Wow. 2020 was the year that ate my life. It’s been so long since I’ve been able to update my blog! Do people even blog anymore or is that an ancient practice by now? Either way, I’m compelled to write, so write I shall! Last year I was moderately depressed. After I graduated from Aspen University with my Master’s degree, I had grown so used to scrambling to meet deadlines, research papers, cramming, rushing, checking off one thing after the next. No matter what, always achieving.
After graduation, I intended to take a few months to decompress, but only a few. I graduated in April, but by June I was still exhaling. I had become so tightly wound as a student, for 10 long years, it literally took me the rest of the year to unwind. Not to mention, the pandemic. Once that $#!+show began, it snowballed, eating every good thing in its path.
I’ve decided to make 2021 “The Year of Preparation”, and 2022, “The Year of Transformation”. Yep, I’ve absolutely got the next two years of my life mapped out, per the usual. For the longest time I’ve quizzically arranged and rearranged the pieces of my life in quasi -interesting patterns. I continually tossed around multiple career paths, blindly grabbing at whatever seemed to work itself into the mix. I had never settled on any one career though. I went from being a possible business major, to sociologist, to social worker, to criminologist, to forensic anthropologist, to psychologist – dear God, you name it, I entertained it!
It’s funny how we have our own ideas of how our lives will be, and then God has HIS ideas of how our lives will be. My Dad taught me something that I carry daily in my life; he said, “listen to the whistle in the wind.” At first I didn’t understand what that meant. But after he explained it, I got it. He said you need to be very quiet and very still to be able to hear that “little whistle” that is carried in the wind. Not a natural wind, of course, a Spiritual one. If we’re too loud or too busy with our own ideas, thoughts, and plans, we won’t be able to hear that ever-soft whistle, or, God’s voice, basically. I love that. Out of all of my siblings, I spent more time with my Dad than anybody. I will always be so grateful for that! I was his life student, and he taught me so much. As I grow older, I can see that I’m more like my Dad than anyone else, and for that I’m grateful too.
I feel like I was floating through 2020, aimlessly- free falling. No ambition, no direction. Just cryogenically in a state of artificial existence. An automaton, going through the motions; content to just simply be. Now that it’s a new year, I’m excited to have gained my direction once again. This year, I’ll prepare for all of the changes that will come in 2022. I’m so excited! I’ve always seen myself working with children, as a teacher. Not a grade school teacher or a standard school teacher. I’ve always seen me working with multicultural children in a foreign land, like Africa, or South America. I didn’t know how I could make that happen though. I thought perhaps I’d end up volunteering at a run down school in a third world country. Now I see the picture crystal clear.
Last year, I purchased a top TEFL program. TEFL means “Teaching English as a Foreign Language”. It’s also known as TESOL- Teaching English as a Second Language. There are other names that are used, but those are the two main ones. Once the program is completed, a certification is granted which allows the certificate-holder to begin teaching English to foreign students, either online or by traveling to their country. Understandably, this is a highly sought after career plan. Who wouldn’t want to travel to a foreign country and experience the culture, cuisine, art scene and familial lifestyles? I’m giddy just thinking about it. 🙂 It’s possible to begin teaching with a TEFL certification only, and the pay is pretty good at that level. But, if you have a bachelor’s degree also, you jump up to another tier entirely, by which the pay is much better, as are the career opportunities. So, it gives me great pleasure to know that my hard work in academia will pay off in more ways than one.
So, I’ve had this program for 8 months now. As I said, I needed to take additional time to decompress. Now that I have, I’m excited to begin my TEFL studies. It usually takes a person 6 to 8 months to complete the necessary courses to become TEFL/TESOL certified. Naturally, I would be teaching students on my laptop, and online, at first, given the state of things with the pandemic. At some point down the road, however, I indent to do a bit of traveling to other countries, here and there, to really soak up the experience.
At some point, I plan on incorporating my children’s book, Peanut Butter Soup, into the curriculum. I also have major plans of developing a music program, and using my acoustic guitar to teach the children basic chord progressions. It doesn’t take much to teach basic chords and songwriting methodologies to children. Children are so eager to learn and therefore make excellent music students. Although we won’t speak the same language, we’ll be able to share a universal language, which is music.
I do have big plans for 2022! I’m so ready for this new stage in my life. Because I’ll probably end up in South America at some point down the line, I’m also beginning to study Spanish in earnest, in tandem with my TEFL studies. It’s important to be bilingual in this line of work. It’s not exactly necessary, but complimentary.
It’s good to be back in the saddle!
It’s going to be a good year. ❤
Self portrait/Ohio River/Jeffersonville, Indiana
When I was a little girl, I used to stand in front of my bathroom mirror. We were abjectly poor and our house dilapidated. Melting snow on our wood-burning stove in the living room to make hot water was not an unusual occurrence, but unfortunately, by the time we got to the top floor- all the way in the back section where the bathroom was- our collected water in the tub had already grown lukewarm, if not altogether cold.
My entire childhood was a master class in survival. Holes in our walls allowed the opossums (and other rodents) to crawl in at will and it wasn’t unusual to find a fat one sitting atop the kitchen table, helping itself to whatever scraps it might find.
I wore my older brother’s outgrown hand-me-down blue jeans; they were known as “high waters” because they were far above the ankle. They almost always had well-worn holes in the knees, from years of my brothers’ running and playing and rolling and chasing. I was the lucky recipient who got their unwanted gems.
