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#metoo, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

I Am A Man And I Am A Survivor

March 13, 2019
assault

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault. If you or someone you know has been assaulted, find help and the resources you need by calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or visit www.RAINN.org.

By Arturo the Cuban

I am a man who is the survivor of sexual assault perpetrated by a man when I was a child.

Someone who was a member of our family so to speak. He was my mother’s common-law husband for ten years. He was the reason I disappeared from home around the age of 11. He was the reason I became a street kid until the age of 16.

I never spoke out. Not as a child anyway. There was the fear of embarrassment that comes from being raised in a tight-knit Hispanic family. I would later find out that I wasn’t his only victim. He also tried to perpetrate the same acts on my cousin who was much older. My cousin beat his ass. He told everyone. My mom’s so-called marriage was done and we moved a couple cities over.

It was then that I came out and spoke to some close friends at the time. We were a tight-knit community of hardcore kids who spent most of our time between the Lower-East Side of Manhattan, The World Trade Center, and Washington Square Park in New York City. We took care of each other in order to survive in a city that was not only harsh, but violent at the time.

I would go home every few days or so. Make an appearance. Let my brothers and my mom know I was alive. It was on one of those trips home that one of my closest friends came with me and beat the living shit out of the perpetrator. Did it stop him from ever doing it again?

I would find out later that it did not.

It turns out that the only thing that could stop a monster like this was death. He is dead. Not because his life was cut short, but because several massive strokes and heart attacks would inevitably take his life. He died after living more than ten years with a bag of shit attached to him, pissing himself. He died after spending decades moving all over the country for what I assumed was to avoid detection. Out of fear of being ratted out. I know this because my youngest brother shunned our biological father and considered this sick fuck his dad.

He called him Pop.

God I hated that shit. But as a kid I didn’t want to destroy the image in my younger brother’s head of what a father is. He treated my brother well. As far as I could tell anyway. I remember asking both of my brothers, in a roundabout way if they shared similar experiences. I didn’t go into detail as they laughed it off. As I suspected, I was alone. At least for awhile.

My father wasn’t around much. So I felt that for my brother to have a father figure was a good thing despite the evil only I knew lurked within this man.

The three women he was with after my mother, spoke of him raping them. His daughter too. For the first time in my life I felt a kinship with some of his other victims. I spoke to them and they encouraged me to speak out. But I didn’t. At the time I felt like maybe they were using me to get back at him. Revenge. I was just a teenager at the time. A very confused one at that.

If you’ve ever seen the movie “Kids” you’ll know what I’m talking about. Those kids in the movie didn’t just represent my life. They were a part of it. Some of them were my friends. I wouldn’t get involved in drugs or alcohol until later in life. At the time I was a straight-edge kid. No drinking. No drugs. No cigarettes. None of that. Well, except some weed. I’ll admit I sucked at being a straight-edge. But we all shared so many commonalities when it comes to sexual assault.

It was then that I tried to speak out. Nobody in my family heard me. I was just some street kid who was perceived as some junkie bum who slept on park benches. It was a tactic that was used to ruin my credibility. I was confused they said. Looking for attention they said. Looking for some kind of out for my bad decisions. All of us were treated the same way. It was a time when no matter what a child, male or female, would say, the word of the perpetrator would be taken over that of the victim.

Because of that I lived my life with resentment towards my mother, my brothers, and everyone else who ignored me. At the same time I was to preoccupied with being a part of a community of street kids that took care of each other. We had older brethren, as we called them, that helped look after us. They showed us how to eat, bathe, survive. Occupying empty warehouse space. Squatting. Buildings that were abandoned as the city skirted bankruptcy.

No one ever came to check on these places. We lived in abandoned factories occupying an entire floor. For as bad as it was, we had each other. We made the best of it and had some really great times. Most of those friends are gone now. Dead. Drug overdoses, suicide, murdered. All a result of struggling to cope as they all got older.

I survived.

