11 December 2018

Further thoughts on the past few days


So a few more things have come to mind since I am now back in my warm office and sipping HOT cider. Like a first-worlder. Like a person who lives in the wealthier part of my town and got their power restored first while Simon and I waited and shivered.

Wow, that escalated fast. For anyone concerned that I was just having a bit of a lie in on Monday or that I decided that I just didn't want to turn up this morning - have a look at that picture and then remember that I drive a Honda Fit. We got a bit stuck when we dropped the girls off this morning and - small car FTW - Simon was able to push me off of the snow drift I'd become stuck on because I drive a matchbox car. That was my street on Sunday afternoon I think.

So things we learned:

  • It doesn't matter how many days you have been snowed in/without power, you will continue to try to turn on the lights in your bathroom because it doesn't have a window and it's dark in there.
  • Dogs handle adversity much better than humans.
  • You cannot use a generator that is less than $300 ish to provide heat to your house because they can't manage more than 6.5 amps.
  • If you wait till the day after Snowmaggedon, no one in Greenville will have generators, propane heaters, or, more importantly, propane.
  • Harbor freight sells fantastic flashlights.
Okay, now I think I'm finished...unless Duke Energy misses the deadline tonight.




How to avoid Whamhalla and other Holiday Fun

What do you mean we have to leave this warm house? - Ciaragh
Oh, y'all. It has been a DAY already, and it isn't even 1pm yet (almost, though). Let me just recap the past few days for you, my Lettuce Readers.

Last week we heard that there was snow moving into the area over the weekend. Yucky and cold and wet Saturday, snow and sleet on Sunday, and moving away by Monday. Great! Now, normally I like a snow day as much as anyone else does, but not this week. This is final exams week at work and that is a schedule that shall not be interrupted.

For those that weren't sure, that was the point at which Mother Nature asked the southeast to hold her adult beverage.  Sure enough, the cold/wet/freezing happened on Saturday and snow overnight Saturday/into Sunday. What also happened was that at 5am on Sunday morning, Simon woke me up to tell me the power had gone out.

If you were not raised in the South or you haven't lived here long, what happens here rather than a "snow event" is an ice storm, where layers and layers of ice coat everything that it can find - including trees and power lines. (Do NOT get me started on a country as rich as the US that can't seem to understand the UNIVERSAL benefit of burying power lines.) So anyway, the freezing rain and sleet make ice that coats the trees and causes them to bend and sometimes break. It also coats the power lines and poles, making them so heavy that they too sometimes bend and break. If you can avoid that horrific combination, watch out for the ground which will also be covered with - you guessed it, ICE. That makes walking and driving very dangerous.

Let me just take a moment here to ask those that want to make fun of southerners for not being able to "drive in the snow." Just shut it, okay? This is not the snow you are accustomed to - I can drive in that, and did when I lived in West Virginia. This is trying to drive on a sheet of ice that is masquerading as a road. It is very dangerous and while most of us down here are taught to drive on it safely back in driver's ed, we are also taught that it is smarter and safer not to attempt it at all.

Right. So anyway, back to me.

5am Sunday, the power goes out. By 5:19am on Sunday I have reported the outage to Duke Energy. I got back a canned response that they were assessing damage. Groovy. Tuck in the duvet and try to go back to sleep. By 3pm Sunday when it was getting a little chilly in the house, I checked the webpage for Duke Energy again. The little triangle by our street still said Assessing Damage an hour prior while another similar one about two streets over said On Site. But this time, the one a few streets over said On Site still and ours said Enroute. Fantastic! This is the service we are paying so much to have.

Well, not so much. Nothing happened by 4pm, or by 8pm Sunday. We were still not freezing but it was getting uncomfortable, so we decided to go to bed around 10. I checked a few more times before I fell asleep and nothing. It was still Enroute. From where? Roanoke?

On Monday I called into work and Simon and I decided to formulate a plan - buy a non-electric heater or a small generator and a small heater to get warm - buy a camp stove so that we can have coffee and warm food. Surely when we decide to do something like that, the power will come on, right?

