SPOTLIGHT ON THE COUNCIL: Lesley Dobis, TLA Network Treasurer

Lesley Dobis serves as a member of TLA Network’s governing body and has played an important role in helping us make strategic financial decisions that are in alignment with our organization’s mission and values.

In her spare time, Lesley runs a financial consulting business, writes a blog about parenting, and periodically posts storytelling videos to her website. When she’s not writing, she shares her ever-expanding garden in northern New York State with her husband, many cats, and lots of chickens.

With the predictable good-natured humor and that innate ability to always land on one’s feet that seems to be the hallmark of a farmer’s grandchild, in the face of the pandemic and the resulting shuttering of her massage business, Lesley plans to open a street-side farm stand this fall to sell her abundant produce and to help feed her neighbors.

Lesley writes, “I’ve identified as a writer since I was 11 years old, however, I was always reluctant to put my own work out in public.  I worked as a technical writer 30 years ago, spent the last 20 years as a massage therapist, and now run a financial planning business.  I was introduced to TLAN in 2019, and that experience helped shift my writing to become my top priority. Currently, I write on topics as diverse as parenting and personal finances. I also dabble with storytelling. Since I have such eclectic interests, I’ve never felt truly at home in any group. That all changed with TLAN. The people I’ve met are creative, passionate, kind, and strong. They seem able to delicately juggle inner exploration and walking the talk. I’m honored to be among other TLANers and look forward to the future we create together!”

August notes

Dear TLA Community:

We hope you and your loved ones are doing well during these long, hot, summer days.

As might be true for you, we have been deeply inspired recently by the power of words in these most troubling times. U.S. Congressman and longtime civil rights activist John Lewis wrote an important essay to our nation recently, published widely on the day of the Congressman’s funeral last week. Congressman Lewis’ words are a testament to the power of a deeply compelling call to action embedded in meaningful context – the very essence of the power of words. If you have not yet seen it, you can read the full text of the Congressman’s transformational message here.

We know many of you in the TLA Network are finding ways to use your voices to help raise awareness, offer perspective and understanding, and help guide our communities toward healing and hope. What are the words that have inspired you recently, that remind you to be your biggest, boldest, most courageous self, that keep you focused on your vision and your work in these challenging times?

We continue to be dedicated to growing the transformative language arts – empowering each of us to find and use our biggest voices to effect the change we wish to see in the world. As John Lewis so eloquently wrote, “Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life, I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.”

To the Power of Words,  

Hanne Weedon, TLA Network Managing Director

Mindful Writing Toward Momentous Leaps of Meaning

by Marianela Medrano, PhD, LPC, CPT

Perhaps when you think of mindful writing, you picture a kind of writing that reduces stress, perfects techniques, or even helps you attain enlightenment. I don’t make such promises, simply because very soon you’ll discover that this kind of writing requires that we let go of any ambition and write with stillness, letting go of our internal dialogue. Mindful writing is not about the destination, but about every second of the journey.

My course, Mindful Writing Toward Momentous Leaps of Meaning, which runs on the TLA Network from August 5 through September 22, 2020, draws from the work of psychologist Clare Graves’, and specific Buddhist precepts, to create clear pathways toward wholeness. This means every aspect of our life, good, bad, or in between, is included and accepted as we also commit to living a life that is congruent with what we value the most.

In particular, we will practice the following:
Conjuring: Stretching to make the “unreal” real by engaging in rituals and activities to imagine a whole self into existence.
Offering: Drawing from the well of gratitude and examining the present, locating, naming, and amplifying the good that already exists.
Actioning: Creating writing that is restorative, and which can be the seed of change: manifestos, process notes, poems. Committing to daily spiritual practice: mindfulness meditation, mindful movement (yoga, walks in nature, etc.)

We will walk four specific pathways, informed by the four immeasurables of Buddhism: Love, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy and Equanimity. It is possible that, as we practice these four attitudes, we may remove tension from our mind and fill it with meaning that travels to the heart and nurtures the soul.

