Monday, May 26, 2014

Time for a mental vacation

I would like to take you on a little journey of relaxation with me. If you have never done yoga or meditation, this might seem a little weird, but please take a chance.

I want you to read this in your favorite spot. Print it, if you need to, then go to the place where you feel the safest and most comfortable. Is it a cozy chair? A window over looking a garden? The edge of your child's bed while they're sleeping? Pick a time when you won't be interrupted. That time in the middle of the night when you can't sleep will work, if nothing else.

Once you are in your place, sit still and listen to your breath. Remind yourself that breathing will happen without your control. It is an involuntary reflex, so let it go. Let go of control and give that responsibility over to your body. Trust it. Let go of the tension in your belly and shoulders. Think about the other places in your body that get sore with stress. Tell those places to relax, too. Unconsciously we grip our muscles when we are feeling stressed, as if that will help us control what is happening in our life, but it only robs us of valuable energy and leaves us feeling cruddy. Let it go. Let your breathing relax. Let your pulse slow.

Focus on this very moment, on the place where you are sitting, the sounds around you (hopefully they are peaceful or happy), and just exist here.

Now do the same thing for your emotions that you did for your muscles. You have built up sore spots of anger, sadness, and guilt in the same way your muscles have grown sore with stress. Let go of those sore spots. You don't need to worry about the cause of these emotions right now. Just release your grip on them and let the energy flow like your breath. It will ache, like the symptoms at the start of a cold. And like a cold, recognizing you are suffering and giving yourself permission to rest is the best way to help it pass. If you find your brain replaying scenes connected to the emotions, just imagine those thoughts floating away and turn your mind back to your breathing.

If this is very hard on you right now, then take a break. Get a cup of tea or take a brisk walk. Whatever you do, don't let your muscles tense up again and resist letting those emotional blocks start. It will get easier with practice. If you can remain relaxed, your mind will feel clearer and you will have increased clarity while making decisions. When you are ready, continue reading.

With your mind on your breathing and your body relaxed, I want you to imagine stepping out of your body. (Stick with me now, even if you think this is weird). Imagine leaving your body behind, comfortable and safe, as you walk away. With every step, I want you to detach more and more from everything in your own life. Imagine walking out of the room, out of the house, and down the street. Leave behind your struggles and stress as you walk farther and farther. Walk away from your problems - you don't have to solve them. Walk away from the pain - you're taking a break from it. Imagine walking far enough away that you feel completely separated from everything. Walk until you feel like another person with no big problems. You are just normal now with normal issues. You can remember how that feels, so pull up that memory and make it real for this moment.

From your far off perspective of normalcy and detachment, I want you to turn back around and look at the body you left behind. Be a stranger looking back at yourself. You don't know who that woman is nor what she is going through. Stay detached, but look at her with kindness. She looks tired and a little worn. You can tell that she needs a good night's sleep and maybe a shoulder to lean on. Who do you think she is? She looks like a nice person, as normal and kind as a person could be. If she's a mom, I bet she's a loving one. I bet she puts the welfare of others ahead of her own.

Take a few steps towards her with curiosity. You are a separate person, remember, coming from a place of relaxed ease. Looking at this woman, you think she looks like she could be a friend. Walk back towards her at a relaxed pace. She's still a long way away, but from here you can look at her objectively. The closer you get, the more clearly you see the character of this woman. You can see her strengths, her talents, her humor, and all her good acts. You like this woman. She is a person of value and you are glad she is here. As you get even closer, you can also see her weaknesses, her temper, and her pet peeves. You see them and shrug, they are as normal as anything. There is nothing about this woman that would drive you away. In fact, you think she seems as deserving of friendship and love as anyone you know.

Keep walking toward her, taking the time you need to maintain detachment while you get closer and closer to the woman you left behind.

And now you are standing in front of her, still detached. You have walked a long way, but you feel refreshed. In fact, you have enough energy now that maybe you could offer to lend a hand to this woman. She could use someone like you. She needs someone objective and kind. She needs someone who can tell her sincerely that she is a good person, worth loving and supporting. She needs to be reminded that her life is valuable. She needs someone to listen and believe in her. You can do that.

So take a seat. Take back your identity. Breathe in and welcome yourself home.

As you go back to your life, your heart might feel heavy again and the aches may start to return. It will help if you can take mental vacations a few times a day. If you like this, maybe try going to a yoga class or get a meditation CD from the library. This sort of thing can keep you sane and healthy, no joke. Even if you can't find the time to go through a whole exercise like this, you can still find moments in your day to listen to your breathing and imagine yourself as an objective, caring onlooker. This has been my trick, by the way, for the last few years. I use it to pull myself away from depression when I feel it sneaking up on me. I hope it helped you and gives you a tool to keep you afloat. If you have a survival tactic such as this that you would like to share, please comment below or email it to me.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

PTG....Not just Survival, Not simply Resiliance but transformation...

