Available on January 23- My Cousin, Laura’s Book.

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Spoiler Alert!  It is captivating and inspiring so mark your calendar.

Yesterday, I snuggled in front of the fire to begin reading Laura’s soon to be released book, “She Wrote it Down.” I got up only to make the occasional cup of tea: I could not put it down. This book is a page-turner which may sound unusual for a self-help book.

Trust me.  And not only that, it’s a game-changer.

It felt as if Laura was holding my hand through each chapter. The more she shared her story, warts and all, the more identifiable it became. Not only survivors of abuse, those struggling with addiction, people who live in a place of shame but really anyone can relate.  Now, I have walked next to Laura since we reconnected in 2014, after a 35-year separation. We have been through a lot together and we share a lot with each other.  STILL, I took so much away from it.

(Did I mention that we talk at least ninety times a day?)

It has grit, grace and pure honesty. My beautiful cousin unabashedly shares her trauma, it’s aftermath and how it manifested itself in her life. But then, she shares how she decided to stop letting shame tell her story. And that is where it turns powerfully inspiring.

Then, she shares what she did to change the pattern.

I am so proud of Laura, of all that she has done for herself and is doing for others daily. You will probably read “She Wrote It Down” more than once. And I’d be willing to bet that you will gift it to others.

And guess what?  I could probably arrange for an autographed copy.

Release Date: January 23, 2018, and will be available on Amazon.

That’s All.

Mary MAMA BEAR

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Adrianne Simeone, The Mama Bear Effect

I love this sentiment.  It resonates.

This website is powerful and useful beyond measure. And I love the name of it, “The Mama Bear Effect.”

In the most literal sense, I am an example of a “Mama Bear.”

I was a single mother since my son was just a wee tot.  He was just three years old when my ex and I separated.  It was not until he was ten when I remarried My Michael and, with his two boys, we became a new family.

Those seven years were a challenging time.

In my eyes, it was my responsibility to overcompensate for our divorce. I stayed married for many years: Much longer than was healthy because I did not want him to be the only child of a broken home.

I finally realized that our family had been broken for years.

Come hell or high water, I was going to make up for it. I was going to make up for the shuffling between homes, heartbreaking transitions, and he had one parental kiss each night.

I overcompensated.

I spoiled him.  I intervened when I should have let him work things out on his own. I was overly protective and keenly aware if anyone looked askance at him. I sided with him almost all the time.

And he ate a lot of ice cream.

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One day, I was meddling in some situation with my child; One in which I had no business meddling. My friend’s husband candidly pointed it out to me by saying, “Mary, STOP being the Mama Bear!”

I shook my head, trying to shake those words around so that I could understand his intention.

I did not KNOW I was the Mama Bear. I was constantly keeping my eye on the prize: Winning  the Mother-of-the-Year Award. It never even dawned on me.

He was right.

I mulled over that for a long time. I journaled about it. I tried to connect the dots. I prayed about it. I finally get it.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse. The trauma and aftermath of which wreaks havoc on its victims psychological, physical and general health. It rears its ugly head in eating disorders, addiction, perfection, low self-worth, low self-esteem, and perfectionism.

I possess many of these qualities, mostly perfectionism, but also another. Being ENOUGH.

I have never felt as if I or my efforts have been enough.

I have always had unrealistic expectations of myself. I needed to be the smartest, prettiest, most successful, thinnest, best- you name it. And the reality is that I will never be the “-est.” And realizing that, after holding it as truth for so long, is a hard pill to swallow.

To me, the ultimate test of being the perfectionist is mothering.

Being a survivor evokes a heightened sense of overprotection. It’s not about holding my child’s hand while crossing the street or making sure that every electrical outlet had that little plastic safety thingy on it.

I had to guard him.

I had to be sure that NO ONE could get to him. I was willing to die a long and painful death to ensure that he would not suffer the way I had.

And there have been many times that this “Mama Bear” exited her cave, claws out, growling and ready to protect her cub.

The trauma of my abuse permeated its way into my parenting skills.

My cousin, Laura and I reported our abuse to the police, an investigation ensued, and Laura’s blog post went viral. Then it became clear that I had to tell my kids what happened to me. In hindsight, I should have had the conversation long before.

A few people asked, “Are you going to tell the boys?”

Of course.

A few people asked, “What are you going to tell the boys?”

The truth.

I will admit that I was nervous.

It was not the fear that they would be upset. It was not the notion that they would feel uncomfortable. I was ready to talk about it openly and shamelessly. I was ready for the hard questions and the answer.

The question to which I feared the answer more than any other.

