Lori Henriksen

author of The Winter Loon


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Sunday Love

“I know now that though the risks of living my authentic truth are great, the permanence of love, like the primal pull of ocean waves is an even greater force.”

~~Ruth from the Winter Loon

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This beautiful sunset was taken at the actual beach in La Jolla where the main character Ruth from the Winter Loon has the above realization.

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Honoring My Mother’s Story

 

 

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my mother and me

Today, in honor of Mothers Day, I share an essay that first appeared in the November 2017 issue of Gay Parent Magazine. Amazing stories of LGBTQ parents and kids are published in the magazine. They are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year. Read more here.

MY MOTHER. MY FOUNDATION

It didn’t dawn on me that my mother was lesbian until the mid-1980s when working as a therapist with the AIDS Health Project in San Francisco I told a colleague my story. At that time I was attempting to put together the puzzle pieces of my early life because my mother, a woman of mystery with seemingly no family ties, died when I was nine years old, leaving no clues about herself or my biological father.

From my earliest memories we lived as a family with another woman and her son on the Mojave Desert. It was the late 1940s, and our home was about twenty-five miles from the nearest town where both women taught elementary school. The town had unreliable telephone service and no public transportation to larger communities. Far from the prying eyes of neighbors, they could not have found a better place to hide.

When my mother became ill with cancer, our family moved into town, but lived in separate houses. Adding to her hidden life, not long before her death, my mother married a man with two sons about my age. Perhaps she thought it would provide a stable home for me, but with no relatives and the fact that my stepfather had not formally adopted me, I went into the foster care system.

Sometime in my early twenties one of my stepbrothers tracked me down and gave me a box containing letters, photos, and a scrapbook that had belonged to my mother. At the time the sketchy information only inflamed my abandonment issues.

However, a few years later, and after lots of therapy, I managed to focus on the contents of the box and found the remnants of my mother’s life quite fascinating. There were photos of women camping, usually with horses nearby, and a newspaper clipping of my mother as a rodeo competitor.

cowgirl 2 Hanging with the cowboys.

There was also her Master’s degree certificate in clinical psychology, with an emphasis on vocational rehabilitation, from the 1930s.

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She is on the far right.

As I reread the letters that I had only skimmed before, I learned that my grandmother had died when my mother was in her late twenties. With addresses in hand I did a search, but too late to find any living family members, or anyone who remembered or had known any of them.

I spoke with my mother’s companion only once as an adult before realizing they were most likely lovers. She called me, saying she would be in San Francisco and suggested that we meet. I imagined she had known my mother well, and still hopeful I might learn more information about my family legacy, I counted the days as I anticipated our meeting.

Unfortunately, she was unwilling to divulge any information. No matter how I formed the questions, she remained stoic, claiming to know nothing about my mother’s life, and the visit left me with more questions than answers. Their relationship didn’t occur to me until, after listening to my story, my colleague said, “Your mother was lesbian. Her lover must have still been closeted when you talked with her.”

Unable to find any truth about my history, I turned to writing short stories about two women raising children together using the names of my mother and her companion. The stories, which had started as a personal healing journey, gradually transformed over the years into a novel about a young woman struggling to define herself in a world where she does not seem to fit.

When I decided that I wanted to publish the The Winter Loon I googled my mother’s companion before moving forward with using her name, and lo and behold she was alive and still living in the desert. When I called, her son answered and did indeed remember me. He invited me to visit and I accepted, but without divulging that I had written a novel with our mothers as protagonists.

His mother was frail and in the late stage of Alzheimer’s disease, but otherwise mostly healthy. I gathered all the photos I had of my mother and drove from Oregon to the Mojave Desert.

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My hopes went up and down as I sat with her for two hours sharing the photos. I’d say, “Do you know who this is?” and she’d lean forward wrinkling her forehead and squinting at the picture as if she was going to tell a story. She’d say my mother’s name, then lean back into silence, lost in the tangle of her compromised memories. Before saying goodbye, I decided to leave the photos with her.

The next day her son and I drove to the canyon where we had lived as children. Overwhelmed with emotion, he seemed to have forgotten that we had lived together as a family. I stayed safe as I shared my memories, feeling it was not my place to out his mother.

 

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Sadly, he called less than two weeks later to tell me his mother had died, and that she had kept the photos in her lap, sorting through them as she spent her day in her wheelchair. Can there be any doubt that our mothers were lovers in their youth?

