Friday, October 22, 2010

This Moment

{this moment} - A Friday ritual from Soule Mama, one of my favorite bloggers. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. 

Wishing everyone a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Don't count on this as a regular thing.  I don't even blog enough as a regular thing.

Wordless (or not so wordless but less wordy) Wednesday brought to you by Park School and the Tulgey Wood Gang with all but the last taken with the Hipstamatic App on my iPhone.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On to lighter topics... The Rebel Bakes

My recent view at the computer.

I made pretzels last week.

Lately I've been wondering what makes me an "everyday rebel" particularly when I'm posting pics of knitting and sewing like I'm some kind of Martha Stewart. Which, I'm not. Actually, I think Martha Stewart is an evil minion of Satan sent to earth to make everyone else feel inadequate in all things domestic. I don't let it get to me though, I'm the queen of the dirty house dinner party. In fact, it is possible that if you end up at my house for a dinner party, you'll find yourself cooking. Or maybe folding laundry so you have some place to sit. Or clearing the table so we can eat on it. But just when I was thinking I was at least trying to become Mrs. Steward, I go and make that last post.

Right. I remember now. One second I'm making pretzels and the next I'm writing about controversial birth topics. And you didn't even hear what I was talking about while I was making the bread. Ah yes, that's right, I do have rebel moments.

I'm working on being content. Not just with stuff but with circumstances. And with who I am. I've long held the belief that if you kind of don't like your circumstances you should learn to be content. If you really don't like them then get off your butt and change them. Reality has served me up a double portion of "It-ain't-always-so-simple" and had me reevaluating. Meaning: If you really don't like your circumstances sometimes you just have to suck it up. Or the nicer way of saying it: develop more contentment. So I've decided I'm discontent with my level of contentment. I'm working on that.

Homemaker is a difficult term for me. It sends shivers down my spine and I feel as though someone has died. I avoid it. I also avoid baking. Not because of shivers up or down my spine but because I'm terrible at it. Did you know that baking is really more science than anything? Chemistry to be exact. This fact explains everything. It's really not the science as much as the directions but science, particularly the chemistry variety, likes directions. I read ingredient lists as suggestions and measurements and directions as a road map: this is one way to get there but there is this other way here and another way here... and maybe we don't really want to go there anyway. But science isn't really about suggestions, not if you don't want to blow things up. Did I mention I was terrible at baking? Jeremy is good at baking. Like, talented, even more so if it involves chocolate. It's kind of disgusting. Disgustingly yummy and his time in the "lab" is making me fat. But I digress.

This last week, I didn't avoid baking. Nope, I rushed in and embraced it head on tackling baked goods that were even lacking in chocolate and, in an atypical but noteworthy event, required following directions! *gasp*

Also noteworthy: they didn't come out of a box.

You have no idea how hard this is for me, the following directions part that is. The box part too for that matter. But I did it and started with a recipe a friend on Facebook shared for soft pretzels. I am never paying $3 for a pretzel at the mall again. I can't believe I'm going to say this but not only were they edible, they were delicious! And yes, I realize I'm bragging but I don't care. I made something yummy that was baked. You bet I'm going to get braggy about it. Oh yeah, and Evangeline helped.

I'm really hoping the whole "you're going to get worms if you eat raw flour" thing I used to hear as a kid isn't true because seriously, Evangeline ate cups of the stuff.

This past week we made multiple French country boule loves, two baguettes which were better than any we've found in stores here, dinner rolls, whole wheat sandwich buns, walnut sticky buns, whole wheat country loaf, savory kolaches, flatbreads, homemade pizza and the soft pretzels. They were all delicious, actually. I couldn't believe it this morning when I looked at my plate for breakfast with an omlet and whole wheat toast and thought "wow, I made all that." The ingredients may have come from the store or farmer's market but the actual cooking and baking was all mine. MINE! Even the bread.

And here's the kicker: it tastes delicious and I have enjoyed the experience.

Move over Martha Stewart! My bread is awesome and piles of laundry is the new shabby chic!

I will continue making bread. The secret? I found out making bread doesn't have to be difficult! Thanks to the recipe I'm following I can see myself making fresh dough to bake into various breads every other day. Courtesy of my neighbor, I'm exploring the recipes in Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day and getting inspiration from their wonderful website and blog. This book has quickly moved to the top of my wish list, I'm going to have to return it to my neighbor eventually and I am so going to need my own. Every time I make a batch I am surprised at how easy it is and how fast I'm done.

School snacks ready to be packed up.

I felt all kinds of Little House on The Prairie sending the girls off to their little homeschool classes last week with a snack of homemade bread or pretzels wrapped in red gingham sandwich wraps, fresh canteloupe in Mason Jars, their steel water bottles and a sweet little cloth napkin tucked inside. Holy crap, I need to write something controversial again quick!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Birth Rape or a Negative Birth Experience?

