him in 1968. It was an interesting meeting because I had to pay as if I was a client and I went in and he did not know that I was coming in so I took my wife Kathleen in with me. He was sitting behind the same desk that he sat in forty some years before, and I reached my hand over to greet him and he pulled back because I did not realize at the time that he deals with some very very severely psychotic clients and I can understand why he was like that but I sat down and told him in a thumblike nail sketch of what I have just told you and I told him, I said I remember that when I was in group therapy with you, that you said I could count on fingers on one hand the number of people who have came back and thanked me and I said I want to be one of those people and he leaned back and he said: You know, I can still count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who have come back and thanked me. And so he leaned back and he closed his book because he was going to be taking notes as if he was going to be treating me but he realized this was not a therapy session and he said, you know about fifteen years ago I had an operation on my liver and I lost about 23 pints of blood during that operation and almost died. He said I woke up that night and saw the doctor sitting at the bottom of my bed watching over me. He said I have always thought I should go back and thank him and now I am. So I moved that psychiatrist to go back and thank that doctor for what he had done. It was like paying it forward.
As I started going deeper and deeper into this assignment that I had, I decided that I was going to start writing a book, and I called the book “The Vertical Moment”. And a vertical moment is defined as that time where a person metaphorically recognizes another person in need and reaches their hand out to help and the person who needs the help recognizes that there is help available and reaches back and when their hands touch it is a vertical moment that has no time and no space, some people may call it a God moment.
I am the recipient of so many vertical moments in my life and I wanted to go back and find those people that had reached their hand out to help me like the psychiatrist, I also found the young Amish couple that I stayed with when I was fifteen years old and I was able to go back and thank them and show them that what they gave in allowing me to stay with them what it manifested over the years. I found the judge that sentenced me four times when I went in front of him as a juvenile, I found my sixth grade teacher, it was amazing, he had retired to Florida and he was in his late eighties and my wife and I found his number and I called and a woman answered the phone obviously his wife and I said “may I speak with Frank” and she said “who is this?”, I said “it is Jack Stell” and you could hear her yelling in the background “Frank, do you know a Jack Stell?” and all of a sudden I could hear in the background “Jack Stell?” and he came to the phone and we had an amazing three hours conversation where we were able to connect in a very special way and share the paths that each of us have traveled during the almost 55 years, it was a very precious experience. All of those people that I was able to reconnect with were part of that vertical moment series of stories. So now I am a marriage and family therapist and I work with such a diverse group of people but the people that I work with that I most deeply connect with are those who have experienced trauma. Most of the people that I have worked with not all that have experienced trauma have experienced what I call stacked trauma, which is trauma in childhood with trauma in adulthood stacked on top of it. These are the very special people who have the seeds of amazing leadership inside of them once they are able to heal. The way I approach my practice is that and it has gotten deeper and deeper every year, I approach my practice with gratitude and humility. Gratitude that I get to do at this time in my life, I just passed seventy years old, at this time in my life the things that I am doing with the people I am doing it with; and gratitude and humility because every client that I have, from my six year old all the way up to my eighty-two years old, is my most profound teacher. So I have been able to what I am trying to help my clients do, is take these experiences that they have had that have been so hurtful and so painful and like I have been able to do, be able to turn them into gold, being able to turn them into things that they can use to enrich their life instead of a ball and chain that they drag behind them. And so as I end this, I end this as I began it, that my life is a story of hope. I always felt irregardless of what experiences I was going through that there was always something better for me and I don’t know why I felt like that but I did, and I am glad that I did because I am able to do what I am doing today and I wish the same for you as well.
