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Archive for the ‘Bodie Parkhurst’ Category


Leroybookfrontcover

Here’s part of how I said “good bye” to Leroy.

When The Boy and I first moved to Milton Freewater we came under duress; our home in Portland had flooded and the landlord chose to do nothing–for a month. We lost everything, including our health. We came here because houses were cheap and the weather was dry. We came to start again.

But a funny thing happened. We acquired our House Leroy. It turned out that he, like me, had roots in the Valley. It turned out that we had complementary skills. It turned out that, against all odds, we became a family, in a town made for families. Those first summers The Boy had a whole neighborhood of kids to play with. Our little old house rang with shouts, laughter, and occasionally tears.

We had come to Milton Freewater to start over. What we discovered was that those old roots we had still had a little life in them. We took evening drives through pale evenings, past peach, pear, and apple orchards. I started doing a project for the local historical society. Those evening drives took on a timeless quality. Some evenings it almost felt like the road had carried us back to when we first drove it, back in the sixties, when summers were hot, corn came in the husks and often included ugly little worms, tomato fields and yes, strawberry fields, stretched forever.

VBcemetery

It was, for those few years, a life out of time. The Boy progressed through the school system. He competed in track. He played football. He played the tuba. Life wasn’t always easy–2008 happened, and 2009, and there were signs that the world was changing, but it was out there, beyond the borders of our town, and our lives. In our world, we went to football games and track meets and solo festivals and jazz festivals, and we drove through quiet evenings, and then we sat on the porch in the golden light, and talked, or listened, or just felt the breeze on our faces.

And then we lost the House Leroy, and it was just The Boy and me, and we tried, but we both knew that losing Leroy was a grievous wound. The timeless world in which we had lived had shattered beyond repair. Driving the old roads became too painful because the history that we had built, that connection to the past that had shielded us like a golden bubble, had shattered beyond repair.

frogs3smallThere were some bad days, months, years. We struggled. We developed coping mechanisms. I developed diabetes, sleep apnea, cancer. The Boy developed depression, anxiety, and cholinergic urticaria. But still, we coped. We still fought for every bit of joy we could find. But for me, there was the sense that we were on borrowed time.

And then came last December. The university where I teach, and where The Boy was finishing up his first degree, got hit with a cyberattack, just before finals week. And we coped. All of us on campus. Finals were re-vamped or canceled. Papers came in as hard copy, rather than uploads. Grades had to be entered when that part of the system was liberated. When winter term started we were still coping. And then halfway through the term, we had snow. Then we had a warm stretch, and all of the snow accumulated in the mountains came rushing down into the valley. Water was everywhere. The Boy, the cats, and I had to evacuate to a Travelodge. We took litter boxes, three changes of clothes for each of us, the gaming systems, the computers, our cell phones, and The Boy’s tux and tuba; he had a concert that weekend.

The Valley rallied. Schools shut down and high schoolers filled sandbags for frantic homeowners. People with big rigs helped people without. Local construction companies carried gravel to washed-out roads. We managed. When the cats, The Boy and I returned home it was to find that though homes at the bridge end of our street had had to be sandbagged, our little old house sat high and dry on its little hill. We breathed a sigh of relief and settled back into our home.

And then, just a few weeks after the flood, the Corona Virus reached Washington, and then Weston, a little town about fifteen miles away. The uncertainty has been hard. What’s happening? Will there be a vaccine or not? If we get sick, what do we do? Where do we go? How do we pay the mortgage? I work in the “gig” economy; I don’t have the luxury of sick leave or unemployment insurance. I have only what I earn.

Advice started. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Closures started. Schools and businesses in California and Seattle. And then word came that our university was closing early. All finals would be administered online. Next term will start not on a busy, lively campus, but in silent rooms where teachers will speak to screens.

The Boy had his last concert–it was the swing band, and he had a solo and rocked it. He had his last presentation and rocked that, too. He’s graduating this term, but there will be no ceremony–just a quiet acknowledgment, and a quiet party at home.

When we came to Milton we slipped back in time for a few years. We lived in a beautiful, twilight eternity. And then the bubble cracked. We lost Leroy. The Boy and I got sick. The world around us got sick. Politics, which for a while allowed us Hope smacked it right out of us. It became a foul, cynical, vicious thing, a cruel joke, and endlessly, openly, corrupt.

