The Important Conversation

I have, like many of you, followed the Brock Turner case from the moment the victim’s statement was published by BuzzFeed.  This case has created intense feelings for me, just as it has for many of you.  My grandmother used the phrase, “I’m so mad I could just spit!” on occasion and it was always one of those quirky sentences that sounded funny, but I couldn’t quite picture.

Well, I can picture it now.

I am so mad I could spit.  I am so mad I could spit, throw, yell, punch, kick, and cry.  I’m willing to bet you feel the same way, too.

Ashleigh Benfield, an anchor for CNN, took the time to read the victim’s entire statement live on air.  She allowed every emotion she felt to be put on display.  Did you see her segment?  Have you read the statement yourself?  I hope so.  We live in a world where women are sexualized, are seen as property, are seen as things instead of people; instead of human beings.  We live in a country where now more than ever, extreme importance is placed on equality and justice.  And still, if a girl is assaulted, somehow it’s her fault.  What was she wearing?  How many drinks did she have?  Was she behaving in a certain manner?  And if you found yourself asking those questions after hearing about this case, you are the problem with society.

If a girl wears a short skirt, she is confident.  If a girl has two margaritas, she is having fun.  If a girl dances, she is enjoying herself.

She is not inviting you to accost her verbally or physically.  She is not inviting you to touch her inappropriately.  She is not inviting you to rape her.  She should not wake up behind a dumpster with her dress pulled over her head, missing underwear and a swollen vagina.  She should wake up in her bed, probably not feeling the best, but not wondering what happened to her.

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While I cannot fully comprehend the victim’s pain, I am so very thankful for her willingness to speak up.  Many victims do not.  There is a stigma of shame and embarrassment for victims of assault and rape.  You somehow believe it was your fault.  You’d rather not talk about it; you’d rather not be forced to relive the events again and again, through discussion.

But we cannot remain silent; the silence will destroy you.  You will spend too many hours hating yourself for harboring this secret.  You will spend too many days wondering why you didn’t say something; why you didn’t speak up, act out, do something – anything.  You will spend months shoving these thoughts and feelings into a box in the back of your brain – “compartmentalizing”, your therapist will say.  You will spend years allowing this to affect your life, your love, your relationships, in a way that prevents you from being your full, complete and wonderful (yes – WONDERFUL) self.  Remaining silent, you will spend an actual lifetime in pain.

One in six American women is the victim of sexual assault.  Let me repeat that figure: one in six.  Do you know six women?  One of them has been the victim of sexual assault.  Think you don’t know someone who has been assaulted?  Well, you know me.

Of women victims, 44% are under the age of 18.  Again, let’s repeat: 44% are under the age of 18.  This means that nearly half of female victims are minors – children.  Of that group, 93% of victims knew their attacker.  That bears repeating, right?  NINETY-THREE PERCENT.

I am a victim who meets all above criteria, and while my experience was nowhere near as traumatic as the victim in the Brock Turner case, here’s what you should know: the experience, regardless of what specifically occurs, is still traumatizing.

I waited 15 years to share my hurt, my pain, and my eventual forgiveness, which I first shared here.  Talking about it has brought a level of healing that I didn’t know could exist.  Forgiveness is for me, and nothing else holds the same healing ability as that one simple word.  I have shared how God’s grace has worked in my life here, and this has been the turning point for me in both my life and my faith.  Being open and honest about my experience has not only helped me, it has helped others.  I have been a listening ear and supporter for others who have been through hell.  By coming out of hiding, I have encouraged others to do the same.  There are many of us; it is time to band together not only to heal, but to educate.

What I have learned through my experience is this: not only do victims not want to talk about it, neither do other people.  Talking about assault, about rape, makes people uncomfortable, and makes them feel awkward.  I am telling you, it’s time to get over it.  It is not an awkward conversation.  It is not an uncomfortable conversation. It is an important conversation.

Assault happens every day.  Rape happens every day.  The only way to stop this is to talk about it; to educate, to understand, to encourage and build each other up.  If someone comes to you with their story, please listen.  Please engage.  Please be the rock and support they’re seeking.  I have been so very blessed with a husband and friends who have listened, who have talked, who have loved.  It is crucial to the healing process. 

