Expertise

My son is 7 years old. He is autistic, but he has very little interest in understanding what that means. He has more important things to contemplate like Minecraft, board games, and planning skits with his plush toys. One night this week he got out of bed and came downstairs. I was on the couch watching tv in the dark.

“I’m scared,” he said.

“Of what?” I asked.

“I heard a very weird noise and it was coming from outside my window.”

I sighed, “No, that was your dad. He was making weird noises [meowing and squirrel calls] in the bathroom which is right under your bedroom. Come over here and sit with me and he will tuck you back in bed when he gets out.”

“Yay!” He climbed up and got under my blanket to snuggle. Then he spied something on the entertainment center. “Is that a battery charger?”

“Where?”

“There,” he pointed, “It looks like a battery charger beside the Xbox. What is that?”

I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. “I don’t know, honey. You’ll have to ask your dad. That is his area of expertise, not mine.”

“What is expertise?”

“It’s when you know a lot about something and are really good at it, like Dad knows a lot about computers and technology. What do you think is my area of expertise?”

He thought for a second, “Hmm, I think it is taking care of me.”

“You are right! I am good at taking care of you because I love doing it so much.”

I could not have been happier to know he recognized this part of me as the most important one. Yes, I am an author and spend much of my day writing. But I hope I’m always best known for other things, at least in his eyes.

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Writing Again

I shelved my 50,000 word work-in-progress almost two months ago. Since then I have started about five other novels. Each new work has ended at about 2,000 words when I decided I hated it. Not only did I hate the words I wrote for novels, I also hated every post I typed to Facebook, and every tweet I tweeted on Twitter. Nothing felt right. I wanted to break up with words entirely.

I hoped those feelings would turn out to be a phase. I tried not to rush it away. I tried not to freak out about it. Adding anxiety on top of depression was not going to help me write again.

But I have finally started a project that I look forward to writing. I have almost 4,000 words and they feel right. The storyline is just the right blend of comfort zone and challenge. I read over what I have so far and am happy with it. *Happy!* That has been a rare emotion lately when it comes to my work.

I have even found myself working today, a Saturday when my family is surrounding me with distractions. I am still able to work through a bit of chaos and feel good about the outcome.

Hopefully, this will last. But either way, I plan to make the most of it while I’m in it.

Authority & Respect

I don’t think of authority as a title but as a weapon. I distrust those who try to use to get their way. For this reason, it’s good that I work from home.

I was a quiet kid. Painfully so. Now that I have a kid on the autism spectrum, I see some of his traits in myself as a child. In Kindergarten I said very little to anyone and often cried when asked a question by teachers or students. I cried when a girl asked me, “What is your name?” One day my stomach hurt very badly. I sat at my desk with my head bowed and did nothing. The teacher asked why I wasn’t doing my work. I wanted to tell her that I felt bad, but the words wouldn’t come. She grabbed my wrist and pulled me to stand up. Then she whacked my bottom with a wooden paddle. I don’t remember crying because it hurt. I remember feeling like she was wrong to have done that to me, but that I was also at fault because I couldn’t tell her the reason.

I was paddled again in fourth grade in a similar situation. I had written a poem for an assignment and could not bring myself to read it aloud. The teacher thought I was just being defiant. Or perhaps she thought my fear of a paddle would be greater than my fear of speaking. She was wrong.

The only way teachers would ever know what was going on inside my head was if I told them. Which I couldn’t do. But I knew they didn’t know. And I knew that whatever judgments they made were subject to error. I figured the solution was for me to find my voice. Once I did, years later, I learned that not every person in a position of power actually cares to know what those under their control think and feel.

I was never a trouble maker, but I held onto things others might let go of. I didn’t forget being ignored day after day while more popular kids were called on to answer questions multiple times in one day. I didn’t forget teachers’ comments about my clothes or disapproving looks. I didn’t forget teachers’ inappropriate comments made about me or others. I didn’t forget the proof that those with power are flawed, just like me or worse. They are only human.

I don’t hate people in positions of authority. I don’t, by default, think they’re bad people. If there is any difference in the way I view them it is this: If you are awarded a position of power, you must be held to a higher standard than those you are over. With more power comes more responsibility, not just to act a certain way but to answer for those actions. I also think some of us have power we don’t acknowledge simply so we aren’t accountable for what we do with it. But that is another blog post entirely.

