FULL CIRCLE by Terri Lyne Carrington

Teri Lyne Carrington

A story about being a jazz drumming protege in a male-dominated music world . . .

Read her personal story, and many more, in the new book.
Released in August, 2022
Dare to be Fabulous: Follow the journeys
of daring women on the path to finding their true north 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT TERRI LYNE CARRINGTON 

Terri Lyne Carrington was given her first set of drums at the age of seven. By the age of 11, she received a full scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music. She has toured with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Stan Getz, Al Jarreau and others. She is also a three-time GRAMMY award-winning artist and producer. She is also the Founder and Artistic Director of the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.

WHAT I NEVER EXPECTED by Molly Caro May

A story about new motherhood and her path through unexpected physical difficulties  . . .

Read her personal story, and many more, in the new book.
Released in August, 2022
Dare to be Fabulous: Follow the journeys
of daring women on the path to finding their true north 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT MOLLY CARO MAY

Molly Caro May is a writer whose work explores body, place and the foreign. She leads writing workshops across the country and her work has appeared in Orion Magazine, Salon, and Fourth Genre, among others. Her memoir, The Map of Enough: One Woman’s Search For Place (Counterpoint Press) was published in 2014. She lives with her husband and daughter in Bozeman, Montana where she is co-founder of the Thunderhead Writers’ Collective. Her next book explores emotional inheritance through the matrilineal lineage.

AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN by Sohini Chakraborty

Sohini Chakraborty (Micky Wiswedel photographer Photo Courtsey Vital Voices)

I decided at a young age that I wanted to live my life as an independent woman. I know a lot of women are independent in spirit, but in my case, I also wanted to live on my own, outside of my family’s home. In the cultural context of life in India, this was very bold, as family is a big thing. The traditional way of life in India is that children continue to live with their parents or their families until they are young adults, usually until they marry. I was single, and I wanted to stay single, but I also wanted complete independence. I wanted to not only live in my own space, I also wanted to have financial independence. That was my choice, my decision alone. I was considered a rebel.

My mother died young, so I grew up living with my father. I was a dancer, but I had a degree in Sociology, so I think he wanted me to get a good government job. My decision to live independently was not a decision against him; it was a decision for myself. This was very different from the traditional or “normal” life of a woman in India and it was very, very challenging.

When I was 21 or 22 years old, I had a big idea that dance could change lives. I began to fully pursue that idea when a lot of people were saying that it wouldn’t work. It was a bold decision, but I’ve chosen to live life on my own terms. I think that my independent spirit has helped me to be successful.

Prior to starting Kolkata Sanved in 2004, I had spent about nine years pursuing my dream of changing women’s lives through dance. Most of that time was a constant struggle, but I decided that all those challenges provided me the opportunity to move ahead in life. That’s how I got to where I am today.

I had a daring dream that dance could change lives and I transformed it into an organization: Kolkata Sanved. It was only my dream, one person’s dream, but now it’s the collective dream of many women, and it is truly transforming lives.

For all women who speak Bengali, I share this video message (I have also inserted English subtitles:)

 

Sohini ChakrabortySohini Chakraborty is a sociologist, Ashoka Fellow, dance activist, and Founder/Director of Kolkata Sanved, which has expanded the notions of dance and traditional rehabilitation programs. Through Kolkata Sanved’s groundbreaking dance/movement therapy program, survivors of violence and trafficking release trauma, develop confidence, identify their own potential as human beings, and become independent and empowered individuals rather than victims.

BORN TO ME by Leslie Caplan

Born to Me by Leslie Caplan

I had no choice but to let him go.

Half his blood was there. He was born there. He belonged as much there, as he did here, and perhaps now, even more so. What kind of mother would let her 16 year old boy fly half way around the globe for an open ended length of time, to land into the arms of an estranged father, culture, family, language? I had no choice but to surrender to his inner calling and to my own knowing that this journey for him was essential to his growth. I trusted what he needed for himself. His placenta was buried there next to the family temple, along with past and future generations. And now, he was being called back to his roots, as I always knew one day he would be.

I could not stop thinking of all the dangerous things that could happen to him when he left. I had lived on that island for seven years and the darkness of it beats like it has a pulse of its own. Where road rage, venomous snakes, spiders the size of starfish, and black magic breathes through the dark veils of jungle riverbanks. The haunting melody of its temple walls swaying in ceremonial procession, was now beckoning my son’s return.

As he boarded the plane at midnight, tears fell like a monsoon of emotion flooding the terrain of my motherhood. Submerged in my own fear, my own absolute amazement of his courage, his rite of passage, I took a deep breath. It was all I could do to find my way back to his eyes – dark like mine, burning with intensity, mystery, and a wisdom that stunned me.

