Saturday, March 23, 2013

These Women Surround Me, By Sherry Scott

Meet Sherry Scott -- one of the "V Girls." In other words she is participating in Paris Community Theatre's Off Plaza Production of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues."  (For more info, see Soul Searching or purchase tickets here).  She is also a poet and the author of a book that I loved called "The Year My Mother Died: a Memoir."  (For more on that see -- Something New ).   As I just described in On Hot Pink Coats and Women  , we are re-experiencing the mystery of womanhood at practice.  After our last rehearsal, Sherry sent us this poem, which resonates our collective experience, both in our childhood and in our now.  We all loved it and know you will enjoy.
These Women Surround Me

Out of the depths they have
birthed me, ushered me
into their midst and have
never let me go

I sat at their table
and when I couldn’t eat
they made me tea and held my hand

Their touch upon my brow
brought me pleasure
validated me in ways
I never would have recognized
when young

Their words have saved me
from self undoing
They have loved me
as I could not
They have shared and caused
me not to be afraid

They believed when I didn’t
They stayed when I chose to leave
They welcomed me back time and again

They taught me to hear music
dance to the strains
encouraged me to pretend
never doubting I would find my way back

Off key, out of touch
blinded by love
they watched and did not speak
when I insisted on pain.

They speak to me from the grave
Their blood runs through my veins
The countless others known by face
or by name
urge me on
And while I remain surrounded by these
I surge forward
COPYRIGHT 2013, SHERRY SCOTT, used by permission. 

On Hot Pink Coats and Women

I have two hot pink coats in my closet.  One is a heavy duty coat.  Another is a light rain coat.  They both serve different purposes, and they both came to me from different avenues.  I've had one for over twenty years; I've had the other for only two months.  The first coat was made for me, the second coat was purchased as a direct result of my purse being stolen from me.  

The first coat reminds me of my Grandmother's love; the other coat will always remind me of this particular season in my life, an amazing group of women that I get to see a few times a week, and it will always remind me of this year, which is turning out to truly be the Year of the Woman. 

Let me tell you about the first coat.  My Dad's mother made it for me. Her name was Eva Mae, but we called her Grandma.  I remember her as just a very happy, busy person for most of her life.  She was busy in the kitchen, busy in the garden at the farm, busy sewing.  She was never idle, and never watched TV.   She taught me a great deal about life.  I remember one time when she was worried about me, because I was sad about the death of a high school friend in a tragic motorcycle accident.  She said to me:  "Sydney, sometimes you just choose to be happy."  She made it easy to believe her, because she was just so happy.   Incidentally, she also tried to teach me to cover up and use sun screen, and use lifejackets, etc. . .  . She was part Native American -- only a quarter, but she was always conscious of keeping her skin light.  America was still a quite prejudiced place back then.  It was only after I started purposefully reading Native American authors that I realized how much the good planted within me that came from her was due to her Native American heritage.  In her attempt to hide from the prejudice of her day, that heritage was almost hidden as well, but thankfully it was passed on because it was the essence of her.

I loved her so much, we all did.  And she was an amazing seamstress.  She made all of our prom dresses and even some of our wedding dresses.  I always thought I would learn how to sew from her . . . tomorrow.  But  by the time I was out of school, by the time I got married, she'd had a debilitating stroke on the right side of her body.  So she never made me a wedding dress, but she made me a coat.  The most well made coat I have even seen or used. 

She called me out of the blue one day and said:  "Sydney, I found some old material that I had in a trunk to make a coat for you aunt, but I never made it.  Can I make you a coat?"

"Well, sure!"

"It's pink.  You are the only one that can wear this color."

"Great!  I love pink!"

When you grow up in North West Texas, you need a coat or ten.  I had a wardrobe full of coats, never enough coats because we lived in the Siberia of Texas where the wind blows, and blows, and blows, with nothing to stop it unless you have a tree break.  There is usually snow on Christmas, blizzards of snow, mounds of snow.  Not that it snows that much, but it snows enough, and then the wind blows it into high drifts.  It is cold!  So I was happy for another coat.    

