Sexual assault is a topic near and dear to my heart for many reasons. I have several close family members and friends who’ve survived sexual assaults and I’ve seen firsthand the damage it does. I was also the director for a sexual assault services program that served two rural counties in New Mexico. In that role, I was introduced to the implications of sexual assault in our communities. I worked with police officers, attorneys, advocates and other professionals who are in the difficult position of trying to pick up the pieces of sexual assault within a system that is sometimes very backward and confining.
I’ve seen horrible trauma. But I’ve also seen hope.
S is for SANE. SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, a group of specially trained registered nurses who perform exams on victims of sexual assault and abuse. SANE’s are often the first people who listen to a victim’s story and, in that role, they represent a first step toward recovery. These nurses often work on a voluntary basis, taking on-call hours in addition to their full-time jobs at hospitals and clinics. The burnout rate for SANE nurses is high because they experience high levels of vicarious trauma in their work….and yet, every day more nurses sign up to take on this critical role. In case it’s not abundantly clear, I think that SANE nurses are angels here on Earth.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Take a moment to think about and thank the many people who help victims of sexual assault. They don’t always get the recognition they deserve; and believe me, they do deserve it. If your community has a SANE program or rape crisis center, think about supporting their work through donations or volunteerism. Find ways you can help prevent rape in your community by becoming an informed and intervening bystander. And most of all, if someone tells you they’ve been raped…Start by Believing!
I woke up thinking about the two Rachel’s in my life and since I still needed an R post, I thought I’d dedicate it to them. There are many spectacular women in my life – family, friends, colleagues. And I’ve been especially fortunate to have my life touched by two Rachel’s. One is my cousin. The other is one of my best friends.
My cousin Rachel is more than a decade younger than me. I babysat her when she was a baby and we didn’t really grow up together. But we’ve connected as adults and I just can’t say how thankful I am to have her in my life. She’s full of energy and enthusiasm. She’s a beautiful person inside and out. She understands struggle and maybe because of that, she celebrates life more excitedly than most people I know. She wants to help people. I can talk to Rachel about anything and I think she knows that she can trust me with anything. I love this girl so much and she has truly made my life richer.
My friend Rachel is an incredibly talented fine art photographer and our shared support for community organizations and causes is one of the things that brought us together. It would be hard to imagine my life without her. Rachel is a million wonderful things to me. She’s my confidante, my collaborator and my co-conspirator. She’s creative and beautiful and such a pleasure to have in my life that even as I’m writing about her, I find myself smiling and missing her. I’d be happy to spend my whole life just being friends with Rachel, but she’s one of my favorite people to work on projects with so I hope we’ll always be able to work together as well.
As it turns out, I’ve learned a lot about resilience (R word alert!) from these two women. Life hasn’t always dealt them the easiest hand but what they’ve created in their lives is beautiful and important and good. They encourage me. They inspire me. I love you both so much!
If you’ve been following my blog through this challenge, you’ve probably got me pegged as a fairly quirky person. I’m a catastrophizer. I imagine all the weirdest and worst possibilities for every situation I find myself in. My catastrophizing stems from a combination of anxiety and an over-active imagination. But what’s really strange is that it doesn’t keep me out of trouble. You might think that a person who always imagines the worst outcomes would be a reclusive, pessimist but I’m sort of the opposite. I take chances and I’m eternally optimistic. I even leave the house!
I’d love to live in a world where we all just spontaneously broke into song several times a day. And I have watched the Golden Girls so much that I can literally come up with a Golden Girls story for every situation, like these are real people in my real life. The Golden Girls are my Hallmark greeting cards.
I’ve developed all sorts of quirky behaviors to compensate for my low vision as well. I will intentionally not look in your direction until you’re standing close enough that I can recognize you. Don’t yell at me across a crowded public place. I’ll ignore you (my apologies, but its how I cope). Of course, some of my quirks are unrelated to any physical condition. For instance, I Google everything…I never use the address bar in my browser, even if I know the URL I’m visiting. Why? I’m don’t know. It’s just this thing that I do.
Luckily, I think quirks are the things that make people really interesting. I’ll accept all of yours if you’ll accept all of mine.