My bed was a bare mattress- the jail kind- that was blue and white pin-striped, stuffed with feathers. It had long ridden itself of its skin- the dirty, urine-soaked sheets that stayed saturated with cold pee. Even when I was given fresh, clean sheets for my bed, which didn’t happen often, they didn’t stay clean for long. Within 24 hours, they were guaranteed to be soaked again.
I was told by one of my caretakers that I would be hooked up to electrodes and shocked if I continued wetting the bed. The thought of being electrocuted as I slept terrified me and created a lifelong fear of going to sleep. Thankfully, they never followed through with that awful plan but there was always a fear that I would be hurt or punished if I continued wetting the bed. There was nothing I could do to stop it! How do you wake yourself up to go pee as a child with no alarm clock? I don’t think anybody in the world is that talented.
Regardless, nobody stepped in and tried to proactively help me. There were no responsible adults who set a schedule to wake me through the night, guaranteeing that I wouldn’t continue wetting the bed. It was a brutal childhood. And, of course, there was the sexual abuse. As if wetting the bed wasn’t enough, I had a dual fear of being molested. I never knew when he would come for me- calling me downstairs after everybody else had left. I was forced to do unspeakable and shameful acts that no 9 year old child should ever have to do.
I’ve done my research: Adults who were sexually abused as children usually don’t end up faring well in life. They more than likely end up with a boatload of psychological and emotional problems, and they usually end up statistics.
I’ve always felt God’s hand on me. Even during the worst of days as a child on Cherry street. I used to go into my Mom and Dad’s prayer closet and pull the old string that hung down from the low-hanging ceiling. I felt as if I was in the presence of something so Great and Holy! (And I was.) I could smell the anointed oil placed there on the shelf, reverently. I could smell The LORD.
I would open the King James Bible and seek out the red letters. I knew that those were Jesus’ words and I only wanted to say what He’d said. So I sat there, trembling excitedly as I read out loud all of Jesus’ words from the New Testament. I felt so close to God during those precious times, alone in there with Jesus. I felt so special and loved because I knew that He could hear me.
At night I would pull the sheets (if I had them) or clothing up to my nose and slowly cover my eyes with a clever smile. I knew that I was surrounded by angels. I couldn’t see them but I knew they were there. I thought that if I hid under the blankets, I could pop out quickly and surprise-catch them! I never did, of course, but I always knew that they were there with me. Before I fell into fitful sleep, I would say goodnight to all of my friends, “Good night Noah. Good night Jonah. Good night Jesus. Good night Moses.’ And on and on. I knew that they could hear me too and had the comprehension at that young age to understand that I wasn’t alone as it seemed.
I looked into the bathroom mirror there, on a regular basis, peering deeply into the timid eyes I saw staring back at me. Skinny, sheepish, scared, curious. I was obsessed with my future. It created a world of curiosity within me, not knowing who I would be when I grew up. I wanted to be a good person so badly and do good or important things for others. Even at that age, I was fiercely driven. I was compelled to look down the road and see something worthy and good. I only saw a blank canvas and that frightened me.
I didn’t have the answers that I desperately needed to satisfy my soul. It was almost unbearable not knowing what kind of woman or person I would become as an adult. How could I be certain that I would “end up good”? It was my daily companion- the constant fear of who I wanted to be but afraid I wouldn’t be or able to be. Ten year old girls are often curious and self-doubting about what they’ll be like as adults, but I was having a full-blown existential crisis.
Over the years, I’ve derailed myself multiple times from achieving the personal goals I set for myself. My life has been monumentally challenging, to say the least. As I sit here now, typing into the wee morning hours, I think of that scared little girl in the mirror.
It’s only natural that I would be self-reflecting and doing a life review at 5:00 a.m. on this early Saturday morning. I only have four weeks to go and then I’ll be graduating with my Master’s in Psychology in Addiction Counseling. It’s been a long haul! I’m ridiculously giddy. 🙂 I really did it. It wasn’t always easy but I did it.
Only over these past few days have I begun to see a clearer picture of my life. For the past few years I’ve been privately fretting about becoming an addiction counselor. I have no doubt, especially given my personal experience and history, that I’d be able to help many people in their lives. I have no doubt that I’d break new ground in that industry and blaze my own trail. But would it satisfy my soul, truly? I don’t have that answer but I’m leaning toward, “No, it wouldn’t.”
I’m an artist. And a musician. And a photographer. And a singer. And a teacher. And a counselor. (I never said that I was a “practicing counselor” but I’m most certainly a trained one.) And I’m an author- a published author. A children’s book author. At some point, I may want to finally promote my book or use it as a tool to work with kids. I’ve always seen me doing that somewhere. All I’ve ever had was a murky outline, with no distinguishing features. But now, God is showing me the direction He wants me to go in.
When I had written my Pastor, Rev. Berneice Hicks a decade ago, I had shared with her that I had enrolled as a freshman to go into Business Administration. She wrote me back and encouraged me to get out of that department and apply myself to an area in which I could “better utilize my talents”. I loved that she said that but it brought with it a measure of fear and uncertainty. How would I know what I wanted to do? How would I know where to go?
It was like walking blindly into the fire but trying to believe that you won’t be burned if you just believe it hard enough. Even so, I withdrew from Business Administration (immediately) and signed up for Behavioral Sciences. I knew that I could at least segue into something ‘people-y” later, sticking closely to her recommendation.
So for the past decade as I’ve worked on my Associates, Bachelor’s, and Master’s degrees (and Substance Abuse certification), I’ve been tossing myself into the waves of uncertainty, rolling through every year with an ever-increasing amount of fear that I was moving in a direction of total blackness. Despite having a Master’s degree in Psychology )and Addiction Counseling), I still wouldn’t be able to be an addiction counselor (not a good one, anyway) without two subsequent years of supervised internship/practicum in counseling! Two full years of that!
