It’s February why am I still chanting, “New Year, New Decade!?”
It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the New Year tradition of resolutions, goal setting and looking forward; to achieve more, to repair what’s weak, to get better. It’s fun and this year is especially exciting because it’s not only a New Year but a New Decade!!! Statistics tell us that by now, actually by January 12th, most people have given up on those New Year Resolutions…
Not me, I’m still chiseling out what all of mine are!
This year, as I have for the last few years, I focused on a word. The initial word came to me suddenly sometime in late November or December and I knew in that instant it was my word, not only for the year, but for the decade.
Yes, LEGACY. So fitting for this time in my life and for this decade of my life. What other decade will I likely say good-bye to my last remaining grandparents (but I do think my Grandma Billie has a fighting chance of making it into her centennial years). And what other decade will I likely say hello to most of my grandchildren (although I have begun that journey already with Marlee and Noah).
BUT… just a word for a decade would never do, so I morphed it, turned it into an acronym of four awesome and powerful words to live this year and decade by, this decade I will roar: LOVE!
LOVE (because always may I be known for my love, be better at how I love, and may I grow in love): LEGACY - OBLITERATE - VISUALIZE - EXPLORE.
Here’s my LEGACY VISION ← see what I did there?!
The biggest personal legacy goal is to love my gramma Lucy well as she walks her final years on this earth and with dementia. I have an unexplainable dream to be here for her and take care of her. Our family has had a horrible experience with the assisted living facility she’s been at for the last two years and I cannot see putting her in another one. This also makes me think strongly about my other grandma, Billie. The question is: have I loved her well enough? I have trusted a family I haven’t been blessed to know as well as I know my Stivala side to take care of her, but now my heart wonders… am I loving her well enough? So, for the sake of love and legacy, I will attend to my last surviving grandparents, Billie and Lucy.
Next are my grandchildren. I have two now and they are such a wonderful blessing in my life! I am humbled to know them and have the opportunity to be an active participant in their lives. I also enjoy being able to support their mama (and dad) as they parent them beyond their preschool years into the later years of childhood. I look forward to some of my other babies having babies (in good time) and hopefully having the same opportunity to be a real and active grandparent in their lives as well.
Of course my children are high up there on my “legacy” list too. Have I shared with them all I have to share or is there a new way for us to relate and enjoy life together as parent and adult children? Obviously my very blended family is dynamic and my relationships with each of my five children is as unique as they are themselves, but I don’t want it to end because all of them will now be adults. I want to strengthen, deepen and grow our bonds. To this end I want to partner with my husband to help him achieve his legacy dream of getting his girl to all 50 states, which he will on her 18th birthday! What an amazing feat. What a cool legacy of travel (and EXPLORATION… see how it fits with the over theme) he’s given to her that she appreciates now, and I feel certain will come to treasure even more as she grows into womanhood.
Then there’s my parents… yeah… my parents. That’s probably where the OBLITERATE can also wind into the acronym. There’s so much family dynamic between us, both my father, mother and step-parents. I’d like to love them well by addressing and OBLITERATING my own personal resentments that I’ve held far too long, to EXPLORE what this new decade can mean for all of us and to identify their legacy as it relates to me and my children. This will probably prove to be the most challenging, but, I will endeavor to love them well.
And what of the rest of the humans on the planet? Can I expect, hope or VISUALIZE actually making an impact in my little valley let alone THE world at large? What a large and lofty thought! I do not know if I’ll ever be able to affect the world, but if so, I hope I am known for loving well, for living and writing in such as way as to inspire and elicit raw, honest emotion, for keeping kids safe and for revealing the soul saving truth of Jesus Christ!
Finally my personal legacy goals, those nagging tasks, those “someday” projects and dreamy writing goals I’ve always wanted to achieve but have yet to realize will have their day! As far as the “someday” projects go: this year I aim to organize and catalog ALL the past decades of photos we have in print and digital form and give them space and honor in our life and home. And, as we’re realizing our landlording dreams and are actually building an estate for our heirs I also plan to make a Dave Ramsey “Legacy Box” where our family can find all our legacy documents when our time comes. It will be a monumental undertaking, but well worth it, I think, to build my family legacy! And for my writing: My passion, my desire to share my heart and stories with the world in words will continue. I will build a written legacy of both fiction and non-fiction work that will remain even when I leave this world. I confess I dream of hitting it big someday, and will always hope and wait for it. Until then, I will press on toward the goal, that I might receive the prize, which will be to give the world all the words and stories that are in my heart to share and hear those long sought after words from my Father in heaven, “Well done good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few tings, I will put you in charge of many things.”
