Thursday, September 29, 2005

Domestic Violence

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month -

As many who know me I am a survivor of domestic violence myself.
Some of my experiences have been chronicled here in past postings.

I am away from the perpetrator who committed the last acts of violence on me that drove me from my home into a shelter for more than a year now yet the effects are still with me.

And the effects of all the abuse I suffered over my lifetime that allowed me to be in that situation stay with me today.

Domestic Violence is insiduous.
It does not discriminate against age, sex, religion, economic background, history, ethnic origin or educational level.

It permeates throughout our lives each and every day.

We work with, live next door to, go to church with, shop with, bank with, attend sporting events, gossip with, hire out for skills, and eat at resturants with all kinds of abusers on a daily basis.

An abuser doesn't look like anyone else but yourself.There is no identyfying mark on his/her forehead to distiguish them from another more civil person.

That person more than likely has told the victim a thousand times how much they are loved.
That person more likely than not has voted in elections. That person has attended church at some point in their life if not regularly.
That person may have served in the armed forces of our country or someone country they share allegiance.
That person often has a mortgage, pays for credit card debt and braces for their child teeth.
That person often has a degree from an institution of higher learning or a skill learned from a trade in which they are employed.

You wouldn't necessarily know an abuser just by looking at them.

However, there are traits that are classic. Once one is educated as to what they are they are flags that need to be noted.
I learned these flags while I was lodged in a domestic violence shelter.

I consider myself an educated person; I read more than one newspaper a day, Ii read all kinds of information online, I watch the news and some talk shows, I listen to broadcasts on major news networks and cable.
I thought I was informed.
Yet, I didn't know all that there was to know.I was ignorant of many facts.

And when it is what you knew from your earliest memories you are clouded to reality.
It appears as normal although unpleasant.
It appears as there is always an explanation absolving the abuser of his guilt.

I hope to provide information this month coming up in thiss forum to help educate those who may be as ignorant as I was. To personalize it in some way to reach those who may still be living with it on a daily basis.To assist those who want to change their destiny as it is today in showing there is another way.

I am one of many who are living proof it can stop; there is another way to live.

My son Dan is addressing this issue also on his blog-

You may not be able to change your abuser.I couldn't. However, you can change your environment.

One of the classic symptoms of an abuser is not to be recognized as one so they will convince you its you, not them who has a problem.

You do have problems if you are living with abuse but you aren't the perpetrator.

If you suspect someone is a victim of domestic violence or if you yourself are a victim I urge you to contact someone.Clergy, United Way, the YWCA, a crisis hotline, look in the phone book under womens center or some type of listing such as that or call your local law enforcement are places that can provide assistance to help.

You don't have to live like that one more day. Not even one more hour. It can stop.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Hurricane Rita and memories of Galveston

I am watching the news coverage of impending Hurricane Rita expected to hit the Texas coast within the next 24 hrs.

I remember my first visit to Galveston Island.

Christmas Day, 1981.

Paul and Ii and the kids had moved to Houston that previous July. Having no family in TX with us and not having the usual tradition of the "Mitchell's" gathering at my house for the holiday I decided to do something different and unusual.

This was predicated on the unusual Thanksgiving we just had.We ate our Thanksgiving dinner outside at the picnic table.
To keep the theme going I decided we should go to the beach for Christmas Day.

Keep in mind we were transplants from Ohio.
The previous Christmas was spent in temperatures of 20+ below zero degrees with wind chill factor of over 60 below.

It was a beautiful TX winter day that day.Sunshine, virtually no wind and 76 degrees.
There were pictures taken of all the kids playing on the beach and out in the Gulf. Paul and I even went out to knee deep water just to say we were in the ocean on Christmas Day.We joked with friends and family back in Ohio "what were you doing Christmas Day"? "We spent the day at the beach"!

The drive there was an awesome experience for us. Yes, we were the typical tourists!

