How I Met My Mother: Notes on Family Interviews

Have you met your mother?

What about your grandmother?

Have you ever asked about who they were before they became your family?

I hadn’t. Not really.

Considering our family history, opening doors behind me never seemed like a wise or safe plan of action.

Until I got this idea in my head about writing a book about the sexual abuse I survived as a child, I assumed that my mother was simply the woman who smelled like coffee and perfume when I fell asleep on her lap in church.

Her definition was (and I imagine still is) wrapped up in my own self-centeredness. She is the one who spent too much money during a hard time so that I could be the belle of the ball at a high school dance. She is the woman who slept with one eye opened and the blue screen of the TV flickering on until I popped my head into her room to say I was home safe. She grew green beans when we were little but for the life of her couldn’t get a tomato to grow in Texas.

She is my mother. I know her well.

My grandmother, my biological father’s mother, I did not know quite that well.

I remember giving her roses at my father’s funeral. She brought me the soft, slow southern drawl of my family’s roots in South Carolina over the phone but I have rarely been in the same room with her. I only had stories. Vague shadows of tales my father told my mother before he died. The death of a family member is often like pruning limbs off of a tree. Sometimes, unintentionally, you lose a few of the smaller branches and offshoots.

When my research began, I had questions. Now those questions are reproducing like a Mogwai eating fried chicken after midnight.

Yes. I googled this to ensure accuracy.

Correction. Based on this chart of the Mogwai/Gremlin lifecycle, my questions are budding like a Mogwai caught in a rainstorm without an umbrella.

This phenomenon has begun because I knew less than I thought. I knew nothing.

I didn’t know how my parents met or how they fell in love. I didn’t know how my grandmother grew up or what her parents were like. I didn’t know what my father’s childhood was like or who his friends were.

I still know very little.

I feel like I need a crime solving board in my attic to help me keep my own story straight.

mason-board

 

My story is intricate, complex and fascinating because it is not mine alone.

It is my father’s, my mother’s, my grandmother’s, my brother’s, my husband’s and my children’s story too.

We are all standing in a piece of the story. Our points of view are different but we are all here tied together.

It’s complicated.

You are probably wondering what I hope to achieve with all of these inquiries into my father’s past.

Well, so am I.

I am starting to be okay with knowing nothing.

At the end of this pile of questions, there will be no definitive answer to the question, “Why me?”

If that question had an answer, I think all of the unjustly injured people of the world would collectively sigh in relief so loudly, it would shift the planet.

The answer to “Why me?” is nearly as annoying as the redundancy of the question.

15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.

“Why not me?”

After googling this statistic – Don’t hate. Numbers don’t stick with me. – I was kind of sadly excited to be nearly aged out of the high risk ages of 16-34.

*Phew*

Can’t wait to be statistically unlikely to be raped.

And I thought most of my milestone birthdays were gone.

Amiright?

Anyway, with those devastating odds, childhood is still something many people are just blessed to survive.

I am not looking for the final answer to the question, “Why?”

I am looking to start a conversation.

Unfortunately, I am so not alone.

Age of sexual abuse survivors

 

1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape).

I am so sadly not even special.

About 3% of American men — or 1 in 33 — have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

The final answer is not a simple fill in the blank response.

The answer is understanding, empathy and change.

If I can show you how ruinous the experience of sexual assault and rape is by telling you my story, then perhaps you will have more compassion for those that are trying to heal around you. You might even become an advocate. You may, if we are all lucky, help me recreate what childhood means in our lifetime.

_JRM2370Ah-ha!

There’s an answer.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

A Page from A Different Playbook

It is difficult for me to see the word Stuebenville and not go into an immediate rant filled with anger and curse words.

It’s true.

There are so many things wrong with what happened.

Sadly, a young woman’s rape did not stop with the act against her person. The media, leaders in her community and her peers have all added to her dehumanization and abuse.

The coaches of the young men convicted knew about the assault and tried to shield them from the well deserved consequences of their actions.They picked up a copy of the playbook that has been used for centuries to protect perpetrators and illigitimize the claims of victims.

As if being raped is not enough, she was video taped, publicly named and threatened. She was called a whore, a drunk and told that she deserved it by thousands of disgusting internet trolls.

Her experience is not even unique.

Ladies and gentleman, what you see before you is how we treat survivors of sexual assault and abuse in our culture.

It would be historically inaccurate for me to claim differently.

The past week has been a parade of terrors and in the back of my mind there sits a heavy as iron question.

How am I supposed to raise Isaiah, Isaac and Levi in this world?

Don’t all parents think that their child would never do such a thing?

How am I any different?

I don’t know that I am. Not for sure.

Someone just asked me if I thought it was harder to raise boys than girls. I used to think raising girls was harder. If you would have asked me last week, that would have been my answer.

