Category Archives: Tender Places

Not Raped

Never raped, not me, not yet. I don’t identify as being traumatized in sexual ways as a kid or young adult. Instead, I was an object or recipient of ‘little transgressions’ perpetrated by males. These incidents have surfaced from 50 years ago. Tiny sexual assaults and sexual harassments in my earliest work experiences –the life lessons about what it is to be female.
• Walking along a road at age 11-12 saw a boy riding a bike toward me on the same side of the street. I did not know him. He punched me in the breast as he rode past.
• I did a lot of babysitting. The husband was responsible for paying the sitter and taking her home.
On several occasions, different men, would try to kiss me, cop a feel or speak in ways that made me uncomfortable.
• While in grade school I was working in the concession stand at football games. Men or boys wanting to be men would leer and make salacious remarks about my body. I pretended I hadn’t heard or didn’t understand and gave them ordered items that were paid for with a smile.
• Sitting in summer school Typing class (pre-keyboarding), I noticed a boy swatting in the dark
Hallway trying to get my attention. We made eye contact. He gestured, spreading two fingers apart. When my face registered confusion, he forcefully pointed below my desk and rudely gestured to spread my knees, so he could look. I had on a skirt. I mouthed NO angrily.
He ran. I was rattled, sweaty and felt sick. This is the first time I have shared this from
56 years ago.
• At 15 my summer job as a soda jerk was always uncomfortable working alone with the owner
on Sunday nights. Business was slow the last couple of hours. I would broom the entire parking to escape to his creepy stare and create safe distance. This began the sharpening of gut speak.
• By 17, I worked at a downtown shoe store selling bags, hosiery and cashiering. The manager was a peeper, (voyeur) assigning me to dust and restock high and low shelving as he hid or positioned himself to try to glance up my skirt. I learned to navigate by calling him out in a humorous way. Unsatisfied he became bolder telling me what customer he planned to visually violate making me sickly complicit.
• At 18 walking with a few friends in broad day light, boys on bikes rode up behind us and goosed our behinds. Eighteen-year-old me thought this was racism, today I realize it was sexual.

I never told anyone. I reasoned this is a part of growing up. I think I remained confident and competent particularly about work. As I woman it was apparent to me this is a part of the world, the truth of being female. We females develop work- arounds, strategies to better protect themselves. The truth remains, the evidence cannot be refuted, even “tiny transgressions” teach females they cannot be safe of body, work, income, identity or freedom.

Hold Your Thumbs

Our dad was a giant of a man, both in strength of character and body. Standing six feet tall he was strongly muscled with meaty, thick hands, a killer smile and a heart the size of a small nation. He could be fierce and ominous to an opposing lineman on a football field but to those who knew him, he was the safest place in the world. As a young man he worked in a meat packing plant.  He was often seen carrying a side of beef hoisted over a shoulder.

Tom Keating, long time reporter for the Indianapolis Star, recounted the time “Kuntzie” cancelled the moving company Keating scheduled for a family move. Instead, he showed up with a truck and two young sons and moved the household. He even carried out a refrigerator by himself sans dolly. Our dad was full of the possible.

He was a big kid at heart. He loved to laugh. He was playful and full of mischief. He was an athlete, coach, teacher and a leader.  He was great with kids fueled by their wide eyed wonder, curiosity and innocence. He was a gentle giant who loved to hold babies, play and work hard and teach.  A lesson he taught each one of use as small children was the practice of holding our thumbs.

In our family when we wished, hoped, wanted or intended a particular outcome – those times when a prayer or good luck was needed, we held our thumbs. As youngsters, we couldn’t quite master crossing our fingers. He would show us how.  Try it now. Fold your amazing apposable thumb into the palm of your hand and gently wrap the other four fingers around the thumb creating a barrel-shaped fist.  It’s almost like a maraca at the end of each arm. This can be a subtle act, a terrific way to get grounded in a moment, harness nervousness, and build interior strength.  There’s confidence, comfort and sense of solidarity this little ritual.

So if someone says, “I’m holding my thumbs for you”,  you are in good hands. It may not have the power of a novena, but it’s pretty darn close. You can be assured that a particular saint, our dad, Bill, Kuntzie, Smiley, Coach is whispering into God’s ear on your behalf.

Soul Soothing in Recovery

Carrie Newcomer & Jana Stanfield

Carrie Newcomer &
Jana Stanfield

Music is reliable tool to shift my mood, thoughts and attitude.  It is often a passive prayer with me a quiet watchdog. Music is a terrific driving companion leaving less room for negative thinking.

It has often been an extended hand when I’m awash in turbulent waters of depression, grief and even anguish.  My spirit experiences the vibration of certain chords, the pulse of rhythm, the dance of melody and resonance of harmonies, reminding me that I live and breathe.  Music can nudge me into a sense of hope andlightness.

Jana Stanfield is dubbed the Queen of Heavy Mental, a writer and performer of social work songs. I was listening to her before having much knowledge of 12 step programs of recovery.  It tickles me how I missed the screamingly obvious messages in songs titled, ‘Next Right Step’ and ‘Let the Change Begin’ and ‘Here and Now.’  I just picked up a CD and on the back cover is a coin bearing the Serenity Prayer.  Who Knew? Needless to say, the songs helped me long before I was aware.

