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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sharing for That Little Girl Who Was Hurt

A former student of mine messaged me today with the following message and graphic. With her permission and my eyes blurred with a stream of tears, I am sharing it all with you.

"I don't know why, but I felt compelled to send you this picture [below]. This picture speaks about me, I feel. And you are soo strong, and you are not afraid to speak your mind and share your thoughts, and to be yourself truly. You talk openly about the horrible thing that happened to you when you were younger, and I feel it making me stronger and making me feel like maybe it's time I speak my story to someone. I was raped and constantly molested and harassed when I was little. And all 9 men who did those horrible things to me were related to me in one way or another. Which just breaks my heart. I feel you can share this picture for me without actually mentioning me and the other hundreds and thousands of innocent voices out there who are afraid to speak to someone, like I was before I learned your story, well partial story. You are the one I trust, I guess since I came to you! I'm not sure if you will get lost or confused a bit, because I just went in all different directions here, haha. But yeah... I miss you.. I miss your words of wisdom and your strength, the sound of encouragement, faith in your voice."

"I'm on my way to school now, wiping the tears off my face. Because I've never talked to anyone. I tried to tell my grandma who's brother is one of those 9 men, and she did nothing. I don't hold a grudge towards her though, which I think is weird. Only towards my mom and dad, because they weren't there to save me at any time. But after my grandma just put it off to the side, I felt stupid and embarrassed and disgusting to tell anyone else. I'm sorry you went through something soo horrible too."

We continued writing for a bit, both of us in tears. As much as those tears hurt, I also think they heal. The healing is in the sharing. That she trusted me enough to share brought me to even more, harder tears. And now the tears - the healing tears - are yours.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Be Still My Birthday Heart

April 30th is my birthday. This year, I'll be 36. Normally, I don't much care about my birthday. I mean, I like it just fine, but I don't make a big deal out of it and don't get overly excited. This year, for reasons unbeknownst even to me, I've been excited. I mentioned my feelings, in passing, to my dear friend Jen of Attached Parents at Work and the next thing I know, this showed up in my newsfeed.

"This is the part that intimidated me most.
I hope I did it justice, Stephanie" (of Inspired Flow, the original creator of my gorgeous logo).
"About 2 hours into it. It was 90+ degrees today so I had to take a lot of breaks."
"Happy birthday Amy. I love you!"
"I used my sushi bamboo cutting board and front door mat to measure this and draw the lines."
"Had to put on knee socks and running shoes. My feet and cankles got sunburned."
"Hour 5: dark clouds roll in and thunder starts.  I was crying and chalking LOL!  I was Orlando's craziest lady, yelling at the sky 'DON'T YOU DARE RAIN ON THIS!!!'"
"[My son] approved!"

She cleared her calendar for the day, spent more than seven hours creating, drawing, loving me in the 90 degree heat and ugly humidity. For me. Just me. That's love. And it's a love I've felt from precious few people in my life. That's who she is. She's my friend. That means something...to both of us.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Assisting with Circumcision is Against the Nurse's Code of Ethics

I have been saying this for years. Who am I,though, right? I'm not a nurse. I don't understand. My little pea-brain can't possibly comprehend. Pfft. Fine. Here's an RN in complete agreement with me and I with her. Now, tell her she doesn't get it.

"Ethical nurses don't participate in any forced genital cutting ever." 'Nuff said.

Friday, April 18, 2014

30 Things Series #17: The Thing at Which I Wish I Were Great

In continuing with the 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series I'm writing, I present the thing at which I wish I were great. I have to say, while I knew immediately what I'd write about, I wish this were one of those listing ones, because there are SO many other things at which I'd like to be truly great. We'll have to discuss those at other times, I suppose.

I'd like to be a truly great mom. I want to have endless patience. I want to never feel touched out. I want to never need my own space or time when you also want me. I want to never get frustrated or tired or short or upset. I want to be the perfect mom for you, because you deserve nothing less.

Alas, I'm highly imperfect. That's OK, too. If I'm your model, you'll grow up learning that imperfections in yourself are normal and acceptable. You'll learn not to put people on pedestals, because they only place they can go from there is down. You'll learn that mistakes are opportunities to learn about yourself and the world around you, rather than opportunities to practice negative self-talk. You'll learn that you cannot be all things to all people. You'll learn what you want to be and what you don't want to be. You'll learn to love yourself for the most spectacular person you are truly.