Even for people like us, in quiet backwaters, the stench of our dead and rotting system has become unbearable. The cyberattack, the flood, and now the Corona Virus pandemic are all symptoms of a world breaking down around us. We have always had crises, but in the past we took pride in stepping up and meeting the challenge, not just endlessly spinning, spinning, spinning. We have reached the point where the center no longer holds, and where even our quiet lives have become unrecognizable.

We have a president who, rather than enabling our own world-class scientists and systems to work effectively in combatting the virus, tries to make it into a money-making opportunity. Though overwhelming numbers of us support Medicare for All–something the virus has shown is in all of our best interests–we are saddled with a Congress refusing to act on our wishes and in our best interests.

The only solution on offer is to wash your hands and hide in your house. The thing that should make all of us stronger–our national self, our friends, neighbors, towns–is the thing that might well sicken or kill many of us. I am washing my hands. I am hiding in my house. I’ve worked from home for decades, so I know the moves. But contracts are being canceled as events are canceled or postponed. If I lose too many more I’ll be in serious trouble.

So what’s the point of all this? No matter how this comes out, I think we have reached a watershed. Colleges and universities will go back in session. The companies that survive the closures will re-open their doors. Children will go back to school. But I think something has irrevocably changed.

That beautiful golden bubble? The bubble in which for a while we lived out of time? That’s gone. It’s not even shards on the floor. The pace and magnitude of crises are accelerating, spinning us ever onward to that moment of freefall. The past wasn’t perfect. But there were certain things upon which we felt we could rely. Those things are gone. The center has not held. Yeats may have been writing about events he was around him; he might have been writing about our times as well. If the beast has not yet reached Bethlem, he has certainly programmed it into his GPS, and is no longer slouching, but speeding through the night.

The Second Coming
By William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

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Today’s the last day to download Past Lives: A Journey free. Tomorrow, November 24, we’ll have a complete change of pace, when Redeeming Stanley: Redeeming Stanley: A Savage Little Tale of True Love, Old Gods, Bitches, Bestiality, Burnout, and Above All, Payback becomes the free download. Stanley’s been popular since he first met the public way back in 2009 (and won Audiolark’s Best of the Best e-books award, incidentally). Stanley is, of course, available in paperback and Kindle (and for free from November 24 to 28!), but he’s also available as an audiobook from Audiolark. He’s not free there, regrettably, but he’s still a darned good deal. So go on, download…download…

Available in paperback and on Kindle from Amazon

November 19-23: Past Lives: A Journey
This is a tiny little collection of short stories that grew out of a series of past-life regression exercises. The stories are poetic, evocative, and thought-provoking, from the girl trapped in the desert to prove a point to the mistress who has discovered too late that relationships can be transforming to the milkmaid who lacks the courage to fight back to the woman who discovers that she has lost something she never realized she had–and in redeeming her present rewrites her past and her future, these are stories about love, what it means, and how we find it, lose it, and sometimes, if we’re lucky, discover it again within ourselves.
Reviews Download FREE November 19-23 (it’s always free to Amazon Prime members)

November 24-28: Redeeming Stanley: Redeeming Stanley: A Savage Little Tale of True Love, Old Gods, Bitches, Bestiality, Burnout, and Above All, Payback
This little book right here is the reason I sometimes am startled to find myself turning up on Alternative Porn Sites. I think it’s the “bestiality” in the title. Which is warranted, but it’s the sort of warm, fuzzy bestiality that sort of slips by, only later provoking a double-take and a “Whoa, did she really go there?” Why yes, this book does indeed go there. It’s a fun, unlikely story about a collection of characters who really should have mutual restraining orders–old gods, the born-again christians who try to Save them, self-described Babe Magnet and armchair explorer of the female psyche Weldon Frame, The Freak, Satan, the Whore of Babylon, the Coppess (body by Frigidaire) and some trucker in a Peterbilt and a gimme John Deere cap. It won a “best of the best e-books” award back in the day, and has continued to sell steadily ever since. Also, reviews keep popping up from time to time, so word on the street is that it’s still a fun, funky, “guilty pleasure” sort of book, ideal for anybody who has discovered that she’s been dating in the shallow end of the gene pool, decides to stop, and learns that sometimes things can get a little messy. But funny. Book clubs like this one. I think you will, too.
Reviews  Download FREE from November 24-28 (it’s always free to Amazon Prime members)

November 27-December 1 Good on Paper
Once upon a time, a king named David got the hots for a steamy little number named Bathsheba. Lucky for David, Mr. Bathsheba was busy being one of David’s best generals, so Bathsheba was home all by her lonesome…

See where this is heading? Of course you do.

