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Hello, all! There's so much to update on but this week, the words elude me. I guess I will just write, though - and see what flows. To start things off, we once again are hearing the pitter-patter of little paws in the house. J has been feeling lately that void where Dexter used to be - he was her comfort, he always seemed to KNOW when she needed a cuddle. So we adopted Salem - he's an 8-week old, all-black kitten. Accompanying him is the plenty of scratches and teeth marks up our arms and legs - but all in all, we're happy and he's setting into his new home nicely. He's not Dexter - nor will he ever be - but in some ways, he's already channeling our buddy, who will officially be gone two months on Thursday. It still seems so unreal. It IS, however, bringing content smiles to my beautiful wife's face, smiles I have not seen in a while. If she's happy, I'm happy - and I gotta admit, the little guy IS cute!! Oompa came to visit, as promised. I mentioned a couple of blog entries ago that she wanted me to 'greet' my uncle at my nephew/niece's birthday celebration - I chose not to. My mother wasn't happy about this and stated that when she asks me for 'favors,' it's usually for a reason. I asked at the time WHAT possible good reason there EVER could be for me to say hello to someone that I loathe. She couldn't supply one at the time; she was likely at my sister's house and there were roaming eyes - so she said she'd tell me when she came to visit. Well - that visit came and went - and the only thing I was left with was a headache that lasted for two days post-Oompa departure. While she was here, she tasked herself with the cleaning of my kitchen - (apparently she decided that my kitchen had excess 'clutter,' something that HER kitchen is not completely devoid of, nor was it ever!) and working on a blanket that she brought with her to crochet. When she's at home, all she does is complain how tired she is - granted, she takes on way too much and this is her own fault - but when she's here, she won't go to bed until after 11. (Yes, you may insert the moaning and groaning here!) While she was here, she wanted to watch an episode of SVU. Now, I don't watch this frequently - if it's on and there's nothing else of interest, I'll watch it - but I honestly lost track of the show during the Stabler days. Anyway, my mother watches it weekly and did so on Thursday night - "watch with me," she said - so I did - but only because she'd be going to bed after and THEN I'd have my peace and quiet. Anyhow, this particular episode - a man was about to get married and someone stood up in the church when the minister said, "speak now or forever hold your peace." The woman who stood claimed, in front of all of the guests, that the groom had raped her. I won't get into details in case any of you watch SVU and haven't seen this episode - but the accuser was investigated thoroughly, and my mother's commentary throughout was, 'oh, she's lying,' or 'I don't believe her.' As it turns out, the woman wasn't being 100% truthful, but she was also not lying. It's something you'd have to see to understand the full story of - but to hear my mother repeatedly invalidate this woman's words - it just further solidified that I can never - EVER - share with her. Not about her brother, not about the isolated SA experience that further changed me. None of it. Instead, I have to pretend that I am unaffected by sexual assault; I have to shield from her, from most people around me, reasons for my being the way I am. I am just not safe to emerge from behind that shield, yet. I wonder, though, if I ever will be. I'm also momentarily propelled back into childhood when my mother would tell me that I lied, I made up stories. For her to invalidate a fictional character was telling me that she was also invalidating ME - and so, even though I wanted to scream at her, I kept my mouth shut and 'put it in my sleeve.' In a way, I'm GLAD she said nothing about her good-for-nothing brother - at this point, the anger I feel has bottled up over having to see him recently, (being asked to say HELLO to him, too?) is invalid because I'm a liar, too, just like this woman on television, and I made up a story when I was six years old. If Oompa is of the self-imposed mindset that I made this up as a young child and is OKAY with that belief, then there's no changing it now, nor any motivation to try changing it. Come to think of it, perhaps this is why, for a full day after she left, I was feeling as if I was carrying a boulder (that was my head) atop my neck. It was like there were a marching band making its rounds through my brain. The throbbing was AWFUL. I am glad to say, though, that has stopped and I'm feeling MUCH better and calmer now. SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month) is in full swing, here - got the heads' up from M that this month's group would have to do with SAAM and we'd be designing and making Take Back the Night signs in Art Group tomorrow (Tuesday). During the last several