Sunday, April 26, 2015

On Writing



I write letters to people in prison.

I do this to offer friendship to people who don’t often have it but also to be a help where I can in legal matters or counseling matters or just a good influence in a life that often has far too few of those. Most of the people I write are in for life, so you can imagine the sorts of things these individuals have been found guilty of doing, but I don’t think a person can wholly be defined by the worst thing he or she has ever done or been accused of doing. I think, instead, that there are lots of factors that often lead up to a split second decision that a person would give their own life to take back, and that we, as a society, can’t just throw those people away. In fact, for many of the people I have come to know over the years, being thrown away was part of the problem to begin with…

It really is a gamble every single time I make the decision to do so. I put myself out there with a person who has often been accused of doing a terrible thing that can never be undone, and even though I do extensive research on the case and the person and try my best not to write someone who committed a crime for the sake of the thrills involved, it is still a huge risk to take. My information—address, age, name—is going into a prison where anyone could get their hands on it if the person I write isn’t careful. And, ultimately, as I have learned over the last 8 years of doing this, all the research in the world doesn’t always indicate what kind of person will appear in the letters I get back.

Whenever you take any gamble especially one that involves human interaction, you have to weigh the potential rewards you may reap against the risks, the potential losses, involved. Are the potential negatives worth the chance to experience the positives? Does the payout, so to speak, make the risk worth taking?

It’s a tough question to answer and one that I have had to continually ask myself. I’d be a liar if I said this was always easy, that I haven’t met some of the most trying individuals I’ve ever come into contact with in my lifetime this way, or that I haven’t been hurt over the years. But, in the end, because of the strength of the friendships I have made both through my letters and by meeting other people who write, it has been more than worth the gamble, worth the risks.

Part of it has to do with being able to reach out and help another person. It’s in my personality to get obsessed in a way with a cause and be an advocate for a group of people (I’m an INFJ). The longer I have done this—writing-- the more I have learned how often people in these situations, in prison, lose everything including friends and a good percentage of their family, and while a good percentage of the population seems to think it’s deserved, I don’t think that works. All the available research, for one, has proven that social support prevents violence within prison and lowers recidivism rates as well. Prison should rehabilitate, but it doesn’t. Not even 1/3 of the people in prison who need counseling and substance abuse treatment actually get it despite evidence showing these services cut recidivism rates in half. In the end, for me, it’s kind of amazing to see what a few letters from a person who has no familial obligations can do to build someone back up and get them on the right track/keep them on the right track. Being a party to that feels pretty fucking good in a way that truly isn’t comparable to anything else Ive done in life. Motherhood gives me the feels for different reasons. Donating, volunteering, or even giving a homeless person some money or help all feels great but it doesn’t compare to really being to reach out and connect with a person in a way that helps them find themselves. Not to mention, I learn as much as I give—about myself, about other people, about how I am perceived and what to look out for when I embark on my future career counseling inmates.

But that’s not the whole of it either. It isn’t some completely altruistic endeavor because I do forge real friendships that keep me afloat when I’m down or stressed. I have friends who make me laugh reading through letters, who let me vent, who—even when they cant give me advice—will do their best to dig through a situation with me and help me see something that I didn’t see myself. I have people in my life that I’ve met through letters that support me in a way that I don’t usually get elsewhere, because it isn’t a friendship based on 140 character snapshots of my life placed on social media updates. It’s authentic in a way that I don’t often get. There are still some (and I stress some) good people beyond prison walls who may have, yes, done an incredibly fucked up thing that can never, ever be reversed, but it doesn’t make them any less human, any less capable of change than anyone else.

At the end of the day, writing has added people to my life over the last 8 years that have brought me immeasurable joy that far surpasses any frustration, negativity, grief, or hurt I have experienced. The gamble has paid out in ways I never could have calculated, and I am far richer for having taken it.

______________________________________________________________________


This might be a bit of a controversial topic, but it's still one that is important to me and close to my heart. And, in the interest of authenticity which I have strived for since day one on this blog, I felt I needed to write about it. Thanks for reading!! check out the other contributions on More Than Cheese and Beer

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Stalking Optimism



The silver lining, she supposes, if there is one through all of this, is that she’s still alive, perhaps more alive than she’s ever been. That, in itself, shouldn’t feel like an accomplishment, but after the last few weeks, she has a new lease on life, a new motivation to enjoy what could be extremely short lived.

It started with a date.

Ok, scratch that.

It started with a dating profile.

She probably should have known better. But, instead of listening to the 20 or so people on facebook who were constantly complaining about the messages they got on those sites or the people they met, she kept coming back to that one friend she had who swore she met the love of her life on OkCupid, the one who got married to that supposed love of her life last year and was now pregnant with twins, the one who clogged up her news feed with nothing but lovey dovey melodramatic bullshit about her husband, the one whose life surely couldn’t be as insanely fantastic as she made it out to be on Facebook. That friend. Everyone has at least one… it’s that one friend who is the only person in history to ever be perfect and have a perfect life and never ever have a single complaint because everything is so fucking wonderful, the one who everyone thinks is likely miserable and coming apart at the seams behind closed doors….

Still…

She couldn’t help getting swept up in that. She didn’t mean to compare notes or wonder at times what was wrong with her that she was still alone, but those thoughts were there all the same. She had gotten caught up in the shoulds and musts, in the things she didn’t have in comparison. So, maybe she wasn’t thinking clearly when she made her profiles on Tindr and PoF and OkCupid.

