Sunday, January 30, 2011

Biting Back. Egyptians and I.

I watch the turmoil in Egypt with a sense of fascination and with a heart beating with anticipation, fear, and hope. I watch those people taking their futures into their own hands and I realize that, for them (as for myself) a certain point had been reached when enough was ENOUGH!! People can sit on the sidelines and ask...what the hell took them so long, but for me that question is irrelevant. Time has no bearing on a person (or persons) in the depths of oppression. It just boils down to one day at a moment at a time...sometimes even your next breath seems questionable. What matters is that the moment has arrived, for whatever reasons, and Egyptians have decided that now is as good a time as any to find that strength they always had but had been taught through oppression that inner strength was best left in the dream world. Well, dreams are all nice and sweet (for the most part) but for them, as for me, it's time to wake up.

I haven't spoken on this blog much about the catalyst that brought about the moment in which I finally realized that enough was enough and I was ending this one way or another. As I watch the unfolding events in Egypt I can't help but look back on that night and for me it really hits home. I see in those people what I saw in myself...either do it now...or let the moment pass and sink into unremitting despair as you realize "this is it" and the rest of your life is just counting the moments until you die. For anyone that has been in that particular situation there are two deaths we can experience in life...permanent death of course is waiting for everyone...but the other death I speak of is more painful, more crushing, and infinitely more destructive then that eternal sleep in the earth. I'm referring to the death of your soul, of your intellect, of your sense of self. Those Egyptians, as I, have decided that they matter, they count, they have purpose and it isn't too grovel at the feet of an uncaring, inhumane dictator whose own self interests are the beginning and end of their existence.

I lived in the middle east for 23 years. Granted Bahrain is nowhere near the oppressive corrupt state that Egypt, or even Tunisia, is but it does have it's dictator and corrupt govt. It also has its prisons that people enter and never exit, without fair trials or even charges. People in Bahrain, like in most (all) Arab countries, disappear...and there isn't much anyone can do about it. Of course this fear of being one of the Disappeared keeps people in a permanent state of suspicion and distrust. It also effectively shuts your mouth as you know that to open it leaves you at the mercy of that corrupt dictator and govt and that to speak out can be the beginning of the end for you. Because of this I was constantly witness to a room full of people laughing, gossiping people having a good time...and then someone mentions the "unmentionable"..aka the King, or even worse, the Prime Minister..and suddenly there is a hush that silences the crowd as effectively as a conductor tapping for attention.

The suspense in the room is palatable. In that moment you wonder if that person will be foolish enough to say something negative (because you never know who the spy among you is) or do the usual ass kissing that all Bahraini's, dare I say all Arabs, do when in a crowded room when you never know where your words will end up? It is at this moment when voices are instantly lowered, tones are neutral, eyes are darting...and everyone waits.

Back in the late 80's when I first arrived in Bahrain this state of fear was more intense then it is now. I didn't understand it fully then because in America we are allowed to speak out, to protest, to accuse our govt. and president of being less than just etc. I actually found it rather humorous to watch a room full of people instantly hush when the King, or rather Sh. Isa (father to King Hamad) was mentioned...and the real fear that was felt when the Prime Minister (same one) was brought up. Now I understand it, of I sympathize with it because I too was in a relationship that forced me to bite my tongue to keep the peace, even when every fiber in my being cried out for me to speak SHOUT OUT that this was fucking wrong!!! I bit my tongue until it bled...until I could bite no more. And then rather than bite my own tongue one more time and risk choking...I "bit" him instead. To say he was surprised is an understatement.

The Egyptian people are biting back with tongues bloody from years, decades, of forced silence. I feel their pain. I taste their blood as if on my own tongue. A familiar taste I never ever got use too...but learned to live with at my own peril.
They are biting did the Tunisians...and the resulting wave of Arab people that are seemingly coming to the realization that they still have power, they still count...they still matter, is an amazing thing to witness.

Tunisians took the first bite...Egyptians saw that it tasted good to the Tunisians and bolstered by the smack of satisfaction resonating from the lips of the victorious Tunisians...have decided they would rather fight for their own futures with lips bloody from a Revolution...then choking from blood filled with fear, oppression, and loss of hope...loss of self.

On my own night in question, after one more battle in a long line of battles that stretched behind me for 20 years...and apparently stretched in front of me for 20 more...I saw my ex standing there, leaning against the wall, casually smoking a cigarette, with a look of complete and utter satisfaction on his face. He had me right where he wanted me. I wasn't going anywhere. His hand held the leash that was around my neck..and he knew it. In his world, all was good, all was as it should be. All was business as usual.

