When Victims Speak

You’d have to have been living deep in the Amazonian rain forest not to have heard about the meltdowns currently taking place in Hollyweird and Washington, D.C…..two of the most corrupt, degenerate geographical locations in all of America, in my opinion.

Harvey Weinstein.  Anthony Weiner.  Kevin Spacey.  Roy Moore.  George Takei.  George H. W. Bush.  Mark Halperin.  Louis C.K.  Andrew Kreisberg.

The list of the accused is, literally, endless.

There’s nothing new about  sexual abuse.  What is “new” is the current climate that is facilitating the “outings” of the abusers themselves.  Long over do, the drama we’re seeing represents only the tip of the iceberg.  Continue scratching beneath the glamorous surface of the entertainment industry, for example, and one will find a literal hell of pedophilia, sex trafficking, and every form of depravity possible.

My own journey as a sexual abuse victim started when I was about 12. Oh, the awkward days of newly forming breasts!  I remember how painful my baby boobs were, and how embarrassed I was that these not-quite-bra-worthy  buds showed under my t-shirts.   The end of my innocence came at one holiday gathering when my Uncle Jim, deep in his cups, decided to impart some of his vast wisdom to me.  Leaning over, he tweak one swollen nipple and said, “This is all the boys are going to be interested in.”

I was shocked, embarrassed and ashamed.  No one else noticed his impropriety, being greatly in their cups as well, and turning, I ran from him.  I never told my mother.

As I grew older, sexual predators grew bolder.  At 16, I was explicitly propositioned by the fathers of two of my closest girlfriends  (emphasis on the word “explicitly”).  One  groping me as well.  Then there was the guy who ran the hamburger joint I worked at.  He was an ugly SOB with one milky eye, a body like Jabba the Hutt, and a connection with the towns’ mobster – Freddie The Leg Breaker.   When his propositions didn’t work, he tried insults and shame:  “You’ll never be good for ANYTHING but sex.”

I didn’t tell that, either.

Working in primarily male dominated industries, I literally “grew up” having to deal with inappropriate behavior at the hands of men.  There were lewd photos left on my desk, suggestive  “jokes”, and bold comments about my looks or specific body parts.

In my late 30s, I became the focus of a very powerful man who ran the Silicon Valley company I worked for.  He was the President and I was his assistant. The previous President, a man I had also worked for, got drunk at a company dinner dance and attempted to grab and kiss me in front of everyone.  That was NOTHING compared to the new guy.  Because he traveled the world, he would call me at all hours of the day or night under the pretext of ‘business’. He was married but SO UNHAPPY (aren’t they all?), he explained, and just wanted to talk to me.  His pursuit was relentless. Towards the end, he even tried to bribe me into leaving my job to become his mistress, offering a quarter million dollars in cash, an paid-for apartment and college funds established for both my children. As a single mother of two, making maybe $35,000 a year, the offer was tempting.  For about 60 seconds.

I never told Mom OR Human Resources.  I didn’t report him because (a) I knew the company would protect the Wunderkid at all costs (and would crucify me in the process) and (b) I REALLY REALLY needed my job.   I had kids to support. Thinking back, would I have done it differently?  Probably not.

I was too afraid.  Much like the women who are just now telling their stories, 40 years later, I imagine…

And it wasn’t just the workplace.  Twice in my 20s I thought I was going to be raped – once by a stranger who broke into my house and once by the roommate of a friend where I was staying the night.  Then there was Bubba.

Bubba (his real name was James) was a good ol’ boy from Southeast Texas who was almost like a member of our family.  He and my mom had grown up together, and I had grown up hearing wonderful stories of their childhood.  Bubba was  like an uncle, up until the day he attempted to stick his tongue down my throat at a wedding reception.  Then he became just another jerk.

I didn’t tell Mom about that, either.

I’m not exaggerating when I say every single woman I know has an experience of sexual abuse to share…..women who have been held hostage, raped, abused, beaten.  And not one of us ever went public with our stories.  We confided in each other and, later, our therapists.  We held our tongues, and dealt with it, each in our own way.

