Dennis Hensley: My Statement

Jul 20, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee
Dennis Hensley photo in "Inside Higher Ed"Thirty-six years ago Dennis Hensley first tried to seduce me, then accosted me, then chased me down and assaulted me in my car. Justice may be slow, but in this case it finally rolled in.

I chose to go public for one reason: Hensley continues to scapegoat us and deny his crimes.

In my book, he just doesn't get to do this anymore.

Body Memory Works Both Ways

May 19, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee

Grandpa's BenchWe often talk about body memory when it comes to trauma. We can forget it works both ways. Body memory can take us back to the very best of our lives.

When I painted my grandfather's garden bench and found some new cushions I liked, I sat down with a good book—and was surprised by the serenity I felt. I noticed the same sensation when I went out to read a second time. The serenity came from deep within, from some mysterious place. The third time I went out, I put down my book to just feel it—and within seconds the same serenity and contentment returned. What was going on?

It finally came to me. My body was remembering sitting on this very same bench with my grandfather as a six- and seven-year-old kid, out by his fishpond, overlooking Boundary Bay and where I'd been born.

But it wasn't just Grandpa's bench. . .

on being 17: molestation and forever wayne

May 12, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee

Brenda Wilbee in coverallsTHE "SUMMER OF 17" a young girl moved to Arizona...that would be me.

I'd suffered a back-from-death experience the summer I turned 17, and my health that fall was such that I'd been given the choice of either going to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN—or go live with family friends moving to Tempe, AZ. Let me see, eenie-meanie-miney-moe... My mother and I hitched a ride with a couple who happened to be driving down, and I arrived at the Ney's house on October 26, 1969.

In this "Year of 17," it was the worst of times because the doctor under whose care my mother placed me before going home to Iowa, molested me. A well-known Christian man, he was also the leader of Young Life at Scottsdale High, and therefore his molestation was a double whammy—an assault on my emerging sexuality (and hence my identity), and he dragged God into it. The worst of times, yes.

Yet it was the best of times. It truly was. For I had Wayne.

fear and faith

May 05, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee
TigerBRUCE LARSON, a former pastor, used to ask, "What would you do in life if you weren't afraid?

I'm reading Katie's Life of Pi and Yann Martel deals with this a lot via his main character Pi. Pi is sharing a lifeboat on the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger, and probably someone who knows a little about fear--and faith. Pi says: I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. 

Footloose and Fancy Free

Mar 27, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee
Wayne and MEIGHTEEN YEARS OLD and headed for college—that was years ago. I was living in Mesa, AZ, and on "move in" day at at Grand Canyon College, Fall 1970, my best friend Wayne rolled into the drive with a borrowed VW van. I had everything ready: Six orange crates of everything I owned. Since then I've moved a bit. Okay, a lot. And with each move, I drag more "stuff." I was fifty when I started to downsize. My father told me it happens. That psychologically we begin yearning for simplicity. I'm sixty-five now. I crave simplicity. And I've finally figured out why.

On Aging

Jan 30, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee
Old frazzled woman"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming 'WOO HOO what a ride!'"

—Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman. 

Of course, this was written by a man.

It's A Bit Like Polishing A Turd

Jan 18, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee
Downtown Skagway AKSKAGWAY ALASKA has a housing issue. This town of 900 year-round residents live in a  paradise hamlet just a few blocks wide and twenty blocks long. Snowy mountains rise straight up to the east and west. This narrow valley almost immediately begins to pinch down from four blocks wide to three to one to a tight squeeze that zig-zags up the Klondike Highway to the summit of White Pass and into the Canadian Yukon beyond. A town conceived, birthed, and sustained by the Gold Rush of 1897/98, it’s a tourist Mecca. Almos t1,000,000 people will pass through here before the summer’s end and it takes an influx of 1,500 “summer staffers” to man the plethora of jewelry stores and adventure getaways, everything from necklaces carved from woolly mammoth tusks to helicopter rides out to the glacier fields to 4-wheeling up to Yukon glaciers. Where do all us “summer staffers” reside for the five months of the “season?"

Me From The Mists of Time

Jan 15, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee
Brenda Wilbee with apple in mistI EMERGE FROM THE MISTS OF TIME, dating back to 5th and 6th centuries, for I come from the very first kings and queens of England, Scotland, and France. But it's from John of Gaunt and Katherine de Roet that my heritage seems to revolve, ironically the first English generation not royalty. Yet these 18th great-grandparents of mine have become, for me, the centerpiece of a complicated family tree firmly rooted in the United Kingdom with numerous graftings from France and much of Northern Europe. But here it is from the beginning.

