Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Worth revisiting: Thoughts.11: Opinions

This post was originally published one year ago today. The message is important to me, so I am sharing it again.

I apologize if what I'm about to write will make some uncomfortable.  I apologize if what I'm about to write is better left unsaid.

Many people in my life know various versions of the truth to this story, but almost all don't know the whole truth.  That's because I've felt like I should keep it secret.  I've carried guilt, shame, embarrassment, self-doubt, and self-hatred.  I doubt I will even tell the "whole" truth here because I still carry guilt, shame, and embarrassment.  But, I will share some of my story to try to exorcise some demons inside me, to hopefully bring awareness and understanding regarding those of us that carry negative feelings for a significant portion of our lives.

I read the Houston news on a daily basis.  I have a routine - Houston news, USA news, Australian news, World news.  In the state of Texas, the age of consent for sexual relations is 17.  In 2003, Texas passed a law making it illegal for a teacher and student from the same school to have a sexual relationship regardless if the student is 17 or 18 (age of consent).  Since that time, Houston news quite regularly reports stories about an educator that has been arrested and charged with having inappropriate relationships with students.  As is the case with many criminal allegations, especially those of a sexual nature, there is controversy and varying opinions surrounding these cases. 

I've always stated that I respect other people's opinions.  I do.  I've been described as opinionated, so I want others to hear me out (when I'm ready to share) and show respect.  You don't have to agree with me; I don't have to agree with you.  Sometimes when people disagree, this allows for a great opportunity to learn, hear another perspective on an issue, and grow.  State your opinion, but always do so in as respectful a manner as possible.  That is my opinion on giving opinions.  Am I making sense?  I do NOT respect other people's opinions or necessarily want to give them an opportunity to share that opinion if the person is being disrespectful.  It does a lot more harm than good (in my humble opinion).

So...that being said... When I read news reports about alleged inappropriate relationships between a teacher and a student, and I read or hear opinions that are calling the student a "slut" or saying they knew better or were asking for it or "it takes two to tango" (and often comments much, much harsher than this, but this is all I can bring myself to type), I can't help but feel anger, frustration, and the ever present guilt, shame, and embarrassment.  Let me tell you why.

I was that 17 year old student.  I did know better.  I was an intelligent student who was involved in many school activities.  I didn't smoke, and I wasn't promiscuous.  I drank alcohol on 3 occasions in high school, and I can honestly say, I don't think I ever saw drugs my entire high school tenure (except ones shown to me by a police officer). My family wasn't perfect; we had some issues, but I was raised in a Christian home with strong values, and I never doubted my parents' love for me.  Most of my friends were "good kids" and many of my friends' parents were very good to me as well.  So, yes, I knew better.  I knew right from wrong.
Me - my Senior year of high school
I can also say I was manipulated.  I was manipulated by a teacher ten years older than me who was respected, attractive, spoke well, and had a Master's Degree.  He groomed me when I was 16 but didn't act on it until I was 17.  He convinced me that my parents were neglecting me.  He promised to take care of me and give me more security and love than I was receiving.  He tried to convince me that my choice of worship was not good enough; that his choice of faith was better for me.  He encouraged me to separate myself from some of my friends, yet keep others that could cover for us.  Yes, I knew better than to get involved with him, but I was still young enough and impressionable enough that his ploys messed with my head, my heart, my emotions, my decision-making skills.  He definitely used his age, experience, and status to manipulate the situation for his favor.  Typing this, I still feel guilt, shame, and embarrassment. 

It took many years of hiding from the aftermath of this relationship.  It took many years of trying to numb my pain or avoid my feelings or fake being strong or laugh and joke about the matter.  All these years, I've carried some pretty deep, dark scars from this relationship.  In recent years, I've finally been able to work through the "stuff".  I've been to therapy.  I read books and articles and blogs.  I relate to various people - from victims to addicts - and their stories of hitting dark places and overcoming them.  I work on myself and try to live and grow.  I pray and sometimes meditate and journal (which I should do more frequently).  I have a partner who encourages me to face the dark and painful past and be open, vulnerable, and honest.  (Previously, I've had a partner who laughed at me and called me an "idiot" for getting myself into such a relationship and another that barely believed me and another who said "you were 'that' girl" and never talked about it again...I understood 'that' wasn't a good girl.)

Was I "That" Girl?

I still struggle at times.  For instance, in writing this piece, well, it hasn't been easy.  I've written, deleted, written again, deleted...  I still have a hard time thinking of myself as a victim.  At that time, there was no felonious law in Texas to criminalize his behavior.  If our relationship happened in 2004 or 2011 or today (anytime since the law was passed in 2003), he would be guilty of committing a felony, and I would be a victim.  The guilt, shame, and embarrassment that I still fight to this day doesn't allow me to grasp this and acknowledge it.  I'm still working...............

This is a site for an attorney trying to get your business, but it has some good information about the criminal charge that I am discussing.  See this LINK

Oh, and if you'd like to know what happened to the teacher...Google gives so much information.  He married another girl that he met while she was in high school and a couple of years younger than me.  He has been named in a number of lawsuits.  He has been fired twice (I believe) in two different states from teaching.  He was issued a cease and desist order.  And then there is THIS.  Let's just say, it is my humble opinion that he has continued his manipulative behavior.  I am not putting this here to slander him; these are all pieces of public information found on the world wide web. And, I don't want to end this on a bad

 I am not writing this or sharing this for you to feel sorry for me or to judge me.  I am sharing so we can all realize passing judgment or sharing hurtful opinions can further damage those that are carrying heavy burdens already.  Lift someone up instead of tearing them down.  Be respectful when you share your opinions.  Empathize with others.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thoughts #10 - Layers

Since the beginning, the background for my blog has been graffiti.  I looked through the choices available for free on blogger and selected it because I liked the colors.  From time to time, I want to change it.  I look through the selections again - patterns, prints, images; flowers, animals, nature - but nothing seems to be just right.  I know I can upload my own picture, but really, hardly anyone looks at my blog anyway, what's the big deal? 