It was at this moment that something clicked in my head. I was almost convinced it was an audible sound it was so loud. I remember looking around to see if my kids (who had to witness that fight...and what was about to happen) had heard it. I looked at him standing there, not a care in the world, not in the least upset about the fight we just had, about the fact that our children had to witness once again him abusing their mother...and then turning around and giving them a lecture on what it means to "be" Muslim. His hypocrisy in their eyes registered not at all in his mind. Things were as they should they had always been...for 20 years.

If he only knew what was coming, what had been a long time coming, he might not have been quite so smug. Again, I can't help but think of Hosni Mubarak right now. Did he never once pause and think...I may have to pay for my oppression of the people some day. If not tomorrow...the day after? Eventually they might realize that when there is nothing left to lose...death is preferable to this life I have forced upon them.

Did that ever cross his mind? Obviously not because he never changed his did my husband. Promises made. Promises broken in almost the next breath. Every dictator on the planet knows that THEY don't have to change...they are God. The only thing that changes is the size of the oppressed belly as they force themselves to swallow more blood from those bloodied tongues.

So I stood there watching him....hearing that very LOUD click in my mind in which something very fundamental changed in me forever. I realized in that moment that THIS was my life...forever and always. Until either he died or I did (and knowing my luck it would be me first)...this was it. Unless I changed something about would always be the same...because he wasn't going to change of course. Life for him was good. Life for him was perfect. Life for him was about to change in ways he couldn't even fathom...

I turned and walked into my boy's room...searching for something. I didn't realize what I was looking for until I found it. A baseball bat. I bent over reaching for the handle and it was as if the world had slowed down to the point that every movement was a separate picture taken and viewed from outside myself. My hand grasped the long slender neck and with contact I felt a resolve settle into my heart that I thought impossible. Things were going to change...right HERE and right way or another.

I didn't really think about much right then. I can't tell you exactly what I WAS mind felt really blank to tell the truth...but at the same time it was abuzz with years of abuse...years of loneliness...Years of Tears. I came out of the boy's room and walked toward him...the bat trailing on the ground beside me. I wasn't even holding it in an aggressive manner I clearly remember. I'm not even sure at this moment what I intended to do with it. It felt good in my felt right. That was all that was important to me just then.

He turned his head and looked at me coming towards first that damn smug look was still on his face. He probably thought I was coming to make the peace as usual. A necessity when you knew life wasn't going to change and living with an uneasy peace was preferable to an all out war. I can clearly remember the very second when he realized things weren't as they should be. I can only surmise he read something in my face that he couldn't remember seeing before...that he didn't recognize...that he couldn't CONTROL. I'm guessing what he saw was the consequences of his years of abuse walking toward him...with a baseball bat in her hand.

To this day I wonder why he didn't just take the bat from me. He was bigger, stronger...there wouldn't have even been a struggle over it. He could have taken that bat from me and that would have been the end of my "Revolution" of sorts. He could have taken that bat and I would have been right back where I started...which was nowhere. Instead...he ran. There is only one thing a Predator does when the Prey runs...chases after it. For once in MY life...I was the predator and he was the prey. The ever present blood on my tongue from 20 years of biting suddenly felt different...tasted different. Rather than choking me it was urging me on...for once in my 20 year marriage that blood tasted GOOD.

And I wanted more.

I went after him...and the they history. Here I sit some 3 and a half years later with my freedom...with my children safe from him...with MY future in MY hands...and the blood on my tongue has all but dried up. The memory of it is not gone though. I keep it. Turn it over in my mind. Remind myself that I will never go back to that state of having to swallow my tongue to keep things easy for HIM.

Mubarak is looking out his window (if he dares go to any window just now) and is seeing something on the faces of HIS people. They are tasting a new sort of blood on their tongues. One that is unfamiliar but welcome all the same. He is standing there looking...and I'm quite positive he is thinking...what the hell is wrong with these people? Who do they think they are? How dare they assume their lives are worth anything more than what I choose to give them.

I know he is thinking this...because all dictators think that. All abusers think that. And the only thing that changes that that audible click in the mind of the oppressed...and the realization that either we lay down and die (our souls) or we bite down harder on our blood filled tongues and taste a new kind of blood. The blood of Revolution.