I’ve been praying lately, asking God to show me where He wants me to be in this world. I’m willing! I just didn’t know what to do or where to go to truly make a difference in other people’s lives. This past week, He answered me.
I’ve always had an interest in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language), also known as TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Language). Most programs offer 120 (study) hours, minimally, but there are a few other organizations that offer 160 hours, 180 hours, 230 hours and even up to 290 hours. The 290 hours courses are known as “master TEFL classes” and you’re a legitimate expert in the field if you receive this type of certification. For the record, people typically don’t choose something as challenging as 290 hours of TEFL certification.
I’ve eyeballed this career path for the past few decades and have always had an unhealthy interest in this industry. Who wouldn’t want to travel abroad to Thailand or Vietnam and live in a rent-free dwelling on a beautiful exotic island- and be paid to work there?! Most TEFL organizations pay their teachers $1,500 -$1,650 per month. That’s pretty good already, but when you consider that they’re paying your rent on top of your salary- it goes from pretty good to phenomenal. TEFL teachers also receive side perks, such as monetary incentives to maintain standards, as well as other personal and financial bonuses. Some TEFL organizations even offer “exit compensation” of anywhere from $500- $3,000.
When you add up all of the monies and rewards, it becomes an incredibly good deal. As I move closer to graduation, I know that I’m leaving college for good. I’ll never return. (Not to a traditional “college”, anyway.) The only education I’m willing to take after receiving my Master’s degree is to study for and receive my TEFL certification. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do. 🙂
A decade ago, the industry looked very different. There have been many technological advancements over the past ten years! Whereas, years ago it was necessary to actually travel to China, or England, or the TEFL country of choice. Nowadays, those same lessons are taught online, in an online classroom. Of course, many people are in it specifically for the cultural experiences too, but if traveling to another country isn’t exactly ideal, it’s good to know the same job can be done via distance education, virtually– 100%.
I believe at some point I will want to travel abroad. I do see myself doing that at some point down the road. But for now, I’ll be teaching English to foreign language speakers (FLS) here in America. I cannot tell you how absolutely stoked I am to finally see the big picture in my life! It’s no longer a hazy outline, but a wildly vivid, technicolour explosion of hope, chance, possibility, and change. I have surely risen from the ashes and am taking flight. 🙂
Being the exceedingly driven, type A, overachiever that I am, naturally, the 120 hour fast track TEFL certification is simply not enough, so I signed on straightaway for the 290 hour “TEFL master class”. If I’m going to do this thing, I really want to DO THIS THING.
I want to be the absolute best that I can be and want to learn as much as I possibly can. I’ve learned by now that if you put in the hard work, in the beginning, you can reap the rewards later. You must first sew the seeds of patience, determination, dedication, focus, energy, and passion into the academic soil and water them with your hard-earned sweat. Only then will anything worthwhile come from that soil. There are no shortcuts! Ever.
I’ve just installed the Duolingo App on my Android, which I’ll use to learn Chinese. I’m also studying Swahili, and will continue my studies in Spanish. I plan on being at least quadrilingual when all is said and done. My target countries of interest are China, Africa, and South America, so if/when I do ever want to transition from online TEFL teaching, I’ll have learned several correlating languages to the countries of my interest.
(My intentions are not to become entirely fluent in Swahili and Chinese. I do however want to be able to comfortably culturally assimilate while in those regions. I’ve just begun studying Chinese and Swahili a few days ago. I will continue studying Spanish, however, unit I’m completely fluent. I have plans for South America- particularly Peru- down the road, and although Peruvians don’t speak 100% Spanish, I’ll be more than prepared by being fluent in Spanish.)
My core foundational TEFL course is 168 hours and its official title is the “Ofqual-Regulated Level 5 Course”. Along with that course, I also signed on for 4 specialization courses which are all 30 hours apiece. (Together, they culminate into the 290 hour “expert certification”.)
My TEFL certification course is officially called the “290 Hour TEFL MASTER Training Course” and the 4 specialization TEFL courses are:
* 30 Hour Teaching IELTS Module (International English Language Testing System)
* 30 Hour Teaching TOEIC Module (Test of English for International Communication)
*30 Hour Teaching Business English Module
*30 Hour Teaching Young Learners Module
There’s no such thing as “pie in the sky” and there are no lucky breaks in life. There’s a purpose for everything and everyone- accidents do not exist. I’m so grateful for my incredibly wise Dad who taught me so much about the world and God and human nature. He used to say to me often, “It says in Ecclesiastes 9:11, ‘Time and chance happeneth to them all'”. He also shared with me Jesus’ words about the rain falling on the just and the unjust equally, and the sun shining on them both too. He taught me that God gives everybody the same chances in life, and He’s indeed no respecter of persons. With that in mind. there are no excuses for not being able to accomplish one’s dreams in life! Look at my start in life. Every card in that stack was stacked against me. I was told by strangers, family, and anybody and everybody that I was “broken”- damaged goods. I almost believed them.
I chose to believe that I can do anything that I want to do in this world and I’m only as weak as I believe I am. Nobody can hold me back from accomplishing my goals and dreams but me. Some people are so bitter and angry and stay that way throughout their entire lives. They blame others for their misfortunes despite that it was them who made those choices. They choke on their own hatred and drown in their envy. I’m so glad God snatched me up from certain doom and carved a compassionate heart into me. He saved me from an unholy fire, truly.
