Category Archives: Family
How I Give Thanks
CIrcle of Love for Mama Josie
Josie Shapiro is one of the threads that holds Denver’s eclectic bunch of activists together. Whether it’s raising funds for a funeral, for bail, or organizing a march to proclaim that Black Lives Matter, Mama Josie is always there to Defend Denver.
Last year, Josie and her then partner Dave donated their entire savings to pay for the funeral of Ryan Ronquillo, a young man murdered by Denver’s gang unit. After the funeral, they worked tirelessly to organize marches and keep Ryan’s name in the news so that his death would not be forgotten.
After making her activism so visible to the community, Josie found herself tailed by police. Because of her activism on behalf of the Ronquillos, she lost her job, which she dearly loved, providing doula services to families on their journeys to becoming parents.
Not only did Josie donate her own home to use to raise funds for the Ronquillos, she also raised money for the family of Jessie Hernandez, who was killed by the Denver police in January. Like most of the Denver activist community, she found herself mourning the loss of a vibrant teen while also fighting for the freedom of Sharod Kindell.
At a meeting of activists several months ago, the mother and father of Jessie Hernandez expressed, through tears, their love and appreciate for Josie and the tireless work she had done to help them pay the rent, buy food, and bury their child.
Now, Josie finds herself alone. She and her partner of 6 years, the father of her children, are divorcing. Josie is about to find herself without a job, without a car, without a partner, and if we cannot help her through this, without a home. She is looking hard to find work, but continues to pay a heavy price for her activism.
There is no way this amazing, dedicated young woman should lose her home and her independence when she has done so much for her community. Please help us by joining the Circle of Love for Mama Josie, and donating what you can today. Every dollar helps a woman journeying into single motherhood provide for her children and stay in her home.
If you cannot donate, please help by sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and other social media. Donations of social media platforms are absolutely donations!
Just Keep Walking and Why I Stop
Trigger Warning: Racism. Domestic Violence. Violence Against Women
My friends who know me, know I stop. I stop for hurting people. I stop for hungry people. I usually don’t have cash or change to hand out but I almost always have some food in my bag. It’s what I can do. I’ll tell you if you need to go to a hospital or doctor or not. One of these days, stopping might get me in trouble, but I’ll probably keep doing it.
It embarrasses my friends.
It embarrasses my husband.
It embarrasses my family.
I keep stopping because I take the role of the nurse in the community seriously. Everyone who knows me knows I’m a nurse. You shouldn’t be shocked. And don’t go #notallnurses on me because we all know there are different kinds of nurses.
I feel guilty about what I’m about to write. I’ve felt guilty for a long time, even though I was a young child when this happened. But I want to speak out about this culture White people have created and what has been adopted. Because ignoring violence against women, especially Black women, is a huge piece of White supremacy that needs to come apart.
It was a sunny day. I don’t remember what time of year. It was in East Nashville. Somewhere along Eastland Ave. We used to live on Benjamin St. I went to Cora Howe Elementary. I think we might have been coming
I don’t remember where we were going but I was walking with my mother. There was an apartment building nearby that had a reputation. Most of East Nashville had a reputation at that point.
A Black woman came running out of the building, screaming for help. A man ran out after her and tackled her, beating her on the ground. I wanted to run to the payphone and call 911. I told my mother we needed to help. She held me harder and said “Just keep walking.”
Now.. was my mother afraid for her own safety? Probably. Was she afraid for our safety? Probably. But could she have knocked on a door or done SOMETHING? Yes. My mother worked for the Metro Nashville Police Department for years. She wasn’t a police officer, but her call would have brought half a squad. I’ve seen it happen.
And she didn’t. She walked us to the car, she got in, and she never looked back. We lived close by. She could have driven home and called for help and never identified herself to the abuser. She didn’t.
I remember that woman. I remember she had long, natural hair. I remember this because the guy used her hair as a weapon. It was how he stopped her before he tackled her. I remember her screaming in our direction, because we were the only people out there. But I don’t know what happened to her.
I also remember my mother and step-father(s) abusing me and my sister.. I remember when we tried to get help because our parents had threatened us with beatings if my sister failed a test. My sister, suffering from undiagnosed dyslexia, failed the test. My sister is INCREDIBLY smart. She’s just dyslexic. But when we went to the Kroger on Gallatin Rd, that had a giant “Safe Place” sign in the window, we weren’t helped. The police jumped to help one of their own. My sister and I were taken to a counselor, we were never allowed to speak without our parents present, and we were told if we persisted with our complaint, we would be split up, pulled from our school (the only haven we had), and how selfish we were to accuse our parents of these behaviors. I remember how we went to subsequent “therapy” appointments after that, where the therapist called us lazy and told us we had to do more to help our mother. Our abuser. Again, we were not allowed to speak without our parents present.
