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Twelve

In a little over an hour (though this post will appear magically one minute before you were born because technology), you’ll magically be twelve. I’m finding it a little sad tonight, as mommies are prone to do when we sit down and think of our babies and how fast they grow. This time twelve wyes ago, I was being prepped for the emergency c-section that would put you in my arms. I can still remember how cold the operating room was and how very weird it felt to be lain out, crucifixion style on a table, while doctors and nurses gathered around my swollen belly to set you free of the womb you didn’t want to leave.

I remember my first glimpse of you, even as drugged out as I was. Your eyes were my favorite shade of purple and your little ears were at their most elfin in that moment. You were amazing and I couldn’t wait to hold you even as my heart tripped with fear at the thought of someone handing me a little being to care for. I can still catch a hint of that brand new baby smell of you if close my eyes and think hard enough…and sometimes, I can still smell it on you when you’re very tired and need hugs. It could be there or it could be a trick of a Mama’s brain that says “you still need me, baby girl”; either way, it is one of the more magical smells I know.

You constantly amaze me now, even as you did then. I never quite know what to expect from you, and you learn things in such interesting ways sometimes that it certainly leaves me guessing. Sometimes I fret that I’ll never get you past some of your more frustrating tendencies, but most of the time I am able to stop and realize that most of those tendencies are normal and that coaxing and nudging and dragging you along whether you want it or not does eventually make changes. But I also see you put together some of the most mature thoughts in ways I know you’ve not heard either of your mothers say to you and it leaves me almost breathless at the magic of it all. Your brain – a brain that I helped give life to – makes some of the most beautiful connections, and it is a gift to watch you grow and learn, even when you’re being a pain in my tush.

I remember holding you against me when you were a baby and wondering what you would become, what your voice would sound like, what your laughs would sound like. I love to hear you laugh, especially when something strikes you as so genuinely funny you can’t help but to laugh. It is a magical sound and one of my favorites in the world.

I also love your facial expressions. I never imagined you would manage to become so much more expressive as a tween than you were as a toddler, because you made some pretty epic faces then, and yet, you manage to surpass those early facial expressions that could be both comedic and exasperating on an almost daily basis. Your face tells so many stories even without words to go with them and I love that about you.

I love that you still call me “Mommy” and I’ll be okay with it if you want to do that forever. I know that at some point, you’ll likely be too “grown up” for it and I will sigh wistfully and do as other mothers do, but for now? I cherish each “mommy” as special.

I love that you love to learn and I love to watch you and your other Mama go on educational forays on random subjects. You both become so engaged in what you’re doing and I sometimes just sit back and watch, not so much listening to what you’re talking about, but instead focusing on the way you interact with each other with excitement and curiosity. It is incredibly amusing when you both get so excited about a topic that you manage to sound like little kids, eager for more, without either of you realizing you’re doing it. Sometimes, I want to video tape those conversations for you both to see later, but I know that as soon as I pull out the camera, some of the spontaneity and magic will be lost, because you’ll both be adorably self-conscious, so for now, those moments will have to remain mine to cherish and remember without mechanical intervention, because I wouldn’t want to crush that magic for anything.

Eleven has been hard, I know. You had a lot of losses in the last year and it is something that we have all been working on together. Losing people or pets is never easy and losing several in one summer is even harder. I have been so proud of how you have started to embrace the idea of writing things down when you’re upset and how the memory of Lain and Grandpa Dave dying aren’t hitting you near so hard. I know that memories of those gone before us can sneak up on you at the most random times and it can be frustrating and painful. I’m so glad that you come to Rin and I when it happens so we can talk it out and give you hugs and let you know that the world will be okay again.

The light always returns.

I also know that things have been stressful the last few months with so many new health things cropping up for me and with trying to get so many things done at home (for the house and for school). I also know that the beginning of this trip started more stressfully than anyone anticipated and I’ve been so proud of how you’ve handled it, both by offering comfort to Rin in the face of losing her aunt and also in how you’ve shown maturity in the things you’ve written on the other subjects. You keep making me blink a bit owlishly as I wonder where this new level of empathy and understanding are coming from, and yet I marvel at it as well because I know I’ve seen bits and pieces of it before as I watched you work through other things. Those times were all bits and pieces though, so to see the whole picture come together is pretty amazing…and I know it will never stop being amazing to me.

I have no idea what Twelve will bring. I know that in homeschool, the subjects will become more tricky as we work past the basics into more difficult concepts. I know that your independent streak will likely grow and I know that there will be head-butting because of it, for this is the way of parent and child. I know that I can’t wait to find out even as I want to take things so very slowly sometimes.

Eleven had its ups and downs, but it was nice to see you change and grow (though you could slow down a little on the “growing” part, kiddo, cause pants are expensive, ya know) into a new version of you. I’m sure Twelve will be similar (complete with more pants if I have any guesses about how you’ve been eating this week), and I marvel at what new things you’ll do to amaze me this year.

No matter what, no matter how hard things become, no matter how frustrating you become, what I do know for sure is this: I love you a little more everyday and that will never change. You changed my life when you were born kiddo, and I naively thought that would be the only time. Twelve years of you have taught me that you change me on a regular basis. I strive to be a better person for you because I want you to be an awesome person. I strive to be a better person for you because I want to be the me I see in your eyes and I want to be the person you believe I am. You teach me things (sometimes annoying ones, like how creative I have to be to convince you to do your work) constantly and I’m okay with that because learning is good and it means we’re learning together.

Here’s to Twelve. Your Moms are both super proud of you and can’t wait to see what happens next. For now, though, I’m going to give myself a few more minutes to think of the wee baby you were on that oh-so-long night twelve years ago so that when I wake up tomorrow and meet Twelve, I’ll have hopefully gotten most of my stealthy sniffles out.

Hello, Twelve. I love you more than words can say.

As might be obvious in a moment, I started this post on FB, intending to just make a quick, slightly whiny post and go back to what I was doing. It ended up turning (at least somewhat) into a post I’ve been trying to write for a week.

What’s on my mind, FB? Too much to actually process apparently. I keep getting distracted so easily that I can’t even remember what I was doing two minutes ago, which is basically the LAST thing I need tonight. I’m trying to finish getting my things together for this trip of insanity because I keep stopping in the middle of that to help someone else or just to stare at the wall.

While I can objectively step back and realize that the week delay in leaving has been an overall net good (we’ve had more time to get better, we’ve managed to get some of the work done in the house that we’ve not been able to for awhile from a combo of necessity/prednisone/packing chaos, and Rin’s glasses FINALLY came in this morning), it is also a point of frustration because we had a sort-of schedule and it obviously needs changing now. And, objectively, I know that’s okay. The people who that schedule change is going to affect already know and have been in contact and they keep telling us to calm down and not worry so much (which is helpful and more appreciated than they likely know), so basically, fretting over it is a by-product of my brain being unkind to me as opposed to something to truly be concerned about. I also logically know that I’ve known from the minute we started talking about this trip that it was going to have to be approached differently from normal. There were going to have to be allowances made for a body (mine) that is doing new and interesting things in the name of fuckery and I knew that I was going to have to make allowances for the brain changing work I’ve been doing and to remember to be compassionate with myself despite my frustration.

But all of that falls into the “logical” portion of my brain that I can look at from a distance. The “emotional” part of my brain seems to be running around like a three year old in a tantrum, throwing out phrases like, “I can’t do this,” “this is stupid,” and “let’s go hide under the covers; they’ll never find us there.” I’m tired despite having slept for a good chunk of last night and today (not that tired is a new state, because it seems to be the norm). I’m in pain because my joints are are being cranky and *glances at clock* it’s likely time for more medicine and I just want to scream about it but all that would do is make my head hurt and not actually solve any problems. I’m having a night where I want to have a stompy fit and rage about how “unfair” it all is as though somewhere along the way I was promised fairness which is absurd and most of the time that phrase isn’t even one that I tend to think let alone give voice to, because life isn’t fair and everyone should know that. But tonight, apparently, with the worst timing possible, my brain seems to be clinging to the need for fair as though it were an option.

I’ve obviously been pretty quiet the last few months. There’ve been reasons, some better than others. A lot of it has been the simple fact that I’ve not had much energy for dealing outside of my small part of the world. Health issues have been the name of the game since before October when my gallbladder started going rogue and they haven’t slowed down since. Since October, I’ve spent chunks of at least 3 months dealing with medicines that were causing horrible side effects and the withdrawal from those same medicines in the name of finding something that worked better. Two of those were for ADD which was incredibly frustrating because I really just wanted my old medicine back. I’m on a new med for that that is mostly helping so long as I remember to take it super early in the day and understand that it just isn’t as good as Old Medicine was. One of those was me humoring my doctor. Since I was having trouble at the first dose of  New ADD Medicine, and since I have pain issues, she wanted me to try Wellbutrin because it theoretically works well with the other medicine. I hate most medicines in the family that Wellbutrin falls into. I’ve had shitty luck with a lot of them and have managed to not take any of them since I stopped taking them about ten years ago because they just don’t do good things for me. But, time does change things and she put the choice in my hands, from the start of the medicine to the parameters for stopping if necessary, so I agreed to try it. I figure if she’ll work with me, I should work with her.

I tried it.

It was a very failed experiment, one that we didn’t realize all of the repercussions of until after I stopped taking it. It was actually making me sick (like with laryngitis sick), so we figured that some of the side effects the medicine was causing were just me having a cold. A few things culminated in the realization that, no, the medicine was responsible, and also, the utter numb/lack of caring about anything was a HUGE problem. So. I stopped taking it. And had almost a week of withdrawal issues followed by issues that I am STILL sorting back out. You see, one of the things I’ve been doing in therapy is learning how to deal with emotions as they come as opposed to shoving them into boxes either because I don’t want to deal with them/don’t have time to deal with them/can’t deal with them. This involves a new level of vulnerable living that is taking some adjusting to. It means that for the last six months, my emotions have been a bit…raw…at times while trying to sort where some of those bad habits came from and while working with myself to fix them. And in the last three months, I’ve been able to stop and pinpoint exact places where the therapy is working, that the mental ass kicking I’m doing is working, and that this is a Very Good Thing. And that is GREAT. Seriously. But.