Not hardly. It was still Enroute until late last night when they sent another text message that said that it would be fixed by 11pm tonight. So we did what any normal people would do - we gave up on the generator and heater and crashed at a friend's house.

But what did we learn - and are still learning, because I'm not expecting that power to be back on until 11pm on the dot - from this experience? Several things.

  1. We are keeping the camp stove even though we did not use it. Just the thought that we could make tea in a pot on that little stove brought spirits up.
  2. We have amazing and wonderful friends. Callie brought us THE BEST pumpkin oatmeal I have ever tasted in my life along with some coffee from Starbucks yesterday morning. I could have floated up to the shops after that. Anne and Damien let us sleep in their guest room last night, along with our rowdy and ridiculous girls (who think they are on the vacation of a lifetime right now). Last but most DEFINITELY not least, Robin and Laze are keeping our girls today so that they didn't have to be tucked into their crates in a cold house while we went to work. And all of the FB messenger and text messages that I am still getting asking after us are so welcome and appreciated. It is easy to think you are literally alone out in the cold when you have no electricity or heat in December. We are not.
  3. We have so much more than we need and are far better off than so many. Sure, it was cold, but we have a roof and lots of clothes to pile on and blankets. So many folks affected by this cold have none of those things and it truly gives me pause when I complain.
So if you were affected by Winter Storm Diego (Carmen San's wayward brother), I'm thinking of you and holding you close and hoping that you have power and heat...and that you aren't staring down the total cleaning out of a refrigerator and freezer. Ick. But I haven't heard the Wham song, and I am in my warm office with heat and internet so this holiday season may get on track sooner rather than later. I just hope it isn't sooner that our power coming back on...

04 December 2018

In which my inner language geek speaks...

GEEK spelled in British Sign Language.

People ask me all the time why I do what I do - lately, my answer is to carefully shrug my shoulders whilst trying NOT to reinjure my right elbow or smack my right hand against anything - but the answer, if I'm honest, is language, or languages. I did not go into interpreting because I have a need to help people. I did not go into interpreting out of some need for social justice or a desire to work in a disability-related field. I don't see Deaf/HOH people as needing help or as a disability community - I see them as a language minority. I went into my current field because it means I get to work in my second language every day - to the point that I think, dream, and even speak verbally in ASL (take a moment and feel sorry for my husband, won't you?).

Well, today I had a moment when I just got all giddy and, since interpreting tends to be solo work for the most part, I had no one to share it with that would understand it. I was watching some British Sign Language videos on YouTube in the name of professional development and I had just watched a video showing how to sign 'meeting' in BSL - and I got it. I don't mean I could see and understand the sign and then reproduce it. I mean I looked at it and due to my knowledge of ASL, I could understand WHY that was the sign for 'meeting.'

Last week, hubs and I had a discussion about why it is harder for some people to learn a second (and third and so on) language than it is for others. I likened it to the reason why it is hard, at times, for Deaf/HOH kids in school to learn English without a firm foundation in ASL first. If I had not had such a good education in not only vernacular spoken (American) English, I would not have been able to understand ASL to the point that I could then extrapolate that onto BSL and that video. You cannot learn a second language if your first language isn't strong enough to form comparisons and, to use my favorite metaphor, hooks. You can't learn ASL without a strong foundation in English, for example, to hook that new set of grammar rules and vocabulary to what you already know.

For people who say that isn't true, and that as long as you have a rudimentary understanding of your native or first language you can always learn a second language through study and repetition, sure, you can I suppose. But think of it this way: I never had a good grasp of mathematics. Never. I mean I can't even do the four basic functions without having to get a calculator to check my answers. I have no confidence in my own ability in that subject. I have no solid foundation in maths, so when I went to hook my new level of maths (Algebra and the like) into what I already knew, the hook fell. The foundation wasn't solid enough to hold it.