I've been planning blog posts all week but I've been so busy living life I haven't had the time to write about it. Too bad too because there is some great stuff too. We've been baking, schooling, playing, crafting, sewing, knitting, cooking, dancing, meeting and of course, drinking coffee. I have even made bread. There will be a post about that, there HAS to be a post about that.

But instead of a post on golden crust and French style homemade bread I find myself with much heavier topics on my mind.

I haven't written about birth much and haven't actually attended one since last December and I was the birthing woman. This feels strange but also right at this time. Still a birth junkie though, I've been reading as usual and today I read this article on the Parenting blog. Melanie, the author, addresses the use of the fairly new term "birth rape" when discussing bad birth experiences. She shares with her readers some of the details of her first birth, a negative experience in a hospital and then why she feels that, though it was a negative experience that led to her choosing a home birth the next go-round, the term "birth rape" is not an appropriate label. The crux of her argument is that the doctor and hospital staff at her birth were not set out to intentionally harm her.

I want to agree with her, really I do. Maybe it is true most of the time that a bad birth experience is just that, a bad birth experience. But there are times when I feel "rape" is an appropriate term. And I say that as a rape survivor.

Merriam-Webster defines rape as:
1 a (archaic): to seize and take away by force b : despoil

2: to commit rape on

1: an act or instance of robbing or despoiling or carrying away a person by force

2: unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent — compare sexual assault, statutory rape

3: an outrageous violation

To seize and take away by force
I feel I experienced birth rape once and have witnessed it twice. I was told "if you had just gotten the epidural and delivered your placenta better then I wouldn't have to do this to you" when my OB was manually performing a DNC without any pain relief to remove the retained placenta fragments after she pulled on the cord because (and these were her words) "she was so tired and ready to be done with this already." I had been told more than once that it was the end of her shift. She entered my body 3 times that I remember, telling me to be still and I would thank her later. The way she spoke to me as she forced her arm up to her elbow inside me through my freshly torn vagina and bruised cervix while she scraped the inside of my uterus and searched for the fragments and how she had my legs restrained by nurses triggered flashbacks of my rape that haunted me for 2 years. I passed out from the pain and when I came to later I was told it was my fault, that I wanted a natural birth and "well, was it worth it?" When I became more educated years later and read through my own chart I understood what happened and I know the risk of a retained placenta and immediate postparum hemorrhage but I also know that the attitude with which it was done and the blame being placed on me was all too similar to what my sexual abuser did as well. Perhaps her intent wasn't to harm me but, like a sexual predator, her actions demonstrated that she was primarily thinking about getting what she wanted.

Despoiling, to commit rape on
The 2 times I saw what I feel was birth rape included a home birth transfer and I heard the on-call doctor tell the mother "everyone would be so much nicer if you had come here in the first place. This is what you get for being stupid enough to try a home birth" and then he cut her a 4th degree episiotomy that was completely unnecessary for the 3rd time mom birthing a 6 pounder.

Unlawful sexual activity... carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female
I have several Labor and Delivery nurse friends that tell stories. There is a OB in town that has a horrible reputation among the nurses at the hospital where he does deliveries because of his poor treatment of patients. Poor doesn't even begin to describe it. One story my friend tells is of a young woman, a teen mom having her first baby. She was afraid and refused a second vaginal exam (smart girl, in my book) because of the pain from the first one. This doctor sat there between her legs and bellowed at her that he was in charge and she was just a little slut that needed to open her legs and let him do what he needed to do. She whimpered and obeyed. He hurt her again in that exam and told her she was no good at birth and he'd probably have to cut her open to get her baby out. Yes, those are the words my friend says he used. The nurses finally stood up to him and threatened to report him if he didn't change his treatment of this patient.

An outrageous violation
The other birth rape experience I witnessed was by a midwife in a birth center and was even more traumatic than the first with the midwife saying "you really want me to do this, you'll be thanking me later so stop being such a whimp" as she repeatedly tried to manually dilate a posterior, slow progressing, hard cervix despite the laboring woman begging her to stop and to get out of her. All my interventions to protect my client were ignored and her actions didn't stop until the 3rd time when I told the husband that he needed to tell the midwife to remove her hands from his wife and explain what she was doing. When she did I physically put myself between my client and the midwife until we had her word that she would not do another cervical exam without the express and clear permission from the mother. That birth was one of the most horrible I have ever seen and even included a light smack on the rear of the birthing mother on hands and knees when she tried to move away from the pain the midwife was causing her. In any other situation there would be no question that language of assault would be appropriate in describing the events that took place, just because it is birth and these people are supposed to be helping does not give them license to exert dominating control over a woman's body against her will. When I left the home of that couple after getting them settled back home several hours later I sat in my car and bawled. What I had witnessed wasn't just a series of unfortunate events or even unnecessary interventions but a vile form of abuse under the guise of assisting someone in the midst of an extremely and intensely vulnerable time. I won't even go into the desperate feelings of guilt and failure as a doula that hounded me in seeing my client abused and me feeling powerless to stop it.

