You Know Who We Are

You know who we are.

We are your neighbors. Your friends and your enemies. Your students and your teachers. Your bosses and your coworkers. Your soul mates and your lovers. Your spouses and your exes.

We work with you, go to school with you, commune with you and socialize with you. We share the same beliefs, and we disagree with you. We get along with you and we don’t.

We are strong and confident, weak and afraid.

We are women and we are men. Old and young. Gay and straight. Bi and trans

We are famous and unknown.

And we are successful and destitute.

Our group is very large and diverse, but we all have something in common.

We were all sexually assaulted or abused.

And too many of us are locked in a shroud of secrecy.

The who, what, when and how is unique to each story. Some of us were children. Others, adults.

But what we all have experienced is insurmountable shame – shame that is not warranted.

We were all victims. But. Victims have nothing for which to be ashamed.

And when we learn that simple truth, we become survivors.

That very simple truth, however, can be buried deep within our psyche and suppressed by fear, pain, anger, misunderstanding, disbelief, judgment, and secrecy. Shoveling away the dirt can take decades, and emerging from the shadows is anything but simple.

But when we find our courage to speak the truth and tell our story to family, friends, professionals or even perfect strangers, we can step out of the darkness and no longer hide.

Because we are no longer ashamed.

We are proud – proud that we had the strength to be honest and own what happened as something someone else did – not something we caused.

Turning taboo into the truth liberates the spirit, and exchanging anger for acceptance brings peace. But the ultimate reason for revealing our story should not be for avenging the perpetrator but for healing ourselves.

So, if you’re not one of us, I implore you to spare your judgment. Please think before you speak. Educate yourself and learn what happens when abuse or assault occur.

And if you are one of us – if you haven’t already – seek the help you need to turn your shame into survival. Find someone who will listen to, understand, and guide you. Embrace your story and speak your truth — in your own way.

Then. You can turn your darkness into light. And finally breathe.

 

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Maybe Your Socks Are Too Damn Tight

Love hurts. It stinks. I’m better off without it. Done. No more for me.

Sound like bitterness?

Maybe. But it could be survival.

Because the best way to remedy a situation that feels like drowning is to swim.

And surviving a breakup is like sinking into a black hole filled with water and swimming with all your might to reach the surface again.

But. Remember this:

You simply cannot mourn the loss of something you never had.

So before you ruin your pillowcase with mascara stains, think about it rationally.

If it was true love you experienced, the object of your affection would have showered you with roses and champagne instead of making a delivery of whatever to someone else.

As soon as you come to grips with that fact, your sadness will change to anger.

But, beware.

Prison is not worth it.

In a matter of time, your anger will change to cynical indifference.

And the way to get to that point is with humor.

As with everything else, laughter can help even the saddest of hearts.

Consider the story a friend of mine told me about her recent break-up.

Her ex told her that he was “looking for a woman to knock his socks off and that it just didn’t happen with her.”

She said she felt like a knife had pierced her heart instead of Cupid’s arrow. But she tried to maintain her composure, stood up, stared him squarely in the eyes and answered: “Then maybe she shouldn’t wear your socks so damn tight.”

If someone can’t see your worth, kick ’em to the curb. That’s their problem. Not yours.

Because if it’s true love, it’s there no matter what.

And that means when the socks are on and off.

 

 

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“Raise the Glasses, Look Back, and Smile”

…thoughts from the past.

I wrote this for the “Harris County Journal” January, 10 years ago. So you have to add a decade to every number.

My dad passed away almost three years ago. But I continue to hear his strong, steady voice telling a good story — always with a hefty dose of humor.

Ten years have passed. But I still raise a glass, look back and smile. 

************

Birthdays.

Amazing how the word changes with time.

Remember when you couldn’t wait for them to roll around?

“I’m almost 13…can’t wait until I’m 16…finally — 18…ah-h-h, sweet 21.”

Remember?

And then it changes.

One day you’re 21, and before you know it, your youngest kid is going to New Orleans to celebrate the milestone.

And that was almost five years ago. Next month, my son will be 26.

Incredible.

But my Dad is the one who defies the calendar.

Last weekend he turned 87, but he is far from old. In fact, he sets a very high standard. He’s like that battery bunny that just doesn’t stop.

“You got one coming up yourself in a week, don’t you?” he asked me as he looked across the supper table Saturday night. “How old will you be?”

“I’ll be 58,” I answered slowly…my voice sounding like fingernails on a blackboard.

“Never thought I’d have chillun’ that old,” he replied. “Seems like yesterday I was a chap myself.”

“Where were you born?” asked my sister-in-law.

“Down there in that white house next to the church. Mother always said the icicles were a foot long that morning. Uncle Marvin and Aunt Eunice delivered me. They lived on this corner where your house is, Pam. He practiced medicine here before they moved to LaGrange.”

Dad talked about the changes and the things and people he missed. He had lived at Jones Crossroads his entire life and knew the surrounding area’s history well.