I can't give you that "great" mom I wish I could. I can give you the best mom I know how to be. I hope every day that it's enough.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Menstruation a la Disney

This 1946 Disney/Kotex video oscillates between the extremes of uncharacteristically (for Disney) frank and informative to maddening and/or laughable (depending on your mindset toward stereotypical gender roles).

Take a look for yourself:

So, what do you think?

Friday, April 11, 2014

30 Things Series #16: My Greatest Accomplishments

This was a hard one for me to write. I don't like to boast. I struggled coming up with five, the right five. If you're to really know me, all of me, you need to know this part of me, too. Here they are, then, as part of my 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me series - my five greatest accomplishments.

1. Becoming a mother.
Not only was this a massive feat due to the various fertility obstacles I faced, the five months of bed rest, and the 34 hours of labor that went from home birth to emergency c-section, BUT it turns out, I might be a pretty good mom and this is easily my greatest accomplishment. That you know unequivocally that you are unconditionally loved is huge. That I had absolutely no examples of breastfeeding in my life, we struggled with it at the beginning due to your tongue tie and my flat nipples, yet we are continuing to breastfeed almost 3 1/2 years later is major. That I have gone on to break cycles of unhealthy behaviors left and right to give you the very best I can give brings me both a sense of pride and a healing I never expected. I won't take credit for who you are. You are amazing you, because of, well, you. In large part, you've also made me who I am, both as a mother and a person. Some of me, though, I count as my own accomplishment. I'm proud of me. I'm proud of us. We're a good team.

2. Becoming a teacher.
Since high school, I wanted to be a teacher. Stupidly, I had applied for no scholarships and my parents made way too much money for me to qualify for financial aid, so I had no money. I should've gone to community college, but my ego wouldn't allow that at the time. (Another stupid decision.) I had a full time job when I was 18, so I did my best to take night classes, but finances were tight living on my own. It wasn't until my mid-20s that I was given the opportunity to move in with my parents, work part-time, and attend school full-time. From that point on, I took 18 credits every semester, including summers to book it through and get my degree. I did that, gained entry into the honor society for educators, and earned magna cum laude status. Before I even graduated, I had a position secured and other offers coming in. I had met my goal. Then I went on to be a good teacher - even better! I quit to be with you, a decision I have never regretted for a second, but I loved my time as a teacher and I do miss the difference that I was able to make. Keeping in touch with so many of my former students keeps me in semi-teacher mode regularly, though, so I don't feel as if I've given it up completely. I had a goal and, regardless of how long it took, I accomplished it. Score one for me.

3. Public speaking award.
Like I said above, I wanted to be a teacher since high school. There was a time between high school and actually becoming a teacher that I faltered on that goal.

That story:
The summer after graduation, my favorite teacher, the reason I wanted to be a math teacher myself, asked me to go to Las Vegas with her and her family as her 3 year old daughter's babysitter. I agreed. One day into the trip, the four adults (her, her husband, her mom, and her aunt) went to the casino while her daughter and I stayed behind in the hotel room. Her husband returned alone. He was noticeably aggravated and getting more so as time wore on. When she returned to the room alone, she shut the door behind her and his first reaction was to throw his car keys at her - hard. He then crossed the room with lightning speed and started beating her everywhere but her face (clearly, he was experienced). I tried to call 9-1-1, while simultaneously protecting her daughter's body and sight-line. She saw me dial the phone and, in the midst of being brutally beaten, yelled at me to hang up. At a naive 18 years old, when your hero tells you to do something, you do it. It's one of my biggest regrets. Only after she collapsed to the floor against the door did he push her aside and leave the room. She rushed over to retrieve her daughter from me. I rushed out to get her mom and aunt. Eventually, her husband came back and there was more fighting, verbally only this time. There was talk of going to get a quickie divorce. However, in the end, they took their daughter and left, just the three of them, to do who knows what - "have family time," I assumed. It was then that I broke down, in true me-fashion. I called my parents who firmly instructed me to get in a cab and go to the airport where they'd have a ticket home waiting for me. I did just that, sobbing the entire time. When I got off the plane, my parents were there waiting for me. I collapsed into their arms. Something inside of me had died. Something inside of me changed for a great many years. I no longer wanted to be a teacher. I no longer knew what I wanted to do with my life. I can tell you that it's only been in the last year or so that I've been able to recount this story, even to myself in my own memory, without breaking down.

