Thank you for reading my stories, thoughts and feelings. Your readership has given me the gift of confidence in my words. Your comments, likes and shares encouraged me to keep telling stories. This blog was a stepping stone in discovering the treasure that is my written words. Thank you.
My life has evolved.
You’ve seen the changes. If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’ve seen my children grow. You’ve watched my relationships thrive, struggle, end or become more weatherproof. You’ve seen me advocate freely and build a nonprofit that is a reflection of what I would have wanted for myself as a child.
You’ve seen my snapshots.
It’s time for this blog to make a transitional move. It is time to reserve my words for publishing. There’s only so much time in a writer’s day and I’m already managing an organization that has quickly become bigger than me. I need to focus on those things that will serve my dreams for the future.
My intentions for the future are as follows;
You can expect that I will be writing and that I will be published online. You can expect that I will be published in print too. I will be working on my memoir and a few secret side projects. Outside of family and friends, you will always be the first to know when and where you can read my work. You’ll be able to find short reflections and rejections* here too. Topics will revolve around nonprofit, survivorship, #militantselfcare and every now and again, my family.
You may also be invited to attend workshops that I create based on lessons I learn along the way.
Which reminds me. There’s still time to sign up for my Militant Self-Care Workshop on December 2, 2015.
I’m getting super professional in my old age.
*rejections = things I tried to publish elsewhere but were rejected because some people are just intent on discovering me after I am dead and gone.
I’ve been struggling all day with how I am going to break this story down and give it to you in short form. This weekend I went to the Bronx for my first official research trip. *trumpet blast*
It was a trip full of deep emotions and strong words. Words like;
Villain. Deliverance. Refract.
Other phrases followed me in the door as I arrived home. Like the scarves you tie to luggage to help you identify your belongings in a crowded baggage claim, they wafted off of handles and out of pockets.
The Land of Make Believe. Parallel lines.
Let’s begin this story with a new platitude that I feel very strongly could become the next big thing.
Nothing bad ever happens over a slice of pizza.
Like all other platitudes and positive affirmations, there’s exceptions to this rule but dang, don’t you agree that this should be a universal truth. If bad stuff happens, it should never happen over pizza.
Over a slice of pizza, my friend Jena told me that she was shooting a wedding in New York and asked me if I’d like to come along. I said I’d check my calendar and see if I could swing it.
“I have to do some research there anyway.”
It took a few weeks of moving things around on the calendar but in the end, it worked out. I didn’t tell anyone I was going. If you know me, you know that there’s not often a thought that passes between my ears that I don’t blurt out.
I was nervous.
Technically, this was the first trip I had accidentally planned for the specific purpose of researching my father’s life. At the time, it seemed like a convenient, economical way to begin the process. Plus, I’d have the support of my friend to help me through any of the rougher spots.
Every idea seems like a good one at the time. (It was a good idea but we’re not at that part of the story today.)
After 15 hours of traveling, Jena and I approached the city in our rental car. She squealed, “Yaaay, we’re almost there.”
I sheepishly squealed back. Or maybe I said,“Baa…”
Nope. It was definitely a squeal.
Suddenly a tsunami sized wave of self-doubt came crashing into me. Hard. I felt a shortness of breath as I looked at the city stretching out around us for miles of darkness marked by sparkling lights. I was suddenly confronted with a very harsh and unrelenting interrogator.
Who do you think you are? You think you can just come into this city and ask questions? Who do you think you are that you deserve answers at all?
The voice in my head kept berating me and I slowly leaned over, put my head between my knees and started to do some deep breathing. I steadied myself and eventually, the voice quieted down a bit. At least it quieted to a volume that allowed me to hear my own thoughts.
The days that followed found me challenged. I asked questions that resulted in 3 different reactions.
Here is your answer.
You don’t want to know.
I don’t remember.
And maybe there was one more.
4. You’ll never understand.
For the answers, I was grateful. For the rest, I was insistent. I tried to balance being respectful of a place in time many didn’t want to revisit and honoring my own right to know about my father.
It felt like balancing on a tight rope at times. The tension in my own spirit was difficult to carry and the self-doubt kept revisiting me every time an answer was hard to extract. Always reminding me that I would never find the answers I was looking for. Always cajoling me to move on and let it go.