Run Mubarak...cause they are coming for you. And after the Egyptians have their day...I hope other oppressed countries feel emboldened to become Predator...when before all they knew was life as Prey.

My heart beats for you Egypt. My tears fall for you. My hope grows for you. My soul, once nearly dead, cheers for you. Stand fast and stand strong. 30 years of oppression and pain is about to's so damn worth it. You can't imagine how good Freedom taste.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Who Has the Right to Choose?

My first born, my daughter, was born in Oct of 87 and her birth was the brightest spark in my otherwise rather bleak world...up until that point. From the moment I realized I was pregnant it was always a "baby" inside me. In my mind this baby was never a zygote, and embryo, a fetus (she) was a fully formed baby...just very tiny...waiting to be born. Every single one of my pregnancies were met with the same feeling..that I was suddenly pregnant with a baby....and couldn't wait for his or her entrance into the world.

When my daughter was barely 2 months old I found myself pregnant again. At first I was shocked to realize I would be a mother again so soon but I quickly accepted the fact and looked forward to this new arrival just as I had my daughter. I never for a moment considered this new pregnancy an inconvenience or a difficulty (all though I never particularly liked being pregnant) and so thoughts of it being too early or how will I manage were fleeting at best. I prepared for the rest of the pregnancy while still getting use to my newborn.

Just over a month later I had a miscarriage. I was 3 months pregnant by this time and didn't really understand what was happening when I first started spotting. My husband took me to the hospital and it was confirmed that I was having a miscarriage.

I felt devastated. I felt guilty..I must have done something wrong to cause this. I felt like I was being punished in some way and the penalty was my child. As I laid on the cot waiting for my D&C to scrape the remains of my child from my womb...I was in no pain. Not even cramps signaled the loss of a living breathing life within my body. This made the guilt even if the passing of this life from my body wasn't significant enough to cause me any discomfort. I laid there and apologized over and over again to this angel that would never be born.

As I waited my turn in this busy ward of chaos and mayhem...I was in the hallway on a gurney at the time...I shared the space with another woman on another gurney a few feet away. As we waited patiently (she appeared to be in no pain either though I had no idea what was wrong with her just then)...a small boy kept coming to her from the waiting area down the hall. It was her son and he appeared to be no older than 4 or 5. Each time he told her his father had sent him...each time she told him to go back to his father. This happened at least a dozen times in the course of the hour and a half we laid there. (while patients and staff passed us by...seemingly not seeing us)

Finally a doctor came and examined the woman and it was then I learned that she too was having a miscarriage...but she was further along than I at 5 months. I was horrified to hear the doctor say that the babies feet were protruding from the mothers body at this point...and all the while she laid there patiently without making a sound. They quickly wheeled her away and as she passed by she gave me a sympathetic smile..and I returned it...two mothers sharing a horrible situation. United by blood and loss.

When my turn finally came I was wheeled into an exam room before heading for the operating room. It was at this point that I heard a word that absolutely made me balk and cringe at it's very utterance. "Abortion"...said the nurse to the doctor that came sweeping in. This patient is having an abortion at 3 months.

Abortion? I wasn't having an abortion. Abortions were for unwanted babies...abortions were something some women chose to do when they cared nothing for the life that grew within them. Abortion was when a "mother" chose to kill her child. I didn't choose this. I didn't want this to happen. I would have given anything to stop what was happening and let this baby continue on growing until she finally emerged wet and crying into the world.

I felt like the nurse had slapped my face. I felt like she had judged and labeled me a killer of babies. I was made to feel ashamed for something I had not done. I was humiliated and shaking with outrage. I wanted this dare you say I don't and call this an abortion.

As the nurse and doctor shared information and spoke over my head about ME and MY body, never once asking me anything about ME...I heard the word "abortion" spoken several more times. Eventually I had had enough and interrupted them mid speak.

"Excuse me," I said still shaking, "but I'm not having an abortion...I'm having a miscarriage."

They both stopped and looked at if finally realizing there was an actual human being on the table and not just an "abortion" in progress.

The doctor smiled and said..."Of course it's not an abortion technically...but is referred to as a spontaneous abortion (whatever that means)...don't worry about it, dear." Then went back to ignoring me as she conversed with the nurse.

I was wheeled into the operating room and my never to be born child was vacuumed from my womb. Later that evening I was allowed to go home and I arrived into my MIL house without fanfare or a "to do" being made about it. Everyone went about their business as I hobbled upstairs to lie on the bed...and begin my grieving process.

