Every morning, I pack my three children lunches that are full of the kinds of things I dreamed of finding in my lunch when I was a kid.
What kind of lunches did I wish for when I was a little kid in school? Oh, nothing special. Just the usual non-traumatic kind that wouldn't cost me thousands of dollars in therapy as an adult.
I'll bet that for most of you out there, when I mention "school lunch" you cock your head to the side and smile a wistful memory smile. Say "school lunch" to me and I head for the bed, piling up the blankets--only my nose peeking out so I can breathe. I'll also bet that other kids wanted to trade lunches with you, right?
You probably remember yourself, back in second grade, sitting at the
long lunchroom table across from friends (have to interrupt here--what was that like?) chattering away while
pulling out the contents of what your very American parent had packed
for you. Such a sweet, happy memory; reminiscing
about swapping lunches makes you smile and doesn’t conjure up a knot in
your stomach, does it?
What you had in your school day lunch is a piece to the puzzle that we grow up to be. My
lunches, my first-generation American lunches, can only be described
with the word “PANIC.” I’d watch American children around me reach into their bags and pull out amazing items like I had seen on TV. Angels would sing as they'd fish out Little Debbie snack cakes,
shiny bags of potato chips, factory pressed fruit pies.
American lunches were from another planet, in sight and smell. The grip of anxiety that came when I'd open my thermos and release the kraken of my lentil and rice soup with garlic and cumin. "Yo, anyone wanna trade with me?" I don't think so. The School Lunch Trade–when the
contents of my lunch shouted out who, and what and where I came from.
Oh, to be part of the consumer crowd, the land of processed cheese food and deli meats, the gooey blob of Hostess Snowballs, the Sunny-D with 10 percent juice.
Hey! Who wants to trade me their bologna and mayo on Wonder white bread for a big fat slice of musky goat cheese and guava jelly! Look! My
Abuela threw in a chunk of mango on top for extra Latino measure.
You could hear the squeals of non-delight that came from the American children as they watched
me carefully stack a cube of white cheese on top of a cube of guava on top of a
cube of mango … mmm mmm, that’s good eatin’, right there.
What are you eating?? Eww …
Mmm … mmm ... mmm ... mmm and mmm. This? This is a delicious guava jelly and
goat cheese breadless sandwich. Yum Yum. I’d trade with you but I just
want it all formyself.
And so I’d rehearse my script, thinking I could fool the kids into thinking I was glad that they never asked me to trade with them. At noon every day, I’d mentally practice my words. Yup, I would convince them that the lunch I had was just too good to give up to anybody. I knew the lunches my Colombian Abuela would have packed
for me would be red hot up on that ethnicity scale. The possibilities of what I'd find inside my lunch box made my scalp prickle: would she have thrown in a peeled, diced platano? Chopped avocados? Maybe a
papaya? Could I be lucky enough for a thermos full of the Colombian
signature dish, Calentado?
I would almost faint from the combination of late morning hunger and
forgetting to breathe as my heart pounded over what was in my clearance-shelf padded white Monkees lunchbox. The minutes ticked closer and
closer to the big reveal. My lunch time plan was always the same: Sit down, lay out a
spot, and present the contents as a thing of beauty. Everyone at the table
would know that their palettes weren’t sophisticated enough to trade
their lunch for mine.
The fantasy of this scenario played out daily.
I wanted to be part of the fun, to be in on the food trading, to hear
other children go oooh and lick their lips when they'd see what I was packin'. But this was the late 1960′s, and cultural diversity was just
not part of the landscape. Especially not in a parochial school in Milwaukee,
This memory is from so long ago, but still feels like the day before yesterday. When I pack my children’s lunches today, I
tell them of my Abuela’s slices of white goat cheese with a generous
slab of guava jelly atop, garnished with tropical fruit, then sprinkled with pomegranate.
They ask me if that’s why I’m so weird.
It might be.
Can’t be 100 percent positive, but probably.
That which doesn’t kill us, makes us funnier, I tell them. Which means I should be getting my own special on Comedy Central any day now.
What a week on the internet: I've been all wrapped up watching the dizzying spiral that Hurricane Sandy is--though it's a cool graphic, I know so many of you on the East Coast, and have got you on my mind. I'll be checking on twitter for your updates, and sitting here, with you all in my heart. So, prepare, batten up **or down** and take care.
For some good reading stuffs, here you are. The In Case You Missed It Best of the Internet:
--Do you know Erin ofI'm Gonna Kill Him? I've been reading her steadily for over three years--she has that kind of talent. I love her honesty, about her domestic attempts--and fails--and her truths about this mothering gig. What she writes is sisterwife stuff; serious get-the-date-on-the-calendar I think I wanna marry her. Her video up today, about taking the kids to the park, is smirkable funny. And she does the park just the way I used to.(did I come here with three? or just two? I can't remember ...) Also: bonus--her About Page is something I like to read over and over.
--From Jennie, ofA Lady In France, on a topic that took all the courage in her to write about. I can say this, because I know her. And by the comments left on her post, it was a dangerous subject for her to put out there. Jennie, with The Reverse Prejudice.
--My beautiful friend, Vikki, writes at Aiming Low with me. I love all the regular contributors at Aiming Low, but it's no secret V is one of my favorites. She keeps a personal blog, Up Popped A Fox, and posted this past week with a piece that was a clear view into her life: her words left me speechless and moved me to tears. Beneath a Cloudless Sky, filled with words that are as beautiful as the title--telling us how she keeps going in a world that tries to stop you. (loved this so much ...)
Read. Share your links. Tell about the good stuff you find on the internet.
**STAY SAFE MY EAST COAST GANG!!
**I have to say thank you to all of you, for reading "Red Flags." I received an email from someone thanking me, and I hope to at least have put a seed of understanding of how very complicated Domestic Violence is. Let's have love and empathy for the victims, not wagging heads of how it would never happen to them.
A new series has begun at Aiming Low, where I get to share how awesome it is to be a middle age mom in this new modern world.
Technology advances overnight in the year 2012, and when you come from a childhood of three television channels while growing up and a phone that had to be attached to a wall, I am a stranger walking in a strange land when I enter the world of my children.
This is the final post of Red Flags. Writing this, revisiting these times, has made me feel anxious again as I remember my life while this was going on. Please, also, if you're triggered--think twice before reading this post. Though I feel the anxiety return with telling my story, it's important to me, that a change of thinking happens. I want us to stop blaming the victims of Domestic Abuse. Because no one willingly puts themselves into this situation. It is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I ask that you, please, know that no one can control what a obsessed person is hellbent on doing to them. There are many myths about domestic abuse: how the victim is either lower socio-economic status, or that alcohol or drugs must be involved.
The only truth is that the typical victim is young, or old. Rich, or poor. Educated or non-educated. Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, or any other race. Married, or unmarried. With children, or without. Employed or unemployed. Gay or straight. Professional or non-professional.
The other truth is this: it can be anyone. I hope that the next time someone reads of a tragedy of domestic abuse, or hears someone say "They had to know what they were getting into," that at the very least, they'll tell them of my story here.
