Mental Health

Me Too

I wasn’t going to post Me Too on my wall. I didn’t want people to make assumptions or to think I was throwing a pity party. I was ashamed because I didn’t want people to think about my past and think, “well that’ll teach you.” Then I saw someone completely unexpected post it on her wall and it gave me the courage to speak up. Before I knew it, post after post of women and men who I am friends with on Facebook and Twitter started opening up about their Me Too stories. My heart began to ache. There is so much that some people don’t understand. Rape culture IS a thing. You can’t look at your social media pages today and think otherwise. I am certain it is not just my newsfeed that is flooded with women and men who have been either sexually harassed or assaulted standing together; trying to show that this issue is way too common.

Photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplas

I have been overwhelmed with simultaneous feelings of grief and fury at the outpouring of admissions of someone else’s Me Too story. My heart breaks to see that so many people  have experienced the same loss of power and the sense of shame and embarrassment that I have been through. In some ways I feel like I should not be surprised. I am part of a support group that deals with this. I know women and men who have suffered sexual harassment and assault; and yet, the magnitude of just how many people have dealt with this kind of trauma breaks my heart. There is so much I want to say about this subject, and all I can do is cry. And then, just when I begin to think I am going to close the laptop because this is triggering a lot of emotions, I distract myself by pulling up Facebook and I see more posts from family and friends posting the heartbreaking words, “Me Too,” and I decide it is something I can write about.

 

So I sit here in a puddle of tears trying to articulate this deep sense of loss I feel not only for myself, but for so many other people, men and women who have lost a part of themselves because someone hurt them. And whether it was harassment or assault, both come with loss. Loss of power, loss of confidence, loss of self-esteem…so many things. I heard somewhere recently that the more you tell your story, the power it has over you lessens.Two dear friend’s gave me permission to write about their stories that they shared with me because of this movement. Both of these women deserve to heal, and I think opening up about it can be empowering.

 

One friend shared a story about having something slipped into her drink. She blacked out and she can’t remember all of the night. What she does remember is that she had to concentrate on trying to yell. Despite the effect of the drug she managed to make enough noise that he stopped. She spoke of the shame she felt and how painful it has been keeping that in.

She blamed herself!? Guys!! How is she to blame!? Consent is consent. If it’s not there, it IS rape. I am so glad she spoke out. She told her story and she expressed awe and love for each woman who she saw posting. I want to thank her too.

 

My other dear friend did not share her story publicly, but gave me permission to post it anonymously through my blog. A kid in her class years ago would grab her butt constantly when she was up in front of the class. Because everyone laughed, other guys started doing it too. She was humiliated and kept it a secret for 25 years. Only recently did she even tell her therapist. I am so proud of her. People, if someone does not give you consent to touch their body, DON’T do it. It really isn’t so hard to keep your darn hands to yourself. My sweet friend shared with me that it is what she believes cause her to start gaining weight. It has caused feelings of disgust with her own body and shame at having allowed it…because she was too embarrassed to tell the teacher or her parents. I am so proud of her for finally saying something. I really do believe that there is power in telling your story.

 

I don’t feel like it is necessary to share your specific Me Too story in order to convey that so many people are affected. In fact, I am not going to share my story. For me it is still traumatic. Which is why I really had to push through the beginning of this post. I am not ready to share that part of me publicly and I think that is ok too. There are people, places, and times to share when I need to. I can tell you with certainty that I am going to group tomorrow for the first time in a month and a half. This has definitely triggered all the emotions and I know it is time to start working again. Specifics of each person’s story does not matter in the context of being open about how many of us have been either assaulted or harassed. What is important is that we find someway to not only weaken its power over us, but to also bring awareness to those who do not realize that this is such an underserved issue. And if you were ever hurt there are people who can help you. Contact the Rape Recovery Center if you are in Utah. If you are out of state check out www.rainn.org

 

Thank you to all who may read this. And thank you to all the brave souls who are speaking out.

