Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Get busy living, or get busy dying

The following post comes from a talented and beautiful-inside-and-outside Australian blogger, Kellie Heitman. Kellie has been a wonderful support for me throughout this past year. Along with several other bloggers, she has been able to empathise in a way many cannot because she has intimate knowledge of violence and abuse.

A little over a year ago I shared my own story of childhood sexual abuse and writing about it was very healing for me. A year later I wrote about the neverending prison sentence that victims, or rather survivors, of these crimes inherit.

Kellie, I hope you find some healing and a sense of release from sharing your own story. I hope you feel the support and compassion of those of us in the blogosphere who look at you and see your immense strength and courage. You are truly beautiful.

Here is Kellie's story.

* * * * *

Andy Dufresne is a fictional character. If you are familiar with the works of Stephen King, you will know that he is a character in The Shawshank Redemption. Jailed for life for a crime he didn't commit.

It's not unlike how I feel in my own life sometimes. For seven years of my life, I was sexually abused by my mother's partner. He is now in prison, serving time for the crimes he committed against me and the crimes he committed after he was found out. Having this man, my abuser, behind bars doesn't mean I sleep easy at night. Like my good friend Andy Dufresne, I was sentenced for life.

For the most part, I don't think about the abuse I went through. It hurts too much. But I can't stop the dreams. I can't stop the feelings of anger, of sadness, and feeling like somehow I brought it all on myself. Crazy, I know.

If I'm having a bad day, when someone upsets me or makes me angry, it all comes back to the abuse. Like I said, a life sentence. It is the root of all the pain in my life, it's had a ripple effect on probably every decision I've ever made, in some way. It has a part in how I raise my children. Without seeming like a paranoid weirdo, I have to make them vigilant - of strangers on the street, teachers at school, even people they should trust.

I find it hard trying to make people understand why I am the way I am, without them feeling sorry for me. It's not that I don't want their sympathy - it means they care - I just don't see myself as a victim.
It's not like I died. I survived. Physically.

Right now, I am making some changes in my life. Out with the old, in with the new and all that. I'm letting go of bad feelings, bad memories. Even the good ones, if they don't fit in with the next phase in my life. The abuse and everything that's come with it is something I am having trouble letting go of. It's hard to let go of your childhood, because that's basically what I'll be doing. But how do I separate the good part of that, all the wonderful memories I have, from the bad part?

I want to be like Andy Dufresne - who fought against those who imprisoned him, even though it took him years.

Andy Dufresne - who never let himself be beaten.

Andy Dufresne - who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.

* * * * *

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Bra therapy

The last couple of weeks have been rather emotional for me, coming to terms with the loss of my grandmother, and I've dealt with it in the same mature fashion I deal with all life challenges. I bought a new bra.

When my plane touched down in Texas I met my brother and nephew, but we had some time to kill before the memorial service so we stopped at a Barnes & Noble. I expertly noted the book store was connected to a mall, which housed a Victoria's Secret, so I told them I'd meet them in an hour and I was gone. (By the way, VS models annoy me, with their anorexic-looking silicone-pumped bodies, but I do love their bras.)

For the next hour, I was in heaven. I walked out with this ensemble:

When I got home, I was disappointed to discover the wings were sold separately. Bastards.

I think it's safe to say that all of us have engaged in retail therapy from time to time and we each have our particular fetish. I have friends that have the most incredible collections of shoes, handbags, earrings, you name it. (Okay, so the earrings is me again.)

I don't understand all the handbag excitement. I buy one at Target and it lasts me a year or two. I'm the same way with shoes. Then again, I have friends that think bras are strictly utilitarian and cannot understand why I would waste my money on such an indulgence.

In the post childbearing years I felt the same way. A boob was something to heft out of an industrial strength restraint and plant in the mouth of a crying infant. But as my children grew a bit older and I began to reclaim my body, both figuratively (I no longer had tiny people treating it like a jungle gym) and aesthetically (I lost some of the baby fat and found my figure again), pretty bras began to peak an interest in me again. I gleefully waved goodbye to my beige D-cup days and began embracing C-cup sexy.

There are bras for every conceivable mood.

Some are cute and fun

Some are va-va-va-voom!

There are spiky bras

nursing bras

gorgeous French bras I can't afford

man bras

pet-friendly bras

and, um, whatever-this-is bras

The funny thing is that no one sees my bras but me. (Well, me and everyone reading this post right now.)  But that's not the point. I just like knowing my boobs are cradled in silk and lace gorgeousness. And to be perfectly honest, it's kind of nice having my ta-tas all to myself again.