To be posted soon
Thoughts of Joy Behr
As a little girl four years old I am becoming an artist. When I was a child of four years my dad age forty-two passed away. Mom was left with two little girls, four and eight. Mom did not have money for toys for us. When the Watkins salesman would come around to sell vanilla and spices mom would exchange garden food in exchange. She had a big garden. He was a nice man, and he gave me a real nice pencil that had a big eraser on it. Wow, was that special. Now I could go outside and all around and find things to draw with my brand new pencil. How happy I was. This was my beginning of my art career. It became a special recreational interest. I entered many contests, I won some, I lost some. I still like to draw even after I married. My husband bought me a wood burning machine and I loved it. I began working on wood. At St.Johns on Fountain Lake they have hung my eagle on cypress wood from Florida. The only paint on it is on his white tail and head and his yellow beak and talons. The rest is all wood burned. I feel God has given me this talent and I use that talent to give pleasure to others.
Sincerely, Joy Behr
julia m becker
... the improvisational movement practice continues to take me where I need to be... It is wordless, solo, spiritual, connecting, revitalizing and renewing ... Sometimes it is all tears flowing, wild rivers ... and other times a blissful serenity where I feel held in the hands of God.
Why I dance
We are all dancing
We know nothing
Only Here, pulsing
We are intertwined in rhythm, pattern, flow
We are naked, of this earth
We are gateways
Vessels for transformation
Solo entities moving in a vast energy field
Vibrating as one
We weave the world within us
from us, to us, around us
We are pure life in this movement
Balanced on the flame of Death
Here, we recognize our truth
Our self, our spirit
We look into the eyes of the moment
In this purification
All there is IS LOVE
And we dance
To ground and rise and know better
We cherish, together, as one
The mysterious unknown
Julia m becker 8/20/2020
A few things I know about myself:
- Always needed to move.
- Movement works things out, through and in.
- Movement informs everything I do.
- Teaching, picking up on the unspoken
- Art – at the heart and soul of my artwork, always has been
- Writing – spontaneous movement also
IMPROVISATION gets at the SOUL – at the center – at the truth – of it all: the present moment, supreme listening, and connection to all living beings, all life.
The improvisational movement practice continues to take me where I need to be. Sometimes it is all tears, flowing, wild rivers… And other times a blissful serenity where I feel held in the hands of God… All truth is revealed. It is a fountain of spiritual renewal.
Movement is at the core of who I am – It informs all I do and is my natural way of thinking, of creating, of being. I worked manual labor for decades, for I could not sit still. As long as I was moving… I was happy. My parents signed me up for classes as a child but me with my wild hair and creative spirit of playfulness (that was encouraged in my family life) did not fit in with the ballerinas. As a teenager I had the opportunity to take Modern, Jazz and African dance classes. It was the African dance at the local community art center with live drummers that hooked me. I was HOME.
I traveled to West Africa, stayed the winter, and it changed my life. I kept dancing. I danced in Missoula, Seattle, Cincinnati… on the streets, in the parks, in the rivers, trees, mountains. I danced solo because it was all I had. I danced with others whenever possible, sometimes they appeared, danced and were gone. I kept dancing my way through active physical labor jobs, my daily painting and writing. I painted about dance, how it felt. I painted life size dancers and attached them to alley walls. And then I danced with them (Any Alley Dancings). I laid them on the ground and danced on top of them as a part of nuclear proliferation protest (The Nuclear Buddy Series). There were some amazing experiences dancing in the nature, in the inner city, in the market, in protest marches, in places I had never been, in the Wilderness with the animals (I could tell you some stories!), and everywhere with the sun, moon and birds.
At the age of 60, I am now pursuing my dance career- whatever that is. I am not afraid of aging or death. I am not afraid of losing it all because I know that I will. The dancing makes sense. The dancing needs me and I need it. We, yes US. We are all dancing through our lives. We are all improvising. None of us know anything. We are only here, right now, somehow surviving. Breathing. Hearts pulsing, pulsing, pulsing… Our hearts, our pulse, our souls, our lives – intertwined in rhythm and pattern, in color and movement. We are all we got. We can lose everything, but we still have our bodies on this earth, naked. And the earth has our bodies, for we are one OF the earth. And there are so many stories in these bodies…
Our bodies can be the gateways IN and the gateways OUT. They are the interface. They are our vessels for transformation, or transformation. They lead the way, in joy, in suffering, in the recognition that we are solo entities moving within a vast unlimited energy field. We are an integral part of that energy field.
