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Tuesday, June 9, 2020

I cannot remain silent

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.  ~Martin Luther King Jr.

It's been a long time since I've posted... a REALLY LONG TIME.

I backed down and out of blogging for a while because people I knew in real life were getting weird about it and it was affecting my kids.  I never want anything to affect my kids.  If I can't legitimately make a difference by what I say, I won't blog.  I need to post what matters in my heart.

Why am I breaking my silence?


I can't sit by and keep my mouth shut.  I can't do nothing.

This will be a long post, so buckle up.

I'm mostly watching the world through the big screen in my living room, thank you COVID-19, and I cannot wrap my head around what is going on in the world.

The hate and violence need to stop.

I first want to say that I fully support law enforcement.  I don't believe that good, innocent people need to be murdered because they are cops.  Not all cops are bad cops.  Many of our friends are or were cops and I love and respect them.  If this was their fight, I'd stand shoulder to shoulder beside them.  They have been zapped HARD by those despicable individuals in Minnesota who stood by while George Floyd was being murdered by a bad cop.  They don't all deserve the hate thrown at them - but this isn't about cops right now - good or bad.

Right now ALL people DO need to stand up and agree that BLACK LIVES MATTER!

Yes.... All lives DO matter, but that is not the platform.  Put it away.

The best quote I saw on this was, "If you went into a Breast Cancer rally, you wouldn't stand up and say ALL CANCER MATTERS" - you'd support the breast cancer cause. 

Keep reading please....
No matter what you think about the rallies, the protests or the rioting - you need to pay attention.

This isn't about cops.  This isn't about All Lives.  It's about hate and racism, plain and simple.

I'm an educated, middle class, hard working white mom and wife.  It wasn't always this way.  Well, yeah - I've always been white - but I didn't grow up in the lap of luxury.  I worked my ass off for everything I have.  I am a white woman who had no idea what white privilege was, or that I actually had it.

Over the years I have asked many of my friends of color what white privilege meant, probably at the wrong time in the wrong setting (because I have no filter), with no answer.  I get it, it's an uncomfortable topic.  It could cause disagreements, but I wanted to know.  I needed to know why I was told I had white privilege.  I did not grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth.  I had a shitty childhood.  People referred to us as "white trash."  My parents were mostly absent for one reason or another.  Surely this didn't apply to me.

Ya know what I learned?  White privilege has nothing to do with any of that. 

Pre-Clifton days, I lived on the border of Totowa and Paterson.  Totowa kids weren't always so nice to me and told me I lived in Paterson.  Fine by me, I walked right across the street and hung out with my Paterson friends, who were mostly of color - friends who lovingly gave me the nickname "stupid little white girl."  Don't be horrified.  That was NOT meant to be mean or demeaning - it's genuinely who I was back then and they said it with love.  My dad was all peace, love and tie dye.  He very specifically taught me to never see color in people, only their hearts.  With that, I never saw color.  I went where I wanted, when I wanted,  with whom I wanted.  That often did not bode well for me.  I often had to be "rescued" from situations that could have gone very bad for me.  I was rescued by my friends of color.

I know what you think you're seeing here....  Of course it would it be "bad" for a little white girl to be in a "black area".  I didn't see that.  I saw my friends.  I saw their hearts.  I saw people who genuinely loved me and looked out for me when others couldn't be bothered.  They stood beside me.  Their moms fed me.  They made sure I got home OK in the dark when they knew getting back home for them might be a little tricky.  I saw them.  They saw me.  Period.

I want to share some of the things I personally lived throughout my childhood that I will never forget.  There are contrasts of good and bad - but I hope you will see my point.

First I'll start with a very basic, and true, illustration of racism from my childhood.  I'm only in my 50's.  By rights, this stuff should never have existed in my childhood, but please read on.

When I was younger, my mother sent my brothers and I to our grandparent's house down south every summer in lieu of day care or camp that she couldn't afford.  It was mid to late 70's almost a decade after segregation should have ended.  We were dropped off at the town pool every day that it didn't rain.  Being who I was, I gravitated to the children of color and played with them in the pool.  I never once noticed the "Black Area" signs that should have been removed decades prior.  I'd never seen them before and paid no mind.  I clearly remember walking over to sit and play with my new friends and their moms looking to me nervously.  I didn't understand.  I was from Jersey.  I knew nothing of modern day segregation.  Finally, one of the moms whispered to me, "Sweetie, you can't be here.  We are going to get into trouble."  I obeyed, of course, even though I didn't understand.  When I addressed the situation with my grandparents, they told me that "the coloreds aren't regarded much" in that area.  I was heart broken.  I never forgot it.