I survived with a sense of guilt. I wasn’t there. Forced to move away and live with my biological father. A move that would save my life. The guilt overcame me not because I felt that I was to blame. But because the city was in recovery mode and the sanctity and security that came with being a street kid was quickly disappearing. My street family was dying and I was nowhere to be found. A ghost thousands of miles away. No contact. No connection. None of it.

I miss them. I always will.

We were all survivors who no one gave any credibility to. But when I look around I still see some of us in the real world. Some are quite successful. An actress. The front-man of a world renowned Hardcore band. An author. And me. A still struggling, but not starving, artist.

I’ve had my share of successes too. From a semi-popular underground band, to a studio musician for many popular artists, to a government contractor. If you know my story, all that came crashing down four years ago after a mild stroke.

I’m a survivor.

But today I struggle As millions of other people are. Listening to the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and how all these men treated her, talked down to her, and dragged her name through the mud undoubtedly brought out some very hardcore feelings for many women (and men) up to the surface. Everything that has happened surrounding Dr. Ford is emblematic of the suffering all sexual assault victims struggle with. My wife included.

I’ve never written about what happened to me and like Dr. Ford I’ve never really talked about it to anyone but my wife and my former therapist. I didn’t do so because I never felt like I had the support of anyone other than my wife.

When Terry Crews came out about the assault against him, I almost had the courage to do this but I just couldn’t. Instead I reached to him on Twitter and told him that I believed him and that I got him. I did so without ever revealing what happened to me. He responded with gratitude and thanks. I didn’t share my story out of fear. I saw what so many other men were doing and saying to him. I was disgusted. I wished I had that strength.

Today is different. After hearing Dr. Ford’s testimony and seeing how people were treating her online I became angry. Some of my closest friends and even family spent more time victim shaming her than listening to her. I found myself in a deep debate defending a girl I barely know.

She is the daughter of someone I once considered a friend. She joined in the conversation about victim shaming and sharing her story only to be shamed and treated like complete shit for not speaking out sooner. One of the people shaming her was mutual friends with the perpetrators of her assault. Yet he rose to their defense (while claiming he “never heard” of anything happening to her) by saying the same shit over and over again.

“You should have come out sooner!”

“You’re not a victim until you file a police report!”

“Waiting 30 years ruins your credibility!”

As I fought tooth and nail defending her she left the conversation. I imagine it was too much to bear. She kept talking to me via text and I continued to support her in every possible way I can.

I just kept getting angry and went on the attack. I lost my composure. Started hurling insults and fighting back against what I kept referring to as rapist apologists. I called them every derogatory name under the sun. I was in a fit of rage. I probably shouldn’t have gone that far, but I did and I don’t care.

Because I’m a motherfucking survivor.

Then I told her. The girl I was defending. I told her I was sexually assaulted too. By the time all that was over. She was thankful. Grateful. I felt good about what I did. At least for a little while

Then it all started to sink in. The words of Dr. Ford made my anxiety explode. Crippling depression also started to set in. I had the shakes all night as I tried to hang out with the wife and kids binge watching Trailer Park Boys. I needed to laugh. I just couldn’t. I mostly faked it and tried to enjoy our family time. After all that’s what kept me going until now. Living for the moment and trying to repress those horrible memories.

A day later, here I am. Shaking from the nightmares of what happened to me. Shortness of breath as I write this to finally tell my story. I need to. I have to let it out. I cannot bear witness to this any longer by myself. I need support. I need to give support. We all do. We need to be here for each other. Encouraging others to speak up. I have no family support aside from my wife.

The last time I brought this up to my mother, she asked that I not mention it to my brother for fear of causing a rift in my broken ass family. It was never mentioned again. Terry Crews’ story is what gave me the courage to tell my mom. But her response led to me to feel so much shame that I shut up about it. AGAIN She wants to protect my brother and his image of the perpetrator.

But what about me?

The man is dead. Never brought to justice. Fuck him. If my brother doesn’t want to acknowledge what happened to me at the hands of the monster he holds so dear, then fuck him too. After 33 years since the last time I was assaulted, it’s my fucking turn to speak my truth. I will hide it no more. I will not be silent to the appeasement of anyone else.