Uncategorized

Happy Birthday Dad

Today my dad turns…old…at least another year older. I can never remember his exact age and I hate math, so there you have it. I wanted to take a minute and acknowledge my daddy and wish him the biggest happy birthday ever!. From the minute I was born (so they tell me) I was a daddy’s girl. We just clicked…isn’t that the way it goes with little girls and their dads? Especially since I was his first girl…which obviously means I am his favorite.

 

So I want to say cheers to this man. He is the reason I love Shakespeare, the outdoors, and music like Led Zepplin, James, Taylor, Paul Simon, and Vivaldi. When I was five years old there was a picture taken of me holding five fish I caught “all by myself.” I have always been proud of that picture, thinking it was so neat that I could fish like a pro at age five. Of course, now I realize, my papa san must have been the one doing the heavy lifting. As any good father would, he let me take the credit. Credit I willingly took until probably today as I thought of the memory.

 

When I was a baby my dad owned a skunk. I don’t remember the skunk obviously, but there is a picture, somewhere in the universe, of me in one of those walkers and a little skunk nearby. I am sure I knew then that my daddy was super legit. If the lore I recall is correct, I believe the skunk had had its scent glands deactivated somehow, possibly removed. At least that is how I choose to remember the stories told to me about sharing a living space with a skunk.

 

My dad has taught me to crave adventures. When I was little I received a set of cross country skis. We only went one time. And even though it was bitterly cold, I hold it as one of my fondest memories. One of those Arctic winds had blown in. And my grandpa drove us up to Brighton ski resort and then picked us up at Solitude a couple miles down…the order of the resorts may be backwards or entirely incorrect. However the fact remains, we cross country skied for what seemed like a freezing eternity. When my grandpa picked us up at the lower ski resort, I don’t think I could move my face because it was so cold. But grandpa had chili and hot chocolate waiting for us in his mauve-ish tan Oldsmobile (that may have been my favorite part of the adventure). I think dad felt bad for it being so cold, but thanks to him I have a pretty cool story to tell and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

 

I have so many memories of him trying to instill a desire to experience life through the outdoors. When I was 12 my dad paid for me to take scuba diving lessons. I never got certified because I had asthma, but I did scuba dive in Murray High School’s swimming pool. I was younger then that when he put me on a horse. I fell off on my first ride with my sister, but he taught me to get back up again. We were in Cedar City that weekend visiting the Shakespeare festival. The outfit I was wearing when I rode was stolen from my mom and I had to sit through Julius Caesar with a cold cloth on my face to ease the sting of the scratches from the sagebrush. He gives me so many stories of adventure to tell even now with trips to Moab, instilling a newfound love of Opera, and encouraging me to chase my dreams.

 

Without my dad, my sisters and I probably wouldn’t be as competitive as we are (or as stubborn for that matter). This makes for some really entertaining game nights. All of us trying to win sure makes life interesting. And sad for them, because they always lose, because I am a champion; thanks dad. I have memories of playing games like Monopoly, where the competitive man would move his piece about the board only to knock yours over intentionally if he passed it. A tradition I happily noticed he is demonstrating when he plays games with my nieces and nephews.

 

When I was a teenager, well into adulthood, he and I butt heads like no other. Getting along was difficult since we were both always right. I am so grateful for the relationship we have today. I have two amazing sisters who are twins and they are so close. We all love each other and my envy for their closeness is easing with each year that I get older. Last Christmas I was lamenting that I did not have Joshua, a younger brother close to my age, whom we lost when he was only an hour and a half old. I told my dad that I wished I had a friend like my sisters had for each other. My dad sweetly told me he IS my friend. And it is so true. Papa San, you are my dearest friend and I love you so much. Happy Birthday! I hope your day is filled with nothing but happiness and love. I miss you and wish you lived closer. XOXOXO


