Suggested Reading

the beginning of change is always a new idea…   When I asked other formidable women to list for me titles of books they have read that empowered them, gave them courage to change,…

Source: Suggested Reading

book review: Texas native and #indieauthor, Sandy Foster Morrison

Just Because You're Dead Doesn't Mean You're GoneJust Because You’re Dead Doesn’t Mean You’re Gone by Sandy Foster Morrison

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you’re not “from here,” then you might think you know something about East Texas from having watched the recent movie “Bernie.” Frankly, the movie is spot on at revealing the snippy, elitist, prejudiced thinking prevalent there (and the horrific twang of speech!).

But this author: grew up there. Her memoir of that experience will make you cringe and groan if you are from here and it will make you exclaim in disbelief if you’re not. But I can tell you from my own Piney Woods roots that her account of “how it was (is)” is all true.

Ms. Foster-Morrison has a breezy tone that sets the reader at ease right away. She is fiercely honest, a laudable act of courage, given her ancestry. I commend her for this.

Her story, a black comedy with tragic moments, is the story of “every-woman”: how marriage, child-rearing, society and family influence and rule our becoming and if we are tenacious to a fault, as this author, having the will to become who she herself determines to be in spite of overwhelming odds against her, how we survive.

Personally, I deeply identified with the main premise: that those who have left their fleshly bodies have not “died,” but in fact carry on communicating with us from beyond, especially when our relationships on this plane have unfinished business.

If you are looking to fantasize and be carried away, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a meaty story, full of unexpected turns and raw emotion, one that will make you laugh and cry, and leave you deep in thought, read this book.

I dare you.

View all my reviews

#RRBC Book Review: Corvus Rising Book One The Patua’ Heresy by #Indie Author Mary C. Simmons

Corvus Rising Book Cover

This is a book of dreams: tree-houses; talking birds, the lost feminine, found.
Wilder Island, a mysterious, mythical island that symbolizes (in my mind) the earth herself, is inhabited by the Corvus (crows or ravens), keepers of an ancient, almost lost language. Almost lost, that is, to humans.
Fortunately, there are humans known as Patua’ who can communicate with the Corvus in this language. Alfredo Manzi, the lone Jesuit priest and professor of ornithology who comes to Wilder Island with the intention of turning it into a bird sanctuary, is one of them.
As the story begins, we witness Jade’s nightmare: crows, shattering glass, a precious medallion given to her by her unknown mother (we think) who disappeared when Jade was very young. Jade’s husband Russ, an academic peer of Manzi, comforts her, tries to convince her that her dream is merely an echo of the previous day’s events and conversation.

But Jade, an artist and believer in beauty, knows her dream means much more.

H. Koppdelaney raven image

image:  “Reflections of Winter”  used by permission of the artist, h. koppdelaney via Creative Commons license.

As a student of dreams, a lover of earth and believer in beauty, I am often one who speaks a language almost lost. I often find myself at odds with what is: too much noise, too many things, too much doing, so I deeply identified with one character in particular, Charlotte, she having been institutionalized her entire adult life and unable to communicate with most humans in language they could understand.
What happens in this eco-fantasy happens in reality: women stand up for their sanity and autonomy (with help or without it); money changers pollute and plunder the earth; people, acting alone or banding together, go to war over pieces of this planet (who owns it or how to treat it), all the while trying to understand or completely ignoring the language of the other.

Enter: the hero.

ravens at the tower 2000 Stephen B Whatley

image:  “Ravens at the Tower” 2000  used with permission of the artist, Stephen B. WhatleyView more of his work  here.  Read his profile on Wikipedia here.

The author of this layered allegory, Mary C. Simmons, has successfully given the role of hero to her crow characters. They are funny and wise, silly and sly and believable. These savvy creature-beings indeed point the way.

I don’t know about you, but I have to believe that together we can make the kind of relationship between animals (human and creature-beings) and between animals and earth happen that this author postulates can happen.