I want to teach others english as my job, but my real reward will be inspiring other disadvantaged individuals in life and helping them to overcome their seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I’m a living, breathing miracle and I know that if I can walk through the fires that I’ve walked through without being consumed, then I can help others do that too. ❤
I see the little girl standing on the toilet, trying to reach the mirror’s height. I see the worry and fear etched into her young face, and I think, “It’s alright, sweetheart. You’re gonna make it.” ❤
“One Fine Day”
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Perrin Park, Jeffersonville, IN- Oct. 26th, 2019- Rebel t3i + Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35/2.8
Yep. I said it.
So recently, there’s been a family-type situation in which a new mom has been keeping the kid away from the new dad and it absolutely sucks. Really badly. She’s playing dirty and not even trying to hide it. She basically tossed the dad out of her life (in record time, I might add) and replaced him with a new guy. She won’t let her x have any visitation whatsoever (even axe murderers in prison get to see their kids, do they not?) and so she’s just really doing some dumb stuff right now to make him suffer. Unfortunately, this isn’t uncommon, as a certain female I was raised with did the same thing to her kid. She was pretty hell-bent on destroying her x so she poisoned her kid against him. It was so evil. Accused him of molesting their kid…the whole shebang. Unfortunately, that’s not uncommon either and it really is the first thing evil moms do when they want to punish their exes so they can keep the kid all to themselves. It’s a form of Munchausen Syndrome, actually. Moms who abuse their kids so they can swoop in to save them later. It’s sick.
Anywho, back to my original rant. So this new mom is doing her (very bad) thing, and another person came in and commented on a FB post: “Really, we just need to pray for them both and show them both the love of God.”
Um….NO. Just NO.
First of all, if somebody is being an evil bastard, where does it say that we need to toss flowers at their feet and hold hands and sing Kumbayah with ’em and all of that? I don’t think so. My Bible is full of Scriptures that talk about “the evildoer” (in Proverbs) and “the wicked” and all sorts of other references for people who do evil *&^% and none of it says that we’re supposed to encourage their evil deeds by “showing them the love of God”. Nah, man.
There ARE Scriptures, however, that says something about “The Lord will show himself merciful to those who are merciful and He’ll show Himself froward to the froward” and so on. (II Sam. 22:27 and Psalm 18:26)
When I was younger and much more naive, I used to think the best course of action for virtually everything was to pray. Pray pray pray! Pray if you’re happy, pray if you’re sad. And pray especially when you have problems. But now that I’m maturing a bit, I see how that can sometimes be a copout. Don’t get me wrong, praying is wonderful. It’s lovely and necessary. But too many people will use prayer as a hopeful remedy rather than a supplemental act.
I think it’s absolutely irresponsible to tell somebody that what they need is “to pray” (only), rather than rolling up their sleeves and getting to work! It’s lazy. if we simply prayed (again, only) for every problem we have, we’ll have so many more problems as a result, because we’ll inadvertently be shoving our own responsibilities over onto God, expecting Him to do it all.
Yes, God is a big God and He can and will fulfill our needs, but He gave us hands to work with, a brain to think with, feet to run with, and mouths to speak with! He also gave us common sense to know when we need to get off of our butts and DO SOMETHING rather than telling everybody to simply “pray”.
My two week break is almost over and I’ll be hitting the books again soon. I’ve enjoyed the heck out of my little vacation. There’s almost nothing I love more than to kick back with a new adventure game and lose myself in another world. Escapism at its finest! Sheer bliss. 🙂
Until we meet again, WP. x
Lensbaby Composer/Canon Rebel/winterscape- in black and white
My son, Brian (AKA Bob Hedge) was walking along Eastern Blvd. today and encountered a woman who asked him for .89 cents for bus fare. He gave her $10. As he walked on, he saw a homeless man. He was compelled to give him $20, and so he did.
I couldn’t be more proud of my kids. 🙂 As a Mom, there’s nothing that could make me more proud than to know they’re giving $ to strangers on the streets. Being compassionate, loving, and thoughtful goes a long way in this world, and people who do these things are at the top of my list, always.
Rock on, guys! I love you. NAMASTE xo
It’s 3:30 a.m. and I’m watching The Dark Crystal and thinking about nabbing another bowl of Pistachio Almond Ice cream. Party for one. 🙂
I’m in a particularly jovial mood- a bit celebratory. For weeks, I’d been super depressed- lost in the post-breakup haze that always accompanies splitting up with the mate. I knew I would have my bad days here or there, but I didn’t anticipate that it would be so bad. My heart was just wrecked.
Two days ago, in the twilight hours of pre-dawn, I fell on the bedroom floor and just wailed. I hadn’t let myself cry after Josh left (except for once) and finally, the damn burst; I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I cried and cried and prayed and really just got all of the ick out. I read Isaiah 26 (out loud) and really felt the Lord there in the room with me. After I anointed myself and finished reading the Bible, the cloud passed over me; I could feel it lifting physically, not just in my spirit, and afterwards I felt so light. The chains fell off of me and it’s been that way since. The heartbreak and sorrow were just too heavy for me and I knew that I wouldn’t make any type of progress until I let it all out, and let it all go.
So I did. It’s funny…to the hungry, desperate soul, even bitterness is sweet, and I was just soooo desperate to feel Jesus’ love. My heart has been restocked with sweet love and I feel a warm glow swimming around inside.
