Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Gifts That We Give

My dear friends (I consider anyone who reads my blog regularly to be a dear friend),

This last week, because of Christmas and something that came up in therapy, I have been thinking a lot about you and the tremendous gift you have given me this past year.  You may not have even been aware that you were giving me a gift, but you were (and are).  I will explain, but you know by now that brevity is not my strong suit, so please bare with me.

The other night I was watching Man of La Mancha, one of my favorite movies and I was reminded why I love it so (besides the music).  One of the themes of the movie is very similar to a theme in one of my favorite books, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Yes, A Little Princess, is a children's book.  To explain the similarity and what I adore about them, I would like to begin with A Little Princess.

This book is about a young girl named Sara Crewe.  As the story begins her father takes her to a boarding school, which apparently was common for the time period.  She is a very rich, pampered little girl, but still very sweet.  During her time at the boarding school word arrives that her father has died leaving her an orphan (her mother had died sometime previous) and penniless.  The boarding school, afraid of what the public might think if they put her out on the street, agrees to keep her on as a maid.  All her beautiful clothes and belongings are taken away and she is left with one black dress that does not fit well.  She continues to be a sweet, well-mannered child which is one of the things I love...her character. After some time has passed, she is dirty, her clothes are torn.  One day as she is on the street running an errand for the boarding school a young boy sees her and decides that he wants to give some money to "the beggar girl".  Afterwards the boy's sister chastizes him saying, "That girl may be poor, but she is not a beggar."  Somehow in the interaction between Sara and the young boy, this other girl could see something in Sara.  Was it the way she behaved, the way she held herself, something in her eyes?  The book does not say, but the point is the girl could see beyond Sara's outward appearance, to the beautiful person within.

In Man of La Mancha, we have Don Quixote, who is delusional, but in the most adorable way.  He embarks on a quest, and while on his journey encounters Aldonza.  Aldonza is, how do I put this?  Basically she is a bar maid/waitress and reluctant prostitute.  I say reluctant, because I don't think she has much choice in the matter, she can take the money or not, but the rest is out of her control.  Don Quixote sees her and immediately falls in love.  He refuses to call her Aldonza, because it is a common name, apparently fitting of her current position in life.  Instead he choses to rename her, Dulcinea, which he feels in a much more fitting name for a lady such as she.  The world sees a prostitute, but Don Quixote sees something more, something beautiful inside of her.

Both stories portray characters (Sara and Aldonza) who going through tremendous difficulty, and the people who are able to see beyond that to the beauty within.  THAT is what I feel you, my readers and friends, do for me.  In this blog, I share some of my deep pain and difficulties, and yet you don't shy away from it.  You are still here reading and supporting me through this journey.  I like to think that like these stories that I love, you can see something in me besides this tremendous burden that I currently carry.  And because I believe you can see it, it helps me to try and find it in myself.

I am reminded of another favorite movie, It's a Wonderful Life.  When difficult circumstances brought George Bailey to the lowest point of his life, he was given the gift to see what the world would have been like without him.  He was able to see all the lives that he had touched, many without even realizing it.  And the other lives that were touched because of the people that he helped.   The ripples of his life and kindness to others were huge.  Can you see the George Bailey in yourself?  I imagine that you did not know that reading my blog would mean so much to me (but it really does), how many other lives have you touched without realizing it?

You continue to read my blog because beyond the pain you see something in me, that is your gift to me.  I, in turn, see the "George Bailey" in you, and that is my gift to you.  Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Stealing Guilt

It wasn't my fault!
It wasn't my fault!

One more time...

It wasn't my fault!

Oh, my friends, it feels so good to be able to write that and believe it.  It has taken me almost a year.  Remember this poem?

Some Day

"Tell me again,"
I say and they do,
"It's not your fault."

I picture them in my mind,
my husband,
my Bishop,
my therapist,
my friends

I see the words on their lips,
I hear their words with my ears.
"It's not your fault"

But my heart
. . .does not hear
The little child in me
. . .does not see. . .

Somewhere deep inside,
...I know
It was my fault,
and I need
to be Punished.

"Tell me again," I say. And they do...
Some day I will believe them.
Some day,
. . .but not today.

Someday has finally arrived and I know, the little child in me knows, "it wasn't my fault!"  What a weight lifted off of me!  What a release! 

So what happened?  Well, two nights ago, I had an appointment with one of my spiritual heroes.  It was something I had wanted to do for a long time, but I had put it off for a couple reasons (both were as untrue as the abuse being my fault...but I couldn't see that at the time.)  Finally, during a particularly low point, I called him and made an appointment to see him.  Tuesday was the night.

We sat down together and he said, "Let's start with a prayer.  Will you say it?"  I was very sorry to say, "No," but the guilt I was carrying did not allow me to pray with other people.  I said my personal prayers, though not as frequently as before, but I could not pray with others.  He graciously offered to say the prayer.  After the prayer, I explained to him as briefly as possible what is going on with me and why I didn't feel comfortable saying the prayer. 

Then he began to teach me.  We spoke for an hour, and I won't share all of it here...it would be too long and some of it is too personal.  I want to share what he said that helped me release the guilt...at last.

He said, "Leslie, when you take something that does not belong to you it is thievery.  The guilt that you feel does not belong to you.  It belongs to the person who abused you.  Give it back and stop stealing."

I almost laughed out loud...I thought that was such a funny and ridiculous way to say it.  Guilt is not something that can be "stolen"...it is not concrete, not 3D, and not even anything anyone really wants.  Then it hit me, it is also ridiculous for me to blame myself for the abuse that was clearly not my fault.  Ok, Abuser, you can have your guilt back.  I don't want it any more. 

I don't know if it was actually those words about "stealing guilt", or because he is one of my spiritual heroes telling me that it was not my fault, or because I was ready...perhaps all of those things...but suddenly I was able to let it go.  The next day I was thinking about his words and I started to cry...wonderful cleansing tears! 

It wasn't my fault! 
It wasn't my fault!
It wasn't my fault!

Each time I say it, I feel a little more healed.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An Unusual Christmas List

One day I was tiding up and saw this paper lying on the table.  It was signed my daughter.

Christmas is coming up and you know what I want. . .

Cheese from the moon
Cotton candy pillows
Pears from Mars
A Martian friend
The pot of gold from the end of a rainbow - just the pot made of gold, no gold!
An umbrella for a petite doll
1 pne needle from the tallest pine tree
A bucket of rain-water
A leaf from the Amazon

And you thought your shopping list was difficult...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Grieving skinny pants and lost selves...

Skinny Pants...for my readers that do not battle weight issues, let me explain this concept.  When people gain weight, they will often hold on to their previous clothing.  They do this because letting go of the clothes means letting to of the dream of getting back to that weight.  I used to be guilty of this myself...until I finally learned to tell myself, that when (it helps if I say when not if) I lose the weight, I will celebrate with NEW skinny clothes.  That helps because who doesn't love buying clothes in a smaller size?!

It may be stretching things to make a point (sort of like when you lie on the bed and try to zip those pants...don't try to tell me you haven't done that!) but I think that holding onto the skinny pants is a form of grieving.  Grieving your thinner, healthier self.  It doesn't seem like such a stretch if you notice how quickly we throw out those "fat" clothes when we lose weight. 

As I work on what I hope will be my Healing Journey, I am grieving for my "skinny self".  Not skinny in a literal sense, but skinny in that I liked the old me a lot better than this new one.  Well, that is not entirely fair...I'll explain.

The old me : BAT....before awareness of trauma self...(how do you like that acronym?) many times I have said to my Therapist, "Since I have been in therapy I have been (fill in something negative)...."   And he says, "So therapy is doing that to you?"  or something like that.  I smile and say, "No, I mean since before the memories started coming back."  I can never quite figure out if he is teasing me a little (my therapist does have a sense of humor) or if he really is just clarifying if I think being in therapy has caused these feelings.  Anyway...

BAT...I was different.  I tend to immortalize that part of my life in the same sense that we immortalize one who has died.  You know what I mean, once someone dies we tend to forget all their faults and shortcomings and think and speak only good of them.  That is likely appropriate.  However, to immortalize my BAT self, is not entirely fair.  I think of that me as being happier, more at peace, more spiritual, more...insert anything good here.  And yet, in my new awareness of self I have to wonder, was the BAT me even real? 

What I mean is, now that I am becoming aware of this tornado of feelings and nightmarish memories that I have lying below the surface of consciousness, I have to admit that BAT me was a "false front".  Someone I created to deal with the world, and to hide the pain at all costs.  Thus, I waver between idolizing the BAT me, and thinking that perhaps BAT me was some sort of "Stepford Wife".  (If you haven't see the movie, you MUST...I can't do it justice here.)  But if BAT me, was not real. . . then who am I really? 