So what about you? Do you have a bra fetish? Or do you indulge in other forms of alternative therapy? Aw, come one, spill it. After all, I showed you mine.

P.S. I totally want the burgandy and black velvet balconette up near the top. It's calling to me...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Life - one year on

Last week my grandmother died. I've been trying to write about it ever since and I can't. I'll sit down and start and then realize I can't do it. Not yet. Most people can count on one hand the number of people in their lives that are solid, like a rock, loving them through everything year after year. When those rocks begin to slip away, one by one, it can feel like you're standing on the edge of a chasm.

It ocurred to me yesterday that last week, while I was gathering with family in Texas, that the one year anniversary of the assault came and went. I'm not sure it matters, except that, wow. One year. That means that in another week it will have been one year since the criminal investigation opened. I thought it would be wrapped up in months. And yet I'm still here, waiting. Still married, technically. Still sitting on the edge of a future I can't yet grasp. And every day he gets up and puts on his business casual and goes into the office and works, chats with his colleagues, sits in meetings.

Life can be so bizarre.

Do you remember when you were young and planned out your future? What it was going to be like? I was going to get married (check), have two kids (check) and spend my days writing, cooking wholesome meals, working in the garden and generally living happily ever after (uncheck, uncheck, uncheck...).

No one's life ever turns out the way they would have writ it. Ever. And that's okay. Because how boring is a smooth ride on a straight road?

I have so many posts swimming around in my head/heart/gut. I have so much I want to write out. But I simply don't have the time right now. Being a single parent is an exhausting, relentless motherfucker of a job. I keep thinking, "I will write that when I have the time to really craft it, to breathe life into it." But then the days roll into weeks and months and I can't steal the time away. So for now, this is my writing. Short, simple, sporadic.

I realized today that I am waiting for someday, as has always been my habit. Things will be better when _____ (my divorce is settled, I can move, I can return to Australia, etc.).  But in the meantime it's been a year, and that's a whole lot of life to wish myself away from. A year to spend with my kids, a year to heal, a year to not have to hold my breath each time I walk through the front door, a year to learn how to be myself again, know how good it feels to relax and unkink all the parts of me that were scrunched up.

One day, a phone call will come in the early morning. Someone will have read in the paper about the charges. I will be dumbstruck despite expecting it for so long, and then my life will slam into forward motion and leave me breathless.

Until then, every day I get up and learn the lesson of living in the moment and appreciating the beauty I do have in my life. And then I walk into the basement and realize my son has left the door to the freezer open. All night. And everything inside is thawed. I curse under my breath and promptly forget all the zen crap. Then the next day I get up and learn it again.

Life is generous like that, giving us countless opportunities to get it right. In the meantime, don't wish yourself away from your life, right here and now. It's all we ever have.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Where have all the nude rugby fans gone?

Last week I wrote a piece about Thylane Blondeau, the 10-year-old model from France. I felt pretty strongly about the topic because I've seen the dark side of child exploitation. However, I'm now almost wishing I hadn't posted. Why? Well, look at the google searches that now land on my blog. Here's a snap of the searches over the course of a couple of hours:

click to enlarge

It makes me feel a bit... dirty, all these gawkers coming here looking for her photos (some of the searches include "topless" - ugh). Six of my top 10 searches now have to do with her or her parents. I'm hoping the media frenzy passes quickly and the young girl can focus on being a child. And my searches go back to looking like this:

click to enlarge

I miss the days when people used to come to my blog looking for "nude sports" and "body painting on men." Somehow, it all felt so much more wholesome then...

Anyway, I thought I would post a few pictures of what childhood looks like around here, with $3 sunglasses and teddy bears, courtesy of our recent road trip (post to follow). Cue the 'awwwws..."

Ready to roll

movies work well on long trips...

until they don't, at which point you have to hand
over your camera for random self-portraits

It was hot there

really, really hot

Tonight I'm going to raise an adult beverage to childhood, and to children being children while they can.

Monday, August 8, 2011

This makes me feel ill

On Friday I came across photos of a French model who is making headlines for photo-shoots she did in Vogue and Cadeaux magazines. The pictures are sexually alluring, showing her reclining on leopard print pillows, sporting stiletto heels and a heavily made up face.

from Cadeaux magazine

from Cadeaux magazine


This is nothing new for the pages of a high fashion magazine, so why the headlines? Because the model is only 10 years old. The images have drawn intense criticism from a number of circles and opened up a debate about how young is too young to pose provocatively.

