Sunday, April 7, 2013

Soulful, Poetic, Artistic -- Virginia Dehn

Several months ago, while I was reading all War and soldier books ( see those reviews here ), Sherry Scott began encouraging members of the Paris Poet Society to enter a writing contest that was being sponsored through the Bonham Creative Arts Center.  I looked at the paintings of Virgina Dehn and liked them all, but found that one spoke to me in particular.  It made me think of death, and soldiers, particuarly our fallen heroes.  But the name of that particular piece of art -- "and their names were written on water"  also made me think of the survivors, and how your memory of the dead is not what you think it would be, and how angry you feel.

I was reminded of my Grandmother being presented with a folded flag at the funeral of my Grandfather, a World War II Veteran.  I was crazy  about Grandad, in my big little five year old heart, and that flag made a huge impression on me, the way it was draped over his coffin.  I was quite sure that Grandad was just crazy about me, too -- he always gave me attention, took us to parks -- he even took me shopping and let me pick out my very own toy!  I picked this really cool clock that played music and treasured it as a memento of him.  On the day he died, I remember finding mom in the closet on her knees crying, and being so sad myself because -- although I didn't really know what it meant -- I knew that I would never be able to tell him how much I loved him, even though I had thrown up the soup he made for me last time we saw him, a mere week before at my great-grandmother's funeral.  Although it was only a week's difference, I don't recall her funeral at all.  But Grandad's funeral made a BIG impression on me, with that unforgettable flag that they finally folded up and handed to my Grandmother.  

Flash forward to the first soldier from Paris, Texas in recent years who gave his life in battle.  I don't know what his widow felt, but I saw some pictures and can only imagine.  I do know that this lovely town that I lived in showed up by the thousands -- thousands -- when they flew him home.  We lined the streets from airport to funeral home, waving our flags.  This was our authentic response to his sacrifice, even while all around the country other sentiments were being expressed.  I will never forget it.  (Here is a link to another very PATRIOTIC story about our town).

What would a man like that be like?  What would he say to his wife?  And how would she feel about it, and about that flag they gave her?  

Those are the themes I explored in my writing.  Patriotism, love, the ultimate sacrifice, memory, honor, authentic anger.  I wrote it, submitted it, and -- frankly -- forgot about it.

I forgot about it until I got a notification that they had selected me as one of the writers who would be published in the small press publication of the art of Virginia Dehn.  This month -- April 12, the Creative Art's Center will open it's exhibition of The Ascent, the art of Virginia Dehn, as well as hold the publication party for the release of "Inner Landscapes: Writers Respond to the Art of Virgina Dehn."    I'm honestly a bit sad that I can't be there, as that is opening night of "The Vagina Monologues" -- even though I am thrilled to be a part of that.  I will find a time to go to the exhibit, and I hope you will too.  

I also hope that you will read the anthology, as I love the other poetic and prose responses in the little book.  I can honestly say that I am truly honored to be a part of it.   The book is filled with authentic responses to Dehn's art by persons from all over the country, with varied backgrounds and ages.  They are all quite profound.  If you read the book, you will wonder at the creativity and truthfulness of human beings.  You will be touched and inspired. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Wonderfully Woman

The Bite of the MangoThe End of Your Life Book Club

What do women do when they get together?  They talk.  They laugh.  They cry.  Sometimes they pray. Sometimes they primp.  They might get angry, or show their passion.  They get silly; they become irreverent.  They are truthful.  They celebrate each otherThey tell stories and help each other get through trauma.  They pass on what they know.  They discover theater. 

That is what these books have in common with the ladies pictured here. 

Some women who  are part of the cast of "The Vagina Monologues," by Eve Ensler, at Paris Community Theatre on April 12-14 (Off Plaza production -- mature content).

These women and these books are celebrating womanhood in this year that women are being celebrated and talked about around the world.   

Perhaps it is not surprising that the books I am currently reading have had a common theme, although I really did not necessarily know it at the time that I chose them.  I just have to tell you about them.  

I've been anxiously wanting to read "The End of Your Life Book Club," by Will Schawlbe, and I was not disappointed.  The publisher's summary begins:

The End of Your Life Book Club“What are you reading?”

That’s the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less.

