Questions To Consider When Choosing

Instead of emailing these questions, I thought it might be best to post them here in case other folks might need some assistance in their thought process when choosing their Mala. Hopefully these general questions will help narrow your focus (and mine for those that have asked me to create a custom piece for them) and get you started on the right path. Once these are answered we can direct focus to specific needs.

1. Are you going to be wearing this piece or is it solely for meditation?

2. If yes, do you prefer a necklace or a bracelet?

3. If no, would you like a long traditional Mala or something shorter?

4. Do you have texture issues, meaning when touching things are you queeged out by rough things?

5. Would you prefer a tassel or just a simple bead to end it?

6. Is this piece something that needs to stand up to a lot of wear and tear or will it be stationary when not being used during practice?

7. Are you more drawn to dark or light colors?

8. Are you more drawn to earth tones, warm tones, cool tones, brights or metallics?

9. Would you prefer to have your energy focused on one specific issue per piece, a small set of issues per piece or as many as you can throw at it?

10. Would you say your energy is chaotic during meditation or does it seem to trail off?

11. Do lots of different colors and textures tend to distract you?

12. Does a singular color palette calm you?

13. Do you find holding heavy things in your hands soothing or annoying?

14. Does the faint click of beads knocking together annoy you in any way?

15. Would you prefer the string be a contrasting or complimentary color?

I’m going to put together some more direct questions too but I think those are likely more individual and won’t work in a broad audience. I’ll try and see how it goes for now, I’m putting this up here. Hopefully it helps to get you started, please let me know if you have any questions!

Mala bead meanings

So now that I’ve given a general overview on Malas and meditation using them, I thought I would give a little greater detail on the beads I used in my current pieces.

The first one
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Lava is tied to the Root Chakra which is grounding and signifies strength and clarity (by rooting scattered energy).

Amethyst is tied to the Crown Chakra and is a master healing stone. It works to dispel nightmares, strengthens psychic energies, relieves stress and promotes clarity.

Howlite is tied to the Heart Chakra and is for spiritual attunement. It’s also soothing and helps calm an overactive mind. Works to build character.

Hematite is tied to the Root Chakra and is for balance and stability. It restores equilibrium and a sense of self. Deflects negativity and increases will.

Turquoise is tied to the Throat Chakra and is for protection. It encourages communication between the heart and mind, cleansing the aura and balance between Yin and Yang. Capricorn stone.

So if you look at what I put together there you can see I feel scattered, stressed, out of balance and am seeking healing, protection and calm. I need grounding and stability. I need protection and to feel safe in communicating what is in my heart and in my mind.

The second one

Cowrie Shell is tied to the Goddess Lakshmi and is for prosperity.

Zebra Jade is tied to the Root Chakra and is for adjusting to new situations or changes. A good stone for matters of the home.

Green Adventurine is tied to the Heart Chakra and is for releasing old habits, balancing emotional harmony and finding inner peace.

Rose Quartz is tied to the Heart Chakra and is for compassion and tenderness. It’s also responsible for diffusing negative stimuli and uncomfortable memories.

Howlite is tied to the Heart Chakra and is for spiritual attunement. It’s also soothing and helps calm an overactive mind.

Jasper is tied to the Root Chakra and is for grounding. It’s also about methodical, practical, down to earth solutions to problems and known as the supreme nurturer.

Soapstone is tied to the Sacral Chakra and is for use when undergoing great changes. It’s for cultivating a new loving environment and being prepared with a new calm energy

And if you look at what I put together there it’s all about being prosperous in matters of the heart, diffusing uncomfortable memories, being open to new experiences/relationships and approaching it with compassion and tenderness. It’s also about not losing myself in the midst of all of it and being grounded and nurtured.

Both of these encompass what has been going on in my life. Between the reconnection with my brother and his present situation, my health issues, the dog’s health issues and Sprog’s school/work stuff. I have all aspects of my life covered in two lengths of beads. Pretty interesting, no?

Getting into a Mala

If you are into yoga at all, you may have heard of or seen an item used in meditation called a Mala. I am no expert but here is what I have learned. It’s a collection of beads (either 21, 27 or 108 and a Guru bead) used to help keep focus during meditation by keeping count during the recitation of mantras. In addition, depending on the type of beads used, Malas have the added benefit of energy work (semi precious/gemstones/shells/rocks) or color therapy (glass). Typically, you skip the guru bead when beginning your meditations, say a final prayer on the guru when make it all the way round and go the opposite direction when you resume your work. If you need to pause or know you aren’t going to do the full round, stopping at 27 or 54 is a good way to do it, then you’d just pick up at the next bead and continue forward when next you practice.

So how does one choose a Mala? Well there are really three ways you can go about doing this 1) look at a bunch of them and select one that calls out to you 2) identify specific issues you are having and wish to address and choose one that meets those or 3) create your own (either actually homemade or custom made by someone else). The basic premise is that if you truly give yourself over to the process of selecting one premade, the right one will call out to you. But how does one really give themselves over? And how do you know that you didn’t just pick something because it’s pretty? Well, in answer to the second, you don’t, not really. There isn’t anything wrong with that IMO because you might find that something you picked because you just thought it was pretty actually turned out to have deeper qualities in the stones. To give yourself over, I recommend ignoring the name and just looking at the picture. Scan them quickly and notice any that grab your attention, any that you may want to go back to more than once. THEN look at the name and the description of the stones to weed it down further.