We cannot be honestly judged by those with authority over us, as from the top down. We are judged by those we have power over, from the bottom up.

Parents will ultimately be judged by their own children, not their moms club.
Bosses will be judged by employees deciding to quit or stay, work or not.
Teachers will be judged by the class & remembered for their actions more than any plaque on the wall.
Elected officials will be judged by the citizens in their districts.
Police should be judged by the amount of trust from the community they serve.
No one should be judged because of their job title, not for better or worse. Their title might tell people a little about their credentials. It does not tell anything about their personality, their work ethic, their sense of right and wrong.

Who are you afraid to question?

Are you afraid to question someone because of their status or because you might seem to disrespect their title?

If you question a minister’s actions, are you also questioning the church? The entire religion?

If you question your boss, will he consider your concerns? Or will he demand that you yield to his authority or be reprimanded?

If you question the actions of a police officer, are you claiming to hate all police?

If you question the ideas of the president, do you hate the USA?

If your kids question you about your rules, do you explain the reasons or do you insist they abide “because I said so”?

We are all human. We are all flawed. We all have areas of expertise and areas of ignorance. We have to stop seeing noncompliance as justification for retribution. We have to stop thinking that questioning someone is disrespecting them. It isn’t. For those in a position of authority to be good at their jobs, those served *must* be heard. And in order for them to be heard, they have to speak up. This feedback should be seen as an opportunity to grow and learn. This is the kind of society we built long ago, one where we are all equal. Right?

Review: The Road Back from Broken

I finally got out of my blue state long enough to leave a review for The Road Back from Broken by Carrie Morgan. Some of you have already heard about this book from personal recommendations I sent out soon after reading it in January. Here is the book description from Amazon followed by the review I left:

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Healing from war is a battle of its own…

Four months after surviving an IED blast in Afghanistan, Army sergeant Jacob Fitzgerald has recovered from his physical injuries but his invisible wounds continue to fester. Devastated by the loss of his friend Peterson, a gifted medic who was killed in the IED attack, Fitz turns to alcohol to dull his pain. But his solace proves short-lived when a DUI crash leaves Fitz one screw-up away from a court martial and he comes home to find his wife Jenn packing her bags.

Desperate to save his marriage and his Army career, Fitz is befriended by Remy, a young Army chaplain haunted by demons of his own. Fitz leans on Remy for support when sobriety proves a mixed blessing, bringing the clarity of mind needed to reconnect with his family while unleashing a flood of vivid, searing flashbacks. As the haunting memories of the IED attack and his fallen comrade send Fitz into a spiral of anguish, he must choose between numbing the pain and losing both his family and his career, or coming to terms with his role in the death of his friend.

From the description, I expected to enjoy The Road Back from Broken. I had waited for months for its publication with high hopes that the unique characters would carry me along with them on an emotional journey, and it delivered just that. But I was surprised by the great detail Carrie Morgan incorporated into her storytelling. The amount of research she put into writing The Road was an unexpected gift to me as a reader. I learned a lot about the military, both past and present. Don’t let that put you off if you aren’t into military novels because The Road does not exactly fit into that category. It carves out its own category by incorporating many, which might be evident by the diverse reviewers here. No matter which community you are in, there is a truth in The Road relative to your life. All of these different strands of interest weave through the story effortlessly without feeling forced, which is how life really is. I recommend this book often and with confidence that it will be equally loved by others.

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Hillary, Bernie, Trump, & the Media

Scan my blog posts and you’ll see I’m not one to discuss politics [on here], especially when it comes to promoting or protesting individual candidates. I assure you I’m not writing this now to try to win people over to my point of view. I actually don’t yet know which candidate I’ll vote for in the Primary here in Texas. But I wanted to share some observations and thoughts I have on the subject because maybe you are curious.

I have watched at least half of the debates (both Republican and Democrat) and a few of those town hall meetings. I have watched many of the candidates being interviewed by late night talk show hosts. I have watched the results of primaries unfolding on live TV for hours at a time, much to the annoyance of my husband. To not post about politics more than I do, I certainly pay attention to it.

