Aside

The Roots are Strong

images2My Aunt Ann had a massive stroke over the weekend and they don’t expect her to survive the weekend.  And honestly – I’m not sure that she would want to.  She would consider it to be undignified and bothersome but she would do it in a way that would make it sound positive and uplifting, for she had that gift.

My Aunt Ann was the quiet voice of wisdom in the darkest of times and words she spoke to comfort or advise or console were always the exact right thing to say.  These words were often repeated later as the true value and depth of their meaning sometimes took a while to sink in.  When my sister and her husband had suffered a devastating loss and was sitting in silence on her front porch, my Aunt told her a story about the tulips that graced the flowerbed around the house as if it were a passing thought with no reference to their current state of hopeless abandonment.

I come from a family of farmers and gardeners and although I do not possess the coveted green thumb, I always thought that it was the keepers of the ground that truly understand hope and patience.  There is no immediate gratification in farming or gardening…it is a labor of love and patience and understanding that a tiny seed that in itself promises nothing, will someday overcome all odds and become a thing of beauty or nourishment for others to enjoy.

Tulip bulbs are planted deep in the ground in the fall but don’t make their glorious appearance until after Springtime.  This is a labor of Hope for the Gardener as one never knows what their future will be until the time is right.  The Ground gets very dry and cold and hard and the snow covers the ground they wait in for many months.  My Aunt had planted these bulbs – as she had done for as many years as I can remember in full expectation that they would become a thing of beauty for an entire Summer.

That year had been a very cold winter.  Unusually cold – even for the Midwest.  It has run longer than usual and she had feared that the tiny plants that had barely peeked their stalks out from the ground before a last frost late came unexpectedly and froze them solid.  Too cold, my Aunt had imagined for the Tulips to have any hope of living through it and blooming as they usually did every spring.  For a few weeks each morning as she left for her job as an editor of a small community newspaper, she observed the barren ground, disappointed, but not her faith not shaken that all the work she had done to plant these flowers would go unrewarded.

And sure enough, one morning when the sun had warmed the ground and everything around it, she saw that the tulips would not only live, but that they would be the most beautiful and strongest flowers she had ever had.

And as she finished the story to my sister, she said, “You see…the roots were strong.”

I would like to always remember the strength and patience and hope that my Aunt Ann always gave away so freely.  She was a great woman who was one of the first in my family history to go to college, marry and work a full time job while raising a family and was a leader in her small community.  She went to church every Sunday at the picture book Country Baptist Church in town that had a maximum capacity of about 100.  Many years after she and her husband sold their interests in the lumber yard that supplied many of the surrounding communities with building materials, she supported my Uncle Don in his bid to become the County Sheriff.  She used Oil of Olay every morning and evening and ironed her sheets before making the beds in her house that you could bounce a quarter off.  Her house was always spotlessly clean and she had the same phone number for over 60 years and never got a cell phone.  She dressed as if she were going to church every day, complete with hair and make up done with care and precision.  She had a musical laugh and a smile that lit up a room.  Her doors were always open and she had a heart of solid gold.

I will miss her every day.

God, Drugs and Thugs – My Messy Beautiful

It’s good to come up kicking! Great blog!

God, Drugs and Thugs

4e67614cfe13a73a2b81c15780fa8395I read something this morning that took me back 5 years, 9 months and 20 days – to a moment which is never too far from my consciousness. As I approach my sixth year clean and sober, the image burned into my mind on June 17th, 2008, doesn’t haunt me like it once did. That skeletal frame, covered with bruises and track marks no longer chases me, fearfully, toward sobriety. The hollow, lifeless eyes are no longer black holes threatening to swallow me whole unless I begin sprinting toward a spiritual life. No, today the memory brings up a feeling of sorrowful gratitude. The girl in the mirror has sunk to such a low point that she can’t even recognize herself anymore. Absolutely nothing in her life makes sense anymore. Once upon a time, she was really something. She “coulda’ been a contender.” On this day, though, she has finally lost her last…

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From One to Another – An Open Letter to Women Who Want Out!

You are brave.

