Archive for November, 2014

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It’s not typically my nature to try and throw myself into the middle of a very heated, very volatile topic such as this one, but based on conversations I’ve had over the last couple of days, I truly feel the need to speak up here. Whether anyone chooses to hear what I have to say or not is completely up to them.

For the sake of context, I was raised in Canada. I was raised in a community that was basically colorblind. I was raised in a virtual multicultural mosaic. I was taught that ethnicity did not define a person; action did. Composure did. Character did. In 2012, I moved to Texas. While the social values may be different down here, mine are not. I am still the same person I was. I still judge people based on what they do and what they say, not on how they look or who they love.

Furthermore, I must also point out, again for the sake of context, that I am white. I am a pretty average North American. I’m not privileged. I live in what some would call a ghetto on the road to recovery. I interact with all manner of people on a daily basis.

In July 2013, I was the victim of a violent crime. I was kidnapped, raped and beaten. Following those 4 days I spent in hell, it took me seven weeks to file a police report. I systematically went to six different police agencies with my case, photographs of my injuries, copies of the medical records from when I took myself to the ER, as well as a clear paper trail and pictures identifying my assailant. In the first two weeks of this effort, you could still clearly see the trauma on my body. My face was bruised, I had burns on my neck and finger print bruising on my bicep. Those are just the marks that were visible at a glance. There was significantly more marks of my trauma covered by my clothing. But again, I had photographs of them all. Five independent police agencies basically told me “Not my jurisdiction, not my problem, sorry about your luck.” One officer did his due diligence and made the effort to at least provide me with GPS coordinates to take with me to the next agency. The rest of them couldn’t be bothered with the prospect of paperwork that wasn’t even in their jurisdiction for sure.

At the end of the seven weeks, and at the sixth law enforcement agency, I finally got a police report filed. The deputy was really kind to me, and praised the effort I went to to assemble what appeared to be a solid case. He said that I had made his job too easy. I felt relief, and cautious optimism that I would see some semblance of justice. A couple of months after that, I found out that my assailant had been picked up in a neighboring county and was being held on charges separate from mine. I thought that a little strange, but was just relieved to know he was off the street.

Fast forward another 3 months, into spring 2014. I was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury in the county that had filed my police report to testify against my assailant. I didn’t know what to expect, but was once again feeling a sense of relief that maybe now was the time for justice. Maybe now was the time for someone to say that what had been done to me was not okay. How wrong I was.

I appeared before the grand jury, as per my subpoena. I was dressed professionally, and though nervous, I did my best to answer their questions. I had sustained a head injury in my trauma, and a lot of the specific details were blurry, but it wasn’t those details they seemed interested in anyway. These people attacked me. They spoke to me as if I was the criminal. They asked me things like ‘why didn’t you call out for help?’ ‘why didn’t any of the officers you spoke to ask for your financial records?’ ‘why didn’t you run away?’ These are all ridiculous questions. When a man twice your size has a weapon on you, and is threatening people you love, and takes you places away from where you are familiar, your survival depends on not doing anything to further antagonize him. Furthermore, how would I know why the police didn’t ask for my records? If memory serves, I am not the detective. I am not the one trained to build cases against bad guys. I realize it is the prosecutor’s job to find holes in the case that the defense could take advantage of, but nevertheless. I left that hearing feeling like I had once again been violated. I felt like these people were angry at me, and blaming me for what had been done to me. I was hysterical, and in tears. Surprisingly, or really not so much after what I had endured, I called up to the court house the following day to find out that the grand jury had no billed the charges of Aggravated Kidnapping and Aggravated Sexual Assault, citing insufficient evidence to proceed to trial. I was distraught as I could be. Ultimately though, my assailant ended up in federal prison on unrelated charges, and will not be a threat to me until fall 2017. While it isn’t justice, at least it’s something.

You might be asking yourself why I bring this up now. What does this have to do with current events? It has everything to do with current events. My point is, I’m tired of seeing the race card used constantly. I’m tired of minorities segregating themselves and then getting angry that they are segregated. I don’t have a racist bone in my body, so please don’t jump to that conclusion. As I said before, I am colorblind.