I like to see events as they unfold. But I have read tens to hundreds of news articles the following days and wondered if those reporters watched the same thing I did. With both Republicans and Democrats, the headlines mislead and the content is cherry-picked. I’m not here to solve the whys. I’m sure there are many possible reasons: click-bait, bias, assumptions about the readers, manipulations, money, or aliens. Whatever the reason, the articles still remain misleading.

I will vote Democrat in Texas. My mother is a Republican in Tennessee. Neither of us know which candidate will get our vote on March 1st. I have many friends who are Democrat. My mom surrounds herself with Republicans. Most of my friends plan to vote for Bernie Sanders. Some are undecided, but lean toward Bernie. Most of my Mom’s Republican friends are undecided. Some of them plan to vote for Trump but don’t really like him. My mom wants a candidate who is a good person at heart. One of her Republican friends said, “Cruz would throw his own mother under a train if it would help him.” Mom doesn’t know what to do and I don’t know if it helps her much to talk to me, her Democrat daughter. But we do see eye-to-eye on the issue of decency. The person elected to be president should be a decent human being who sees real people, not just an ideology. (Actually, those were my words and Mom seemed to agree with me when I spoke them.)

As it is now, Hillary and Bernie haven’t attacked each other outside of policy. I hope they continue to run their campaigns this way. Sometimes one of their supporters will post a negative meme on Twitter about the other and it causes the opposite of its intended effect. I see the poster’s candidate, not the person they’re attacking, in a less positive light. Nasty behavior by supporters looks bad on their candidate, even if maybe I shouldn’t see it that way.

If Hillary wins the Primary, she is going to need these Bernie voters to win the election. The same goes for Bernie and Hillary’s voters. It will really upset me if either of them sacrifice the long-term goal for a personal victory by playing dirty. Their supporters need to get on board with fighting above the belt.

Which is what worries my mom about the Republicans. She sees the way the top ranking candidates behave and shakes her head. She has been a Republican her whole life, except for admitting to secretly liking JFK, though that doesn’t meant she actually voted for him. My mom is a woman who hangs a photo of George W. Bush on her fridge and was interviewed by the NY Times in 1984 for saying a woman couldn’t be president. My mom religiously watches Bill O’Reilly, claiming not to believe *everything* he says, but I don’t know. She has worn the Republican badge with pride for decades and fought in the trenches wherever they needed her. But now she just doesn’t know what to do. She wants a candidate she can be proud to support, perhaps Kasich. But is that just “throwing her vote away” if he can’t possibly win the Nomination?

As I see it, the parties each have many undecideds, but for opposite reasons. Lifelong Democrats (mostly) like both candidates. Lifelong Republicans (mostly) are torn between imperfect choices to represent them. Moderate candidates can’t raise enough money to even matter.

The media gives a lot of attention to Trump. It’s hard not to when he’s fighting with the Pope, calling Cruz a “p*ssy”, and insulting every demographic not white, cisgender male. It’s click-bait. I don’t like it, but I understand it.

What I don’t understand is the way Bernie Sanders is so often portrayed as the loser, or his accomplishments downplayed in the media. For days I have seen listed in my “Top News Stories”, one article about Hillary winning Nevada and one article about Charles Koch “agreeing” with Bernie Sanders. Few news stories seriously consider that Hillary beat Obama in the Nevada Primaries by a slightly larger margin, yet Obama won in the end. Instead, Hillary is projected to be the overall winner, as she has been projected to be every time there is debate and every time she doesn’t outright lose a primary. Maybe she isn’t to blame that news agencies cover the Primaries in this way, but I have to admit it turns me off to voting for her. I see the coverage as unfair and manipulative.

I don’t know which candidate will win the Democratic primary, but I do know that most of my Democrat friends are voting for Bernie. One of my relatives is voting for the first time in his life next week. He is over 40 years old and has never voted in any election, but he’s going to vote in the Primary for Bernie Sanders. Of my friends voting for Hillary, most have wanted her to be President for decades. I wish I could vote for both. I think if Hillary was more believably dedicated to campaign finance reform I would not hesitate to vote for her. I just don’t know how we’ll continue on this path without self-destructing if we allow so much power to be had by the wealthy. But I value Hillary’s experience on the world’s political stage. I think she’s a strong woman and I admire that in a candidate. I wish they could combine the things I love about each of them.