I understand the writers point. Not every case of an undesired intervention equal birth rape. However, there are some where the attitude is clearly not just "this is what we do to get a healthy baby" but rather one of punitive power masquerading as care. Birth rape is a strong and unsettling term and rightly it should be. It should not be used lightly but it should not be ignored. If we tell women that they cannot describe their experience with language that points to assault we put more barriers in the way of their healing and for those suffering from PTSD as a result of their birth experiences we make it even more challenging for them to find the help they need. We need to be careful that we do not dismiss these traumatic experiences and that we encourage women to use the terminology they need to accurately express what happened to them. I don't want an us vs. them attitude between doctors and women or doctors and the natural birth community but not all health care birth professionals are as benevolent as we would like to believe. There are many wonderful and talented doctors, nurses and midwives I have been privileged to work with and know. Far more truly caring ones than not and most of them love what they do and recognize the honor they have in attending birthing women. I am grateful for this. The small handful that have made me sit in my car and sob are greatly outnumbered. But they are there and they are hurting women and families, traumatizing them by looking out for themselves, their needs and wants over those of the very people they are serving. That is how rape happens, when a position of power is abused to control someone to proceed in an action by violating their body through force against their will.

Melanie may not feel that her personal negative birth experience wasn't birth rape and it sounds as though she has found healing through her second birth and that's wonderful. For me and some other women "negative birth experience" just isn't the right terminology for what we went through. Birth rape feels closer. It may make us uncomfortable but that's exactly what it should do.

What do you think? Is Birth Rape too strong of language for birth related abuse? What would be some other terms we could use instead? Do you feel it is fitting?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Summer, parting is such sweet sorrow

Exploring some math concepts together with The Piano Man from my perspective at the sewing machine.

"School" has started. Our relaxed version of schooling that includes freedom, structure, cultivating individual interests and curiosity, self-pacing, exploration, and exposure to ideas and subjects is under-way as the seasons shift. Not that it ever stopped, we just explored other subjects with a different level of freedom and self-guidance. We are once again participating in 2 different local university style classical education programs for homeschoolers. The classes the girls are taking this year are once again exciting and of their own choosing. Earth Baby is taking Greek 3, Latin 2, Jr. High Spanish, Writing and Literature 7/8 (it's actually high school level, and she loves it!), high school drama, advanced drawing, and another art class. The Storyteller is enjoying a writing class, Spanish, drama, zoology- swimming creatures, art, Latin 1, and Ancient Roman and Greek architecture. Lolie is taking a math games class and she wanted to take a reading class I think mostly to have fun discovering new books. She is also taking drama and Spanish as well as an etiquette lunch to learn how to eat a meal with polite manners. Good thing I guess, she won't get that here! All of them love the 2 days a week managing their own schedules and visiting with friends. Squiggle Bug and I love our time together to do things like make playdough, scones, dance to whatever music we want, build elaborate castles of blocks or whatever strikes our fancy, play with baby dolls, go for long walks and swinging. We like to pretend it is fall and made up a song this week about the leaves crunching under our shoes as we walked and the vibrant colors of the season. We can dream, right?

Squiggle Bug enjoys a hot walk in September doing our new favorite family activity- geocaching!

My sewing machine is whirring, the knitting needles are clicking, books and patterns being marked for ideas, yarn being fingered, etsy and craigslist being perused for more ideas and maybe a few deals, dress-up themes being discussed for October 31st, whispered conversations abruptly halted when another family member walks into the room, secret measuring and knowing giggles with side-ways glances echo off the walls of our home. But the ultimate tell-tale sign of the seasons shifting has been the Christmas music books making their way to the piano as we select what we want to work on this year. I am constantly humming the favorites I want to arrange for us to sing this year and will set about determining keys and parts soon so we have ample time to learn them comfortably.

I refuse to think about the fact that if we are turning our attention forward to Halloween and then Christmas it means that Smunchie is closing in on her first birthday as well. Nope, impossible, she's still a newborn, right?

Though the weather has cooled off a touch with a hurricane that made landfall only 150 miles away, we don't actually expect real change to the weather until well into November at the earliest. A fact we take into consideration when planning our Halloween costumes. Still, it feels as though we have begun to bid summer adieu and from this point out and shorts and t-shirt days will be mere stragglers of an Indian Summer. We pretend that you can't actually wear shorts and t-shirts all year here. I sit here and right this in a tank top and summer skirt. Same outfit I'll probably be wearing at some point in December.