So there’s the “L” in my decade of LOVE, next up … hear me roar as I OBLITERATE debt and resentment!
Once upon a time, while on a lonely wilderness hike, a sojourner came upon a band of merry souls (or dwarfs, or whatever fanciful person-like creature comes to mind and suits the story). They were a joyful and proud lot and danced around a sacred fire. They heartily welcomed the stranger in to listen to their tales of the eternal fire, stoked long ago by their very hands. It burned with warmth and fury. The fire kept them, sustained them and guided them with its light. This fire was indeed warm and seemed friendly, so long the sojourner stayed listening to their tales of the fire. The embers waxed and waned red, gold and sometimes even a glorious blue while they shared their stories of the bygone days of the fire. Then there was a stirring, a waking, and everyone knew it was time again to stoke the fire, to keep it burning. While the sojourner was permitted to watch the gathering, the preparation, the cutting of branches and falling of trees, they were not permitted to actually stoke the fire. It was a sacred right and no matter how merry the gathering, and inviting the stories, the lore and legend wouldn’t permit a stranger’s participation.
The stoking began! Wood and wonder crashed into the red-hot fire ring from all permitted hands, from all sides, with whoops and hollers of utter satisfaction! The flames rose high into the night, fiery flakes fell around the stranger, and the people, or creatures, or whatever they were danced and swayed in the ecstasy of the stoking. It was grand and glorious monstrosity of heat and sacredness, and the interloper wanted so badly to be one of them, but was at least grateful for the warmth and the invitation to sit in and watch the magnificent procession. The men roared, the women cheered, and somewhere deep, down in the depths of the dirt, a delicious drumming of delight rumbled underfoot blending into the melee, as if even the earth itself approved of their fire and festival.
Then one of the revelers came to the weary sojourner with all kindness and sincerity in an attempt to somehow include the stranger into the stoking. The warmth and smoke of the fire enveloped the reveler and the stranger, mesmerized by the sights, sounds and smells agreed, quickly, without a moment’s hesitation, to participate. The stranger could not by rite stoke the fire, but they all insisted wholeheartedly that there was space for the stranger to participate in the celebration. If the stranger loved the band enough and chose to remain in the group there was a simple, albeit painful role that the stranger could join in. All the sojourner had to do, to stay with the merry men (or women or dwarfs, or whatever fanciful person-like creature comes to mind and suits the story) was insert a hand into the fire for a brief moment, long enough to let the flames lick at bare flesh and season the smoke with the flavor of the pain. The pain, the stranger was told, would only last a moment, and certainly there were others who participated in order to belong. Many souls willingly inserted their hands into the fire and their scents melded and mingled with the burning wood.
The stranger wondered how the others endured the burns, and asked if the fire hurt them as badly. They all carefully, thoughtfully, one might even say lovingly inspected the sojourner’s wounds. They compared it to other revelers, consulted with each other and concluded that the injury was minimal. The sojourner loved them for their care and concern and trusted their assessment. The pain afforded the stranger admission into the group, and the group was so, so good and welcoming and fun that the draw to be with them far outweighed the pain. The stranger stayed, the blisters did eventually scab over, the scars were reminders, as much as anything else, of the great stoking and eternal flames. The healing was slow but came in time so the stranger stayed with them, around the fire, watching and waiting for the next stoking.
As time drew near for another stoking, and always and ever with this band there would be a stoking, for the fire could never die, the sojourner knew this time what to do to participate. The stranger loved the band of revelers very much and enjoyed their company so much more than lonely wilderness travels and so foolishly hoped that maybe this time it wouldn’t hurt so bad. Maybe the scars from before had somehow strengthened or shielded the skin. Maybe the revelers had another way for sensitive souls to participate, or a magical elixir that could keep the burns from blistering, maybe the burning didn’t have to be so bad. The gathering began, the stoking was near and the stranger’s anxiety rose; but the wilderness was cold so flesh was again plunged into the fire as the men roared and women cheered and the earth resounded in triumph.
