A Different Sort of Christmas

10639723_10153382246019606_766582423469376504_nMy life has always involved changes.  I am not really fond of changes; just ask anyone who knows me. 2015 has been full of changes, and I wasn’t happy about most of them.  There was a lot of loss this year, too.  However, this Christmas will be a very big change for me.  Tonight, I will board a train and head west to San Antonio, Texas (after heading North, then West, and then South to get there) to spend the holiday with my brother and his family.

My brother and I were separated when we were very young.  I did get to spend a couple of weeks with him every summer, but never Christmas.  That might have been in part due to the fact that I lived in South Carolina, and he was in West Va. buried under snow.   We haven’t been able to see each other very often as adults and have only been together during the Christmas season a few times.  We have never actually shared Christmas Day since he was 2 years old.

This will be an exciting time.  I will get to meet his grandchildren for the first time.  We will be able to spend some good quality time together and that usually means trouble.  His wife might have to send us to our rooms or give us time out.  She will have to separate us  when football is on because he is a DALLAS fan. OMG!  We will get to do a little sightseeing, try to piece together memories and share some old pictures we have been able to gather over the years.  All in all, I am so very excited and ready to begin this journey.

This will be a huge change for me.  For the past 19 years, I have spent every Christmas day with my two children, their spouses, and my grandchildren.   We usually begin the day in our pajamas and head to IHOP for breakfast.  We then return home for gift giving and fun.  The day usually ends with playing games and just relaxing.  This year we got together a couple of weeks early to celebrate Christmas as a family.    For the past 4 years, I have shared Christmas eve with my “other family.”  The day often included shopping or last minute gift wrapping followed by Christmas Eve service at church and then supper.  There would be amazing hot chocolate from a crock pot and just enjoying the time together.  The kids would beg to open one gift from under the tree, and then we would exchange our Christmas gifts for each other.

Christmas at my house growing up wasn’t much of a celebration or fun.  It was a day I usually wondered if my mother or father would call or come to see me.  Usually my mother would call, but never my father.  We had an ugly silver tree with a light that revolved around it.  I have written some other posts about all of this.  As an adult, Christmas was made very special because of my children.  I loved watching their excitement over everything that happened during the holidays.  There was then a period of time when they were older that things weren’t as good, but those times passed.

Christmas really is about a time of celebrating the birth of Christ and all that it represents.  It is a time to share with family and friends no matter how close or far.   I will truly miss the Christmas traditions of the past years, but I know this Christmas offers something special as I get to be a “kid” and reclaim some of the Christmas spirit with my little brother.

I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or Happy Kwanzaa or anything else that you may celebrate during this holiday season.

 

Life As I Know It

At the end of this semester, I will be junior. I have done far more and far better than I ever imagined. I looked back at this blog post today. This sign still hangs on my door. Thanks, Mia.

Cathy's Voice Now

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Yes, I am attempting the Ultimate Blog challenge again. I am already a couple of days behind because of the nasty flu virus that inhabited my body on Christmas day. It took an arsenal of drugs to push it out of my body, but it left me with broncopneumonia. I have another batch of drugs to fight this battle.

Some may question my resolve in attempting the challenge when I will begin college classes tomorrow. I haven’t been in a college class in over 40 years. My friend Anna, who is a junior at the same school has been very supportive and encouraging. However, as she prepared to return to campus these past few days,  her support has taken a different tone. “Your life as you know it is over” she told me last night. “Just wait and see,” she said with a perverted gleam in her eye.

Tomorrow morning…

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Sister Talk

While I am so grateful to have two best friends that I consider sisters in every way except blood, I also have a biological half sister.  I am sharing an older post today because it is my sister’s birthday.  Those who know me will pause and ask, “which one is this?”  I have seven assorted brothers and sisters, although I grew up an only child.  This post will explain my sister, Jill. (click on the link below)

Happy Birthday Jill!!

https://cathysvoicenow.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/congratulations-its-a-girl/1162404_love_god_and_your_neighbor_1

HoneySuckle, Sugar Cane, and High Tide

I have been blessed with 2 best friends who are not only friends, but they are “sister friends” or “soul sisters”. They both been dealing with challenging times recently. I am reposting this blog post from two years ago because this is a difficult day for my friend Carol, and for me as well. In the post, I mention her childhood home where I found support, love, acceptance, and a retreat from the chaos of my house. Today, Carol moved out of that house taking with her so many memories. I have been lazy about writing personally and for my blog. This reminds me that I want to capture all of these memories, and it is time to get back to my writing.