Or maybe she was just lonely.

Either way, she made herself a spot on all 3 and considered her profiles to be fairly clever. She talked about her dreams and goals, the movies she loved, the music she needed. She displayed her veracious wit and threw up a few decent face shots, and that was that. The messages were rolling in with the vast majority being absolute shit from people that couldn’t possibly really be interested in her (she was not of the mindset that opposites really attract) as much as they were anything with a vagina, but every now and then, she would find a gem—a witty play on words in a decent introductory message that would make her smile and open up the possibility for more. Usually, her interest waned with twice the intensity and speed that it piqued, but she was mostly having fun getting to know people and defining more and more what about she wanted out of a partner.

Then she got THE message. She opened it with her usual half-hearted interest expecting to give it another exaggerated eyeroll before quickly hitting the trashcan icon to get rid of it. But, for once, that isn’t what happened. In actuality, she found a delightfully charming and inquisitive message. This guy quoted movies, complimented some of her tastes, playfully questioned some of her other likes . The best thing to come out of Clueless, he said, was videographic evidence to prove Paul Rudd’s seeming immortality, he had written. And of course she giggled. It wasn’t like she as proud of her love for Clueless (As If!). He asked about her love for old cars inquiring what would be her top 5 dream cars. He wanted to know who would direct a movie about her life. And what would be on the soundtrack. Everything about it was amazingly crafted and obviously not the typical copy/paste jobs that she was used to not to mention it was a far cry from the all-too-common oversexed pornographic narratives—the equivalent of trench coat flasher shaking his sad, flaccid wee-wee at old ladies leaving the grocery store. All in all, it was completely unexpected, and she couldn’t contain her excitement. She didn’t even look at his profile before she put together her response in which she said, with a bit of glee, that she had been ordering Paul Rudd’s tears on the black market and using them as face moisturizer…

From there it had gone like a whirlwind in just a few short days…long messages, flirting, then texting all day, then actual all-night phone calls with not a moment of silence. She felt like she was back in high school all over again. There was a rush to it, a heat… The chemistry was unbelievable. She was walking on clouds, smiling broader and brighter than she had in a long time, and for a little while, she had really began to wonder if this was what that one Facebook friend had been bragging about all this time. Surely, if this was the way she felt all the time, there was good damn reason for her to act like nothing in her life could ever go wrong.

It didn’t last though, the magic. In fact, it got bad, really bad, in a hurry.

A couple months into seeing him, she had to break a date. She wasn’t feeling well that night. Food poison, maybe, but whatever it was, she wasn’t in any shape to go out for mini golf like they had planned. So, she sent him a text between one of the many times she was hugging the toilet that night, sat her phone down, and forgot about it. She was too weak to do much of anything but sleep, puke, and beg unseen forces for sweet, sweet mercy.

The next day when she could finally sit up in bed without feeling like the world had transformed into a giant merry go round being pushed by the biggest kid on the playground, she checked her phone. 100+ notifications. Call after call after call from him. Voicemails. Texts. They started out supportive and calm. He was checking in. Did she need anything. Was everything ok. But the tone grew increasingly aggressive and paranoid. He accused her of losing interest, of being out with another guy, called her a slut and a whore and a bitch…It was endless. She sat their shaking in disbelief staring at her phone like IT was the traitor not him. In an instant, the whole thing shattered. The clouds had dissipated and dropped her squarely on her plump ass in the middle of a expansive pile of shit.

In hindsight, she realizes now that she should have changed her number, bought some extra locks for the doors, a bigger can of pepper spray and let it go, let him go. But, she couldn’t shake how good things had been to start. The sheer confusion she felt was so monumental she felt she might drown in it. So, she called him hoping that he might explain his behavior, hoping that something he said might redeem him in her eyes, but he was cold, distant, accusatory. This was a man she had known for just a few short months. There was no explicit commitment. No talk of what the future held. She didn’t understand at all what could possibly be provoking this sense of ownership and paranoia yet she found herself apologizing for not taking his feelings into consideration. She, the one who was sick and miserable, apologized to him, the man who called her a slut for being too weak to answer her cell phone.

Over the next few weeks, she tried to get things back to where they were to begin with, but nothing worked. Nothing helped. They had dinner, went to movies, hung out at her place, but the chemistry was gone. He was distant and suspicious, and she kept hearing the anger in his voice on those many voicemails calling her every name in the book. She couldn’t help wondering if he might snap.

So, she ended it. She told him in a text that she didn’t think the two of them would work out and that she didn’t want to see him anymore then she turned her phone off. She didn’t want to deal with it, with him, and she certainly didn’t want to face another post on social media about how fucking dazzlingly perfect everyone else’s lives were. It was all about Netflix binging and booze that night. That had been her plan anyway.

Instead, she ended up on the phone to the police after that asshole showed up to her place beating on the doors, threatening her, and using a baseball bat on her car. He was arrested but he made bail the same night. The police asked her what she did to make him so angry.

What SHE did to make him angry…

Not what his problem was…

not that they would do everything they could to protect her…

not any sort of recommendation on what to do next…

When she told them that she had broken it off with him and that she wanted to press charges for harassment, they told her it would be pointless until there was an established pattern following the breakup and to just let it go and not waste anybody’s time—they actually said to give the guy a break.

