Tired

by sisterarnell

I am tired down to my bones. Tired of trying to explain why I am tired. Tired of fighting all the little things that add up to a mountain and a constant uphill trudge.

This Steubenville rape case is just the last straw. If you haven’t heard the words “rape culture” by now, you must have been ignoring the whole thing, which I probably should have done, but I just couldn’t.

I’m going to soapbox here for a minute.

Rape culture is a society giving women a list of do’s and don’t’s that boil down to “make sure he rapes the other girl.”

Rape culture is a society where women are scared to go out by themselves at night.

Can we think about that for a minute? We’ve created a society where women are scared to be by themselves. Isn’t that horrifying? The ability to be alone, to be yourself, to choose to do whatever you want is limited because of fear.

I’m scared to go camping by myself. Not because of the wild animals, but because of the wild humans who are more terrifying than any bear or cougar. They will just maul you to death and then eat your corpse. It will hurt for a bit, but it will be over quickly, especially if the cougar manages to get the right bite on the back of your skull to sever the spinal column.

No, it’s the humans that do the real damage. It’s the humans that leave scars that last a lifetime. It’s the humans who play with your body and kill your soul. It’s the humans who think they have a right to your body because you chose to walk by yourself home from the library after studying for three hours for that physiology final you have tomorrow. Or because you wore your hair in a ponytail so obviously you want someone to grab you by it and throw you to the ground. Or because you walked by a construction site. Or a dorm. Or down the street in your neighborhood.

It’s the humans who say, “hey, she was drunk.” Who blame a girl, not even a woman, for “bad judgment” because getting intoxicated obviously causes boys to forcibly penetrate you repeatedly, take pictures of it, send them to their friends, laughing about what you did. It’s the humans who excuse this behavior because boys will be boys, and skill at sports washes away any “mistakes.” And then sentences you to less time in prison than you would get for pirating a DVD or possessing cocaine. What does that tell the victim? You are less important to society than a bootleg of Gigli. 

Rape is not a mistake. You don’t just fall over and end up with your penis in someone’s vagina or anus. You don’t accidentally rape someone. Rape takes intent. It’s an act of power over someone who you consider less than, non-human, the other. It’s not about sex and boys are horny and it just happens. It’s about perpetrators not thinking their victim is a person.

Stop teaching “boys are boys.” I have a son. He’s a total boy. But he’s not an asshole. Boys don’t have to be assholes. You have to teach them to be assholes. And really, when advertisements feature women selling everything, it creates a culture where the women are just objects that are for sale. The female body is something to be consumed, that is designed to be looked at, that exists to be looked at.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of a culture that thinks it is okay for you to come talk to me on the subway, and when I am not interested, I’m automatically a bitch or a lesbian. You know what? You don’t have a right to my time or attention any more than you have a right to my body. I do not exist for your ends. I am an end in and of myself and you do not own me. So if I choose to spend time with you, consider yourself lucky, and if I don’t want to spend time with you, that’s not my problem, because I do not have responsibilities to you other than to respect you as a person. And I’ll do that.

And if you bitch to your friends about how the girls never like the nice guy, because they are really selfish shallow status-obsessed bitches who always friendzone you, then you’re not really a nice guy, you’re a misogynist in nice guy clothing.* And if you think for one instant that anything a woman does entitles you to have sex with her other than her explicit consent, you are wrong. Because if you do, then I am going to walk up to you and hit you with a baseball bat. Because you didn’t say no, so that means you are consenting to it.

Unconscious means no.

Wearing a mini skirt means no.

Walking by herself means no.

Hair in a ponytail. NO.

Hair not in a ponytail. NO.

She’s had sex with you before. NO.

She’s had sex with your friends. NO.

She’s never had sex. NO.

She flirted with you. NO.

She drank alcohol. NO.

She did drugs. NO.

I mean, really. You learned no when you were a two year old. How difficult is it to get this through your mind, society? The default of “can I have sex with this woman or man” is no. NO NO NO. Just stop it.

And yes, I know people will say, that focusing on changing the behavior of the rapist is unrealistic. You know what? I don’t care. According to RAINN,almost 2/3rds and 38% of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows. You know what that means? You aren’t safe with your friends. We’ve created a culture that means most people are not safe ever. And nothing about the way I dress is going to change that. So stop telling me that I should spend my life expecting to be raped, because that is wrong. You create that culture by saying it. And then excusing it by blaming the victim. And then creating a culture that is so misogynistic about the treatment of victims that only 3% of rapists actually spend any time in prison.

Women are people. Men are people. Stop raping people.

And, because I’m going to assume that the people reading this are the ones who wouldn’t rape someone, though statistically, who knows, I have some advice for you too.

Stop rape culture. Stop laughing at jokes that objectify and sexualize women. Stop consuming media that sexualizes women. Stop making excuses for men being assholes. Name and shame, people. Name the behavior when you see it. Point out how this perpetuates a culture that promotes a society that makes people into victims, and victims into the cause instead of the effect. I’ve read enough social construction IR theory to know that this works if people are committed to making a change. So put it into action.

Stop rape. Stop rape culture.

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She Said…

December 19, 2011

She said she couldn’t do it. She said that she would rather die than leave her home. She said that she was so lonely she just couldn’t imagine facing another day. She said that if we took her car away she would just buy a new one. She said that, that dent in the front of her car was not her fault because she didn’t remember hitting anything. She said that she was not as old as all the old people in the dining room. She said that she was afraid she couldn’t keep up. She said she didn’t want to live like this. She said she wanted to see my father one last time. She said she hadn’t slept in nights. She said she slept like a baby. She said she still couldn’t find the bathroom. She said she learned to Wii bowl. She said she missed her own kitchen. She said the food was really good. She said the Girl Scouts who came to carol were adorable. She said she couldn’t wait for baby Eloise to come visit. She said she made a new friend. She said she thought this might turn out all right. She said thank you.