Post traumatic growth, (PTG) the other side of the coin from PTSD, Post traumatic Stress Disorder...PTG is not simply resilience but transformation.    Resilience may be when we've been blindsided and we just stagger on pretending.  But PTG?  Post traumatic Growth is when we Didn't give up. Didn't capitulate. PTG is Transform.  (You know like one of those little transformer toys you stepped on in your bare feet because your kid "forgot" to put it away. OnlyPTG is much, much better. And of course we will be way cuter than those things when we transform!)

PTG happens after we are rocked to the foundations.. After The Life we thought we had chosen, Implodes. When we  are betrayed in such a fundamental way that we can't just simply stagger on.  The pieces no longer fit when we try to pull the Life We Chose all back together. . So we choose to move beyond, choose to struggle and create a new life of our own instead of living the patterns once laid out for us by others.

We are transformed because we Choose to Create a different Life after the implosion,

But that  transformation depends on fundamental choices we make now. How we choose to continue will effect the rest of our lives...and perhaps more importantly, the rest of our children's lives.

1) First we have to decide upon our  fundamental response

    #A) we can close over the wound,  hide the shrapnel, develop gangrene, actually commit suicide instead of just wishing we could, or we can solve that problem and just go dead inside from Betrayal..       # B) Pick ourselves up and stagger on pretending that nothing fundamental just happened. We'll deal with the PTSD later.
    # C) Grieve what has ended. Give ourselves time to  grow our (new) selves back. Better than ever.  PTG. Transformer toy but way better because we are in charge of our transformation.

2) After that fundamental choice there are other choices to be made, especially if we chose #B) or #C) above.  We need to find friends willing to "understand." women willing to "be there" for us.
We need gather our team, our tribe. Like Evie says, we need to find ourselves in "good company"

We need (hopefully) three who will listen, offer inspiration, point out the bigger picture, explain "boat maintenance" help us row our kids out of harm's way,  row toward a better shore. We need women with whom we can discuss our and their transformation.

Some of our "advisers" may already be personal friends who stuck by us, they might be counselors,We might discover "sisters" out there in blogisphere, just other woman who know  about betrayal. We need sounding boards able to listen and sympathize without trying to take over. Friends we trust to tell stories of where they've been. What worked and what didn't, for them. And then we need to help someone else who  just heard the knock at the door.

It's our choice but we need them, They need us. Nobody really goes it alone.

In her book Sleeping With a Stranger, How I survived Marriage to a Child Molester, Patricia Wiklund highly recommends we find what she calls an "Administrator" who can accompany us to meetings, hearings etc. and keep track of  appointments for us in the first stages, when we feel overwhelmed. Later they'll bring the wine and  celebrate our successes with us. (And help us fend off those "Villagers with Flaming Pitch-forks" when necessary.)

These friends are the sympathetic women  Evie  referred to  in her "Pulling Back the Curtain of Shame" blog post. .

3) Rule # 3 is NEVER  Quit on Ourselves. (Remember we did not Choose #A to begin with and there is no going back now. We have already come too far to give up on ourselves and our children.)   Persevere. Look at Betrayal from a whole different angle ( Remember Evie's blog about how she is now actually grateful to the young girl who reported Jake? The girl Evie  said she once hated as the reason people found out and her world imploded... back then?)

Keep on keeping on. There will be other "new" angles No one can transform our lives  for you. Why should they? I'm not saying there won't be times when all we want to do is   just climb in bed and pull covers over our heads. The world will NOT go away  just because we  wish  it would. Wine does not take care of everything. Eating by the light of the refrigerator won't cut it. Besides we have to fit into our clothes. We have to "interview our interviewer" and clinch our future tomorrow.

4)  In some  ways we need to  take our time.  It's not time to "forget and forgive" just because someone else tells us we ought to. We need to Recognize our strengths.  Reward our own bravery. Remember PTG? Perhaps we can't wish away the whole world but with perseverance we can transform  our world and ourselves with it.

Steal one of your kid's transformer toys. Make that little plastic transformer a reminder. Carry it around in your purse. Don't we know that every Heroine has a Talisman and a Smile and a Sword? My talisman is a little plastic figure hanging off my file cabinet.  She's a  little Red Headed Disney Princess dressed in a long blue dress and cross bow  ...Just as a reminder that there is a before and after....