This happened 22 years ago...and still I think about this unborn child. I wonder about him. I imagine what she would have looked like. These thoughts are always in my mind but usually I keep them safely tucked away in a box...only to bring them out on occasions when I feel especially melancholy and tortured with the "what if" game.

I have come to realize..and I learned this lesson right off that bat once I came home from the hospital...that people don't want to talk about miscarriages. They seem unable to bring themselves to say anything beyond, "it's for the best". Best for who? What most people fail to realize is that...whether or not you miscarry at 3 months or 5 was still a living breathing human being that died. I lost a child. In my mind I lost a child...yet nobody else seemed to feel this way. I merely had a medical procedure...I had a bump in the road...I had a misfortune that was corrected by God. I had a lot of things according to those around me...whenever they could bring themselves to mention it at all...but what I didn't have was a baby.

Once again I was made to grieve the loss of life that was important to me...alone.

22 years later I have grown a lot. I have experienced a lot. I have witnessed a lot. The word "abortion" rankled me that day because I was feeling vulnerable, I was hurt and emotional and guilt was raging through my body...but I didn't feel then and I don't feel now that the word abortion...nor the act of something I can judge other women over. I myself would never consider an abortion (at least I don't think I would) but I can only see from my eyes and live in my shoes. I have no way of knowing how another woman feels about her pregnancy...whether it is a blessing or a curse to her. I cannot judge her or her decisions. The choice is hers as far as I am concerned...sometimes the choices we make are not the right ones (or even the wrong ones) but we don't know that until the full effects of those choices are made obvious to us at some point in time.

I was reading on a website today about abortion and there were so many many hateful disgusting comments aimed at women who go through with abortions...and at those who accept it as a choice she has a right too...and it amazed me how complete strangers feel they have the right to demand you submit to their ideas of what is right and wrong...simply because they say so. It seems abotion critics seem to believe that women who opt for abortions make the decision flippantly and without much emotional turmoil...and I would have to admit that maybe some of them do...but as a woman and mother I would firmly argue that a majority of women do not make that decision lightly at all. Whether they do though is not for the rest of us to judge in my opinion. If YOU don't believe in abortion...than don't have one.

Similar is the argument against homosexuality. They believe it is wrong so it is wrong. Period. If YOU don't believe in being gay...then don't be gay...but why point a judgmental finger at others who might believe or accept it? I don't understand that.

Anyhow, the reason for this post is because, one, I was feeling rather melancholy as my box of memories was left ajar it seems and I couldn't close it fast enough to stop the "what if" game from taking hold. And, two, I was reading that post as I said and I couldn't help but feel outraged at the Holier Than Thou attitude that others feel they have a right too concerning other people's bodies.

I'm not sure one topic has anything to do with the other but I felt the need to write and so I did.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Diamond in the Rough

My 16 year old daughter has seemingly made it her life's ambition to befriend the sort of children that others see as odd or different...the sort that don't fit into the generic teenage mold and thus are labeled "outsiders". She brings them home and introduces them to me expecting the same sort of judgement by me that others have always given them. Now and then she does bring someone home that I just don't cotton on too very well and I let her know that. Nothing more than a feeling that makes me pause and think...hmmmm...but most of the time they are good kids (for the most part) they just choose to dress differently, style their hair differently, pierce body parts that make others cringe...things like that. Look past all that outer decoration and there is still a teenager in there with all the normal teenage angst and drama. From all the ones she has brought home, one has stood out and has become a regular visitor and occasional overnight guest. His name is Kelian.

Kelian is 15 years old and a giant among most of the other 15/16 year old he's surrounded by at high school. When I first met him he had long crazy hair that was a different color nearly every other week. He is sweet, has a beautiful smile, and is one of the most helpful boys (teens) I've ever had the pleasure of being around. His laughter is contagious and he abhors wearing shoes. It's not unusual to see him outside in 3 feet of snow wearing flip flops. Yes, his feet are cold and yes he bitches about it...but he won't go put shoes on no matter how cold they get. Don't ask me...I don't understand it either.

Kelian's home life is not an easy one. His mother drinks a lot. (one of my regulars) and his step father is abusive. Both of them are heavy into the biker culture so there are tattoos, piercings, metal studs, lots of leather, and big biker boots as part of the ensemble. His step father is well over 6 feet tall and his mother is around 5'3" and so Kelian is somewhere in the middle of these two in height. He also cares for his mother a lot when she is drunk and the step dad has left the house. The stories he has told me leaves me shaking my head (as if I don't have my own stories but I'm not a child anymore and he is) and I so much want to do something for this boy that is getting a shitty start in life.