But…

The Wellbutrin that I took for ten days turned me into an emotional zombie. I didn’t feel anything, didn’t care about anything, and didn’t really understand how much of a change it was making. I saw that I was having trouble making decisions, that I was having trouble writing, that I was having trouble knitting, and basically, was just Having Trouble. The big moment of “oh shit” came the night before a brain MRI. While I won’t say that I should have been freaking out over it, let’s say there should have been some level of concern and care involved. I didn’t. Rin was able to then realize that I had gotten myself stuck on something that Dr. L had said and had turned it into a Rule That Had to Be Followed. (In this case, she’d wanted me to try the medicine for two weeks, but it was never, “you HAVE to try it for two weeks”.) She took the medicine away and recovery started. Within 16 hours, my voice was almost back to normal. Thirty-six hours later and it was perfect again and ya’ll, I just don’t recover from laryngitis that fast. Within two days, I was so overwhelmed by my own brain that I wasn’t sure what to do and so it went.

Why am I writing all of this? I sure as hell don’t necessarily want to admit all of this. I don’t really want to stand up and say, “Hey, yeah, so I’m incredibly vulnerable right now and I’m learning how to be a better me and that means needing some extra space and care from other people,” because anytime you put a sentence like that out there, there are so many opinions you can get from the absurd (“you just need more self-control”) to the painful where someone sees that admission and decides to run over your boundaries anyway. It means standing up and saying, “I’m delicate” and waiting to see what happens next.

And yet, part of being able to stand up and say that is some of what I’ve been working on. Not hiding everything, not pretending to be something I’m not (which includes pretending to be “okay” when I’m not), not locking everything inside to maybe deal with later is all a part of this process. And some of it I was working on before I walked into therapy. By reading people like Glennon and actually taking the words she writes to heart, I’ve been working on this for months. Therapy is just adding to the groundwork I’ve already started and it has given me tools to build a better foundation. I like words, and that is one of the biggest things that my therapist has given me actual words to combat the things my brain likes to do. Mindfulness is helping me a helluva lot and that is also a good thing. Being able to stop and look at the things in my head and say, ‘Okay, you’re trying this old bad habit but I’m not going to let you” or even, “Okay, I’m going to give you two minutes to be Prophetess of Doom and Gloom, but then you’re going to stop and move on” is a huge help for me.

I just also feel fragile. A lot. Rin has been doing so much to help with all of this. She goes to therapy with me every week so that I can actually walk in the door. She helps me remember things (good and bad) that I forget through the week so that I can tell Kim about it. She helps put me back together when the world is too overwhelming, she drags me out of the house when she realizes I’m just hiding behind fear instead of a legitimate reason, and she basically, all around takes care of me. At varying points in the last six months, both because of my brain chemistry and because of all of the other health problems, she’s basically been supporting me so much that I don’t know what I’d have done without her. She helps me make decisions when I get stuck on little things. Hell, there are days she finds me something to wear when even that seems too overwhelming. (Did I mention just how bad some of the medicine side effects were at varying times?) She helped take care of me post-surgery recovery which I’m sure was a ton of fun, because after four weeks, I got more than a little whiny.

One of the frustrating points in all of this is that it feels as though I’ll find a point of balance and then something else comes and yanks that from under my feet. I’ll find a medicine combo that works and then stops working, so I need something new. Or, my body will do something new and creative (read: generally terrifying) and it’s time to reevaluate again. Her and Kero both are a constant source of help in all of this (though, Kero, obviously is less involved in the exact details of everything going on; she’ll get details like, “Mom’s having a bad reaction to a medicine” but not the specifics of what and why and she also doesn’t know about the quest for MS because she doesn’t need to worry about it; she knows there are tests but not necessarily what they are for and I need it to stay that way). Balance is something I crave which is pretty hilarious to me because a lot of times, I’m just…not great at it. It has been particularly frustrating with some of the new symptoms (or in most cases worsening of other symptoms) because I’ve not been able to pull my magic tricks of “okay, if this happens, then I can do ‘x’ to make it easier” because there’s not a lot you can do about suddenly falling over for no reason and there’s not a lot you can do when your limbs decide to just ignore the fuckin’ signals your brain tries to send to them. You just grit your teeth and get through it, and that sucks because I want a solution.

Kim often tells me that I’m a very logical person and I’ve finally stopped laughing at her. After spending a lot of my life hearing people tell me how illogical I am, it’s nice to see that the things I try to do to cope are actually pretty darn logical after all (even some of the unhelpful ones though obviously, there’s room for improvement). Searching for a new and somewhat terrifying diagnosis isn’t logical. MS is not logical. Part of me wants it to be that, not because I desire to be ill, but because I AM ill and I want an answer. Ten years of “it could be blah” is wearing on a girl and this could be an answer that makes a lot of things make sense. However, it is also terrifying. It means an entirely new playbook and some of the plays in that book are downright frightening. The thought that I’ve built my castle on though is that it either is or it is not; therefore, I keep going. Curling up in the corner in fear won’t change it and if these new symptoms are going to become part of the “normal fuckery”, then there’s nothing to do but learn how to handle them. It just takes time and patience and a lot of grace, and a whole lot of being willing to ask for help. To top all of it off, the neuro I was sent to has basically done everything wrong in terms of helping me sort this out, up to and including CANCELLING the spinal MRI that was on the calendar because they decided they wanted it done somewhere else and failing to call me and telling me that they cancelled it. Needless to say, I need a neuro. At the same time, it also means that some of the things I was expecting to have going into this trip I just don’t have. I don’t have the reassurance of the image of my spine to see what is or is not there. It just couldn’t happen. So, it became one more place that this trip had stressful parts.

Planning was another area that things had to change. So often, I tend to put everyone’s needs ahead of mine during trip scheduling. I try to make sure that everyone gets at least some time and I try to make sure that Rin gets to do the things that she wants to do and that Kero gets to do most of what she wants to do and if there’s time at the end, I do some things I want to do. (Which, for clarity, does not mean that I do not want to do the same things that they do. What it does mean is that while I DO enjoy those things, I also don’t tend to schedule trips/visits that are more for me than for anyone else. It means I make sure that I try to please everyone else without taking time to sort in what I -need- in the middle of it all.) I knew from the start of conversations about “impending GA trip” that I couldn’t do that this time. I couldn’t be the one to make the decisions about who we saw when, when we went where, and how to put it all together. I told Rin and I half begged her to be in charge of the calendar. She’s very magnanimous and simply told people that it was a joint decision, but since I’m already spilling my guts in a vulnerability storm here, I’ll admit that I begged her to do it and to not make me do it unless she absolutely had to.

That change has been amazing. It means that I’ve been able to help plan without worrying about this person’s feelings or that person’s feelings or this person’s schedule or that person’s schedule and could instead focus on the actual goals of the trip. Stepping back from it also gave me the space to say, “There are a couple of things that we’ve put off the last couple of trips and I’d really like to not do that this time, even if it means upsetting someone else.” At least one of those things is on the calendar and the family whose house we are visiting because of that request honestly has NO idea just how over the moon excited I am about that part of the trip; in fact, that visit has been one that I’ve been able to hold onto at the worst moments of “omgicannotdothiswhyamieventryingtodothisicannoticannoticannot”. It has basically taken a ton of responsibility off of my shoulders and has let me be part of the process without being in charge of it and that is amazing. It was also a somewhat risky decision.

Despite eight and a half years together, there are times that people like to discount the relationship that Rin and I have and her role in both my life and in Kerowyn’s life. I weighed the risks and found the benefits far greater. After all, a key part of that sentence is “eight and a half years”. If someone hasn’t come to the conclusion that Rin is my partner and Kero’s second mother, then they likely aren’t going to magically do so now; therefore, the best course of action was not what was good for everyone else, but what was good for us as a family. In fact, many decisions about this trip were made with that exact discussion. Something Kim frequently reminds me of is that I’m not responsible for how anyone else feels or thinks; I can’t make them think a certain way. I CAN present information and give them room to make a choice, but I cannot make them make a choice. The only person whose choices I have complete control over is me and I have to make decisions that I can live with later. Thus, a second layer of decision making for this trip came with conversations about, “what choice will you be able to live with an hour later, a week later, a month later?” It is a question that has come up several times and is one that stays with me because it is important. I can only make decisions for me and I need to be able to look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.

Does it suck to upset other people? Oh sweet gods, yes.

Do I hate upsetting other people? More than you could possibly realize.

Am I growing up enough to understand that I can’t please everyone, no matter how hard I try? Yeah, I finally am.

I’m basically writing this all as a giant torrent of words as opposed to the organized thing I’d been considering writing before. I even wrote an outline for that complete with a timeline about when meds were wonky and what other things were going on, but every time I tried to write that, I failed. I think, perhaps, I just need to keep going with the giant torrent of words and hope that people will care enough to follow my rambling brain all the way to the end. (With a secondary hope that after I finish this monster post I started an hour ago, I’ll be able to focus more on other things.)

Everybody changes. It is a simple fact of life. Some people change for the better, some for the worse, and frankly, everyone’s opinion about which is which can vary. I’ve been doing a lot of changing in the last few years, but especially in the last few months. In some ways, it is making me a much better me. I’m becoming more forgiving of myself and my flaws, of the “weakness” that I constantly feel because I can’t just “pull myself up by my bootstraps” or “use more self-discipline” to solve my problems. I’ve become better at acknowledging that everyone has feelings, lots and lots of feelings, and that the real difference is simply in how a person lets those feelings work in their life. I’ve always been an emotional person and empathic sometimes beyond desirability; I’ve also spent a large chunk of my life trying to fix everyone else because I thought it made -me- a better person. The reality is that while helping other people is admirable, you can’t fix someone else – they have to do that themselves. Also? At some point, you have to stop trying to fix everyone else and make sure you’re taking care of yourself. Self-care is not my strong suit, but it is something that I am HAVING to become better at because if MS is what I have (and realistically, even just for the diagnoses I already have), I need to practice self-care all the time, not just when it is convenient, even if my need for self-care makes someone else unhappy.