I have one of these too. >>>>>>> 🙂
Oh…and these little guys don’t hurt either:
We have two new housemates! Our dog, Chance, is crazy about them: He gives them baths and is a great guard dog. Brianna named the male kitty Virgil (from Dante’s Inferno), and Brian named the female Do Re Mi Fa So La To Do, but we call her Doey for short.
They’re absolutely adorable and I’m madly in love with them.
(Time to hit the hay.)
night morning, world.
“With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early.” -Isaiah 26: 9
For the first time in many weeks, it’s quiet here. It’s 3:14 a.m. and I really have no business being up at this time of night; tomorrow’s a school day- in more ways than one. I’m home-schooling my nephew, Johnboy, now. He comes over 3 times per week and we put in about 30 hours weekly. I won’t say where he was academically before I took over, but he’s making great progress and he’s got the grades to prove it. 🙂 Before we began, I made him an irresistible proposition: I offered to buy him a cell phone if he wrote me a report on any book from the library that was 300 pages or more. Over the next few weeks, he cultivated a careful 3 page report on Malcom X and I made good on my promise.
There are other incentives! Such as this:
I made him his favourite pie (cherry) the other day. It looks a little beat up, but it did the trick. 😉 (I also made 2 salted caramel chocolate pumpkin cheesecakes and homemade red pepper and roasted garlic chickpea hummus. It was to die for!)
Earlier this evening, things got a little out of hand, as they usually do, and Josh and I parted ways. I really hope it’s for good this time. I’m exhausted from the emotional chaos and I deal with conflict in a calm, peaceful way the majority of the time. I usually just “go away”. I like my quiet time where I can reflect and collect myself (and talk
to with God). But these past few days, I’ve felt this raging sea boiling up in me, because that’s what’s been unleashed on me for weeks now. I just reached my breaking point- I really did. Thankfully, Josh left, taking his things with him.
It’s been hard lately, but I’m eager to explore this new chapter in my life! Even a year ago, the thought of living my life as a single woman was daunting, but I lived the whole winter “manless” and got by just fine. Sure, it was pretty rough sailing for a while! And I was heartbroken. But what I feel now is actually relief. I’ve waited a really long time to be able to focus on me and actually begin a career. (Or, begin to begin a career.)
And now I’m there. I don’t need anyone screwing that up for me! I want to be alone for a good long while. I don’t feel sad at all, but I’m sure those days are coming. Pain is inevitable. I’m just at the very beginning of it all when denial is still at its peak and everything is “just spiffy”. But the gray days are coming.
I’m going to be alright though. I’ve come to a new place where I enjoy solitude- not only enjoy it, but crave it.
I think I’m actually growing up.
It’s such an awesome thing; when life has given you a big crap sandwich for a bit, and then you see two people madly in love and you just have to smile and be in awe and think- I remember that. :0 )
In this case, it’s my son, Brian, and his little lady- Mandy Tator Tots:
And then when I was driving home tonight, and saying, “God, I know you have a great plan for me. It’s painful, it’s hard right now. But I know you have my best interest at heart.”
And then I looked up and saw this!
“Yeah. I’ve got you, kid,” He said…and smiled.
Those were the words that were found in Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note that was posted on all of her social media accounts shortly after her death. Leelah chose to commit suicide because she felt that the life she was given to live was too painful to bear. Ultimately, she was not allowed to be who she wanted to be.
Leelah Alcorn was born Joshua Alcorn. She was born into a moderately strict religious home in which the gender you are born with is the gender you are expected to die with. Leelah took a great risk sharing her conflicting feelings with her parents as a young teenager. I too am a Christian and come from a tightly-woven Pentecostal family. In families like ours, “gender reassignment surgery” (or the like) would be asking for a one-way ticket to Exile Island where you would be expected to live out the rest of your days with spiritual leprosy as a complete and utter outcast. Sadly, this is the perspective of many Christians today.
Leelah was hoping to find love and acceptance and most importantly understanding when she told her parents that she’d felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body since the age of 4. If your own parents can’t accept you for who you are, then who can? She was shocked and heartbroken to be met with resistance, denial, and total rejection. Her parents told her it was “just a stage she was going through” and that “God doesn’t make mistakes”. They immediately banned Leelah from all social media for the next 5 months, taking away her cellphone and laptop. They also deleted her Facebook account and restricted her social activities to church-related group activities mostly, and when Leelah wasn’t being conditioned in such ways, she was restricted to her bedroom. They also forced her into Christian-based “reparative therapy”, which is, in short, a “corrective therapy” for homosexuals and and people who identify as transgender.
I couldn’t imagine, as a Christian, somebody forcing me to go to “transgender therapy” where I would be told that I would have to be made into the opposite sex- including sexual reassignment surgery. I can only imagine how Leelah must have felt: She was made to feel like a leper in her own home, school, community, and church.
Leelah pre-scheduled her suicide note to post to her social media outlets following her death with one final request, “Fix Society. Please.” On the early morning of December 28, 2014, she walked four miles in the cold to interstate 71 and at approximately 2:17 a.m., she stepped out into the highway and into the path of a tractor trailer.
Her family’s rejection of her chosen identity was more than she could bear. It breaks my heart that her mother still lives in denial- still choosing to call her Joshua instead. Even after Leelah’s suicide note had been posted, having begged other parents to never reject their children’s rights- including their right to choose their own gender- her mother posted this message to her Facebook account:
“My sweet 16-year-old son, Joshua Ryan Alcorn, went home to Heaven this morning. He was out for an early morning walk and was hit by a truck. Thank you for the messages and kindness and concern you have sent our way. Please continue to keep us in your prayers.”
