Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Post that Almost Did Not Get Written

I have been online a long time, and am active in social media and other arenas. I am supposedly "influential," if you believe any of the measures of this sort of thing.

It is time to use my influence to talk about something REALLY important.  Not home schooling. Not home business. But something real, that for all the talking about it still leaves its victims feeling isolated, judged, and alone.

So alone.

It has been nearly three years since I started this post. When you read it, you will understand why it has taken so long to get it written. It was brutal to write, and it might even be brutal to read. Especially if you are someone who knows and loves me now, or knew me When.

Or if you, or anyone you know, is a survivor of sexual assault.

It has now been 37 years, not 35.  There's something about a number that ends in a 7.  "37 years" (or sometimes "87 years") is a number I have always thrown around to mean "a long, LONG time." The pain has diminished enough that I recently shared some of this story with my adult son for the first time, leaving off the gory details for his sake, not mine.

I no longer consider myself a victim, but a courageous survivor.  Let's crash together through a wall of silence, the stigma of rape.


March 15, 2014 The Post That Almost Did Not Get Written - Second Draft


I started this post over a year ago, in anticipation of the 35th anniversary of The Day. Life intervened, and I never quite got around to writing it then, but picked it up again last month, thinking I would schedule it to post yesterday. Fast forward to yesterday, I was so busy, I never go around to finishing it, much less posting it. On the one hand, that is really good. It means I didn't obsess over it, and kind of forgot it was The Day. So I decided it didn't matter. It isn't that I have never shared it with anyone. I have spoken openly about it for many years,  but it's a tough topic, and maybe it wasn't the right time to write about it.

Then today, I stumbled upon this article: "Getting Raped: The Stigma of Being a Rape Victim."  Hmm.

"Not going to let this one go, are You, Lord..." I muttered.  Doesn't sound like things have changed as much as I had hoped. I guess I had been hopeful that it was no longer the shameful secret it had been back then.  Every day on TV, in church, and just about everywhere else,  I see evidence that attitudes about - what did They call it, "mixing the races?" -  have changed.

But in 1978? In Atlanta, or anywhere else south of the Mason-Dixon line, it was a topic not discussed in polite company.

Or any company.

Can I be blunt here? I, who can pound out a thousand words in just about 20 minutes, just spent half an hour trying to figure out how to euphemistically describe the 1970's attitudes of southern white men towards a white woman who had been assaulted raped by a black man.  Not to mention other southern white women.

HAHAHAHA You can't. We are talking back in the day of the Stars and Bars in the Georgia flag. Neither can you describe in a politically correct manner how that affects the exploited woman: her attitude towards men in general, and black men in particular, her attitude towards happy mixed race couples in the present day, her attitude towards the reactions of snarky white women back then, and the unfairness of it all, or her embarrassment at even noticing race in this age of enlightenment.

Why she couldn't just "get over it."  Why it still stings after 37 years.  Especially when before that happened, she didn't have a racist bone in her body, and her best friend was black.

Like Bridget Kelly in the article, I believe it is WAY past time for it to be OK for women to talk about being raped.  And if being part of making that happen means ripping off the heavy, suffocating, debilitating body armor that has "protected" me for the last 37 years, so be it.

So here - finally - is the post that almost did not get written.

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

Alias Tony Smith  

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20 (NIV84)

I weep today for a 55 57 year old man sitting in a south Georgia maximum security prison. He has been there for 35  37 long years.  He will be there until he dies.  Let's just call him "Tony Smith."

It has been 35 37 years since the day he changed my life forever.

March 14, 1978. A day that will live in infamy.  Armed robbery. Aggravated sodomy. Rape.  Thinking about it is like watching an old episode of Law and Order: SVU that I know I have seen before, but I can't quite remember the plot anymore.

But what that day defines 37 years later is no longer the worst day of my life, but the day that set the best of my life into motion.

I always parked the car at the Central Avenue parking garage above Underground Atlanta. Pretty cool, you could leave the First National Bank tower and scoot under the street to avoid any kind of bad weather and hop right in the elevator of the parking garage. But that day was a beautiful day, warm enough to go without a coat, and I left work a few minutes early because I was meeting my mom at Morrison's Cafeteria for dinner. So I walked on the street, enjoying the breeze, and got to the garage in time to catch the next elevator. There were about 6 people in the elevator, including a couple of  guys who were laughing and joking.