For years we have been listening to the 3 big girls beg to visit a waterpark but the hot temperatures, fair skin, and high cost made us balk at the idea. Thanks to some friends passing along some free-tickets, we were able to have one last horrah this summer by enjoying a day along a chlorinated lazy river, 3-story swirling tube slides, jumping fountains, fabricated showers, artificial wave pool, water obstacle courses and more. The weather had cooled off nicely with only a high around 91 degrees and even for our not-so-summer-fun-loving selves we had a good time. Sunburns were avoided, dehydration kept at bay and we enjoyed our buddy system for the day. Smunchie still hates water so she was less than thrilled but was mostly content to ride along in the lazy river as long as she wasn't getting wet and was able to breastfeed at the same time. It worked. As long as I didn't think about the SouthPark episode with Pi Pi's New York Splash Waterpark too much. *shudder*

I wasn't able to get too many photos, I was far too busy enjoying the waterpark experience but snapped a few of Smunchie staying dry on the beach.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Saving dishes

I'm not a fan of dishes. Well, that's not true, I like dishes and all different types too, stoneware, glass, ceramics, china, and whatever else there is. What I should say is I don't like washing dishes. I suppose a dishwasher is supposed to make that chore easier but I'm not sure ours really does that. With the exception of most liquids in a cup or glass, we pretty much have to wash each dish before putting it in the dishwasher because it's not like the machine actually gets food off anything. Which makes me wonder, what's the point? I imagine we could use the cabinet space more than the appliance.

But since I also don't like waste and I have some crunchy tendencies, not to mention the prohibitive cost comparisons, we don't use disposable dishes either. Shoot, we don't even use disposable paper towels or napkins. So I wash dishes. Thankfully, I have helpers.

The Storyteller joyfully does the dishes. Can't you tell? That's joy all over her face.

These helpers help a lot, they know how to load and unload the dishwasher, scrape the plates, wipe down the counters, and put away the silver ware. And they have a magic talent. They know how to make the dishes, specifically glasses, multiply. Hot from playing outside, get a clean glass and a cold drink of water! Enjoying a captivating read? Keep a fresh glass of water close by. Can't sleep? Grab another glass and fill 'er up! Even more sweaty? Yep, more water! Can't find your glass from 5 minutes ago? That's ok, grab another one and drink up! And if you had something other than water in your glass you certainly don't want to rinse it out and re-use the glass that would be gross! So, GET ANOTHER GLASS! Yay!

Not yay.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love that the girls can chug some water and stay well hydrated, really, I do. I'm thrilled that I generally don't have to worry about their fluid intake on any given day. But I can't say that I appreciate being able to count how many glasses of water they'd had before noon just by the number of glasses cluttering up the counter. Particularly the ones that were full with only a few sips of water missing. Though I watered plenty of plants by pouring the contents of abandoned glasses into their pots, I was in desperate need of a solution. And I really didn't like having to wash all those glasses so many times in an effort to have glasses on the shelf.

We tried tape on the counter tops with names so you could get a drink and put your glass back right in front of your name. I attempted to enforce that for 2 weeks but failed miserably. Then it was designated spots, The Piano Man always keeps a glass by the sink so he can fill it up with water and just knows to set it there when he's done so it is ready for the next time. Important fact to keep in mind as to why this works for him and not for his children: He's 20-something years older than the oldest child in the family. That and I'm their mom, my DNA is in the mix too and I have a hard time remembering where I put my purse. The next effort in having the girls use the same glass all day was to label the glasses but the labels got lost, wet, removed, whatever, the point is that didn't work either.

Our glasses and the glass markers.

Finally I decided to try personalized glasses but I wasn't about to order glasses with their names etched on them. Instead, I pulled out the plain glasses we had from IKEA and picked up a set of glass paint markers. For a few days we talked about the idea of creating a custom glass, each of us designing and decorating a glass in our own unique style and the girls got excited. Thinking it was going to be quite the time consuming production, I procrastinated a few days until Lolie couldn't stand the anticipation of creating her very own glass and pestered me to no end. However much work it would be it was worth doing to get her to stop. I shouldn't have worried. The glass paint markers were simple and easy to use once we got the paint flowing into the tip of each marker. I helped the girls get going with theirs and figuring out some of the tricky maneuvering required for some of their designs. The Piano Man joined us and it wasn't long before we had 10 distinctly different glasses full of color, whimsy, energy, individuality and character. Setting all the glasses on a tray to put in the oven to bake the paint I was delighted with our mis-matched matching family glasses.

9 of our set of 10.

We have rainbows, flowers, butterflies, birds, stripes, swirls and polka-dots, hearts, a colorful henna-tattoo inspired glass, our family initials, and people jumping from mountain top to mountain top (I admit, I scratched my head at that one) decorating our glasses and "set" is proudly displayed on a shelf between the kitchen and dinning room. The light shines through them in a colorful display creating our own small stained glass collection. The most amazing thing though is that they are usually at least a few on the shelf at all times with the exception of those that are in use at any given moment.