So now I stop. I call 911 if it’s needed. I help. If I need to, I’ll scream my head off to draw attention to what’s happening. You don’t get to abuse someone near me and feel that’s it’s okay because no one stops. I’m going to stop. If I can’t stop you myself, I’m going to get someone who can. I couldn’t stop when I was a little girl, but I can stop now.
Making rules for yourself and standards for the people you associate with IS NOT easy. It doesn’t even really get easier. But it does lead to a more fulfilled and honest life. I’m not done learning, changing and growing. But learning to stop was one of my earliest rules for myself as an adult, and it’s a good place to start.
A Day in the Life Of
Tonight, I’m just going to write about my day and things that are going in my life. I don’t often share these things with my public blog but I really feel like it tonight.
Backstory: last Monday I was in the ER with chest pain from pleurisy. Tuesday Comcast jacked up our cable rates and we cancelled cable because we’ve been spending too much time on the couch. We wanted to exercise more, read more, talk more, and actually be present in each others company. It’s been such a good week.
It starts at Saturday evening, 5 PM. That’s when I woke up, had dinner and went to work. I had a good shift at work, REALLY nice patients, worked with a new grad I like, and got off on time. I came home and slept for 4 hours.
After I got up, my husband John and I went to the gym. We worked out. On the way home we stopped at Vitamin Cottage and I got the ingredients for the awesome dinner I made Sunday night. We came home, I worked on my homework for Community Health (I’m in college to get my Bachelor’s of Nursing Science, I have an Associate’s Degree), made that kick ass (like really) dinner.
Last night, I didn’t sleep. Maybe I slept an hour, but I just couldn’t fall asleep. This isn’t new for me. I see a doctor who specializes in sleep disorders and it is not unusual for me to go several nights without good sleep. The last month has been particularly hard because I had bronchitis and now I have pleurisy. It’s extremely painful. I’m on prednisone, a steroids, which has been keeping me awake at night.
This morning, I got up with John after a sleepless night. I think I slept about an hour. I was in a lot of pain. A LOT. Our automatic cat box, the Cat Genie (which is normally awesome) malfunctioned and smelled. Smells keep me awake, but John had a long work day ahead so I didn’t want to wake him up. Also, I didn’t realize the extent to which it had malfunctioned. We heard the engine start moaning a week ago, so we had the new Cat Genie ready to go, thank goodness.
I couldn’t sleep so I got up and made John breakfast while he made me coffee. He said it was an awesome start to his week. John left for work. He works part-time in office, part-time from home, which is a great arrangement because he works about 60 miles from home. My husband sold his house and drives that commute so that I can live near my hospital. I’ve never met anyone so supportive of my career and life goals.
After John left, I cleaned. I stripped the Master and Guest bedrooms, mopped the wooden floors upstairs, cleaned the guest and Master baths, and did a ton of laundry. My sister is coming to visit in a couple of weeks, so I want everything really, REALLY clean. While in the guest bath, I saw the Cat Genie wasn’t working properly, so I sent John a text to tell him we needed to work on it tonight.
Then I called my doctor’s office and was seen. They gave me a prescription for percocet to take at night. I can manage the pain during the day with tylenol, but at night, the pain is so nagging I just can’t sleep. I still had not slept. I went to the grocery store. I got home, put the Master bedroom back together, flipped the laundry again, and finally started feeling like I could sleep, so I took a 2 hour nap.
I had physical therapy this evening. He’s been working on my severe plantar fasciitis, which is getting better. He also did dry needling, on my back and shoulders. All of the coughing has really thrown my back out of whack. My PT helped me stretch my body back into place and I’m feeling much better.
I got home, and after last night’s fancy dinner, just made some gluten free chicken nuggets and steamed broccoli. After dinner, per my weight loss plan, we went for a 2 mile walk. It’s a beautiful night in Denver, not too cold, and we had a nice walk. We made plans to get a puppy by the end of the month.
So here I am, very little sleep, in a good mood, but in pain, heading towards delirium.
When we got home, we decided to tackle the Cat Genie because if the odor is too much, the cats like to pee on the couch. We do not want the cats to pee on the couch.