Persistence is certainly one of my biggest character traits. I’m pretty persuasive (ooh, also a P) and I don’t scare easily when I’m faced with obstacles (or at least, I have a good cry and move forward quickly). Persistence and perseverance are probably the main reasons I’ve experienced so many wonderful things in life. I set my mind on a goal and I work hard until it gets done. How else can you be a single-mom, full-time director of a non-profit and get your Master’s degree all at the same time (oh, right, I might be a little nuts as well, but N already had it’s chance).
I’d like to say that patience was also in there, but I’m afraid patience is a place where I fall short. I’m okay waiting as long as I have something to keep me busy but otherwise I’m horribly impatient. If I could change one thing about myself, I’d work on being more patient (and I do, all the time). My writing career is definitely going to teach me some lessons in the P department. I have no choice but to be patient, but I also have to work my tail off and follow-through. It’s actually a great combination for me.
Persistence, perseverance, patience…and passion. I’ll add passion to the mix. I’m passionate about so many things. My kids are the center of my universe and giving them a good life is something I am extremely passionate about. Making the world a better place is also high on my list of priorities. I’m passionate about violence prevention, literacy and promoting mental health. I hope I can spend my life taking care of my family and changing the world, even if only in my small way.
Well, those are some of my P’s. What are yours?
It’s that time again - election time. Sure the big election isn’t until next year, but let’s be honest, we start talking about the next election the minute we get the current person into office. Isn’t it weird how winning the next election seems to be much more important than the actual state of our country right now? Hmm.
In honor of all the horrible, mean-spirited and often inappropriate political posts that I see everyday on Facebook (especially now that people are declaring for the 2016 election), I thought I’d write about outrage. Have you ever wondered why there seems to be so much outrage out there? I do. Outrage – a extremely strong reaction of anger, shock or indignation. Okay, so let’s take a moment to think about events that might warrant outrage as a response. The Holocaust? Genocide? Child sex abuse? These days, we find things to be outraged about every day. Crime. Food. Celebrity rear-ends. And what is the typical response to that outrage? Well, when it comes to social media, its often violent and threatening outbursts.
How many times have we seen reports of shootings or rape where hundreds of comments call for vigilante justice and torture. As horrible as the original incident might have been, I always find myself much more disturbed by the violent public reaction. Would so many people really kill? Does meeting violence with violence ever make the world a better place?
And public figures – the media, celebrities, politicians, etc. – use outrage as a device to manipulate people into thinking and behaving a certain way. They rely on the fact that promoting a sense of outrage will short circuit our “critical-thinking” brain. And the sad fact is that it works, time and time again. We are so outraged at what’s being shown to us that we don’t always stop to look at the facts, to hear the whole story. We lose our empathy in the face of outrage. We’re blinded to the feelings of the “other side.” And so the cycle of violence continues. Social reform stalls. Humanity suffers.
Am I overstating things? I don’t think so. Take a look at an online newspaper article the next time a violent crime is committed and see how many people call for Hammurabi style justice before the facts have even been established. Look at how personal the attacks become on our elected officials; as if every action taken by the President were a personal affront deserving of retribution. It’s a scary kind of insane.
Beware of outrage. If you start to feel it, take a breath and evaluate the situation. Try and consider another point of view. Don’t let the outrage machine take away your ability to participate in life and society in a conscious and conscientious way.
I have a feeling my daughter takes after me. I’ve always dreamed very vividly and I usually remember everything I dream about in detail. This is pretty great when I’m dreaming something romantic or adventurous. I could stay in bed all day! But I also have nightmares and lots of them. Realistic ones about family members. Horrible gruesome ones (possibly related to the true crime books I read). I don’t watch horror movies much anymore because I can guarantee a lot of sleepless nights to follow.
I used to have dreams about the demon bear from Scooby Doo when I was a kid. My mom likes to tell that story. I was a terrible sleeper. I also remember having this recurring dream when I was sick (feverish) where I had to balance an entire planet worth of sand on a spoon and grains where beginning to fall off the sides. Even thinking about that dream today makes me anxious.