As soon as I decided to not go back to the Driver's Ed. class on Wednesday nights, I felt a little safe. I was still anxious, since I found out he went to school across the street from me, but Theresa had told me--and she knew him well--that he would quickly find someone else. That's what I was counting on.
I kept eating lunch and sitting with Theresa because I liked it. Being seen with her had catapulted me to the "cool" crowd, and without her, I know that I'd be invisible at school again. But even though I had grown to like her, I was too scared of him to tell her anything about how I planned to stop going to the Wednesday night classes. I wanted to just fall away and out of his life.
Wednesday came and went, and with my mother having six children, she didn't notice that I skipped the Driver's Ed. class. I stayed home that night, feeling a peace I hadn't felt in a week. As I fell asleep later, I smiled--hopeful that all this and him would end soon. I was happy that it was so much easier than I thought it would be to get rid of him. I woke up Thursday morning feeling that maybe everything would be all right.
My mother paid my neighbor to drive me to school in the early morning, but I took a bus home when school ended at 2:30. Since we got out earlier than the other schools, it was a quiet time of the day to walk the four blocks to my bus stop. The bus ride home was only 30 minutes, and then I had a short two block walk home. As I walked home that Thursday, I thought of nothing, except that maybe I wouldn't ever have to see him again.
It was at the corner at the end of the block from where I lived, that I saw him. My feet froze. Parked in front of my house, was a man's bicycle. My mouth felt dry--sitting on that bike, was him.
He had found me.
I began to breathe fast and hard. On knees about to buckle, I walked backwards to the alley that would get me to my house. I prayed he hadn't seen me--I remember saying to myself "get to the alley, get to the alley." I wanted to be home, safe, the doors locked. With my family.
I thought about the week before, when I was in such a hurry to leave the Wednesday night class, and knew then that he must've followed me home. My mind was firing with images: his face, my mother if she knew he had followed me, what would happen if she came home. I was scared of him, and I was scared of what my mother would do if she knew this boy was after me.
I reached the alley and ran the half block to my house, the corners of the books in my backpack pounding against every ridge of my spine. I didn't care--I had to make it to my yard. I don't know how long it had been since I had taken a full breath--I ran on sheer adrenaline and pushed the back door open with my body falling in. My legs shook. I wanted to hide in my bedroom and cry--but I couldn't leave him in the front of our house, my mother would be home soon and I feared what she would do to him more than I feared facing him. I was home now, and I wouldn't be alone with him; my brothers were home with me. I wobbled into the kitchen, my brothers looked up and said, "There's some guy sitting in front of the house for a long time. We don't know who it is."
I looked at the kitchen clock, it was almost 4. My mother wouldn't be home until 5:45. I had to go out and talk to him. If she found him here, she would tear him apart. I was sure of that. The only thing to do was to talk to him. I told my brothers to watch me in the window.
I lied to my grandmother and told her I had to give a homework assignment from Driving Class to the person outside. She believed me, but still came to the window with my brothers.
I tried to slow down my breathing as I walked out my front door on rubber knees. I could see him looking straight up at me. The ten steps in front of my house felt more like a long mile, but I reached the bottom, and stood across the sidewalk from him.
He spoke first. "You weren't at class yesterday. I wanted to see if you were all right."
"I'm, I can't go to class anymore." My voice sounded strange--like it was in my ears. I stared at my shoes--I felt naked looking up at him.
"Yeah. Theresa told me your mom was sick. I like that you take care of her."
His words and voice sounded different than I imagined. I thought he would be gruff, demanding--but he made me want to look at him. He sounded gentle, kind. But I remembered the note he wrote, and how he was lying about who he was.
My knees were shaking more than they were when I first came outside. He had to know, I couldn't see him. "I'm not allowed to date."
"Yeah. I know. That's good. I like that. Your mom takes good care of you."
His note made him sound like he would get upset, about anything, but why wasn't he angry? Still, he wrote that note. Asking me to do things I'd never do.
"So. I can't see you." I spoke quickly and pushed the words out. "And I have to go in now. My grandmother and brothers are watching me."
He ignored what I said. "Who were those guys you walked home with last week?"
His question made me angry and scared, just like his note did. He wanted to know so much, and had no right to ask. He hinted at things, like me with boys, and hid them in the disguise of caring about me.
Though I was angry at all that he wanted to know about me, I didn't want to sound scared. Keeping my voice steady, I told him, "There weren't any guys. Those are my brother--I have two brothers. My mother always has me with my brothers."
"I saw you with those two guys and I thought, she wouldn't be like that. With two guys. You're a good girl, aren't you?"
I wanted to run inside my house now, but I couldn't. He had to go. I didn't like how he was making himself a part of my life and felt unsafe around him. I had to make sure he would leave, and leave me alone.
"I have to go in now. Please don't come back. My mother--you'll get in trouble with my mother."
"Just come here for one minute. Tell your mother you're going to class next week and meet me behind the school. I just wanna know you. Tell me about yourself."
My heart began to beat faster and I breathed out slowly, so my voice wouldn't shake. The air felt thin. "I can't see you. And I have to go in now. Please, you can't come back."
"I can't stop looking at you. You're so beautiful. And a good girl. Come on, I'd take good care of you. Better than your brothers do. I'd never let anyone get near you. Look at me."
I made myself look up, so he would listen to me. But doing that I felt like he was winning--like I was obeying him. I didn't say anything.
"Beautiful," he mouthed. He looked back at me, and asked, "Don't you see how good I'd be to you?"
In that moment, I knew that if I were someone else--if I were someone who had no mother to worry about, or someone who had not had a life already that made her only want quiet and safety, that the seduction and promise of his words, the flattering attention of a boy who was sought after, would have pulled me in.
I understood it. How it feels to be so special that someone only wants you, when they can choose anyone else, it's you they see. I still understand it today--it is a hard thing to walk away from, when you are barely 16 or any age, and someone tells you that they can't get enough of you, your face, who you are, that they want only to treasure you. I saw it then, and I see it now--how could someone who begins this devoted and enamored, ever become anything else?
But I had the peek into the future, the door into what he was really like--the note. That's who he would turn into.
I looked back down at the ground and with insides that felt like jelly, I told him what I wished I didn't have to. But I knew, he would be no other way than what his note described. "I can't be with you. I never can be. You have to leave me alone because my mother will call the police."
Without waiting for him to say anything else, I turned around and started for my house.
I have never felt more vulnerable in my life, even to this day. My scalp tingled and my shoulders tensed forward, anticipating him tackling me from behind, or shouting obscenities to break the thick silence. I imagined him even throwing a rock at my head. The openness and frailty of walking away with your back exposed to someone you're deathly afraid of, was the exact thing I had tried so hard to never be a part of. We were only together minutes, but I knew my life would be different from then on--I had learned something that had changed me, and it made me sad.