We took it apart and John assembled the shiny new one. This left scrubbing the old one (we want to save it for parts) to me. I scrubbed and scrubbed. IT WAS A LOT OF CAT SHIT. There was SO much. Finally, the worst happened. A washer, still covered in poo, flew off and hit me in the face. I came close to losing my dinner, but I’m not a nurse for nothing. I scrubbed my face with antimicrobial dish soap and kept going.
On the way back upstairs, I stopped and poured John a whiskey and myself a glass of wine. We finished assembling the new cat box and watched it’s inaugural run while toasting each other’s awesomeness.
My house smells SO good now.
Getting rid of cable TV has been the best thing we could have done for our marriage. I was watching way too much TV when I could have been out doing things. I wasn’t exercising. At night, we weren’t talking, just watching MSNBC or Aljazeera. When the news wasn’t on, we were watching shows we didn’t really like because nothing else was on. We weren’t talking. We ate every night in front of the TV.
Then Comcast raised our rate by $50 and we had a serious discussion about it. John and I have been cutting our expenses by turning down the thermostat, planning meals and eating at home, planning shopping trips, etc. No way was I going to see money I’d been saving to donate to heat Pine Ridge Reservation and Keep Marissa Alexander out of jail go to Comcast. So we got rid of it.
It’s only been a week, but I feel like I got my husband back. Sitting there in the bathroom, watching the robot do it’s thing, drinking wine with my geeky husband, it felt so good. Like when we were first married. We were such a team. We are that way again.
Tomorrow night, we’re going to have a gym date and workout, then go out for burgers afterward. It’s going to be awesome.
I’m so relieved to have my husband back. Also, very relieved my mouth was closed when that shit covered projectile aimed for my face.
Good night, world.
How I Found Jesus By Losing Him, Part 1
This is a series of blog posts about my journey from devout, rabid Christian to Atheism. I am writing this at the request of my friend @Quiara.
I was born into the Episcopalian church. I was baptized as a baby, named for my grandparents on my father’s side. I spent the first few years of my life in Missouri, and I remember learning about the 10 Commandments from the priest, who would dress like Moses and recreate the introduction to the Jewish people.
If you read my blog enough, you’ll realize that Missouri sounds like heaven and Tennessee sounds like Hell. It’s because Missouri was the land of my grandparents. It’s where we went to movies and had ice cream and biscuits and gravy and everything was always clean. Tennessee was where my mother never cleaned the house, we rarely had clean underwear, and no one seemed to care if we were clean or dirty. Tennessee was where my mother changed religion with her boyfriends, and allowed her boyfriends to abuse us.
My mother married a Baptist, Merritt. I won’t make a habit of naming people, but it’s hard to keep track of all my mother’s boyfriends. Also, mine. So Merritt. Step-Father #1. We went to the Baptist church. I think it was called Eastland Baptist, and it was next to a Krispy Kreme, which was one of the first Krispy Kremes. We used to sit through church services that I cannot remember and smelllllll those donuts. I didn’t believe in Jesus nearly as much as I believed in the donuts we got during the after service reception.
I don’t remember much about being a Baptist, but I do remember being baptized for a second time. Every so often, they’d invite people to come to the alter to request baptism and be saved. I remember my mom really wanted me to be baptized and I really wanted to impress my step-father. So I stepped forward, at about the age of 8, to declare Jesus Christ to be my lord and savior. As Meryn Cadell said “letting Christ into my heart, I didn’t even know the man.”
My second baptism really deserves it’s own entry, but be assured it was humiliating and terrifying. Full immersion baptism and 8 year olds do not mix well. I promise to do that entry very soon.
We were Baptists until my mother got tired of being a Baptist. About the same time, Merritt’s habit of frequenting prostitutes became known. Between Merritt’s porn and the prostitutes, it’s really no wonder I had some fucked up views about sexuality going into adolescence. So we went back to being Episcopalians.
Until my mother met a Catholic.
My mother sent us to Missouri for the summer, and we LITERALLY had a different step-father when we came home. My mother introduced us to Steve and told us to call him “Daddy.” Merritt, who was previously “daddy” was gone. I don’t have daddy issues, I have a subscription of daddies.
My mother married a Catholic, so we became Catholics.
There was some debate over whether or not my sister and I were baptized enough, but eventually our Episcopalian baptisms were deemed worthy.
I don’t do anything halfway. My mother gave me books about saints and nuns. Soon, I decided I wanted to be a nun. Not just any nun, I wanted to be a SAINT. I really wanted to impress God. I still felt deep, deep fear that my burned scapular meant that I was destined for Hell. I was convinced I was going to hell. I had nightmares about being on fire, being pushed into fiery pits by the saints I read about, particularly Saint Rita, who was incorruptible and I felt could come get me.