Give the guy a break for demolishing her car with a baseball bat because she didn’t want to date him anymore.

She went through the process of taking down her dating profiles, blocking him on social media, and blocking his number. She let her closest friends know what was going on and asked them to check in on her if they hadn’t seen her around in a few days. She changed the locks, added an extra deadbolt, and bought herself some pepper spray, and a taser—all things a woman shouldn’t have to do to feel safe in her own home just because she didn’t want to be a part of someone’s life anymore.

But the fun didn’t stop there. He changed his own number and started calling to harass her again. She called the police who advised her to keep a log of the calls for evidence in the future which meant she couldn’t change her number to avoid the matter…not if she wanted to get the proof that the cops so desperately wanted. She started finding written messages on the windows on her home, death threats in her mailbox. None of that could be proven to definitely be him so the police did nothing even when she found a dead snake in the mailbox. She had a real fucking bunny boiler on her hands.

She was terrified to leave home after she thought she caught him following her to work one night. If she wasn’t behind the safety of her locked doors, she was near panic, and even being in the house didn’t immediately quell her anxieties since he always seemed to turn up there. It seemed like every day she found a sign that he had been around with the cops acting more and more like she was hysterical and paranoid whenever she asked for help.

Then things escalated. Or culminated, she supposes, is the right word for it.

It must have happened, she figures now, when she went out to check the mail. The mailbox for her place was at the end of a pretty long driveway. She hadn’t ever wanted to lock the door on her way to check the mail because she wanted to be able to get back inside easily if she happened to see him. What a fucking rookie mistake, though. Since he used that window of opportunity to sneak inside and wait. She still doesn’t know how he waited in there so long, tucked in the hallway closet, before making his move without her knowing. Hours without eating, without drinking, and seemingly without so much as urinating. It’s like he did made all the essential plans to make sure he wouldn’t have the need beforehand. In fact, the blood tests that were conducted later said he was so severely dehydrated that there were some doubts he even could have had the strength to do any of it.

Yeah, even caught red-handed, people were on his side more than hers… Even after what he did, what he tried to do, there was still doubt, still some blame being thrown her way.

She went about her usual routine that day. Yoga, a little Netflix, some cleaning, laundry, she made dinner and ate it with her cat on the couch—some baked salmon and red roasted potatoes with spinach and feta. She’ll probably never be able to eat any of that again now. She was cleaning up her dinner dishes when he surprised her. She heard the hall closet open, but it didn’t really register as anything other than the cat at first. Then she felt it, the weight in the room, the tension. She whirled around, gasping at the sight of him. His hair stuck out in crazy angles. He was filthy, unkempt, a sweaty mass of fury.

He lunged, grabbed her by the throat, and threw her against the wall next to the kitchen counter. She was situated directly between her counter and the doorway leading out of the kitchen. Her mind raced trying to figure out what she could do, how she could stop him. She pulled at his hands, scratching his arms. She pushed her thumb into his eye at one point, but he pulled away and tightened his grip, screaming in her face that she deserved this for leaving him, for hurting him. She had reached for the counter then scrambling for anything she could hoping for a knife or something heavy to hit him with but she found nothing and was slowly losing her strength. The room was spinning, growing darker…

Then she remembered the pepper spray in the pocket of her cardigan. With all the fight she had left, she reached for it. The small tube got caught in the fabric, but she managed to yank it free. The first shot missed, but the second hit its mark. She gasped for air coughing and sputtering, but it felt like freedom. Her focus started to clear, but the room still swam around her. He was writhing on the floor screaming, “you fucking bitch” over and over, groaning in pain between the words.

She fell to her knees, choking, nearly fainting, but she pulled herself up and made it to the opposite side of the kitchen where her phone was charging giving herself ample room to avoid him. She hit the button to bring it to life and used the emergency dialer to contact 911. The operator assured her the cops would be there in a hurry, old her to lock herself in another room of the house and remain on the phone.

She started to move towards the back of the house to hide in her bedroom, but clarity hit her at that moment. Fuck that, she thought. Fuck . It. If she hid in the bedroom, he’d manage to escape and she’d never be able to prove it was him. This would just keep going on and on and on. She had lost her job. She hadn’t left the house in ages, and goddamn she could not live like this anymore.

She chose, instead, to hang up the phone and arm herself with the biggest kitchen knife she could find then stood in the only exit out of the kitchen. Surely, she though, the police would arrive before the effects of the pepper spray wore off.

She overestimated the cops. As usual.

5 minutes ticked by. 10. 15. He started moaning less and tried to get up. 20 minutes. He finally managed to stand up slowly taking note of the knife in her hand and stood on the opposite side of the kitchen against the fridge.

“What the fuck are you planning on doing with that?” he demanded.

“Making sure your crazy ass goes to prison this time, fuckhead.”

He sat for a moment stunned that she would dare say such a thing to him then rushed at her, growling and screaming obscenities.

In the moment, she hadn’t realized what happened until he fell against her. She watched his face change, felt him go semi-limp then the warmth surrounded her hand. The knife had sunken into his abdomen to the hilt when he went after her.

He fell back against the kitchen table, falling into one of the chairs just as the police busted in the door.

Her story never wavered no matter how many times she was interrogated over the last few weeks. He didn’t make it. The knife nicked his intestines. With the weakened state of his body, he never recovered from the infections that set in and eventually succumbed to them without ever really fully giving his story.

