Free Range Parenting: a few words.

The topic at my inaugural PTA meeting was the car line in front of Nathaniel Morton Elementary School. A topic that I find very interesting since it is my driveway that is usually blocked by the endless row of cars that never move. The initiative is to keep the cars moving up so that the kids can get out and into school quickly, freeing up the line. I wondered out loud (possible mistake number one) why parents weren’t letting the kids out down the street towards my house. One mom guffawed at this preposterous notion of forcing her child to walk up to the doors a total of 50 feet. “Excuse me but I did not feel comfortable letting my child out to walk all the way up Lincoln Street from the dental office because God only knows what could happen.”

News to me that I live in a bad neighborhood! I mean, the dental office!

The mom next to me commented “I’m afraid of allowing my child to play in the yard alone in front of my house.” I held my breath as I looked at her, because if I took a breath something really crazy was going to come out of my mouth. I said “Oh my God, really?” Oops.

Is this what we have become? Parents so crippled by fear that we can’t even allow our children to play anywhere out of our sight? Or in this woman’s case- in her sight but outside? How is all of this anxiety affecting our children? These same parents who are terrified that someone may take their child while walking on the sidewalk of Lincoln Street are also the ones sitting in the driver’s seat on their phones not even interacting with the kids trapped in the back seat. It’s unreal to watch.

So….let me get this straight- it’s ok for you to trap the kids in the back seat, not talk to them or pay any attention to them instead of allowing them to get out and play in front of the school with the other kids? There are plenty of adults and other parents, myself included who watch them before the doors open at 8:50. The kids need to get their energy out, why not let them? They NEED to get away from us for a hot minute. It’s ok, it’s normal and HEALTHY.

In case you were wondering,  I am speaking 100% from my own experience parenting. This does not end well. Being anxious that something could happen for that brief split second we don’t have eyes on them affects them. They know that Something Bad may happen to them. They know that YOU, the one they trust with their lives, are concerned that something may happen to them. They live in this possible reality throughout their educational life until they graduate from high school. After graduation, the expectation is for them to leave home and be successful in college, including being on their own.

How can we expect children to magically be able to be on their own at 18 when we never gave them the chance until that moment to do so? I am not exaggerating. I talk with parents throughout the various activities and I cannot believe the percentage of parents who cannot get out of their kids’ asses. I just heard about a parent that is suing the school that didn’t accept her son onto the junior varsity soccer team. 

Life is hard. I have to prep my kids for it. I give my kids sharp knives when they ask me to cut an apple. I let them figure it out with bandaids in hand just in case. On days that I have to be in Hingham before 9:30 AM, I tell them that I have to be at work on time so I am relying on them to go through the doors when they open. They do every single time I ask. I let them go in the backyard, where there are no cameras, and play by themselves. I trust them to make the right decision. It’s amazing what happens to their self confidence when you do this.

Am I crazy? 

Here’s my reason: because when I gave in to that fear and was up my oldest daughter’s ass, she never learned how to deal with the stress and anxiety life can bring. I made my issues her issues. I tried to handle it for her since I didn’t want her to suffer like I did. Today, she struggles and maybe my parenting didn’t bring it on, but I sure as hell know that it didn’t help it.

We had Chinese food this past Sunday night for my birthday dinner. Addie opened her fortune cookie and read “Courage grows from suffering.” She looked at me and her dad. “I don’t want to suffer.” Who does, I thought. But the reality is that suffering in some form allows the soul to grow. Experiencing fear and walking through it teaches an invaluable lesson and isn’t that what parenting is all about? It’s my job to raise my children to be highly functional adults who are good people. I take that very seriously, which is why I learned from my mistakes and embrace what I like to call “Free Range Parenting.”

Yes, I will allow Addie to ride her bike without me on the street. Yes, my girls can play in the backyard and the front yard while I am in the kitchen doing dishes. I refuse to allow fear to change how I instill values onto my children. People say to me “It’s the how the world is today.” Is it? Does it have to be this way? What if the harm we are doing to our kids is worse than what we fear will happen? I refuse to believe that I have to accept that the world is this awful place that may take my child away from me when I am not looking. Maybe this thinking is made possible because I do have a child that could be taken from me even while I am looking. Having a child with a chronic illness changes priorities. I don’t worry about unseen demons as much as I worry about her not having a life that was lived the best way possible. I know in my gut that I am doing everything I can to enrich and ensure my girls are enjoying the best life. I know Chris feels that way too.