Monday, May 12, 2014

Interview your interviewer: Questions from the Thrive Index that might just make a long term difference at work and in your life.

Don't you wish you had asked "your" sex offender a few more questions? Before you signed on?

Now's your chance to get in practice. You really need a good job. but you need to clean up your own financial back yard and be prepared to interview your interviewers.  

 Finances are a real problem for those of us living through the "aftermath:" after the "knock on the door," after the arrest. You know after the whole world implodes.

The necessity to make a new life, or at least a separate life, for ourselves and our children hangs on finding a job and earning a living wage.  But not just any old job. To find a job that will  be a good "fit" requires that we ask (maybe scary) questions.  

Just as asking questions might just have made all the difference before we got involved with "our" sex offender, we need to ask questions now. We need to interview our interviewer.Who wants another nasty surprise? 

As an  unintended "single person" we are faced with choices we never planned to make. At first we think we are only defined by the offender's choices. Then we realize that "on our own" means we are responsible for asking questions and making our own choices.   

Homework counts. (Who knew then that "love" would come down how much we could earn per  hour?)  
How to keep private information private when we do find work?  
How to ask for "extra time off" for court appearances? 
How to interview the job interviewer so we don't walk into a new job blind?  

Some employers hold  dear the same prejudices held by the neighbors, by the public at large. (If truth be told, the same prejudices we once held ourselves, before we discovered we had been living some other life all along.) Some employers surprise us by their kindness...but you won't know until you get there. 

But you say, a  job is a job is a...and even a "crappy" job will do. Why interview the interviewer? Grab any offer. Smile. Make it work.

Do the math, write down what you have to earn to live. Budget. Include every expense. All Your Worth: The Ultimate Lifetime Money Plan by Elizabeth Warren has a really simple, easy to follow budget plan that I think makes sense. (you might be able to save the price of the book if you just Google her name) It's important do a realistic budget so you know what is the smallest salary you can accept. You can negotiate up from that rock bottom amount but you can't feed your kids below that income. 

We even need to find out how often they pay. Weekly? Monthly? Twice a month is 24 paychecks. Every other week is 26 paychecks a year. It makes a difference. And once we say "yes" to any job, the unfairness of wage disparity strikes home. When we see that first pay check, see what our-take-home pay actually is in $$$ and cents, "minimum wage" matters. Our salary isn't just "helping out." It is our whole world.  It is up to us to float the row boat.  

Some company policies say the boss can "fired at will" for anything for any reason, forever.  That's a lot of added stress.  Especially if you are forever afraid of getting fired from a low wage job, part time work, or even from two part-time jobs. Or is "fire at will" only for a 6 month "probation" period?   

How long before your retirement plan is vested? Immediately, 6 months? Never? What does your health insurance cover? And how long do you have to wait before insurance kicks in? Do you have to be a full time employee to get many hours is does this employer consider "full time?"  

No matter what the job,  No Call, No Show is fatal to employment. And "late's" may get you fired too. (Even if you hate your present job, be nice, right up until you have another better one. And don't go on twitter or anywhere else to gripe about an employer. They too, troll the internet.)

These policies can decide whether we choose the cereal our kids eat or whether we must just be grateful for what ever the food bank hands out.  

And in this economy minimum wage, unequal pay, lack of low-cost child care, health insurance, medical care, 401K's, time off, promotions, everything effects our bottom line.  After that, where exactly DO we fit in (single) family time at a time when our children need us more than ever? And another thing, When DO we sleep?      

The fact that in 2014 women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar paid to males doing the same job (up and down the hierarchy, even in the head office, women get paid less.)  In general African American women earn  64 cents and Latina women earn 55 cents on the dollar.  This ALL suddenly matters. A whole lot. To us. 

To every working woman. Company policies about paid time off, about personal calls, about shift differentials matter. A woman who manages to find a job, who works full time will still earn an average of $11,000 less every single year -- and, get this, will earn on average $443,000 less over her lifetime just because she is female

Even if we have skills, we may earn only $11,000. Period. In which case the young single guy working next to us on the bottom rung is probably earning $16,000 doing the same job as us. But he's young, "going places" he says. While we scout around looking for that second "good" job just to make ends meet.  

I don't know about you, but I never felt so poor as when I was working my b##t off and still I had to tell my kids "No" we can't afford....some little thing they asked for. 
What couldn't I have done with that "extra" $11,000, with that $443,000 that I "missed out on" thanks to wage disparity.

