Why I Stayed…

Even if you spend much of your time under a rock like I do, you probably caught wind of the whole “Why I Stayed” campaign on Twitter (and elsewhere).

There’s big noise because Meredith Vieira shared her story today. The NBC Nightly News shared feedback; one woman mentioned the misconception that people who are abused have low self esteem, which she succinctly defined as a load of hooey (she used a better word but I can’t remember it now). She went on to say that Ms. Vieira’s revelation should give them hope, since she is such a vibrant person who has developed a very positive existence in the years after her abuse.

Hope is great and I certainly applaud Ms. Vieira for telling her story.

I have shared my own in various places but have never said specifically why I stayed.

There were a number of reasons, the most gigantic of which was tied tightly to self esteem. I didn’t have low self esteem–I had no self esteem. I was a love-hungry college student and he was an older man. He showered me with compliments and I basked in the experience. Alarms went off in my head but they did not prevent me from letting him moving in to the apartment I had shared with a colleague. When the true holder of my heart called me one last time (on Thanksgiving; I was standing over the stove, cooking a holiday dinner for this man and my parents…), what I think of now as my truer self screamed, “Wait! Don’t hang up–listen: I’m sneaking out and coming to your house. If you let me crash there, I’ll explain everything.” My actual in-the-moment self said nothing and continued to stir the gravy.

Instead of acting on the advice of my truer self, I got married; my truer self tried to drag me out of the church, but my in-the-moment self stood there and mouthed those words in front of my mom and dad, members of his family, and our church, none of whom had a clue. My truer self would do backflips each time I was screamed at, hit, and shoved. I stayed at first because I felt like I had nowhere to go; I felt like I could not tell my family what had gone on, what went on with regularity.

And then I got pregnant and stayed because he threatened to take my child and make me out to be a bad mom; the fact that I was the one who made sure my child got what he needed was lost on the in-the-moment me.

As time blundered on I stayed because I was in so deep and simply couldn’t see past the end of my nose. I was afraid.

I was eventually widowed out of that marriage and all the mental health training I had kicked in; couldn’t lean on any of it when I was in the thick of things, right? But once the world was silent I could listen. He was a product of abuse; he did what he knew.

I offer than not as an excuse, but to say that from a distance, I came to understand the abusive nature of that man. Just as I had no one to “school” me about not staying in such a situation, he had no one to “school” him on how not to be the person he was.

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell asked, “Can you imagine staying in a relationship where you were being hit?” (That wasn’t the exact question but it was close).

Yep. I sure can.

Can I imagine walking away back then?

Sure, if I knew what I know now. If I had listened to my truer self and was then the woman I am today, sure. But as Ms. Vieira said, abuse is complicated. It’s never neat or as simple as, “Just leave.”

And that’s what people must remember before they comment on the experience of anyone in any situation.

My Body Belongs To Me: A Children’s Book

Ms. Starishevsky wrote and self-published this book in 2009 but it has most recently been picked up by a traditional publisher. As we approach April which is Child Abuse Prevention Month, she is available for blog interviews. Her topic is “10 Tips on How Parents and Educators Can Recognize and Prevent Child Sexual Abuse“.

In her own words:

My hope is to increase the number of schools that are teaching this important information to children ages 3-8.

Click on the image above to visit her Facebook page about the book and send her a comment if you are interested in learning more, buying books now before it goes traditional, and/or to set up a blog interview about this important topic.

An Open Letter Regarding the Young Women’s Conference 2014

Dear Ms. Shriver and Ms. Witherspoon:

I saw a report on my southern California evening news about the conference you held today to empower young women; let me say that I believe it is important to inform girls and to encourage them to do well in school, participate in internship opportunities,  and so on.

However,  while this wonderful event included students from a number of schools across the region, it was held at The Brentwood School. I am sure it is a fairly convenient location for those of you who live in that area, but I am curious whether you plan to travel to areas where students may not have the level of economic or social advantage that the young ladies who participated today are privy to. The children, for example, in the public middle and high schools near my home in San Bernardino County do not get to hear such messages from successful women such as the two of you or such as the other guest speakers on the program.

Our children are not without inspiration or hope but would benefit from similar programs. Further, if they could be given support related to information on how they might avail themselves of internships and the other opportunities that were suggested today, they too might begin to explore greater opportunities in the future.

Such information should not be reserved for those of means only.

Thank you, and I welcome your thoughts.

Yours sincerely,

AR Neal

A Social Experiment? Not Really.

Here’s what you do.

First: find three sets of clothes (that would be three each of bottoms, tops, undergarments). Put them all on at once.

Second: keep them on for the next two months. Shuffle layers for a new look each day.

Third: do not shower or wash up for the entire period.

Fourth: repeat until the clothes are too threadbare to hold together.

Fifth: come back and tell me if you enjoyed the experience.

Remember that feeling, remember how your lips curled and you whispered “Ew!” while shaking your head.