It was her word against no one’s, but the cops sure tried to make it like her word, her constant calls, and attempts to get help meant absolutely nothing.

Still, she was in the clear. She had her life, and every day she was slowly getting better which is something she never would have done if things had gone differently, if he were still alive to get out of jail and stalk her some more.

Given that, she was sure that if she had it to do all over again, she would have stabbed him as he lay there blinded and vulnerable.

_______________________________________________________________________




As always Sunday is for Sunday Confessions. Hope you enjoyed the fiction I laid down. Let me know in the comments. And be sure to check out the rest of the contributions this week over at More Than Cheese and Beer. Oh, and the prompt is Silver Lining

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Say Cheese!


I take a lot of self portraits or #selfies if that’s your preferred nomenclature.

It’s not a daily thing, and I surely don’t post dozens at a time, but when I look in the mirror and feel that moment of beautiful, I snap a photo. Sometimes I sit for a moment and stare at the image in the tiny rectangle screen of my phone wondering if that’s really me before I hit the little trashcan icon deleting it as quickly as it was snapped. Sometimes I post them before I can second guess myself and play it off like I have all the confidence in the world.

For that, I have assuredly been called vain right on my own photographs which is alright because I know that’s not my reality. In reality, I have battled a host of self image issues and still do, though these days I’m on the winning side of that battle more often than not. In reality, it took me until I was in my late 20s to ever really post a full body picture anywhere and only recently that I’ve been able to do so with any sort of regularity, without getting sick at the thought or turning ten shades of red.

It’s a funny thing, the relationship between social media and selfies. You see someone posting various images of themselves quite often and begin to wonder just why they’re so full of themselves or maybe there’s the assumption that they just want a good, unhealthy dose of attention. For some reason, it seems the automatic response is to disregard the person as shallow. But when is the world ever really so black and white? When are behaviors so easily explained?

I suppose there are certainly people who are so vain that self portraits are a momentary bragging right, but when I scroll through my feed and see a gorgeous face looking back at me on my Facebook newsfeed, I tend to hit that like button instantaneously because I get it… I get that desire to feel some control over how other people see you because you’ve been full of self-doubt for longer than you can remember and hate 90% of photos other people take of you. I know that it’s exhilarating to feel that moment of acceptance when you post that picture and how much it goes towards building you up that you can even hit “share” instead of deleting every single image you take. In that moment, you see yourself as a whole instead of seeing a kaleidoscope of every flaw no matter how tiny…really see yourself and like what you see, smile at your own image. It’s freeing, that smile. It’s such a change to feel the oft crippling weight of self-doubt lifted even for a moment. The more it happens, the more often that smile lifts you up.

See, it really isn’t about the number of “likes” you get on the photo, it’s about how you see yourself. Maybe the comments people make add to the overall positivity you feel, but ultimately, it’s about your own thoughts and feelings about an image of you in a captured moment that translates to how you can see yourself overall. It’s about you doing you and being perfectly okay with who you are both on the outside and the inside.

Post those selfies, people. There’s not a fucking thing wrong with you loving all of you wherever you are on your journey.


___________________________________________________________________________




Sunday Confessions, y'all. I love them. I hope you do too. Please check out the rest of today's contributions on the More Than Cheese and Beer blog and ask about participating. Every Sunday is a new challenge. It's amazing. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Another Day

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now. At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.

My words are: trailer, affiliates, gruesome, nasty, trash
They were submitted by: www.batteredhope.blogspot.com

___________________________________________________________________________

Grant takes a look around the single-wide trailer from his spot in the open doorway. Morning light filters through the dingy, torn blinds on the windows brightening the room more than enough for him to see the details of the scene in the tiny ramshackle living room before him. Dust particles float lazily through the hazy glow landing in the pools of coagulated blood and the heaps of trash that clutter the floor—a floor full of holes and dips in the worn tan carpet. He takes it all in as he stands glued in place. Several windows are broken with duct tape warding off the elements. Cockroaches scurry around even in the full brightness of morning with no fear. The stale acrid odor of tobacco hangs in the air made worse by the several impromptu ashtrays of discarded food containers overflowing with butts. The roof was caving in over on empty corner that looked like it had become a toilet for some kind of dog or cat. Everything was falling apart, dilapidated, dirty...

No one should even be living here at all, but now, he supposes, no one did except the roaches.

The scene is absolutely gruesome…maybe even the worst he’s ever seen. Blood has pooled and splattered on just about every surface he can see. For now, the two bodies are covered, but that isn't much consolation considering how much of their internals he can see scattered throughout the room. He takes a deep breath of the pungent air hanging in the doorway and immediately regrets it. Almost gagging, he tips the black Homburg hat back on his head and loosens the cheap blue-checked Sears tie around his neck--a bad sign considering it wasn't yet 9 a.m. It was going to be a long day.

He takes a few steps back from the door and calls to one of the officers who first responded to the scene, “Miller…grab me a pair of gloves. And keep the coffee coming.” Then he sighs long and loud. It’s a habit of his, that sigh. Anyone in earshot would know it well and know what it means—that he’s already had enough for the day and to stay out of his way as much as possible. That sigh happens more and more lately.

Miller brings the gloves and assures him that coffee is on the way. For his trouble, he receives a grunt in response and a dismissing wave that tells him to get the fuck out of dodge and in a hurry.