“Has anyone ever done anything to make you feel uncomfortable? Has anyone ever acted in an abusive manner? “Has anyone ever sexually abused you?”

I held my breath.

“No.”

Glory be. Thank you, God.

We have got to have a heightened sense of the eminent danger to our kids. Because it is happening right under our noses.

Abuse is happening families and in circles of close friends. “Stranger Danger” is an inaccurate cliche that masks a hard topic. Everybody, strangers make up only five percent of abusers.

I have always used the term “Mama Bear” in a not-so-favorable manner. But quite to the contrary, “The Mama Bear Effect” sheds light on this term positively and pro-actively, giving  powerful and poignant information.  The content includes topics like how to talk to your children about abuse, how to prevent abuse and how to detect the signs of abuse.

I love big and try to mend all the hurts. I shield, over-compensate and fiercely protect my kids. I probably won’t change those things, but I will move on with a conscious heart and mind as I parent.

So, now my charge, with my cousin, is to educate others; children, parents and anyone else who will listen. We speak appropriately, clearly, candidly and with conviction about abuse. We want you to speak, too.

Because, everyone, our children’s lives depend on it.

That’s all.

themamabeareffect.org

My Strongly Worded Letter to WORDPRESS

Dear WordPress,

I love to write my blog!  Thank you for helping me to spread my message to whoever is willing to listen.  One would think that after five months of writing,  I would have the hang of maneuvering the site.

One would think.

So, Wordpress, do you have a suggestion box? Because, I have a suggestion.

For the second time since I started writing in April, I inadvertently hit the “Publish” tab instead of the “Save Draft” tab on my post.

Hey! I wasn’t DONE!

Why did you design your site so that these tabs are RIGHT next to each other?  It just seems, well, mean.

As you may know, some writers like to write and revise and write and revise. And so forth and so on.  And sometimes, writers such as myself,  see something sparkly!  And then, all of a sudden, we drift off in another direction and hit the wrong button:  “Publish.” not “Save Draft.”

There is no going back. There are sentence fragments, typos, dumb examples and, well, sometimes, there is pure stupidity flying all around the internet and popping into readers’ inboxes. And that is just wrong. And unfair. And a bad joke.

We all know that when someone walks out of the restroom with TP on their shoe we are supposed to WARN that person. That is the kind thing to do.

Earlier today I sent my TP out into the world, and you did not even warn me!

I am just saying.

Here is my suggestion:

Will you kindly move the two tabs so that they are not next to each other. At all. Anywhere. As a matter of fact, it would be super if they were on separate pages altogether.

And, if you could require a password to publish a post that would be a dream.

And maybe, while you are at it, you could make the tabs flashing colors- like red for “publish” and green for “save draft?”

Even better, maybe you could send a warning saying, “Are you sure you want to publish your not finished, riddled-with-errors, incoherent and senseless piece? Because if you do, there are going to be a lot of folks scratching their heads out there.”

Thanks for listening, WordPress.

I am about to hit “Publish.”

Here I go…

Stop me if you want…

Yep, I am SURE…….!

That’s all.

Throwing Rocks

One beautiful summer morning my brother and I fetched our good friend, Steven, who lived across the street.  We wanted to play. All of us were around 6-7 years of age.

I had a brilliant idea. I suggested we stand on either side of our street, Steven on one side and big brother and I on the other.

The charge was to demonstrate our 7-year-old strength, agility, and skill by throwing rocks OVER passing cars.

We were talented. We were accurate. We were well equipped to handle the challenge.  That was until the ’73 White Camaro drove by.

We calculated, we paused then I hurled that rock. But something happened.The rock neglected to clear the roof of the car. It failed me.

That damn rock whaled itself right into the driver’s side panel.

SCREEEETTTCH!

WHOA.

A thin, stylish young woman  with a large bouffant hairdo, wearing a white mini-dress and white patent leather clunky sandals got out of the car and pointed her long pink pearly fingernail at us and just-

Screamed.

We were petrified. We ran. Big Brother and I hid underneath sofa in our den. The one that had the burlap cushions and the black wood frame with swirls and little pears painted on it.

We hung out with the dust bunnies ’till mom found us. I confessed. She was angry and stern.

But later I heard her on our yellow rotary phone in the kitchen telling our neighbor, Mrs. Nichols what happened.  Mom did not seem so angry, after all.

Sometimes, we think that we have what it takes. We feel overzealous.   But our actions can be destructive even with the best of intentions. Sometimes we think we are a lot stronger than we actually are.

As grown ups, it is hard to keep company with dust bunnies under a retro couch.