He looked like a man as I watched him board the plane through the glass wall that now separated us. He held his head high, and I could not help but be completely endeared to that famous Balinese dude swagger as he moved from deep inside the curve of his lower back.

His slow purposeful walk embodied the strength he was born with.

I held my breath as I weaved a prayer deep into the sky that was about to take my son half way around the planet and away from me.  And with all my heart, I exhaled life into these words:

“Dear Bali, you birthed me into a mother as I birthed my son to you 16 years ago. He returns to you now, on a solo journey of self-discovery. Keep him safe and protected in the womb of your love. He is yours now.”

With the umbilical chord cut and hanging like a vine in the indigo sky, I watched him take his first step into manhood.  Through the glass wall that stood between me and my son, I saw him blow me a kiss and mouth the words, “thank you, Mama. Love you.”

My heart ached so deeply, I could feel it in my womb. It broke open and outward into a rhythmic, pounding pride of fierce love for this courageous young man who was headed into the abyss of his own heroic journey.

Without me, for the very first time.

Leslie Caplan

 

Leslie Caplan is a Writing Coach, Editor, and Facilitator of Writing as a tool for Therapeutic Healing & Self-Discovery. She lives in Ashland, Oregon.

 

MOIST: A JOURNEY OUT OF CHAPSTICK ADDICTION by Elisabeth Sharp McKetta

Moist, a journey out of chapstick addiction

A story about how lip balm addiction led to a bigger perspective on real “needs” . . .

Read her personal story, and many more, in the new book.
Released in August, 2022
Dare to be Fabulous: Follow the journeys
of daring women on the path to finding their true north 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT ELISABETH SHARP MCKETTA

Elisabeth Sharp McKetta is the author of She Never Told Me about the Ocean and eight previous books. “Moist” also appears in her first essay collection, Awake with Asashoryu, published by Paul Dry Books in 2022. Elisabeth teaches writing for Harvard and Oxford, and she lives with her sea-swimmer husband and two young children.

THE LAWMAKER by Rocio Ortega

Respect is paramount in my family. Not only respecting the elders and our traditions, but – most important for me as a Hispanic teenager –  respecting my father, “the lawmaker.” In a traditional Mexican family, this respect is not only expected, but demanded.

As far back as I can remember my father has been the lawmaker in our household. Father gives us permission, provides us with food and shelter, and maintains order in the family. We don’t live in a Confucian society, where the father rules in the family, but a social hierarchy has been established in our home and he has placed himself at the top of it. Anyone that dares to break his house rules faces the consequences. He has never hit my older brother, sisters or mother but he verbally scolds you in such an intense way that he makes you completely and immediately comply. He never shows emotion and rarely communicates with his children; if so, it’s usually because one of us is in trouble and will be scolded. He is a traditionalist and is not open-minded.

So when it came time for me to ask my father for permission to take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I knew I had to be prepared and have a strong strategy before I approached him. I had applied to work as an intern for Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano, and later had been sponsored to be a Congressional Page this summer in Washington D.C., although my position had still not been confirmed. The opportunity is fabulous enough for a teenager but the fact that I was born and raised in East Los Angeles made it almost inconceivable; opportunities here are few and far between – this stuff just never happens!

I knew I would be facing a major struggle because I have never asked my father permission for something this big and I also because I have very limited direct contact with him. I just never really talk to him about personal things; he hasn’t even given me the sex talk.  I  knew that this would definitely be breaking the ice in our relationship.

Before doing anything, I asked my eldest sister, “what are my chances of getting permission?” She was completely honest with me and answered, “If you were my little girl, I wouldn’t let you go because it’s for a whole month and it’s all the way on the other side of the country. I just don’t think he’s ready for that.” Those sharp, painful words haunted me. I started questioning my existence and my reasoning for always trying my best in everything I do. Did I really work all this time just to run into a dead end? Or maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough. Whether I wanted to or not, I had no choice but to leave the room in burning tears. I just couldn’t breathe anymore. I ended up crying myself to sleep that night.

The next day I woke up furious as hell and I decided to take action. I knew I had been working my whole life to make something good happen and I wasn’t ready to let this opportunity go by. I guess you could say this was my “dare to be fabulous” moment! I had cried a river and now it was time to stand up and rebel against “the lawmaker,” no matter how tough this was going to be.

I printed out a copy of the internship application and waited for him to come home from his daily, exhausting truck driving job. He didn’t come home until 10pm but I stayed up, ready to explain the internship and ask for his permission. I honestly felt like I would stand before him with my mouth open and the words wouldn’t come out, but fortunately the neurons in my brain functioned and I told them to speak. I could tell he was tired and wanted to knock out already but I knew that it was now or never.