This course is an invitation to join other kindred spirits in a series of writing encounters to reflect, meditate and engage in discussions about what it means to free ourselves from fragmentation and what it takes to recompose ourselves whole. Previous knowledge of Buddhism is not required.

Through meditation and writing, we’ll tap into the body, mind, and spirit to awaken parts of the self that are dormant. Each day will be centered around a particular poem and theme. We are aiming at achieving the maturity that developmental psychology has conceived as achievable in human beings.

The hope is that, as we take a “Momentous Leap of Meaning,” we will do so in a centered and clear way. With each writing practice, we potentially have the opportunity to take a momentous leap towards the integration of body, mind, spirit, and shadow so we can show up as whole beings in the world.

We’ll aim at creating a space where we can solidify a mindfulness practice in the general sense and specifically about how to describe inner and private experiences with clarity. Writing from a symbolic, ritualized context allows the eye of the soul to see the depth and width of selfhood. Mindful writing is a way to be intentional and focus so we can depict our inner and outer experiences without judgment.

The Uninvited Guest, by Lyn Ford

About a week after “safe-at-home” became the way we play the game of life, we were visited by a storm.  This shushing, persistent deluge of white noise lasted through the night and late into the next morning.

I awakened to an unexpected, uninvited guest.  Something told me to inspect the basement, where I was greeted by at least ten inches of sewer water. This guest had entered through the drain in the cellar floor, and vandalized the place.

Floating in that nastiness were craft and workshop supplies.  Soaked handouts drifted from cardboard boxes, along with twenty years of preschool items, some of my husband’s old tools, things our grown children had left behind, and sundry other items, including the laundry I’d sorted into three baskets—mostly my clothes and all my white underwear.

I numbly summoned my husband.  What he said when he met our guest should not be repeated.

Then the furnace and water heater passed out.  Fortunately, they didn’t die.  An already exhausted heating and furnace repair person returned our call, suggesting we try letting the circuit breakers dry.  It was almost midnight. The water had subsided.  We prepared to pay for more visitors: appraisers, hauling crews, plumbing aficionados, and the microbial cleaning squad.  

Please note:  I didn’t say anything about insurance people.  “Backup” insurance is a separate entity from “flood” insurance.  We had no backup insurance. We do now.

We also lost all the paper items we stored in what we call the “paper closet” under the basement stairs.  We’d purchased our usual bulk supplies long before the run on toilet paper. Now our stockpile was gone.  

That was a good thing.  One young man, dragging items from our basement and tossing them in his truck, said, “It’s a good thing you had all that paper.  It absorbed the water and saved your bottom steps.”

Who knew that toilet paper could swell to the size of Miss Muffet’s tuffet?  We were grateful for that.

We’re grateful for a lot of things.  The basement is clean.  It is also dry, dehumidified and sanitized.  The water heater and furnace circuit breakers dried out on their own (free!).  The house creaks a bit more, as does our budget.  But we’re warm, safe and happy.  And I have new underwear.

Our unexpected guest helped us realize and appreciate what is important.  Life is good.  And I hope this guest doesn’t invite himself to our home again.

The Guest House
by Rumi  (as translated by Coleman Barks)

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture,
Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.

Fourth-generation nationally recognized Affrilachian storyteller and Ohio teaching artist Lynette (Lyn) Ford will returning to teach for the TLA Network this summer. Fantastic Folktales & Visionary Angles to Transform Our Stories, starts in early August and is not to be missed.

Lyn has shared programs and workshops on telling and writing stories with folks of all ages for more than twenty-five years. Lyn’s work is published in several storytelling-in-education resources, as well as in her award-winning books: Affrilachian Tales; Folktales from the African-American Appalachian Tradition; Beyond the Briar Patch: Affrilachian Folktales, Food and Folklore; Hot Wind, Boiling Rain: Scary Stories for Strong Hearts (2017 Storytelling World Award winner, also a creative-writing resource), and, Boo-Tickle Tales: Not-So-Scary Stories for Ages 4-9, written with storytelling friend, Sherry Norfolk and recently nominated for an Anne Izard Award. Lyn is also a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher and a great-grandmother. 

