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When We’re Made of Broken Pieces

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Originally published in 2016

I do not normally use “trigger warnings”, being of the belief that we should face our traumas and move past them.  However, if you are squeamish about birth details or not wanting to hear about medical trauma, do not continue reading.

“Doesn’t matter how tough we are, trauma always leaves a scar. It follows us home, it changes our lives, trauma messes everybody up, but maybe that’s the point. All the pain and the fear and the crap. Maybe going through all of that is what keeps us moving forward. It’s what pushes us. Maybe we have to get a little messed up, before we can step up.”

This quote from Grey’s Anatomy actually sums up some of my feelings on trauma pretty well.  Nearly seven years ago an emergency surgery changed my life. It did mess me up, and resulted in my living with PTSD.  It also led to me getting out of a bad relationship, realizing some of the more important things in my life, and pushed me to move forward with some plans I’d had for years.

When my son was born, I had an easy enough pregnancy but a rather traumatic birth day for him.  The focus of this story not being on my son’s birth, I will simply say that I had an inept doctor who obviously had better places to be than to be delivering my first-born child right then.  She made a vital mistake, causing me to deal with a rare condition called “placental accreta” where part of the placenta remained and grew through the uterine wall and into muscle beyond. In case you’re wondering, it’s not a good thing to have happen.  It causes internal bleeding and a lot of complications.

What followed was a series of events that I couldn’t believe was happening at the time.  Nor could the doctors or nurses who worked to save my life. After hemorrhaging at home, I was rushed to the hospital and went through an emergency surgery for a partial hysterectomy, removing my uterus, and leaving my ovaries.  Before I went in, I said goodbye to my newborn son and begged my mother not to call my husband whom I was separated from at the time. I had panicked thoughts of him taking our son from me, and wasn’t able to think very clearly in the panic of the emergency room.  

When all was said and done, I’d endured two surgeries, the loss of any future children, dealing with a deteriorating marriage, and nearly a month in the hospital with blown veins and many complications.  I also walked away alive, but with PTSD that I’m still dealing with six years later.

When I see people post articles about simply being happy you had a healthy baby instead of worrying about *HOW* your birth went, I get physically shaken and angry.  “Fuck your positivity,” I want to say. In the end, I know the general principle is correct, but that doesn’t help me.

What has helped me is telling my story, talking about it and trying to help others.  So often people are quiet about tragedy. They feel that their story is too private or that no one really wants to hear about it.  Recently I was able to have any of those doubts in my own mind washed away by a friend I hadn’t seen in quite some time. I won’t share medical details about her since that is not my story to share, but suffice to say she had some very similar events happen to her that led her to believe she may be going toward a hysterectomy.  At the time of writing this article, that thankfully has not happened. We hadn’t seen each other in quite a while and weren’t very close in the past. We are mostly Facebook friends, liking each other’s posts and checking in here and there since we have kids who are the same age.

Despite this, I went up to the hospital to sit with her and to support her as best I could.  And one of the reasons I was asked by her to do that? It was because I had been one of the only people she had ever seen share my story so openly and talk about it publicly on places like Facebook or in articles like these.  I knew what she was going through and I was asked to offer advice and help.

This wasn’t something that was easy for me.  I told her I’d be able to arrive at the hospital within a half hour or so.  I grabbed my coat, keys, and purse, and ran down the stairs to tell my boyfriends that I would be leaving for the hospital.  I was in a bit of a heart-racing moment, thinking about entering the same hospital that I had spent nearly a month in previously.  Yes, she was at the medical facility where I had given birth to my son. I arrived about forty minutes later, pulse still a little thready, a bit of a cold sweat on my forehead and hands.  I called my live-in partner on the way there and asked him to remind me of all the reasons that I knew I could do this. He had responded in kind and was very helpful. I went into “mom-mode” and decided I was just going to get through it.

When I walked in and finally found my friend, the sight of her took my breath away.  She looked so lost and scared, while cradling her newborn son. I saw myself there and remembered how comforting it had been to hold my child before and after surgery, how he, at only a week old, had made me feel safe and secure and reminded me why I needed to fight to live and not give up.  I held back tears as I entered her hospital room.

For the next few hours I sat with her and talked to the doctors and nurses… I held her son for her as she had IVs placed and some minor procedures done… I shared my experience with her husband and tried to be open and honest about one of the most difficult times in my life… and most importantly, I feel I helped her.  While I was doing that, a little piece of my trauma healed. Not all of it. I’m not cured. The statistics on PTSD say I will likely never be “cured” of it. However, in helping her, I helped myself. The worthier part for me is knowing I was able to set myself aside to help someone else.

I arrived home that night exhausted and emotionally spent.  My partners greeted me with hugs and kisses and let me talk about my experience.  I may have been spent, but I gained more in those few hours sitting with her in the hospital than I had in the past six years of therapy.

