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With the passing of Michael Jackson yesterday, I, along with just about everyone else I know, turned on the television to watch the coverage. Since new information was rather scarce in the first couple of hours of this breaking story, the first thing that I saw on most stations was the footage from his trial when charges of child molestation were brought against him along with images of how he was dressed, how he acted and just about everything else associated with his comings and goings to the court. This made me really angry.

Michael Jackson was acquitted of the charges brought against him in that case. He also had his reasons for settling the earlier case which does not automatically mean that he must have been guilty. Now if you have read any of my previous blogs or have seen my profile, you immediately know that one of my major platforms has to do with abuse as a result of my own situation. And for me, any abuse, mentally or physically against children, is horrific and must be stopped. However, I also believe that none of us has the right to judge anyone else with regard to things that did or didn’t happen unless we were an integral part of the experience.

For famous people like Michael Jackson, there are always those people who wish to create negative stories just to have their own fifteen minutes of fame or because they want to make money or because they are just plain jealous of someone else’s success. Just because someone has said something does not make it fact. I know that I have been the victim of false accusations in the past and I am sure that most people have had such an experience at one time or another in their lives. And it didn’t take long for others to spread the falsehood as fact and pass judgment accordingly.

I don’t know whether Michael Jackson was guilty of anything because I wasn’t there. I never met the man. Even as far as the court case is concerned, I didn’t hear the evidence and even then, I would have no way of knowing whether there was anything withheld or inserted that could have made a difference in the final outcome. In fact, it really is none of my business. It is the business of those who were directly involved or directly interacted with him.

As far as I am concerned, Michael Jackson and each of us have only to answer to ourselves at the end of the day. No matter what anyone else has to say, I believe that God is my one and only judge. I don’t believe that anyone else has the right to judge my actions anymore than I have the right to judge someone else. Michael left us yesterday to face his final judgment. It is my hope that he has finally found peace in that judgment.

I would love your comments.

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The most important relationship that any girl has with a parent is the one with her father.   As today is Father’s Day, I felt that it was only fitting to discuss the relationship that I had with my own father that formulated the person that I am today.

First of all, I would like to make it perfectly clear that I loved and respected my father very much. But, my father was raised in a very strict environment and that is the home that he created for us.  I was the middle child with an older sister and younger brother.  My brother was only 15 months younger than me so I was never really the baby.  As for my sister, she was the first to experience everything so that it wasn’t as exciting by the time things were handed down to me.  Of course, this included clothing as well as just about anything else that you can think of.

The biggest thing that both my sister and I faced with our father was that he was extremely concerned with our appearance.  For my sister, at a young age (under 10), he put her on an exercise regimen that included sit-ups, etc.   Since that didn’t work for my sister, he decided that he would put me on a diet and if I didn’t lose 10 pounds by summer, I was not going to be allowed to wear shorts.

The other big thing for me was that my father, and later my brother, never felt that I measured up to my potential.  Nothing that I could do was ever good enough.  When I got great grades in school, it was expected, not rewarded as they were for my brother and sister.  When I became a cheerleader, my parents never once came to any game or to any parade in which we marched.  When it was college time, there were three of us in school at the same time so I stayed at home to go to college and worked every day after school from the time that I was 16 so that I could pay for my own education.  My reward was that there was never enough money left for me to get new clothes, etc. after they got those things for my brother and sister and paid for them to go to college out of town.

As a result, when I found a man who was interested in me and gave me attention, I was “grateful”, I guess.  I finally had a male who thought that I was something special.  My dad didn’t seem to think that I was special so I would show him.  And when I got married and my dad told me that I was not welcome in his home if I brought my husband because he did not approve of him, well, that was the final straw.

Although I didn’t experience any abuse from my husband until after we were several months into the marriage, I could not bring myself to let anyone know.  After all, I had once again proven my dad right by not being smart enough to know what I was getting myself into.  It was up to me to either fix it or be smart enough to find my way out of it.  What a mess! 

I never did figure out what was going on at the time that I was in that relationship but I did learn so much about myself.  Although it took until the point where I could not stand the abuse any longer for me to leave, I am so glad that I had the presence of mind to do so.  And the most interesting thing is that it was my mother and father who were there to move me out the day that I left.  How ironic!

I would love your comments.

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I normally do not include in my blogs the names of specific individuals but rather I try to write about general issues.  This week, I am making an exception.  I was so angered by the comment that David Letterman included in his monologue about Sarah Palin’s daughter that I just can’t sit back and let it go.

For those of you who may have missed this, Palin was in New York with her 14 year old daughter, Willow. The following is the “joke” that he included in his monologue which I have quoted below:

“One awkward moment for Sarah Palin at the Yankee game, during the seventh inning, her daughter was knocked up by Alex Rodriguez.”

I can’t begin to imagine what would inspire a man of his age and stature to include such a comment in his thoughts let alone his presentation.  It would have been bad enough if he had made such a remark as an ad lib but he planned this.  He wrote it in advance and he had no qualms about including it in his show.  And not only did he laugh but he had a whole audience that laughed, too.

