The other day I was cleaning out some old files as part of my recent clearing away your clutter with feng shui program which is much more in depth than my typical spring cleaning. I came across a folder full of interviews I did for my first book, A Desperate Journey, which came out in 2008/2009. It’s always fascinating to me how the threads connect within our lives and the synchronicity of their weavings. Today I will tell you how a few of these threads have been woven in my life. I’ll begin with the thread from the interview which intersects with the others.
The question was asked: Why did you include domestic abuse in your book?
Here was my answer: Domestic abuse became a part of the story as I got to know Sally, who is the heroine. When I was writing the story I knew of at least three women who were living in domestic abuse situations. It’s in the back story of Sally’s life and is part of what has made her who she is, so it appears in the story but only enough to let the reader know what has happened. I wanted to focus on what Sally does to get her son back and to get her life back and to show how far she has come to arrive at that point.
Here is the blurb for the book:
A Desperate Journey is a western historical romance set in 1867 along the Chisholm Trail.
Sometimes a journey of the heart is the most dangerous journey of all.
Sally Wheeler learned the hard way that mean aren’t always what they seem. Now she will stop at nothing to track down the bigamist husband who stole her child and abandoned her on their failing Kansas farm. Even if it means traveling with a handsome maverick who could change her mind about men.
Free after spending seven years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, Rob Truman aims to balance the scales of justice on the man who sent him there – Luke Wheeler. His quest doesn’t include falling for the one woman who will lead him to his quarry, but Sally’s courage in the face of her fear touches his soul.
Through dangerous days and nights on the trail, neither Sally nor Rob can ignore their growing feelings for each other. Yet both are haunted by the poor judgement that, in the past, led them down the wrong road. Love – and trust – are luxuries neither of them can afford.
But as the bullets start flying, love may be all that saves them – and Sally’s son.
Here is where another thread comes in, which at the time seemed to have nothing to do with the book. I had retired from teaching and performing belly dance with my troupe just before my first book came out so I could focus on book signings and writing. They say belly dancers never really retire, but I thought I had. Then Shimmy Mob was born and it was the one thing which could have pulled me back into public performance. Because the cause was domestic abuse.
What is Shimmy Mob?
Shimmy Mob is a flash mob event held on international belly dance day all around the world to raise funds for local domestic abuse shelters. Aimed to be the largest event of its kind by having a huge geographical territory covered in one day to raise funds for local domestic abuse shelters it is perhaps the largest flash mob and is the largest belly dance event in the world. Dancers wear the same t-shirt and dance the same choreography to the same music. Created in 2011, Shimmy Mob is the creation of Sabeya, also known as Francesca Anastasi, international dance instructor, choreographer and performer based in Canada.
In 2011, I was honored and blessed to be the team leader for Shimmy Mob Memphis. It was one of the greatest learning experiences of my life and certainly one of my greatest challenges. When I first heard about Shimmy Mob it called to my heart. I emailed Sabeya to ask if anyone from Memphis had signed up. Cities from around the globe had but not Memphis. So I leaped, signing our city up and agreeing to become team leader on March 28th. We would dance on May 1st. This left a little more than one month to get ready, enlisting dancers, learning the choreography and finding a place to dance. Suddenly I was no longer retired.
By April 5th we had 35 dancers and 25 days to learn the choreography. One of our local dance instructors agreed to lead rehearsals and act as fundraising chair. One agreed to be my assistant. I didn’t know when I signed up for the job that adapt and adjust would become my mantra.
The first challenge was the choreography, a blend of three different belly dance styles. Dancers had to learn new moves and there was a big learning curve. Some dancers were brand new, still learning basic moves and had never performed in public before. Yet each signed up for the cause and did their best to learn the dance. We were adapting, adjusting and learning.
The second challenge was finding a place to dance. Memphis had police called out for flash mobs in the past. That history made it difficult. I was hearing one ‘no’ after another when asking for a place to dance for less than five minutes to raise money for charity. Some places wanted us to carry one million dollars worth of insurance. The date came closer and closer. I lined up one site. Then they backed out. I had to search again. Working with Memphis Center City Commission I found one site downtown on the cobblestones by the trolley line.