Remember that feeling the next time you feel the urge to say “some homeless people like living that way.”

No one desires to not be able to change clothes. No one desires to not have “the comforts of home” and chooses to live in a drainage pipe instead.

Don’t judge. Figure out how to make it better.

Beware the Purpose of Outcry: A Brief Duck Dynasty Diatribe

So there was an outcry for the patriarch of Duck Dynasty after he was essentially accused of vilifying members of the LGBT community. The outcry was based on two separate motivations: religion and money.

Members of various faith communities indicated that he was speaking from Biblical foundations and should not be fired for that. I submit that some of those who gave voice were also investors or others who stand to lose money with the demise of the program (have you seen how much DD merch is in Walmart?!?).

I admit that I have not followed every detail of the story but it wasn’t until I caught an update from this morning’s “Good Morning America” that I heard more of the story.

Evidently said DD patriarch also had some insight into the lives of American Black folk too. Allegedly the African Americans in his area of Louisiana were happy before civil rights as they worked cotton and so forth. This was based on what he saw working in some of those same fields.

What he saw.

Did he ever have a conversation with any people of color who, based on the numbers of such individuals who marched, sat in at lunch counters, and were beaten, hosed, and burned out and who might have had a slightly different perspective?

This part of the story certainly did not get as much press as the portion that has been identified with conservative gay bashing.

Know that it should have.

I must say that I do not react to both comments with the same level of vehemence. The first causes me upset because it again raises the specter of Biblical application. Yes, there are passages that state it is an abomination for a man to be with a man (Leviticus 18:22) and a woman to be with a woman (Romans 1:26) in a sexual manner. However, no one has yet been able to answer my question about how Christians are to live out their faith with members of their communities who are LGBTQ and are also Christian or are seeking a Christian faith. Further, had the DD patriarch called out same sex adultery, would there have been such a reaction, such a polarization of the so-called left and right?

The second of his comments makes me sad and angry because of its ignorance. If he had said something like “The Black people I worked with said they were happy before all this civil rights business” is very different than saying the Black people he worked with looked happy because they sang as they worked and didn’t complain. Singing and silence were how we stayed alive! Seemingly happy workers were not harassed or killed. Maybe such treatment didn’t happen in his neighborhood; it happened in many other neighborhoods, but hey, I wasn’t there in his neighborhood and can’t tell you.

I would like to say that it will be nice when this blows over bit it won’t be. Bigotry, hatred, and separation will still be a major issue in the world. We must continue to call it out, not to cause more division but to bring it to light and to hopefully educate one another outside such a public forum.

Feelings Count. Even if You Disagree

I had an hour occasion to be with a certain group of people for a certain purpose once; let us say it was a church. I was under the impression that I and my kin could share our triumphs and pains there. In the end I found that we could not. It was probably because we were in a minority there.

Now do not be mistaken. There were various cultures of people in the congregation. We missed the comment when we first started there about it being a “multiethnic and multigenerational” congregation. Racial and cultural minorities were outliers and were, so we found out, expected to fall in and comply.

So when a comment came up that was an affront to every non-European in the room, we spoke up. We were the only ones to speak up. And in the end we left, saddened that we could not make a difference, but glad to have taken a stand.

Our feelings mattered and still do. We continue to fight oppression–regardless of the particular “ism” (racism, sexism, ageism, genderism, financialism, etc.).

Don’t settle. Don’t blend.

Addiction Treatment: It Works, but You Can’t Get It

Whaaa?! An addiction treatment that works, but I can’t get it?

Well, I am assuming I can’t get it.

Have you heard of “Passages Malibu,” an addiction treatment center that works via a non-12 step program? Visit here for the Wiki about it; note carefully that the co-owner (who I assume is the dude in the television commercial who says he went through the treatment and was cured) has no background in counseling or anything like that. Just sayin’.

For a mere $88,500 you too can go to this resort treatment facility.

Did I mention that bit of scratch gets you a month’s stay? If the figures in the Wiki are to be believed any further, a stint of similar length at Betty Ford will set you back a mere $27,400.

But more importantly, check out the webpage. Here: let me give you the image from their header in case you don’t have time to pop over and visit:

So. Take a close look at this photo. What do you see, or more importantly, what don’t you see?

If you said it appears there is only one person of color in the photo, you saw what I thought I saw.

From right to left if you look at all the people as though they were in an almost straight line, the second guy who is seated at the table with a lady and another guy seems to be the only person whose primary ethnicity is not European.

Second, did you notice the name of the joint: Passages Malibu? Yeah. That’s where a whole lot of wealthy folks live. Take a moment to pop back over to the Wiki and check out how much that house/mansion/treatment center itself cost. Yeah.

So it would be my supposition that poor people can’t go here. Oh. Right. It costs over 88 grand.

“But insurances are accepted!”

Right, but not all of them.

