Remembering Sister

Today I learned that one of my favorite teachers has passed.

I was blessed to attend an outstanding, private, all-girls high school; Ursuline Academy in Dedham, Massachusetts.

I have referenced my school in several posts, including “Perfectionista!”  I specifically talk about Sister Ursula (Sister)in my post, “eye lock

In “eye lock,” Sister Ursula was the nurturing, caring and perceptive teacher who clearly saw through my “stiff-upper-lip-ish-ness” in homeroom on that cold December day. It was the day before my nana died.

As mothers, we have an inherent capacity to identify and detect our children’s needs, fear, sorrow and happiness. We know when something is off with our kids. We can FEEL it.

Sister Ursula was not a biological mother, but I observed on many occasions her innate ability to express that maternal love to her students especially when they were troubled. She extended her love and genuine warmth without appeal. She just knew what to do.

She did this for me, and I will never forget it.  She responded to her maternal sense toward me in her homeroom, first period,  in Latin 2.

It was the day before my nana died. I knew it was imminent. Although I kept my fear and sadness it to myself (without success, apparently,) she sensed my sorrow and despair within the first minutes of class.

After our opening prayer, she paused, looked at me with her head tilted in compassion and asked, “Mistress Mary, what troubles you so?”

I burst into tears. I sobbed in her embrace, and she just held me and comforted me as mothers do. My classmates looked on silently and respectfully with kindness and compassion. I told her that Nana was not expected to live.

That was correct. She died the next day.

Last May, I attended my 3oth high school reunion which, in itself, is gross and mean and hurts my feelings. Yes, thirty.

Despite the sparse attendance from our class, there was a remarkable connection between us. It was as if we had not lost a moment.  Ursuline is a special and unique school whose students have an uncanny bond as sisters. It is a bond which transcends time and does not discriminate concerning graduating year.

Sister Ursula, along with numerous other teachers, both religious and lay, made our experience one of learning, love of learning and just plain love.

I struggled immensely in my formative high school years. I was privately coping with repeated sexual abuse by my grandfather, Nana’s husband. I kept it a secret from my school. Despite that and all my sadness, my school community made me feel loved.

So, in close, here is my testimonial to this remarkable lady.

What a loss to our Ursuline community. Sister Ursula was a dynamic woman whom I will never forget. She was an inspirational and impassioned person. Sister went to great lengths to better our learning with her zeal and candor. She was a lover of art, humanities, sharing her knowledge and being in community.

She had MOXIE.

I will forever remember her for her blessed gift of shining a light on the uniqueness and beauty of each of her students.

One of the many remarkable things she did was to collect a stone from the beach each summer for every one of her homeroom students. She painted it uniquely for each young woman and gifted it on the student’s birthday. On one side she painted a relevant quote. On the other, she painted a picture

Who does that?

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I wish that all Ursuline girls had the wonderful gift of Sister. And for those of us who were blessed enough to know her, let her spirit live on in all of us.

Rest in Peace, Sister. Love to you.

 

That’s All.

 

 

 

HAPPY Officer Paul-IVERSARY!

It has been one year this weekend, friends.

One year has passed since My Laura and I laid eyes on each other after a thirty-five-year separation. A separation over which we had no choice.

One year has passed since I stood on the train station platform with my heart beating like crazy waiting for her to step off the car so I could hug her again.

One year has passed since she and I curled up in front of a roaring fire with tea and warm blankets and finally found all of those missing pieces to the puzzles of our lives.

One year has passed since we sported our white “Invincible” coats and stood camera ready for My Michael to capture a moment we would never forget.

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One year has passed since we ventured to Carlisle to find his grave.

One year has passed since I hurled behind a dumpster.

One year since we met Officer Paul Smith, our hero.

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Everybody’s hero.

One year since we learned that there was, at least, one other little girl he abused.

One year has passed since we held her momma and cried together.

And from that one year that has passed to this very moment

THOUSANDS have said, “ME TOO!”  

We founded Say It, Survivor. 