You got away… you lived through it…and you told other people about it. People who could find justice for you and people who didn’t think this kind of thing really happens. You told your story for the others – the next generation – and you offered hope for the ones who are still trapped. Maybe not by a cage or bound by chains, but held in captivity by fear and self-doubt. You have given hope to others and you have put out a call to action to others who are horrified by all of this who can truly make a difference. There are so many out there who didn’t get your chance to escape…there are many more that still don’t think they can and there are even some out there who don’t think they don’t want to escape. This alone puts you in a category of heroes that doesn’t really exist. People will call you a lot of things – Victim. Survivor. Overcomer. And while all those things are true, they are not who you are. The only one who can truly define you is YOU! And it might take a while before you are able to do that and that’s OK. This whole mess will always be a part of your life but it won’t always be the primary thing on your mind and someday you will sleep through the night in peace. Sometime soon – find something you love doing and do it as often as you can. And don’t forget to BREATHE. Deeply and Often. Find friends – especially women friends – outside of this cocoon of victims’ services and law enforcement – ones that don’t know anything about you – and learn to trust people again on your terms. Set clear and firm boundaries for yourself and if anyone does anything that even comes close to violating those boundaries – cut them out of your life. You can relax the boundaries as you learn to trust yourself and others over time.

You are smart!

There is a light inside of you and it will burn brighter every day. You may doubt your wisdom sometimes but it’s really important that you don’t second guess yourself. Don’t try to figure out what made you vulnerable – find out what made you strong! Of course it’s ok to be vulnerable – it’s what makes us human – but we women can be strong and still be soft. You can trust your instincts. You can trust yourself. And you will learn to trust others worthy of your trust again. Take 15 minutes every day and dedicate it to empowering yourself.

You are important!

You are important as a person, as a woman, as a survivor and as a voice for others. And you have many other “titles” and “labels” that define who you are. Be the best woman you can be and all the other things will fall into place. If you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to admit it and ask for help from someone you trust. Your past is what you did – it’s not who you are! Your FUTURE is great than your past. Your best days are AHEAD of you. Don’t look over your shoulder at your past and worry about it. Keep your toes pointed forward and your eyes on the prize…a life filled with love and joy and peace.

Another Wrinkle

While I was waiting for another riveting episode of Law and Order SVU to come on last week, a well known cosmetics company ran a commercial touting their latest potion for getting rid of wrinkles and “fine lines”.

Or I should say another well known company ran a commercial for their latest wrinkle cream.

As the glittery ad flashed photo after video of a 40 something celebrity dancing around joyously because she had found the answer to all her problems in this ¼ ounce jar of magical creamy bliss, I inadvertently felt my hand touch the vertical line on my forehead between my eyebrows. Just checking to see if it was getting worse…or perhaps was it miraculously becoming less noticeable.

Just a few days before, the high school dropout who wore a crisp white lab coat behind the cosmetic counter informed me it was no longer a fine line – or even a wrinkle – far worse! It was (da, da, da) a derma-crease and could only be treated (as if were cancer) with “an injection”.

She lamented that there was no potion that would free me from the offensive blemish…there was no hope.

Of course – with my despair palpable, she admitted that this fine cosmetics company she represented had recently released an anti-aging regimen of products that if used religiously and liberally might possibly – and I quote – “would compact the cells in my skin and make it appear to be firmer and (oh joy of joys) younger.” Her perfectly manicured hands dramatically caressed the glass box that displayed this new regimen and as if to reward the hope that was clearly creeping into my subconscious – she effortlessly slid a hundred foot wide magnifying mirror across the counter so I could clearly see the mountainous peaks and valleys of the “crows feet” that were stomping mercilessly at the corners of my eyes.

The ¼ ounce of prevention cost more than an ounce of gold and as I gratefully allowed reason to rule the day, I stepped back and took a deep breath and just bought the lip liner I had come for. She was shocked that I was denying myself the opportunity to appear young again and assured me that she would hold onto a kit just in case I changed my mind. I couldn’t help but choke back the impulse to tell her all about what surprises life had in store for her!

This young lady behind the cosmetic counter today  didn’t offend me as much as the ads and commercials where they use a 16 year old fashion model to convince me to buy something that will reduce the “fine lines” or brighten the dark skin under my eyes, or lift and tighten the skin that is starting to sag a bit around my neck. That model doesn’t even believe those things will ever happen to her. I know I never thought I would live long enough to get wrinkles.

But I still get aggravated at myself for the self-loathing that these commercials bring out in me. The useless worry about things that are going to happen that I have no control over. The all-consuming vanity about that stupid line. The fear that my youth was wasted doing exactly what I am doing at this very minute…fretting over the inevitable and not taking positive action to take on what I can accomplish.

I was challenged in my women’s’ group therapy meeting this week to set a goal for the coming year. There’s a lot going on in that sentence. Challenged meaning it’s not supposed to be easy. Women’s Group Therapy meaning a group of grown up women with grown up issues who are determined to set some things in our own heads straight.

“Take a moment,” The therapist admonished. “And come up with something that will impact your life in a positive way.”
I looked at it again this morning – just to be sure it hadn’t changed. But there it was in all of its idealistic glory.