Love Is All That Matters

September 29, 2011

We are living in insane times. It is every where: record numbers of people living on the streets, going hungry. Our financial foundation compromised to it’s core: lost jobs, lost homes, lost dreams. AND YET…in-spite of what is hard, and painful and devastatingly real, if we are loved and truly love someone else, there is light at the end of any dark tunnel. After all, love is the one thing that at the end of each of our lives, we won’t regret, and wish there had been more of. My treasured friend, Hollye Dexter says it all…”love is all that matters”.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2011

Lessons Learned At A Funeral

     I’ve been to more funerals in my life than I care to count. And I have sat bedside with critically ill friends at the ends of their lives. Although it has been painful, I consider this a privilege, for they have taught me valuable life lessons.
My dear friend of 25 years, Phyllis, was like a second mother to me. I loved her with all my heart, but she was a difficult woman. She was tall, strong, a force to be reckoned with, but she spent a lot of her life being offended by people. She was prickly and cantankerous. I’d had a few run-ins with her over the years, and she’d made me cry more than once, but always we came back to a place of love. The last time I saw Phyllis on her deathbed, all her hard edges had softened as she began to wither away. She looked so vulnerable, like a tiny baby bird in a nest of hospital blankets. She was peaceful, finally. Soon she would join her husband and son in the afterlife. The last thing this tough woman said to me before she died- “Love is all that matters.”
     A year later, I would watch my friend John die from a brain tumor. At the end, I sat holding his hand while Troy played John’s beloved baby grand piano. The tumor had robbed him of his ability to speak in sentences, but there was no need for words. What mattered was clearly present in that room. John looked into my eyes, took my hand and squeezed it tight. With his other hand patting his heart, he said “So much…so much…”
     This Sunday I attended yet another funeral; a sad, tragic funeral of a woman who died much too young. Andrea was Dani’s little sister. I can still see her sitting cross-legged on her bed at thirteen years old, talking about her boyfriend, as Dani and I were putting on make-up, getting ready to go out to some party or High School football game. Andrea, just a little girl in my memory, with her long wavy hair, and a whole life ahead of her.
Now she is ashes.
     There had been hurt and misunderstanding between Dani and her sister over the years, and some of Andrea’s life decisions caused her to distance herself from those who loved her. Yet, on the last day of her life as she lied comatose in her hospital bed, Andrea opened her eyes and smiled at Dani. Nothing needed to be said. What was left at the end, above all the broken hearts and hurt feelings, was love.
     At the funeral on Sunday, Andrea’s two teenage daughters, now orphaned, stood up and spoke about their love for their mother. Her oldest, Megan, lamented about all the time they spent fighting over petty things. That time could never be regained, time which could have been spent loving each other. I heard that message loud and clear.
Since Sunday, I have witnessed a lot of anger amongst my friends and family, some of it at each other, some at me, over small things, which will one day be long forgotten.  But Sunday put things in perspective for me. I don’t intend to waste a second of my precious life, which I am so lucky to have, quibbling over small things. I want to spend the hours of my life loving my family and friends, and helping others to do the same. I won’t be swayed from this.
     People often comment on my relationship with Troy, how much in love we are after so many years. The reason our love has lasted is not because we don’t fight. We do. It doesn’t happen much anymore but in the early years, we almost didn’t make it. What saved us, time and again, is that we always come back to a place of love. Always. The love we have for each other is larger than either of our needs to be right or to be vindicated. The love outweighs our egos.
My friendship with Erin is that way. We are a couple of strong-willed broads and we’ve collided spectacularly at times, but again, what I love so much about Erin is her great heart, which prevails over everything else, as does mine. As does Dani’s.
     Life is rattling my cage pretty hard right now, testing me, challenging me to walk my talk. I ask myself, if I were lying on my deathbed, would these issues matter?
My life’s mission is to live a life of integrity, love and honesty, and to help others do the same. No matter what is thrown at me, I will stand strong in that mission, unshakable. For I know what will matter on my own deathbed is the love and kindness I shared with people.
     Phyllis said it, John said it, and an eighteen year-old girl who’s had to grow up way too fast said it best. Love is all that matters.
(truth and consequences blog by hollye dexter)

Love is all That Matters

September 29, 2011

We are living in insane times. It is every where: record numbers of people living on the streets, going hungry. Our financial foundation compromised to it’s core: lost jobs, lost homes, lost dreams. AND YET…in-spite of what is hard, and painful and devastatingly real, if we are loved and truly love someone else, there is light at the end of any dark tunnel. After all, love is the one thing that at the end of each of our lives, we won’t regret, and wish there had been more of. My treasured friend, Hollye Dexter says it all…”love is all that matters”.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2011

