Today’s review of my upcoming book, Returning – a woman’s midlife journey to herself, comes to us through local musician and composer, Dorothy Zerbe. (See Dorothy’s Bio below) Thank you Dorothy for your well thought-out and beautifully articulated review. More importantly, thank you for your beautiful ODE TO MY BELLY! Well done sister, well done!
Lauri Lumby’s book Returning – A woman’s midlife journey to herself is full of honest and frequently dark emotions. Lauri forges ahead with the very best-suited and colorful language in order to depict accurately the author’s often-painful journey through girlhood, family dysfunction and coming of age into womanhood. Yet her language does not offend; it simply challenges the reader to ask herself “Have I felt this way too?”
Returning offers a deep look into a reality that many might deny – that life is hard and demands our full attention if we are to live in a meaningful way. Perhaps some people can skim along the surface and find happiness in a simple, non-confrontational manner. Not this author! This collection of poetry and interactive writing is aimed deep. It is directed toward those of us whose challenges in life have exacted a toll on the emotional fabric of our humanity. Yet we are not looking for a scapegoat. We are looking for answers and are willing to take as many steps as necessary to find them. We are grateful and are looking for a way to give back. The author takes us on that journey, not only into many of her major challenging experiences and her responses to them, but also invites us along for her climb upward onto the top of these events and emotions. She shows us how the very things that hurt her and held her down are now the things that help create her mountaintop experiences.
The various writing and meditative exercises included in this book give the reader a chance to connect with the material and make it a part of her own journey. This is a book that could be taken on a solitary weekend retreat, at the end of which a woman would surely know herself much better. Or, it could be used on a daily basis for a season of self-exploration.
Here are some examples of what struck me in my reading of Returning:
Her description of Hades was surely the most interesting that I have ever read!
Lauri offers a most generous view of who God is, the way God talks to us and allows us to be who we are. The sum of it is that God allows us things in our lives to teach us how to deal more generously with ourselves. This is very different from the view that I heard frequently when I was a teen-ager, from the religious group that I was affiliated with, the view that God allows things to happen to us in order to teach us not to rely on ourselves so much. I like the way Lauri’s view of God is more positive instead of a “cut-yourself-down-to-size” approach.
The story of the goddess Persephone is an amazing contrast to the Judeo/Christian traditional view of Heaven and Hell, and challenges our stereotypes of what it means to be happy. I related very well to Persephone, as one artistic/melancholy personality to another.
I liked the exercise that challenged me to write an ode to my belly:
ODE TO MY BELLY by Dorothy Zerbe
Oh, middle part of me, the core of all I do:
How can I ever get over you?
I have left you behind because you got too big
You hung over the top of my pants and that really bugged me
Your essence is strength but you cover it with soft stuff that doesn’t really help anybody
Oh, belly, oh my little mound of sweet potato roll dough:
How can I lose you and be happy?
Yet when you’re gone, I feel strangely free
Like I could run for a long time and not get tired
You delivered me 4 beautiful babies and for that I will never forget you
But let’s not forget, once they were out, your job was done and
That was no excuse to balloon up into something over-important and pretentious, like
“Feed me! Fatten me! Take care of me!” in all those ways that you and I both know
Are very unhealthy!
So let’s keep the peace –
I’ll feed you amazing greens, fresh fruits and veggies
Lean meats, nonfat dairy and whole grains (and the occasional* piece of chocolate)
And you stay where you belong, lean and strong
I’ll stop complaining about you, and
You stay flat and out of the way and in place behind the waistband
You continue to be my core, my rock,
Giving me the strength and fortitude it takes to walk
And I’ll stay with you and we’ll be the best of friends!
*occasional = yep, pretty much every day
Dorothy Zerbe’s writing is influenced by nature, family, friends, animals, love, life changes and emotions of every color. She performs in coffeehouses, small concerts, festivals, churches, parks, nursing homes, yoga classes and private parties. Her training includes a lifetime of classical, jazz and sacred/spiritual influence, with a great big dose of folk and pop from the 60’s and 70’s to lead her guitar, voice and keyboard skills. Dorothy studied piano from age 7 to adult, and began guitar in high school. While raising her children, Dorothy taught herself to play piano by ear and began writing childrens’ songs. One cycle of songs that came from that time is called “Lands Where I Live” – themed by the various emotions we all go through, recorded in 1991. Other recordings include 2 CD’s of original songs, listed below, recorded in 2001 and 2006. Dorothy runs a series of concerts from her home featuring other artists, called the Savage Beast House Concerts. She is currently employed as Music Ministry Leader at Faith United Methodist Church, Neenah. She also works as a liturgical musician for the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, Oshkosh, and as a piano accompanist for local choirs and soloists. Dorothy teaches piano, voice and guitar at the Keynote School of Music in Shawano one day a week. For more information about booking Dorothy to play or about the Savage Beast concert series, please contact Dorothy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen to and purchase Dorothy’s music at: