Weeping Willow

If I were a tree, I would be a great willow.

I’ve always loved the softness of their tiny leaves, the flexibility of their branches and their melancholy, weeping appearance.

When I was a little girl, I swung from the branches of three willows in my grandmother’s yard.

I hid amongst the sweeping, canopy in the summer afternoons of visits to Michigan.

This winter has left our trees snapped, cracked and broken. Branches are lying in the snow. The ice was too heavy for their boughs and even in the lit up, crystal beauty of the storm, injury occurred.

I have always hidden my broken branches.

In middle school, while girls giggled about their first kisses and sexual experiences, I struggled to know enough to be cool and not enough to be considered a slut.

When I was triggered by my relationship with people, places or things in the world, I withdrew. I asked my mother to pretend to tell me that I couldn’t go out so I could avoid seeing anyone.

I didn’t know the word ‘trigger’ at the time though.

As we approach the 6 month anniversary of The Firecracker Foundation, I have experienced what I can only compare to the feeling of astonishment. After we met our fundraising goal last year, I felt stunned.

I felt paralyzed. I didn’t want to move. I didn’t want to breathe, or bend or stretch.

I wanted to be still.

What is this that I am feeling? Why am I afraid to move?

I felt as if my movement would shatter the world.

I felt like if I stretched everyone would finally see all of the broken branches at my feet. I felt like my warm breath would melt the snow that had hidden them so well.

Because I am broken. Right?

That’s what I’ve been surviving. I’ve been healing all of the things torn away from me in childhood. I’ve been mending, bandaging and wrapping up wounds.

I’ve been hoping, for the most part, that I hid it well.

Look at that smile. Look at that capable, smart, creative girl. Look at that mother and wife. Look at that derby girl. Look at that giving, compassion loving lady.

Look but don’t look down. There are branches scattered all around me.

Sure, I’ve shared pieces of what I’m healing and where in this blog. I’ve definitely had tearful heart to hearts with friends too.

I still maintain that I have never met a thought I couldn’t share.

However, in some ways I’m still that 8-year-old girl hoping no one notices she’s really just dirty and broken.

Some of the branches I lopped off myself. Self destruction and worthlessness can make you try and burn off the things you’ve been convinced are wrong with you. True or not, the shears come out and you prune like Edward Scissorhands to make yourself normal like everyone else.

Or normal like no one else but less like you.

Here I am after the launch of an incredibly supported and embraced foundation and I am feeling through it all.

What is this frozen, stunned, catatonic state? Why does this growth and expansion make me so uncomfortable? Where has this journey brought me?

It has brought me to discover and examine the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I am not broken.

Maybe the branches at my feet are broken but I am still the tall, sweeping willow tree.

Is it possible that I have been hiding a secret deformation that never existed in the first place?

Is it possible that the abuse I suffered did not make me inherently dirty, misshapen, worthless, incompetent or broken at the core?

It is possible.

It is possible to heal from an injury without always thinking that injury somehow makes you a lesser human being.

It is possible for branches to break off of a strong, living tree. It is possible to love the deep, digging roots, the thick trunk and the wide spreading canopy of leaves without assessing it a lower value because of unexpected and undeserved losses.

I’m still pulling the word broken out of my trunk like a fence line tangled too close.

I’m figuring this one out. I’m letting it sink in.

It’s a whisper. It’s a half question, a wonderment. It’s the possibility that I made a false agreement with myself under duress.

I’m toying with a declaration:

I am not broken.

From the roots to the tree, let it be.

Love from the branches of a weeping willow,

Tashmica

Come Dance With Me

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.

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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.

It’s called The Firecracker Foundation.

I want to make sure that children who survive what I did, have the love, therapy and support they need to have a healthy and happy future. I think our community should be invested in their healing.

I know that we should not leave them behind to fend for themselves.

I asked everyone who attended #Stargazing2013 to join our community. I told them – you belong with us.

Everyone agreed.

Some donated. Some pledged. Some volunteered.

Offerings of gifts I do not own.

And then we set some stuff on fire.

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You are looking at a very bad idea.

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.

FC - Survivors 2013

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.

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Holy cow.

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. 

Dancing so hard,

Tashmica

Wordless Wednesday: I Crafted Ya’ll

You may not recognize it but what you see before you is a masterpiece of craftiness.

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Soak it in.

I know. You are amazed, right?

Okay. But seriously, I crafted ya’ll!

I never craft unless forced by Halloween costume frugality or knife point.

I mean, I knitted to keep from noshing while watching TV. I have food & crafting issues.

This past Thanksgiving weekend, I saw this little idea in a Martha Stewart Mag and decided to give it a try. I mean, we were vacationing at the cottage. I was resting. May as well make something, right?

So I sent my little ones out into the wilds to bring me back foliage. I molded a mountain of clay on top of a 3″ mirror and pushed my tiny trees, animals and berries into it. I then covered it in glue and snowy glitter. A little glue gun stickage to the screw top of a canning jar, twist your little landscape in and there you have it.

Vwa-LA!

Just call me Martha.

Love,

Tashmica

Ayur-whatta-cleanse?

I hate my body.

Not in the My-thighs-rub-together or the I’m-too-fat kind of way.

Perhaps hate is too strong of a word.

I treat my body like a trash can.

That is too strong.

I don’t treat it like a trash can. I mean, do you fill your trash can with fresh mozzarella, red wine and chocolate when you are not pouring coffee, beer and red meat into it?

Didn’t think so.

You eat that stuff. Do you know why?

Because it tastes amazing and makes you feel good.

Unfortunately, good does not always equal healthy.

I don’t do moderation well. I went to the doctor last week. I have gained 10lbs in the past two months. If there were a show called The Biggest Gainer, I would own every contestant and go home with big money. I also had to admit to how many alcoholic drinks I ingest during the week.

Well, I admitted it minus like – half.

He’s a doctor not a priest, yo! I ain’t gotta tell him nothin’.

I also feel gross. I am constantly tired and lack discipline. I drink a glass of water daily. If I am lucky, I can add a few cups of tea to that. I eat out more than I should and I never go for the healthier option. I work out too much for that.

Well, guess what?

I do not work out too much anymore. I bruised a tendon in my knee and can no longer participate in most of our roller derby practices. I probably bruised it when my chocolate, red meat body infused with wine hit the ground too hard. Trust me. It wasn’t the water weight that did me in.

I overeat, over drink, don’t sleep and now, my workout routine is like a lover who is stepping out on me with 50 other women.

I am so jealous it hurts. Every time I bend my knee and it hurts, I am reminded that I still can’t play. I still can’t hit people without the risk of injuring myself further.

And I really like to hit people. It has become my emotional release. Now, I release nothing and eat it all.

So, while away this weekend, I ate it all. The cheesecake, the mozzarella balls, the stir fry and, the pizza. I drank all of the wine and had a couple of beers. I drank tea and coffee too. I realized I was out of control and needed a time out.

So now, I am cleansing for a while. And by “a while”, I mean 35 days.

I consulted with my crazy yoga friend, Emily (crazy good) and she gave me some information on a Ayurvedic cleanse that she did earlier this year. Click here to check it out if you’re curious. Below is week 1.

I already regret the loss of butter and cheese. So far those are the cravings that get my attention. I feel like a love letter to cheese may be coming. That’s how badly I miss it after half of the first day of my 35 day cleanse. Fudge.

Mmmmm…fudge.

I feel gunky. I feel like things are out of control. This is me, hitting the famous reset button. I am listening to what my body needs today. I am open to this lasting two days or forty-five.

I am listening to a body usually ignored and cajoled into eating just one more, or staying up just a bit longer. Rest and reset.

So, please, if you see me on the street, don’t wave a stick of butter in my face or I might charge. You have been warned.

Suffering a cheddar withdrawal,

Tashmica

PS – Have you ever cleansed? Got any helpful tips you’d like to share? Leave a comment.

Week 1 (at least 3-4 days): Pre-cleanse

During this time, eliminate your personal vices from your diet. Cut heavy, congesting foods out of your diet (meat, dairy, wheat, sugar, nuts) and keep snacking to a minimum; let there be 5-6 hours between meals. Oh, and don’t even think about caffeine or alcohol. When the body cleanses., it deserves to relax. No stimulants allowed.

There is a long list of things to incorporate during this time:

  • Add lots of warm water into your diet. Cold water is a shock to your system. Start off the day with warm water with lemon to flush the liver.
  • If digestion is slow, fresh ginger can be eaten.
  • Try to eat more whole, unprocessed foods.
  • 15-30 minutes before a meal, drink a cocktail of 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, 1 tsp honey and 4 ounces of warm water OR a slice of ginger with rock salt and a squeeze of lime juice.
  • begin eating one beet a day, easiest when juiced.
  • sip digestive teas after meals (like chamomile)

You will also need to change your schedule in order to honor your needs while cleansing, whether it be waking up earlier to meditate or making time to practice asana. Begin to also incorporate self-massage (abhyanga) into your routine.

Most important: spend time in silence every day. Be more introverted and set intentions for yourself.

 

Like It’s 1987

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.

So.

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.

It is enough. It has been enough since 1987.

Indignantly,

Tashmica

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Old School: The College of Mommy Guilt

It has been 11 days since I last posted here.

Maybe you hadn’t noticed.  It has been a crazy week for so many.

It felt like forever for me.

It’s not that I wasn’t writing.  I write constantly.

My job requires well crafted emails, letters, posts, tweets, reports and occasionally the nicely drafted handwritten card.

Add to all of this, school work.

That is right, ladies and gentlemen.  I have just completed my first week of college after a nine-year break.

Have you met my nine-year old son, Isaiah?

I am taking a creative writing course.  I foresee that school commitments will affect my family, derby career and my social life.  Those decisions are already starting to chafe.

This is precisely why I get so irritated when I see advertisements or articles offering women a strategy to having it all.

Here is a strategy you can count on.

If you want it all, you must want very little.

If you are willing to make sacrifices, you can commit your life to deep loves but not much else.

Take it from me.  I am a expert on the topic. :)

I am already a bit tired and hyper vigilant when it comes to my calendar.  Thanks to a coworker, I have my profesh and personal calendars all synced.  I have never been a calendar girl.  No pun intended.

I now live and breathe by Google reminders.

What about my boys?

They start Karate next week.  Two times a week they will learn their hi-yas and ker-chops.  They are both in school and need help with homework.  I have a nightly study partner in Isaiah, who needs as much practice spelling as I do in mathematics.  We are riding the routine struggle bus as we adjust to stupid early mornings and regular friggin’ bedtimes.

I am still waiting for the world to recognize the value of a slow start of 11am.

Vito is confidently sauntering into daycare waving to the drooling toddlers and teachers alike.  He has no fear.  I am not completely comfortable with him having such an independent life.  He is the first of my children to attend daycare.  It is only part-time. Why do I feel like a part-time parent?

My husband is getting emails from me regarding where he can pick up the photo I had printed for Isaiah’s class.  I invited him to view my calendar so that we can also sync.  We are thinking about having a weekly morning coffee date to discuss…whatever the hell we want to when we are not running around like a team of two people out numbered by three children.

Paul has even changed his schedule so that he can be there to pick up our boys at school and help out on days when I work from home.

This week has left my family a cranky, whiny, exhausted mess.

Why, in the name of all things educated, did I need to make things so complicated with my career, my continued education, my roller derby and my friends.

There it is.  There is the millstone around my neck.

Mommy guilt.

The internal belief that I, as the best mother in the world, am responsible for fixing, making right, soothing and coaxing the Pleasantville life I used to see on T.V. for my family.  If my children throw temper tantrums, it must be as a result of my lack of parental focus.  If my husband, can’t find the ketchup, well darn it if I forgot to organize the pantry.  If my mother-in-law shops for our school supplies, it is because I am too busy after partying with the Vixens.

Well that part might be true. :)

Do you know what I remember about the time my mother put herself through college and graduated with a degree after my father died?  I don’t recall substandard meals, missed appointments or her general disorganization.  I can’t remember one spinning plate crashing to the ground even though, I am sure it must have happened.

I boast about the kind of woman who raised me while pursuing that degree.  I am proud.

I have a feeling that in the next 16 weeks and perhaps for the several semesters that follow, I will need to remind myself that I do not have to manage it all to be successful.  I need to remember that my children benefit from my role modeling and the lifestyle I provide for them.  I need to be reminded that their behavior is the result of years of loving discipline and not a few hours I spend away after bedtime.  I may need to be reminded that my children volunteer, do yoga, attend bouts, ride motorcycles and know many trusted and loving adults that are the village I have chosen.

Most importantly, I need to push my monster mommy ego out of my own way.  My family’s life does not need to revolve around me.  I am not at the center of the universe nor am I controlling its balance.  We are a family.  Just like I sacrifice so that I can afford Karate classes my children will more than likely quit before the Olympics, they will sacrifice by reading quietly so mommy can study sometimes.

This week has been difficult.  Sacrifice is difficult.  Seeing those ends you hold together come apart is a humbling experience.  Recognizing that your lifestyle of love, peace and grace has made it possible to stretch those ends through loved ones is humbling.

We can all consider this the first lesson of the semester.

I wonder if my children will ever cease being my greatest teachers. 

Enjoy your weekend,

Tashmica

 

 

Links to Cut

I have been finding my father all over the place.

My first stop was Ancestry.com.  It seemed like the best way to begin.  I entered in his information and my mother’s information..

Bingo! Bango!

There they were.  I found the names of 25 of my ancestors.  I found their names on Census, public and military records.  People in my family that were the first (so far) to be freed from slavery.  Some working in fields illiterate while younger members of the family attended school.  I found the suggested plantation my family was enslaved upon.

Family lore tells me it was Fort Hill or what is now known as Clemson University.  The jury is out about that.  However, my pompous African-American Studies professor from college who mocked me arrogantly about the myths of African Americans…well, I just wish I had his email address. :)

So, what am I looking for?

When I attended an African American studies course in college, we were required to read several books.  One of them discussed the idea that sexual assault perpetrated against slaves caused a shift in their culture.

I know, this sounds very Captain Obvious.  Bear with me.

  • Common place rape of slaves by masters who could have been raping their own daughters, sisters, etc.
  • Forced copulation for improved slave population .
  • Public fondling at slave auctions.
  • Powerless family members having to watch the victimization of other family members.

This is a piece of my family story.

My great-grandfather was born a slave.  He died when I was one or two years old.  No one knew how old he was exactly.  All I really know about him was that he was wearing a knit beanie the first time he held me in his arms.  He looked at my bald head and said, “Gurl, you gotta grow some hair on that head.  It’s cold out there!”  It was summertime.

The thought still makes me smile.

I am a piece of my family’s story.  What happened to me does not make me special.  It makes me a link in a culture ruined.  Sexual abuse was the disease that followed us like a scourge from the plantation.  It was headed my way long before I was born.

We, the African-American culture specifically, talk a lot about moving on.  We hush, we distract, we keep moving forward.  We forget to heal.  We are too blessed to be stressed.

I just want to know.  I want to know if anyone else saw the disease-spreading.  In a space free of blame or guilt, I just want to know if anyone else saw the symptoms.  The manipulative power of a pedophile is such that they go unnoticed.  Not completely but those in their presence may not be able to see the whole story until it is far too late.

It is far too late but I want to know the symptoms.  I want to write them down, share them and say them aloud.  This is how future diagnosis is made.

This is how I heal.

Surviving sexual abuse did not make me special.  It shattered me.  It made me a master at puzzles.  It made me the final link in a diseased family story.  Although, I hate the idea that somehow this happened for a reason, I will say it made me a little fierce.

I will write the symptoms down for you.  We have some links to cut.

“Perhaps the greatest horror of slavery was that you were denied your own children. You were denied indeed your own birthright. You were born into the world, but the self that you were, descended from your family, …was taken away from you. You were suspended in time. You were in limbo. You could not even have your self under slavery. Your selfhood was denied.”

– Catherine Clinton, historian