OMG! It’s Sheila E.

I normally do not go to concerts when I have a double shift the following day, but this was Sheila E! I have been trying to get to her concert since I was fifteen years old and I had pictures of Prince, Sheila E. and U2 on my bedroom walls. I watched the Sign O the Times concert video over and over because it was in my opinion one of the best concert movies ever, so I had to go! Even the fact that I got off from work late wearing my nursing uniform still didn’t stop me.

I watched for the sale of these tickets like hawk on the Bandsintown website. As soon as I received the e mail alert, I was there. The concert took place at Buddy Guy’s Restaurant during their intimate concert series. In other words, this was definitely worth the wait. I was close to the stage.

It was better than I could have ever imagined: Sheila E. rapping! Sheila E. performing jazz! Shelia E. doing Ella Fitzgerald scant! Sheila E. performing One Nation Under a Groove! She even bought people on stage to dance. People salsa danced around the stage. This CD is some of the best music for the summer! It was especially gratifying to hear the music right after the concert.Sheila E. Concert

W.A.R. Chest Boutique

There is a major “girl power” and “art activism” vibe to the W.A.R. Chest Boutique. I saw the store in Naperville many times when I met my writing group. However, something told me during one of their activism walks for Alzheimer’s looking at the various decorative chairs that were displayed all around the city , including within W.A.R. Chest Boutique. This store is a gem.

 

WAR Chest Boutique is short for Women At Risk International. Their tag line is “Shop With a Purpose.” The products they sell range from jewelry to soap have been made by women who have been safe housed and rescued from sex slavery. The countries represented are Nepal, Uganda and Indonesia. They also have a wonderful variety of books on their bookshelf about women who have come out of sex slavery. They also offer fair trade coffee and water for guests. People can have home or in-store parties for any occasion: birthdays, bridal, graduations, anniversaries, etc. For store locations or to book a party, please look at their website and give them a call:

 

www.warinternational.com/store

616-855-0796

25 Ways to Your Own Kind of Happy

There has been a lot written about the effects of trauma and loss, but not enough about how to put your life back together again afterwards. Believe it or not, it is possible to find joy again. While I have had my set of challenges, I am not an expert. Still, I wanted to share the following if it helps.

  1. Never forget your Higher Power (or at least the power of meditation).
  2. Commit to a healthy lifestyle. Don’t make a bad situation worse by engaging in unhealthy habits.
  3. Know your limits. Put down boundaries. Say no if you know you can’t do something.
  4. Join a support group of people who have the same issue you are having.
  5. AND/OR join a group of people who have likeminded interests.
  6. I know people who were going through a hard time that benefitted by reading The Diamond Cutter by Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally. Read any other self help books that are applicable to what you are going through.
  7. Pick up a new hobby. Working with the hands is an exercise in mindfulness and builds confidence.
  8. Discover the benefits of simple pleasures. Only you know what is best for you.
  9. Walk outside.
  10. Simplify. Declutter.
  11. Attend more cultural events like plays and concerts.
  12. Get a pet. They lower blood pressure and increase joy.
  13. Journal. The release of negative emotions on paper is powerful.
  14. Try dressing up a little more. There is no need to be a slave to fashion, but wearing something different from what you would normally reach for breaks monotony.
  15. Express your gratitude for people, places and things in your life that you love. Write it down. Read Make Miracles in Forty Days by Melodie Beattie which explains this further.
  16. Volunteer. Helping others can be wonderful.
  17. Obtain appropriate and effective therapy. Keep looking until you find the therapist and therapy that is most effective for you.
  18. Give yourself a new experience. You know trauma and loss, but do you know a new experience? Give yourself that.
  19. Do an inventory of positive memory associations from your life and see if you can build your current life around them. Read Crossing the Boundary by Melba Wilson which explains this further.
  20. Transform your limiting beliefs about the situation you have experienced. Read Loving What Is by Byron Katie which explains this further.
  21. Be patient. This isn’t easy, but if you are consistent, it can be done.
  22. Stop comparing yourself to others.
  23. Set small goals and attain them.
  24. Remember to breathe more often, especially when you feel panic.
  25. Never harshly judge yourself and/or a transition period. This too shall pass.

The Vagina Monologues

I was supposed to go to see The Vagina Monologues last week at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre. However, a severe weather warning came in and I stayed at home.

Still, it is not as if I cannot talk about The Vagina Monologues. I saw Eve Ensler perform The Vagina Monologues years ago in Chicago. And needless to say, I read the book and saw the HBO Special. The Vagina Monologues is a one woman show that was created by playwright Eve Ensler who talked to many different women of different ages, races, and class backgrounds about their relationships with their bodies. The money from the performances from the play is given to rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters.