I use this same basic premise when making my own. I went through my own stash of beads at home and selected the two guru beads that called out to me: a lava bead and a cowrie shell. Then I went to a hobby store and looked through their beads to see what I might want to use for the rest of it. I stood in front of the beads for A LONG TIME and touched any that called out to me. I pulled several varieties and held them in my hands lined up next to one another like this

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and then I would research each bead on the internet to see why it called out to me. If you do a simple google search on the type of bead + meaning or mala meaning you’ll get many links directing you to what that specific stone is used for in meditation or crystal work. Some of the results will even boil a specific stone down based on your Astrological sign, like Turquoise being the stone for Capricorn (which I am).


Putting the Mala together is a combination of aesthetics and stone properties. I try to make sure that the piece feels balanced to me. I also find that I like using all stones versus the traditional seed + stone or wood + stone varieties. It makes them less wearable (they are much longer due to the larger stone size) but I prefer the heavier weight for focusing and the cool sensation in my hands.

Sprog helped me design this grid layout when I made my first one

and I found it so helpful I used it for the second one

Now, some people may have only one, but I like having specific needs addressed and knowing that I can reach for the energy I need to match what I have going on in my life.

When I use my beads

I pull from meditations I have done in my Chakra class, one of the easiest to get into the practice is So Hum which translates to “I Am That” or “I Am All That Is”. On your inhale you think the word So. On your exhale you think the word Hum. Or you can think the translations: inhale-I Am, exhale-That or All That Is. Doing this meditation while counting means that each bead would be an inhale or an exhale. Take your time and go slowly. You don’t want to rush your breath so you end up hyperventilating. Nice slow measured breathing and thoughts.

Your meditation could be simpler still, one word, the word of the Chakra you need to work like saying Om. Or your meditation could involve a personal mantra/affirmation. What mantra/affirmation gives you peace or applies to your life right now? Do you need to heal? “I am healing everyday” Do you need strength? “I am stronger everyday” Do you need calm? “I breathe calm into myself” Do you need clarity? “I see things more clearly every day” Do you need comfort? “I unburden my soul everyday” Do you need balance? “I am supported by the ground underneath me” Do you need compassion? “I accept the things I cannot change with grace”. Each bead would be the entire saying.

The point of meditation is to give your mind and body a connection point, a break from the craziness of schedules, menus, bills, arguments, tantrums and a focus. It doesn’t have to be any one thing. There is no right or wrong, really, only what is right or wrong for you. And if you find your mind wandering, the beads between your fingers are a grounding point that pulls you back.

There are different connections for specific fingers but again, I say do whatever feels most comfortable to you, unless you are on the path for becoming a practicing monk, then of course you would want to do your meditation correctly using only blessed beads.

Oh and before I forget, if you ever get a funky feeling from your stones, like handling them makes you feel off or bad in anyway? There is likely some residual bad energy there, you can clear your stones by soaking them in salt. You want to try to only handle your stones when you aren’t filled with rage or sorrow, so if you are feeling like that (and really that’s when a lot of us need time on the mat the most) try taking a few deep cleansing breaths before you even take them in your hands.

I hope this helped, if you have questions, please ask, I’ll do my best to get you answers. I’m going to be attending a full 7 week Chakra workshop complete with book work and I’m sure that will add a lot to my knowledge.

Yes All Women-Conversations With A Teenaged Male

I’ve been doing a lot of reading since the UCSB shooting. I have of course read a lot of tweets, as I mentioned, but I have also read a lot of stories on blogs. I have read a lot of columns and articles. I have seen very different thought processes, very different opinions, very different judgements. I have seen lots of accusations of generalization and wrong placed blame. I have been completely and utterly flabbergasted by at least one of them and thankfully my handy dandy unfollow button was right there when I needed it. I have posted a couple of my stories. I have also been doing a lot of talking. I have talked to the men in my life about what I am involved in, because that’s what you do, but also because it’s important that THEY know.

This morning, instead of talking, I did some questioning and then a whole lot of listening.

Sprog and I had a conversation, that started off having absolutely nothing to do with this. We found out this morning that they dropped his math class yesterday, the one he is supposed to start on Monday. MONDAY. I only found out because I went into his account pay for his book rental and noticed one class on his schedule. Funny, my credit card was surely charged for 2. He checked his email, nothing. I finally found the notification buried in his account but he likely would’ve shown up there on Monday to an empty room had I not waited to pay for his books until this week. There is no other class offered at his campus in the times we need. So we had to make a quick decision as to how to handle this situation and as is our way, one conversation piggy backs into many other things.

We talked about a situation with his friend that is frustrating all of us. We talked about his frustrations here at home and how he reacts to them. How a different tac in talking to us might get him better results. We talked about being more understanding that OTHERS are frustrated and dealing with things too and if you know that you are reactionary, might you not offer them the same leeway? Because if you tell me you snapped like that because you are mad at something else but then can’t accept when someone else is probably doing the same thing? Nope. That isn’t going to work for any of us. Earlier this week I was tweeting about him driving me to sigh so deep it went all the way to my toes.

