Tuesday, September 6, 2016

I Will Survive

A rapist asshole got released from jail this week and it sent me into an emotional tailspin. Said rapist received a ludicrously low sentence of only six months in jail and only served three.

I wish I could speak to the survivor and let her know there's hope and recovery. Her letter before the judge told of how she felt irrevocably broken. I know that feeling. I also know that one can find a path where it's just a small part of the feelings associated with surviving such a tragic event.

This upsets me so because I survived a year of my stepfather using my tiny little seven year old body for his own twisted actions. It wasn't until I was in my 30's that my mom told me that she thought of him as an "animal" and she didn't want us girls around this guy. She denied it when I told her after they separated though. That's not unusual for he, as some jokingly say, my mom lived in Egypt.(in de nile)

I have only flashes of memory of what was done to me, so there are some that have questioned my memories. I feel sorry for the callous folks who might think that's a reason to discount such stories. For the longest time I didn't call what happened rape, because I heard rape was a violent crime. I realize now that in can be an act of dominance.

On a child of seven, nothing about it could ever be called consensual. That confused me also, because what I do remember, did involve a physical sensation of pleasure. More like a sense of relief than enjoyment. Like having a good bowel movement or peeing when you really have to go.

Before I lived with my mother and her husband, I lived with a woman who beat me so severely that I have post traumatic stress. My little psyche wanted a caring adult to be kind to me. He used my neediness to use me to satisfy is disturbed urges.

At 12, I started my road to recovery after seeing a woman on a talk show talk about how she drank to cover up her pain from being molested. I decided then and there that I would tell people what happened to me and seek help. This didn't set well with my family.

My sister told me she was molested by my mom's brother and I should just get over it. Mom told me that I should stop dwelling on the past. I didn't want to be a drunk, I saw that had such a terrible outcome on my mother.

Feeling sad and depressed, i was recounting my story to some friends online. I quoted the dramatic statistic of 1 in 4 girls surviving childhood sexual abuse. This guy that I regarded a dear friend denied that number. He told me if it's that high, it is just part of life and I needed to get over it. It made me cry for a couple of days that I had to end a friendship over such denial.

As recently as the last year, I read that my state is devoting $60 million to testing the rape kit backlog. I remember this being a problem 30 years ago, but I'm shocked and dismayed that it's still a problem.

Today I read the story of a woman who survived abduction and rape and the police would not do anything because she had some life struggles of her own. The officers even treated her with disdain and contempt even going so far as to deny anything had happened to her.

Denial helps no one.

One of my counselors told me a story of a client's mother who would get drunk and literally hand over her child to the man who molested her. Though technically, my mother didn't do that, she did know he was "an animal." Instead of getting rid of said animal, she pushed me out and made me go live with my older sister.

Later in life mom told me a story that she didn't blame me for their divorce. She said she caught him in bed with a man. I dunno who had the higher order of sickness, him or her.

Our society needs to stop ignoring rapists. We can start by expecting and if us survivors have to do it ourselves, demanding the testing of all rape kits collected, then using the DNA results to match against the sex offender databases.

We need to stop revictimizing survivors by blaming them and forgiving rapists. Dressing provocatively or being intoxicated does not give anyone permission to commit a crime. If that were the case, anyone convicted of driving under the influence should be released.

I'm not asking anyone who survived to use their name in public, but why should there be ANY shame on the part of the survivor? We don't withhold the survivor of a mugging or attempted murder's name.

How about we teach boys and young men about consent? Lets start with letting them know that not everyone wants their attention and that's okay. Waving to a freind is just as fun as hugging them.

END RAPE CULTURE NOW!

Kind comments encouraged.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Hippy Hippy Shakes

As a polymath, scanner, multi-potential or whatever name you wanna call people who have such diverse interests like me, I'll try something new just for the fun of it. A few weeks ago I started a project to tie dye some clothes. Here are my experiences.

I had a bag full of miscellaneous shirts that I'd bought at thrift stores and a few left over gray shirts from our business and because I'm a creative type, I chose to overlook a few flaws like random stains on these clothes. So I tucked them away in the hopes of figuring out how to make them pretty wearable items.

