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Meet Nathalie Sorrell
 

Nathalie is an AustinMama whose children (a daughter, 25, and a son, 21) have flown the coop, so she (along with teaching partner, Carol Waid) now pours her life energy into refining Talk to Me -- a unique, two-part, fourteen week course encompassing writing and speech exercises for women at Lockhart Prison. 

The course involves such exercises as creating your life story on a graph, with turning points (either good or bad) and the decisions, however subconscious at the time, that led up to them. Her aim? To help women learn from their past, to name the choices that led to prison, and to create speeches that inspire others not to follow in their footsteps. For many women, this is the first time they’ve ever done such personal work in a group. 

One of the biggest obstacles to progress is the sense of fear and distrust that the prisoners have for each other. Over time, they learn to trust and support each other, strengthen their group mission to express their insights to teens that might be on the same self-destructive path and help each other plan a future that doesn’t included prison. Nathalie also brings in creative colleagues of all kinds to lead Exploring Creativity workshops once a month.

She is currently working diligently to spread the word about the next Reach-Out Ministries event on November 11th at the Tarrytown Baptist Church. "Who is my Neighbor?" will explore the benefits and possibilities of transitional housing for newly released inmates. Two such houses already exist -- providing food, shelter, mentors, life skills, and responsibilities for inmates that will hopefully lead to employment and productive lives in the community. A third house, specifically for women, is in the works. 

Reach-Out’s goal is to empower the people who get out of prison, and to prevent the familiar pattern of inmates become so beaten down by lack of support for change that they fall back into lives of crime. The "Who is my Neighbor?" program begins at 6:30 PM.
Call 291-0921 for more information.

AustinMama Associate Publisher, Jennifer Marine, talked to Nathalie recently.  Here's what she had to say:

Who inspired you when you were growing up and why?

Marge Caldwell. She is a speaker, a woman nearly my mother's age, and I was eleven-years-old, purely miserable. I lived a double life as a hood at school and in church every time the doors were opened with my Baptist family. Marge spoke at a gathering of teenagers. Authenticity, grace and humor radiated from her. She gave me a picture of a Christian life that was WAY beyond religious piety. I longed to grow up to be like her.

You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?

It's about to get really bad for awhile. Then for the rest of your life, no matter what happens, you'll be able to say "At least I'm not going through that again." You'll be glad to be alive and life will be an adventure for you.

What is the biggest contradiction you see mothers being faced with today?

Women need time to grow into wisdom, self-awareness and effective mothering. Our children grow us up - they are the main teachers we have! Yet they get the brunt of our foolishness, immaturity and ineffective parenting. Luckily what we do speaks louder than what we say -- so our children are learning to learn, if we stay honest with them about our own growth experience and don't pretend to have it all figured out!

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The Countess Galleria / Sarah Higdon

What two notable people would you like to see handcuffed together for a day?

George Bush and Tamra Ellis. You know who George is, but Tamra is a woman in her 20’s who just got out of prison. She was notable in our class for her youth, hatred of men, gut level honesty and strength. She will be notable in the world if she makes it on the outside. Her life story is the hardest I've heard, and it would be very scary for her to be chained to a man for an hour, much less a day. But if we can make it a condition that President Bush (and Security for both of their sakes) would have to be alone with Tamra and not distracted by lots of other work and people at hand, I think it would change both of their lives and beliefs. I believe she'd find compassion in him, once he had to face her and get to know her. And I think he'd find a whole new way of viewing the culture we live in that creates women who do violence against men... and the system we use to punish them.

What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of person you want to be?

Well, it's my desire to be the most special person anyone has ever met. My inability to be indifferent to anyone's opinion of me -- even those people I can't stand! I want to be courageous and bold, and to make a big difference in the world and to tell the truth of my experience in love -- and at the same time - to have everyone LIKE ME! AARRRGGHHH!

What makes you most happy about what you give back to the world?

I have a strong belief that life is an adventure! And that God is real and is on our side. ALL of our sides -- even the outside and the inside. (cute! never thought of it this way before!) I think life is incredibly difficult at times and always fascinating. My experience has been that there is an intelligence that is also tenderhearted that responds to anyone's authentic desire to be in relationship. Jesus called God Abba, which means Daddy. I think it takes a great willingness to feel foolish to reach out to the Almighty Creator -- or the Great Silence -- and ask "it" to hold our hand or to come visit for awhile. But it makes me very happy that in my 54 years of life, I have had some other people respond to the challenge to find out for themselves what happens when we really open ourselves up to that quest -- in our own way in our own time. It is thrilling to welcome someone else into the adventure of a life lived in relationship with the Creator of us all -- and feel the tenderness we feel toward our own children coming back at us from that Life Force. I especially love that I get the opportunity to share this adventure and love with women in prison, so many of whom are terribly wounded and deprived of any kind of trustworthy relationships. In our interactions, I see myself and them as Princess Warriors in training with our father, the King. Somewhat patriarchal, I know, but in the world we've come from, it works. And I'm happy that on battlefield earth, we're waging peace, and fighting a good fight for adventuresome and meaningful lives for all!

What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to mothers during trying times?

I'd like to grant a clear powerful visual image of themselves at a future date being acknowledged with gratitude by the people they love most (including their children) as a SUCCESS by THEIR DEFINITION in the things that matter most to them.

Thanks, Nathalie!

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Dottie / Sarah Higdon