I was wrong.

When it comes to gender issues, no one sex is harder to raise than the other. It is the opposite side of the same coin.

While I am weeding through video games that hypersexualize women characters so that my sons don’t grow up with unrealistic expectations, my friends who are mothers of girls are doing the same thing so that their little girls don’t grow up thinking they have to be that stereotype.

While I am teaching my sons to recognize the brilliance of a woman’s mind, my friends who are mothers of girls are encouraging those minds to grow strong and bold.

As a side note, I would die if any of my sons came home with anything less than real intelligence in a woman (or a man – lesbihonest).

While I am teaching my sons to observe the physical reactions others have to their actions, my friends who are mothers of girls are teaching the same lessons of empathy.

“Look at his face. Does it look like he likes that? Why not?”

We both have a lot that the other will not have to deal with. Not many little girls will be called sissies and be told to man up. However, not many little boys will be told to act like a lady.

It’s true that my boys cannot get pregnant.

Isn’t that more dangerous.

Men have the ability to slink through the world causing irreparable damage and then walking away with no stretch marks  to show for it. They can assault and hide in the shadows without so much as a scheduled counseling appointment. They can be taught to wield power and control without taking responsibility for their actions.

But you know, at least they cannot get pregnant.

This is not to say that there are not honorable men (or dishonorable women) in the world. This is to say how hard their mothers had to work to raise them that way.

My sons are my joy. They are rough and tumble, sweet and sticky, art on the walls and dirty hands in my pockets.

I never want them to be someone else’s sorrow.

I have known for too long that this world is not a safe place. I don’t trust this world with my children. All I need to do to prove that is evoke the world “Stuebenville”.

We, the mothers of children, need to roll up our sleeves and get to work. It is our job to protect and deliver this next generation with more hope than the last.

We do have the most important job in the world. That is not a platitude. It is a fact that has been made painfully clear. We need to place firmly in the hands of our children a different kind of playbook.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

Hopeful Days

It is finished.

Well, actually, it has all just begun. However, my blog break is over.

School. Derby. Work. Family. Friends.

Life is in full swing and not in that order.

It is not swinging on a gentle breeze. It is surviving gale force winds and wrapping itself around the poles that are struggling to stay cemented in the ground. This mad rush follows a difficult research period that has left me trying to find words for the things I experienced.

It is not that I don’t have the words. I do not have polite words. They are angry words complimented with a rich abundance of curses. I am sorting those feelings out and deciding where they belong.

I gave myself the gift of January to settle into a very challenging season professionally, personally and in the world of roller derby.

It was a wise decision.

My goals are big for this year and can easily be rattled off.

  • Be more present with my family.
  • Love my body
  • Pass my classes with flying colors
  • Raise more money for Nyaka than last year
  • Train to skate like an athlete
  • Start speaking publicly
  • Do enough research to justify a research trip for my book
  • Oh! And write a book.

Of course, this list is nothing more than the cliff notes version of the minutes, hours and days structured towards so many coveted accomplishments.

So far, I have a list of things that have developed in response to my goals for 2013.

  • I have almost cried on my way to roller derby practice out of exhaustion. (I will admit that I was about to start my period.)
  • I have stayed up far too late studying because I won’t allow myself to fail.
  • I will be speaking at She Laughs VII tomorrow night to benefit the Women’s Center of Greater Lansing and decided the topic in a Microsoft shower moment this morning.
  • I have chosen to eat and drink with health and fitness in mind.
  • I am saying a big, fat, NO to opportunities that are not in the best interest of my family and our quality time.

I am uncomfortable. I am challenged. I am exhausted.

I can tell I am doing it right.

When have positive changes come with a big, cushy spot of comfort and ease?

Never.

It comes with hunger pains over those donuts someone brought into the office. It comes with the muscle aches of an injury slowly healing. Change comes with the awkward stagger in shoes that need to be broken in.

I am changing. We all are. Up and down, positive and negative we make changes.

It is what we are in the world. We are transient souls.

In the past, I didn’t make goals. I used to shrug them off as bench marks to an unavoidable failure.

I think everytime you look at yourself and decide that you need a change or a transformation you have to have faith in your ability to change before you can take that first step.

I believe that my list is not full of resolutions.

My list is a reflection of just how much faith I have learned to have in myself.

It is based on all the hopes I have for my future and a guidepost on my journey toward loving myself regardless of what value my past tried to dictate.

This is a new perspective for me but it fits.

Everything else is new. Why shouldn’t my perspective be too?

All of my faith, hope and love is invested in that little abreviated list of hope-filled minutes, hours and days.

I wish you enough faith in yourself to do the same.

Sincerely,

Tashmica

Mere Mortals

When I was about 8 months pregnant with Isaac my dad called me to see how I was doing. He said I sounded tired. I was.