But my borderline obsessive love for learning languages has come from the fact that growing up I not only knew that you say 'I was going to the store' but also that it is not acceptable to say 'I were going to the store' and why. Miss Pritchett and Madam Gring-Whitley would be proud to know that they were right - I hated those verb conjugation sheets, but they helped me understand why you must change the form of the verb in order for the time component of your message to make sense. It helps me now when I remember to add the sign that indicates when the verb is happening, has happened, or will happen - so that I am clearly understood.

So back to the BSL video - it was because I know the ASL signs/classifiers for a person, the concept of 'meet' and 'meeting' and because I know what the word meeting can mean in English, that this sign made perfect sense to me:


That is building on your foundation. That is what made my inner language geek so very happy. I love it when I come across things like that and often don't make that connection until afterward but man. That is why I do what I do. THAT RIGHT THERE.

14 November 2018

Well, that escalated quickly.

[Disclaimer: Nothing like that, no books were harmed in the making of this post. It's just that my nano has taken off again, rather like a house - or, in this case, book - on fire. Book burning is still awful and closed-minded and useless. Don't do it. Read. There we go.]

So for a few days, I was stuck - horribly stuck - at best, my nano word count was falling behind. At worst, I had lost my voice as a novelist and all of Orana had abandoned me. Same thing, really, if you throw a panic attack in the middle over a poorly elbow in your dominant hand when both of the things that define you (interpreting and writing) involve the pain-free movement of your right hand and arm.

I did what any rational adult in my shoes staring at a blank page would do - I hit the panic button and freaked WAY the heck out for a little while, and then I started thinking about my support system as a writer. You may think that we sit at our IKEA desks all alone in our writing sheds, surrounded by lovely greenery and sipping a mug of tea as the ideas just flow out of our heads into our novels, but I am here to tell you this: if that is the truth, I'm not sure what it is that I am doing because it involves sitting on my worn leather couch, laptop on my knees, wolfhounds clambering about on clobberpaws and crying. Lots of crying. Anyway!

I have recently gotten to know someone that I'm fairly certain I already knew from another time in my life - a fellow novelist who attended the same college I did in the mountains of northern Georgia. So after all the crying and panicking, I sent him a simple text that said that I was struggling to find an antagonist and that my protagonist was stuck, sitting on a horse in the Outlands and watching someone ride toward her. For two days, I literally did not know who it was that was riding toward her. His responses led me to my antagonist, and to the rider who is merely the catalyst for the main story arc. Since then, I have written more than 10,000 words, and even though I am not at my daily wordcount target it is in sight. I still am not sure what the antagonist's story is, but at least I'm back heading in the right direction.

So writers, lean on each other. It doesn't mean that you don't know how to write or that you are a phony (impostor syndrome, anyone?), it means that you are using the community we find among like-minded individuals. You are doing the work, and you do not have to do it alone. Now, get your characters off those lonely roads and into some good plot points!

12 November 2018

It isn't writer's block, it's writer's uncooperative neighborhood.

You know that feeling when you have started another Nanowrimo and you're cruising along and your story is basically WRITING ITSELF and... Wait, no? Yeah, me either.

It has been going relatively well until I was sidelined by an outrageously strained elbow over the weekend (it's a thing, y'all, and I'm almost certain it came courtesy of my day job but moving on...). I'm now 4,000 words behind the target for today, but that's not the worst of my troubles.

THERE ARE NO BAD GUYS IN THIS STORY SO FAR. No bad hombres. No tortured and vengence-seeking souls. So far there are three characters. Let's not dwell on the fact that I've written 16k plus words with only three characters, shall we - FIND MY VILLIAN!  While this sort of pantsing - a nanowrimo term for writing by the seat of your pants, with no outline or anything - is fairly normal for me, this is the first time that I haven't been able to come up with any sort of climactic plot point...so I'm scared, really scared.

Okay, not really. Maybe a little. My point here, though, my Brave Lettuce Readers, is to heed the words of your English teachers (or, in my case, my mother) and DO THE WORK - in this case, an outline ahead of time. My main character has been begging for an origin story since before Wanderer so I give it to her and what does she do? Wander around in the Outlands on her magical horse and THINK DEEP THOUGHTS.