The Masks We Wear: A Story for These Pandemic Times, by Lyn Ford

Let’s begin with a story.

Once a man who could not see lost his walking stick and could not find his way to the home he shared with his mother.  He called for help, but no one seemed to hear, and he stumbled along a rugged path.

Then he heard someone call out to him, “Hello, you, perhaps I can help you.”  The man walked in the direction of that voice, and tripped over something, no, someone, another man, who dragged himself on the same rugged road, for he had no legs and sought a place of shelter.

The two of them rested a while, and talked.  Now acquainted, they realized they both faced great difficulties.  They also knew they could help one another.

The man who could not see carefully took upon his shoulders the man who could not walk.  He became legs for his new friend and this new friend became his eyes.  They soon found an easier trail.  Both men made the journey safely to the mother’s home.  She joyfully greeted them both as her sons.  

And all their lives were easier for this. ———-

This is an incredibly old fable, sometimes attributed to Aesop the storyteller, but its motif is found in stories in Europe, Asia, and North America.  Valuable old stories travel far.

Recently, I walked across an almost empty parking lot, and passed a few masked people.  Being who I am, I tried, at a safe distance, to make eye contact. Behind my own mask, I smiled and said, “Hi.”

No one spoke or looked directly at me.  Shoulders hunched, eyes to the ground, brows furrowed, strangers remained strangers.  I thought, are masks distancing us even more than we already must be, or is it the fearful, lonely frustration behind them?

Masks can help us stay physically healthy in these pandemic times, but they can’t protect us against our fears.  They may help preserve our physical wellbeing, but they won’t lift our spirits, or bring us joy. 

We must communicate hope and empathy, and let our hearts shine.  No matter how much masks obscure, they don’t hide our eyes, our body language, or our voices, tools that have always been important to sharing our stories.  Now, they’re even more important to sharing our humanity, showing others that we’re safe havens for one another, even when we must remain separated.

To be whole, to make the journey easier, to find shelter, the two men in my folktale adaptation needed one another.  Together, they found possibility and hope.  One couldn’t see, but heard the voice of his new brother.  One couldn’t walk, but recognized the strength of another.  Both were willing to ask for and receive help.  If either had ignored the other, where might each have ended his journey?  And what might have happened to that mother, who was alone?

Our present situation may not be a “happily ever after” narrative.  Real life isn’t.  But we can live this story together, and communicate.

We can be there for one another, even behind the masks we wear.

Fourth-generation nationally recognized Affrilachian storyteller and Ohio teaching artist Lynette (Lyn) Ford will returning to teach for the TLA Network this summer. Fantastic Folktales & Visionary Angles to Transform Our Stories, starts in early August and is not to be missed.

Lyn has shared programs and workshops on telling and writing stories with folks of all ages for more than twenty-five years. Lyn’s work is published in several storytelling-in-education resources, as well as in her award-winning books: Affrilachian Tales; Folktales from the African-American Appalachian Tradition; Beyond the Briar Patch: Affrilachian Folktales, Food and Folklore; Hot Wind, Boiling Rain: Scary Stories for Strong Hearts (2017 Storytelling World Award winner, also a creative-writing resource), and, Boo-Tickle Tales: Not-So-Scary Stories for Ages 4-9, written with storytelling friend, Sherry Norfolk and recently nominated for an Anne Izard Award. Lyn is also a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher and a great-grandmother. 

“What Do You Love About Facilitation?” – A Conversation with Joy Roulier Sawyer & Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Listen to Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and Joy Roulier Sawyer talk about how we came to love what can happen when we discover and share our truth in workshops, meetings, and other sessions. For Joy, it started with leading workshops for students at Columbine High School in Colorado after the 1999 shooting, and Caryn found her facilitation legs leading large meetings for people of many backgrounds fighting against a highway that would have impacted the environment, history, and even native American burial mounds.

This podcast was recorded 6 months ago to launch our “The Art of Facilitation” series (starting with our Roots and Blossoms class, to be offered again in November). You can see our upcoming class, “The Art of Facilitation: Facilitating for Community and Change,”  for more details.