We are ENERGY, pure energy, ALIVE in this moment. We whirl, we swerve, we reach and curl, we balance and pause, we exhale and inhale, we pivot, we fall, we rise and twist, we vibrate, we rest… We weave the world within us, around us, from us, to us, with us. We are pure life in this movement moment, nothing else. Balancing on the flame o death. Here, we recognize our truth, our self, our spirit. We look into the eyes of the moment… nothing else… From here, in this purification, we are reminded that all there is, is LOVE. And, we are so immensely blessed to be living IN THIS FIELD of LOVE, pure love.
So, yes, I dance for love, for life, for survival, for connection, to ground and rise and know better. To sing with you and all of us, vibrating, on this planet. To clasp this moment and celebrate the mysterious unknown of all this nothingness! To celebrate THIS, only this. Thank you!
Dancing is a way of survival and of connecting to the field of love. Love is energy. We are energy.
All life is movement. We pulse, vibrate, resonate, weave and flow, inhale and exhale – us living things. We ground and connect. We take to the air, waters, flames, earth, road and pathway. We know deep in our cellular atomical being.
Improvisation gets at the Soul – at the center, at the truth of it all: the present moment, supreme listening, and connection to all living beings, all life.
The improvisational movement practice continues to take me where I need to be… It is word-free, solo, spiritual, connecting, revitalizing, and renewing … Sometimes it is all tears flowing, wild rivers … and other times a blissful serenity where I feel held in the hands of God.
So, yes, I dance for love, for life, for survival, for connection, to ground and rise and know better. To sing with you and all of us, vibrating, on this planet. To clasp this moment and celebrate the mysterious unknown of all this nothingness! To celebrate THIS, only this.
julia m becker
William's Story The Story of a Colonial Patriot
I awoke from a nap recently
I awoke from a nap recently and remained lying in bed, listening to my sill sleeping dog’s breathing and heartbeat. It was calming, peaceful, listening to this 4-legged companion who seems happiest just being next to me, close to me.
At other times of the day, I’m aware of her eyes following my every move. I’m retired and am often at home. My dog relies totally on me and the responsibility is sometimes daunting.
It’s like, many years ago, when I was a mother and my children were in my arms, nursing. I’d sit and marvel at their little lives so entwined with mind. Our hearts beating together in a miraculous weave of our existence.
I was aware of my husband’s heartbeat, too, as we slept curled around each other, or as we hugged and embraced. So reassuring, never taken for granted.
The marriage is long over, the children grown, and grandchildren too far away to share physical heart sounds. None of their hugs, eyes following my every move, reliant upon my takin care of their needs, their lives. Although it’s a relief on one hand, on the other there’s something missing, a silence.
I have close friends and hugs with them sometimes enable the gift of exchanged heart beats. But I’m not an always hugging person.
So, I have a dog. And I’m comforted and strengthened by her nearness to share heartbeats. There’s something about love without agenda, without expectation of something in return.
She’s still young and has the need to be the sole focus of my attention, barking when I don’t immediately respond to her overtures to play, or to let her in from outside. But at night, when we settle down to sleep, she immediately snuggles as close as possible, just creature need to be close, creature comfort to hear someone else’s heart.
Believe in Yourselves
Hello my name is Madeline and today is November 24th, 2019. This is kind of the heart conversation I wanted to have. Three points I wanted to make was talking about bravery and courage. The other one I wanted to make was to believe in yourselves. The last point I wanted to talk about at the end was the law of conservation and of mass.
