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

Quick Draw McPease

I remember a lot of things about Mrs. Pease.

I remember that she laughed hard and often. She had short curly hair that she parted to one side. When a fly had the gall to sneak into our classroom, she would adopt the persona of Quick Draw McPease and hunt it down with a fly swatter. We all giggled watching her stalk the tiny buzzing intruders.

In the fall, when we all had the sniffles, she would conduct an orchestra and point to us when we were supposed to sniff, cough or sneeze on cue with the music. I’m going to bet that the halls of North East Christian Academy never sounded so ill. ;)

One day, we had a special presentation about abuse. The presenter talked about neglect, physical and verbal abuse. It was the first time I recognized what had been happening as something universally frowned upon. The sexual abuse had felt wrong but I was confused and disillusioned by years of lies and manipulation.

At the end of the presentation, the presenter asked us all to put our heads down on our desk, close our eyes and raise our hands if we wanted to talk about any abuse we had experienced.

Listen.

My momma didn’t raise no fool.

There’s always some jerk watching during an altar call. I didn’t know this person and I was for sure not sharing even the smallest morsel of my secret with this stranger, if that was his real name.

After he left, our day went on. I felt like I should say something but to whom? I sat in my desk thinking through the possible scenarios. I thought through all of the threats and realized that because my father was a year dead and in the ground many would likely not be possible. I watched Mrs. Pease and wondered if she would believe me.

I raised my hand as my classmates worked through their assignments.

“Can I talk to you alone?”

She said yes and walked me out into the hallway.

I don’t remember crying exactly. I don’t even remember what I said. I just know that she was there and she told me that we needed to tell my mother. I was terrified. The cat was now out of the bag.

The rest of the day was suspense on meth. Mrs. Pease called my mother in for a meeting. I thought my chest was going to close up and cut off my air supply. I waited to die.

When my mother arrived I sat down in a chair next to her and Mrs. Pease. I remember looking down at my feet. I felt so small. I was so small.

Mrs. Pease probably tried to prepare my mother. I don’t remember that part. I just remember her asking me, “Do you want to tell your mom or would you like me too?”

I asked her to and then, just as my mother heard those hard words, I begged her not to hate my daddy.

I was still so worried for him.

I remember a lot about Mrs. Pease.

I remember one thing the most.

She stood by me. Even in the midst of delivering some of the worst news my mother will ever hear, she stayed with me.

She also listened, believed and advocated.

Somehow, her physical presence and support is what I remember the most.

So now, I am thinking through the right questions to ask my old school to get the answers that I want.

What I really want to know is, where is she now?

She is just one of many women who saved my life and I would like to say thank you.

If you happen to be from El Paso and know who she is, I would be over the moon to talk to her again. Spread this. Share with your friends. Ask around.

Help me thank her.

Desperately Seeking Quick Draw McPease,

Tashmica

Liar, Liar.

A few days after Columnist Mark Mayes from the Lansing State Journal ran Lilly’s story, he forwarded me an email that made my heart drop into my stomach.

It was a forwarded email from Nick Johnson, Principal of Holt High School 9th Grade Campus to (according to the sender) the entire staff.

Allow me to summarize.

The email stated that my blog posting, Bullies Are Stupid & I Love the Way You Walk was with a few exceptions, basically false.

I felt terrible.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t go around telling stories on people.  I think other than the Penn State thing, this is the first time I have ever written about some entity or group of people in particular.  I deal with problems that arise face to face.

I read and reread his version of the incidents.  The words inaccuracies and omissions stood out time and again.  The heat drained from my face slowly.  I read it again.  I called Ginny and asked a few questions. I read through a very clear timeline of events and how they were allegedly handled correctly by the Principal and a few staff members.

I started to feel a little better.

Why?

I mean, if the email I was forwarded did indeed come from Nick Johnson than I could go through and pick it apart.  I could restate Ginnie’s story and what Lilly’s experience was.  I could but I won’t.

It is simple.  It boils down to one question that we will be bringing to the meeting with us.

Why after nearly nine months of Ginnie seeking answers and policy changes on her daughter’s behalf, is the entire staff of Holt High School’s 9th Grade Campus more entitled to a full explanation of the situation than Ginnie herself?

There were many, many opportunities to explain and find solutions during the school year.   Why now?

Convenience?  Ineptitude? Forgetfulness?

Why is the story suddenly so clear and so well recorded?  How is it that suddenly there are way more adult staff members involved in the report than ever before?

This is what we intend to find out this Tuesday, August 7th at 5pm in the Administration Building of the Holt High School 9th Grade Campus. We hope to see you there.

Click here to RSVP.

I promise, that if I find anything I wrote in this blog to be untrue, I will update you accordingly.  This is not about one principal that gave my sister in law the stink eye once.  This is about the policies of one school as it relates to bullying.  This is about all of you who left comments about your own personal stories and concerns.

Whether you are a parent, student, staff member or concerned community member, you have a voice in this too.  We may have gotten Lilly’s story some attention but you are just as important.

On a happy note, Lilly celebrates her 15th birthday tomorrow.  Happy birthday, darling!

Sincerely,

Aunt Tasha

Lilly’s Mom

To whom it may concern;

It appears there are a lot of you.  You are deeply concerned.  Concerned Enough to send emails, posts, tweets and comments letting the world read all about Lilly’s story. If perhaps you missed my blog post Bullies Are Stupid & I Love The Way You Walk, read it NOW!