At one point after we had hashed out any number of issues, I asked him from a teenage boy perspective why he thinks this sort of thing happens, why he thinks we have a rape culture and about being “manly”. Here are some of his observations and opinions (I’ll add where I asked additional questions in italics):

-Here’s what I think it is, at least as far as “No Means No” when I was a kid, you told me No, right? And when you told me No, you meant NO. I couldn’t weasel my way out of it, I couldn’t push back on it, NO was NO and that was that. In my head it set a boundary and an understanding that once a boundary is set, I don’t cross it. So these kids that have parents that tell them No but then give in, or let them get away with it? It puts in their mind that No never means No because they are eventually going to get their way. Because they’ve always gotten their way and even when they do something wrong, they aren’t really going to get into trouble for it, so who cares. It’s like why I still tell you when I’ve done something I know you aren’t going to be happy with and my friends are like DUDE SHUT UP SHE WON’T KNOW and yet I tell you anyway. I mean yeah we fight and have fought and yeah it sucks to have rules and stuff but you need them.

-They probably also have parents that were never really THERE for them. That never really took the time to make sure what they were doing, who they were hanging out with, who they were/are. All the stuff that makes me crazy but is also really good for me. I know you are ALWAYS there for me. I know if I need help, you’ll get it for me. I know you’ll try. Like I have people that will never give up on me. You have to have compassion.

-And we have people like Rick Ross, that has a song about slipping drugs in a girls drink and raping her, like it’s a good thing, like he’s proud of himself. Not cool. I was so happy when Reebok yanked their endorsement money from him. He’s all like I love those Reeboks though and they’re like you’re a rapist, no money for you.

-And that whole “but she was wearing” thing? That’s so stupid. You can’t judge people by what they have on the outside or how they like to dress. People would look at me and think I’m a druggie or a dirtbag. Am I either of those things? No. It’s not about that.

But what about those people that say she was asking for it? Like in her body language.
-Please. That’s ridiculous. No one is going to ASK for that. You can’t ASK for someone to do something AGAINST YOUR WILL. Stupid.

-And how can you ASK for something if you are passed out or drugged or drunk? Stupid. Stupid.

-And these guys that do that? That drug a girl and take advantage of her and then brag about it? Ooohh let me have mad respect for the way that you actually had to TRY to get that girl, that you had to have GAME, that you had to CARE for a second, oh wait, that’s right you did none of those things. What are you bragging about again? Being trash? Got it.

What about people that think it’s because boys are raised to be aggressive, like through sports or whatever
-Yeah, well, that’s about the parents wanting to mold something into who they never were or couldn’t be. Like all these dads that want their sons to do the glory days they never got FOR THEM. You can’t live through your kids, they have to live their lives.

What about the outside influences of the media and celebrity and stuff. Like this is what a man is, this is what a woman should try to be. People blame a lot of stuff on that
-True and there’s a lot of stuff out there but if that’s all there was, I wouldn’t have long hair, I wouldn’t wear my beanie. I would be trying to be some Abercrombie dude to get all the chicks, right? You taught me to be strong and be myself. Pressing up on someone that isn’t into you, weak.

-And look, I’m playing a violent video game right now, does that mean I’m violent? No. IT’S A GAME. Watch. Oh look I’m running from the cops, now they are probably going to shoot me in the back. Yep. I’m dead. Wait for it. Oh hey, look I’m alive again and it only cost me $5000 because that’s OBVIOUSLY going to work in real life?

-I think a lot of kids just don’t know what the world is actually like, like don’t even get me started on what’s happening in Russia right now. You want to bitch and cry because you don’t have the latest phone or new shoes or your mom took away your game? People have worse problems.

Um. You cried when I took away your game. You bitched when you got grounded sir
-Well yeah, I was a little kid, that’s different. You can’t say you’re grown and act like baby that didn’t get their way all the time.

I am always proud of my son but some days he really blows me away.

Yes All Women Cont. (TRIGGER WARNING)

Yesterday’s story was pretty clear cut, a father doesn’t rape his daughter. It’s “easy” to be strong in that case. It’s CLEAR where the lines of right and wrong, lines of BLAME are, you know? But when it’s not? What then? Because a lot of the stories I am reading are of women who have been raped or molested or groped or abused, in short VIOLATED, but because of circumstances feel doubt, feel culpable in their own attacks. Here’s what I know (now obviously) the lines are always clear. Even if you feel they are fuzzy because you were in a relationship, you may have just wanted the guy, you may have been drinking, you may even have come on to him, you may have been drunk. It doesn’t matter. It reallly doesn’t because in the end no one WANTS to be violated. NO ONE wants to feel these things after sex, to have these questions PLAGUE THEM. No one wants to have future sexual relationships and reactions TAINTED. Going a step further when you are no longer making your own choices, either through alcohol, being drugged, coercion or force and someone else is still in control? THERE IS A LINE.

But sometimes even when you see the line, when you know the line is well trampled over, when you hate yourself and him, you stay.