The blisters this time festered and infection set in deep. Not everyone had this trouble with the fire, and the stranger’s sensitivity perplexed everyone. Some arms passed through like a hand over a candle flame without so much as even singe mark of black, they were perfectly content to play their part in the procession. Others licked their wounds but recovered quickly, or at least seemed to. Not so much for the strange sojourner, the pain was devastating and was causing quite an uproar within the once merry band. The revelry, comradery and company couldn’t quite sooth the stranger’ pain and dimmed the glory of the stoking. The healing scars that time didn’t remind anyone of a glorious tradition nor help to honor those who kept the flame alive with the stoking, they only reminded everyone of the awkward, awful pain of the stranger. The stranger, aware of the bands efforts at inclusion, looked long at the scars and pondered the fire, the wilderness, the sacred ritual and all those sorts of philosophical musings that occur in the midst of pain and confusion.
They stoked again, the sojourner burned again but that time with pain fresh and furious, the sojourner retreated knowing the new festering blisters, over too many scars were the last that could be endured. The pain was too great but the stranger has come to truly love the group, and yet couldn’t continue to burn. So the stranger sat at the edge of the camp, on the precipice of a decision, exposed and vulnerable and utterly alone, knowing without a doubt that something must change.
And that is the story of the stoking and the stranger.
Question of the day: Where is the most calm, peaceful, perfect place you've ever been? And was anyone with you?
I was allowed once as a child to spend two weeks with a favorite auntie and uncle. Those quiet cross-stitch days were about as close to heaven as I'd ever been in my life. Growing up for me included a lot of tension and turmoil. It was difficult to feel loved or wanted or safe anywhere and then auntie took me to a place I’d long for the rest of my life.
I do not know what their children's impression of childhood was, but for me the soft music lulling in the background, the fun toys and family games played with my aunt during the day, and the silly conversations we had at night with my uncle were magical. I imagined it would have made for a great childhood and the most wonderful kind of life. I remember wishing for a life like those two weeks. I cannot even count how many times over the years I wistfully drifted back to there.
Then one day I found Jesus, or He found me or however it works and I got to know peace, and calm in a way that I had never known it before except for in those magical memories. I tried to give my kids that same kind of peace and comfort and safety. I know I fell short many times, but I tried. I try with the friends that I have, the family I'm in contact with, and the children that I love and advocate for now to be that safe place, that calm, peaceful, wonderful reprieve. I do not know if I’m successful at this but, someone once called me the “port in the storm of their life” and I think it was probably the most beautiful compliment anyone has ever afforded me!
I was a safe harbor, it was a dream come true, to be thought of the way that I thought of my aunt and uncle's house. I know I get caught up in all of the busyness and craziness and activity that I love so much in my life, because I'm a busy person and I have fun doing and going and movin’ and shakin’, but it's good to stop and to remember to breathe, to give people time, and space to be themselves, and to feel safe, un-rushed and utterly wanted. And you, my friend, are loved, are wanted and matter so, so much! Just a musing about the most peaceful, perfect place I've ever been… too bad I can never go back, but I hope and pray, I can be that place to someone too!
It's been a long time coming for both my book, Sex & Jesus, and my declaration of war on sexual exploitation and corruption. The trumpet has sounded, I cannot hold back my charge any longer. The time is come! The book is in motion and I may not be an Amazon but like Shakespeare said, "Though she be but little, she is fierce." It's time, I'm gathering thoughts, comments and answers to sex questions of the day. I will take your points of view and opinions where ever I can get them, but believe my own website, or private email, though much more cumbersome than the social sites, is the "safest" place to put them so as to keep me from getting put in social media time out.
Without further ado I give you the current talking point: Porn
And here we are at the subject of pornography. I pondered long on where along the journey, my expedition of sex and spirituality, pornography belongs. Honestly, at first, for a fleeting moment, I thought maybe porn was supposed to be perched upon a precarious peak high on the mountain tops because, for me, this is one monumental subject. Then it occurred to me that maybe our problems with porn belong at the great falls of the Missouri, unavoidably there, impossible to ignore no matter how badly we want to. The falls stand between us and everything that’s beyond, deadly to cross and treacherous and tedious to circumnavigate but neither place of visual prominence is at all where pornography lives, resides, or has it strength. No, no, no, porn is not etched or carved or displayed and exalted up high to be trumpeted from mountain peaks, neither does it deserve the power of the falls, because, unlike sex slavery, pedophilia, rape, molestation and sexual abuse, I’m not convinced all visual sexual stimulation is wrong or bad. I suspect, like all vices, pornography has been twisted and warped in order to trap and exploit the weakest of wills. Pornography lives in the underbelly of the mountain of good and God-fearing society.