Walking up the cement steps was like watching someone else do it through a movie. My legs felt like they were made of cement, and though I had climbed these steps leading to my front door thousands of times, I never remember there being so many of them. He didn't call out, I heard nothing behind me. I opened my front door and walked past the front window, not looking out at him. My brothers didn't ask me about him, and my grandmother went back to the kitchen to finish dinner. I went into my bedroom and sat on the end of my bed. My arms were still trembling. I didn't ever want to be that scared again.
He left me alone after that and I never heard from him again. Theresa, of course, went back to not knowing who I was. And I went back to being just a girl in school.
Time healed me; though I still jumped at shadows I'd see out of the corner of my eye. I began to relax and enjoy doing things with my friends.
I had stopped looking for him everywhere and was a freshman in college, walking out of a creative writing class, the next time I saw him.
He was leaning against a tree in the late afternoon, waiting for someone. Without wanting it to, at the sight of him, my panic began. I felt my legs and hands begin to shake, and ran back into the building.
It had been so many years. I was breathing hard, I couldn't believe he was still looking for me. He had looked for me again, and found me. I could feel my heart pound and my knees tremble. I hid to the side of the double glass doors and peeked out at him. How had he tracked me down?
I was getting ready to run out of the other side of the building, when I saw a tall girl from my class pass me. She had long hair, and moved without a sound. She was shy, and read only when the instructor asked her to, but when she did read, it always sounded like she had layers buried within her paragraphs. She reminded me of myself.
She pushed the glass doors open, and in her slow way, pulling her soft hair away from her face like she always did, she turned in his direction. I couldn't believe what I was seeing--how would she know him?? My mouth fell open when I realized that she was the one he was waiting for. I watched them walk away together, though none of it made sense. Without saying a word to each other, they walked down the street.
I wanted to fall to my knees in relief. I wasn't the one he wanted. Even though I was grateful, I feared for her. Should I say anything to her the next day?--I felt guilty, but I decided not to. She must know what he was like by now. Maybe he was different with her. Every day after class, I'd see him--leaning against the tree, waiting for her.
The semester ended, and I never saw her again. I forgot about him, and her.
One quiet Sunday morning years later, while still in my pajamas with my coffee, I saw her beautiful face again. In the right corner of the third page of that morning's paper, was a small black and white picture of her, the edges outlined in white. My stomach dropped. I knew what it was about right away--I hoped it wasn't, but I knew. And it was, about him.
The paper said that she had wanted to go somewhere with her sister, and he didn't want her to, so he locked her inside their apartment for two days. When she tried to leave, he had beat her so severely that it made the news. There was enough to report about what he had done to her that it took up half the page of the newspaper.
It was hard not to blame myself, not to think that I had my chance to tell her about him, and I didn't.
The paper reported everything; except for how he had seduced her with his flattery. How he had tricked her with his promise to care for her, how he had fooled her with who he had pretended to be. That he had studied her like prey--and chosen her. Like me.
He was a master at his craft, and he knew what he was doing.
She, on the other hand, had no idea the world he had planned for her.
I ripped the page out of the paper and with tears still trapped in my throat, I tore that newspaper into pieces, just like I had with the note he had written me.
Thank you for reading this so very much. I am relieved that telling--and reliving it--are over. I decided to write this last week after three women in my area were killed because of Domestic Violence.
Women are shamed into silence, as if they brought this upon themselves, a world of their creation. I want and need to say that women involved in a situation that is violent, should not be made to feel at fault. It is never their fault. I'm lucky--for my story to end, I just step away from the keyboard. Some women are at this moment, trapped and terrorized in their lives. Domestic violence is a crime--not a fight that got "bad" or a private affair--and it can happen in 1 out of 4 relationships. It can also happen to someone you know. Learn the facts here: Domestic Violence Resource Center.
There is power in telling your story. If you, or you know someone, with a story to tell, please send them here, to Violence Unsilenced. Show your support by reading, and leaving a comment. Words are one way to claim our lives back. To learn and see the chilling effects of Domestic Violence on children, see this video at MakersofMemories.org.--an organization hoping to break the cycle of domestic violence through awareness.
Hearing, listening, speaking out, spreading the word, you show so much support when you do this. Thank you.
This is Part III of a series I began, Red Flags, in response to a domestic shooting this past Sunday, 40 minutes from my home. After the shooter's spree was over, a total of seven women were shot, 3 killed. One was his wife. I've heard people say it's the victim's fault for being with someone who is violent. Besides making it sound as if it's the victim's choice to live their life in that terrifying manner, it puts the chaotic event in the hands of the wounded. Telling my story has made me sad again, as I remember the fear I lived with and not knowing what to do. But my hope is that people will stop and think before they assume that this would never happen to them, that they would know better than to find themselves in a world of violence. We cannot control another person's actions.
Red Flags, Part III
Morning finally came, and even though I rushed to get ready and to school, everything seemed to take too long. All I wanted was this note out of my purse and out of my life. I knew that as soon as I got rid of it, I would be safe again. I tried eating breakfast, but instead ended up wrapping my toast in a napkin and taking it with me to eat on the ride to school.
My private school was made up girls with overprotective parents, like mine, and girls who had been kicked out of every school they had been to. The Sisters of my private high school believed that daily mass and daily prayer would save any lost soul. We started classes 30 minutes before other schools did, so it was still dark when I had to leave by 7:00 a.m. My mother paid a retired neighbor to drive me every morning. Across the street from my school was a large public school--we were both in the middle of a downtown area, and drew kids from all parts of the city. The nuns started us earlier so that we could be inside our building, with the doors locked, and protected from the kids across the street.
My neighbor dropped me off in front of our building at 7:20, like he always did, and stayed to be sure I walked in, like my mother asked him to. Once inside, I walked fast to my locker. I had to get rid of this note before 7:30 homeroom started. The lockers were along the walls in the cafeteria, 500 girls sitting together at one time and the noise was an insistent din. My locker was in the almost very last line after a triple row of lockers. I had to first pass the seniors' lockers, then the juniors' lockers, before I'd get to the row of sophomores'. The seniors and juniors didn't know who I was, and I'd invisibly sail my way past their backpacks on the floor, squeezing in between the groups of girls whispering about boys, and then reach my row against the wall.
With my head down, I entered the cafeteria, watching carefully as I stepped over rows of uniformed legs. I had ten minutes to get this note out of my life. I was so far away in my thoughts that I didn't hear Theresa, a senior, call my name.
There would be no reason for someone like Theresa to know me. We all knew who she was, but she would never know who I was. What the boy who wrote the note was in terms of leading a gang, is exactly what Theresa was in our all-girl school. She was taller and bigger than I was, and her uniform skirt was rolled up shorter than the nuns would allow. Her thick blonde hair was almost white, and black at the roots; every day Theresa went against school rules about hoop earrings. She was pretty in a way I had been taught not to be. The rumor was that no other school would take her, except for the Sisters here.
The truth was I did hear my name called, and though I was the only one in my school with my name, it didn't make sense that a senior, and someone like Theresa, would need to talk to me. I didn't turn around. I was almost at my locker when she ran to catch up to me.