Especially if you are already “damaged goods” (thanks mom) the cycle of abuse is a thing people discuss for a reason. My therapist called it my “freak beacon” It’s real and overwhelming. It starts small. A boundary crossing RIGHT FROM THE GET that is disguised as a romantic gesture. It’s a test, they always test how far they can push you once they have you, but they have to know if you are one of the ones that can even be pushed in the first place. In my case a senior who had been picking on me in photography class, broke into my locker and removed all of my possessions. But. That’s obviously fine, right? Because he left me a rose. SO ROMANTIC. Me now wants to shake past me SO HARD for this moment. Even then there was a little voice wayyyyyy back screaming at me but all my friends were soooooooo jealous. Sooooooo completely over the moon for this move and he was a SENIOR. Plus and lets be honest, given my past I was pretty damn desperate for “love”. The boyfriend I had just prior to this situation was also older than me, had tried to have sex with with me but was thwarted by a tampon (because NO didn’t slow him a bit) and yet I didn’t dump him for that, I dumped him because I found out he was repeating a grade and lied about it. To 15 year old me boundary crossing and having no respect for me? JUST FINE. Being a dumbass? NOT ACCEPTABLE.

But back to “the high school boyfriend” aka pyscho, he eventually won me over and we were a solid item. We dated for 3 months before the first time we attempted to have sex. He got ANGRY AT ME because I “didn’t bleed” which of course meant I wasn’t a virgin, that I was a LIAR. So I explained what happened to me. I explained that I still called myself a virgin because until I CHOSE to have sex with someone for the first time, it wasn’t the same thing. He was instantly apologetic and caring and SO ANGRY at my father but looking back? I think that was the moment he knew he had me. I was “weak”, I was “tormented”, I could be manipulated and abused and all he had to do was act like he cared. Act like I mattered. Pretend to not be that guy.

There was a lot of stupid teen drama and stupid teen desperation in our relationship. We broke up and got back together a lot. But I also ended up pregnant at 16 by him and I KNEW that it was a bad, bad thing. I was willing to let myself be treated like shit and possibly (definitely) be hurt but there was no way in hell I would let a child be damaged. I had an abortion and it didn’t go well for me. I got very sick after. I was bleeding A LOT and since I was keeping it all a huge secret from my mother and my step-dad and all of my friends, I trusted him to take care of me. Which is how I ended up in a bathtub at my boyfriend’s house, trying to bring my fever down, and being raped.

He stopped when I screamed out in pain but I was weak and defenseless and he took advantage of that situation. His apologies were immediate and profuse. “He lost control of himself” “He’s just been so overwhelmed with our situation that he doesn’t even know himself anymore” “He just loves me so much and is so WORRIED ABOUT ME that he NEEDED TO BE CLOSE TO ME” “You’re just so beautiful that sometimes I can’t take it” “It will never happen again. I will be so perfect, you’ll see”

At some point in all his attempts to “make it up to me” he started working in his fear about leaving me when he graduated from high school. His fear of leaving me with my mother who obviously hated me and that my father was still out there and could hurt me. How he wouldn’t be able to protect me. (PROTECT ME) Always these nagging fears. Always these reasons I NEEDED him.

My junior year all of my friends pretty much abandoned me. Wouldn’t even talk to me in the halls. Wouldn’t look at me. I was alone. Except for him. How perfect for him! He didn’t even have to work to alienate me from people, they did it for him.

My senior year my mother kicked me out of the house and then he had me all to himself. We had an apartment together. I worked full time and went to school. He was always scheming. He was gone a lot late nights and never really telling me what was going on. I was working my ass off trying to keep us afloat and not fail out of school so he got away with a lot and I felt all the more isolated and lonely. And then his day in court came up. In the early days he told me that he had this “thing” that may or may not end up going to court that stemmed from a fight he got into with some dude. That they were fairly certain they could get it dropped but “just in case” I needed to know what happened and what might happen. See, he was a child of privilege and his mommy and step-daddy were doing everything they could to get this “taken care of” because obvs he’s innocent.

Cut to court when they read the charges and the plaintiff is not a man. NOT A MAN. A woman. A WOMAN. Court turned into a huge goat rodeo. He fainted on the stand and actually had to be taken out in an ambulance because of the history of heart disease in there family (his sister got a pace maker in her 20’s) and while I’m standing there with his step-father trying to parse what the fuck just happened, it dawns on Gary (the step-father) that he didn’t tell me it was a woman. That I DIDN’T KNOW. In that moment of shock and confusion Gary could’ve told me the truth, he could’ve cut me the fuck loose but instead he took that opportunity to convince me it was a lie. To use his medical evidence (that’s what he was doing there and what he did for a living) to sway me back into the fold. Gary knew what he was, they all did, hell later on when I finally did end it for good the psycho’s own FATHER told me he didn’t blame me and he felt bad I stayed so long because they loved me and knew it was bad for me to be with their son.