This question scares me. 

Perhaps it wouldn't be so scary IF like an old pair of skinny jeans, I let BAT me go, and allow the healing process to unfold.  Is it possible that healing will bring a new me that I will love...like shopping for new skinny clothes?

Perhaps...but I can't let go without a little more grieving time first.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

People are stupid and NONE more so than I

An e-mail that I sent to my sister today...with a few changes for clarity or anonymity:

Favorite Sister,

I just tried to call you, but no answer and your voice mail is full. I hope this e-mail addy is still good.

I just wanted to say hello and I love you. AND I am sorry that I have not "been there" for you these past couple months since Beloved Nephew's [fatal] car accident. I was just writing an email to a friend venting about I wish people would just take a moment and ask me how I am doing and a couple other related issues  (I'm going through a difficult time, and have been since before the accident...but I don't want to talk about that now...let's talk about YOU.)  After I had vented plenty about how stupid people are, I realized I AM STUPID. I haven't done those same things for YOU.

Little Sister, I am so sorry...sorry I believed all those lies people tell themselves when someone they love is hurting.

1. I don't know what to say
2. We're not THAT close, they have other people closer to them that will help.
3. I'm busy and my loved one is too.
4. Anything I say or do won't make that much of a difference.

There are probably more if I think about it. Anyway, I am sorry that I have not been more of a support to you. I am going to do better...whether you want me to or not, LOL!

I do love you. And I do love Beloved Nephew. Like most of the population, I am just stupid.


With the caveat that I have erred in believing these myths myself, I would like to talk about them.

1. I don't know what to say. 

You really don't have to say much...start with "how are you?" and let the person know you really want to know...then listen.  Listening is SO valuable.  If you feel like you have to say something, validation is great.  Validation means "You have a right to be angry about...."  or, "I would feel sad too..."

2. We're not THAT close, they have other people closer to them that will help.

When I have talked to people that are in pain, whatever the reason, they have one thing in common...they feel alone.  I don't think there is such a thing as "too much love and concern".

3. I'm busy and my loved one is too.

I work full time and have 5 kids. My sister also works full-time...so finding a time to call and chat is difficult.  BUT it only took me a few minutes to write that email.  It only takes a minute to leave a voice mail (and if you call me, you will likely get my voice mail because I am busy, but it would touch me that you called and left a voice mail.) 

4. Anything I say or do won't make that much of a difference.

I think this one is the biggest lie that we tell ourselves.  I can't speak for my sister, but I know for me having someone say, "How are you?" when I feel they are sincere, means the world to me.  If they say, "you have a right to be angry about what happened to you"...Balm of Gilead.  "How are you?" and "I care about you", "thinking of you"...never underestimate how powerful these things are.  They are powerful!

YOU are powerful...don't underestimate the power you have to help others.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing or Lessons I Learned Over the Weekend

Saturday: After the yearly church Halloween party, I was taking the kids home. Apparently, the extra load of candy was too much and we blew a tire. Wouldn’t you know, this was the one time I left the house without my cell phone. Fortunately, we were reasonably close to the house and one of my teenage sons was in the car. Run, boy, run.

Lesson #1 When you forget your cell phone, a teenage boy will do in a pinch.

Sunday: With the “donut” spare tire, I loaded up the family to go to church. This time we were carrying the Halloween candy internally, but still it was too much. The donut blew! Once again, I didn’t have my cell phone (I know, I know). Sent teenage son home to get “Dad” who was coming to church in another vehicle.

Lesson #2 Never trust a donut (tire or pastry), and always carry a teenager for emergencies.

Monday: Teenage son rolls old tire down the street to put in the van with bad donut. He lets it roll ahead of him and it lands in a huge puddle. Teenager wades in after it, muttering "hey you!". Mom laughs very hard.

Lesson #3 Teenagers can be great entertainment

Called AAA to get towed to the tire store. A delightful young man with an accent I didn’t recognize came to rescue me. I wanted to ask him what his native language was, but wasn’t sure if that would be rude. Maybe he gets asked that all the time and is tired of it. “Impulsive” is my middle name, though, so I ask, “Would you mind if I ask where you are from? I love your accent.” I really did! He rewarded me with a handsome smile, “Russia.” This led to a very delightful conversation, for both of us, about his home (8 hr train ride from Moscow!) and his family.

Lesson #4 You really can’t go wrong asking people to talk about themselves if your interest is genuine.

In summary…ban Halloween, ban candy, ban donut tires. Embrace teenage boys, and nice young men from Russia (especially if they are cute like my Russian tow truck driver was). Oh, and beware of crazy moms who might turn your life into a blog post.

Thanks for all your help this weekend, Son!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Forgiveness is NOT a Magic Bullet

I hereby extend National Grouch Day to a week.  No, how about a month? This is my not subtle way of warning you that I am still "in a mood".

Jiri Hodan
The subject of forgiveness came up at church today...not just forgiveness, but specifically about people who have been abused forgiving their abusers.  How is it that well-meaning people can say such utterly painful things?  The crazy thing is that what was said was true to a point.  I would submit that it is just not as simple as people make it seem and that is what drives me crazy.  Did I raise my hand and explain this?  No...because I was very angry and who is going to believe a raving lunatic?  So I did the next best thing...I went to the bathroom and cried.  At some point on any given Sunday these days you can find me in the bathroom crying.  It's pitiful, I know.

Would you be willing to humor me as I try to explain why forgiveness, although a true principle, is not a magic bullet?

Yes?  Ah, I knew I could count on you!  I will begin by explaining that I actually do believe in forgiveness.  My previous ramblings may have led you to believe otherwise, but I hope this post will clear everything up for you...and perhaps me. 

In the Old Testament, there is a wonderful story about forgiveness.  Truly it has become one of my favorite scripture stories.  (Many thanks to James Ferrell in his book, The Peacegiver, who pointed it out to me.)  The story is in 2 Kings somewhere....it seems that David...the killer of giants...had to go into hiding for a time because King Saul was jealous of him.  During that time, David acquired a following, and they made their living by guarding sheep for a wealthy man called Naman.  Apparently sheep theft by lawless highway men was a big problem during those times.  Everything went as planned (meaning David and his men did their job well) until it came time for Naman to pay (a previously agreed upon price).  Naman pretended not to know who the men were and called them thieves and highway man and refused to pay them.

When David heard this news, he was furious (understandably).  He gathered his men and they prepared to march on Naman's house and kill every man in the household.  Along the road, however, Naman's wife, Abigail met the men.  She apologized, and asked David to forgive her.  She brought with her everything that Naman had agreed to pay.  David accepted Abigail's offering and turned away from killing Naman and his household. 

In The Peacegiver, James Ferrel, points out that Abigail was a type of Christ, a foreshadowing.  In the same way that she came to David, gave him everything that he had been promised and should have received and asked him to forgive her, our Savior Jesus Christ comes to us.  Through the Atonement, He gives us everything that we should have received, or restores that which was lost by the one who sinned against us.  Then because He has taken the sins of the world upon Himself, He asks us to forgive Him. 

Notice, that Naman appears not to have repented, but David was given what he had been promised and asked to forgive Abigail.  When we compare this to ourselves, we see that it is not necessary to wait for the people who have offended us to ask our forgiveness.  The Lord took those sins upon Him, and now asks us to forgive Him.  Forgiveness or punishment of Naman and in turn our offenders is between them and the Lord.

It is a beautiful story, isn't it. So why do I get so upset when people talk to me about forgiveness?  Am I a hypocrite?  I will try to answer the first question, and leave the second in your capable hands.

First, telling me to forgive assumes that I am angry with my abuser.  It may surprise you to learn that I am not.  Not yet anyway.  Oh maybe a little, but not in the way I should be.  Anger is a very difficult emotion for me to allow myself to feel and express. Anger, my own and other peoples scares me.

Besides, even after months of people telling me, and of me, telling myself, "It's not your fault"...deep inside, I still feel that it was.  My inner child is utterly convinced that there must have been something inherently wrong with me in order to have been treated that way by someone who should have loved me.  So, no I am not angry with him.  I am angry with myself.  So should I forgive myself then?  But you said it was not my fault!  If I forgive myself that means it was my fault and if that is true I am inherently flawed and unforgivable so it doesn't matter anyway. I know that is illogical, but the subconscious is not always logical.

I imagine that it is hard for you to comprehend that I am not angry with my abuser, but it's true.  For example, just yesterday I was overcome with some long repressed emotion.  I wept because he didn't love me.  How I wanted him too!  How I tried to please him!  And yet it was never enough.  I still feel the sting of that rejection.