I especially like shirts with unusual collars. I had two from my grab bag, both with a coppery theme. One the main color blazed a brilliant azure or turquoise and the other sported a mainly green hue with copper, silver and gold sequins.

The green one I choose to color block to not detract from the pretty collar. Murry had the idea of using small bungee cords and that worked so well, I'll for sure use those in the future.

I bought some fabric paint, including some pens that looked glittery and some stencils and I already had some art supply stamps from long ago. I didn't end up using these on this go around, but my first tie dye experience didn't work out on every item I tried it on, so I have some tools future creative acts.

I saw some shorts and capri pants on sale at a local store I love to go to and after looking through the selection, they only had my size in white and one yellow pair of shorts. I just wanted them for pajama bottoms so I was gonna buy the yellow ones until I remembered all my used clothes in need of a bit of creative action too. I got one pair of shorts and one capri in white instead.

I had hoped to get a "cheap" package of dye in purple as that is my favorite color. I was kind of hoping they had some dye at the dollar store, but no such luck. While looking at the various dyes, I noticed a tie dye kit for the price of two of the single color dyes. I bought that and made a plan to try it out on my next day off.

Murry helped me set up a table and went out and bought a few last minute things I needed that we didn't have in the house. He's an excellent gofer and he snapped all the photos.

I carefully looked over the instructions and looked at all the various methods for how to do all kinds of neat effects. The kit came with nice thick bands, decent gloves, red, blue and yellow paint in powder form. The instructions said you could mix them for different colors. It said you had limited time once you mix the dye, so I had to tie everything up before I mixed anything.

It's very time consuming binding each piece. It came out really neat and especially great for my first try.

Next time I'll buy another kit and then I can use the old bottles to hold the mixed colors. I saved nearly everything. I'll also buy or find some really thick bands for better ties.

I experimented with clothes pins and maybe I'll use some clamps or something like that next time. I also have to remember to use gloves when rinsing the dye. I had blue fingers for a couple of days.

My boss told me that there's a wash that will make the dye keep it's deep rich colors and I think I will wait overnight before rinsing the dyes.

I might order the dye online and get extra yellow. I ran out of that pretty fast. My boss also showed me a neat effect using ice to make a neat mottled look.

As always with my blog, kind comments welcome! What are your favorite tie dye tricks and tips? I had loads of fun.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Somebody to Love

I started a Facebook Group with this title today. Here's what happened and why it's so important to me:

While watching an episode of Undercover Boss, I saw two hard working people talk about being disowned by their family. One for being gay, one for being a trans woman. I wanted to just hug them and invite them to my house for dinner. I turned to my husband and said we should adopt "kids" disowned for such a ridiculous reason. Thus was "born" the Somebody to Love project.

While no one "disowned" me, I definitely felt abandoned virtually from day one. Mom left me with sister who left me to get married and then my parents divorced and mom left me again to daddy. Then daddy got talked into leaving me to a cruel abusive babysitter, then back to mom, then back to sister, then mom. I feel like a ping pong ball and I'm not even nine years old yet!

When I finally left my family chaos and started adulting in my own world, my sister who took care of me when I was little, sent all these judgmental messages. She didn't approve of my man friend so she wouldn't call me at his house. *I* was supposed to call her. 

Oh my gosh, I just realized why I called my other sister all the time. I was following the pattern THAT sister insisted upon. Wow. I hadn't thought of that. Anyway, my mom and oldest sister wanted to hear from me not because they wanted me to have contact and be safe. They just had an idea of what they were SUPPOSED to do. How they were SUPPOSED to act.

In my adult life, strangers often treated me with much more consistent kindness than anyone biologically related to me. Well, my dad loved me. I had that. Only he had his own troubles and flaked entirely too much. 

So for lots of reasons, that include not wanting to pass along flawed genetics and flawed experiences, I chose not to have kids. Now that I'm "gramma " age, I feel the urge to have people in my life. Someone to call on their birthday, someone to bake turkey for on thanksgiving and someone to have as a kind sibling to laugh with and share that camaraderie that I've heard other families have.