Part of me feels bad that it took me another year. I stayed while he went to jail. I stayed when he basically cut out on me, our apartment and bills to go run some scheme in California. I stayed knowing he cheated on me. I moved to Texas to be with him (likely more to get the hell away from my family). I stayed after another rape. I left when I found the crystal meth addiction started, the paranoia started, the threats escalated, the hate escalated. That even after I “left” I was stuck living with him for a month because I didn’t know ANYONE here but his family. That even after I left for good he stalked me. He stole my car (more than once). That he slammed my head into a car window one of the times I got my car back from him. That he told me he was HIV positive so that I wouldn’t sleep with anyone else. That he told me he had cancer to try to get me to come back and take care of him. That when NONE of that worked, he went and found a girl that looked so much like me my brother (the one here, not biological one) mistook her for me at a record store and then called me to warn me because it freaked him out. That he took out his residual shit about me on her, I know this, she called me. He kept a box of all of my photos (he took them when I left him) clothes and UNDERWEAR under their bed. UNDER THEIR BED.

The other part of me? Well. If I didn’t move to Texas, would I have my Sprog? If I didn’t go through all that with him, would I still be in the headspace from my childhood that would allow someone else to do this or worse? If I didn’t go through all that, would I have had the strength to leave Sprog’s father when I did? If I didn’t stay in Texas, would I have ever met Willy?

Either way, I can say this: my freak beacon is off. That cycle is done and those days are OVER. The “cycle of abuse” ended with me and if I had to go through all of that so that my son is kind, healthy, happy, respectful, loved and loving? So be it. I am my experiences but I am also the knowledge that I am more than they ever were.

Yes All Women (TRIGGER WARNING)

You know by now about the UCSB shooter (he doesn’t get his name here) about his entitled bullshit rants and woman-hating manifesto, about the tragic murders he committed, about his completely ridiculous and just beyond the pale videos. What you may or may not be aware of is a hashtag on Twitter #YesAllWomen where woman have responded to this event by sharing stories of living with abuse, fear and misogyny. Women have posted on their blogs sharing their stories. Friends have shared their struggles. And it’s been hard. And it’s been uplifting. And it’s made me angry because these woman have been trolled. The internet once again proves itself by anything good being a call to have it sullied by the anony hiding behind their keyboards and getting a good laugh out of being giant fuckwads. Thanks for proving the entire reasoning behind the hashtag in one go, really, we didn’t need you to prove it so well, so fast, but thanks for that.

I have tweeted along with them, somehow avoiding trolling along the way (still not sure how this has happened) sharing stories from my life. I have so many it has been hard for me to decide how many, which ones, to not feel spammy. That sounds like I’m trying to medal in some kind of pain olympics here but it’s just my reality. 140 characters isn’t enough to tell the whole story on any of the events but oddly that’s okay. It’s been harder for me to write about them here than there. I think because laying it out long form opens the pictures too clearly in my mind. These are the things that I have been through but these are not the things on which I dwell. And also because I know that not everyone is able to handle my being so blunt about my past. I have seen it in the faces of people when I lay it out for them. I have seen the shock and the hurt (for me) and then I worry for them.

I am blunt, in part, because my rapists are both dead. They absolutely can’t physically hurt me ever again, even though they couldn’t emotionally for a very long time before either of them passed. I am blunt because I worked really hard at removing their power over me. Not by forgiving them because FUCK THAT but by realizing it’s not MY SHAME. Do I still have triggers? Do TV shows and movies still use horribly violent rapes as a “go-to”? That’d be a big ol yes. Aramis cologne and Coors Beer are two smells that are very bad news for me. But I also KNOW that they didn’t break me and neither did the people that would/did tell me to keep quiet. That would blame me. That would try to find a way to heap the shame onto my shoulders. Including my own inner dialogue. No. NO.

For every person who has looked at me like I’m the worst person in the world because I cut my parents out of my life? Some of us have monsters for parents. Some of us are betrayed by the people you are supposed to trust most in this world. Some of us are taught by the man you are supposed to look up to as an example of the treatment you should expect for yourself, that you are just interchangeable with all the rest of them, something to be used up and thrown away.

Because in normal homes a dad doesn’t accept his drunk friends making a “joke” list of who gets first crack at his daughter when she turns 18. But in my home this is the sort of thing that happens to you at the party of one of his friends. It was a lobster boil. The littler kids were putting the lobsters on the kitchen floor to race them. They had been flown all the way in from Maine and it was a huge deal. I was expected to be “beer bitch” and keep on top of everyone’s beer. And then someone made a comment TO MY FATHER about how I was growing up to be “quite a looker” and how he was going to have to “look out for me” one day. The someone else pipes up that if they “kept it in the family, that’d solve that problem”. And lo some genius demands “DIBS”. They actually bickered about it to the point that a legal pad of paper was slapped down on the pool table. I was told I should be “flattered”. I was told to “relax” and “lighten up” about their jokes. The first name on the list was my dad’s roommate since he got custody of us, a man I had known since I was four. Horrified isn’t a big enough word. Terrified that one of them was going to rape me? Absolutely.

The fact that my father didn’t stop it? That my father didn’t protect me? Maybe that should’ve told me that he was more dangerous to me than any of them. I slept with a knife under my pillow after he raped me. I almost killed myself but then my brother would’ve been left alone with him, so I got us both out. When I testified against him in family court, I stood outside with my therapist and listened to him call me a liar. Listened to him tell them that I had been brainwashed by my mother. The therapist looked me in the eye, shook his head and held my hand. The thing is, he probably really doesn’t remember. He was always drunk and high out of his mind when he came after me. He no longer saw me, he only saw his ex girlfriend, the one that left him, left us. He called me by her name. It’s unfortunate that everyone thought she was my mother when they were together. We really did look that much alike in the first place. How sick is that? Anyway. Because it took me so long to come forward, there wasn’t any physical evidence and they forced me to have supervised visits with him.