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THANK YOU TO ALL WHO HAVE BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN HELPING US AND OTHERS.

Especially-

Officer Paul Smith

Chief Fisher

The beautiful girl’s Momma

Susan Elsbree

Michael Ross

S.I, Rosenbaum

Brian Stauffer

MY MICHEL

My children

My Dearest Clare, who has been my closest pal since age 14 who knew my secret from the start

Friends, family and everybody has read Marymorphosis, shared, offered kindness and love

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That’s all.

Peanut Butter is Disgusting?

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Taken at the time of my grandparents visit which I share below. I am seven.

 

This morning I sliced a banana and put a dollop of peanut butter on my plate. All of a sudden my stomach lurched. I remembered something that has not crossed my mind in years.

I was triggered.

Anyone who has suffered trauma is triggered from time to time. Trauma happens as a result of anything that challenges or strays from what feels right to us as human beings. Whether the trauma is the result of an accident, the horror of serving during a war, sexual abuse or any other event, trauma happens.

I was seven years old and in the second grade. I got off the bus at the end of the driveway, walked up and entered my house to greet my mom, Nana, and Grandpa, who were visiting for a few days.

THE Grandpa. My abuser.

Mom asked if I wanted my usual snack, peanut butter in a small orange ramekin. Of course, I accepted.

As I sat there enjoying, propped up on the kitchen chair by The Yellow Pages, and swinging my little legs. Grandpa looked at me, curled his lip and said, “That’s disgusting.”

That moment turns my stomach. Not the peanut butter, mind you, but the way he was turned off by my snack choice.

All the while, he was sexually abusing me.

So peanut butter is disgusting.  What?

I have been thinking all morning about how insanely twisted and skewed that scene was.

My grandparents came to visit often. I remember their visits as a young girl before my abuse had started – before I was seven-ish.

I loved their visits.

I have fond memories of sitting at our octagonal kitchen table with the yellow 70-ish chairs playing Rummy 500. Dad and Grandpa would drink a Knickerbocker Beer and Smoke Raleigh Filter tips, the ashes of which they flicked into the amber, plate sized ashtray.

We had fun.

I remember that Nana was dear to me. She was kind and sweet and spoiled me. When I had an occasional temper tantrum kicking and screaming on the floor, she would gently put her foot on my back and say, “OH! What a nice rug!”

I would soon come out of it and return to my cheerful self. She would give me a chocolate out of the box with the red bow on it. I always chose the candy with the pink rosebud on top.

Grandpa was standoffish. He left me alone for the most part. Then things changed. He took an interest in me.

We would walk to the playground. I would run my little fingers along the chain link fence that abutted the sidewalk. I would pick up the remnant of a deciduous a tree – that little bit that looked like a coat hanger and hold it up to my face as if they were my mustache.

One thing lead to another.

Things changed. He was not longer aloof. He paid attention to me. I was little. I did not know what he was doing.

Grooming.

He was grooming me.

You see, sexual abuse does not always just start with a “BOOM!” Most of the time it happens at the hands of a family member or a close family friend who takes the time and interest to foster the victim.

It happens over time. I may start with things like tickling, or an inappropriate touch or the perpetrator telling secrets as a way to build a bond. The abuser wants to build trust.

Over time, it changes. There is a sick takeover, an overpowering, so to speak.

Dominance.

Children are usually dumbfounded, scared out of their wits and lose their sense of selves. They don’t know what to do.

I knew what he was doing to me was wrong. It felt yucky. But I did not know what it was or meant. Was it the baseline? Did it happen to every little person?

I was ashamed and embarrassed. I did not know how to communicate what had happened to me to my mom and dad. Even if I did have the words, I was too mortified to speak them.

Much like most children, I looked up to my folks. I was a pleaser. I was teacher’s pet and was the only seven-year-old at the YWCA that was brave enough to jump off the deep-end diving board.

I did not want to “upset the applecart,” anger my parents or make a fuss. It was only me after all.

Yup. That is when that feeling started. It was only measly little me.