"Hey! Didn't you hear me? I called you like 20 times."
"Uh. No." When I saw who had been calling me, I was astounded. Why would one of the toughest girls in the school want to talk to me? I was already so scared. "Uh. S-s-sorry."
"So, guess who I talked to last night? Man. He's got it bad for you. I can see why. He loves virgins."
I felt sick. Now I knew what she wanted. It was about him. I wanted to throw up, both at hearing what she said and at how he was invading my life everywhere. How did he know that she knew me? My mind felt like 50 mousetraps were going off at once. How did she know him? How did he know where I went to school? What in the world was going on?
I didn't know what to say and walked even faster to my locker.
She walked with me. "You are just his type. Man. He loves them shy. And pretty. He's so sick."
"Uh, I, I ... think I know who you're talking about and I don't talk to him."
Theresa pointed her chin up and laughed, hard. "Oh my god, you think he wants to talk to you? Get out. He just wants to know you."
"Well, I can't be with him. And I don't talk to him."
"No. You don't hear what I'm saying. He wants you bad. That's all. I'm supposed to tell you that. Oh. And he sees you. From the window across the street." She pointed to the public school that faced us. "He says he sees you leave when we get out."
I felt light-headed. "He goes to school across the street?"
It was then it hit me, I remembered how on the first day of Driver's Ed. we had gone around the room and said our names and where we went to school. He must've remembered
what I said and asked Theresa about me.
The 7:30 bell rang and she walked away. I slammed my locker shut and ran to the bathroom. Standing over the toilet, I shook the torn note pieces out of my purse. I pulled the handle and watched the white flecks as they swirled away--I felt no relief; only the prickly sweat behind my knees, inside my elbows, underneath my hair.
I walked upstairs to the school office, I felt sick. I was going to vomit, or faint, or lose my mind. I was breathing fast and shallow. I asked to go to the nurse's office, and they let me lay down. I had to figure a way out of this. I couldn't tell my mother. Since my father died, she protected us to a mentally unhealthy degree. If she knew that someone was threatening me this way, I had no doubt that in her ferociousness about what was left of her family, that she'd kill this boy.
Never returning to Driver's Ed was the first step. He would forget about me, I know it. He would find someone else in that class. There were so many other girls in there. He'd find the next one. That would be my plan--just stay away.
The rest of the week in school was like a page from someone else's life. Theresa would look for me at lunch. My friends wanted to know where and why someone like Theresa was suddenly around me and I couldn't tell them because I was afraid they'd tell a teacher, or their parents, and then this guy would really come and get me. Theresa waited for me by my locker in the morning, and then sit with me at study hall. She was happy when she'd tell me how great it was going to be now that we'd be hanging out together with the same people.
I was too scared about everything to talk, and she never noticed. She would sit next to me and tell me things like no one had ever listened to her. She'd tell me about what she sneaked out and did the night before, what girlfriend wanted her boyfriend, what defiant stand she had taken against her father. These lunch times were thrilling--if you were to watch me during this time, you'd see me with my mouth open for the entire 30 minutes--something that made her laugh loud. It felt daring to be with her, and I kept on eating lunch with her, even though my school friends stayed away. Sometimes I stared at her, and thought about what we looked like together. If my mother were to walk in and see her with me, I know she'd chase her away with a broom.
I liked being with her, until she would bring him up. "You gotta be careful if you're gonna be with him. He's really jealous. Like, don't ever talk to anyone else, or do anything. He goes crazy if you're not around when he wants you to be, or if he doesn't know where you are. Just do what he says, and you'll be all right."
"I can't date him, Theresa. My mom won't let me. She won't." I began to put my sandwich away--I didn't feel like eating when we talked about him.
"Shuttup. Your mom doesn't have to know. And stop with that dating stuff, it's hanging out. Don't you ever sneak out? I'll tell you what to do--it'll be fun."
"I can't. My mom is sick and I have to take care of my brothers and sisters. My dad's dead."
"Lucky you. I hate my dad. I wish he was dead." She talked like this, between bites of her lunch, as if it were the most normal thing in the world to say.
She swallowed what was in her mouth, and then looked at me seriously. "You're gonna lose him, you know. If he can't see you, he'll find someone else. You're gonna lose him."
Yesterday, I began a story, Red Flags. It's a true account of something that happened to me decades ago, but always comes to mind when I hear in the news of a stalking, or violence, or physical and psychological intimidation of a woman.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This past Sunday, only 40 minutes from my home, a man shot and killed his wife, and two other women. His gunfire then wounded four others. By the time his shooting spree was over, seven women in all were shot, three dead.
He shot SEVEN women in all.
His wife had just filed a restraining order and divorce papers against him. He claimed he loved her so much he couldn't live without her. Stories like these are terrifying. I hear women say, "but that would never happen to me. I'm too smart." They think they'd know better than to be involved with someone like that. Their thoughts are that they'd pick up on warning behaviors and would know to stay away from that kind of person. They question why someone would become involved with someone violent.
But the thing is this, you can't control another person's actions. Even if you don't get involved with a person like that, even if you have no relationship with a person like that, it doesn't guarantee that they won't become obsessive and possessive about you. Even if you've never spoken a word to them in your life.
Red Flags, Part II
Just as I knew they would be, my two brothers stood waiting and watching for me outside of the school building. I moved in between the both of them and we crossed the street, walking to our house at the end of the block. We took our steps in silence, they were performing the duty of keeping watch over their sister, and I was lost in my thoughts of all that had happened to me in the last few minutes of class tonight.
Though the note that was tossed on my desk at 8:45 landed with only a scratching sound, it felt like a dynamite explosion in my world. I wasn't the type of girl to get notes from boys. I was as far away from anyone who would especially get notes from a ring leader of a group of street boys.
These guys weren't my world. They were nothing I'd ever be attracted to or interested in. I had decided to live a quiet life on purpose. When I was six-years-old, my father killed himself and since that day, I did everything to keep myself safe, because I never wanted anything bad to happen to me again.
I didn't want this boy talking to me.
Though his attention fed me in a way that only a teen-age girl can understand, I still wanted to--and planned to--stay far away. But even with my mind made up to never speak to him, the moments until I was home and alone and able to undo the folds in his note and read what he said to me, felt as if they'd never come. As we walked home, I held onto the blue strap of my purse, thinking of how no one knew the enormity of what it carried inside. I thought of all the possibilities of what he could say to me. Would he tell me I was pretty? Did he remember my name? Would he ask me out? I wasn't allowed to date--and my mother would never let me be with someone like him. Would he get mad if I said no and never write me again?
My brothers and I were only two houses away from ours when we saw our mother's shadow waiting in the back door. Spotting the three of us, she waved and shouted, "Good! You are home! I begin to worry!"
"No, mami, we are fine. Sometimes we get out later," I assured her. She held the door open and told me again, how she didn't like that I had to be out late at night. My brothers left to go finish watching their show, and after I stayed in the kitchen answering my mother's questions about what we learned that night, I went to my room and closed the door.
