Blues, Funk and Aniversaries

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday I was blue, truly and honestly blue. I couldn’t put my finger on it, couldn’t identify the source but yesterday I was blue.

Yesterday, my energy levels were low and I was inspired to do nothing. Absolutely nothing inspired me, with the exception of finding a cave, crawling into it and pulling a rock over the entrance.

I could not find a reason for my ennui; thinking it was just the past three hard weeks at work. The long drive back and forth from Dallas to Houston was wearing me down. The twelve hour days resulting only in, ‘not good enough, not what I want’ feedback from leadership that seemed to have a constantly shifting agenda. Still through all of this, yesterday I was blue and I could not focus on the cause.


It came to me, this morning, as I was checking the date or simply looking at a calendar for some reason or maybe trying to prove it was past now. Yesterday was a red-letter day and I ignored it, did not give yesterday its due. Ignored the date, did not sit down and allow my heart to wash over me with all the feelings I was having, instead I attempted to pretend there was nothing special and I was simply blue.

The truth is, yesterday wasn’t special, not in the way, most of us think of ‘special’. Yesterday did mark for me a day of transition, change or transformation. Yesterday did mark the anniversary of the day that set my feet on a different path and made changes to my body, my spirit even my brain there would be no turning back from, no matter how I might wish this to be different.

Yesterday I was blue and rather than acknowledge why I blamed it on everything, including:

  • My current job, client and bosses
  • The fact my house is a mess
  • My finances after a six month hiatus from work, but which are not as bad as they were or as I think they are or as bad as some people who are truly suffering
  • My loneliness, that is somewhat self-imposed
  • The lack of physical touch in my life, that I find I miss a great deal but which has also been self-imposed

Yesterday I was blue and what I didn’t blame it on was the date, the anniversary, the three bullets and the three young men that changed me forever and sent my life on a different and unlooked for trajectory. Yesterday, I was in a deep funk with tears settled right on the edge waiting to spill at slightest hint I would allow blue to turn into a crying jag (I didn’t) and I wouldn’t look at a calendar because instinctively I knew what day it was and simply didn’t want to say it out

So, I distracted myself with walks in the park, which honestly I needed anyway. I distracted myself with talking to people who love me, but I didn’t tell them I was hurting and why. Then when the sun was down and the house was dark again, with sitting quietly staring at a blank page in my journal unable to pick up my pen, because I was blue and I was in a deep funk. When the bedroom was dimly lit with the nightlight I never turn off,  I rocked myself to sleep finally because I was lonely and I miss physical touch, I was hurting and I simply refused to acknowledge it was an anniversary of sorts, one that had changed me in fundamental ways and at my core.

Now, today, this morning I acknowledge I was blue because it is hard not to remember, it is impossible not to be triggered no matter how hard I try to avoid calendars and other reminders. It is hard not to remember and be angry. It is hard not to remember and be sad. It is hard not to remember and then wonder sometimes, what would life be like if I hadn’t have stopped for gas, if I hadn’t have stopped for cigarettes. What would life be like if I had just been five minutes earlier or later, just five minutes that is all. Sometimes I can’t help myself, I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better if I hadn’t survived, hadn’t have been quite so strong. It isn’t that I am not happy to be alive 97% of the time, but I can’t help but wonder sometimes if it wouldn’t have been better, when I am blue like yesterday or when I am hurting or when I have a seizure.

Yesterday I was blue, I know why. Yesterday was the twenty-third anniversary of my carjacking / kidnapping and shooting; where I nearly lost my life and most certainly lost my belief I was invincible.

There, I said it.

Today, I start the first day of my personal new year. I am determined to get back in the swing of things.

I Don’t Believe You, I Do

OpEdSince the beginning of the Bill Cosby fiasco, I have remained silent; I have chosen not to speak. I did this for a reason, not because I had nothing to say or because I believed one side or the other; no that wasn’t it. It also wasn’t out of respect for Bill Cosby or the women who were coming forward, this wasn’t in my mind, as I watched all the media, social and regular rip both sides of this story to shreds.

Everyone taking sides, everyone with an opinion, everyone prepared to judge, everyone no matter their knowledge or qualifications prepared to render a decision.

I watched and I listened. I read the comments on the various stories. Some of the comments caused my heart to shrivel, others made me want to jump into cyberspace and hunt down the anonymous person without a soul who felt a need to spew their bile. Mostly though, I watched and I listened; to friends, family and complete strangers as they dissected the story of Bill Cosby the public persona and Bill Cosby the man and his legacy. On the other hand and from the other side of the debate I watched friends, family and strangers discount, disregard and disparage the twenty-four women who have come forward to accuse Bill Cosby, not Cliff Huxtable but Bill Cosby the man of drugging, assaulting and raping them.

hero to zero

I do not know the truth. The only ones in this entire tragedy who know 100% of the truth are Bill Cosby and the twenty-four women who have accused him of horrific acts of violation.

As I listened and I read, I struggled with my feelings. When Phylicia Rashād said, ‘forget those women’, I became enraged, I could only think to myself, ‘how could any woman say this about victims of sexual assault?’ Is it possible for anyone to be this free of empathy, this lacking in compassion?

Forget those women.

Then my friend and hero, Deborah at The Monster in Your Closet wrote this, encapsulating so much of what I wanted to say but didn’t have the words.

Victims of sexual assault do not report, all too often we do not report. There are many reasons for this, but the sad truth is the number one reason is how a victim of sexual assault is treated by the system that is supposed to protect them. Every single person, with rare exception, from first responders, to hospital personnel, police, DA’s and yes sadly, family members and loved ones tend to blame the victim, fall into the trap of wondering what the victim did to create, invite or otherwise cause herself to be raped.

I do not believe you.

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When society plays the blame game, protecting the rapist no matter what the reason; high school football star, politician or beloved television star every excuse is trotted out for why they could not have possibly done what they are accused of doing. The ultimate result of this cover-up is, their bad acts were caused by the victim, it was the fault of the victim for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, wearing the wrong clothing, accepting a drink from them and tempting them to bad behavior. We don’t report because we already know the outcome, there are names for women (girls) like us and none of them are kind.