The night was magical. It was like sitting with a group of women who understood the complexities of the female experience. I have talked with other people about their experience of The Vagina Monologues. They have said that the book is good, but it does no justice to the performance. I am grateful whenever I see posters of The Vagina Monologues performances for people to know understand this experience.

My Pineapple Shawl

My Pineapple Shawl 2Ever since I was a child, I have loved shawls! However, as a child of the handmade revolution, I preferred that they were handmade. My fiber arts meet up was perfect to help me with this positive memory association from my childhood.

 

My fiber arts meet up takes place at Panera Bread Company in Lincoln Avenue in Chicago every first and third Sunday of the month. There is a wonderful crochet artist in my fiber arts meet up named Ellen who makes extraordinary pineapple shawls. The first time attended two years ago, I saw a pineapple shawl that Ellen created. I could not believe the extraordinary detail! It was sooo Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks influenced! Can’t you just hear the song “Gypsy” in your head as you are looking at it?!?! I just had to have one!

 

My maternal great grandmother was a crochet queen. I still have the afghans she made. Unfortunately, I simply did not inherit the crochet gene (sniffle)! I can do granny squares, but that is about it. And after a challenging day at work, it is a necessity. But I wanted my pineapple shawl now, not when I would actually learn how to get through a pineapple stitch. I had some Berocco Fiji yarn to make a sweater that I decided in the end should be a pineapple shawl instead. So, I had Ellen make me a pineapple shawl. She finished just in time for my birthday and I loved it!

Thank you Ellen!

Effects of Domestic Violence on Children

This is a fourth overdue conversation.  I have to share this information for people who need to hear it. These are the effects of domestic violence in children:

 

-sleeplessness

-nightmares

-headaches

-stomachaches

-agitation

-anxiety

-fear of losing parent

-difficulty concentrating

-academic problems

-fears of going to school

-clinging to caregivers

-fear of exploring

-feelings of not belonging

-low self esteem

-withdrawal from people, places, situations, activities

-depression

-feeling lonely and isolated

-emotional numbing

-feeling responsible for violence

-aggressive behavior

-substance abuse

-stealing

-talk of suicide

-fear around abusive person

-acting perfect, overachieving, acting like perfect adults (good student, makes the family look good, involved in lots of activities)

-bed-wetting

-temper tantrums

-eating problems

-medical problems, such as asthma, arthritis, ulcers

-avoidance reminders

-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), flashbacks

-Developmental delay

-sometimes labeled as the “problem child” or scapegoat

-tries not to bring attention to oneself

-“Class clown” and “acts out”

-behavior problems in school

 

Obtained from the book Children of Battered Women by Peter Jaffe David Wolfe

Red Flags: How to Recognize Abuse and Abusers

Here is another overdue conversation: Recognizing red flags within rapists, batterers and abusive relationships. There is not enough information out there about this topic, so I am presenting more right here.

 

Characteristics of Abuse and Abusers:

1.Objectifies victim by calling him/her names, animals, etc.

2.Tries to isolate the partner

3.Acts one way with the partner and another way when they are around other people

4.May have legal problems

5.Bad temper

6.Verbal abuse

7.Regularly threatened to leave or told the victim to leave

8.Punished or deprived children when he/she was angry

9.Threatened to kidnap the children or hurt the children if the victim left

10.Abused pets

11.Destroyed possessions and photographs

12.Told victim about his/her affairs

13.Manipulated victim with lies and contradictions

14.Comes from a family where violence was practiced (70% of abusers)

15.Denies severity of abuse

16.Drives the victim away, then does whatever they have to do to get the victim back again

17.The pattern is cyclical. There is no lasting change.

18.Low self esteem

19.Fosters dependence

20.May believe in traditional sex roles and gender types

21.95% are male, 5% are female

22.Abusers come from all socio-economic levels, educational and ethnic/racial backgrounds and types of lifestyles

23.Blames victim for perceived injuries to self.

24.Is unwilling to turn victim loose

25.Is obsessed with victim.

  1. Is hostile/angry/furious.

27.Appears to be distraught.

28.Is extremely jealous, blaming, victim for all types of promiscuous behavior.

29.Has perpetrated previous incidents of significant violence.

30.Has killed or injured pets.

31.Has made threats.

32.Is threatening suicide.

  1. Has threatened suicide in the past.

34.Has access to guns or other weapons.

