#UNABASHT: A BLOG BY LAKE LADY

Giving Back As A Threshold Singer 


I've been wanting to join a choir again for years because there's nothing quite like many voices blending together in harmony. Those are my roots, having been invited to join the children's choir at age 4 at the St. Paul Cathedral I grew up attending. From there, I was in concert choirs, caroling groups, musicals, bands, and vocal ensembles. But it's been 15 years since I performed in NYU's Drama Cantorum singing Carmina Burana, my last choir performance - far too long!

The Threshold singers are a group of volunteers that sing to those who are ill or dying, at their bedside. When I was volunteering at a sound healing conference in Oakland a few years ago, I saw a blurb about them in the schedule but was unable to attend their performance since my volunteer shift was at that time in another part of the conference. So I made a note to myself to look the group up and figure out how to join. 

The idea of giving back in that way was so uniquely special and it called to me right away as someone who has always enjoyed touching people with my voice. The couple times I have sung for the elderly (Christmas caroling at an old folks home in Santa Monica) or the ill (singing uplifting music at a home for people living with HIV/AIDS in NY), it was extremely gratifying. I have always wanted to do more performances of that nature but hadn't found the right opportunity.

Recently, I moved from Oakland to LA and in the new year I was cleaning out my email inbox when I came across this message I had sent to myself about the Threshold Singers. I decided to research and see if there was anything like this nearby. Lo and behold, there was! So I emailed the chapter in my area, joined, and went to my first rehearsal last week. It all feels beautifully serendipitous and meant to be.

The people who are drawn to this form of singing are as wonderfully open and kind as one might think. The energy in the room was soothing and exhilarating at the same time. One might even say magical. I had chills, was grinning ear to ear, and was on the verge of crying happy tears for 2 hours straight. Can't wait to go to my next rehearsal!

If anyone has a loved one who could benefit from bedside singing you can learn more about the choir here. We have chapters all over the world and more than 500 songs written by the members themselves. Hopefully I can add some of my original music to the mix eventually too. 


 

The Overseer: A Short Play 

In addition to music, prose and poetry, I have been writing scripts for just as long. A friend recommended I register with the Dramatists Guild of America as a playwright and in doing so I learned about the New Play Exchange. I decided to give the site a shot by posting a full length and a short. Someone found them today and wrote this about The Overseer:

The Overseer is available to read here.

Depends on the Forest 

Written by Charise "Lake Lady" Sowells

Published on Poets for Ferguson

It’s a shame everybody complains about Big Brother watching 
for if we didn’t behave like children, we wouldn’t require supervision. 
Should only thoughtful decisions be made when somebody’s looking on, 
it’s the least we can do to monitor from dusk ‘til dawn. 

There’s a proverb about a tree falling and nobody hearing it. 
What’s happening in the news tells us that we probably wouldn’t believe it. 
And even if we did, it’s out of sight, out of mind. 
Not my problem. 
Why are they whining? 
Grow a new tree. 

At most people may discuss the quality of the tree: 
the life it had, whether it deserved to fall, 
the rings of growth, whether it had any at all. 
Maybe its leaves hung a little too low. 
Its branches were too thick. 
Its bark somewhat rough. 
Its roots entangled on the surface. 
Was it a tree destined for the ground? 
Did someone wrongfully knock it down? 
It’s only one tree. 

If only someone had seen it crash into the earth. 
If only someone had felt its weight resonate through the soil. 
Maybe then we would understand the recent turmoil. 
But instead we polarize all of the elements, 
reducing a life to only an instant. 
Nothing is ever as black and white as we so desire to make it. 

Violence should never beget more violence. 
A baby must never be shaken. 
But maybe extremes are the only way to elevate the tree’s impression. 
Perhaps the reasons behind its demise require more than a heavy sentence. 

The world took to the streets to help a fallen tree be heard, 
representing a myriad of silenced trees in the woods. 
As with any tree, its life may not have been perfect, 
but had a different tree fallen in a different forest 
rest assured, the world would have heard it. 