I’m learning how to make boundaries, both for myself and outside of myself. I’m learning how to come to the point that I can see that doing thing in small bits, while annoying, is better long term than simply throwing myself into things. I’m learning to see that if reading an upsetting article or ten is a problem for me on a certain day, I can and need to walk away from them. The world will still have problems whether I read the article or not. I’m learning to say “no.” This one is hard because as people, we don’t want to make others unhappy, and yet, sometimes, ya have to say, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t do that.” Oh man do I have a battle with this one. It’s why a lot of times I depend on Rin to be my second back-up, to be able to say, “No, you’ve done enough” and to also help me realize what I have accomplished when my brain says, “That’s not enough, you need to do more.”

I’m learning to love myself. The real me. The one I live with every day, as opposed to the idea of me that other people want me to be. This is also hard. Gods, is it hard. “Who am I?” is a question I ask often, but the difference is that of late, the question has an answer more often than it doesn’t. Mindfulness therapy is helping me find the things that are important to me and showing me how to make those the things I build my mental and emotional image on instead of building it on some concept of expectation. I can look at my non-traditional family and I have no shame, because there is nothing shameful to be found. There are three consenting adults in this house who keep their private lives private just as most adults do in houses with kids. There is a healthy almost twelve year old who has two moms who love her to pieces and who are doing everything in their power to grow her into a well-rounded person while embracing all of the things that she loves and nurturing those things, offering guidance when she needs it, and who will, hopefully one day, finally convince her to wash dishes correctly. *headdesk* Does my family resemble what some people call traditional? Nah. Am I okay with that? Oh yeah. Why? Because it works for us.

I have more support from my partner in this relationship than I have ever had in any of my “traditional” relationships. Ever. And while I will be the first to tell you that I never thought I’d fall in love with a girl (cause, face it, boys are nice), it doesn’t change the validity nor the strength of love I have for the woman who is both best friend and partner. I also can’t think of anyone else who would be helping me do as good a job raising my kid than Rin does, and Kero tends to be priority number one for me. I also know that a lot of times, I let people brush over our relationship as “less important” for its non-traditional status and I’ve realized how much that has hurt me and my family. Kero, if you ask her what she thinks about having two moms, will tell you that she loves it and has no desire to change it. She oft wonders why anyone would have a problem with it because it doesn’t make sense to her. Don’t believe me? Ask her about it sometime and she’ll tell you she’s happy. Know how I now? Because we talk to her about it and we ask her how she thinks and feels because that’s important.

I understand that there are people who don’t agree with non-traditional relationships and I firmly believe they have the right to that belief. What I do not believe is that their belief has the right to impinge on the validity of my relationship, my expectations for how my partner should be treated, or how I personally feel about my relationship. Everyone has a right to their beliefs, but those rights should stop when they begin to impinge on someone else’s. For the most part, this isn’t a huge issue, but given that it is something that I’ve become more solid on in the last few months, finally not listening to the voices that say, “you’re wrong” and instead listening to the evidence in front of me that says that my family is pretty damn awesome and I’m quite happy even with all of the health chaos, I feel it is worth nothing. Rin is my partner and as such is involved in decisions I make. Period. Rin is Kero’s second parent and is involved in decisions that Kero is a part of. Period. There are no exceptions for this, nor should there be.

Something else that I’ve come to understand about myself is that I’m broken…and I’m okay with that. Glennon at Momastery talks about how brokenness is actually something to cherish because it means living without trying to be perfect and it means accepting all of the pieces of yourself and inside those pieces finding what you can use to make the world a better place. I still struggle with this one sometimes, but most of the time a simple re-direct from Rin helps to ease me back toward my belief that broken is not equal to bad. Sometimes, it takes more than a gentle reminder and she points out how pots are repaired in Japan with gold to show the cracks and how they add to the worth and value of the piece, even when they change it from its original state. Broken is not equal to bad and broken can even be sacred. I’m not going to find a magic cure for ADD or for anxiety or for fibro/CFS or for MS if that is what the eventual diagnosis is. Those are all parts of who I am. I could spend time fighting against them, hoping that they will magically get better, or I can be a realist and understand that this is the way things are and work within those parameters. But to choose to work within those parameters means acknowledging each of those things and making allowances for them, even when they are annoying. It means stepping back and realizing that barreling through something won’t make things better in the long run even if they help in the short term and thus deciding which choices are best at x time. It also means living with the understanding that, now more than even early on in all of this chronic illness bull shit, it changes from day to day and sometimes hour to hour. Right now, I go from “okay” to “oh fuck me now” very quickly. (One example, I’m not tolerating heat at the moment hardly at all. I start to get hot and I have to try to fix it quickly or else it becomes overwhelming and nauseating.) When your body constantly makes you live by the seat of your pants, you have the choice to dance with it or fight upstream against it. Since bouts of fighting upstream haven’t worked so well, and since between some of the writers who have spoken to my soul of late and Kim and especially Rin in her quiet vigilance have helped me to see that I DO have the strength to do more than just swim along, I figure it’s time to change my dancing shoes.

Do I still get frustrated? Oh sweet baby Jesus, yes. Constantly. But instead of letting that frustration eat away at me, I acknowledge it as a thing and then try to move forward. Sometimes, just saying, “okay, I see you” is enough. Sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes I want to throw a full body fucking stompy fit that puts the biggest diva three year old to shame. That’s just part of the dance, I think. So, even on the path toward more enlightened thinking, I still stumble and still need reminders.

Do I fail? Hahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahhhahahahahahahahahahahahhahah

*coughs*

Um, yes. I fail. Sometimes every day. Sometimes multiple times a day. But instead of letting that failure define the rest of the day, I try to only let it define the moments surrounding it. This is another lesson I’ve learned from Glennon (and in case you haven’t figured it out yet, you should totally read Glennon at Momastery because she basically speaks my language so, so much and so many times she writes things that leave me saying, “Omg, yes, I could write that same thing” and while our past backgrounds are much different, the way she thinks about things now is so, so helpful to me some days and yes, she is awesome and you should read her). Anyway, she wrote a post called Don’t Carpe Diem and it sings my language. Instead of trying to seize every moment of every day and make it “good” (whatever the fuck good actually means), she instead encourages people to seize the moments inside the day that help you find peace. For her, it is seizing kairos, or “God’s time” which is basically the time outside of chronus where God shows you He exists. Since my definition of God is a bit broad, I tend to insert “Creator” and move on because it works for me. The goal is basically to stop expecting yourself to make every moment magical because no one can successfully keep up with that and striving to do so just sets you up for failure.

This is an area that Rin and I both have been working on because both of us have had the bad habit of letting one bad thing ruin an entire day, even when that thing was disproportionate to the rest of the day. We were cutting each other to pieces doing this and finally have started to manage not to do so. We’ve managed to work on being able to take things as they come and accepting that shit happens and then moving on. It doesn’t always work, but I can tell you it has dramatically cut down on the number of hurt feelings about one or the other of us inadvertently crushing a day for the other. It also helps keep me sane. Not expecting myself to be perfect and happy and good every single moment has been a huge life saver. It’s been part of accepting feelings as they come and learning how to properly react to them (and “properly” here means “for me” as opposed to necessarily what works for someone else). Carpe Kairos is one of my snippet mottos (I have a list; I’ll share them with you!) that helps me get through days and stressful moments.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that I’m not the same person I was six months ago, a year ago, ten years ago, twenty years ago. I’ve changed. I am still so very flawed because who is not, but I am working on those flaws and working to have less of them. I’m also working on becoming better at admitting when I’m wrong and being able to apologize and move forward instead of sticking to the unhelpful “but I want to be right” mentality that got me in trouble a lot as a teenager. I’m trying. I’m imperfect and broken and I am sick and there is no denying any of that nor is there really any changing it. I do the best that I can and right now, I am so gods darned fragile that it scares the hell out of me. No, seriously, it does. I want to be “strong” and yet, I really don’t, because the definition that I have of “strong” for myself is flawed. So I’m learning that in being weak, vulnerable, and broken, there is strength. In acknowledging that I can’t do everything, there is strength. In being able to sit and write this out, to admit that I am walking into this trip more vulnerable than I have ever been, there is strength. Inside that admission is a request for gentleness and compassion (but note it is not asking to excuse poor behavior, because if I’m being a whiny punk, I don’t want someone to accept that because #vulnerable) and the understanding that I am trying, some days so hard that I can’t even put the trial into words. Some days, Rin cheers me on when I make it from bed, to the bathroom, to the living room, because some days I need even those absurd baby steps praised. There is also peace in all of this, peace that I’ve not had about this trip since we started talking about it. For the first time in the last two weeks, I’m not dreading leaving the state. (And I don’t want people to read this and think that I didn’t want to see them, because it is pretty much the opposite of that. It’s just that people are hard and feelings are hard and it is totally possible to want to see someone and wish that you could do it from four states away to protect your fragile heart, is what I’m saying.) I am broken and vulnerable and oh, so scared right now. There are so many unanswered questions in the balance and there are still many miles to go before most of those questions are answered. I’ll answer questions that I can, but I ask that you not become upset if I say, “Not right now” or if I direct you to Rin and let her do the explaining (especially since I know for some of you, the potential for me having MS has been a brief note in the middle of two giant notes, one from Rin and this one from me, so I suspect that there are questions). One, she has a short version down that is easier to deal with than me trying to fumble in my brain and two, some days, I just can’t. It’s that simple. I just can’t.