Grant slides the gloves on his hand struggling to get his already-sticky skin into the latex. He is certain this Southern heat will kill him long before anything else ever does. He stands there, then, gloves barely on, shirt sticking to the small of his back, sunlight highlighting the nasty scene before him unable to move. He has no idea where to start and no desire to figure it out if he’s honest. The job had gotten to him a long time ago. He knew it, he knew everyone else knew it, but they just kept going along with no one really knowing what to do with that information.

“Boot covers!! Miller, I almost forgot my damn boot covers.”

Miller obliges scurrying around in a fashion that too-closely resembles that of the tiny cockroaches invading the crime scene. This time, though, he brings coffee along with the boot covers and is rewarded by a quick slash of a smile and a mumbled thanks when he hands them both over.

Grant stands back a bit not wanting the air in the trailer to taint his first cup of joe for the day. He leans against the side of the wobbly iron railing on the front porch steps wondering if he is going to go crashing through the rotted wood before he can even make it inside. The place doesn't even have
that fancy vinyl siding. It's rusted through in places, green and black with mold where it should have been white and faded to a soft brown where it should have been dark. He takes it all in, sipping his coffee, taking mental notes of the whole scene. If he's honest with himself, though, he's stalling but recognizing that fact really doesn't do much to get him motivated.

Deputies have already been inside after getting the 911 call from another trailer in the park. No one in there is alive. There’s no urgency to this, so he stays on the porch sipping his coffee and preparing for the day ahead.

This particular trailer park is a frequent stop for the county officers. One of the residents happens to be a Neo-Nazi in the American Nazi Party whose affiliates are more than a bit rowdy and always antagonizing the other residents especially those who don’t fit their standards of acceptability. It never ceases to amaze him how people seemingly dredged from the cesspools of society feel they can lay down judgment on others, but a good chunk of his job in this area deals with just that...today's case too most likely.

People were too much for him these days, he reckons. When he started this job so long ago, he had so much pride in what he could accomplish and the ways he could help people, but that pride had faded so long ago he couldn’t remember what it ever felt like. All that is left is a weight so heavy he doesn’t think he can bear it another year until he can officially retire especially on days like today knowing what he is about to walk into…knowing there is nothing he can do to help these people and save them from their shitty lives in this shanty of a trailer or from the horror of their final moments. All he can do is try to get the right person behind bars. And at the end of the day, he has learned the hard way that putting someone in prison for the rest of their life doesn’t fix anything. Sure, it might be justice, but it’s no real help. It doesn’t give people their folks back. It doesn’t reverse time. It sure as hell doesn’t give closure or any of those other shiny words politicians seem to vomit in political speeches about being tough on crime.

He takes another sip already nearing the bottom of the cup when he notices a few pairs of eyes on him.

“I’m gonna go in when I’m good and damn ready. Just gimme a minute here. What’s the rush?”

Those eyes quickly dart away and pretend to be busy on other things leaving him in peace at least for the moment. He swirls the remaining sips of gas station brew in the bottom of the cup. This particular cup had a pretty high burnt factor. It must have been the bottom of the pot. It’s not like he can expect some gourmet blend, but he hopes the next one will be a little stronger and a little better and away from this godawful trailer park.

With that thought, he motions for Miller to grab the cup from him who quickly obliges. Then he takes a final breath of the semi-fresh air outside the entrance to the place, grits his teeth, and steps inside all while hoping this isn’t the case that breaks him.

________________________________________________________________________



http://www.BakingInATornado.com                                 Baking In A Tornado
http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com/                          Spatulas on Parade
http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com                      The Bergham’s Life Chronicles
http://themomisodes.com                                          The Momisodes
http://www.southernbellecharm.com                           Southern Belle Charm
http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch                Confessions of a part-time working mom
http://www.someoneelsesgenius.com                   Someone Else’s Genius
http://stacysewsandschools.blogspot.com/                 Stacy Sews and Schools
http://sparklyjenn.blogspot.com/                              Sparkly Poetic Weirdo 
http://singlemumplusone.blogspot.com                    Searching for Sanity
http://climaxedtheblog.blogspot.com                              Climaxed
http://eileensperpetuallybusy.blogspot.com                     Eileen’s Perpetually Busy
http://www.JuiceboxConfession.com                             Juicebox Confession
http://batteredhope.blogspot.com                                  Battered Hope

Sunday, April 5, 2015

When Satire Becomes Hate Speech



I can’t remember how exactly it happened but almost 2 years ago I started following a page on Facebook about a little girl with Down’s Syndrome, Leah, who was also born with esophageal atresia—her upper esophagus wasn’t connected to her lower esophagus/stomach which made it impossible to eat by mouth without surgery. I’ve watched her grow from a tiny little preemie to a pouty lipped toddler through Facebook posts on her page and a blog run by her two mommies. As cheesy as it sounds, it has really been a life changing experience in many ways. Every time I see that kiddo’s smiling face, it warms me to my core. She has gone through so much in her lifetime already but she keeps on trucking and laughing and pulling cat tails. She’s huge inspiration in a tiny,sassy package, and you can’t help feeling some affection for her and her mommies just from following the posts.

