I remember the days when I had Imani sleep on my chest so she wouldn’t forget to breathe, which happens with babies born very premature (14 weeks early). I remember the days when I felt my heart strings tugged when I watched her ride off on the school bus, and the joy I felt seeing her emerge from the bus when she arrived back home. And now are the days when she is galavanting around her college campus, becoming grown, finding herself, and making her way in the world. And later will be the days that I will miss those days.
A prominent (married) lobbyist that I’ve known for many years invited me for a visit, and I thought it was a friendly gesture to catch up and chat. Partway through, he imposed himself on me and tried to kiss me. And then I realized he wanted to trap me and try to have sex with me. Fortunately, he wasn’t overly aggressive and I was able to leave without having to fight him off. He ran into me yesterday, not expecting me to be where I was and was very surprised and short. He is depending on my secrecy. If I were to tell, it could ruin his marriage and career. It made me think that if we started a new wave of demonstration against sexual abuse, where we out people on social media, I think it could be a deterrent. If he knew he could be named publicly, I think he would think twice about acting as a predator.
I need to break my silence, because that is what keeps us victims. He served me a couple glasses of wine (a tactic that is often used) and mid-conversation, started complaining about his marriage, probably to create a perception that he was on his way out and soon to be single. So much manipulation. I was trapped and cornered, and he thought he had a good set up. Some women may justify what happens to them because we blame the victim. Victims are never at fault. What he did was predatory. It was a premeditated plan to try to coerce me into having sex with him. I consider this attempted rape. We need to have many more conversations about what rape looks like because we live in a rape culture, and sexual abuse in its many forms is pervasive and even socially acceptable. Secrets keep us sick, we all need to learn more and be very frank and honest about what is happening.
Here is information from the world health organization on sexual violence against women: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/.
Most are not reported and there are many reasons for that, namely the psychology of victimhood in our society. So what I would encourage, is dialogue and telling people what happened to you, and getting help if you have been abused/assaulted. Together we can change the dynamics of our culture, so that we have healthy, safe interactions with each other that will lead to safe, healthy communities.
With my third grade teacher, Miss Frigerio, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) when I was in her class, described what it was like, and who had already passed away (in a nursing home) in her 20s when I went back to visit just a few years later. I remember the love she showed her class and all the personality she put into teaching. When we consider stem cell research and investing in other medical treatments, we need to think of people like her, who died too soon, were dearly loved, and had so much left to give the world.
I met with Imani’s high school counselor today for some business related to her college applications. She said that she would not have known about a lot of her activities if I hadn’t told her because she is so humble. I told her that she doesn’t like to talk about herself. I do that for her, a little too well maybe. Then she said that I’ve been a remarkable role model for my daughter, accomplishing so many things as an independent woman. It kind of took me by surprise because I’m used to feeling like people think I’m inferior as a single mother. But she put a whole different spin on it. We should treat all single mothers this way. She didn’t try to tell me that she knows what it’s like, and make it about her. She just focused on our story, and honored us in a very dignified way.
Being In Bloom
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Compassion
Chapter 2: Courage
Chapter 3: Contemplation
Chapter 4: Grace
Chapter 5: Love
Chapter 6: Legacy
Chapter 1: Compassion
Empathy is not only right and good, but strategic for our own preservation.
Thank you to all the good people in the world. You’re the only reason that many of us feel safe to open up. And that is a gift.
A lack of compassion is the root of all evil.
If someone can see the person in you that they love no matter what is happening in terms of circumstances or the external, that is truly powerful, wise, and authentic.
It takes courage for your friends to stand by you at times. I understand when they can’t. It’s beautiful when they can.
I love people who care, have heart, and stand up for principles, no matter the risk or consequence. You are the ones who change the world. Thank you!
Women sometimes like the idea of powerful women when it is they who are on top, but are not necessarily ready for the idea of other women succeeding and being powerful in their own unique way. Let’s celebrate many brands of what it means to be powerful. If we are sincere women leaders, we can.
If you’re exposed to enough people, you don’t see anyone as different.
I know what a sincere heart looks like.
We can remember and acknowledge people that we appreciate for who they are and what they do, and for putting their heart into making the world a better place.
I’m not less because of how I think, feel or express myself, or because of what I have been through. I’m a survivor and I’m proud of it.
The world has changed, thanks to loving, courageous people who created safe spaces to share, express, and be, as ourselves.
A friend is someone you don’t have to hide yourself from, but who makes it safe and good to emerge as you are into a loving space.
As I was driving through the night, I stopped at one of many gas stations. I explained that I was going to try to make it back and hoped I would be able to stay awake long enough to do so. A man working at a gas station said that might not be a good idea and he didn’t want to see me get into a wreck, so he offered me a safe place to park my car and take a nap, wake up call, and a cup of coffee. After camping out for an hour and a half, I felt ready to get back on the road, and I wanted to avoid rush-hour traffic because I knew that would make me even more anxious than nighttime driving. This man is one of those ordinary heroes that nobody knows about and probably would never consider himself one.