I loved this book.  -&-having never dreamed of crows before, and after reading the first few chapters of it, I did dream of them and then wrote the following verse:

for Mary C. Simmons

crows

carry
fallen oak

trunk of peace
these
do not
fly

they rise

~

such
a thing

i have
not seen

but dream

~

of trees
& crows

constructing

—architects
scrubbing

sky

~

how
(i wonder)

what if

dreams
are crystal

what if

feathers

ruled:

soft
curious
gesture

clever
ubiquitous

aim

~

// men //
are stone

ether

gathered
stacked

& after?

Look for an interview with Mary C. Simmons coming soon on this blog!

D. Ellis Phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.

“the surprising” continues to SURPRISE! Poetry & Song: an hour with the artist, recorded live

love seeks it my image (detail)image:  “love seeks its own” 36X12″ acrylic on canvas (detail), D. Ellis Phelps, 2014.  All rights reserved.

Follow the youtube link below to hear me reading  (about 43 minutes long) from my first full-length manuscript of ecstatic poetry entitled, “what holds her” with commentary about my recent solo show of visual art, “the surprising.”

It was recorded at Intermezzo Gallery in Boerne, Texas on Nov. 1, 2014.  I also make comments about my artistic process.

And TADA! make my debut (HA!) as a singer/songwriter, singing two new songs written during the making of the art for this show.

Fast forward to about minute 26 if you just want to hear the songs & a little of their back-story.  The first song, “love seeks it own,” was received just after completion of the fourth painting in the series also entitled “love seeks its own,” after the song.

D. Ellis Phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.

The Choice for Love

 sadness_149 from hipish.free.fr

photo courtesy of http://hipish.free.fr/graphics/feelings/sadness/?id=149

The day I saw my reflection in the microwave glass, standing in the kitchen of my posh, suburban home, drinking Jack Daniels straight from the bottle, I decided to leave alcohol alone. But it was later, much later, and with careful counseling; active listening in recovery groups; abstinence from alcohol and mind-altering, prescription drugs; and prayerful surrender that I made the life-changing choice for self-love and acceptance.

Sunday mornings in Central Texas where I grew up, were for going to church and Sunday school. Sunday afternoons were for being with family, eating fried chicken, mashed potatoes made from scratch with brown gravy, canned English peas soaked in butter, white bread (also spread thick with butter); drinking sweet iced tea; and watching the Cowboys on television: my dad’s regular nap time. We attended the First (Southern) Baptist Church as did all our kin except for my grandmother who swore we would all go to hell because we didn’t attend The Church of Christ. Early on, as you might guess, I got confused about religion.

There were volatile arguments between my grandmother and my dad over religious choices.  Of course, these might have fallen on deaf ears for most eight-year-olds, but not on mine. I practiced deep thinking, said my prayers fervently, and read the scripture in the King James Version of the Bible (a gift from my father bound in black leather with my name inscribed on the front cover in gold), and I listened. I was looking for answers to questions I could barely formulate as yet.

My reasoning probably went something like this: maybe if I listen hard enough, I will understand who’s telling the truth and then I can settle this thing once and for all or, at the very least, keep myself out of hell. Or maybe I thought: if I go to church, read my lessons, sing in the choir, invite Jesus into my heart, and behave really, really, really well, my dad will stop throwing my mother’s head against the wall and shoving her down all the time.

Yes. I lived with family violence regardless of church, regardless of prayer.

Violence is a learned behavior. My father learned how to treat a woman from witnessing the way his father treated my grandmother and he learned how to treat a child from the way his father treated him: beatings with a horse whip; tongue-lashings; harsh, unforgiving judgmental attitudes. And from birth, I began to learn this destructive pattern as well. Of course, I had no idea how it would eventually surface in my adult behaviors or even that it would. In fact, I swore it would never happen to me nor would I ever perpetrate such unhappiness and wrongdoing upon myself or others. How little I knew.