Through her page, also, I learned about an organization called The Butterfly Fund which helps families of children with high medical costs. Most of the children there have something called Epidermolysis Bullosa (but Leah is also one of theirs). That particular disorder is extremely painful and causes blistering and sores on the skin with even slight pressure or touch. Those who have it are said to have skin as fragile as a butterfly’s wings. I have donated when I can to several different families buying medical supplies and toys for the kids (because I want to help with bills but also help with smiles). I’ve followed pages for other children who belong and a couple of other pages for children with Down’s who donate or try to help in some way. All in all, being a part of this community in even a small way has been a big deal for me.

So, I was phenomenally pissed recently when I saw a post by one of Leah’s mommies about a sweet little girl named Adele who had her pictures stolen and used by a page that captioned them with a rant about vaccines causing autism. The page also had several other photos of children with Down’s that said things like “mommy doesn’t love me” or “mommy said we were going fishing now I live in a home” and blaming vaccines. (see the originals posted by Adele's mom here: http://aperfectextrachromosome.blogspot.ca/)

Phenomemally pissed is actually probably an understatement. I was fucking livid.

In response, I did the only thing I could do and joined in with the community to report these photos to Facebook as abuse of community standards. We all reported the photos as hate speech which targeted people with disabilities because that’s, indeed, what it was, but Facebook was fine with the photos turning down report after report until the parents of the children finally reported theft of intellectual property as the reason for having them removed. The page itself was removed for these thefts but has already sprung up again with new photos of different issues.

The page itself is called Disciples of the New Dawn. You may or may not have heard of it. I hadn’t at the time, but have since researched it quite a bit. The general public seems torn on whether or not it’s a satirical page with most believing assuredly that no one could actually believe the garbage that gets posted there. There’s nothing definitive, though, from the people who run it to say with certainty whether it is or isn’t meant as joking social commentary.

Does it really matter whether it’s satire or not? No…but also yes.

It doesn’t matter in the context of theft. These parents have pages for their children because the support, even from strangers, aids in their journey. They face some difficult obstacles and, I imagine, just knowing that other people take joy from seeing their child’s smiling face or knowing that other people are rooting for them is a big deal. To know that someone trolled their pages, though public, and stole their child’s photo to use as the butt of some sort of joke must feel like an assault. And, it’s utterly appalling. If it’s not satire, it’s appalling on many levels simply because of what’s being said on those photos and on the page. But, to steal the photos to make a joke that no one else is really privy to? Somehow that seems even worse. It’s certainly more callous.

On the other hand, it does, in a way, matter whether the page’s intent is satire or not. For one, as mentioned, the theft in the context of satire seems even more of an assault. But, also in the context of satire, where do we draw the line? At what point does satire lose its effectiveness and its punch? Certainly if no one is aware the intent is satire, it has missed its mark entirely and pretty much become devoid of purpose, no? Of course, it also says something about our society when even something this extreme isn’t obviously satirical. This leads me to wonder--does satire of this type have a purpose and a place? In all honesty, I don’t think the person who runs this page is intending to be funny at all. Either he/she is absolutely insane enough to believe the shit that he/she posts or it’s meant to troll, to cause arguments so the page owner can sit back and laugh at it all. I wouldn’t be surprised if that person had other fake accounts from which he or she comments just to keep the arguments going. Do we really have room for this sort of thing in our society? I would hope not, but apparently Facebook doesn’t agree with me. Facebook was perfectly fine with photos of children with Down’s Syndrome being used in obviously malicious ways. In fact, I don’t think that Facebook considers anything to be hate speech since I’ve reported memes and comments with the N-word only to be told they’re not a violation of community standards.

I think it’s time to demand a change. Despite the fact that I’ve been told there are real problems Facebook employees have to deal with, I don’t feel this is a petty issue. Discrimination and hatefulness of any kind only contributes to the kind of extreme social issues we see as a society right now. Targeting an entire group of individuals even for satire’s sake is not something I can get behind especially when theft of intellectual property is involved. If you see anything of that nature, I implore you to report it and keep reporting it. In the case of Disciples of the New Dawn, the page may keep springing to life like a festering sore that won’t heal, but at least this time, when it did show its ugly face again, those stolen pictures weren’t part of the page anymore.

Small victories lead to bigger ones.

Thank you.



 

I'm also including links to Leah's Facebook page, The Butterfly Fund, and a couple others. I can promise that you won't regret following and/or donating. 

https://www.facebook.com/babyleahvalerie?fref=ts&ref=br_tf

https://www.facebook.com/sonomabutterflyfund?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/ButterflyFundFamilyWishLists?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/aperfectextrachromosome?fref=ts

__________________________________________________________________________


Sunday Confessions day. I chose to skip the fiction this week to talk about something pretty important to me. I hope you'll check out the pages I shared above as well as the More Than Cheese and Beer page! Thanks for reading. 


Friday, April 3, 2015

Hit Number 9



It's Secret Subject Swap Day! This month 15 bloggers submitted and were given prompts to interpret in our own style. Today, we are all posting those interpretations simultaneously. At the end of this post you'll find a list of all the participants so be sure to check them all out.

My prompt is: No one knew what lay beneath the....

It was submitted by:  http://www.someoneelsesgenius.com

_____________________________________________________________________________


Lydia stands over him, shovel in hand and grinning ear to ear. There would be plenty of time for congratulations for a job well done later, though. For now she needs to get to work. She has to be long gone before daylight which only leaves her 3 more hours. 4 tops. She starts on the digging making a mental list as she goes. Everyone saw the together which was what she intended, but she still needs to plant the note (the one that says the two of them ran off together that would give the neighborhood the juicy story it so desperately needed), clean up her kitchen, pack enough to make the story look believable, and disappear. The disappearing was the easy part. She just had to get through the next few hours without fucking up.