I tried refusing but they were mandated by the court so on our very first visit I baited his rage until he flipped over a chair trying to attack me. Restraining order issued, supervised visits ended. I also got a very stern talking to by the therapist in charge (different than the guy that stood up for me in court, loved that guy, loathed this one) “for the game I clearly played” and then my mother yelled at me when when my response was “come talk to me when someone forces you to visit your abuser” and when he asked if I was proud of myself and I answered “yep” she made me leave the office. I might have a strong defiant streak.

I only wish that streak had kept me out of the relationship I had with my high school boyfriend but to expect to come out of my childhood with no damage is ludicrous.

And apologies if I seem angry in this post. I have seen far too many trolls this morning. None of this past is raw for me but what IS raw for me is seeing woman being shamed, mocked or negated for sharing the things they have been put through, things that have been done TO THEM. For the words of the careless, attention-seeking trolls adding more doubt, questions or shame. You are not alone and you are stronger than you feel, know or give yourselves credit for.

I said this earlier: The fact that I have been raped doesn’t make ME weak. I can control MYSELF. Think about what you claim when you blame clothes.

Eleven Questions

I love a meme (in fact, I was just looking back over old memes the other night) so it’s fun that Jennie just tagged me in one today.

1. What is your favorite type of cheese? It’d be easier to say what kind of cheese I don’t like and really, even then it’s just which kind of cheese I don’t like as much: pepper jack. Cheese is the whole reason I could never be a vegan (well, cheese and Peeps. Yes, I love Peeps. I am a weirdo), I LOVE cheese.

2. What are you excited about? We are in the middle of some difficult times so I’m trying not to look too far ahead right now but we do have tickets to see Fleetwood Mac in December and as I wanted to BE Stevie Nicks when I was a youngin? That’s pretty damn cool.

3. How did you celebrate your last birthday? I turned 39 and celebrated by attending a Goonies quote along at Alamo Drafthouse.
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Dressed appropriately of course.

I also bought myself some tasty cupcakes.

4. What’s on your bedside table? Clutter, pear Güd lotion, castoff jewelry, a glass of water, headache meds and snacks usually.

5. What do you order from the movie concession stand? Lately we only go to Alamo Drafthouse which means I order a stout beer on draft but if we go to a regular movie house? Hot Tamales. I love hot cinnamon candy.

6. Do you have a garden? What’s growing? No, not this year, but I do have roses that survive every year in my front flower beds and seem to do well.

7. Any summer plans? Maybe? I hope. So far we have gotten Sprog registered for a summer session at community college, which is a big deal. I would love to float the river this year as I have lived here 21 years and never done it. I want to spend time with friends, swim and travel.

8. Which TV couple(s) are you rooting for? Amy Farrah Fowler and Sheldon Cooper. I know he’s kinda douchey but the episode where they roll dice for what their D&D characters do to each other? Touched my little geek heart.

9. What’s the last thing you bought? For fun? Sanuk flip flops and the most cozy maxi skirt ever. For unfun? A rim for my car that cost $440 FTLOG.

10. What’s one thing you are passionate about? I am passionate about yoga. I am going through some shit and have been for a couple of years now and it’s the one place where my brain stops. It all stops and I just get to breathe. I love it.

(although after reading Jennie’s I am so boycotting the 2022 World Cup and spreading the word)

11. What are you grateful for this week? I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to see the world. I look back at the trips we’ve been able to take and just feel so lucky. So very lucky. I want to see so much more, because each place I see stokes my wanderlust but I have family that haven’t been anywhere at all. I’m also greedy and would love to just go somewhere all the time. Let’s be real.
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I’m supposed to tag people but what I’d like more is if you felt like answering these questions to do so and then let me know you’ve done it. That lets me be lazy AND satisfies my curiosity at the same time.

Belize Vacation Posts: swim with sharks

It sounds entirely dramatic doesn’t it? Swimming with sharks. Trust me though, you want to do this. You need to do this. They’re just nurse sharks, it’s cool.

There are different ways to go about this but I recommend the “full day sail” vs the “half day speed boat” based solely on my personal preference. There are tons of different tour companies and they all go essentially the same three stops on this tour and they all pretty much offer the same two choices of vessel: sailboat or speedboat. We’ve done a sail before, in Key West, and I loved it so we went with that version this time and I’m not sorry. It takes longer going between points but you spend that time just enjoying the ocean. I will say that I wish each area wasn’t as crowded with people but that’s a function of the time of year we went and so maybe go in low season and you won’t be dealing with that issue.

The Sea Dreams set us up with Raggamuffin Tours and while we heard that it might have been better to go with another company, I really loved our captain, Ish. (full disclosure, the ladies at the front desk weren’t as awesome and didn’t outfit us with gear and they had to run us back to the island from the boat to get some, so if you go with them make sure you get your gear!) It was $70USPP for the full day sail which includes gear rental, lunch, snacks, and rum punch. A girl we talked to on the water taxi from San Pedro got taken for $110US for the same deal (not by this company) so you really have to watch what you are being charged.