They rejected Leelah in life, and they reject her in death. That’s beyond heartbreaking to me.
Jesus’ Words have forever transformed my heart and life. When a group of men had gathered around a woman to stone her (having accused her of adultery)- each having a handful of stones- Jesus looked at them and said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
One by one, they all dropped their stones. Jesus said to the woman, “Go thy way and sin no more.” He forgave her and loved her. Completely. One of my friend’s once said something to me that I’ll never forget. She said, “The sound of forgiveness is the sound of a stone dropping.” I love that. And although Leelah’s life choices weren’t a “sin” to her, the fact remains in many religions, a transgender lifestyle is viewed as sinful. I think we should stop expecting other people to “live up to our expectations” but rather deal with our own insufficiencies and our inabilities to accept his or her alternative lifestyle. After all, our lifestyle is “alternative” in their eyes.
I do not “support” suicide, but I most certainly respect any person willing to die for his or her cause. Leelah didn’t commit suicide because she was “so depressed”. Not really. She committed suicide because she felt that she had a cause worth fighting and dying for. Soldiers do that every day. Who’s to say that any person’s cause is more important than another’s?
So for Leelah, I’ll do what I can so that she didn’t die in vain. As a parent, I’ve let my kids know (and they all know this already) that I will support them always– no matter who they choose to be. True love is all-encompassing and non-conditional. If my children choose different genders, religions, whatever- I will love them just the same. It’s not my “job” as their parent to love them, it’s my privilege. I only wish Leelah would have received the same support from her parents. She may have chosen to stick around…
It saddens me that Leelah’s parents are wanting to put Joshua Alcorn on her tombstone, instead of Leelah Alcorn. I have just gone and signed the online petition so that her parents might honor Leelah and give her her chosen name for her tombstone. Already, there are over 200,000 people who have signed the petition. If you too think that Leelah should have the right to her own name on her tombstone, you can go here and sign the petition. I think it’s what Leelah would have wanted.
To any parents out there who may read this and defiantly cling to your strong Christian roots- I admire you. I cling to mine too! But let’s do what Jesus wants us to do above all else, and that is to love others- just as they are; not who you think they need to be:
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” 1st John 4: 7-8
” Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1st Corinthians 13: 4-7
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”
If you’d like to support Leelah’s right to have her name on her tombstone, you can sign this petition (and/or reblog this post).
Thanks for viewing! x
Lately, life has been so good. I’m enjoying my summer break, but am looking forward to going back in just a few more weeks. I can’t believe I’ve been out of school for a month now. I’m in the process of being accepted at WGU Indiana: it’s the only school in the nation with a fully accredited teacher’s program- distance ed- and it’s award winning.
So……I’ll be majoring in Biology in the teacher’s college. (Yes, teacher’s college!) I’m either going to explore the possibilities of becoming an elementary/middle school biology teacher, or using my bachelor’s to begin work on my master’s in biology (again, at the teacher’s level) or work on my master’ in DNA & Serology. Either way, I’ll have a few more years before I’ll need to make that executive decision. For now, I’m content with working solely on the Biology major.
Josh will be going back out of town on business for a few days. We spent the day out at the park (Lapping Park) walking on a trail that we officially claimed as our own. Afterwards, we hit a flea market and picked up some BBQ sauce for our new smoker/grill and Josh bought me some pumpkin coffee (for our Espresso maker) and then hit up a Chinese buffet. I feel like I’ve got ticks crawling all over me so I’m off to hit the shower.
Things have been pretty darn good.
School is OUT for the summer! I finished off my last two finals today. I’m totally finished with everything. I have no idea what my grades’ll be like: I haven’t a clue. I was at all A’s during midterm, but I can’t say that’s the case now. No matter- it’s over!
I’m told I look like my daughter, Moriah. I think I look more like Heidi.
Josh and I went to the river today on his moped. We packed up a lunch of Arizona tea w/ginseng + Pringles, smoked mussels, and Jalapeno cheddar crackers. (Desert was Snickers and Strawberry and Creme Lifesavers.) We laid on the rocks with our library books and listened to the crashing waves slamming the rocks. Perfect afternoon. 🙂
As stubborn and resistant as I am, wanting to jump right back into summer school, Josh has convinced me to take the entire summer off. So, I shall. Tomorrow I’ll clean the place spotless and begin my summer long vacation doing absolutely anything I want.
So early this morning, as I was serving Josh some creamy oat meal and coffee, I asked him if we could start planning our Puerto Rico vacation. I’ve calculated that it’ll cost around $1,000 each for a 5 day getaway stay in a private chalet in the El Yunque rain forest in the jungle. A round trip flight for two is only $800- insanely cheap. The chalet is $150 per night- again, insanely cheap and we’ll be 15 minutes away from a private waterfall lagoon in one direction and a white sanded beach filled with tiapas kiosks in the other. PARADISE.
The only problem I see here is that I’m about 30 lbs. heavier than I’d like to be, so…I have to kick my sick sugar habit and start working out. I absolutely HATE to “work out”. It’s so freaking boring. The fact that I’m a former athlete and trained intensely every day (for years) helps; I’ve got some killer muscles in my legs, etc. from being a cross country runner, but I’ve been a bit of a slacker for about 25 years.
I’m going to start today. An hour per day, 5 days per week. By the time Josh and I are on our private lighthouse beach in Caja de Muertos (Dead Man’s Chest), I’m going to have a super sick body. Because I’m a former athlete, my muscles are well formed- they’ve just been asleep for awhile but it’s time to wake those suckers up!