Did I mention he has been in and out of boys homes, been on probation, has had run ins with the law? All of this was before we met him (though he was still on probation then) and most of it can be attributed to a child left on his own to entertain himself how he chose. He chose to shoplift...and drink his mother's alcohol. I decided the best way I could help this boy was to invite him into our family...give him a little "normal" (whatever normal means) and give him a place where he can let his guard down and just be himself.

One more thing I forgot to mention about Kelian. He is gay.

Kelian knew he was gay since around age 10 when he realized he just didn't care much for girls and always seemed drawn to boys. Of course growing up in a house with a biker Harley Davidson gang member was hard enough all by itself...but trying to convince his step dad that being gay was in any way a viable option in his life was something else. His step father threatens to "make him a man" by way or another all the time. Not sure what he means by that. He shaved Kelian's long beautiful hair as an act of punishment a few months ago claiming that men don't have long hair...conveniently forgetting that his own hair is well down his back. The hypocrisy is not lost on Kelian.

His mother says little in front of her husband but has told me during a drunken moment that she only wants Kelian to find someone to love and be happy with...and she doesn't care if that is with another man. I felt she was divulging a deep secret of hers that the alcohol loosened the end most mothers realize they still love their child no matter the life choices they make. Some mothers...not all.

Since Kelian has been spending time with us he appears to have blossomed (at least in my eyes). He loves to come over here and just be himself. Nobody makes fun of him here. Nobody averts their eyes away from him. Nobody whispers after he has walked by. He watches T.V. with us and shares our dinner and goes to the movies with us. He sleeps on our couch when he doesn't want to go home...and wakes up in the morning in a bright mood. I find it hard to equate him with the kid that is failing school, fighting with anyone that looks sideways at him, or hates to mention his family to anyone but us...because I believe he now sees us as his family as well...extended family at any rate. We are his and he is ours...generally speaking.

And though it was my original intent to help Kelian..he has also helped us grow in many ways that previously we couldn't. My children grew up in a culture in which being gay is a serious offense. Not to say there are no gay people in Bahrain, of course there are, but they keep their sexual identity a secret knowing what can happen if the truth were out. My older boys especially had a harder time adjusting to Kelian's "defect" as one son first shockingly referred to it. After a lecture from me...he was sullen for awhile...but now seems to have gotten past it. Even if he doesn't accept it inside himself...he knows better than to say it out loud around me. This is my house...and my guests are treated with respect. I might add that this is a good way to get your children to be more accepting of people that are "different" etc...invite them over and befriend them. Kelian is a sweet lovable kid with us...and he happens to be gay. It's hard to be hateful and prejudiced against the known (someone that is gay) opposed to the unknown (the mere concept of being gay as a form of deviance).

When I asked Kelian how he met my daughter he told me that he saw her in the hall at school a few times...but it wasn't his nature to approach strangers...fearing judgement...but to his surprise one day she marched up to him and introduced herself. They have been good friends from the start. I have seen him stand by her during her most trying times when school bullies were calling her and her brother terrorists etc. I've seen him literally hold her hand and drag her in to the doctors office to get a shot because she is terrified of needles...and not letting it go even though she squeezed so hard his fingers were red. I've seen him help her and all the while I know (because I have been there) his mind is busy with his own problems, his home life, his "chosen" lifestyle that makes his world pain filled and miserable. He has told me that she helps him as well. In school she is the first to stand beside him when others dare to point a finger. He declares her willingness to "take a bullet for him" as he describes it "totally awesome". My daughter has never been one to shy away from telling someone exactly how she feels. (stories there people...stories there)

I tell you this story about Kelian for two reasons. I want to shine a light on a boy that has forever had the light taken away merely because he is different. He was labeled a loser, a reject, a lost cause by those whose signature apparently matters...and he craved someone to just look at him...really look AT him rather than his file full of his failures...and see the boy that lives inside. When I first met him I could see how he prepared himself for my rejection, it was a fleeting look on his face that he quickly covered with his usual bravado and "I don't give a shit" demeanor...and was left without words when I smiled (a rarity for me, ask anyone) and welcomed him into my home....and then welcomed him to come back anytime. In those early days he was constantly ready to be pissed off and find reasons to leave...but now...even when he gets pissed..or my daughter gets pissed (they do argue now and then)...they separate for awhile....then it's back together again. And I think that is the absolutely best thing for realize there is someone ready to stick with him through the rough shit as well as the fun.

