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Monthly Archives: April 2014


Remember when I said I have some good news to share?

After years of refusing to create anything, in spite of my nudges to get back to drawing and painting, my mother would not return to making art.  Until now.

For many years, my mother was a professional artist, and was very good at it.  However, after she became ill, she stopped creating.  It’s rarely a good sign when an artist stops creating.  I nudged, I pestered, I gently requested, I nagged.  She refused to create.

But, she recently picked up a camera and started making photos.  When I saw them, I suggested letting me post some of them online, and she’s agreed to it.  Yay!  The plan is to add some of them this week, along with the photos of the new framed 4 leaf clovers.

When I asked how she wanted to be credited, she said “Just use my name… *Mom*”, and grinned.  So, that is how they will be credited when I post them.

Then she said something that nearly brought tears to my eyes.

“I want to put the money toward your student loans.”

The student loans I accumulated in college weigh heavy on me, even though my current payment arrangement seems pretty fair.  The interest is piling on faster than I can pay the bill, and the debt just keeps growing.  It’s my only large debt, and it keeps getting larger, even though I have been out of school for several years now.  It’s one of the things that keeps me awake some nights, and it’s one of the reasons I have been doing fewer charity auctions.

It’s interesting that we are judged no matter what we do.  If we do not go to college and end up struggling, people will say “you should have gone to college”.  If we go to college and end up struggling, people will say “you should have just gotten a ‘real’ job”.  This really has nothing to do with the rest of the story, though.  Just a passing observation of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” in action.

Of course, now, in spite of the realization that it is so great that my mother is creating again, and it is so touching that she wants to use that to help with one of my biggest stressors, it upsets me that my stress has washed into her thoughts.  My student loans are not something she should be worrying about.  But, if that’s what makes her start creating art again, I suppose I’ll take that.

But the whole situation got me thinking about how many others are in the same boat.  We’re not allowed to file bankruptcy on student loans.  There is an income-based repayment plan, but it does not leave the debtor anything for savings.  They can defer the loans, but only for a couple of years during the entire life of the loan.  And, the debts count as assets for the lenders, similar to the way the housing loans counted as assets a few years ago.  It all seems like a dangerous mix on a large scale.

So, I started this petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/483/761/623/

Someone asked, “Do you think it’ll do anything?”

I have no idea.  It was born of frustration, and I do not even know how many people will see it.  Currently, at 23 signatures, the petition has already exceeded my expectations, and with so many who are struggling with student loans, I’m sure there will be more signatures.

I’m not sure what happens when we tug at this thread.  I know I would much rather pay off my student loans than file bankruptcy.  But it isn’t fair to trap so many people in excessive debt either, especially when education is for the betterment of everyone– or at least, it is supposed to be.  So, sign the petition and share it.

 

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My blog entries have been a little heavy lately, I know.  I do have some very good news to share next time, I promise.  I have most of it already written in my head.  But, I want to post this one first, while the thoughts are still fresh in my mind.

If you missed the first 3 parts, they are here:  part 1, part 2, part 3

This time, I decided to discuss social withdrawal since it is so common with depression, and so often misunderstood.  If you’re dealing with someone who is depressed and they are seeming more and more distant, yes, you should probably be concerned, but no, they probably don’t hate you.  In fact, it is possible that they like you so much that they don’t want to subject you to whatever they are going through.

While I cannot and do not speak for every person who has ever suffered from depression, I can say from my own personal experiences and observations that, yes, social withdrawal is a defense mechanism.  The world can be a harsh, unforgiving place, and it might be necessary to avoid it as much as possible when one is feeling especially vulnerable.  But it isn’t just about protecting one’s self.  It’s also about preserving the sanity of others.  I know moods can be contagious, good or bad, and I don’t want anyone catching mine when it is a rotten one.  Countless times, friends have expressed frustration at being unable to lift my spirits when I am depressed.  And, believe me, I know it is frustrating.  Sometimes I even frustrate myself.  So, when I am depressed, I hide.  Is it a healthy, beneficial response?  Maybe not, but it is “normal” with depression.

It has often been argued that, since moods are contagious, if one surrounds one’s self with happy people, it will help relieve depression.  Sometimes it does help, briefly.  Other times, it is only frustrating and depressing.  And, for someone who also has PTSD, socializing can be very stressful.

So, on the bleakest days with the lowest moods, when neither social withdrawal nor socializing will do, what does help?  Is there some way to be alone without really being alone?  I suspect this is part of the reason chat forums have been so popular for so many years.  Sure, there is the stereotype of the “creepy internet chatter”, but very few chatters actually fit that stereotype.

Studies have also shown that having a pet helps relieve depression.  For myself, having a dog helped quite a bit.  I always knew it helped, but never realized how much it helped until he died at nearly 13 years old.  I don’t care what anyone says about it being just a dog.  I lost a best pal that day, and that bit of it still depresses me.  I know some people prefer cats or birds or any number of other kinds of critters.  Pick a favorite; mine doesn’t have to be yours.   As long as it takes your mind off whatever is bothering you and puts you in the moment when none of that other stuff matters, it could even be a pet rock.  I hear those are very easy to care for, and you can teach them tricks, like “sit”, “stay”, “lie down”, and “play dead”.

Hobbies help, too.  Whether it’s art, or metalwork, or whittling, or basket weaving, or stacking dominoes, by focusing on some task, symptoms of depression are sometimes alleviated– at least for a while.

And, always, always challenge the self-sabotaging negative thoughts.  Many will not stand up to solid logic.

 


When this story made headlines just a few days ago, there were almost immediately several petitions which popped up, calling for the removal of Judge Jan Jurden for being too lenient.