I'm telling you what, if she doesn't stumble into something awful soon I'm gonna have to start killing off characters, and since I only have three - three and a half, actually, since one is only writing letters - it isn't going to be pretty.

Are you working on a nano this month? How's it going? I'd love to hear about your projects in the comments - maybe that would help me kick her in her robes and get this story going.

01 November 2018

Well, here we are again.

In my Facebook feed this morning was a list of "memories," things that I posted on Facebook on November 1st all the way back to 2008. Apparently, since 2010 when I discovered this sickness addiction wonderful program, I have been posting that I'm starting a new project every November first.

Dull FB status. Exciting and potentially life-changing real life. For once I am not working on a revision or sequel or prequel related to the Orana Chronicles or Clobberpaws/Proud Racer. I know that I said that Clobberpaws 2 would be this year's Nano but I just can't make it a daily project. Daisy has been gone for almost two years now, but it's still too raw and the last book had her in it and - you know what? It doesn't matter why, really. It is happening, and more will happen with it after the first of the year, and that's what needs to be said about that.

Nope, this year's Nano is another attempt at something that doesn't exist in a fantasy world or have talking animals. Boy, that's one heck of a description of my writing, huh? Nancy Dunne, you say? Oh, yes, she writes about dogs and cats that talk and elves. You know, no big deal.

Boy, I hope no one is really saying that about me as a writer. Anyway, moving on...

This year's Nano is a crime novel first and foremost. I've tried that before and failed miserably. But try, try again, as they say. Because it's me as a writer, there will be supernatural characters. Because it's me as a person, it's set in a theatre and there are both Deaf and hearing characters - though that part may fall through because I'm nervous about portraying genuine Deaf characters. The theatre part will hold, though. It's going to be a play within a play, like one of my favorite One-Act Plays, The Real Inspector Hound. Watch this space. I'm sure that it will get weird before it's over.




29 October 2018

(Not actually on the) Bus Poetry v4

Dismantled

Piece by piece
I'm taken apart
The sum of my parts
Weighed. Measured. Found wanting.
Not enough
Never enough
The parts don't matter
Until they add up to respect
The sum of the parts is a colleague, an equal.
The sum of the parts commands respect.
I'm being dismantled.
First go the desks and then the walls
The shelves and the drawers
The kettle
The tea towel
All taken apart
Because they were never enough
I am never enough
Before I am even dismantled.

24 October 2018

Pre Nano Freak Out

So there are always loads of voices in my head, pulling me in different directions and begging me to tell their stories. Seriously. Being a writer should carry a DSM diagnosis some days because I'm honestly not always sure that all these voices are coming from me. Gin would say that she is the loudest, with Sath a close second - but then there are the Proud Racers and the Clobberpaws and the Baskervilles and, and, and... It gets a little out of control in there.

Autumn is here and finally the weather is cooperating - I have worn a scarf to work all three days so far this week! With fall comes another opportunity for sleep deprivation and fast food/coffee binging: NaNoWriMo. Long-time Lettuce Readers know that I have been a nano fanatic since my first foray into 50K in 30 days way back in 2010. Don't tell Gin, but it probably does mean that her voice is the loudest - she was there in 2010 and has been for all my nano "wins" in the eight years since.

This time I had planned to focus my nano-ing on the second in my Clobberpaws series - now that we have both Willow and another Irish Wolfhound, Ciaragh, it just seems right - but that story is moving more in spurts than the slow, steady chaos that marks my other projects. I had just about decided to return to Orana next month, focusing on a backstory novella for a character - Tairn is jumping up and down and waving her hands madly, as are Elys and Hack - when an idea popped into my head during a class I was interpreting yesterday. Without disclosing too much, this project is my exploration of meta - a play being performed that mirrors a real live event happening to the players - and because it is me you KNOW there will be supernatural something or another involved.

