I remember sitting in a room during a break out session about sexual abuse in college and watching the majority of women in the room raise their hands and admit to having been assaulted, abused or raped at one time in their lives.
I remember my friend telling me she had been raped on two entirely different occasions.
I remember a few friend’s telling me they had been raped. Or, as they put it, having sex even though they said no. But maybe he didn’t hear them. Maybe it was their fault for being so drunk. Maybe they shouldn’t have gone to that party anyway.
I remember my friends not telling me what had happened to them but still unraveling and struggling internally and working through what they could at weekly therapy sessions.
I remember my college friends setting up an “underground railroad” of sorts for a fellow classmate trying to escape her abusive husband.
I remember slipping what money I could to another friend who was trying to leave her abusive partner with children in tow, unsure of where to go or how to start over.
I remember assuming that abuse and violence just kind of eventually happens to everyone. And I wondered when it would be my turn.
Maggie Dammit, a fantastic writer and blogger, started a site a year ago today called Violence Unsilenced. And I am just one of many bloggers giving her and her site a shout out today.
Violence Unsilenced gives women (and men) a place to go and tell their story. It teaches, shares, connects and empowers each of its writers and readers. If you want to tell your story, read about those with stories similar to yours or support those who have experienced some level of violence in their lives, please visit and continue to support Violence Unsilenced.
Please watch this amazing video created by Maggie in honor of this site’s one year anniversary.
Hello, blog readers! I am Caroline’s sister-in-law Elaine, older sister of her hubby and provider of nieces. As you have doubtless read in the post below, it’s been a rough few weeks for Caroline following the unexpected loss of her mother, and I know that many of you have been wondering how best to give her your love and support.
Over the years, Caroline has become a big part of a close-knit and supportive online community, sharing her love, wisdom, and resources so freely with so many friends who she may have never met in person. She has shown a generosity of spirit that comes as no surprise to those of us who are lucky enough to know her in “real” life.
Caroline was raised in a home that valued community service as a way of life. Indeed, much of her childhood was spent in varied parts of the world as both of her parents followed careers in diplomacy and relief work. Her mom, Gail, was dedicated to fighting poverty around the globe, and was passionate in her desire to learn about and experience other cultures. She was also a Breast Cancer Survivor, and instilled in her children a great deal of awareness and concern about women’s health.
For this reason, the family has asked that any memorial tributes take the form of donations to the Gail R. Carlson Memorial Fund. And, as always, your loving thoughts and prayers for the whole family are humbly accepted with gratitude.
Last week, Obama gave a speech every American should read or listen to from beginning to end. While addressing an audience at the University of Cairo, our country’s President spoke frankly to the entire post 9/11 world about the damage discrimination and fear has caused and the harmful affect it has had on growth and advancement in many countries – ours included. While some have criticized his decision to reach out diplomatically rather than continue with aggressive scare tactics, President Obama‘s speech was the first step towards accomplishing more than any antagonistic posturing ever could. I would like to underscore some important points of his speech here.
First of all, he tackled the issue of discrimination. Assumptions have been made about who the people of Islam are and many have failed to recognize the difference between threatening extremists and entire populations of peaceful citizens who have grown weary and angry at being slated as the enemy. And vice versa, citizens in the Middle East have made inaccurate assumptions about our country as well.
“So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end.”*
Discrimination has come from years of fear, abuse of power, and misunderstanding. President Obama’s message here is a critical step towards diffusing hate and destructive assumptions about one another.
Islam and Peace
President Obama also made a point to remind those that Islam is a peaceful faith.
“The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent is as — it is as if he has killed all mankind. And the Holy Koran also says whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism — it is an important part of promoting peace. “
While establishing to the people of Islam that he recognizes and respects their faith, he has also educated the rest of the world about the Koran and its teachings. It was an important reminder to every listener that all of our faiths are based in peaceful teachings – teachings we should pay more attention to after our recent history of war, discrimination and fear.