Finally alone, I sat down on my bed. I felt my heart pounding. I felt scared, and yet I couldn't wait to read the note from him. With my purse on my lap, I held open the top flap and stared inside. I looked at the crumpled torn-out piece of paper on the bottom and the pretty blue lines that ran across it.
I pulled out his small note, and thought about how odd it was that he had folded it over and over, rather than just in a quick half, or even quarters. It was if he was talking himself into giving it to me with every crease he made. I began to undo the wadded paper and I saw his writing in dark blue ink. It surprised me at how deliberately neat it was. I had expected hurried, impulsive letter scrawls--but this was more like a studied exercise. The careful letters were so opposite of the jagged, torn out angle of the paper that they were written on.
As I began reading his message, a slow realization of what I was reading came over me. With shaking hands, I crumpled the paper back up and shoved it to the bottom of my purse. I felt on high alert, threatened, unsafe, and at risk. I knew I could never return to class. My palms were sweaty and my scalp tingled. I scolded myself for dressing so pretty. Why did he think I would do those things, or even know how?
I worried that he had followed us home. I knew I had to tear his note up, destroy it, and pray that no one in my house would ever see it. My heart was in my throat, and I wondered how I could rip the paper up in pieces small enough so that it would disappear. I could tear up the paper--no, I could get it wet and flush it down the toilet. But what if the pieces floated back up? My mother would know then that I had something I needed to hide. I couldn't burn it. I could rip it into shreds and put it back at the bottom of my purse and throw it out at school tomorrow.
I was furious with myself for the care I had taken with his note.
As I began ripping up the paper, the physical force that it took to tear it into as many small pieces as I could, surprised me. Holding the scraps in my hand, I got it wet with my spit, and rolled it up into a small ball. I put it at the bottom of my purse. I lay in bed that night, unable to fall asleep, the thought of what was only a few feet away from me, keeping me awake. I hated the thought that his depravity was in there with me.
It's extremely flattering to be noticed. We all try, on some level, to look nice, sound smart, be funny--somehow stick out from the crowd as someone who is special. When someone singles you out, as that one that makes them blind to anyone else when you're around, it feels incredible.
I come from a home that was above anything else, protective of me. I grew up without a father, and that made my mother, grandmother, and my brothers live in overdrive when it came to making sure I was safe. If I was going to be out somewhere, late, my mother would send my brothers to walk me home so I wouldn't be alone at night. I was told ways to be aware and howto never let my guard down. I was a street-smart one, and I knew what to watch for out there and the ways to reduce the risk of danger.
As added assurance, my mother sent me to a small, private all-girl high school. It was a world of uniforms, nuns, and no males. I was a made-to-order student and you could find my face in the yearbook under student council, Honor Society, and Spanish Club. My days at school were uneventful, but if there ever were anything there to put me in harm's way, my sixth sense that was always on full-alert mode would pick it up.
I knew how to be safe.
My sophomore year, I started Driver's Ed classes. They were held at the public high school that was only a block away, but they were at at night, so my two brothers walked me there and then back home. These classes were open to all area teens, which means we were a mixed bunch of boys, girls, and me: someone who spent her days in a plaid-skirted all-female environment.
The Wednesday night classes became the highlight of my week, being the one time that I'd be able to dress in something other than the blue and green skirt and white blouse of my uniform. I'd run home from school, and spend the two hours before class going over every detail: the right jeans, the peasant top, the Frye boots. I would smooth my hair, put on two thick coats of navy blue mascara, and rosy up my cheeks with Bonne Bell's Angelfire. In the way that all sixteen-year-old girls look to everyone else in the world except to themselves, I was so sweetly pretty.
Our Wednesday night Driver's Ed class was packed, the instructor we had was casual and I remember thinking how young he was. He'd joke with us, and the classes felt more like a social night than required curriculum. The confident kids sat up front, and the quiet ones--like me--always found a seat in the back, in the corner, where we could disappear and not get called on. We went around the room, quickly said our names, where we went to school, and what we wanted to do when we finally got our licenses.
There was a group of swarthy boys that always came to class late. They moved together, a band of tough looking guys who seemed much older than 16 years; intimidating in the way they'd saunter in, not even quieting their steps. They'd find their desks in the back and let their bodies fall into the chairs, legs draping over desk tops, or feet resting on the chair in front of them. Our instructor never said anything to them about what time they walked in, or where they'd place their legs.
From the first night I saw them, I could hear the red flags popping up in my head. I would sit in the back of the room, and though I stared straight ahead, believe me--I was well aware of who was sitting in the chairs around me. I wanted no part of them--they were danger. And yet, after the third week of classes, when the leader of these toughies threw a folded-up paper note on my desk, I felt my heart race.
I was 16-years-old, a wallflower of a girl who wasn't on any A-list and especially not a part of any popular girl cliques at my school. But somehow the evil of the world I had been warned about had come looking for unnoticeable me. My grandmother's voice whispered in my head to ignore the note, place it back on his desk; at the very least, just leave it sitting there--in its 50 little folds--unopened.
You know what it feels like when you find out you took first place in a poetry contest? Or you hear that you made the cast after you audition? How you can't believe it's you? That's what attention feels like
to a shy, skinny teen-age girl.
So I reached for the white paper package, with my pink-tipped fingernails that I had freshly polished only 30 minutes before class. I picked it up and carefully nestled it in the bottom of my flowered purse.
I knew he was watching me because I felt it. I saw him lean his head over to his friend and whisper something. As soon as the class was over, I grabbed my book and purse and rushed past him, embarrassing myself by bumping into his desk in my hurry. I didn't want him to talk to me, not with my brothers waiting outside.
I knew the trouble that would happen if they saw me walk out with a boy who looked 19.
I took the stairs out of the school two at a time, never turning around once to look behind me.
Tomorrow: Part II The Note
**reading the comments here: so sorry to have had to make this into a TBC, but the story is much TOO IMPORTANT to tell at one sitting. Thanks for your caring, and patience--you're all so kind.
--A great new website that my kids and I fell in love with:retronaut. Click over, you'll see what I mean.
--Taking Mom For a Drive, a post that is so much more than about that. By Varda, of A Squashed Bologna. The care of our elderly is a topic that needs to be brought up, and we need to model for our children. A beautiful, beautiful post, written with a determined love and fight for the dignity of our aging parents.
--From my Anna, of An Inch of Gray. A deeply thoughtful post, with words we all can understand: what do we do with the life we get, when it's so far from the life we hoped for. Touching in a way that leaves you changed--even if for just a day, but it'll set you on a different path. (I love Anna.)Is That How It Works.
--A compelling, authentic post, sadly based on someone coming forward with their truth, and what happens to the world around them when they tell that truth--as well as their triumph. From my new friend, Casey, atLifewithRoozle.
Happy Reading, and we're half-way through Monday already!