Deep, dark mammoth, cavernous caves that wind and intertwine underneath almost everything and everywhere we go. Yes, I have found pornography, hidden away underground, because sex, like hunger or thirst is a primal drive; there is nothing wrong with nature of man, but the exploitation of this primal need, like all dark and evil things, thrives in the darkness and hidden places. It makes sense that those who feed on power and greed would find ways to exploit our natural sexual desires, drives and lusts. It also makes sense that this usurpation of will would not, could not fly freely in the public eye, for there are far too many strong wills and outspoken champions that in number and voice alone put the public arena out of availability. Porn thrives in the dark seedy recesses, were vulnerable youth of both male and female persuasion are easy fodder for predators desperate to groom innocents for both demand and supply. They trap the ravenous sexual appetite early, pull it into the darkness and stalk their innocent inventory of vulnerable children to meet the demand. And oh, these evil cave dwellers are skilled at their secret, slimy trade. Demand is high and the disease of depravity grows and thrives in the darkness. Certainly the demand is not as high as men, already trapped and rotting in the cave, or the wily workers of the porn industry, who work to get men hooked and gather girls for their business purposes would have you believe, but yes, demand is high.
So... if you want, please tell me all your thoughts on porn...
What can I say? I'm a curious person... How could I not be intrigued and want to know more when I found out that Wenatchee has a burlesque troupe?! I didn't go looking for risque, sexy, dancing ladies with a healthy sense of humor, no, I posted a question on Facebook. One of the people who responded gave accolades to a popular porn site. Since I am no fan of the industry, I gave him a piece of my mind. Then another person spoke up in defense of the site. This time, though I was still not at all a proponent of pornography, the way I answered was different. Skylar Hansford framed her response respectfully, from an informed and intelligent platform. She was worthy of debate. She had experience in the sex industry and I knew she would provide fabulous insight for my current non-fiction project, Sex and Jesus. Instead of starting a fight or arguing I asked if we could meet and talk. And did we ever talk! I wish there had been more hours and more time to hear her story let alone the history of the Radar Dames, Wenatchee’s own burlesque troupe.
She was instantly intriguing to me, this young woman with bright vibrant eyes and hair divided right down the middle in two starkly contrasting colors. She carried herself with an air of confidence. She was proud of her femininity and sexuality and I respected her for it, not in spite of it, and yet, not solely because of it. Skylar Hansford embraces sexual expression as part of her whole self, and I will tell you this ladies and gentlemen, it is sexy!!!
I would consider myself a modest person by choice but, if I'm truly honest, also because of fear. I want my husband to think I’m sexy, and to get turned on at the sight of me. I want him to desire me and be the person who enjoys my body most but that doesn’t mean I want to deny my sexuality the rest of the time. I am a sexual being, not to mention the fact that I’ve spent the last several years living a fit life. I want to be appreciated for being feminine, fit and sensual as much as for being compassionate and skilled at writing. But, I don’t want to be violated because someone else thinks I’m sexy or was “asking for it.” I've been in situations wearing risque clothing where I was mistreated. When you’re a woman and you “know” you’re wearing one of “those” outfits and something bad happens, even if no one says it out loud; the question is… Was it something that I wore? I told myself, and society told me that I gave the guy the wrong impression because I was dressed inappropriately. I should have expected it to happen. And, so, since then, again both by choice and because of fear I’ve chosen to dress toward the modest side of life.
There is one more fear that ought not go unmentioned. I spoke about my fear of man, now I need to speak of the fear of woman. We feminines are interesting beings. I think we all want to feel pretty, dare I say attractive, but if we see a woman who has crossed the line from attractive to risque… many of us judge. She’s one of “those” women or is trying to get “that” kind of attention. I will say this is largely situational and cultural but it’s definitely a thing. I will contend that it is a thing because we are sexual beings and it pricks at that part of our humanity that’s been conditioned to be repressed; and those women who dare to express or expose themselves challenge our own sexual perceptions. As much as I do not want to be in an unsafe situation with a man because of my attire; I also do not want to lose respect in the eyes of my female peers because because of it.