By the end of my lunch hour (aka sanctioned noveling time at the workplace), I had a plot outline, a cast of 11 characters, and an older piece of work that I could insert as a prelude or prologue for this... this... whateveritis. There are actors and Deaf characters and interpreters. So, away we go with the normal "Pre Nano Freak Out" which seems to be morphing into a "Pre Nano Planning Session."

Y'all - there are bulleted lists and reference materials, and this is not about Orana or elves or anything like that. Who am I?

(Shut it, Gin.)

11 October 2018

Slow Gin

My concept drawing of my character, Ginolwenye, from the Nature Walker Trilogy.
[Disclaimer - wannabe authorly post ahead. Read at your own risk.]

It seems that I am constantly in edits. The first part of the Nature Walker Trilogy, Wanderer, took me fourteen years to write. Now, mind you that was not fourteen years of writing every day or anything crazy like that. It was fourteen years of write for a while, put the manuscript away for a while, take it back out and fall back in love with Sath and Gin for a while, rinse, repeat. This face, rendered via Adobe Fuse CC, was always in my mind just like that, with that expectant look on her usually freckled face. She is still in my mind, almost constantly, repeating her mantra:

You aren't done yet.
Finish my story. 
Get the manuscript back out.
Sath and I miss you.

I always do as she asks, being the ever obedient author and alter ego. Even when I was working on other things (Proud Racer, Clobberpaws, and The Baskervilles-coming soon - just to name a few) or not even close to a Nano month of any sort, she was always there - I don't want to say nagging, because that's negative, but yeah, she was nagging. She's still there, wondering what is taking me so long.

A funny thing happened in the more recent years, though - thanks to a beta reader of mine who carried on his own nagging campaign. He said that he wasn't buying how I was writing Gin. He said that after everything she had been through, to come out the other side still bowing and scraping and apologizing seemed inconsistent. I raged against that feedback for a long time. Fought it. Ignored it. But he kept on me about it, and as much as I hate to ever admit it, he was right.

I've come back to thinking about all of that in light of the recent political climate and the #metoo movement. At first, I was afraid that I should put a trigger warning for domestic abuse on the books because there are bits in there that are tough for ME to read, and I wrote them. No, said my Wise Beta Reader, people need to see that she was in those places and experienced those things and came out of it with her dignity and her mercy still intact. She came out with a better sense of who she was - what is more inspirational than that? She is an example of a woman that was bent to the point of breaking - but who never broke.

That isn't who she was initially. It was a long time before she stopped quaking in fear at every stern expression or jumping out of her skin at loud noises (like Qatu knuckles cracking). She would burst into tears at the drop of a hat as much as she would the drop of a weapon. Be glad that he convinced me that she needed to show the strength that she had - I'm not sure she would be worth reading otherwise.

More importantly, though, it was through those conversations that I realized it wasn't only Gin who needed to be stronger, and tougher, and more authentic. That isn't who I was - or who I am, depending on the day, if I'm honest. But again, without knowing it, Wise Beta Reader was right - Gin is who I want to be, and who I'm sure many others in my situation want to be as well, and I hope she resonates with them as much as she does with me. Everyone's situation is different, obviously, but if Gin can give someone the strength to just take one step at a time in the direction of safety, then she is doing the work - I am doing the work.

I also hope that this doesn't make Wise Beta Reader turn into Full Of Himself Beta Reader, but you never know. I suppose he has earned it. 

09 October 2018

Impostor Syndrome, la maladie du jour.

What?!?
So with my last post, I covered some pretty heavy topics and unpleasant truth, and this time is no different, really. Last time I still had faith in my country and my senators to do the right thing. No, I didn't, that's a lie. Last time I still thought that maybe enough of the people elected to represent us would want to represent us and listen to us. No, again, that is a lie.

Let me start again. This time I'm going to talk a little bit about something that I face on a regular basis, in all facets of my life - sometimes with a bit of help from colleagues and co-workers that I am positive are not doing it on purpose. I didn't cross that out, but it's still not 100% true.

