Hard Lessons Learned

Cruise Alaska – Google Image

Someday my ship will come; undoubtedly, it will run aground before docking because I am nothing if not stubborn to the bone.

I have a history of making bad choices, at the time they seemed to be great choices but in retrospect well let’s just say I might have done better. The thing is there are few things I would have done differently even if Gabriel flew golden wings all-aflutter and offered me a rewind. That is the funny thing about choices as we get older all our youthful indiscretions might not have been great, but unless we are completely incapable of self-examination and introspection we undoubtedly learned something from them.

Byzantine Gabriel – Wikipedia

Ten Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

  1. Nothing is Free, not even Lessons in Life somewhere, somehow and someone will pay.
  2. Men do not love you for your heart, mind or soul until long after the Lust Stage so step cautiously and listen carefully (others refer to the Lust Stage more politically correctly as the Courtship, Honeymoon, Infatuation or Romance Stage).
  3. Selfishness is inherent to the human condition, we have to work at unselfish acts don’t get angry when others don’t work as hard as you do or live up to your expectations.
  4. Extraordinary things happen to ordinary people every single day what happens afterward is what makes or breaks them, don’t judge unless you have been there and don’t allow judgment to affect your decisions and life choices, remember they haven’t been where you have been and you haven’t been where they have.
  5. I am not infallible or indestructible, dammit!
  6. I am not the smartest person in the world, however I am often the smartest person in the room and that pisses people off. It is sometimes better to simply keep my mouth shut until I know the terrain.
  7. I will never be too old to learn something new but it gets harder to apply new learning as I get older, never stop either even if you have to break a sweat.
  8. Hard hearts create ugly people and ugly people should be avoided at all costs no matter previous relationships or even family relationships, toxic are toxic.
  9. Politics and religion should never be discussed in mixed company unless you are willing to be dragged to the town square and burned by your friends and relatives
  10. There are some things that you should never tell anyone, not even your spouse, your siblings or  your best friend. Some thing’s that should remain under scar tissue or locked in the cellar.

Hard way lessons should be respected. You might have your own list of lessons learned, mine are simply those I find worked best for me. When I break them, ignored them or otherwise attempt to manipulate them to make them more palatable for others to swallow, it always cost me dearly.

Crime, Punishment and Victims

Charge

Birth Date

Sentence Date

Release Date

First Parole Eligibility

Att Cap Murder w/ Deadly 12/14/1975 8/12/1992 3/13/2012 3/13/1997
2 Counts Att Cap Murder w/ Deadly 06/18/1976 4/13/93 3/09/2027 07/12/2000
2 Counts Att Cap Murder w/ DeadlyAgg Robbery w/Deadly 03/05/1976 3/08/93 3/05/2027 3/12/2000

The above is not random information designed to entice. This morning my friend and fellow Blogger Red called to ask permission to use information she knows about me as part of her on-going discussion (Reds Crime & Punishment). Of course, I am always happy to contribute, but thought in the interest of disclosure I would provide some of the facts.

Nearly Deadly Night

A night like any other really, the story, in a nutshell, I stopped for cigarettes and gas on my way home from work, it was February 7, 1992,  Benbrook, Texas a suburb of Ft. Worth. From there my nightmares begin, you can read the entire story at the link above, suffice to say my life was changed forever by three teenagers. Carjacked at gunpoint, held for over two hours I knew my life might end and I wasn’t ready. Ultimately, I was shot three times, twice through the neck and once a defensive wound in my forearm.

Funny the things you think about when you believe you might die. After the smoke had cleared and the tail-lights were down the road as I lay curled around myself first thinking how much bullets really hurt when they enter your body, I thought ……they took my brand new pack of cigarettes and just how unfair that was.

1992 UTWatch_ Texas Prison Overcrowding

Giving me Pause

The three young men involved were caught because they made stupid mistakes first in their choice of victims, we survived. Their stupidest mistake though was in committing their crimes in the first place, destroying their lives before they ever started. In all three cases, each of them had one parent serving time; in the case of one both parents were behind bars. This would make them the second generation to share the yard. One of their grandmothers said to the DA, please don’t send him away he is a good boy he thought they were only going to steal cars.

Huh?

In fact, he ended up turning evidence against the other two, he had a good school record, had never been in trouble before this; it is likely he didn’t know what was to come of that night. He tried to stop them but couldn’t and in the end had to back down, how is that for the ultimate peer pressure. This young man ended up with a twenty-year sentence because he thought he was going joy riding.