One of them was wearing a red bandanna.  When I pressed the button to the top floor, Mr. Red Bandanna pressed the 4th floor button. Everyone rode in silence and got off at their various floors, finally leaving me alone in the elevator.  I got to the top level, and opened the glass door leading out to the parking lot. Just then, I heard this clatter in the stairwell, and as I stopped and turned, there appeared Mr. Bandanna with a look on his face I will never forget. At first, I just didn't process what was going on, but by the time I did, there was no getting out of that enclosed lobby.  He pushed me against the door and put one hand over my mouth, punching the back of that hand with the other one until I stopped trying to scream.

There was yet another concrete staircase that led up to a helicopter pad, so he took me up there. I could hear people talking and getting off the elevator and going to their cars. But by this time, there was a knife at my throat, my neck and mouth were hurting, and I didn't see any way a five foot, 90 pound girl was going to get away from a six foot plus, 180 pound man.  Not alive, anyway.  It was easier just to do what I was told. The final indignity was that he robbed me of my last twelve dollars and the little change purse that my grandmother had given me. Then I did something crazy that turned out to be the key to positively identifying him.

As he fled down the stairs, I called down to him in the stairwell and I asked him if he would leave me enough money to get out of the garage. All these years later, I can still picture him looking up at me as I calmly turned my clothes right side out and talked to him over the rail.  I explained that if I didn't have enough money to pay for my parking, I would have to tell the attendant why. He thought about it for a few seconds, and then said "How much is it?"  Honestly, I don't remember how much it was, no more than a couple of bucks. He left three dollars on the steps and took off.

I did tell the attendant immediately, and he called the police. They did come and take photos of  me, though as a Golden Gloves boxer, he knew how to hit me in a way really hurt, but that did not leave outside marks. I even had to pull my lip aside so they could photograph my bloody gums. I did spend a great deal of time at Grady Hospital, and was interviewed by two detectives from the sex crimes unit.  It was around 7:30, maybe 8 pm by the time I pulled up at home.  I gave Daddy as kiss and apologized for being late, then told Mama I would like to talk to her in the back bedroom.

Over the next twelve hours, we cried and smoked a thousand cigarettes and drank gallons of coffee, and about a fifth of scotch.  We never did tell Daddy. He died a few years later and never knew. In fact, we never told anyone.  And while that seemed like the best thing to do at the time, it ignited a spark of resentment that built against my mother that grew imperceptibly for the next 15 years.  I didn't even know I felt this way, but I was angry that she was more concerned about my dad than about me.

Of course, that wasn't true. I'm pretty sure she was afraid that Daddy would either have a stroke, or go out and buy a gun and save the Georgia taxpayers the bundle of money they have spent keeping "Tony Smith" incarcerated for nearly half a century. He hated guns, but he would have made an exception for someone who hurt his little girl. And he wouldn't have missed. He had several sharpshooter medals from his time in the Army.

But that isn't how it felt to me. It felt like she thought I had something to hide. Over the last 20 years since her death, I have come to realize that she was probably raped, too, and just never said anything. When I told her, she said, "I've been so afraid this would happen." I didn't make the connection at the time, but I know her mother was raped, and her grandmother and great-grandmother before her.  The only Chickasaw phrase besides "Pass the bread, Granny"  that passed down through our family to my generation means "White man no good." Ride that one back into Chickasaw history, and you have a very long line of exploited women.

Well, I told my boss that I would be taking off a few days from work.  And I told my boyfriend. That went really well. His main concern was that I would be afraid to have sex, so he was anxious for me to get right back in the saddle. Seriously?

Bastard.

Amazingly, we had a call from Atlanta PD the next day saying they had a suspect in custody. He had been caught in the act of trying to rape someone else, and they wanted me to come down for a lineup.  Oddly enough, he wasn't as big or scary as I remembered, and he had removed his bandanna, so his hair was unfamiliar.  But deep inside, I knew he was the one.  My heart pounded so hard I thought it would break through my chest.  I didn't have that reaction to any of the other people in the lineup, even ones who looked a little more like the man I thought I remembered.