It was really simple, wash the glasses, prep the surface by wiping them down with vinegar, shaking the paint down to the tips of the markers and getting creative. After they were painted they had to sit for 24 hours to dry and then bake for 40 minutes at 325 degrees. Each of us enjoyed seeing not only our own glasses come to life with color but what everyone else was doing as well. My original plan was to have us each create a cup for ourselves and one for guests and everyone in the family would use their personalized glass. However, we all enjoy the other glasses so much that every morning we pick a new glass. Today I have the purple people jumping on green mountains. A fun family project that has miraculously cut down on the amount of dishes.

Friday, July 23, 2010

No More the Training Pants! It's time for big girl panties?

Squiggle Bug learned to use the potty a few months ago and she's pretty much a pro now. It's great, sudden hollering of "my poopoo coming! I go potty!" echo through out our little house on a regular basis followed shortly by "I did it!" and "Bye bye my poopoo! Bye bye my peepee!"

So with regular success of bye-bye peepee and bye-bye poopoo, it was time to get Squiggle Bug some new undergarments. Panties. Deciding to couple the Target shopping expedition with family time, we first went to see Toy Story 3. I've waited a long time for this movie and was more excited than the girls. Cute flick, we all enjoyed it including 2 year old Squiggle Bug. After crying through Toy Story 3, we headed with a grumpy, napless Squiggle Bug and the rest of the crew to go buy the new panties. Buying new panties is an exciting time. No more the training pants and stretched out undies from big sisters, it's time to pick out your very own panties! The general rule regarding trademarked characters on clothing in our home is lifted and any panties with any character are permitted. Even if they have no idea who Dora is.

I fully expected princesses or fairies. She doesn't know who the characters are really but she knows a princesses is anyone in a pretty outfit. She really likes princesses. We found our way to the baby section with toddler panties and found the smallest size. In a regrettable move I picked out some Tinker Bell and Friends panties and showed Squiggle Bug. One look and she was screaming no and hitting the package in my hands. Shocked but a little bit pleased I hung the offending package of panties back up. Not having learned our lesson, The Piano Man presented her with a set of the Micky Mouse Princesses and received the same reaction. Over and over she stomped around saying "I want MY panties!" Bewildered, we attempted to show her other potential selections, each received with a similar reaction.

I was determined to throw something in the cart, anything. Plain white panties weren't easy to find but I wasn't going home empty handed. Between the 5 of us there that had any hope of understanding what it was she wanted, none of us actually knew. Loitering in the toddler underwear aisle for a while was starting to feel awkward when I spotted a set of Toy Story undies. Thinking she would calm down upon recognizing the characters we just saw in the movie I showed Squiggles. It worked. She calmed down. Well, actually, she did an immediate 180, squealing and jumping up and down. Snatching the package out of my hands she squeaked "my Buzz! My Woody! My Panties!"

I looked at The Piano Man over our now enthusiastic 2 year old and tried to ignore the giggles and shocked whispers of her big sisters. He shrugged. "Boy underwear!" The Storyteller giggled uncontrollably.

And so it came to be that I bought my first package of little boy underwear. Reluctant to hand her package of undies over to the check out girl, Squiggles had to be comforted for the few seconds while it was scanned before gripping it tightly to her chest for the rest of the way to the van. As soon as we got home she wanted them on. Her favorite pair are the lime green ones with both Woody and Buzz on the butt. Modeling them for me, she got concerned when she couldn't find her new friends until twisting to look at her rear-end and then beamed up at me "There's my Woody! There's my Buzz!"

At 2 Squiggle Bug has figured out the secret I only learned a few years ago: boy undies are way more comfortable than girl panties. Screw the princesses, cowboys and spacemen rock for girls too.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pressing Memories

I finished singing the "last" song and told her it was time to go to sleep. We both laid down, her face just inches from mine with her Raffie, she tossed her delicate legs over mine and gave me a sleepy smile. For a moment we just looked at each other with sleepy smiles. Just as I was lifting my hand to stroke the hair out of her face and trace light circles across her nose and around her eyes, Squiggle Bug settled her hand on my face and said around the Raffie ear in her mouth "I love you mommy." Finger the sunshine strands on her forehead in the dim light, I smiled and whispered that I loved her too. My chest constricted and tears stung my eyes as she began to caress my face just like I do hers every night. Laying there caressing each others face I told myself to press this moment into my memory like a flower between the pages of a book to be discovered later as a sweet, faded surprise. I worried I would forget anyway. Then my mind scrambled to find other memories hidden in it's pages; first giggles, how she smelled the first time I held her, a small arm clutching my neck, cuddles in the early morning, blue eyes gazing intently into mine as I held her while she nursed. Beautiful memories but already so faded.