The moral of my story overall, however, is this: the justice system is fractured and broken. It is thoroughly, completely and totally screwed up. I’m a young white female and I was dropped through the cracks of justice the exact same way Brown was. People choose to see prejudice everywhere, and choose to use it to justify their actions. There is no context in which that is acceptable. If we are truly going to progress as a nation, everyone has got to stop pointing fingers, drawing lines, and playing the blame game. We are all at the mercy of the law that governs us all. That law is completely and totally twisted from what it was originally intended to be. We have a far better chance of changing that, of fixing that, by standing united in a cause than we do of lashing out and acting so shamefully as to riot and loot. Is that any way to honor that young man’s memory? Is that any way to honor his family? Surely not. That kind of behavior will bring about change, but it is not the progressive change this country, the system, and the people need. It will bring about regressive, backwards change.

I don’t know about any of you, but I have no desire to go backwards, potentially to a time mirroring some of those shameful marks on world history. I have no desire to live in an ugly world fitting ugly statistics. I have no desire to be an element of a statistic. Surely I am not alone in this.

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I wrote the following narrative essay for my English Composition class. It was written in MLA format. I have received a lot of really great feedback, both professional and personal, on this piece, and so I wanted to share it here as well.

If it wasn’t already implied, I feel the need to express that nothing I write is seeking sympathy or pity, but simply understanding. I have since discovered that it makes my trials less daunting when I can affect and even help others with my experiences, or open eyes to the struggle of some among them. I share to do just that. If any who have been through some of the same trials as I read anything I write, it is my hope that they should draw solace from the fact that they are not alone, that they are not judged, and that I do stand by them, whether we know each other or not. I want to be a voice of support and kindness in the uglier parts of the world, because some folks trapped in those places are the ones who need it the most.

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There are so many theories as to whether innocence is an element of human biology, or whether it is something of a fluke. Some believe children are born with it, and gradually, as the world gets them in its grips, they lose it. I do not believe we all completely lose our innocence. I believe we have an inherent capacity to maintain some amount of it, proportional to the amount of imagination and wonder we allow ourselves. Like everything else, I believe there are also exceptions to that rule.

I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in the spring of 1987. I would be lying if I said I could tell you much about that time. I was raised by a Canadian mother and an American father, in a fairly well rounded home. We were not without our happy level of dysfunction as any family is, but for the most part, it was unremarkable. I am privileged in that I hold dual citizenship. I can (and have) worked in both countries, and have grown a great deal as a person in both countries, as well. I moved to Texas in late spring of 2012 in pursuit of a fairy tale. The man I call my husband now, is one of my oldest friends. I knew him on-line at the tender age of twelve. He was my safe place, my confidante, my best friend. I recall I would hurry home after school, eager to chat with him. Once high speed internet became the norm, he would leave his webcam streaming for me, even while he was at work. He kept a salt-water fish tank, and I loved to look at it while I did my homework. The tank and the creatures who resided in it were so bright, so vivid – it is really a miracle I ever got any schoolwork done.

Time passed as it always does, and we grew apart, as people often do. He was four years older than me, and so we were at different stages in our development. We fell out of touch, going our separate ways to make our separate mistakes and to learn our separate lessons. I would not learn the extent of those lessons until February of 2012. He crawled out of the woodwork, creating a profile on Facebook and adding me. It was an easy reconnection, as if we had never parted in the first place. I caught him up on my life since our last interaction, and he broke my heart catching me up on his. He had been incarcerated for nearly six years. He had just been released a week or two prior to making contact with me. I was stunned. In my youth, I had no idea that he was wrapped up in the ugly underbelly of the world. I had no idea he had fallen in behind his father and submitted to the siren call of drugs. He had gone out of his way to keep those elements of his life from me. It pained me to learn all of these things, but it also steeled my resolve. As a child, I did not have the independence and means to book a flight. At twenty four, however, I did. I flew into DFW the third week in March of 2012. I marveled at the weather. Canadian winters are often still going strong, well into the calendar spring. Texas boasted fair weather, if a little muddy. The grass was already becoming lush and green. It was a far cry from the blinding, desolate, winter wasteland I had flown out of mere hours before.

