Gag Me

Valentine’s Day, a Thursday in 2008
The school of heart knocks I did graduate

Integrity questioned, advanced education dis
How could I be so blind going into this?

Driven home from the church office by an elder
“You’re a very smart girl”…

“Make better choices in the future”
I thought, like not trusting my pastor?

I sought the solace of church in 2003
In the front pew with my broken family

Two years’ prior I was all consumed
Raped by a national act post-honeymoon

Followed by my spouse’s spiral into meth
I cried, I screamed, I held my breath

Juggling a college career, a business, an aspiring author
Raising my own plus two bonus daughters

I threw myself into the growing congregation
My management talents and skills met with elation

“We need you on staff, I need you please”
In meetings, emails begging… Geez Louise!

Promising me work for ten years,
In 2006, I gave up a successful career

Convinced to help the pastor reach his mountain top
Enticed by “a calling” my dreams of VP I would swap

So, I raised $50K, 6-months wages to sustain me
Agreed to two years before coming on salary

Found pastoral staff with no education earned 40-50 grand
To work 18/hours/week as logged by their own hand

A church of 500+ with no line item budget or personnel policies
Pastors spending funds on personal items with no apologies

Tirelessly, I worked 60/hours/week to get them out of a jamb
Little did I know then I would become the sacrificial lamb

I was given “love offerings” and a loan to save my home
Believing your word is your oath, I had tunnel vision syndrome

Meanwhile my meth- and sex-addicted husband had run out
Still, “Praise the Lord,” I would shout!

With blood, sweat and tears, I kept my eye on the prize
Late 2007, cashed out my PERS Tier 1 for the promise of the finish line

January 2008, to Oahu for Doing Church as a Team Conference
While I was away an investigation on me had commenced

Church council claimed they had no idea I’d worked past December 2006
Each had seen me in the office, known me intimately, are they sick?

And, when the pastor was questioned about how he was involved
He denied, he lied, responsibility for his actions absolved

After all, his administrative team were three educated women
Who cares what they witnessed with their own eyes and ears, or when?

The council president – with a vote of no confidence – fired me
(14 days short of coming on salary) Happy two-year anniversary!

~ Just L (April 3, 2019)

Author’s Note: I mostly write bad romantic poetry about love and loss. I was first published in 1997, and sometimes my closest friends cringe as they recognize who I am writing about. This may be the most intimate story I have ever shared publicly. More so than my sexual assault by Lynch Mob’s band and manager, which occurred in 2001.

It’s been a decade since the church tried to, by court order, gag me in late spring 2009. In light of the stories (including my own) of the “Me, too” movement, and the HBO series, “Leaving Neverland,” which exposed how children and families were groomed for sexual abuse, it has struck me how I, too, had been groomed for a different kind of exploitation. My talents and skills were used for another’s gain and acclaim.

After I was fired as administrator of the church, and while being the object of gossip and ridicule, I continued to sit proudly on the front pew of the church each Sunday. More than one year later, the church sued me for over $200,000. The amount included money I had raised for my contract, love offerings, my retirement and other funds I had given to the church as donations and offerings. It also included the loan my husband and I had signed a promissory note for, but he was never named in the law suit.

I never went back. The very people who had given me emotional support through my separation, had been mentors to my children, and had sat at my kitchen table, had betrayed me.

I was advised by my attorney to settle the civil suit and sign an (untrue) affidavit hidden in the church lawyer’s vault to be used against me at a later date (if I did not cooperate) to avoid sensationalized headlines and ruin my public service career. In truth, I agreed to settle the case in order to allow my children and the children of the pastor to avoid suffering shame and embarrassment during their late teen years as they began lives and careers of their own in our small community. It wasn’t long after said pastor was “promoted” to a position in another state.

There is nothing private about a settlement. I can count the number of times this court record has been made public to humiliate or harass me over the past ten years. The story does not magically go away. It doesn’t matter if I was innocent, praised by the church’s corporate lawyers who were not a party to the case, or vindicated by some, it is forever on record for those who want to cause harm. Meanwhile, those directly involved never suffered the consequences of their actions, a hit to their professional reputation or financial losses, “forgave me” (HAH!!!), and never looked back.

I have remained quiet for too long, not to protect my users/abusers or to save myself. After sacrificing my coveted PERS Tier 1 retirement (which I had earned since 1993, and in all my years as a struggling single mother had never touched, and would have now, at the age of 55, sustained me in the amount of approximately $5,500/month), as well as being fired from two jobs (at half of my previous salary before attending church) as a direct result of settling said lawsuit, God knows that didn’t happen!

What are they going to do, sue me?

I am quite certain if I had been a man I would have never been sued. We would all be outraged. And, I would be raking in a book deal.