SNL likes to parody a documentary that aired in the late 70's called "Scared Straight." Short and quick, Scared Straight was about a group of juvenile delinquents and their exposure, filmed, to actual convicts. Like, face to face close enough to get spit in your eye exposure.
The hope was that these prison guys with names like ChopChop, Jesus, Rodman, Gallo--would scream, berate, and terrify these tenderonies straight and away from a life of crime. Oh and there be swear words, along with lots of kissysmooch sounds out to the air.
Scary shiz and man oh man if I were 15-year-old Danny Levinger invited to spend the day with these lifers? Guaranteed I'd come back with a rewritten life plan in my notebook on the bus ride home, fully complete ten years out called "Scared Damn Right."
Well, I've just had my own Scared Straight revelation.
While flipping through talk show channels the other day, (I skipped out on AndersonLive, he keeps ignoring my on-air tweets so I got him back good by changing channels) I stopped on a show that was interviewing clutter control professionals. The segment was called Not Quite Hoarders. Oh and it was as valuable as Scared Straight to me.
Thirty minutes into the show, I became what Standolyn Roberston, star of A&E's popular series, Hoarders, calls "action prone." Action prone is a mental state where you need to STRIKE WHILE THE IRON'S HOT. When you're action prone, you are motivated--the Hoarders' version of Nike's Just Do it.
When I heard one of the clutter organizers say, "our children learn organization from us. Their response to an environment has to do with what is modeled at home. Living with disorganization and too many things will DESENSITIZE them to disarray in their future and they will have DIFFICULTY seeing chaos, where someone else who grew up in order and organization may recognize disorder much quicker. AND PLUS ALSO TOO these children of disorganiztion WILL NOT KNOW how to organize their future homes," my head popped up like the wounded gazelle at a watering hole when she senses danger.
The caps you see above may not have occurred but so what, that's how I heard it. So, basically, when my three boys go away to college, they'll be the ones falling asleep on top of a stack of books with socks hanging off their desk lamps while piles of underwear are what they use for a pillow.
Charming visual. I know. Because of me.
I can no longer call my stuff treasures, precious, semi-precious, valuable, antique, heirloom, generational, collectible, memorabilia, mementos, keepsakes, souvenirs. I can't keep the toothbrush they used when they first brushed their teeth by themselves.
I can no longer deny, procrastinate, avoid, be indecisive, feel overwhelmed, or unfocused. I can't say either I do it all today, or I don't do it all.
I need to decide, handle, toss out, spend time, give away, plan, be ruthless. I need to drop off five industrial strength bags of things at the family sharing store once a month.
I am going to clean up because I will in no way become that lady responsible for my three kids sitting on metal folding chairs in some church basement someday while busloads of young college-bound students are brought in to see them while my three whistle and cat call out to them, screaming, "Yeah?! Ya think ya all of a sudden one day wake up underneath a pile of 200 plastic Transformer cups?! Huh? Ya think we like being this way?!"
I'm so action prone right now that by the time I'm through with this place, I'll be written up in Destination Must Sees of Taoist Monthly.
There we stood: the hobo, the circus clown with the red SOS pad hair tuffets, Casper the friendly ghost, and Fred Flintstone.
My Colombian family had not been in this country long enough to
understand the essential childhood nuances of Halloween’s Trick-or-Treat in the 1960′s, especially for a girl. Things like:
My Trick or Treat Night Dream List:
My costume will be home-made and glittery and have some netting, somewhere.
My trick-or-treat candy bag will be home-made and glittery and match my costume. My Please Dear God Basics List:
My costume will fit me.
My costume is one for a girl, since I’m a girl.
I should be able to go with friends, and not all of my siblings instead.
My Colombian Child’s Lord Kill Me Now List:
I should not be sent out into the dark night with a plastic baggie
full of pennies so I can pay the person giving out the candy so that no
one can say I took candy from them. I should not have to go trick-or-treating with my non-English
speaking parents only five feet away asking one hundred times “que es eso?” for every candy I
get so that I end up translating for both sides--the giver and the getter--explaining what I got,
to who gave it to me, not knowing who the heck wants to know anymore.
My parents did not understand Trick-or-Treat, and as painful as it
was to go along with all the un-Americanism they threw into it, my
three siblings and I begged to be allowed to join the neighborhood children on this most
exciting of nights.
Trick-or-Treat in the late 60′s went on in the pitch black night. We explained to our mother that we would need costumes. Times back then were
charming; costumes were sold at local five-and-dime stores,
boxed with a cellophane peek hole so you could see what was inside.
As my parents were out buying our costumes on Halloween day, we
watched and waited for their return, all four of us squeezed against our front room
window. Oh, the hope that we still had ... that somehow, our mother and
father would come through for us and walk in with alter-egos of our dreams.
When they came home, we attacked them at the door, diving into
the Ben Franklin Craft Shop bag. We held up the four boxes, and
stared at the masks looking up at us from their cozy see-through homes.
The hollow-eyed plastic faces staring back at us were no one we wanted to spend
Our choices for the night were Mr. 5 o’clock shadow hobo man, white-faced Bozo the Clown with blood-red cream puffs for hair, Casper, and
the god almighty ugly Fred Flintstone.
Where was Snow White? Where was Superman? Where was Cinderella?
All I could think was, god in heaven why is this my life. Followed by what I've been saying to myself for years by that point: Oh well let’s just do this.
Would it surprise you if I told you that the only costume that fit me was Fred Flintstone?
Well, at least we wouldn’t be fighting over the least mentally
harmful visage, cute dimple cheeked Casper. He came home in size 4T.
We suited up, pulling up the pre-flame retardant regulation
nylon costumes that would instantly take you from Little Red Riding Hood
to the superhero Human Torch if you got anywhere near a parent’s lit
cigarette. My grandmother shook her head muttering the words "Tricker Tree" and sighing about the silliness
of it all as she tied the strings at the top of our costumes in a double
Does anyone remember those stiff plastic masks? With the skinniest of
elastic bands stapled into place, with scarcely any room for a European
sized nose behind it? Does anyone remember the way your hot breath would
turn the non-breathable plastic into a Scandinavian steam room within
seconds of stepping out into the cold night?
This was after dark, in late October. While your hands and toes and
ears were freezing, your face would be getting a moisture beauty hot springs treatment. And those half-inch horizontal eye slits cut into the masks
as a lie that they would allow vision? I still remember looking down and
getting my eyelashes caught in the sharp plastic edges. To this day, I
thank the god of corneal abrasions for saving my eyesight.
Years later, looking at a picture of us on this night, I see us lined up tallest to cutest, right
before we left the house: Fred (me), Hobo (brother), Bozo (brother), and
Cute Casper (baby sister). I look at this picture, and remember the
feeling of resignation to my lot in life.
Equal parts anger
mixed with despair. Fred Flintstone! What if someone in a lovingly hand-sewn pink sparkly princess costume from school saw me as Fred Flintstone! Not only was I store-bought but I
was gender incorrect, too.