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Summer was a great adventure growing up.  I grew up along the banks of  the Stono River in Charleston, SC.  I lived in a small neighborhood at the foot of the old Limehouse bridge.  It was a swing bridge that turned sideways to let boats go through.  There were about 20 houses in our neighborhood.  There was a dirt road leading off the main highway that formed a circle of about 1/2 mile. There were houses on the main river, houses on the inner circle with just a view of the water, and just off the circle was a small extension of the circle where my house stood.  We had a dock in the back yard on the main canal that lead to the river.  The lots that were not developed were still thickly wooded areas filled with trees and wildlife.

I was almost 8 when we moved to that house.  There was only one other family with children at the time.  Carol was a feisty, freckle faced redhead just a couple of years younger than I.  We immediately became “sister” friends and still are to this day.   Even though my grandmother was very controlling and afraid of just about everything, she seemed to feel safe letting me roam the small neighborhood.  Carol and I spent everyday together with few exceptions for next ten years.

The tides played a big part in planning our day.  At low tide, only pluff mud and fiddler crabs were in the canal. We occasionally braved the mud to chase the fiddler crabs.  The tide had to be about half in before there was enough water to swim or get in the old john boat.   High tide in mid afternoon was the ideal.  We would be in/on the water from lunchtime until dinner.   In the evenings, we would shrimp or crab from the dock.  A few years later, more families with kids and boats moved into the circle.  We would often go out to the main river on their boats, but the canal was always our first love.

Behind Carol’s house were several undeveloped lots.  There was a very large oak tree with massive branches that touched the ground. One of the branches that came close to the ground was perfect for bouncing. Our tree had several perfectly etched out places where you could sit.  Carol would climb to the one just above the place I chose.  We would sit and talk for hours.  We solved world problems, dreamed of adventures, and planned our futures.

We loved the woods. They were filled with honeysuckle vines.  We would sit and pick the honeysuckle, gently pulling the stem to get the tiny bit of nectar on our tongue.   We picked wild blackberries and ate them on the spot.  We were yet unaware of all the things in our world that would soon prove to kill laboratory rats.  The woods were filled with tics, red bugs, spiders, and more but we rarely encountered any problems.  We did come across snakes a few times, but always outran them.  We loved catching Daddy Long Legs and fireflies.  We would sit and dig in the sandy soil and find shark’s teeth.  We had several small jars filled with them. We were always filled with awe as we thought that our homes were once covered with water and sharks.

We had a small store not far from our neighborhood.  It was also home to the post office.  Close by there was  a fresh vegetable stand.   We would go with Carol’s mom and spend our meager allowance a couple of times a week.  We would often buy a stalk of sugar cane to take home.   After dinner we would  sit in Carol’s yard looking across at the river,  pulling the husk away and chewing on cane to get the sweet sugary juices.   Another favorite treat was Pepsi and peanuts.  We would buy bottles of Pepsi and a small bag of salted peanuts.  After drinking just a little of the Pepsi, we would each pour half of the bag of peanuts into our bottle.   The trick was to get all the peanuts out before you finished the Pepsi.

When people ask about childhood memories, I don’t often have many fond ones to share.  Alcoholism, abuse, abandonment, fear and sadness were all things that filled my house.  Moving to that small neighborhood and finding Carol and her family was the greatest treasure and salvation of my childhood.   Those summer days gave me hope for something more.  Carol and I are still “sister” friends. She moved back into her childhood home after her father died.  I go to the house, and we sit on the front porch looking out at the river or in ever so familiar living room and share stories of those times.  We walk around that block we walked so many times before and smile.  We even stop to pick the honeysuckle from time to time.

 

What Will Be My Legacy?

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I sat on the wooden pews in a small church waiting for the memorial service for a friend to begin. If the wall  of this hundred-year-old sanctuary could talk, they would tell the life stories of so many people, including the story of the man to be memorialized that day. He had been married in that church, as had his parents, as well as his some of his children and grandchildren. In the cemetery next to the church were buried his wife, his parents, grandparents, and other family members.

A granddaughter spoke about him during the service remembering a long life spent in devotion to family, service to community, and dedication to his church and beliefs. No one could describe him without using the words “sweet man.” What an amazing legacy to leave for those who knew and loved him.
I thought about my friend Jan F. who died seven years ago. She left behind a note stating what she hoped would be her legacy. Anyone who knew her would have to say these words are true.

I wish to be remembered for:
– my loyalty as a friend and to family
– my passion – for animals, music
– my commitment to providing caring, sensitive, compassionate therapy to my
patients. I would go the extra mile for them.
– my love of music and singing
– my laughter
– my creative, innovative side
– my integrity – as a person and as a psychologist
and anything else someone can think of.