Masks, Capes and the Strength to Smile, by Lyn Ford

The times we’re living in are, at the least, confusing. We’re safe if we’re stuck at home. Some of us are working and worrying, some of us are burdened with lost work and worrying, all of us are facing an unhealthy, viral fear for others’ wellbeing as well as our own, and–wait for it–worrying. 

It’s empathetically important to be concerned for ourselves and others right now, but all this safe distancing and masking takes its toll. We miss hugs, family visits, physical face-to-face conversations, screen-free smiles and up-close laughter. The concerns of our times require approaching each day with the gravity, information, and common sense that will get us through this novel coronavirus pandemic. But who wouldn’t love to feel weightless for a while?

Weightless. Flying above all this trouble. Superheroes, wearing capes and tights instead of masks as we do what we can to save the world, our efforts accompanied by our own, powerful theme songs. 

Superheroes, smiling, even though it may be concealed behind our masks.

This week, and in the weeks to come, we can dare to be our own superheroes. If we must wear annoying yet protective garments and gear over our faces, we can don our imaginary capes, too. We don’t have to wear the tights–who needs more pressure? Let’s figure out our superpowers, some way to help others. Let’s find or create our own theme songs, and do some little thing that makes us smile, like dancing in pajamas or writing and sending letters or giggling with our goldfish. 

In these serious times, we need to experience the freedom and joy of not taking ourselves too seriously.  Finding ways to smile is one of the healthiest things we can do. Daring to laugh, just because we can, is uplifting and fulfilling. 

This challenge might become our origin story, the starting point for a new chapter. We face the challenge by staying healthy, optimistic, and resourceful. And it’s okay to occasionally feel helpless. Superheroes have weaknesses, but we acknowledge them, work beyond them, and develop some strategy that keeps us going.

We can wear those masks and smile behind them. We can wash our hands while we sing our theme songs. We can be the joy that gives others strength when they hear our voices.

We should thank the superheroes who are risking their lives to provide services and care. And we should be superheroes ourselves while we’re safe at home.

“Mix a little foolishness with your prudence: it’s good to be silly at the right moment.” (Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem; dulce est desipere in loco.) – Horace

Fourth-generation nationally recognized Affrilachian storyteller and Ohio teaching artist Lynette (Lyn) Ford will returning to teach for the TLA Network this summer. Fantastic Folktales & Visionary Angles to Transform Our Stories, starts in early August and is not to be missed.

Lyn has shared programs and workshops on telling and writing stories with folks of all ages for more than twenty-five years. Lyn’s work is published in several storytelling-in-education resources, as well as in her award-winning books: Affrilachian Tales; Folktales from the African-American Appalachian Tradition; Beyond the Briar Patch: Affrilachian Folktales, Food and Folklore; Hot Wind, Boiling Rain: Scary Stories for Strong Hearts (2017 Storytelling World Award winner, also a creative-writing resource), and, Boo-Tickle Tales: Not-So-Scary Stories for Ages 4-9, written with storytelling friend, Sherry Norfolk and recently nominated for an Anne Izard Award. Lyn is also a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher and a great-grandmother. 

Activating Youth Voices

Cultivate Youth Arts Magazine Seeking Submissions

activating youth voices in the fight for equality, justice and change

SUBMISSION SEASON: Closes April 15, 2020

  • Poetry
  • Photography
  • Sketch
  • Short Story
  • Mixed-media
  • Spoken Word
  • Sculpture
  • Painting
  • Prose

Open to the Public-at-Large – Writers/Artists must be ages 18 years or younger

In June 2020 look for the inaugural issue of Cultivate, the youth arts magazine to be published each spring, by HopeWorks of Howard County, Maryland. Cultivate is a program of HopeWorks’ Youth Leadership Project, a service-learning program dedicated to empowering teens to challenge systems of oppression and prevent relationship violence in their community.