Back home in Jersey, one spring day my younger brothers and I took our brand new bikes and rode to Kennedy High School to hang out by the very first submarine, which at that time proudly adorned the property.  Two young boys of color asked if they could ride our bikes.  Being the "stupid little white girl" that I was, we said sure.... Yup, they stole our bikes.  Wait....DO NOT JUDGE.
My brothers and I ran and chased them across the Great Falls bridge and down to CCP (Christopher Columbus Projects).  We lost them.  So here we were, 3 little white kids deep in the projects.
We walked back without fear, crying because we'd lost our bikes.  Several cars drove by us full of white faces we recognized.  No one stopped to see why these 3 little (white) kids were walking along the road crying.  Let me be a little bit more clear....we were 11, 8 and 5 year old LITTLE KIDS.  Not one person stopped.  We continued to walk toward home and an older black gentleman stopped us on the street as we walked past to see if we were OK.  We were not.  He was a worker at the dog pound.  He kindly showed us in.... noticed a pile of dogs that were recently euthanized and quick covered them to not upset us further.  He showed us kindness.  He turned to me and asked for our home phone number to call our parents to pick us up.  HE WAS THE ONE TO RESCUE US.  Not the (white) family from our school who saw and drove right past us on the road, the black stranger.

A stranger of color stepped up to help us.  He could have lost his job for bringing 3 little white kids into the city dog pound.  He put himself  and his job on the line to help US.  He didn't have to.
I'll never forget him.
I know it's hard to tell... this is NOT me and my brothers, but this is the submarine that used to be at Kennedy High School
Another time, I was with my friends - not in the projects this time, but in an apartment complex.  There was a knock out dare in progress that I was unaware of.  I was the lucky recipient of the knock out punch by a young black boy.  He hit and ran.  I, of course, hit the ground while my group of white friends laughed.   The woman who ran the kids off and came to care for me was a black woman I'll refer to as "Miss Shirley" for privacy.  She made sure I was OK.  She gave me water and sat with me until I was picked up.  Not my white friends, the black woman who didn't know me helped me.
I'll never forget her.

I'm guessing the "stupid little white girl" picture is making more sense to you now.

I love and respect the memory of these people.
All they saw was someone needing help and they stepped up regardless of their personal circumstances, potential outcome or because we were white.  They saw a human in need and stepped up.

Isn't that what we should all be doing?  Stepping up for our fellow humans?

That's what we are, you know... humans!

We need to stop doing nothing.  Stop "minding your own business."  Stand up for what is right.

We need to stop seeing color and realize that good and bad happen in every color.

Am I horrified by George Floyd?  Yes, I am!  Honestly, I'm more offended by the Ahmaud Arbery incident.  (click on his name for background if you don't know about this incident)
A black man can't take a JOG without being assumed to be "high tailing it out of there" and be shot dead by two white men???  Is this really what the human race is made of?

He was taking a jog, not breaking laws.  Are you outraged?

Think about that, taking a jog.  Now put yourself in that position.  If you are white, would you EVER expect to be shot dead or suspected to be "high tailing it out of there" for taking a jog?
NO, you would not.  I wouldn't either.

This is where white privilege comes into play.  Growing up as I did, I didn't think that phrase even sort of applied to me.  I had no privileges....

Until I thought about this:

When was the last time you had to tell a young child that they shouldn't (not couldn't) play with your children because you / they would get into trouble?
When was the last time you were asked where you're going when you were leaving an upscale area?
When was the last time you were shot at for taking a jog?
When was the last time someone took a few steps back when you were standing next to them?
When was the last time someone assumed that because you were there a crime may be in progress?

This is where our white privilege lies - not by how much we make or what we do or don't have. It's the privilege of not being unfairly judged in advance based upon the color of your skin.

Is this really the world you want to live in?

It's not the world I want to live in.

Agree or disagree.  That's your choice.

I don't want to live in a world of hatred.

I don't want my children learning hate.

Black lives matter.

Until Black Lives Matter, All Lives cannot matter.

Stand up or shut up.

Learn to love and stop the hate.  Be a part of the solution.

This world will never find peace until we learn to love each other and accept each other's differences.

Thank you for reading my blog.


Thursday, March 3, 2016

The long term effects of suicide on those left behind

These are my actual, real life experiences.
I am always appreciative when my posts are shared and I'm always hopeful that these posts will help another person. The one thing I ask, please, out of respect to me and my personal experiences - please do not take this blog piece and re-post it as your own.  We are all in this together.  Thank you ~Jenn

This post has been in writing for more than a month. It is very difficult for me to get through because these are my truths.