Lessons Learned At A Funeral

     I’ve been to more funerals in my life than I care to count. And I have sat bedside with critically ill friends at the ends of their lives. Although it has been painful, I consider this a privilege, for they have taught me valuable life lessons.
My dear friend of 25 years, Phyllis, was like a second mother to me. I loved her with all my heart, but she was a difficult woman. She was tall, strong, a force to be reckoned with, but she spent a lot of her life being offended by people. She was prickly and cantankerous. I’d had a few run-ins with her over the years, and she’d made me cry more than once, but always we came back to a place of love. The last time I saw Phyllis on her deathbed, all her hard edges had softened as she began to wither away. She looked so vulnerable, like a tiny baby bird in a nest of hospital blankets. She was peaceful, finally. Soon she would join her husband and son in the afterlife. The last thing this tough woman said to me before she died- “Love is all that matters.”
     A year later, I would watch my friend John die from a brain tumor. At the end, I sat holding his hand while Troy played John’s beloved baby grand piano. The tumor had robbed him of his ability to speak in sentences, but there was no need for words. What mattered was clearly present in that room. John looked into my eyes, took my hand and squeezed it tight. With his other hand patting his heart, he said “So much…so much…”
     This Sunday I attended yet another funeral; a sad, tragic funeral of a woman who died much too young. Andrea was Dani’s little sister. I can still see her sitting cross-legged on her bed at thirteen years old, talking about her boyfriend, as Dani and I were putting on make-up, getting ready to go out to some party or High School football game. Andrea, just a little girl in my memory, with her long wavy hair, and a whole life ahead of her.
Now she is ashes.
     There had been hurt and misunderstanding between Dani and her sister over the years, and some of Andrea’s life decisions caused her to distance herself from those who loved her. Yet, on the last day of her life as she lied comatose in her hospital bed, Andrea opened her eyes and smiled at Dani. Nothing needed to be said. What was left at the end, above all the broken hearts and hurt feelings, was love.
     At the funeral on Sunday, Andrea’s two teenage daughters, now orphaned, stood up and spoke about their love for their mother. Her oldest, Megan, lamented about all the time they spent fighting over petty things. That time could never be regained, time which could have been spent loving each other. I heard that message loud and clear.
Since Sunday, I have witnessed a lot of anger amongst my friends and family, some of it at each other, some at me, over small things, which will one day be long forgotten.  But Sunday put things in perspective for me. I don’t intend to waste a second of my precious life, which I am so lucky to have, quibbling over small things. I want to spend the hours of my life loving my family and friends, and helping others to do the same. I won’t be swayed from this.
     People often comment on my relationship with Troy, how much in love we are after so many years. The reason our love has lasted is not because we don’t fight. We do. It doesn’t happen much anymore but in the early years, we almost didn’t make it. What saved us, time and again, is that we always come back to a place of love. Always. The love we have for each other is larger than either of our needs to be right or to be vindicated. The love outweighs our egos.
My friendship with Erin is that way. We are a couple of strong-willed broads and we’ve collided spectacularly at times, but again, what I love so much about Erin is her great heart, which prevails over everything else, as does mine. As does Dani’s.
     Life is rattling my cage pretty hard right now, testing me, challenging me to walk my talk. I ask myself, if I were lying on my deathbed, would these issues matter?
My life’s mission is to live a life of integrity, love and honesty, and to help others do the same. No matter what is thrown at me, I will stand strong in that mission, unshakable. For I know what will matter on my own deathbed is the love and kindness I shared with people.
     Phyllis said it, John said it, and an eighteen year-old girl who’s had to grow up way too fast said it best. Love is all that matters.
(truth and consequences blog by hollye dexter)

Tempest

September 6, 2011

Your breath flows through me

breaking every bone,

ending every sentence…

I’m falling up now, as through water.

Head, then shoulders

collar bones filled with sand;

Tiny stones splitting my skin.

and I’m sinking

sinking, sinking upward.

What a perfect manner in which to stow away an epic;

deep into a dusty corner on your lowest shelf,

along with all your classics.

The sea echoes in my chest

slow, undulating waves wash away the land.

Somewhere in the lazy, hazy days of summer

my ‘self’ slipped from me.

It was replaced with the callouses on your hands

with your humming in the shower,

your furrowed brow reading the morning news;

your favorite ice cream, your fears, your sleep talking

you, you, you.

and gone, myself, whom I’ve traded to have you

http://katevanraden.wordpress.com/


GOOD WILL

May 9, 2011

“Freaking Out” comes in waves. Big, nasty, sweep you out to sea, waves. For the most part I am calm and collected as I choose to toss yet another memory place holder on to the Goodwill pile. I hold it, smell it, sometimes shed a tear or two. But the promise of less stuff, a new beginning, a sense of surrender to the matters that truly matter now keeps me focused.

Every now and then I must admit I lose control. My seasoned composure doesn’t even make the donation pile. It flies all around the room, bouncing off every wall and coming back to smack me upside the head. What the fuck am I doing? I hate change…Change in my life has often represented really bad stuff…someone dies, or tries to. Families fall apart, people leave and don’t come back…footings fail, roofs cave in, foul and destructive human beings run for public office and WIN.

When the wave subsides, I catch my breath and return to the business at hand. Slipping from one major chapter into another isn’t easy. Leaving behind ghosts of a family growing up under one roof, grandparents who were independent and had life force enough to spare; trees planted that have now come to be giants in all seasons; roots of all kinds that made me feel like I belonged here…all pieces of the previous chapter.

AND YET…standing at cross roads a choice eventually has to be made. I am confident that forward is the only option. Holding still never really gets you where you want to go. Indeed, it is less work, by far. Less dangerous, less challenging, less emotional…less, less, less.

I want more.

I want to have the time to do more for others. I want to be present for a granddaughter in the making. I want to create good will in a new community. I want to live with less and experience more.

It seems that lately, I just can’t stop crying.  Pain is everywhere.  Sadness abounds, and grief is abundant. It just seems to be a very, very, very real part of life.  In fact there are days, weeks, months where it seems to be the central character in my story.  It isn’t that I have a sad life, or even that I have experienced an abundance of personal tragedy.  But there is, no doubt about it, a very deep well filled with heartache.