We only get one shot with these kids. We live with this reality every day. I’d rather make my best effort and not allow fear to make decisions for me, the cost of my children’s development is more important.

The moment you take when you have to catch your breath…

Last night after dinner, Izzie and her dad were sitting on the couch having an ice pop. Addie’s latest obsession is NCIS, which was playing on the TV. After a few minutes, Izzie looks up at her dad and says “I wish I had a whole heart like the rest of you.” Chris was stunned and tried to see what caused her to say that. She said nothing else and went back to eating her dessert.

He told me about the exchange when he got back from the store. I had come by to put the girls to bed after my yoga class which gave him the opportunity to run out. Neither one of us knew what we could say to her to make her feel better. In all honesty, what can we say? The fact is she has one and a half atria, reconstructed aortic arch, and a single ventricle keeping her alive. The other side will never grow, a left ventricle will not magically appear. I am not looking forward to when she starts learning about the human body and realizes exactly how different hers is from her classmates.

It was inevitable that sooner or later, Isabelle would learn that she was different. We knew this. We thought we were prepared for it but last night shows me that we are definitely not. I don’t want to tell this sweet girl that she will never be fast, she will never be able to keep up with her sister, and that someday her heart will give out. I don’t want to have to tell her that someday she will wait for another to die so she could have a new heart because hers will fail.

Chris doesn’t want her to feel like we don’t love her how she is, so he feels like he can’t acknowledge that we also wish she had a whole heart too. We do wish she had a whole heart. He felt, and I agree, that she needed to hear that we loved her even with half a heart, and that we always will. It must have satisfied the inquiry since she didn’t mention it again.

After he told me the story, I sat on the couch struggling to catch my breath. That moment reminded me of the day after we found out there was something wrong with her heart. I woke up wishing it was all a nightmare that I could wake up from. I wanted the day to be like the one before, starting with great hope and joy. We went to Boston Children’s that day and met Dr. Levine who would tell me that my baby would need three open heart surgeries and that she had a 80% chance of surviving.

I remember asking her is she felt that it was worth it. I remember asking what if we did all of this, and it still failed. I wondered if I could do this to an infant – our child. I still can remember her expression as she said to me “You are asking me if it is worth it to have your child. I cannot answer that questions. Only you can make that decision.”

We did go through with the sequence, the doctor’s visits, the tests, the x-rays, the blood draws, the various studies. We watched her literally fight her way to existence, and then cheered her on as she began to thrive. It was not easy going through the feeding struggles, the worrying about being around other children who could get her sick, her color changes that were so alarming in the beginning. Her growing fear of the doctor’s office contributed to our burden and we would have to mentally prepare for her screams before every IV, every blood draw.

Izzie is becoming more aware that she has half of a heart. It is devastating to watch,  but wow- the strength it took for her to get to this moment is something we will never have. She truly enjoys every day to the fullest and has taught us to do the same. Every day is a gift that we are so grateful for. And I mean we- myself, her dad, her sisters Addie and Liz, my partner Melissa, her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins….the list of people she has impacted is endless. We are so blessed to have her smile, giggles, and hugs as part of our daily life. If anything, that is what I want her to be sure of. That no matter what she will have to go through in the future, she will be surrounded by all of us. Half a heart and all.

I’ll keep writing about this as more is revealed as she becomes more aware. It’s worth archiving in case other families run into this same issue. I’m sure they have, and more will join us in this part of the journey as our children grow up.

Please consider donating to our Team Izzie’s Hope for the Walk for Boston Children’s Hospital. They are working very hard on finding a solution for kids like her and they are the reason why she is thriving today. Without the care she received from before she was born, I know we would not be where we are now. Thank you! 

 

Keeping it in the day.

In 2012, I became acquainted with the Schultz family through Mike’s blog ‘Echo of Hope’. The description of hospital life with a great sense of humor added in lifted my spirits during our hospitalizations. You can imagine how excited I was to see the Schultz name on my trip to the patient family kitchen. I introduced myself to a weirded out Mike, and mentioned how much I appreciated his writing. His posts gave a sense of validation to the crazy unpredictable life we were having. I wanted to thank him personally for lifting up my spirits. I also met Ari on that day.

For the past 4 years, I have been following their journey, praying for their journey to get easier like ours did. Isabelle had her last open heart surgery in the Fontan sequence and was doing very well. When we got home after 7 days inpatient, she instantly wanted to ride her bike. Congenital Heart Disease was not going to keep her down and she has been that way since. Her Dad and I are grateful that she has been able to grow and thrive in ways we could not have imagined.