Reach out to others.  Share your story. Be a lighthouse for someone else in the darkness.  We are not alone in this great big world. If you get messed up, step up.

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The End of an Era

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Today I found out that one of my favorite polyamorous blogs I’ve followed for years is essentially shutting down. I say “essentially” because she will still have the blog up and running, but instead of being a poly one, it will be based in monogamy as her husband and she are going through some changes in their relationship.

In the time I’ve followed this blog, she has gone back and forth to monogamy as a way to “save” her marriage frequently over the years. Instead of pushing through and sticking with what you believe in, the need from her partner and the norms of society have overwhelmed her to the point where she gives up on what she feels (or may feel, as I’m not inside her head) is right.

To say that taking a break from poly will help your marriage is to say that poly is detrimental to your marriage – that poly is the problem. When in fact, polyamory is who you are. It’s not a lifestyle. It’s barely a choice. I would say it’s how you’re wired. Can people learn to be poly or learn to be mono? Certainly. But it does seem to be easier when one or the other is so deeply ingrained in you.

With the loss of a more well-known poly blog, my husband mentioned I should really get back to writing more. “But how will I get my name out there,” I asked? He didn’t know, but he knew that it won’t happen at all unless I write. So, dear reader, I am sincerely hoping for “if you write it, they will read it”, and please feel free to share.

There will be more articles about my personal journey through polyamory and the problems and joys I’ve come across. Hopefully by sharing my experiences and other people joining in, we can dispel the thought that poly is something you can simply pick up and put down whenever you wish. It’s not something to be entered into lightly, but once you do it’s part of you. I can’t imagine ever turning my back on it.

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Contacting the Other Woman

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Recently my husband started texting another woman. He met her on a dating site. I know he’s on the site because I am as well. In fact, I have his profile linked to my profile on there. You see, we’re polyamorous and have an open relationship that consists of honesty and communication. We’re allowed to date other people as long as we’re honest about what’s going on in our lives.

“Allowed” isn’t even the right word for our relationship and friendship. We don’t “allow” each other to do anything. We simply operate under the perspective that we should treat each other how we want to be treated. We operate on honesty, trust, communication.

My husband is enjoying his time talking with this woman and has told me some of their conversations, though certainly not all. It’s not really any of my business, honestly. And while I’m curious, that doesn’t mean I have the right to inquire about their every word.

This wonderful man I’m married to also happens to be in the navy. He’s a submariner. So occasionally, more frequently than I’d like, he has to deploy for short periods called “underways”. One of those times is coming up. This girl he’s chatting with won’t have any communication with him. I will at least have email to his submarine. So i offered to get in touch with her. I offered to contact the other woman. She will want to know how he is, if he’s safe, and (though I can only tell her within 24 hours) when he’s coming home to us. “To us”. That’s a heartwarming expression for me to use after so many years of wanting a family like this.

I don’t know her, but I care about her. I *am* her. I *was* her. I could be her again. I understand where she may be coming from. I know in her situation I’d want to ask the wife to get in touch with me but I might not because I’d be worried about being insulting. So I’m reaching out. I’m giving out my number. I’m offering to be there as a support to lean on.

We’ll see how it goes. I have no right to go into this with any expectations. I have no right to want or need anything from her. But I will hope for it, as I would with anyone one of my partners was dating. I didn’t set out on my journey in polyamory to be alone. I set out to find connections, to build a family, to find my tribe.

If this woman is to be part of that tribe, I would welcome her with open arms. But the harder part, for me anyway, is realizing not everyone wants a tribe. Not everyone wants to be part of that family. And accepting that is one of the more difficult things I have to do in my polyamory life.

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Why You Should Take a Divorce Selfie

《An article previously published on Mending the Nest.》

Divorce has to be one of the worst experiences a human being can go through in their life. During that turbulent time leading up to your day in court, who wants to be in the same room as their soon-to-be-ex-spouse, let alone take a friendly picture with them? Not many people.

When there are children involved divorce gets even more complicated and heart-breaking. You both love your kids and want what’s best for them, but those goals don’t often coincide with your ex’s. Let me tell you, though, that your children are just one of the reasons you need to take a divorce selfie with your ex spouse.

First, when you present this idea to them, the person you’ve been warring with for months or years, I can almost guarantee that you will get some amusement out of it. It’s difficult to focus on being mad at someone when you are taking a picture with them. You have to turn the camera around, get the right angle, both be smiling (not grimacing!) at the same time, do a couple takes…. The “awkward” will win out over the “anger” here and hopefully a tiny bit of joy will follow.

It’s so obvious that we celebrate the beginning of a marriage with fun and laughter and joy; maybe the end can be like that as well sometimes. We all do this thing where we get a picture in our head of how things are supposed to be and we can sometimes forget how they *could* be. Perhaps we still hate each other but we’re taking the picture anyway, for other reasons. That brings me to my second point.