I don’t see Kaiser as a sending plan. I also don’t see Medi-Cal.

So basically many ordinary folks would not benefit from this center.

Which leads me to ask the question, so what good is it then?

The wealthy have the ability to utilize so many options, including private/individualized treatment options (if you can kick 88 thousand clams for one month’s worth of tennis and swimming–oh, and exercise and acupuncture, if one attends to the television commercials about the facility). If this gentleman and his father have discovered the cure to addiction, why not provide it in communities where it would be more useful?

Just sayin’.

Trash! Or: Why I Will Think About Using the USPS Again…

Okay, first a confession, and then a general rant. You have been warned…

Confession: I threw the receipt away.

it was an accident! I was trying to find my nightstand, which had (once again) hopefully become buried beneath a pile of papers that needed to go into the waste bin. I picked up the note that had the address I was sending the package to and the receipt and said to myself, “It’s the post office; they always do right by Priority Mail.” And away it went.

But then the unthinkable happened.

I reached out to the receiver of the item (a book I had been lent and was returning), only to find out she had not received the package on the scheduled day.

I sent it on Tuesday and it was to arrive on Thursday.

It was now Friday and no package.

And then it was Saturday, and then it was Monday, and then it was Tuesday….

Do you see where this is going?!?

I went online and every post I read made me more horrified. “The Post Office does not guarantee on-time delivery with Priority Mail.” “If you don’t have the receipt there is no way to track the package.”

I however was not to be daunted (immediately) by that. I went to my online banking and found the transaction; I pulled down the cryptic numbers thereon. I went to the branch of the PO from where I sent it and talked to a rather disappointing clerk., who gave me the 800 number to call. I went to my car and fought with the COMPLETELY AUTOMATED (as in, nothing you do gets you to a human and when finally you confuse the automated thing enough for it to send you to a human the new automation says they are having higher than average call volume and can’t help you, then directs you back to the original automation) system, to no avail. I then called my bank, where I spoke with the nicest lady (who also was unable to help, other than thanking me for being a loyal customer). I then went home and sent an email to the USPS “Contact Us” address.

And got a response from a real-live human! From my local post office! Who said without the receipt I could not track the package.

The message also said that the Post Office would continue to attempt delivery and if the package isn’t delivered in 15 days it would be returned to the return address (mine). It also suggested that I ask the intended receiver to check her PO to find out if the package is there, waiting. It also provided the infamous 800 number for her to call. I did all that and guess what?

The package showed up yesterday (Wednesday, an entire week after it was supposed to be delivered).

Mind you, in my original message I indicated that I sent my package Priority for delivery on last Thursday; there was no response to that information.

I could have sent the package for a couple cents almost for it to go bulk rate, which probably would have taken….you guessed it: a week.

I believe in the USPS, I really do. I am saddened that a national system as large as this one does not have up-to-date technology.

With all the press in recent years about the USPS and how there has been consideration to close post offices, change hours, and so on to save money, one might suggest better technology to improve services.

Yeah, it was my bad to throw the receipt away, but if my local grocer can track what I bought last month, why can’t the USPS give me a tracking number?

Just sayin.

Meditate It Away?

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against meditation. For those who have the ability to concentrate to the extent it takes to reach a meditative state, more power to you.

I don’t have that ability.

However, in an article entitled “The Science Behind Why We Binge (and What to Do About It)” the suggestion has been made that meditation can reduce the desire some of us have for overdoing it on booze, food, shopping, and other addictive behaviors.

Notice that the article falls under the “Happiness” category.

Notice also that the imagery in the article header is of a pizza.

It stands to reason that the author (or at least, the website magicians in the background) is making a subtle connection between the cure for binging, the cure for binging on food, and happiness.

Or is it me?

Welfare and Abuse

So at one point in my life, I considered doing my dissertation on the ways in which TANF (otherwise known as welfare) support the improvement of life of those who are a part of that system. At the time I noticed that education was not high on the list of things a person needed, while work was. Thirty hours per week were to be dedicated to work, while education could get twelve. So, I finish my work toward a high school diploma and want to get a bit of college; as statistics go, I am going to need some college at least if I want to make a decent wage, right? But as it turns out, I have to be involved in work or work-related activities for most of my week and can’t get a transportation allowance or childcare for the weird night hours I have to take classes. It’s weird.

I lived in New Jersey then and still get messages from the Welfare Peer Network. While that is a subject I would still like to tackle sometime, I noticed that the latest issue of the Peer Network newsletter included an overview of a workshop on how economic empowerment is affected by domestic violence.

If you read and look at the attachments (scroll down and look for the Domestic Violence header), there is commentary about the connection between TANF and the domestic violence community that goes into safety and empowerment. Take a look and share your thoughts; I am concerned that while it is great to see an effort being put forth to improve the lives of domestic violence victims, I am also concerned about the general level of education that TANF recipients are encouraged to achieve.