A Tale of Two Piercings

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Have you ever done anything in your life that would amaze you today? I mean, simply amaze you?!?! I was prompted by a Facebook post with a prompt I can’t remember, but it made me think about the time I got my ears pierced…. Wait for it…  I chuckle to myself a little right now.

Let me set the background for you. It’s 1973, I’m six and a half years old. We live in a two-story, Section 8 apartment in the Ghetto of Santa Barbara. My mom has left her abusive marriage and me and my two younger brothers are living with our bio-dad Orval. Orval sleeps during the day after a drunken night. I’m up early in the mornings usually, watching Sesame Street, and on a Saturday, I’d watch Scooby Doo. Our neighborhood was predominantly Hispanic, and my two closest friends were Hispanic, Michelle and Yvette, from two separate families. Yvette had two brothers and an older sister. Her mom would pierce the ears of the neighborhood girls and I would watch.

Mrs. Castro would place a cookie sheet with a short length of white threads into an oven to sterilize the threads. She would sterilize a sewing needle with a match until it glowed bright orange at the tip. She then would wipe it with a cotton ball that had rubbing alcohol on it. She would take the pan out of the oven when the thread was properly heated enough to be sterile and let the thread cool for a few minutes. She would prep the needle by putting the thread through the needle as if one were to sew and she would set it aside.

She then would take an ice cube and place it on the ear lower ear lobe of the girl whose ears were going to get pierced and numb the ear. Once the ear was numb, she took the needle and poked it through the frozen ear lobe, until the thread was about half-way through. She would take the needle out of it, tie the thread so it made a loop. Then she would do the same to the other ear.

The purpose of the thread was so that it would give the ear time to heal and be easy to clean with alcohol several times a day. She would pour rubbing alcohol on the thread until it was soaked and move the thread a couple of rounds through the hole in the ear, aka piercing, thus keeping the hole from closing, causing it to scab. This was done for 30 days before the girls would and could wear earrings, which were usually gold or silver round studs.

I always wanted my ears pierced. I have fond memories of walking to the nearby elementary school to a swap meet of sorts and being given a pair of drop-down, screw on earrings. They were gold, with a long metal bar with an orange and yellow petal flower at the end. I would put them on and tell everyone I got my ears pierced. I don’t know who I was fooling when I think back on it, I’m sure people thought I was crazy!

I’ve never considered myself a strong-willed child. In fact, I was rather shy and timid, but at age six, I might as well have been 20 years old. I was rather mentally and emotionally matured for my age with all the responsibilities given to me at such an early age.

It was an early Saturday morning, I was six and a half years old, my bio-dad and brothers were still asleep. I had cartoons on the TV, and I get a wild hair to pierce my ears. Did I go to my friend’s mom to have it done? NOPE! Hindsight, I probably should have!

After having watched it being done so many times, I pierced my own ears. I did it just like Mrs. Castro did, sterilized the thread in the oven, heated the needle with a match (which I had done before to take splinters out of fingers) until it glowed orange. But I have to say, I think I perfected the piercing experience. I went to our upstairs bathroom and got the Campho Phenique, the stuff you put on bug bites, and the Chloraseptic, you know, the dark green stuff that sprays into your mouth to numb your sore throat? Yea, that stuff. I took those along with ice and numbed my ear lobe. I numbed it good! I didn’t feel a thing when that needle went through. I felt it 10 or so minutes later when the numbing wore off, but I stuck that needle right through my ear with that string on it.

I had the most difficult time trying tie that darn string though. I gave up. I found some silver metal flat tacks and placed those in my new ear holes and wore them around as earrings, until…

My ears got infected! My mom came for a visit the next weekend and saw what I had done. She cleaned my ears and put some antibiotic ointment on them. She knew me well enough that I would just do it again, so she bought me a pair of stud earrings to replace my tacks. You may be asking yourself if Orval ever noticed. Nope. It took my mom telling him.