I want my nominee to be a good person. I want my nominee to see the heart of all different people, not just the idea of them or the idea of a nation. I want my nominee to have empathy and compassion and knowledge to understand what to do to make things right. I want my nominee to win. I want big money out of politics so such persons stand a chance at all levels of government.

So if you were curious about my take on the election so far, now you know. As Mom has said, “It’s a mess.”

I welcome new readers and followers, just know that this is not my usual subject matter. Also, I’m a real person. If you comment, do so as if you recognize me as such.

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Pouring

Sometimes I think the only way to write is by pouring one’s heart into the story. I inject not only compassion I feel for people I know, but also very personal experiences from my own life. I pour myself into my work.

Sometimes I feel like readers can recognize these bits of my truth about pain and longing and hope. I feel like they read what I write and deeply connect to the story. These feelings are validating and make me want to continue writing from my heart.

But sometimes I feel like I have poured my heart out and people look at it and think, “What a freakin’ mess that is. Step carefully around that, dear. Don’t get any on your shoes.”

Different days bring different ways of seeing it. I try not to make major decisions about my future based on either of these ideas. But lately I just don’t want to write anymore. So I don’t. I cut fabric into tiny squares thinking I might sew some patchwork dogs to give to special education classes next December. I cut squares because they are precisely 2.25″ x 2.25″ but each varies slightly by pattern. I cut squares because it is repetitive work which requires very little thought. I cut squares because I’ve acquired so much fabric over the last two years and am ashamed to have  left it neglected so long.

I cut squares because I’m avoiding writing.

I don’t think there is a story left to be written by me which is more intimate, important, or heartfelt than Winter Seedlings and Silencer. What could I say more? At the moment, not much. I am still empty from pouring myself out into all that work in such a short period of time. The issues presented in those works were things I had rolled over in my head for ten or twenty years. It was everything poured out at once.

So, what kind of writer am I that I can’t just type up a love story, or a documentary, or a quaint tale of Appalachia? Am I a writer at all if I can’t write daily, even to type up a blog post? Successful authors should be able to do at least that much.

But, I’m not that kind of writer, I guess. I don’t want “it” bad enough. “It” = anything. I just want to be quiet until I see a space to make a difference, whether it be with a patchwork dog or a new novel. I don’t want to pour myself out for nothing, or worse, to be stepped around. There are plenty of other authors to read in the meantime.

I Have to Bleed to Say This

I am not one to think about spoons. Though I do have anxiety and have had moments of depression, I am usually not debilitated by these things to the point of “suffering from” them. Not only do I not think about how many spoons I have, I also don’t think much about my happiness in general. I observe the world and try to make sense of it and try to make it better. I do not think about how to make myself happy or content, and actually just typing that makes me uncomfortable. No one cares about my internal *feelings* and my *feelings* aren’t going to make the world a better place. Feelings are only useful for guiding me in understanding what is out there. I am self-aware enough to know my outlook is sad and other people should not adopt it. But, here I am, being this way nonetheless.

I can discuss anything. I do not shy away from topics of religion or politics. I do not shy away from hard conversations with people about their own harmful behavior, nor do I shy away from (perhaps overly) sharing my own experiences to help connect with others so the conversation might be fruitful for us both. I will talk about *anything* in great depth for hours. I am almost always left exhilarated and looking forward to the next conversation I will have. In other words, conversations usually give me more spoons.

But there is one area of discussion that is my Achilles heel. I won’t scare you, or myself, by describing the just how badly the end result can be. Most who understand the metaphorical meaning of having and losing spoons already know. So, yes, there is this Achilles heel of a discussion that comes up now and again and yet I continue to participate in it. That may seem like I’m asking for trouble, but it’s not so simple. No one else is saying what needs to be said, so I have to say it, even if I have to bleed to do it.

The topic is statutory rape and the responsibility that society heaps onto young girls (though boys are also victimized, usually by other boys). There are certain circles where I can discuss this and not lose spoons. But I usually only discuss it on social media when there is a frenzy of accusation and condemnation for victims of statutory rape. One post about how a 13 year old girl “spread her legs” will always bring others to form a mob with axes and pitch forks to take the “slut” down. The vitriol will continue and escalate until someone accuses the child of preying on older men to intentionally and joyfully ruin men’s lives.