One of the main reasons I took a divorce selfie with my ex-husband was for our son. Our son was five at the time of our divorce and he’d been through some trauma during the marriage. I wanted him to see a happy picture, a picture of two adults smiling and laughing and being friendly, even when we weren’t feeling like friends. How often do children have the opportunity to have a picture of their parents together once divorce becomes the end possibility? I’m betting not very often.

I’m sure by now you are reading this and thinking that kids can live without pictures of their parents, or that there’s no way your ex would go for this, or that there is just too much animosity right now. These are all valid points. If you don’t feel safe doing this, if you feel like it will lead to a fight – those are reasons not to attempt this. If, however, you are feeling sad, a bit lost, not sure about where you both stand *and* you share children? I would ask that you try this. Just try and see. Sometimes people can really surprise you.

My ex surprised me! He was more than willing to take several selfies with me. We had a very rough divorce. I didn’t feel safe in the marriage, I’m sure he didn’t feel heard or understood, and our son and his sons felt lost in the mess. It was not a good time for any of us. We even had a fight at the end of the day after paperwork was signed and we were on our way to leaving. I’m still glad we took that selfie and I will tell you why.

I look at that picture and do nothing but smile. I look at that picture and think of six years of marriage, full of some really great memories. I think of when our son was born and I had some very rare complications a month after. My husband slept in the hospital with me more nights than I could count. He rode his motorcycle in the New England winter to see me in intensive care. We raised his three wonderful sons together. We had the same stupid sense of humor and he made me laugh a lot. My favorite times with him were what we called “Walmart dates”. It was just running household errands, but we did it together and we had fun.

I look at that picture and I remember the sad times as well. I remember the fights. I remember the anger and the hurt that we both felt. Even the sad memories are still important. They remind us both why we are happier now and what we can build in the future.

That’s the third reason I have. It’s a reminder. You can choose which type of a reminder you want it to be.

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The Time of the Ungrateful Geek

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Tonight I went with my two husbands and my son to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I watched my friends slowly post their thoughts on Facebook over the last couple days, and in the build up to the movie release as well. I saw a lot of negativity in my feed due to Star Wars, and not just this year; in 2015 as well when The Force Awakens was released. There was negativity about Rogue One too, though that seemed to be less.

Star Wars is not the only franchise this centers around. It seems any trilogy that comes out (Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight) is subject to criticism. Not to mention all the Marvel movies that have been created over the past decade. It seems you can trace this all the way back to 1999 when X-Men became a thing in theaters. Though back then we didn’t have the cyclone of negativity and echo chambers that is Facebook.

Even with all these other movies, though, Star Wars seems to be at the top of most people’s lists of “things I need to complain about until I die”. The following are my thoughts on that, and they don’t cancel out someone’s right to dislike the franchise or a particular movie, but rather I’m just hoping to bring some of the positive aspects to light.

First of all, fellow geeks, do you realize what a glorious time we’re living in?? Do you understand that now is the time of the geek? The nerd? Because it is. I’m thirty-five years old. I remember when being someone who read too many books, liked Star Trek or Star Wars (or ::gasp:: both!), or read comic books was a total loser. You were picked on and degraded and no one looked at it as cool. But NOW? Now is our time! I’m reminded of the quote from 21 Jump Street, “Liking comic books is popular, environmental awareness, being tolerant. If I was just born ten years later, I would have been the coolest person ever.”

Tonight at the previews before Star Wars there were ads for a Marvel movie about the infinity war, a movie based off a book I’ve loved since I was a child (A Wrinkle in Time), and the second Jurassic World movie. Psst! I remember dinosaurs being geeky as well, folks. That’s no longer the case. Now we are surrounded by choices in entertainment that offer geekdom as a healthy thing, a relatable thing, a “cool” thing. We’re at a point in time where there are at least ten Marvel shows you can choose from on Netflix, Hulu, or cable. There are at least seven DC shows available in the same ways. There is almost too much entertainment for us to choose from.

All of this is not to say that you can’t hate a movie. You can. It’s a free country and freedom of speech doesn’t just mean “speech everyone agrees with”. So hate on the new Star Wars movie all you want, but while you’re doing that, think over what it took to get us here. I just watched Star Wars….in theaters….with my 8 year old son whose face positively lit up to see “the scroll” start up on the screen. At the end of the night he said it was the most amazing movie. I’m a bit older than him and a bit more cynical. I had issues with the movie. I won’t get into them now. That’s not what this is about.

As geeks, we should be grateful for the era we are living in. This is our time, ladies and gentlemen. We have so much at our fingertips when we search for something of interest to us. Why hate on Star Wars when you can find the positive in it? Why kill someone else’s joy when you can find something to love instead? Why post about how much you hated something when we are so damn fortunate to have these new movies?

