moving toward gratitude

gratitude saying

credit – dr christina hibbert

Perhaps it’s the time of year. People gathering family and food to celebrate the abundance in their lives as if it were the norm.

Perhaps it’s because, this year, I will be without my family. I’m feeling a ragged hole in my heart without anticipation to soften those sharp edges.

Perhaps it’s because the reality is, many people do not have family around them this week. I’m thinking of a few women who, in their post-prison-release reality, are sinking into their own variations of scarcity. Scarcity of food, family, money. Scarcity of support. Scarcity of internal resources. Scarcity, period.

As the holidays approach – with their weeks of preparation, hype and inevitable let-down – I am more reminded than ever of those whose reality is scarcity. Even when their imaginations can conjure alternate story lines or comforting memories. Continue reading

‘I am who I was . . . and more’

Raven signing the book

Raven signing the book

These seven simple words contain worlds of insight, compassion, gratitude and change.

They are the kernel of notes that keep coming to us in the aftermath of our book launch of HEAR ME, SEE ME: Incarcerated Women Write last week.

These seven words capture the experience of the listener who penned them in gratitude and awe after hearing nine previously-incarcerated women read their words from the book.

These same words have been re-stated in endless variation by others who were similarly moved by what they heard.

And they capture the essence of heartfelt thanks from the women writer-readers themselves. Writing changes us. ALL of us. Read on…    Continue reading

what lingers in the soul

gratitude letter - rhythmofthehome.comOne of our weekly practices, both inside and with every group facilitated by Women Writing for (a) Change, is the post-class comment called a ‘soul card.’ This is feedback to the ‘soul’ of the group sharing both positive and negative responses of each participant to the class. These comments are read by facilitators in preparing subsequent sessions, and are available for participants to read at their leisure.

As the fall quarter comes to an end, it occurs to me that we have no official forum to share these comments beyond the circle. And yet, they speak eloquently and spontaneously to the direct experience of the women whose writing we have been featuring weekly. Below, a few from the past three months to give you an idea of how women actually feel about this work that we have been doing for the past three years:

‘I opened to thinking about what makes me vulnerable. I have always hated showing people that I am vulnerable in any way.’

‘to not judge others when meeting them; they have feelings just like me; helped me lose a lot of the fear I have to show others.’

‘grateful for listening and being heard’

‘grateful for intelligent interpersonal interactions in this group; ungrateful for the struggle to advance in this circumstance (jail)’

‘I am grateful for the consistency of the group facilitators.’

‘I am grateful for a good group of well-versed women.  I am not grateful for the end of the group.’

‘Today’s writing was hard and painful, but healing for me at the same time.’

‘I like how good this class is at keeping confidentiality and our group rules.  This group helps me and gives me faith.’

‘I just love this class, it lets me open up and be myself.’

‘It became clear that it’s time for me to feel free; to let go the worry of being scared of the unexpected.’

‘The thing that came clear to me was that a lot of people can open up. What faded away from me was that I’m not alone anymore.’

‘I love these groups. They help me to be free and open about things I’ve been holding in.’ Continue reading

from my desolate soul

Credit: K Punkrock

In keeping with this week’s holiday, we wanted to post another Thanksgiving writing from one of the incarcerated women with whom we write weekly. Especially since this Thursday is one of very few in the year when we will not be writing together. TH’s writing invites you into her family with simple direct intimacy; and leaves you haunted with the harsh reality of the change a single year can bring to a family.

I remember last Thanksgiving . . .
            it was just our little family
            you, me, our five-year-old son.

Without much money, a feast was impossible
            So we had stuffing; you made pork chops,
            and all three of us filled our stomachs.

Trudging upstairs, little man exclaimed
            “Mom and Dad, that was great!
            My belly feels full!”

As we climbed to the top step
            we ushered him into the bathroom,
            bubbles piled in the tub.
            He jumped in, bubbles crashed and popped
            you and I snuck a look at each other, chuckling.

I knew we both thought that although we didn’t have much,
            we had each other. That was the miracle
            of Thanksgiving. To me, anyhow.

            The fact that our daily struggle culminated
            once a year into a day of reflection
            and gratefulness that we still
            held each other every night and
            we made it through another year.

This year, nothing remains . . . Continue reading

thanksgiving feather

Credit: photodictionary

During this season, it is natural for us to think about our blessings and gratitudes; and in the case of women incarcerated during holiday seasons, what we most miss at this time of year. For the  next several posts, we’ll share some of the more poignant writings from the women at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in Burlington, VT as they remember, yearn, mourn or feel relief at their distance from family this week.

Opened door, coats taken and hung
so many it becomes a balancing act,
an architectural puzzle of how to fit
them all on the rack

Hugs all around, eight aunts, eight uncles
30-something cousins
hellos, how are you’s, what have you been up to’s

Hors d’oeuvres set out, wine bottles opened, beers cracked
children scattering around the yard

Tables set, dishes heated, the laughter and
chatter and cheer from the game on the wide screen

And then comes the time to sit for dinner –
but first our tradition, the most important of family traditions:
the construction paper turkey where we each receive a feather
to write what it is we are grateful for

Then before we begin our feast, we each receive
another’s feather, read it aloud and try to guess
who wrote what

 I always used to dread the cheesy feather game
thinking ‘only my family,’ ‘we’re lunatics,’
‘how embarrassing!’

But now that is what I am most grateful for . . .
the symphonic chaos of our clan
the unorchestrated dance in the kitchen
the unconditional love, the feast; and yes

even the feather.

JL