The next issue I have with forgiving, at least for now, is that if you tell me to forgive now, before I have even had a chance to feel angry, that negates my right to be angry.  Should I not be angry about what happened to me?  Would you have me believe that I have no right to be angry about my stolen innocence?  No right to be angry about the emotional, physical and spiritual repercussions I suffer because of the abuse?  I am just beginning to allow myself to feel anger.  Sometimes it flares up like a backdraft so suddenly and so intensely that it frightens me.  I believe, however, feeling that anger is part of the healing process.  Should I forgive now and miss this portion of the healing?  Surely not.  I need to feel this anger so that there will be something to forgive.

An overemphasis on forgiveness, implies to me more concern for my abuser than for myself.  Yes, I know, forgiveness is for me...to relieve me of the heavy burden.  Still just as blaming myself for the abuse is illogical (but none the less deeply ingrained in me,) so is the idea that "forgive your abuser" means you are more concerned about his welfare than my own.

Finally, when people talk about forgiveness, it feels to me that they think they are offering me a life preserver, a magic bullet...a quick fix.  Here, Leslie, just take this forgiveness pill like a good girl and then we can all be happy again.  I wish it were that simple.  And because I feel anger (that confusing emotion) whenever someone mentions forgiveness, it reinforces a part of me that feels I am fundamentally flawed.  "See, these nice church people want to help, and you just get mad at them...it is because you are bad."

There is a movie I love to watch called "The Testaments".  It is about the Savior's life and so during parts of the movie you see Him going about healing people.  I often weep when I watch that.  I wish that He would come and heal me that way...in an instant.  Though I know He could do that for me, I also know He won't.  He still has the power to make the lame walk or to cure leprosy...or cancer...but more often He allows us to struggle through it...supporting us along the way...for reasons that surely must be clearer in Heaven than they are to us right now. And so...just as a person with cancer often passes through a dark and difficult time before healing comes (if it comes), I, too, must travel through a dark and difficult time on my journey to healing. 

I do believe in forgiveness, and when I am ready I will forgive my abuser, and I will forgive God, and perhaps I will even forgive myself.  But it's going to take some time, and in the meantime....

Don't rush me.

Photo Attribution: Jiri Hodan

Friday, October 15, 2010

National Grouch Day

"According to Sesame Street Magazine, October 15th is National Grouch Day -- a day for all Grouches to celebrate their way of life.

A Grouch's mission in life is to be as miserable and grouchy as possible, and pass that feeling on to everyone else. Only then will a Grouch feel in touch with his or her world and be happy. Yet, even though a Grouch may show happiness at anyone's misfortune (including his or her own), a Grouch would never admit to being happy. Such is the stability of a Grouch's life: so balanced, and yet so unbalanced."

My family will tell you that this is very timely...for me...and that I have been a grouch for a couple weeks now.  but you're not going to believe THEM are you?
Seriously, if we set aside the fact that I have become a contender for the title Wicked Witch of the West...I'm doing just fine.  Those of you that know me in real life probably think I'm kidding.  I wish I was.  It seems I need to process some anger from the past.  My therapist is working with me on this....both to help me not permanently damage my most important relationships, but also to help me direct the anger to where it belongs.  Which reminds me...I am going to disembowel the next person that tells me to forgive my abuser.  You have been put on notice.  (And you didn't believe that I am grumpy. . .)   Both my Bishop and my Therapist know how I feel about the forgiveness topic, and are supportive...so don't make me get out my sword.  Ok, I don't have a sword...don't make me find one on ebay and then find you.
Did I mention I am cranky? 
Happy National Grouch Day to you!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

North to Alaska

I have a special treat for you today!  One of my friends is having an adventure in Alaska...working way up North.  I have permission to share my friend's adventure, with the caveat that I don't disclose any personal information.  Deal!!!  You will love this.

Hello, down there in the Lower 48. 

I spent time in Anchorage and then met up with someone from one of the villages and began our drive to Prudhoe Bay: 7 hours to Fairbanks, 7 hours to Cold Foot (only place to gas up for $5.00 a gal) and 7 hours to Prudhoe or Dead Horse. A long drive and no place to sleep.

We crossed the Arctic circle, saw porcupine, moose, fox and lots of Ice Road Truckers passing us at high speeds and calling us 4 wheelers. (We had a CB and listened to them). It was raining and foggy the higher we got. Those steep hills up and down were great fun to drive and the dirt road was really packed with few and small pot holes, the dirt was better than the paved.

We flew from Dead Horse to our Village. As soon as the river freezes we'll have the ice road to drive instead of flying. It was really cold, 40 wind chill 35 when I got here and I wanted to turn around. But since then it's been 45/50 really nice and cool and the mosquitos are gone too.

All the houses are built about 4 to 5 feet in the air on poles above the perma frost, and most have standing water under them. There is a puddle for everyone to fall in if you're not careful. Since I have been up here there have been 4 deaths from drowning in the nearby villages. One man was water bogging on the tundra on his snow machine and there was a deep pond he didn't know about, Father of 7, so sad. They really push life jackets here, that are free.

So far so good except for the fact that my left leg has been swollen since our drive. I went to the clinic (no doctor) and they wanted to take me to Anchchorage for a blood clot.  So I took myself to Fairbanks on Friday and spent all the money we saved by driving. No clot, kidneys are fine, just no circulation, having to take a pill for excess water. So It cost me about $1,500.00 for a $12 dollar bottle of pills. Aggravating!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Chocolate Hugs, and Ice Cream Kisses

So I have been getting "the lecture" from my doctors about losing weight.  I can't blame them.  I recognize that they are right. It would be beneficial health wise.  What I wish though is that I could explain to them why it is "not that easy".  It's not that I lack the information of "how" to do it.  Actually, I have what I think would be a very effective and healthy plan to lose weight.  The trouble is following it.  It is not that I lack will-power per se, but that I eat for comfort.  Yes, I know, bad habit.  Let's look at how this bad habit got started.

For a moment think about one of your children, or if you don’t have children a child you have cared for. Imagine a time that child was hurt or upset and you took her into your arms and soothed and comforted her. Soon she was comforted and resumed playing. What would she learn from this?

Now imagine that same scenario, only this time you don’t comfort the child but leave her to comfort herself. What would she do? How much longer would it take her to calm down? What would she learn from this?

Finally, imagine that same child abused, and not comforted…how does that child cope?

Coping mechanisms are learned in childhood. When a child is abused, there is not only the hurt of the abuse, but the lack of being comforted and learning to self-soothe.  One of the signs that a child is possibly being abused is thumb-sucking past the "normal age".  Makes sense right?  It is a form of comfort.  I used that one for way to long. to the detriment of my top teeth, and my parent's pocketbook when I got braces. 

Adult survivors of childhood trauma have more "methods" at their disposal for "self-soothing"....eating, or eating disorders, alcohol, and/or drugs.  For me "comfort eating" has been the most common.  I seriously considered bulimia once, but decided it would be too difficult to hide because of my living arrangements at the time. 

Recently though, with the intense emotions that are seeping out of places I carefully "hid" them in my mind, I sometimes have an intense desire to self-injure.  Sorry, I know that is disturbing, it is for me too.  I have wondered where in the world that came from.  Just as I was writing this post a thought came to me.  What if  as a child, someone I desperately wanted to love me, who as a caretaker, should have loved me, only showed me attention and "affection" by hurting me...is it really any wonder that now when I seek comfort my mind turns to pain?  Self-harm?  Interesting. . . 

Last week in therapy, my therapist told me that the part of me that says I need to be punished was originally created (by my own mind) to help me some how.  I couldn't imagine how thoughts that I need to be punished and to punish myself with pain could be helpful at all.  But I am beginning to see why my child mind would create such a thing.  And perhaps now I know how to talk to that "part" of myself, about some healthier options.

Speaking of healthier options, I am learning better ways to deal with my intense emotions than eating and self-harm.  Journaling, blogging ("gotta" throw that in, but it's true), drawing, talking to my Therapist, my husband and friends.  Today I was really upset and instead of eating, I sent an e-mail to my old doctor.  I mean previous not old...heh heh.  He reads my blog, so to him...THANK YOU!

I always try to end on a positive note...so here it is for today.  Every time you comfort a child...a hug, a kind word, a caring gesture like a hand on a shoulder...you are giving them a gift that is priceless.  Keep doing the great things you do for the children in your life.