Now, she did warn me, she told me it was pink.  And she told me that I was the only grandaughter that could -- or perhaps would -- wear it.  I have always liked to wear clothes that stand out.  Second daughter, middle child screaming out:  "HEY!!  I'm HERE!!!"  That whole second daughter, loudmouth thing is part of why I identify with Lizzy in Pride and Prejudice.  And, although  I did get quite enough love in my childhood, I have to chuckle at Roxy's line in the play Chicago about her lovin' the audience and them lovin' her and they just lovvvveeed each other, and that's because they didn't get enough love in their childhood. Love, love, love.  Personally, I don't think any of us can get enough of it.

And that is what that coat is to me.  My PINK non technicolor dream coat.  My HOT pink coat.  It is SO warm.  So well sewn.  So pretty.  Starting to fray, but pretty.  My HOT pink coat with a red button, but it works because the coat is more red than pink, a button that is still securely fastened after 25 years.  I can wear it on any cold day and not be cold.  And no one will ever fail to see me and accidentally run over me, even in a blizzard.  It was the same color as the hot pink "in" color of the year: "neon" pink.  It is the coat that I will keep all of my life, and wear with the knowledge that Grandma loved me.  It reminds me of me, reminds me of her, reminds me of the farm, reminds me of Plainview, reminds me of growing up, of childhood, of all the good that I learned, of all the things that made me into who I am in that near barren land.  It reminds me of the strong feminine movement that I grew up in.  It reminds me of the women in my family, who, whether due to our hidden Native American heritage or some other tradition, had never grown up with any kind of belief that they should be the strong-silent-yes-sir types.  It reminds me of the men who love our bossy, loud, strong feminine ways.

Fast forward from the 1980s to this year, 2013.  I won't give you the back story of my purse being stolen, but here is the link:  Les Miserables, Paris Texas style

When my purse was stolen, I was down to that one purse, so I had to go buy a new one, right away.  I saw a silver lining when I saw in The Paris News the ad that the Collegiate Shoppe was having its annual blow out sale the next day.  I had a Christmas gift certificate there, so I went as early as I could, and was able to call my father-in-law and let him know that I had tripled his gift.  I came home with purses, and  I came home with my new Hot Pink stylish raincoat.  Here in Paris, you need more rain coats and lightweight coats than heavy coats.

I'm happy that I can still wear that color.  Yes, it is an "I'm HERE" color, which I guess I still haven't grown out of, but it also a happy color.  I feel that I have won something of a battle when it is a grey rainy day and I can thumb my nose at it with my hot pink rain coat.

It's a feminine coat, too.  A coat that is proud to belong to a woman.  And this woman has happily been wearing it to the play practice that is different from any play practice I have ever been involved in.

I've been in an all female cast before when I played Truvy in "Steele Magnolias" and what a wonderful experience that was.  But each play experience is different, and this all female cast in  "The Vagina Monologues" -- due to its monologue nature, is having much more of a womanhood celebration fest.  We've started getting to know each other well enough to start talking excitedly between practicing the few group peices -- we are a choral song of femininity, making each other laugh, cry and lean in or, yes, even raise our eyebrows in shock then giggle helplessly.  We are learning alot from each other.  Mostly, we are learning that we need each other, we are remembering that we are all in this together.  We are embracing womankind. We are proud to be V-Girls, and we want you to join us (reserve your tickets here:  The Vagina Monologues Paris, Texas tickets  for more information, see Soul Searching).

