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

 

Honey, I’m Good

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Riding horseback in Ireland. Bucket list- another check!

 

Honey, I’m good.

I have written about abuse, trauma, bullying and how society is so skewed. I have written of the unfairness of things. I have written about love.

Love is my favorite.

Bad things happen.  And we get to grieve.  We have a right to our reactions and our feelings no matter how they play out.  No one gets a say in how we manage. No one gets a vote on how we survive.

The aftermath of tragedy and trauma is stifling. The effects are physical, psychological and social, at least.

The result of my sexual abuse smothered me. Living with it is much like being suffocated by a pillow. For years, I struggled to breathe.  I could gasp, and that kept me going.  It was no way to live.

I just could not get enough air.

My abuse did a tattoo on me.  It wormed its way into the deepest part of me and, like a parasite devoured me.  The worse I felt, the more I fed it.

And much like metastasized cancer this malady took over.

Finally, I decided that feeling broken had to stop. I needed a new baseline.

We have the right and responsibility to come up for air and take charge of our lives and reclaim our joy.

I made a conscious decision, a conscious commitment to put the kibosh on low self-worth, anxiety, and sorrow parasitically existing in my soul. And Honey, that took YEARS. And I am still at it.

I am not fully there yet. I know that it is not possible to squeegee my past so that my screen is clean. But I can squeegee my mirror so that I get a clearer picture of myself, a picture that is not smeared and muddled.

I have said before that there is great power in vulnerability.  One may think that vulnerability is a weakness. It is nothing of the sort. Quite to the contrary.

Vulnerability takes strength. It takes courage, and it takes Moxie.

My cousin, Laura and I have recently co-founded Say It, Survivor (sayitsurvivor.com,) an organization committed to shedding a light on sexual abuse, helping other survivors to stand firmly in their stories and putting an end to this horrible epidemic.

We have had an overwhelming onslaught of love and support.  We have heard from thousands all over the world; People are speaking up, reclaiming themselves and joining our bandwagon. It is awesome.

Often there is the predictable reaction when I share my story. Folks are uncomfortable (understandable,) profusely sorry and express pity.

Another reaction that I have heard more often than not is, “But you are so NORMAL!”  That one makes me chuckle.

But Folks, there is no pity-party happening, At all. Not even a smidge of a pity party.

Then, there is the other side of the peanut gallery. Brace yourself.

There are haters. There are those who believe that we are trying to attract attention to ourselves. These are the people who gaff and roll their eyes and call us sensationalists. There are those who think that this is self-serving. There are those who are aghast that we would bear such “private” information about our past.

“Private.”  That is why we are doing this. We are trying to tell our private stories and encourage others to do so. Privacy equates to secrecy and that in turn evokes shame.

Shame. That is the cancer, the malady I am talking about.

There are people with whom I was close. Friends who I kept for years. I have not heard from them.  That is ok. For some, it is too painful and may stir up their emotions or past. I understand and continue to send love to them. I hope they heal if they have not already.

For some, it is not a “nice” topic.

Some, believe it or not, are embarrassed by me. And that is all good information.

Everyone has the right to their opinions and feelings. I can no sooner judge other’s opinion of me personally or of my charge. I am an activist and people are not going to like me or what I am doing.

That’s not going to change.

I am sad for people who have that perspective.  It must be painful to live with a perspective like that.

I have compassion for them.

In my painful past, where I was suffering from parasitic self-loathing and insecurity I would be defensive and hurt and embarrassed over this.

Laura and I  did not choreograph our dance. It was improvisational.  We did not premeditate what happened at the Carlisle Police Station on January 18. My car turned itself into that parking lot.

Our story is not exceptional nor is it unique. We are not heroes. We are just two women who decided to take charge and find peace in telling our stories to anyone who would listen, And Officer Paul Smith did just that.

Our charge is not self-serving. We have plainly decided to do what I said. We decided to take charge and shake it up like a snow globe.

And every serendipitous turn, every co-incidence were God moments. We are not thankful for our abuse. Not at all. But we also refuse to stay mired in it. We refuse to be victims.

In Say It, Survivor we are working for a greater good. It is healing and empowering to help others.

“Honey, I’m Good.”

Thank you for your kindness and compassion and love. Thank you for the outpouring of support. Thank you for spreading the word. Thank you for holding hands with Say It, Survivor.

But All, please don’t view me broken because quite to the contrary I am better than ever. I am empowered and charged up and ready to take this on.  I am privileged and honored for those who have faith and put their trust in us.

What a privilege.

There is something powerful, cathartic and joyful in putting one’s pain to work. And  ill-wishers shall be ill-wishers.

And I will bear witness to others with kindness, compassion and love.

Love is my favorite.

Let’s change the world, Friends.

 

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

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.

Join Laura and me!

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My cousin, Laura, and I are looking for Massachusetts area survivors of sexual abuse who are interested in participating in a half-day workshop that we are offering on September 25. The workshop will take place in the 495 area, convenient to routes 3, 128, 95,93 and the Mass Pike.

This event is free of charge and space is limited.

To register, please contact me at marymorphosis@gmail.com

That’s all.