I guess I’ll just start by telling my story and where I come from and where I began. When I was a child I was diagnosed with auditory processing disorder and a lot of people over the years whenever I talked to them about my disorder they kind of say ‘Well, you know, I really struggled in school and everything too’ in order to comfort me and to feel a connection and everything but with my story and with how it started for me as a small child, I didn’t really know, I didn’t have any awareness of it at all and that I was different; my very beginning before I went to school or anything. My parents, my mom did not tell me that I was different or that I had any kind of disorder or anything like that. I had no awareness of it.
When I started school that’s when I became aware. I guess what I noticed the most was I just was struggling with the phonic reading. I processed sounds, basically what it is, it takes me longer to process written or said information. How this kind of translates into my struggle with school was how you traditionally learn is, you sound out the letters. I just really had a hard time with that. It was really challenging for me and I kind of was taken aside a lot of the time to do kind of like a special education. I kind of became aware of this all probably first or second grade when I really noticed that I was kind of being treated differently and other kids knew it too. I got teased a lot and it was a very very difficult time in my life. I mean a lot of the time I came home crying, and the next day I would wake up and come up with some excuse to stay home or whatever. I say ‘mom, I am sick.’ Something that helped me to get through that was my mom.
I remember we would have lots of heart to heart conversations, she would come in and lay down in bed with me and we would just talk about everything, what I was feeling and what I was going through. It was a huge part of just processing of what was going on and how to deal with it. She would reassure me. You are going to get through this. Everything is going to be alright.
There was a time where I just was like ‘I am just going to be illiterate my whole life’ like ’I don’t know when I am going to be able to do this’ or ‘how I am going to do this?’ Then one day I just kind of accepted. I just accepted what was and I just accepted the situation, and I just kept going and kept doing it even though I did not want to, because I had to. I did not have any other option. I think that I had to learn at a very young age what being brave or what courage is, is doing the things that you do not want to do. It is something you don’t want to do. It is what you have to do in order to get to your ultimate purpose and to get to where you need to be in your life, or what you want to do in your life you ought to do the things you do not want to do and to learn to be okay with that and to have a certain level of acceptance in that.
For a long time I just wanted to leave. I was like ‘why do I need to be in school?’, ‘why do I need to do this?’, it felt like prison to me. I can just go to art school and do what I meant to do. I was really talented, gifted in doing art and I found that out pretty early on. I started looking at cartoons and things, little things and started to reproduce them. I was very good at taking an image or something from nature and replicating it. I was very detailed oriented in that way, and so I recognized, I had a talent there. I was like ‘I just want to be an artist. This is want I want to do. This is my passion’ and so I found out very early on what my purpose was and what I wanted to do.
In fifth or sixth grade just one day it all connected and I just knew how to read. I do not even think I learnt in the traditional kind of way, I think I just kind of memorized the words over time, I just saw the words and knew and just being exposed to the words so much through years and years.
Jumping ahead to highschool, I had an idea of maybe I could become like an art restorer. I had read some articles about art restoration and I got kind of interested in it. My mom introduced me to it as well. I was like ‘that sounds like something I really could do,’ like I said I am really good at seeing something and how it should be and then kind of reproducing that. That’s my talent. That’s what I am really really good at. Kind of translating leading that into a career in art restoration and conservation it just seemed to make sense to me.
I get on with highschool and I really wanted to do art and I was like ‘I want a bachelor in Fine Arts’ and ‘I want the professional degree’ and I thought ‘I minor in chemistry’. I take my math placement. I did not do well on my math placement in college, and so I really became discouraged and fearful. I kind of turned back into that little girl who in first and second grade that felt like I could not do it. I could not read. I could not do what I needed to do. The fear kind of overtook me and I thought, ‘well, I ‘ll do it some other time.’ I kind of put it off. You know looking back, I think I would have done it differently but obviously that was just part of my path.