The funny thing is, I don’t think that this is a bad thing.  Not that I love to cry until I can’t see or breathe, nor do I look forward to the days that pain and sorrow fill my heart till I think I might actually die.  But I have come to believe that pain has a purpose.  It can, if I let it, become the doorway to compassion and kindness, love and tenderness.  As I sit with the hurt, and just let it wash over me, I am able to understand that this is part of what makes each of us human, and, that it is part of the richness of life. It makes it possible for me to see, understand and connect to the hurt in those around me.  And hopefully it helps me to sit with them in the midst of their pain.

There have been times when I have done everything I could to avoid the hurt.  I have tried to buy my way out of it, redecorate it, medicate it, sleep it way, sweat it out, and just plain pretend that it wasn’t there.  But it is.  The truth is, I live with a hole in my heart. I think we all do.  It comes from past regrets, choices that we would give anything to take back, unexpected loss, wounds inflicted by others, and the shadowy glimpses of what is no longer possible.  Some days the other part of my heart, that part that is whole, and strong beats louder.  And other days,the sound gets sucked into that hole, and I follow it right down into the depths.  I’ve quit trying to hide from it, because it is all part of the heart that is mine.  Trying to have one without the other is like trying to separate the waves from the ocean.

I am absolutely not a poet.  Never have been, and most likely never will be.  But years ago, sitting in my college dorm room, lonely, homesick and heartbroken, the one and only poem I have ever written came spilling out.  It seems that even back then, at some level far, far below my consciousness, I understood that pain was important.  Here is what I wrote;

Pain and love go hand in hand

One often leading the other

But the led need not struggle against the leader

For they both travel to the same place

They go to the clear, bittersweet pool of human experience

Where each may drink freely from one cup

Having once looked into such waters

one will never again settle for the cloudy, shallow pools of comfort,

which do not reflect, but simply swallow the reflection

When you seek love

look also for pain

and welcome it

that you too may drink deeply.

 

www.katevanraden.wordpress.com

(i just read in a newspaper that a woman adopted a baby – a beautiful little girl – and then a few months later, decided that she wanted to ‘return’ the child. i wrote this blog many, many, many months ago, but felt it appropriate to share it again. ken would rather i didn’t ’share’ it again, so we flipped a coin. HEADS, i won, TAIL between his legs. Welcome to Amy-land!)


It was sort of like an impulse buy. There was a two-week period when I was feeling this overwhelming need to fill a huge void in my life. I wasn’t quite sure what the void in fact was, I just knew that something – something – had to fill it. I remember that morning as if it were yesterday. Ken was reading the newspaper, drinking his hot and steamy cup of coffee, I was deciding on whether to wear the black short sleeve tee-shirt with slacks, or the white short sleeve tee-shirt with slacks. I chose the white. I walked out onto our porch, where Ken seemed so calm and peaceful and I stood there with my hands ever so firmly planted on my hips and said – or rather announced with great determination – yes, I’ve decided, I want to foster a child. Ken nodded, continued reading the Sports page and as he sipped his coffee, caught a glimpse of me over the rim of the cup. “Seriously, Ken, I want to be a mother.” This, a conversation, continuing from the night before.

Let me back track for just a moment. When Ken and I met there were two things that Ken never, ever wanted to do again: one, was get married, and two, was have a child. He had done both, and that was quite enough for him. I too felt when I first met Ken that marriage was a very iffy commitment. I mean, why? So that when you divorce, all the shit that was yours to begin with now has to get tossed into a legal heap and maybe you won’t get the CD’s and the few pieces of furniture you brought to the party to begin with. But a few months after our first date, along with the “I’m never getting married again,” lecture, we found ourselves picking out wedding rings and meeting with Unitarian ministers. We chose both within a week. Okay back to the foster children…

I had this urge, not necessarily to give birth, but to fill what felt like a unyielding emptiness. I am not, I repeat not, a nurturing kind of woman. But there was this need, this urge, this flu like symptom that didn’t seem to go away. I thought maybe instead of adopting a child, we could, for lack of better words, rent one. See if it works. I had heard both very good and very awful stories about foster care, and fostering children. I knew a couple who had brought a foster child into their home and two weeks later felt they were being tortured emotionally. I have friends who had huge success at fostering a child, ending up adopting the little girl, and another one whose child turned out to be the devil doll. But I understood that these children needed to be loved. They needed to be cared for, their place in the world was so fragile, so tentative, so scary.

And I, obviously, had an urge.

I stood there and waited for Ken to give me his blessing. “Sure, fine, you wanna do this, go check it out.” “Wanna come with me?” “Nah. I’m gonna watch football.” Ken thought, right or wrong, that it was like going to the Bide-a-wee, or the Humane Society. This isn’t something Ken cares to do, even though he is a very altruistic kind loving man. I was going to go the Children’s Aid Center and discuss the possibility of he and I becoming Foster Parents and while highly unlikely maybe come home with a happy loving child who Ken could garden with. Or at the very least, watch football with. I am such an optimistic fool.

I go to the Children’s Aid office in our very small town. I am greeted with both a lack of enthusiasm, and much paperwork. Reams and reams of paperwork. I fill out most, call Ken twice (for his social security number which I couldn’t for the life of me remember, along with some financial information) and then I’m Ied to a small empty room with a scattering of very old magazines. I for one believe any and all public spaces should keep up to date magazines. This is a cause I will champion in the future. Nothing worse than old, old news.

A young woman comes into the office. She reminds me of an Amish woman, or a Mormon, wearing a long floral schmata and a very, very bad haircut. It looked like a very, very bad helmet. She says nothing, but gestures for me to follow her. As I walk out of the room with her, I casually mention that they oughta get some up to date magazines.