I started off by introducing him to some basic information about the program and how I came to be sponsored. He immediately started interrogating me. He questioned why the heck I wanted to go and what it was good for. For once in my life, I didn’t shut-up. I knew I had earned this opportunity on my own and that it was vital for my future. I kept fighting for myself and my life; I knew this internship was something I had rightfully earned and deserved. I was clear and direct, presenting him with all the facts. What surprised me was that I never stuttered. I knew that if I wanted my dream to come true, then I would have to fight against all odds – even if I peed my pants, I was determined to get my point across. Somehow between the previous terrible teary night and the next morning, something had changed inside me: I was confident and completely determined to start making my own laws for my life and give my father no other choice but to obey them.

I implemented my strategy: to show my father the world that was opening up to me. I told him I had already scheduled an appointment with the Congresswoman’s Field Representatives, Benjamin Cardenas and Evelyn Herrera, and I expected him to come. For once I was the one making my demands and I pushed him to fulfill them. He seemed stunned by my certainty and agreed to go to the meeting.

I remember we went to the meeting the same day that the famous, former math teacher at my school, Jaime Escalante, died (March 31st, 2010.)  I wondered if that was an omen of the misfortune that was waiting to happen . . . I tried to breathe deeply and go with the flow. He picked me up from school and boy! The ride from East Los Angeles to Santa Fe Springs seemed like a trip to the moon! It was so long, silent and just plain uncomfortable. He was in his working uniform and I was in plain old jeans and a t-shirt. I know we should have gone more appropriately dressed, but looks didn’t really matter to me at that point because attaining permission was the only thing on my mind.

We arrived at the District Office and right away, I felt like I was in a safe place. Mr. Cardenas and Ms. Herrera welcomed my father in such a warm and friendly way that I thought there was no way in the world that he would say no to me. It felt really good when Mr. Cardenas and Ms. Herrera put in a good word for me, telling my father what a great asset I had been to their office when I was an intern there. (I had recently helped out in their office for the months of January and February after my Senior Army Instructor scored me the job).

My father was in awe the whole time – his mind was blown away – I guess it’s partially my fault for not telling him all that I’m involved in, whether it’s in school or in the community. Hearing and seeing the Congresswoman’s staff made my father realize that this kind of opportunity doesn’t just fall from the sky, it takes a great deal of hard work and he should feel proud that his daughter can take part. In a way, I was really a reflection of all his hard work and proof that his wish of achieving the American dream had been granted, or at least that’s what they made my father understand.

A month after I sent in the application I received the letter from Nancy Pelosi officially inviting me to become a Congressional Page. I felt a huge relief. The twenty page application seemed like nothing compared to getting my father’s approval. I showed him the letter of confirmation and I told him to get the airline tickets because…I’m going to Washington D.C.! I’m going to be the first one in the Ortega family to go to the nation’s capital! That is the best feeling in the world because I’m proving to him that I appreciate all his work and sacrifice and that his coming to this country was completely worth it.

Our relationship is better now because we actually talk! I call him more often from my cell phone and am around him more, too. We recently took a trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and thank God we did, because I finally felt like his little girl again. We shared laughs and swam together in the beautiful blue water off the gorgeous beaches. I truly felt like his daughter.

It took me 16 years to stand up to my father, but I did it. Throughout my life I have found that the key ingredient for being brave is – determination. Some people don’t even come up against these sorts of pressures at a young age. While I wish I didn’t have to struggle as much as I have, in a way I’m glad I did because it has taught me to be a better, stronger person. Now I see how civil rights activists like Antonia Hernandez or Latin attorney Monica Navarro have the strength to do it in the real world. This is only the first big step on my journey to becoming the person I want to be, but that first step always starts with daring – daring to take a position, daring to do what you know is right, daring . . . to be fabulous.

Rocio Ortega lived in East Los Angeles and attended high school there. The daughter of two Mexican-born parents, she is bilingual and proud to represent her Mexican culture. This story was written while she was in high school. She’s since graduated from Wellesley College, worked with the U.N., lived abroad, and won notable awards. She currently works with the ACLU.

FEAR CITY by Penny Ross Burk

Fear City

A story about white-knuckling through the personal fear of driving into the heart of NYC  . . .

Read her personal story, and many more, in the new book.
Released in August, 2022
Dare to be Fabulous: Follow the journeys
of daring women on the path to finding their true north 

“This book holds together the power women find when they are honest and courageous and truthful. Some of these stories moved me to tears, others made me believe in humanity again, many I could identify with. This book brought me tremendous joy, insight and brought me back to believe in the human spirit.”

~ JULIANNA MARGULIES, multiple award-winning actor and author of Sunshine Girl: An Unexpected Life

ABOUT PENNY ROSS BURK

Penny Ross Burk is an artist/writer living in the Northern Virginia area. She has worked for many years in the film and TV industry, which serves to keep her art alive.