Morning, Be Gone 

Written by Charise "Lake Lady" Sowells

It's here. Morning. Like an uninvited guest. The eternal party crasher. Just when the fun begins and REM sleep is in full swing for the second or third cycle of the evening, morning intercepts, squashing my dreams. Sometimes it's the sun coming in through the window. Or the no longer piercing but still skin crawling cellphone alarm, obnoxious if only due to what it represents: the death of the night and the impending doom of dreaded obligation. "No more rest for you, sleepyhead," the Bossanova fusion groove says attempting to gently ease me out of my resting state. Its tone growing louder and more persistent with each repetition. 

Somedays, it's the slow moving chill from the absence of blankets that wakes me up, climbing down my spine, vertebrae by vertebrae. Or the earth shattering mattress movement as my husband shockingly jumps out of bed with more energy than I seem capable of having at any time of day without a shot of some kind of caffeine to my system. But no matter how it happens, morning always comes bright and early, like it or not. And knowing that somehow doesn't make it any easier. 

Lucky Me: A Close Call With A Predatory Producer 

Written by Charise "Lake Lady" Sowells

Published on Mind Equals Blown

 

In 2001, I graduated early from Orange County High School of the Arts feeling that even in a 
school full of misfit weirdos I still didn’t belong. I’d moved from St. Paul, Minnesota to Orange 
County, California just a couple years prior. It all felt like some strange drug induced nightmare 
in a parallel universe and I wanted out. So I kept myself busy by studying, volunteering, 
waitressing, creating, performing, and socializing. 

In the year before NYU, I worked full time to save money and took music and dance courses at 
Long Beach City College. It was there that I met a producer more than ten years my senior in 
front of the bulletin board. We recorded a song I had written about 9/11 at his home studio. 
Unfortunately, he lost the files after months of work so we never released it. But we kept in 
touch for years, recording other material. I also wrote songs for other artists of his and he used 
some of my writing in a musical he produced. He became like family, my mother quickly trusted 
him and so did I. 

Years later, he called me as I was sitting in Virgin Megastore, just down the block from my 
freshman year dorm. We caught up, I was a junior or senior then at NYU. Life was good. New York 
was still magical. Then, he chimed in and said I was lucky that he never tried anything. I asked 
him to explain because I hoped I had misunderstood what he was saying. I hadn’t. 
He went on to say I was lucky he never tried anything because he definitely could have. I was a 
teenager alone in his house, recording, eating pizza, drinking his boxed wine, and he perceived 
me to be “eager” to make it as an artist. Suddenly, everything this relationship had been to me 
for years changed in that instant. 

I hadn’t realized it, but apparently I truly was lucky this man hadn’t “tried anything” with me. My 
stomach dropped and I ended the conversation abruptly. He attempted to connect time and time 
again via various social media channels, email and phone but I wasn’t eager to maintain that 
relationship, naturally. A collaborative relationship with anyone is already a vulnerable and 
intimate space to hold, some might even call it sacred. Whatever it was, he killed it and I felt 
anything but safe, trembling on the other end of the line after we hung up. 

This story feels important to share because as artists, people prey on our dreams and as 
women, people often prey in other ways as well. I’m not sure why this producer didn’t put his 
thoughts into action with me but I’m grateful to have been “lucky” in that regard. Others are not 
so lucky. I too have been not so lucky in other circumstances and when that happens, it 
changes you.

Artists as Limitless Changemakers 

Written by Charise "Lake Lady" Sowells

Published on Haulix Daily

 

The creative path sometimes feels like a selfish and lonely road. Finding ways of using your talents to make a difference and give back to the community can truly be a positive shift. It was for me.  

Several years ago, I came across an ad for a nonprofit event that was truly transformative. It was a screening of the documentary, Very Young Girls, about underage sex trafficking in our own backyard, the US of A. When the movie was over, everyone in the room was bawling or enraged. All of us wanted to get involved somehow. As an artist, I immediately started thinking about how I could raise awareness through my work. 