Mom, if you’re reading this, I love you. But I just can’t anymore. I can’t. I’m doing this for me, for my friends, for my wife, and every other woman and man out there that struggles with these thoughts. These horrifying memories. I’m doing this so I can move forward with MY life and so that I don’t live under a cloud of shame anymore for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. I’m sorry mom, but fuck that shit. It’s nothing against you, but we are at the dawn of new age. I love you with all my heart. But you need to understand that I AM A SURVIVOR OF SEXUAL ASSAULT.

I’m taking my life back from him.

The dead man.

May he rot in hell.

Arturo is a front-line anti-racism activist, essayist, and upcoming author; advocating for equality, justice, and accountability. He is a married father of three young men and a stroke survivor. He is currently working on a series of books focusing on social issues and racism in America. Arturo is also a freelance journalist.

Continue Reading…

exercise, Guest Posts, Health

Getting Up Offa That Thing

March 11, 2019
trainer

By Nina Gaby

Before we start, the trainer asks me if I can get up and down off the floor. We are standing in front of a contraption known as PF360. As I am devoted to the idea of changing my life right now and keeping the dark shadows of my mood on the periphery, I force a good-natured laugh. “Now why are you asking me that? Do I look like someone who can’t get off the floor?”

Well yes I probably do. My white hair flies out from its clip, my left arm trembles a bit from the exertion of the Matrix machine that I’ve just done again for the first time in a year, and my numb right hand can be pretty worthless as evidenced by having just dropped my iPhone again. I’m pale from insomnia and worry and disappointment. And then there’s the belly, an appendage with a life of its own. I’ve already been called “hon” and “dear” by staff twice today. No one ever called me “hon” or “dear” until I hit sixty-five and now I rue every condescending sweetness I ever bestowed on any old person in my life. It’s a micro-aggression, I want to tell them, but off course I don’t. At least they are trying to sprinkle a little kindness in an inhospitable world.

Dexterity and stamina suspect, I surprise the trainer by holding plank for 45 seconds and being able to synchronize “dead bug” and move on to the ropes and pulleys without incident. “I do yoga” I tell her. “Not well,” I add. “I used to exercise all the time…” I trail off. She is glancing out over the football field sized Planet Fitness and worries that if anyone else shows up for the training she won’t make it out in time to pick up her kids from day care. She is a working mom who doesn’t have time for my reminiscing. We move on to the kettle bells. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Image, Writing & The Body

Powerful Child

March 10, 2019
swim

By Monica Welty

Strong currents of chlorinated, blue silk push against my body and I push right back. I also pull. We work with and against each other: me pushing forward, the water sliding back along my body. Spiraling and bubbling in my wake and then calming until I flip and come back again, heading in the opposite direction. I cup my hand to grab a swirling ball, like a wizard’s spell in his open palm. On land, water cupped in my hand drips down between the crevices of my fingers but in the water, I grab hold of it and use it to my advantage.

I love the muffled world under here. Even though I can’t breathe, it feels as if my chest is heaving like a track and field sprinter. Even though I can’t feel the sweat pouring off me, the salinated beadlets are instantly dissolving into this chemical-laden universe. Even though I feel as sleek and strong as any sea mammal, my skin, my temples, my thighs are pulsing and burning from the hot blood flow of my movement. Until I turn my head to put my ear to the bottom of the pool, all I hear is a tamped down world and the heavy breathing I am not doing. Then, I hear my quick gasp for air, my lifeline, the moment that both fuels me and slows me down. Back into muffled bliss, I feel more keenly the splashing water on my forearm and elbow as they leave the water momentarily in my flurry. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Image, Writing & The Body

Claiming the Right to Cherish My Body

March 8, 2019
cherish

By Signe E. Land

Soaking in the tub on Christmas Eve, I studied my naked body. My two sons were on a trip with their father, and I live by myself, so I had plenty of time to reflect on the noticeable weight I had gained after a recent surgery. My breasts had grown larger and were pleasantly round with a fullness they hadn’t had for a very long time.  My stomach and sides had grown thicker too.  I considered some pros and cons of the weight gain. Pro: my butt was rounder, not as flat.  Con: my butt was not as perky.  Pro: my breasts were larger, pleasingly heavy when I weighed them in my hand.  Con: I had a little pot-bellied tummy.  Pro: I felt surprisingly more grounded in my body.  Con: I had to buy new jeans.