We wish everyone could have this outcome like we have. But that isn’t reality unfortunately. Not everyone has the experiences we have had with her being so active, and staying out of the hospital with the exception of a dehydration episode. Every day, I thank God for blessing her with good function for that day. I am aware that things can change without warning.

When you have a child with a condition like Isabelle or Ari, you find yourself between having hope for the future, and keeping expectations in the day. When I start thinking about Izzie’s future, there is a voice that reminds me that moment may not come and to enjoy what is happening right now. I want to believe that she will grow up and follow her sisters’ paths through school and other life events. But that voice is still there, and whispers in my ear to hold on to what is happening now, for that future may not come to fruition.

I hate being dramatic like this, but in the wake of Ari’s unexpected passing I can’t help but feel an indescribable sorrow for Mike and Erica and all of their hopes for Ari. They had just started to let themselves think about the future, and the unexpected happens. Their son was given a second chance with a new heart, and that still wasn’t enough to save him. I hope people understand my frustration or response when I am asked “So if Izzie gets a transplant, she’ll be ok, right?”

No. She may not be okay. We will always have to be on our toes regardless of how pink her lips are at the moment. We will always have to stay vigilant, check her saturation levels and worry about how hydrated she is. We will always be cautious when talking about the future. I am even reluctant to talk about her 5th birthday, which is a huge milestone for HLHS kids because it means her survival rate improves dramatically. We aren’t there yet.

There is no finish line to this race, and we are forced to remember that every time we see another family struck by the merciless heart of CHDs. All we have is right now, and that needs to be enough.

Please remember the Schultz family as they walk through this immensely difficult time. I cannot imagine how awful this is for them and for their children.

Happy Birthday, Dad. Love you.

Today, my father would have been 76 years old. In years past, I would call him up, sing him ‘Happy Birthday’, and attempt to make plans to see him. He would laugh and thank me for serenading him on his birthday. He would ask me how Liz was doing, and how the younger two were. I would share an Addie story and send videos of the two playing together. He would ask me about work, and how my life was going. He didn’t understand the concept of Blue Tooth so he would think I was in danger for talking on the phone while driving. This would lead to the goodbye portion of the conversation.

Today, I sat and thought about how much I miss the opportunity I used to have to pick up the phone and hear his voice. As I sat at my kitchen table finishing my lunch, I realized that today was not just his birthday. Today marks 30 years from the day when my life changed forever.

March 18, 1987. My stepfather, mom and I were on our way back from Mass General where I was being formally tested for ADHD or ADD at the time. The H hadn’t been added yet. I knew it was my father’s birthday and my parents had mentioned that we were going to stop at my soon to be former step-mom’s house on our way home. “Are we stopping because it’s Dad’s birthday?” I asked, truly believing for a moment that he had come to his senses and moved back in with her. I was happy we were going to see them because I adored my father’s third wife. Anita was so good to me and I loved my step brothers and sister. I couldn’t think of any other reason of why we would stop by other than wishing my Dad a happy birthday.

I was a naive 14 year old. My parents looked at each other and my mom went silent. She didn’t say anything other than “I don’t know honey.” Steve kept driving. I sat in the back, my heart filling with excitement over seeing my father. What I didn’t know during that short drive is that I wouldn’t see him again until I was 16 years old. I didn’t know in that moment, that my father had done something that would change all of us forever, especially him.

My father had a few addictions. I won’t go into them here but I will say he enjoyed the slot machines quite a bit. Like many with addictions, his grew out of control and he was making poor decisions based upon impulse. He left the family law practice to start his own business. He isolated himself from the rest of the family, and caused a rift between himself and his wife. I knew that they had split up, and the news made me very sad because I loved them very much. I didn’t understand what was happening and kept asking him how it could be fixed during the last dinner we had together.

The last dinner we had together was when he told me that he and Anita were getting a divorce. We were at Mamma Mia’s on the waterfront. He gave me a fake Rolex watch and a hundred dollars. I considered it a belated Hanukkah gift. I had no idea it was a goodbye present. Funny that he gave us watches. Did he know that time was going to forever change after that moment?

We reach Anita’s house and I get out of the car. I am starting to feel as though it is a tad strange that both of my parents are here to wish him a happy birthday. What was going on? We walk in and Anita asks us to go downstairs and sit in the living room. I remember my step-sister crying and I am trying to figure out what is happening. I was told that my father was in a lot of trouble, that he had taken money that didn’t belong to him, and that no one knew where he was. He had left the area and the police were looking for him. It was about to hit the news so everyone thought that I needed to know before everything hit the fan. I was speechless.

