Who knew there was a day set aside for HAPPINESS? Yes, March 20 is International Day of Happiness. I guess I’ll spread a little more happiness today, just because. See, I’m happy everyday. Not trying to be happy, not waiting to be happy, not trying to find happy, but I live in happiness everyday. I’ve come to learn that happiness isn’t acquired; it is a state of being.
Now you might ask what makes me happy? Let’s see if you’re ready for this. So, folks who know me think I’m this glamorous designer-clad woman. And I am. But I realize that though I love my designer duds, I’m happiest doing really mundane, silly, anything-but-glamorous things. Here’s a case in point: We have three dogs: Cesar the 80-pound Beauceron; Ziggy the wholly overweight 30-pound Lhaso Apso and Jack the 4-pound Terrier. Now let’s talk excrements. I have the glamorous job of cleaning up, one I chose so no complaints here. I’ve been lamenting the efficiency of the pooper-scooper we had so yesterday Claude came home with a brand-spanking new Hound Dog. Bright yellow handles, shiny stainless steel bucket, yes, I couldn’t wait to test drive my new pooper-scooper. I mean I couldn’t wait for the dogs (or as I call them my boys) to do their business. And I didn’t have to wait too long, like clockwork they delivered: poop to be scooped. I could have beaten Usain Bolt in my dash to grab the Hound Dog. And I could have taken home Dancing With The Stars’ Mirror Ball Trophy for my happy dance. Hound Dog worked like a charm. It is the Cadillac of pooper-scoopers as far as I’m concerned.
Then after the successful test drive, I continued my morning ritual of tending my flowers. I love flowers and ensure my yard displays that love. Claude, the ever-wanting-to-please-his-woman man whom I adore, amuses me every time I ask for flowers to be put in impossible places. He’s made amazing brightly colored wooden flower boxes that adorn the wooden fence. He has painstakingly affixed seemingly dead orchids to this tree and that tree. Now the same orchids are in full bloom, as they do every year without an ounce of care from us. They just keep coming back! Anyway, in addition to the orchids there are impatiens, pansies, roses; you get the picture. I think part of the reason I love tending the flowers is it gives me a really intimate view of Mother Nature. I get the see the ants and the bees and the worms and the insects go about their daily life of surviving. And each time a see ants in neat orderly lines, carrying leaves to who knows where, my heart smiles ever so brightly at the awe of life—whether insect or human.
I keep my poinsettias from year to year. Recently, I noticed that a few of them were being eaten at lightning speed. On close inspection I saw scores of caterpillars busy trying to make it to the next stage of their lives. I didn’t want to lose all my poinsettias nor did I want to kill the caterpillars so I reverted to something we did as children: put the caterpillars in a container and set aside one poinsettia that would be their food. As part of my morning routine, I now feed the caterpillars and watch them inch their way to butterflies. It is a ritual that has brought such immense joy, one that has brought back that intense feeling of awe at the beauty and mystery of nature. It is a ritual that, having seen nature so intimately, makes it so difficult to kill any living thing. Well, rats, flies and roaches are still on death row for now. Maybe one day soon they’ll get paroled but right now there is no stay of execution for my disease carrying friends. No hard feelings guys, but it’s you are me—survival of the fittest!
So you see, the glamorous life is rooted in an appreciation of the small stuff like a new pooper-scooper. I’m grateful for a life that allows me an intimate view of the birds and the bees and the ants and caterpillars and worms—all doing what we all do, go about daily life!
This article is written by Julie Marie Mansfield, founder of Give Me Dignity & author of 'Maybe God Was Busy.'
So I’m getting ready to head out when publicist Yvette Nicol Harris tagged me in her Facebook post, “Who is protecting our children?” I was wholly unprepared for what I was about to read in a headline titled, ‘Former Teacher Admits To Raping 12-Year-Old Student But Won’t Go To Jail.’ And why is this woman entrusted with the protection and education of children not being made to pay for destroying this student’s life? Oh yea, because jail time would cause her health to deteriorate! Meanwhile no mention of the victim’s state of mind or rehabilitation was made.