I could not understand, truly my heart and mind simply stuttered. How can any of us sit back and cast aspersions on victims brave enough to step forward into the light of day, allow their names and faces to be seen knowing what they would they would face; Golddigger was the kindest appellation I heard applied.

Then as if reading my heart and mind, again Deborah at Monster in Your Closet wrote another stunning analysis, this time her words brought me to my knees.

I believe you.

What all of us, every victim of sexual assault needs to hear.

I believe you. I trust you. I love you. I will protect you.

That is what most of us never hear. Never, not from our parents, not from our friends or loved ones, not from first responders or doctors, not from the police or DA’s; we just want to be heard and believed, protected.

Why don’t we report? Can you imagine having to tell the story of your sexual assault to one stranger? How about ten strangers? How about a room full of strangers? How about a room full of strangers who don’t believe you, who don’t want to believe while your rapist sits staring at you with a smirk on his face knowing he will be free soon while your heart and soul is being destroyed, your reputation shredded.

Why does our story change? We don’t remember. It is nearly impossible for us to remember ever detail in what for most of us was the most traumatic event in our lives. We don’t want to remember, for most of us we spend a lifetime trying to forget.

Effects of Rape

Am I taking sides? No, but I have a tendency to believe the victim especially where there are twenty-four. What people fail to realize, Bill Cosby isn’t going to be arrested and thrown in jail most of these accusations are over a decade old. Might there be some Civil Suits, sure but even they may get thrown out or settled so we never hear about them. In the meantime, Bill Cosby is still doing his stand-up act and making jokes to women about not drinking around him. He doesn’t appear to care to much about the gravity of the situation or his legacy, why should we?

Just One

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are days when I cannot get out of bed without wanting to curl into a ball and weep. Days when my entire body feels as if someone has poured kerosene over me and lit a match as they gleefully danced over my burning body, kicking the ashes simply to add insult to injury. There are days I spend the entire day wanting to slap my left side, it feels as if Fire Ants are crawling just under my skin biting me from the inside out. Some days I spend walking, sitting and standing as if I am still in a neck brace, you know those hard flesh toned ones that push your head up and create furrows in your shoulders, I still remember what they feel like and still hold my head exactly so. Some days, when I feel as if my very best option is to curl into a corner and weep in pain and frustration, I can’t do that even because my body will not follow my desire without screaming in protest.

This was one of those weeks, when my body hurt and thus my mind, my spirit followed the path of pain protesting, ‘it isn’t fair’. The funny thing about weeks like this? No one knows, I never tell and no one seems to notice, no one ever asks if I am okay, for more than a decade now it seems no one asks. Maybe they have simply decided I am not allowed my pain or my weakness. There are times this infuriates me. This week was one of those times.

This week I was the sole speaker for two very different Victim Impact groups, the first an adult Parolee the other a juvenile START. In each case, I found myself judged harshly by those who were there to listen, learn and with some luck consider a different direction. Oddly, the judgment was for similar reason, the discussion though took very different directions. I will say this, after the first I was emotionally wrung out, wondering why I subjected myself to these, after the second I remembered why.

Plagal or Amen cadence

Plagal or Amen cadence

The content of Victim Impact is always the same the cadence though each time is different and depends on how I feel, physically, spiritually and  sometimes the vibe of the audience sets a tone. This audience was odd, mixed in their willingness to hear me their hostility at being there. There curiosity to hear the story wars with their feigned boredom, their world weary slump in the seat. I know how to hold them though, as I tell the story of the night I became a ‘Victim’ and then a ‘Survivor’ and ultimately ‘Victorious’, obviously this didn’t happen in a single night but over time and not without work.

I don’t hide some of my history, I tell truths about being a runaway, being a delinquent and ultimately making different life choices. I also talk about my offenders, their choices, their youth and the struggle I have even now with the sentences they received, despite the terrible damage they caused to me, my family and their other victims. I do not shy away from the issue of race, it played a key role in why they chose me and their other victims, thus it has to be part of the conversation.

I have been doing Victim Impact for nearly ten years now. When I first started, I was afraid and still very angry. When I first started, I had no peace in my soul so every single time I spoke there was a small ball of fury caught in my throat. Slowly that ball dissipated, I learned from those I was supposed to be teaching and from others who spoke.

Right ShoulderI was asked recently by someone I love, if I could go back in time and change that one day would I do so and my answer was no. I know in my heart what happened was simply a part of the trajectory of my life, part of what made me who and what I am. I could wish for a different lesson book, a different manner in which I got to this precise moment in time but I cannot wish to be a different person.

On Wednesday the same question was asked, would I change it and the answer was still no. The problem was what came before that question was a discussion of forgiveness and a demand that I forgive my offenders because, wait for it:

“It is the Christian thing to do”

“You will never be free until you do”

“It isn’t right to hold a grudge”

“They deserve to be forgiven”

Forgiveness is always part of the discussion, I suspect because everyone wants to know they can be forgiven. Here is what I said, not once but twice within a 24-hour time span.

I do not owe it. I do not offer it freely. I also do not withhold it. Were any of my offenders to come to me with open heart and hands, offering true and honest remorse for their actions I would likely forgive them, but only for the harm they did directly to me. I cannot offer forgiveness for the harm they did, the pain they caused to others, including my parents, sons, spouse, siblings and friends; that forgiveness isn’t mine to give.

Forgiveness without remorse is a cheap imitation and only makes others feel good. It is a good storyline in books and made for TV movies.

I am not Christian thus am not held captive by any man’s version of religious compromise or its accompanying guilt.

I do not owe forgiveness for my own freedom I am already free.

This was a very difficult philosophical stance for those in the audience to ‘get’. After a 5-minute discussion, I called a stop. It was stunning, usually I have a sense of humor about most things, that night and after that discussion, my humor fled.tears_of_sadness

One person had the audacity to say to me, “Well, would you rather be dead. You have told us all about how hard it was, you haven’t said how grateful you are to be alive.”