Years and years later kind of went by. I got my [highschool] degree. I completed everything. I worked some food service jobs after I graduated, I still had that fear that I can’t do chemistry. I’m not smart enough. I’m an artist you know. I’m a born artist you know. ‘How am I going to do this?’ It seemed so overwhelming to me to go into chemistry and to do math and things like this because my whole life like it was a struggle for me. I kind of went through this transformational period. It really was about a year ago, I started this whole process of kind of change. I was with one of my exes. One day we were having a conversation and he said to me, you know you just are really negative, really really negative. I heard that and I took it really seriously you know and I was like ‘well, I need to figure out what I can do to be different.’
I tried to search for answers. I started reading books, self help books. I tried to get information about on how I can change this behaviour and pattern that I had, because I did. I think part of being brave too is being able to acknowledge your patterns, acknowledge that you have a pattern and slowly kind of dismantling that pattern. I had this pattern of not believing in myself. I had this pattern of thinking that I wasn’t smart enough to do whatever because of my learning disability. I just one day decided that I was going to believe in myself and believe that I can do it. At first it is like you just tell yourself that you can do it, that you can believe in yourself, ‘oh, I can do chemistry’ and even though you don’t really believe it, you just sort of say it.
You just keep saying it and you keep doing it and you keep saying like ‘yes, I am beautiful’ or ‘yes, I can do chemistry’, ‘yes, I am smart enough’ and slowly and slowly you start to actually believing it and it starts to become part of your conscience. It was a tool I have learnt from one of my self-help books. It’s amazing of how it has just changed my life so much.
I got back to Spokane and broke up with my ex. We had been together for on and off for many many years. I was planning on marrying him and being with him for the rest of my life. We did end up splitting for good. I decided that I was just going to start anew and just take one day at a time and to believe in myself. And so ‘I can’t do chemistry right now’ but ‘I can start with math and just practice every single day.’ Just like art, I mean in art you practice art and you get better and better. I just took books and equations and started doing my own thing. I swear I went from third grade math to college level in a matter of a couple of months.
Now I just started my first quarter in chemistry. Actually, this past exam I took on Wednesday I got a hundred point six percent. I don’t even remember the last time I got a hundred percent on any exam but alone a chemistry exam. It just goes to show what believing in yourself, what kind of power that has over your life and how it can change everything. Almost everything that I wanted a year and a half ago I have now. It all started with just believing that I can do it.
This last point that I wanted to make, if nothing else having the courage and bravery to do something that you don’t want to do and accepting what you have is the first part. The second part is believing in yourself and if neither of those things kind of resonate with you or if you are not sure what your purpose is or what your path is and you are trying to figure it out; something that I actually learnt in chemistry, Antoine Lavoisier, he is a scientist in 1785, discovered the law of conservation of mass. The law states that despite chemical reaction or physical transformation mass is conserved. So it can not be created or destroyed.
What that means is every atom in our body, every molecule, everything around us was all part of something else at one point. So even thinking about the heart and atoms that were required to create that heart at one point it was something else, it was part of something else and the amazing thing is, we can not count how many chemical reactions were all happening at once; it is impossible. The fact is that the atoms that created your heart or someone else’s, or the blood in our body, those atoms could have been used to be in a rock in the ground or could have been used in start dust in some random nebular somewhere else but instead those atoms were I guess transformed to create you and to create us.
It’s amazing how we have this existence and that we have this consciousness and that we have this life. There are so many atoms that are just used towards inanimate objects and things. It is a miracle and a blessing. I guess we shouldn’t take that for granted and feel gratitude for the life and the existence that we have because all of the atoms, all of the molecules in our body could be part of something else but instead it created us. I guess, that’s the main point that I wanted to make in this heart conversation.
Coming to America
Hi. My name is Mira. I came here 30 years ago from Korea. Starting my life in America was so tough because as soon as I came here I was faced with a language barrier. I was a teacher in Korea, but I couldn’t do anything here because I spoke poor English. I felt like I was useless. I still remember I couldn’t communicate with my American born little niece and nephew. And I couldn’t understand my pastor’s sermon at my church. When my kids were babies I couldn’t do anything for a while, because I felt a responsibility to be there for them. Years went by, and I didn’t even have a driver’s license. I had wanted to but I couldn’t start school right away. And when my kids went to preschool, I started school so I could finally learn English.