You are a hero to a child!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Searching for Orion

Before I tell you about Orion, I want to share something related...tonight I was bringing my teenage sons home from Boy Scouts and I said, "Boys, look at the moon, isn't it fantastic?  I am so in love with the moon."

Caleb, who is 14, replied, "Mom, long distance relationships never work out."

 I have mentioned before that I love the Orion Constellation. When I see him,  it's like a heavenly big brother or guardian angel or something.  Lately every night when I go outside, I look up and see if Orion is "back" yet.  (The stars have a slightly different rotation than we do, so while Orion never actually leaves, he maybe in our part of the world during the daylight hours.)  I can almost always find the Big Dipper where ever it is and from there I look to where Orion should be.  At least where I think he should be, but so far I haven't seen him.   The crazy thing of this is that I could simply research whewill be "back".  I have the perfect book for that The Stars by H. A. Rey (the Curious George guy)  I don't want to "peek" though, that would be like opening a Christmas present early...it ends the suspense but it spoils the fun.

So while I wait for Orion, I can't help but think of applications to my life.  For example, I believe that healing will happen, but I don't know when.  I can't even "cheat" on that one...and believe me I would if I could!  But like Orion, I believe that healing will come.  I will keep searching for it...working towards it. 

I have asked myself why I love the stars so much.  I think it is because they look like little points of light in the darkness.  That reminds me of some of the wonderful people in my life...they are my points of light in this dark time.  There are also good moments, some tender mercies of the Lord that remind me that  He has not abandoned me.  Even more importantly these tender mercies tell me that even though part of me is angry with the Lord, He is not not angry with me.  

So I will keep searching for Orion, and keep enjoying the other stars, people and tender mercies, until the dawn (healing) comes.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Flowers for Leslie

Have you ever seen someone who is gravely ill, and you can tell that just by looking at them?  

There are things I have wanted to share lately, but I am afraid that my writing will reveal more about me and my current state than I intend.  I fear that you, dear friends, will read it and feel that I am "slipping".  Sort of like Flowers for Algernon.  In case you haven't read it (spoiler alert), in  Flowers for Algernon, the main character is mentally handicapped.  This fact is noteable through the journal he writes. In addition to his style of writing, it is also obvious in the interactions that he has with other people.  Then, he takes a medication that makes him gradually become more intellient...both mentally and emotionally.  His abilities keep increasing until he reaches a genius level.  Sadly though, the medication stops working and slowly the reader sees him decline again until he is back where he started.  Of course, by that time you have grown to love the character and are heartbroken as he begins to decline.

That is my fear about my blogging lately, that you will read and think, "oh no, Leslie..."  I desperately want to reassure you that that is not true, that I am OK, and that I am actually getting stronger.  To be fair and honest somedays it simply doesn't feel that way.  It does feel like I am slipping...intellectually, emotionally, spiritually... 

There is hope though.  I read blogs of other people that have experienced what I am working through, and are farther along the path.  They reassure me that there is hope, that this does get better.  Someday, I hope to hold up that light of hope for someone else.  For now, though, I hope that sharing my struggle will help others who are on this same path to know they are not alone.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Need a hand?

How about something different?  I've been doing some "art therapy".  Nothing official, but I was inspired by something my therapist suggested so I got a book about how to draw, a sketchbook, and a pencil...ta da! Art therapy.

My husband thinks my art is hand-some, and maybe it will help me get a hand-le on my life again.  (Sorry, he is very punny, can you believe I knew that before I married him?)

"My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father prepare to die!"
I know you are all dying to know what my therapist said about these but he hasn't seen them yet.  He's on vacation.  So if you don't hear from me in a couple weeks, call my husband and see if I have been committed!  Maybe like those famous Rorschach Ink Blots, he will "see" something in my art.

Monday, July 26, 2010

On the Lighter Side

Time for something on the lighter side...I didn't write this, but I really like it.  (Does that count?)

Maybe we should develop a Crayola bomb as our next secret weapon. A happiness weapon. A beauty bomb. And every time a crisis developed, we would launch one. It would explode high in the air - explode softly - and send thousands, millions, of little parachutes into the air. Floating down to earth - boxes of Crayolas. And we wouldn't go cheap, either - not little boxes of eight. Boxes of sixty-four, with the sharpener built right in. With silver and gold and copper, magenta and peach and lime, amber and umber and all the rest. And people would smile and get a little funny look on their faces and cover the world with imagination. ~Robert Fulghum

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Night Guests

Have you ever pondered the guests who come to your house when all is dark and the world is asleep?

Invited Night Guests

The Sandman
Santa Claus
Tooth Fairy
Easter Bunny
Shoemaker's Elves

Uninvited Party Crasher


Fear is a worse companion than Pain.  Pain comes alone, but Fear always has some creepy companions...don't ask me who they are, I don't dare look that closely, do you?  Pain sits with you and puts blinders on, then slowly tortures you, but Fear...ahh, Fear dances around.  It teases you.  It plays Hide and Seek, and Peek-a-Boo.

Tonight Fear paid me a visit. It was like when you are watching a movie and the suspenseful music starts and you know something bad is about to happen.  The hair rises on the back of your neck, you feel your body tense and your mouth goes dry.  If the fear gets too intense, you remind yourself that it is just a movie.

Unfortunately this movie was in my own mind, a memory close to resurfacing, I think.  It is awful to feel like a child again when that child experienced trauma and no comfort.  It is hard to trust that comfort will come this time.

"Trust," part of me whispers, "trust someone will be there."

"Yeah," another part answers..."like Santa Claus, or The Sandman."

Trust. . .I reach for it, but it is just outside my grasp.  Fear is closer, smothering now.

I hope the dawn comes soon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Layers of the Onion

There are times, many of them in fact, when I think that you (my readers and friends) surely do not want to hear me talk about abuse and its after affects any more.  It must weary you as much as it does me at times, and yet since it is my life right now, it is hard for me to distance myself from it.  I do have short mental vacations (oh, that sounds awful!).  You know I mean short breaks from the pain, not breaks from sanity. 

It happens though, that often when I have been feeling that way for awhile someone will send me an e-mail and tell me that they appreciate my blog.  They might tell me that it has helped them or that it has helped them understand someone they love.  Those e-mails are what keep me blogging.  I am a Pollyanna at heart...and though that term is generally used in a negative tone, being Pollyanna is really not a bad thing.  It simply means that in each situation I try to find something good.  It means that even though I am going through a hard time right now, perhaps I can use this pain to help someone else.  If so, then my pain has served a good purpose. 

Someone once said, "Life is like an onion.  You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep."  Healing from abuse is the same, only I would say most of it involves weeping. It is not all bad though.  There are interesting discoveries that you make about yourself along the way, and little glimpses of something better...something of a life beyond the pain.  I would like to share with you a glimpse of both.  Here are some descriptions of "layers of the onion" from my journal.

One day in July I wrote:

Sometimes I am amazed at how much pain a person can have. Emotional pain - and still keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. Or rather moving. I am not certain that I am moving forward. I am simply moving. and not really certain how I manage that.

I also wonder why it is that the times you need to reach out the most are the times you least trust yourself to do so. I have such an ache in my heart tonight. I want to cry out to all my friends, "I'm hurting. Please do something." I want someone to tell me this pain won't last forever. Tell me I can do this - ease my pain - ease my burden. But I don't dare reach out tonight. I'm certain I would regret it later - be embarrassed by the raw-ness of my own pain. How can I need someone so much and be so afraid to reach out at the same time?

One of the worst things about this pain is that most people don't understand. If I were mourning a death, people could understand and relate to that. But this? This is hard to explain even to myself.

Pain is blind. It does not see a future or a past. There is nothing beyond the moment and the blinding pain.

When will it end? How could it end? Even if I dared reach out to someone, what could they say that would help? Nothing. Maybe though it is not what they say or don't say that helps, simply that I wouldn't have to be alone with the pain anymore.

Pain does not make a very good companion. It is jealous not wanting to share you. Putting blinders on you so you think of nothing else.

Pain wants you only for itself and then it seeks to destroy you.

Pain is like a cat playing with a mouse. It does not share. It does not lose.

On another day after a good therapy session I wrote:

I share things with my therapist that I can't tell anyone else.  He understands and tells me it is not crazy; its a normal reaction to abuse.  He never seems a bit surprised as if he was expecting this - a normal part of the journey.  As we talk and even laugh occasionally I feel something almost foreign.  I feel safe.
        - Safe-
It amazes me how wonderful and even magical it feels.  The only other time I remember feeling safe is sometimes with Richard (my husband), but even that only happens occasionally.
I want safety to be grass, and I want to roll around in it, like a horse in a green pasture.
I want it to be a blanket I could wrap myself in.
   -a pool that I could dive into.