We have womanhood so much on the brain that we are noticing symbols of womanhood everywhere. We are noticing articles and reports about women, good and bad.  This  is the year of the Global 1 Billion Rising movement, drawing attention to the fact that we want violence against women to END.  It is the year that  the National Book Award for Fiction went to Louise Erdrich's book "The Round House"  -- about the injustice of Native American female rape victims having no ability to prosecute their perpetrators due to conflict of laws  (see article in The Paris News The Round House Review ). It is the year that our voices were heard so that Congress renewed and strengthened the Violence Against Women Act -- VAWA.  It is the year that PBS is running stories about the American female experience.  It is the year that I can't pick up a book without there being some discussion about the experience of womankind.  It is the year that we are starting to remember the marches of 100 years ago, and how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go.  We are passing on stories of what life was like before birth control, or the equal rights amendment.  We are understanding that women do still care about our history and that we do want to hold on to what we have and that we do still want to make it better.

So I Celebrate Womanhood.  I celebrate it with my my pink coats and their symbolism of womankind, and our history, love, and strength.  I will celebrate it by sharing about some books I have read that in some way are meaningful to the female experience.  I'll celebrate it by sharing some writings that these "V Girls" have given to me, or by telling you about them.  I know you'll enjoy the hot pink experience as much as I am. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Soul Searching on My Participation in "The Vagina Monologues," by Eve Ensler, Paris Community Theatre, April 12-14, 2013

Heaven help me,  I’m a lawyer. 

Heaven knows, we lawyers need all the help we can get.  We’re so twisted.  I think it is because we see the worst, we know the worst.  Through our very profession, we’ve  been able to  take a bite of that fruit of the tree of good and evil, the tree of knowledge.  

As a lawyer,  you know that bad things happen to good people.  You know that good people make bad decisions.  Good people get in messes. Bad people have good things happen to them. 

Bad people are often good people.  Good people are often bad people. 

You know that women, in particular, suffer devastating things just because of their womanhood.  Yet, they are completely able to love and forgive and give life.

You know that life is just messy and dirty and you can’t do anything about it. 

This knowledge doesn’t shut me down for the most part, but I can’t ignore it.  I must think about it. I love thinking through one on one conversations, in the sanctity of my office or on my back porch.  I love thinking through reading books and talking about them.   I love thinking through theater. 

So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about life experiences, about learning through other people and venues, about how knowledge is power.   About how healing often comes by sharing.  In particular, I’ve been thinking about how women do this. 

Mainly I’ve been thinking about this because of the theater event that I am currently deeply involved in: “The Vagina Monologues.”  

You may be surprised to know that even in this conservative place, most people I talk to, including many men, have already seen it and can’t wait to come see it on the PCT stage.  If you are one of those people, be my guest to read further, but go ahead and reserve your tickets now, because based upon response already, we are expecting this event to sell out: 

BUT, -- if this anatomical word “vagina” scares your or bothers you, I hope you’ll stay with me.  I want to talk with you, I want to think this through with you.  Let’s get comfortable together, as if you are in my office – my library sanctuary -- or on my back porch.   I promise you, what is said here, stays here.

I know that many people trust me; I hope I have given you good reason to trust me.  I want you to know why I am embracing this, why  I am proudly staking my reputation on this new project, why I hope you will consider coming to it. 

1. There is a BIG PICTURE reason I am involved in PCT’s production of The Vagina Monologues.  

God has put me on this earth for many reasons.  I am one of those people who is lucky enough to know what some of my reasons are.  I know  that one of the reasons I am here is because of my heart for women.  It horrifies me how many BAD things happen to women just because they are women.  Things that shouldn’t happen to women just because they are women.    I am here to help when bad things happen to women.  I am here to support the empowerment of women.  I am here to stand up for women.

God promises us good, but bad things happen to people, He’s taught me that for certain.  Whether they are Christians or not.  Whether they asked for it or not.  Whether they are women or men.

This truth is hard to come to grips with and is frankly why so many lawyers are addicts.  It’s a painful lesson to learn, and if you haven’t learned it yet, God Bless You and I hope you never do.  But I have.  

And I know that one of the reasons that I am here is because of my heart’s desire to help women and to inspire others to help them.