Uncategorized

Grace’s Grandma Lily

The next day. Grace rested on the sizzling wet cement. The towel she had put on the ground was bunched up into a pillow under her neck. The sprinkler on the lawn kept the ground under her body wet and cool. Her short wet brown hair stuck to her cheek as she inhaled deeply, drinking in the smell of the mixture of warm cement and the grass her grandpa had cut earlier that morning; before the sun had time to start smothering the crispness the night before had left behind. Grace had to keep her eyes clenched shut in order to keep the sun from blinding her. She was downwind just enough that she could feel the light spray from the sprinkler.
Soon enough, she was pulled out of the mire of her thoughts by the slam of the screen door and the Cody screeching happily as he ran out to stand over Grace. Feeling his little shadow blocking the sun from her eyes, she left them closed, “Yes Cody?” At just that moment she felt his little finger poke her cheek, “Gwacie come eat,” he giggled and poked her two more times. Grace’s eyes flew open.
“Ah c’mon Cody, that hurts,” she muttered as she swatted lightly at his tiny hand. She took his little hand in hers and pretended to bite him. “Mmmmmm you tasty,” she said in a growly monster voice, “nom nom nom.” Cody squealed in delight and ran away towards the house, giggling and screaming something nonsensical. She heard Grandma open the screen door and holler, “C’mon Grace,” as she pulled herself up off of the ground and dried herself off a little better.
When she was mostly dried she walked quickly to the front door. She could smell that Grandma had fried up some bacon and immediately surmised that BLT’s were most likely on the menu; Grace’s favorite! As she entered the house, she took the steps two at a time and raced into the kitchen. Grandma was slathering mayo onto the toasted bread and Grace’s stomach growled. Grandma must have heard it too, because she immediately said, “Now Grace, you know you are not going to sit on my chairs in a damp swimming suit. Go change and it’ll be ready to eat when you get back.” She didn’t have to ask Grace twice, not when there was bacon involved. The little imp darted into the bathroom and hurried into her dry clothes. Just as she was tugging her shirt over her ears she heard the telephone ring. Grace glanced in the mirror and tried to smooth her wet drying hair out of her face, encouraging it with all her might to just lay flat. After about 5 seconds she lost interest and saw her unsuspecting Grandma pick up the phone while she scooped Cody up who was trying to sneak out of the kitchen and down the stairs again. She hadn’t strapped him into his high chair yet and he was sneaky.
“Hello?” Grandma Lily said. Her face fell and her old, soft, brown eyes flashed in anger. She put the receiver on her chest and handed Cody to Grace, “Buckle him in would ya?” Turning the corner from the kitchen into the hallway to try and hide her phone conversation from the kids. Grace’s heart started pounding a little. There were only a few things that made grandma’s eyes flash, and Lily’s daughter was one of them.

Cody wiggled the whole time she strapped him in. She was a master at it despite his wriggling, Grace strained to listen while she grabbed herself a paper plate and plopped one of the sandwiches that were ready onto it. Cody started singing a garbled version of a Lion King song, “Oh dussss cannnnnnn wayyyyyt ooooo be kiiiiing.”
“Pssst Codester, shhhhhh,” Grace pleaded and he busted into a fit of giggles. Grace set her plate down and tiptoed as close as she dared to the corner that her grandma was turned by. All the while thinking how Cody was the luckiest kid in the world. She wished she could be 3 and oblivious to everything else going on in her life.She heard Grandma Lily’s voice raise a tad, “No. Absolutely not. You let me keep them here. I’m not going to let you take them back and forth on a whim all summer. You dropped them here and you can deal with it-” There was a pause while Irene must have been responding. Probably saying something like, “momma, they are my kids and I can do as I see fit.” Grace figured she guessed right by the response her grandma retorted with, “Irene, if you step foot in my house within the next week I will not be responsible for how your daddy will handle it. Now, you let them stay here. You dry out! And if when you come and fetch them, if it even looks like you are not sober, I will not hand them over. In fact I think you should consider just leaving them here until sch…Irene?hello?” Lily sighed heavily and Grace tried to sneak back to the table as fast as she could. As she was about to pull the chair out to sit, Grandma came around the corner and set the phone down rather firmly and fixed a smile on her face, “Gracie, what did I say about listenin’ in on my telephone conversations?”
“How does she always know?” Gracie thought to herself. As she shrugged and fixed her own smile while batting her long eyelashes at her grandma, “How am I supposed to know when to run away if I don’t hear if it’s your daughter coming to pick us up again