They Got Time but I Got Life

I will not go into the details here of either the short or long-term damage to my body

Huntsville State Prison – Wikipedia

or soul from this incident. The three offenders will someday walk free, I will never be free and it is extremely likely my life will be shortened by up to twenty years because of their actions and choices. This sentence provides a very different perspective.

I am often asked if I forgive them, the short answer is NO.

Victim Impact

Since I have been back in Texas, I have been privileged to volunteer with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in a program called Victim Impact. I wish they would call it something different, but I understand the meaning behind it and my involvement has provided me both insight and opportunity to truly think about the criminal justice system we have today. I have met some amazing people, other Victims also Volunteers, staff members and even on occasion some of the program participants . Heard some heart wrenching stories that make me want to weep, even when hearing them for the tenth time.

The program takes us, the victims inside of State and Federal prisons, State jails, juvenile facilities and parole groups to talk to offenders about what crime does to us how it affects us. The offenders in the prison and jail programs are volunteers who must be approved, they want to be there and it isn’t an easy program. They don’t get a gold star on their jacket for finishing it.

Time – kutnews Image

How I see it

I am not easy and some who hear me speak are offended by my lack of forgiveness. My only response is there will never be forgiveness until there is remorse and reconciliation it isn’t a right and cannot be demanded. My offenders have been up for Parole more than once each, I have been there each time fighting to keep them exactly where they are, through letter writing campaigns and petitions. Their crimes against me and against my family as the extended victims were brutal. I want every day, every hour, every minute the state promised me in the sentence handed down.

Crime and punishment are abstract until they are real. I believe strongly we have a system  that doesn’t serve us properly. We have spent far too long warehousing the non-violent

Garden of Angles dedicated to murder victims

and returning the violent to a society that is not ready for their enhanced skills. We have grown prison populations that include generations, it should be a national shame rather than a source of revenue and pride. Nevertheless, as a victim of a senseless violent crime I am thankful I can participate in the processes that ensure fair sentences meted out and completed when appropriate.

Some think me hard, others think I am vindictive demanding my pound of flesh. The truth of it is I don’t believe in forgiveness as a right and I don’t believe those that do me and mine harm should be able to demand their freedom. They caused immeasurable and have never said those simple words “I am sorry”. So why should I ever lift my demands they serve their sentences.

I will continue this some other time. There is far more to discuss on this subject.

Sleep Deprivation and Marriage

It is never easy to wake-up and find your leg dangling precariously over the side of the bed, as if your sub-conscious has prepared you to flee. Your attempts to roll over are prevented by the person dragging the covers off you, stealing your pillow and laying dead in the middle of your side of the bed. Not mind you, the middle of the King sized bed you share, but rather the middle of your side of the bed. Your arm wedged firmly beneath you, tingling due to the lack of blood circulation and the crick in your neck, it just might be permanent. This is me, six days out of seven.

First Thoughts

Finally, my eyes able to focus I note the time, 2am. Why in the world is it two in the morning, again. Oh, the injustice, is this really my fate. It is 2am, there is a stranger in my bed and I married him more than a decade ago. I frequently wake up with that thought in my mind, “who are you and why are you disturbing my sleep?” It doesn’t last, fading quickly as I am not prone to linger between sleep and the awakened state.

When I try to move his arm tightens around my waist and he makes that small growl in the back of his throat, even in sleep he knows I am trying to move away. It makes me smile even in my annoyance, nonetheless, I slip out of the covers to gain some distance and get my blood circulating again. I know our sleep habits perhaps better than I know our awake habits, he will move back to the center soon and I will regain some small space on “my side” of our King sized bed to finish the rest of my night’s sleep.

Who are you, really? Why are you here?

Image inflexwetrust

My husband, my mate, my partner; all that but mostly the bed hog, cover thief and sleep robber. He is a snuggler far more than I am, in this I think our roles are reversed. For all the years of our marriage, even when we go to bed angry he chases me across the expanse of our bed to trap me in his favored spoon position and hold me there through the night.

I have always been able to take the pulse of our marriage by our sleep position, though there are days I would rather him sleep anywhere but under and around me, I am comforted by his constancy. There has only been one time in the years of our marriage he did not seek me in his sleep, that time now a painful reminder for both of us that we must be present during our waking lives not just our unconscious moments of sleep.