I’m cognitively unsure about my eight-year-old-reasoning, but I can say that I listened well, to everything, like a dog on point. And I tried to be good at everything. I did my chores. I did my homework. I made straight A’s and I never, ever talked back.

Until I did.

When I left home for The University of Texas in the fall of 1970, I was determined to leave all that chaos at home. But guess what? I’d learned what I’d lived. Rebellion had been rumbling in me like a stampede about to happen and when I added alcohol to the mix, wild abandon broke down the gates of any inhibition that lingered in this small town Baptist girl.

As was the prevalent mind-set on campus, “I loved the one I was with,” and I was with many. I took up smoking, cigarettes and pot. I perfected the art of cursing; peppering every phrase with a well-placed explicative. I went to class, but slept through the early ones. I played Spades in the dormitory hallway passed midnight and studied just enough to get by. I drove drunk, bought and sold dope, and blacked out, forgetting my way home more than once.

Most of these mild diversions may sound typical of college life to many, and really they were typical. I was never arrested (only by luck), after all. I functioned well, albeit often hung over. I landed a role as a dancer in the chorus line of the UT production of Cabaret after my first audition, winning the role over many dance majors with whom I competed. I served as a dormitory advisor and a resident assistant during my sophomore and junior years, both honorary positions. I excelled as a student-teacher during my senior year. And I got my degree.

I was educated and ready to live life, but emotionally miserable.

“So,” you ask. “What does any miserable, twenty-something-year-old woman do to get happy?” Get married and have a child. Right? Wrong.

I did get married and have a child I wanted very much to have, but I was still miserable.

“So what was the problem?” you asked. The problem was deep-seated rage and self-hatred—fear in disguise.

By the time the day came that I saw my reflection in the microwave glass, my five-foot-four frame supported a mere one-hundred and five pounds; I was drinking close to a fifth of straight whiskey daily but could not get drunk no matter how I tried; I smoked three packs of cigarettes a day. I carried at least three prescription drugs in my purse at all times (for nervousness, headaches, and chronic bowel distress); and I was depressed, misguided, and suicidal.

As you may have guessed by now, I’d stopped attending church as soon as I left home, abandoning virtually all of its teachings in return for agnosticism. I’d seen my first of many shrinks; had multiple affairs; and found that I had no idea how to be happy. My marriage failed, ending with an affair that broke up two families, creating painful waves of dysfunction to this day.

My second marriage and my drug and alcohol free lifestyle have survived, however, for thirty-three years. Why? Not because I am holy now. I am far from it. Not because I have returned to church. I haven’t, though I did time and again, but found no match for my version of spirituality in organized religion. Not because now I am finally married to the right man. This relationship has been tumultuous at best. Not because my life is trouble-free. It hasn’t been. We’ve faced years of federal investigations by the IRS, the SEC, and the FBI for alleged misbehavior and received subsequent judgments that took our life savings. We’ve raised a potpourri family. We’ve been through surgeries, illnesses, counseling and treatment and we’ve watched our parents age, move in with us, and die. Sometimes we thrived and sometimes we just survived and sometimes we nearly killed each other, but here we are. Here I am.

Here I am, healthy as I am, and able to be as authentic and as honest as I am with you because of choice. Not a once-in-a-life-time choice, but a consistent, committed, daily choice to love and to accept myself with all my strengths and weakness no matter what rather than to self-destruct and in the process also destroy others and any chance of life-giving relationship.

Here I am because I choose to look at myself honestly and with great reverence for the path I’ve walked. I choose to acknowledge the grace that has accompanied me on this path. I choose to forgive myself and others completely and quickly. And I choose to hold my head up high.

Here I am because I choose to let go of fear and live in the present not the past.

Here I am because I choose to live and learn without regret. And because I choose to live this way, I know how to let you make your own choices, understanding deeply that church or no church, there is wholeness in all of us that seeks its own level that will rise above all apparent unhappiness and create new life—given half a chance.