Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stories come through the Veil

Samhain! October seems to be the month for Witches and Pagans.

Yes, there is Halloween, but Samhain is the Pagan High Festival! It is our New Year! It is our Time to see through the Veil; to have visits with Ancestors; to welcome experiencing "the other side."

I have been visited a lot this month by Stories from the Past. My Past.

I have been visited by Women and Children I worked with during my tenure as Social Worker.

Thirty-three years I was invited into the lives of Families who would rather that I not have been in their lives, but most of whom ended up realizing that it was not so bad after all.

These families left huge imprints on my heart and on my life. In fact, my kids were all too often the recipients of this impact as I came home from investigating a neglect call reporting filthy conditions and yelled at them to go right in and clean up their "nasty" rooms. Thank goodness my kids rooms were never nasty, but coming home to very messy rooms was just about as bad!

Well, I am remembering a call my partner and I went to investigate where we found 5 children, 6 and under, outside in the late fall with only their underwear or diapers on and very dirty. But they were all giggling and playing in the front yard that had no grass; only dirt. We knocked on the broken screen door, but no one came to the door. As it was standing wide open, we walked in.

Now in those days (the 80's) Social Workers did not have to have police with them to walk into people's houses. In fact, we didn't want them with us as it just caused too many issues as we were there to help and they were there to....well, we know why they were there.

Anyway, I won't go into detail as to the condition of the home, just let it be said that as I walked in first my partner said, "Ummm Deb, I can't see your feet!" Yep, there was that much trash all over the house. We could still hear the kids outside giggling and playing.

We finally found their Mom. She was sitting in the Kitchen amongst dirty dishes, moldy food, and a broken back door and window. She was there with bruises on her face and had a far away look in her eyes. Needless to say, we had many issues to deal with immediately.

Mom had been beaten; Mom was overwhelmed; Mom was done and done! And the kids were giggling outside playing in the dirt in the late fall right on the street in a dangerous neighborhood.

Now, I will make a long story short: Mom was not initially happy we were in her home, understood that we had the power to remove all 5 of her children; and on some level I knew she was hoping that is what would happen.

The first excuse for the condition of the home was "the kids messed it up. It was clean last night, I swear." She and I both knew this was not true. But I learned very early not to argue at this point. The point was none of them, do you see....NONE of them could live here. The problem was NONE of the local shelters would take a Mom and 5 kids. We had a problem; we had NEED!

Now, I could have taken all 5 kids and found foster homes for them; having to separate them due to the numbers. What then for Mom? A dream I had during my career: Foster Homes for Mom and Kids; not just Kids. But alas, that never happened.

So, finally Mom told us her story. Deadbeat Dad, abusive, and controlling. Wouldn't allow her to work and he spent all his money on prostitutes, gambling and drugs. She use to keep a good house, but then she kept getting pregnant as she couldn't afford birth control or keep this man from having sex with her whenever he wanted. She had no family to speak of and few friends, most in the same situation she found herself in.

These are the Stories coming back to me as the Veil thins. In 33 years, this was a very common scenario. It wasn't that people WANTED to abuse and neglect. No, they truly wanted to be good parents, to have a good job, to limit their number of children; but bottom line...the families I worked with were in desperate need of resources that the community could not or would not provide. Laws limited the choices women had; men were in control and the results were similar if not many times much worse.

Now back to this story. The children were happy. When Mom went outside, they all ran up to her, giving her hugs and kisses and she cried as she thought we would place them in foster care. Instead, I called one of our Case Aides (women who were employed at social services who would go into homes and help them with parenting, food preparation, cleaning ideas, etc.) to meet us. Meet Leva, a large buxom black woman with a smile that shone like the sun, but had a demeanor that said, "I mean business and I mean it now!"

The plan? Get the house cleaned up! Now I wasn't sure Mom even had the energy to do so, but all of a sudden when she realized we were there to help her she found that reserve that women have! That we all have. She even walked next door and asked if the woman there would watch the kids while she and Leva began on the house.

Now, it did not happen that day. No, in fact, it took about a week to get the house totally together and clean. And I left the kids there because I learned early on that removing kids is really the last resort and no kid died from playing in the dirt or sleeping on a mattress without sheets.