He points to a picture of me as a five-year-old and laughs says I sleep in exactly the same

Only monsters 1963

position today as I did then, asks why I complain. My only answer is, at five I didn’t share the bed, my body didn’t have all the strange grievances then it does today, I was only afraid of monsters and most importantly I never woke up wondering “who the stranger in my bed was”. He just laughs at me and tells me there is always divorce and then I can have the whole bed to myself, yet here we are still married and still spooning.

I love you too.

The Virtue of Chastity, The End

I come to the end of this exploration. Somehow I expect I will continue to niggle at it now and then as our societal mores ebb and flow over time. We have seen these passages across generations though perhaps never so forthright, so in our face as today. Perhaps I am just showing my age when I say I am offended by the acceptance of degrading language and the flagrant sexualization of our young women.

Since 1968 and my brutal awakening to what the loss of virginity meant I have spent the greater portion of my life defining my personal ethos. How my peers viewed and treated me, how my female role models treated with me and most important how males responded and reacted to me was critical to how I defined my value. Not values, not morals, not ethics but VALUE. Despite the times; Free Love and early definitions of Feminism did not extend to the underlying social characterization of “Good Girl” versus “Bad Girl”; you were one or the other nothing in-between, there was no gray area of moderation.

FanPop Image

FanPop Image

 Archetype Good Girl – Sandy  Archetype Bad Girl – Rizzo

I begin to understand my own version of what the truth of Chastity within the context of Virtue might be.

Women were caught up in our early success. We forgot perhaps that winning our entrance to full social membership did not change our fundamental humanity or our femaleness. What is different today is the images women have become more sexualized and the lines less firmly divided. We happily watch the antics of the beautiful and wealthy, even forgive their walks on the wild side. Those of us on more common ground are claiming the definitions are hollow while still attaching values to the central themes. Young girls laugh as men shout in song and even on the street the words of their dishonor, trying even to claim it for themselves in the mistaken belief it will take the sting out. Perhaps create honor where there is none.

Young women emulate the dress and behavior of their role models albeit on a smaller scale, as their resources allow. These fantasy lives of their heroines played out in magazines and reality television fuel imaginations and hallway conversations. Young girls imitate the dances seen on videos, meant to demean and entice, without understanding either. We applaud the antics of Toddlers in Tiaras as three year olds dance to music and imitate the dance moves of ‘Video Vixens’; have we lost our minds?

Image Rock102online

Image MSNBC

 Madonna in her version 1990  Two-year old Mia with her mother 2011

Women of great wealth and beauty, women who might be our sisters, our mentors and our champions yet have few accomplishments beyond their ability to charm agree by their silence our only value is the imagery of sexuality, including simulating masturbation and sex acts as forms of entertainment. This then is the reality of our diminished value . We have accepted the image and our young girls imitate it gleefully, all too often with parental consent. Go to any High School sporting event and watch as cheerleaders dance to music with moves themed to entice and emulate the sex act, to what end?

What do our young girls find to model? It isn’t the woman of distinction in arts or science, in math or literature. It isn’t the women who stood up for their rights, who distinguish themselves with their contributions to our history or our present day, these are not who are lifted up in media, not the women our daughters emulate in the classrooms of America, not the women spoken of in song.

Image Wikipedia

Image Wikipedia

Image Wikipedia

 Stephanie Wilson – Astronaut  Gabrielle Giffords – Congresswoman  Maya Angelou – Poet & Civil Rights Activist

My conclusion is we should value Chastity not because it is demanded of us by standards that would see us less than our potential. Chastity itself is greater than the mere attachment of a hymen certainly and its loss does not devalue us as women. There is duplicity in the idea that women are not free to choose partners outside of the social contract of marriage without being labeled “less than”.

There is a reason we should value our own Chastity, to me it is the simplest reason of all, because we value ourselves. When we invite another into the inner sanctum of our lives we are bestowing something upon them sacred. Not sacred in religious terms but rather in fundamental female terms, this is our core this is who we are as our most secret and exposed selves. As women we are vessels of life, of compassion and empathy; we are that place of peace and succor. Our invitation is not to be taken lightly or diminished in the light of day.

The idea that Chastity as a Virtue can be socially defined and thus our bodies and souls become the battleground for our future psychosis is ultimately what has been central to my exploration.  Have I been successful at solving the problem? No, certainly not but perhaps in my exploration I have in some small part begun to find some recurring themes for my own life.