Today "Job Search" requires a computer.  And while you are "hunting" don't forget to Google your own personal information because some employers will. (By the way, I used a post office box instead of my home address on job applications and with employers to avoid getting Googled by an employer and tangled up in "the Registrant's" address info.)   

If asked, what do we want to be sure to say? What's our "pitch" to sell ourselves, our skills to their company? If they ask about legal issues, what are we prepared to say? Should I "come clean" right up front, maybe in the second interview? Will they fire me if they find out "later?" You need to at least think about your answers.

Do they do credit checks? If they are a "financial institution" will they hire you with a bankruptcy(if you have one.) A lot of companies require direct deposit of your check so you will need a bank account of your own. Internet accounts like Ing or Green Dot cards might fill the bill if your bank history is gritchy with past "bounced" checks and such. 

Also might be good to check your credit score and clean it up, get his name off of it if you can. (credit reports have an entry for court files. Usually it's for leins but felonies etc can be there also) You can get a free credit report from all three agencies once a year. Have you checked your Facebook? Does it say anything you would not want to share with a prospective employer? Does the Company "Google" the Registry as part of their "back ground" check on applicants?  

Deciding what you want to say. Answering these questions, doing all this boring homework beforehand, writing down the questions you want answered could make the difference as to whether you get that good job or are really glad you decided not to work for "those people" after all.  


But before I keep going on and on and on...Why not just Google Paycheck to Paycheck the life and Times of Katrina Gilbert.?   Maria Shriver (who knows a little about betrayal herself) writes about how employment  issues effect women and children in the Shriver Report. A Women's nation Pushes Back From the Brink

We really are not alone in wage disparity any more than we are all alone with "What Happened." So don't think "it" is all your fault. It is hard to find a job and after all that effort you want to be sure you have found a good job, one that fits your family and your life.

Among other interesting stuff in the Shriver Report, is a Thrive Index that lists company policies that promote women's success in the work place.  So don't be afraid to ask if the company that wants to hire you has these policies already in place.  

These are a just few questions to inquire about when you interview your interviewer. From the Thrive Index:     

Under Adequate wages and benefits:
1)  Are part time workers paid the same as full time (40 hour per week) workers?
2)  Are part time workers guaranteed a minimum number of hours per week?
3)  Are workers who remain on the job for a specified period eligible for pay raises?
4)  If and When... are workers eligible for paid sick leave for themselves or if their children become ill and the babysitter won't take them?
5)   When job skills/ responsibilities/increase are wages adjusted upward?
6)   Are workers  paid for their entire shift even if business is slow? (or are you sent home after you showed up, after you paid car fare and took the baby across town to the sitter? Are you stuck with short hours and extra expenses?)
7)   Are hourly wages higher for non-standard shifts ( such as nights or weekends? (Babysitters are harder to find and charge more for non-standard hours even if your company doesn't pay more if you work  a "non-standard shift.") 

There's a bunch of other stuff under headings like "Opportunities for learning and advancement; (I worked for a company that reimbursed me for $$ spent going to school as long as I could show that the courses I was taking were "work related" All I needed was the initial $$ to prime the pump for the first few classes.)  

Under Support for Family and Personal needs; 

Work scheduling, predictability and flexibility:
1)  Is there a way to communicate and get work preference hours or schedules (like during the times your sitter is available?)
2)  Do they let you know about changes in your work hours ahead of time...enough to re-arrange your sitter?
3)   If you must stay beyond end of schedule, are you given advance notice? You know, so you call and get someone to go pick  your kids up before the day care closes?

And Under Autonomy, respect and trust:
1)  Are workers protected from "no-fault" absence or tardiness or can even the accrual of excused absences lead to dismissal? 

2)  Are workers allowed or encouraged to contribute ideas to improve output?

3) And maybe the most important question to ask at your job interview:  Can workers occasionally make personal phone calls? You know to see if your middle-schooler made it home safe after school? 

After you are interviewed and they ask if you have any further questions...why not ask a few judicious questions of you own? Interview your prospective employer. See if they are a good fit for you.  Don't dare? It really make quite a difference.  

Research the companies before you interview. Find out what their policies are. Ask some one who works there if workers are friendly, if they support each other. 

If you interview the interviewer and they refuse to hire you because you asked?  Well, you didn't want that job anyway did you? You have children to support. You plan to Thrive, Long-term.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Regarding the Registered

Last weekend, I was sitting out with my neighbor, Haylie, as she held a garage sale and we both watched our kids play together. I got up to use her restroom and when I came back, I saw her fiance, Tim, yelling angrily at a man in a pick-up that had paused in front of their driveway. On the back of the man's pick-up was a sign that said "I haul junk: scrap metal, recyclable, etc." Haylie had a surprised look on her face as she said to Tim, "Be nice!" As the man drove away, Tim turned to us and explained that the man was listed on the sex offender registry.