I couldn’t help but wonder what legacy I would leave for my children, grandchildren, and friends (family of choice). My family tree is broken and missing many branches. I don’t have a long line of ancestors to share. I have made many detours and mistakes in my life journey, yet I hope that the life I have created out of the turmoil and chaos of my childhood will speak for me. I hope those who know me best will remember the person I have become.

I don’t plan on leaving this earthly home anytime soon. I have always said that I plan to live to be at least 100 years old. When that time does come, I hope the legacy I leave behind is one that causes those who knew me to smile and to know that in some small way I changed their lives.

No Shades of Gray about About Fifty Shades of Grey

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The Monkee’s (a very popular music group from the 70’s) recorded a song called “Shades of Gray.” The lyrics describe a time in life when things seemed more clear, easier to understand. Yet, the lyrics go on to say that, “Today there is no black or white…only shades of gray.” Perhaps the movie/book title, “Fifty Shades of Grey” was intended to be a play on words suggesting that the issues here were not clear-not black or white-but shades of gray.

I shared two links on my facebook post that explained my views on the new movie released this weekend. There were many others sharing other post as well with the same ideas. This is a black and white issues for me. For many this movie is romanticizing the ideas of abuse and control as “love.” We live in a society filled with domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abuse, and more. Love and romance have nothing to do with control, bullying, abuse, and victimization.

Now, please hear me when I say that I don’t care what two (or more) consenting adults do or with whom they do it. If sexual role-playing and fantasy are what you need in the bedroom, then that is your choice. This is not a commentary on S&M lifestyle. In fact, most of those involved with that lifestyle are raising their voices about the fact that their lifestyle if one of choice, not being forced to do something they don’t want to do, being manipulated, or being bullied.

This is about a culture that thinks the kind of control, abuse, violence, manipulation, degradation, humiliation, and more is a valid form of love and romance. This is about standing up for those who live with these issues around the world. This is about believing that just because someone winds up in a situation like these that it equals consent. Some have said that Anastasia gives her consent to the abuse, but she is a young woman who is bullied and manipulated.

On the facebook post, I had one comment that included this line…”The book is about their love and how her love for him and his love for her changed him.” I read an article by Angie Aker on the Upworthy site who addresses this question:  http://www.upworthy.com/6-real-quotes-from-fifty-shades-that-could-make-you-rethink-how-you-feel-about-it?c=ufb1
Someone said to me, “But Angie, don’t you see? In the end, Anastasia liberates him from this and brings him to true love. She is the hero.”
RIGHT. In this fictional fantasy book.
The most surprising thing about abuse victims is that they rarely see themselves that way at first. They often see themselves as strong people trying to rescue a volatile but salvageable partner. It’s when abuse victims start to let go of the fairy tale that they alone MUST stay so they can “fix” this person that they can finally start to rebuild their lives and find a love that fortifies them.

I experienced abuse as a child and as an adult. I have been that victim who felt I could fix things if I only had been a better little girl, if I was smarter, if I just did what was expected of me, if I just knew how to love more or better, if I just prayed better or harder, if, if, if. I was in my mid 30’s when someone showed me the truth. I was not then, not now, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever BE RESPONSIBLE for the CHOICES made by another person.

There is an often-quoted verse in 1 Corinthians sometimes called the Love Verse. This is what love should be about.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8New International Version (NIV)
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

If anyone can show me anything in “Fifty Shades of Grey” that looks like that, please let me know.

I am writing about this issue in the hope that someone will read it or anything else being shared on facebook or other social media and find a way to reach out. There are people who understand and can help. Let others who have found their voice help you find yours.

National Domestic Abuse Hotline   24/7 hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

National Human Trafficking Resource Center and Hotline  1-888-373-7888

National Sexual Assault Hotline  1.800.656.HOPE

Christmas Present- A Christmas Trilogy (part 2)

Thought I would share this post from last Christmas. Hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Cathy's Voice Now

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It is close to midnight on Sunday night and I am sitting in an empty office room.  During the day, the room is filled with volunteers and staff talking on phones and with each other.  But, at night there is only one person covering the phones, and tonight it is me.  I work for local hotline crisis center.  I have done this for over 13 years now.  We talk to people who are in pain, hurt, scared, angry, lost, and sometimes suicidal.

I chose this work because without a line just like this one, I might not be here today.  In March of 1987, I made a call to a local crisis line because I wanted to die. I thought  I could no longer handle the pain and guilt that ruled my life. I felt that God had long since given up on me, as had everyone else. A wonderful…

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