The trick for a person who dreams like I do and also suffers from anxiety is convincing yourself that the dreams aren’t real long enough to avoid a panic attack. This is a skill I’ve been working on for years, and I’m happy to admit that I’m getting much better at it. For instance, it only took me about 10 minutes the other night to convince myself that I wasn’t going to choke on an imaginary piece of gum. I dreamt about choking on gum and when I work up, I swear I could feel a lump in my throat. After applying some logic, it occurred to me that I don’t chew gum AND I definitely didn’t have any in my mouth when I went to bed SO it was possible that I wasn’t going to die after all.
Do you remember your dreams? Do you have nightmares as an adult? My son has occasional nightmares, but my daughter is more regular. And she can tell me all the little crazy details. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that she’s inherited this trait from me.
Zombie nightmares are the worst.
I love that my kids call me mama. They’ve finally both figured out that that’s not my actual name, but I wouldn’t care if it were…those sweet little voices saying “mama” makes my heart happy all day long. But mommy – well that’s another story. I don’t know why my kids stuck with mama over mom or mommy. I’m sure I reinforced it (and so did everyone around us). So now, when my daughter wants to push my buttons, she calls me “mommy.” Honestly, I don’t know why I hate being called mommy so much but its like fingernails on a chalkboard (it doesn’t help that she uses her whiniest voice when she says it).
Ok, I should probably admit that I also hate hearing people call me by my first name – Amy. I like my name, but for some reason it just irritates me when people say it out loud. Weird? Yes, I know it is. But there you have it.
I feel sort of the same way about “mommy.”
When I was born, my very clever parents made my initials spell my name. – A.M.Y. Then I got married and I messed it all up. When I was younger, I used to write my “M” upside down so my dad (and my sister, even though she’s younger than me…sheesh!) still call me Awy from time to time. Even that doesn’t drive me crazy like hearing them call me Amy. I’m ok with Ames, Amers…really just about everything else. My best friend calls me Lamycheese…now there’s a long story.
So I guess M is for mama…or for the M in my name, or for maniac, which may be an accurate description after writing this little confession.
Happy M Day!
In high school, I was a choir nerd. One year, I had choir 3 out of 6 hours of my school day. In 1994, we put together a variety show. I remember sitting in the choir room brainstorming what we should call the show (ironically, I would spend hours brainstorming business names not too many years later). We settled on Lagniappe – a word that means (approximately) a little something special. I still have a video around here somewhere (I really need to get that thing transferred to DVD before it dies!). I was in the Chamber Choir that year which was our school’s invite-only choir. As a result, there was some pretty elitist behavior among my peers (that’s right folks, no matter what clique you belong to, there’s always a pecking order and a lot more ego than a bunch of nerds probably have any right to LOL).
We auditioned acts for the show. Everyone in Chamber got a part, even if they stunk to high heaven. And being kids, we didn’t exactly make anyone stick to the original plan so the night of the show we had about a million unexpected changes based on all the usual teenage shenanigans. For instance, one of the senior girls ended up scrapping her audition song and singing a duet with a boyfriend (luckily, they could sing and it was a very good performance). It was all very dramatic.
I used to love watching that tape in fast forward. One of the boys in our group, a guy who’d been chosen because we needed boys rather than on merit alone, got two songs (unbelievably, or many not so unbelievably…he was friends with one of the senior girls). He and two friends sang along to a Stevie Wonder song complete with the actual vocal track so you couldn’t hear a word the boys were singing. I like to fast forward this part because all three boys were doing this weird uncomfortable shuffle back and forth, hands shoved deeply in their pockets, and its hilarious to watch with the speed up.
I sang a Beth Nielsen Chapman song with my parent’s friend Ed accompanying on guitar. I was such a wreck. I love singing and being part of the choir makes me joyful, but solos….I might as well die of a heart attack right there on stage. I’m amazed sometimes that I lived through this performance. Even after years of singing on stage, I still feel the same horrible panic when I get ready to sing to an audience.
As much as I remember all the politicking and stupid teenage moments that happened that year, I have such a soft spot in my heart for all the people I ever sang with. I learned a lot about myself, and about how to overcome my fears in those days. I made some of my very best friends. And I got to sing everyday, which was a blessing. It’s been years since I’ve sung anywhere but behind my computer and I miss it so much.
My 20-year high school reunion is coming up and I find myself reminiscing. To all my choir nerd peeps...I love you all.