35.Uses/is addicted to alcohol.

36.Uses/is addicted to/sells Amphetamines, speed, cocaine, crack, or other drugs.

  1. Has thought/desires of hurting partner.
  2. Has no desire to stop violence/controlling behavior
  3. Relationship is extremely tense. Volatile.
  4. wants to injure victim, even when she is pregnant and/or has just delivered a baby.

 

Physical Abuse (includes, but is not limited to):

-pushing/shoving

-Held to keep from leaving

-Slapped, kicked, chocked, bit, punched or hit

-Thrown objects

-Locked in the house/room

-Abandonded in dangerous places

-Refused help when sick, injured or pregnant

-Drove recklessly

-Forced off the road or kept from driving

-Rape

-Threatened with a weapon

-Hurt with a weapon

 

Sexual abuse (includes, but not limited to):

-Told anti-men/anti-women jokes or made demeaning remarks about men/women

-Treated men/women as sex objects

-Insisted on unwanted and uncomfortable touching

-Withheld sex and affection

-Forced him/her to perform some type of sex

-Forced him/her to watch pornography

 

Spiritual Abuse (very rarely recognized, but including and not limited to):

-use religion to justify abuse

-insults victim’s religion

 

Emotional Abuse (vary rarely recognized, but includes and not limited to):

-Ignored feelings

-Ignored the victim

-Intimidating victim by using looks, actions, loud voices, gestures, body positioning, smashing or destroying property, hurting pets

-Limits phone calls

-Limits social life and contact with the outside world

-Keeps victim from doing activities he/she likes

-Invades his/her privacy

-Limits his/her personal space

-Threatens to report victim to DCFS, immigration, etc.

-Putting victim down in front of family and friends

-Ridiculed or insulted men/women as a group

-Ridiculed or insulted most valued beliefs, religion, race, heritage, or class

-Withheld approval, appreciation, or affection for punishment

-Continually criticized called names, shouted at

-Insulted or drove away friends and family

 

Economic abuse (including, but not limited to):

-Keeping the victim from getting or keeping a job

-Giving the victim an allowance

-Making the victim ask for money

-Taking the victim’s money

-Controlling all the finances

-Spending money on himself/herself and withholding money for family needs

-Kept from working, controlled money, made all the decisions

-Took car keys or money away

 

This information is from Escape the Abuse: Leaving Smart by Intermedia, Seattle, Washington.

 

If you find yourself in any of these situations, get help and get out.

 

Resources:

-The Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker

 

-The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond by Patricia Evans

 

-National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)

 

-RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network) 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE)

 

My Self Marriage Ceremony

“It is better to be by yourself than to be poorly accompanied.” –Judge Maria Lopez of The People’s Court

 

I married myself on Friday, July 4th, 2014, my 43rd birthday. It had been a long time coming. I married myself with one goal in mind: To expand upon and rethink, reconfigure, reevaluate, reinvent the concept of love and commitment. The first time I heard about the concept was reading the book, Succulent Wild Women by SARK. I loved the concept of it: Commit to yourself before committing to someone else. I first read about this concept when I was married, but it didn’t make complete sense to me until after I had gotten divorced.

I did an internet search about self marriage to obtain more information. I read article where the concept of self marriage is “narcissistic.” Again, I think the people who are writing these things have not had my life’s experiences. I personally found that as a direct result of my past experiences, self marriage was an act of radical self love, self care and self acceptance.

Within time, I had found I had achieved a state of pure unmitigated joy, but believe me when I tell you I wish I had known about the concept of self marriage sooner. No matter how challenging the past had been for me, I always knew that happiness was out there. I had to be patient and just keep looking until I found it. Instead of looking at what happened before, I have become more focused on the love I had in my life now: supportive family, friends, my artistry and a job that fulfills me.

This act of self marriage gave way to letting go of people, places and things that did not honor the very best of who I was. This was already happening, so it not an overnight process. But it is interesting to note the changes that took place after my self marriage ceremony: I left a job I held for five years and fell into the job I had been wanting for years. I participated in not one, but two art instillations within a year because part of my commitment to myself also included a reclaiming of my artistic life. Self marriage was one of the many building blocks of extreme self care I’d acquired within time. Eventually, though, what I realized was that my happiness, sadness, success or failure wasn’t dependent on any other human being. It meant that I could live the life I always wanted.