We need to have the important discussion.  You need to know that if someone uses words that are inappropriate, that are rude, that are hurtful, it’s assault.  You need to know that if someone touches you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, it is assault.  You need to know that if someone forces themselves upon you, whether or not they complete the act, it is rape.  And you must, must, must say something to someone. 

We need to teach our children from a very early age that their bodies are theirs, and that they are the granters of permission for touch.  If you try to hug my son, and he refuses, respect that choice.  Do not make a child feel guilty or shamed because they don’t want to hug you; this creates the mindset of, “Well, Uncle Joe is my family, and he loves me, and even though this doesn’t feel right surely he would never do anything to hurt me.”  That is not only wrong thinking, it’s dangerous thinking.  My children, from a very young age, have had the power, permission and encouragement to say NO.  My children know who is allowed to touch them, they know where and how it’s okay to be touched, and they know that if anyone ever does anything differently, even if it’s someone they know and love, and that touch makes them feel bad in any way, they are to tell us immediately.  If we aren’t there, they know who else to talk to.  Children must know that it’s not only strangers we are watchful of; sometimes the devil you know is worse than the devil you don’t.  Education and empowerment is critical.

We need to stop thinking that any adult is “asking for it.”  Boys, men, adults, you need to realize that if a girl does not consent, it’s the same as saying NO.  If a girl does not agree, does not willingly participate, it is assault; it is rape.  A victim should be able to go to a guidance counselor, law enforcement, a friend, and say she has been assaulted, without fear of the first question being, “Well, how much did you have to drink?” because it doesn’t matter.  There is never an invitation for sexual violence.

Because most attackers are male, we need to teach our boys what consent not only sounds like, but what it looks and feels like.  We teach our sons from an early age that we must ask to hug, to kiss, to hold hands.  It doesn’t mean my child will always ask, but it means he’s learning that if he can say no to someone, then someone can say no to him, and that’s okay.  If we teach this value now, it will become a normal behavior.  He will know and understand what it is to be loved and respected, and he will share that with others.  He will know that we never, ever, ever take advantage of another person in any situation, especially when it comes to touch.  We must raise boys who value, respect and love others, who know the worth of others, who not only honor others but seek to protect them as well.

We need to be comfortable with “see something, say something.”  This is the only reason Brock Turner was arrested.  If you see something, do not remain silent.  Offer help.  Call the police.  Do something.  Teach your children the same, so that if Susie’s dad says or does something that seems wrong, they will tell you.  You could be the reason a child or person is saved from assault.  Always, always, always say something.

And finally, we need to support each other and love each other.  I think that goes without saying; I think that should be common sense, ingrained deep in our personalities and hearts, to just be good people, but our own human tendency to judge can come through.  Let’s not do that; let’s not judge.  Let’s love.  Let’s be there for each other.  Let’s encourage, build up, strengthen.  Let’s educate.  Then, together, let’s demand justice.

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Three and One (working title: My Hormones are Trying to Trick Me)

The past two weeks have been a blur of joy and smiles and wrapping paper and frosting and sprinkles.  On April 21st, Miles turned three, and on May 1st, Grant turned one.  It seems like I say this with every age/milestone we meet, but really, these are my favorite ages (right now).

Miles is at an age of discovery and wonder, and to see the world through the eyes of a three year old is a magical thing.  Grant is at an age where we no longer need bottles, multiple naps or baby food; officially veering on toddler.  He follows his big brother and bravely tries to do everything that Miles does, and it’s amazing to watch him grow.  We’re hitting a sweet spot in parenting, and it’s so awesome.

But do you know what happens when you enter a sweet spot?  When life is getting really easy?  Your hormones try to trick you.  Because someone you know is definitely pregnant, and someone else you know definitely has a newborn.  You see that tiny little baby, swaddled in a flannel receiving blanket, blissful face of milk induced sleep, and you think, “Let me just smell the baby.  Okay, let me just hold the baby.  Let me take a small, soft bite of the baby.”  And your hormones are all, “YOU NEED A SMALL SOFT BABY TO NIBBLE!  YOU NEED A BABY TO WEAR AND ROCK AND PUT TINY LITTLE SOCKS ON!  YOU NEED SOMEONE BESIDES THE CAT WEARING ONESIES AGAIN!”