Way. Back. Then.

In my case, I kept my mouth shut. For years. I did not have the words. I did not know how to tell anyone that that “innocent kiss” did not feel right. I sat on his lap, but I was told to do so. I had to. Most of the time I quickly struggled and squirmed away. Again, it felt yucky.

I would give anything to go back in time and change it all. I wish that I had shouted “no!” I wish that I knew how to say the words. I wish that I had the confidence in myself to tell. I wish that he was locked away.

If I had, my cousin would have been spared. And others would have been spared, too.

I do not feel responsible for the abuse that happened to My Laura and other children. I did not know any better. No one taught me.

I did know enough to warn Laura about what Grandpa might do to her.  But she laughed. She had NO idea what the details of my warning really meant. She laughed. She was little.

To a child,  my words, my warning, the details sounded preposterous.

How can a child effectively warn another child when she, herself, doesn’t have the words?

As adults, it may be uncomfortable to do so, but necessary. Imperative, even.

I am not sure that people think to educate themselves as to how to protect their children. I protected my child out of absolute fear; I was overprotective, and a helicopter but that was because I was keenly aware of the peril.

But I never studied or researched HOW to protect my babe. I made it up as I went along.

Now I know. Now I know that there are tools and sources, and there is valuable information to educate us.

Parents. Everybody.  You can learn the warning signs. You can teach your children the proper language to express inappropriate behavior or violation by another. You can convince them that it is safe to tell. You can cut it off before it begins.

There are no guarantees that you can prevent sexual abuse, but you can arm yourself. Be smart. Be proactive.

And if it has already started, that is not the worst thing. The worst thing is if your child never tells you about it.

I eventually told my parents. My abuse was swept under the carpet; it was not acknowledged by the other family members who were also told.
And neither was Laura’s, except by her mom.

Here is the takeaway.

Smarten up. Don’t be uncomfortable or embarrassed that you will insult someone or hurt their feelings if you are suspicious. Call the person out. Interject if you suspect someone has inappropriate behavior. Listen, speak up.

Join the bandwagon because when it comes to peanut butter and incest, you know which is is disgusting.

That’s all.

 

For more information or to register for a workshop or a lecture, please visit sayitsurvivor.org

 

Milling in Mary’s Mind

 

Just a few thoughts, friends.
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Ireland’s Greenery- Taken July 2015

If you meet an amazing person who can’t dress well – hang on.You can shop together later.

If you meet a jerk who dresses to the 9s- dump that one for the one previously mentioned.

Listen up.

Offer the benefit of the doubt. Believing that others are living with the best of intentions

is holding them in high esteem.

Write thank you notes. Always. Don’t forget.

Live in appreciation and the world will look so beautiful.

When someone apologizes, don’t leave them hanging. Accept it.

You get to  pick your partner.  You don’t get to pick your parent.  Let it go.

The only one who can take care of you is you. Go.

You are the boss of yourself.

Demonstrate sincerity and honesty with eye contact.

Mean it.

Believe. Even when people tell you otherwise.

 

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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

EXTRA, EXTRA…!

Hello BOSTON!

Here is our story. And our story happened here, in our backyard.

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Boston Magazine, October 2015 “How to Bring a Dead Man to Justice.”

You may think our story is powerful, impactful or moving.  Maybe it is. The sad truth is that our story is NOTHING SPECIAL.

The only thing different about our story is that we are telling it. Shamelessly.

Our story is a common one shared by one in five people. The details of our story may be unique. But the underlying theme is a constant. It happens all around us. Everyday.

All. The. Time.

There are the victims:  mothers, daughters, sons, best friends, neighbors, teachers, bullies, babysitters. It happens here in The Bean, in the penthouse in NYC, on the set of reality TV, in Hollywood, in Tulsa and on the freaking Cosby Show. (I used to LOVE that show.)

And then there are the perpetrators: grandfathers, sons, brothers, actors, mothers, sisters, tennis pros, clergy, best friends, bosses, politicians, actors, professional athletes, boyfriends, girlfriends, college football coaches and on and on.