I have had my moments of feeling like Helen Reddy. Other times I want to melt away.  I want to quit. And quitting is embarrassing. Quitting requires humility especially when you quit while you are ahead.

I had a crush on my banker.  There was idle prattle each day as I executed my official business banking activity. We learned that we both shared an interest in fitness. Soon after, I learned that he was on some serious, competitive Rugby team. G. Q. had just done a photo shoot of his team all dirty with “”cauliflower” ears.  But I did not know that when I agreed to go on a running date with him.

He invited me to go for a run along Boston’s Esplanade. “SURE!” an overenthusiastic Mary replied. Off we went me wearing my cute lavender/purple matching lycra running “outfit.”  He chatted. I panted

I thought, “How freaking long is this date (strike that) RUN going to last????”

I surrendered myself to a bench. He jogged in place looking puzzled.   Date over.

New bank.

I thought I was invincible. I wanted to impress him. I committed to a “running date” with an elite athlete and believed that I could keep up with him.  I bit off WAY more than I could chew.

And in trying to impress him, in attempting to be someone who I was not, I ended up feeling embarrassed. I did not end up with a second date, either. But that is another story.

That run was much like that rock that slammed into the Camaro.  I did not expect that outcome.  I was humbled. But I went to meet my friends for a beer after that humiliating date instead of hanging out under the couch. That was an uptick.

My girlfriends talked me off the ledge.

Let me share an example of my poor judgment that turned out with a positive twist.

I knew my first husband for many years.  We were acquaintances living in the same Boston neighborhood.  He was attractive and charming.  Over the years, our friendship grew and eventually we started dating.

Our relationship seemed perfect.  We were in the throws of early infatuation then puppy love.  It all seemed just ideal and fulfilling and meant to be, and I was over the moon!

Before long we were saying the L word. Within a year, we were engaged and together we bought a condo in Boston’s Back Bay.

Moving in together was an eye opener.

Our idealistic relationship became real and raw and hard.  What seemed perfect went sour.  I was unhappy. As was he.

We started out happy and loving and kind to one another.  Once the ring was placed on my finger, the tide changed.

Jealousy became poison.  I could not defend myself against crimes I did not commit. We were in constant drama and turmoil.

My stomach was in knots all the time.

We were co-dependent.  It was not good.

As a perfectionist, failure was not an option.  I could fix it. I could make him love me if I just loved him BEST and BETTER. I could teach him not to be unjustifiably jealous.

I could change him. I knew it.

All you need is love, right?

I took off my engagement ring about two months before we got married. When I learned that I was pregnant just ten weeks before our wedding, I saw it as a sign and put the ring back on my finger.

I decided that  I had enough love to save US.  I was certain that we would live happily ever after.  We would have a beautiful, perfect life with our condo in the Back Bay and our baby.

Boy was I wrong.

Three days before we said, “We do” we had our first appointment with the OB.  It was not good.  There was no heartbeat. I  miscarried.

His family was arriving from Ireland while I was in the hospital.  There was no turning back. Or so I thought.

I think he would agree that we both should have legged it from that altar.

A year later I was pregnant and nine months later had a gorgeous boy. Blessed.

But my husband and I never made it.  It was a struggle from the start. It was a hard six years.  It ended. But we had our joy, our son, which made it all worthwhile.

Here is the takeaway.  We all aspire. We have the best of intentions. But you know what? Things do not always go as planned.

We are not always capable of what we think. And that is a beautiful thing, kids!

At the end of the day, that just says that we have a high opinion of our power. Of what we are capable.

It is ok if you cannot hurl that rock over the Camaro.  The part to focus on is that you believed in yourself. You took the chance. You look back and see that your choice may not have been a wise one, but you lived through it.

And eventually, Sugar, you crawl out from under that couch, wipe off the dust bunnies and say, “Onward!”

Failure is an option.

And the strength to accept it, accept yourself as a human being with the delightful ability to be less than perfect is just, well, perfect.

Now, shake things up, honey, and have some fun.  And please, for the love of Pete, quit beating yourself up.  We can’t always clear the Camaro with a huge rock.

That’s all.

eye lock

I was 15 years old and in my freshman year at Ursuline Academy. My home room teacher was Sr. Ursula. She also happened to be my Latin teacher. I loved her.

But I did not love Latin.

Sr. Ursula took attendance on one cold and dreary December morning. When I uncharacteristically mumbled a quietly “here,” she looked up at me, paused and walked to my desk. She took me in her arms and after a few moments she asked,

“Mistress Mary, what troubles you so?”

I fell apart.

Nana had suffered a stroke the evening before.