So I started a group. Come check us out: Somebody to Love

Kind comments encouraged. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Confident

What's wrong with being confident! Last couple of days I've woken up thinking about how confidence plays out in my life. Courage comes from making peace with fears and going ahead and doing what you need to do. Setting trepidation to the side works in many aspects of being alive. This thing I'm trying may be scary, but it also has benefits.

Though I must say I have a little bit of a checkered past with confidence. In those down times of so blue I have contemplated suicide, it's a kind of weird lack of courage that kind of keeps me from going ahead. I've never really wanted to hurt myself on purpose. I just want a painful existence to stop being painful. I guess you could see there's a bit of a personality war that sometimes goes on inside my head.

The determined factions want control, but the uncertain and fearful people have the reigns. That's when I get out the pad and paper and write a Pro/Con list. Each part of me gets a turn to put down the things they want to do and what they want to avoid. Everything gets on the list. At the end of the exercise, all parties have a really clear idea where the majority wants to go.

Perhaps a dozen Cons may only equal one Pro. Like feeling a little embarrassed wouldn't equal potential acclaim of speaking in public. Just like in negotiating among family members, I try and get every aspect as much as I can. That sense of wanting to get rid of pain, has a lot of merit. Pain serves as a temprorary lesson, if it's still happening that needs to change.

Even my hurt parts can have confidence that they will get the solution they need. Even if that solution is to wallow in self pity for a while or be angry for as long as is needed.

Sometimes my insides fall into confusion and talks break down. Then it's time to employ the "fake it til you make it" strategies. In her amazing TED talk, Amy Cuddy outlined that we can "power pose" our way to confident. Maybe it only works as a distract ourselves from focusing on the "ahhhh this is scary!" going on inside our heads. In this case, why is less important than try. Not to defy the wisdom of Yoda, but in this instance he's a bit misinformed.

Fake confidence can be bravado or just training wheels. You get to decide.

As always, kind comments encouraged.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Say

Say what you need to say as the song goes. It's happened again. A few acquaintances responded as if I'm depressed at the mere mention of my personal history. I tend to ignore that talk because it tends to be a subtle form of bullying.

I know they don't mean to bully, they're just uncomfortable with the topic. I've found that life story becomes history on the continued telling. Both the people who are hearing and my own heart finds some major lessons in the accounting. They say in recovery, "the only way out is through."

Surviving abuse has its own set of problems. It is in fact depressing. We have a 12 times risk for committing suicide. Though I am not sure that's entirely a depressive thing as much as a desire for the pain to stop. A lot of us don't realize there are ways to think out of emotional pain. By no means would that ever be called EASY. It's rough painful work.

I often came from therapy wiping away tears. Much of the trauma from my painful past had scabbed over and knitted into large knots of scar tissue. Taking proper medical care of a wound years after that condition causes lots of pain and its own set of traumas.

Us humans cry for lots of reasons. Grief and happiness both produce tears. And people will ask you to stop crying. Though not on this blog.

The joy of therapy or conversations about a painful childhood, comes from the making it be a concrete reality to face. An infected scar needs help to heal. Part of that comes from a simple awareness. "Oh, you have a scar."

I do a number of things when I talk about my past. First, I uncover the wound and see what is going on under the scar. That airing out feels less painful each time. Second, I give other people permission to see their own pain and if they wish, tell their story. In addition, I give people a chance to show their caring side.

One thing abusive people do is confuse their victims. They hurt you and then blame you for the pain. They often use guilt as a follow on weapon. Even going to far as to deny that any harm was caused.

I want to dance in the sunshine of my beautiful soul. I can't do that if it's clouded by denial. How can you help? Let me know you see me and my scar. Let me know that a cloud passing by moves off eventually.

You can be part of the healing. Make a choice to listen for a few minutes. It'll mean a lot to those you know.

Kind comments welcome.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Wasting All These Tears

I'm physically sick as I write this today. I have something that resembled a cold, but could be bronchitis. I have a regular doctor appointment so I'll have her listen to my lungs and see if she can tell me what it is.

First, I hate going to the doctor. This new one seems pretty good so that helps, but my last two sucked a lot. The irony is this whole series I'm working on, about the ACE score and how it relates to health in later life tells all kinds of stories about our relationship with the medical profession. Maybe I can talk to her about that.