And your hormones make you think yes, you’re right, we need another one!

But your brain, your sweet, logical brain, helps you get back on track.  Babies are so awesome.  Babies are wonderful, they are truly blessings, and there is no greater joy I have found than being called Mama.  BUT…when your family is complete, you know it’s complete.  And we feel complete.

We have reached a time when Grant is finally finally FINALLY sleeping for twelve straight hours at night, praise the angels of sleep.  I switched from Café Bustelo to just REGULAR COFFEE.  And I still feel like a human.  Miles can put away his own laundry, help water the plants, and put more sprinkles on the cupcakes than in his mouth.  The boys play together, and I can just sit and watch and drink wine.  The DVR is empty.  I am reading books.  MY NAILS ARE PAINTED.  Evan and I might even go out for an adult meal during dark hours alone.  Oh yes, this is the sweet spot.

But every night when I put Grant to bed, after we read and rock a bit, I recognize his toddlerness and I realize I will never rock a baby of my own to sleep again.  The bittersweet feeling of the end of infancy is upon me, and I’ll fondly remember those newborn days and my hormones say well, maybe…

I see a mama wearing her tiny baby, wrapped sweetly to her chest, and it seems like it was just yesterday that I was wearing a baby on my chest, snuggled up close to my heart.  And my hormones say well, we could always…

I pack up the baby clothes and know that this time, I’m giving them away, but my hormones say hold on a minute…

Then I make PB&J for the kids’ lunch and wonder if I should really give this to them, or just open face the sandwiches and directly apply the jelly to obscure places in the house that I will touch and step in but never actually find so that I carry about my day slightly sticky and obsessively searching for strawberry preserves, and I think, “yes, we are complete.”

And before you say anything, of course I know God has a plan, and sometimes we get together and our plans match and sometimes the unexpected happens.  So could God surprise us?  Sure, he created the entire universe in seven days, so surprising us wouldn’t be an impossibility.  But it would be one heck of a surprise.

And before you speculate anything, know that I am not pregnant but that I am under the influence of allergy medication and red wine, and this post was inspired by a damn Publix Mother’s Day commercial because if there’s anything that tricks your hormones, it’s a Publix commercial.  I can’t even have proper holiday salt and pepper shakers without crying.

DAMN YOU, PUBLIX.

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Can we please just pass them back around the table already?!

 

This Day But Once

It’s 8:30pm. The house is quiet. I am standing at the kitchen sink, washing the day’s dishes, as my husband puts away endless toys (currently cardboard boxes and plastic cups) in the living room. And then, the quiet creak of a bedroom door…

Miles: “Mama, I think you forgot to put ice cubes in my water.”

Me: “Oh my, well please come to the kitchen and I will fill your cup!”

Delighted smile, he tiptoes to the kitchen, amazed at the prospect of leaving his bedroom after goodnight kisses and venturing to the kitchen.

It is now 8:45pm. I am standing in my usual spot still, at the kitchen sink. And again, the quiet creak of a bedroom door…

Miles: “Mama, can I sleep with my flashlight?”

Me: “Hmm. Well I suppose so, as long as you remember to turn it off and let your body rest soon.”

A happy dance ensues as I bring the small flashlight to his room.

8:50pm, and we are nearing the homestretch of nightly chores as I wipe down the dinner table and prepare to sit and read (maybe). And yet, the quiet creak of a bedroom door…

Miles: “Oh, Mama, I am untucked from my blankie. Can you tuck me back in?”

Me: “Of course, my dear one!”

Relish in the sweet smell of his post-bath hair one more time as I tuck him in – again – and steal another goodnight kiss.

8:55pm. That was fast…

Miles: “Mama, do you think that dinosaurs climbed trees?”

Me: “Some, yes, but not all, much like animals today. We have swimmers, crawlers, runners, climbers, flyers, all made to do their very important jobs in their very special way.”

Miles: “I wonder if T-Rex is sad he could not climb trees?”