Years later, I jokingly said to my father that one thing you don’t do with an adopted child is LEAVE them abruptly and disappear for over 18 months. Abandonment issues, anyone?

My story then goes on to taking 5 valium and a beer, a classmate saving my life by calling the police, and me finding myself in one of the three places alcoholics end up at the end of their drinking- only I had just started so….yeah. I landed in a psychiatric hospital for two weeks. I felt worthless and unwanted like I had never felt before. It was absolutely one of the darkest moments of my childhood. The man that I adored and would have done anything to be with, disappeared without a trace and hurt others by his actions.

Being 14, I wasn’t able at the time to realize that his actions affected the entire family. I didn’t know the effects his actions were on the law office or what my uncles and cousins went through. I wish I was more aware, because I think the feeling like they didn’t care would have been eradicated. They cared a lot. My uncle Richard was driving me home after a Seder one night and told me how angry he was at my father. At the time, I felt like he was mad at me but he wasn’t. He was angry on my behalf. They all were. No one could really say it at the time and today, I know with every fiber of my being how much the Levins care about me and my family.

That moment in 1987 took my life from one pathway and sent me down another. The man I knew as my father died that day, and Jeff came into the picture in 1989. Jeff hated himself and what he did to his family so much that he left for Florida after he paid his dues in prison. The shame eventually ate away at the man he was and this past October, it finally took him.

In spite of my father’s poor decisions, I loved him. Even though he became Jeff, I loved him. He distanced himself from me a few times in my life, and I did from him, but I loved him. Not a day goes by that he isn’t in my heart and today, on his birthday, I hope he was blessed with the peace he desperately looked for since March of 1987.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inviting in Compassion while shutting the door on resentment

When she awoke the next morning after a very restless night, she realized that she still had blood in her hair. Wincing as her arm slowly moved upward to the source of the pain in her head, she was still trying to piece together the events that happened the day before. The strap of her bra dug into her shoulder. She went to adjust it and realized that she still had on her sister’s white bathing suit. They were supposed to go to the beach. “That was how the day started,” she thought, “we were going to go to the beach after we picked a few things up for my bat mitzvah.”

The events began to knit together. We went to Paperama, where Christy and her practically wetting her pants laughing over the silly books we were reading. We stopped for ice cream. Christy had Cherry Vanilla. She had Heavenly Hash. Then the next thing she knew, a woman’s hands were reaching toward her through the glass window and her mother’s head was at an unnatural angle in front of her. She could hear her grandmother crying out. She turned her head to the right and her eyes met Christy’s.

“Are you ok??” Christy shouted, in complete shock and bleeding from the back of her head. She had been wearing her father’s oxford shirt. It was a complete mess now. The ambulance ride consisted of her trying to remember what happened, and what was happening to her mother. Where was her grandmother? And Christy?

She smacked her lips together and reached for the tepid water that was next to her on the stand. It felt good going down her dry throat. Her head hurt so much. She could barely handle the sunlight in the room. Did she still have her period? Oh crap. She paged the nurse to help her get out of bed. Slowly she swung her legs to one side. Stepping down gingerly, she began to make her way to the bathroom. A wave of nausea overtook her as she stepped forward. She saw her when she looked up and out of the door into the hallway. Instant rage trumped the nausea and her eyes narrowed. Her fist clenched around the IV pole and she could feel her palm pressing so hard on the metal it was turning white. She regained her balance immediately and stepped towards the hallway.

“If anything, anything happens to my mom, I will fucking kill you.” She managed to spit out through her clenched teeth. Her voice became louder. “If she dies, I will tear you apart!” She took another step towards the hallway. The nurse quickly pulled her back into the room and sing-songed her into the bathroom. When she opened the door to leave, the girl was no longer visible.

“That bitch better stay the fuck away from me.” She said to no one in particular. She heard the door shut across the hallway. Exhausted from the bathroom trip, she closed her eyes.

True story.

This is actually what happened to myself, my mother, grandmother and my best friend on a beautiful summer day in August. A 16 year old without insurance was drinking with her mom and blew through a stop sign doing 65 mph. She hit us without hitting her brakes. My mother’s neck snapped with the force of the impact and I was knocked unconscious. The impact hit my grandmother’s ribs and broke them. Christy fell on top of me and was ‘lucky’ enough to catch all of the glass.