As I begin to run out of steam, I’m starting to wonder if all of this sounds negative and I truly, truly hope that’s not how it’s come across. I can’t begin to tell you how positive some of these changes are, for me and everyone around me. They are helping me to understand more about people and myself. They are helping me to learn to live with who I am not who the world thinks I should be (and in this case, the world includes young me who had dreams that didn’t involve a chronic illness), because that’s the me I get to be. Being more mindful is making me less quick to snark, to judge, and to automatically assume the worst of someone because there aren’t as many negative thoughts running around my own brain to cloud my vision. (Which is not to say that I’m never snarky for anyone who was worried about -that- possibility; it means I am snarky without necessarily being mean and there is a difference.) I am becoming more able to exist in my spoonie skin without constantly being angry at its failings and even when I do become angry with my body, I am able to acknowledge that anger and then find a way to turn it into something productive. You’d be AMAZED at the difference that simply acknowledging emotions that can have “negative” connotations can be for me. It also is involving me learning how to judge myself less (because, face it, I’ve been my worst critic since I was a kid and that’s not necessarily the best thing) and to forgive myself more. This is the one area that I still have a lot of trouble, but thankfully, people help me to remember to forgive myself, too. So, all of this is good, but it is also so utterly terrifying that sometimes it leaves me breathless. To be open and vulnerable requires an entirely new level of courage on my part and even now, I’m becoming pensive about hitting the “publish post” button…and yet, I know I will (at least after Rin reads this for major typos/issues) and I’ll likely even go so far as to tag people in it on facebook just as a “please read this and see the me that is here and not the me I used to be”.

Also, if you made it this far, bless you. I can’t imagine it was easy and gods know it is long as heck. And since it is long, there’s one more thing I’m going to leave (and honestly, it’s just a testament to how stream of thought this has been that it isn’t peppered with more links because there are several things that highlight some of these points so much that I want to share, but I’ll keep it to one more and not be overwhelming) a video here that I watched from another writer who is quickly becoming one of my go-to “go to church” writers, joining Glennon and Jenny. This particular video is by Brene Brown talking about Listening to Shame. I started watching it one day, curious because I’d seen several folks speak highly of her. I had to stop the video about two minutes in to start taking notes for myself because it moved me that much. It is likely because of Brene that I’m actually able to put all of this out there without a panic attack and for that, it is worth sharing.

Love Wins.

We can do hard things.

#omgthisisscary

Honor Among Orcs!

Beauty must save the 

BEAST

 photo Dillin_HAOKindleFinal_zps7437f3f0.jpg

Honor Among Orcs

by Amalia Dillin  
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Series: Orc Saga, Book One
Genre: New Adult Fantasy/ Romantic Fantasy 



After nearly a decade as the king’s whipping-girl, Princess Arianna has no intention of going quietly into marriage to some treasonous noble, or serving obediently as the king’s spy until her death is more convenient. When she discovers a handsome orc, chained and trapped inside a magic mirror, Arianna cannot help but see a lasting freedom from her father’s abuse.

Left to rot inside a mirror by the king, Bolthorn never imagined his prayers would be answered by a princess. Nor did he ever expect to meet so worthy a woman after knowing her father’s cruelty. He needs her help to escape the mirror before the king marches against the orcs, but all he can offer Arianna is ice and darkness in exchange for her aid. 

If Arianna can free the monster behind the glass, perhaps she might free herself, as well. But once they cross the mountain, there will be no return, and the deadly winter is the least of what threatens them on the other side. Romance blossoms in this gripping fantasy adventure.


Available on
Amazon  |   B&N  |  Goodreads









About the Author


Amalia Dillin began as a Biology major before taking Latin and falling in love with old heroes and older gods. After that, she couldn’t stop writing about them, with the occasional break for more contemporary subjects. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, and dreams of the day when she will own goats–to pull her chariot through the sky, of course. 

Amalia is the author of the Fate of the Gods trilogy from World Weaver Press, and the soon to be released Orc Saga, coming April 1, 2014. You can learn more about her work at www.amaliadillin.com



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My Thoughts on Honor of the Orcs

Things have been quiet around my blog of late (though certainly not quiet outside of it which I’ll talk about later), but today I am pretty excited to be participating in the Book Blast for Amalia Dillin’s newest book, Honor Among Orcs. (Though after a couple of hours of fighting with coding between the book blast codes and wordpress being a pain, I’m questioning my sanity. :P) I have read books in Amalia’s Fate of the Gods series that begins with Forged By Fate that I absolutely adored, so I was pretty excited to hear about the new series. Being able to be a part of the book blast is something new for me, but I’m super happy to help Amalia out because she is an all around awesome person and a kick ass writer.

As much as I enjoyed Forged By Fate, I honestly did not know what to expect with Honor Among Orcs and I am occasionally trepidatious about new worlds (because sometimes I am a dork). It was an entirely different setting with an intriguing concept, so I was certainly game to go exploring. As I eagerly began those first pages, curious to see what wizardy Amalia had worked this time, I had no clue that I would be diving headfirst into a tale that begins with a rush and leaves you wondering just where the next turn of the bend will take you. One of the things I love about Amalia’s writing is her ability to make characters that are incredibly real. As you get the first glimpse of Arianna, you can almost feel the sprightly youth who is stuck trying to conform to her tyrannical father. The first glimpses of King Gunnar, Arianna’s father, almost left me cringing because I felt I could hear the smarmy smugness beneath the clear cruelty he exhibited. Descriptions of Lord Alviss and his actions left my skin crawling more than once, and I held certain rather strong feelings about what I would like to see happen to him. Perhaps most poignant of all was the introduction to Bolthorn, who even in wretched captivity managed to evade strength and safety behind his wary exterior. It was not difficult to get behind Arianna and Bolthorn early in the book and I found them both to be worthy leads to the story. Each had flaws and strengths that played to the other’s in such a way that it wove a clever story without seeming trite and boring.

Arianna and Bolthorn find themselves frequently struggling between worlds, whether it is human and orc, orc and elf, or somewhere in between. There are forces at play that neither of them had ever imagined, and at times, all that keeps them afloat is the assurance that somehow, somewhere, the other is there. I found myself frequently wondering just what could possibly happen next and there were several points and twists I certainly did not see coming which is a credit to the care and detail that Amalia writes with. The world she has begun to build with this book is certainly captivating and there is clearly room for a lot of storytelling within the landscape, and I found myself wanting to know more about so many things and so many places. Sometimes, a lot of room for more stories can make the story you’re reading confusing and in some cases, irritating. In the case of Honor Among Orcs, while I found I had questions and curiosities about other areas, I never felt it was distracting me from the story being told. Instead, it felt like I was catching glimpses of potential in the wilderness that could be seen but not yet touched, promises of a future both for Arianna and Bolthorn as well as members of their worlds past, present, and future.

Despite multiple characters being introduced, the story is easy to follow. At its start, it is a tale of a heroine trying to save a hero and herself, which is compelling enough on its own given how often the reverse is true, but at its heart, Honor is about finding strength in love, finding faith and trust in the most trying of moments, and of finding one’s place in the world. You cannot have the story of Arianna and Bolthorn without also learning of politics amongst orcs and elves and you cannot learn about orcs and elves without realizing that there are other lessons to find in the text. Themes such as questioning beauty (and not taking it at face value) as well as pride in oneself and one’s kith and kin recur within the story and find varying resolutions. The adventure of the story alone makes it a fantastic read, but the depths that Amalia explores inter-race politics, gender roles & expectations, and family dynamics make it something more than a simple adventure-love story.

As much as I love the story, there were a few spots I found it lagging. Some of the miscommunications between Arianna and Bolthorn in the early parts of the book before they reach the mountain pass grew tedious at times. I would have liked to have seen some of that resolved a bit sooner than it was. In my opinion, there were plenty of potential points of tension between them so a bit of the “she couldn’t possibly love me/he couldn’t possibly want me” grated on my nerves and I was definitely glad when that piece was resolved. In fact, this is perhaps the biggest point I had trouble with and had to keep making myself come back to the story without being distracted by other things. I wanted that resolution to happen, I felt that the resolution was going to happen, and for me, it just needed to happen a little sooner. To be clear, I’m not saying I think they should have fallen immediately head over heels for each other, because that is also annoying. I just wish that given the connection that had been forming between them they had managed to get their heads out of their bums and talk to each other just a few pages sooner than they did. Once that resolution happened, I stopped wondering when the story would pick up again and was swept straight back into the tale.

The other point that I wish had been a little more clear were who each of the Vala in the story were and their relationships to other parts of the story. I can’t spell this one out quite as clearly as I’d like without coming close to spoiler territory and I don’t want to do that. I suspect that part of it was I started to confuse some of the “V” names in the explanation part and a more careful reading might have helped me avoid that; however, it is a point that I found slightly frustrating, so I encourage you to read those parts carefully and catch a grasp of who each person is. (There is also a helpful Dramatis Personae at the end of the e-book that I found after the fact, so if you do become confused, I highly recommend jumping to that part and then returning to reading.)

Given that those two points are pretty minor in the grand scheme of book reading and are largely more personal things as opposed to actual writing flaws, I happily give the story five stars. I encourage you to read it and fall in love with the characters and become wrapped up in Amalia’s new world. While I still think I love Forged by Fate better, I’ll be quite eager to read more in Honor’s world as well. I know that Arianna and Bolthorn’s story is far from done and I cannot wait to see what happens next. (Also, I vote for Fossegrim to be a huge part in any other books written in this world because he was, by far, my favorite character. He is clearly a man with stories to tell and he exudes mischief and whimsy even when he is being serious. I loved him pretty much from the second sentence about him and my opinion of him only grew as the story went on. Let me just mention again how much I love Amalia’s ability to write characters and make them real.)

Now, what are you waiting for?! Enter the giveaway and speed off to buy the book! You won’t regret it!

Giveaway!