Now, in 2017, things seem to be changing.   How brave the women  (and men, like Cory Feldman and Anthony Rapp) for coming forth with their stories.   What courage!  When one woman stands up and speaks out, as we have seen, she emboldens others to do the same.  Collectively, as women, there is tremendous vindication when even ONE sexual predator is tried and found guilty of his crimes…NOT in the court of public opinion or social media, but for real.

A sexual abuse survivor who speaks out is a harbinger of strength and justice for all.  ALL of us, who number in the hundreds of millions, who kept silent for our own reasons.  The thing is, I’m  not sure the world is ready for the shear number of us, if we ever did ALL speak out.  1 in 5 women alive has been a victim of sexual misconduct.  Which makes me I wonder….

Do 1 in 5 men have his own story to tell….. of being an abuser?

Or of being a victim?

The Best Breakup I Ever Had

facebook-dislikeI’m coming  up on a very IMPORTANT anniversary!

The 10th anniversary of blogging here at Grace Upside Down, perhaps?  Nope, although that did happen in September.  (Where does the time go?)

Maybe my 20th wedding anniversary? Nah, not that either, although Home Boy and I celebrated that in September as well.

So what HUGE milestone am I getting ready to celebrate,then?  Come closer and I’ll tell you.

In just over a month. I will celebrate 1 full year since…..

I kicked Facebook to the curb!

That’s right!  After nearly a decade of socializing on perhaps the most important Social Media platform there is, I quit.  Cold Turkey.   And never looked back.

For the entirely of 2017 I have lived Facebook free and, man! I cannot emphasize enough what a positive difference I’ve experienced in the quality of my life – AND my relationships!  (After a brief withdrawal and detox phase that lasted a couple of weeks…it IS a drug, dontchaknow?)

Ah, sweet relief!

Long gone the days when I agonized over why certain people didn’t like or comment on my posts any more, or whether I “had to” like or comment on someone else’s post.  No more of the constant buzzing in my head…..you know, all the conversations (even rebuttals) I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) have.    No more Unfollowing someone because they fell down some Rabbit Hole and started posting bizarre, regurgitated mythology they  apparently thought they were the first to come up with it.

I no longer feel compelled to correct someones spelling/grammar/punctuation (not that I actually DID correct them.  I just FELT like I had to…and stuffed my feelings), or comment with the name of the TRUE author of a quote that someone posted without it (a form of plagiarism that plagues online content and I find particularly abhorrent).

And, most importantly, no more Faux Friendships – many of who were identified AFTER I quit.  (“You shall judge a tree by it’s fruit.” – Jesus)

Do I miss the sleepless nights and heartbreak incurred because someone got jealous of someone else I was interacting with online, or completely misunderstood something I posted and decided to take offense where none was meant?

Do I long for the days when I agonized over some cryptic post by one of the kids, in a moment of youthful angst, that threatened to send me in Hyper Hover Mother Mode.  (The WORST)?

Ohhellno! My life in the Post-Facebook era is full of tranquility, authenticity and more real-life interaction with people than ever.   I have great friendships, and closer ties with them and family alike.

Ahhhhh, the relief! Dear God, the relief of not worrying whether a photo is “Facebook worthy” or not…whether my double chin is showing, or if the muffin top I’ve acquired since menopause is exaggerated!  How free to be with people without the knee jerk reaction of having to chronicle our every move for mass consumption!  We actually just

LIVE OUR LIVES!  DO OUR THING!  And any photos we take are, by and large, for our own personal edification.

I am, I believe, Renaissance Woman.  I spend less time online now than I can remember.  My time at the computer is just a fraction of what it once was.  I’m doing life Old School style, free from etheric tethers to what has, in recent years, become a behemoth of conflict and conspiracy, Russian “collusion” and the stifling of Free Speech, and WAY too many ads for things or ideas I could care less about.

Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!