Out of Many, One
Another refreshing position taken by Obama was his clear statement that, while our differences recently have slated one against the other, all nations must depend on one another to move forward productively. Whether it is our country’s prejudiced and angry sentiments towards the Middle East (and vice versa) or the centuries of anger between the Israeli and Palestinian people, fear and hate has been devastating to each of the countries involved. We can only gain by working positively together. There should be no more “us” against “them”.
“Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail.”
“We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus Unum – ‘Out of many, one.’”
Democracy and Power
Obama also discussed his position on democracy. There is certainly an assumption by many nations that the United States tries to promote and push our system of government on the developing world. He addressed this by saying:
“No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.
But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere. “
He also went on to say very clearly that power should never overrule or corrupt a nation and “You must maintain your power through consent, not coercion… you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party.” I couldn’t help but feel that he was speaking to his own country – and its previous administration – as much as every other nation watching.
The President went on to speak about many other important points such as women’s rights (I could probably write an entire post about the importance of that point), nuclear proliferation and the misuse of torture. It was truly a groundbreaking speech simply by how much was openly recognized – rather than ignored.
That being said, one speech encouraging peace and unity will not put an end to two wars, solve all of international issues or diffuse the hate that has built between numerous countries over recent decades. But it is an important start. Because, for the first time, our country represented itself not only as strong nation – but a respectful one. And if we are able to establish a certain confidence as a world leader who promotes understanding, unity and regard of others, we are more apt to work towards every nation’s common goal for peace. Now please consider reading the entire speech yourself. And while you do so, think carefully about the concept our nation was built on: “E pluribus Unum – Out of many, one.”
(*Every quote was taken from the President’s speech found here.)
My friend’s little girl is being laid to rest today. Almost at this very moment. Meanwhile, I am running around dealing with the strange, almost surreal, madness of my life today. But while I do dishes and laundry and cook and vacuum and prepare my house for arriving visitors, I have lit a candle.
Maggie was a beautiful light in her family’s life. May she rest in peace. May her family heal. May their world continue forward with great love and joy. And may they spend their days with Maggie’s light shining upon them always.
Hat in hand -and I don’t even wear a hat, unless its a red sox hat, go sox, even though they lost, but I digress… Hat in hand, eyes on the floor, head bowed – I step before my wonderful readers to officially apologize for being a slow poster these days. (Shaking my head at myself.) My last two posts have had days in between them! Not good, not good at all. But I promise you, I have had a good excuse! I will officially give you the scoop once I am officially official and officially up and running. ;)
However! I do have some good stuff to share with you right now. See, I love supporting moms who are getting it done on their own – starting businesses from nothing, following a passion, bringing home the bacon while raising their sprouts. I want to get up on soapboxes for these women and give them a WOOT WOOT! So, being the blogger that I am, I will scramble up on top of this post to declare my support for a few moms trying to get some momentum with their terrific businesses.
(And full-disclosure, I haven’t gotten any freebies for promoting them either. I just think their stuff is cool.)
A whole bunch of my playgroup and music class moms wear T-shirts from this local Tampa mommy. She sells T-shirts with such great sayings as: “Veggie Enforcer” or “Sleep Deprived” or “I make a mean PG&J”. Please check them out. And hurry to order! They are offering free shipping in October!
Baby Pop: Get a personalized super hero cape! (See them in picture above.) Ilinap from Dirt and Noise recently bought a personalized cape and mask from this site for her son. How adorable are these ideas? This mom uses high quality environmentally friendly materials too.
This mom brings us a line of clothing inspired by South Africa, using South African materials. She believes in supporting fair trade and the Bug Zoo clothing line employs moms in South Africa to make high quality products. Please check out her site and products! (You know anything supporting South Africa always gets my attention.)
A friend forwarded this site to me recently telling me someone from our college works for this company and I should really try using is over Evite. While it looks like a bunch of guys (not moms) on the management team, they could be dads, right? And this is certainly a new product just starting up so I am giving it my props here. I really do like it and love the design options over Evite. Check it out!
