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Trauma of any size

“It’s not like he raped me. He only groped me. It was a joke. It’s not that big of a deal. I need to drop it. He’d make it easier for me to drop it if he stopped sending me the kind of messages I’ve repeatedly asked him not to. Still. He’s a close friend. It’s not that big of a deal. Sure, he keeps saying things close friends don’t say, but he’s just joking. It’s not like he means it.  Right?  I know I probably am making too big a deal of this, I have a tendency to do that, but I don’t feel safe alone with him. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.  “

I said all of those things. I tried minimizing it because it seemed so minimal to what people I know have been through. It wasn’t until I started seeing a therapist for my fine collection of other demons that I realized just how violated this man made me feel. It wasn’t until my very calm, never rattled therapist got red in the face when I told him the whole story, including stuff I haven’t here. His anger shocked me. His words changed me: 

Trauma of any size should never be minimized.

Today, Al Franken was accused of assault. Leeann Tweeden came forward to share her story of a time that was traumatic to her. There were many who tried to minimize it, comparing it to the accusations against Moore and Trump. But, do you know who didn’t minimize it? Al Franken.  This is his statement: 

“The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.

“I respect women. I don’t respect men who don’t. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.

“But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us—including and especially men who respect women—have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.

“For instance, that picture. I don’t know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn’t matter. There’s no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn’t funny. It’s completely inappropriate. It’s obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what’s more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it—women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.

“Coming from the world of comedy, I’ve told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren’t the point at all. It’s the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to come to terms with that.

“While I don’t remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women’s experiences.

“I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.

“And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.”

What I would have given to have received an apology like this!  Franken said he was sorry. He didn’t blame the victim. He didn’t excuse his behavior. He didn’t minimize it. He did what men still are too often failing to do: He made it about how she felt. About her trauma. Too often when men are accused, hell, even when they admit they are the perpetrator, they make it about themselves. They take even victimhood itself from their victims.  Here, he doesn’t make it about his intentions, he makes it about how she felt about what happened.

I don’t know how to make this any more clear: he made it about her. His apology was an act of healing, HER healing.

And she accepted his apology.

Good for Leeann for sharing her story.  She adds her voice to those of so many others who are shining a bright light on something too many of us have dealt with in all of its forms.  She spoke truth to power because the truth needed to be told. 

Because of her  I am less afraid to share what happened to me. And, what’s infinitely more important to me:  I no longer feel any bit of shame from having kicked that person from our lives. For holding him to account for what he did.  He was never the victim, no matter how hard he tried to make me believe it. And I did believe it for too long. For too long I said to myself the same things you hear people say to victims. I thought because it could have been worse that it wasn’t that bad and I should have just let it go. It’s just not true.  Women with any story need to feel empowered to share it if it will help them heal. Women should not be afraid to hold men responsible for their actions. No matter who the man is or what the harmful action was. I truly hope Leeann feels any measure better by Franken’s statement. I hope that she knows that someone like me, who could not be more opposed to so much of her views, is so grateful for her voice, even when it involved someone who I do agree with. I’m grateful that ALL bad behavior is being discussed, because it’s ALL not okay.  

Trauma of any size should never be minimized.

 

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Sick of being sick

All three boys are home sick again today. I’m hoping that this is the height of ridiculous illness as we’ve already had two bugs pass through almost all of us, along with conjunctivitis in just the past two weeks. This morning, Casey crawls in bed with me, sniffling, but wiggly enough that I can tell he’s on the mend. I grab my pillows and blanket and lazily steam roll over him so he’s underneath both me and my bedding.  “Why is my bed so lumpy?!” I yell and he laughs, so I struggle more aggressively to get comfortable on my very bony Caseybed. “It feels like there’s something wrong with it!” I dig my elbows in.

“MOM! IT’S BECAUSE IT’S A HUMAN!”

I’m super glad he feels like a human. The rest of us, myself included, look and feel decidedly less than that.  I’ve been getting sick a bunch lately. Since my hysterectomy (I had one of those, it was a party, I’m sorry you missed it) the end of last year, I’ve really tried to do be healthy.  I’ve done all of the good things that Ariana Huffington told me to get good sleep, I eat well, etc etc. So there’s no reason I should be getting sick so much.