As a disclaimer, I received my copy of Honor Among Orcs in exchange for giving honest reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. While I certainly love free books, my opinions are based on the work itself and are not biased by the e-arc. I just also pride myself on honesty in reviews and thus felt the note was in order. Free books do not buy good reviews in my world. 🙂

This is the sixth in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

The power of The Magazine

By Brekke Ferguson

We’ve strived to finish our articles week after week, some of us finishing them sooner than others. Yet, what was in it for us? Aside from a grade, that is. Well, the chance to see our name in print is something that many of us have wanted to see, but never knew where to start.

That was the business of the Literary Nonfiction class this semester. The business of writing feature articles. As a part of the Kennesaw State University’s website, we were giving the chance to have our articles posted issue by issue.

However, what was this publication? The Magazine went live for the first time on November 18. It featured articles on multiple topics, offering something for nearly every reader. To date, issues two and three are also online, giving an even wider variety of topics for readers everywhere.

On the KSU campus, while there are already student publications, there are not online publications like this one. The Sentinel is in newspaper format, and many people who can write simply do not send their stories toSentinel staffers. Talon is the KSU feature magazine, a perfect place for publishing any articles our editorial staff wrote this semester, or any other articles you might want to write.

Who are we, this editorial staff of The Magazine? We’re mothers, fathers, students, businessmen, businesswomen, teachers, and much more. Some of us have no writing experience, while others have been writing for years. Cheryl said, “I’ve been published in hundreds of magazines and newspapers in the past ten years I’ve been writing. The “thrill” of seeing my name in print really has worn off. My desires today are to inform, educate and enthuse someone through my writing. I want to speak to someone’s heart through my writing. If I’ve done that I would feel successful in my writing career.” Rodney, on the other hand, said, “I came back to school because I wanted to have to think and ‘toy’ with writing so I signed up.”

At the beginning of the semester, I had not looked at the course synopsis at the front of the catalog, so I honestly had no expectations. The first night of class, I was absolutely terrified by the sheer amount of deadlines that were on the syllabus. I almost left, but I really did not have that option, so I decided to tough it out. I could do it; it would just take a lot of work (along with the work in my other three classes.) As the semester began, I realized that this class was like none other I had taken.

Because of that, I was curious as to what other editorial board members felt about that. Rodney said that the course load made him “wary.” However, his motivations for taking the class came back to him, “I wondered if I could do it. But again, I wanted to be made to think, so I stayed.”

So, those of us who weren’t completely terrified have stuck it out to the end, and that end is definitely upon us. So what did we gain from this experience? What was it we were supposed to learn? I think Rodney said it the best, in describing how he felt his writing had improved. “I learned the importance of outlining, of scope and finally I have a better grasp of the meanings of theme and subject.” I also know from our board meetings, that Rodney, like many of us, learned the value of CONTROL!

However, knowing what we learned or what we gained just doesn’t seem to be enough, so I talked to some other KSU students, one of who is Interim Editor of The Sentinel. I asked her several questions, and received very thoughtful and interesting responses. Here are a few pieces of our interview.

Brekke Ferguson: Does the page appeal to you visually?

Kirsten Ott: Yes! I really like the organization of the articles.

BF: Will you go back to read other issues once they are online?

KO: Yes, because I’m always looking for writers for The Sentinel and because I’m interested in what my peers are writing about these days. Tony’s piece on technical writing was very useful for me and I was touched by your piece on sexual assault.

BF: Do you feel this would appeal to KSU students in other classes, this idea of having a place to showcase work they do in a class?

KO: Well, yes and no. I believe this is a great place for students to publish articles on topics that interest them, but aside from feature writing classes, these types of articles aren’t the type of papers assigned by English teachers. As far as writing assignments in classes of other majors, I don’t know what type of papers are assigned.

I found this to be an interview that brought hope to budding writers in this class, and also to the concept of the web page itself. I asked Cheryl if she felt that all teachers should implement web pages to showcase students’ work, and she brought up a very good point. “I’m also taking a news reporting class where this very desire was discussed. I think what people want to do is to learn and read writing produced by other people in the class. This can be accomplished by critique groups. Having each professor produce a web site is pretty intensive.” However, Kirsten did say this, “Depends on the class – if it is feature writing, creative writing, writing for the web or careers in writing, I think it would be very valuable for the teachers to introduce this site to their class and get their students to write for it.”

So, the consensus is that this class is definitely a keeper, especially with the “real-world” methods that Jim taught. Rodney and Cheryl both mentioned this in their interviews. Rodney said, “I’ve gained insight into myself and others. I now have a better understanding of some of my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve enjoyed the class, though I procrastinate, and believe [Jim Messenger] really had our best interests at heart – i.e. his ‘real world’ approach. Life, as you know, isn’t always easy. It marches on in spite of our wishes.” Cheryl said, “I think the English Department should continuously challenge students to operate in the ‘real world.’ This course challenges students to prepare for publication, so I feel it should be a regular offering.”

No matter how we began the class, those of us left stuck it out, and we survived. Now, the real issue is not so much what we learned, but how we use what we learn. As writers, it is now time to strive forward in our endeavors. We need to send stories out for publication, and what better place to start than here on campus with our student publications. After all, starting at home is “keeping it local.”

###

Brekke Ferguson is an English major at Kennesaw State University and amateur feature writer.

Copyright © 2002 by Brekke Ferguson. All rights reserved.

http://www.kennesaw.edu/themagazine/Ferguson6.htm

 

This is the fifth in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

The Harry Potter phenomenon

By Brekke Ferguson

Everyday, it seems like something new is coming out in the Harry Potter line. The second movie, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” came out on November 15 with an $88 million dollar opening weekend. Toys ‘R Us has multiple commercials about the Harry Potter toy section in their stores. Coca-Cola has partnered with Reading is Fundamental to create livethemagic.com where Internet surfers can be sorted into the Hogwarts School houses, among other fun and interesting activities surrounding Harry and Hogwarts.

But who is this Harry Potter and why does everyone seem to know his name?

Harry Potter is a wizard boy created by J.K. Rowling, a British author, who created the world of Hogwarts and the wizarding world that exists behind the Muggle (those with no magic ability) world. The Harry Potter series began with the book Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone if one happens to be an American reader), in which we meet young Harry who is miserable at his aunt and uncle’s house near London.

Harry ended up in their care when the evil Lord Voldemort (“He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” in the books) killed both of Harry’s parents when Harry himself was just an infant. Young Harry, in that same incident, miraculously avoided death, the only mark left on him being a lighting-shaped scar on his forehead.

Initially, however, Harry has never heard of the wizarding world, Hogwarts, or for that matter, Muggles. All he knows is that strange things constantly happen to him, and he is constantly in trouble with his relatives, the Dursley’s.

On Harry’s eleventh birthday, a mysterious letter arrives at the Dursley’s home at 4 Privet Drive with Harry’s name on it. Mr. Dursley intercepts it, and reads the letter that invites Harry to Hogwarts; Mr. Dursley panics, because he and his wife Petunia want nothing to do with the wizarding world. The next day, two letters arrive, and then each day after more and more letters arrive until the house is almost flooded with letters. This prompts the Dursley’s to run, and try to hide from the letters; however, the folks at Hogwarts are not to be outsmarted. Hagrid, Hogwarts’ lovable gamekeeper finds Harry, and the adventure begins.

People who have never read the Harry Potter books often wonder where the popularity and the magic of the books come from. However, those who read the books understand what that magic is after encountering the superb storytelling. However, that does not sufficiently explain why the books are so interesting, and so addicting to readers young and old. The frenzy around the books; however, is enough to turn off any more serious reader.

When I started seeing the hype and frenzy that surrounded the books, I was totally against reading them. All of the talk seemed to be too good to be true. However when the ads for the first Harry Potter movie began to hit the air, and I saw that the venerable Maggie Smith and the hilarious Robbie Coltrain were going to have major roles, I decided to give Mr. Potter a chance.

In deciding to see the movie, I also decided to read at least the first book. However, my motivations for reading weren’t pure. I wanted to read the book so I could, like any good book lover, be prepared to slaughter the movie version of the book.

I read the first book, and I was astonished! The book was amazing. After that, I read them one after the other, and I never wanted to put them down! I was, in short, hooked. I waited, not so patiently, for the fourth book to come out in paperback, and as soon as it did, I had it, and read it just as voraciously as the first three. I, like so many others, had become a convert.

Like most fans, I was left wanting more, and more there currently is not. The fifth book, in a series of seven, now slated for June of 2003 after rumors of no less than three other release dates, seems like it will never appear! Who is this woman who led me – and adult, and skeptic – into a world supposedly for children, and trapped me somewhere between reality and Hogwarts?

J.K Rowling was born on July 31, (which is not only Harry Potter’s birthday, but my own), and she lives in Scotland with her daughter. In a bio clip at www.kidsreads.com, this is the basic information given: “Like that of her own character, Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling’s life has the luster of a fairy tale. Divorced, living on public assistance in a tiny Edinburgh flat with her infant daughter, Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the [Philosopher’s] Stone at a table in a cafe during her daughter’s naps – and it was Harry Potter that rescued her. First, the Scottish Arts Council gave her a grant to finish the book. After its sales to Bloomsbury (UK) and Scholastic Books, the accolades began to pile up, Harry Potter won the British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year, and the Smarties Prize, and rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Book rights have been sold to England, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Greece, Finland, Denmark, Spain, and Sweden.”

The thing that amazes me most about J.K. Rowling is that she not only draws older people into her world, but she really does draw children in. I have a friend, whose younger sister, a 12 year old, has read each book no less than 5 times, and she continues to love them. Previously, my friend told me that her sister read only shorter books, such as R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps series. I was impressed by this new eagerness in her sister, because the Harry Potter volumes are as long as, or longer than, some adult novels. Then I started to hear about other children being extremely excited about reading the books.

This was a curious phenomenon, because most kids I knew from working at an elementary school while I was in high school, all wanted to watch T.V. and had no taste for reading. In fact, in my experience, it was like taming wild cattle to get some of these students to read even their class work. So what is so different about Harry Potter? Why would “confirmed” non-readers suddenly become not just readers, but voracious readers because of one book series? I asked some of the parents I know about how they and their children felt about Harry Potter. The answers I got were fascinating.

