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.

NaPoWriMo Day 2: Truth or Fiction?

Maneuvering Vallarta’s sidewalks without a care in the world,
My bar owner friend beckons, “Come over here girl!”

“Lori this is Mark, Mark this is Lori”
Certain she had launched a great love story.

I’m a sucker for all seven types of artists;
With destiny did I make a tryst?

Perched on the barstool breeze at my back,
Heart full, plans ahead, I have no lack.

Swearing off dating a musician just last year,
Anticipation hangs in the thick, warm air.

Seduced by confidence, and sound of his laughter,
Can sharing a glass of wine turn into ever after?

~Just L (NaPoWriMo, April 2, 2019)

 NaPoWriMo 2019, Day 2 Prompt: write a poem that resists closure by ending on a question, inviting the reader to continue the process of reading (and, in some ways, writing) the poem even after the poem ends.

NaPoWriMo Day 1: How to Honor the Visible and the Invisible

You may know her by her dazzling, infectious smile
Or breasts to die for, “the best money can buy”
(she’d quip)
In reality, this is only how you might recognize her
Her carefree brazenness masked depression inside.

Her kind, compassionate words; heartfelt, honest talks
A lifetime of experiences that made her hard, yet soft
Her volunteer work was far and above
Whether giving advice from a barstool or art from her loft.

Her imaginative paintings reflected her vibrant soul
Whimsical, off-kilter landscapes that seem exactly right
For those among us who’ve traveled a winding path
The colors of Puerto Vallarta are not as bright tonight.

Far too many brilliant stars are seen and not heard
Lest you think painting in the buff is obscene
(she often painted in the nude)
Know she’s in the heavens now, naked and unafraid
Paint the sky any color you want, my dear Francine!

~ Just L (NaPoWriMo, April 1, 2019)

Read Francine’s story here.

NaPoWriMo 2019, Day 1 Prompt: write a poem that provides the reader with instructions on how to do something.

Author’s Note: In loving memory of Francine Peters who lost her battle with depression on the eve of International Transgender Day of Visibility 2019.

A sunset celebration of Francine Peters life is scheduled for Thursday, April 4, 2019, 6:30pm at Langostinos on Playa Los Muertos, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. All are welcome.

“Do not assume that [s]he who seeks to comfort you now, lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. [Her] life may also have much sadness and difficulty, that remains far beyond yours. Were it otherwise, [s]he would never have been able to find these words.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke

You Wish

You were dishonest
By omission, as they say
When she is no longer the one
You want to walk slowly with
And she runs ahead…
You’ll ask, “Still friends?”
You wish.

~ Just L (February 16, 2019)

Author’s Note: When you are seeing multiple women, especially if you are intimate, and run in the same small circles, a heads up is just common courtesy, and when you have an interest in seriously pursuing another woman in particular, just say so. And, if you are serious, it might be a good idea to stop sending flirty texts or photos to others (read: me).

 

 

He Prefers Necklaces That Choke

He prefers necklaces that choke
Insists he’s just some bloke

One who doesn’t bite, mostly
He promises infinity

So, the tumble begins
The golden smile sunsets;

In the end, darkness descends,
Blood stained.

Most of forever deprived
A dying rose on the table,

A blood red soul
Put to rest, in the netherworld.

~Just L (February 11, 2019)

I Didn’t Even Suck In My Stomach

I saw you on the street
In passing, We embraced
“Hi Sweetheart”…
You introduced me to your “friend”
Beautiful like a tiny painting
With a limp dishrag handshake.

I greeted you full, squarely on
With my usual over-the-top energy
“So great to see you; and meet you”
I didn’t even suck in my stomach
I don’t need your approval,
Or heartache.

~ Just L (February 5, 2019)

Dignity ˈdignitē/ noun

Dignity
/ˈdignitē/ noun

1. The moment you realize that the person you cared for has nothing intellectually or spiritually to offer you, but a headache.

2. The moment you realize God had greater plans for you that don’t involve crying at night or sad.

3. The moment you stop comparing yourself to others because it undermines your worth, education and your parent’s wisdom.

4. The moment you live your dreams, not because of what it will prove or get you, but because that is all you want to do. People’s opinions don’t matter.

5. The moment you realize that no one is your enemy, except yourself.

6. The moment you realize that you can have everything you want in life. However, it takes timing, the right heart, the right actions, the right passion and a willingness to risk it all. If it is not yours, it is because you really didn’t want it, need it or God prevented it.

7. The moment you realize the ghost of your ancestors stood between you and the person you loved. They really don’t want you mucking up the family line with someone that acts anything less than honorable.

8. The moment you realize that happiness was never about getting a person. They are only a helpmate towards achieving your life mission.

9. The moment you believe that love is not about losing or winning. It is just a few moments in time, followed by an eternity of situations to grow from.

10. The moment you realize that you were always the right person. Only ignorant people walk away from greatness.

~Shannon L. Alder