Here are some interesting statistics about Fauxbook:

  1.  There are 83 MILLION fake profiles.    That is not a typo but it is a lot of deception.
  2.  Turns out that Facebook is BAD for your relationships.  In fact, a study done in 2010 showed “Facebook” was reported as being responsible in 30% of divorces.  That’s 1 in 3, and this study is 7 years old now!  Imagine what that statistic might be today!
  3. Not only are romantic relationships adversely effected, Facebook can be a  friendship killer as well.    I lost 2 long term, real time friendships because of something Facebook related.  Did I insult them online?  Did I post a death threat or a photo they didn’t want to be seen?  Did I go suddenly crazy and become someone completely different , or reveal their deepest darkest secrets to all 350 of my closest friends? Nope.  In fact, in BOTH cases, the women just bailed on me without explanation – unfriending me online AND in real life in the new chickenshit, cowardly, immature way  of “dealing” that has infiltrated our society. And I’m not the only one to experience this.  Three of my close girlfriends have as well…and we’re talking about 30 year relationships just GONE, just like that, over social media.  All of us were left hurting, confused and bereft.  Never again.
  4. Not only a source of jealously and infidelity, Facebook has been shown to cause depression, narcissism, anxiety, low self-esteem and a number of other mental health issues.  If you’ve ever logged onto your Facebook account in a relatively good mood only to log off 30 minutes later feeling like shit, you know what I’m talking about.  Just ask anyone who finds out their ex, only recently to have broken up with them via text message (another chickenshit move used these days), immediately started seeing his old flame.  The one that always seemed to show up on his posts with some flirty thing to say.  (This happened to my daughter).  And don’t even get me started on a personal pet peeve of mine –  the seemingly never ending Selfie Parade some people engage in.  I mean, how many times do we have to see yet another fish-lipped, “I love myself!  I’m so awesome!” post before we start asking, “Who are they trying to convince?  Me or themselves?”  Turns out posting too many of these photos is another big contributor to the Death of Friendship and intimacy – and it’s annoying as hell!

As Facebook (d)evolves over time…the more FB execs testify before Congress and are in news about their shady dealings (influencing in the 2016 election and censoring certain content, to name two), the happier I am that I’m not a part of it. I don’t belong there.  My peeps are in real time, not virtual time.  A day (finally) came when the Cons far outweighed the Pros (I speak for myself personally), and I had the will to say Good-bye forever.

Ever since I unfriended Facebook, my days are richer, more productive and peaceful, and involve more real-time friendtime than ever.

It’s been the BEST break-up I’ve ever had.

Serendipity Sunday

Life is full of magical moments and little synchronicities.

Several happened to me last week and many of them related to my cookbook project.  This might have been the coolest.

It’s been a long standing habit of mine to check two pages of any devotional book before buying it.  Well, I bought one this week based solely on serendipity.

This first photo is from a chapter I wrote back in the Spring entitled, “The Well Stocked Kitchen”.

A Well Stocked Pantry

Now this one:  A page from a little devotional book I picked up last week at the Good Will entitled, “A Grand New Day”.   It’s the page from my birthday, March 30th.

I’m still grinning ear to ear.

Happy Serendipity Sunday to you.

Uncovering The Gift

I’ve been staring at it for years.

I see it while sitting at the little table in our kitchen where I have my quiet time with God, writing and praying, crying and thinking…you know, doing Life.

Even though hidden by a tan cloth cover, I can see it anyway.  It was something I coveted and longed for, for years: A brand new black and chrome Artisan Kitchen Aid mixer. I bought it one birthday about 5 years ago.  Initially, I stored it on top of our maple hutch while waiting to move somewhere that had more than the postage stamp sized counter space the 800 sq. ft. Craftsman we were living in provided.

4 years ago this month, we moved into just that sort of space. The Kitchen Aid, however, has remained hidden under tan fabric on the top of the hutch where it’s served as a book end for my collection of vintage cookbooks.  A very expensive, guilt producing bookend.

That is, until yesterday.