All this pondering, wondering about the glorious feeling of being safe - it makes me realize how much I am always on guard -hypervigilant- How exhausting!

The safe feeling is fading away now, but I'm glad I captured it while it was here.  Like a snapshot so that I can remember later.

     Safe - what a lovely thing.


I have many "layers of the onion" yet to go, but I dream of a day when feeling safe will happen more and the blinding pain will be less and less. 

I wish for "safety" for you as well as you peel off the layers of your life's onion.  May there be someone there when you weep that will help you feel safe.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Dreams and Kalidescopes

We have all experienced days when at the end of the day we are starving, but we don't want to cook.  Writers have those days too.  We want to create something with words but we don't feel like writing.  There are also those days when we cook something that our family doesn't want to eat.  Tonight I am afraid that if I write what is on my mind and in my heart you wouldn't want to read it. 

Pain is a jealous companion.  It does not want to share you and once it has you, it seeks only to destroy you.

See what I mean?  So like a tired cook raiding the fridge for left overs, I give you something I wrote a long time ago.  It is for my book (if I ever finish it):

Everything I Needed to Know About Parenting, I Learned in Prison


Dreams and Kalidescopes

Recreation time (rec) is the time the inmates have to come out of their cells and exercise, and hang out, talk to their friends etc. Officers are expected to mingle with the population during this time, and basically maintain a presence.

One day during rec I stopped to talk to a couple inmates and one of them, supposing he was a quite a Romeo asked, "So, did you dream about me last night?"

"Yeah, I did actually." Suddenly I could feel a several pairs of eyes. I had not only his attention, but that of everyone standing within ear shot. Pleased with my audience, I continued.

"I had a dream that I was working on the perimeter again."

The perimeter is one of the jobs in prison where officers drive, in our case little Toyota trucks, slowly, no faster than 10 miles per hour, around the perimeter of the prison. As they drive they inspect the fence for any flaws and check the sand-traps for foot prints. They have a shotgun and a handgun to be used as needed.

"In my dream, I was driving along and I saw an inmate climbing down the outside of the fence. I shouted, 'Halt', three times, but the guy didn't stop. So I shot him.

"When I ran over to the body, it was you. I'm sorry about that, but you should have stopped when I asked you to."

Laughter exploded around us. "Man, she really dissed you!" his friends chided. That inmate and his friends never made lewd remarks to me again.

As parents we have certain dreams for our children. Quite often those dreams are influenced by our own unfulfilled goals and dreams. Sometimes they are simply dreams about the kind of parent we want to be, and the way our children will behave.

My children all have seemed determined from the beginning to tell me to keep my dreams to myself! Well, not all my dreams, but enough of them. For example, I love to sing. One of my dreams was to sing lullabies to my babies. I had this picture in my mind of a mother singing and rocking her baby to sleep. I was mesmerized with the idea but when my first child was fussing and I started to sing, he cried harder! I tried different songs, but the only thing I accomplished was to infuriate him more. When I stopped he cried less. So I quit singing for a few months. Then I tried again. As soon as he was old enough, he would reach up and put his hand over my mouth if I started singing. I didn't think my singing was that bad! I surrendered and stopped trying to sing to him. Later when I had my second child, I tried again, with similar disappointing results. Sheesh. Even today it is a joke in our family. If I start singing my favorite Broadway tune, "I am I Don Quixote, the Lord of La Mancha" at the top of my lungs, the whole family gangs up on me trying in to make me stop. Spoil sports!!!

There were other dashed dreams as well. For example, my dream to teach them to speak Spanish, which I had the wonderful opportunity to learn and wanted to pass on is still unrealized. Another disappointment came when I signed a couple of the older kids up for a program called Destination Imagination. I thought they would love and it would be a terrific experience for them. When they both informed me that they were "bored" and wanted to drop out, I was dismayed. Not only because I thought it was such a great opportunity, but it is a team effort and I didn't want them to let down their team. I didn't think boredom was a reasonable excuse to quit either. I did the best "Mom Guilt Trip" I could muster, I even sic'd their dad on them, but to no avail. In the end, they still wanted to quit, and realizing that if their heart wasn't in it, they would not be able to give their best effort to the team, I gave them permission to quit. Their team did fine without them winning their State competition and going to the National competition. I'm thrilled for the team, but still bummed that my kids didn't 'share the dream'.

I realize these are minor things, but having experienced them, I dread the day when they all start dating, and, heaven forbid, get married. Will I be disappointed again when they choose a spouse who is different than I would have chosen? And what about school? I always wanted to go to college. I planned for college. I had the grades, but not the money. Naturally, I want my children to go to college, but will they? So many other dreams, waiting to be fulfilled or deflated.

I have to say though, even though some of my dreams for my children have been unrealized, they have also surprised and pleased me in so many other ways. As they grow and develop, their talents are becoming evident, certain personality traits are beginning to emerge. Sometimes it feels like parenting is a kaleidoscope. As you hold it to the light and twist it amazing patterns emerge. You can't control the patterns, but each one is beautiful and leaves you wanting more.

I like to think of my dreams for my children now, not so much in details as in "they will do this" or "they will do that", but that each child is a kaleidoscope of possibilities, and my part is to show them the light and love them then to enjoy the beautiful patterns as they emerge.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ashes of Abuse: On the Bookshelf

I have loved reading for as long as I can remember.  I read for fun, of course, but I have also always read when I wanted to learn something.  As a kid when I wanted to know about "the birds and the bees", I was too embarrassed to ask my parents we didn't talk about that sort of thing and I guessed my friends didn't really know much more about it than I did...I found a medical book and read about it...complete with illustrations!  When I wanted to learn to knit...I got a book.  When I started having serious health issues (all of them are much better right now), I turned to the Internet and read about it.  So, naturally, with this new challenge in my life, I have a million questions so I turned to my old standby....reading.  Of course, reading does not and should not replace therapy but while it is not the "main course" for my healing, it is a good "side dish".

The Body Remembers by Babette Rothschild

When I first started therapy it was for anxiety.  One day I was telling my therapist about the anxiety that I get at the dentist and that I had figured out that it was not the needles or the drill, but the CHAIR.  I hate the chair.  It makes me feel very vunerable, and that is an uncomfortable feeling.  I told him I feel the same way about his couch.  "My couch?" he asked confused.  Well, yeah, in the movies people always lie down on their therapist's couch.  That made him laugh and he promised he would never ask me to do that.  Then he added, "Don't do it, but in your mind's eye imagine you are lying on the couch and pay attention to how your body feels."  I did and instant anxiety...shortness of breath, dizziness etc.  Wow!  Anxiety on cue.  I was amazed by that but my therapist wasn't.  He simply said, "Your body knows why you are uncomfortable with the couch."  I was astonished by this.  How could my body know something my mind didn't.  I pondered this a lot and later at home I asked myself how this could be. 

Then one night in one of those moments between being awake and asleep a voice in my mind said, "if you really want to know, imagine yourself as a child lying on the couch."  I did and OH! My first flashback!  I won't give you the details.  It was awful.  It felt as if I was there with all the physical feelings and emotions (read: fear) of that moment.  I wanted to know more about how "body memories" work so I started googling and came across this book.

Though it is scientific, I also found it to be quite readable for a "lay person" like myself. She explains body memories, PTSD, somatic pain and other related issues. Highly Recommended.

The Stranger in the Mirror by Marlene Steinberg

I'll never forget the day my therapist started asking me some questions that I could tell were intended to see if I have Dissociative Identity Disorder (previously called Multiple Personality Disorder.)  This disorder is more common than I thought affecting approx. 10,000 people in the US.  As I understand it, it is generally not as "sensational" as what Sybil experienced.  After all the whole "system" works to hide the memories of the abuse from the person themself and the multiplicity from the public.  More about this in another review.

Anyway, I didn't think that I had DID, and my therapist later told me that he doesn't think I have DID either, but I do "dissociate".  Of course, I was then driven to learn everything I could about dissociation.  That is how I found this book.  It was an answer to prayer and answered my questions very well!

She explains clearly what dissociation is, the different ways it affects us and because we all dissociate to some degree, what is mild, moderate, or severe dissociation. It is scientific, but readable for us "lay people".  Highly recommended!