The rest of the story? A Prevention Social Worker was assigned to this family. After getting the house cleaned up, the door with a new lock fixed, and a restraining order against the man; we made sure Mom began receiving assistance which included food stamps and a monthly check so she could have medicaid and get the kids for regular check ups and her on birth control. Due to the age of her children, it was beyond reason to expect her to get a job until they were in school as she would not have been able to afford day care.

But what she did have offered to her were parenting classes, food preparation classes, and job skills training (she had dropped out of school when she was 13 when she had her first child). You see, this woman was only 18 years old.

Her time with Social Services finally came to an end and the last I heard she was doing fine and the kids were still giggling outside in the front yard with no grass. And the mattresses were still on the floor and sometimes I am sure there weren't sheets on them as she only had one set and when one was in the laundry she didn't have any to replace it with. But you know kid died from not having sheets on the bed. They had food, enough clothing, medical care and the oldest was in school (Dad wouldn't let her go to school either and I think he probably sexually abused her but we could never prove it).

And they had Love!

It was hard and I am not saying this story had a totally happy ending. Mom still chose dead beat guys, but she didn't get pregnant again, well as long as we were working with her. But what I know is that the woman suffered at the hands of a society that still sees women as breeders, weak, worthless and not deserving of a decent life.

I am very glad the Veil is thinning. I need to Re-Member these Stories so I stay humble; I stay connected; I stay Passionate about being that Voice for Women and Children.

You know what is sad tho'....I don't remember her name! But I sure can still hear those children giggling in the front yard playing in the dirt and the way they smiled and hugged their mom when she came outside. You see it's all about Love anyway! No one died playing in the Dirt, but plenty die from no Love!

Blessed be! 


Sunday, October 12, 2014

My Abortion Experience

I am terrified that we are headed back to the Dark Ages of Back Alley and Self-abort options.

I am terrified that once again women will find themselves facing the reality of no resources available for an unintended or unplanned pregancy.

I am terrified that women will once again have to face the Underground of untrained and money hungry abortionists just waiting to abuse women who are there to claim their rights to make a decision about when and if they bring a child in the world.

I am terrified and am still that Voice in the War Against Women.

I was almost 19 and became sexually active in college. It was 1970 and it was still difficult for a single woman (and most married women) to get birth control pills. I was still in the "care" of my parents as they were paying for college and they had made it clear to me that I was NOT to have sex until marriage and they would never support my getting on birth control. My sex training was my Dad giving me the V encyclopedia with Venereal Disease ear marked, the day I stared  my period at age 13. I was then told: "if you ever get pregnant before you get married, don't come home!"

So when I Chose to become sexually active, I used the ovulation method and the guy used condoms a couple of times and I was lucky. It was then, I decided to find a doctor who would prescribe the Pill for me, as I could not tell my family doctor. A girlfriend gave me a name; I made an appointment; I went and a nurse with a scowl on her face took me to this very little dark room with just enough space for a table with stirrups.

The male doctor came in, told me to put my feet in the stirrups (now, you see....I had never had a vaginal examination, so I didn't even know what stirrups were used for or what would happen). What I remember clearly is how bad it hurt as he jammed the speculum inside me (I had only had sex 3 times); then his hand up my vagina; and then him saying, "here is your prescription for pills." There was no medical history taken, nothing at all and I was told to leave. I am sure it cost money and I am not sure how I paid; all that is erased from my memory, but the pain and humiliation is clearly implanted in my brain.

In 1973, I began volunteering at Planned Parenthood while I was in college working on my Social Work degree. I had also been married one year. I was totally outspoken about Women's Rights at that time and with Roe vs Wade, I was caught up in the age of women now being able to access safe abortions. Yea, right! We were still seeing women who had had botched abortions and came in for birth control and STD info. I was one of the counselors at that time.

The Planned Parenthood in Chesapeake where I was going to school, did not do abortions, but there were now other clinics and doctors who were ready to accept patients. I counseled them and went with many of these women to the procedures. The most terrifying for me were the two 24 week saline abortions I attended. Both of these women had tried to get an abortion since they were 6 weeks, but it took this long to find someone to do an abortion and also get together the money for the procedure. I was there as they delivered the "babies" and counseled them afterwards regarding emotional changes and birth control. Both women had been raped; one by her husband who had abandoned her when she found out she was pregnant after the repeated rapes by him.