Nana was on life support. My mother and her siblings and spouses gathered around her hospital bed. My brother and I were the oldest of her seven grandchildren and the only grandchildren present.

My mother spoke to Nana as if she were conscious. Mom encouraged my brother and me to do the same.

I did as told. I prattled to Nana about my cheerleading practice that I’d had earlier that day. I told her I did well on my math test. I couldn’t think of anything else to say as she laid peacefully with the ventilator doing its job.

I shifted from one foot to the other. My brother and I continued to catch eyes. We knew it did not look good.

Nana passed away the next day.

My Nana was a kind and special lady. She touched many lives. It was not surprising to see such an outpouring of people gather to offer their condolences at her wake.

But.

It was disarmingly surprising to look up and see my three cousins standing in that funeral parlor clutching their mother, my Aunt Betty.

“Surprising” is the understatement of the century.

I am referring to The Aunt Betty. The Aunt Betty who called my grandfather out on sexually abusing my cousins. The one who ensured that her children would never, ever have to see that monster again.

That one.

There in the parlor stood an incredibly brave woman embracing her three beautiful daughters as if she were their coat of armor.

The moment the family noticed her, the energy in that room filled with disdain. In their eyes, she was repugnant. The divorce of my uncle and her was atrocious. But that wasn’t the real reason they loathed her.

She was the one who exposed our grandfather for sexually abusing two of her daughters.

The girls looked horrified, frightened and as if they were trying to melt into their mother. Aunt Betty held them tightly. Very tightly. So much so that the four of them looked like one.

My eldest cousin, with eyes, averted to the floor, buried herself into my aunt’s left arm. My youngest cousin, only waist-high to her, buried her face into her mother’s hip.

Then, there was Laura. Laura leaned into her mother’s embrace with her left leg planted on the floor, and her right crossed behind it.

At that moment, Laura and I locked eyes.

She smirked. Not a mischievous smirk, Not a disingenuous smirk or glib smirk.

It was the same smirk that both of us wore in our school photos that were taken around the time we were being abused by Grandpa.

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It was a knowing smirk.

Those moments were profoundly impactful. She and I connected on a very intense level. I will never, ever forget it.

There stood a very brave woman. She dauntlessly brought her girls to say goodbye to their Nana, whom they loved. That took such strength in a room filled with such disdain.

But she did it.

Just as she had the courage to stand up for her daughters.

She had guts. She had gumption. She had MOXIE.

That was the last time I saw Laura. We never spoke the words of our abuse to one another.

But that look, that eye lock, said it all.

And 35 years later we have made up for time. We face it. We talk about it. We compare notes and share similar stories of how our lives have played out.

We continue to heal together.

That was the connection that my cousin Laura and I always had growing up together. We understood each other. We knew each other. And sadly, tragically, even, we lost many years.

Reuniting with her has been a blessing. It has been easy. And you know what? Our reunion feels like slipping into my favorite and most loved slippers.

That’s all.

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OOPSIE DAISY! (In support of “PERFECTIONISTA!”)

Did you see my post about an hour ago?  Did you see my post on April 6, “Perfectionista?”

Well, it is official. CLEARLY, I remain perfectly imperfect!

You received my edit.  The final essay is WAY better and does not have my notes.  Trust me.

I hope you will read it.

That’s all.

Stay tuned for take two!

Animation 101

It was time to register for my fall classes. I chose to opt, again, for an elective in studio art. Art was one of my great passions. I enthusiastically poured over the course selection and decided to mix it up from my usual drawing classes. Animation 101 was offered from 12-2, three days per week.

Here was my logic. First, who doesn’t love Walt Disney? Second, and more importantly, the class was held at noon. Translation: it would not interfere with my sleep schedule.

Very quickly I learned that Walt Disney had the patience of Job. Aside from watching paint dry, animation was the least fun and the most tedious art medium I could imagine. It was just another challenge to my perfectionism.

One afternoon, “Professor Animation” assigned our final project. We were required to create an animated flip-book themed “Rites of Passage.” I just wanted to pass the class. I decided a ballerina dancing and morphing into a beautiful butterfly would be easy enough. Boy, was I wrong.

You create a flip-book by subsequent images that are connected by the slightest changes. It’s a grueling and tedious process. It felt like my recurring dream in which I cannot arrive at my desired destination. It took me longer to draw this flip book than it did to write a 20-page paper on D.H. Lawrence.

Finally, my ballerina danced and twirled herself off of the dance floor and then fluttered herself right off into the sunset.

I earned my lowest grade of all time-C.

Like traditional animation, change can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. Change can be excruciatingly slow and scary. Changing is stepping into the unfamiliar.