So does Sarah Conrad, reluctant Bible scholar and unwilling paramour of televangelist Pastor Jimmy Jay Rayburn. It’s a destination she knows well. But the destination is only the beginning. Sarah doesn’t wind up sleeping with an aging “man of God” by accident. Eldest sister Elaine’s minister husband isn’t divorcing her on a whim. And middle sister Elizabeth doesn’t vanish in a fit of pique, leaving a dead dog, a roomful of blood, and Sarah and youngest Conrad DJ behind.

The Conrad children survive by keeping up appearances. But it costs them. When family patriarch Dan Conrad is diagnosed with terminal cancer and the children come home to help appearances are no longer enough, and tensions rise. When somebody winds up murdered the Conrads are forced to unravel their past in order to survive their present.

Set on a family farm in a fast-disappearing slice of America, Good on Paper is first and foremost a story in which to lose one’s self–readers consistently comment that they “couldn’t put it down.” But beyond that, the story raises questions. How do we determine who is “good?” How do we decide what is real? Do we respond to the victimization of others, and if so, how? How do we integrate a painful and abusive past into a vibrant and creative present and future? Above all, this story leaves readers wondering, with DJ Conrad, “…what it is about our family, our church, our society, that allows abusers to not only survive, but thrive.”

By turns infuriating, hilarious, magical, frightening, and lyrical, the Conrads’ story captures the paradox lying at the heart of abusive relationships, as well as the courage, honesty and humor that the Conrad children use to survive.

Tracing the Conrad children’s journey to healing and resolution makes for a powerful and haunting read, one that should appeal to a many, particularly those interested in understanding how the pain of an abusive past can become the fertile soil from which a rich, meaningful future can spring.

Reviews  Download FREE November 27-December 1 (it’s always free to Amazon Prime members)

So that’s what’s happening–don’t be shy about downloading, and if you like the books, we’d love it if you’d post a review or response on Amazon–or even write about it here! I’ll be reposting this from time to time, to just keep everybody updated on what’s going on, free-wise. Happy holidays!

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For the next five days, Amazon is running a promotion on Bodie Parkhurst books–five titles can be downloaded and read for free. Free is good, but it’s not forever. Download your free copies today.

So here’s the deal, if you’ve been waiting to sample until the price was right, now’s the time. Here, for your information and delectation, is a list of the free titles, and what you can expect from them. For more information, visit the links at the top of the page, or check out Amazon’s “search inside” function.

Here’s the list:

Redeeming Stanley: A Savage Little Tale of True Love, Old Gods, Bitches, Bestiality, Burnout, and above all, Payback  The winner of AudioLark’s Best of the Best E-books contest in 2009, Redeeming Stanley is the cautionary and hilarious tale of Weldon Frame, his ex-girlfriend Annie, and what happens when they get all tangled up with the Old Gods, who have taken new jobs and are living just outside of Los Angeles. Check out the Amazon reviews for reader responses.

Benchmarks: A Single Mother’s Illustrated Journal  A memoir about mothering–and single mothering, specifically. It’s a warm, lovely book that challenges a lot of assumptions about what single parenting is, and is not.

And while you’re at it, check out the Benchmarks Baby line of mom and baby stuff at Magic Dog Press’ CafePress store.

Good on Paper  A book full of farmers, and staunch christians, and witches, and smart-mouthed women, and magic, and televangelists who sleep with the wrong women. Most of all, it’s a great story, narrated by four women, each of whom has a very different take on life. It’s terrifying, hilarious, magical, sarcastic, and poetic by turns. Set in a slice of America that’s fast disappearing, this is first and foremost a good story–a story in which to lose yourself–but it also raises questions worth asking about the links between abuse and fundamentalism, and about the nature and goal of healing from a painful past. So–a good story, with a sting in its tail.