Probably should have held back on that book on the Incorruptibles, mom.
I went to Catholic school for part of middle school and 3 years of high school. I cleaned the chapel at the school several times a week. I went to confession frequently. It was years before I told a priest about the burned scapular and received furtive reassurance that would not send me to hell, but I still didn’t really believe it. I taught Sunday School at my church. I worked at Habitat for Humanity. Every time my burn scar hurt, which was several times a day, burning, stabbing, pain, I’d offer it up to Jesus. DEAR GOD, I WANTED TO BE A SAINT. I just knew my time would come. Someone would martyr me, or attempt to assault me, and I’d die, and in dying for God, he’d forgive me everything, and I would be a saint.
That shit is fucked up.
I’m not a saint. I mean, I’m a terrible saint, Sure, I didn’t have sex in high school, but that was fear of pregnancy, not fear of God.
When I returned from Germany (another story for another time), my parents kicked me out. When my parents kicked me out, I moved in with DB, my boyfriend, and they took my Sunday school class away. No one offered me a place to stay or any kind of assistance so that I could live somewhere besides with my boyfriend. Being disowned by my parents meant I was disowned from my church.
I haven’t entered another church in Nashville, Tennessee since.
When I moved to Denver, I tried to find a Catholic church. I still wanted to at least get to heaven. I called the Catholic diocese, hoping to find a church with a lot of young people. I was told that I should just go to the church in my area, and hung up on. Thanks.
I did find a welcoming spirit from the Episcopalian church, and am technically still a member in good standing. I went to a church for several months here in Denver, but moved away from them. The Episcopalian church has always welcomed me, and I go to Mass every time I go home in memory of my Grandmother. There is comfort in the Mass. There is familiarity there. Not believing in God doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the comfort that religion can bring.
For a long time, I prayed to God, even while I wasn’t going to church. I read the Bible. I studied religion. I wanted to find answers.
Instead, I found science. Beginning my studies and nursing career was the start of my journey to not believe in God.
I’m not the hero but that doesn’t mean that I was never brave… (Tegan and Sara)
Everyday, I get home, all three cats run to greet me and get loves and treats and breakfast.
Except today, only 2 cats greeted me. Our little orange Maine Coon kitten, Oz, was no where to be found.
I threw my clothes back on and ran around the house, not finding him. I looked outdoors, nothing. I called my husband and yelled “WHERE’S OZ???” at him.
I found in in the cellar. The filthy, coal dust ridden cellar where the furnace, water heater, and Christmas decorations live.
He had meowed until his voice was just a rasp. Then John remembered going into the cellar at about 8 PM last night, after I’d gone to work.
Oz is nuts about his people. He always has to be right near us at all times. I don’t know how John didn’t notice his little shadow was gone.
John also forgot to feed the cats last night, which would have further triggered a “Where’s Oz” thought.
So I walked home from a 12 hour shift, got hysterical, found the cat, and then I had to wash the coal dust and dirt out of my cat. He is not amused. But there were RIVERS of dirt coming off of his paws and belly. Poor lil dude.
I’m so scared of losing any of my cats. Willow and Lilith are pretty terrified of the outdoors, but Oz is curious. I thought maybe he’d gotten out while John brought in the milk.
My mom would give away our pets as kids. She’d hoard too many animals and when the city told her she needed to get rid of some, it was always our pets that went.
My mother once even fed me my pet rabbit. She said she didn’t know I considered it my pet, but I did. If they were going to be food, she shouldn’t have let us name and play with them.
And then, after they kicked me out, I couldn’t find a place where I could have a dog and I had to leave my dog Belle behind. I heard she died, hanging from a fence on their property where they’d tied her. I was so poor, barely making it, I couldn’t afford the dog I’d taken on when I was 13 and didn’t understand. I feel so guilty about Belle.
This was mainly going to be a blog about my exboyfriends, and I’m still going to get around to them, but I’m going to deal with some heavy shit, too. This hysterical fear if I can’t find my cat is not helpful.
Yes, You Did.
My mom likes to keep tabs on me online. All I need to do to know she’s watching is mention her on Twitter.
Today my mother denied ever abusing my sister or myself. She denied ever hitting us. She denied ever hurting us.
So let’s be clear.
My mother neglected me to the point that I got a 3rd degree burn. Afterwards, her neglect continued until I developed a massive infection and lost most of my left breast. It’s already covered in this blog.