In the past, I had always abdicated judgement of my body to others.

Now single, for the first time I was the only one experiencing my body; I was the only one who would decide if the changes were good or bad, ugly or beautiful. In the past, partners had taught me that a fit, trim body was acceptable and loveable, though they had said they would love me “even if” I gained weight, whatever that meant. Judgment of my body was for others, including my mother, for whom my body had never been quite right: for her, I had always been too heavy or too thin. Now, as I considered my new curves and softness, I was surprised at the lack of horror and shame I had always felt before when I had gained weight.

As I considered my new body, a word popped into my mind along with a question: Cherish.  Do I cherish my body? Continue Reading…

emotions, Guest Posts, Truth

On Anger

March 7, 2019
angry

By Megan Wildhood

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but it makes me angry when people don’t mean what they say. It makes me angry when people think I should be okay with broken promises and unkept commitments. I am not. I will not be. And I will not apologize for my “high standards.” Without integrity, there is no basis for communication, let alone accountability and responsibility.

It makes me angry that people think “obligation” is a dirty word everyone should be free from. An entire industry called “self help” profits from people’s fear of accountability. Here’s all the self-help you need: take responsibility for your shit, mean what you say and follow through.

It makes me angry when I tell people about a difficulty I’m having with another person and they try to guess what the others involved are thinking instead of listening to ME, the person right in front of them.

This idea that I’d be less angry, less hurt if only I knew what the other person is thinking, makes me angry.

False peace makes me angry. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Guest Posts, Surviving

Everyday Objects

March 1, 2019
heroin

By Elsa Williams

It is the spoon I always hesitate before picking up. It’s mixed in with the rest of the mismatched flat wear in the drawer. But if I need a spoon for one of my daughters, something for applesauce or Ovaltine, I rummage a little longer to find a different one.

The spoon is Oyster Bay, a discontinued pattern popular in the 70s. It looks more or less indistinguishable from the rest of our old, scratched up flat wear. But for me, it has always had a double meaning. A wholesome meaning– cereal, ice cream, coffee – and a secret, forbidden meaning.  Not just “drugs”, but heroin. Not just “doing” heroin, but injecting it.

***

The story starts with a different Oyster Bay spoon. Twenty four years ago, my friend Lila was holding up my roommate’s spoon and giving me a wicked grin.

I had invited Lila and a couple friends over for dinner. And I had asked her to please, please not say anything about drugs. I didn’t want to risk getting kicked out of my apartment, or even drawing too much attention to myself. The rule in the flat was that everyone stayed out of each other’s business, but one of my roommates had taken it on himself to forbid me to have any of my junky friends in the house. He was sullen and mean and seemed a little unhinged, and if he decided to make a stink with the landlord, he probably could have gotten me kicked out. But I wasn’t going to ban Lila from my apartment.

Lila had been my closest friend and my lifeline at school, the one person who understood me. When I got back to school that fall and found her consumed by heroin, I felt lost and abandoned. I was trying to find a way for us to still be friends.

I hadn’t understood what a wide zone there was between “experimenting” and full-blown addiction. Lila was chipping, doing heroin without a physical dependency, but that didn’t mean it would have been easy for her to quit. She was in love with heroin; it was the only thing she wanted to talk about.

Lila and our two friends were sitting around the rickety kitchen table while I tried to figure out how to make garlic bread in a toaster oven. Almost everything in the kitchen belonged to one or the other of my roommates, and I hadn’t thought much about the spoons, until Lila picked one up, and announced, “What a marvelous spoon. The bowl is so large. Think of how much it could hold.” Then she put it back down on the table and, vamping it up, leaned down to check how flat the bowl sat.