Past Lives: A Journey  A small collection of short stories that grew out of a foray into past life exploration. While they don’t provide empirical evidence for or against the idea of past existences, they do make good reading–and they raise some interesting questions.

Force of Nature a sweet, sexy short story, just for mature readers, all about love, romance, magic, sex, and cows. And Russell. You don’t want to miss Russell.

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The books we respond to most powerfully are those that arouse an echo in our own experience, a “Hey, I know about that!” moment. Holy Ghost Girl does that for me. Like Ms. Johnson’s mother Carolyn, I, too, found myself caught up in a relationship with a married “Man of God” at one point in my life.

It’s easy to condemn that relationship–and it should be condemned. Man of God or not, no man or woman has the emotional bandwidth to sustain two mutually exclusive committed relationships at the same time and lead a congregation. The simple, short answer is that Carolyn should have left the tent evangelism circuit, just as I should have left my job and filed sex abuse charges. It sounds simple, clean, and neat.

It’s not. The forces that shape women in fundamentalist denominations can make it incredibly difficult if not impossible to “just say ‘no.'” As a woman who has been there, let me give you a few of them, and explain how they work.

Soul-winning is a core value. When David Terrell taps Carolyn to join up with his crusade as his organist, in fundamentalist terms he plucks her from a shameful, failed obscurity (she has “wandered from the fold,” failed at her “life of sin,” and is now back home with no marketable skills) and offered her not only absolution but a prominent, visible position at the very heart of his ministry. As part of a team that has as its sole stated motive the winning of souls, Carolyn has become a fundamentalist star, a woman who has dedicated her life and talent to what everyone in her social network would see as the service of God, and the winning of souls.

To “leave the ministry” is more than just a career change for women in that position. It is seen as an apostasy, a forsaking of the “narrow, hard path” about which we fundamentalist children hear so much for the “broad, easy path” that leads to perdition. When someone does that, people want to know why. It would have been difficult for Carolyn to leave without having her relationship with Terrell exposed. And then, like now, that exposure might embarrass him, but it would destroy her.

Fundamentalist ministers stand in the place of God to church members. We speak of men (and there’s a reason for that term) being “called” to the ministry. The belief is not that men choose theology for reasons that may or may not bear examination, but that God Himself reaches down and taps them on their shoulders and says, “You’re my boy.” All anecdotal and historical evidence to the contrary, fundamentalist congregations still have a very difficult time believing that their pastors might abuse the power their positions confer upon them.

For one thing, acknowledging an abusive minister calls the entire “called by God” meme into question. This, in turn, calls the whole “sacredness of doctrine” meme into question as well. Instead of sitting peacefully in their seats, nodding and murmuring (or shouting) the occasional “amen,” congregations find themselves in the difficult and embarrassing position of  having to chastise the man they have chosen to lead them.

Many–I believe nearly all–churches prefer to take the less embarrassing path. Here’s how it goes:

First, the woman or child involved is discredited. She “misunderstood.” She “took something out of context.” She “led him on.” She’s “bitter.” She’s a “troublemaker.” She “needs help.” In cases like mine, where the minister in question was also my immediate superior, there was no room for euphemism. When I timidly asked a dear friend and fellow employee about what might happen if one filed a case for sexual harrassment she was blunt: “The secretary gets fired. The minister gets transferred if there’s an affair,” she said. “If you file a sexual harassment suit you might win the lawsuit, but you’ll lose your job, and you’ll be disfellowshipped. The brethren just won’t stand for that.”

Though it’s the consequence with the least legal ramifications, the last result of bringing a suit was emotionally and socially the worst. In our particular church it was believed that once one had been been given the “good news” of our particular brand of christianity, one could not leave the church and still reach heaven. It was called “living up to the light we knew.” What this meant was that, in that time, place, and denomination, filing a suit for sexual harassment would have meant giving up my chance of heaven, if I was so unfortunate as to die before enough time had lapsed to make repentence credible and rebaptism possible. In earthly terms, I would never work for the church again. In my case I ultimately found another job and moved on. For women like Carolyn, whose whole identity is tied up in her ministry, moving on is more difficult.