I told him I was. Then I told him about living in pain, every single day for the past twenty-two years, I explained the pain meter and how I was never below a four on that meter, never. I told him I was grateful I outlived both my parents that I was glad I could be beside them when they passed. Then I explained this wasn’t what we were there for, that my survival was only testament to my strength and they were all sitting in those hard seats to learn what it meant to be a victim of violence from the point of view of the victim. They didn’t need to know we could survive, they didn’t need hearts and flowers about how grateful we were for our lives after brutality, but that under that survival was pain. To learn empathy and compassion they had to see our pain and our humanity.

Another person wanted to go down the path of victim blaming, that perhaps, somehow and in some way I shared blame in my carjacking and shooting. Well yes, of course that must be true. My aliveness, my drawing breath, my being there in a perfectly safe place, at 7pm on a February evening, yes that makes me share the blame. It truly is a great thing I am the person I am, my temptation was to nail him in the forehead with my high-heel.

As I said, I did two of these this week. One with Adult Parolee’s and the other with Juveniles, the first was with the adults and you have seen a glimpse of that one here. It shredded me, wrung me out. There were a few bright spots but not many. The second though, with the young people though we had similar discussions about forgiveness, empathy and compassion; well, at the end of it my spirit was once again lifted. I was once again reminded why even when it is hard I will continue to do this.

48347979001_67684328001_wake19-173-1266760650819I always say, give me just one heart, just one mind each time I speak; I am pleased and I have done good work.


Mothers, Fathers and Nations

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

1 Corinthians 13:11

When I was a young, beginning even before I was a teen I started to run away. By the time I was fourteen I was deemed a habitual delinquent by the juvenile court system. I was also considered past redemption by many. At the age of fourteen, I was removed from my parents’ custody and placed in foster care, shortly thereafter I ran for the last time. I have written some parts of my story in Broken Chains, it might explain why I was a runaway, why I was a Juvenile Delinquent.

There was a time, many years ago when many told me, including judges and my own mother they didn’t expect me to see twenty-one they certainly didn’t expect me to ‘make anything of myself’.

I say all this because I did make it to twenty-one and beyond, today I am a grown woman; I am alive with a loving though slightly dysfunctional family. With two sons, grandchildren, friends, a decent career, my own home and mostly the things I want in life when I want them. I have books to read, a good education; I have seen the world (even if I complain about travel). I have been most fortunate, surviving heartbreak and violence in my life to become ‘Victorious’.

This isn’t the story of me; this is about a mother’s heart. I thought it was important to say first where I came from, to say first someone in fact many someone’s saw my promise and gave me a chance, thus I am here.

My two sons were a gift. I did not bring them into the world but I married their father when they were barely potty trained. At the ripe ages of two and five, they were already handfuls, already opinionated and full of themselves as little human beings. Our first run in after my marriage happened the first weekend they came to stay, with Number One Son hands on hips and head twisting side to side like a cobra spitting, “I don’t have to do what you say you aren’t my mother”.

I glanced at their father sitting calming and silently on the couch behind me and realized at that moment this would be the weft of our relationship, especially with regard to his sons. Staring at these two small humans, I realized I had the opportunity to shape lives, it was frightening and my heart hit my throat. I knelt down in front of them so I could look Number One Son in the eye, “You are right, I am not your mother but in this house your father does what I say and so will you. In this house, you will not smart mouth me. You will say Yes Mam’ and No Mam’, Please and Thank You. In this house I will tear a knot in that narrow butt if you smart off to me again.”

By the end of that first weekend, both of those boys had been swatted and stood in a corner. Number One Son never was swatted again, ever; though he found a few corners to his liking over the years. Number Two Son on the other hand, he was me all over. When my mother use to say to me, ‘some day you will have a daughter and she will be just like you, then you will reap what you sow’, honestly I thought I had dodged that bullet, until Number Two Son, he was my Waterloo. During my marriage to their father, their mother and I made a pact, to raise them with love. We didn’t always agree on tactics, but we did agree on one thing we wanted these young men to survive to adulthood.


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It is thirty-two years later, water has passed under the bridge, I divorced their father seventeen years ago. In that divorce the best thing I got was custody of my youngest son, no one fought this; his place in my home was secured with love. At the time he was just turning seventeen, he and I had a unique relationship. While his brother was the child of my mind, he was the child of my heart and soul. His mother and I agreed the best place for him was with me. His father did not want him, walked away without a backward glance.

My two sons were by no means angels, they weren’t devils either, like so many they were simply teenagers. They weren’t complete delinquents though Number Two Son certainly worked hard at achieving this goal. Certainly if you saw them during their teen years, walking down the street you might have crossed to the other side. They had their days, with tongue piercings, eye brow piercings, tattoos and sagging pants, hair midway down backs and dyed colors not intended for humans, Goth finger nails (black and dark blue were popular) and yes experimentation with marijuana and drinking that I am aware of. My sons were no angels.

Do not get me wrong, I fought hard for Number Two Son, for his safety and his sanity. Some things you can ignore, some things you can shrug off as childish; other things you yank chains and demand change. I knew too well the path he was following and I put a leash on him, marshalled every resource I had and fought hard to save him. Number One Son, he played at being ‘Cool’, but really he just wanted to grow up and be part of the crowd. He didn’t want to rock the boat; he listened and was smart enough not to be truly stupid about the choices he made.

I tell the story about my two sons because it is important, Number One Son just turned 37 this week; Number Two Son will be getting married next month. Both have good jobs, their own homes, lovely families, brilliant futures. All it took to get them here was love, patience, belief, a few tears and sometimes a whack upside the head. All it took to get them here was giving them a chance to thrive on their own, the opportunity to grow up a support system and trust.