I winced, and tried not to egg her on.

***

Twenty one years ago, I was painting a picture of that spoon.

Lila had dropped out of school, and I felt unmoored. Lila always seemed to know what to do, even if it was a terrible idea. I decided I would take the same painting class she had. I went to talk to the instructor to see if she would let a biochemistry major like me into her class. I always got better grades in art classes, and they helped keep my GPA up. But I also wanted to do this thing that Lila cared about.

Feeling burned by Lila, the teacher asked me, “You’re not addicted to anything are you?”

I said, “I’m fine,” which wasn’t entirely true. Lila and I had started getting high together two months before she left. Now I was the one who was pining for heroin. It was seeping into everything, including all my painting assignments, a series of still lives that were supposed to be about the breakfast table: a spoon, a coffee cup, a small plate. The spoon was taking over.

I wasn’t a gifted artist like Lila, but unlike her, I showed up to class sober, and I did the work. I spent a lot of time studying the spoon from different angles, trying to capture every curve and reflection. The bowl had a teardrop shape. The handle had a fine line down the center and a little scallop on the bottom, like two very thin fingers had been pressed into the metal and drawn up its length. The handle was thick and solid, but the edge tapered into a thin graceful line around the bowl.

I thought I was being clever, hiding the secret meaning of the spoon, but it was obvious to everyone, including my painting teacher. One painting in particular had started out grey, but a little bit of yellow had turned it poison green. The spoon, bent by its reflection in the mug, dominated the picture.

The instructor sighed when she told me, “You obviously have some things you need to work through,” but she didn’t try to intervene. At the end of the class, she said, “When I first saw you, with your green hair and your leather jacket, I was worried. But you really put in the work.”

I moved out of that apartment before the end of the semester, and, as much as I wanted to take the spoon, I didn’t. I didn’t want to be a thief as well as a junky.

***

Twenty years ago, I was scrubbing the back of a different Oyster Bay spoon before my baby brother came over. This spoon belonged to my boyfriend Michael, from a small collection of things his mother had been able to give us for our apartment. I was in graduate school, and we were trying to make a home together, but drugs were taking over. I had been doing heroin off and on for three years, and I was trying very hard to keep everything from spiraling out of control. But I don’t think Michael could imagine himself surviving to 40, to 30, to 25. He would be dead from an overdose within 6 months.

I’d always been protective of my brother, and I didn’t want him to see any of that. I was cleaning the apartment from top to bottom, sweeping up piles of cigarette ash, and pulling orange syringe caps out from between the sofa cushions. And scrubbing the black scorch marks off the back of our spoons. The needle exchange gave out bottle caps to use as disposable cookers, and we should have been using those. But spoons had a certain old school glamour.

When I quit for good, a year after Michael died, I packed the drug spoons away, along with a scant couple boxes of Michael’s things. His mother wanted the flat wear back, and she wanted his leather jacket, and she wanted me to apologize for her son’s death. I was grappling with my own guilt and complicity, but I could not accept her conviction that everything was my fault. I never gave her the apology she needed, but eventually I gave her his leather jacket.

***

Fourteen years ago, I gave the drug spoons to Goodwill. I was sorting through my things, after moving in with the man who is now my husband. I wasn’t sure why I had held onto the spoons. It seemed like a dangerous kind of memento, sure to raise questions if my future mother-in-law found them, so carefully wrapped up with my most precious objects. But I pulled the Oyster Bay spoon out of the Goodwill pile. It was the one spoon that had other meanings: the quiet contemplation of the breakfast table, the careful observation of painting, the accumulation of little things that add up to making a home.

Sobriety has been a process of leaching the drug associations from everyday objects, including the veins in my arms. And I was hoping that even a former piece of drug paraphernalia could find a place in our silverware drawer.

Elsa Williams is a biomedical scientist living in Medford, Massachusetts with her husband and two children. She is working on a memoir about her early 20s and blogs about feminism and harm reduction at worn-smooth.tumblr.com.


https://www.amazon.com/Being-Human-Memoir-Waking-Listening/dp/1524743569/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1539219809&sr=8-1

Jen’s book ON BEING HUMAN is available for pre-order here.