I ask for a pardon for any grammatical or punctuation errors - this is totally unedited due to the nature of the post & where I had to go within myself to put this out there.

As always, I hope this helps even one person struggling with depression and / or suicidal thoughts.

March 28, 1984 - The day my father left this planet at his own hand.

That date is one I will never, ever, ever forget. Really, how could I?
That is the date that most important man in my life, at the time, left me - without warning, without saying goodbye, without an explanation.

I was 18.

For YEARS I had the exact same re-occurring nightmares of my father's suicide. Not the actual suicide, per se.  Luckily my dad did not die in our house, nor I did not find him or see him in that state. I, instead, dreamed of the article of his death written in the local newspaper.

The article that laid it all right out for me and created a mental picture I didn't recover from for years.

Hawthorne Man, 42, found dead.  Self inflicted gun shot wound to the head. Victim found slumped over steering wheel of his 1982 AMC International Scout.

That's not the article verbatim - but that was what formed the template of the nightmares that ensued for more than 20 years of my life.

The same dream, every night, of walking up to my dad's truck and seeing him slumped over the steering wheel, lifeless, bleeding from the wound to his head. Feeling scared, helpless, distraught, out of control, traumatized.

I don't have enough words to describe every single awful emotion I experienced. I always woke in a pool of sweat, crying, shaking, terrified.

I had that nightmare almost every night for more than 20 years, until I had a procedure called EMDR to make the nightmares stop.  (If you are unaware of what EMDR is, you may click on the link above to give you an explanation. Please note:  This link is not meant as an endorsement to any particular agency and is meant for informational purposes only.)

That treatment DID stop that particular dream, but it did not stop all dreams related to my dad's suicide.

More than 30 years later, I still miss my dad every single day.

Yes, I know - people miss people who've passed all the time.
I've lost others close to me in my life, either naturally or due to sickness or tragic accidents. Some were old, some were young. I think of them and I miss them. I'm not minimizing any loss.

Loss by suicide is different.

If I could express one thing - any thing to someone who is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts and thinks that if they just die they will stop being a burden, you are so wrong.

I've said so many times - if you are a person struggling and just want the pain to go away - please KNOW the pain is NOT going away. All it is doing is magnifying and moving on to those you love, who are left behind to try to make sense of it. Your family, your friends will carry this forever. They will never make sense of it.

Trust me.
There is NO CLOSING that gaping hole that is left behind by the suicide of someone you love. It is NOT the same as someone dying because they're sick, or because they've been in an awful accident, or it was just their time. It's awful. It's traumatic. It's life altering. It's a permanent hole that never quite heals.

It's been a long time since I've had one of those nightmares that I did the EMDR treatment to stop -  but I do still have those types of dreams. I think I always will.

"It happens as usual, I'm lying in my bed asleep, when I realize that my dad isn't home.  I get up out of my bed and I wander around my house looking for him.  In my confusion, I realize that nothing looks the same.  I hear the television in the other room, it's my husband watching television - but it's almost like I look through him.  I'm confused wondering where I am, where my dad's room is.  Why does everything look different.  I go lay back in bed thinking, wait - why am I sleeping in my dad's bed?  I need to go to my own bed.  I continue to process the confusion - then I realize, it's not my dad's bed.  It's my bed.  I'm in my house, not the house I lived in when my dad died - and that my dad is gone.  Then the pain hits.  He's gone.  I cry myself back to sleep."

It's been more than 30 years since my dad passed. I still dream of him, both happy and sad dreams. I still miss him. I still feel the pain and trauma of the loss.  It never goes away.

The feelings of confusion and fear have not completely left me.
In my awake state, today, I can remember all I felt during my dream last night. I can remember wondering where my dad was. Why didn't he come home? Where is he? Where am I? Why did he leave me alone here?  Fear.

You see, the pain of this loss - it never leaves.

...and it has a way of permeating a family.

My brother, Eric, took his own life - the same way as my dad - in 2007.

Suicide hurts everyone.

Neither my dad or brother said goodbye.
-A good bye would not have been better.

Neither my dad or my brother left a note.
-An explanation would not have been better.

Even if they did, it would not change the fact that someone I love left this place at his own hand, and I was powerless to stop it.

Please, I ask you - I beg you, if you are someone who is struggling with the pain of depression and/or suicidal thoughts - PLEASE reach out to someone.

Yes, I know you feel no one wants to hear it or is tired of hearing it.
Talk to someone else.
Yes, I know you feel no one will understand how you feel.
Someone may not completely understand, but they will try.
Yes, I know you feel that you would be burdening someone with your problems.
Someone will gladly want to help.
Yes, I know that sometimes you don't care about anything at all.
Care anyway.