The second reason is because I was an abused children were abused. For most of my life I couldn't help myself or them due to location and laws...but now I can...and I do. I told myself some time back that if I were in a position to help a kid that clearly needed it...even if it was to just open my home and our lives too that kid and give them a place away from the drama and abuse...just for awhile...then I would.

It hasn't all been easy. I had a rather scary evening with his mother over him one night...and he does have issues to work through (don't we all) but for the most part I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Kelian is a joy to be around and he has taught us so much about taking people for who they are...and incorporating that into a friendship with a little something extra.

I realize that helping a troubled teen can have it's serious consequences...they are volatile emotional creatures that are likened to a ticking time bomb seconds from going off at any given moment...but the reward for me has been well worth it....and I hope for Kelian it has meant something too.

When I was growing up I wanted someone, anyone, to look at me and give me a moment of their time because it can make all the difference. Someone did actually and I will write about him in a future post...but for now..I want to there a Kelian in your life or do you know of someone like him that could use a Big Brother/Big Sister (or If there is..did you hold out your hand to help..or wish you had? If you did...what was the result?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Me in the middle.

I grew up the middle child for most of my life. Though my mother had 5 children and I was number 4, my older brother left home to live with my bio father when he was 12 and one of my older sisters passed away when she was for most of my life it was older sis and younger sis...and me in the middle.

My (step) father was my younger sister's natural father...and he spent an awful lot of time reminding older sis and me of our lowly status in his eyes. He spoiled younger sis in ways that has affected her throughout her life. He treated her as a Princess...told her daily that she would grow up one day to be Miss America. He bought her things that she had no right owning at her age...or need to be more precise. For instance..she still didn't know how to ride a bike when she was 7 yet he went out and bought her an expensive BMX bike....with a helmet AND training wheels. Needless to say she crashed a lot...and was made fun of for the training wheels part. (it may or may not have been me making fun...shhhh) It apparently didn't matter to him that she couldn't ride a bike...he bought her one and then left it to ME to teach her. Of course she never listened to me because she was a Princess and I was a lowly handmaiden. It was a long summer.

I learned how to read when I was 4...according to my mother I just "picked it up" listening to others read. I read voraciously (still do when I have time), consuming books one after the other. Sometimes I would have several books going at once and it was never a problem to leave off one story and jump right into another. My father liked to punish us by making us do things we didn't like of course...because I liked reading...he made me read to my little sister. You might not think this is such a bad thing but she was a Princess and demanded the reading sessions be catered to her whims. This meant I might have to read the same story 5 times. I might have to read the same story but with a different voice. I might have to start over because she wasn't listening...this happened a lot. Now here's the thing...reading to her was not what bothered me so much. Reading to her even though she knew HOW to read herself is what bothered me. My father was making me read as a form of punishment. He was taking something I loved and making it a chore for me..a trial..a test of wills. Of course she always won because if I protested at all that 10 times was enough already...I was shouted at and her triumphant smile made me want to spit nails.

Anyhow, you lose dad...I still love reading.

Little sis got all the interesting toys and whatnot for Christmas. Mom got me and older sis board games we would have to play with little sis...who had to win OR ELSE. She made no pretences of not cheating. We had to let her win or the temper tantrum that followed was met with punishment from dad. Whatever toys etc that she got were only allowed to us through forced playing with her. For instance, she got lots of Playschool activity sets...a barn house with animals...a house with furniture etc...she once had a whole Sesame Street neighborhood with familiar characters and accessories. She would insist we play with her, we had no choice really, and then spend the entire time bossing us about who got what and could touch what or where everything went. Playschool might be fun for 5 year olds but 10 and 14 year olds aren't interested. One year she got a full set of metal Tonka trucks. A dump truck, back hoe, shovel etc...we spent many hours in the back yard doing as she commanded (foreman?) digging up the yard and making roads...or pushing her around as she sat on the dump truck. I actually did find the Tonka trucks fun to play with but could never do anything with them without her permission or instructions.