Join Lidia Yuknavitch and Jen Pastiloff for their WRITING & THE BODY RETREAT. Portland April 5-7, 2019. Click the photo above.

 

Guest Posts, poetry

SIMPLE BEAUTY (Mas Tequila)

February 27, 2019
frida

By Alma Luz Villanueva

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the word, but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too.”

Frida Kahlo

Me– “Frida, I think if
we had been girls to
gether, we would have
been best amigas.”

Frida– “Are you more
boy than girl?” she
laughs.

Me– “I think I’m half
and half, sometimes the
boy takes over, and
sometimes the girl.”

Frida– “I wouldn’t
want to be all boy or
all girl, that would
be boring, como no,” she
laughs again, stirring the
dark mole, making me
hungry. “Juana will
take over, time to
paint, boy/girl,
girl/boy, I give
birth to paintings, not
children,” she
smiles. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Making Shit Happen, Self Love

On A Scale Of One To Ten

February 25, 2019
10

By Lisa Todd

I’m in the kitchen making guacamole when Diana calls to me from the family room. “Hey,” she asks, “How are you doing today?” I sigh as I turn on the faucet and watch the water run over my hands while I thought. How was I doing?

I sighed again. “Well,” I started. “On a scale of 1 to 10, either 10 being the best you could feel and 1 being the worst you could feel, how are you feeling?” Diana said. We’d used that scale of 1 to 10 since her surgery 9 years ago (was it already 9 years ago?) when the nurses at the hospital would ask what Diana’s pain level was like. “How is your pain today?” they’d ask and I would cringe inwardly, thinking of the hardware recently installed in her to stop her vertebrae from twisting and turning into a painful S shape. Over the years, the pain scale took its place in our family vernacular. And now my daughter uses it today to check on me. I smile to myself at her kind heart, thinking not for the first time that I’m a lucky mom to have her in my life.

“I guess I’m at a 5,” I said, thinking about my day. One woman who spent 20 minutes reading instructions and asking me, “Am I missing anything?” after each step of the instructions. Another woman who didn’t like my instructions and so complained to her cohort leader that “the woman in licensure wasn’t giving me a straight answer.” The coworker who graciously spends part of her summer work hours helping me navigate my busy days and comes into my office to cry and rage about the stressful job she’s in. The stacks of licensure requests that stress me every day because I feel I’m not getting through them fast enough. Continue Reading…

Abuse, Guest Posts, Surviving

The Inedible Footnote of Child Abuse

February 20, 2019
beets

By Diane Sherlock

Beets.

String beans.

Cooked carrots.

Cottage cheese.

These were the flavors of my childhood abuse.

There was no bodily autonomy in the house I grew up in. No privacy, no warm baths without ice water dumped from above, no agency over my body, and my brothers and I had no say in what we ate. Three seemingly random vegetables were force-fed.  Why those three? Why not? They were the favorites of the reigning narcissist of the house. They were our mother’s favorites. Reject them, reject her. The essence of narcissistic abuse.

I cannot be forced to donate blood, organs, or tissue, even when I’m dead, but in my mother’s house, I had no say in much of anything to do with my body. Suicide ideation became a way of life. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, love

Midrash on Love and Language

February 14, 2019
love

After Grace Paley

By Adina Giannelli

midrash (noun: ancient Judaic commentary or rabbinic interpretation, exposition, investigation)

She had a tendency to ask questions: to seek validation or comfort through others and their words. To inquire: should I do this thing or that? She liked reflecting on others’ insights. By reflecting she meant contemplating; by insights she meant thoughts and feelings, how they varied, how they mapped onto one another, upon her. And then, after gathering points of view, by which she meant perspectives, she liked deciding on her own. By on her own, she meant independently, which is to say, in the strength of her solitude—as she had always done. As she had always been.

When and where she asked questions, those around her volleyed questions back. These boiled down lately to how do you know this is it? She loved these questions even when they failed to reflect her, which they usually did.