Indiana Songwriter, Carrie Newcomer, creates songs and poetry that feed my soul.  She shares her rich appreciation and fascination with “the common things” in life that are remarkably extraordinary when viewed through her lyrics. Her work has fueled and guided my spiritual rebirth and growth.

Wise and peace loving, song after song supports a willingness to love wholeheartedly, inclusively. I am drawn to tales of justice, forgiveness, and relationship. I have learned to thrive in light and dark, and all the shades of grey in between, by learning that the sacred exists in simplest of things.

Music is as personal as fragrance.  It’s a chemical reaction in my understanding. It’s likely we may not enjoy the same sounds or artists. I share this suggestion to explore music as a component to health, a  gentle friend or a good coach.  Thank you, Jana Stanfield and Carrie Newcomer, for being minstrel teachers. You’ve helped me to recognize and appreciate so much beauty. Thank you. I’m glad to be a grateful, sober messenger.

Undecided

photo(1)It is not uncommon to get a song stuck in my head. “First you say you do And then you don’t, Then you say you will, And then you won’t, You’re undecided now, So what are you going to do?” are the lyrics that have nagged at me.
Luckily it is a playful tune of push and pull, expectation and disappointment, of yes and no popularized
by Ella Fitzgerald. The title of this song is “Undecided.” Like the song, I was trying to move a relationship that was stuck, and for me had started to fester.

“Now you want to play, And then it’s no, And when you say you’ll stay, That’s when you go. You’re undecided now. So what are you going to do?. Continue reading

Code Blue

“Code Blue. Riley Children’s 1st floor lobby. Code Blue. Riley Children’s 1st floor lobby,” was announced overhead. My colleague and I continued walking toward our destination as though nothing had happened but I was no longer completely in my body. I offered a prayer for the patient, the family, and the healthcare team responding.
The chill of that code blue lingered in my thoughts. It jarred the peace and calm I have come to enjoy in my life beyond the walls of a hospital. It made my heart hurt because it was at the children’s hospital where kids already face situations that bring many of us to our knees. It had me thinking about the operator who made the announcement, the parents and family and the patient’s outcome. I almost felt I’d heard this code with new ears, perhaps like many patients and families.
Next time I hear “Code Blue” I will stop momentarily as a sign of respect to offer a prayer. I am grateful for those who work to care for, heal and some days even save lives. I am thankful for a new perspective.

Band-Aids

band 4Nothing is as useless as a band aid that won’t stick. You know the ones. The off brand deal that sat in a drawer or first aid box too long, maybe more thought went into the packaging than the product. But a band-aid that covers and sticks can be magical. It can be a minor tourniquet, a protective cover, a badge of honor and with the right decoration even better than a loved one’s kiss.band (2) They can keep the dirt out, buffer a scab and even dispense a medicine. Band-Aids are supposed to help healing and protect, to make things better.
Band-Aids can camouflage a bruise, tattoo or a hickey. Sometimes, Band-Aids act as co-conspirators to a lie or two. For young children they can be miniature magic carpets for attention, imaginary events, and perhaps early stimuli for story- telling.band 3
I see Band-Aids as metaphor for nursing and nurturing . How about you? I’d love to know.
Do you have a Band-Aid story to tell? Please do.

I Hardly Ever Cry

Heartbreaking-sad-eyes-tears-photography2A Very Ugly Part of Me
I hardly ever cry. I do have occasional leakage from my lower lids.Just a few drips that spill slowly over the rim’s ridge that I can stall with careful breathing, a flurry of activity and panic hormones. My eyes and tear ducts work. A particularly tender song lyric, a big screen movie image or a
beautifully written story can provoke my terrific appreciation even awe but no more than tiny precipitates from the last wisp of rain. I lack the cleansing rainfall of tears. Continue reading

Stay

  • 2013-03-03 18.09.57
    Sweet Honey & the Rock’s beautiful accapella harmony of Stay a Little Longer is about urging a lover to remain, stay a little longer, staaay a little looonger with me.
    I recall
    The sweetness and stickiness of love
    The pull the connection
    The pain of separation
    Staaay. Staaay a little looonger. Stay a little longer with me.

    Remember the warmth, the thickness of the air
    Stroking that soft depression left in the mattress
    Caressing the sheets and comforter in idle reverie.
    Staaay. Staaay a little looonger. Stay a little longer with me.

    As the years go by, when there’s less sticky sweetness
    Air more dry and cool
    Sheets less rumpled
    When I reach for you and you are there
    I still recall the chorus
    Staaay. Staaay a little looonger. Stay a little longer with me.

    We still share memories of our lusty lovers past
    While learning to find new sweetness to share.
    There’s great comfort in each others companion.
    A reason to get up, to work, and want to come home again.

    So please, please, please
    Staaay. Staaay a little looonger. Stay a little longer with me. 2013-03-04 17.53.08