A Shout Out To Anderson Cooper and CNN

Jan 14, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee
Leika, Alice, and Evelyn
CNN, PLEASE THANK ANDERSON COOPER  for his reflection of Haiti in the shadow of Trump's latest show of bigotry and hate. My precious granddaughter is Haitian and came to us a child scarred by chaos and death, and who today knows much loss. Her mother died in childbirth, her father two years later in the earthquake. Her granny took her in but after a year had to give her up to an orphanage. Then her Granny sickened and died. 

A Love Story and Royal Lineage

Jan 07, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee
Katherine Roet Swynford PlantagenetJohn of Gaunt WHEN I GOT INTO GENEOLOGY, I did not expect to find myself a descendent from the first kings and queens of England, Scotland, and France. One of the more interesting stories is that of my 18th great-grandparents.

John of Gaunt is the fourth son England's King Edward III's, third to survive infancy. Katherine de Roët is the daughter of a knight brought to England when King Edward III married Phillipa of Hainault, modern-day Belgium. The story, then, of the king's son and daughter of the queen's knight is hands down the most endearing and enduring love affair in all of English history.

Finding Fred: 1 of 4

Jan 04, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee
I Have A Great-Grandfather

Fred Bagley, Ft Battleford 1885MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER, Major Frederick Augustus Bagley, was one of Canada's original Mounties in 1874—and her youngest. He lied about his age to get in, got caught, but in the end was allowed to sign up "for six months." Fifteen-year-old Fred didn't go home for years. He became their bugle boy in the historic trek west to save the Canadian First Nations from American whiskey traders and to squash any bright ideas the United States might have of annexation.

"Finding Fred" in four parts tells the story of my initial search for my missing grandmother Leona Bagley and stumbling upon her father, one of Canada's most famous Mounties. Frederick Augustus Bagley, however, was not famous for his policing but for his music as well. He started bands all over the prairie, making the Mounties synonymous with symphonies and brass bands.

I write about finding him because DNA calls us all, asking to be discovered so that we can better understand ourselves.

Finding Fred: 2 of 4

Jan 03, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee
Fred's Early Life
Ferry to NanaimoResearch on Fred Bagley's very early life begins not on the prairie but on Vancouver Island with my mother's half brother and his wife—Dale and Penny Bent. Penny has been researching Fred pre-Mountie; my mother, brother, and I post-Mountie. So I drove up through Vancouver to Horseshoe Bay and boarded a ferry for the 2-hour trip across Georgia Straight to Nanaimo to see what information she might have of Fred's mother and father and his childood. Below deck and parked, I got a binder of my research from the jeep, hoofed it up three flights of stairs, and hunted down the cafeteria where I began reacquainting myself with what material I had while eating some very bad scrambled eggs and not very good sausage.

In this episode, I discover my roots in Jamaica and London's "Pacras Poorhouse."

Finding Fred: 3 of 4

Jan 02, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee
Fred's Retirement In Banff
BankheadDRIVING INTO BANFF was a bit of an ordeal, coming through two mountain ranges, miles of construction, and driving rain. I arrived about five o’clock to a town undergoing what looked like open heart surgery. Banff Avenue was completely fenced off with huge diggy machines and bulldozers hard at work along the center. I made a U-turn and headed for Bankhead, the old ghost town north of town. Once a thriving railroad town, immigrants brought in from all over Europe to dig the Rocky Mountain coal, this little, pristine town was home to several hundred Germans, Ukranians, Italians, and Chinese for twenty years: 1904 - 1924.

My fascination with ghost towns is fully rewarded when I learn that Grandfather had ties with Bankhead, the old CPR town built just north of Banff at the turn of the last century.

Finding Fred: 4 of 4

Jan 01, 2018 by Brenda Wilbee
Fred and His Girls

Pincher Creek cabinPINCHER CREEK LIES IN THE PORCUPINE HILLS, the Rocky Mountains foothills of  Southern Alberta. Here the Mounties bred their horses and here is where Old Buck, Fred's pony, was put to pasture in his old age, where he was allowed to roam free and at will. Buck showed up at Fort Macleod, Fort Calgary, or Pincher Creek as the mood suited him, always welcomed with carrots and apples by Mounties glad to see him. But then at 32 years old, in 1899, he was "humanely put down," the same year his master, my great grandfather, resigned from the Mounties after 25 years of service. Fred and Old Buck were in it together, beginning to end.

Here I find Fred's love for his girls—and my mother.