Raggamuffin Tours also offer a 3 night 2 day sailing adventure trip where they use the big catamaran type of sailboats but for this sort of trip you get one of three sailboats. Ours was the blue boat.
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Since we had to go back for our gear, we lost our first seats at the front of the boat, but we got even better seats (for me) with some shade when we came back.
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The first place you go has this one huge turtle but 16 people crowded around one huge turtle that tries to bite you is not my idea of a good time so I looked around for other things. The bottom here is all shells. In fact they warn you that if you have to step down to do so gingerly and not move your fins because some of them are broken and sharp and could cut through into your feet.
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The next stop is Shark Ray Alley and here the sharks swarm the boats the minute you pull up because they are trained to do so. The boats feed them right from the side
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so we enter the water on the other side of the boat. The day we went was crazy windy and crazy choppy which meant being tossed into each other and tossed face first into a pile of sharks feeding at the side of the boat.
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They could’ve cared less that I was there, honestly, as long as I didn’t go for their food, which of course I did not. I also resisted every urge I had to touch them. It was very hard.

This one swam directly beneath me
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and of course we saw rays too, because why else would it be called Shark Ray Alley?
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I wish I had a photo of a HUGE one that had HELP written on it. I had given the camera over to Willy to record videos at that point. I asked our Captain about it and he smirked but couldn’t explain what that was about.

The last stop is Hol Chan which is Mayan for small channel. This stop is a guided tour and Chilo was the guide for our half of the group. He was awesome at pointing out all the types of fish, the turtles and even went down and got the moray eel to come out of his cave.
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Chilo also offered a free dive through a cave to anyone that was willing to try it. Willy did it and I recorded, you can view it here. I was so excited for him! I mean, what an amazing experience.

And because I’m me, I also had to do the snorkel selfies
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plus just photos of us in the water
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(I’m hugely menacing, fear me.)
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The sun starts to go down as you head back and this is what it looks like on the open water
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and you are drinking rum punch, listening to music, snacking on ceviche (not me) or salsa and chips and
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life is pretty damn good.

Belize Vacation Posts: where we stayed on Caye Caulker

Our final day on Ambergris we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, wandered the beach for a while and then Moe ferried us back to San Pedro to drop us off at the water taxi dock. One woman said it was about a 45 minute boat ride to Caye Caulker but it was really just 25 minutes, so don’t listen to that lady.

Once you arrive there are golf cart taxis waiting to take you to your final destination, they cost $5.00BZ or $2.50US per person. Our hotel the Sea Dreams is located at the far north end of the island right by The Split (or The Cut as our taxi driver told us). The island is very skinny on this end which means you have sunrise and sunset views within steps of you and you also have water essentially on both sides.

I didn’t take many pictures of the Sea Dreams as we heard one of our 14 yr old dogs was holding a hunger strike (and had been for two days) pretty much as soon as we arrived and my mind got yanked out of vacation mode pretty dang quick with that information but let me tell you that Anna, one of the managers, was so caring and gracious and she just took care of everything for us once we decided that it was best for us to just go home a day early. I still can’t even believe how easy she made everything for us, it was so incredibly helpful.

We stayed in The Orchid which gives you your own private porch with chairs and hammocks, a table and chairs inside, a kitchenette which is stocked with Belikin and sodas (and for a totally CHEAP price, half the cost of these items on Ambergris) and coffee with a coffee pot. You can sort of see it in this photo I took one morning at breakfast
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The thatched roof is the Orchid and the hammock is on our porch there.

The breakfast at Sea Dreams is a full breakfast, unlike the continental we had at the Portofino
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it varies day by day but both the items we had (pancakes the first morning and this the second) were very tasty.

Another way that Anna is just the best? They had some issue with the bartender the first night we were there and the bar was closed. Anna felt so bad that it happened on our first night she arranged for us to get these fresh coconuts and put rum in them for us. So kind!
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The view and the swimming right off their dock is pretty amazing. The water is chest high in some places and nice and cool. Plus it’s sandy at the bottom close to the dock instead of filled with sea grass, so it’s really nice to tip toe around and not have to wear water shoes.
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This ray was spotted as we were sitting on the dock talking to some folks, he just went right by.

And this fish is from our first day when we went swimming for a few hours.
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The island itself is just the tiniest beach town you’ll ever see
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with colorful buildings, BBQ pits right out on the beach and people in some manner of bathing suits wandering around at any given point. The Split has a long concrete wall and when we arrived it was draped with bodies, it was pretty much always draped with bodies…except when I walked over there to watch the sunrise.
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apparently vacationing backpackers don’t get up that early 😉

I would love to have a lot of food recommendations for you but because of my stupid shellfish allergy, I wasn’t as freely able to eat as I would’ve liked (next time maybe I won’t forget my freaking epi pen, sigh). We did totally love this little place right by the hotel called Aladdin’s (high TripAdvisor rating too, the owner made sure to suggest we get on there and give us his feedback, he was such a cute dude) that Anna recommended for the hummus but really you want to go there for the babaganoush. It’s the best I’ve ever tasted. They roast the eggplant first and MAN, SO GREAT! Plus we had a nice conversation with the owner and the music was old school rock, which you know we loved.
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and we tried to go to the pasta place that was recommended to us by some folks on our snorkel trip but it’s closed on Friday nights (major bummer). Willy loved the food at Habanero’s, like seriously loved the food and I can attest that the key lime pie is very good.