As an aside, in one of our continual (I am pushy) conversations both that morning, and the night before, Ken tells me that – if in fact I actually go through with this – he would prefer a boy, if in fact there’s a choice, and a boy who can garden, weed, since it’s summertime and if in fact we are going to foster a child for two, three, four weeks than I should take into consideration that it would be great for Ken to have a weeding partner slash buddy. I, of course, would love a girl to go shopping with and go to nail salons with and someone to talk to about Ken’s – her foster father – weeding issues.

I am now led to another room where the Mormon slash Amish woman has a desk. I sit across from her and I look around the room for signs, clues of a life, her life. I see not a photo, or a calendar, or any sign of life, period. In the corner on the radiator what appears to be a dead plant. But, I convince myself, that could happen to anyone. Not everyone has a green thumb.

She pulls out what appears to be a thick binder. She slides it across the desk and motions for me to open it. I am now beginning to think that maybe she is mute, since not a word was spoken. Perhaps I should move my lips very slowly when talking to her so she can read my lips, I think, as I open the binder. There in vivid color are snapshots, photos, 8 x 10 glossies of babies, young adults, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, mentally disabled, physically challenged, older, taller, toddlers, and teenagers. Thirty, forty photos. Some take your breath away. A sparkle in the eyes, a dimple in the cheek, a turned up nose, freckles, thick curly hair, missing teeth, a lazy eye, the gorgeous skin-tone. The sadness is palpable. The joy diminished. The desperation is obvious.

Then she speaks: she tells me it’s a fairly long complicated process, could take weeks and weeks, maybe even a month or two. Yes, yes — bureaucratic bullshit paperwork – my words, not hers. She doesn’t like that I use the word bullshit, I can tell. She continues, a lot of these kids are in homes and are soon to be removed, or have to leave. I ask why. She says well it didn’t work out, there was a clash, the kids, you know, have issues. Major, major issues. The foster parents have issues. Major, major issues. Sometimes there’s no patience or tolerance. Sometimes there are altercations. But they’re getting full up and pretty soon these kids are gonna be back to square one. Her words.

I stare out the window, and think of Ken. He’s probably soaking in a tub, bubble bath and all, watching his beloved Giants, screaming at the TV set, drinking a beer, or glass of Pinot Noir, and enjoying his life completely. Not a care the world. He likes it that way.

I woke up a few days earlier wanting to have a kid, I was hormonal and lonely. Hormonal, lonely and cranky and older than the day before. Not a great combo, I want a kid!!!! Stamping my feet, I’m sure, or the equivalent. Instead of going to the Woodbury Common Outlet stores, I went to Child Services. Instead of trying on a pair of shoes, I looked through a binder of children who needed love, and a home, and a place that was safe and kind and probably, more than likely, never owned a pair of new shoes, because chances are they were all hand-me-downs. And that’s when it all came together. The words: hand-me-downs. I wasn’t making a commitment to giving them a life or a future, I was teetering on making a decision to give them a place to live for a month or two, or maybe even less. In other words, they were returnable. I felt so profoundly sad – my heart breaking. I didn’t want a child for the rest of their life, I wanted a child to take away my loneliness, my crankiness, my hormonal imbalance for a month or two. And it dawned on me in this empty lifeless office with a woman who desperately needed a good haircut and a make-over, that I was being completely and utterly selfish.

I told the Amish slash Mormon woman that I needed some time to think about all of this. I couldn’t be completely truthful with her, and tell her that I had in fact wasted her time, because that would seem even more selfish. She asked me if I wanted to bring the binder home for my husband to look at the photos. I told her, no, and she asked, “Does he like catalogues, because this is just like flipping though a catalogue.”

I stopped feeling selfish in that moment. I looked at her and said: “These kids… in this catalogue, they need love, they need care. They need shoes. They’re not pieces of clothing you pick out, thinking, well if they don’t fit, I can return them, these children on these pages in this binder were not wanted when they came into the world, they’re not returnable. You’re job is to find them a home. A loving home.”

She looked at me, her eyes already filled with sadness, fill up with tears. “I don’t like my job, it’s just I feel so empty.” she said.

We were the same woman in that moment, except I had the better haircut.

“Hey listen,” I say, “I don’t really want a kid, I want to fill a void, and I know what it’s like to feel empty. I do, but while you’re working here, at the very least, please, oh, please … when you hand the person or the couple the binder, please, tell them that the pages are filled with huge potential and an amazing opportunity to love better, love more, and if you don’t wanna do that, maybe you should quit your job and find something you love to do.”

I hit a nerve, I could tell. I hugged her good-bye, a good strong hug. I told her that she should live her life out-loud, that everyone – EVERYONE – is scared, including me, that I was very, very scared; for her to find the thing she loves to do and do it, and … although I thought it, I did not say it: please, I’m begging, go out and get a good haircut, but what I did say was please, please, get rid of the dead plant, it’s not inspiring.

And then the moment of clarity as I drove home. Absolute perfect clarity. I didn’t go there to foster a child, I went there to foster my very own spirit. To awaken to my very own life, to live more fully, to love myself better, to love better period, to stop being so selfish, and to stop thinking I have to — in this moment, right now, this very second – fill a void.

Amy Ferris:http://marryinggeorgeclooney.com/blog/

THEY say that if you pay attention, your children will teach you as much or more than you can possibly teach them. I was reminded of this last night while watching various acceptance speeches during the Oscar’s…One gentleman, fighting back tears, thanked his wife and infant daughter…”who will surely teach me more than I could ever possibility teach her.”