Me: “I bet T-Rex was happy to sit and watch his friends climb trees.”

Miles: “I bet so. Goodnight, Mama.”

9:00pm. The Adulting Hour. We are sitting, watching Law & Order, eating Chinese take-out. The quiet creak arises once more, but not seeing Mama at her usual spot in the kitchen, Miles quietly tiptoes to the living room.

Miles: “Mama! What are you doing?!”

Me: “Well, sometimes adults have dinner after their children have already gone to bed. It is one of the great surprises of growing older.”

Miles, noticing fruit: “Oh, I love strawberries!”

Me: “Me too. Maybe we can share some at breakfast?”

Miles: “Okay. Can I have one more hug?”

Me: “Always, my love.”

One of my favorite poets, Dylan Thomas, penned one of my favorite poems in the 1930s, which included the line, “Do not go gentle into that good night…rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

But these words could have easily been penned by my toddler.

Of course we want you to sleep…we love for you to sleep (and maybe one day your baby brother will join in the sleep party) but what I have learned, what I know and feel in my soul, is that today is the only day you will be in this moment. You will never be 2 years, 10 months and 23 days old again, because time is fleeting. And so I pause to find the joy in your revelation that the bedroom door opens, and you can escape. I find wonder in your clever ability to make the sweetest requests, none of which can be turned down. I find love overflowing, even as I wake again at 2am for the youngest. Because I know that, like you, he will never be 10 months and 23 days old again.  This day, we have but once.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light, my dear ones.

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The Trifecta

A few weeks ago, we had a pretty big weekend.  First, Grant slept all night.  ALL NIGHT.  Like, ten consecutive hours of uninterrupted sleep.  Second, Grant got his first tooth.  Seems counterintuitive to sleeping through the night, right?  But those things happened.  And third, Miles officially learned how to use the toilet full-time.  That was The Trifecta.

But we’ve learned that with all things awesome, there can sometimes be a little catch.  A little something unexpected.  Or expected.  It happens.

The caveats to our trifecta weekend:

Sleeping through the night.  In all of Grant’s time on earth, he has slept through the night less than a handful of times (that’s less than five, people).  It’s no biggie, really, because we’ve learned that after you have one kid you never, ever sleep the same again.  Every sneeze, roll, squeak and meow will awaken you, probably because parents never truly enter REM sleep.  It’s the sort of insomnia in which you can fall asleep just fine, but wake up shortly thereafter, and repeatedly throughout the night.  Grant settled into the routine of waking up once overnight to eat, and he’s kept that same pattern.  Around 2am, I know he’s going to call us to cash in our “ha, you thought you were going to sleep?!” tab.  He’s only up long enough to eat, but I often find myself up long enough to watch three episodes of Roseanne (side note: I can tell you TV Land’s entire overnight programming schedule).  When Grant did sleep through the night, we relished in the uninterrupted hours (although I woke up twice just to make sure I was actually sleeping) but we did know it was probably a fluke.  And it was.  One day, he’ll be a teenager and he’ll sleep all night and then some (right?  please tell me he’ll sleep one day…) but until then, we exhaustingly enjoy our special time at 2am.  Every night.  Without fail.

The first tooth.  Aah, the first tooth is awesome because IT’S THE FIRST TOOTH!  But the first tooth can also make your sweet baby a total asshole.  So, there’s the caveat.  Grant has been an adorable jerk for a week or so now, and this tooth popping up explains it all.

Learning to use the toilet.  This is awesome, right?  I mean it’s one less kid in diapers.  But it is also a weapon to be used against you.  For example, Miles thinks he should get marshmallows every time he poops now.  He also manages to make bedtime last a full 45 minutes longer than usual because he knows that we don’t know if he really needs to go to the bathroom and we will naturally respond to every “Moooom, I have to peeee!” by escorting him to the bathroom half a dozen times until he finally gives up and realizes that 1). we aren’t letting him stay up and 2). you do not get marshmallows every time you sit on the toilet.  Yes, our lives are controlled by this three foot tall dictator.

All of these things are awesome, and we are super proud.  Super tired, but super proud.

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I buy Café Bustelo in bulk now.

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