Due to my background in film production, I decided to make a PSA. After researching for several months, I reached out to local organizations, the police department, and abolitionists to deepen my understanding. Upon completion, Channel Austin added the video to their rotation. I also screened it at one of the music showcases I put together as the Editor and Event Planner of The Deli Magazine. People were shocked and disturbed, the community was moved. They wanted to know more, including ways to get involved, so I referred them to local organizations working to fight against modern day slavery. 

To be able to make a positive impact on the world with something I created was not only fulfilling, but also very motivational. It was a game changer for me as an artist and entrepreneur and something I work to incorporate into projects I take on moving forward. As long as you are authentic in the charitable work you align yourself with, the change you can make as an artist is limitless.

Parallels 

by Charise "Lake Lady" Sowells

Published on Deepak Chopra's site

 

America the beautiful 

built on blood and tears 

we claim to own this stolen land 

denying up and down 

most of our ancestors were immigrants once 

by force or of their own volition 

 

many of them were chasing a dream 

of something more 

pushing people from their homes 

laying claim to that which can never truly belong  

to anyone 

 

they made a melting pot 

where some get burned 

and others rise to the occasion 

 

all they wanted was what they deserved, they said 

a place to make a name for themselves 

to be remembered how they wanted to be perceived 

to spread their seed 

and live freely 

safely 

without persecution 

 

where they had the opportunity to grow 

and write their own history

How Hannah Horvath Made Me Fat (and Happy)  

by Charise “Lake Lady” Sowells

Published on You and Me Magazine

Rolls of tatted white flesh bounce up and down, jiggling with every motion, every grope, every slap. She is unapologetic and free, changing angles and positions. Changing lovers. Changing hands. 

It was only recently that I realized my parents’ divorce is what triggered my anorexia at 8 years of age. Stick thin as always, a bottomless pit eating everything in sight but never gaining a pound. Suddenly, things were different. My world was askew. As I prepared to go onstage and dance, I looked down at my leotard and noticed a tiny dip between my lower and upper abs. It was not perfectly flat. Never had been. Just like all the stomachs of the women in my family. We were fertile creatures with uteruses full of miracle grow. Bell shaped pots, ripe with seeds. We gave hippie a new meaning. But from that moment on, everyone else was perfect and I, in my mind’s eye, was flawed. The switch had been flipped and it would remain that way for decades. 

She wears granny panties and crop tops, pairs booty shorts with thunder thighs. She goes braless. She rocks a bush. Sometimes she shaves. Maybe even waxes. She owns her body: every dimple, fold, lump and pimple. She rarely wears makeup and prefers reading to the gym. Her body is a temple of her soul, not a shrine to it or reflection of it. It’s a vessel, and she’s merely living in it. 

At 13, I became vegetarian out of my love for animals, largely inspired by Lisa Simpson’s episode with the lamb. It wasn’t long before it became a convenient excuse to not eat in Midwestern households where “it’s not a meal without meat”. Tae-Bo and Jane Fonda workout sessions bookended my school days. I did sit-ups daily, hundreds. My hairline began to recede. My teeth began to yellow. Friends recommended bulimia. I tried it but preferred a controlled intake to vomiting my meals, taking pride in my willpower. 

She has friends of varying shapes and sizes. They are the blind leading the blind, pawing their way through this world full of foreign objects and harsh realities, tripping over each other along the way. She is narcissistic with a big heart, fumbling hard. 

In high school, my friends and I traded pill boxes. We often competed to see who could take the most diet pills in a day without feeling like they were going to have a heart attack. Eventually Metabolife went off the market for being too close to meth in its chemical makeup. I got caught stealing it before then, running down the street with bottles of pills emptied into my purse. This is when I realized I had a serious problem. But I couldn’t stop. I wasn’t curvy enough to be voluptuous or skinny enough to be waif, the only two body types in the media at the time. And like so many other things about me: not black enough, not white enough, not straight enough, not gay enough, not talented enough - I believed I wasn’t enough of anything. 