Don't drown. Ask for help. Reach for a life line.

Please know;
Someone DOES love you.
Someone WILL miss you.
Someone WILL suffer every single day of the rest of their life if you leave.

Please stay.

Please reach out.

Someone WILL reach back.

It does get better.

You are loved.

Thank you for reading my blog.

My Daily Jenn-ism ~ March 2016

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1 (800) 273-8255

In loving memory of the very first man I ever loved - my daddy and my younger brother, Eric.
Missing you both forever <3

Related Posts:

How Suicide has Affected Me - My Real Life Story

Let's Talk Taboo

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Things I wish someone had said to me at 16 years old

I'm not sure how much I've shared on here about me... ya know, besides everything.

For the past 9 years until this past November, my husband and I were foster parents.

We've had the opportunity to have many children of different ages and backgrounds pass through our home. Each one more heart breaking than the next.  Some great outcomes, some unknown.

It was in fostering & volunteering with teens that I got to take a really good look at the life of sixteen year old girl from another angle besides the one I lived.  I can see so clearly now the things I wished that someone had told me.

At sixteen, everything seems so desperate and serious.  Love, life, everything.  They need it all to happen RIGHT NOW.

The one thing in common is that all they wanted was to feel loved, whatever that means.

True, some sixteen year old girls are very well adjusted or more well adjusted than others. Many of the girls we've helped lived lives that were far worse than anything I could relate to at that age.  I wanted to save them all - but I couldn't.  I could only say the things that had been said to me, or that I wish had been said to me.

If I could be the person speaking to myself, I'd speak the same words as I've spoken to these girls and let them know that it really is, and really will be OK.  They are loved.  They are deserving of love and they WILL have the right, special someone to love them forever - ONE DAY.

No bueno
I'm not a prude at all - so keep that in consideration when I say that modesty is OK. You don't have to dress like a nun - but cover it up.  You don't need to show it all off to get the attention of a boy you like.  Dressing inappropriately will attract attention all right - all the wrong attention!  If a boy likes you, you'll get his attention without all of that - don't you worry.

Hormones are flying all over the place - yours and theirs.  It's like a hormonal airport & everyone wants to come in for a landing....

Screeeeeeech..... slam on the breaks, girl.  You've got plenty of time for all of that.  Really.

Not everyone is ready, at the tender age of sixteen, to jump on into a sexual relationship, and it is OK to say so.

If a boy really likes you, he will respect that.  Really.  Yeah, he may be pissed - but he'll get over it.

On that angle, it's important to know the things my daddy (and my step dad) drilled into my head constantly - "Boys will tell you whatever you want to hear to get into your pants."  Honestly, hearing that over and over again really messed me up, but they were right.  Remember those words.

That doesn't mean that you're not lovable or deserving of love.  EVERYONE is worthy of love.  Not everyone is ready to love you the way you want to be loved.  That's learned through maturity.

If you find yourself in a bad situation - FIND AN ADULT YOU CAN TRUST!  Not every sixteen year old is close with or comfortable talking to their parent.  There is always an adult you can talk to - not all of us "adult" people suck.  We've all lived through what you're going through right now and as long as you're not a danger to yourself or others, we can pretty much keep our mouth shut if necessary. Do not try to handle things on your own.

Back to the boy thing....  Know this.... if a boy forces himself on you or takes advantage of you without your consent - he does NOT care about you.  If a boy truly likes / loves you, he will protect you.  He will respect you.  Even in this day and age of punk ass little teen age boys - this will always be a fact.  No one gets to hurt you.  No one gets to disrespect you.  No one gets to take what you're not prepared to give.  Know that - live it.

You many not be a full fledged adult yet, but you are human and deserving of basic human kindness and respect.  That you need to believe.

You are allowed, as your own person, to set boundaries on what you will and will not accept.  Not everyone will like that.  Too bad.  Not everyone matters.  People who genuinely care for you will respect your boundaries.  You deserve respect!

I know that it is absolutely, positively heart wrenching when the boy that you really like does not like you.  Even worse, pretends to like you and then treats you badly.  I promise you, there IS someone out there who will be absolutely, positively in love with every single breath you take.
That person is out there and that person is worth waiting for.

You deserve respect.  You deserve love.  You deserve compassion.  You deserve kindness.

All of this is temporary.  YES, all of it!  In 20 years, this will all be a mere blip in your memory bank. The good stuff will stand out and make you smile.  The bad stuff will still hurt your heart, but you will NOT remember it all.  It will all pass.

In the mean time, 
Be happy!  Be smart!  Be sixteen!

This time only rolls around once - live well without regrets.

You deserve that!

Thank you for reading my blog!!


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