(see: 8 months pregnant)

My father said something that has been replaying over in my mind for two days.

“You do know you only get 24-hours a day, right?”

My father was not being condescending. He was poking fun at what he knows to be true about me.

I do not know that I only get 24-hours in a day. Scientifically, I know that certain standards of time exist that are factual and consistent.

  • 60 seconds in a minute
  • 60 minutes in an hour
  • 24 hours in a day
  • 7 days in a week
  • 52 weeks in a year
  • 365 days in a year

Just ask the cast members of Rent.

They’ve got the amount of time in a year down to the minute.

I get it but I am special.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have three children. One of whom just dropped a bag of shredded cheese on my lap so that I could open it for a snack. Not happening.

“Chips and pretzels are on the counter. If you want something, have that.”

I have a husband who took me on an adventure last night that included a brewery, a casino and a late night steak smothered in cheese and onions. It was a good time.

To recover, I slept in and then we traded. He is now in bed and deservedly so.

I belong to a roller derby team of amazing athletes that challenge me daily. They are also some of the  best friends I have ever had. Which is nice, except six hours of every week is dedicated to practicing the sport, another six hours is dedicated to bouting and that doesn’t include travel time if necessary. Add to that the time we spend laughing, drinking, dancing, going to events, volunteering and just generally being awesome and it gets a bit crazy. Ask them. They will tell you.

“Roller Derby takes over your life.”

69170_10151234389013588_165965527_n
Sweet RV and Me.
She’s really only sweet off the track. #SmallbutMighty

School starts up again in two weeks. I am trying to decide what class to take while I study up for my re-take of the math assessment exam. Spanish II, Film as Art or Technical Writing which sounds as boring as can be but might help me professionally. In two weeks, my life will become a practice in keeping to the schedule. Skipping my study time, being late, sleeping in or going out could blow my grade for the semester. No pressure.

66043_10151275312923588_1044408715_n
Isaac fell asleep on the back of my chair watching me finish my homework.

In all of this, I am still trying to write my story. An emotionally draining, mind-boggling memoir that steals time in heaps. It heals me and hurts me at the same time. It’s kind of like physical therapy for The Walking Wounded. I am asking tons of questions and the answers are coming back like boomerangs.

In the end, I am left with just 24-hours in a day. I need more than that and sometimes I really believe that I can bend time to my will. It frustrates me beyond words when I realize that I cannot actually bent time. When I step back and see that I have no special powers and the clock ticks on whether I like it or not, I get anxious.

I get anxiety over something that I never controlled in the first place. I get flustered, messy and half-assed. I forget things places, show up late or on the wrong day, eat like crap and dream when I try to sleep.

I am a hot fire mess. They don’t call me Firecracker for nothin’.

During this holiday season, I have had some time off. I have locked myself away. I have gone out less, chased simple goals like – well, eat, sleep and enjoy.

It has been a peaceful time. As things head back towards pandemonium, I worry. I count and the hours are not adding up. They never do and yet, somehow I still manage to keep up.

Do you see the problem? Do you see why I am so delusional?

Because I manage. I am not so different from so many mothers.

We take out that rolling-pin, stapler, scotch tape and we will those ends to meet. We stretch like elastic around our families and we plug holes with our toes. We make hours out of minutes and days out of hours.

I am special. I am a mother and that brings with it certain miracle-making, magical powers.

And when I get tired. When it gets to be too much and I get frustrated or annoyed with the clock, I will settle into the time that the rest of the world shares. I will work within reality for a little while. I will slow down for a lunch break with mere mortals.

“You do know you only get 24-hours in a day, right?”

Miracles are not meant to be performed every 24-hours.

They’d lose their magic.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Passing time,

Tashmica

PS – To watch this glorious train wreck, LIKE The Mother Flippin’ Facebook Page.

Happy Birthday Vito!

Dear Levi,

At this time 4 years ago, I was in labor while your father drove us through the first snow of the year to the hospital.

It was beautiful. Everything was covered in soft white snow untrampled by people’s feet.

I was in horrible pain. :)

You were in my arms shortly after that.

I think it’s funny that we started calling you “Vito” for your bossy ways a year later. As the baby, you learned early to assert yourself to be heard through the pandemonium of this family.

We joke about your mob boss status. Truthfully, you hold us hostage with your charm and sense of humor. You are a source of laughter for us all.

image

We love your voice. We love your questions and your imaginings.

We are happy to celebrate the day you made our family complete.

We love you.

Love,

Mommy

Remember The Time

Remember that time, I had a pretty good blog.

I would write things.  You would read them.

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.

Love,

Tashmica

PS – I have recently discovered Tumblr and I love it.  You can find me there on the go OR on twitter @MotherFlippin

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