Courage to Heal by Ellen Bass and Laura Davis

When I first realized what my 'real' issue was, not anxiety but childhood sexual abuse, I had a million questions surrounding "what will healing be like and how long will this take?"  This book has been a wonderful resource for giving me an idea what to expect, and comforting me that what I am feeling is normal.  Though I am a huge fan of the library (my bookshelves are already overflowing with beloved books..it's nice to have the library 'store' books for me!), this is one I will need to purchase.  It is not something you just sit down and read through but rather a book that you read in parts, and refer back to it as a resource in healing at different times and different stops on the journey.  Highly recommended

A Fractured Mind: My Life with Multiple Personality Disorder by Robert Oxnam

Though I do not have DID, I now find myself with a fascination with this topic.  As I mentioned before, not all DID cases are as 'sensationalized' as the story of Sybil.  When I saw this book about Robert Oxnam who was an international authority on China, I had to read it!  After all, how does one become so highly educated and appear so "normal" with this disorder.  I had to know.  The book, a courageous offering on the part of Mr. Oxnam, was fascinating, enlightening and touching.  At the end, I wanted to meet this amazing man and give him a hug!  Hearing his story, and vicariously sharing in his healing, gave me hope that my symptoms of dissociation, which are not as severe, can be healed as well.  Highly recommended, thank you for having the courage to share Mr. Oxnam!

I should have named this post "On the Bookshelf and the Favorites List" but that title would be too long!

I like blogs (obviously since I write one). So recently I got an idea to look for blogs written by others who are dealing with the challenges I am (both to hear their stories, and to find people who might be interested in what I am writing.) And wowzer, you can find most anything you want on the internet! I found the perfect thing...a blog carnival!

A blog carnival, in case you are not familiar with the term, is basically a blog post that listed a bunch of other blogs they think their readers might be interested in. This particular blog carnival is published by various volunteers, once a month. They have been doing it for four years. All you have to do to join the carnival is write them and ask to be included, so you will see that I have an entry there too. I found a few new "favorite" blogs there.  Check it out!


What's on your healing bookshelf?

Update on Mt. St. Helens adventure

For those of my readers who read my blog on Google Reader,  or Facebook, I wanted to let you know that I updated the post to include a couple pictures!  I think you have to go to the site to see them.  :)

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Difference Between Mothers and Fathers

Mothers and Fathers are different.

Ok, so, no I didn't expect you to be surprised by that statement, but call me naive, sometimes it still catches me by surprise.  I'd like to share my most recent example of this.

My older boys were invited to hike Mt. St. Helen's with some friends (and yes with a responsible adult...I'm not totally insane, just partially so.)  My older son had done it before with his Boy Scout troop, so having that experience under our belt, so to speak, I was a little less nervous this time around.

I have make a little side bar here and tell you about our family history with Mt. St. Helens.  This will date me a bit, but so be it (though in my own defense I must say that my husband is older than I am.  He keeps getting older each year, while I manage to stay young.  I have no explanation for this.)  So years ago, PM (pre-marraige) my hubby and his best buddy went hiking on Mt. St. Helens. At the time, scientists were concerned about some volcanic activity and were watching it closely, but people were still allowed to go up to a certain height. Visitors were NOT, however, allowed to go above "the red zone." 

Now, when my husband and his buddy went up the mountain, they were not accompanied by an adult (because at 20 yr. they were adults, if you use the term loosely) and they were not detered by "the red zone".  Up and up they climbed, painstakingly collecting the little bits of ash they could find on the tree leaves. 

You know where I am going with this,don't you? It started getting late and they started pondering what to do.  Should they camp and hike down in the morning, or head down now.  The friend was in favor of staying overnight.  Why not, since they were there?   But fortunately, fate intervened.  This was on a Saturday.  "We can get up early in the morning and hike down and go to church," the friend said.

"No. I know us, we'll sleep in and miss church if we do that.  We better go home tonight." My future husband said.  So they hiked down and went home.  You know the rest of the story.  Sunday morning 57 people died when Mt. St. Helen's erupted. It was nearly 59. Hubby spent the next few days at his gas station job sweeping up garbage bags full of ash. 

Now back to the present...My son's and I had a little misunderstanding about what time they would be home.  I thought they would be home by 6 pm, or call...because, you know, I'm reasonable and sometimes it is hard to judge how long a hike will take.  At 6:20 pm when I hadn't heard from them I started making some calls myself.  After trying to call the boys, I called the father of one of the other boys.  He explained that there was no way they could have been home by 6 pm because it takes 6 or so hours to climb up, a couple more hours down and it's a three hour drive home.  He assured me that everything was fine.  But then he added that he hadn't heard from them either. They were supposed to call when they got to the top.  Great.

I took a deep breath, chalked it up to bad cell service and went about my day...not worrying.  Well, ok, worrying, but not panicking.  A little later when I talked to my husband, he also reassured me that things were fine.  After all, "what could happen?" he asked.  I was almost too astonished by this question to answer.  They could fall off the mountain, of course!  Or any number of other horrible things.  We, mother's, are really good at "worst case scenarios".  He just laughed at my paranoia, and I decided I was over-reacting.  Surely everything was fine.

The group did return home safely, but what a story they had to tell. My two sons related it to my husband and I the following morning after their return. (My thoughts interjected into their narrative will be in italics.)

It seems that there was more snow on the mountain than they had anticipated and they were not adequately prepared. We're all heard this story before haven't we?  On the 10 o'clock news!  Nevertheless, they climbed to the top and were, as expected, very pleased with themselves. 

The rest of the story is a little difficult for me to piece together.  If you have ever talked to two animated teenagers at once, you will know what I mean.  First there was an issue about one of them gettting so cold he could barely walk -mom alert flashes in my mind--warning! warning! frostbite? hypothermia?  They  said had to split up because the boy that could barely walk was going very slowly and one of my son's was also freezing and didn't want to end up the same. So he and a buddy went ahead.  My other son, the Ice Prince, who is has this amazing gift of being nearly immune to feeling cold, stayed with the near hypothermic (my imagination? or fact? you decide) boy.  They didn't mention where their adult counterpart was, I assume because adults are boring, you know. 

When the group reunited, they worked together to warm him up.  I wondered what this meant and asked if they had given him a "group hug".  I thought I was being funny, but the Ice Prince said, "yeah, pretty much."  My other son, WindTalker, a name he recieved as a toddler for trying to command the wind to stop.  He is still bossy.. said he put the Popsicle boy's bare foot on his stomach, but (he laughed as he related the next part) because the foot was too big to rewarm all at once, he could only warm "half" it at a time, first the toes, later the heel.

At this point in the narrataion, I looked at my husband in disbelief and said, "What could happen? What could happen?"  My voice rising a little in fear of what could have happened, and yet laughing because after all, everyone was home safe.  My husband just gave me a sheepish grin.

Then the parties started out again.  This next part I don't completely understand, but then who can understand the minds of teenage boys?  They came to a slope and decided they wanted to descend the mountain a little more quickly. The Ice Prince decided he would like to slide down on his stomach.

WHAT? I stopped him to ask.  "Did you think you were Frosty the Snowman or something?"

He said, "No more like a penguin."  O..k....

So he got into position and started the slide.  He quickly picked up more speed than he was comfortable with so he put his elbows down to slow the descent, but it didn't work.  Then he tried his feet with the same non-effect.  Next he put his hands out in front of him, that is until the thought came to him that perhaps at the speed he was going if he hit a tree he could break a wrist and pulled them back in.

Mom alert is flashing in my mind again.  Your wrists?  You are only worried about your wrists?  What about your head, your ribs, your spine, your legs.  I should interject here, I took an EMT class with a bunch of ski patrol people, years ago.  On our breaks they would take turns sharing gruesome stories of things they had seen on the slopes.  I had never been skiing before, and thanks to those stories, I never will.  He did have a spectacular crash, but amazingly walked away unharmed.

At this point of the narration, I gave my husband the "raised eyebrows, wide-eyed, you see what could happen???" Look, and again he smiled sheepishly.

Popsicle Boy had gone down at the same time as my son and also crashed spectacularly.  So when they looked back  and saw that WindTalker and his companion were at the same point, they tried to warn them NOT to follow their example.  Unfortunately, with the wind and distance, "No, don't go," became "go," pause, "go".  So they did.

Except for Ice Prince, all boys slid down on their feet.  Like skiing, without the skiiis???  Is this just my mom imagination, or would you agree that this is infinately more dangerous than regular skiing?  No skiis + no poles = no control.  Apparently WindTalker, and Popsicle Boy also had "rough landings", but walked away on harmed as well.

Again...I extended The Look.

The fourth boy, who needs a name, we'll call him Olympian, you'll see why in a second, also went down on his feet.  At some point, he lost his balance and slid on his posterior.  From this "seated" position, he flew over a hill that served as a sort of jump and miraculously landed on his feet!  He was the only one of the four that was able to stop without crashing.