Well, that’s about all I have up my sleeve… for now. More later. And I am also going to try not to get all political all the time around these parts. I used to consider this blog a nice combination of various mommy topics – politics included. Now it seems more of a political blog with some various mommy topics included. I suppose its a sign of these times but I would like more balance in my life and my blog. I swear, I will reclaim my sanity… on November 5th.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and, obviously, I am anxious to spread the word about important causes or new initiatives. This one really caught my eye. Have you head about it?
Dr. Susan Love has recently started the Army of Women initiative. She believes that the answer to finding a cure for Breast Cancer lies entirely in research. Simply doing more research will give all of us important answers – and potentially even a cure.
However, to do research, doctors need participants. The issue? There are not always participants available for research, whether it be the number of women or the right demographic of women available to deem a study’s results significant or successful. And while they would like to see women with breast cancer participate, this project is about every woman. They need women from every background, with or without a history of breast cancer, of all different ages and races, found all over the United States (they do hope to find volunteers internationally in the future).
So, to find the numbers and types of participants needed for research, Dr. Love has started the Army of Women project. It is simply an opporitunity for women like you and I to truly make a difference as researchers find a cure for Breast Cancer. All we need to do is sign up and wait. In a few months, they will email us information about local research projects. If we would like to participate, we can. If we don’t feel up to getting involved in that particular study, we don’t have to. It is always our choice, we self select ourselves for whichever study we would like to be involved in. Regardless, this initiative will offer researchers a database filled with thousands of women. In fact, they are aiming for over 1,000,000 registrants. Pretty cool, huh?
(Forgive me as I offer a quick sidebar here, it will only take a sec.)
Surprisingly enough, back in the day, I was a science major. I spent hours involved with, participating in or reading about research. At the start of one of my very first research classes, a favorite professor gave all of us wise advice. Reminding me a bit of Gandhi, she said something to the tune of: “If you want to see change happen, if you want to see results, if you want answers - you need to be a part of the process that makes it happen. If you are ever asked to be a part of research, take the time, respond, do the survey, offer yourself. Your time will mean results and evidence. And ultimately, it could mean answers to important questions. Always participate.” And since then, if I get a market research questionnaire, a pop up, a phone call asking me to rate my experience on a scale between 1 and 10, I do it. It is our responsibility to find the answers to our problems. And breast cancer is one heck of a problem. If your involvement in research brings us one step closer to a cure, you would do it, right?
I have been participating in the 29 Day Giving Challenge for 11 days now and here I am to report back about my experience. So how have I been doing with it? Honestly, it’s been a great part of my daily life so far.
What have I given? Well, it depends. Here are some examples:
Babysitting for neighbors
Small donations to the Houston Red Cross
A surprise ice cream cone for my son after school
Helping a friend with her resume
Making muffins for my playgroup
Doing work for my son’s teacher
Offering my friendship to that mom I always see and never introduce myself to
The list goes on. And it’s small things too. Not just getting glasses of milk for just my kids, but all the kids in the room. Making sure my husband can get a morning or two to sleep in as much as possible. Letting someone else have that parking space, I can walk a few more steps. For me, its been so much about remembering not to be the opportunist all the time, watching only my back, looking out for only myself. I get exactly what I need without butting to the front of the line every time and grabbing what I need.
Also, when I began this challenge, I was sort of hard on myself. I thought I would have to come up with things I wouldn’t normally do, and really go out of my way. But then I stood back and reminded myself about the spirit of this challenge. We have to just remember to give, in any way that we know how. It’s about being in the habit of giving and thinking of others. And I surprised myself when I realized how much giving I normally do anyway. But now I am keeping track of it all and just making sure something happens everyday. It really feels good and I have kind of become obsessive about it. In fact, friends joke “Oh! that can be one of your giving things!” If they haven’t joined themselves, they are having fun watching me participate.
Just one other note. Being a mother is entirely about giving. To work yourself up to a challenge like this as a mother can be hard. After spending your entire day caring for and giving to someone else, to think about giving even further is exhausting. I think we all crave time to be selfish and give to ourselves. But I would also challenge ourselves to reach beyond that level of giving we are already competent at. We can stretch ourselves to give just that small bit more, it is always possible.