The model is Thylane Blondeau. She is the daughter of actress Veronika Loubry and former French international football player Patrick Blondeau. Blondeau's mother, Veronika, defends the pictures, calling them 'art'. These include pictures of the child posing topless (which I have chosen not included in the post).

Thylane with mother Veronika

When I first saw the pictures, they made me feel sick to my stomach. All I can see when I look at them is a young girl, a child, dolled up so that she is sexually appealing to men.

Treating young girls as sexual objects teaches them to value themselves as such. Studies show that girls who identify their worth through a sexual lens are more likely to experience:
  • lower self esteem
  • depression
  • a higher incidence of eating disorders
  • failure in school, and
  • sexual activity at a very young age
This is true not only for the girls who are doing the modeling, but for all those who see them and are influenced by the photos. The photos contribute to the collective definition of youthful attractiveness in our society, a definition that seems to have become more and more sexual with each passing year.

Ten-year-old's have no concept of sexuality. They are still pre-pubescent. They are children. Not adults, but simply children.

This is not art. This is the visual trafficking of one's own child. It's dangling a young girl on a string before others, saying "look how sexually tempting she is. Don't you want her?"

I may be more sensitive to this sort of thing than others because of my recent history. My (soon-to-be-ex) husband is currently under investigation for child pornography. The topless pictures of young Blondeau look eerily familiar to images I saw in 'art' books that were confiscated, among other things, by police during a search of his office.

I realize I cannot look at a topic like this dispassionately. But honestly, in my mind, there's a very fine line between pictures like this and child exploitation. Perhaps there is no line at all.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I wonder what would happen if I took this and put it...

My son. He is six years old. All boy, all the time, a ball of unruly energy, until suddenly he's not. One minute he's hurling headless Barbie dolls over the upstairs railing and the next, he's bringing me a plate of peeled carrots in bed "to make your head feel better." He's a bit sly, full-on, unrelenting, sensitive, thoughtful, mischevious, adorable, exhausting. I love him to bits.

Lately, he's had a hard time going to bed. I tuck him in, but it never takes. Before I know it he's making an appearance at the bottom of the stairs.

"Mama, I had a bad dream."

"Dan, you've only been in bed for 10 minutes. I'm pretty sure you haven't fallen asleep yet. Now go on back to bed."

15 minutes later...

"Mama, I'm not sleepy and the only thing that makes me really really really really googolplex tired is you reading me a bedtime story."

Last night he came downstairs and told me his ear hurt. He said it itched and when he put his finger inside to scratch it, it began hurting, and that it felt like something hard was in there, like a button.  I asked him if he had put anything in his ear and he said no. I got a flashlight and looked in both ears but they looked fine. He seemed genuinely uncomfortable. He said his tummy hurt too. So I called a late-night RN line and explained the situation.

She asked if he would have put anything in his ear. I told her he had already said no. Are you sure he's telling you the truth, she asked? Yes, I answered with confidence. She suggested it might be an ear infection and that I should give him some ibuprofen and take him to the doctor if it wasn't better in the morning.

As I gave him the medication, I got down on his level and told him that if he had put anything in his ear, it was really important to tell Mommy. That I wasn't mad and he wouldn't be in trouble, but that the nurse and I needed to know so we could best take care of him. Again, he just shook his head and said he never put anything near his ear.  He seemed so miserable that I let him sleep next to me in bed, so I could keep an eye on him.

When he awoke the next morning he was a bit congested and still in pain, so I thought it must be an ear infection. I kept him home and took him to the doctor. She put him up on the exam table and took a look in each ear. "Well, what do we have here?" she asked. She grabbed a pair of tweezers and expertly pulled an object out of his left ear. She showed it to me. It was a little purple button.

I looked at Dan, who had a sheepish look on his face. I couldn't help myself, I burst into a fit of giggles. I know I should have been mad at him. For lying, for leading us on a wild goose chase, for causing me to miss a day of work.  But I couldn't stop laughing. Teaching moment: lost.

"Dan," I asked, "how do you think that button got in your ear?"

He thought about it a bit. "It must have rolled in there when I was asleep."

Yes. I'm sure that's exactly what happened.


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