During the first decades of the 20th century, he said that Harris County was extremely rural and remote. Automobiles, of which there were very few, did not make the scene until the 20’s. The only paved road was U.S. 27, and the main mode of transportation was the mule-drawn wagon or horse and buggy.

“People didn’t go to town back then. There were little country stores everywhere that sold they needed – mainly coffee, sugar, overalls, and work shoes.

“Folks raised hogs for meat, grew all their vegetables, and canned or dried enough produce to carry them through until the next growing season.

“In fact, y’alls great grandfather, Uncle Rob, had a community preserving plant at one time – I guess you could call it a co-op – where the folks in the Hopewell and surrounding communities could bring their produce to be canned.

“But the biggest difference in the Harris County then and the Harris County today is what our claim to fame was.

“During the 20’s and 30’s, we were famous, or should I say infamous, for being the best place around to buy corn liquor – white lightning,” he said with a grin.

We raised our champagne glasses in a toast, saluting the fact we were together and that our kids appeared to be doing well.

After everyone left, I thought about the changes in my life…about the number of years that have passed since I moved back to Harris County – ‘twill be 30 this fall.

Amazing.

I sat down and opened the photo album I started for my Dad a few months ago. I added the prints I made for his birthday – photos of Hal and me when we were wee ones, a picture of our family in Boston in 1958 when my Dad was named “Master Farmer of the Year,” and my brother and I posing on the seawall at Panama City when we were tweens.

The joys and sorrows started flooding back…the memories of my youth, the dreams I had, the nightmares that haunted me, and the blessings my children have always been to me.

I started to feel that familiar wave of tearful loneliness.

“No,” I said aloud. “Don’t look at the scrapbook any longer.”

I closed the cover and stood up.

Memories are just that – memories. You can’t go back.

When ghosts emerge from old photos, it’s time to put them away.

I felt the tears subside.

Yep…I’m a year older and I’ll never be 21 again.

But at least I’m here.

And I hope to toast my silver-haired chillun’ when I’m 87, tease them unmercifully…

…raise my glass, look back and smile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When I Was Seventeen…

…I left Jones Crossroads for the University of Georgia,  “with my feet ten feet off” the ground.

It was 1968 — the year Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were murdered.

Vietnam raged while innocence bloomed. Peaceful protests worked miracles. But violence and injustice found safe havens in hate and bigotry.

This era represents when fighting for equal rights and justice  — regardless of one’s race, gender, ethnicity, sexual preference or cultural origins — became not only part of my DNA but what fuels my spirit to this day.

And, here we are — 50 years later — and my son, Charlie Bailey,  is campaigning all over the state and sharing a message of equal justice and protection under the law for every Georgian.

He energized the audience at the Georgia Democratic State Convention last Saturday and brought the crowd to their feet.

Why? Because he’s authentic and he’s honest.

He means what he says and he’s doing what he’s doing for the right reasons — because he loves his state and the people who live here.

You may think this is suspect — coming from his mom. But I guarantee you, I wouldn’t be putting it in writing if I didn’t mean it.

I don’t believe it has ever been more important than it is now to elect people like Charlie.

Because today, just like 50 years ago, there are forces that threaten “freedom and justice for all.”

We  must demand that statesmanship takes precedence over showmanship.

We must expect truth and honesty to be stronger than lies and deceit.

We must accept nothing less than what is right being more important than what is politically expedient. 

So join me in helping Charlie win this fight. Please.

Order a yard sign. Because  every show of support counts.

Give to the cause. Because every single dollar counts.

Sign up to volunteer. Because every vote counts.

We can do this.

We can actually elect someone who’s in it for the right reason.

We can elect Charlie Bailey to be Georgia’s next Attorney General.

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Stand with Charlie — Stand Up for Georgia.

Charlie Bailey has been talking for a long time — about 34 years to be exact — since he was about a year old.

And, as his mama, I’ve heard him do a lot of  that talking.

But now, I’m really listening to what he’s saying about why he is running for attorney general here in his home state.

I hear him tout his qualifications of being a senior gang prosecutor in Fulton County and why that is so important to his ability to fight the war against organized crime in Georgia.

I hear him speak about the opioid epidemic here and how nothing is being done by the current AG to thwart this deadly tsunami. I hear him promise not only to sue the pharmaceutical companies who marketed the poison but also to build addiction treatment centers across the state.

I hear him talk about how over four million Georgians with pre-existing conditions could lose their health insurance because Chris Carr (Georgia’s figurehead top prosecutor now) has joined other AG’s across the nation in bringing suit against the Affordable Care Act.

But most importantly, I hear him tell his listeners that if they are tired of elected officials who care more about their pocketbooks than the welfare of Georgians, they now have a candidate who is an authentic people’s candidate. 

If deep pocket donors control the vote, do you really believe the politician they buy gives a hoot about you?