I’m utterly outraged right now, because sadly this is not the first case in which a predator’s health made him/her immune to jail. In this instance, according to opposingviews.com, 34-year-old Keshia Shaw, an admitted sexual predator and child rapist has been sentenced to just six months of house arrest “because her health has been deteriorating due to multiple sclerosis.” And whose burden is that to bear? Is it not the child rapist’s? Why the hell should we care about her medical condition when she showed no mercy in pouncing on a child entrusted to her care? Why show her compassion for virtually destroying a young boy’s life? Just as the world continues to go after Nazis, no matter their health condition, why are we not treating these predators with venom? They are destroying lives. What they do is not just ‘a little sex.’ They are handing their victims a life sentence, one filled with a host of negative behaviors including shame, self-blame, guilt, low self-esteem, no self worth, promiscuity, depression, addictions and suicidal leanings—and those (we) are the lucky ones. For some, being preyed upon is a literal death sentence. We need only to look at the suicide rate among victims of childhood sexual abuse.
Now, sexual predator Keshia Shaw gets to spend six months in her own house, surrounded by her young children. Really? And yea, she must undergo treatment. Have they offered treatment for the victim?
Forgive me if I’ve gone off on a tangent but when the system cares more about a predator’s health than that of the ravages inflicted on victims, I can’t help but question our priorities. Our children are worth more than the concerns for predators. With sentences like these, we are encouraging our children not to come forward as little or nothing will be done. We are telling them they’re worth nothing. We are telling them the adult perpetrators are entitled to abuse of power and trust. We are telling our children they are here for the sexual gratification—no matter how perverse—of adults who prey.
For goodness sake, let’s all start demanding punishment commensurate with the hell inflicted on victims of childhood sexual abuse. Let’s start showing our kids their protection and safety are more important than the health conditions of sexual predators. Let’s start treating sexual abuse like the crime it is—it is NOT just a little touch or a little sex, it’s a crime!
March has been quite the month so far. And how appropriate as it is Women’s History Month. I started the month with a book signing of Maybe God Was Busy, and was ecstatic at the outpouring of support from my friends, some of whom spent hours in rush-hour traffic. A simple thank you seems limp, yet it is all I can say: Thank you for your love and support!
That book-signing event was indeed magical. We cried. We laughed. We celebrated. One of the highlights of the evening came quite unexpectedly. Someone had asked the question about protecting my daughters and though I wrote openly about them, with their permission, I hadn’t sought permission to ‘talk’ about them, especially when they’re present. Well, as I tried to answer the question, my eldest, Jenee, surprised us all when she took to the microphone and acknowledge her abuse, and comforted me as she saw I was struggling not to ‘out her’ in her presence. Needless to say I broke down in tears and took refuge in her embrace and in her telling the audience how proud she was of this leg of my journey. Yea, a mother being comforted and reassured by her daughter. It was a power that was palpable, and I think we both recognized that moment as cathartic, as being emblematic of how my role as mother has been redefined as my girls became women.
I’m amazed at Jenee’s strength, poise, spirit, capacity to love and forgive, and perhaps most of all, her resolve not to be defined or imprisoned by the abuse inflicted on her. At only 24 years old, she has the fortitude, courage and self-awareness I only found in my forties. Truth be told, she has become my teacher in truly learning the art of letting go and forgiveness and self-care. She has become my example of a strong, beautiful, empathetic, loving soul. My daughter has become my beacon for a life not confined to the ravages of childhood sexual abuse.
My Jenee, keep smiling from the soul; it radiates an authenticity that leaves no room for forgery. I would often say aloud ‘what I might have been had I not been messed with,’ and your constant reminder to look at what I am despite being messed with is evidence of your ability to see ourselves not as victims but as the fierce and fabulous women that we are. Keep your light bright and keep saying no, there is so much power in say no when what is being asked of you contradicts your moral or personal codes. Your ability to say no, without offering explanations or excuses, is one of your greatest strengths. I salute you Jenee, in this the month set aside to celebrate women. You are my phenomenal woman!