My First Novel · writing

Just Write

So I mentioned the writer’s conference I attended in my previous post. First of all, I learned soooooooo much! I fan girled hard in every single workshop I took. There were published writers EVERYWHERE. There were workshops on how to overcome your writing barriers, how to be more mindful in your writing, how to write a poem, increase your online presence, and how to watch movies to improve your writing. My absolute favorite workshops were presented by a lovely lady who I want to snatch up as a mentor. She works in publishing and let us know what we could do as beginning writers to improve our chances of getting picked by a publisher. The first workshop with her had me changing some of the other workshops I had intended to go to because I learned so much in her class about how to write emotion in fiction. It was phenomenal. The presenter also participated in the panel about how to increase your online presence, and then two more workshops about writing tension in your dialogue, and last but not least, how to snap pictures with your writing. I took so many notes those two days (and mostly in her classes) my right hand ached. It was exhilarating and I felt challenged. And yet, this is the first time I have been able to write anything all week.

 

I became paralyzed by being surrounded by so many people who have been taking their writing so much more seriously, for so much longer than I have been. I have sat down several times and just stared at my screen. Even with the tips from another presenter talking about how to get out of that “sitting and staring at your screen” thing. I have just felt scared. Like, what if I don’t tighten my lines enough and I become too wordy. Because people, I like words. I use them…a lot… and the whole experience made me rethink some of my ideas for my book; in a positive way. The changes I want to make are exciting. But here is the thing, that self doubt thing. There is that voice in the back of my head that tells me it is not going to be good enough. Or it won’t reach anyone, or touch anyone. Self doubt is rough guys. Logically, I know many writers suffer from this kind of block. And didn’t I just learn a whole bunch of tools to help me combat this? As a matter of fact, I took 3 workshops on this very idea.

 

So today, I decided to work through it. Or write through it, rather. One of the challenges to keep writing was to “just do it,” in fact the presenter said specifically “just shut up and write.” So… you’re welcome? The great thing about recounting my experience with the conference is it is actually stimulating the ideas I had generated while I was there, but was too tired to really explore and write down when I got home. I even went up the canyon on Sunday and felt reenergized and ready to try writing, yet I didn’t do it. I just stared at the computer or told myself I was too tired to be creative. Which eventually led to feelings of complete inadequacy. Because, how can I be a writer if I can’t make myself spit something out onto the page? So I decided to shut up and write. I put on a Vivaldi playlist from Spotify (where I discovered some amazing opera) and I turned off the TV. And then I set some goals.

 

  1. At work we are asked to set personal goals as well as business related goals. My personal goal is to complete an outline for NaNoWriMo. I have attempted it many times and I have never achieved the much desired 50,000 word count. So, in preparation for my meeting on November 16th I have decided my personal goal is to write my novel’s outline and to make sure I have half of the words written by then as well (25,000 words). This freaks me out to no end! But I am so excited to try it this year. Not only do I have my writing group to help support my efforts, now you all know it, and my colleagues at work know it; so I have high hopes I will get it accomplished.
  2. One author during the panel about increasing your online presence mentioned not pushing so hard on your online presence until you have something actually published. Don’t be frightened readers, I will continue to work on the blog because it is fun! But I am definitely going to start focusing on Grace a bit more.
  3. One presenter suggested setting a minimum word goal. Another suggested setting at least a 1000 word goal per day. So when I figure out which one works best for me I will let you know. I am not going to tell you which writer was the most successful one in this scenario. I don’t want the pressure, and I am relatively certain one’s success has to do with how long they have respectively been writing.