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Though I sometimes worried about Number Two Son reaching adulthood, I never once had to worry either of them would be gunned down in the street by a rogue cop. Every child in this nation has the right to grow up and achieve their full potential. Every parent has the right to raise their child in safety, without fearing the people who are paid to protect our neighborhoods will murder their child.

Every child has the right to walk down the street in broad daylight or at night without fear. Every child in this nation has the right to an education, to hope, to a future. Every parent in this nation has the right to believe their child can be successful in life including education, work, family and home.

Every parent has the right to believe they will outlive their child. Every parent has the right to believe they won’t bury their child due to violence, especially police and vigilante violence.  We have seen far too many mothers and fathers burying their children due to violence and especially recently due to police violence against mostly unarmed young Black Men. It is hard for me to call them men, so many of them aren’t out of their teens, so many of them haven’t yet reached their majority. So many of these young ones couldn’t even tell you what they want to be when they ‘grow up’, yet they are gunned down in the street by cops or vigilantes, or by a ‘good guy’ with a gun who ‘feared’ for his life and made up a story to justify what there is no justification for.

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How did we get to this place? The media are complicit with the police painting each shooting as justified; each young person becomes a ‘thug’ and the murderer the ‘victim’, even as brokenhearted parents bury their child. When did we become so lacking in compassion, so deficient in empathy as a nation or a people. When did we lose our heart, perhaps we never had one to start with and now it is more obvious with every loss more reported on within social media and the contrast so clear.

I realize I am blessed, along with their other mother we are both blessed. We have sons who are alive, healthy and grown to adulthood. There are far too many mothers today who can only visit their sons at gravesites, who will only see their child as a teenager in photographs because that is the age he was when he was gunned down in the street. This must end and only we can end it. Every parent has the right to see their child grow to their full potential in safety. No parent should have to bury their child due to violence.

Only we can end this. Only we can stand up and demand change.

Only we can stand up and demand a change to Police behavior across the nation through better hiring practices, training, education and penalties.

Only we can stand up and demand Stand Your Ground laws be repealed nationwide.

Only we can stand up and demand changes to gun laws, nationwide.

Only we can stand up, demand the Department of Justice do their job and investigate police violence.

Only we can stand up and demand more money for education less for incarceration.

Only we can end this violence. Only we can protect our future by protecting our children, all of them.

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Hope and Apathy

soapboxpilePlease read here for the best synopsis of Fridays mass killing, my friend Jueseppi has done a spectacular job of putting it all together:


I had planned to stay silent over the killings in Isla Vista on Friday, what is one more voice after all. The truth is I planned to stay silent because it is impossible for me to write through my heartache at more young lives lost. As I write this, my heart is cracking, tears periodically leak from my eyes and stream down my cheeks. I cannot help but think of the families of those who lost their lives. I cannot help but think of those who will have the long road ahead of them toward recovery, the fears they will face, the triggers they will have to overcome, the nightmares that will awaken them in the future all because we failed them, because one man with a gun decided to take retribution for his failure with women.

I think this father’s grief says it best:

Twenty-two years ago, I got lucky. I lived when I wasn’t supposed to. Friday night six young people lost their lives. Yes, I am aware the killer also lost his life, frankly I do not care that he is dead. I am sorry for his parents, they lost their child but he took the lives of six others before he died, he attempted to take the lives of seven others. Had he been successful his minimum body count would have been thirteen, had he achieved his true aim it would have been much higher.

Already in much of the mainstream media, this mass murderer is being referred to as a ‘child’ with psychological problems, trying to excuse his behavior, trying to give him an out for his spree. Not only will I not name him, let the Devil do that while he burns in hell, I will not excuse him or anyone else I blame for the lost lives on Friday.

So let’s clear some of the excuses off the table, first this is not a ‘child’ this was a twenty-two year old man, a fully grown man, in college, living in an apartment, with a car (a BMW no less) and an income, albeit likely one he didn’t earn. The next thing we should be clear about is the childhood diagnosis of High-Functioning Asperger Syndrome, while he might not have been as socially adept as his peers due to Asperger Syndrome; his family had the means to provide him the very best treatment and education throughout his life. It is unlikely he was that far behind unless the diagnosis of High-Functioning was incorrect, based on his videos and his ‘manifesto’ he was simply selfish, spoiled and self-centered. I accept the diagnosis of Asperger, it appears he wasn’t a ‘normal’ twenty-two year-old, this does not however, make him mentally deficient, insane or otherwise incapable of knowing right from wrong.

Let’s be really clear, he was a twenty-two year-old man who believed the world and women in particular owed him something, in this case owed him ‘sex’, the fact that he remained a virgin at his age bothered him immensely. That he believed he was a ‘god’ compared to others who he saw with the women he wanted, as seen from a quote from one of his videos:

“I see so many beautiful, blonde haired girls. So many beautiful blonde-haired girls walking around everywhere. In your revealing shorts. Your cascading blonde hair. Your pretty faces. And I want one for a girlfriend… I’m 22 years old and I’ve never had a girlfriend. I’m still a virgin. I’ve never had the pleasure of having sex with a girl. Sleeping with a girl. Kissing a girl. I’ve never even held a girl’s hand,”

Or another quote:

“Girls gave their affection and sex and love to other men but never to me”

Now, six young people are dead and seven others will have to live with his actions, because this man, believed he was owed and took it in his head to follow through with his threat:

“If I had it in my power. I would stop at nothing to reduce every single one of you to mountains of skulls and rivers of blood,” adding “You deserve to be annihilated, and I will give that to you,” he said, speaking of what he termed his “day of retribution.”

When it all goes wrong, this is what happens. This is the aftermath, this is what happens to communities.

How many must die before we get right with our children? How many times does this have to happen before we stop the insanity of out of control gun laws that allow massacres on the streets of our nation to happen indiscriminately? When are we going to demand change and why aren’t we asking the relevant questions such as, where did he get a gun?

That last question isn’t as obvious as it might sound, as someone with a ‘disorder’, not insane but not entirely normal either, he would be on a list that would bar him from gun ownership in a sane world. We don’t live in a sane world though, do we?