Okay, now for this ACE story. Being sick brings up a lot of the past. For some reason I started thinking about all the cruel things my mother said to me. Here's the ACE question:

1. Did a parent or other adult in the household often or very often… Swear at you, insult you, put you down, or humiliate you? or Act in a way that made you afraid that you might be physically hurt?

I've talked about Attila the Mom before. I call her that because my husband said people might stop trying to tell you you "have to" love your mother if she was Hitler. I thought, no, she's not Hitler. It's more like she was just trying to fight for her own stuff and I got in the way. So I started calling her Attila the Mom. 

Mom didn't want me. Well, she did, but she wanted me for a prop in her plot to "save her marriage." I didn't work and that pissed her off. My 15 year old sister Kathey took care of me until she left to have her own life.

My parents divorced when I was four and I lived with daddy and a babysitter until the end of first grade. Mom didn't want to take me back, but she didn't think she had any other choice. I lived with her and her third husband for a year then she found a way to pawn me off on Kathey for a while. 

Mom could never just be kind to me. While brushing my hair she regularly pushed me around and smacked me with the brush. Her and her husband would leave me home alone at night on a regular basis and they were often drunk. 

Mom and her husband fought all the time and he knocked her around. They moved out of town and that's when I went to live with my sister. Everyone made it pretty clear it was my fault. After they eventually divorced, I went back to live with my mom. 

She worked in the evening and left me alone. I went next door and played with the neighbor kids. When she got home, she pulled me around the house by the hair and yelled at me about how "worried" she was when I didn't answer the phone. 

My 12th birthday mom promised to take me and a group of friends horse back riding, but she got so drunk the night before she refused to get up. I felt such humiliation at having a bunch of friends waiting. I saved the day by taking us all on an adventure into the desert and over to the convenience store for candy. 

Before I started seventh grade, mom bought a brand new mobile home and we moved into a nice new park. The three years I spent living there were the longest stretch I lived in the same place during my childhood. To expand the space, mobiles often feature lots of mirror walls and opening the front door to this house you first saw a full length view of yourself.

Age 14, I stood staring at my face in that mirror. I mused outloud that "I'm pretty." I was thinking, why don't the boys pay attention to me. Mom heard me and from across the room slammed me hard. "Pretty ugly, and pretty apt to stay that way," she said. 

I get it, lots of family tease each other from a loving place. And I know that "It's just a joke," and still it smarts. In these times of sickness lowered resistance, it leaves me weeping for my tender insecure self. 

So true to flaky Attila the Mom style, the year i turned 15, mom totally flaked and started missing house payments and going out carousing with a new guy. I don't know how long it was, but she moved out entirely for a time. Dad, my brother and a friend of his moved in and I didn't feel all that safe. Brother and his buddy weren't very nice to my sister Cokie and me.

I ran away, but I didn't know what I was doing so I just walked for a long time until an officer picked me up. Mom happened to be home and she didn't yell at me or anything. Not long after that she flaked totally and the trailer got repossessed.

Sister Cokie and I went to live with oldest sister Kathey. Since Cokie and I are both legally blind, and mom flaked out, we applied for disability for me and Cokie and I started living in our own apartment. Life got a whole lot better. 

Mom came around now and then mostly to eat our food and crash on our couch. She took me to a play audition once and in retrospect I wish she hadn't. Coming off the dance floor from the worst audition EVER, mom laughed at me and said, "You looked like a fat cow." This is the person who gve birth to me. My mom. The person who is supposed to always love their kids. Evidently, I don't have " a face only a mother could love." I have something worse. 

Okay, so I've told a lot of this before and it's very sad. Even sadder for my mom really. I'm this cool, creative soul that she could have got to know. We made a kind of peace, though it didn't last beyond a mere five years. 

So here are my resilient reactions to my mom:

12. As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.
13. I was independent and a go-getter.
14. I believed that life is what you make it.

All definitely true. Lets start with being a planned but unwanted baby. I figured out that I didn't have a hand in those plans. My dad treated me as though I were a gift to him. My sisters took care of me even though they did make it clear they weren't thrilled with the idea. Especially when I was older.