I saw her a few weeks later. She claimed to have no recollection of being hit. She apologized profusely for scaring me. She was staying with him. It had happened many times before and it was to happen many times after.

A few years later, I was a teaching a teen defensive driving class (you'll read more about that later) when one of my students asked me, "Are you THE Amy Bray? You're Mrs. X's favorite student! She's told me all about you. She told me what happened. She's since left him. She's doing so much better now. She talks about you all the time." If memory serves, I cried then, too.

We lost touch for several years. I think she wanted to be lost, honestly and understandably. I found her again, though, and when I did, I again cried...hard. She was my hero and still is. My respect for her is greater now than it was in high school, a level hard to top. She is absolutely the reason I became a teacher.

Back to the accomplishment at hand:
During my years of no longer wanting to be a teacher, I took a required public speaking class. I lost my fear of public speaking somewhere around the 9th grade. I had gone on to enjoy it, even speaking at the Senior Breakfast in high school. This, though, was the most learning I'd done on the topic, the most I'd enjoyed a topic in college. Dr. Bottroff was an amazing professor. I went on to ace that class and T.A. for him the next semester. I then moved to my next professor, Rick Hogrefe, who I assumed could never top Dr. Bottroff. There was no comparison. They were different, their classes were different, their styles were different. Both were amazing. I took all of Rick's classes and, at the end of my time there, I was awarded the top honors in the public speaking division of the college. I had no family or friends with me. I was all alone, so no one cheered as I received it, but I was on cloud nine nevertheless. I loved public speaking - still do - and it turned out, I was good at it, too. Ya, that's a pretty cool deal to me.

4. Youngest and first female driving instructor.
Just before I turned 19, I went to work as a clerk at the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department in the training division, the emergency vehicle operations center (EVOC), to be exact. It was fun and I was good at it. I have a good work ethic, did even then, and my superiors took notice. Not even a year later, I was asked to take the training to become a driving instructor. I did and became the youngest (a title I still hold) and first female driving instructor at the SBSD EVOC. The next oldest instructor was more than 10 years my senior. I was then made lead instructor on the weekends, running the teen survival driving skills, adult defensive driving, and ambulance driving skills classes on my own. I loved it. I kept the position as instructor for several years after I was promoted beyond clerk and transferred to a patrol station. It wasn't until my new duties became too much for me to handle along with my instructor duties that I gave it up. Otherwise, I'd still be there rocking it, showing up the old guys, kicking ass on the skid pan and high speed track, and overall being a BAMF. That was a rad job and I was rad at it.

5. Making it through both IVF and PPD/anxiety and coming out the other side alive and still happily married.
I'm going to write about this, but I'm hesitant, because I fear you'll take it personally, that it will hurt you or make you feel guilty. That's not my goal. I wouldn't trade ANY of what I'm about to write, because in the end of it was still you - wonderful, irreplaceable, miraculous you.

IVF was HARD, physically, mentally, and emotionally. It taxed every part of me and every part of your dad's and my marriage. I gained 50 pounds in a short period of time. My veins had long since been shot since I used to donate platelets every two weeks for years prior, so the uber-frequent blood draws resulted in multiple sticks each time. Once, I even got a blood clot in my arm that was so painful I couldn't use my arm for about a week. The hormones are similar to those you'd experience in pregnancy (that's enough of a hormone rush right there), only I got them all at once, resulting in some major mood swings and imbalances. I had zero support from my direct supervisor at work. In fact, I told her ahead of time that I would be starting the process and had no idea what to expect from the hormones, so if I wasn't performing, I apologized in advance and hoped she'd understand. The DAY after I started the hormone injections, the day she knew they were starting, she made the choice to come in and do my eval and then tore me a new one when I sat during my lesson instead of walked the room like I would normally do. It only got worse with her from there. To top it all off, I didn't feel supported at home. I think your dad would willingly tell you, now that he's had time to reflect, that he was in over his head and didn't understand how to properly support a wife going through all that I was going through. How we stayed married, I sometimes still wonder.

After you were born in the manner in which you were born as opposed to what we had planned (you can read about here and here), I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. Just when we thought we were out off the roller coaster, we hopped right back on and it was, if possible, even scarier. Rage was my greatest symptom of PPD. And all that rage was taken out on your dad. That, coupled with the constant worries and fears, were sometimes crippling. I didn't get help until much too late - just over a year after you were born. I had no idea rage was a PPD symptom, though. I thought your dad was just an asshole. (Not that he sometimes wasn't. We all have those moments.) It wasn't until I read an article about someone else experiencing the same symptoms that I sought help through talk therapy and prescription drugs.