I found an email today with an excellent article on impostor syndrome in academia from the Chronicle of Higher Education, linked here. While this article specifically speaks to academia and even more specifically to the faculty that work in this field, I found some points that were salient to my own life, both my professional life (as a nationally certified sign language interpreter) and my avocation (a novelist or an author or whatever you want to call me - well, not whatever you want, that could get a little ugly). 

You see, I am really good friends with Impostor Syndrome. I'm sitting here right now - having finished working hard to get my software ready to provide real-time captioning in a class on campus and arrived at said class to find no one there and nothing in my email about why - worried that because I decided to use the time I should be typing 
Female Student: [cannot hear him/her] 
into my software I am blogging, I will be seen as a fraud and fired. Rational Adult Nancy thinks that is ridiculous. But there is another me living in my mind that not only does not share that opinion but spends a great part of our conscious hours working on plans B-Q for what we will do when we are found out to be the fraud we are.

On any given day, I know that what I do for a living isn't easy.  It doesn't matter that I have been actively thinking in and about a visual and spatial language since I was about 12 years old. It doesn't matter that I love languages so much that I fell in love with the process of working between two languages and can't crawl back out. It doesn't matter that I have a Bachelor's degree in American Sign Language/English interpreting from a top university in that field of study - the first one to offer said degree, if I am not mistaken (Hello Maryville College! Go Scots!) - and I was nationally certified as a transliterator (spoken English to a signed form of English) and interpreter (spoken English to ASL) by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, Inc. in 1997 and 1999, respectively. It doesn't matter that I have interpreted for celebrities, politicians, authors, Broadways shows, and for students attending Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the UK.

None of that seems to be enough to make me feel confident about who I am and what I do. Currently, I'm sure that the fact that I am the only one in my family of origin without an advanced degree (my father had two of them!) doesn't help. When you're surrounded by grad students and people with all sorts of alphabet soup following their names and all you have is BA, CI/CT to show for it, you can feel pretty less than. But the author of the article I linked above had a great bit of insight into that part of the syndrome:
Learn to see yourself in context. If you feel like an impostor because you don’t know or can’t do a particular thing, think about that thing. Is that skill or content crucial? If so, can you acquire it? Not because you want to belong but because it may make you more effective or productive. And if it doesn’t actually matter, think about why it is that others have it and you don’t (assuming you really don’t and aren’t just being hard on yourself or inflating other people’s capabilities). Maybe there are real and good reasons why that wasn’t part of your background or education.
I don't want a master's in interpreting. I don't see the point in it, to be honest. I learn on the job, every day. I go to workshops. I study other signed languages. But then I see someone sign something so perfectly, so succinctly, with so much meaning packed into such an economy of movement and handshape and I just want to turn in my letter of resignation and go home.

But I don't do that. Of course I don't. Not even when - on various occasions, from the beginning of my career to present - colleagues that either don't sign at all or don't sign well enough to interpret or aren't really even sure what it is I do try to make decisions for me about my work. I should be incensed! I should be furious! I should stand up for me and what I know!

Instead, I scuttle back into my place in the universe and wait for the inevitable revealing of me as a fraud. Writing has done nothing to help this syndrome, either - if anything, it has made it so much worse. I give my manuscripts to my beta readers, breath held, heart rate on par with a disco beat - and I fully expect that they will look at what I have done and know that I am not a real author. My sentences are run-ons and full of too many ellipses and dashes. My characters are stock, storylines/plot so ridden with outdated tropes that you almost don't have to read them to know where they are going. My dialogue swings madly from stilted to entirely too much in the vernacular of both South Carolina and West Yorkshire that it makes no sense to anyone.

And while we're at it - international expat? Ha. You lived there two years, and you let the death of your pets in the first two months color the entirety of your life in the UK. You're no expat. You're just a frightened child. You're a fraud.