I found joy in rich friendships and safe school times. During the time I lived with my sister Kathey as a little girl, one of my teachers saw me riding my bike past her house. She called to me and gave me a glass of water. 

I observed that other people's moms didn't fly off the handle and smack them. They seemed to listen and talk to them like they cared what they thought and tried to show them how to do stuff. I realized, that the problem was with my mom, not me.

I took my friends on that adventure. I used to cry about it until one day Jess just out of the blue brought it up and said that was a great day for her. Mom gave me lemons and I made lemonade and we all drank it. 

After the difficult dance audition, I went to the vocal audition for the very same play. I sang well. The next musical to come up, I auditioned again. I had a much better dance audition and sang for both the youth and adult parts. I got grit. 

I learn new ways to love myself all the time. A few months ago, I started telling every bit of my body I love it when I'm in the shower. I even kiss the parts I can reach and kiss my hand and put it on the places I can't. 

I give myself permission to grieve as much and for as long as I need. I lost the chance to have a calm, secure and loving childhood. Parts of my personality are still in the angry phase of grief and that's okay. Parts found their way to acceptance too. 

Now it's your turn. Look over the ACEs and pick one that relates to you. Then go to the resilience list and see if you can connect how you used them to how you coped. If you couldn't find any, can you give those things to yourself now? What kind of parent are you to your inner child? 

Kind comments encouraged.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Nobody Loves Me

Over the next few months, I hope to explore the concept of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and how they relate to resilience into adulthood. I started with the ACE test in a post I called The Gambler, I moved on to the resilience test in a post I called My Father's Eyes because my dad showed me love.

Today, we're going to get into the nitty gritty specifics of how resilience turned an ACE into a mere past experience. Since the mitigating effects of coping with adversity don't match in a one to one ration, there are 10 ACE questions and 14 resilient aspects, I intend to combine them with what I see as their likely counterparts. More than one ACE may may relate to more than one helpful strategy.

Starting with ACE number 4. Did you often or very often feel that … No one in your family loved you or thought you were important or special? or Your family didn't look out for each other, feel close to each other, or support each other?

My father did indeed love me as I've said many times. His own demons took him out of my life for far too much of it. He raised me until I turned five and then I went to live with a babysitter for a couple of years. It took 10 years before he spent any regular time in my life. After that brief time, about a year off and on, my mother and oldest sister made him stay away.

I understand their reasoning now. Though at the time, I felt quite hurt by the sparse contact. My dad could be a mooch. My sister, Cokie, and I were living on our own and my mother and sister didn't want him to take advantage. So much deep irony in that with my mother and her selfish ways.

Though I spoke to him on the phone, I didn't see my father in person from 1980 to 2000. My family wasn't very big on the holiday thing and so we just drifted on the river of disconnect all those years.

These factors helped me figure out how to overcome that sense of neglect and abandonment:

2. I believe that my father loved me when I was little.
    1. Definitely True
6. When I was a child, neighbors or my friends’ parents seemed to like me.
    1. Definitely True
7. When I was a child, teachers, coaches, youth leaders or ministers were there to help me.
    1. Definitely True
12. As a youth, people noticed that I was capable and could get things done.
    1. Definitely True
13. I was independent and a go-getter.
    1. Definitely True

My friend Jessie's mom let me play her piano. They also as a family would play Scrabble and encouraged everyone to try their hand. Her mom helped ferry us to school events and treated me like an extended member of the family. No, I wasn't like a kid, but definitely like a cousin. 

I did well in grade school academics and only once had my ability to learn questioned. One grade school adult listened when I had ideas and we did several projects based on my suggestions. In high school one teacher traded vocabulary words with me for fun, not an English teacher too, and another would talk about every subject in a broad assortment. 

I decided to graduate from high school early and took a summer school class to accomplish this goal. When the school registrar heard this, she ordered my diploma before I even started the class. She knew I'd pass and wanted to be prepared. She even ordered my tassel. I was kind of bummed that they wouldn't let me walk to stage because my grade hadn't posted in time and I didn't get an extra gold tassel for having a higher than 3.0 GPA. OH WELL. 

All these little things add up to an amazing array of different kinds of confidence boosters. 

How about your life? What ACE jumps out at you? What factors helped you survive? Kind comments encouraged.