Three Stooges

Three Stooges

We live in a world where Ted Nugent, Sarah Palin and Wayne LaPierre have more power to determine whether our children will be safe on the streets and in their schoolrooms than the majority of Americans.

Please note, none of them are elected officials, I can tell you what all of them have in common though:

RACISM, NRA, SYG and a complete lack of intellectual discernment.

Worse yet? Most recent polls show their messaging is getting through to the ignorant and uninformed, their constant flow of misinformation is having an impact and more citizens of this nation are leaping on the bandwagon. More Americans believe gun control laws should be ‘less’ strict rather than more strict, this coming from the most recent Gallup Poll. As gun deaths rise, as mass murder rises, as our children lay bleeding in the streets, the school yards and even in their own homes; Americans look and shrug their shoulders and say to themselves fuck it, open the floodgates.

How many more must die? How many more mothers and fathers must bury their children in the cold earth?

Twenty-two years ago, my father got lucky. Mr. Martinez and the other parents of Friday’s mass killing were not as lucky. I am heartbroken for them, shattered for them. My friend said the following to me, knowing I sign my e-mail ‘helplessly hopeful”:

Well, in “Hopeland”, things are OK. Here in reality where I live, this shit ain’t ovah. There will be many more shooting rampages to come. Get yo popcorn and get ready for the show.”

It was somewhat cruel, I know the monsters are out there, he isn’t wrong though is he; until we, as citizens get up off our apathetic asses and demand change we are lost and the victims will continue to pile up. Hope, it isn’t enough and it will not stem the tears of all the parents who lose their children. We must take our nation back from those who would destroy it. We must stand up and say no more.

What soothes my heart at times like this:

Hope and Hard Places

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday I struggled, all day in fact I struggled. My emotions raged and I didn’t want to do what I had committed to, truthfully I wanted to pick up the phone and call my friend and say, ‘Hell no, I am not making that drive and standing up to tell that story’.

That is what I wanted to do.

Yesterday, I woke in the morning with Victim Impact on my calendar. Not just any victim impact but the hardest victim impact, Sexual Offender Victim Impact. Yes, they are juveniles, they aren’t hardened and terrible molesters and in many cases, they are young men who are being criminalized for having consensual sex with their girlfriends, but not always. In this case, this was the parole group, their parents were there with them. I had forgotten, it wasn’t just the kids it was the adults too. Yesterday I woke up and all I could think, I wasn’t in the space head or heart to do what I had promised.

Yesterday, was hard and I didn’t know why. The truth is, I believe what I do is good. I believe down to my bones and my soul, if we can we should. If we have the strength to stand up and tell our stories, we should. If we can reach these young people, tell them who we are, show them our faces and the impact of their actions but also that one mistake doesn’t have to define their entire futures, we should. If we can reach them, if we can show tradenewswirenetthem the face of compassion, perhaps we can also change the trajectory of their lives, maybe we can change the inevitable outcome so many of them face, from classroom to prison cell. I have always said, as if it is a mantra, give me just one and it is worth it, one out of every session that I reach and who hears then it is worth it, every one after one is a gift.

I have spent ten years standing up, telling my stories, staring into the faces of young people and adults alike. Sometimes, like yesterday it is hard as hell and I don’t want to do it. Some days like yesterday, my heart falters, I stumble and feel bruised and battered. Yesterday, yesterday though it was worse than normal, I don’t know why or maybe I do. It was bad because I am more battered by everything and am feeling a bit less hopeful than normal, a bit less strong, a bit less like I can conquer the world. I hate that, I hate not being strong, not being fully in control of my emotions and my world. In fact it pisses me the hell right off.

Yesterday, I reached out to a friend who I love and respect for his ability to cut through the bullshit, in spare and simple words, after a short back and forth about what I was feeling this was his response:

Maybe what you are doing with this victim impact with sexual offenders is a good thing, but just maybe you are not now, at this place in time and your life, ready to do that. Maybe at a later time you will be strong enough to do this victim impact with sexual offenders and not experience the turmoil you now feel. Maybe you need a break, after all you are human, and feel things.”

I hate he is right, it would be easier if he weren’t right , easier if I could ignore his analysis and find some different answer. The truth is, I was in turmoil. My heart was fighting me all day because I simply didn’t have the emotional strength to do what I had promised. I did it, not because I wanted to save that one young person, because I wanted to storm the gates but because I had made a commitment and there was no one else. I wouldn’t let people down who depended on me, I did it out of obligation and long-standing relationships.

I did something else though, I took myself out of next quarter for all Victim Impact for Sexual Offenders. I can’t do it. I know there are so few of us in the state, taking myself out leaves them short but my friend is right, I am human and I need a break it is hard and I don’t have to prove I am strong I have to heal from what has broken me. I have to get my own house in order before I can return to saving others, no matter how much I believe, heart and soul, part of why I do Victim Impact is a mission of hope and compassion. If I am going to bring that into the room, I have to feel it and show it to myself.

Last night I stood up, I told the story of a brutal rape of an eleven year old child, I stared into the faces of teenagers and their parents and told them what happened afterwards. How that rape changed my life and the lives of my family. I watched as mothers winced when I used the words;

  • Bitch
  • Slut
  • Whore and Ho

I watched as young men wanted to fight when I asked them what the difference was between calling their mother a bitch or calling a girl on the street a bitch. I thanked a mother who in tears blessed me for my ‘testimony’, while acknowledging I did not speak from a Christian position she told me I had touched her spirit and she would remember, her son approached me afterward shook my hand and thanked me also. I spoke to a young man who told me he wanted to be an engineer but was afraid he wouldn’t make it into college now, because of this because he had sex with his girlfriend; all I could tell him was to work with the judge and his parole officer to find a way.