The Princess got everything she wanted. Could command us at will and could pitch a royal fit when we didn't comply. She got us in trouble by making up things and couldn't keep a sister secret to save her life. We told her very little and let her in on next to nothing because we knew she would squeal..if not now..then eventually. (not like we had huge secrets or anything..but you know kids...anything mom and dad doesn't know about...won't hurt them...ha!)

Little sis abused me just like her father. She hit me, kicked me, and I had her teeth marks on my body on any given day of the week. Before I learned that I could run away from her, I had to sit and take it because dear lord help me if I so much as took a swipe at her in retaliation. Once I realized I could actually run faster than her, I would run whenever she got too close. She would actually get so angry with me that I wouldn't just STOP and let her catch me that she would stand there screaming at me demanding compliance. Of course this only worked when we were allowed outside..inside...hiding in the locked bathroom was about the only defense I could take. It was a test of patience...her anger and my willingness to sit on the pot for however long it took...of course if someone wanted the bathroom I was in deep trouble.

She didn't have to clean the house like older sis and I. We got dragged out of bed in the middle of the night more times than I can remember to clean something that was already clean. My father was crazy about our house being military clean...and would often see dirt where none existed (at least to my terrified eyes). I would be up scrubbing the toilet or re-cleaning every single dish in the kitchen (he would drag them all out and fling them everywhere) while he ranted and paced about how filthy we were. If we managed to find our way back to bed without a beating it was little short of a miracle. To this day if you remind her that she never had to clean anything she will protest loudly about that fact...but I know what I know and that's a fact. On this issue mom concurs...little sis was spoiled rotten.

Older sis was abused just like I was but more often than not she did something to warrant her punishment. Not that she deserved the horrible beatings dad gave us but she did go out looking for trouble...and it usually found her. The problem with this is she usually dragged me of course I got beat too. She was just as bossy as little sis to me but only when the parents weren't around as she had no authority when they were. She also gave me plenty of beatings of her own...usually when she had gotten in trouble for something and felt I deserved to be punished too for reasons known only to her. It was rare that I could walk by her without a hair pull or sock in the arm...and of course I never gave as good as I got because she could kick my ass...and I knew it.

I had to share a bed with her for much of our lives and she generally made that an ordeal by whispering threats or promising to exact revenge for something at some future date...or often just continue whatever ass kicking she had started during the day but was distracted perhaps. I had to take it silently of course because to make noise would bring dad...and a beating by him was far worse then anything my sis could do. On the really horrible nights little sis was brought in to sleep with us (she slept in my parents room until she was 6 or 7 I believe...yeah I know...issues there) which meant I was sandwiched between a pincher/biter and a hair puller/arm socker. Long night needless to say.

Older sis was hell bent on burning bridges as I have mentioned when she wasn't actively making me miserable...she was working very hard on making sure my future was miserable as well. She got in trouble doing all the regular teenage things..and then that my parents forbid me to do anything at all by the time I came of age. I didn't date because she got pregnant at 15. I didn't drive because she snuck out in the car and caused mayhem (I actually didn't get a drivers license until I was 27 because ex-asshole didn't let me drive either while in Bahrain...long story) I couldn't work part time because she used her jobs as excuses to get into more trouble...and I couldn't do school activities because she had pissed everyone off that had anything to do with school: teacher/ admin/student alike.

As I mentioned before she liked to drag me into her active pursuits of defiance. For instance, my parents left for the day taking little sis with her. We were told NOT to leave the house for any reason. I was around 10 at the time. Of course, as soon as parents had been gone a reasonable amount of time, sis insisted we go outside. When I refused for fear of parents coming back (and they did often) she just grabbed my hair and pulled me out with her. Once outside I just gave up and went along for the ride....because I already knew we were going to get in trouble by this point. We ran up to a guy that had a cool looking dog (Dalmatian I believe) and asked if we could pet it. Owner said OK so we did...when we had enough and turned to walk away...the dog snapped at me and bit a chunk of my outer thigh. (still got the scar) Of course I screamed bloody murder, of course owner blamed us and dragged his dog inside....of course older sis got pissed at me for letting the dog bite me. (sigh) We went home and she cleaned up the would, put a band aid, and swore me to secrecy. We somehow knew that being outside was bad enough, throw in the dog bite and things were bound to get worse.

3 days later my sis was overcome with guilt (a rarity for sure) believing I probably had rabies. Mom and dad were at work and for some reason she decided she needed to call the ambulance for me right then. Needless to say, it did not go well. My mother was called, all hell broke loose (she went storming over to the house of the dog owner and demanded proof the dog had its shots) and then of course when dad got home...even more hell. Thanks sis.