If only that were where the story stopped. We were also sent out into the night with a
bag of pennies, so that no one could come back to say we took candy
Why? Because we lived by The Colombian motto,”expect revenge from everyone, and give
no one a reason to say you owe them something.”
Ding-Dong. Tricker Tree! It's your Colombian Connection. Can I give you a penny for that Peanut Butter twist? I've got a bagful here.
What if there were a way to help you make sense of things, when unsensible things happen? Like, when you look before you pull out of the garage but you still hit the car left in the driveway behind you. Or leaving home with plenty of time to make it to an important appointment, but you get stuck in unmovable traffic, and forget to bring the phone number you need along with you.
Let's pretend it's not just me, and think of how wonderful it would be to have something that deconstructs the what just happenedmoments in life.
--The best for last: from one of my real-life superheroes: Anissa Mayhew of #FreeAnissa. In my mind, this woman leaps tall buildings in a single bound, all while in a wheel chair. A post that brings tears to my eyes with the ferocious determination to get things done, and letting nothing hold her back: Anissa with Startling Realization.
Some quality reading here, folks, I hope you click over and get to know at least one of these sites: I promise you, a rewarding read: every single one.
Hope you all had a good weekend. My weekend at Aiming Low's Non-conference was more than I could have imagined it would be. A great, great time and I'm so honored to have been a part of it.
If you've been following me along this week, you've probably seen on twitter and on the website Aiming Low, that Aiming Low is holding their conference this weekend in beautiful Callaway Gardens, Georgia.
I'll be hosting a RoundTable session there on Friday, and I wish you all could be there. (would be so great) The opening keynote for Aiming Low's first ever "non-conference" is by JC Little, the astonishingly talented artist who blogs at The Animated Woman, and closing out the weekend is Ree Drummond, of The Pioneer Woman.
This is my 4th conference (I know!) and with each one, I've come back smarter and determined to do things differently at the next one.
I made my list tonight of the things I remembered I have to remember to do at a conference. It's typed up and coming with me:
This Time, I Will Remember To:
--Bring my camera along
--Take important phone numbers along
--Find out people's real names so you don't ask Kymberli if she knows when JW Moxie is coming in (oh, she'll know. Since SHE is JW Moxie)
--Pack snacks because planes do get stuck on runways
--Take the address of the hotel I'll be staying in
--Remember the business cards
--Remember the toothbrush and floss (throw in extra floss)
--Hand lotion is nice, too
--Buy my family souvenirs RIGHT AWAY because you always run out of time
--Make sure that I have my driver's license
--Drink water before I go so I don't get light headed
--Bring my glasses so I can read and see and drive
--Don't pack big liquid bottles in the carry-on, they'll just throw it out. And pull me out of the line to ask my permission to throw it out.
--Take only four outfits and nothing more. They're only clothes.
--Remember the cell phone and charger!!!
--Tylenol tylenol and tylenol.
--Talk to people I don't know. Maybe they'll appreciate it, maybe they won't. But it's the right thing to do.
--Don't get hurt if someone looks at me funny when I try to talk to them. It could be that they forgot the Tylenol tylenol and tylenol.
--Take breaks in bathrooms to deep breathe and relax. Deep breathe and relax. I paid, I'm there, don't think "your money's worth" means being in learning mode the whole time. The money's done been spent already.
--Remember that I came to meet people I've liked online for so long. Don't expect grand things, but if something blossoms beyond the computer, take it like that extra scoop of ice cream Mr. Ottenstein used to give me with a wink when I was little.
I'll be back Sunday night, and let you know all about it. In the meantime, if you want to see the gorgeous Callaway Garden Resort where Aiming Low is having their conference, looky here.
*Picture of future-me, nice and old, because I did what this post told me to do.
Being raised Colombian style is quite an experience. Highly skilled parenting ways are required in teaching survival, safety, and always outsmarting any potential dangerous circumstances up ahead.
Daily, hourly, I call upon this ninja style of living learned at my Abuela's knee, and I am more than aware of possible threatening situations and how to circumvent them. We have a third eye and a sixth sense about life in the streets, so odds are in our favor of our actual goal -- total avoidance of bodily harm.
Indoors or out, I know there are car tailers, wallet grabbers, purse nabbers, kidnappers, grocery grabbers, kiss snatchers, butt feelers, wolf whistlers.
Oh, yeah … there
are. Everywhere. You don’t see them because you don’t have that SpideySense that was instilled and encouraged in me since the day I opened my eyes and could assess my surroundings and grade my safety in them -- on a scale of one to ten, one being the safest.
Do you want to increase your odds of being around for your grandchildren? Take a quick tour of
my world and all that I do that is second nature, and just living to stay alive:
--Carry cash elsewhere on your body other than your purse. That way, if they grab your purse, let them enjoy the Target bag of the season.
--Carry your credit cards in your pants pockets or in your bra. Again, you want my purse? There ya go, nothing to see in there, move along, folks.
--Always wear ready-for-action shoes that allow a quick getaway. Carrie Bradshaw's nightmares are what's on my feet. Really. You should see the hausfrau clogs I'm in right now.
--Develop a walking gait that is somewhat aggressive and shoulder-leans toward the left, with a side of crazy. After ten years of carrying babies on my hip, this is easy enough.
someone wants your purse, hand it over. Now is not the time to be
feeling your newly prescribed "mood adjuster" meds kicking in with shouts of “Oh, yeah, mofo?? You wanna piece of me? Cause I feel like I could take a bullet right now.”
someone tries to get you out of the public eye, fight like a woman who
hasn’t had chocolate in five days. Be the child that Trinity and Katniss would have had. Start daydreaming now about
the chance to kick full-blown ass someday. Fantasize daily — when the time
comes, hell hath no fury like a long anticipated ass-whoopin' WalMart style.
attention to your surroundings. If you go for a walk, then only go for a
walk. Don’t make it into joyful time alone just you and Maroon 5, eyes closed, arms raised up, swirling over your head in moves like Jagger. Leave
the iPod at home.
in a strange, new place, refrain from the country mouse visits city
mouse look on your face. Let your body say you’ve seen it all before, including what they're up to. Eyes on your
not make eye contact with strangers on the street claiming to be housing
demons within and asking for a dollar for a good hot cup of coffee that
they know will send Beelzebub on his way. No. Keep on walking. Let someone
else buy the debil his one-way ticket home.
the way you dress throughout the day. Sunglasses here, floppy hat there,
yoga mama by eleven, skinny jeans at three. Anyone following you will
think you’ve got sisterwives.
--If your SpideySense kicks in while you're driving and tells you you're being tailed, make an immediate left turn, go straight for three blocks, then make a right turn without using your blinker,
go straight for half a block, then U-turn at the first driveway you see and make two right turns.
Then signal for another right turn, but go left instead. If they follow you on all these turns, then your astute life-saving skills are confirmed -- you're being tailed. Head directly to the cop shop. Don't talk yourself out of it.
This list will keep you ninety percent safe out there.
But this piece of advice right now will take care of the other ten percent: TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. DON’T SECOND GUESS YOUR GUT.