More “MEAN”-ing

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I called my mother the other day. We were catching up, and we got to talking about MARYMORPHOSIS.  I told her about my post “MEAN”-ing.

Together we recalled how horrible and nasty those girls were to me in middle school.

Then she said, “Oh! Did I tell you that one of those girls ran by my house recently?”

Me, “Really?”

Mom, “Yes. She stopped and introduced herself.  She lives right up the street in that house where  Mr. So-and-So used to live.

Me, “And? Then what? Who was it???”

Mom, “She said that she was awful to you in middle school. She admitted to terribly bullying you.  She apologized to me. I can’t remember her name.”

Me, “She apologized to YOU?”

Mom, “Yes. She told me that she has middle school kids and that she does not want that to happen to them.”

My. My. My.

I wish I knew who it was that owned up to it. I also wish that that woman would apologize to me- not my mother.  I am pretty sure that she could find me, by social media or otherwise.  She could have asked my mom how to find me- right?

I am not holding my breath.

And I am so happy that this bully now is aware of the potential effects on her children; that she recognized her mistake.   I really and truly hope that mean kids spare her children.

My boys start school in just nine days, and all three will be in middle school this year.  I am biting my nails.  I am not ready. I am not talking about the 3″ binders and #2 Ticonderoga pencils ready, my friends.  I am talking about being mentally ready.

Middle school can be a fire pit.

SO many people reached out to me after I wrote “MEAN”-ing.  Many could relate.  Many have children who are victims of bullying. It is an epidemic. And there does not seem to be a vaccine.

It is highly contagious.

Victims are the hosts. And they are eaten alive by their peers who are cowards, hiding behind social media and electronics.

With Instagram and Snapchat kids can post pretty much anything they want.  They can comment any way they want. And with social media like Snapchat, the evidence disappears in about ten seconds.  It is easy to get away with it.

And that child who is on the other side is powerless and victimized.

And those feelings don’t go away in ten seconds.  They may never go away.

Don’t get me wrong, the folded square notes I found in my locker were painful. But social media is a killer. And it can be, literally, too.

I could put my thermometer on the radiator for days and miss school.  But now? There is absolutely no way to escape. Those electronics are inescapable.

My son just told me of how a girl from his grade posted a photo of her family on the beach during their summer vacation.  Some kids commented on her photo in which she was wearing a bathing suit. She was at the beach.

They called her “Shreck” and other names.  She took the picture down.

Another instance? My friend’s son posted a gorgeous image of a rainbow he saw in on vacation in Maine.  He was called “gay.”  Hm.

A child who is very close to my heart suffered from bullying in grade 5.  Several boys would taunt him, stomp on his foot, call him names and steal his lunchbox and throw it across the cafeteria.

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This boy who had always been gregarious and well liked all of a sudden withdrew.  He did not smile. He refused to take his puffy winter jacket off in the hot classroom because he said that it was his “protective armor.”

Doesn’t that break your heart?

Everybody, guess what? That happened recently.

For three months, the mother contacted the school.  The boy reached out to the school on numerous occasions.  Then, the mom put her foot down.

And finally, an action was taken. The parents were called in. The school intended to contact the police if the boys did not cease.

They stopped.

But it took three months for the school to take it seriously and do something.

Although there is a “no tolerance” policy in our schools, it STILL happens.

What are we going to do about this? How can we stop this? We need to educate our kids not only on what it means to be a bully but how it affects others.

Sit down with your kids before that first day of school. Explain that their devices can be a source of entertainment and fun and a way in which to connect with their friends. We need to educate our children that phones can be weapons too.

Tell them to put their weapons down.

Can we model the Golden Rule? Please?

Golden Rule

That’s all.

no bullying

After “MEAN”-ing. A Loving Message

My friends, following is a timely and beautiful piece posted on one of my favorite blogs, Momastary.

What perfect timing!  The topic of one of my recent posts was about bullying. Thanks, G for this letter.

Bullying.

I experienced it. My cousin, Laura experienced it. Now, my son suffers from it.

Please. Please. Please.

Talk to your children. Read this letter to your kids. Glennon gives her permission to substitute her son’s name with your child’s.  We can minimize bullying by being aware and educating our children on what this means and what it feels like to victims.

Glennon is inspiring. She is full of love. She brings good into this world.

We connect with Glennon. Glennon connects with us.  Want to know why? She is vulnerable, honest, real, and she offers a full heart. Consistently.

My cousin, Laura, turned me on to her. Laura took me to see her.

Here is Laura, our friend, Jessica and I waiting in great anticipation for G to arrive at The Old South Church in Boston. Glennon more than delivered.

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Then, by choice, the three of us waited at the very end of the line of many, many women to say hello to G.  It was worth the wait. We loved being last.

Glennon’s sister Amanda was by her side. What lucky women. They have each other. And they share full hearts collectively with all. And they make a difference.

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Glennon says, “Love Wins.”

She is so very right. And so is Amanda.

Thank you, both.

Right on!

That’s all

READ BELOW

http://momastery.com/blog/2015/08/18/before-school-conversation/

Namaste