If I suffered from a slightly reduced amount of stage fright, I might be one of those karaoke people (or if I drank, which I don’t do much). You know the ones, they show up to karaoke night with their first ten songs already pre-selected and while the rest of us are fumbling through the ten-thousand page binder of possibilities, they’re already crooning on stage. Those karaoke people fall into two categories: the really fantabulous singers and the ones who know they can’t sing. Either way, they’ve got the market cornered. As a newcomer, if you wait more than ten minutes to get your song choice in, you’re going to be waiting another hour or two to sing. Has anyone else experienced this?
Ok, so a little bit about me. I sing. I was a choir nerd in high school and my parents are folk singers so I sang with their band here and there. I love singing. But I am a nervous wreck about performing. I always have been. I remember participating in contests where I was literally shaking when I went before the judges. Yikes! In my mid-twenties, I was the drummer (no, I cannot drum) for a band. We played approximately 3 songs and our lead singer was so tone deaf it was hard to listen to her. Her husband told me he didn’t like my singing style. Admittedly, I’m not a rock singer (but at least I can carry a tune). It was actually ridiculously fun to sort of mock play the drums for that band.
But back to karaoke. So, given the right circumstances, I could totally be one of those karaoke people. I have my list of songs that I love to sing all sorted out, ranging from Linda Ronstadt’s “Different Drummer” (just a huge coincidence, I swear) to Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.” I rock these songs. My mom and I love to do Lisa Stansfield’s “All Around the World.” My mom can never remember all the words, but she fakes it til she makes it (and the girl can dance). My sister sings the White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” like you can’t imagine (you don’t want to take your eyes off of her, it’s crazy good). My friend Kari (K is also for Kari) and I did a hilarious and fun version of Party in the U.S.A. a few years ago. Man, I miss that girl.
I’d love to say that what’s holding me back from my career as a karaoke diva is my kids, my job, even my stage fright. But if I’m being completely honest, I’d have to say my inability to stay up past 9PM these days is probably the biggest impediment. If I’m awake at 10, it’s probably curled up with a good book, yawning, in my nice cozy bed. So, dreams of karaoke stardom are on hold and instead I just sing while I write. It’ not a bad compromise really; none of the associated performance anxiety and I get to sing every song on the list, no sharing involved.
What’s your favorite song to sing at karaoke?
My daughter was born the day that Michael Jackson died. After an atrocious labor and a failed epidural, I finally popped that kid out. I’d been awake for almost 40 hours and I was seriously exhausted. There was still blood on the sheets and I was waiting for the effects of the stupid failed epidural to wear off so I could get out of bed when a nurse came in to check on me. As she was poking at tubes and checking monitors, she said in a hushed voice, “Did you hear about Michael Jackson?” In my half-delirious state I said, “um, no.” “He died,” she said, very simply and then she left my room.
Well, at that moment, all I could think was Of course I didn’t know! I was a little busy here!!! But the significance of the day was not lost on me. Whatever else Michael Jackson may have been, and whatever we may think about those last years of his life especially, he was an undeniable force in music and pop culture. I’ve been introducing my kids to Jackson 5 hits and Thriller and other iconic tunes that they are growing to love.
When I think of Michael Jackson, it’s hard not to think about his life and the craziness of his final years. Having worked with sexual assault victims for several years, it’s not hard to imagine that everything ever said about him was true. He had access. He had power. And he had a totally screwed up life that I can only imagine left him emotionally stunted. As is the case with other celebrity’s accused of sexual assault, just because we loved them or they were funny or they were popular does not make them incapable of atrocities beyond our imagining. Humans are incredibly complicated and I think it’s ok to admire a person’s work while still holding them accountable for their actions. I can love the Cosby Show and still understand that Bill Cosby is probably a rapist. Again, access. Power. I can love Michael Jackson as an artist and still face the reality of his sexual depravity.
It’s strange that my daughter’s birth coinciding with Michael Jackson’s death initiates such a serious inner dialogue. Maybe it’s a good thing. It makes me consider human beings as a whole, the good and the bad. It makes me think about what we, as a society, will tolerate; what we will look at honestly and what we will forgive (or even deny). Maybe I would have thought about these things anyway, but maybe not. All I know is that the day Michael Jackson died, an angel was placed in my arms and she’s been singing and dancing through my life ever since.
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
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