Yesterday was hard. Before I walked in the door I called my friend, I need a voice beside the one in my head. Maybe what I needed was to hear my own voice out loud, saying why I do this;

‘Because despite everything I believe in hope, I believe in love, shit I still believe in knights on white horses who slay monsters. I am not naïve I know the monsters exist, I have met too many of them; but I still believe in and love and I think they might be part of the same thing.’

Yesterday was hard. I need a break. I need to take care of myself. I need a little bit of tenderness and care. So I won’t do these, at least not the Sexual Offenders, for the next quarter maybe not any of them. I think my friend is right and I will listen because there is no sense in doing what is that hard, no sense in brutalizing myself.

Unicorn Kisses

1960 LindaSome of you might know I am a collector of Art; specifically I am a collector of body art or more commonly known as a Tattoo. I received my first tattoo when I was just 17, yes, I was underage but people weren’t quite as careful way back then. I don’t remember the shop but I still remember the why and the where.  Tattooing was different those many years ago and Crazy Charlie, though he did a great job and I had that tat for many a year, I long since covered it up.

Over the years, I have covered a few of my originals; sometimes I cover them simply because I want something new and sometimes because the meaning is no longer meaningful. I have never, not once walked into a shop where I didn’t know what I wanted, never looked at Tattoo flash and pointed at something and said, ‘put that on my body’. Everything inked onto my skin has meaning, most is custom designed from art I take into the shop with me, but sometimes it is concept art I have worked with an artist to design for me. All of my art is specific and personal.

I get there are people out there in the world who take great exception to my decoration. Some who even feel the need to express their opinions to me regarding my personal choice to tattoo my body. I find their need pathetic frankly, this being especially true given their contribution to my life otherwise. Some of my favorites from the otherwise non-contributing members of my life:

  • What will they look like when you are 80?

o   Who cares? You will not be here and it is likely those who love me will continue to love me whether my skin is inked and sagging or not.DSC_0262

  • You will go straight to hell (Leviticus 19:28).

o   According to the standard you are using for my eventual afterlife residence, so will you; see you there save a room for me, preferably not next door you judgmental twit.

  • No one will hire you with all those tattoos, you look like a cheap slut.

o   Really? How would you quantify whether I am cheap or not? Someone has to pay for my rather costly artwork.

During the course of my marriage, my desire for new art was a point of contention. In fact the words, ‘If you get a new tattoo, I will leave your ass’, were often said. I wonder, why the hell did he ever marry someone with ink if he felt that way? During our first separation, I got new ink. Within a month of his most recent departure, I got new ink again; in fact, I have been adding the ink I have been thinking about for a decade.

Now to my favorite part of being part of the approximately 21% of all adults who are Tattooed in the US today:

Does it hurt?

Why of course not it feels like Unicorn Kisses!

Who does my work? James Yokum of Saints and Sinners, I love them all, but he has finished two of the three pieces I have added since December. We are in the process of adding my largest piece ever, four sessions, with two down and the third starting tonight. Does it hurt? My friend and favorite photographer Christ Hanna (he continues to be my hero and did a fabulous job under less than ideal circumstances) of Posture Studios agreed to something slightly different in terms of a photo session, here are the results:

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The meaning of this piece, why she is important to me:

  • Gerber Daisy = Innocence
  • Peony = Healing, Compassion, also the Greek God of Healing (Paeon)
  • Peacock Feathers = Compassion, Wisdom, Knowledge; also, in ancient times used for writing of importance.
  • Sugar Skull = often used to celebrate lost loved one, in this case I have placed it where I have lost an entire part of my body feeling due to my injuries. I am celebrating I am still standing, living and whole despite it all. In effect, she is I.

Victorious, yes I am that though I might feel slighty overcome at this moment in time. This piece in particular reminds me I have overcome obstacles including being told I would never walk again, let alone dance in high-heels. I am learning though life can be hard I am Victorious it is simply a matter of slipping on my stilettoes sometimes and dancing.

Right Shoulder

The Wheel of Fortune (beautiful isn’t she) reminds me I cannot control everything, despite being a bit of control freak by nature. Outside influences may direct my life and I must learn to let go of both my expectations and my demands even while not becoming complacent.

Left Shouder

The last one, it is a bit more complicated. Suffice to say it is another victory symbol that allows me too remember I remain in charge of my destiny. I rise above the ashes of failure and I am my own knight in shining armor.

Left back shoulder

Does it hurt? Yes, it hurts. It is no worse than many other things that hurt. Some people say you will never meet a person with two tattoos. Either the pain is too much and you stop at one, or you fall in love (grow addicted) to the sensation. Some of us who collect ink, we also know there is a correlation between this level of pain, chocolate and one other thing all of which sends the same hormone to our brains, which might account for the rising number of women who are inked.

Other pieces I have added over the years:

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Ours don’t come as easily, you have to work for it. Do you know what I am talking about? Feel free to leave your guesses in the comments section.

Some History you might find interesting.

Smithsonian History of Tattoo

PBS: Skin Stories

A Brief History of Tattoos

Tattoo Statistics, Pew Research

Tattoo Statistics, Harris Research more comprehensive

Heartbreak at START

my.operaLast Thursday was Victim Impact with young people in the START (Short Term Residential Treatment) program. This where juveniles land when all else fails, when probation conditions have been broken and less intensive interventions are not working. START is the last stop before full on detention in one of Texas’ lock-down facilities is ordered. The program is 90 days, includes peer-to-peer counseling, one-on-one counseling, group counseling, educational resources, parent inclusion and of course Victim Impact.

I have been doing Victim Impact for years now; you would think it would get easier to tell the story, it doesn’t. You would think it wouldn’t hurt so much; you would be wrong. Some days it is worse than others, there are days when my calendar pops up to remind, ready myself to make the drive to whatever facility I am speaking and my heart clenches, my eyes tear up and I think to myself, “what if I just call and cancel, say I am ill or have had a fatal accident.” I never do though, not once in all these years, no matter how much I didn’t want to stand up and tell the story.