I wanted to read this book for a couple of reasons:  1) I love books and so I naturally love books about books; and 2) I have too many loved ones and people in my life who have or are fighting the most horrible "C" word in my life:  Cancer.  Anytime I have lots of questions about a subject, like the Holocost, I seek out book after book in order to try to understand it.  That is what I am doing with Cancer right now, to be honest.   This book not only didn't disappoint, it also told me some things that I wanted to know about, and it actually also transpired with what was going on in my life at the very moment.  That is, it told me about an extraordinary woman,  Mary Anne, through the eyes of her son.  Thank you Will, for letting me get to know such an amazing woman.

I learned about a woman who had a heart not just for missions, but for foreign missions.  I learned about a woman who knew that theater was healing and vital, about a woman who believed in feminism, and wondered at the women in later generations who thought of it as a bad word.  And that isn't even the half of it.  It inspired me to keep reaching and growing and working and being faithful and loving my family and being creative. 

And the books they read!  Some of them were my favorites already, and some of them I had never heard of -- I definitely put them on my "to read" list.  Books that also coincided with my current theatrical experience as we prepare for the opening of "The Vagina Monologues" on April 12-14 at Paris Community Theater an Off Plaza Production.

The Bite of the Mango For example, I learned about the  "The Bite of the Mango" --  Here is it's official blurb:  "The astounding story of one girl's journey from war victim to UNICEF Special Representative."  As a child in a small rural village in Sierra Leone, Mariatu Kamara lived peacefully surrounded by family and friends. Rumors of rebel attacks were no more than a distant worry.  But when 12-year-old Mariatu set out for a neighboring village, she never arrived. Heavily armed rebel soldiers, many no older than children themselves, attacked and tortured Mariatu. During this brutal act of senseless violence they cut off both her hands.

Why did they cut off her hands?  So that she could not vote for the President.  Her response to that?  "What is a President?"

Heartbreaking.   Now really, why did I want to read about that at this particular time?  Because there is a monologue in the play that very poignantly describes a young girl and her victimization at a Rape Camp.   I wanted to know more about the plight of girls during war, so I rushed to read this next.  What I learned was about a particular country in Africa and the war tactics that left many still alive, but without hands and feet.  I also saw the amazing female spirit shine through it all, as well as the giving of many people who are called to help others, and I saw the healing power of theater of all things.  Best wishes to you, Mariatu as you carry on your journey.   

At the same time, I was reading "Lean In."  Can I just say -- Thank You, God!  Finally!

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Sheryl Sandberg--Facebook COO, ranked eighth on Fortune's list of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business--has become one of America's most galvanizing leaders, and an icon for millions of women juggling work and family. In Lean In , she urges women to take risks and seek new challenges, to find work that they love, and to remain passionately engaged with it at the highest levels throughout their lives.

Yes, finally!  A book that tells the truth about what women who work outside the home go through.  A book that encouraged me professionally.  A younger woman who actually apologized for buying into the thought that feminism was a bad word!  And much more -- this book absolutely is inspiring me to dig deeper in my working life, and I needed that, in fact, this book helped me realize that all women need more of that.  [What a Duh, moment!]

But what does that have to do with the play?  Well, what do you think is happening April 12-14, Paris, Texas?   VDAY PARIS, TEXAS is happening -- it is a fundraising event for SAFE-T CRISIS CENTER, with "The Vagina Monologues" as the backbone of the event.  We have a goal of raising $5,000.00 for SAFE-T while we raise awareness to a community of 50,000 people who don't really know what SAFE-T is about, even if they have a reason to know.  A high goal!  Will we make it?  I don't know, but we are well on our way.  And we are on our way because some people decided to be brave, to LEAN IN, and step out and work together in bringing "The Vagina Monologues" and all it encompasses to town.  There is so much amazing energy -- and healing--  in this play, this event, this fundraiser.  All because some people, including women, decided to be brave and step up to the plate and tell Paris that we care about this and why. Really ladies, no one will know or care about what we know and care about if we aren't brave enough to speak up.

So, I hope you check out one or all of these amazing books!  AND, hope you come to the play, and participate in all that VDAY PARIS, TEXAS has to offer this coming weekend, April 12-14.  All evening shows -- and don't forget about the men's event:  "Walk in Our Shoes."  Check it all out on the facebook page:  VDAY PARIS TEXAS