Number Three.  There are only two things I have been more sure of in my life.

Afterward, they asked me to identify an item they had recovered from his home. It was the change purse my grandmother had given me.  Later on, at the trial, ADA Gordon Miller would call it "The Smoking Gun."

They got him! And only 24 hours later. I was so lucky. One of the women in our case had her face rearranged by being bludgeoned with a rock. Another one was attacked in the laundry room of her apartment complex after he broke down the door like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining." The saddest victim of all was"Tony Smith's" incredibly beautiful and intelligent young wife, kind of a cross between Whitney Houston and Halle Berry.  She stayed in the courtroom throughout the trial, trying to hold it together, finally fleeing when they read the several dozen counts of crimes that netted him 213 years in prison.

87 nightmares later, I didn't feel all that lucky. Can you say "PTSD"?

If a successful outcome like that did not ease my trauma, try to imagine how it still feels for women whose attackers were not caught.

Or who knew their attackers, and have to see them walking free because they were not charged.

Or the ones who were abused and victimized by loved ones.

Or the ones whose story is complicated by clubs, or drugs, or alcohol, or something else that makes them seem less like a victim than the little girl who was just going to her car after work to meet her mom for dinner.

See, rape traps you in time. Even without any kind of cloud hanging over me that this was "my fault," I remained stuck there as surely as if I were in the movie "Groundhog Day." This incident was the catalyst that sent me packing to New York, where I tried to escape the pain. I lived there for almost 7 years, and successfully pushed it all deep down into the dark abyss with other "dark secrets." I was moderately successful on Wall Street, but like most others there, I worked hard and played harder. I smoked too many cigarettes, drank too much Jack Daniels, and acted out in other dangerous ways, unable to truly move on. Unable to "get over it."  Unable to trust any men. Unable to believe that I was better than "damaged goods."  I swore I would never again let anyone get close enough to me to hurt me.

Then I met The Man Who Is Not Like All The Others.  The One who said,
"Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the maidens" Song of Solomon 2:2 NASB 
"When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” John 8:10-12 NKJV
The One Who "heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds."

And I met another man God brought into my life to "make the Invisible visible," and to love me unconditionally - more than I could ever understand, for the last 30 years. Just like Christ loved the church.

Get religion? That's my definitive answer about how to "get over it"? Every situation is different, and every woman has other people in her life whose reactions will influence how she experiences the attack, then and for years to come. I can't tell you that leaving town and starting over, or self-medicating, or getting married will make any difference at all. I can tell you with confidence that God can accomplish in a moment what a legion of counselors cannot do in a lifetime.  Deciding to follow Jesus was the the first of the only two things I was more sure of in my life than picking Number 3 out of a lineup. Marrying my husband was the second.

But the REAL beginning of healing was when I broke through to the feeling that it was OK to talk about being raped. What I hope I have done here is encourage you to talk about it, too.  Don't spend the best years of your life locked in suffocating, debilitating body armor like I did.  Let's break down the wall of silence once and for all, and stop the stigma of rape.


Tuesday, February 03, 2015

A Home Business That is the Real Deal


It has been almost exactly three years since I wrote in this blog! It is amazing how easy it is to get out of the habit of writing and just abandon something that was all consuming for years. I guess I stopped writing when I stopped homeschooling.

I focused more on the homeschooling side of this blog and not so much on the home business side. I guess I was afraid of being too "salesy" and seeming like I was just trying to sell something.

But homeschoolers are almost always single income families, and as such, are in need of a supplemental income, or a Plan B for retirement, or both. So I have really been remiss in not recommending Strong Future International. It was one of the first home businesses I ever tried, and it has been a reliable source of supplemental income for me for nearly 14 years.

Carson Services, Inc., the parent company behind SFI Marketing Group and TripleClicks.com, is now in its 30th year of business. 

SFI's success and longevity is a DIRECT result of the affiliates' hard work, sweat, enthusiasm, and loyalty. It's one of the reasons why SFI is one of THE most respected and most successful affiliate programs in the world today. For me personally, I have developed some enduring relationships with people I met in 2001 when I first joined SFI.