My children are grown. They are living independent lives of their own creation. Naturally as a parent, I had ideas of just exactly what their lives should look like. While I am anything but disappointed, their lives have turned out differently than I imagined. I realize more and more  that one of the most sacred lessons my children have taught me is to let go: let go of expectations, plans…shoulds, coulds and so many many “have too’s”.  My children have taught me that perfectionism isn’t a measure of happiness or success. They have taught me to care as much about my own needs as the needs of others. They have taught me that the stress and anxiety manifested through out my internal being isn’t a desirable trait or a cherished outcome by those I care about most. They have taught me that perfect for them doesn’t have me a wild wreck trying to get every last detail in order. They have convinced me that my stress, no matter what wonderful thing is the  justification, is never a gift for them. They would rather have a relaxed me, than a perfect scenario.

LETTING GO OF OUR ADULT CHILDREN

BY ARLENE HARDER, MA, MFT

A Perfectionist Mother Trying to Do Things Right:

“When I began motherhood, I was fairly liberal politically but fairly rigid in how I viewed my role as parent. This was partly the result of my temperament and partly the consequence of a childhood in which there were many “shoulds,” “oughts,” “rights,” and “wrongs.” Although I didn’t insist on spotless floors and neatly made beds, being a perfectionist permeated many facets of my parenting.

As a child I never questioned whether I was being asked to be perfect; my siblings were also perfectionists in one way or another. Our parents’ high standards left little room to question the reasons for their rules and values – an attitude typical for that generation. When a child was told to jump, she was expected to say, “How high?” and not, “Why?”

As a recovering perfectionist I can see why perfectionism is a common feature of the human character. After all, perfectionists give the best they have to offer. You can generally count on them to do what they say they’ll do, even if it means giving up their own needs to be sure you’re satisfied. On the other hand, I now realize that the standards of perfectionists are usually those others consider “right,” not necessarily those the perfectionist herself would choose – if she could freely follow the dictates of her own heart.”

While raising our most cherished sons and daughters, we teach them to follow their hearts. One of life’s greatest lessons we as their parents/role models/advocates need to learn, is to follow our own…

WHAT WOMEN WANT

…oh god!  Wasn’t that the title of Mel Gibson’s movie? Okay, forget Mel…his ex-wife and battered girlfriend are trying to.

What women want. True women. Not girls. We used to be girls and back then our wants were different. Take Mel for example. How many of us wanted Mel? Sat in the theater and listened to that accent accompanied by that rugged charm and imagined ourselves doing the nasty with Mr. Gibson? We were girls. Bad boys had a certain appeal; guys who made us wonder if they would stay the entire night, call again or spend time in prison.

Girls want excitement, thrill, game and uncertainty. Girls wait for the brief attention of a BAD BOY, while letting the GOOD BOY hopelessly dangle. In our household we call this phenomenon EXCITED MISERY.

I admit I had my share. My choices though were more specific. I mooned over the BAD (stupid) BOYS. Bad Stupid Boys are a separate sub-category. These guys are bad; and selfish, often addicted to something. They don’t call cause they can’t remember your name let alone your number and they are definitely serving time.

Now, we women, those of us who have grown up and moved on, want something different. Can we say HELL NO to Mr. Gibson and any of his bad boy brothers? Yes We Can!

I have been blogging for two years. My husband recently submitted his first and only comment on one of my last blogs. The blog itself was decent, but it was his comment that drew the most attention.  He is a man of few words…and even fewer words of bubbling, enthusiastic adoration. This has been a slight issue for us…forever. I am a gusher. He is a quiet, deep in the ground, private rumbler.

So when he publicly gushed, I was shocked. The comments from all of you shocked me as well. Then I realized that this is what women want.  We long for the occasional explosion of public adoration; seeing or hearing words of praise, appreciation and love declared with total abandon for all the world to see. We don’t want stuff. We don’t want Excited Misery. We want to know we matter to those who matter most to us.

Tomorrow is Valentines Day…a day laden with STUFF. My suggestion? Let those who matter most to you know that what you need, what you want is a genuine expression of  how you matter to them.  Feel Free To Have Them POST IT RIGHT HERE, FOR ALL THE WORLD TO SEE.

I got my best Valentine a couple of days early: 

February 11, 2011 at 8:49 pm e

my partner and brilliant wife…
every time I read one of your posts I am so impressed. I crawl into bed with you every night knowing that I am one lucky man. I hope I will never take that for granted. But, your insight into the world of “feelings” always leaves me speechless…sorry about that. You deserve to know that you make a difference in the world, none more than mine. I am grateful that I get to go thru life with you, side by side.

Side By Side

February 11, 2011

We have all spent hours now watching Egypt and it’s politically frustrated and determined population demand change. It is obvious that the ruling government for the past 30 years has suppressed its’ people. Freedoms are withheld, fear is a ruling strategy and democracy, as foreign a concept as women in positions of power. Hey, wait a minute. If it’s time for a change, might the Egyptian people consider giving women the same rights as men as part of their new strategy?

There are hundreds of thousands of people screaming, crying and begging for change. Right out in front, with their head scarves, tears and demands are the women of Egypt. They are standing alongside men, they are risking their lives for political freedom, they are using their voices for change.

Women in the Egyptian Protests

From PRI’s The World11 February, 2011 07:31:00

Women have a long history of activism in Egypt, and the current protests against Hosni Mubarak in Tahrir Square are no different.

This story was originally covered by PRI’s The World. For more, listen to the audio above.

