Monday, April 4, 2011


Where has the time gone? I am chagrined to see the date of my last blog post, and my dismal record of the last two months. But rather than whip myself with the proverbial wet noodle, I offer up these snippets out of those days, which have not been spent (yay!) wallowing in depression or (hooray!) reorganizing my file folders. I have actually been doing some really cool stuff. (How's that for eloquent phrasing?)

My work with the YWCA Sonoma County has continued to expand. After the success of the writing events in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I was asked to join a cadre of intrepid souls creating a new focus group for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse, under the auspices of the nascent Family Justice Center of Sonoma County. The goal was to find a way to help survivors "tell their stories." The other members of the team bring the skills of law, therapy, social work, and advocacy. I was invited as a writer.

What we have come up with is a wonderful six-month group that we are calling "Expressions." The women will be creating a journal, using both the written word and art to tell their stories. I have enlisted the aid of several artist friends, who will be leading sessions on collage, photography, and block printing, among other things. Plus we'll do poetry, directed writing...And the end result will be a book, a journal, a life story, filled with color and beauty and pain and truth. After several months of planning, the group is set to begin on April 21 (meeting twice a month), and hopefully the prep time will lessen. All of us are so excited to see this actually come together.

I will also be giving my first "DV 101" talk (the basics of domestic violence) to a class at Santa Rosa Junior College, teamed with another volunteer from the YWCA, on April 19. I used to give such talks regularly when I did this work in the South Bay, but haven't done one in years, so that will be both familiar and a little tingly at the same time.

At my newspaper job, too, I have been presented with a number of interesting stories of late. Sometimes weekly newspapering is simply school board meetings and planning commission coverage. But other times, I am able to write about things that feel like they make a difference. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a local woman who was a living organ donor, giving 57 percent of her liver to a family friend who was battling liver cancer. She consented to tell me the story only if I focused on the importance of organ donation. So I did my research, and provided statistics on donation, told people what steps to take to become a donor, and provided websites for more information, in addition to telling her own amazing story.

And another story is coming my way soon. Two local women were recognized by our Soroptimist club for their participation in a program called Get on the Bus. The program brings children to prison to visit their mothers who are incarcerated. I interviewed the women briefly for the awards story, and they invited me to accompany them on their trip this year. So on May 7 (the bus trip coincides with Mother's Day weekend), I will be on a bus to Chowchilla Women's Prison. The inmates must apply for permission to see their children, and the children must be accompanied by a caretaker (often a grandparent). Get on the Bus provides the bus, insurance, three meals for the child and caretaker that day, and teddy bears and blankets for the ride home. I have contacted the prison to request security clearance, and everything looks like it's good to go. I can only imagine that it is going to be a Saturday I won't soon forget.

The reason I bring these things up, here on this blog, is that there is a clear connection for me between these actions I have been taking and my Buddhist vows. Initially, I was simply holding onto the ledge with my fingernails, sitting on the cushion for myself. But as I moved into the year preceding my jukai (lay ordination), I began to think more and more often: What do I have to give? In what way can I follow the bodhisattva path?

One of the first ways was taking on this blog - which is why I must now promise to come back to it. The blog is what made me realize that the path for me was to use my writing, my art, to help. To take this facility that I have, this urgency I feel to put words down, and use it to connect people, to tell stories, to create bridges, to seek justice.

So here is my opportunity. What is yours?

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