Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review: A Girl’s Gotta Do What A Girl’s Gotta Do

A Girl’s Gotta Do What A Girl’s Gotta Do by Kathleen Baty  (a book review of sorts)

I recently checked out a book about safety, self-defense etc.  for my daughter.  Well possibly for her, I wanted to look it over first.  I didn’t tell her.  I just brought it home.  I read part of it and found it very interesting, then I left it on the shelf to come back to later.

The following day, my daughter said, “I found the book you got for me."

“Huh?  How did you know that was for you?”

She rolled her eyes.  “It was obvious.”

“So do you like it?”

“Yeah, it’s great.  I  read the first chapter about how to be safe in hotels, and then I started thinking, ‘this probably isn’t the best thing to read before going to bed.  I might have nightmares.’  So I skipped to the back of the book and read the part about self-defense so that if I did have a nightmare I could defend myself.” 

So funny and yet so practical.
I want to share the book with you as well.  It is written for teenage and college age girls.  The style is fun and engaging as my daughter has illustrated.  Did I mention she took it to her room and I haven’t seen it since? 
The point of the book is not to scare young women, but to help them be more savy, aware, and safe.  Isn’t that what we all want for our daughters. 

My daughter is 13 (going on 18, I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean she is mature for her age. Still…) I wondered if she was old enough for this book yet.  I didn’t want to scare her, or introduce her to subjects like “date rape” too early.  Perhaps you have the same concerns, but unfortunately we can’t shelter our children as much as we would like to.  For example, tonight she said to me, “You know the story about the bath salts?”
I thought, “You mean the story I have intentionally avoided because I know it has something to do with cannibalism any kind of violence is pretty triggering for me right now.  The same story that I would never have wanted YOU to read or be aware of?”    But she did know about it.  I just nodded.

She went on, “Well they’re saying now it wasn’t bath salts, but marijuana.”  Clearly she had read the news articles and knew more about it than I did.  Thanks news media for telling my daughter about someone eating another human’s face.  Really appreciate that. 
So we can’t shelter them…

I also tried to rationalize (as you might) that she doesn’t need this book (or this sort of info) because she will date young men who have our same religious values.  Surely that makes them safe, right?  Wrong.
I have to share a story from my job.  I work in a residential treatment center for teenage sex offenders.

SIDEBAR:  An odd occupation for a survivor of childhood sexual abuse like myself.  I feel I should explain that I work graveyard.  While I am proud of the work that my co-workers do, I am not involved in it.  I don’t do groups with the boys, or treatment or anything of that nature.  I would not have lasted in this job if I did. . .
One morning as the boys were getting ready for school, one of them told me how he had gone on pass, the day before.  He went to church and met a girl.  They hit it off, and she asked for his phone number.  He laughed as he told me, “I didn’t know what to say.  I couldn’t give her the number here.”  The residents  do not have cell phones. 

He continued, “So I asked her for her number instead.”
He was quite pleased with himself, and reminded me of any other teenage boy I have known talking about girls…with one big difference.  He is a registered sex offender. Later I thought about this conversation and wondered if this girl’s parents had any idea WHOM she was talking to at church.

Now, we can give this young man the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps he was rehabilitated in our facility (that is the goal after all) and will go forth in the world and “sin no more.”   The point remains though, that just because you meet someone at church doesn’t mean they are safe.
So yes, I decided I want my daughter to read this book.  I want her to be savy, aware and safe.

Now, can I get some volunteers for us to practice our self-defense moves?  Anyone?  Anyone?

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Hardest Easy Advice Ever

Wonderful friends, I'm sorry it has been awhile since my last post.  A couple people have asked me about this recently, and that felt really good.  You miss me?  Ahhh....  I will follow up with a post about how I am doing soon.  But for now. . .

Advice is one of my least favorite words, but here I am giving it.  And unsolicited no less...what next?  Should I go kick the dog, step on a crack and who knows, I'll just go wild.  But seriously, I think this post a reasonable exception. 

A friend told me once, “Leslie, people don’t know what to say to you because they are afraid they will say the wrong thing.”  

We have all been in that position, I think.  Someone we care about is hurting because of death of a loved one, or illness, or other issues.  Unfortunately, there is some reality to the fear of saying the wrong thing.  We do it all the time.  Imagine for a moment that last time that you went to a funeral.  This is a classic time when well-meaning people say all the wrong things.
What is said. . .What is heard
He’s in a better place.  . .So be happy for him and stop crying.
God must have needed him more. . . So be brave and stop crying
Do you see what I mean?  In trying to be helpful, we may unintentionally negate a person’s right to mourn.  It is natural to mourn a loved one when they die, so why does our culture seem inclined to rush people through the process?
In my situation, people often don’t say anything at all.  I am left to wonder what they are thinking, and the solution that I fill in can be painful.

The Hardest Easy Advice Ever

So enough preamble, are you ready for the Hardest Easy Advice Ever?  The solution for what to say when you want to help, but are fumbling for the right words is: don’t talk just listen.
 I’m serious. As in my funeral analogy, we try to give comfort but that makes the person feel pressured to stop mourning.  We try to give advice when we don’t even understand the problem.   You really can’t go wrong with saying, “Would you like to talk about it?” 
I call this the  Hardest Easy Advice Ever because I think the need to “do something” is strong in each of us and “just listening” doesn’t feel like enough.  But please believe me, listening and validation are my two favorite words.
Sometimes people don’t want to talk about it, in that case, don’t push.  Just let them know you are there.  There are so many little ways you can let someone know that you care.  For me a sincere “how are you?” goes a long way.  I have a co-worker that found out I am dealing with past trauma.  Now every time (seriously every time) I see him, he stops for a moment and says, “How are you?” in a way that cannot be interpreted as anything but sincere.  Sometimes I say, “Really hard day, thanks for asking.” 
Then he says, “is there anything I can do?”
I tell him no and reassure him that the simple act of asking means the world to me.
I have another friend that I e-mail when I need a boost.  Of course, it is difficult to “just listen” in email, but what he does (that I love) is give me encouragement.  His emails always have a tone of “I know you can do this, Leslie.”  No advice, just friendship, trust and validation.  (Remember validation is my other favorite word.)
The most painful things in our life take time to recover from, during that time you can let the person you care about know you are still there if they do want to talk by: giving a hug, sending a quick email, a phone call or text to say “I was thinking of you”, flowers, or cookies.    I used to work for a hotel whose theme was “Little things mean a lot.”  There is a lot of wisdom there.
So now it’s your turn.  Don’t let anyone in your life feel Invisible just because you don’t know what to say.  (Don’t assume someone else will be there…that’s a whole other post!). 
I believe in you.