By Ursula Lindsey

Ruheya is a 21-year-old university student. She’s come to Tahrir Square from the northern town of Sharqeya — a hundred miles away. Thursday she’s one of the volunteers monitoring the entrance to the Square, checking identification and searching bags to make sure no one brings in weapons.

“How many billions does he have, and we the people live in huts and don’t know how to feed ourselves?” Ruheya said. “There needs to be some balance. Not people at the very top and at the very bottom. I want to see democracy in my country, and I have to sacrifice for it. I have to be ready to die, to be arrested. I can’t sit at home and say: I want freedom.”

“There are Christian girls here, there are girls with their hair uncovered,” Ruheya said. “We’re all volunteers. We’re all Egyptians, whether we’re Christians or Muslims, whether we’re religious or not, we’re all good people. We’re all sacrificing for our country.”

“Women were at the forefront of the 1919 revolution in Egypt right before Egypt got its independence, in the struggle against the British; women were prominent at the time of the French occupation as well,” Ruheya said. “So Egyptian women have been involved in protests for many, many years this isn’t something new.”

But the authoritarian governments that have governed Egypt for the last 60 years have curtailed the autonomy of women’s organizations. Just as they have tightly controlled all freedoms of assembly and expression.

Women, like most Egyptians, have been frightened away from politics. Activists here say the government-backed thugs who attack protesters have singled out women, tearing their clothes and sexually molesting them.

Women make up more than half of Egypt’s university students. They are visible in the media and on the street; many work. But women rarely get the top posts in government or business. A woman’s highest ambition is still expected to be to establish a family.

And as conservative, religious movements have gained popularity, women have been pressured to stay at home and to act “modestly.” Many Egyptian women complain of constant harassment on the street.

She said the protests have re-affirmed a spirit of freedom and solidarity that has given women new breathing room.

“During the demonstrations, I didn’t face any kind of harassment or even someone looking at me in a strange way. I stayed till very late in the street, till 3 a.m., 4 a.m., and it was totally relaxing — not only safe,” Saber said. “And the interesting thing is that all people are focusing on just one goal and all things like religion and gender and ethnicity just disappeared.”

Women have long been told, by the government and even by opposition groups here, that their rights are a priority — but that economic reforms, or security concerns, or cultural considerations must come first.

But as they’ve so fully participated in the first mass protest movement in Egypt in a generation — women here have found that they don’t need to wait for anyone’s permission to be full citizens.

If women ruled the world, how everything would change?

According to former White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers:

“Women should rule the world.”

That was it, the answer to my frustration and growing political alienation. It seemed so simple, so obvious. Women!

If we were in charge, things might actually change. Instead of posturing, we’d have cooperation. Instead of gridlock, we’d have progress. Instead of a shouting match, we’d have a conversation. A very long conversation. But a conversation nonetheless. Everyone would just hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.”

Or would they? What would it be like if women ruled the world, I began to wonder?

Would anything really change? Would the world be a better place? My hunch was that more women in public life would, in fact, make things better.

After all, more women already have.”

If Women Ruled the World, a 2 hr.PBS Documentary 1991

“Women are beginning to assert a distinctive approach and make a real difference as they expand their presence in the professions. This distinctive approach is generally defined as being more social, civil, collaborative, and inclusive, and it’s consistent with rising educational standards and the evolution of democracy and globalization toward greater pluralism, decentralization, transparency, and accountability.”

The time for change in Egypt is NOW. The time for change for oppressed women around the world is NOW. As the brave women of Egypt use their voices and risk their lives for yet another significant step in the history of women of the world, we see you. We hear you and support your right to be heard, to be safe and to be treated with equal respect. We know, as women of a democratic society that you are fighting in memory of the women who came before you and the young women who  will follow in your footsteps. Bravo. Bravo

How do you see that our world would be different if women safely walked ALONGSIDE men?

Though I still feel like I have the unrelenting hopeful spirit of a high school graduate, my 40th reunion is just around the corner. OMG! There are pictures floating thru internet space of me looking like one of Julie Andrew’s charges in Sound of Music. I think that yellow dress was actually made out of an old curtain my grandmother was throwing away.

I rarely think of high school. When I do I break out in a cold sweat. Those were certainly the most awkward years of my life…now, why would I want to revisit them in any way, shape, or form?

I was a geek. Trust me. 6’ tall, 110 lbs. in wet pegged Levi’s and 2 lbs. of hairspray. Not one boy, not one, gave me a second look. Who could blame them. I was taller than 99% of them and I had “DESPERATE” written all over me. When I saw an opportunity to trick a brand new guy, obviously lonely and awkward himself, into coming to a party at my house, I took it.  I told him that all my friends would be there and I would love to introduce him.

When he accepted my invitation, I almost died on the spot. I had never been invited to a high school party and certainly never hosted one. I went to the one BFF I had and told her what I had done. We had 2 days to accomplish a guest list and something that resembled a pre-planned gathering.

Poor Schmuck. He arrived on time and must have thought that;  A. He was at the wrong house (hence not another car in sight),  B. The party had been canceled,  or C. He had been duped. I’m pretty sure that when he walked in to find only me, my BFF and collectively our 3 younger brothers, he knew he had been shanghaied. What high school boy doesn’t come to a party in hopes of finding a keg, cheer leaders and an atmosphere of reckless abandon.

Okay, now get this. Monopoly, with half the players pre-pubescent…not exactly a testosterone fest; my mother wearing her best apron enthusiastically serving trays of warm chocolate chips cookies… looking nothing like a cheer leader; and milk for dipping  those cookies instead of a plastic cup of ‘Bud’ from a freshly tapped keg.