As all good things often do, my trip passed far too quickly. I was state side for twelve days. The time inevitably came for me to return home. We had decided between ourselves that it would be temporary. We were not quite sure what this was between us, but we were both determined to see it through. I would return home on April 1st, 2012, for the last time. Six weeks later, in the early morning hours of May 16th, 2012, I would load up my car, and I would depart Canada as a resident for the last time. I was terrified, not because I was unsure of where I was going, but because I have never been adventurous. It took 28 hours of driving and a lot of coffee, but I made the 1600 mile drive from end to end of the continental United States of America. I arrived in Sherman, Texas, mid-day on May 17th, 2012. I felt a sense of accomplishment, the likes of which I had never known. I made it. Life was great for the first year. I found work, we found our niche, and we thrived. We were closer than ever.

In the spring of 2013, the tone changed. I was so naïve. I did not know the signs. I did not fully understand my husband’s addiction until it was too late. He was out of control, and there was nothing I could do to alter the subsequent chain of events. He was arrested May 7th, 2013. For a long time I felt guilty for the sense of relief that I felt at knowing where he was, and that he was safe. I truly believe to this day, had he not been taken into custody at that time, he would not be alive today. The ‘drugs are bad’ theme is not the element of innocence lost I referred to earlier though. Less than eight weeks after he was arrested, one of the unsavory people my husband associated with would completely destroy my world as I knew it. Sure, my reality was pretty chaotic already. It was nothing compared to the days following the Fourth of July.

This man took me, took my car, took my money, and all but took my life. I was held against my will for four long, excruciating days. I was denied sleep, and I was sexually and physically assaulted. I was kept off the grid and far away from the people I loved, and the people who loved me. My husband was in county jail and could not come find me. I was not sure I was ever going to see him, or anyone, ever again.

Those days taught me anger. They taught me the potential danger in being too trusting of anyone. They taught me of the extreme evils in this world. The hard truth is that I survived. While I am still working on putting all the pieces back together, I am for the most part, victorious. I will never know innocence again. As if my ordeal was not enough, it would take me seven more weeks and soliciting six different police agencies, to even successfully file a police report, despite the visible signs of abuse on my face and body. Eventually the District Attorney of the county that finally listened, subpoenaed me to testify before the Grand Jury. I was hopeful that maybe justice would finally be served. I learned a great many things about the law, primarily among which is that the law does not like to gamble. It prefers to bet on a sure thing. The DA’s office no billed the charges against my assailant, citing insufficient evidence to proceed to trial. Not only was Johnny Law not concerned with what happened to me, he was also okay with it. He was perfectly content to turn that animal loose.

We teach our children that policemen are there to protect us and to keep us safe. That is the moral of this story. That is the innocence I will never again possess. I am still a happy, pleasant person. I have aspirations and hopes and dreams. I have conquered many adversities over this last year, and I am not finished, yet. The future is bright, and it will be mine. I am no stranger to hard work. My husband will be home eventually, and maybe then this will all be no more than a bad dream. Until then, I am motivated by my anger. I am motivated by injustice not only to survive, but to continue to grow, to become more than I once was. Whatever curve balls life has in store for me, I am ready. I will adapt. I will survive. Bring it on.

So I’ve been having a pretty good week again this week… it’s a nice development after the week from hell earlier this month.

I have to laugh a little bit at the recurring theme I seem to notice surrounding all my ups and downs both: control. My counselor has said that it is not uncommon for a survivor to exhibit a desire for control over their environment and life in general following a traumatic experience. I don’t really like the word “control” though… it seems to carry a somewhat negative connotation when the thing itself as a factor in the life of someone like me results in such positivity. I realize excessive obsessive tendencies are not healthy but the fact of the matter is, there is a significant difference between excessive and moderate. I need to plan my time, in addition to scheduling fixed tasks in my life. I like to think I adapt to unforeseen interruptions to my plans pretty well… though when a lot happen in a short period of time, my mood does suffer for it. I have yet to become completely unable to function, which I’m glad for. I have gotten a little lethargic on occasion but not to the detriment of my job, my classes or responsibilities. Everyone is allowed to have bad days, right?