I am presently single, and living my best life as a nonprofit management consultant and grant writer in Oregon and Mexico. I have acquired over $230 million in grants and awards for nonprofit organizations in my community. I cannot say that God has made up for what the locusts have eaten; however, I have on occasion run into some of those involved… And I celebrate because I am free! That is indeed priceless.

In 2019, I Want Someone

In 2019,

I want someone who holds my hand as tightly as they hold my heart;
And misses me desperately when we are apart.

I want someone who adores their life and family
And embraces every moment honestly.

I want someone who is silly and can laugh;
And yet willing to fight on my behalf.

I want someone who fearlessly lives with integrity;
And is open to forge a shared destiny.

I want someone who finds joy in the present;
And one whose soul is luminescent.

I want someone who wants to grow old with me
Without ever growing old, you see.

~ Just L (December 31, 2018)

Author’s Note: I want more.

love travel

What is it about me?

WHAT IS IT 2

And she replied,

I can, and have. I am at a very free stage in my life. I have been deeply in love and I have had my heart broken. I have spent the last year guarded, practicing my yoga, and in reflection. I have done my fair share of playing, but when pursued, a small voice keeps pushing back, and telling me to wait for that spark.

You said that our first four days felt like fourteen years – that you felt like you had known me forever. I share that feeling.

I sense that I have something, perhaps many things to learn from you. And in turn, about me.

I am, of course, still getting to know you. I believe in the law of attraction. Something deeply draws me to you. I like that you are traveled, articulate, care about your health, and are spiritual. We share a passion for music of all kinds. You are talented and passionate about what you do. Family is a priority. You have an adventurous spirit like me, and yet you are peaceful and can be comfortably present and quiet. I like that very much.

My hand fits in yours perfectly, and in your arms feels like home in the sense that I don’t have to think much at all.

~ Just L (from a simpler time, published November 25, 2018)

Next Time: Note to Self

Are you a romantic? Watch for clues that s/he sees life through this lens, too. Sunsets, landscapes, a room with a view. Do you see the glass as half full? Your positive vibes will be wasted. Don’t choose an ungrateful. If an adventurous partner is what you desire… Find one on a journey. Not someone in front of a TV. Do you collect memories and not things? Need spontaneity? Skip the one who is always working. Believe everything is better with a soundtrack? Check out their playlist. The classic compatibility test. Do you want an individual who is generous and kind? Are they courteous toward others? If not, never mind. Be truthful if you want possessions. Find someone that can give. If not, you’ll only become passive-aggressive. Do you love to go out? This idea doesn’t excite your date? Move on, don’t pout. Do you have a deal breaker? Lay it on the line. If not, you’ll resent it in time. Long for a person who is a little freaky? Let your freak flag fly. Don’t wait to reveal your secret in week 33. Is passion important to you? This is not something you nurture. Don’t expect it to materialize in the future. Do you value authenticity? This can be someone with integrity or a liar. Be careful what you choose to see. If you wish to be genuinely adored. Witness their love in action. If the evidence isn’t clear, it likely isn’t there.

~ Just L (November 19, 2018)

Love Has No Ethnicity

Yesterday, at SFO, while waiting for my daughter to clear customs, a man with a luggage cart stacked with clear-tape wrapped luggage, approached me and asked if he could use my phone to make a call to his wife. He showed me the handwritten number (I recognized it as a Bay Area phone number) written in the back of a small day planner. Perhaps it was the fact the number started with 526-, the same as the landline that my parents have had for 50 years, or perhaps it was his aged, but kind face; nevertheless, I dropped my “stranger danger,” and I dialed the number and handed him the phone. I could not understand a word they were saying but I recognized JOY. After a short exchange he hung up the phone, thanked me, and handing it back said tearfully, “I have just arrived from Pakistan!” “Well, welcome to America,” I replied. He asked me to please direct him to the exit. He practically skipped away – belying his age – his salwar kameez waving behind him.

A reminder that sometimes we simply want the same things.

~Just L (November 10, 2017)

But, we didn’t get to wake up to the end of the story…

The Las Vegas shooting terrorized more than concert goers as active shooters were reported down the strip as far as Caesars Palace.

For those who say, but you weren’t at the concert (dismissing thousands of people’s terrifying experience), “Yes, but we didn’t get to wake up to the end of the story…”

Here’s my short personal account.

~Just L (October 7, 2017)

The title was a quote by my girlfriend, Kristina,

We are grateful we got to see another day. My heart breaks for the families of the 58 who didn’t.

IMG_6917
Hiding in the staff uniform room in Caesars’ basement after running for our lives.