Throughout college and nearly a decade after, my lack of self-worth showed up everywhere in my life. I changed jobs, cities, friends, and lovers. Traded diet pills for booze and caffeinated beverages. I was going out all the time and achieving. Doing everything I was supposed to on paper. But I was alone in my struggle. Ashamed. Writhing with inner turmoil, I had the self-awareness to know I only had myself to blame but I had no idea how to change what was happening inside. Then I saw GIRLS. 

She makes love in the light of day without hesitation or posturing. She laughs. She cries. She feels, thinks, and questions. She bends. She does not break.  She cracks, but does not break. She falls and gets up, only to inevitably fall again. 

This woman was real. So real, I felt I could reach through the screen and touch her. The show was compared to Sex and the City initially but unlike those polished and mature New Yorkers, the actresses in GIRLS didn’t look like actresses. They looked like my neighbor, my classmate, my friend. It didn’t feel like they were playing characters, it felt like real people revealing themselves to the world, flaws and all. And I never saw myself the same again. 

Cooking became yet another way to express myself and eating became one of life’s great pleasures. I threw out my clothes year after year, buying a new wardrobe that actually fit this foreign figure I was morphing into day by day. It was strange, but I soon realized that freeing up my mind from all that self-hatred and constant critiquing created mental space for me to be even more productive, listen better, and fully relax without any vices. I became the curvy lady I am today, several sizes bigger with a balanced diet and a healthy workout regimen. And my hair has never been so long and healthy! 

Was it, in part, the typical self-assuredness that comes with entering your 30’s that led to this change? My back injury? My husband’s love? I think it’s safe to say yes to all of those things. But Hannah Horvath was a major catalyst in this journey of learning to love myself, inside and out. She helped me realize that while I am not my body, it is important that I nourish and respect my physical self because it is my vessel (at least for this cycle around the sun). And because my spirit is with me wherever I go, possibly in this life and beyond, I have worked hard to be kind to myself no matter what the packaging looks like and no matter what the contents are inside the package. Hannah helped me to finally be able to say, I’m worth it. No matter what the situation may be. 

She smiles with charmingly crooked teeth, dancing around the room. She gives herself to the journey and comes out on the other side. She grows. She changes. She learns. She loves with abandon.

In These Walls 

by Charise "Lake Lady" Sowells

 

Daddy left before the sun rose 

riding his dreams into the light of dawn 

Mama kept it together in front of us 

as we said goodbye to him 

The front door closed slowly 

as if to give both of them 

a chance to change their minds 

But Daddy wasn't ever going to change his mind 

Mama knew that more than any of us 

 

I watched him walk away 

as my little sister cried 

Mama used every last ounce of strength she had 

to shuffle back into the bedroom that was once theirs 

I don't even think she bothered to shut the door behind her 

because her sobs could be heard loud and clear 

We knew it was for the best 

He promised he'd be back 

 

Until then, all we would know of him 

was the monthly envelope of money he'd send in the mail 

All this, so we could have a "better life" 

I'm not even sure what that means anymore 

Sometimes I think life was better when we were a family 

under the same roof 

Mama had a spring in her step back then 

A reason to get up in the morning 

She ain't ever been the same since 

 

Some people say 

home is where the heart is 

I believe that to be a half truth 

It's also where people treat you like you belong 

Like you're a person who's capable of something 

That's what Daddy was chasing after 

He was always certain there was more to this life 

than what he had been given 

And he was determined 

to go out there and take it 

 

Hard as it's been missing him 

I am proud of Daddy for going out on a limb for us 

Sacrificing everything he knew 

Mama says he works two full time jobs 

and lives in an apartment with other men like him 

Meanwhile, we're reaping the rewards 

living in a new house he designed from afar

building a new life for us, beam by beam

If only he could see it 

 

Daddy may be in another country physically 

but his heart is still here 

with us 

in these walls 

And whether here or there, 

I know we'll be together again some day

 

Poetry, plays and prose 

Coming soon...

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