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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Keeping the monster away...

Keeping the monster away.  

Crack sanity's door and it is in--or crack the door out depending upon where you've got your monster.  Mine's inside a small room and so I must crack the door inward.  It's tempting.  My monster's recently cavorted with me and strewn pretty flowers on my path to earthly perdition.  Screeeeech.  And out it comes.  Fills the rest of my mind with its horrors.

Mayhem in Venezuela and Ukraine.  Freedom's vulnerability; its fragility; its preciousness. 

Last night I thought these thoughts as I prepared for bed; What if outside my home's door, night after night after night, I heard gunshots?  What if I looked out my window and saw men with guns laughing as they walked my street?  What does that feel like?  What does that do to people?  

What if the police's zero-tolerance policies meant I could be stopped and maybe arrested simply for shopping at my community's local convenience store?

Near my own home--not in Venezuela or Ukraine--a community is in danger. I write that again, a community--homes and schools and stores and municipal buildings and the people all of those represent--is in danger of being destroyed by violence and by fear.

Here's how bad it is in that community: A co-worker who lives there advised a neighbor to not put the carton in which her new television was delivered on the street corner for garbage pick up.  That carton was a "for sure" signal to marauding young men with weapons that hers was a house of interest.  

Instead he brought the carton to our school for recycling.  Helped keep her safe.  

My co-worker, who has lived there for 20 years, says the value of his home has tumbled; that he feels trapped there; that he's scared for his children; that he and his family do not go out at night and stay away from the windows.  

My God.  Twenty minutes from me. Not Venezuela.  Not Ukraine. Not a world away. Right next door.

12:52 pm est          Comments

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Feeling frustration: vignettes from the life of a public middle school counselor...

I don't want, really, to be "in [your] face" with workplace injustice in schools, I really don't.  But, my God.  It's everywhere.  It's got me questioning my own values again; what I stand for...and how much I'll stand.  When do I speak up?  Do I sound whiny and mean spirited when really I think I am a positive team player?  But oh, my radar's up at my school as I witness a fellow employee--a young man--strut and preen.  He spends lots of time with the principal.  "Mason come back," I'll hear on school walkie-talkies.  "Responding," he'll say cheerily.  He's always smiling--not AT us, but THROUGH us to whatever next thing he has to do to look good to the principal.  Because he wants to be one.  And by my district's standards, he will be perfect.  He's phony and false.  He's self serving and deceitful.  He's a dumper and a suck up.  

As I said, he's perfect for a leadership position in my school district.

Today at school, I cried tears of frustration. I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data entry and "paper-worky" kinds of things that take over my day.  I cried some of those tears in the presence of an assistant principal and so we'll see where that goes--I heard him calling the principal after my visit--so I am anticipating a "How're things?" conversation tomorrow.  Piles of papers to set up meetings and other piles of papers to assure students requested proper classes at our feeder pattern high school and loads and loads of codes to be entered into the computer vexed me. My door was closed.  Well, it wasn't actually closed; it was opened just a crack so that the message to children was: "Don't bother me, I'm busy."  And then there were the children wanting to spend some time with me; peaking through the window and me turning them away because of the piles of unentered data and meetings to set up.  

That vexed me even more.

Horn blowing; back patting--oh, yeah, I'm going to do both right here and now and proclaim that kids like to hang out with me!  I am a fun adult!  I truly like kids! Good God almighty--sometimes there's nothing happening in my office that even looks "therapeutic" except that everything is therapeutic for vulnerable kids. I'll ask: "Hey, what's your favorite song?" and listen to it--play it right there in my office on my iPhone plugged to the speaker I received for my birthday--and,  like the Pied Piper's children--they come.  "Ms. Werner!  You like Evanescence?! Wow!  Ms. Werner! That's One Direction!" 

"Ms. Werner, may I speak with you...?"

Music opens up conversation with kids.  I don't judge.  I discuss. I'll say, for example: "Big Sean keeps calling girls 'bitches' and 'hoes.' That okay?"  

Those conversations go places, let me tell you.  

But, wow, wow, and wow again, counseling is not what counselors, in general, do in public schools..at least in any--and I mean any--proactive way.  We all wait until someone is bloodied, or crying, or cutting, or bullied, or suicidal, and then we might put our paper work to the side for a little while.  We'll fret about this "interruption" and breathe sighs of relief when, after sending that student back to class or to the hospital,  we can document the event and get back to the other important piles and piles of papers and data.

And, again, shut our doors.

8:16 am est          Comments

Sunday, February 9, 2014

To the girl who has been with me my whole life...

Maya Angelou wrote something about the pain of a story inside that must come out....I have one of those. I've had it for a long time and didn't even know it. It's not really my story, it's your story.  It's a girls' story and a women's story and ultimately a boys' and a men's story too. It's about violence and power....and, hopefully, it's about forgiveness and redemption...