SFI is inexpensive, making it ideal for just about anyone. You can join for free, get trained for free, get marketing tools for free, and there are a number of different ways to make money in the program. 

Want to build a team? Great - there is an explosion of growth in network marketing overseas, and Strong Future International is available in 190 countries.

Want to have your own e-commerce portal? Great - TripleClicks, the product arm of SFI, has almost 100,000 products offered by hundreds of small stores in 160 countries around the world.

Want to become a master of buying low and selling high? Pricebenders penny auctions are a great source of products to resell at other auction sites or other e-commerce portals.

Up and coming musician who wants to get their music heard? TripleClicks has a sort of "battle of the bands" contest each month that can get indie artists great exposure.

There is also an executive pool, a $10 bounty for generating leads (even if you don't care to have your own team) and more. 

You can even earn something (ok, not much) by doing simple, free actions every day. But it is NOT a get rich quick scheme, and without a plan, you can be in the program for years and never make anything. If you don't mind following directions, resisting the impulse to reinvent the wheel just follow the plan, working hard and making a small investment in your future every month, SFI might be the program for you. They pay on time, every time, and have never missed a check since August, 2001. I doubt they have ever missed a check, period - but this is all I can personally vouch for. Most programs don't last as long as I have been making money with SFI.

I want to take this opportunity to say "THANK YOU" to all the great affiliates who have been on my team at one time or another over the last 14 years. My home schooled kids are adults now, and both are also now making money in SFI.

Join us at http://www.joinmysfiteam.com/2511202.5243

Sunday, February 05, 2012

What College Graduates Don’t Know About America


Three years ago, I wrote the following article about whether or not college has a positive impact on good citizenship. It had the boring title, "The Civic Impact of College."  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Not surprisingly, it didn't get many views.

But I think it is an important topic, and my last article about college ("Does College Matter?") generated quite a bit of interest, so I thought it was time to revisit the question.

The Civic Impact of College - January 28, 2009

Are you more knowledgeable than the average citizen?

Our Fading Heritage is the third major study conducted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute on the kind of knowledge required for informed citizenship.

Its conclusions are appalling. But lets look at the background.

In 2006 and 2007, 14000 college freshmen and seniors were given a multiple-choice quiz containing 60 basic questions about America - the kind of stuff high school seniors and new citizens are expected to know.

The kind of stuff homeschoolers eat for breakfast.

In both years, both groups utterly failed. And worse, the seniors only had a 1.5% advantage over the freshmen. So, basically, this means that after spending a fortune on college, the students do not gain any appreciable knowledge about America's unique form of self-government. Moreover, the more prestigious the college, the LESS likely the seniors were to know more than freshmen about government, economics, American History, and foreign affairs.

This year, ISI decided to take it to the streets. They asked a random sample of American adults to answer a basic test of only 33 multiple choice civics questions, plus a few other additional questions, then analyzed the data in such a way that enabled them to compare the "civic impact of college with other societal factors."

In other words, do colleges help our students become better citizens?

Now for the appalling part. The answer is a resounding NO.

  • 71% of Americans fail the test
  • Fewer than half of all Americans can name the three branches of government
  • Only 24% of college graduates know that the First Amendment prohibits the establishment of an official religion in the US
  • Only 54% can identify a basic description of our free enterprise system
  • Elected Officials score even lower than the general public
Thirty percent of elected officials do not know that "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps this is the reason we have gotten into such a mess.

You can read the whole sad story at the ISI website.

If you are very brave, why don't you take the test yourself and see whether you are more knowledgeable than the average citizen?

Then contrast this with the good news about homeschooling and civics education Homeschooling Grows Up, a report by the National Center for Home Education about behaviors of adults who were homeschooled. According to this report, 76% of those 18-24 have voted in a state or national election within the previous 5 years, compared to 29% of the general US population, and a staggering 95% of those 25-29 have voted versus 40% of the general population.

Now, in the wake of the Obama campaign and his subsequent election, those statistics are probably no longer accurate as far as sheer numbers of younger voters in the general populace are concerned, though a case could still be made about whether those who voted could be considered "informed citizens."