The Virtue of Chastity in the Modern Age

The other day I explored the Virtue of Chastity as it applied to my own life; this left me with open questions. Keeping in mind, I have not personally defined Chastity as Virtue, simply accepted the original seven Virtues as existing in our lexicon and as social standards from which to begin my exploration. (Part One).

How times have changed, or have they? There was a time when Virginity was sacrosanct, Chastity not a commodity to be traded for popularity or acceptance.

Today the gray areas young people draw cause me to cringe; oral sex is acceptable because it isn’t real sex. Sexting isn’t crossing that line into pornography, unless you are caught. Popularity is traded for the number of partners acquired without trading your Virginity, the only thing you save for True Love. Public displays of sexual favors are not off limits so long as it is between friends. The rules change to accommodate a new morality that places emphasis on Chastity only as it applies to Virginity itself, yet even this is flung to the wind in favor of the need for affection and acceptance.

Girls as young as twelve are giving birth to the next generation. One of the most popular

Image TVRopes

shows on daytime television Maury, who has coined the phrase “you are not the Father” while “you the baby’s daddy” is sung viciously by the daily parade of witless women and clueless men who reproduce without restraint or regard. Another popular show is Teen Mom, which follows the misadventures of teenage mothers as they swim the turbulent water of motherhood, welfare and adult relationships with the teenage fathers of their children. We watch fascinated by these forays into other people’s lives, on the one hand publically condemning their choices while on the other making them celebrities by our puerile fascination.

Image LifeasaHuman

As I sit sipping my Latte at the local Starbucks, I watch a gaggle of young girls dressed as if they were heading over to the local stroll. I know, terribly judgmental nevertheless with short shorts, midriff tops and make-up plastered on with spatula this is the first impression. Their voices grate on the middle ear, fevered giggles over some boy or other as they call each other ‘slut’ and ‘ho’ affectionately, as if these names have no meaning or force. The persistent beat of music coming from their IPhone repeats the ugly undercurrents, the language of devaluation, ‘ho’, ‘bitch’, ‘slut’, while these future women bounce and titter.

As I watched these young girls, guessing their ages not more than fourteen, my responses were as follows:

  1. Do your mother / father know you are out in public dressed like that?
  2. Do you have the self-awareness to realize what you are agreeing to when you listen to that music and accept that language, those names?
  3. Do you know you cannot reclaim names and make them less or different from what they fundamentally are?

I wanted to snatch all of them wash their faces and take them to their homes; frankly I was afraid of what I would find.

Have we traded some fundamental self-awareness of our core being as women? Indeed, is Chastity an archaic and troublesome Virtue best left in the past now that we have discovered independence and been granted our liberties?

My personal exploration of this subject is leading me down a twisting path. I will finish Chastity as a Virtue in Part III.

Chastity, Virtue or Burden

Wikipedia

Chastity also known as the state of being Chaste.

For those who struggle with this somewhat archaic definition what we are really talking about here is abstaining from all forms of sexual intercourse. To put it simply NO SEX.

Let’s get this out of the way first both genders can be chaste. All the Abrahamic religions reserve sex for marriage only. Many of the Eastern religions include cloistered monasteries, vows of chastity and view marriage as sacred. There are varying degrees to which all of the different religions define, preach and act on Chastity within society.

It is a rare man today, who wants to date a chaste woman. It is a rare woman today who

makes it out of her teens a virgin. Do we have two-caste system, a double standard? Women who are datable and women who are marriageable? Haven’t we advanced beyond the Victorian Age where “good” women were presumed to have no sexual desires? It does make you wonder why we laud the man famous for his promiscuity while still demanding women retain their purity.

Slut, horrifying word when applied to young girls beginning to express themselves and define whom they will be in the future. Chastity stripped by acts of violence, does this count against you? I have often

Google Image

wondered whether rape and loss of that all-important proof of virginity is the only consideration for being unchaste. From the age of 11 to 15, my classmates hung Slut around my neck as a Scarlet Letter, not because I had earned it by my acts but because others stripped me of my Virginity in a brutal and senseless act and there was no adult to defend me.

Did this make me unchaste?

My peers defined me in my formative years my first marriage at 15, thereafter. Though my much older husband knew the circumstances of my lost hymen, he blamed me anyway. His anger resulted in closed fists and harsh words leaving scars I carry even today. That I entered our marriage lacking said proof of chastity, made me less in his eyes, made me untrustworthy. Despite the circumstances of my loss, I was branded with Slut across my forehead in neon red, on this he and my mother agreed though they had never met.