In one of my classes, Learning Frameworks, we have been learning about different personality types as well as learning styles. It’s very interesting to see that some of the qualities typically exhibited by a survivor are qualities that already exist in certain types of people. I find this to be reassuring but also stunning since there are so many people that are quick to dismiss damaged people as broken. They are quick to define people who have been a through hell and lived to tell the tale as the hell they weathered.
This bothers me tremendously. Yes, all people are products of their environments and experiences, but ALL of their environments and experiences. Yes, I have been through hell. I have been violated beyond the realm or what is acceptable collateral damage on the ride of Life, and yes, I have made mistakes, as has the man I love, but those are only a couple of factors that make up the blueprint of who I am. Those elements of my life experience do not exclusively define me any more than the fact that I like broccoli and dislike Brussels sprouts do. Similarly, yes, my husband is in prison. Yes, he is among the ranks of the shamefully large Texas inmate population. Yes, he is an addict. But these are not all he is. Why are some people so inclined to pass judgment on others simply due to their present circumstances? Hell, even past circumstances. We will have to endure judgmental leering down the noses of the self righteous for our entire lives due to his felony convictions and my oddities over control.

That doesn’t bother me as much as it might bother others. I know my heart and I know his heart. Those that dismiss us as inferior or unworthy of their company are the ones who will lose out ultimately. As individuals, we are quite exceptional people, my man and I. If anyone chooses to judge us by the scars we bear as medals of Honor, denoting our victories over adversity, so be it. We didn’t want to play with them anyway.

I guess the moral of this story is folks shouldn’t be so quick to judge one another. Everyone has pages in their story that are less pleasant than others. If you refuse to endure those pages, there’s no telling what elements of wisdom, knowledge and kindness you will miss out on from the transition from dark to light. It’ll be only your loss. Life is too short to risk missing anything at all.

 

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Why? Why not?

Posted: November 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

I had a chat with a new friend of mine earlier today and the topic went to dreams and aspirations, and the elements of our lives that gave birth to those dreams and aspirations. It got me to thinking about how sadly rare it is to see people make something good out of something awful. It was with this thought that it finally dawned on me: that is the difference between a victim and a survivor.

Those that know me know that I have strong feelings of resentment towards the victim label. Yes, awful things have happened to me and in my life in recent history. I feel that the term “victim” implies that those things are what define me, and I simply cannot abide by that. Sure, I used to think all the time “why me? Why are these things happening to me?” The cold reality of it though is ‘why not me?’ I don’t feel that I am more or less fortunate than anyone else. I don’t feel that anyone is more deserving of atrocities than anyone else. The fact of the matter is: life is a lengthy series of poker games. Sometimes we get dealt killer hands that allow us to clean house on the table. Other times, though, we get the shittiest hands that we possibly could. I’m of the opinion though that a shitty hand doesn’t mean you should quit playing. Don’t go all in on it, by any means, but don’t bow out at the first sign of adversity because if you do, then what? The most current standing you will have is whatever hand you bowed out with. If it were a less than ideal hand, why on earth would you stop at that? I can think of no logical, sane reason to settle for that.

I choose to take the adversities that arise in my life and mold them into motivation. I don’t like the way things are sometimes, so I figure out what steps I need to take to fix it. It is never easy. I’ve been hard up financially for more days in my life than not, and I’ve had to go without a lot of things as a result. It happens a lot. I have no sense of entitlement. I don’t think I deserve more or less than I have at any given time. A victim does. A victim allows his or herself to be defined by the ugly reality they face. They expect others to sympathize or pity them and they expect other people to take up for them and make it better. Victims can keep their mentality. I don’t want it. Anything I have, I have worked for. I have cried, sweated and bled for everything. I will continue to do so because that is how I will earn a better hand. That is how I will become more than what I am.

If you don’t like where you’re at, stop just sitting there and complaining about it. Complaining will change nothing. Go out and do something about it. If something upsets you, get mad, keep your cool, and change it. Do not settle for what is, because I guarantee you the World does not care. It will not lose sleep or stop spinning even for a second. It will continue as it always has and always will. It is up to you to carve your lot out. It is up to you to build on it and create the life you want to live.

The title here is a double entendre. ‘Why me? Why are these things happening to me?’ These things are happening to you because you are asking the wrong question. The question you should be asking is ‘Why aren’t these things happening to me?’ Once you answer that question, you will be in control and you will find the path to the life you have want. You still have to move your feet though. You still have to do the work and you still have to make the sacrifices and learn the lessons. There is not a thing in this world that is free. There are some things, however, that are a pleasure to pay for. When you pay the price for those things, you are left with a sense of accomplishment and victory that money simply cannot buy.

 

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One of the wonderful women in one of the Inmate Wife support groups I am a member of posted this and I was very moved by it. I asked her if I could repost it on my blog here. Again, this is credited to miss Sherrie Montgomery – I did not write this. Thanks so much for sharing, lady. This is really a wonderful piece.