My mother HAS hit me, although mainly just across the face. She preferred the neck splitting slap to the face. Did I mention I had a massive scar on my neck? Any smart mouthed word was enough to earn the slap, which at times was enough to split my burn scar open. My step fathers (both) were fans of whipping you with a belt on bare skin.
I’m a smart mouthed woman. I was a smart mouthed child. This is something you deal with, not something you beat your child about.
Over the last few days, I’ve been binge watching “Orange is the New Black.” It was funny, it was serious, and then, it was triggering.
Woman on woman violence will never stop triggering me. I will never stop being afraid of other women. Even though I still consider myself bisexual, I know that the choice to be with a man and not a woman is still at the back of my mind. I am afraid of other women. It’s hard for me to be friends with other women. I have very few female friends. I’m sure my husband thinks I’m exaggerating. He’s never met her, or dealt with her hoarding and filth. When I see another woman get angry, I get scared.
In nursing, I primarily work with other women. I’m a crier. I get shaky and scared if another nurse gets mad at me. Slowly, I’m getting tougher, but I know I would have calmer reactions if I wasn’t so terrified of another nurse getting violent on me.
My mother has called the President of the United States the N-word. She has called him an idiot, and other degrading terms. She considers herself a Constitutionalist, but I seriously doubt she’s ever read the Constitution. She has changed religions with her husbands. As much as she likes to deny that she is a racist, she told me to “stay away from black men, because every black man wants to fuck a blond woman.” Seriously, mom? So very untrue.
She denies ever hitting me. She denies neglecting me. I have two surgeons who have told me the same story that I’ve written about before. My mother neglected me, she was threatened with social services, and finally I got treatment. I also have my grandparents and father to reiterate this story.
If 5 people tell you one thing, and one person tells you something else, who is the liar? When there are copies of medical records to back it up?
Doctors don’t get in touch with social services unless it’s a last resort. It’s a huge pain in the ass.
My mother thinks I judge her because she has medical conditions. I don’t judge anyone for that. If she really hated having children around so much, she should have given us over to social services. Yes, it would have been horrible. I have no doubt. Instead, I got to hear that she should have had an abortion, that I stole her youth. I got to deal with her attempts to rope me into Amway and steal my identity.
After I started consistently calling out her bullshit on Twitter, she cleaned her feed up. She stopped calling the President nasty terms. She started complementing black people. She has an ulterior motive. She always has.
She WAS abusive. She WAS neglectful. Children learn what they are taught, and all of that is inside me, even after years of therapy.
I will never have children because I know I have it in me to abuse a child. I met a man who doesn’t want children. I think I would love to be a mother, but I will never deliver a neck splitting slap to another human being.
I am a good person. I am trying to be a better person. This struggle will never end, but I know I will never be you.
My Grandma H, as I have mentioned, was a great lady. She loved her grandkids more than anything. She had a hard life, born after the 1918-1919 flu epidemic, lived through the Great Depression, ran her own dry cleaning business. She saw it as her duty to raise her grandchildren with morals and work ethic, because we weren’t getting it from our mother.
For years, my Grandma H. would come to Tennessee for Christmas. Every year, she’d clean out my mother’s hoarding disaster, and for a few weeks, the house would be clean. She never said it, but I knew she bought a lot of our Christmas presents.
When we went to stay with Grandma H, our clothes were always clean. She taught me to iron, and how to care for my own clothes, a valuable tool when living with a hoarder.
She also took in my sister the year I went to Germany, when my mother had obviously grown tired of her daughters and wanted to focus on her new husband and new son.
She bailed out my mom over and over, and after my Grandma H died, my mom called me over and over for money. I was barely making anything, but she had bought my glasses (see DB later this week) during a crisis. So I would buy her groceries and prescriptions.
Grandma H. was indefatigable. She worked into her 80’s until the year she died, caring for an older woman with Alzheimer’s who just needed guidance. SHE CARED FOR AN OLDER WOMAN.
My grandma was awesome.
She believed people died in their beds, so she slept in a chair. Now, I know it was because of her lung cancer and COPD. My grandma died in a chair.
That chair. That recliner. We used to sit on her lap. One day, after work, my Grandmother, my sister and I all sat in her recliner and we all LEAAAAAAAANED BACK and the recliner tipped over. We all laughed so hard we could barely get out of the pile of grandmother and granddaughters.
I miss my Grandmother. Her life and death played an integral part in my decision to become a nurse, and an inspiration in my poetry. You’ll see that tomorrow.