And guess what?!? I did it again at age 15 because I wanted a second set of holes in my ears. It was the early 80’s and this time I was living with my mom and stepdad Larry in the small country town of Coarsegold, just 30 miles north of Fresno. It was a random day, and my parents were gone for the day down to Fresno. I honestly cannot remember the exact day I did it, but I did it the same way, but without the tacks. I used a pair of studs I bought. When my mom came home and saw my ears, she warned me they could get infected, but she knew there was no talking me out of it.

I still have both of these piercings, my first and second holes. To think that I’ve had my original piercing for 46 years! And my second piercing for 37 years! I don’t have problems with them either. My left ear now has a third piercing, but I got that done professionally at Claire’s at the Mall. Ironically, I got both of my ears a third piercing from the same place in my 30’s, but my right ear piercing kept getting infected and I don’t think the hole was straight because it was difficult putting earrings in. I let it close a long time ago.

A note to parents: Do not leave your kids alone to do weird, grown up stuff. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. That’s all I have to say!

What a Difference 10 Years Makes

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This 10 year photo sharing thing… Let me tell ya… There’s been some people talking about applying filters and shit. There is not one single filter on any of these photos. I don’t even know how to do that. This is real, authentic me.

I look at these photos of myself, 10 years apart and think, ‘who is that woman on the left’? WOW! I look old, tired, fat, you know, all those things I could tell myself. But you know what?

10 years ago she was tired: tired of life, tired of being beaten up by life, tired of having life happen in unexpected bad ways, tired on the inside mentally and physically. She was depressed. She felt unworthy in so many areas of her life, She beat herself up daily while trying to smile on the outside. She cried a lot. She had panic attacks. And here’s something most people don’t know, she was cutting herself because the pain she was feeling was not enough to get through the pain of her son who had robbed her, who was on drugs, who was homeless because she had to do the thing that no parent wants to do and kick him out for stealing, hitting her, and trashing the house. Who was she to be happy? She always felt like other moms were judging her for being a horrible parent, after all, her son was on drugs and homeless. She was a worthless mom, who had failed her kid, and was failing her step-daughter when she said one night while playing a board game, that she was tired of living in a sad house. That’s the woman on the left.

Looking at the photo on the right, I look younger and happier. I may know how to apply makeup on better, but there’s no filter. Just genuine me.

The woman on the right has taken a road less traveled by many to get where she is today. Although life has given her a lot of trials, tribulations, and some trauma, she has refused to play the victim. She fought to come back. She fought hard! She’s not perfect, far from it. She’s learning and growing every day because personal growth doesn’t stop, EVER. She’s happy on the inside. She’s confident. She feels loved. She is capable of loving. She doesn’t feel like the failure she did 10 years ago. She doesn’t judge people based on the ones who’ve hurt her. She knows that others are capable of making their own choices and they don’t necessarily reflect on her, not even her kid’s decisions. She knows that everything happens for a reason and there’s a lesson in everything. And some things are meant to be shared to help others.

I’m proud of the woman on the right. She’s a fighter, warrior, survivor, a success. She may not be the version of success you think of but she is successful.

I am me.

Courage to Change

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The world is large, and there can be many dark places full of challenges, and obstacles, and setbacks to overcome. But with courage, we offer ourselves a choice, and a light to get us through.

It doesn’t take much: a single thought, a single word, a single spark- and our world ignites. Because courage is about moving forward in spite of fears and doubts. It’s about accepting what your heart is telling you. And it’s about taking a risk, even when you don’t know what will come next.

So shine a light on the shadows, and reveal what you need to see. It will be hard. But it will be amazing. And it will be beautiful. There is no easy path, but there is a worthwhile one. And if you really look, you will find the courage you need. It will be there, with each and every act of bravery you take. – “Courage”, written and compiled by Amelia Riedler.

I chose two words for this year (2019), one was Courage. To step out of my fears, anxieties, insecurities and to venture out to spread my wings so that I could find more Joy, my second word. As you may have read in my other posts, I started embracing my story 15 months ago and it’s been a scary journey, but worth it with the personal growth that’s come from it. Let me tell you, personal growth is one of the most difficult things to go through. It’s necessary, but it’s not easy. When you grow, the people and things around you can change. It’s not all bad. There’s a lot of clarity that comes with growth as well.