Because she loved language, she knew that to reduce her love to language was to flatten it, to poison it. And much was poisoned already. So she answered insufficiently, in watered down words:  she wanted to declaim, but lacked the lexicon to match her feelings’ depth. Instead, she said what people said about love: he feels like home to me; and when you know, you know; and—in a strange and borrowed idiom—she knew like the back of her hand. By hand she meant the part of her body she used to write words and lift children, to knead the pain from where it settled in his, drifting over warm skin like a nightly prayer.

Are you sure? Kelli asked, and she said yes.

Ben said you love him in a way your old ass has never loved anyone before? and she said yes. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Trauma

Making sense out of Tragedy

February 1, 2019
market

By Tanya Ward Goodman

You went to Katsuya at the Americana mall in Glendale to escape the sound of helicopters in your neighborhood. For an hour, your cell phone had been humming in your pocket alerting you to the concern of your friends and family.

“We are safe,” you typed. “Strange world.”

A few hours earlier, someone had crashed a car in front of your neighborhood Trader Joe’s. With the police in pursuit, this person took shelter in the grocery store. He was armed. He barricaded himself. Hostages were taken. Allegedly, he’d already shot his grandmother. And his girlfriend. The scene was still unfolding.

In LA, there are always helicopters. When they start to collect in one place a person begins to wonder. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts

Spinning: A Love Letter About Genetics, Written to My Son While He Played in the Swimming Pool

January 30, 2019
pool

By Amie Reilly

“Watch me, watch me” you yelled and in my head I started singing that pop song that came out a few years ago, the one you learned at summer camp and then taught yourself to play on the saxophone. The song wormed its way into my ears, sloshing around the same way water does after I swim.

You were spinning somersaults in the pool. Holding your nose while you did it, trying to do two in a row. I watched you (watched you, watched you), and counted your flips on one hand, the seconds you were underwater on the other. I still fear for your life the way I did when you were inside me, a fear that loomed larger after you were born and your skin stretched translucent over your skull.

There is a part of me that wishes you would stay above the water, where boy lungs belong. “I’m gonna try for three now,” you said. Your thumb and the knuckle of your pointer finger were still pinching your nose closed, the rest of your curled fingers blocked your smile. I used my hand to shield that old fool sun from my eyes. When you came up for air I clapped. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting

Toby’s Questions

January 28, 2019
toby

By Ruth Arnold

Last night, my 13 year old son came in my room looking sad, a little sunburned in the face and worried. He had that need-to-cry look so I said, “If you need to cry, I’m here. We can talk while you cry or I can wait”. He said with tears, “I just need to cry a little so I can talk.” I was in my bed watching tv with my dog and also feeling somewhat nervous about an upcoming event that I was fairly sure was the source of his needing to “cry a little”.

In two weeks, I am going in for a full hysterectomy. I am told via ultrasound examination and gynecological review that I have dermoid cysts on my left ovary. Dermoid basically means yucky stuff but not cancer. I am a breast cancer survivor so it’s very hard for me to separate the matters as the same hospital for this surgery was where I got my radiation treatments for my cancer. So, my fear is here. My brain knows it is irrational but my emotions tell me that that is the cancer place where you go at 6:00 a.m. every day wearing a wig so that you can make it to work on time on the other side of town, stay alive and not scare your students with a bald head.

“I’m just scared a little bit”. I said, “Me too but not because I won’t get through this. I’ve had that kind of scare before and this isn’t that”. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, Surviving

Stonehenge, Survival, and Me

January 23, 2019

By Angela M Giles

Today is the day of my father’s death.  He was a successful suicide, which is to say my father failed at living. The loss of him, his choice not to stay with us, hurts, badly. This is something I have to carry, and it is a permanent wound that is deep and open. My body has been carrying so much, for so long.
 
I have been in London over the past days and it has been a satisfying and humbling trip. Satisfying because the time here has been utterly, fantastically delightful. Humbling, because this was a trip that was cancelled after a car accident that I was lucky to survive.

Continue Reading…