WOW, who let her out? The author of the article goes on to mention a specific piece of advice that I am trying to follow in my daily life - something that would be hard even without the aforementioned voice screaming in the back of my head. (Interesting side note: to those that have read my fantasy series, this is where the idea for how Ben communicates with Gin came from: THIS RIGHT HERE.)
Stay concrete. Impostor syndrome feeds off vagaries and generalities. "I’m not good/smart/charismatic/funny/self-assured enough." What’s enough? Who is all of those things? What is "good" anyway?
What happened politically in the US this weekend has cranked up the volume on the impostor syndrome, let me tell you. Remember the woman I mentioned last week? All of those feelings, all of those experiences - they not only lead to a strapping case of this syndrome but they help feed it and make it worse. Everything from why would you think anyone would listen to you to the ever present you must be remembering it wrong because why would anyone want to do that to YOU?

All this to say I don't have an answer for this yet. I haven't found a magic pill that will take these feelings away and silence that inner voice that delights in waiting until I'm about to fall asleep to remind me of all the reasons I'm going to be found out very soon. But I'm still looking, and in the mean time I'm trying to keep her as far as I can in the background.

01 October 2018

...must be Monday...

As found on FB, original artist Courtney Privett.
Man. Are you guys tired? I'm exhausted.

I'm not just exhausted because I didn't sleep well or I was out all weekend because neither of those things is true.

I'm exhausted because #metoo and #whyIdidntreport and all that. I'm exhausted because I've been in a state of hypervigilance since about last Tuesday. I'm exhausted because I simultaneously NEED to do something for all the others who don't feel heard and can't bring myself to speak up.

I am still not able to speak up and share. One day, maybe.

I want to share a story, though, that I heard recently that has restored some of my faith in mankind - and yes, I used that term deliberately. There was once a girl that was a freshman in college (I have her permission to share here, before anyone asks) who had been sexually assaulted in high school by a boy that she really, really liked. In the course of that rape, she managed to get her hands free and she punched him in the diaphragm to get him off of her. Even though he had held her down and threatened her with the knowledge that he had a gun under his bed, he was angry that she had punched him and knocked the wind out of him.

She carried that experience around through the second half of her senior year of high school. She went to the prom with the same boy because she was all but certain that she had done something wrong, and if she was just nicer to him he would like her back. At prom, he tried again by enticing her to come back to his house. She said no and that was that. He left, and again she felt she had made the wrong decision. The first memory was now joined with the second one - and notes started arriving in her locker from other boys that she knew, asking her to meet them in the parking lot for a quickie between classes or if she would meet them under the bleachers where it was private. She wasn't sure what to make of these advances - on the one hand, it was attention that she had never gotten from these guys in the past. But on the other hand, she wondered if it was just for sex and not any sort of relationship, so in the end she turned them down. An image of a piece of paper is still burned in her brain that said "But that's what I heard you do."

Heard from whom? What did she do? Graduation led to a summer camp job. The job led to a very wobbly start to a potential relationship with a fellow staff member. But she was still carrying that shame and her unerring conviction that she had caused the cascade of events of the second half of her senior year. She started uni that fall and the wobbly relationship steadied a bit, until one unfortunate evening when things were going well with her new beau and he happened to grab her wrists a bit too hard - absolutely and totally by accident, she is certain and since I know the beau in question I'm certain she's right - and she freaked out. That relationship wobbled to a pause, and later, still at uni, she happened to fall in with a long time male friend and wobbled off in another direction.

Still with me? Here's the faith-restoring part.

She and the longtime friend became unexpectedly - romantically? Intimately? Involved, on some level, and one night they happened to fall into a conversation about past experiences during said involvement. She loved that friend and trusted him so much that she shared with him not only the original experience but the reaction of the new beau from the summer job, expecting that he would follow suit and that would be that. But he didn't. Tears fill her eyes as she recounts this every time, but through his own tears he was so tender and careful with her - as he put an immediate stop to anything going on so that he could just listen to her. She came away not feeling shamed or wrong, but HEARD. BELIEVED

They are still friends to this day, and she tells me that one day she will have the chance to tell him how much that one moment meant to her. It's been more than 30 years since, but she hasn't forgotten - and now, when faced with all the triggering ugliness of our world right now, she still calls up that moment to remind her that there are some people out there that she can depend on. And if she can, then so can I. So can we all.

#metoo
#IBelieveHer
#riseup