I was not my father’s only victim. I have known that for a while but I was not aware of the full story. I was able to hear more than I ever heard before. I was able to look into eyes, hold hands and drink in the energy in the room.
As a side note, that story only came to be known through my willingness to share my story. From that, there was a seeking of deliverance and healing.
Dear Self-doubt, Suck it.
I learned that they called my dad by the nickname, ‘Country.’ He came to the city by way of Anderson, North Carolina. He was a big, strong, country boy that people feared and loved. I saw the hospital where he was born. I met friends who knew him as a teenager. When I asked one friend about his gang life, he told me that my father was a villain but he loved him very much.
It lead us to have a conversation about how we all have a dark side. It made me think of all of the people in my life that I had loved regardless of serious character flaws. It made me wonder how his friends would feel if they knew what he did to me.
I didn’t tell them. I’m not sure why.
I think we all tend to think of good and evil as parallel lines. We think of them as living in a 3 dimensional space and never intersecting. But they do. They are as intertwined and inseparable as bones and flesh.
I am tired today. I’ve spent much of the weekend trying to do the opposite of what I want to do: shut down.
I’ve cooked healthy foods for myself. I’ve allowed myself to get completely sucked into mundane tasks. I’ve listened wholeheartedly to my children. I’ve been to yoga and gone on walks. I’ve returned to my blessed present.
I even watched a few movies and was hit by this phrase from Cold Mountain.
Bird has a job. Shit has a job. Seed has a job.
As I stood outside of the housing projects my father lived in, I listened to others talk about their experiences living there. I remembered how much my father wanted the lives of my brother and I to be better. He never wanted us to return to the place where he lived as a villain.
He wanted us to live in a home where the Cosby’s were our role models. He wanted us to live in a community where drugs wouldn’t be involved in our daily interactions. He wanted us to speak properly and stand up straight. He wanted us to be educated and took us to museums we passed on road trips.
He gave us a good life amidst the evil he was doing in secret.
Shit had a job.
On Sunday afternoon, I practiced yoga in the back of the class with 3 young survivors of sexual trauma and their parents and guardians. On their way out the door, I gave them new art sets and neon sparklers. I chose not to write them a note inside it. I left the pages blank in honor of their ability to tell their story in the way that they want to.
Seed has a job.
After my travels were over, I said goodbye to my friends and sat on my couch. Other than to meet my basic needs, I didn’t get up again until that yoga class forced me up and out the door. I sat shell shocked watching episodes of Parenthood.
If you’ve ever seen that show, you probably already know that as far as a tool to wrench choked back tears from your body, that show is the top of the line. On a normal day, I cry at the end of every episode.
Seriously. The show has some tear inducing magic spell attached to it.
There’s always a sort of hangover effect that comes with doing this research. It’s like my heart gets locked up, my tears are frozen to the inside of my eyelids and I can feel my body twisting into the knots sailors must’ve used to keep their sails tied down in the worst of storms.
I have learned through this process that it’s my job to unlock, defrost and untie. It’s my job to unbind myself from any negative energy, any scary remnants of the past and any emotions waiting to be released in a safe space.
I sat on my couch and I waited to cry. It took an episode or two but sure enough, Max got into that really great school and I cried. Once the dam was broken, I jumped into the waters that rushed through. I was gone. Crying my eyes out and it felt good.
When I was in 5th grade a new family moved into the rental house next door. Out of the four children who lived there, two were the exact age as my brother and I.
We were delighted.
Well, I was delighted because I was a born extrovert who loved making new friends. I’m probably projecting those feelings onto my brother. Nonetheless, we played together during the last summer before ‘playing together’ became ‘hanging out’ in 6th grade.
In their backyard, we were invited into an old, dilapidated greenhouse. The wooden structure was rotting from disuse and weeds grew up between the stepping stones. Some of the heavy windows were leaning in on themselves or littered on the ground.
The potential was enormous.
The next day we brought our offerings together. Leftover paint, discarded dishes, pillows and a few books all piled together to improve the livability of our new digs. We repainted the wood – complete with our own handprints – and the loose windows were pressed back into place. We even hung up some sheets like curtains.
Once we were done, we rested comfortably in the space we created from the best of what we could find to share with each other.
This weekend I hosted the first orientation and advocacy training workshop for volunteers of The Firecracker Foundation. We announced it’s existence about a month ago and the response surprised me. Out of 25 spots available, 21 people registered and 17 were able to participate.
That’s a lot more people than I expected.
They were each required to obtain a DHS Clearance as well as proof that they were not listed on either state or federal sex offender registries. They had to register for the training and give up 4 hours of their day on a Saturday and Sunday of the same weekend. The commitment was big.
They jumped through all of the hoops with a smile on their face and joy in their hearts. Again. I may be projecting.
Come Saturday morning, they were there and ready.
I was there and nervous.
I don’t know if you are aware but I have never done any of this before. I’m basically making this up as I go along. However, let me also reassure you that I am not flying by the seat of my pants. I’m humbly asking questions, seeking advice and asking for a lot of help.
There’s a little flight too. I dream and plan and hope for what this foundation can be in spare moments, notes, emails and phone calls to friends. I have high hopes.
I am then taking all of the best I can gather, piling it up and making it an offering to the community. I am not alone in my efforts.
Together we are learning how to protect children, how to serve their families and how to take care of ourselves through the process. As a team we are gathering the best of what we have to offer and laying it at the feet of a community of children who have been injured. We are helping them renovate and rehang the windows.
In my mind, that greenhouse is being fervently repaired and tiny buds are starting to sprout.
It has been nearly two months since #Stargazing2013.
I wore my Joanie dress. That’s what I love to call the green dress that I feel channels Joanie’s style from Mad Men.
The room was filled with family, friends and even a few strangers. I was nervous. I nearly lost my temper looking for my other earring. Emotions were running a little high.
Don’t worry. I founded it and kept my cool.
Once I arrived, warmth, love, hope and encouragement seemed to be hanging from the ceiling. It tinkled like crystal chandeliers and inspired hugs that rose out of the ground and up through entire bodies.
I told my story. I cried. I even got that verklempt voice. You know the one that sounds like a duck. I kept it together. Breathed. Paused. Continued.
It was not easy but it wasn’t terribly difficult either. Love is a funny thing that way. It inches stepping stones closer together and opens bolted doors to meadows filled with fireflies.
I shared my big and scary dream.
I started an organization that aims to –
Honor the bravery of children who have survived sexual trauma with a community invested in the healing of their whole being.
Sparks flew. The fire launched and it seems to be heading for a steady blaze.
Just a few days after the event, Louise Knott Ahern told my story in the Lansing State Journal and then it was picked up by the Detroit Free Press.
Thirteen men and women volunteered to share their stories and images in a calendar project that will be sold as a fundraiser. Their vision turned art photography will impact the hearts of fellow survivors and gift others a deeper understanding of what it means to have to live with the consequences of sexual trauma.
Yoga studios around town are offering donation based classes to fund yoga classes for trauma survivors. The first one was yesterday and you can view a full schedule here.
My board of directors is training, strategic planning and committee building. Grants are being researched and programs are being built with the honor of our youngest survivors in mind.
And how do I feel?
It’s taken me a few exhausted days of stumbling about to figure that out.
I am proud.
I am proud and deeply in love with what is happening around me.
I am proud, in love and filled with so much gratitude, I can hardly contain it.
And, if I were being completely honest, I would admit that I’m a little frightened.
A good healthy fear never hurt anyone. I’ve heard that pride goes before a fall but perhaps if it’s tempered with crashing waves of gratitude, I’ll be able navigate this sea without too many shipwrecks.
Most of all – more than anything – I feel…
Over heartache and rage Come set us free Over panic and strange
I want the whole damn world to come and dance with me.
Last night, my dream job announced a 6-week story telling series called, Story-A-Week.
The event kicks off with a beautifully done documentary short by the very talented Brenda Phillips.
It is so, so good. I just had to be sure you saw it too.
Watch the video for a little heart swelling inspiration this morning.
This all reminds me of how much I loved visiting Nyaka myself. The singing in the beginning of the video is a woman named Priscilla. She prepared all of my meals and laughed at me when I asked her for soap so that I could hand wash my knickers.