You name it.

Cut it out, for the love of Pete.  It is time for us to speak up.

Sexual abuse has no place. It is criminal, It is traumatic. It is life altering.

It lurks.

There is a mask that exists. That mask says, “Everything is great.”

It thrives on “Don’t tell. “or ” This is our little secret.”

It threatens, “No one will believe you.” or “I will hurt you if you say anything.”

It deceives, “This is NORMAL.”

STOP is a complete sentence, everybody.

NO TRESPASSING.

Please help us in our mission to put an end to this abuse. Jump on board, everyone.

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That’s All.

It is Time to Tell Your Story- Announcing Say it, Survivor.

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They tried to bury us…they didn’t know we were seeds.

-Mexican Proverb

Today is the day that we have been waiting for- “we” meaning my cousin Laura and I.

Thirty-five years ago Laura told her mother what our grandpa did to her. That gave me the nudge to speak up and tell the adults in my life that he was doing it to me, too.

Crickets.

I lost my childhood to a monster who was supposed to love me and protect me. Instead, he violated and robbed me. My innocence was sacrificed by his need for domination and power.

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I was just a little, little girl.

And then, also because of him, I lost my dear cousin, Laura. We never saw each other after we spoke up.

The impact that my abuse has had on my life has been monumental. My abuse has played a starring role the choices and decisions I have made. What he did to me changed the way I saw the world.

I was busted.

But my abuse made me resilient, too. My abuse forced me to move onward. I had something to prove, or so I thought.

Then the strangest thing happened last Thanksgiving.

Out of the blue, I had a strong urge to find Laura. And I did, that night, thanks to Facebook.

Re-connecting has changed our lives. Just in ten months the enormous processing and healing we have experienced together has been overwhelming. It has been by the grace of God.IMG_2907

This was taken the morning after we reunited.

We went to the Carlisle Police Station, and Officer Paul Smith sat with us. He heard us. He believed us. He documented what we said about our abuse.

Thank you, Officer Paul. We will never, ever forget your kindness.

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Me, Officer Paul and Laura

Then, Laura wrote about what happened to us, and hundreds said “Me too.” Other talented and soulful authors re-posted.Thank you, thank you, thank you to Glennon Doyle Melton and Jen Hatmaker for sharing our story. It is in great part because of you that we connected with such a community of survivors.

Our story has been published in the October 2015 issue of Boston Magazine, which is on newsstands now. The online version will be available soon. Thank you S.I.! Working with you has been an outstanding experience.

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What happened to me as a child was horrible.  It was criminal. I was so lonely and felt so lost all the time. But there is something so incredible about what has happened as a result of us speaking out.

The number of survivors who joined in saying “ME TOO!” was overwhelming. Thank you to everyone who has offered support and kindness  to us but more importantly,  to those who have had the bravery to say, “ME TOO.” You are courageous, and you have strength and are resilient.

No one can mute our collective voices. Right?

We are a community of survivors. And although the common denominator that we share is terrible, in coming together as a community we can do great things.

There is strength, power and healing in community.

And there is something to be said about taking lemons and making lemonade, everybody. And that is just what we are doing.

Laura and I have decided to put our pain to work.  We have given it a job. We have resolved to tell our stories to all who will listen and encourage others to do so as well.

Because, you know what? This violent, destructive epidemic continues to fester in the dark. It will continue to manifest until we shine a light on it, everyone. Let’s flip that switch.

So, Laura and I have founded Say it, Survivor.

http://sayitsurvivor.com

Say It, Survivor,  offers guided writing workshops for survivors of sexual abuse. We bring a community of survivors together, and we work as facilitators helping them to process and tell their stories they way they wish and on their terms

Through Say It, Survivor, we bring our message of awareness and prevention to women’s groups, parents’ groups, and law enforcement by offering public speaking engagements.

Please visit us.

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Here comes the sun!

Click here to read our original posts

https://wordpress.com/post/87366145/41/

That’s All.