After all that we went through in those few years, I am amazed that we made it and terribly proud that we did. Going through all that only to come out on top is one of my our greatest accomplishments. We often say to each other that if we could make it through all that, we'll be able to make it through anything else that comes out way.

So, it turned out that I had a lot more to say than I thought I did when I started. Much of it wasn't really about the accomplishments at all, but it ended up being cathartic and enjoyable regardless. I love you, sugar. I just do. Thank you for being the great motivator that you are. Thank you for being you.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

30 Things Series #15: How I Knew He Was The One

It is the eve of my husband's and my 5th wedding anniversary. We were married alone, just us, the reverend, and the photographer, on a beach in central California where we spent a week before and after. It was our ideal wedding and honeymoon - all us, all the time, no stress, no fuss.

This blog post is a two-fer. It's part of the series I'm writing, 30 Things My Son Should Know About Me, AND it's going to serve to fulfill one of my Personal Goals for the New Year, a love letter to my husband on our fifth anniversary. It is also, coincidentally, a milestone post - my 200th. So, I guess it's a three-fer, but that's not really a thing, so...

Dada and I met online. We actually talked once several months earlier, had a lovely conversation, but he has no recollection and I didn't count it as a big loss that I didn't hear back from him, nor did I try to contact him again. It was just a nice moment in history.

In February of 2008, he struck up another conversation with me. Some of his first words to me were, "Oh my God, you're gorgeous!" I've never forgotten. He was fun to talk with, made me laugh, was smart as a whip, and had a good heart.

We went on our first date February 29th. We always say we have a quadriversary, instead of an anniversary of our dating. Normally, we wouldn't celebrate a dating anniversary now that we're married, but it's such a unique opportunity, we do celebrate our quadriversary every four years. It's one of the things that makes us special.

Your dad wasn't so sure about me at first. He had just come out of a relationship and that was still weighing on him, I think. My last relationship had taken a full year for me to get over, so I understood.

When he finally became sure, though, things clicked for us quickly. We knew very early that we were in love. There was no moment. Not for me, at least. I've never experience some specific moment when I realized I was in love with someone. It's always been a progression and the same was true for your dad. All that he was added up to a swelling of feeling in my heart that could not be denied. I loved him. I love him. By September, we were engaged and on a Tuesday in April of the next year, we were holding hands under a cypress tree on the beach, with a double rainbow behind us, reciting our vows to each other in the most intimate of ceremonies.

We have gone through more together than I ever imagined we would. We have weathered some major storms - storms that I believe would've broken lesser couples (they certainly did their best to break us). I heard someone recall once that the only reason they stayed together was because neither he nor his wife ever wanted to get divorced at the same time. I think that's probably how your dad and I got through some of the toughest stuff (and how we'll get through the future toughest stuff). I'm OK with that.

I love him. I love his sweet, sweet heart. I love that he couldn't find his way out of a paper bag. I love that he talks to himself possibly more than he talks to anyone else. I love that he tries so hard. I love that he recognizes his weaknesses and areas in need of improvement. I love that he loves you more than he is able to express. I love that he whispers "I love you" to you more than you are aware. I love all the things that make him who he is. I love that he's still here, though, as you well know by now, I'm not the easiest person with whom to live. I love that he wants, more than anything, to give us all that we want on top of all we need. He's a good man, sweetheart.

How did I know he was "the one"? I don't know. I don't have a specific "a-ha" moment to which I can point. I just knew. The feelings grew until I knew I did not wish to continue without him. I can still say that today. If given the option of living with him or without, I choose with and will continue to do so for the next five years, and the fifty years beyond that.

I hope that, if you wish it to happen, you find the same, my little love. I wish for you happiness in whatever form that takes for you.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Let Me Be

The English teacher in me loves poetry and adores National Poetry Month. The friend of Angie Lewis in me loves this woman. The human being with a soul in me loves everything about what Angie had to say in her poem.

I cried from beginning to end. I cried afterward. I cried thinking about it hours later. This hit the very core of me. I imagine it might do the same for you.

"Let Me Be" by Angie Lewis

Angie has but this one video on YouTube as of this date. Subscribe to her, though, because what is to come will surely be just as moving.

Angie is a musician, poet, Africanist, and aspiring activist who is ready to put to use what she has learned - through experience and throughout school - in the real world.