The first thing that I found to be intriguing was that not only are American children and parents devouring the books, but a mom who is from Mexico, was reading them in Spanish. However, her daughter found them a bit more difficult to read, because the Spanish in the translation is of an older, more formal style.

Allyson, mother of four, said that her two middle children, Steph, 13, and Pete, 9, were on opposite ends of the spectrum as readers. Steph was an avid reader, and she ate the books up, reading them over and over. Pete on the other hand, was not a reader until Harry Potter entered his life. “Pete is where it made a HUGE difference,” said Allyson, “He is 9, and hates to pick up a book, so Steph started to read them to him. He became interested and picked up the books on tape at the library and started to listen to them. Then last summer he checked out Volume 1 and Volume 2 and started to READ them for himself. He is now on Volume IV and reads for about 30 minutes each night, at least. Harry Potter has opened him up to the real act of reading. He still complains about other books being toooooooo long, but he is willing to pick up [Harry Potter] and read it.”

In other words – as claimed – these books really were encouraging kids to read! However, evidence supplied by two children is still not a great number for statistical purposes, but when several other parents to whom I posed the question said the same thing, well, I was definitely impressed.

Now that I knew kids were really reading the Harry Potter books, I was also curious as to why and how J.K. Rowling could get children so involved in her books. My friend Ary said this, “I think that basically kids today have one thing in common – a huge hungry imagination, eagerness for adventures and knowledge and things to relate to, to get excited about. Fairy tales are great, but Disney and other cartoons have made them too well known for kids to enjoy reading them, as they already know what’s going to happen next.”

This I totally understood, because in my own experience, there is not a lot of fun in reading the books that the Disney movies come from. Harry Potter, however, is an entirely new world full of new possibilities.

Even with this wonderful and heartening news from parents, I still needed to go to the “professionals”, so, who better to ask than a librarian? After all, librarians deal with books everyday, so I figured a librarian would definitely have some insight into what I had begun to call the Harry Potter phenomenon.

Clare, a librarian in Massachusetts, works in a middle school library. The first thing I asked her was whether her library carried the books. Instead of giving me a number, she gave me the website to the school’s catalog, and I have to say I was impressed by not only the number of each Harry Potter book they had (no less than two), but also the stock of books on tape and other books that talk about the Harry Potter series and the author herself. It was definitely a great selection.

The next thing I asked was how well circulated the books were. “Harry Potter is very well circulated, but we almost always have at least one copy or another available,” she told me.

When talking about Harry Potter, it is somewhat difficult to get away from the controversy surrounding the books, simply because they are about witches and wizards. While, to my knowledge, there has been no official statement from The Moral Majority or Rev. Jerry Fallwell, there have been protests from the religious community. In my family alone, I’ve heard one of my aunts and my grandmother both say that the books were “evil.” Seems a bit harsh coming from people who have never read the books, but everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. Curious about the controversy and parents whose opinions may be similar to opinions expressed by my family, I asked Clare, the librarian, about it.

“There have been questions from a few fundamentalist parents, but my take to them is that it is a public school and I provide a wide range of reading materials for a very wide range of readers. If you don’t want your child to take these books out, YOU tell them that, I won’t. I tell students that if they know a book is going to make either of them (the reader or the parent) uncomfortable, please put it back on the shelf and take another of the 5,000 choices.”

In my head, I was thinking, “Way to go, Clare!” However, in trying to be non-biased, I could understand where opponents were coming from. After all, the Bible does warn against witchcraft. Deuteronomy 18:10-11 says, “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in, or who makes his son or daughter pass through the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead.”

However, I do have to agree with Clare. While in one’s own home, the right to dictate what a child reads is definitely one’s right; in libraries, that right is not present. Libraries are there to give multiple options to many different kinds of readers; therefore taking out anything because one group doesn’t agree with it is not fair to those readers who find no evil in the Harry Potter world.

My final question to Clare was similar to those I posed to the other parents, but with a different twist. “Do you feel that Harry Potter has influenced children’s reading habits? For better or worse?”

She gave a very in-depth and insightful answer. “I absolutely see a great connection to the reading habits. Much as I haven’t been as big a fan of the movies as the books, I also see a great connection there. Many times the students will come in to check out the books in the series to refresh or explore the stories. I am also constantly being asked if I know when the next one is coming out — Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and I don’t know the answer, sadly.

When it does come out, there will be another resurgence in reading.”

She went on to say, “Another thing I like is that if nothing else, it gets kids talking about books, about reading, about stories. The second book and on are tougher reading, but kids are willing to work through it and that’s fabulous. Parents are also very willing to read these books to their kids. I know so many parents and teachers who are as crazy about the books as the rest of us.”

All in all, the results were definitely in line with what I had believed before, and, in fact, the responses I received were even more intriguing than I had anticipated. This magical world of Hogwarts and Harry Potter filled with magic and the game of quidditch, treachery and survival is definitely an imagination twister, giving readers of today a new world similar to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

I first believed the Harry Potter phenomenon to be a popular fad, but now I believe that Harry Potter will not slide into obscurity anytime soon, unlike other children’s books. So long as there are Harry Potter fans that cannot get enough of the Harry Potter books, the wonderful Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will remain alive.

###

Copyright (c) 2002 by Brekke Ferguson. All rights reserved.

http://www.kennesaw.edu/themagazine/Ferguson5.htm

 

This is the fourth in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

The bittersweet agony of writing

By Brekke Ferguson

Staring at this blank canvas, my heart pounds in fear. I know that this article must be written; yet, neither the motivation nor the creativity is there. So, this is where I begin to type, letting words flow onto the computer screen. It’s insanity, most of what is written, but I can never tell where a story will come from.

Sure, I have an outline, but that is only the basic idea of where I want to go, not so much what I want to say and how I want to say it. I am now guessing readers everywhere are wondering what this article is about.

Well, it’s about writing, of course.

According to http://www.merriam-webster.com, writing is “the act or process of one who writes as: the act or art of forming visible letters or characters.”

The writing process. There are thousands of books on writing and the writing process. Want to know how to write a research paper? Go to an online library catalog and type in “research paper” in a keyword search. (For an idea of the number of results, my school library’s search engine came up with 10,000+ results.) Want to know how to write a letter? A memo? A business proposal? All of these subjects have many books published on them, and that doesn’t count articles in journals, magazines, and newspapers.

All of this begs the question: Why is writing so seemingly important? Writing is a form of communication. It can convey thoughts, ideas, and intent. Writing as a tool tackles multiple fields and multiple forms. Each form has its own set of rules.

Academic writing is a form of writing that most high school, and all college students are familiar with: In college, we are drilled in Composition 101. Then we journey to “Comp 102,” hoping we have retained some of what we learned before. The basic idea is that there is one standard form of writing for academia, and that is what most classes will require. Unfortunately, these professors often fail to mention that there are multiple bibliographical forms and sometimes classes will require knowledge of more than one (Read: There is more out there than MLA – the Modern Language Association’s guide for writers of research papers.)

On the opposite end of the genre is personal writing. This type of writing takes many forms in itself. It can be words scribbled on lined paper, on napkins, in a journal – basically, any writing surface becomes the canvas for the writer’s thoughts. This personal writing can also have many motivations behind it. It also involves different thoughts on being a writer.

When I was thinking about this article, I starting asking some of my friends about their ideas on writing, and I got some interesting responses. I asked several different questions, and there were two that, to me, revealed themselves as most important.

The first was “Do you call yourself a writer when you talk about your writing to other people?” and the second was “What is your motivation to write?” Both questions prompted interesting and sometimes surprising responses.

The answers to the first question were a bit surprising to me, because I often fail to call myself a writer even though I have been published and even though I am almost constantly writing something.

Amanda Hurst said, “Yes, but usually I call myself a poet, since I write more poetry than anything else.” Another friend, Tom Brazeau said, “Yes, although I very seldom bring up my writing in conversation with people who don’t know me on a personal level. Guess I’m just kind of shy about it.” As a side note, he added, “[I] will probably be less so once I’m published.”

This question also came up in one of my classes, and most people said that they did not consider themselves to be writers, even though, like me, they were writing all the time.

Another form of personal writing is applying writing as catharsis. Merriam-Webster online gives this definition of catharsis: “a: purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through art; b: a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension.” Writing is an art, and emotions definitely are purged in personal writing.

What brings about this need for emotional purging? Traumatic events often cause very strong emotions, and sometimes writing them down can help. Sometimes a single strong emotion, such as anger, can prompt someone to write down what they feel. This idea of writing what one feels, however, is not just my own personal, random idea; it has some basis in fact.

I remember a therapist once suggesting I write a letter to myself, and to tell myself I was so angry about a particular thing. I did write the letter, and I gained a sense of clarity. I am apparently not the only person to experience something like this. I’ve had multiple friends say, “My counselor said to write this,” or “My kids’ counselor told them to write that.”

This type of cathartic writing also is a prevalent suggestion in self-help books such as The Courage to Heal: A Guide for Women Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Laura Davis and Ellen Bass or Susan Zimmerman’sWriting to Heal the Soul: Transforming Grief and Loss Through Writing. They offer suggestions for writing, giving different types of writing and different topics to help a person deal with a particular issue he or she is trying to deal with.

What motivates people to write? Staring at the blank page of a word processor has rarely given me the idea of what I want to write. The words have to come from somewhere, and I suppose that is my brain. Although I have often wondered if my fingers were doing the thinking on some of the things I have written!

The concept of motivation was the other question I asked friends to address, and I believe the most profound answer was the one Tom Brazeau gave, “I’ve got too many ideas and concepts rattling around in my head not to put them down, for better or worse. I like to make people think and take a look at the world from a different perspective. Hopefully, I succeed. What it really comes down to, though, is that I just enjoy writing. While I dream of getting published and seeing my work in bookstores, my writing is truly done for me.”