Am I a Slut because I am normal and have pursued normal sexual relationships whether within marriage or not? Does any society have the right to judge me, especially if I do not agree to the labeling based on a set of religious / societal rules I do not subscribe to? I am nearly in my mid-fifties; I have had more than one husband and certainly a couple of other partners worthy to share my bed over the course of my lifetime. My Chastity is comfortably compromised, or is it?

How should I really judge myself against what I consider an archaic definition of the Virtue of Chastity? I know that I am a woman integrity, I have remained true to the vows and promises I have made to each partner I have had over my lifetime. That I have taken a different route and chosen different paths no dispute. The struggle to define Chastity as a Virtue in terms that make sense to me, as a woman though, that remains an open question.

Having not concluded my search for answers, I will continue the pursuit of the Virtue of Chastity for the twenty-first century woman tomorrow.

Virtuous Women Hand to Hand

Merriam-Webster defines Virtue as follows:

1 a: conformity to a standard of right: morality b: a particular moral excellence; 2: plural: an order of angels see celestial hierarchy; 3: a beneficial quality or power of a thing 4: manly strength or courage, valor; 5: a commendable quality or trait: merit; 6: a capacity to act: potency; 7: chastity especially in a woman

  I especially like number 1 because it is so ambiguous. A woman of virtue conforms to an established standard of right.

My question as I contemplated the definitions is who defines right for the rest of us? Am I only virtuous if I conform to the vague standard that others establish? What should I do if I believe these standards are counter to my best interest as a woman? Do I simply ignore them and live my life in my own best interest, outside of social boundaries? Should I silently allow others to cast aspersions on me because I do not agree to their definitions?

Is there a super-secret list somewhere?

I wondered about this and so went looking, my curiosity was aroused, what I found was enlightening.  Originally, there were four Virtues Wisdom, Justice, Courage and Temperance these came down to us from Plato and Aristotle. With the advent of Christianity, they were expanded to including four Cardinal and three theological virtues to offset the seven deadly sins.

  1. Chastity <=> Lust
  2. Temperance <=> Gluttony
  3. Charity <=> Greed
  4. Diligence <=> Sloth
  5. Patience <=> Wrath
  6. Kindness <=> Envy
  7. Humility <=> Pride
 

Wapedia.mobi

 

Acelebrationofwomen.com

After looking at the list, I searched for how these might directly apply to women today. The search was long and aggravating, all to often running into the historical references and more general terms, I even found reference to more modern video games. Eventually, what I found was women and the application of any virtue usually came back to Chastity, Obedience (huh?) and other strange manipulations to fit expectations of how women should behave within the context of religious characterizations. Historically, virtue was intended to carry women unerringly from their father’s house to their husband’s house to widowhood.

     

My Fathers House

Medieval Practice of Giving away the Bride

All Images Google

Widows Weeds

This took my mind down the path of what about?

What about the duality of expectations between the genders, something that despite all the other social / economic and cultural changes remains consistently set in our minds. Why must women be chaste yet men need not be. Okay, let me rephrase the question, why is it that if women are unchaste there are distinct classifications (slut, bitch, whore, ho) which are lightly to extremely uncomplimentary, while if men pursue an unchaste lifestyle they do not qualify as anything other than STUD, with a wink and a nod.

Why is obey still an option in wedding vows? Sometimes not an option at all but a mandatory part of the vows a woman must recite. Would most men consider including this particular piece in their vows to their future wives? Somehow I suspect the answer is no. I am aware many women choose not to include it in theirs, but the fact remains it is still there. There are even national figures, women who stand in the spotlight of our political debate today who say  with pride they ‘obey’ their husbands and follow they ‘commandments’ in things as crucial as career choice and body privacy.

I am a woman of compassion. I have merit in my own right for my accomplishments. I have the capacity to act for good or ill and try always to act for good. While I do not have manly strength, I have strength, courage and valor. I am a survivor; truly, I am a victor over circumstances that might have left others bereft of joy in life. I know many other women like me; other women who have managed to thrive in a society that does not often look upon us with gladness or welcome us warmly to the hearth fire.

Women and virtue, are these still relevant today? I think they are but perhaps not in their original meanings. How do we then define the virtues so they are easily understood and capture the essence of who and what we are.

I struggled with the direction of this blog for the past week. This is the direction I am taking for now. I hope you follow and offer your thoughts.

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