I finally understood that my mother had done the best she could in an era when she would have faced dangerous repercussions if her truth had been discovered. It took many years for me to claim my scars as badges of honor, but I made peace and, after finding my mother’s grave in a cemetery in Mojave, California, identified only with her name on a simple wooden plaque, I ordered a marble marker inscribed with her name, her date of birth and the date of her death along with the words, My Mother My Foundation because she was my foundation, despite the secrets she was forced to keep.

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The cemetery was kind enough to send a photo.

* * *

There is no greater agony than bearing

an untold story within you.

~~Maya Angelou

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Dishtowels, Dandelions, and Deception

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On my home page, I say that I believe in synchronicity. For something to be synchronistic and not just coincidence, unrelated events are more than just mere chance. Here’s something that happened last week after I decided to jump back into blogging and set up an Instagram account.

Many years ago I had a dishtowel that I remembered said, “One man’s flower is another man’s weed,” attributed to Tennyson. Fast forward to my launch on Instagram. Not long ago, I learned that dandelions are the first source of nourishment for bees in the spring. Every year in the past I’ve grumbled about the dandelions taking over the grass. For the last week, the bright yellow flowers I’ve always thought of as a weed, have been in full bloom. I took a photo and decided to make my first instagram post about bees and dandelions.

I wanted to say: “To mow or not to mow . . . ” and then add the quote from my long-lost dishtowel. A little voice warned me to be accurate—it was a long time ago and maybe it wasn’t Tennyson. A quick Google search: Tennyson—One Man’s Weed led me to his lovely poem the Flower. My memory kicked in, it was the first stanza on the towel I remembered, not the quote I wanted to use.

Once upon a golden hour
I cast to earth a seed
Up there came a flower
The people said a weed.

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Back to Google and who said the quote I remembered about weeds. I had several choices and for no particular reason, chose Susan Wittig Albert who said, “One person’s weed is another person’s wildflower.” She is the award-winning author of many books, including Loving Eleanor, a book I read as part of my research while writing The Winter Loon. I mentioned the book and it’s importance to history in a blog on April 5, 2016. You can read it here.

I don’t think it is mere chance that the memory of my old dishtowel led me to my first post on Instagram that led me to Susan Wittig Albert that led me to my old blog post called Deception and the insight that it gives to Ruth’s character as she embarks on her journey of self-discovery in The Winter Loon.

Synchronicity, the seed that grew into this post.

I’d love to hear about synchronicity in your life. It can be something simple like this post all the way to something life changing.

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Sunday Love

The Winter Loon is a novel about the healing power of love that occurs when we have the sense of being connected and whole, a love of self and others. Sometimes easier said than done and for most of us a life-long goal.

Sometimes it’s as easy as having your paw on your favorite frisbee.

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Sometimes we fall and have to get back on the bike.

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But whatever we do and wherever we are today and everyday:

Let us always meet each other with a smile,

for the smile is the beginning of love.

~~Mother Teresa

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FaceBook Launch Party

I’m taking part in the Women’s Fiction Writers Association launch party tomorrow, Tuesday, November 14. My slot is:

11:30 am PST, 2:30 pm EST or 7:30 pm UK

Come early, stay late. There are 9 authors taking part

Use the link below to join the party:

https://www.facebook.com/events/529819520685317/

Check out all the authors here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/529819520685317/permalink/532420773758525/

Nov 14 Party Invitationhttps://www.facebook.com/events/529819520685317/permalink/532420773758525/


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Cover Crush: The Winter Loon by Lori Henriksen

This blog pays tribute to beautiful covers and I am honored that The Winter Loon was featured in August. It is a tribute to Chris Mole’ at http://www.booksavvystudio.com who created the cover based on my vision. I was amazed that the first proof took only a couple of tweaks to get to the final version.

Layered Pages

Cover Crush bannerI am not a cover designer but I can agree that cover layouts play an important role in the overall presentation of stories and I must admit, often times I first judge a book by its cover.

The Winter LoonThe Winter Loon by Lori Henriksen

Published May 16th 2017 by Cougar Creek Books

Amazon Kindle Price $1.99

In the shadow of the Great Depression, long before historical changes leading toward LGBTQ advocacy and equality, unpretentious eighteen-year-old Ruth Thompson defies expectations to marry her sweetheart, Duke. Impulsively deciding to join a rodeo circuit with her cousin in order to earn money for college, Ruth comes of age in the rough and tumble male-dominated culture of rodeo competition.