Earlier that day Lydia had crossed the well-lit suburban street she had been living on for the past year with her famous seafood casserole in hand. She was wearing her matching pink paisley oven mitts on her hands to shield them from the heat of the deep violet, oval-shaped Le Creuset casserole dish. It’s one of the most expensive pieces she owns and perfect for neighborhood pot luck parties. Likewise, the beige A-line skirt, pale green button-down shirt, and navy cardigan she had on were nondescript and pretty much a standard uniform for the ‘burbs. Altogether, it was a perfect costume for the evening no matter how much she hates the way she looks in these conformative atrocities.

As she deepens the hole she’s digging, she figures she probably looks remarkably better in these paper coveralls that she could ever look in a beige skirt. She laughs to herself and replays the events of the evening as she tends to do when a stint in suburbia is over. She’s a bit of a perfectionist and needs to analyze what she might have gotten wrong, where she can improve on the process.

When she got to Gloria’s house, her hands were otherwise too occupied to be able to reach the doorbell, so she tapped lightly on the door with one knee hoping someone would hear without her having to bang harder. She needed to keep her unassuming, unobtrusive image intact, so kicking the door until one of these pretentious assholes answered her was out of the question.

Gloria’s husband, Bill, answered and offered to take the dish out of her hands.

“Now, Bill, you know if I let you take this and you drop it, you’re going to have to give me a kidney to sell on the black market just to start making things even. “

He laughed heartily never once suspecting she might be serious and held the door open for her as she stepped into the foyer of the house.

“Gloria and the other women are in the dining room setting up the buffet. You sure you don’t want any help with that?”

She smiled and thanked him for the offer then headed towards the dining room, a well-disguised fox among the hens.

The cackling from the henhouse could be heard well before she made it to the dining room and already had a tinge of a slur to it. These particular hens have a penchant for wine—all except Heidi from the end of the street. She isn’t allowed to touch a drop. Heidi doesn’t like to admit in public how much control her husband has over her, but the women talk about it nonstop when she isn’t at their monthly gatherings. Heidi isn’t all that good at hiding truths. Or black eyes. If you happened to take a look at her medical chart as Lydia had done, you’d find that Heidi seems awfully clumsy--always falling down the stairs or running into doors. One time, she even missed a book that her darling husband Lloyd happened to toss to her resulting in quite a nasty split lip.

Lloyd is an alcoholic or at least he was. No one knew this in the neighborhood besides his wife and now Lydia. Not really. They had some suspicions, but it wouldn’t matter if they did know…the only thing they’d ever do about it is gossip anyway.

Lydia had put her most charming smile on her face as she made the right turn into the dining room from the hallway, “well, hello, lovelies!”

“Lyd!” the raucous and muddled voices of the women in her neighborhood had replied out of sync and far too loud but warm and inviting all the same.

She can’t help, even as she digs, feeling a little bit of camaraderie with these ladies despite the fact that they remind her far too much of The Stepford Wives. These women aren’t bad people; they just can’t think for themselves. They’ve done what people expected them to do or told them to do all their lives. It’s all they know. So, she doesn’t blame them for not noticing what was painfully obvious about the relationship between Lloyd and Heidi. She didn’t blame them for not doing anything about it. That’s why she was here. People like her were needed to take out the trash. That’s her justification for the last several years of her life anyway.

She set her casserole on the buffet and slid her hands out of the mitts. Her smile never wavered as she took the lid off the dish and deposited both the mitts and it onto the bar separating the kitchen and dining room--the parking lot for such things at these neighborhood gatherings. She had barely set them in place before Gloria was shoving a glass of wine in her direction. It took her all night long to finish that one glass, but she did it. Before too long, most of the people there were too drunk to notice that she hadn’t poured herself more…except Heidi who was too worried about not pissing off Lloyd to give a damn.

Oh well. That poor woman won’t have to spend her nights walking on eggshells anymore.

The hum of the party buzzed all around her as she sipped her wine and pretended to make rounds. She’s more of a watcher than a mingler when she’s in character, but she always makes sure to smile and nod and pretend to give a shit about the small talk and latest gossip when someone stops her. She’d rather avoid these neighborhood functions altogether, but she has an image to keep up. When she’s living among others, she can’t afford to be the subject of petty gossip because she didn’t show up which assuredly would happen in her absence. It’s what Stepfords do.

Blend. That is the crux to her mission. Fit in. Don’t do anything to stand out or seem suspicious.

No one knew what lay beneath the bland fa├žade. Not this time or any of the other times. And she wants to keep it that way. When she is carrying out one of her hits, she is vanilla, boring, an average stay-at-home divorcee living off every drop of alimony she can squeeze from her dog of an ex-husband as far as anyone else is concerned which is perfect. That’s the way she wants things.

She’s finished with the digging, rolls him into the hole she has created, and begins the process of filling it back up. He groans a little which isn’t a shock to her. She didn’t hit him all that hard with the oversized pepper mill that lived on her countertop. The 32 inch tall piece made of beechwood and stainless steel had weight to it and with the calculated arc of her swing, she probably knocked him with the first blow to the temple, but she hadn’t kill him. Yet. She liked it better this way. He’d spent his entire life making other people suffer. It was his turn now . It was just unfortunate to her that said suffering would be so short-lived.