We saw for the first time the huge palm trees, some you could tell had been bent and damaged by previous tropical storms which only added to the awe.
We saw for the first time the houses built on stilts as you went through the Texas coastal cities leading up to the causeway.
We were astounded that most had boat slips instead of garages.
We saw a Kip's big boy restaurant. We decided to stop. We were used to our Frisch's big boy restaurants back in Cincinnati and longed for a Big Boy hamburger that was defined by its own tartar sauce; the precursor to the Big Mac. The Big Boy was an institution.

Imagine our disappointment when the sandwiches were delivered with a thousand island like dressing instead of the famous Big Boy tartar sauce we were used to.
They thought we were crazy.A hamburger with tartar sauce?! And, we used a side of it for our french fries! OOOH how icky!

We learned on subsequent stops there to ask for them dry and a side of tartar sauce.And whenever someone visited from Ohio they were enlisted to bring along a couple pints of tartar sauce with them.

So we arrived on the Island and were just amazed at the sights.
The shops that displayed the beach type souveneirs; the restaurants; the Strand and the historical buildings that had survived the 1900 devasting hurricane.

The building I was always most impressed with on each visit to Galveston was "The Bishop's House".

We made a few more trips over the years to Galveston but none were as memorable as the first.
There was the time a crab attached itself to mandy's butt which was sort of appropriate since she is a Cancer.

The few times we took the ferry over to Bolivar Penisula and Crystal Beach because it wasn't as touristy.

After Paul and I were divorced Galveston and Bolivar continued to give me memories with other men I dated.

Jerry and I went fishing a couple of times.Gary took me for a weekend to his sister's beach house on Crystal beach for a weekend.

I regret I didn't get to spend more time there.
As happens anywhere you live you get into a groove of everyday life and those places become less important.

I never spent Mardi Gras on the Island; I didn't take just one day and ignore the beach and spend it just on the Strand.
I never went at the holidays and appreciated " Dickens on the Strand".
I always meant to; there was always another time I could in the back of my mind.

Now, I no longer live there and may never get back to that place at those times.
Galveston may not even exist as I knew it after this weekend.

She wasn't the grand lady she had been before the 1900 hurricane but she was splendid in her own unique way.

I no longer have pictures because another storm robbed me of those but I do have the vision, scent, sound,feel inside my head.

We don't know where this storm may land but we do know the Texas coast and inland for many miles will be altered.

As they say in TX and its worth saying here, God bless Texas.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

SSD update

Yesterday,I received in the mail my notice from Social Security explaining my benefits.

They have determined they are declaring me disabled from June 1, 2002 but because of the requirement that once declared the claimant still has to wait 5 months for benefits to start my benefits will be backdated to November, 2002.

Here is the real kicker.
They have determined that my benefits will be $247.00 starting the month of November this year.I will get a partial payment of $168.80 on or about the second Wednesday of the month.

$247.00 a month until I reach retirement age and then I would fall into regular Social Security.

I had been told early on that i could expect a minum of $850.00 so i do not understand what the discrepancy is.The attorney even filed papers to be payed 25%of the amount of the estimated $850.00 month so I know I did not just make this up or dream it.

How does one live on less than $250.00 a month?

I can be very frugal and reduce my needs to next to nothing but there is still the rent, utilities, transportation, medical costs.
I will have to wash my clothes, brush my teeth, wipe my a--, wash my dishes.

Is this how disabled people are treated in this country?

Even if I were to find a way to have free housing and utility assistance the needs are still there.
My actual benefit is would be $325.00 a month but they deduct for the Medicare benefit.
Then to have better coverage I have to get medicare B which still doesn't pay completely for doctor visits or total prescriptions.

I feel like I have been sentenced to a remainder of my lifetime to be at the mercy of the kindness and genorosity of other people.

Where is the margin for dignity to care for oneself or to be self-sufficient?

My present situation is that I don't have worry about a roof over my head or food to eat.
However, the reality of my situation is that there are needs I have that this person can't and shouldn't have to provide.

I am now in a position that I have to have in the back of my mind constantly what will I do if this situation changes here?
I have been in too many situations that at the drop of a hat my life changes because the person I am with changes.