Jennie had told me how small the Tropic Air operation is on Caye Caulker and OMG, it’s just so hilarious.
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One lone runway, a dirt walkway to get to the plane (which is filled with people y’all, we had to essentially crawl over people to get to the three open seats on the plane going back to Belize) and she called us to board once when there was no plane to even get into, HILARIOUS.

But again, going this way? BEST VIEWS EVER.
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Tomorrow? We swim with SHARKS!

Belize vacation posts: where we stayed on Ambergris Caye

We took our travel recommendations for this trip from Jennie, as I mentioned, and even though I looked into other places to stay, I fully intended on just staying where she and Mike had stayed on their recent visit to Belize. Originally I planned on staying on Ambergris Caye the entirety of our trip, just to make things easier and avoid the whole “repacking a suitcase just to have to use things from it” thing, especially in a beach climate where clothes already used might be sandy or have the slight musty smell. Alas, by the time we could book, The Portofino was booked solid for ONE NIGHT smack dab in the middle of our window. That lead us to decide to just do exactly as Jennie and Mike did and stay on Caye Caulker for the second part of our trip.

Unlike Jennie and Mike, we did not have a Living Social deal for The Portofino but we were able to find a deal on it via Amex Travel. If you have an American Express card, I highly recommend you use their website to look for hotels. This is the third time I have used it to locate a hotel for us and gotten a way better deal than I could find on any of those deal sites. I always have those up as well so that I can compare what’s available to me but just as an example I did this when we went to Arizona and a hotel on Amex Travel was avail to me for $179 a night that was listed on Expedia AS A BARGAIN at $499 a night, so it’s my first stop when looking at hotels now.

Anyway Jennie shared her thoughts about The Portofino in her post about Belize and like her I also emailed them about 1000 times before we arrived and JuanCarlos was nothing but patient and gracious with my questions and requests.
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When you arrive you are greeted right on the dock with cold towels soaked with aromatherapy oils and ushered into the lobby to fill out your paperwork. This sounds a bit tedious but they bring you one of these to make it easier

which you can choose to drink virgin or knock back a swig to allow room for rum…as much rum as you’d like.

Our cabana looked directly over the pool
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and was decorated when we walked in
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In addition to that bit of surprise romance by the hotel, I prearranged a private dinner on the beach (after Jennie recommended it) because they set it up for you free of charge and the day we traveled to Belize was the 9th anniversary of when Willy and I became engaged. I wanted to surprise him so he had no idea and when we were all in the pool that afternoon we could see them setting it up. Everyone else was trying to figure out what the hell was going on, pointing fingers at each other and this lady Courtney started teasing us that we were renewing our vows and just not telling anyone. It was REALLY hard to keep it a secret for like 4 hours until dinner. Ha.
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When I posted the picture on IG, Slynnro mentioned she was afraid of fire and funny story, those palm leaves caught on fire! Several of them burned and floated off onto the sand. Thankfully that’s all that happened but after seeing our dinner another couple was convinced to have the same dinner the next night when it was even windier and the FABRIC melted. There are giant holes in it now.

We got sunburnt our very first day and I think that would be one of my only wishes for change in the hotel: more shade. I would like some umbrellas by the pool or down by the water but I wore my giant sun hat and was more diligent about the sunscreen the rest of the time and am not the one that is peeling right now. We spent a lot of time in the pool
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or reading in a hammock
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I got up at sunrise and did yoga on a mat provided by the hotel
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and even though the breakfast area doesn’t open until 7 they have a self serve coffee area open way earlier outside by the pool so I was able to drink coffee on my porch after yoga and not wake Willy
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We had planned on taking the sea kayaks out but from our first full day on the property we had 20 knot winds and it just wasn’t viable, sadly. Instead we took the beach bikes (I didn’t get the broken one that Jennie had, I did however hit a mothereffing coconut and almost wreck.) over to X’Tan Ha for lunch where I had the weirdest nachos of my life (don’t get them. Willy said the burger was great, get that)
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and we walked to Rojo Beach Bar for dinner where we had an AMAZING veggie pizza. Note: It gets DARK at night, so if you walk to other resorts, make sure you bring a flashlight or have the flashlight app on your phone to get back easily. Unless you eat someplace that will send a boat for you.
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The next day we had the same crazy winds, boo, so we hopped on the hotel boat and went to Palapa Bar for a few hours
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The best area for swimming in the ocean, at the hotel, is from the end of their dock which was under construction during our stay, I’m looking forward to being able to check it out next time, but they do have these amazing hammocks in the shallows for sunbathing.
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and of course you could always just take walks along the beach and check out the scenery
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and when it’s time to go
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you receive a little message from housekeeping and a tray of handmade Belizean soaps to take with you. Lovely.