My mom was almost taken out by a drunk driver. Thank God she wasn’t, but she could have been. I could have been sent to live with my dad, which would have been disastrous since he disappeared over a year later. My sister was in Israel and had no idea this had happened. Today, even talking about it still gives me feelings of anger and I think I may be onto why I get so turned off when people drink with their parents. If I want to be honest, my mother was in fact taken from me that day because the woman she became after that is not the same person. She lost full rotation of her cervical spine, and was in a neck brace for what felt like months. She was afraid when she rode in a car. She couldn’t play golf anymore and struggled with the intense pain her surgery had left her.

Throughout the years I have wondered if I would meet this girl or woman in the halls of AA, if they ever learned from their mistake. A close friend made a similar mistake the other night and is facing some serious consequences. Since Sunday, I have been angry at how thoughtless this person could have been. No one was hurt but still- what the fuck are you thinking when you get behind the wheel after drinking a decent amount? The resentment and disgust stayed with me until this morning.

This morning, I realized that I wanted to invite compassion in because I know that is what this person needs at the moment. The last thing they need is another person telling them what a piece of crap they are. I have been shown compassion by those around me who choose to be in my life in spite of what I did to them while drinking. Wouldn’t I have wanted the same when I was in a similar pickle?

When you love someone, even as a friend, you accept them exactly as how they are. You don’t pass judgment, you pass on love. You don’t try to make them pay for their mistakes, you forgive them so that maybe they can forgive themselves. I care about this person very much and I know that with each minute they are praying that they could go back and make a different choice. We can be harder on ourselves than others are on us.

The girl who hit us in 1985 could have used some compassion too. She was young and probably thought she would never get into such a horrible car accident. I remember how frightened her eyes became when we saw each other. Her muffled sobbing could be heard through the door.

Justified anger is just anger. It doesn’t do anyone any good to hold onto it. As I flowed through postures that were designed to open my heart and chest, I breathed in the intention to welcome in compassion. I have to say that today has been an incredible day and I hope to do it all again tomorrow.

 

Half the Heart Mom I Used to Be

Heart month is coming to an end and I totally slacked off spreading CHD awareness. No pun intended, but my heart wasn’t in it this year for some reason. Maybe it’s the melancholy I have been experiencing since my father’s passing, or just the fact that we have been blessed with a relatively ‘normal’ life in spite of what has been handed to us. Either way, there is no excuse for me not doing my part or maintaining my commitment to congenital heart disease.

A few things have happened this year that were completely unanticipated. In October, my father became sick and the time I thought I had with him was taken away in a flash. This January, I was able to land an incredible contract in healthcare doing what I love, but now I have less time to focus on my prior commitments. This past fall, I finally answered the call that has been inside of me since I first rolled out a yoga mat 15 years ago and started yoga teacher training. November was when Izzie had her fenestration closed but lately we have had a few vomiting spells to keep us on our toes.

You could say that I am a little busy. It’s a good busy, but I am disappointed that I haven’t been on top of things like I wanted to be. Some days my heart feels so heavy. I keep forgetting that it will take time for me to embrace this grief. When the negativity does enter my space, I send it back out to the Universe from my yoga mat. Life is too short to worry about things that are completely out of my control. If anything, life has taught me this over and over again.

I do worry about Izzie’s future. Just because she has had incredible numbers since her cath doesn’t mean that I am able to let go completely. She still has half of a heart, her circulation is still not ideal and she will still need a transplant when her function decreases considerably. God willing that won’t be for a long time. We have been encouraged by the stem cell research that is coming out of the Mayo Clinic and Boston Children’s. Our hope is that will be an option for us when the time comes.

This year I was not the Heart Mom I have been in the past, with lots of facts about congenital heart disease and pics of Izzie recovering from her surgeries. This year, I wanted to focus on what was in front of me – my family and my relationships. I want to help Addie adjust to life with a chronically ill sibling. She needs to feel just as loved as her sister and I know I fall short of that. My attention is always on the youngest- her coloring, her sats, has she drank enough, or is she coming down with something. No wonder Addie feels left out. There isn’t a lot of resources out there for siblings and that is something I hope to change. At least in my house anyway.

Until then, I will keep my focus on what I can manage instead of what I would like to.