I’m feeling pretty excited these days. Apart from a video recorded diagnostic interview and a handful of research papers (and finals, of course) I’m pretty much wrapping this semester up. I’ll be able to have a month down in May (in between semesters), so the entire month will be spent picking blanket fuzz out of my hair, eating
Ben and Jerry’s rice crackers while watching the ID Channel and catching up on reading my MGM era biographies. Heaven? I think so.
I’m off for a morning photo shoot with my Super Tak (SMC Super Takumar 135/3.5) for my first spring shoot.
Life is pretty damn sweet right about now.
And here’s why!
Yesterday was such an awful day for me:everything was so dark. Ever the optimist, I know that these times are cyclic. They’re bound to happen and they’re inescapable but they won’t last forever. I hadn’t felt so depressed in a such long time. Since Chance (my dog) ripped my ring finger open, I’ve had to hand-write all of my notes in my classes. Today, I took 33 pages of notes (33!) on dissociative disorders, fugue, and the predispositions of unipolar and bipolar disorders for monozygotic and dizygotic twins. (33 pages!)
Last week it was 30+ pages on schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, and that’s just one class; there are three others. So, life has been a blur of mania and depression and lots of it (note-wise). It’s really no wonder that I’ve been a bit depressed, seeing how I haven’t seen the outside of my bedroom in days and I’m consuming 30+ pages of hardcore psychiatric disorders daily. The bright side is that I’m retaining 90% of what I’m studying and don’t have to look twice at my notes. Once they’re written down, the info. is locked in, pretty much. But still, yesterday was horribly black.
Until, that is, I received a knock at the door.
There was a special delivery and he brought me these!
And then my bitter scowl turned into this! (That Proactiv is good stuff, man.)
I figure that’s the least I owe you, Y. 🙂 (And yes, those are your flowers in the background.)
Nobody’s ever sent me flowers before. (I know!) Thank you a million times over. You’ve been there for me over the years more than anybody else. You’re a GEM and I love you dearly. My icky clouds have passed over and I’m feeling right as rain again. (I had no idea I could be bought with flowers. I’m so cheap!)
Thanks again so much for showing that you care. Love you. xo
Suffering.Pain.Sorrow.Crucifixion.Death.Resurrection.Hope.Love.Light.L I F E
SP/Cross made from popsicle sticks and dental floss
There are two words that bother me greatly when I see, hear, or read them. They are: “Mental Illness”. Why does this wildly popular and acceptable term bother me so much? I’ll elaborate.
Quite a few of my friends are “mentally ill” at their own admittance, and those that aren’t, continue to use the phrase easily and without conviction. It’s just what people are known to be that have “mental problems”, right?
But who doesn’t have “mental problems”? Who hasn’t at some point broken down and cried? Who hasn’t felt afflicted spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, financially, health-wise or otherwise? How did it affect you as person? Did you feel defeated? Did you feel like giving up? Did you fret? Worry? Call people? Overeat? Not leave your house for the day? The week? Pace your floors? Cuss? Scream? Throw something? Drink? Drink more? (See where this is going?)
How do we differentiate between a person who is exhibiting (fatigue, duress, insomnia, depression and other) physiological manifestations; very natural responses to his or her sexual abuse or other traumas- combined with their chaotic environments, and a person who is exhibiting these signs when everything is hunky-dory?
One would be classified as appropriate behaviors given the circumstances, and the other would be classified as exhibiting psychological disorders. Both examples describe the same behaviors! But the environmental norms surrounding them separate the two.
If a person has been sexually abused and placed in a normal environment with siblings and other happy folks who have a swell life, there is no way the sexually abused person is going to behave in an expected manner. Who would behave at optimal performance in school, church, family gatherings, etc. after being sexually abused and having to “guard it” like Fort Knox gold? A person who tries to keep it together year after year will eventually break down while trying to process massive amounts of: guilt, anxiety, shame, anger, rage, confusion, blame, self-loathing, envy- the list is very long.
Given the circumstances, it’s actually very normal behavior to exhibit signs of distress, anxiety, anger, OCD-like tendencies, insomnia, night terrors, and other maladaptive behaviors that are associated with trauma. People who have not suffered these traumas do not understand and it is extremely unsettling for them that they do not have answers that they can file away, shelve, and dress things up with a tidy bow so that it’s sorted out in their heads.
But there needs to be an understanding in this area that these odd behaviors are very normal for sexual abuse survivors. What wouldn’t be normal is having suffered sexual abuse (especially as a child) and then sailing through life with little or no behavioral quirks. I dislike the word disorder because I challenge anybody to say that surviving sexual abuse is a disorder.
It is a triumph. Sexual abuse is a violation like no other and people give medals to those in wars who have been violated less and call them heroes. Sexual abuse survivors fight in the battlefields of life, and there’s no hero’s welcome. There’s no parade. No medals. We have to be our own heroes and rescue ourselves from the collective trenches of societal stigma and hate bombs that others throw at us and that we throw at ourselves.
Being a sexual abuse survivor is like being locked in a dark, dirty cell and given 5,000 keys: only one will unlock the door, and you have one hour to find the right one, or you could die! Doom. Doom doom doom! And lots of crying, worry, and fears that you will never find the right key in time.
But again, I reiterate that these horrible feelings are absolutely normal “given the circumstances”. We need to carefully select the words and labels we assign to people who have suffered such traumas. What if they believe you?!
God forbid I ever believe any labels that have been placed upon me in life. I would be the biggest mess in the world. But I have assigned healthier labels for myself: loving, compassionate, real, honest, valuable, happy. After all, I am the one who has to live with myself and why would I want to live with a pessimist?