I do not know security.I have never known security.I have only known what I could provide for myself.
When I was able to work I worked 2 sometimes 3 jobs to help take care of my kids or myself.

I am no longer able to do that and its very frightening.

Is this sometimes the cause why you see people living on the streets or under bridges?
is this why some choose prostitution or illegal activity to be engaged in?

Social Security was concerned because of my past victimization yet they have victimized me also.

I may be physically impaired and have mental illness but I am still a feeling, thinking member of this country.
I am angry. I am in shock and actually in a state of numbness. I am confused. I am scared.
I feel hopeless and am struggling to find the joy in my life.

I started the day in search of my new purpose in life.
I have spent the last 4 years so focused on this and what the difference it would make to me personally.

The " me, persoanlly" has been removed from the equation because all things concerning me now are predicated by someone else.

There are no options.No decisions to be made by me.

So now, I am one of the poorest of the poor.
Not by choice; not because I didn't try to make a better life.
I lived my life productively. I made mistakes throughout the living of my life but little of those mistakes would change the outcome of the situation I am in today.

The mental illness was passed to me genetically. We still don't know the cause of fibromyalgia.
The arthritis and degenarative disc disease I don't think were caused by my parents or siblings, ex-husbands or partners or friends I chose or children I had.

I still believe in my God and I know He hasn't forsaken me.He promised me that.He has been the constant in my life.

I will survive.
I just don't know how.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Happy Birthday

Today is my 53 rd birthday and I am glad to still be around to celebrate.

I have received greetings from my online friends as wells as family.I am amazed am humbled by the kind thoughts and wishes.
Dan's Nanacast at is very touching that he would put so much thought and planning from a simple phone conversation with Keisha.

The song he chose " has anyone seen my gal" was so appropriate for my life.

I have received calls from a couple of new friends as well which was so thoughtful.

I never have made a big deal of my birthday; growing up it wasn't always a pleasant day.After I was married it was never a special day.
So this attention being called to myself is somewhat uncomfortable yet appreciated.

Bob had cards placed around the house with gifts attached that I have discovered throughout the day. He too, was so thoughtful.

The day is overshadowed however by the tragedy unfolding this week in the Gulf Coast and New Orleans in particular.
There are images that we will take to our graves as we do every disaster we witness.
I am traumatized in some ways by reliving my own experience when I flooded and lost everything.
And what I went through was nothing compared to what some of these people suffered this week.

What you don't get from TV is the smell of polluted water, the stench of rotting everything, the smell of death that you can't escape from.The feel of the slimy, oily water filled with human and animal feces rubbing against your skin, the snakes and fire ants balled up floating toward anything they can attach to and if its you -beware.The feel of the force of water straining against you as you try to wade through it when its chest deep and its crushing your lungs.
To try to hold on to a family member because if you let go they will be swept away and die and the dread and guilt that accompanies it.The psche is affected because as a parent you should have prevented your child somehow from being in this peril and you are powerless to change the moment.
You don't hear the eerie silence as death of the area is slowly enveloping the area you once called home. You can't hear the silence of no birds in the air, no dogs barking, no children laughing, no traffic moving.
The silence is deafening.

You don't see, hear, know the thoughts of someone as they are in that desperate situation.You only think you know what they might be thinking.

The TV cannot capture the range of emotions one goes through but the reporters try.
As you are first entering into that situation there is the adreneline rush just to survive it.
In my case leading my family to where I just knew help would be available to find no one was there.
What do you do? You are soaked, you are exhausted,you are shocked but yet you have to plod on.
The desperation and despair kicks in and as a parent you attempt to stay strong, to put on a front you are in control when all around you is out of control.
No, TV does not show you these images because it can't.
I thought I knew before i myself was a victim and my lesson was to learhn i didn't know anything.I could only imagine it until then.

I will never remember reentering my house after 5 days of it being under water and the destruction was unbelievable.
The first words I spoke was " we are one of them now"'.
Thats when the gravity and seriousness hit and the denial was over.We had no home to go home to at that point. We were homeless.
Life as we knew it was over.Everything was gone.
All we were left with was memories.