Last week, was one of those days. I didn’t want to stand up and talk. I didn’t want to talk about what happened to my family. I didn’t want to talk about the three young men who ruined their own lives. Last week, I simply didn’t want to do any of it. Last week I found myself hard pressed to find compassion in my soul, the one thing I need when I look into the faces of these young people and tell my story.

Sixteen young men and one young woman marched single file into the room and took their seats. If I had to guess their ages, they were between fourteen and sixteen. None older than sixteen, none younger than thirteen, I have seen them younger but I have never seen them older. These are hard young people; they have seen the world through the prism of indifference, anger, hunger, bad schools, racism, drugs, violence, the foster care system and a host of other things most of us can never imagine, not in our wildest and worst nightmares. This program, it is their last shot before they are permanently marked as unsalvageable and outside of societies care.



Despite the admonishment to sit up straight, they slouched down in their seats staring at their own or my feet. There was a rumble through the introductions; my audience clearly did not want to be in this small cramped room to hear what I had to say. Well, honestly, the feeling was mutual but nevertheless here we all were and we were going to get through this together.

When you look at me what do you see?

Every time I start the same, it breaks the ice and helps me understand how far in the process each group is. Their answers rarely differ much, though sometimes we have some fun. This group, they were more observant than most:

  • Scars, you have had a hard life.
  • Tattoos, a few were showing despite being mostly covered by sleeves and pants.
    • ‘You’re OG aren’t you?’
  • Lots of piercings.
  • You thick (said quietly until I made him speak up) then there was lots of laughter.
  • You dress good.
    • I said well and got blank stares, so I explained.
  • You white.
  • You hard but you smile.
  • You seem like you smart.

That was the list. There were a few more, mostly about my clothes, my hair, my eye color. The list is so they can think about it as I talk and so I can reference it when I am done, so I can make my own list.

The story is always the same; it doesn’t change how could it? Slowly their attention begins to shift from the floor to me. This also isn’t unusual; I am a good storyteller able to speak to them in a language they understand with characters they might have known. The protagonists could be them, the victim not a hero but someone they can see. I don’t hold them for ransom keeping the spotlight all to myself instead I allow discussion throughout.

We talk, I answer their questions; some are silly. Yes, it does hurt to be shot. Some are not silly and I have answered this one more than once, No, I do not regret offering to help a young man I thought was in trouble, though the outcome was something terrible. Some questions are hard though I am asked every single time I speak; No, I do not hate Black people, no I am not afraid of Black men young or old, no I do not even hate my offenders.

Then I was asked a question that broke my heart.

“Do you ever wish you hadn’t lived, with all the pain you have suffered since then; do you ever wish you hadn’t survived?”

The question stunned me. I looked into the eyes of this young man, he couldn’t have been more than fifteen, his eyes held such pain. My heart cracked a little bit as I tried to draw air into my lungs and search for the right answer to give. The real answer was, ‘yes, in the early days sometimes I did wish that.’ This though was my answer.

‘No, I don’t regret living. I don’t even regret the pain; it reminds me I am alive. If I hadn’t lived, I would have missed all the joys in my life. Like seeing, my sons marry and holding my grandchildren, like falling in love, more than once. If I hadn’t lived, I wouldn’t have known what it meant to be stronger than I ever knew was possible, overcoming more than I thought possible, learning to walk again and the great joy of going dancing again for the very first time. No, I don’t regret living.’

In that moment, I felt my compassion finally bloom.

I stared at that young man, but at all the young people in the room. I told them again, they had great worth; they were worth more than they believed and they could choose to be more. I told them again I believed and that was why, even when I didn’t want to, I got there and I stood up and talked to them. They asked how I climbed out of where I started from; I told them I read books. They asked what books, I gave them reading lists. I don’t lie to them, I tell them truth about my life, where I came from and what I did that I was really one of them at one time, ‘A real OG.’

Two hours and some change later, I gave them my list:

  • Mother
  • Grandmother
  • Sister
  • Aunt
  • Friend

When they can see a stranger on the street, see instead of ‘other’ they are the same, then they will begin to understand empathy and compassion. By the end though, that is what they saw in me. They didn’t care I wouldn’t tell them my race or ethnic heritage, only that I told them it wasn’t important. They didn’t care that I wouldn’t tell them my religion, only that it informed me.

In my hour-long drive home, I couldn’t stop thinking of some of these young people, the ones who might make it and those who likely wouldn’t. The ones who fronted to look hard but asked questions that told a different story. I weep, for them and for us. We fail them, each time we cut back on education and services, when a young person says to me his only option is to commit crimes if he and his siblings are going to eat that day, I weep. When a young man hangs his head and repeats my story of delinquency, foster care and running away, holding his head in his hands; I know it is his story. I weep. When a young man begs for a reading list because his school isn’t serving him, hungry for knowledge and way out, I weep.

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So should we all weep. But when a young man asks if I sometimes wish I hadn’t survived, then my heart breaks because no fifteen year old child should know that much pain. Ever.


Victim Impact the Series:

The Story:

My Anniversary Shots Fired

LVal_2010I looked out at thirty-three faces all staring back at me as I stood at the front of the room. Some young, some old, one woman the rest men. They did not want to be in this stuffy room sitting on those uncomfortable chairs. They didn’t have a choice, each one of them had been ordered into this room on this night for Victim Impact. Each one of them was a Texas Department of Criminal Justice Parolee; if they hadn’t signed in tonight, they could be revoked and returned to prison.

So there they slouched, White, Black, Brown; staring at me mostly I suspect hoping I would talk fast so they could fulfill this requirement and get the hell out of there.

“Tomorrow is my Anniversary.”

“Twenty-one years ago tomorrow, three young men decided for no good reason to try to take my life. Before I tell you the rest of the story we are going to play a game, it is called ‘What do you See’, so just shout it out when you look at me what do you see.”

This is their list; it took them a minute or so to get warmed up.