So, I found this book “Courage” at our local FedEx Kinko’s. It’s a simple book, but so much of it resonates with me and it made me think of things to write about regarding courage.
Courage is a word that had a deep meaning, and impact. The Oxford dictionary defines courage as a noun: 1) the ability to do something that frightens one. 2) strength in the face of pain or grief. Merriam-Webster defines courage as ‘mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

In embracing my story, that took courage. It took courage to endure all of the things that I’ve been through in my life, which started at a very young age with people who were close to me, who were supposed to protect me, therefore, setting me on a path that would cause me to endure more pain and heartache. It’s so funny because so many times in my life people have told me how courageous I am, and I never saw myself as courageous. I thought courageous meant that I had to do something great, of meaning, like a superhero. When I thought of courageous people, I thought of police officers and fire fighters, it takes real courage to do those jobs and save lives. Who the heck was I to be called courageous, surviving sexual abuse, and domestic violence? I’ve never thought of myself as having a victim mentality, but I did feel stupid and less than when people would tell me how courageous I am. I belittled myself because I ‘let’ those things happen to me.

I don’t belittle myself now and I know I didn’t let those things happen. There are just people in this world that want to make you feel small and less than, so they abuse you in some way and it makes them feel better, more powerful. Today, I have clarity. I was and am courageous in all I’ve been through.

That’s why I’m writing my book, to share that courage, and give encouragement and hope to others who cannot see it for themselves.

What Are You Here For?

We are all meant to be something in this life. Do you ever look at people and wish you were them? Do you ever compare your tragic story to someone else’s carefree life? Do you ever wonder why some people with the same or similar life experiences have different lives? I ask this last one a lot.

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My brothers and I grew up in the same household with the same alcoholic bio-dad, the same authoritarian stepdad, and we all turned out different. We’ve all had our struggles, some more than others, but we’ve all handled them differently. Some have turned to addiction, some have not. Some have played the victim, some have not. I have been blessed in that I have not turned to addiction or victim-hood. Why?

It is my perspective that it has to do with the way we see life. Are we focused solely on the event or thing that happened to us? Have we looked towards our lifelines and other positive aspects during that time? I believe so. I believe that when you look at what you have been through with a victim mentality that you continue to allow yourself to be treated like a victim throughout the course of your life. That doesn’t mean it can’t change, because it can. I have seen it in my brothers. At times it is short term, and other times it is long term. Does it take work? YES!

One of my foremost guiding beliefs is this: What you put out into the world comes back to you, and it can come back to you many times over. If you are putting out negative thoughts about yourself and others, you are getting that back my friend. Why? Because that is where your focus is! Yes, negative things happen to us in life, and some way more than others. Take me for example, I am not perfect, but I looked at life as if there’s something better out there for me than my current circumstances. I’m able to rise above it, pick myself up from the bootstraps, and carry on. Again, it takes work, hard work. I’ve had many obstacles such as overwhelming panic and anxiety attacks, depression, and lack of self-confidence. Trust me, there have been many years of my life where I was just surviving. But you know what? I was surviving more than others. What does that mean? It means that I was doing whatever it took to make ends meet for my family, getting counseling and doing the hard work to overcome what was blocking me during the rough patches, not wallowing in self-pity, having faith that there is something to grow from these experiences and that good will prevail.

I don’t compare myself to others. My journey is my own just as your journey is yours. I will not and cannot judge you for I have not walked in your shoes on your path. If I had, we may have taken different steps to get to where we are today, and with the same or different results, but we’ll never know. It’s impossible to judge a person by the clothes they wear, their attitude, their success in life or lack thereof.

We were all born with our own stories and experiences. I believe we are meant to use these as tools to help others. When you are looking at someone who looks like they’ve been given a gifted, carefree life and are super successful in business, they are meant to teach business. If you’re looking at someone who has had a tragic life and is super successful in business, they are meant to teach how to rise up and overcome so that success can happen. Life was never carefree for me, and I’m not the most successful person, but I am here, and all of it has been an experience that I am meant to pass on to help encourage others. Go on, be an encourager!

~Kara XO

Anxiety!

Anxiety!    Herry1970's

Sorry, not sorry. I checked out for a few months. Social media was the last thing on my agenda for the past few months while I’ve been taking care of myself.