I mean, other than the fact that I have four kids going to three different schools.   I’ve only had about 1/4 of school days so far without a kid home.  I even went so far as to call the district to get an exemption for Abby’s new favorite way of coming home early: puking. “Please do not send Abby home unless she’s really sick. No more of this ‘Oh, she threw up a little after shoving seventeen poptarts in her face at snack time’ shit. I mean it. There had better be blood.” The letter I got from her pediatrician was slightly less salty.   I always forget to call the school for their absences though.  (Heh. I misspelled “absence” and got “abscess” and that would be something I’d hope they’d want pictures of rather than me calling to describe it, but who knows, maybe the attendance ladies are into the spoken word.) I forgot where I was going with that.  Oh! I wish that we could text the attendance office. I  mean, then, I guess kids could, too, pretending to be their parents and bypassing that whole “sounding like an adult thing.” Even still, if Carter were to text the high school as me saying he was going to be absent so he could ditch school he’d be way ahead of me in the adulting department. I’d probably forget to text them, too.

Ugh, if I’m being truly honest, there’s a chance that my house is making me sick. I’ve often wondered if snot shows up under black light like other, grosser bodily fluids do. If so, my house would light up like a discotheque (Somewhere in the future Carter is reading this and groaning at my use of “discotheque”).  It’s not that I don’t clean. I clean a lot. It’s that I don’t clean enough. Having four kids, one that’s a veritable snot factory 9 months of the year makes it hard to get all the nooks and crannies and usually to find bottom of my kitchen sink. I try to find new ways to motivate myself to clean because I’m not quite dead inside enough to actually enjoy it.  A good motivation is the threat of DCFS. “Ma’am, we heard that you published a post about how the levels of bodily fluid in your house would cause it to light up like a disco…what’s this word? I’m sorry, I was born in 1990…” Oooh. That might be enough to get me through my kitchen!

Or maybe we share too much. I like the sound of that the best. It’s altruism that’s making us sick. In the Mag household, every drink quickly becomes everyone’s. I’m not writing this by way of saying I’m going to change, I’m not, but more as a warning. Don’t put down your drink in my house. Or fork.  But that’s more the nature of having three teenagish boys, a daughter that literally doesn’t feel full ever and a mom who eats to cope in one household. That also makes us look less like humans, too, even when we’re not sick. We all kind of wander around numbly looking for carbs like zombies look for brains.

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Only mostly dead.

Who knows? I just know that I’m sick of being sick all of the time. The only thing worse is being the one that has to take care of everyone and everything else. It’s usually Lance, and not always on account of him being the least sick. It’s that sweet moment between a couple when you both feel whatever creeping death the kids brought home hit you and you race into bed to dibs being the one whose the most sick.  Lance had a winning streak for a while until I bested him with needing a hysterectomy. BEAT THAT, ASSHOLE. He makes it a lot less fun by being totally awesome about taking care of everyone no matter what. Killjoy.

I’m going back to bed to rest with a warm cup of tea, some soup and a good book. Probably a classic.

Just kidding, I’m going back to bed with a soda, a loaf of sliced bread I wrestled from Carter and my phone so I can tell people on Reddit they’re “tools” and possibly call the attendance office.

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happy

“TALK” the three year old said as he smacked the dirt in between him and my daughter, sending it up in a wispy brown cloud that I at once worried would whirl it’s way into her already gunky lungs. “TALK! TALK! Why. Don’t. You. TALK?!” More brown lung damage swirled around them, illuminated by the bright lights of the football field that shared its space with the baseball diamond where Abby had plopped herself down to draw in the dirt, away from the overstimulating ruckus cheering at Peyton’s last football game.

I waited the socially acceptable time for mom to intervene, she didn’t, so I knelt down beside them both and placed my hand on the boys hands, “She doesn’t talk with her mouth,” I said, the same line I have said over and over and over. Mom then starts move to rescue her child or mine, or simply to look like she was paying attention the entire time. Hurriedly, I add “She can talk with her hands…” Mom picks up her son before I can finish. “Nooooo,” I think, “Don’t take him away. He was almost playing with her!” Out loud now, “He’s fine! I was just explaining to him…” Mom was gracious, but her son was already running off to play with the other kids who had all only but momentarily given Abby the “Maybe she’ll play…oh…nevermind” glance.