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The Prison Wife
Who is she??

She is around you more than you may ever realize. She is the girl in line at the grocery store. She is the girl sitting next to you at work. She is the girl on the other end of the phone when you call customer service. She is the girl standing at the mailbox just waiting and hoping there is a letter, amongst all of the bills, with his name in the top left corner. She is the girl jumping up and down when she hears his ringtone every day. She is the girl searching everywhere to find new perfume to spray on his letters. She is the girl laying alone at night…thinking of how it will feel to have his skin on hers all night long as they sleep. She is the girl crying tears because he is so far away…but do you know that is what the tears are for??

She is the girl setting out to achieve her goals and earn a college degree so that life can be successful for him and for her when they are finally reunited…and she does it with so much love and appreciation for all that he does for her, even though things are limited for the moment. She is the girl that everyone does not feel sorry for because this is the life she chose…so when things get rough…all she hears is “well that is the road you chose to take” or “if you would just move on and find someone who could be here and support you”…you just don’t get it, do you??

She is the girl who has nobody to comfort and hold her when someone she loves passes away. She is the girl who must remain strong in the face of challenge. She is the girl with nobody to hold her hand and cry with her when she finds out that she has a medical problem. She is the girl that people look at with pity in their eyes because there is nothing they can do. He is the only man that can take this all away.

She is the girl that loves her man more than life itself. She is the girl that hurts when he tells her how worthless he is because he can’t provide for her. She is the girl that tells him he is wonderful when the cops make him feel like he has no value as a man…when the only difference between them and him is that he just got caught…the cops will someday too. She is the girl that would give anything to make him understand just how much he really is loved and valued in this life. She is the girl that he vents to when he is struggling. She is the girl left in the dark because he will not tell her what life on the inside is like…she is too precious to know all of this and he wants to keep her sacred and away from this hell that he calls home. She is the girl wondering if she is on his mind as much as he is on hers. She is the girl that is just as imprisoned as he is…sure she does not live in that world…but she is doing the time right along with him.

She is the girl running to the bank to make sure she has enough quarters to get through the whole 8 hour visit. She is the girl driving an hour, 4 hours, or 14 hours so that she can finally kiss the man that she is in love with and be able to feel close to him for the hours that they are together. She is the girl who can’t wait to see his face in person again. She is the girl going to “visit” her sweetheart…knowing that she will have to leave him again. She is the girl that hurts, knowing that any and all privacy that he has was gone the moment the cuffs were put on his wrists. She is the girl who wants to throw up when she thinks of the most incredible man that she has ever known, being shackled with chains around his stomach, his hands cuffed in front of him, his feet chained together…and chained to the person sitting next to him or walking in front of him. She is the girl that does not see the monster in him that they all think exists. She is the girl they call “naive” to the real world…she is not…she is sick of being classified like this just because she believes in people more than they believe in themselves.

She is the girl who lights up when she mentions his name or just thinks about him. She is the girl that gets butterflies in her stomach when he kisses her. She is the only person in this world that matters when he gives her a hug and tells her that he loves her. She is the girl counting down the days…waiting until he is free and there are no limits to how they express their love to each other for one another. She is the rock in his life…the solid foundation. She is his escape…especially when she is on the other end of the phone. She is the girl that he prays for. She is the girl that he fights for. She is the girl that he hopes is being faithful…but does he really trust her to be…and does he really believe her when she says she is?? She is the girl that does her very best in everything…inspite of the situation. She is his whole world…the letters she sends are priceless. He loves to smell her letters…it is refreshing from what he smells in there every day.

He is her whole world as well. He is on her mind 24/7/365. She is wondering what she can do to make him happy…she is limited…but she can change everything in his world for the better or for the worse…how is she going to decide to change it?? She is the greatest creation that God has ever made in his eyes. He is the most wonderful and incredible man on this earth in her eyes. The past is the past and that is just where it needs to stay. They pick up their lives…move toward one another…and create a whole new world inside of one another. When one gives, they receive. For everything she does for him to make him happy…he returns that to her. He showers her with unexpected gifts and amazing words written by his hand. He spoils her…and she spoils him. They fit…they always have…they always will. He loves her more than he could even try to describe…she loves him just the same…maybe more

Who is she?? She is me.

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