And I would also argue that we mothers forget to give to ourselves a lot. In fact, taking care of yourself might be one of your lower priorities. Whose to say that you shouldn’t try giving to yourself on one day if you never ever take the chance to do that? It’s just a thought.
Finally, for the 29 Giving Challenge team to reach their goal of 2,000 members participating in the challenge by September 29th, they simply need 270 more “givers”. If you haven’t joined, consider it. It’s a fascinating journey to be on and satisfying to realise how much giving we do and can incorporate in our lives.
Sparkplugging is offering a free on-line freelance writing class!
And here I sit, clapping my hands together with glee. (Hercules! Hercules!)
Ok, calm down. Let me explain. Clearly, I am kind of all over the place this morning and not being very fluid with my writing here.
Jeez, do you think I might be a good candidate for an on-line writing class?
Do you think you might be too?
Heres the scoop. There is a freelance writers on-line class for folks just starting out (me… that’s ME!) and now they have been cool enough to offer a free class to anyone who enters their contest. The website is Sparkplug U. , the class is here and the contest can be found here .
(Me!!! Pick me!!!! …Yes I wore super dorky glasses for a long time and, yes, I did like school sometimes.)
But (full disclosure here, I am alllll about full disclosure) to get another chance to be selected, I need to post about it here.
And, honestly, I do think it is a very cool opportunity and hope it at least benefits a reader or friend blogger. So, for real, if you get the class, I will be super happy for you. I swear. Cross my heart and hope to die (um, not really DIE but you know what I mean).
So yeah. That’s it. And you all can stop rolling your eyes at me, telling me I am such a dork for liking school too. School is cool! Seriously. … what?
We’ll return back to our regularly scheduled blogging. I’ll be back with more later today… (And see, I’m actually posting more! Are you so damn proud of me or what?)
“Sit down in my thinking chair and think. Think. Thiiink.” – Blues Clues
Do you ever have one of those moments? Those moments that make you stop and think hard, and you keep thinking about that moment long long after it has past? I have had three of those moments this weekend. I thought I would share.
At Target, I ran into a couple moms I know. I know them through my children. We are not particularly close but it’s always good to see these moms, say hello, chat a bit. And so that’s what we were doing. We had not seen each other much over the summer, our kids were in school, starting playgroups, bladdy bladdy blah… there was lots to catch up on.
I am not sure what we were talking about but suddenly, one mother lowered her voice to a whisper and said something like “that’s what a black person would do.” Before I could even think at all, I said “Well, gotta get going, I’ll see you ladies later!” And turned and left. Just like that. It was a gut thing. I just reacted. I didn’t like what I heard, I was offended, and I bolted.
I will admit right here, that has not always been my reaction either. In the past, I have ignored statements like this but carried on the conversation like nothing happened. Or changed the subject. Or tried to find an out for my friend - surely they didn’t mean it the way it sounded - and have allowed them to use the famous disclaimer “not that I am racist or anything”. I have never been proud of myself in retrospect - where I try to smooth over and actually normalize the moment. I may as well have said it myself.
This time I couldn’t ignore it. But I didn’t say anything either. I didn’t say ” I found that remark offensive.” I just bolted. I guess the message may have come across that I didn’t like what she said. Or it could have come across that I just had to go. I dunno. I am not sure how I feel about my reaction and I can’t stop thinking back about it.
We went to Busch Gardens this weekend. We have “fun passes” and go fairly often. Theme parks are to Florida what the Smithsonian is to Washington D.C. We take for granted what people travel for miles with families to see and do.
Anyway, my 5 yo son T. and I were in line for the Flume. You know which ride this is - the log ride – with the big drop at the end where we get all wet. T. is dying to be old enough for roller coasters and this was his first time on a ride with a big drop. So we were really excited – giggling and chatting, we were all wound up about it.
As we were only a few people away from jumping onto our own log, I heard a violent thump from behind me. I turned and saw a woman, slumped back in her husbands arms, eyes rolled up in her head, and an enormous gash – maybe 6 inches across – on her forehead. She had fainted and hit her head on the stairs. Blood was everywhere. We yelled for help, the Busch Gardens attendants were unsure - radioing managers, grabbing paper towels, running, whispering, clueless. I saw the hands of the girl with the paper towels, she was shaking.