She had actually tried to take the prolonged route in the beginning of all this…her 3rd hit. She couldn’t stomach torture, though. It didn’t make her feel like she was turning the tables on these men that way…it felt like she had become them, like she’d become her own monster of ex—the real one, not the story she created. She didn’t want to be one of the Lloyds of the world. She wanted to eradicate them. It was one thing to take out the trash but something else entirely to be the trash.

She begins to toss the dirt on top of him. Shovelful after shovelful thumps onto his chest and spreads out filling the thin but fairly deep death chamber she had just finished digging. In a way she hopes he wakes up long enough to know what’s going on. It was all too easy to get him to her house-- to seduce him in her stupid navy cardigan of all things--for her to have much sympathy for the man. She had winked at him across the room and suddenly there he was hovering over her. She had laughed at his idiotic jokes even the racist ones while her internal rage grew to epic proportions. The two of them had spent half the party seemingly enthralled in conversation, flirting, and touching like no one else was in the room. When she told him she was headed home and that he should stop by for one more drink, he was chomping at the bit.

In a flash, he had instructed Heidi to go home without giving her so much as a hint of an explanation for why he wasn’t going with her. He didn’t have to and he knew it. Heidi was that beaten down, that worn. Maybe she even thought herself lucky that she wouldn’t have to deal with him for awhile. The number of drinks he had at the party was one ingredient of a perfect storm that would probably end with Heidi back in the hospital for one of her numerous accidents.

With Heidi out of sight, Lloyd hadn’t even bothered to cover his tracks. He had brazenly followed her right out of Gloria’s door and across the street, and when she paused to unluck her door, he had the gall to run his hands down her back to give her ass a good squeeze. He had whispered something in her ear at that moment, the stink of the booze on his breath hanging heavy in the air like a rain cloud. She was far too livid by then to really pay attention to the words, but she had gotten the gist of it.

When she finally had the door open, his hands were all over her, exploring and pulling at her clothes. One of the buttons on her shirt popped and plummeted to the floor. She pushed him away a little then moved towards the kitchen, “follow me if you want that drink, big boy.”

He did.

She had been at the counter making their drinks when he rubbed against her, spun her around, and leaned in for a kiss. That had been her cue—she grabbed the peppermill while he was otherwise preoccupied and cracked him in the right temple. Once, twice, and a third time after he crumpled to the floor for good measure.

The dirt is piling higher and higher now. His body is mostly covered. He has to be feeling the weight of it by now, but he hasn’t really come to yet. Fuck, she thinks. I’ve left my Le Creuset at Gloria’s. Well, forget it now. There’s no going back for that thing at this point. It had been with her for years making rounds at neighborhood functions for the better part of a decade. She screwed up. How could she have forgotten something that was such a staple to the image she needed to create? She’d have to spring for a new one before she moved on to the next place, the next hospital she volunteered at, the next hit.

But, first, she was going to have to take a few days to rest—once she got where she was going, of course. These late night trips into the woods dragging bodies and digging were hell on her body.

She pats down the last shovelful of dirt then. The job is done. She takes a few handfuls of forest
debris scattering it all on top of the freshly turned Earth hopefully making things less obvious just in case someone happens to walk this way. She did her homework prior to picking this location making sure to watch the place from a nearby tree stand. She hadn’t seen anyone out here, but you never know. She’s learned a lot about this whole process over the years. One of the earlier bodies had been found by local hunters. The investigation hadn’t really progressed much that from what she read in the papers, but she certainly couldn’t afford to be connected to any of these places or these people—especially the dead ones.

With that done, she heads back to Lydia’s house one last time to clean and throw some things in the few pieces of Vera Bradley luggage she had managed to collect over the years as part of the image. Tomorrow, she’d be someone else, somewhere else, but she would be damned if she’d be wearing that godawful beige skirt again anytime soon.

______________________________________________________________________________

A little dark, but the prompt and the last few episodes of The Walking Dead inspired it. Carol would be an excellent Lydia, don't you think? Anyway, hope you enjoyed. Be sure to check out all the other bloggers below. Happy Reading :)

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts.  Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:
  http://www.BakingInATornado.com                          Baking In A Tornado
http://berghamchronicles.blogspot.com                       The Bergham’s Life Chronicles
http://spatulasonparade.blogspot.com                         Spatulas on Parade
http://dinoheromommy.com/                                      Dinosaur Superhero Mommy
http://themomisodes.com                                          The Momisodes
http://morethancheeseandbeer.blogspot.com             More Than Cheese and Beer
http://www.southernbellecharm.com                         Southern Belle Charm
http://thethreegerbers.blogspot.ch                        Confessions of a part-time working mom
http://thelieberfamily.com                                       The Lieber Family
http://www.someoneelsesgenius.com                        Someone Else’s Genius
http://climaxedtheblog.blogspot.com                             Climaxed
http://stacysewsandschools.blogspot.com/                 Stacy Sews and Schools
http://sparklyjenn.blogspot.com/                              Sparkly Poetic Weirdo 
http://singlemumplusone.blogspot.com                    Searching for Sanity
http://www.silenceofthemom.blogspot.com                  Silence of the Mom