Saturday, July 2, 2016

Spilling the Tea

I write for two blogs.  One is for the Atlanta City Moms Blog, to which I am very committed and for which I keep all my deadlines.  I also have this blog, to which I am completely irresponsible and only write when I have an unexpected event or an a-ha moment.

This post is neither.  I am writing this one because I need to be free of a burden, and I am drumming up the courage to spill my tea.

The day before my 41st birthday, (I am almost 44 now), I was in my local Kroger.  I had lost a ton of weight, and had put lot of hard work into Choosing Joy.  However, my family was in the middle of a catastrophic ordeal, as my father had suffered a brain injury and was hospitalized for quite some time.  But his condition had improved enough that I could return home and help my mom manage things via phone.

And I was on the phone with her when, while shopping, I noticed a man out of the corner of my eye. He was pacing back and forth behind me as I put together my lunch at the salad bar.  I thought he was just impatiently waiting his turn, so I moved on.  I finally made it to the spice aisle and was texting someone when a very loud voice inside my head instructed me to “keep walking”.  I did, but then stopped further down the aisle to finish the text.  Behind me, I heard the crunch of a potato chip bag.  And then it happened.


I think victims of sexual assault deal with the crimes committed against them in different ways.  Mine was to freeze, to demand to know what he was doing, to tell him to get away from me, and then freeze again.

But I wish I had chased after him.  I wish I had kicked his ass.  I wish I had been stronger.

I also wish the Kroger staff hadn’t left me and my groceries alone in their deli for over an hour while I waited for the police and my husband.  Thank goodness one of the patrons there took the time to lean over and quietly ask me questions, trying to calm me down.

Although they had the entire incident on video, the police never found him, and my case was closed.  Well, for them anyway.  From the moment that man put his hand up my dress and did the unthinkable, I have never been the same.  It took me a year to re-enter that Kroger, and when I did, I had a full-on panic attack.

I retreated from my world, and, in turn, my world retreated from me.  MealTrain apparently doesn’t have a category for “crime victim.”  As time went on, feeling such deep rejection and hopelessness, I cut myself off completely. Thank God for the angel friends and family who stuck with me, despite that fact that I had nothing to give them in return.  They keep me going even now, and I bet they don’t realize how much they help me. I need to tell them.

This is so very personal.  But if there is one thing I am trying to learn, and hope to impart, it is that while my happiness is my responsibility, I cannot recover without support.  If you are going through something, and you feel alone, don’t be afraid to be raw and real with someone you trust.  We all need at least one person in our lives to whom we can say absolutely anything.  And we need to give ourselves permission to feel all the feelings, because healing can’t start until the band aid is ripped off.

I am tugging at that band aid – and it is starting to give.  So don't cry for me, Argentina.  And don't give up on me either.

Until next time, keep crowin’ and don’t stop trying to find your joy!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Time Out

Waiting for the 11th grade basketball game to finish so I can cheer on my son's 7th grade team.  Sitting next to a mom I don't know.

Mom I Don't Know:  Do you know who's winning?
Me: I am sorry, I don't.  I just walked in.  Who are you cheering for?
Mom I Don't Know: The home team.
Me: Oh, me too!  My son plays in the same league for the 7th grade team.

Lively banter follows about where the boys go to high school and the newest guilty pleasure by Julian Fellowes.

Whistle blows.   A Mom on Other Team Starts Screaming.  Gets kicked out of game. Second Mom on Other Team Takes Up Where She Left Off.

Mom I Don't Know:  Ugh.  We played a game recently where they had to hire a police officer to stand next to one mom during a game, and she still got thrown out.  She is an actress on some reality show and she is always getting escorted out of games.  The other parents loved her.
Me:  I just don't understand why people think it is ok to behave like that.

3rd Quarter.  Our 11th grade team is winning handily, but tensions are high.  Without warning, a player from the opposing team throws a punch at one of our players. 

The stands clear. 

Boys, adults, strangers are all tangled up in an explosion of violence.  Everyone is screaming.

And then.

I see Second Mom.  She is in the middle of the melee.  She grabs one of our players, throws him to the ground, and is on top of him, cussing him out, hands all over him.

This next part gets a little blurry.  Here's what I can remember.

I get up out of my seat.  I run over to some players who are trying to get in the fight.

Me:  Son, sit down!  Don't do it!
Player: Don't touch me!
Me to Second Mom:  Ma'am, please stop!  Sit down!  Sit down!
Second Mom: YOU sit down!
Coach holding Second Mom back: SHUT UP!
Me: Act like an adult! (Remind me to work on my comebacks.)

I then return to my seat, realizing my mission was futile.

Suddenly, I am surrounded with fingers in my face.

Second Mom, Her Friend, and Her Son:  You better watch yourself you better watch how you to speak to my mom you better shut the hell up unless you want to get tore up you need to leave it to the kids you sitting there acting all nice ...

Somehow, my son's assistant coach gets between them and me and saves me from injury.  They go away.  I am shaking.

The police come, and I give my statement.  They don't ask me for my name, and they don't seem that concerned about what has happened.  However, I am later told by the head of the league that charges will be filed. 

Anger. Hate. Pain.  Fear.  I saw it all manifested on that basketball court.  And in trying to digest it all, the only thing I have learned is how much I don't understand about the world, and about people.  There is no tidy wrap-up for this one - just a feeling of sadness for all those involved, and the hope that next time, things turn out differently. 


Until next time, keep crowin' and growin' and lovin' through hate.

Monday, March 7, 2016

For Brian

When you are an awkward teenage girl with no prospects and you go to the beach and meet a really great guy who doesn't know you are supposed to be awkward, your whole world can change.  I was that girl, and Brian Fleenor was that guy.  We met at St. George Island one night and sat together by a bonfire, confessing to each other our demons and dreams, as if we had been friends forever.  After that starry, remarkable night, we parted ways - ostensibly forever, as these things go.  Then weeks later, I received the most beautiful letter from him, telling me how incredible it was to meet me, and how our time together was bookmarked in his mind as one of those significant "life moments."  We kept in touch, he came to visit me in my small town, and he managed to make me feel more special and important than any boy ever had.

He did all these things without even once kissing me or holding my hand. We had connected in a way that didn't require anything more.

Years later, we would find each other again, after he met some of my friends at the same beach.  And then once more, thanks to social media.  I was able to see that he was happily married with an adorable son, and he could see that I had also found my way into a loving marriage with kids of my own.  We couldn't believe that our brief time together would result in a Facebook Friending!  But that is the way of the world in this new technological age.

I write about these memories now, because Brian died today.

He battled brain cancer until he could battle no more.  I find myself feeling the loss more deeply than I expected - it has been 20 years since we spoke.  But Brian was special, because he was the only man, until my husband, that showed me respect, interest, and caring without any physical expectations.  He made me feel that I was a beautiful, worthy person, no strings attached. 

I pray for Brian's wife and son, and for the family and friends that loved him so well.  And I hope that Brian, who is resting now in eternal peace, is settled in by a roaring fire on a sandy beach, surrounded by the loving spirits of all the lives he touched.  He made a difference to me, even if for one night.

Never underestimate how your life can be a blessing to another --- that is Brian's legacy, and I hope I can pay it forward.

Until next time, keep crowin' and making special moments with the ones you love.