Since we were ahead of the woman who fainted, they ushered us onto the flume and off we went. My heart in my stomach: for T. who had never done this before and for this woman, and all the blood, and the moment she was in.
After an exhilarating splashdown, squeals of delight and “let’s do it agains” from T., we pulled back around to get off our ride. I then heard the announcement that the Flume would be closed due to “technical difficulties”. I stepped off and carefully helped T. off too.
And thats when I saw the two boys. They were maybe four and seven. They were huddled together on the stairs, quite a few feet away from the woman lying on the ground. Obviously, they were her sons. They were crying quietly, the older boy had his arms around the younger boy; now and then he would pat his cheek or rock him gently. Like Hansel and Gretel, holding onto to one another, in utter shock, their world had just turned upside down.
I looked to see who was helping them. No one. Their father was too consumed with helping his wife and talking to the paramedics arriving on the scene.
And we were being pushed along and asked to exit on the right.
But those boys. There was a large fence separating where T. and I were and those boys. If only I could have stopped and stayed with those boys. If only I could have offered them some comfort. They were alone, they were too young to know it was going to be ok, they were utterly distraught, they had seen their mommy fall, they saw so much blood. All I can think now is how they will remember that horrible moment for the rest of their lives. Their mother was fine, all would be well, children have seen worse, but my heart broke for those boys in that moment.
I was in Wal-Mart this morning. (OK, ok, I know. I hear your booing. I’ve already said my piece on that place before. With our meager, pathetic, shoe-string budget, it is what it is.) I can’t believe it’s September already, and naturally, my mind is starting to gear up for the holidays. So we were wandering the aisles in the toy section. C. was starting to feel impatient for lunch and I knew my time was running out.
Suddenly C. said “Oooooh, Mama. Baby. Toe TOOT!” (Translation: Oh, mommy, that baby is so cute!) He saw a doll haphazardly left behind on the wrong shelf. C. adores babies. He can hardly keep his hands off any of my friend’s babies. They light up his world, I mean it.
Well, a lightbulb went off in my head. How can it be this child does not have a doll when he loves babies this much?
So off I wheeled in search of a cheap, small baby doll for C. Where could they be?
Oh. Right. The “pink” section.
I have two boys. I don’t get to the pink section often. And I gather all dolls are in the pink section, the girl section. So, into the pink I wheeled. And bingo. There, between the hideous Hannah Montana dress up crap and the Bratz dolls (What the HELL are they about! Ah!), there was a small section of dolls. He played with a few. We picked one out. It has a little hat and a pacifier as accessories. And as excited as he was, he shocked me by being so gentle with that doll. Carefully cradling it, jibber jabbering little comments to the doll, giving it the pacifier, hugging it, patting its head. He played with it all the way to the register, had the doll sitting next to him in his car seat home, on the floor next to him during lunch and, currently, the doll is tucked in T.’s bed across the room from C. as he takes his nap.
So I am glad we found that doll. It’s perfect.
But I couldn’t help but mutter how crazy it is that the only dolls to be found were in the PINK section.
WHAT. BOYS can’t EVER have a doll?
WHAT. BOYS aren’t ever NURTURING?
WHAT shouldn’t I be encouraging my boy to nurture small babies, to be a good parent some day, for crying out loud!?
Cleary, dolls are for girls. Found only in the PINK section. UGH. GAG.
I should probably mention one thing, however. You know, that the baby we got? He’s dressed in blue. I assume he is a boy doll. And who picked that color out? I did. What was my point? Did I think that having him play with a boy doll, assuming he is a boy because he is in blue, makes boys playing with dolls THAT much more ok? Like “It’s ok, its a DUDE doll.” The blue doll assures that C.’s masculinity is still intact?
So whats that say about me?
Clearly, this Monday, I am lost in my own thoughts. And once again, obviously thinking way too hard about stuff going on around me. But I am guessing these kinds of moments will happen again. And what better home for them but here.
I hope you have a wonderful and less “over thought” start to your week.