A Tale of Two Piercings

Image result for pierced ears with string

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

76651485_10217696935967502_4096338218339794944_o

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

download (1)

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.

lift-others-be-an-encourager-the-world-has-enough-critics-15628017

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