Personal Life, Politics, and Pinot Blanc –I Would Die 4 U

I have been pondering my personal life, politics, and Pinot Blanc… After all, aren’t they the same thing? ~ Just L (March 9, 2012)

I believe that every single event in life that happens is an opportunity to choose love over fear.” ~Oprah Winfrey

It was one of those days when I was reminded how precious life is.

Prince died today. 57 years-old… four years older than me.

Of course, those who know me, know I love music, but I am not a super fan of those who rise in the ranks of popular culture per se. I’d much rather quote an obscure author any day.

Still, it is today…

Every time I tell someone how old I am — which for some reason has come up in conversation more often than usual as of late — they say, “I hope I look half as good as you at my age.”

I smile, and say, “thank you.” In my heart, I hope they get to love and be loved half as well as I have been loved at my age. I pray they become better not bitter, and can laugh at themselves no matter how talented, beautiful, inspiring they become on any given day. And — most of all – love themselves, on the most crappy days.

In the last week or so, I have lost some relatives who had lived a long life and a few precious friends whose lives were cut too short. The thing that keeps me from being filled with sadness is that I know, without a doubt, these individuals experienced extraordinary, unconditional love. I won’t say their names out of respect for their wishes — which reflects the elegant ways in which they lived their lives — but, their lives are forever etched in the history of my heart, and will live on as I interact with others each day… Hopefully with half as much grace.

So, Prince: A plethora of talent packed into a pint-sized frame.

Many of his songs were a soundtrack to some stellar times….

“Party like it’s 1999,” which was released in 1982, a couple of years after I left high school, and the year after my son was born… was an anthem for New Year’s Eve 1999/2000, as if I had waited 18 years just to be able to give this track it’s proper moment. Only some will understand this.

The week “Purple Rain” was released, I saw the movie twice with two different “suitors” in the same week. They both brought flowers, and respectfully picked me up from my parent’s home. The very same home my parents still live in and love in, together. To this day, I am friends with both of these men who are now married to the love of their lives. I celebrate their extraordinary strength and resilience. Still, I get to hold a sweet memory and a sweet spot for them both from June 1984.

I had a husband who was careless with my heart. The fact is, as a narcissist, he probably never cared. Yet, whenever I think of him jumping out of the Jeep and breaking out some stellar dance moves, while singing (not lip syncing) “Kiss” — I can”t help but smile. It could be at a stop light, in the middle of a sandy jetty, or on a muddy mountain top. Sipping a cherry Slurpee and taking in that show = priceless.

As I sit here, I am recovering from heartbreak. A year and a half ago, I fell in love with the one I thought was to be the love of the second half of my life. We had that Prince New Year moment. You should have seen the way he looked at me. We shared a deep appreciation for music, and being the same age shared insider secrets that seemed to bond us. Finding him was like spotting your first crush at a crowded concert. I can see him in his purple “Prince” shirt now. We were, by all accounts perfect together, until we were not. He simply ceased to exist in my life after a particularly unexplained, difficult night for me. That was a little over two months ago. I have never been so entirely broken. This will take some time.

As I write it is thundering and lightning outside of my expanse of windows to the west. On the Gram, I posted “Nothing like lightning, thunder and warm April showers to send me running across the street to swing at the park! ‪#‎thunderstorm‬ ‪#‎kidatheartforever‬‪#‎thrills‬ ‪#‎simplepleasures‬

In spite of life’s seeming complicated moments where one realizes that intensity is not truth, and too often sadness takes people far ashore, I relish the simple pleasures: Warm rain, fireworks, roller coasters, kissing, and swings. These are a few of my favorite things.

On a night like this where I was running through the rain barefoot and swinging at the park across from my home, everything important comes into focus.

And, as much as I appreciate sharing these universal adventures with people everywhere, the romantic in me believes these are the very things lovers should share…. Whether you are half my age, 53 (me) or 72 (my mother who still adores my father)… These are the moments meant to be shared….  with family, friends, and especially loves. If you are fortunate — your love, as in your “one and only” — who gets you, ride or die, laughs, cries, and protects your solitude relishes these moments as much as you do.

Tonight, now sopping wet and smiling, I sit alone. And write. This is my life: Today.

p.s. I am planning a visit to see my parents in the coming two months, I have a list of people I wish to connect with: To be silly with, to share life stories, and simply be with, because life is too short to take for granted, and I surely do not want to miss a moment of sharing sweet laughter with the ones I love. I have received a few notes from some, and I hope you will plan to share your stories, and even dare to bare your souls, with me. After all, if not now, when?

“Personal Life, Politics, and Pinot Blanc” is a periodic series of ponderings by Just L.

~Ponderings by Just L (April 21, 2016)