She didn’t believe a muzungu would even know how. :)
So many memories.
Please “like” the Nyaka AIDS Foundation on Facebook to hear stories that will keep your hopes high during what can be a stressful holiday season.
I love gentle reminders of what is most important. While the whole world seems to be crying out holiday sales, Black Friday and price cuts, I want to focus on compassion, hope and faith.
Last night, I drove into the desert with my father. It was 1987 and my telescope traveled folded in the back. It was dark and where I hoped to see Orion hunting, I found fear instead.
When writing my story, I have to take water breaks. I stop after a harsh word or phrase is chosen and I have to look away from the page. I take a deep breath, curse, grab a glass of wine or ask God for protection again.
It’s a gauntlet. It’s a bear trap I pry open with a stick. It’s a net dropped.
You must think I am a masochist of the worst kind, to walk up to that jeep and climb in. I must be crazy to lean into my seatbelt to try and discern the new path taken and why. I promise you, I am not.
I hate my story. If I could erase three years of my childhood, I absolutely would. I would abandon all of you who read this and understand all to well how promising the idea of canceling out a few years would be. I would unwrap that golden ticket and race to claim it.
Many survivors try to in their own way. I know I have.
The truth of the matter is that although it is difficult for me to rise under this weight, I am not alone. As you read this, children all over the world are being abused. Someone is ruining a piece of their life story. Someone is choosing to tear them apart and leaving them to pick up the pieces.
I will not take a golden ticket.
I will climb into every room, car or memory left. I will examine and question. I will ache and bear.
The world needs to know. We cannot allow this to continue. We cannot choose to destroy our children any longer.
Sometimes we would laugh at my parenting shenanigans and other times we would cry about my past traumas.
We built a relationship. We were falling in love.
I took you out for coffee on Saturday mornings and showed you photos on Wednesdays. We had a routine.
Then I started seeing other people. Well, I had been cheating on you for months with Roller Derby. However, recently, I started also seeing Education.
My life is squeezing my blog out. It is squeezing my time for reflection and creativity in this space to an all time low. My blog already lived on the fringe of my family time. It slept at my feet and often got kicked off the end of the bed.
Well, now The Mother Flippin’ Blog is sleeping on the floor in the basement.
Let us take a moment to review my ridiculous schedule.
Monday is now assigned reading night after an early evening of helping with homework and making dinner.
Tuesday I have an online class followed by half a roller derby practice after an early evening of helping with homework and making dinner.
Wednesday is my only free night and my two oldest boys have karate. After which I try to squeeze in a little homework so that I can be ahead of the curve.
Thursday is roller derby scrimmage night (FUN!) after an early evening of helping with homework and making dinner.
Friday used to be family night and if I can squeeze that in, I end up staying up until midnight finishing my online assignments and working on my portfolio.
Saturday, if I do not have a roller derby bout, I have a day at home with my little ones that I spend cleaning at a relaxed pace.
Sunday, a final roller derby practice (Endurance. Uuuugh!) an online class and meal prep for the upcoming week.
This does not include the 40-60 a week I work, have meetings or the time I take to be a good wife, daughter, sister and friend.
I am breathtakingly busy.
I am an overacheiver by trade. I could be less busy if I chose to get less than a perfect 10 on every assignment. Why would I do that though?
I could have more time, if I didn’t try to help my children with their homework or insist on tucking them into bed on the nights I do not have to skate. Who would ever want to miss those kisses and snoozles.
I have also started doing research for my book and sometimes, I open up a dusty box and find anxieties, depression and sorrows I was not looking for. When that happens, I slip up into my attic and hide until I can allow myself to cry it out on my yoga mat or into my keyboard.
I now remember why crock pots are the greatest invention of all time. I check my calendar every morning and still managed to miss my first physical in two years.
(Don’t worry, I will call and reschedule.)
I am tired but I miss you. I will try to remember to call every once in a while until our casual dating can turn into something more serious.
Until then, feel free to date others but don’t forget about me.
PS – I have recently discovered Tumblr and I love it. You can find me there on the go OR on twitter @MotherFlippin