"He came here because he saw the kids," Tim yelled as waved his arm toward our combined children playing on the lawn: three girls and two boys, all under 8-years-old. "Imagine if our daughter had been out here alone!" Haylie joined in with how the neighborhood just wasn't safe any more. When Tim turned to me, expecting some enthusiastic agreement . . . I just shrugged.

Honestly, I wasn't scared for my kids. There was a time when I was "normal" that I would have been creeped out to the max. My fear has shifted now. I'm not scared of Junk Joe who lives under the SO banner. It was the man under my own roof who I should have feared years ago. Now it's my kids' teachers and their friends' parents that I worry about. Tim himself is just barely gaining my trust, although I'm sure he's unaware that I ever doubted him.

So very far from fear, I actually felt sorry for the junk guy. All of us on here know that he didn't choose junk collection as a career because he has a passion for it. He chose it because he can't get a job. He probably can't rent an apartment either. All of us who have had any real connection with a sex offender can feel sympathy for the situation they are put in for decades possibly, even after they have served their time.

I've never checked the registry and I'm not sure I want to. Maybe I should. At the very least I could check on those people that I'm entrusting my children with. But for the most part I really doubt that checking it will increase my kids' safety. If anything, I think it gives us a false sense of comfort thinking that the dangerous people are already labeled, while in truth the most dangerous people are flying under the radar, quietly committing their crimes at home.

Janet and I were recently discussing WAR (Women Against the Registry). They are a group we have an obvious connection to, being women connected to sex offenders, but their agenda is not something that I completely agree with (I'll let Janet speak for herself on this). As you can tell by their catchy acronym, they want to do away with the SO registry - I can see why, as I've mentioned above. They want reform for the system that processes and rehabilitates sex offenders - I would agree that it could do with some reform, especially the lack of services and support offered to the families of the SO. They want SOs to be allowed to go back home and back to a normal after time served . . . This is where I develop a little cold sweat.

WAR believes that "once the registrant has been adjudicated, paid their debt to society and is living a law-abiding life they have earned the right to live without fear of harm to themselves or their family." It sounds so rational, until I apply it to Jake. My greatest fear is the day that he comes back into my kids' lives. After all, by Colorado law he retains some of his parental rights, which he can slowly recover if he gets through sex offender treatment. As much as I hope that he develops empathy and overcomes his addictive sexual behavior, I am also certain that even if he doesn't he will still convince everyone that he has. He is smart, charming, and very adaptable. He will jump through every hoop they put in front of him, whether it changes his essential character or not. I am terrified of the day someone contacts me to arrange for him to visit with our kids again. If he works the system well, he could be back in the same room with them by the time Elise is 8 and Sabrina is 6. If WAR got its way, he might also have partial custody . . . my precious children alone in his care. My God, that is my worst nightmare! 

I am jumping to extremes, I know. And yet, WAR's own words do nothing to soothe my anxieties. In a recent letter to Illinois legislators, WAR uses the following to persuade them that the public is not in danger of released sex offenders:

"The myth of “stranger danger” persists despite that most sexual perpetrators are well known to their victims. According to the Department of Justice, “Most child sexual abuse victims are molested by family members (34%) or close acquaintances (59%).” (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000). About 40% of sex crimes take place in a victim’s own home, and 20% take place in the home of a friend or relative (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997)."

Those are exactly the reasons why I'm not scared of Junk Joe. But those are also the reasons that I am scared of Jake. As the mother of an SOs kids, this is how I read that statement: The public should have no fear of sex offenders because if they re-offend it will probably be with their own kids. Sure, with that kind of logic the public is much safer if you let the sex offenders go home, but what about those kids at home?!

Ugh. There have to be some better answers out there! There has to be a middle ground where an ex-SO can get a job and a place to live AND where all children (his own and others) are kept safe.

Until WAR addresses the concerns of moms like me, I won't be joining their forces. However, I very much understand if any of you decide to take part in their movement. For the sake of sanity, I have to believe that many SOs are mostly decent if they can get past that huge error, misjudgment, or maybe correct some faulty logic . . . If you are standing by your man, then I hope that is the case for him and he returns home someday to justify all your faith in him. For you and your man, I will voice my doubt in the way our system treats him. Just do me a favor, when you speak up against restrictions on sex offenders, please remember my kids and the danger they might be in from their own father. Let's find that middle ground, okay?