How blessed was I that I could rebuild and had resources available to me that in a relatively short time I was able to rebuild our lives.Not the one we had but a different one.

There were complications and we ended up in a class action law suit.Out of 10 families we went through the experience together only one couple is still together today and they separated for a year.

But I didn't end up clawing my way out of the attic and waiting on a rooftop for 5 days waiting to be rescued.
I had water to drink and food to eat by the end of the day.
I had the ability to obtain dry clothes.
I did not have family members missing and no way to know if they survived.I was able to use a telephone.
I was white and I lived in suburban America.

If anyone wants to believe there isn't a connection to the poorest of the poor and racism and a political lethargy involved in what happened to those left behind in New Orleans they are badly mistaken.

Was it intentional?/ I don't think so.I think it was white America not being in tune with the horrendous ramifications of the presence and futility of what the majority of impoverished, black America deals with daily.
We turn our heads when something is unpleasant.It takes time for us to warm up to the idea that there is ugliness around us.

History will show that the ones who escaped early had means to do so.Those that were left behind were expendable.
They most likely weren't registered voters; They took from society instead of contiributed and did it for generations.
They may have been socially irresponsible. They may have been fiscally irresponsible.
They were human beings though and that fact wasn't important enough to those who made decisions along the way.

For years New Orleans was known to be in danger of this catastrophe.Less and less money was given for the projects needed to avoid this tragedy.
How many bombs did it take dropped on Iraq that could have paid for a better levee system?

How much more do the troops from that region have to suffer? They are defending their homeland as they wonder about their homes back home and their families.

Had they been on friendly soil doing their everyday jobs they would have been available to call up on short notice to keep order and perform search and rescue.

The human toll is priceless; the dollar toll will be astronomical.

If you think this will go away easily I am here 11 years later reliving my persoanl experience.What about the children from this disaster? What toll is on them that won't surface for years?

I hope everyone contributes in every way possible to the relief effort and beyond.
If there was a cake available for me to blow out candles today my wish would be we learn all the lessons this disaster gives the opportunity to teach.

But for the grace of God there goes I.
My mother used to teach that and I think its very appropriate that I honor her today with the words that were ingrained into me at an early age.
But for the grace of God, there goes I.

Happy Birthday!

This is Margie's son, Dan, temporarily taking over this blog to inform you that Friday, September 2, 2005, is her birthday.

To celebrate, I've posted a podcast at my blog that contains a phone interview between my Mom and my daughter Keisha. Keisha calls my Mom "Nana". Thus the name "NanaCast".

I've included show notes describing the more specific details of what we did during the show. There are a couple of surprises that I didn't mention, however.

In addition to the phone interview, you'll find some great music from independent artists.

Why not head over to hear Mom's birthday present for yourself?

Thursday, September 01, 2005

ABC News: Anti-rape condom aims to stop attacks

A South African inventor unveiled a new anti-rape female condom on Wednesday that hooks onto an attacker's penis and aims to cut one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the world.

"Nothing has ever been done to help a woman so that she does not get raped and I thought it was high time," Sonette Ehlers, 57, said of the "rapex," a device worn like a tampon that has sparked controversy in a country used to daily reports of violent crime.

Police statistics show more than 50,000 rapes are reported every year, while experts say the real figure could be four times that as they say most rapes of acquaintances or children are never reported.

Ehlers said the "rapex" hooks onto the rapist's skin, allowing the victim time to escape and helping to identify perpetrators.

"He will obviously be too pre-occupied at this stage," she told reporters in Kleinmond, a small holiday village about 100km (60 miles) east of Cape Town. "I promise you he is going to be too sore. He will go straight to hospital."

The device, made of latex and held firm by shafts of sharp barbs, can only be removed from the man through surgery which will alert hospital staff, and ultimately, the police, she said.

[Some] critics say the condom is medieval and barbaric — an accusation Ehlers says should be directed rather at the act of rape.

"This is not about vengeance … but the deed, that is what I hate," she said.

Source: ABC News: Anti-rape condom aims to stop attacks