Chapter 2: Courage
Ode to my parents: We took a vote in the family. Instead of building a house in the desert, we were moving to Minnesota. It would be bittersweet leaving Arizona. My earliest memories emerged there. The world that I first saw. What I first opened my eyes to. My mother gave birth to me in Minneapolis, but my parents decided to move to Phoenix when I was a baby because they had so enjoyed their honeymoon there. What a romantic beginning for a family. A young couple in love with their new baby girl. It was magical. My mom and dad doted on me. I was very loved and felt special. They delighted in the things that I did, and treated me like they had not only wanted me, but were even happier now that I was there. They cuddled with me, read books to me, sang with me, and took me everywhere. They were so proud.
“Bridgie, show grandma how you can say the alphabet!”
“Bridgie, walk silly!”
“Bridgie, tell us again about the dream you had!”
They were very sweet. Every child should enter the world to such a grand welcome. I’m not sure where they learned how to be so amazing, but they made life so good that I would go back and relive it.
Thank you, Mom and Dad! I love you!
I’m so tired of women feeling like they have to be skinny and pretty. How about powerful? Smart? Accomplished? Bad-ass? It is so sexist that we are expected to look a certain way and be the ones to give up everything. So glad we have some role models that aren’t fake beauty babes in the mags!
A girl who isn’t afraid of science, being smart, and expressing her opinion on something controversial – that’s what’s hip!
Sending love to all the sad people who need it most. The mean and angry ones also because deep down, they are hurting. Much of our negativity is rooted in pain and comforted by love and compassion.
I was once a young single mom with a sick baby, living in subsidized housing, walking to work, and getting a holiday meal from the food shelf. Now, I’m working to help people like me. That’s the beauty of America. Help your neighbor, pay it forward, be American.
Chapter 3: Contemplation
Being poor is not immoral, but shaming the poor is! A society that kicks people when they’re down, instead of trying to understand how to solve systemic problems that contribute poverty in the first place, needs to engage in some deep, long overdue self-examination.
My daughter received a letter in the mail from her good friend who moved away. This morning, she had a letter of her own to send in return. When we got outside to the car, which takes a while with a walker and partial paralysis, I asked if she wanted to put it in the mailbox, or if she would like me to. At this point, she was holding onto the door handle with her walker off to the side, getting ready to get in the car. She smiled at me, gestured to leave the walker behind, stood tall, and said, “Just hold onto my arm, mom.” So I gave her my arm and she proudly started off, each step increasingly confident. We were surprised by her agility. Sometimes she needs a lot of support, and each step can be an achievement. But this morning, why, she delivered that letter herself, putting the flag up, and going back to the car. What could have been a very ordinary exercise was instead a delightful one. What could have been a moment to wish things were easier became a proud one. That set the tone for our day – a little trip to the mailbox. I hope you have a nice moment to set the course of your day, too. Or redirect it.
Chapter 4: Love
Love is all around us.
My Grandma doesn’t know me anymore, but we shared such intimate moments today. We sang together – “Jesus Loves Me” – just like when I was a girl. After a couple verses, I got too choked up to continue, so I just watched her beautiful face carry on. She sang for the next hour, wherever she went, her eyes so bright, her smile so joyful. It was breathtaking. And when I left her to her dinner, after she settled in for a few minutes, I kissed her and said I love her. She sweetly, almost still singing, and without hesitation, said “I love you” back to me. And as I walked away, she called, “I love you!” Our seniors are such treasures. We need to spend more time with them before they leave us. Their time is short, and precious.
I still get to snuggle with my daughter like I did when she was brand new. I told her at bedtime that I love her always and that she is forever my baby. I cherished the moment, knowing she will one day grow up…but, not today, not just yet. I know I will run out of time to have such moments, but they will be gifts in my heart, and there will be more, different moments waiting ahead. I hope she’s having sweet dreams, knowing how special she is to me. I will sleep happy, knowing she’s happy.
There is nothing quite like a sunset at my parents’ home in the country, and a dinner with the family. Cozy and warm inside a house filled with the aromas of spices released from cooking, the chatter of our clan, the babbling and crying of babies, and the ambiance of good energy and happiness.
Chapter 5: Grace
Tonight, after work, I waited for a long time at the store behind a woman who was buying a lot of toys. I figured she was gift shopping, so I amused myself with looking at tabloid magazine covers and items I wasn’t the least bit interested in. When she had finished her purchase, she proceeded to put every single toy into the toy drive box on the counter, leaving only a gallon of milk on the counter to take with her. It was none of my business, but I was so delighted by her generosity that I blurted, “Wow, you’re donating all of that to the toy drive? You’re a sweetheart!” She responded with a modest answer about how it was no big deal and that she had saved money on her total bill, and then left with her gallon of milk. Right under our noses, people do so much good – like it’s completely ordinary.