Are you planning on trying out NaNoWriMo this year!?!? If you are you can look for me on their site. My username is mandahggnkiss !! 

What goals are you making to improve your writing?

Humor · The Fair Young Maiden

The Night a Blog was Born. 

THE FAIR MAIDEN’S FIRST ADVENTURE: AKA THE GREATEST SADDEST STORY EVER TOLD
Once upon a time in a land, I like to call, stupid effing ever never land; Our fair maiden is the same as before, same long hair, same cheerful disposition. She is called Mandalicious. She was busily cleaning her kitchen and making supper and preparing her meal for the following day when she heard a knock at the door. Slightly annoyed at being disrupted during her Beyonce solo, she dried her hands and answered the door, slightly suspecting it may be her sickly neighbor. Alas, it was her.

“I have to get an emergency cat scan,” she said. “Of course you do,” the fair maiden thought.

“Can you please watch my dog for me while I go?” she pleaded desperately. “Of course I will,”  Mandalicious instantly replied, because how was she going to say no. She didn’t mind really, since she is a lover of all furry creatures. The two neighbors decided the best solution would be to leave the sickly neighbor’s door as well as Madalicious’ door to let the dog roam at his leisure.
It was getting quite late for the poor maiden, as she deeply values her rest. She turned on the tv to watch some Beauty and the Beast (for the second time that week) and waited for her neighbor to depart. The neighbor needed to be fasting for four hours before getting the CT Scan and had to delay her departure for another 45 minutes. The fair maiden had taken her nighttime medicine at this point and was indeed ready to fall into some kind of slumber, whether it is deep or shallow, it mattered not. Her back hurt from cleaning and she desperately needed her bed.
At long last, the neighbor took the dog out one last time and departed. The sweet dog loves his mom, so he was very concerned and went down the stairs to wait by the door. Mandalicious convinced him to come up to her room. He seemed desperate to get into bed with her, but he was just too fat to make the jump on his own. So she lifted his portly body onto the bed, said her prayers and turned out the light. As she snuggled into the covers, the dog became restless. He fervently paced on the bed and would not be calmed. So she patiently put him on the floor in the hopes that he would go back to his bed in his mom’s room, and thus saving his poor dear little life.
At this point it was 11:30 pm and the fair maiden fell asleep quite quickly. Between midnight and 2am the stressed out dog would run out of the poor maiden’s room and then into the hall and down the hardwood floor, “click click click click,” went his nails. And then muffled little barks when he would run back into her room. Her sleep was intermittent and the poor lass was unbelievably vexed. At 3am she scooped his chubbiness up onto the bed in hopes that he would just snuggle up and go to sleep. It soon became clear to the sleep deprived girl that this fussy dog needed to relieve his bladder.
This was something not even the pirate eye could keep from fully waking her. She got out of bed and put some clothes on. Wearily she plodded to the neighbor’s apartment and retrieved the leash. Even though she was frustrated she was still loving to the poor creature, but happy she was not.
She gave up on pirate eyeing it when she got outside. The doggie sniffed everything and peed and then sniffed everything else. While she was out there she was thinking about how this was going to make a great story to tell in the morning. And then it came to her, this is the way she should write. And then, She thought of a blog name. Either Manda’sfairytaleinprogress.com or afairytaleinprogress .com.

After the short walk around the house, The pup seemed content to accepting that his mom was not in the yard as he had previously expected and took up a vigilant watch at the top of the stairs while he waited for her and did not bother the fair maiden the rest of the night. Because the pirate eye did not work, she laid awake for another half an hour and drifted off to some restful sleep. However, despite 4 separate alarms being set, she didn’t wake up until 725am and by some miracle, was in the car by 735am and was not late for work.