I started thinking more about graffiti.  I actually like graffiti.  Sure, if it is vandalizing someone's home or place of business, I understand that's not so cool.  If it is gang-related, it is definitely NOT cool.  But, it's not always dirty and disrespectful; there IS graffiti that is artistic and meaningful.  I like the eclectic pieces with a mix of colors, layers, graphics, symbols, writings, textures, and meanings.  That kind of graffiti is awesome. 

Hey! - I'm kind of an eclectic gal with layers.  (I've also been dirty and disrespectful, but we won't talk about that now.)  So, maybe the graffiti background works for me after all. 

I searched google images with "graffiti".  Just from the first few rows of images, I found these amazing pieces of work:

Artist: David Walker/London, England - image snagged here

Artist: Unknown/Bogota, Colombia - image snagged here.

Artist: Vinie Graffiti/Paris, France - image snagged here.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hi, I'm Erin, and I'm a book-a-holic

Previously, I posted about a book challenge hosted by Megan at Semi-Charmed Kind of Life.  I joined this challenge because I like books.  I like reading.  I like challenges (sometimes).  I'm not much of a participant in the blog-o-sphere world (as you know).  But, I do participate a lot on facebook.

So, I got to thinking..... 

I'm a Texan who lives in Sydney, Australia.  I am fortunate enough to have met and made friends with people that live not only in the USA and Australia, but other parts of the world as well.  So, I developed my own book challenge that I'm hosting on facebook.  This is the message that I sent to people to generate an interest:
Hello! I'm creating a group here on facebook. Before I invite or add you, and you start getting notifications that you may not want, I want to know if you're interested. If you're not, no worries. It won't hurt my feelings. If you are interested, let me know so you can be added into the fun. I'm creating my very first book challenge. For this one, I'm only inviting people I know. If I stumble or mess up, hopefully you can help me fine tune it, and it becomes a fun way to read and share with other reading enthusiasts. There will be some simple rules. I'll give you categories, and you select your books. You'll be asked to post your reading list and allowed to change it through the challenge. You'll get 4 months to take the challenge. No one is getting graded or penalized It's designed to be fun! As participants, you will be encouraged to interact with each other in the FB group which will only be open to those involved. The first one to read all your books, gets a small prize from me! Plus, the top 3 can help submit categories for my next challenge. (Yea, I'm hoping to do this twice a year). My goal is to create a reading community with readers from different age groups and varied interests that live all over the world. So, let me know if you're interested. I'll create the group and add you. Rules and book categories should be announced in July. Book challenge will be held August 1st through November 30th. When you reply, tell me how many books you read per month. I'll use every one's answer to create the list (I haven't decided how many books I will challenge you to read). 

The response was A-MAY-ZING!  Seriously, I am so thrilled with the response.   The group is a private group/invite only.  I started the invites then friends started asking if they could invite others too.  The group has over 100 members from 7 different countries with over 40 people actively participating.  Members range in age from 20s to 60s.  We have conservatives and not-so-conservatives; homos and heteros; Christians, Atheists, and Agnostics; mostly women and a couple of brave men; blondes, brunettes, and redheads. 

I describe the group page like this:
Book Challenge to be held July 1, 2014 - October 31, 2014
First and foremost, have fun. Don't stress. No one is being judged, graded, or penalized. Even if you finish one book the entire challenge, if you enjoy it and it is an accomplishment for you, then that's awesome!

Discussion is highly encouraged. Participate as little or as much as you want. Please be supportive and respectful of others. If you get disrespectful, inappropriate, or nasty, I will ban you...don't make me use my authoritative power!

Hopefully, we will create an environment with books and people that interest, inspire, and entertain you.

I altered the start/finish dates.  We had so much interest and seemingly, there was some excitement too, that getting started straight away made sense.  Heck, it's day 3 into the challenge, and a few members have already finished their first book!

I can't tell you how much I enjoy seeing the interaction between friends I've known since high school talk to friends I met in Australia to friends I lived with in college talking to family members.  It's such an amazing mix of people, and I am lucky enough to watch it all!  Plus, it has made me realize how fortunate I am to have some intelligent, funny, insightful, well-read people in my life.  All of you participants have made this girl feel super grateful.

For anyone who likes a good book, there are some incredible book selections coming in from all genres and types of books.  For example, one category is "Read a biography, autobiography, or memoir".  We have members reading everything from books about aging rock stars to biographies about military heroes to autobiographies from former first ladies (from both Republican and Democratic parties) to Anne Frank's diary to a book from a former alcoholic to books about the lives of certain actresses, and more (yes, more!).

So......................................if you haven't joined and are interested, it's not too late, it's never too late (sorry, I just broke into song in my head by Three Days Grace).  I'll let you get distracted too, and I'll post the song here:

Anyway.................................if you're up for interesting folks reading books, then ask to join my group!