I am able to see other people who are married with children and I am sincerely happy for them and tell them so, but I am also happy for myself as well. My vows were actually the poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelo. I made a vision board the night of Thursday, July 3, 2014 and placed a small part of the poem on the board. I also chose pictures and sayings, like High Spirits, your special day your special way, Your story from this point forward will be legendary, The Life You Want.”

Although I was married, I never had a marriage ceremony in my life. So having one when I married myself was especially important for me. Not to be materialistic, but people seem to want to know everything I did on this day, from choosing a dress, a ring and anything else, so here it is.

It took time to find a dress on discount. It was a white halter dress with gold swirls on sale and I loved walking away with a deal. I also found white shoes on discount.

The ring was an aquamarine stone with a gold setting, again on discount. The bouquet and cake were from Whole Foods. When I told the women there what I was doing, they had never heard of the ceremony such as a self marriage, but they were greatly interested and actually more than kind when making suggestions to make the day special for me. I went with a berry cake with white frosting and red letters. They showed me pictures of their wedding bouquets, as well as had me tell them what kinds of flowers I liked. I let them know I loved sunflowers. “You have to love yourself and know who you are and what it is you want first,” the saleswoman told me behind the counter when she saw my cake and flowers.

I was able to find an appropriate crown at Party City. They have an amazing medieval section! I found a gold plated crown with fake jewels. I also talked with people close to me about my ceremony. One of my family members said, “I can see it. Frankly people need to do this preferably in the ninth grade. Get clear on who you are, what you want and what your expectations are in a relationship.”

My writer friend was invaluable on the day of the ceremony. She took pictures and did my makeup. Personally, I felt she’d done a better job that the makeup artists at M.A.C. She played jazz love songs in the background like “At Last” by Etta James and “Nightingale” by Nora Jones. After she was finished with my makeup, I felt beautiful. I am the primordial caregiver. This is my profession, but another aspect of self marriage for me is learning what is healthy dependence and learning how to receive.

She said, “Actually, I think people need to do this after they are finished with college. Like if you are going to have a bridal registry, then have one. When you get your own place, you need toasters, cookware, Tupperware and bed comforters when you move out of those college dormitories or out of your parent’s house. These are things people need on their own, like well before marriage.”

But the only problem with waiting until after college is you might meet the person you think you should marry in college. That is what happened to me. Later, I progressed to the idea of not being actualized in a relationship, but being actualized by yourself. What a concept! But no one tells you exactly how that happens. They didn’t have that in a textbook. Sometimes doing things the way other people have presented it to you is the way to go until you have taken the time to know how to do things that are best for you. It might be challenging along the way, but still, settling shouldn’t be an option.

Choosing a locale was a challenge. My writing group has a lot of interesting outings. One of them was Medieval Times. I knew when I first saw the place, I wanted to be there for my self marriage ceremony. Medieval Times was a place that I felt was conducive to the creative imagination. I have always loved anything and everything medieval. I wanted the ceremony to be playful. I had a picture with the king when I walked in. He told me, “You look smashing!” I said, “Thank you!” The food was phenomenal along with the jousting. We had the yellow knight, who unfortunately lost the tournament.

Afterwards, children walked up to me to ask, “Are you a fairy princess?” I smiled and said, “No.” Then they asked, “Were you in the play?” I smiled and said no. It is difficult to describe the concept of self marriage to children. I felt like Carrie Bradshaw’s character in Sex and the City who tried to explain to the little girl she was reading Cinderella to that these are fairy tales, but you know what? Everyone has to come to their own conclusions.

So, instead I said, “It’s my birthday.” And it really was my birthday. That they understood. They looked at each other excitedly and said, “Yay! Oh happy birthday!” Description solved! I was knighted at the end of the night. I took a picture with one of the knights.

Again, it is not that I am against relationships, but I am against unhealthy ones. I feel there are decent men out there. I also enjoy sewing for other people and their weddings. But I also feel that if you have a healthy relationship with yourself, actually being in relationship doesn’t matter as much. I have also noticed that life can and will respond to how you feel about your circumstance. If you walk out as if there is lack in the world, the world would respond in kind, but if you walk out as if there is abundance, the world would respond abundantly. If I felt terrible about being single, I would be met with people who affirmed my belief. Because I embraced this fact, instead, I found the opposite.

A lot of people have asked me how I felt after the ceremony. Actually, I felt great, deeply appreciating my own self reliance. This is who I am. This is the person I was meant to be. It feel good not looking at a person, a place or a thing to validate my worth as a human being.  I listened to Pharrell’s CD on my way home, watching the fireworks in the air, enjoying the celebration of my independence.

Self Marriage 1