Freshly-fallen, very fluffy snow. I love how it hangs on the branches of the trees.
We need to do a better job of loving each other in this world. Less hate, more love. That is all.
Take care of each other.
Our hearts are wells of both sadness and joy, which would not exist without each other.
When I was a teen single mom with a medically-fragile baby, I told myself that I would use my experiences to help others, and that kept my spirits up. This year, I went further into politics to make a bigger difference, fully mindful of where I’ve come from. I am doing what I promised myself I would do. It’s happening right now.
My daughter told me this morning that she likes her limp because it’s like a dance that tells part of her story.
Chapter 6: Legacy
I am being tested in every which way right now. Yet, I feel like a graceful tree dancing with the hurricane winds. Seems that every adversity until now has taught me well. I can remain whole, I can breathe, and I can smile. I am not afraid, weak, or retreating. I am only dancing.
Hold your head high.
You are original art.
I was at a park in Minneapolis today when a preschool class swarmed the playground. I noticed a darling little girl at the bottom of a slide. While thinking to myself how cute she was and wondering her age, I noticed that she had a physical disability affecting her legs. She was totally inconspicuous because nobody treated her like she was ‘disabled.’ When the class was rounded up, she fell in line – just like everyone else. These preschool teachers ‘get it’ and may not fully realize the level of inclusion they are practicing. Fabulous moment.
When one dream dies, breathe life into a new one.
My life is rich because of the people I’ve met and the people I’m lucky to know.
And when all is said and done, the trail we leave behind us shines brightest where we sprinkled kindness.
Wow, I have so many wonderful memories of people I’ve worked with over the last twenty-plus years as a caregiver. One of my favorites was an elderly woman I’ll call Matilda. She was in her 90s when I did her bath visits, so I’m sure she is by now departed. I went to her apartment by the U of MN campus in the Riverside neighborhood twice a week to give her a bath, do laundry, and help with whatever she needed. She loved watching “Price is Right” on her antiquated television from her worn-out arm chair, and eating potato chips. She would tell me stories about her son, who was a professional at the university, and how she raised him while working in a factory. Her arthritic hands were evidence of her years of hard labor; there was something very beautiful about them, knowing what they had accomplished. During bath time, we started a tradition of our own: singing together. As I shampooed her incredibly long, gray hair (twice to get it really clean), we found songs we both knew the words to. When we got loud, she would sometimes stop, look at me with a bright smile, as if she were channeling her inner child, and giggle, “My neighbors probably think I’m having a party over here.” We both laughed heartily about that prospect. Bath time was always followed by braiding that long, gray hair, so she was fresh and neat for a few days until my return – when the fun would begin again. Imagine if I had just gone in to do my job in a routine way. I wouldn’t have anything to delight in today, looking back…I love you, “Matilda” wherever you are.
It takes a strong woman to raise one. And it takes a village of strong women to support each other to raise strong women. The best way to show our strength as women is to empower each other — plain and simple. Our daughters will learn from our examples — our sons, too. We speak loudest through our actions, especially how we treat each other. The more we support each other, the more supportive we all become. And this collective good will is returned to us, in kind. So, women, BE GOOD TO EACH OTHER!! No excuses for anything but love and kindness. Namaste!! 🙂
My daughter after her first major reconstructive orthopedic surgery on both legs to correct issues related to cerebral palsy.
My daughter was a teeny-tiny baby, to say the least. She was born 14 weeks early, weighing two pounds, six ounces. Her early prognosis was very concerning — understatement of the year! With many medical challenges related to prematurity, I had no idea what to expect for her future. I guess one could argue that nobody knows their futures. For each of us, uncertainty is a part of life. But it smacks you in the face when you know the odds are stacked against you. Anyway, I chose to have faith, and then acted on it. I set out to do everything I could to give my daughter a fighting chance, and a great life. Some of her outcomes are connected to things I did, and quality medical care, but a lot of it has also been pure chance. We have only so much power to control our circumstances. We have some! But there is a lot we can’t change. I have found that it’s healthy to do everything you can, and then surrender the rest. Easier said than done, but worth the effort. For example, I couldn’t ensure that my daughter would eventually walk. But I COULD take her to specialists who could advise us on strategies to help increase her chances of walking. I couldn’t predict how well my daughter could read, or if she would even be able to. But I COULD put her in an appropriate preschool and provide a rich environment — reading to her, taking her to museums, introducing her to growth experiences. You see what I mean? I wouldn’t call it realistic, or optimistic. I would just call it managing expectations. I’m a dreamer who analyzes odds according to my own judgment. That means that I imagine the possibilities, aim high, maximize my internal and external resources, and then accept that the resulting outcomes will be on a range, or spectrum. I don’t worry too much about what other people say. Sure, I take it into account, like I do any input. But I process it with a lot of other information to form my own hypotheses. The benefits of a scientific mind are applicable to life, not just a lab. 😉
Recovering well and enjoying an outing to a friend’s farm.
Always at home with her animal friends.