That, I think is what personal writing is all about. The idea that there are so many ideas in one’s head that they just have to be gotten out, and that it does not matter where your work ends up, so long as it written for oneself.

Now, if only I could remember that on those long nights I spend staring at a computer screen begging a paper to pop out of my sleep-deprived mind.

###

Copyright © 2002 by Brekke Ferguson. All rights reserved.

http://www.kennesaw.edu/themagazine/Ferguson4.htm

 

This is the third in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS ARTICLE IS ABOUT SEXUAL ABUSE AND RAPE. I’M MAKING THIS A TRIGGER WARNING. PLEASE KEEP THAT IN MIND AND READ WITH CARE.

From victim to survivor

By Brekke Ferguson

It amazes me some days how I was able to pull myself back from the brink of self-annihilation and get myself the help I needed to survive. As a child, I was the victim of sexual abuse – today, I am a survivor.

The journey to surviving is never easy, but there is hope and help out there, and there are many things that can make that road easier. My journey began with the telling of the story, and then it moved to music, and through someone’s music, I found a support group. From there, I was on the road to survival one baby step at a time.

How did I get there?  Through educating myself, through supportive friends and family, and through the help of organizations that said, “We can help.”

The U.S. Department of Justice issues a National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) each year detailing the statistics of the violent crime and property victimizations along with trends of previous years. In 2001, there were 248,000 rape and sexual assault cases reported. Of this 248,000, around 225,000 were women over the age of 12.

The actual number of reported cases was down from 261,000 in the year 2000, however, this drop does not make the ordeal these women faced any less significant. Sexual abuse is occurring every day in our society, and even with statistical drops, the women affected must continue to live on. At the same time, all women need not be afraid of walking out of their door and finding themselves becoming a victim.

While there are no definite measures that can be taken to completely prevent an assault, there are some simple measures that one can take to help prevent an assault. Here are some suggestions compiled from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) and Fronske Health Center at Northern Arizona University.

  • Consistently be aware of one’s surroundings:  Do not walk down a dark alley alone.

  • Go to parties or clubs with friends

  • Avoid the possibility of date rape drugs such as Gamma Hydroxy Butyrate (more commonly known as GHB), Rohypnol and Ketamine by making sure that a drink is kept with one at all times – never set it down unattended. If that happens, get a new drink. “The drug can be slipped into a drink – any drink, whether a glass of beer or a glass of water. Many of the drugs are colorless, odorless, and tasteless; victims may not know they have been drugged until it is too late, which is what makes this crime particularly heinous,” according to Drug Enforcement Agency Director Asa Hutchinson in an interview with RAINN.

  • In a relationship, define limits. No matter how long a relationship has lasted, the right to say “No!” should always be there.

  • Make sure parking areas are well lit; use the buddy system when leaving places such as work, school, or clubs.

A fact that is very unsettling is that most women who are raped know their attackers. In fact, according the NCVS, 147,420 women knew their attackers as intimates, relatives, friends or acquaintances. In these cases, it can be doubly hard to seek help for fear of people not believing the report of the incident; however, it is always important to report the incident.

If an attack occurs, there are procedures that should be followed immediately after the incident. According to the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault (GNESA), a non-profit coalition of sexual assault agencies and concerned individuals, the most important thing to remember is that “Whatever you did to survive was the right thing. Second, understand that you did nothing to deserve to be raped. It was not your fault!”

Here are steps that should be taken if an assault occurs:

  • Go to a safe place.

  • Consider reporting the attack to police.

  • Seek medical attention.

  • DO NOT SHOWER OR WASH-UP IN ANY WAY.

  • Contact a local rape crisis center, or call RAINN’s national hotline – 1-800-656- HOPE

  • For more detailed information, go to http//www.gnesa.org or http//www.RAINN.org

After a sexual assault, it is common to feel many emotions. GNESA reports that the most common are fear, guilt, loss of control or powerlessness, embarrassment, anxiety, concern for the rapist, wonder — “Why me?”, shame, anger, emotional shock, disbelief, depression, disorientation, and denial. Other common reactions after an assault can be insomnia, eating disorders, flashbacks and panic attacks.

What happens if you don’t immediately report the attack? If, like me, the memories are repressed, then the memories can one day be unlocked by some triggering event. In this event, many of the procedures above can still be followed. First, find someone to talk to that you can trust. If you fell as though you can’t trust anyone, then call RAINN’s toll-free number. Never be afraid to seek help, because there is nothing to be ashamed of. As GNESA states, “You did nothing to deserve to be raped. It’s not your fault!”

From my own personal experience, I know that finding people to talk to can definitely help. Over and over, I recommend the victim should go to someone they trust for help and support, but how exactly does one give support if someone should turn to you? GNESA gives answers to this often-difficult question as well. First, the experts say it is important to “understand that every survivor of sexual assault reacts differently.” Next, the organization says, this is how one can help:

  • Believe what the survivor is telling you; accept what you hear without judgment. Offering judgment can turn the survivor away from you and anyone else they may have considered talking to. The worst thing for a survivor is to not get help.

  • Listen actively and openly.

  • Reinforce that the rape was not the survivor’s fault.

  • Do not suggest that you know how the survivor feels. Everyone reacts differently to trauma and you want to avoid saying anything that may appear that you are minimizing a survivor’s own experience.

  • Be sincere.

  • Attempt to establish trust and rapport; be available.

  • Look for opportunities to point out the survivor’s strengths and positive aspects.

  • Ask open-ended questions to elicit a full response.

  • Present alternatives so the survivor can make a choice; suggest calling an advocate to locate the rape crisis center nearest you. Find a Rape Crisis Center. http://www.gnesa.org/about_GNESA/rcc.html

  • Accept the survivor’s decisions in dealing with the rape.

  • Be aware of your limitations.

  • Be careful not to play a role that is not natural to you.

  • Try not to tell the survivor what to do.

  • Silence is okay. I often found that sometimes sitting in silence with someone was much more beneficial than trying to force out words that won’t come. Struggling to find the words is often very difficult, so allowing for silences is extremely important.

  • Don’t take it personally should the survivor direct negative feelings toward you. In their hearts, they know you did not do this to them, but often survivors need to lash out at someone, and if you’re listening, you may find yourself the target.

  • Do not argue with the survivor or engage in a power struggle.

  • Know that you cannot “cure” anyone.

  • Be patient. Allow a survivor to talk when she ready, at her own pace, including whatever details are comfortable to disclose. I remember trying to tell people specific details of what happened only to find myself in tears, or worse, having a panic attack. Each memory is often relived at the telling, so if your survivor is not specific at first, give them time.

  • Offer support but be careful not to be overprotective.

  • Do not suggest that a survivor simply put the rape in the past and move on with life.

  • Respect the survivor’s need for privacy and time alone.

  • Be careful not to trivialize the rape in an effort to ease tension.

  • Do not threaten to take the law into your own hands. The survivor ultimately must decide if they are going to press charges or even report the assault to police. To do this means that your survivor will have to lay their entire lives out in court (if the case should get that far), and for many that thought is just too daunting.

  • Be conscious of expressing anger if a survivor waited to tell you about the rape or is reluctant to talk.

  • Constantly repeat that the survivor did nothing to cause the rape, and that she is in no way responsible for what has happened.

  • Just be there. Be their shoulder, their anchor.

Sometimes, the scope of the abuse goes beyond the ability of a family member or a friend’s ability to help, and at that point it is important for the survivor to seek help elsewhere, but it is also equally important for supporters to know when they are out of their limits, and that they should help their loved one find assistance. However, even if the survivor does seek professional help, continue to be there for them. Friends and family will always be important on the road to survival.

Surviving sexual abuse is more than just surviving the assault itself. Surviving is coming away from the experience being able to find help, and then helping yourself incorporate the memories into your life, as opposed to letting the memories and the event control your life and shadow it forever. Beyond that, it is placing the event in context by being more aware that these assaults take place everyday; all over the country, and that you are never alone.

For over five years, the memories of my own abuse lay dormant in my head. When they surfaced, I was filled with so much emotional turbulence that I feared I would never be free of it. I was terrified; I was angry; but most of all, I was hurting. Thankfully, I had a counselor who helped me through the beginning, and a mother, who is a sexual abuse survivor herself, along with very dear friends, helped me through the rest.

Life has to happen day-by-day after a trauma on this scale. My mom – when I would be in the midst of a panic attack, or wondering when life would ever return to normal — would always say, “You have to take it day by day. You can’t do anything about the future, only about tomorrow.”

The road from being a victim to being a survivor is a long one, and the steps are rarely covered in great leaps and bounds. However, have faith in yourself that you can be strong and survive, and you will.

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Some useful Internet web sites:

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

http://www.rainn.org

Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault

http://www.gnesa.org

AWARE — Arming Women Against Rape & Endangerment

http://www.aware.org

Pandora’s Box — The Secrecy of Child Abuse

http://www.prevent-abuse-now.com/

The Male Survivor Connection of South Florida

http://www.malesurvivor.com

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Brekke Ferguson is a survivor of child sexual abuse. She is a full-time student at Kennesaw State University and a full-time mother.

Copyright © 2002 by Brekke Ferguson.  All rights reserved.

http://www.kennesaw.edu/themagazine/Ferguson3.htm

 

This is the second in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

Religion is not a sports team

By Brekke Ferguson

The Yankees didn’t going to the 2002 World Series. Fans around the world were shocked and dismayed, and for one year, Yankees fans couldn’t say that their team was better than the rest.

In the thirteenth century, the Catholic Church decided that they were better than the rest, a better team than other religions — even other Christian religions — and they began the Inquisition. What would it be like if such an “Inquisition” were to conducted against the fans of a rival baseball team? Murder.

Even a quick historical search will show that religious persecution and intolerance have existed for centuries. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that even today, in a country where the “Bill of Rights” plainly states that there should be “freedom of religion” that there is intolerance. The original settlers of this country came here fleeing religious persecution, yet it should have been no surprise that they turned around and began following the same practice they had run from.