Oh, sorry … was I shouting? Just thought I remember you saying YOU WANTED TO LIVE TO SEE YOUR GRANDCHILDREN.
Good luck. Stay safe. Happy situational risk assessment; I wish you a lifetime of ones on a scale of one to ten, one being the safest.
*This post first appeared at the fabulous Taming Insanity's place. If you don't know KLZ, you've got to meet her. She is the bomb.
What in the world is going on? Am I turning over a new leaf? Experimenting with a new lifestyle called being prepared?
I've got my In Case You Missed It up a whole day and a half early. Maybe all this talk about discipline and schedules and deadlines works. (ha! actually, I'll be busy Sunday and Monday, so I saw a window of time and ran with it ... )
What has become my favorite, favorite weekly feature, from all that I've tried on for size here at Good Day Regular People; my list of some of what I found that I liked so much on the internet:
This week's In Case You Missed It:
--Like most people, I like to pretend I have fancy friends. And here's mine:Lady Jennie of A Lady In France. She lives in, you guessed it -- France, and she somehow writes posts that are down to earth intimate yet dreamy. Full of life as I'll never know it, and yet, I'm thrilled she shares it with me. Typical of her posts: a little bit of education about her country, and her lighter than air photography. Today, she takes us on a trip toVersailles.
--Katy, fromExperienced Bad Mom, with "this week's to do list" that is so honest, you can't help but want to glom on to her in hopes she'll invite you over for coffee. She's great, and she tells the truth: we all screw up as parents, and it's okay.
--Listening to our kids, it really is important. And the listening they know we do all-the-way style, versus just faking it. Mary Lerner, of My 3 Little Birds, withListen.
Have a wonderful week. Maybe I'll get into this on-time, ahead of the game way of life.
At least every once in awhile.
--Here's an In Case You Missed It real life: last week I told you about TheMoth/True Stories Told Live, bringing their monthly StorySLAM to Milwaukee. It's held at The Miramar Theatre the first Thursday of every month. One presenter is chosen as the winner from the night's performers, and then he/she goes on to compete in the Grand StorySLAM at the end of the year. The theme last month was "courage," and I entered last month with a story about me taking on a devildog that wanted my kids for dinner like that alligator wanted that chicken that Steve Irwin dangled in front of the beast's snapping snout.
I attended last week's StorySLAM, the theme being "chemistry." I spoke of my first true love, the one I've never gotten over; and the chemistry that happens between us.
Me and my coffee.
With my heart out on my sleeve like that, how could I have not won? I did. I'll now go on to compete in the Grand StorySLAM at the end of the year.
If there's a StorySLAM ever anywhere near you, you've got to go. Great stories to hear, great stories for you to share. It's such a gift to be part of something like this.
Today is National Strong Start Day. An annual day set aside to inform, spread the word, and gather funds for Post Partum Depression Mood Disorders.
Fifteen to 20% of all new mothers get postpartum depression or anxiety, nearly a million each year in the US alone. Only a small percentage of women with PPD ever get the treatment they need to fully recover.
I try to do my best in recognizing and being alert to a mom in the midst of PPD illness. I myself never recognized just how desperate I was with my PPD until I had run out of rope to hang on to.
I don't want this for anyone, not if I can help in some way.
Spreading awareness of postpartum depression is work, time, dedication, commitment, and belief in the power of support and community. Working hard costs time, and money: but it's time and money spent in making sure and seeking out as many pregnant and new mothers as possible. To do this, we need to recognize the
symptoms of PPD mood disorders, and we can do this by knowing what we're looking for first.
At the same time, we need to preach acceptance, and not judging; and most importantly, assuring these women that they are not alone. There are places to go for help, and there are ways to ask for help. As much as we can, even if it feels small to us--believe me--to someone surviving one minute to the next, it means a world of difference.
All mothers and their children deserve a
strong start and access to information and resources in the fight against postpartum mood
We need your help to continue to do that. And to do even more. Our
goal for Postpartum Progress in 2013 is to translate what we have done
so successfully online into offline materials, the kind that clinicians
continually ask us for so that they can share them with their patients.
Today, on October 5th — the day on which more children are born each
year than any other — please donate (click and see how easy it is to give), and if you can, ask others to do the same.
Thank you so much for reading, for caring. If you ever have the chance to extend a hand to someone who is drowning and can't find their way up for air, please do it. It's called saving a life for a reason.
**IF YOU KNOW OF SOMEONE WITH PPD RIGHT NOW: please direct them to Katherine Stone's website, PostPartumProgress. It's the best place for them to begin to feel part of a community. Community and support are the biggest predictors of a successful recovery from PPD.
No, I'm not talking about my husband and the big V. Today, I'm confessing; telling you about what my husband and I did -- with all the intendedness of providing the best for our three children -- we thought we were doing what we should be doing, and now we wonder, can it be undone? Were we wrong??
Is it too late???
Please, hold my hand, and tell me it'll all be okay.
Yesterday, my son's book order was returned from school because the credit card numbers I had written in were "invalid." Last week, I added 1/8 of a cup of oil to the salad dressing instead of the 1/3 of a cup the recipe called for. Five out of seven entries on the family wall calendar are illegible to me--and it's in my own handwriting.
And now I'm scared.
Because I know what's next: badly penciled-in hyperextended too dark eyebrows, lipstick that extends beyond my natural lip line--like a chalked out body outline on CSI. The dreaded day that a step out into bright sunlight shows me with one black sock, one navy blue sock on. Rogue eyebrow hairs that escape my detection but no one else's, and fester on-wild and unplucked.
And the worst of it? How do I know these things haven't already happened?
They probably have. I can't go on denying that I need a new eyeglass prescription. It's a hard pill to swallow, when your current eyeglasses no longer serve you. This is a kind way of saying your eyesight has gotten worse. Not just one step worse, but more like two. I envision the Hubble lenses that will await me; deep field vision enhancers capable of showing others distant galaxies, but only enabling me to read the care instructions on my fall blazer.
I know the reason for the four Tylenols a day: eye strain. I know why I act like I want to give my teen practice "night driving" -- it's gotten harder for me to see in the dark. And I have to publicly apologize for making Betty Crocker my scapegoat: the cupcakes aren't soggy because she changed her recipe: it's because she tells you to add 1/4 cup of applesauce, not 1/2 cup.
I will call for an appointment to see my eye doctor. When I call and they ask if there's an urgency to my visit, I'll tell them No Rush.
Because last night at dinner, my kids told me I made the most epic Kool-Aid they've ever had (I was positive the printed directions called for four cups of sugar) and I'm sitting here loving looking at a winged alabaster cherub I brought home from an estate sale last week--he rests on our fireplace mantel, and, well--looks angelic up there in his corner.
How this angel landed in our house is simple. I swear the hand-calligraphied numbers scratched onto the ivory price tag fastened around his neck looked more $29.00 and not the actual $69.00 that I later discovered he was. But by then it was too late, he looked so happy in his new home.