While 2018 has been filled with personal growth, it has also come with challenges and confusion, which is typical, right? Personal growth is and can be uncomfortable. This past year I’ve been letting go of the ‘old me’ while finding and embracing the ‘new me’, which has been wonderful, scary and so out of my comfort zone.

Anxiety also came with all of this. Now, you may be saying, “Kara, you’ve stated that you have had anxiety all of your life.”, well, right, but I thought it had gone once and for all while embracing my life’s past and story, but that hairy, ugly monster reared it’s ugly head again and worse than I could ever imagine. Have you ever envisioned your monster? I have, and it started as a young girl with a nightmare when I was about 5 years old. I remember waking up in middle of the night to find that hairy, blue monster with the big nose from Sesame Street (Herry Monster) floating above me. I got out of bed and grabbed a handful of water from the bathroom and threw it on him so he would disappear. It worked! And I went back to bed on wet sheets. But I was relieved. But he is still my Hairy Monster named Anxiety.

I’ve had anxiety and panic attacks in the past, but nothing like what I’ve experienced the past several months. First, in October with a near breakdown, came panic attacks that woke me up from a solid sleep at 4am with depersonalization and what felt like an alternate reality. Not just once but several nights to the point where I called into Mental Health at Kaiser and Thank GOD! I was seen by my physiatrist right away the morning I called, and I was entered the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). I say Thank God because truly it was a lifesaver. I was taken off work for a week and attended classes that week for group therapy and coping skills. TOTAL.LIFESAVER! Such a great intervention on Kaiser’s behalf for my wellbeing. I went back to work with a couple of new tools on the road to recovery.

In November, I went to the Younique Foundation retreat, another great blessing! This gave me so many more new coping skills, and a community of 20 other women who have survived childhood sexual abuse. At first, the thought of that was so scary and overwhelming, just thinking that we were all there for the same reason, someone caused us harm, but I soon learned after the first day that there is strength in numbers in this community. We are a sisterhood of survivors! We are maintaining those valued relationships still, even though we come from all over the U.S. Our group of 21 women was the 107th group this retreat has catered to. Real help, real people, and real love. I also learned that it’s okay to cry. Really, it is!

December saw another set of anxiety/panic attacks, but this time these were brought on by medications. I keep being told that people like me with anxiety and panic attacks need to be on an anti-depressant to manage vs being on a low-dose prn prescription of alprazolam, which I only fill twice a year, and keep on hand for emergency situations. So, after trying a few, I give up! These meds are not for me and my body does not tolerate them.

I’m determined to beat this monster!!! Anxiety is one of the worst feelings in the world. I don’t mean generalized anxiety, I mean crippling anxiety. The kind that makes you not want to eat, move, or function in any capacity. It’s debilitating. For the first time in my life, I told my psychiatrist that I wanted to take the whole bottle of pills, not to kill myself but to make it all go away. Of course, I did not take the whole bottle, but the thought…that was scary! I suppose these things are happening so I can use them to help others, so others can relate to me or I can relate to them. Whatever the case, my plan when I started writing my book and this blog has always been to help others.

It is my goal to use all my experiences to help others. If life is comprised of the sum of all our experiences, what good are they if we are not using them to help others? I’m still not sure how it’s all supposed to come together or what or how I’m going to help others, I just know that I am going to. I have faith in the bigger plan that God has for my life. Some of this is still confusing and jumbled but it’s getting better and clearer every day. I cannot wait to see what great things 2019 will bring. I am sincerely hoping that the worst part of this personal growth thing is behind me and that my path is revealed to me.

Meanwhile, I’m down 34 lbs (30 intentionally, the last 4 dropped in a week from anxiety). 2019 will be about finding joy. 2019 will be about being healthy, physically and mentally. Diet, exercise, and great self-care in the form of meditation, yoga, tai chi, Muay Thai, more reading, and massage will be significant assets to my wellbeing.  I am stronger than my anxiety!

If you have any tips or tricks you use to manage your anxiety, I would love for you to comment.