Ruth returns home to Minnesota a prize-winning competitor and resumes her familiar relationship with Duke. Once at college she grows increasingly restless in her role as a sorority girl with Duke as her escort for all…

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Stand Up Against Hate

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In a scene from THE WINTER LOON Gisela says to Ruth:

“Sticking together, you mean like what’s happening in Europe? No one over here seems to care, but my father lives in Paris and writes that despite street violence in Germany against the SA Storm Troopers, newspapers sympathetic to Nazi influence continue to wage a propaganda campaign blaming Jews for Germany’s economic and social problems. It’s unbelievable how the general public there often turns a blind eye to the SA thugs trying to intimidate customers from entering Jewish shops.”

“It’s so complicated,” Ruth answers.

“And in this country so many folks who can’t find work, living in hobo villages. Why? Where are all the good Christians who claim to be their brother’s keeper? It doesn’t matter what problems we’re talking about. People are too afraid of consequences of losing what they have. Jesus said, ‘Turn the other cheek,’ not ‘Look the other way.'”

The scene is set in Minneapolis in 1932.

In January 1933 Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. He watched in triumph from the Chancellory balcony while thousands of torch bearing Nazis celebrated his victory. Nineteen months later he achieved absolute power.

A mix of KKK members, Nazi sympathizers and White Nationalists carried torches through the University of Virginia campus last week, menacing people of all races, creed, and religion.

Candidate Trump held the Pride flag upside down, pledging his support for the LGBTQ community and a few months later as president called for a ban of transgender people serving in the military.

We can’t afford to turn a blind eye to what is happening right now in America. We can’t be bystanders. We must stand up against hate and bigotry.

In every community, there is work to be done.

In every nation, there are wounds to heal.

In every heart, there is the power to do it.

Marianne Williamson –

 

 


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Sunday Love

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I loved reading this story today from the Huffington Post. I can only imagine how many people Gloria Carter’s story will touch, giving them the courage to also step out of the shadow. I admit I’m more jazz than hip-hop and more Gloria Carter’s generation than Jay-Z’s, but I admire him for giving his mother a platform to tell a part of her story.

 

Gloria Carter, Jay-Z’s Mom, Comes Out As Lesbian On Rapper’s ‘4:44’ Album

Noah Michelson is the Editorial Director of HuffPost Voices 

Gloria Carter, Jay-Z’s mother, came out as lesbian in a new track featured on the rapper’s just-released “4:44” album.

The song, “Smile,” features both Jay-Z and his mother discussing her sexuality. It is the first time that either of them has publicly addressed her sexual identity.

“Mama had four kids, but she’s a lesbian / Had to pretend so long that she’s a thespian,” Jay-Z raps in the song, which contains a sample of Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s In Need Of Love Today.”

“Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate / Society shame and the pain was too much to take,” he adds before asserting, “Cried tears of joy when you fell in love / Don’t matter to me if it’s a him or her.”

Carter herself shows up on track to deliver a spoken word outro.

“Living in the shadow / Can you imagine what kind of life it is to live?” she asks on the close-to-five-minute track. “In the shadows people see you as happy and free / Because that’s what you want them to see,” she continues. “The world is changing and they say it’s time to be free / But you live with the fear of just being me… Living in the shadow feels like the safe place to be / No harm for them, no harm for me / But life is short, and it’s time to be free / Love who you love, because life isn’t guaranteed.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/gloria-carter-jay-z-mom-lesbian

 

 

 


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PRIDE MONTH

200In 1970 Pride was a political movement to voice demands for LGBT equal rights and protections. As Pride is now celebrated worldwide, itis important toremember that June was chosen to commemorate the Stonewall riots which occurred the end of June 1969 in Manhattan. The month of June is a time to celebrate and honor people from the LGBTQ+ community. It is a time to reflect and continue to fight against discrimination that still occurs and threatens the hard-earned right to marry, to live and work where one choses and shop without the risk of prejudice.

It is pure serendipity that my book The Winter Loon debuts during Pride Month. I missed several self-imposed deadlines for publication and finally in mid-June this year my book is on Amazon available for purchase.

THE WINTER LOON is inspired by my mother, who died when I was nine and who had divulged very little information about her life, refusing even to answer any questions about my biological father. Estranged from her family, she moved across the country from the Midwest to California, ending up in a remote area of the Mojave Desert far from the nearest town. From my earliest memories, the two of us lived as a family with her woman companion until shortly before her death. Some of the things she left behind were a few photos, a newspaper clipping of her as a rodeo competitor, and her master’s degree certificate from the 1930s.

When I started writing, my purpose of embarking on a healing journey gradually transformed into this novel about a young woman who struggles to define herself in a world where she does not seem to fit. As I envisioned how my mother’s life might have been if she was able to live her authentic truth, I realized how much, and how little, has changed for the LGBTQ+ community. It is my hope that this story about the healing power of love will positively influence anyone who reads it.