Despite the fact that I do not think I can convince the mob otherwise, I speak up. I point out that the girl, at age 13, is a child. I point out that adult men should, at bare minimum, know whether or not the girl they are having sex with is a child. I point out that one of the signs of childhood sexual abuse is promiscuity and early sexual activity and that young girls may seek out sex because they are suffering. Just because a child is trying to do something they shouldn’t does not mean adults can encourage and participate in it or to take advantage of the situation without consequences.

But it seems my attempts at reason, compassion, and human decency only fuel the hatred for the young girl. The attacks on her become more vulgar and outlandish, accusing her of dressing wrong, “putting it in front of him”, asking for it, lying to get it… all of this to the point you’d think this child was a sex monster devouring innocent men with her vagina. And again… no evidence pertaining to this girl was ever presented other than the mother of the boy claiming in a comment that the girl lied about her age. From that we get magical vagina monster.

People say, “Well, the guy did bad but she should have her butt whooped for what she did.” (Bad grammar used for authenticity.) Even when a 40 year old, previously convicted sexual predator used an app to convince a fourteen year old girl to run away from home, the facebook brigade were livid with the young girl. They were foaming at the mouth screaming for her punishment while the man was a side note barely mentioned. “She knew what she was doing. She chose to steal that car. She spread her legs willingly.”

What is it about girls spreading their legs? Seriously, this is an important clue to the heart of the problem. Because where it is absolutely expected that if a boy is presented with the possibility of sex, he will act; women are forbidden from even “making” men think about sex. The assumption is that boys and men *can not* help but act on their arousal. They are powerless to the leg spreading of women everywhere. This is such a commonly held belief that it gets spewed all across social media without a second thought. Even when I point out how incredibly insulting to *good* men this ideology is, no one wants to think of it that way. Our society gives a free pass to men to fuck whatever makes their penis hard. “Go ahead guys, we know you can’t help it”. But women and even very young girls better never, ever do anything that might have an effect on a penis because we’ll all know she was asking for it. And if she’s ever had sex before, it doesn’t matter if it was abuse or rape, she’s no angel and knows what she was getting into.

This disgusting, nauseating, spoon-stealing dialog is one of the biggest reasons why victims of abuse, assault, and rape do not come forward. This vilification of girls gets in the head of girls and women (as seen from the fact that most commenters vilifying girls are female) and makes them question their own responsibility in abusive situations. It also makes them question their self-worth once they are no longer “pure”. It is toxic to women, poisoning many in such a way that they perpetuate the sickness, pass it down like a moth-eaten heirloom that smells so bad of mildew that it won’t wash off once it touches you.

There is almost a fear of critical thinking on this issue, as if the most terrifying thing imaginable is that if people don’t condemn women’s sexual independence then sluts will rise up from the cradle and eat their husbands alive.

I am angry, as I cannot help but be after having such futile discussions. But I am also bleeding from wounds I can’t seem to heal. Being furious requires an immense amount of energy, but I’m like a speedboat going toward my target with the hull ripped open. I need to speak up for all girls everywhere. I need to add my voice to offset the damage. I need to speak up to support the girls and women silently reading and feeling shame that should not be theirs to feel. I need to keep speaking. I need to. I need to. But, I am nearly drowning now.

I have written a series of books about childhood sexual abuse and recovery. I have said in those books what I can not say in a facebook post, what I can not even say in a blog post. I have told a number of stories about how abuse can happen in different ways with different effects. I have written about a character who became promiscuous after her abuse. I wrote those books to help bring insight into what it is like psychologically to have to deal with the physical aspect of abuse while also the hurtful assumptions of our society holds for women. The pain and circumstances portrayed in Winter Seedlings were based on real life experiences of young girls (myself included), though the plot was not precisely the same. I have never said publicly that Winter Seedlings contained my own story, but it is true. And that was my final spoon. I can say no more about it.

I’m a fool who believes that the truth matters. Honesty and compassion will change the world. But now I am out of spoons and have to step out of the ring until I get more. I need someone to call me and talk about anything but this. Tell me you agree if you want, but then let’s talk about kittens and the universe. Help me get back to shore.

I hope this helps someone else. I hope that it is enough that *I* do not think you are a whore. *I* do not think you made him rape you. *I* know our system is more broken than you will ever be. Whatever power is in a single person’s understanding, take it from me and try to be good to yourself. ❤