Large numbers of young white voters from elite colleges voted for Obama. Tomorrow's post will examine some interesting information about the "civic impact of elite colleges."

================================================
Last time I didn't actually get around to writing that additional post about elite colleges. But there is a lot of interesting new information from 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 on the ISI website since I wrote this post that I would like to talk about in future posts.




Friday, January 13, 2012

Skills you need for your Home Business

Many people have become discouraged by the continued high unemployment rate. Rather than  looking for work, what they are doing instead is starting a home business. For the work-at-homeschool mom, it may be the pressure of trying to live on one income in these challenging times that drives her to explore setting up a home business.

However, a home business is not just like setting up a lemonade stand on the front porch, which is now such a hassle anyway because of burdensome state regulations, newly enforced by officials with too much time on their hands. A regular home business takes work: hard work, and lots of it.

If you are serious on starting a business at home, there are certain skills you need to master for the successful operation of your business.

Planning

A core skill that is essential for successfully running a business is planning. Before doing anything or going into the business, you must have a concrete business plan. Think of it as building a house. The business plan is the blueprint of the future of your business. Include all your objectives, steps on how you'll accomplish them and your time frame.

If you are serious about having a business, it is also essential that you do market research. You may think your business is a great idea, but market research will tell you if anyone else thinks so, too.  This is even more important for the work-at-homeschool-mom.  You already have two full time jobs that you need to fit this home business into. How tragic it would be for you to start a business selling a product or providing a service no one wants.

Selling

Although not all businesses directly involve selling, almost all businesses have some form of selling, even if it is selling yourself as an expert, or a service provider, or a trustworthy individual who has a trustworthy product.  If you do not understand how to sell your product, you will have a great product that no one knows about..

Investigate your competitors and see what they are doing. You can tailor your own selling approach by studying their strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your target market is vitally important. Know your customers needs' so that you can reach out to them.

Marketing

The marketing plan is always vital to a business. Notice that this is distinct from "selling." Effective marketing is generally the key to your business success. Start with giving out business cards to your friends, family members and acquaintances. Make sure that people are aware that you have a business.

Fliers are also a good idea. Hand out fliers around your neighborhood. Post them on bulletin boards. Remember to include on the flier the essentials about your business.

Make time to learn some internet marketing techniques, and don't forget to take full advantage of social media platforms like Facebook.

If at all possible, "do what you do best, and hire out the rest."  Do not allow your business to take precedence over your responsibility to care for your children or your commitment to take responsibility for their education.

These three skills are the pillars of a good business. Remember to get support from your family members and friends. Get the necessary permits and licenses and procure the necessary equipment for your business.

Starting your home business will not be an easy task, but mastering these three skills will help you to maximize your business growth and profit.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Mommy Blogger?


Many stay at home moms are able to care for their families while making some money on the side with a home based business. But this can be especially challenging for a homeschooling mom, who already has two full time jobs: being a mom to your children, and assuming full responsibility for their education.

One way to make money that is often overlooked is blogging. I'm not talking about blogging for exposure - that is a good thing too, and can drive visitors to your own blog or site where you may be able to convert them to customers. I'll talk about that in a minute.

I'm talking about bloggers who are independent contractors who work for clients that need bloggers on a daily basis, or who design blogs for themselves that rely on Google AdSense and affiliate links to make money. Some people laugh when they hear how blogging moms make money, but the truth is that there is quite a bit of money to be made blogging for yourself. You do have to know how to drive traffic to your blog, develop a following for your topic, and how to present your affiliate links and Google ads to make money.

Blogging for someone else enables you to receive upfront pay. This is the preferred method of blogging for many moms. You can expect to be paid a minimum of $5 for a three hundred word post up to twenty dollars a post. I have been paid as much as $50 for a blog post. You can find many blogging jobs at sites such as ProBlogger and Craigslist. Companies use blog writers to keep their blogs updated every day or every other day. If they started a blog but never update it, it will not drive enough traffic to make any money, and they need you to generate enough advertiser or other income to keep the blog running.