Taking that first English class was a turning point in my life here. I remember my first essay for my ESL 101 writing class. The prompt was, “What’s the best way to learn English?” My answer was reading children’s books for my kids every night. Not only did I get to practice, I got to spend time with them. I’m so thankful for this experience.
Another great thing that helped was having a Bible study with my friend Suella Graybill. She offered me to have Bible study with her and opened her house for 8 years. To this day, we are still having Bible study whenever we can. I’m so grateful for her friendship.
I also think taking English and art classes made a big difference in my life here. I had 2 great instructors for both classes, English and art, Mr. Duman and Mrs. Voght. They guided me and encouraged me to stay in school and I’m so thankful for their great teachings.
And I found myself loving oil painting so much that I wanted to finish all the oil painting classes. I took a long break but now I’m back, taking art classes from NIC after 15 years because my instructor Mrs. Voght encouraged me to come back to school to learn more about art.
I am very happy that I am a student again. And my family has been supporting me endlessly. I am so grateful for this opportunity for learning and growing in all my life here. I love this country that embraces diversity of people and gives all the opportunities we need as immigrants. Now, I am enjoying my art journey and helping my husband at his office.
I realized that dreams come true when you really look for the opportunities and try your best to live your life fully. You can start your life here just one step at a time and you will find your way.
Life is very adventurous and very rewarding in America.
End of a Long Journey
I went back to north Idaho college four years ago to study art. My art journey has been really great and I particularly loved watercolor painting class where I made these two paintings. My inspiration came from both my family and my spiritual journey and you will find there to be a lot of symbolism in my paintings.
“Resurrection_End of a long journey.” When I was making my final watercolor project last spring semester, I was getting the ideas from Easter, envisioning my project as a painting about the Resurrection.
But on my son Howard’s medical school Match Day, he gave me the inspiration for this title, “End of a Long Journey.” This led me to combine the two ideas into the Resurrection painting. Jesus is wearing a white gown. I wanted this painting to speak to Howard that when he wears his white coat, he should remember that Jesus is the greatest Physician.
“Crucifixion_Thank you for carrying me.” In my “Crucifixion” painting, I started with the concept of my son’s initially difficult transition to medical school. I chose the piggybacking images of my husband and my children to symbolize the support of family.
The crucifixion idea came to me later, as I did research on artist David Rathman. I was inspired by his color scheme, sepia tone, and his wash techniques to portray the blood of Jesus, the greatest possible support shown to man. My husband and my children, Howard and Elizabeth, supported me endlessly for my art journey, supporting me to do critiques, presentations and PowerPoints.
I’m offering these paintings to Jesus, my greatest supporter and Savior.
It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so. Mark Twain.
I was born in 1961 in the union of South Africa. In May of that year South Africa Declared it’s independence from the United Kingdom and became a republic. this event was the catalyst that allowed the Afrikaaner led government to fully implement the system of apartheid.
I was born privileged, white , and gay. Like all gay kids of my generation, school was a war zone for me. I was bullied relentlessly and teased by my classmates who knew what I was despite my best effort‘s to hide the truth from them. But, I was also part of the white privileged class of the apartheid system. Things could have been so much worse for me.
As a child I never understood that the black population was oppressed and that there was a revolution building.
Over the years people have asked me how I could not know. When the government of the country you live in controls the minds of the people it’s possible not to know.
We’ve seen examples throughout history. Nazi Germany for example.
The success of the South African system was partly the isolation of the country on the southern most tip of the African continent. The other key factor was a well organized governmental system.
The government controlled everything and they managed to keep the system going by controlling the cornerstones of society. First of all everyone was classified by their race group and appearance. They had a hierarchy. Whites at the top, then Asians then Indians then colords which in south Africa meant people of mixed heritage and then the lowest, anyone who was descended from bantu tribes. They were classified as black. Only people classified as white could vote in elections.