While I still think she should step down, the more I look at her career and the responses of others in Delaware’s legal system, the more I wonder if she was somehow pressured or coerced into making this decision.

Someone mentioned in an online forum that it seemed strange to have a female judge pass down this light sentence, which was set up by a female prosecutor, and wondered if that was arranged in order to soften the appearance of a backroom deal that was made long before Jurden even saw the case.  This seems more and more plausible, as others in Delaware’s legal system weigh in to defend her decision.

According to an article written by Richard D. Kirk, Chair of Delaware’s State Bar, the plea agreement was made by the prosecutors, and although she could have gone against the recommendation and given a heavier sentence, it would have been unusual.

But does it mean there is some grand conspiracy to protect someone wealthy?

I would like to think it would be even more unusual that someone who violated a small child would not serve time in prison.  But, it is not as uncommon as I would like to believe.  The person who abused me as a child never served time in prison for it either, and he’s not even wealthy.  And, how many other times have we heard of sex offenders getting away with it?  Let’s face it.  Our system is utterly and undeniably broken, especially when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable among us.  For the crime of fourth-degree rape, the crime of which Richards was convicted, the recommended sentence in Delaware is just zero to 30 months in prison.

I understand the outrage so many people are feeling over this case.  I am outraged with you, and for you.  There are so many of us for whom this hits painfully close to home.

However, I think it is a mistake to solely put the blame of this case on Jurden.  The individuals who constructed this deal also share the blame.  And, let’s not forget the animal who started all this, Robert H. Richards IV, who perhaps deserves the larger share of our outrage.  Hopefully, his ex-wife will get every cent he has in the civil suit she recently filed.  I would be willing to bet that he fears being penniless and unemployable even more than he fears prison or death– especially now that his face is plastered all over the world.

But let’s also not forget, we must not become the monsters we are fighting.   Sure, my initial gut reaction was hostile.  I still have a hard time keeping my cool about some subjects, and this happens to be one of them.  But, the recent threats some have made against Jurden, the expressions of violence against her and Richards, the angry profanity-filled rants.. none of these will help our cause, even though the feelings might be justifiable.

None of us is served by creating more pain in this world, no matter how deserving of it we might feel someone is.

To fix our system, we must do it the same way it was broken– systematically, methodically, thoughtfully.


Though the original case was heard back in 2009, it is now in the headlines because of a civil suit filed by the victims’ mother, and the details have a lot of people understandably and rightfully outraged.

Robert H. Richards IV, a DuPont heir, was convicted in a plea agreement for the rape of his 3-year-old daughter, and he received only probation with a suspended prison term.  No jail time unless he violates his probation.

The sentence was given by Judge Jan Jurden, and was recently said to be based on recommendations by the prosecuting attorney.  In a recent article, Richard D. Kirk, the Chair of the Delaware State Bar said, “Looking at this matter solely from the 2009 perspective, before the private damages lawsuit was filed, virtually everyone would have considered this an appropriate sentence. It was not an unusual sentence under the circumstances presented and would have been available to comparably situated defendants sentenced by this judge and other judges of the Superior Court. Mischaracterizing the 2009 court record as the article did to portray the sentence as somehow inappropriate was unfair to Judge Jurden and the Superior Court.”  (Emphasis is mine.)

I do not know what kind of court system they are running in Delaware, but nobody I have ever known would consider this an appropriate sentence.  And, if we take a look at the tens of thousands of signatures from all over the world on just one of the several petitions to remove Judge Jurden from the bench, I feel confident in saying to Mr. Kirk… “NO, MOST OF US WOULD NOT CONSIDER THE SENTENCE APPROPRIATE!!  And furthermore… What the hell is wrong with you??”

I find it disturbing that this decision is being defended at such high levels.  It makes me (and many others) wonder how deep the corruption/dysfunction goes in Delaware’s legal system.

As a survivor of similar abuse, I know firsthand how devastating and long term the impact can be, not just to the survivors, but to the people around them too.  These children will carry the scars for a lifetime, and my heart breaks for them and for their mother, because they have all been forced to carry this unfair burden, imposed on them by someone unfit to be called “father”, who might never see the inside of a prison cell for his actions.  Their father did not protect them, and neither did the legal system.  Who will these children be able to trust when they are older?

However, there are thousands upon thousands of us who have been standing up for those kids.  Someday, these children will be old enough to find all this information online.  I hope what they see is that there are so many of us, even from so far away, who know they deserve better.  I also hope they ignore the comments people make about how this has “ruined their lives” or “killed their souls”.  While the scars and baggage of this will create very different lives than they might have otherwise had, and while the burden might seem exceeding heavy at times, their souls are still alive and are still theirs.  Though it is true they will never be the same, they will survive, like so many of us do, with no thanks to the monsters in our lives who would try to destroy us.  I hope those kids see that, in spite of all the wrong lessons they learned at such an early age, the world isn’t all bad and there are a lot of kind, caring people.  And, I hope they quickly unlearn all those wrong lessons their “father” taught them.

While Richards may have escaped prison, he can now bear the stigma of the “pedophile” label for the rest of his life.  But it isn’t enough.  I hope his ex-wife wins big in the civil suit.  While the money will not return what was taken from those children, it will at least be some acknowledgement that they were terribly wronged by this animal.  Ideally, they will get everything he owns and he will have to get off his ass and work for a living– and good luck finding a job, now that he’s on the sex offenders’ registry.

As for the judge, if it is true that she was only going on the recommendation of the prosecuting attorney, then they should both be fired.  They obviously have no concept of the lifelong struggle of surviving early childhood abuse, and do not take the protection of the most helpless in society seriously enough.  And, the individual who called this sentence “appropriate” should probably be ousted, too.

When our public servants are no longer protecting us as they should, it is time to get new public servants.

 

 

 

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