 

 

 

The power of having a choice, and the hope that comes with it

I am regretting not attending the Women’s March in Boston this past Saturday. I knew that it would have been crowded, and worried about taking my younger two with me. Ever since I started working through the week, I am back to weekends being the only time I get to spend with them. I would have taken them if I was going. Frankly the idea was very overwhelming but I stayed connected via Facebook.

What a mistake that was.

On Facebook, people were attacking the march saying that it was about sore losers. Other women kept saying “These women do not represent me!” or “Last time I checked, I still had my rights.” It makes me want to vomit even now. Who do you think got us those rights we enjoy today? Who marched so that women could be treated more equally in the workplace? Who carried signs supporting a woman’s right to choose what happens in her body in the early 70’s? How do you think we got here?

Like many others, the phrase “Making America Great Again” made me think that the goal was to make America the way it was during the days before sexual harassment became a “thing.” The comments made by my president about women make my stomach turn. It reminded me of when I was assaulted as a young woman, the response was “Well, were you drinking?” It was my fault that three boys decided it would be fun to have their way with me. I didn’t say “No” loud enough I guess. I guess the tears running down my face meant that I was having a great time. The irony is one of these boys grew up to have a daughter so karma does exist. Sometimes I wonder what he would do if someone did to her what he did to me.

When I was growing up, I was surrounded by strong women- all incredible examples  of strength, poise, and intellect. All worked hard for what they wanted in life. The values I have stem from their determination to make the world a better place for future generations. None took no for an answer.

One of my favorite books growing up was “Free to Be You and Me.” It was a book about female empowerment and what it meant to truly be equal to the opposite gender. I have fond memories of my Mom reading me the dialogue between two babies, one male and one female talking about stereotypes. Another favorite was the story of a girl who instead of freeing herself, passively waits for a man to save her from tigers. The end of the story shows a picture of the tigers wearing her shoes, dress and hat.

The moral of the story? Don’t wait to be saved when you can save yourself.

My mother was one of the few female administrators in a male-dominated office. Dinner time included stories of how she had to approach certain issues with some of the men at work. She fought (and I use this term because to me, it what it was) to gain respect from her colleagues and staff. Not everyone was thrilled with having a woman for their boss. When she retired, she was one of the most respected educators in the area.

My grandmother Adeline Keller was a stay at home mom who built schools in her spare time. She sat on the school committee for over 25 years and pushed for better facilities to house the future generations of Plymouth. She was petite, but her voice made it clear that she was a force to be reckoned with. In the evening after dinner, the apron would come off and she would attend meetings on how the town could improve education. PCIS, South Elementary, Federal Furnace, former Plymouth-Carver High school, and West Elementary were the fruits of her efforts. She owned real estate in Boston, was the bookkeeper in my grandfather’s dental practice, and was a savvy businesswoman in a time when women were not encouraged to learn business.

Helen Levin was another incredible woman I had the honor of being related to. She fought to raise money for the State of Israel and for Hadassah, a women’s organization that helps communities around the world get access to better healthcare. She spent time driving to local businesses in the Garment district in Boston to get donations for her Hadassah thrift shop . She did not take no for an answer. I had the pleasure of talking with a woman who went on an excursion with her and heard how she would not back down. She channeled her ambitions to raise an incredible amount of funds for Israel and the hospital in Jerusalem.

My birth mother was a strong woman in my opinion because she carried me to term and enduring the pregnancy alone. She made the difficult choice of giving me up for adoption. I am so glad she did. That was her choice. When I was in a similar situation I made a different choice. I remember the sinking feeling of knowing what I had to do and being sick about it. That was my choice, and thank God I had one because the other party ended up overdosing years later.

I never felt like I was strong like the women I was related to. I felt frightened about 90% of the time when I was in school. In today’s standards, you might say  I was bullied for being different. My classmates made fun of my clothes, my hair, my face, my size and my religion. Perhaps I was an easy target since I reacted every single time. I tried to be tough but people could see right through me. My need to be accepted was stronger than my need to express myself. That changed the day after I was assaulted. I haven’t quieted down since.

The march that took place on Saturday was about keeping those and many more options open for women. It was about reassuring one another that we have each other’s backs, and to show the world that we can unite regardless of backgrounds. It was a statement that we were not objects for people to do whatever they want with.  To me, it was about progressing and moving forward instead of backwards. It was also very empowering and gave people hope. I know that was the effect seeing all of the posts and pics my daughter was sending gave me. Hope is what nourishes my soul in times where light is absent. Seeing all of those women standing up and saying “No, we will not give up our rights to medical care, equal pay, and social justice” gave me hope 45 miles away.