The educational system was segregated by race group. We were taught a carefully curated version of history . In this version of history the white settlers were the heroes and the black tribes of Africa the villains. We were taught to be afraid of the forces such as the ANC, SWAPO and FRELEMA. Organizations that were only asking for a fair system. Our schools taught to be afraid of black people.
The press was completely controlled by the government. Books that did not support the government agenda such as to kill a mockingbird were banned. The censorship laws controlled what was in the press, what was in magazines, what was broadcast on the radio and later what we could see on television. South Africa did not get television until 1976 because the government was afraid that it would lead to the downfall of their system. Everything we were allowed to see in media supported the ideals of the apartheid system.
In church on Sundays we were taught a version of religion that supported the system. The ministers would talk about die swart Gevaar which literally translates to The black danger. Additionally they taught me that I was defective and that if I was true to myself, I would be sure to end up in hell.
Then everything changed for me. In 1979 I enrolled in Rhodes university, an English speaking liberal university which was granted special dispensation to allow a limited number of students of Indian or colored decent to enroll. University was an awakening for me. For one thing, I found my tribe for the first time- other gay men. For another, I made friends with people of other race groups and discovered that things in South Africa were not as I imagined.
At university I discovered the truth about the South African system. Slowly I became aware that the system was not what I had been led to believe. I learned the truth. That the system was unfair and unjust. That people were being banned, that people were being beaten for that they believed, that people were being killed for daring to say that the system should be different.
Slowly I learned that the South Africa that I had taken for granted was really an evil and carefully constructed lie. I became part of what was known as the radical left. At the end of the day the strain of living in South Africa was too much for me and I lost hope that the system would ever change.
In 1984 I left for the United States of America. Emigrating to the USA was the best thing I could have ever done. I felt like I had arrived in paradise, a country with the police did not rule, where you were free to think whatever you wanted, where people lived in harmony compared to war torn South Africa that I left far behind me.
I did not return to South Africa until 1996 long after Mandella had already taken office. The new South Africa was exciting, Mandela and his ideas of a rainbow nation were taking hold.
However, I felt no love for this country that I had left to far behind me. The trauma of what I experienced while there was too deep for me to ever return. I had fallen head over heals in love with America. I have never looked back or longed for South Africa. I have been very happy and very blessed living in this beautiful country.
Today I am troubled, lately I see troubling signs that remind me intensely of Apartheid South Africa . News stories that are designed to instill fear. Journalists that are targeted while they attempt to report on events. Attempts to detain people indefinitely without trial. Attempts to declare organizations such as ANTIFA as terrorist organizations. ICE raids that round up people, children separated from their parents. Police who treat one race better than another. These are all things that I have already seen growing up in South Africa.
However, this is the United States of America. I have hope, I have hope because we are better than this. If there is one thing that I wish for this beautiful country, it is that we get out and vote this November. People here do not seem to understand what a privilege it is to be able to vote. In South Africa in 1994 when people were finally able to vote for the first time, my mother stood in line with people of all colors and backgrounds for 8 hours waiting patiently to be able to vote for the very first time. This is the United States of America. Under our system we have the ability to change things with a mark on a ballot. My one hope is that this November people get out, stand in line, do what it takes to make your voice count.
I live by the words of Mark Twain. It aint what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. In the end its what you know for sure that just aint so.
we're in the hold your breath days
we’re in the
hold your breath days
we’ve always been
since stone age spears
and seed-dirt dreaming.
but this time it tastes different.
maybe it’s because
I don’t have many rings round me
so many witch hazel grandmothers
know more than I.
it’s easy to choke
on the current events in my cereal
a future called Not Knowing
now we can’t touch.
voices carry still
a child dreams of
being an astronaut still
if you smile at me
I’ll smile back.
// March 13 – Taylor Pannell