birth-copyLast week’s theme was ‘birth.’ Two of the epigraphs that topped our weekly agenda included these words:

…human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.
~ Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera;  


Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be…
~ Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Indeed most women chose to write about what is being birthed, or wanting to be birthed, in their lives.  Lines like ‘I want to bear freedom into my life!’ and ‘what wants to be born into my life? Success. Being successful and happy’ flowed around the circle.


 MEG, who will be released shortly, likens her newfound sobriety to its own birth:

Me trying to force myself to be sober and enjoy it is the same as giving birth to a child when you’re not ready to push yet … You cannot force a baby out of the birth canal that is not yet ready to be born. Let the contractions do their job and ease the baby down. Yes … now, breathe. It will all be worth it in the end. All the heartache, the pain, the loss, the endless condescending caseworkers and phony people disguised as friends of a friend, all the time spent wasted on people who won’t matter the minute I hit the gate … just breathe. Release the stress, the tension. Focus on the better you that’s about to start living real soon in the real world, in your second birth – your new sober self. Just breathe …

Even the writing to a line from the opening poem, ‘what gift will I bring him?’ harkened back to the experience of motherhood. Read this from AG’s words as she ponders what to give her son at their upcoming holiday visit: Continue reading

heading home

a plank path toward home

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.Maya Angelou

Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it – memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.Tad Williams



I grew up in a small city in New Hampshire. While heading home does not take long, I was recently describing to a friend how different I feel just crossing the border into my home state. It’s as though the home I know is looking out for me, that 89 is a little safer, a little less winding, and that if I needed help, I would be able to find it. It is from that sense of safety that I operate. I can just imagine my home and I’m more ready to take on the day.

For many of our writers, they have or have had a home they feel the same way about, a place where there are people and/or animals they care about and that care about them. These homes are where their children live or where they do their best cooking, where they keep their art supplies or their garden. And some of our writers don’t have a home to go to when their sentence is up which becomes one of their greatest challenges upon release. Continue reading

surprised by words

Christmas night, my two daughters and I went inside to surprise our writers with an unplanned holiday writing and art group. It should not have surprised us that the usual chaos reigned — the familiar indecision, conflict, and low morale. I admit, I had hoped the women might welcome the opportunity to do something unexpected on an otherwise emotionally challenging night.

Of course, I was wrong. Surprise is not what keeps these women going. Hope, yes. Consistency and predictability as well. Indeed, this is one reason the writing inside VT program has continued to thrive as we conclude our fifth year. Showing up weekly, regardless of attendance, turnover and weekly distractions has been one of our hallmarks.

Along, of course, with predictability in how we operate.

So we entered the halls with stillness and creativity as co-themes and experiences for our 90 minute session. The seven women who showed up seemed to truly understand and appreciate our offering. They wrote to a line from the opening Poem for Flight, by Becky Birtha; they created collage; and wrote a second time reflecting on their created image. Every woman shared artwork and both writings as well.

As always, their words held the wisdom and depth I experience each week. By now, I am no longer surprised by their words; just humbled and grateful to witness them. The following samples represent the variety of writings inspired that night:


by rp


They say to follow your dreams, and I think that is a valuable piece of wisdom. However, sometimes achieving our dreams isn’t the point of following them. It’s about the following part, the journey. The journey can be full of hardships, detours, getting lost and even beauty. Journeys are usually described as being “full of danger” or “a grand adventures.” Often times, the journey changes people, transforms them in some way they never knew was possible. And, there are times when you are following your dreams, somewhere along the line, your dream changes. Along the journey, you discover a whole new dream you’ve never dreamt was possible. Dreams are what keeps the journey alive and ultimately, have the power to transform even the most skeptical and fearful of dreamers.


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Found Poem from Outside Group

Sometimes . . . I don’t care what I’m told

Clearing out:
where memories rest in heaps
soft carpets under toe
Sweet tarts

conversations part of herstory
keeping the house from sinking into the ground
A little monkey jumping on the bed
Its own trail of scent

carting boxes back and forth on creaky knees
Prior night’s twisted dreams
I am so grateful to them

Sometimes I don’t care what I’m told
my knees need my love
my heart questions why
others see me fly unsealed by age

The road leads to reality feeling and time.
Take off your shoes.
Hang up your coat.

(from read-back lines from pieces by Outside Group
AA, JB, RF, SB, TD, 9/7/14)

“blind to the future, she does not believe I exist”

This past week, I offered a challenging writing prompt which involved a look back to younger self from the present; and suggested using third person ‘she’ to refer to the younger self and first-person ‘I’ to the present adult self. The general format and idea for the exercise came from the opening poem,  Two Gates by Denise Low (see current Prompt of the Week page for the text). It was to create a weaving of time and voice into one coherent whole – remembering that adult self can look back and see younger self; but not so in reverse.  The results were varied and deeply moving, as this writing from RP:

She is so young, so naïve, so innocent.

Behind those honey-colored eyes is a young woman, lost.

She is searching for something that will take her years to find.

How I pity her. She does not see the treacherous path in front of her.

I pound my fist up against the thick window. I scream her name.

She can’t hear or see me. I am beyond her reach.

She is swimming and gasping in a world created by her own false truth.

Appearing confident and carefree, but she is removed and cold on the inside.

She is more afraid than anyone I know.

I whisper to myself, “Please don’t be afraid. You are stronger and more courageous than you know.”

She doesn’t acknowledge my pleas. Continue reading