I am terrified we will be returning to more of these Second Trimester Abortions as First Trimester Clinics are closed due to the Republican agenda of taking away the Woman's right to choose.

My husband and I wait...he decided that it was time to have children. So when I was 26, I stopped using the Diaphragm (the pill had made me terrible sick) and he stopped condoms and we became pregnant almost immediately. Thrilled, we told everyone!!! At 10 weeks, I started spotting and was told by my OBGYN that there was no heartbeat and I was miscarrying. I was sent home and told that in 2 weeks I would have a D&C.

Here is my personal abortion story: That evening the bleeding became so heavy that I was on the floor. My husband took me to the ER where they called my OBGYN service and one of the doctors met me there (I worked with him at Planned Parenthood). He explained that since I had eaten dinner I could not have a D&C nor could I have anesthesia. He told me he would be doing an abortion procedure. He also told me that my husband could not be in there with me.

I was placed on the table; still cramping and bleeding profusely; and told to put my feet in the stirrups. The vacuum suction machine that I had heard with so many other women began and the tube was inserted in my vagina, through the cervix and into the uterus. I SCREAMED OUT IN PAIN. (My husband was on the pay phone with my mom and he could hear me.) I didn't want to scream, but I did.

Now, let me tell you. I had been with numerous women during this procedure and not one screamed. They were true Warriors. Probably afraid to scream with the pain. But then it was told to me that because I was already in the throws of a miscarriage that the pain would be unbearable at best.

When it was over, the doctor, who I liked, but just didn't realize he was still part of the Patriarchal Culture; told me to wait a few months, that this was common to miscarry the first child, and I would be fine. The nurse gave me one of those very thick pads, a script for an antibiotic, and the bill to pay at that front desk. And home I went, crying the entire way.

And that was it! My Mom came over, but no one else said a word to me. Not even my husband. I was left alone with my own grief and loss.

And I became more of a Voice for Women's Choices and safe and painless abortions and full access to birth control!

My second pregnancy also ended in a miscarriage, but this time I didn't tell the hospital that I had eaten and the same doctor was on call, and did the D&C...I was put out so had no pain! And eating dinner didn't make any damn difference. And once again, I was sent home and no one said anything to me at all except my Mom. It was like had the plague. In fact, I was on call for child abuse reports and my supervisor thought I should be able to get right to work that night and I had to beg other social workers to take my shift. And now my husband blamed me.

My doctor's were going to make me try a third time, but I demanded tests and ultimately found out I had a Luteal Phase Defect and thus would have continued to miscarry without hormonal assistance. Ahh....more affirmation that this was ALL my fault and thus deserving of what happened!

Now, I know that I didn't have an unintended pregnancy. No mine were much planned for and wanted, BUT....even with my own experience I faced what most women face. Painful options, little support and the idea that indeed I could have these two procedures and two children because I had insurance. I was working with toooo many women who were not so lucky.

As a Social Worker, I was "known" to be the Jane at the office. I was the one who "knew" where women could get abortions and I even had two very wealthy women who were willing to pay for the abortions for Women without money or resources. I would negotiate abortion rates with the doctors I volunteered with through Planned Parenthood, would go with girls (lots were teens), and provided counseling for them afterwards so they didn't feel alone.

Let me assure you there is Grief and Loss even for those Women who definitely don't want to be pregnant or have a child. Most of this Grief and Loss is caused by a Culture that continues to demand that zygote/embryo is more important than a Woman! I have worked with hundreds of women, from all walks of life, who are more upset about what their families, their church, their friends will think if any of them ever find out, then upset about exercising their right to have a safe and LEGAL abortion!

I will continue to be a VOICE for the War Against Women! And let me assure you we are in the midst of it now! The backwards movement is Here and the Patriarchal Rape Culture run by the Christian Right want to make sure that Women continue to be second class citizens with no rights especially regarding their own bodies!

A most excellent book was published in 2013: Perilous Times. An Inside Look at Abortion Before-And After-Roe vs Wade by Fran Moreland Johns. This is a must read for all!