XOXO ~ Kara

From Invisible to Visible

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I’m just going to jump right in and say that sexual abuse and domestic violence can leave permanent scars. Mind you, I’m no expert.  Well, in my own right I am, but not professionally, but as a survivor of both, I feel that I can speak to the feelings and scars that are left behind.

Depending on how early the abuse started in the relationship, age, and duration, as well as the person’s ability to handle and overcome such trauma, all play factors in how deeply the scars go and how long they hold on to them. For some people, these scars cause devastating results.

My abuse started as a toddler by Orval, my bio-dad, and went on until I was almost eight years old. I was told not to cry, be sad, angry, or show that I was uncomfortable in any way.  I was told to obey him, to do whatever pleased him, and act like it was all normal. I was told not to tell anyone. Being told that by someone at such an early age and a by a significant family member for such a long period of time, I felt invisible. Why? I felt shame, and I was not allowed to be me, to feel or do what I wanted. Heck, I missed out on my entire childhood from birth to almost nine years old, the most crucial years in the development of a human being.

I was extremely shy as a kid. My mom tells stories of me covering my eyes if someone talked to me, as if I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. Or, I would run around the counter at the grocery store to hide. I spent a lot of my life being shy. I was called a bitch in high school because I could never look at anyone as I walked by them, so they judged me. I had to gradually get out of that extreme shyness to function in a world where shy people don’t get very far. With each experience I’ve been through, I have been taught to come out of my shell a little more.

I am now almost 51 years old and am feeling more empowered, stronger, and becoming visible. I no longer wish to be invisible, to sit on the sidelines silently about these horrible, terrible, no good things. Let me tell you why…

Since I was a baby I struggled with anxiety. As I’ve gotten older, it seemed to be getting worse to the point where I was desperate enough to go on medication. I was not only having anxiety attacks, but also panic attacks, which are not fun to have! It has been an internal struggle for me to figure out why this happening to me? Why me? Why now? Why can’t I just be fucking normal?! I got back into therapy, once again, this past January, and started on some medications which made me feel blah and funny in the head. I was trading my anxiety and panic attacks for a different feeling, but that feeling still wasn’t normal.

My therapist had me write a timeline of sorts about my life and significant events, good and bad. When I met with her after sending it to her, she told me I should write a book and have each of those events be a chapter. She’s not the first person to tell me I should write a book over the past 20 years. I said to her, ‘Yeah, I know!’, not really giving it serious thought. But you know what? A few weeks later I woke up in the early morning and said to myself that I am writing a book (or 2 or 3 or 4). I didn’t really say that to myself, something internally was really pushing it into and out of me! Seriously, it was one of those moments when I knew I had to do it. It’s what has set me on this path with this blog and my book writing. You know what else? I am no longer having anxiety and panic attacks! I AM NOT FUCKING KIDDING YOU RIGHT NOW!  Seriously, I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true. I am not on any meds. I quit them! I still have my bottle of Xanax for a ‘just in case’ kind of emergency, but I have not had to take a single pill in over 2 months! Why?…

MY INTERNAL STRUGGLE IS OVER! My mind, body, and soul were not meshing, they were in a tug-of-war with each other. I strongly believe this. I am living my truth now, no longer trying to hide it. The struggle was over this little, tiny box hidden inside of me with this past history of abuses. The little box I kept there just for me, never wanting to share it. All I ever wanted a ‘normal’ life and for people to look at me and like for being normal. I felt if they knew my history, they would judge me, not like me, take pity on me, or feel sorry for me. But the truth is, just like a steel barrel of toxic waste buried in land or sea, over time it erodes, and the toxins seep out. That’s what this little-hidden box of mine was doing, seeping its poison into my body and mind. The last time I went to my therapist, about three weeks ago, I told her this. I feel this has been an amazing breakthrough.  I’m not saying I’m healed, I don’t know if anyone ever truly heals from such things. But I feel more like a survivor than a victim. I feel free to use my voice to share these experiences and want to help others. I am able to look at my past and embrace it with fierce love. I am able to look toward a future where I am empowered and use my voice to create awareness, in the hopes of helping others. This is my passion, my mission. At almost 51 years old, I finally know what my calling is.

XO

Kara