And there is also the paradoxical fact that because fundamentalist ministers “stand in the place of God,” refusing them a request is equivalent to refusing God’s request.  It doesn’t matter if the request is inappropriate–after all, didn’t Abraham get kudos because he was willing to go so far as to kill his own child? And didn’t God tell one of the minor prophets that he was supposed to marry a whore? God works in mysterious ways; in the scheme of a request–or demand–for sexual favors can seem pretty minor in the beginning–particularly when “no” isn’t a realistic option.

If the woman cannot be discredited, she must be silenced. Women are silenced in many ways. The threat of disfellowshipping did it for me until I got strong enough to leave, and wise enough to understand what had happened. Others are ostracized.Friends simply no longer call. If they meet by chance they engage in only the most superficial conversations. The minister is simultaneously showered with affection and support. Add to that the simple fact that ministers have a lot to say about what is printed in church periodicals and circulars, and everything to say about what message the Lord chooses them to deliver from the pulpit, and the woman often falls silent under the sheer weight of public opinion. What makes all this so deadly is that no matter what the minister may have done, and no matter how justified the woman’s suit may be, she is at a critical disadvantage. And no matter how deeply the rejection of those who have formed her social and support system corrodes her soul, a woman who is also a true believer cannot leave.

If the woman cannot be silenced, and if the minister’s behavior has become egregious, the solution is to shift or spread the blame. The woman herself is accused of “leading him on.” She is accused of being an “accuser of the brethren”–which is code for Satan. If it’s hard for some to swallow that explanation, blame is simply spread around–to the devil first (“The devil’s working hard”) then to all of us (“all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”), then to the fact that we are “living in the last days” (The Lord says that even some of the brightest lights will go out) and ultimately the guilt can become global (“We live in a wicked world. It’s all part of the fallen condition of the world.”) Once it’s spread that far, it’s easy to forget that Pastor X believed that he had a right to sleep with Ms. Y even though she wasn’t crazy about the idea because…well, because he wanted to, and because his wife didn’t understand him, and because the rules about pastors and divorce and adultery are too strict anyway, and because she had a great butt.

And then what happens? Some of us leave. We find other jobs. We find other churches. We find other faces for Divinity. Some of us stay, and if we stay we will either shut up about what happened or, if we are very brave, and believe deeply men who profess to speak for God can and should be held to a higher standard than the rest of us, we pursue our case, not because we’re going to get anything out of it (by that time most of us have realized that the financial, emotional, social and spiritual costs of this path are going to beggar us), but because we hope that in raising our voices we will remind other ministers that with great power comes great responsibility.

And if we do, we learn that we are “angry,” “vindictive,” “shrill,” “carrying things too far,” “insisting on our pound of flesh,” “being unchristian,” “giving the Lord’s Work a black eye.” We are reminded that we are to forgive those who sin against us, that no one held a gun to our heads while we were in those seedy hotel rooms, those back seats,those back rooms among the cleaning supplies, plungers, and discarded Morning Watch books, or god help us, on those desks. We know that. Most of us spend a lot of time wondering if we do share responsibility for the destruction of our own lives. We wonder if we did dress inappropriately. We wonder if we inadvertently sent a “come-hither” message. We wonder how it happened that we started out serving God, and ended up servicing a minister.

We don’t know, because abusive ministers are smart. They don’t pick the strong, happy, emotionally healthy women as their victims. They pick those of us who have failed. who know shame, who have bad reputations, who believe we are damned, who have grown up being victimized by other men of God. They pick those of us who believe we are nothing, and are so pathetically grateful to discover that we are something after all that it takes us far, far too long to discover that we were never nothing, and that what we have become is killing our souls. They pick those of us like that, and then they use the power of their “God-given” positions to use us. And because we have grown up in a system that has taught us that we are nothing, that we have no right to determine what happens to our own bodies, that we bear all of the responsibility and none of the power in sexual matters, we let them. And we wonder if it’s our fault.

Why does it take Carolyn so long to realize that David Terrell is not going to “do right by her?” The mystery is that she is able to know it at all. I hope she’s doing well.

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