Fran says on page 12: "Over and over again, while collecting stories and comments for this book I have heard from physicians, activists and thoughtful, often extraordinary women, 'It's going to happen again. It's already happening.' Denial of access, restrictive and punitive state laws and the lack of physicians willing or able to perform abortions have brought about situations in many states not unlike the days before 1973. Progress in education and contraception, seen by many as key to reducing the need for abortion, is uneven. And sadly, unwanted pregnancy still happens."

When the Catholic church can spearhead a movement to not have birth control insurance coverage and thus now other businesses are following suit such as Hobby Lobby, we are on the way Backwards. When Women Health Clinics around the country are being closed as a result of State anti-abortion laws masked as "safer havens", we are headed Backwards!

And it makes me Angry! It makes me Sad! It makes me Yell Louder much to the chagrin of those who want Women to Shut the Hell up!

Not me and I hope not You!

Blessed be!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Why I don't like Day Light Saving Time!

Oh how wonderful it is to welcome October! It is by far my most favorite month and time of the year! I love Autumn! Everything about it! I love the cool temperatures returning, the frost on the ground, the leaves falling from the trees, the smell of new fires, the oranges and reds, pumpkins, witches, goblins, apple cider and apples, etc etc etc!

I love how Autumn moves into Winter and that is my 2nd favorite time of the year. For me there is something about hibernation, darkness, cold and rest that has always called my name.

Oh, sorry, the title of this blog is Why I don't like Day Light Saving Time!

Ok, so on November 2nd in the US of A we "fall back" an hour. It means resetting clocks, both external and internal. It means getting an "extra" hour of sleep; getting to Sunday activities early and it means an hour earlier of darkness at night. Yep....we "fall back" in the Autumn and "spring forward" in the Spring. Gotta love semantics!

It takes me months to set my internal clock. When I am walking at 5:30am, I begin thinking how it is really 6:30am or is it 4:30am. No, it's 6:30am, or at least it was the day before. But now, "someone" told me that now it would be 5:30 am for 6 months and then it would be back to 6:30am.

Reminds me of the Chicago song: "Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is?"

What it is is Power and Control! Now before you say, "Again? Come on Deb, not every thing is about Power and Control! It's just DLST!" Before you say that hear me out.

Someone, well really a man named George Hudson from New Zealand, proposed the idea in 1895. Yep...some guy was just sitting around and thought, "Damn, what else can we men control? Hmmm....we can't control the weather or how the earth turns on it's axis or when the sun comes up and when it sets so let's see....Hey, we can decided what time it is! And then yes indeed we actually decide what time the sun comes up and sets."

WE WILL DECIDE WHAT TIME IT IS! Now, yes, man created "time" as we know it. There have been ways to "know" the time and dates for ever so long; our current calendar being created by good ol' Julius Caesar. Did you know that the one of the oldest inventions by man is the clock? Instruments trying to capture this natural phenomenon called Time!

Now, I love love love calendars and clocks. But darn it, just leave the Time as it is. Don't keep trying to control how much sunlight or darkness we have to endure. Don't make me try to set an internal clock that is so in touch with nature that it does respond to the changes in a profound way; messed up sleep, a biggie.

You see, it's all about Power and Control! Someone tells us that we HAVE to turn our clocks to the "new" time. But if you live in Arizona for example you don't even have DLST and so your time is  different from anther place in the same Time Zone who do in fact have to change their clocks. Sorry but that is just too weird and too confusing.

Yep...Power and Control over that which we have no Power and Control. We cannot determine the time that the Sun Rises; She rises in Her Time. I don't care if "they" say it is 6am or 7am! It just messes with my head!

And as we all is ALL about me!

I am going to begin a petition saying we need to leave a day off the calendar every once in awhile. Oh wait...we already do that too; it's called Leap Year. Yep, that stinks too! But that will be another blog for another time!

All this being said, I am going to bed at 11pm for a month and then all of sudden I will be going to bed at 10pm. But it will feel like 11pm for for many months. And I will be mad that my head can't seem to get it together and convince the rest of my body that what it thought was one time for 6 months is now another time. And just when my body gets it.......

It is time to Spring Forward!

PS: And help me understand....If this isn't power and control I don't know what is!!!! Who in fact is Saving all the Daylight and where is it when Iceland is in it's 4 hours of sunshine? They could use it!

Later Gators!