I had much in common with that ballerina, except, I never studied ballet.

 

It just wasn’t in the cards.

I was only eight years old when “The Thief” robbed me of my innocence and chastity. At that young age, I was unaware of sex. I did not know what it was or what was happening to me. He clearly defined it for me. It was about dominance and power. And it has held such power over my decisions, specifically relationships throughout my life.

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Little Me. Age 8

My baseline for relationships was poor and defined by disregard, disrespect, and abuse. My baseline was at the level of the bottom feeders.

Let me give you an example.

When I was in my mid-twenties, I met “Finance Boyfriend” at a happening bar. He was handsome in his Armani suit surrounded by his buddies. He was loud and overly confident, drinking his Maker’s Rocks. He put the full court press on me to go on a date with him. He made me feel as if I was the most beautiful and special girl in the whole smoky place.

It did not take me long to agree.

We started out with a bang! We talked endless times per day, and we saw each other every chance we could. He told me that time was irrelevant when we were together. When he met my parents in our THIRD week of dating, he brought my mother a bouquet and my father, a devout Catholic, a book on Pope John Paul 2. He was too self-assured and too good-looking and MOST CONVINCING.

And I fell for it.

One night we dined at an expensive, hip new restaurant.  It was crowded, loud and full of the beautiful people. He ordered an expensive Cabernet and the Kobe. I stared at him adoringly. Ah. Bliss! Then the bill came, and I pulled out my credit card and I paid.

I ALWAYS PAID.

A show followed dinner. I was excited to surprise him with the best seats in the Colonial Theater. I paid more for those tickets than I did for my new fashionable outfit and “6 hour-new” auburn highlights. We settled in said best seats. He turned to me and told me that it was not working out.

He told me about Brandy.

At first, I thought he was joking. I thought that he was changing his beverage choice. Then, it hit me. Brandy.

He dumped me third-row center. Again I felt disregarded, disrespected and abused.

I remained in those seats. I did not get up and walk away from him. I sat there and just watched the show play out. I did not change frames. On stage, the men in blue pounded on drums and splashed paint.

The audience and Finance Ex-Boyfriend delighted in the show. I sat quietly. Then I went home and wept.

Another month lost. Another heartbreak.

A few weeks later, at the same loud, smoky bar, I saw Finance Ex-Boyfriend. He was with the same buddies and wearing a different Armani suit. He had his Maker’s Rocks in one hand and Brandy in the other. He introduced us. They told me how happy they were.

Get me a bucket.

Just like that ballerina, I stayed stuck in this pattern, frame after monotonous frame. It was a perpetual ride of hurt and disrespect and disappointment. Sadly, the feeling was so familiar. And that is what kept me there. It was my comfort zone.

At last, I reached the denouement.

“Other Boyfriend” and I had just returned from an indulgent Caribbean vacation where we enjoyed the sun, delicious food, and caloric tropical beverages.

One night we got into it. He predictably said something snarky, and I unpredictably retorted. He stopped, his face contorted, and he said, “Why don’t you do some sit ups you fat cow?”

I left the room and stared at the wall with eyes filled with tears.

Ten minutes later he entered the room, set a wine glass in front of me, filled it with Chardonnay and said, “I don’t want to fight, ok?” He walked out.

Shortly after that, I mustered up every bit of courage possible. I threw my shoulders back, stood tall, and I joined him in the kitchen. I poured the wine into the sink all the while staring at him.  I said, “I am done.”

I reached my breaking point. I had been at the bottom of the sea in the company of the bottom feeders for way too long. I desperately needed air. I had to surface.

I raised the white flag. It took a long time.

My best friend, Clare has always loved me unconditionally, respected me and had my back. She held my hand through all my breakups and answered calls at all hours. She was steady as a rock. It dawned on me that if I could have that steadfast and loving relationship with my dearest girlfriend, why could I not have it with a man?

I did not believe that it was in the cards.
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But then, I met My Michael.

He adores and cherishes me. He loves me for who I am and who I am not. He believes in me and shows me every day that I am a gift to him. He respects me. In my wildest dreams, I would never believe that I could marry a man like  My Michael. IMG_2735

He threw me a 48th birthday party.

Here I am showing my appreciation.

 

After My Michael and I met we tested each other over and over. We had our ups and downs, but we both knew that we were meant for each other. Finally, I emerged from my cocoon. We married. Our marriage is full of mutual kindness, unconditional love, and respect. He is my miracle. I am blessed. And he feels the same way that is wondrous in itself. I broke the cycle.

 

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And we are living happily ever after!

That’s all.