2.  But what does The Vagina Monologues have to do with helping women?  Well – first, it is Real.  

If you just read the title, and you aren’t some doctor or lawyer or nurse or social worker who is used to words of anatomy, the title may scare you, because the title makes you think that this is just some big power play,  some attention getting, crazy woman, pornographic, pointless play.  First, understand that it is not an X Rated play!  But it is R rated, or for the mature audience, which, frankly, is what is on nighttime TV about 99% of the time now. The title is there for the shock factor, but it also perfectly describes what the play is about.   

 It is simply women talking about the experience of being a woman,  of so many woman experiences, of adult woman experiences.  It is the ultimate girl talk, like the night that a few of you girls stayed late at Bunko or Book Club or the library in college, and you came home and your boyfriend/ or husband asked what you talked about, and it was so magical that all you  could say was nothing but you meant everything.  That is what The Vagina Monologues is to me.  Yes, it is edgy, but it is real.  Give me the choice over a made up “my life is perfect” book or theater and “real” book or theater and I will choose real every time.  I want to explore the reality of life, I must explore it!  I have to understand – has this happened to anyone else?  What did you do with it when it did?  Ducking my head won’t keep it from happening to me or to my daughter.  But knowledge might help me when it does.

3.  The Vagina Monologues gives knowledge, and through knowledge, it gives power.  

Ok, so it is real.  How does a dose of reality give power?  It does it by giving knowledge.  If you do come see the play, you will know so much more.  You will know what lawyers know.  You will know what doctors and nurses know, what social workers and people in the court system know.  You will know what God knows.   It does this by telling you stories as told by women to the writer, Eve Ensler.  Stories that make you uncomfortable, make you laugh, make you cry, make you realize that we have failed to remember what it means to be Woman.  

And you will understand that this thing that I believe that God gave women, this part of me, this part of every woman and girl, is something to be respected, and admired, and revered.  It is not something to be violated ever.  Ever.  EVER. 

And with this knowledge you know  that you are right to stand up for women and that you have the ability to stand up for women.  In fact, by your very participation in PCT’s presentation of The Vagina Monologues, you are doing this.  Why? 

 Because this 15th anniversary of The Vagina Monologues  is all about taking a stand against violence against women, by giving all of our net proceeds to a local organization that helps women who are victims of violence.  We have chosen SafeT, the group here that helps women who are victims of violence.  

 By doing this, we are taking a part in the
  Global One Billion Rising movement, and I’m so proud of Paris Community Theatre for participating, and for bringing it to Paris, Texas so that we can all have the choice to participate. 

VDay Mexico!
VDay Indonesia!

VDay Beirut!
VDay Helena Montana!

VDay Congo!

 So as for me --  if I can stop one person from hurting another woman because she is a woman, or if I can help one woman understand that she has self worth, that she can go somewhere to be safe, that she can go somewhere to talk and to heal,  then I know  I am acting out my purpose here on earth.

And that is why I am so thankful to get to be living this play at this particular time, because  we are all very excited about raising money and awareness for SafeT.  And because it is real, and powerful – and loads of fun.  

I hope you’ll join us. Reserve your tickets today!

And if you want to help, please let me know.  There is much to be done for this worthy cause, including helping with the Men's Event -- the "Walk in Our Shoes" One Hundred Yard Dash!

The Vagina Monologues, by Eve Ensler is coming to Paris Texas April 12-14, 2013 as a “Off Plaza” production, meaning it is not a part of the season and you must purchase tickets to come see it.  It is being played on the PCT stage, and it is general admission, for only $10.00 a ticket, all shows are evening shows.   All proceeds after costs are going to SafeT, an organization that helps women who have been  victims of violence.     

We are proud to be an official Vspot in the One Billion Rising global movement  of persons rising against violence against women and girls.    Also as a part of our fundraising efforts for SafeT, PCT will be hosting a “Walk In Our Shoes” event, where men will be challenged to complete a 100 yard dash in high heels. So come see the play, or participate in the walk, or give money.  Please help us and take a stand against violence against women and girls.

Here is some music to inspire you: Break the Chain Dance