Lilly’s mother would like me to share something with you all.

I really would like to thank Tashmica Firecracker Torok for taking such interest in her favorite niece! To all of you that have read and responded to this wonderfully written blog, thank you! It seemed for so long all of my concerns, frustrations and feelings of sadness were falling on deaf ears. Thank you for listening.

9th grade was a rough year for Lilly. Lilly finished up the year with her head held high. I could not have been more proud!! Nobody knows what Lilly’s future holds, not even the doctors. Whatever she does she will know she is loved, she is stronger than she believes and I will continue to go to the ends of the earth for her!

Growing up I always heard “sticks and stones may brake your bones but names will never hurt you.” This could not be further from the truth. Words KILL, and we continue to see it and hear about it in the news! As the adult in charge it is your job to step up and teach students respect and empathy. They need to teach peers to stand up for one another.

Holt High School 9th grade campus fell very short, and my daughter payed the price! As Aunt Tasha said, Lilly’s physical bruises have healed, unfortunately her self esteem, courage and trust have been deeply wounded. That scar will remain a lifetime. Continue to read, pass along the blog and please voice your opinion!

Principal Nick Johnson has never been held accountable for his actions or lack of. The lies he told and put in writing have never been put to truth. Most of all, as the principal of an entire building, he only has enough confidence and pride to fall on the heels of someone else’s apology by simply saying….

“I’d like to echo that”.

Lilly’s mom,
Ginnie Torok

Months ago, when I shared with my friends what was going on, I kept trying to think of something I could do for Lilly.  Something that would let her know she was special.  I skate for the Lansing Derby Vixens, so I thought about bringing her to a bout and letting her be all VIP.  I thought about scheduling a spa day with my stylist.  I just couldn’t put my finger on the right thing.

The write thing.

Ginnie told me that if the administration would not do the right thing, she wanted me to do the write thing.

Thank you all for doing the write thing.  Continue to share and know that Ginnie, Ben, Lilly and family are discussing the next best course of action.  I will be sure to share with you what they believe that to be.  Thank you for loving and encouraging our Lilly! Thank you for continuing to prove that not only do we live in a community that will not tolerate bullying, you are willing to advocate to keep it that way.

With all my fiery heart,

Tashmica

PS – We are reading every single comment through tears passing over smiles.  What a treasure you are.

Wordless Wednesday: Crucial

Ending the school year with a photo on our porch.

image

I love these two.

They did not get perfect grades or perfect attendance. They weren’t always the best at what they chose to participate in.

They were praised repeatedly by teachers and other parents for their kind and tender hearts.  They were called good helpers and enjoyed for the creativity of their minds.

Grades, accomplishments, trophies and popularity are all negotiable in my book.However, good character is crucial.

I am proud of who they are becoming.

Next year, we tackle 1st and 4th grade.  And the people said, *sigh* where did all of the time go?

Congratulations to all parents who managed another year of grooming good little people.

May your summer be full of sandy feet, sweet fruit and cool, after swim snuggles.

Love and sunlight,

Tashmica

Wordless Wednesday: Crucial

Ending the school year with a photo on our porch.

image

I love these two.

They did not get perfect grades or perfect attendance. They weren’t always the best at what they chose to participate in.

They were praised repeatedly by teachers and other parents for their kind and tender hearts.  They were called good helpers and enjoyed for the creativity of their minds.

Grades, accomplishments, trophies and popularity are all negotiable in my book.However, good character is crucial.

I am proud of who they are becoming.

Next year, we tackle 1st and 4th grade.  And the people said, *sigh* where did all of the time go?

Congratulations to all parents who managed another year of grooming good little people.

May your summer be full of sandy feet, sweet fruit and cool, after swim snuggles.

Love and sunlight,

Tashmica

Three Dollars

Today I visited a middle school.

My goal: to support a Dentist as he shared his experience volunteering at the Mummy Drayton School Clinic.

I sat across the room and watched large groups of students get herded into the library with their teachers. I watched them fidget, whisper and giggle throughout the presentation. I watched their eyes widen in surprise to see the most devastating facts appear on the PowerPoint.

I offered free bracelets to all if they signed up for more information. They hurried over for the modest swag. I smiled, encouraged and laughed at the various questions about Ugandan wildlife.  I then watched them rush off to lunch or their next class.

I believe in planting seeds. I know that many of these students will not find their calling in Nyaka. The promise is not in the cause, it is in the perspective. We either teach compassion or apathy. There’s not much of value in the middle.

As I wandered around answering questions, I noticed a young man shopping the merchandise table. He picked up a few things, held them and then put them down. After some thought, he came over and asked me a question.

I am not going to buy anything but can I give you all of my money?

I looked down at the folded up money in my hand with happy surprise. I offered him more info for signing up. I felt that he must get something for such a lovely gesture. He kindly declined and I said thank you.

As he walked away, I unfolded the money and counted it.

It was three dollars.

Three dollars given with nothing expected in return. Three single dollar bills resting in the palm of my hand.  In Uganda, those three dollars will go a long way.

Three dollars from an American student to help care for AIDS orphans in rural southwest Uganda. I know that at least one seed was planted today.

Scratch that.

It was probably planted long ago and I just got to see a tiny, healthy bit of growth. Can you imagine what a garden of seeds like that one would look like?

Love,

Tashmica

That moment made my day.