NaPoWriMo Day 3: 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 (NaPoWriMo, April 3, 2019)

NaPoWriMo 2019, Day 3 Prompt: write something that involves a story or action that unfolds over an appreciable length of time. Perhaps, as you do, you can focus on imagery, or sound, or emotional content (or all three!)

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.

This Year Went Sideways

This year went sideways
Yet I’ve never felt straighter
Survived the mistake of my life
And outshined the haters

I put off worthy suitors
Accumulated abdominal fat
Ignoring my stress levels
For one who was not all that

A talented musician
But a mediocre lover
His ‘sweet’ disposition
An intricate cover

Thrilled I’m not entangled
For a lifetime with this mess
Or have to depend on him
For anything serious

Blinded by early sparks
Red flags I ignored
Committing for too long
To one to be deplored

I entrusted my soul
To an unworthy man
Killing me softly with his song
When I should’ve ran

As 2018 comes to an end
I am so happy it’s over
Not to be entangled for life
With this free loader

~ Just L (December 22, 2018)

Author’s Note: They say the love of your life often comes after the mistake of your life. Here’s to 2019!

Why Do Some People Attract So Many Mosquitoes?

It’s not a competition
But if it is, I’ve won
I am living the dream
And it’s only just begun

I’ve been used and betrayed
And poked in the eye
I confidently fix my crown
My head and my heels high

I smell like cotton candy
My skin is just as sweet
Small minds want a taste
Their otherwise incomplete

Mocked, misunderstood
For my great happiness
Pests cannot lift up others
Cannot comprehend this

My fairy tale was burst long ago
It seems overrated and overdone
I’ve had lovers in 14 countries
Though I’d settle for a lifetime with the right one

I’m attracted to sparkly humans
The kind and the generous in spirit
Pure intentions with a moral compass
And someone who’s a bit satiric

Give me one who is well-rounded
Equal parts naughty and nice
Some PDA? Yes please…
Don’t have to ask me twice!

Beaches, fireworks, roller coasters
Concerts, travel, wine and food
Or snuggles by a crackling fire
Gets me in the mood

Oh, I’ve been loved and hated
By men, but mostly women
Jealousy is a terrible disease
Glad I haven’t been bitten

I adore my female friends
We lift each other up
And slather on insect repellent
Sharing life lessons and makeup

My heart remains soft
Much like my well-chosen words
Honestly, I curse a little (or a lot)
But hate and bigotry is never deserved

I’ll age like fine wine
As I have no bitter roots
Beauty and old are not mutually exclusive
Occasionally I rock thigh-high boots

I have done my time in an office
Traded the boardroom to become a Goddess
Overcame challenges, too many me, toos
What, you expect me to be modest?!

I don’t care what others think
My character and integrity are gold
I’ve worked in war-torn countries
Like a lioness I am bold

My adult children are my heart
They are better versions of me
My parents are shining examples
How good a life lived well can be

It’s not a competition
But if it is, I’ve won
I live my life out loud
Because at 55, it’s just begun!

~Just L (December 4, 2018)

Author’s Note: A little love and silliness — the best antidote for pests!

An Amusing Modern Fairytale by a Matriarch

Once upon a time a First Nation princess and a Mexican empress tried to convince me that my Jamaican Lion was in love with each of them more than he was in love with me. Realizing he was only in love with himself, I lived happily ever after jetsetting to my homes around the world, collecting art, being paid to write, loving and being loved by my tribe, and enjoying my abundant life on my own terms because a Queen doesn’t need a King. The end.

~ Just L (November 21, 2018)

Author’s Note: It’s all women’s work (for scraps) in a lion’s pride.

We Take Selfies and Laugh

“….For the final time, leave us alone” I read out loud as I lie in your lap.

Stroking my hair you ask, “Who’s us?”

“I suppose she and her 375-word [most recent] tirade.”

“No, babe you are just “self-centered and delusional” enough to believe that her Facebook posts clearly directed at you and her direct messages (DM) to you have nothing to do with you.”

“And I “parade images around of [you] on social media like [you] are just a piece of meat.”

We take selfies and laugh.

~ Just L (October 3, 2018)

What if… *mind blown*

What if the reason for meeting him (#1) was that the Universe made sure he (#1) abruptly broke it off with me knowing I would seek a beach in Mexico for solace and meet him (#2) who would ensure I would return and entice me to stay just long enough to meet him (#3) who had not yet arrived?

*mind blown*

~Just L (September 27, 2018)

Day 584 (or 1 year, 7 months, 7 days)

11:11 am

I step out of the shower
Conscious not to slip on the tile
I glance at the microwave
11:11, it blinks
Make a wish
If only I could go back to that grateful poem
The one I wrote in January, I think
I select a pink dry-fit dress
Put my hair in a high pony
Anti-aging eye cream in spite of the humidity

1:08 pm

The heat of the day beats down on my shoulders
The convertible top down and the wind in my hair
I am headed on a picnic with friends
Where hummingbirds linger just a little longer than elsewhere
The water tastes of Hibiscus
A trio of shrimp tacos is delicious
The scent of summer rain is heavy in the air
My friends smoke a joint and laugh without a care
I retreat to my own thoughts for a while
And mimic listening.

5:25 pm

I stare at my computer screen
Trying to calculate the extortion rate of my life and love
Or trying to write a business plan for a client
Pretty much the same thing at the moment
There is no poetry in this task
I grieve the immense loss of a place I once had
Before trust was shattered, afore I dared ask
My resilient thick skin is wearing thin
I start to cry
Must I fight vulnerability? Do I give up or give in?

8:25 pm

Right now I am thankful for the rain shower head
I wash my hair as if I am shooting a commercial
I need these 5 minutes however superficial
If I had a bathtub I’d likely sell suds swimsuits
Sauvignon Blanc meet Mr. Bubble
I meticulously shave to remove all stubble
Why do women go through this ritual?
As if I expect a suitor to knock at my door
We’re nowhere near the fun, f*ck, and eat stage
A worn out sleep T is hardly a magic elixir.

1:16 am

For the first time in many weeks I’m relaxed
Sunk deep into the goose down mattress topper
I feel both heavy and high
In that moment before falling fast asleep
When the anesthesiologist tells you to count backwards from 10
9, 8, 7….
Right before I drift to Never-never Land
I feel a cool breeze graze the fine hairs on my spine
I smile
Everything is going to be just fine.

~Just L (September 27, 2018)