Thinking back on it now, I am again filled with awe at how God works in my life.  Waking at 1:11 a.m., I made my way to the coffee maker and the table.  From years of experience I know when I’m not going to be able to get back to sleep, and I have no problem doing “whatever” comes to mind in those pre-dawn hours. My mother’s life has taught me many things.  One is, don’t push against the insomnia.  Don’t fight it and bitch about it.  Embrace it.  Make it work FOR you, not against you. There are reasons for getting up while other’s are sleeping, and many (if not most) of them are sacred.

They are Holy Hours.

You would think that after so many years of being the recipient of Just In Time answers to prayer, worry wouldn’t wake me in the middle of the night.  But it does, and it did, and so I knew a a Mind Dump was needed…. the writing out of my concerns into my journal that always brings relief (and often, answers).

I write a bit, sip coffee, stare at the tan lump on top of the hutch, at the vintage dishes stored inside it, at my cook books and cooking accoutrements.  I REALLY should bring The Lump down and uncover it.  I REALLY should use it or sell it. (a familiar refrain for months).

For whatever reason, yesterday was the day and at 2:30 a.m., after rearranging items on the counter top to create space, I climb onto a chair and surprise myself at being able to lift the damn thing from so high up because it’s weighty.  Brushing away cobwebs and snatching the cover off, my breath catches.

KAOh my God, it’s SO beautiful!  So shiny and perfect. How did I not do this before? Why did I wait so long?

Not only does it fit perfectly in it’s new home, the things on top of the hutch are arranged in a more pleasing way as well.  A domino effect of order and attractiveness ensued, and with it, a sense of relief mixed with import in the moment.

The word “Artisan” catches my eye….black lettering on stainless steel….tugging at my soul strings, trying to get my attention.

It’s symbolic, isn’t it,  this lovely, costly tool that’s been covered up, unused and forgotten?  It’s something about me.  My life.

My gift.

I sit back down to pray and write some more. 3 pages in, I find myself writing about writing.  Recalling a time when I was in an inspired and prolific flow, when words literally poured out of me, I relived the sense of satisfaction from being in my purpose felt as I heard from people who were touched after reading me.  They didn’t feel so alone, somehow.  They felt understood.  WE felt understood, my audience and I together.

And then I remembered when that wellspring of creativity stopped, why it stopped, and who stopped it.

Ugh.

In the decade since, I’ve never again been in that sort of inspired flow.   Did I decide I would be punished like before if I “went there”?  That I would be hurt? Scribbling furiously, I continued along this line of self questioning…

Did I subconsciously BLOCK the flow in order to protect myself from feeling pain and frustration?  Is there something in me that wants to be expressed?

IS THERE A BOOK INSIDE ME THAT WANTS TO BE WRITTEN? THAT PEOPLE WANT TO READ?  (all caps now)

…..Yes.

(ok, that wasn’t me….I keep writing….)

What’s it about?

.….Not giving up….

(huh.  yeah, well, I guess I do know something about that)

Is it fiction or non fiction?

….Nonfiction….

(whew.  I’m not so great at making things up.)

Who is my audience?

….Women Who Want More….

More what?

…. Hope, inspiration, understanding, fulfillment, guidance….

….. GRACE

And that’s when I am given the title.

I am stunned.  I think God just showed up.  For reals.

As I ponder all this, and the direction it was going – how this idea connects to that passion that connects with something else creative I started last year – I found myself grabbing a pencil and sketching in my journal.   It’s the Kitchen Aid mixer.  The sketching itself feels like a meditation as I sip coffee, adjust lines, and think about, well, what just happened.

It’s about 4:30 when I get it where I want it and write the title underneath it.

And just like that, I see it.  Literally.  Ideas start filling my head.   Excitement and inspiration course through me.  I run to the back office and pull out my project from last Winter.  I am amazed at how the disjointed pieces of half finished work and a dream left for dead start fitting together – like a puzzle. It was all right here, the whole time, just waiting to be uncovered. The Plan.  HIS plan.

I know what to do.

“I am the Lord Your God who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”  –  Isaiah 48:17