Her hand dropped, too drowsy to continue fingering my face and peeking through slits in her eyelids she asked me to sing again. I obliged, holding on to this moment for as long as I could. Would she? Would she remember those dusty memories? With so many more memories and knowledge coming to fill the pages of her mind, I doubted it. I reflected on my own memories as a child, realizing that the earliest one I had of even going to bed as a child was when I was at least 7 or 8, certainly not 2. Peering through the clouded lens of so many years I remember sitting next to my mom in a nightgown on the couch in my family room, the blue couch with flowers, and my brother and sister and dad there as well. Dad was playing the guitar and we had been singing. He launched into "Goodnight Ladies" replacing ladies with the names of my siblings and me, one at a time. To the tune of our names we circled the room giving hugs and goodnight kisses before dancing off to bed. I don't think my older brother cared for that part much but he awkwardly participated. In bed I listened to the end of the song for my brother and then my dad sang another song and I sang along softly. There are details missing, details like the ones I was trying to grasp to hold forever from this moment putting my own daughter to bed. No, she probably wouldn't remember.

So I'll have to tell her. Over and over again, describe how she smelled, her sweet sleepy voice requesting yet another song, her soft hand stroking my cheek as she tells me she loves me, the favorite cookie pajamas keeping her warm and snuggly, and the way her hair lays across her forehead in the gentle glow from the nightlight. And to press it in my memory I'll write it down in her journal. I know that many of the memories I have from my childhood are because of the spiral bound journal scrapbooks my mom would squeeze out time at 2am to fill for me, recording her perspective of the mundane and exciting moments of my childhood.

This weekend I'm going to go through one of those notebooks and share those musty memories with my own children. Then I'll record those precious details that slip away and press them into my memory to share with them again one day. I will continue the tradition of preserving memories in the written word to share one day with my children as my mom did for me. There may be long blocks of time between those moments but I will press every moment I can.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When the Dam Breaks

Today I am honored to share the story of a friend, a rape survivor in a constant battle with RR-PTSD. To help raise awareness of Sexual assault and sexual abuse I am featuring posts dealing with this sensitive subject for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. Lora's on-going story is one that highlights the particular struggles of the aftermath of sexual assault. I hope you, like I was, are touched by the promise of hope and healing already taking place and are still challenged to raise your voice and hearts for the survivors of sexual abuse.

Most people I know who have had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have been soldiers or survived some natural disaster. They are encouraged, lauded as survivors who need our help. Some are even put up as super-human to even carry on in a daily routine. However there are hidden PTSD suffers who are pushed to the side. They do not have the supporters who are willing to put their name to the disease as easily as the others. These are Rape-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (RR-PTSD) suffers and I am going to discuss my battle with this horrid mental illness.

I am starting with a synopsis of the sexual assault. So if it is a trigger for anybody, you may want to skip the next two paragraphs. It is not in completely detail, but I thought a warning may be a good idea.

I was raped by someone I thought was a friend and the assault happened at work. It was so very difficult for my mind to process because this particular predator had set up a long routine of sexual harassment prior. When the actual incident happened I didn’t know what to think. My mind went into denial. My therapist has now explained to me that this is a proper and normal way for the mind to deal with something so traumatic. That way the mind can process the incident slowly and not be overwhelmed. I had marital problems due to this. I told my husband (bless him, he is still with me) that, “I think I had cheated on him, but I didn’t want to”. We went to counseling at the Employee Assistance Program I had through work. I thought I would get at least adequate help there. The man there, when hearing me say that it was easier right now for me to say I cheated on my husband that for me to say I was raped by a man whom I had and was continuing to work with, told me that the proper course of action was to take the man aside to a quiet, private place and tell him it couldn’t happen again. I was to confront my attacker.

Now, at the time I was unable to see what horrid advice this was and the danger it presented to me, so I did it. I told my attacker I “Didn’t want to go that far” and he told me that he knew. HE KNEW! Those words just rang around in my head as I looked around the deserted area we were in. Those words spiraled around like a hurricane and broke the dam of my denial. Every single emotion, every single relationship, EVERY SINGLE THING was washing over me. It was as if I was standing in a valley when the dam broke and I had no where to run and no hope of rescue. No human mind can withstand the dam of denial being broken so suddenly and so close to the incident. My mind broke.

I tried to carry on, I did. I come from an Eastern European family. We don’t show emotion in public and we don’t show weakness. I was never specifically told that, but it was modeled for me by both parents. When my mind broke, I went through the four hall-marks of RR-PTSD (1), made all the worse because I was not to show emotion in public or any weakness.

I lived a life of hell. Over and over this happened. I had what was called Disassociated Flashbacks. These caused me to see, smell, hear, and physically live the rape over and over again. When these came on (and anything could bring it on) I was experiencing it all again. My husband learned from the rape counselors at Planned Parenthood how to try to bring me out. I had nightmares that actually made me not want to sleep. I didn’t sleep. What breaks my heart, still to this day, is that my son, who was 2 at the time, knew how to try to bring me out. As I was coming out of some I distinctly remember my 2 year old saying, “Mommy, Mommy where are you? You are in your bed!” as he was standing back from me. He knew Mommy would hit and punch at anybody who tried to touch her until she was out of the flashback (I didn’t see the person in front of me, I only saw my attacker). I lived the nightmare probably 90% of the day and night. I was not in this world, but in hell. Eventually it caused me to not sleep for 3 days straight. Then, when I couldn’t take the guilt or the pain anymore, I tried to end it all. I was quickly admitted and was put on medicine to slow down and stop the disassociated part of the flashbacks. To this day (over 5 years later) I still experience flashbacks and nightmares.