Beautiful girl, if no one ever has said 'I'm sorry'--and I do not know if that is or is not true--I want you, assaulted girl, to know I am deeply sorry for what happened to you.  You are, for some reason I cannot explain, almost all I think about right now. Oh, I try not to think of you while I am at work--tuck you into a mind corner while I cook dinner and help with homework--but at night you escape from your corner. Your smiling face--I found your picture from before the attack and you are so beautiful--wakes me.  I do not mind. The betrayal of adults in your life--and in mine, dear-girl-who-is-now-a-woman-in-her-sixties, for what happened to you could have happened to any girl of that era in that place--was unfair and unjust.  It was not your fault. Those adults--all of them and there were many--did not, it seems, protect you. 

I hope, woman-who-has-lived-with-this-your-whole-life, that you have found peace.  I hope you have found forgiveness.  

I am very glad to have found fifteen year old you.

8:24 am est          Comments

Saturday, February 1, 2014

“An activist is someone who cannot help but fight for something. That person is not usually motivated by a need for power or money or fame, but in fact is driven slightly mad by some injustice, some cruelty, some unfairness, so much so that he or she is compelled by some internal moral engine to act to make it better.”-Eve Ensler

"Good God, Kim;" I say to myself as I contemplate life's horrors; parents enduring deaths of their children; war, torture, suicide. "Good God. Kim, where have you been?"

I think of more children...these with their sweet innocence ripped from them in chunks of nightly servicing 25-30 men. They're dropped off on street corners to make livings for their "papas..."

Super Bowl XLVIII is happening this Sunday. It will draw to New Jersey, hoards of men. They will be looking for a "good time."  For some, that good time will feel like freedom and maybe they'll make decisions they would not have made in their Denver and Seattle suburbs.  There, they take their sons and daughters to school, kiss wives, fix broken bicycles, refrigerators, and plumbing. Some even grocery shop and cook, for their wives work too.  So, they deserve a great time and who'll be hurt if no one knows they indulged in a "quickie?"  The whores are everywhere--dressed up in their fishnets, tight skirts, and bustiers.  Ask around, make a phone call, pay some cash, and feel real good. No harm done and the whores are asking for it anyway. 

"Don't tell me she's fifteen!" they might bellow in outrage as they zip up their pants when confronted with truth about the girl on the bed of the cheap hotel. There's another trick waiting his turn outside the door. "Don't mess with my good time! Don't even go there!  She looks eighteen! Hell, she looks even older than that... Ask her! She'll tell you!

Don't you even make me think about my own daughters."

"Oh Kim.  Kim, Kim, Kim. Don't let Elizabeth Fritzl even close to your mind's front door! Not even a brain tickle!  

Get back Cleveland, Ohio!  I will not let you in Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight! Keep your six year old daughter fathered by your tormentor--the man who chained you for ten years and aborted other babies--silent.  Please.

Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, you too must stay away. 

But you and what happened to all of you, do not stay away.

I contemplate a specific girl raped by boys--at least eight--she 'd grown up with; boys who sat at desks behind her and, in earlier years, pulled her hair and then acted "all innocent" when the teacher asked: "What's going on back there?"; Boys who became animals as they snarled and slapped--laughed--as they ripped and slammed this girl's body against lockers in the high school's locker room. 

"Get your PANTS UP and GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!" I can hear the coach yell as he enters the locker room and sees his boys--his quarterback,the team's captain,  just at that moment squeezing his buttocks together as he rams into the whimpering girl.

I contemplate the boys.  They, not she, were protected; protected by fathers and mothers; their own and hers. "She was provocative," I've heard said. "She was asking for it."

She was fifteen.

Sometimes these thoughts ease into my mind like a light breeze, but most often they're hurricanes and I do not have my hurricane shutters up.

I am astounded at my earlier lack of understanding as I happily skipped through the dangers of my own life:  So: thank you, thank you, thank you God for keeping me and my friend J safe from abduction and rape and death when we, in Spain in 1977, opened the car door of a stranger and got into his car.  
Thank you stranger for taking two "Americanas" standing on the side of the highway with their thumbs out, to where you said you were going. 

Thank you boy at college who did not rape me; who took me back to my dorm room; who said "you need to sleep."  I can still see the door closing, right before I puked the first of my heaving stomach's efforts to rid itself of the copious amounts of beer I'd, at nineteen, had to drink.  

Thank you God, again, and this time for my words and for my willingness to write.  Thank you for that "slight madness" of which Eve Ensler writes.

I cannot deny, though, that I sometimes wish I didn't have to.

9:17 am est          Comments

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