  • White Lady
  • Working Woman
  • Successful Woman
  • Educated
  • Well-Dressed
  • Rich
  • Articulate
  • Mean
  • Crazy Woman

Interesting isn’t it? I didn’t give them my list until much later. I did tell them my story though. I told them the story of what happened. I told them the story of what it did to my family. I told them how I felt when I found out the ages of the children who did such terrible harm to me, how I felt knowing they were going to prison.

I also told them a little bit about my own childhood, that it hadn’t always been rainbows, puppy dogs or easy. I told them about being declared a juvenile delinquent, being turned over to the state and being a runaway and on the streets at a very young age.

It matters they are not able to blow off the story of survival, compassion or Impact because of what they see when they look at me today.

I am not unkind, but I don’t pull punches about my feelings toward my attackers. I don’t lie about my feelings regarding their release either. Today I found something new, the reason why the youngest did his entire twenty, his complete sentence; his prison record was so bad he could never make parole. The one who was out and had his parole revoked, he was on the street less than a month, 28 days to be precise he is back in now. The last one, his parole was approved in October but he has not been released yet, he has nowhere to go.

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Articles.businessinsider Image

With each of these new pieces of information, I am torn. Torn between my wish they had made different choices. My wish they could find redemption. My true heartfelt wish they would or could be brought to the light and thus to a different manhood. Then there is the me that woke up this morning in pain again, the me that may face another surgery this year if the gym and physical therapy and acupuncture and everything else I am trying fails. There is the me that sometimes simply can’t get through the day without snapping for pain. There is the me that lies about seizures to keep people from worrying. There is the me who sometimes thinks I really will be alone someday because living with this me really isn’t a pleasant walk in the park.

When I look at this, these tears to my heart I have a very difficult time.

Whenever I speak at Victim Impact, I always allow for questions. I am always open and rarely am offended. Today I was offended, perhaps because things are close to the surface. Perhaps because tomorrow is my anniversary; but I think I was offended because it was simply an offensive exchange.

Sitting in the front row was a gentleman, perhaps in his forties who throughout the session had been fidgeting, rolling his eyes and clearly had something on his mind. Finally, he spoke up (this is paraphrased and not exact).

“Are you saying you never get angry, not even when you are in pain or when you have a seizure?”

“I did not say I am never angry, of course I get angry. I am human and have normal human reactions.”

“That is what I thought. So your interaction with the parole board to try to keep them inside is revenge!”

“No, it is not revenge. It is justice. For what they did to me, my family and their other victims they have never shown remorse. That lack of remorse or understanding means they will very likely do it again.”

“You threw them into prison, where it is insane, violent and terrible. You admitted they were children. You let them be turned into animals. Did you ever think about what they would become by keeping them there?”

“Yes, but what they did both before and after was not my choice it was their choice. They made these choices. At some point they have to take responsibility for those choices. They got time, I got life. Some day they will get out, they will choose what they do with the rest of their life. I don’t get to choose, my choices were taken away because of what they did. My life was shortened and changed because of what they did.”

At this point he started to argue but one of the host parole officers stepped in. In every crowd there is one like this. I don’t know why, there just is always one. The problem is there is a piece of me that will always wonder, always question my own heart. What if what he says isn’t at least in small part true, am I truly that terrible person who is only seeking revenge?

Tomorrow is my Anniversary. I am struggling with this.

My list:

  • Daughter
  • Grandmother
  • Mother
  • Wife
  • Sister
  • Aunt
  • Cousin
  • Friend

If you saw any of the above when you looked at me, your first instinct would not be to hurt me. That is why I stand up. That is why I do Victim Impact. Tomorrow it will be Twenty-One years since three young men and three bj-286x300bullets changed my life forever.


Dear Valentine (I love how they make it personal)

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Parole Division issued a pre-revocation warrant for the arrest of this offender due to violation of supervision.


STATE ID: XXX                                    TDCJ ID: YYYY

Date Pre-Revocation Warrant Issued: 1/6/2013

For information contact FORT WORTH DPO 3 or call (XXX) XXX-XXXX.

If this offender is returned to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (meaning back to prison to serve the rest of his 35 years), you will be notified of further actions and given the opportunity to provide your input. To find out if the offender is in custody, you may contact Victim Information and Notification Everyday (VINE) service at (XXX) XXXX or at their website.


41510_prison-gatesThe above is part of the letter I received from Angela McCown, Director of Victim Services in Austin in reference to the status of one of the AssHat offenders who on February 7, 1992 kidnapped me, shot me three times and left me to die on a dark road alone. For his crime against me and another victim in a separate offense, equally heinous he received a sentence of 35 years.

In October, despite my active role in his parole hearing, in all his parole hearings over the past 20 years he was granted parole. He walked out of prison free but for supervision. So fine, not free supervised. Still more free than he had been, free to get a job. Free to see his family. Free to have sex with a woman. Free drive a car. Free dammit, free to breath air not filled with the smells of other men.

I asked time and again, why would you consider parole for a person so obviously not prepared for freedom. Why?

There never was an answer. Perhaps the answer was 20 years was enough. Well, now they have their answer. No, it effing was not enough. Some people simply do not appreciate the gift you give them. Some people are not sorry; some people are not capable of learning from their mistakes. Some people are never going to be ready for the world and the world should never be subjected to them.

This person is perhaps one of them. At seventeen years of age, this person picked up a gun and said I want to kill white people. With that in mind, this person recruited friends and set about on a rampage to do just that. The harm he caused to his victims and their families was life-long, we do not get parole from our injuries. He has never shown any remorse for his actions, not once not ever not in any of his parole hearings has he ever once made a statement that indicated he understood his actions or was remorseful.

They should never have granted his parole, ever. Now, not even six-months of freedom and a warrant is issued.


It is my hope they find him soon. Yes, I already checked. No, he is not in custody yet.

It is my fervent hope they return him to serve the remainder of his sentence. Perhaps in the remaining fifteen years, he will find his soul and discover his heart. Perhaps he will learn remorse and humanity.

In the meantime, it is fervent hope he has not harmed anyone during his taste of freedom.

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