I have withdrawn completely from a social life. I do have more of an online life. However all trust was pulled out from under me when the dam of denial came crashing down. I examined every single relationship I had, because after all I had trusted this person as well. I am still in withdrawal and working in therapy to try to change this. I can only talk on the phone to a few people (after all it requires trust. How do I know it’s really the person on the phone and not someone else?) I can’t form new relationships in person. That would require trusting the person with at least some information, just to start the relationship. I can’t work, because who would want a nurse who can’t talk on the phone, freaks out about the smallest thing, and doesn’t trust anybody? I get anxiety attacks going outside my house. I don’t have a life outside my house.

I avoid the place that this happened. I have been there a handful of times to visit family, as it is a hospital. Each time I go I have had to prepare myself, get my crystals together, and try not to lose it on my husband, who has come every single time. I avoid other hospitals as well. The smell of hospitals reminds me. I avoid watching TV show or reading books that may set off another reminder. If I do happen to see a TV show that is a trigger, it will set it off for a while. Just recently I watched a TV show that unexpectedly triggered flashbacks and memories. It was over a week before I could sleep at night again and I am still having more nightmares than normal.

This is probably one of worst symptoms. I see danger everywhere. I have 5 cats in my house and they are constantly playing at night. I will wake up in terror because I heard a bang, even if I KNOW it was a cat. I see danger when my child is playing on the swing set. When my son goes to school and develops friends, sending him to their house releases such a terror in me. I don’t want anything bad to happen to him. I see major crisis when other see small crisis or maybe even nothing at all. Any sound catches my attention and causes me to get anxious. After it first happened we lived in an apartment and I would literally look around corners before going down the hall. Some days, when I am having more problems, I still do that. In my own house.

Sexual Assault is not something that is easy to get over by any means. Somebody told me, shortly after the rape, that they “thought I was stronger than this”. I have only very recently accepted that anybody, no matter how strong, when having that dam of denial broken would have a breakdown. That is progress I suppose. I still have so many days when I wish the denial dam was up. I could be working. I could be LIVING.

I have so much guilt because I have PTSD: My son had to learn how to get me out of the flashbacks, and see me in such a state. My daughter will never know the fun, carefree person I was before the rape. I broke my husband’s heart in the way I told him that I thought I’d cheated on him. when I broke down and needed all the hospitalizations and medicines and lost our health insurance. I ruined my family’s finances, which have only very recently recovered. My son feels like I abandoned him when I was hospitalized, and to this day has issues with that.

I suppose there are some good things that have come out of this: I have become, in my own way, more spiritual. My son is the most compassionate boy. If someone is upset or sick, he is the first to help. Because of my horrid pregnancies my daughter would most likely not have been born at the time she was. My mother-in-law and I would never have been as close as we are, as she would never have had the opportunity to hold me as I was crying and assure me it was not my fault. We have all learned compassion and to have a non-judgmental attitude towards others, as others judged us and we know how it feels.

This rape has left me with permanent scars, scars that will never be removed. I have relatively recently come to realize that I will be cleaning up the floods of the dam of denial for the rest of my life. And the saddest part of my experience is how little people knew. Why, oh why, doesn’t the newspaper, magazines, and publishers, let us know that this exists? What I found regarding this was on official websites. Websites you find AFTER it happens and you are already having trouble.

I believe this type of PTSD is the hidden one because we have to admit that there areingcriminals live in our neighborhoods. They may be the person next door or the co-worker you trust, not the bad guys in another country or a natural disaster that only happens to “other people”. This saddens me, because we do a disservice to ourselves. We hide in the sand, but hiding in the sand won’t help when the flood waters of denial come rushing at you. I should know, I’ve lived it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Call Me Crazy

I started this post a little over a week ago and then decided to hold onto it for today, Earth Day. It just seemed like a perfect fit. My plan was to post it last night but then I couldn't find some pictures I took (how do you lose digital pictures on your computer?!), couldn't find the camera to retake the pictures and just got too tired. Then today was super busy and now I'm just hoping to finish and post it before Earth Day is over. So much for perfect. (Oooh, I made it, up before the end of the day!)

So, call me crazy.

We stopped using paper towels. Now, in place of the roll of paper towels on the rack mounted under the cabinet we have large, double sided cloth napkins that snap together. Crazy? Yeah, I know. But before you go and dismiss me as a crazy, crunchy, earth mama hippy... oh, too late. Ok, so maybe I am kind of a crazy, crunchy, earth mama hippy but I have good reasons! Other than the crazy, crunchy, earth mama hippy reasons.