The Youth Leadership Project creates a space for students to grow in understanding themselves and the world. Facilitating self-care and social justice projects, youth leaders engage in frank discussions, raise their social consciousness and participate in creative projects and activism. Youth Leaders are excited to serve on the magazine’s editorial committee and to participate in the production process.

Themes for your submitted work (both visual and literary) should focus on reflections about growing up, relationships, family and friends, activism, change, social justice, empowerment, transformation, hope, self-care, or healing. The magazine will be available on-line and by mail.

“We protest because we love ourselves, and our people… Love is at the root of our resistance.” – Colin Kaepernick

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: April 15, 2020

Early submission is encouraged. Acceptance notifications will emailed by June 2020.  Click here to view the Submission Guidelines. Acceptance notifications will be emailed by June 2020. 

Cultivate youth arts magazine is a publication of HopeWorks made possible by the Howard County Arts Council through a grant from Howard County Government.

ABOUT HopeWorks

HopeWorks is Howard County Maryland’s local sexual and intimate partner violence center.  We provide direct support to survivors of sexual violence, intimate partner violence and human trafficking.  We also, work in community to change the culture that allows these forms of violence to continue. 

Sexual and intimate partner violence is based in power differences, not only at an individual level but also structurally in systems of power –known as oppression.  Therefore, our mission, at HopeWorks, at its core, is grounded in anti-oppression work.  

We use a social justice lens; enabling us to address and decrease the root causes of gendered violence (sexual and intimate partner violence) as well as the systems that fuel genocide, racism, transphobia, poverty, xenophobia, ableism, and more.  We support and partner with others doing anti-oppression work, efforts to achieve healthier relationships and a society free from all forms of violence.

HopeWorks envisions a world of interconnected people and communities actively working toward a society where all people are safe and valued and where everyone can reach their full potential.

Questions? Please contact HopeWorks’ Deputy Director, Vanita Leatherwood at (410) 997 -0304.

Art as Resistance

“Prakriti” by Sangeeta Kaul

Dragonfly Arts Magazine Seeking Submissions

Dragonfly arts magazine

SUBMISSION SEASON: Closes March 31, 2020

  • Poetry
  • Photography
  • Sketch
  • Short Story
  • Mixed-media
  • Spoken Word
  • Sculpture
  • Painting
  • Prose

Open to the Public-at-Large – Writers/Artists do not have to be survivors.

At HopeWorks, we use the arts in three important ways to accomplish our mission: to support survivors in their healing; as a vehicle to increase awareness; and to imagine creative solutions to bring about social change.  

Dragonfly arts magazine, published each spring, is one of our most popular arts-based projects.

Themes for your submitted work (both visual and literary) should focus on reflections about relationships, activism, oppression, love, advocacy, hope, transformative justice, trauma, racial and gender equity, intersectionality, self-care, or healing.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: March 31, 2020

Early submission is encouraged. Acceptance notifications will emailed by June 2020.  Click here to view the Submission Guidelines.

Dragonfly arts magazine is a publication of HopeWorks made possible by the Howard County Arts Council through a grant from the Howard County Government. 

ABOUT HopeWorks

HopeWorks is Howard County Maryland’s local sexual and intimate partner violence center.  We provide direct support to survivors of sexual violence, intimate partner violence and human trafficking.  We also, work in community to change the culture that allows these forms of violence to continue. 

Sexual and intimate partner violence is based in power differences, not only at an individual level but also structurally in systems of power –known as oppression.  Therefore, our mission, at HopeWorks, at its core, is grounded in anti-oppression work.  

We use a social justice lens; enabling us to address and decrease the root causes of gendered violence (sexual and intimate partner violence) as well as the systems that fuel genocide, racism, transphobia, poverty, xenophobia, ableism, and more.  We support and partner with others doing anti-oppression work, efforts to achieve healthier relationships and a society free from all forms of violence.

HopeWorks envisions a world of interconnected people and communities actively working toward a society where all people are safe and valued and where everyone can reach their full potential.

Questions? Please contact HopeWorks’ Deputy Director, Vanita Leatherwood at (410) 997 -0304.