Everything was finally set. But there was a bigger challenge to come.
No one could have predicted Memphis would battle floods with the Mississippi River rising, or the many tornados which ran through our city.
On May 1st, we gathered on the Mid America Mall on the corner of Main Street and Peabody to perform the dance and heighten awareness of the issue of domestic abuse and to raise funds for our local women’s and children’s shelter. Here is the official video of our dance. What you won’t see or hear are the mutliple starts and stops, the tornado sirens and the many times we moved back beneath shelter to get out of the rain. It took several attempts to get all the way through a dance which was less than five minutes. We did not give up. We were tenacious. We got the job done.
As I was driving away, my phone rang. The photographer from the Memphis Commercial Appeal wanted to know if he’d missed us. He had and because of tornados and other stories the media was following, not one reporter was there to take notice of what we had done and report it to our fellow Memphians and the world. We were a small blip which did not show on the news radar that day, as they passed us by for bigger stories. Yet we had pulled the event off dodging tornados, extreme weather, flooding, illnesses and property damage.
There were over a dozen lightning rods dancing in downtown Memphis that day dancing in between tornados though few were there to see us and I am proud to call them my Shimmy Mob sisters.
Our efforts and tenacity did not go unnoticed. Sabeya of international Shimmy Mob, acknowledged Shimmy Mob Memphis by awarding honorable mention for enduring perseverance in the face of danger and potential harm.
It was both an honor and a blessing to be acknowledged in this way.
We pulled it off and made history in the face of tornados, storms and the river rising. In between tornado sirens we danced and not only met our fundraising goal, we surpassed it. We doubled it. didn’t stop us, sound and video problems didn’t stop us. We have tenacity. We know how to adapt and adjust. That is how we raq in Memphis.
There will never again be another event just like the first Shimmy Mob event which took place in Memphis in 2011 and around the world. Each year we dance is different. I am proud of my Shimmy Mob sisters for taking the time and energy to support a cause which helps those who live in domestic abuse escape the dangers and live healthier and happier lives.
I learned so much from my experiences leading the event in 2011. I learned about tenacity, how to adapt and adjust quickly and frequently. I learned how people will rise to a challenge if you ask the best of them, if you encourage them. I learned it is not our difficulties that define our experiences but how we respond to those difficulties. I learned how deep people can reach into their hearts and their wallets to help people who aren’t currently able to help themselves. These are lessons to carry for a lifetime.
The threads of Shimmy Mob are interwoven with those of my first book. In 2011 for a donation, donors received a copy of A Desperate Journey. In 2012, I held a book signing in Memphis with the proceeds going to our charity. Since then, every year I donate a portion of my royalties for A Desperate Journey. Those threads are woven together.
This year I have donated one signed copy of Dangerous Ties, my second western historical romance as well as one signed copy of Twilight Dips, my first poetry anthology to the silent auction which is another arm of our fundraising efforts.
When I think of all the woman and children that will benefit from this event and how it unites us with our sisters all around the world, it makes my heart glad. This is why we dance. This is why I signed up on March 28, 2011 and this is why I signed up again as team leader for Shimmy Mob Memphis in 2012 and as assistant in 2013 and 2014.
This year on May 10th, 2014, Shimmy Mob Memphis will once again be dancing in unity with our sisters around the world to raise funds for our local domestic abuse shelters. This will be the fourth year Shimmy Mob Memphis will perform to raise money for charity.
Shimmy Mob 2014 performances
Bluff City Bellydance Showcase
Featuring: Memphis Raqs, Alima Tribe, Mystic River Dance, ISIS Dance Academy, Pyramid Dance Company
Tickets $18 at door or $12 in advance
Children ages 5-15 are $8, under 5 are free
Tickets can be purchased online: http://www.memphisbellydance.com
All funds raised by Shimmy Mob Memphis and Bluff City Showcase donated to Family Safety Center of Memphis and Shelby County
You can help by donating online!
Donate online: http: http://www.fundly.com/shimmy-mob-memphis
All donations are tax deductible.