I wish I could say this is our time and just our time, but unfortunately it seems instead it’s the time of the ungrateful geek, and I refuse to be one of them.

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Stumbling Through an Old Memory

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I can still vividly recall the first time I was sexualized as a child. It was at my local Kingdom Hall. My mother and I were Jehovah’s Witnesses and I was raised that way since I was born. When I say “sexualized” and mention religion in the same paragraph I know most people’s minds go to the child abuse cover ups of the Catholic church or the ones that have happened within Kingdom Halls as well, pretty much in every religion sadly. But my story isn’t that bad. It was, however, wildly inappropriate and upset me for quite some time after.

There is a word that is used commonly in the real world – stumbling. To you, dear reader, this probably simply means to fall, to trip, or to perhaps trip another. In the JW world what that means is that you have stumbled your brother or sister in your faith. You have screwed up spiritually and have misled them to question their own spirituality and beliefs. It’s a fancy word for “offended” honestly and it’s overused in that faith.

When I was twelve years old I wore a dress that I’d had for a year or so to the Kingdom Hall. We all know how fast kids can grow at that age and I’d obviously gone through a bit of a growth spurt since the last time I wore it. I loved the dress, though, and since it still touched my knees my mom said I could wear it one or two more times before we passed it along. I felt pretty in that dress. It was black at the top with some pretty brown paisley patterns on the bottom of the skirt part. When I twirled it billowed out in a circle around me and made me feel graceful, like a dancer.

I was in the bathroom at the Kingdom Hall and reached up over the counter to get some soap to wash my hands. An older woman was in there as well. She was the wife of the one of the congregation Elders the people in charge of the religious education of everyone in the Hall. She was never one of my favorite people. She seemed harsh to my young self, and her kids picked on me relentlessly. One of them, her daughter, was even violent towards me. So to say I was intimidated by the family as a whole would be an understatement.

She said nothing to me in the bathroom but when I came out she was speaking to my mother. My mother didn’t look happy. As it turns out, the Elder’s wife had told my mom that my dress was so short that it was stumbling her. Me, a twelve year old girl, was stumbling her with my sexuality by showing “too much leg”. This woman was so insecure and so unhappy with her life that she had to pick a twelve year old girl to call out on being more attractive and sexual than she was.

My mom told me about it while the woman gave me dirty looks from afar. It hurt. I won’t lie. I remember, even at that age, asking my mom why I wasn’t allowed to say *I* was stumbled by an Elder’s wife making me feel uncomfortable at my place of worship. I don’t think my mom had an answer for me. She was always a really reasonable parent, and tried really hard to give me a balanced life, despite what some of the religious rules may have been. I love her for that.

We switched Kingdom Halls when I was nineteen and called out for stumbling someone yet again for holding hands with my fiance at the time. I had had enough. It was time to leave. Years later I would say the same thing and actually mean it.

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It’s….Forbidden! Forbidden Island, that is.

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Continuing my game reviews, we’re going to kick off the week with a game my whole family has enjoyed – Forbidden Island. Made by Gamewright, this game is advertised as being for ages 10+, but my two 8 year olds have been able to play it with only a little bit of help and my 5 year old plays it on a team with one of the adults or his brother and sister. The game is mainly teamwork anyway, so kids of all ages will enjoy this one.

Forbidden Island engages you in cooperative play right away. Each player chooses from the 6 adventurer cards at random and becomes one position on the team. Play is limited to 4 players to make it less likely to repeat a game the same way twice. The adventurer cards available are:
Pilot
Engineer
Navigator
Diver
Explorer
Messenger

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Each position allows you special abilities to help out yourself and your teammates. After randomly selecting an adventurer card you get the corresponding playing piece to represent you on the board and then you’ll set up your island. There are various grid examples given for how to set it up and then how to place each of the four treasures around the board. You will be trying to collect these treasures throughout the game and then get off the island safely with your team. We leave no man behind in Forbidden Island!

There are four treasures to collect.

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To collect a treasure you need to have ONE player have all FOUR of those treasure cards. You can collect them by drawing them or handing them off to other players. Only the messenger adventurer card is allowed to pass treasures along without being directly next to the other player’s piece on the board.

Along with treasure cards you’ll also draw “waters rise” cards, “sandbags”, and “helicopter lifts”, two of which can be invaluable when you were about to lose a piece of the island or when you need to move your team to another section of the island if one is about to sink.

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When the waters rise you start to get into some trouble, as more and more parts of the island sink that you aren’t able to shore up. If too much of the island sinks, you lose the game and can’t possibly collect all the treasures from around the board.

This game is great as a quiet night in, a party game when you don’t want to focus *too* much, or a family game with kiddos. I would highly recommend it and especially at the price since you can find it for around $20.

So play this game with family or friends, in search of treasure and adventure!