Several religious groups that are being persecuted today are the Pagans and the Neo-Pagan movement. Paganism is not a single religion, but a collection of different religious paths that are outside of Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. The Pagan Educational Network, an online resource, gives this general definition of the movement, “Neo-Paganism: Collection of diverse contemporary religions rooted in indigenous traditions or deriving inspiration therefrom, characterized by a belief in the interconnection of all life, personal autonomy, and immanent divinities. Often nature-centered and supportive of gender equity.”

Followers of Pagan paths take many different roads, and many of them have beliefs that are completely different from other Pagan paths. A major reason Pagans are persecuted is because of the incorrect, yet popular, assumption that “Pagan” means “devil-worshipper.” While there are so-called Satanists who could possibly fall into this category, most followers on a Pagan path do not believe in a being called Satan. The figure of Satan is actually a Christian belief.

No matter what religion one believes in, enrichment of understanding is achieved by learning not only about one’s own religion, but also about other religions as well. Being informed helps one keep an open mind, and it can also help cement one’s own beliefs more firmly.  

The word “Pagan” is defined by Dictionary.com as “one who is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew, especially a worshiper of a polytheistic religion.” Some examples of some Eastern schools of thought that would fall under that definition are Baha’i (believe in one God), Buddhism (does not point to any specific God, but there is a belief in reincarnation), Confucianism (Confucius, “head” of this religion, was actually a philosopher who believed in the need for harmony and order), and Hinduism (belief in one supreme God, but that God is worshiped in many forms).

In a brochure published by the Pagan Educational Network, it states, “Pagan religions may draw on ancient historical practices or be entirely new.”  Most Pagan religions have spanned a long history, but some have a much shorter span of history. Some are very old and rooted in tradition, such as Ásatrú, which is a Norse-based pagan religion.

The Pagan Educational Network defines a younger Pagan religion called Wicca like this: “Wicca is sometimes called Witchcraft. Practitioners differ over use of terms. The individual’s preference should determine the use of terms. Membership estimates range from 50,000 to 150,000 in the U.S.  Wiccans are initiated as priests and priestesses. There is no ‘lay/clergy’ distinction. Leaders of covens are sometimes called ‘High Priestess’ or ‘Lady’ to denote leadership status. The individual’s preference should determine the use of titles.”

Wicca is a younger religion, dating only to 1954, and was inspired by Gerald Gardner’s book Witchcraft Today. The ideas in Gardner’s books have been around for years, but he is often considered the first to ever practice Wicca in a recognizably modern form.

According to the Pagan Educational Network, “Members of Pagan religions self identify; there is no official hierarchy within the movement. Membership estimates range from 100,000 to 300,000 in the U.S. Each Pagan is independent and autonomous, even while working with groups.” This autonomy is what intrigues many people to the path.  For instance, at a recent meeting of a Georgia Pagan organization, each person introduced him or herself, and told about why they chose a pagan path, and also why they have stuck with it. The most common answer was, “It is what I feel comfortable with. It is where I fit.”

Ann, who co-founded the group, said that she “stuck with it because it makes sense.” Ann has been practicing around eight years. Kevin, a local Ásatrú, said that his father read him Norse mythology as a child. As he grew older, he began to become interested in other aspects of the mystical nature of Norse society, and he later began to practice. When asked why he stayed with it, he said, “I just did. It’s what I knew best.”

This sentiment of fitting in, and of feeling comfortable in a religion is what many people search for in religion, yet it often escapes them. These people go through the motions of religion, and many have done so their entire lives, simply because it is what they know, or what they were told to do.

Perhaps now, especially in regard to the turbulent times we all are facing, it is time to step up and to begin to think about religion, and one’s right to believe in their beliefs. It’s time to think more about tolerance, and less about whose religious “team” is best. It’s time to learn about one’s own religion, but also the religions of one’s peers.

The “United States Constitution” states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”

I asked several people what their idea of religious equality and religious freedom was, and I got some interesting responses. Mark, a Canadian Pagan, said that religious freedom meant, “That I have the freedom to believe what I want and that my beliefs will not effect other areas of my life.” Allyson said that, “religious equality scares people because of the unknown.”

If fear of the unknown were keeping people from being more tolerant of other religions, then the obvious solution would be to learn about other religions. Knowledge is power, but knowledge also comes with a price – no longer being able to plead ignorance and continuing to act as one had before.  Power brings with it responsibility.

According to the Major League Baseball Association, every team in the league has the right to play no matter if other team’s fans like them or not. Likewise, the “United States Constitution” gives American citizens the right to practice religion – no matter what religion it is.

Yankees fans cannot stop the Mets fans from loving the Mets, and in that vein one religion’s practitioners cannot stop another religion’s practitioners from practicing their beliefs.  

                                                                              ###

Brekke Ferguson is an English major at Kennesaw State University with an interest in religions of the world.

Copyright © 2002 by Brekke Ferguson.  All rights reserved.

http://www.kennesaw.edu/themagazine/Ferguson2.htm

This is the first in a series of articles that I wrote for a Feature Writing class at Kennesaw State University in the Fall 2002 semester. The link where the article was originally published can be found at the bottom of this entry. Feel free to comment. (Also keep in mind that any links at this point may or may not be accurate.)

Single parents breaking the traditional family mold

By Brekke Ferguson

Cheyenne is five years old. Her parents are divorced, and her father shows little interest in her life or her brother’s life. On parent teacher night, her mother Kelly was speaking with Cheyenne’s teacher about “Doughnuts for Dad” day. Most people would think that since Kelly is a single mother, she would be allowed to attend the event with her daughter.

Most people would be wrong. Kelly was informed by her daughter’s teacher that this was an event for the children to have a male figure attend, and that it would not be proper for Kelly to attend herself.  Instead of thinking about the child, all the teacher could think about was that Kelly’s attendance would be improper.

Single parents are both the mother and the father. Their role is to care for their child’s needs, provide love and support, and provide the best atmosphere for their children to grow up in.  Thirty-eight percent of single parent families are from divorced couples, and 35 percent are from never-married parents according to a brief issued by the US Census Bureau in September of 1997.

Single parents fall outside the “traditional” family sphere, yet this is no reason to discriminate against them or their children. After all, children should be the people who matter, and their well-being should be the focus, versus the idea of “traditional” and “non-traditional” spheres.

On the upside, single parenting is not all hardship. Because people so often just see the difficulties, it often comes as a surprise that many single moms and dads find being a single parent rewarding. One mom, Jennifer, mother of a two-year-old girl, said, “It’s a bigger reward than a two-parent family, because it is all yours for the taking – the joys and the sorrows. It’s not easy, but nothing easy is truly worth it.”

Single parenting isn’t easy, by any stretch of the imagination. One person must take up the responsibility of two people, often having to juggle to find time for full-time work, housework, alone time, and, most importantly, time with their kids. Some parents even add the pursuit of a college degree to the mix. With all of this responsibility, it is easy to feel isolated and alone.

Thankfully, there is hope and help. For instance, there are many Internet resources online for single parents and for two-parent households. Parenting is a tough, often thankless job, and sometimes parents need a helping hand.  Here are a few examples of the resources available:

M.O.M.S. – Moms on a Mission Single is one such organization, “dedicated to providing resources, support and information to all single parents.” With several options for communicating, such as an e-mail mailing list, message boards, and chat rooms, there is definitely a great base here. The mailing list is especially helpful with questions and support. (http://www.singlemoms.org)

Making Lemonade – The Single Parent Network is another such organization: Created by Jody Seidler, Making Lemonade offers helpful advice and humor; they also have a mailing list and a newsletter. (http://www.makinglemonade.com/)

Parents Without Partners – P.W.P.: An international, non-profit organization, PWP works to get single parents together by having chapters located around the world. Looking for a support group in your area, check outhttp://www.parentswithoutpartners.org/ for more information.

La Leche League: This group provides support for breast-feeding mothers. La Leche League began in 1956, and has chapters in most cities around the country, and also in other countries as well. One of the most easily recognized names in the mother support field. (http://www.lalecheleague.org/)

There are countless other resources available, and a quick Internet search can guide one in the right direction. The real point, particularly for single parents, is this: Do not feel alone for one more day. Reach out and find support, because, chances are, there are other people in the same position as you, and often they have the same questions you have.

All parents move along a road of ups, downs, and in-betweens. There is no such thing as an easy parenthood. Parenthood turns one’s life on end, and one has to start over with the appearance of a child. Whether you are a single parent or in a two-parent relationship, the journey is very similar, and it is important to find support, and to support each other.

Remembering that single parents are in the same game, and that they need the same help along the way, helps us all. The focus should be on the children, not on the supposed mistakes a single mom or dad made, or on why a marriage didn’t work. Children need support, and helping support all parents is a big step in ensuring that children receive what they need to grow into healthy and happy adults.

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Brekke Ferguson is a single mother of six-month-old Kerowyn.  She is an active writer, and an active participant in several single parent groups.

Copyright © 2002 by Brekke Ferguson.  All rights reserved.

 

http://www.kennesaw.edu/themagazine/Ferguson1.htm

 

Strange and beautiful.

This is amazing and beautiful and worth reading!

The Bloggess

I don’t know if it’s the planets or the meds or the darkness of winter, but this week I’ve been a bit down in the hole and I suspect I’m not the only one.  Then I heard this song that I’ve loved and forgotten and it saved me a little bit.  Little things save me from myself all the time.  Sometimes it’s music, and sometimes it’s words from writers who’ve been dead for years, and sometimes it’s you.

If you’re sad or lonely or feeling like you’re one of the misfit toys, know that you are part of us.  And remember that those misfit toys were always far more interesting than the normal ones.

Tell someone that you love them, or that they’re important.  And tell yourself.  Because it’s true.

PS. I wrote this last night but I was too mentally exhausted to publish it, and this morning I looked…

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