If a candidate takes large sums of money from cable companies and pharmaceutical companies, do you really believe that politician is going to fight those entities if they take advantage of Georgians?

If a candidate determines his talking points because someone in Washington tells him what to say, is that politician acting on behalf of his constituents?

The answer to all of those questions is unequivocally, “No.”

Charlie’s donor list is made up of people like you.

Over 1,200 folks have dug deep and contributed to the cause, with the average donation being about $300.

This, my friends, is truly a grassroots campaign.

This, my friends, is how we the people take back our government and our state from corruption and greed.

Charlie is in this race because he knows he can make a difference in the lives of everyday Georgians. He is in this race because he knows the attorney general is the one elected official in Georgia who can stand between us and the outside forces who seek to make money at the expense of everyday people.

And I can promise you that Charlie is fiercely independent and will do what is just and legal. He will do what is right — not what is politically expedient.

But he needs your help. It takes $2 million to run a statewide campaign, and by this Saturday, we need to reach the half million mark. And we can do it if you join the team and give what you can. Every single dollar makes a difference and every single donor becomes part of a real effort — not just a corporate-funded exercise to maintain the political status quo.

Many of you have already unselfishly given, but I am asking all of you to pitch in and help us win this race.

Regardless of your party affiliation, if you’re sick and tired of your best interest not being represented, stand with Charlie.

I promise that you’ll never regret it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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She’s Dancing in the Stars

As long as I can remember, dancing and I have been inseparable — it was the thing that set me free and made me feel safe…at the same time.

I started taking lessons when I was two. It was 1953 and Miss Mary Roth taught in the old Chipley Elementary School gym. When I was four, I started taking from Mrs. Mary Cleveland in LaGrange and continued there until I left Harris County High in 1968.

We mostly did tap dancing…there was a little ballet thrown in. But the main course was good old-fashioned tapping to Broadway music. Miss Mary Cleveland, as I called her, loved her some show tunes.

I even majored in dance at UGA for one year. But the department was part of the  physical education curriculum — and teaching P.E. in school was not what I had in mind. I wanted to perform.

In addition, the UGA School of Dance emphasized the modern genre. The music was weird and nobody smiled on stage.

I was definitely a fish out of water.

So I put down my dancing shoes for five years and promptly gained about 20 pounds. Yikes…I’m not too tall and 20 pounds on me is like 50 on most folks. I wanted to change what the scales said. Motivation, however, eluded me. .

But when I left C&S Bank and took a job as the advertising manager for The Athens Observer, the opportunity to dance again came my way.

One of my coworkers told me about a dance teacher I really needed to meet.

So I went to Mell Street Studio and introduced myself to Gail. As soon as she saw me move my feet, it was love at first sight. She took me under her wing and encouraged me. She challenged me to dance in a way I had never done before.

She taught me about my center — the physical one in my diaphragm that needed to be the strongest muscle in my body. She turned my classical ballet illiteracy into a good, basic knowledge of my body’s strength and resilience.

And getting stronger made my tap dancing on point. Pun intended.

But she also taught me about having an emotional center — that core in our being from whence our little light shines. She taught me to breathe into my center all the good I could hold and exhale all the bad energy.

She literally gave me the tools that have helped me survive the darkest times of my life.

And I loved her dearly.

She was my mentor — my idol.

I wanted to be just like her.

But we lost her this week — her sweet spirit crossed over Monday. 

And we all weep…all of those lives she touched, challenged and encouraged.

We all weep.

But I know she’s singing and dancing somewhere — as full of life as she was in her studio.

So this one’s for you, Gail — a giant of a person in the body of a sprite…the sweetest of sweet spirits.

“She’s Dancing in the Stars”

She’s dancing in the stars and shining with the sun,

Endlessly living a life that’s just begun.

Flying like the wind and singing with the trees,

She disguises her touch as a springtime  breeze.

The pain of losing her is deep and sad,

As empty a feeling as I have ever had.

But her love is in my heart and will always be,

As precious as the sweet dancing one was to me.

ballet-ballet-shoes

 

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My Son: Georgia’s Next Attorney General

 

Ok.

I know I’m his mama, but…

…he’s got what it takes to be an excellent attorney general — ethics, experience, and a deep love for his home state. And regardless of one’s political affiliation, I imagine most folks believe that Georgia’s top cop needs to know the law and enforce it regardless of  what other elected officials might want him to do.

And Charlie doesn’t hesitate to stand up for that which he knows is right and just. He was just born that way.

And, of course, I could not be prouder.

Now his campaign is in full gear, and I’m learning quickly how important every single vote and contribution are.

After you read about Charlie, if you want a personal call from him, email me with your contact info,  and I’ll make sure that happens.

We’ll also welcome any campaign volunteers. There’s nothing more powerful than people working to get out the vote.

And if you are inspired to make a donation — and no donation is too small — here is my fundraising site.

We look forward to a busy, yet rewarding, seven months.

Charlie Bailey for Georgia.

 

 

 

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