Our "un-paper" kitchen towels.
The 2 "wetbags" we have hanging on our stove to put the dirty towels in.

I almost took a picture of the roll of paper towels hiding in the cabinet that we use for greasing pans. But that just seemed too crazy, even for me. See, I'm not that nuts.

It started rather innocently. We had been using cloth diapers for over a year and were surprised that it really wasn't too much work. Having gotten used to the cloth thing for diapers I saw discussions online about other cloth alternatives. Doing some research, I started wondering about the possibility of switching us over. I admit, my first reasons were of the crazy, crunchy, earth mama hippy variety but then I started to wonder about money. After doing some math I realized that maybe it was worth saving money. And I like that I can do a little of that "save the earth" bit and "save the money" bit at the same time. Sometimes it doesn't exactly seem like they go hand in hand but a lot of times they do, you just have to examine it closely. Again, not that crazy!

We feel good about our choice and we just like it too. Bounty may be the thicker, quicker picker-upper but that paper's got nothin' on flannel and terry cloth in pretty prints that look good in my kitchen! Talk about absorbent, Bounty is trying to be these guys.
The wetbags I got from SweetSlings and we love them. Great size, well made, and pretty. The towels were from a co-op but you can find something similar from a few different places including Bug 'n Ed who is offering up a $15 GC right now on The Leaky Boob.

The beautiful mess that started it all, our diaper laundry.
O-muh-gosh. Uh, I took a picture of the dirty diapers in the washer. Three pictures, in fact, because I was messing with the lighting. For diapers.

Holy crap, I am crazy!

It's coming

I wrote this post last week recognizing Sexual Assault Awareness Month and promised more on the topic. What I didn't anticipate was the outpouring of responses I received both in e-mails, FaceBook messages, and direct contact of others sharing their personal stories of surviving abuse. Some asking for help. This is an incredible honor to me, I can't even begin to tell you what a huge blessing it is to know that in some small way our experience can touch and help others. Shortly after we learned of the abuse of our daughters there was one evening after a particularly trying day with developments in our case where I vowed to The Piano Man and God that this was not in vain. All snotty faced, blotchy, hoarse and swollen I begged God to use this to help others, use it for good. If just a short simple post on a little blog helps even one person then I know then God is turning this evil to good. The sexual abuse history of our family does not have power over us, instead, it has turned into something that lets us walk with others, providing support, love, help, and acceptance. We can't eradicate the evils in this world but we can help others avoid the same, soften the blow if it comes, and hold their hand through the healing journey.

So there is more coming, I've been working on a couple of posts that I want to share but sometimes I have to just stop and rest my spirit. Soon though, be looking for them very soon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thrifty Treasures

Once upon a time I thought thrift stores were disgusting and I was embarrassed that my mom made us shop at them. They were smelly, the clothes were all these nasty oranges, browns and puke greens or obviously from the closet of someone no longer living. Worst of all, there was no chance that I'd find Guess? jeans, Keds sneakers or Members Only jackets. Shopping in a thrift store was pure torture and I just prayed nobody would see me going into one of those places. My teenage self-esteem suffered greatly. The most humiliating thrift store of all? Goodwill. I knew kids that used the name as an insult. "Dude, that's so ugly you must have gotten it at Goodwill." How did they know! Ugh. It was enough to make a 15 year old want to crawl under a rock.

And today? Yeah, today I'm bragging about my thrift store finds. Because they are awesome. Awesomely from Goodwill too.

The whole loot.

Key hooks, message center and file holder. ($6)

Cool wood box with slots, the label burned into the side. ($2)

Two lamps that I just love.
Someone ran off with the topper but I found it after taking this pic. ($12)

The mugs, a set of 4 (2 pictured) light green crackle stoneware mugs ($1),
one dark olive green mug with "TEA" on the side ($.25) and a "Biscotti" lemons cookie jar ($3).
Drawers cabinet. ($3)

Wood chair. Surprisingly comfortable, if ugly. ($9)
This chair now looks like this:

refinished cover chair
refinished chair
Jo-Ann's was having a sale on these squares of fabric, 2/$2. I lightly sanded the chair not removing all of the old finish and then painted it with a thin coat of black wood stain letting the old brown show through. I love how it turned out.

I forgot about this little guy! The images were in a different photo album so he completely slipped my mind. A lemon yellow enamel owl trivet. I think he is destined for the wall, to keep an eye on things.

Ready... $.69

I'm not sure if I've grown up enough to not care about shopping in thrift stores or if thrift stores have changed. Probably both. Either way though, the stigma of shopping in thrift stores has lifted for the most part and in fact has an new element of "cool" to it even. Dare I say trendy? Who knows. But I'm not the only one bragging online about my thrift store finds. You should see what Posh Pieces does with the stuff she finds.