Another time we had just come back from Sunday school and were wearing our Sunday school best. Before we could change mom sent us down the street to the store to buy a few things. She warned us several times not to go near the small creek that ran by our trailer park. Of course as soon as we were out of sight of our trailer sis dragged me over to the water. We were OK until she spotted a tennis ball floating in the water and ordered me to get it. As I squatted and reached out to snag it...she booted me in the butt and sent me head first into the water. Arriving back at the house dripping wet was bad enough...daring to sit on mom's nicely cleaned pile of towels so I didn't get the couch wet was the proverbial last straw on the camels back. Needless to say sis declared I had done it all on my own despite her warnings. Thanks sis.

So there I was, stuck between two bossy abusing sisters that never let me have a moments peace for the most part. I couldn't beat up big sis and I couldn't touch little sis. I didn't enjoy hanging out with older sis because she usually got me in trouble and of course little sis just made me miserable with her Princess mentality. At times I felt like an only child..strange I know given the circumstances. All I wanted to do was read but these siblings of mine kept dragging me into trouble by way or another (not that I never found my own but that's another story..ha ha)

Being the middle child in my family sucked in more ways than I can possibly narrate many stories so little time...but what I find interesting about our childhood and the family dynamics that sprang from it...for the most part still ring true today. Older sis grew up to be a trouble making pain in the ass for everyone involved. Little sis has grown up to be even more bossy and insists that she is right...end of matter what the story is. She is a loner because nobody can tolerate her personality I'm thinking. She has whitewashed our childhood to the point that she was a Princess...but in a completely benign kind of way. She insists she had to clean stuff too. Sorry sis...but no. Of course eventually dad started beating her too...around the age of 8 or so...even tried to choke her with a dog chain one time...but her personality was already set by him by this time...and now even more rigidly. She is so much like him that it's scary at times to witness "him" in her actions and mannerisms. She treats her own daughter much like dad treated us...and I find this the worst trait of all to share with him. Older sis also treated her children very badly so that by the time she passed away the two older ones had no contact with her despite their still young age (older teens).

While I am by no means a perfect mom, I have never resorted to the sort of violence those two inflict(ed) on their children...which I find very telling as my position as middle child. Having been abused by dad and both siblings most of my life I just can't imagine raining that same sort of pain down on my own children. I might also add that my own mother was rather a passive bystander during all this abuse. She could have stopped dad by leaving of course...and she could have stopped her two daughters by paying attention to what they were doing to me (she was right there many times when younger sis did it but she also knew the consequences of pissing of the Princess) and I often complained about older sis but I guess I could say she allowed it to happen to avoid problems for herself by possibly raising the anger of my dad.

It is only through my older (dare I say wiser) age that I can see that my own mother was just as much my abuser as the rest of my family members. She could have protected me, all of us really, but she chose to do nothing. I find I have a new sort of anger for my mother that I never had for most of my life because she was the "good" parent and I looked up to her so much...but hindsight tells me that while she did not physically abuse me (though there are a few times I can remember but not many) she did allow my abuse at the hands of others to continue. My own role as a mother has opened my eyes to many new views I didn't have before, but the main one is, my children come first. Always and forever. To realize that for my mother we didn't come first has caused a great deal of pain to my heart. She can give her many many oft repeated excuses as to why she "couldn't leave" or how could she leave and "start over with nothing" but in the end...she chose to do nothing...and for that I find her culpable in my abuse.

I start this New Year regretting many things in my life...and looking forward to many more. I am sandwiched between pains of the past and hopes for the future. I spend far too long analyzing my past because who I was a child and how I was "created" by those around me influenced who I became as an adult and the abuse I allowed to happen then as well. I also spend copious amounts of time actively trying to overcome my childhood/early adulthood and change into something more proactive and less accepting of what others decide to do to me..just because.

I find myself the middle child once again, though my older sis is no longer with us and younger sis can't be bothered...but now I am the middle child to the past child that I was...and to the potential future woman that I strive to be. It's not always an easy road...but I find I'm fairly easy to get along with. I don't bite, I don't kick, and I don't mind sharing my toys...or my secrets. However, I do have a rather sharp tongue (or so I'm told) so watch out.

Happy New Year everyone...and may you make peace with your past and find inspiration in your future....and always always greet each new day with a new sense of hope and potential for something good.