So I am modest, by choice and by fear.
But I digress, I was at a table listening to a beautiful young woman speak. She was proud of herself, proud of her body, and proud of the fact that she is able to express her sexuality. Despite the fact that she will wear pasties in public, Skylar demands that she should be respected no matter what she wears. No matter what?! She was sure of it and I was the one challenged to re-frame my thinking. Was it really OK to embrace my sexuality that boldly? Could I acknowledge it as part of who I was and expect, or demand, no repercussions from men or women for how I dressed? Can that actually be a thing? What would the world be like if it was? Obviously there’s a time and a place for the more sultry expressions of sexuality and this is where the conversation turned to burlesque.
Skylar, a former exotic dancer, former dominatrix, woman with a sexual assault story of her own that helped form her opinion about sexual expression, heard about the Radar Station. She accepted a bold invitation to stand semi-exposed for an event at the funky, modern museum of controversial art and pop-culture. The new mother was still breastfeeding and says she was not necessarily an image of super sexuality, but feminine reality. Flesh, skin, breasts and beauty. She embraced the philosophy of the founder of the Radar Station, Ron Evans, and in partnership with him started to dream about a burlesque performance. What would it look like? How would the event turn out? They asked the questions and Skylar took the leap, became Moxie Rose, and the Radar Dames were born.
Originally a troupe of four women who, like Skylar, each have their own stage names: Moxie Rose, TNT, Kitty Katastrophe and Gypsy Moon were the first of what is now a troupe of ten performers. Burlesque, from the Italian word mockery, was originally meant to be a performance that parodies some of societies more serious situations in an often comedic and provocative way. The image that comes to my mind is of a bold, fishnet clad, jovial woman, strutting and teasing a rowdy crowd as she executes her performance. Though thick with feminine strength and mystique Skylar clarifies that the burlesque art form embraces all genders, ages and body-types. It is about feeling confident and proud in your skin and making a statement while embracing sexuality not repressing it.
Her goal now is to bring burlesque to the men and women of Wenatchee. To introduce and invite onlookers, and others who are interested, to participate in a class that will run six to eight weeks and end in a performance in front of family and friends… maybe more. The question is whether Wenatchee is ready for burlesque. Skylar made a request on Facebook for people to attend an “Intro to Burlesque” video session in preparation for the newly envisioned classes. I said “Yes!” as did a number of my bold and brave lady friends. We showed up at the Radar Station, listened to Skylar share the history and intention of burlesque and strutted our stuff, flung feather boas, swished and shimmied in removable skirts. And we laughed!
We were silly and carefree, like girls playing dress up, only we weren’t girls, we were women. We dressed up to flirt and seduce and laugh at ourselves and with each other. It felt amazing to be in a safe place, to dress (or undress) on purpose to be sexy. I was not judged by my lady friends, we were sultry and sexy and risque together! We got tips from Skylar and the other burlesque performers on how to move more provocatively; deliberately tempting, teasing and seducing an imaginary audience with our motions. It was liberating to move my body in time with music in alluring and explicit ways. I am a sexual being and the freedom to express it safely was empowering.
Of course all our parts stayed covered and our novice techniques left much room for improvement but I think we all walked away from the lesson standing a little taller and feeling sexier. It was more the idea of actually doing it that was exciting than the execution. Could I really perform like this in front of others, for fun and for freedom? How much skin would I show? How damaged would my reputation be in certain circles? These thoughts swirl around in my mind like the skirt did around my waist. I think I’d quite like to make up a light-hearted, sexually expressive burlesque performance of my own. I’ve imagined what my stage name might be. But... do I dare?! Definitely for my own (and my husband’s) sensual pleasure I would learn more about this art form. Maybe, just maybe, in a private setting, amongst my other brave friends who understand the intrigue I could dare to bare some skin I normally keep under clothing. I wonder and imagine and I eagerly await more information on when and what the structure of the Radar Dames burlesque classes will be and maybe, just maybe, this modest writer-lady will sign-up!