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Left alone again, I sit down on my knees and gently smooth out the dirt so that Abby can have a fresh canvas. I can hear the laughter of the kids as they stomp around in the dirt, play tag and dance. My heart aches in the same place with the same familiarity I’ve known since Casey was born and autism took from him normal childhood experiences.  Abby draws a stick figure with crazy hair and a wide smile with her finger in the dir. When I ask her who it is, a big smile spreads across her face as she puts her thumb up and to her chest with a deliberate cadence, “ME.”

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I have to remind myself that the pain is my own. She’s as happy as she can be. What autism takes- normal childhood interactions- autism also protects. My autistic children don’t usually care to be doing as the other kids are doing. Like Casey with the butterflies when he was the same age as Abby.

She was happy. So I was, too.

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It’s time to do the thing

I was over a year and five minutes late to my favorite YMCA class. Knee issues, endometriosis, hysterectomy, surgically-induced menopause and mental illness had kept me away for way too long. I apologetically worked my way to the most open spot I could find, all the while trying to dance along to music and moves that are way younger than I look or feel.  For the split second I saw myself in the mirror before I locked onto the heels of the instructor I saw what was there a year ago- a tall, not-fit, rhythmless white chick just barely able to not bump into people as she danced through a class she loved. My insides are different, though, and not just because I’m missing some. I’ve been to a lot of therapy in the last year and have found a new calm I only notice when I brace myself for anxiety that doesn’t end up coming. I spent the first half of the class trying not to see what I looked like in the mirrors that covered 3/4 of the walls. At one point I saw myself and stopped. What the hell was I afraid of? I’m never not going to be the tall white chick who sweats an alarming amount in the class.  “Lean into what scares you” my therapy spoke to me. So I did.

I haven’t kept this blog with any sort of regularity for three plus years now. I can’t believe it’s been that long. There were a lot of reasons why I quit writing. Losing my domain was probably just what pushed me over the edge because the reinforcement I craved by seeing my stats was diminished significantly because all of the sites linking in were now lost. I want to say that I didn’t even look at my stats, but that’s horseshit. I did. Stats played a huge role in my deciding whether or not what I was writing was worthwhile- but that came with huge frustrations. Because, at the end of the day, it wasn’t what I thought was my best writing that got the most traffic; that’s kind of not how the web works. Most people aren’t here for art.

I sure as hell am not.

I’m here for Reddit and to make sure the word I’m using in an argument means what I think it means. Cats. The shitshow that is our president.

I was super concerned with what people were thinking about what I wrote, too. Not so much as what I was writing, but my motivation to write. Did they think I was a narcissist? That I cared more about writing my blog than my kids’ privacy? Did they think I was an asshole for my half-hearted attempts to make money because of my blog?Did people read just to find reasons to be mad at me? Was I giving them reasons? Ugh. I still feel all of this as I write now.

Because I cared about stats and what people thought, my writing changed. It got better in a great many ways, I think. I learned to be more concise. I spent more time editing.  But it took a lot more time and effort. Time I have. Kind of. Effort, meh, I should try harder in almost every area. I stopped writing just to write though, and that made it a lot less cathartic and fun.

I resolved to just write.

That was two weeks ago. I haven’t been back to my class nor had I touched this post.

But I need to write. I just re-listened (audiobooks are my best friend) to the beginning of Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please, because I needed to hear again her say in reference to writing the book I was listening to, “You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing.”

Amy had editors who hounded her to write. I need that kind of motivation. I want to finish my book, especially now that I’m in a better place. Maybe not better, there’s a good chance I’m a hell of a lot more boring without some of the demons that wrote with me. But, calmer, and maybe a little less artistic. Oh well, it’s not the thing.

I’m going to do the thing.

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So much autism.

I walked out into the crisp  Pacific Northwest air with the same heaviness, shock and also numbness, in my heart I’ve felt twice before.  The first time was 10 years ago. The second was three years ago.

It never gets easier.

Each time, I was prepared to hear the words the doctors would say, but each time when I saw the word “autism” in black and white, the same old Heavy settles in. I feel like the whole world has changed, but at the same time, every single thing is the same.

Today, the third of my four children was diagnosed with autism. My youngest son has Asperger’s. As far as diagnoses go- it’s all autism.

He’s been having problems in school for years. We always thought they were age related and would go away with time. They didn’t. At first, it was because he was stubborn. Then I believed it was because he was gifted, and the neurosis he feels was a part of that. Then we thought it was OCD. We hoped it was OCD. After meeting with the school- his teacher, the principal and director of gifted services along with the resource teacher I adore, we decided to have him evaluated to find out more of what we were working with.