“Find a Way to Save the World”

#sanesurvivors

I am a survivor of the sex trade. I am also a survivor of a couple of car accidents, more than a few bad relationships and a broken nail the day before vacation. This in no way minimizes the dreadful experience many survivors of the sex trade experience but – as it is 18 years in my rear view mirror – I have to say that pretty much everyone has experienced some kind of crappy experience and managed to come out of it and – well – survive. I aged out. I woke up one day and realized that my days of having people believe I was 22 were over. Never saw it coming and wasn’t it prepared for it.

I’m an advocate for women who want to exit voluntarily. I think that when a person in the sex trade wants out, they should be able to get out without having to endure all the stuff they have to endure. They should be able to get what they need to get on with their lives and be as happy and healthy as the choices they make.

There shouldn’t be any stigma attached to the history and he or she should be no more subject to not being able to get a good job and earn a good living. I earn a great living as a hairdresser and I get to work as much or as little as I like. I could own my own shop but I’m not that great with managing money so I prefer to work for someone else and have them pay all the bills and worry about how to keep the lights on. I love to interact with clients and my co-workers and we have a great time at work. We occasionally even joke about my former profession. My bosses know – my co-workers know – and a lot of my clients know about my past. And it doesn’t concern them a single bit. My specialties are stripper blondes and porn star bangs. A little levity, please!

I used to have my own organization to help women get out of prostitution but the “sex trafficking” organizations got really nervous about my decision to only help the ones who wanted help and they were shocked that I didn’t want to scurry around bad parts of town in the middle of the night doing “rescues”. I know a couple of pimps and they have some issues but I’m not scared of them and they aren’t scared of me. I know Sex Workers. I know Prostitutes. I know Street Walkers. I know escorts. And I know that if and when ANY of them decides to leave or needs something – that THEY know they can call on me for advise. They know I love them and I accept them as they are – where they are.

And the churches weren’t really crazy that I didn’t insist that they “accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior” and jump through a bunch of hoops to get an education and an apartment. Or even a job. I worked with one girl who came to me after 12 weeks living in a shelter and daily attending 8 hours a day of a “program” and church services 3 times a week and she didn’t arrive with so much as a resume. They blackballed me and tried to accuse me of providing drugs and prostituting the women that were staying at the 2 bedroom apartment that I rented to bridge the HUGE gap in housing and services. The top church lady in charge of all the other church ladies came after me because she was jealous that my message of Love, Joy, Peace and Forgiveness resonated with the girls she wanted to “join her program” and she wanted all the attention for herself and her brand new PhD.

I survived that too.

I’m not into politics. Not in My lane. I don’t care to be involved with politicians. They are creepy and the laws they pass rarely impact the women I seek to serve.

I think this issue is a human rights issue in that those in the sex trade should have rights. They should have the right to report a crime without being harassed. They should have the same kind of access to education that everyone else does. They should have health and safety information. They should be able to get financial guidance for how to manage their money. They should have a place to call that can help them get what they need to have a good life. If they stay or if they leave the sex trade.

We women need to build bridges between all of our different experiences and embrace our differences and work to provide protection and assistance for those who DO need help. WHEN they WANT help. Not when its forced upon them by someone else’s agenda or morals or standards.

I’ve spoken to multiple side of the issue and I think we can all agree that we don’t want to see other women and children hurt and I think we can be stronger together if we can set aside the things we disagree on and focus on the things we can work on to create a better world.

If you are a #sanesurvivor – speak up. There are more of us out there than you might think. I’d love to hear about solution for resources and not rhetoric about “victim’s vs survivors” or who is or isn’t a “real victim”.

We really can be STRONGER TOGETHER!!!

Perfect Victims and Real Survivors: The Iconic Victim in Domestic Human Trafficking Law

Sex Work Research

Jayashri Srikantiah, “Perfect Victims and Real Survivors: The Iconic Victim in Domestic Human Trafficking Law”, 87 Boston University Law Review 157 (February 2007).

Abstract:

Recent groundbreaking legislation created new immigration relief for victims of human trafficking, who would otherwise be subject to deportation after escape from exploitation. However, few trafficking victims have successfully obtained relief under its provisions. Existing critique has focused on international and domestic definitions of human trafficking and appraisal of the statutory language. This Article explores the problem through a new analytical lens. I suggest that federal agencies implementing the statute have restricted relief based on a flawed understanding of victim volition, under which victims who appear to be under the total control of a trafficker are viewed as worthy of relief, and other victims are rejected as undeserving. Drawing on criminal and domestic violence law as well as immigration legal history, the Article examines the forces…

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