The term “mental illness” came about in the 1800’s after various psychological perspectives disagreed on what actually defined a person to be mentally ill. Some believed that it was evil spirits. Some believed it was “psychogenic”, or psychologically induced, and others believed that it was somatogenic, or “of a biophysiological nature” (that’s a fancy way of saying “relating to your body” rather than your mental processes).
They locked “mentally ill” people up on psych wards and in chains where they were beaten and starved, or placed in a metal contraption that rendered them motionless for hours and days at a time. When the patients in these asylums exhibited paranoia, fear, depression, sleeplessness, excessive anxiety and other abuse-related behaviors (as a direct result of the abuse), their friends and families sadly accepted what the doctor had prescribed them all: mental illness.
Many of these patients were exhibiting very normal responses to being held against their wills and physically and psychologically abused. People were quick to swallow the ideology of “mental illness” because it satisfied their need to classify and understand what was happening to their family member.
In other words, people created the term “mental illness” to be able to better control individuals, societies, groups, and religious wars were often the fuel that kept this controversial fire burning. With the classification of mental illness: the acts of physical and emotional abuse on those who “broke society’s norms” were not only unpunishable, but sanctioned, approved, and rewarded!
Just as toxic as any sexual abuse is the belief by the victim that he or she is mentally ill, because somebody said so. This is such a powerful weapon of self-destruction, and only the act of sexual abuse itself is stronger.
We need to start tossing out terms like “mental illness”: those two words alone are TOXIC.
I will never accept terms like “mental illness” and “disorder”. Those are conceptual words made up by people who do not understand what it is like to live in a world with wild, technicolor vision. How about that?
How about, “I have a family member or friend who
is mentally ill has really been through it, but they have still been able to [insert accomplishments here] despite their obstacles.”
It’s all about perception and presentation, and I think we owe one another a sum of decency in how we present each other.
I wrote this post so that other sexual abuse survivors might gather strength and comfort; know that there are others who have suffered the same things in life, but refuse to be labeled! You are what you believe you are.
You have to believe yourself into something positive, constructive, hopeful, and be fearless in your conquests! Be bold in who you are, and acknowledge that you are a survivor rather than a victim. And when you learn that, teach others that too. Choose positivity rather than negativity.
Those 5,000 keys?
They all open the door.
Well I’m glad to say that we’ve all made it through “Thanksgiving”. What does that even mean? Thanksgiving. To me, it means knowing that your kids are alive and well, you’re still breathing. We all have our meanings for it.
In my situation, it’s a bit peculiar. My sister (name withheld), and I haven’t talked since last September. Not this past September, but the September a year ago. (13 months.) Now, that said, if you and a certain family member have an unpleasant kerfuffle, you shouldn’t host Thanksgiving at your house. Why is that? Well, because you would alienate said member. Completely. Everybody and their grandmas would be welcome but you. That would be…well, rude. But that’s the case and that’s what’s happened.
My sister is devoutly “right” all the time. (Note the sarcasm.) She is the president of the hate committee of her “private sanctuary”, and services start at 9:00 a.m. every Sunday, weekly- sharp. She has wrapped every family member up in her glorious existence for more than 5 years now. If you’re less than “chaotic and dramatic”, you don’t stand a chance. Sorry…I’m thinking that there are other survivors out there like me that feel this way.
So, this year, Josh and I have chosen to eat with homeless people than to be with her and the rest of the “family”. Yes, it’s true. We’ve chosen to spend our time with street people- drug addicts and alcoholics- degenerates and the mentally ill, than to be with them. We didn’t get “an invite”, but that’s alright- we were already gone.
On the bright side of things, Josh and I are getting along splendidly. We don’t focus on the “might be’s” of the future. We’re taking each day and applying it to our lives. We’ve pulled through some amazingly difficult times. We don’t know how much time we have together, but we’re grateful for every single day and we show it. I think that’s what’s most important- that our lives are vital and static.
And today, we have toilet paper.
Can you really ask for more than that?
Josh’s pic- guy walking in the park/SOOTC (straight out of the camera)
G3. Taken yesterday- Thanksgiving, on our mile walk at the park.
Wow, I’m pretty disturbed by a news story I just read. A family (husband/wife-two kids) went out to eat and racked up a bill of $93.55. Their waitress, who was a lesbian and an x-marine, received a “non-tip” with the following note scribbled on her receipt: “I’m sorry but I cannot tip because I don’t agree with your lifestyle & how you live your life.” They had based their assessments on her short hair.
I can’t believe the sheer stupidity of some people out there! And to do that in front of their children. I feel really bad for the waitress. I think people use the whole gay thing sometimes as a springboard for their every day good old fashioned hatred. It’s just so wrong on every level. As a Christian, I’m highly offended at the family’s behaviour. My favourite waiter ever (at the Olive Garden) was gay- he’s no longer there- and to be honest, at first I was taken aback. I just didn’t expect it when he first spoke, but we had a good chat and I warmed to him quickly. He was a great waiter! Apart from that, he was a very likable guy- funny, and a college graduate. I tipped him well and requested him personally the next time my family and I were there. He was really on top of his game and I love people who are on the ball. It’s a shame that there are people out there who make it a sport to condemn gay people. On the other side of that coin, it’s not right to go on Facebook attacking the offender and rallying the troops. Hate is hate- and it’s all bad.
And on that note, Johhny Weir, if you’re reading this, you’re still my hero. xo