Approximately one hour into her work day she had a headache, but her attitude remained positive.
The end…or kinda the beginning. 

Humor · The Fair Young Maiden

Responsibility Can be an Adventure

 

Once upon a time the fair young maiden decided to finally get her car inspected and registered. This is a great feat, for the maiden loved to shop and needed some new pants, and wanted some other very frivolous things that she’d rather spend her money on. Alas, she did not want a ticket either, so she complied with the law and went on her merry way to The car fixer place.

The pubescent young man who greeted her gave her directions on how to park the car and then led her to the lobby. Well, he didn’t tell the confused girl that’s what was happening so she accidentally went into the employees office. The pubescent young man seemed startled that she hadn’t followed him when he walked away without any indication that she should. “No ma’am, in here,” he uttered and directed her to the proper sitting area. She walked into the claustrophobic room and was fairly certain she had actually walked into Hades.

The sun was at the perfect angle to bake the room to hellish temperatures. Her hair was long and thick and held all the heat in the universe around her neck and back. Immediately she began sweating. The lobby smelled like her grandpa’s shop he had while she was growing up. Mandalicious didn’t mind this part, the smell set off the nostalgic in her and it never bothered her when she was in a car shop. But then a skinny, greasy haired, younger gentleman (not so pubescent) came into the lobby. He sat a fair amount of chairs away from the maiden, much to her great happiness. Normally she liked people of all sorts, but the suffocating heat made her feel irritated that another warm body had come into the room and would then heat it further.

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She was sitting there reading about how to pitch a novel to a publisher, when she noticed a strong scent of body odor. In the heat, sweating bullets, she tried to not inhale. This, obviously, was not the answer. The young lady was perusing her phone and minding her own business, but she finally looked up while gasping for air. The man was eating a subway sandwich with onions.

Now,the fair young maiden enjoyed onions; she even ate them from time to time. She was even known to put them on her Subway sandwiches. But the combination of the burning inferno that was that room and body odor onion smell made her feel like she was going mad. She assumed she felt a lot like how Harry must have felt in The Order of the Phoenix when he wanted to strike Dumbledore after he had his dream about Mr. Weasley being attacked (. It took all her effort to refrain from bursting out in anger to ask him if he was under the impression that the lobby we were sitting in was in fact the very deepest depths of hot fiery hell.

The maiden’s hopes were raised when the door opened. As she gulped for some of the outside air leaking in through the open door, a different worker looked nervously at her expectant face, “We will be done with yours in about ten minutes.” he stuttered as her face fell in horror. He escorted the stinky sandwich man out and closed the door. When the onion man returned, she again gulped for more fresh air. To keep her mind off of the hot and the scent she began to write a tale about this adventure. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before the worker man came and got her. It is to be certain that the man did not understand why Mandalicious was gasping for breath as they walked towards her adorable Jetta.

Of course, the worker discovered some sort of expensive “safety issue” which needed to be addressed in order to move forward with the inspection and registration. She approved the flushing of the brake fluid for her car and insisted that she wait over on the grassy curb where the air was fresh and definitely lacking in the malodorous department. Her poor nerves had been set on fire by the hellfire that had set off her irritation and  began to soothe while she looked up brake fluid to see if it was a real thing. Before she could surmise as to whether or not it was real, she was told the job was done. Happily she arose to pay for the services rendered. The only hiccough at this point was an embarrassing moment when she went to look for her keys to leave and then realized they were in fact in her car. The maiden and the worker shared a good hearty laugh at her simplemindedness. Riding off into the sunset, she thought to herself that it was no wonder the mechanics in the job might see her as a sucker. Shrugging her shoulders and thinking, “meh,” she drove home where she reheated pizza and settled in for a repeated viewing of Sense and Sensibility.

 

Until next time dear readers.