And...again...the Look which was answered by the Sheepish Grin.

The rest was fairly uneventful, as hikes go apparently.  Ice Prince, and Popsicle Boy, have sunburns on their faces.  "Why didn't you use the sunscreen I sent with you?"  I felt compelled to distance myself from this insanity, but showing that I, SuperMom, had tried to prepare them. 

"I did use the sunscreen."  Huh?  "I just forgot to put it on my face."

Oi ve! Son, you are never leaving the house again!  I give my husband The Look again, and this time he just starts laughing.  Do you know why he was laughing?  I bet the dads reading this do.  I'll explain it for everyone else. 

He was laughing because none of this surprised him!!!  Yep, you read that right.  He didn't know the details, of course, but it did not surprise him that there was "an adventure".  He did all kinds of crazy things like this when he was younger.  And naturally, he assumes that because he did it and came through it fine, the boys will too. 

And that, my friends, is the difference between mothers and fathers.

I just gave him The Look one more time and took my daughter to the store.  I had to put some distance between me and the insanity.

This story would not be complete though, without this final twist.  Are you wondering about the adult who accompanied the boys?

It was Popsicle Boy's Mom, who I am proud to say was one of the first two to reach the top.  Although, given the difference I just explained between mother's and father's...why she went and how she survived this day is a mystery to me.  But the point is, they all survived.  She needs a name...we shall call her Crazy-Woman.  I love ya, Crazy Woman!  Thanks for taking my boys on a memorable adventure...I think.

Update...photos, used by permission!  When I asked Crazy Woman if I could post a couple of these on my blog she said, "Sure we are proud of our near death experience."  LOL!

Here is a before picture...from left to right: Crazy Woman, Popsicle Boy, The Olympian, WindTalker, and Ice Prince

Friday, June 18, 2010


I have been journaling a lot in the last couple days.

---But Leslie, we haven't seen any new blog posts.

I know, but in my world blogging is what I do for other people, writing that I share.  Journaling is personal.  Those thoughts and feelings that I want to record but perhaps will never share.  I have come to think of my journaling as snapshots of my mind and moods.  Have you ever thought about journaling that way?  Writing it down takes a moment, an hour, a day (you get to chose) of your life and preserves it for you. 

Some moments simply call out for this type of preservation...important days in your life, your wedding, your children's births and so forth.  Some moments beg to be recorded because though they are important to you in the moment, they will fade with time like those funny things your children say, or those funny things that come to your mind that you don't say...  Some moments are just too painful to be shared with other people, but paper and pen can be good companions.

I have other mental snapshots, pictures, sensations, moods that I want to hold on to.  I wonder if writing them down would help?  For example, the simple joy of holding the hand of a small child.  My youngest, Peter, is very strong-willed.  If I dare think to simply take hold of his hand, he will resist me.  However, if I ask, "Peter, may I hold your hand?"  He almost always acquiesses.  He just likes to be asked I suppose, but ah, those moments walking with his little hand in mine...priceless. 

I would keep a mental snapshot of cotton, from the cottonwood trees floating through the air.  How I love seeing that.  One day, I had the windows down and as I stopped for a stop sign a piece of cotton floated in the passenger window and landed on my pant leg.  I marveled at it for a moment, I could have sworn for that moment it was fairy magic or something just as lovely that brought it to me.  Then I started driving again, and it floated away out the other window.  Then I was certain it was carried on fairy dust.

I would save a snapshot of the sound of children's laughter.  And another of the way the dawn breaks on a new day...not just the sunrise, but the dawn, the light that increases and overcomes the dark.

Then I would take these snapshots and send them to myself like postcards, on gloomy days to remind myself that like the dawn, light always follows the darkness.

For now, I'll content myself with writing about snapshots and see what that brings.  What snapshots will you capture today?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ashes of Abuse: The White Dress

In a previous post, Ashes of Abuse: Guilt, I explained how children who are abused often blame themselves, and how as an adult survivor they can continue to feel guilty.   Recently, I was venting to some fellow survivors, on a message board, about this guilt that I still feel and how it is affecting my life.  It is changing me in ways that I do not like.  For example, I used to enjoy speaking, teaching, and praying in church, but now I am very uncomfortable with all of those things because of the guilt I feel.  My friend, Michelle, wrote a reply that really touched me.  I can't say that this has fully convinced me that the abuse was not my fault, but this parable did reach me on a level that nothing else has so far.  With her permission, I would like to share it with you.  The name is mine, the rest is from her.  Thanks again, Michelle.

The White Dress by Michelle

Somehow, dear, dear girl you are going to have to believe Christ when He says that He has suffered for all sins and that you can be redeemed from them.

Let's just say, for a second, that your daughter came home from a birthday party where she had worn a beautiful, new, expensive, white dress. The location of the party has a pond and while there she went down to look at the ducks and someone pushed her down and got mud all over her dress. She cried, she was distraught and no matter what she tried she couldn't get the mud off of her dress. She came home, she didn't want to come in to the house because the dress was so dirty and she didn't even do it! It was 100%  NOT her fault but, she can't get over it. She goes over and over what happened and she just can't forgive herself for something she did not do but feels responsible for anyway.

What do you, as her Mother, who loves her more than life, do? Do you tell her she's right, she isn't worthy to come into the house and what was she thinking and you are going to make her pay time and again and never let her forget what she did? Even thought SHE didn't do anything wrong?

Or, do you insist that she is worthy to come into your home, do you tell her that she is loved, that she is forgiven because there is nothing really to forgive? Do you help her understand that because of your experience in stain removal that , although she couldn't get the stain out you can?You know about bleach and hot water and all the other things that will make her dress clean again.

Well, Leslie ,sweetheart, YOU are that little girl and you do NOT have to get the stains out by yourself. YOU didn't make them and Christ knows how to get them out. Heavenly Father wants you in His house as much as you want your daughter in yours. He loves you. You have to tell Him you don't know how to get the stains out and would he PLEASE help?

Don't be afraid my friend. Father can take the pictures out of your head and the deadness out of your heart. I'm here to tell you as someone who KNOWS.

Be patient. Breathe. Pray always.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ashes of Abuse: Cat and Mouse

Recently while pondering a new post on abuse, the image of a cat bringing his owner a dead mouse came to my mind. It was rather amusing to me at the time, but I have come to realize that there is a lot of truth to it. When I was young, I had a cat. Sometimes she would bring us “presents”. At least I think she thought they were presents. These “gifts” consisted of dead birds and more frequently dead mice. We were less than joyful to receive them. It’s not that we didn’t know that our cat killed mice. We knew there were mice, and we were glad she killed them. That is one of the advantages to owning a cat, after all. The thing is, we didn’t want to see the mice or even think about them being there. We just wanted the cat to take care of them, behind the scenes, you know.

I believe it is the same with abuse. We all know it happens, but we would rather not think about it. That is understandable, of course. It is a painful subject so why dwell upon it? The thing is when you are the person who was abused; you don’t want to think about it either. Some people are even able to repress the memory and not to think about it for a long time, years, even decades. Unfortunately, ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Eventually, there comes a time when your body and mind refuse to keep the secret any more. And so it begins.

How do you face an enemy that is inside of you? You can’t run from your own memories. You can try, and most people do try, but the memories are inside of you. There is no where you can go to get away from them. It is a lonely battle, because no one can face the inner dragon for you. It is a lonely battle because few people understand. If you were facing a medical demon, there would be much support. People would ask you how you are and ask what they can do to help. But how do you begin to explain this kind of a battle? And if you do, how do people respond? With confusion mostly, it seems. Some wonder why you aren’t “over it” since it happened a long time ago. Some want to help, but don’t know what to say or do. Some don’t believe you. Too often, because they are confused and don’t know what to say, they do nothing. They don’t ask how you are or offer service. They just leave you alone…to face the dragon. If you fall in the battle, how will they know? If you are victorious, who will cheer you? Who will appreciate the victory? When the abuse occurred, the child had to endure it alone. Now the adult must deal with the pain, alone.

So like a cat with an unusual gift, I keep bringing you: The Ashes of Abuse, because our friends and loved ones need to not be alone any more. But there is another reason that I write about abuse and it’s after effects. . .


I am a survivor too…

Because I hurt,

. . .and if I fall in this battle, or if I win…

I want someone to know.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Time like sand
 slips through my fingers


   Death with an icy touch
knocks it from my hand.

Note to my wonderful readers, my health is fine, better than it has been in a long time, in fact.  This poem was simply a result of my reflections on the many things I would like to accomplish in my lifetime and how little time there really is to do them.