days' Mets games, I've been making loom bracelets in between pitches - I now have 20 of them - to distribute among the ladies at Art Group when I go tomorrow evening. I think they'll love them - and I'm only wishing I could have made more. I probably would have, too, had I not run out of the color I needed - but I felt that SOMETHING needed to be done to spread awareness. I've NOT participated in the #metoo movement on Facebook, even though a part of me did want to. I've not posted anything on social media that could be interpreted as, "I'm a survivor," and no, it's not because I'm ashamed. I've just got eyes (Oompa's, my kids', other family members') on my social media accounts (even if it's just Facebook and a somewhat-abandoned Instagram account) that I don't want seeing this side of me that I've chosen to keep private. With what I've mentioned of my mother above, I do know not many would blame me for doing so, but at the same time, I feel angry that I've had to hold my tongue for so long, and that my reasons for keeping silent are for self-protection - I certainly don't wish to protect the man who raped me; he SHOULD be exposed for the animal he is - especially if he's living the good life that I know he doesn't deserve. I went through HUNDREDS of black, white and teal rubber bands and although after the first two or three, the rest were woven in autopilot mode, I did do some reflecting as I put them together. I'm going on 23 years since I was SA'd. Yet, it still lingers, it still stings, it still tarnishes thoughts that would otherwise be beautiful. Yes, time has been good to me in the sense that some of these thoughts have lessened and I'm in an overall good place with all of it - but there's still the occasional reminder of that night. I'm not even talking about the CSA that happened prior to the rape, I'm referring back to that night in 1996 when I'd be forced down an alternative path, one that was unmapped and held nothing but uncertainty. I've also decided that in synchrony with going back to school and getting my Bachelor's in Social Work, I will also be exploring other ways of getting involved within my community. I feel that I have spent enough time silently acknowledging that I am a survivor. It is time to embrace the fact that I am not just a survivor, but one that is ready, willing, and able to interact with other survivors - even if on a peer level first. I think I've kept this part of my life private for FAR too long - and it's time to emerge within my community as a 'known' survivor, even if it means continuing to keep my mother in the dark. It's easier to do this now that I don't live so close to her and I've effectively managed to keep her at arms' length. I've expressed a desire to M to, when the time comes, do my internship at the Women's Center where the monthly groups are held - and have made it known that I would like to volunteer there, as well as eventually apply for a job there. She will be letting me know when I can speak to their volunteer coordinator - in October, it will be one year since I joined them at the center for groups, and that's the amount of time you need to be affiliated with them in order to be considered for volunteering services. You know what's messed up, though? In a small way? I did tell Oompa my plans to volunteer at the center. And I told her that it was in preparation for the line of work I'll be going into once I've got my degree in hand and that they offer the training class to their volunteers for free - non-volunteers needed to fund this training course out-of-pocket. She did ask why I would be going to a place like that or getting involved with them - and to tell her that it was because I wanted to eventually WORK there and not because it was because I BELONGED there - seemed...I don't know. Like it was the truth, but not the whole honest truth. I don't consider myself a dishonest person but to put it that way...it feels wrong. Does that make sense? A little? Not at all? Is my brain just in overdrive, per usual? For those of you who are observing SAAM alongside me - know that I stand next to you, whether or not you're observing silently. I support you this month, and every month. I believe you. And I am sending you one of my handmade loom bands, even if I've got to do it mentally. Anyway. Just wanted to empty off some of this chatter that is swirling within my brain. I do think I'll be back within the next few days with another update, especially after tomorrow's Art meeting. I am hoping everyone's having a fantastic day in your parts of the world! Spring has officially sprung here - it is LOOKING like we are done with snow and 50-60 degree weather is here for at least the next ten days. But living where I live is anything but predictable and that's subject to change. Hoping not, though - I'd REALLY like to break out my outdoor furniture and get the back yard 'barbecue ready!' Until next time. Sending y'all lots of love and hugs. If you don't want the hugs, kindly pass 'em onto the person behind you. I won't be offended. - Capulet