The first meeting with the psychologist was just with me. Lance was out of town. As I discussed Peyton, the psychologist kept asking me questions that were indicative of his thought train: autism. So I flat out told him it wasn’t autism. I KNOW autism. He’s too creative. He’s very loving. He doesn’t melt down…at least not like Casey…He doesn’t have problems socially…except…Oh yeah, he has sensory issues. His diet is limited to only about five things and he won’t wear certain types of clothes. On and on. I didn’t realize until after, but this amazing psychologist had helped guide me to coming to the conclusion on my own: Peyton has aspergers. I would have fought him to the death if he had just come out and said it. I would have felt like he didn’t think I knew what I was doing. I knew autism!

And yet, I didn’t know HIS autism. It wasn’t even really on my radar. I’d thrown it out a couple of times, but always walked it back thinking that it just wasn’t him. When the psychologist guided me to that conclusion, my mind was flooded with the aspies I know. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure.

It hit me a lot harder than I even want to admit. Three out of my four children are on the autism spectrum. It’s a hard pill to swallow. This isn’t what I wanted for him. I wanted it to be something he’d grow out of. I wanted this to not be another trial that didn’t go away. Not for him, and selfishly, not for me. I didn’t want things to be harder for him than they already were growing up in a home with two disabled siblings and one crazy ass mom.

I agonized about how to tell him. One of the reasons we looked into getting assessments done is that he personalizes everything. He’s SO hard on himself. I was afraid that he’d internalize this as something that was his fault. I was afraid that he’d hear “autism” and he would only see how his siblings were affected by it.  One night while we were doing homework he threw down his pencil and in tears said, “Why am I like this?!” So I told him that the doctor thought it was possible that he was on the autism spectrum.  He knows all about autism, including some of the famous people who have Aspergers. He knows that his “Aunt K” (not his real aunt, spoils him just the same) is an aspie and she’s worked at cool places like Playstation and LucasFilm. After about a minute he quickly said, “Oh, interesting. That makes sense.”

It does make sense. I’m not completely okay with it right now, but he is. And that’s what matters.

Tomorrow I will march into his school with another education folder, just like the ones I have for Casey and Abby, tucked under my arm and begin the work it takes to modify his environment so that he has the best shot at living up to his capabilities.

That’s a lie. I probably won’t march. I’ll drag my feet. I’ll probably cry when I say he’s autistic. But I’ll get over myself enough to do what I have to do.

I hope.

 

 

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The dream that turns to a nightmare in the morning

….and then suddenly we’re there in the kitchen. For some reason, Abby is standing on the island and we are, slowly, syllable by syllable, saying words. She does, in turn, repeat back. Mon Mon Key Key MONKEY! MONKEY! MONKEY! And we all clap and she jumps up and down without any of us giving a thought to her falling from the kitchen island.

This dream, so small, probably counting fewer than a minute or two of my restless sleep, has caught me by the throat several times since then. Her voice, her repeating words, her jumping carelessly up and down as if the strangle hold of Down syndrome and autism had for a moment released their grip, should be a delight. A hope.

It’s neither.

It would all be well and good if we could stay in that dream forever. If I felt like this dream, and the even more cruel ones of her speaking without impediment, weren’t always going to be just dreams. If reality didn’t tug me awake with her clumsy hands and her big beautiful brown almond-shaped eyes. I roll over as Abby clambers up on the bed to force me into the kitchen where I will point to every other food item to her shake of the head and an increasingly angrier grunt until I knowingly pull the chicken nuggets out of the freezer, to which she points to the bag and looks up to make sure I know what she’s telling me.

At five, most her peers with Down syndrome could ask for chicken nuggets. Most mother’s could respond with a “No, it’s breakfast. That’s a disgusting way to start the day.”

Most mothers, ouch, most mothers have heard their child call them “Mom.”

It should be so sweet to have any glimpse of Abby speaking, right? And it it is, it is so sweet, right until I wake.

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Oh, hai, I’m back, mostly

I bought a new laptop because mine ate the dust and in order to sleep at night I knew that I had to really start writing again. So here I am with another new domain and another new attempt at a blog that I may or may not keep up.

But I’m back.

Mostly.

How have YOU been?

I’m not just asking to get out of writing. I promise.