My Wish For You: Laughter (reposted)

Last week someone told me that my "wonderful sense of humor is like a parachute".  I love that...a parachute can soften the landing, by slowing the fall...  Everyone should have a parachute handy; life is hard work. This is from a year ago, I hope you like it.  Leslie

My Wish For You: Laughter

Today I was listening to my favorite sound, that of my children laughing. They were laughing at their dad because he had done something goofy. Laughter is so important for children, for families.... for everyone, I thought. My husband and I have always said, as long as we have our sense of humor we will be OK.

Which made me wonder, what is it that is so appealing, so healing, so simply wonderful about laughter?

I started to analyze it.

You can't laugh with someone you are angry with. Try to picture that for a moment. Think of the last time you were angry with someone. If they had told you a joke, no matter how funny, you would not have laughed. So laughter signifies good feelings between people. After the apologies are said, laughter can help the mending begin, but it won't be there until some good feeling returns. That explains in part why there is so little of laughter in prison. Oh there is some laughter there, but it is usually the coarse type. An impostor, hopelessly trying to make up for the lack of the real thing. Shudder...anger is cold and dark. Laughter is not only happy it is warmth and love.

How about the last time you were sad, really sad. Could laughter reach you there? Sometimes at funerals people laugh. "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion," (Steel Magnolias). Even in the darkest of times, laughter has a way of reaching deep down and beginning the healing.

Great friendships can begin with laughter. If I can laugh with someone, I know that is a spark for a potential friendship. In fact, if someone makes me laugh, that is enough to make me want to be their friend.

Remember when you were a kid and you laughed so hard you peed your pants. C'mon admit it, you know you've done it! You're smiling now aren't you? Let's just hope the last time that happened to you was a long, long time ago.

Imagine the laughter that comes from being exhausted. You know what I am talking about. Those times you laughed until you cried about something that was not really that funny, just because you were tired. But oh how good that laughter felt. One of those times for me was when I was in the hospital, after having a baby. My sweet husband brought me flowers. Not cut flowers, but the kind you plant. I took one look at them...pretty but slightly wilted and burst out laughing. I laughed so hard I cried, and the nurse looked at me like she wondered if they had given me too much pain medication. I laughed because I know my husband so well, and I knew he had rescued those flowers from a dumpster somewhere. (Greenhouses can only sell perfect looking plants, and many less-than-perfect but nice plants get thrown away.) Of course, it only made me laugh harder when he feigned innocence to the bewildered nurse. "He brought me Dumpster Flowers" kept running through my mind and I laughed until I couldn't catch my breath. Even today, he pretends not to know what was so funny about that. And I, of course, still laugh. I don't even have to be tired.

Have you ever laughed even when it hurt? I'm not talking about those aching cheek muscles, though I love that one too. I had a c-section with one of my little blessings. My husband took me on my obligatory walk around the hospital floor, and kept making me laugh though I begged him not to. Ow, ow, ow, torture!

Laughter can chase away fear. It can't necessarily keep it away. I think of laughter in this sense more like a yippy lap dog, barking with all it's might than a german shepherd. But it can give you some respite from the fear. That reminds me of the time my husband started comparing my various health issues to what would be the equivalent in a car. At the end of it he concluded with mock sincerity that if I were a car, we would sell me to the junk yard and get something else. Wicked, wicked man! How I love him.

Sometimes we look to laughter simply for entertainment. The best movies, TV shows, books, and even music make us laugh. We must not forget blogs. My favorite blogs are those that intermingle funny posts with serious thought provoking ones.

As I think back over my life and all the tender memories, laughter is often there. It's not in the family photos, but it's there.. Sometimes it is the photographer, sometimes the frame. Yes, maybe that is it. Laughter is the frame that holds our lives together.

I wish you...laughter.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ashes of Abuse: Betrayal of the Mind

What is your greatest fear?

If you had been abused as a child perhaps one of your greatest fears would be to be out of control. After all, as a child you were out of control, and look what happened. Now as an adult you have the desire to never let that happen again. One day you realize that you actually control nothing; including, the one place that you had thought was yours alone: your mind. With that realization, a hellish abyss opens up in your mind.

Children who are abused will often dissociate in order to cope with the pain. You could think of dissociation as a sort of mental vacation. We all dissociate to some degree. For example, who hasn’t had the experience of being in a class and being called on by the teacher, only to realize to your chagrin that you have been daydreaming and have no idea what the answer is to the question that was asked. To be truthful, you don’t even know what the question was, simply that the teacher called your name and now everyone is staring at you expectantly. This is an example of dissociation. Children are able to dissociate better than adults can, and sometimes if the abuse is severe or chronic, dissociation maybe the only thing they can do.

Dissociation occurs on a wide spectrum of severity. It includes much more than daydreaming and for adults it is not a conscious choice. For them it is more like the equivalent of a nightmare or shall we say “day-mare”. To better understand what this is like, imagine yourself sitting in meeting at work and then something is said that triggers you and the slide begins. You can hear someone speaking, but you can’t understand the words. You are overwhelmed by long ignored emotions that rise up and engulf you the way flames rise up and surround a log in the fireplace. Pain, anger and fear battle for your attention. Suddenly you feel that you are on the verge of crying, not a silent tear slipping down your cheek, but sobbing. You begin to wonder if you can get out of the room quickly without making a scene. It does not occur to you that you could simply walk out as if you were going to the bathroom. You feel as if any movement on your part will call the attention of the entire room so you try to act normal. You lower your head and pretend to be taking notes.You concentrate very hard; as you try to keep the fire inside from consuming you, but the smoke and flames are spreading. You struggle to stay in the moment, important imformation is being covered. You try to focus on the voice of the person speaking. And then, at last, the flames begins to die back. Your mind begins to clear, other people’s words come back into focus. You are emotionally exhausted, but you are back. With a sense of dread you wonder if it is really gone, and like the smell of smoke; fear lingers.

This is one example of how dissociation could happen. Another term for this sort of experience is depersonalization. Different people experience depersonalization in different ways. Some report feeling as if they are outside of their body watching themselves. Looking in the mirror and not feeling that the image you see there is you, is also common. Sometimes dissociation takes the form of amnesia. People have experienced dissociative amnesia for important events such as weddings or holidays, or for long periods, even years of their lives.

Dissociation, depersonalization and PTSD are all forms of what I think of as ‘betrayal of the mind’. There is another one: flashbacks. Have you ever had a bad dream that lingered into your day? Throughout the day, you are occasionally reminded of the awful feelings of that dream and you feel them again as if you were still in the dream? Flashbacks are like that. You remember something, some unspeakable memory from the closet of horrors. At first you are surprised; it is like seeing someone you haven’t seen in years. You think, “I remember…”. Then with a sinking feeling, you remember. It is like the nightmare, you feel emotionally as if you were there again, as if the horrible thing happened earlier today. You try to forget about it, but throughout the day like a mental hiccup it returns to you, all the attached emotions wafting over you like smoke.

Then one day it occurs to you, that with all these things: dissociation, depersonalization, PTSD, nightmares, flashbacks…you are not in control at all. Calmly you try and explain this horror to a friend. As you speak, there are no tears. There is no anxiety. How could you speak so calmly? It is possible because of dissociation. Sometimes dissociation works like an emotional circuit breaker, when the circuit becomes overloaded with emotion, then it switches off. The pain subsides. Unfortunately, the pain has not really gone away, it is only deadened for a time, and with it all other emotions fear, anger, happiness, joy are deadened as well. All is still. You sit calmly; or go about the tasks of the day, the numbness a temporary blindfold as you walk the plank towards the hellish abyss. .

What to do:

If you are the person who was abused, I firmly believe there is hope. Healing is possible. Sadly though, you must move forward. The memories and emotions have to be worked through.  They will continue to haunt you if you attempt to ignore them. Get professional help/therapy. If you had cancer, you would seek medical assistance, is this any less than emotional cancer? Also, lean on the support of people who love you. There are people that care about you. They don’t always say or do the right things because they don’t understand, but they love you and they try. Be patient with them and most of all be patient with yourself.

If you love someone who was abused, think of this journey like childbirth. You can give the laborer your love and support, but you can’t take the pain away. There are no epidurals for emotional pain. Your love, support, friendship will mean more than you know. Most of all your loved one needs to know you are there and that you care. Even a simple, “how are you?” can mean a lot, if it is a sincere question and not a casual greeting. I remember when I was in labor, every time I would come to a point where I was certain I could not finish. Every time my husband would encourage me, “yes, you can.” I didn’t believe him. Your friend may not believe you when you tell her (or him) they can get through this, but keep encouraging them.  Healing is possible, but it takes time.