Some moms that work at home write content for their own blogs. They start a blog in a niche that they enjoy writing about to attract traffic. An obvious example is this blog - I started this blog in 2006 as a way to talk about the challenges I was experiencing trying to homeschool and work at home. Some of the people that visit this blog will see Google ads and click on the links. Every click makes some amount of money. If you choose the right keywords, the Google ads can amount to quite a bit of money.  It is worth taking a little time to learn how to select the right keywords.

Bloggers also join affiliate sites to host banners for big companies such as Petco, Baby Bee and even Sears. Many people use Commission Junction, or one of the other affiliate link programs to find commission ads. Still others are members of individual affiliate programs for products they feel strongly enough about to recommend. Others are popular enough to attract advertisers who will pay to have banners or other display ads on their sites. These are just a few ways to make money blogging for yourself.

You can also run contests and free giveaways to bring traffic to your blogs, and over the past few years, special tools have been developed to help you manage contests and giveaways. One of my favorite giveaway bloggers is at http://www.mikishope.com - she specializes in giveaways of books, but she also gives away lots of other things. There are as many different kinds of giveaways as there are blogs.

Although writing is part of the blogger's job, if you don't have any marketing experience, you probably should join forums and message boards so you can participate in discussions with a link as your signature. Everyone on the discussion boards sees this link and they can click the link and check out your blog. This is just one way to generate more traffic that can lead to more Google ad clicks. It's more writing, but it is free, and that is usually a consideration for a work-at-homeschool mom.

Even though you should write about something that you enjoy, you also should do some research to see what types of blogs get traffic before you start. You can make as many blogs as you like free with Blogger. Therefore, you might have more than one blog that increases your chances of making money for yourself. The most successful of these blogs is going to be the one about a topic that you are passionate about, that also happens to be a topic that gets massive searches that people are dying to read about.  Generally speaking, a "mommy blogger" is someone who writes about topics of interest to mommies.  But there is another sense in which a "mommy blogger" has become one who writes about mommy issues and attracts boatloads of mommies. The goal of any blogger is to draw traffic to her blog so that she may get some clicks on affiliate sites or Google ads, and the mom who attracts enough traffic to begin to also attract sponsors achieves the level of a serious "mommy blogger."

Blogging for yourself is a slow process, but if you participate in discussions at forums and message boards with your link, you can increase your traffic and increase your chances of making money. If you need guaranteed pay, you can apply for blogging jobs that pay weekly or monthly. If you blog for a big client, you can actually make as much as one hundred dollars a day just writing five blog posts a day.

The only disadvantage of blogging in a particular niche, is that you may grow weary of your topic if you have not selected it carefully. If you are working for a client, the greater the chance that the topic is going to become tiresome. This is something that you have to consider before starting any blog or blogging job. 

Some bloggers also make money making their blogs available for advertisements.  One way is to allow the advertiser to show an ad on their blog. Advertisers are always looking for blogs with a large readership where they can promote their products. Miki's Hope has an Alexa ranking in the US of less than 15,000. That's a lot of eyeballs to attract advertisers.

Another type of ad you can have on your blog is called Paid to Post. Companies and individuals pay you  a certain amount of money to write up a post about their product or website and post it on your blog. Depending on the size of your blog audience, you can make as much as one hundred dollars for a three hundred word post.  Of course, it is important to disclose when you have been paid for a post, and the FTC has strict regulations about this. Ignore them at your own peril.




You can also blog for exposure - by that I mean, you can write a guest post on someone else's blog that has a resource box that links back to your blog, or you can write something that you are excited about just for the sheer joy of doing it, with a few links to sites who may send traffic your way once they get wind of your post. I'm thinking of the post I did about Topsy Turvy Garden Bags on this blog a couple of years ago.  I totally should have gotten paid for that. But I was more excited about my awesome tomatoes than I was about getting paid.  And that post has been widely seen by people searching on gardening topics in general,  and Topsy Turvy in particular - enough so that it is still listed in my "Most Popular Posts" sidebar widget even two years later.

Whether you want to work for someone else or blog for yourself will depend on the amount of money you want to make, and the amount of time you have. You can do both paid blogging and blogging for yourself and increase your income, as long as you remember that your primary responsibility is caring for your family and secondarily, teaching your children.