He stayed anyway. The ambush was successful. I had a boyfriend!


For two years he was my EVERYTHING. I couldn’t imagine a day without him. Now 40 years later, I don’t know where he is or what he is doing.  The class of ‘71 has diminished in numbers. There are those who have passed away and those who can’t be found. There are those looking for misplaced friends and soul mates, and those recalling long forgotten memories. Countless pictures are surfacing that prove 40 years is a long, long time.

So in deliberating “to reunion or not to reunion”, the attending column would definitely have more weight if I thought  no one would notice I am in-fact the same geek only now nearly 60 and an inch shorter(can we say osteoporosis); my size 4 Levi’s have been replaced by the size 14’s, or that I look somewhat like the Shar pei Puppy version of my senior picture?

One thing 40 years has taught me is that life is short and unpredictable. There are grown-up Black Tornado’s (that’s right, my mascot!), who back then, smiled at me in the hall and made my day…who included me in note passing in Social Studies and who sometimes joined my table of fellow geeks in the cafeteria. Now that I think about it there were about 500 other kids that probably felt much like I did…uncomfortable, unsure, uneasy.

We now know not one of us existed in pure form. Those were the thoughts of teen idolatry. Each of us was a mixture of thespian, geek, quarterback and cheerleader. The high school playing field has been leveled with time…we have all experienced loss, disillusionment, victories.  Some geeks are now secure, enjoying luxury. Others, for whom we predicted easy success, are still finding their way.

It turns out we are more alike than we are different. The differences are in the details. If we can remember our commonalities while revisiting familiar faces, shared memories and dreams, we may experience our high school years influenced more by the knowing of ‘what we were’ than ‘what we were not’.

Today…right now, there is something you can do to help the victims of rape, yourself and the ones you love. Please read all the way to the bottom and sign the petition that asks our government to protect the victim, not the assailant.

DID YOU KNOW:

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).1

17.7 million American women have been victims of attempted or completed rape.1

9 of every 10 rape victims were female in 2003.2

While about 80% of all victims are white, minorities are somewhat more likely to be attacked.

Lifetime rate of rape /attempted rape for women by race:1

  • All women: 17.6%
  • White women: 17.7%
  • Black women: 18.8%
  • Asian Pacific Islander women: 6.8%
  • American Indian/Alaskan women: 34.1%
  • Mixed race women: 24.4%

Men

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

  • In 2003, 1 in every ten rape victims were male.2
  • 2.78 million men in the U.S. have been victims of sexual assault or rape.1

Children

15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.3

  • 29% are age 12-17.
  • 44% are under age 18.3
  • 80% are under age 30.3
  • 12-34 are the highest risk years.
  • Girls ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.

7% of girls in grades 5-8 and 12% of girls in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.4

  • 3% of boys grades 5-8 and 5% of boys in grades 9-12 said they had been sexually abused.

In 1995, local child protection service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse.5

  • Of these, 75% were girls.
  • Nearly 30% of child victims were between the age of 4 and 7.

93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker.6

  • 34.2% of attackers were family members.
  • 58.7% were acquaintances.
  • Only 7% of the perpetrators were strangers to the victim.

Effects of Rape

Victims of sexual assault are:7

3 times more likely to suffer from depression.

6 times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

13 times more likely to abuse alcohol.

26 times more likely to abuse drugs.

4 times more likely to contemplate suicide.

Pregnancies Resulting from Rape

In 2004-2005, 64,080 women were raped.8 According to medical reports, the incidence of pregnancy for one-time unprotected sexual intercourse is 5%. By applying the pregnancy rate to 64,080 women, RAINN estimates that there were 3,204 pregnancies as a result of rape during that period.

This calculation does not account for the following factors which could lower the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Rape, as defined by the NCVS, is forced sexual intercourse. Forced sexual intercourse means vaginal, oral, or anal penetration by offender(s). This category includes incidents where the penetration is from a foreign object such as a bottle. Certain types of rape under this definition cannot cause pregnancy.
  • Some victims of rape may be utilizing birth control methods, such as the pill, which will prevent pregnancy.
  • Some rapists may wear condoms in an effort to avoid DNA detection.
  • Vicims of rape may not be able to become pregnant for medical or age-related reasons.
This calculation does not account for the following factors which could raise the actual number of pregnancies:
  • Medical estimates of a 5% pregnancy rate are for one-time, unprotected sexual intercourse. Some victimizations may include multiple incidents of intercourse.
  • Because of methodology, NCVS does not measure the victimization of Americans age 12 or younger. Rapes of these young people could results in pregnancies not accounted for in RAINN’s estimates.


National Sexual Assault Hotline | 1.800.656.HOPE | Free. Confidential. 24/7.

Raise your hand if you are a giver? One who gives out of your abundance, or from your lack thereof? Doesn’t matter, you give and give and give some more. You cheat your self when there is not enough food to go around; you drink the cheap wine so everybody else can have the good stuff; you give your new clothes to your daughter before they reach the hanger or have the tags removed; give up the front seat; give up time and resources, energy and peace of mind so that those around you are more comfortable…happier…content…safe and sound. Not really a big deal; not really a choice, just a lifestyle.

Well I say BRAVO…you are in good company with most of the females on the planet…

The other day I needed help…not lots, just a skosh….a ride, a snack, an open door. Could I ask…NO NO NO.

Fortunately I was in the company of my surest of SURES; truest of Trues, safest of Safes!

“if you don’t ask me, then I can’t ask you..and If I don’t ask  you , you will go stark raving mad. Here is a chance to save your own sanity.”

Okay, I need a ride.

Better?

Ask.