I understand that entertainers are doing whatever they can to get ratings and I am sure that creating a controversy like this has certainly put Letterman in the limelight.  But if he thinks that this type of humor is going to increase his viewership, I certainly hope that he is terribly wrong.  To insinuate that someone raping a 14 year old girl is funny under any circumstances is just downright horrible to me.

I don’t have a daughter but I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like for me if someone made such a comment about my daughter on a personal level let alone in front of the whole country.  We all know that there are so many people out there who think that it is okay to abuse young children in this manner and to have a comedian make that comment and laugh about it on national television only spurs on such deviant behavior. 

I don’t know about anyone else out there who may read this blog but I will NEVER watch David Letterman again and I hope that you will join me in this action.  Too many of us have suffered abuse in our lives in many different forms and the idea of thinking that putting out the image of an adult male sexually exploiting a young female as something that is funny is unbelievable.  I can only assume that he lives in such a little bubble that he doesn’t even consider what the ramifications are for those girls who have suffered such abuse in their lives. 

To all of my friends who are working so hard to help end abuse, I beg you to keep up the wonderful work that you are doing to help those who have turned to you for help.  I also hope that you will take this opportunity to let others know that it is never okay to suggest in any way that child abuse is acceptable let alone something about which jokes should be made.

I would love your comments.

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Today Kirk and I celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary.  It would have also been my parents’ 68th anniversary if they were still alive.  As I told Kirk at the time, I wanted to get married on that date because if our marriage was half as successful as theirs was, I would really be very happy.  Well, all I can say is that our marriage is so much more than I could ever have imagined and I can’t help but reflect on some major events.

Kirk and I originally met at a restaurant called “Romeo & Juliet’s”.  It was on April 8, 1989 which was my father’s birthday.  My father had died on January 2, 1989 and I do remember that as I put the key into the door of my apartment when I got home, in my mind I thanked my dad for the presents that he had sent to me on his birthday (also met another special person on that day).  Although in my wildest imagination I never thought that Kirk and I would end up being married, I do know to this day that my dad was responsible for sending him to me and for that I am eternally grateful.

Music was the original connection for Kirk and me.  I loved to see his performances and could never tell you how much joy they brought to me.  A couple of years after we were married, I started waking up on Sunday mornings with song lyrics running through my mind.  Now I had never even thought about being a lyricist but I started writing down the words and in most cases, I had a completed song within about 20 minutes.  I decided to share them with Kirk who had never composed music in the past and he was inspired to write the music for them.  I don’t believe that anything happens by accident.  And from those songs, we decided to have Kirk record a CD which ended up being titled “Let Life Happen” which is also the title of one of the songs on that CD.  I also want to share that one of the songs on that CD, “Don’t Change”, was written by Kirk for me on Valentine’s Day.  What a treasure that was to me.

As Kirk built the website for our music and we endeavored to share that music in the hope of helping and inspiring others, we did receive a lot of feedback from people letting us know what the songs meant to them.  I had a very dear friend who was a two-time breast cancer survivor that was actively involved with helping others by preparing gift baskets for the women in their area in which she lived.  We provided her with CD’s to include in the baskets until she again had a return of her cancer and she past away.

Shortly after I had my first cancer surgery, two additional cancers were found and I elected to have a double mastectomy.  At that time, Kirk suggested and prodded and nudged me about writing a blog.  It took him two weeks to succeed and he chose to convert our music site into my current Let Life Happen site although you can still check out our music there.  Because of his support and love and caring and sharing in all arenas, I have finally been able to address issues that were buried so deeply that I would never have thought they would ever resurface.  The care that he has taken with me through 3 surgeries encompassing 4 procedures with one more surgery to go that will include 2 separate procedures has been phenomenal.  I can’t even begin to imagine what we will accomplish together as we are starting another new year together.  All that I can say is that I truly know that I am blessed and I thank God each day for allowing him to be in my life.

I would love your comments.

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As an adult, when we find ourselves in abusive relationships, we have the ability to talk to others, seek help and find ways to get away from the abuse.  Certainly it is not an easy thing to do but it is a choice that we can make.  However, children do not have the opportunities to know their resources and even if they do, are usually intimidated into believing whatever threats are made by their abuser.

I don’t have any children and I do not personally know any child that has suffered from physical abuse.  I do know that if I were aware of a child being abused, I would not hesitate to go to the authorities.  I would not try to handle the matter with the parent or parents as I am not trained to do so.  Nor would I be willing to risk the well-being of any child or children by allowing the parents to find ways to hide the children or try to hide the abuse or take the children and run.

Verbal abuse is an entirely different situation.  Many parents and other adults that I have met along the way do not find anything wrong with the way that they speak to their children.  For example, if a child is not doing well in school, they have no problem with telling the child that he/she is a loser and will never amount to anything.  They tell the children that they are dumb, stupid, etc. and go on their way, never thinking twice about the ramification of their words.  Then there are those who have children who do a fantastic job but regardless of their achievements, it is never enough.  They are expected to do well and if they don’t meet the parents’ expectations, then they are not trying hard enough or they are lazy or they don’t care and on and on and on.

I don’t think that there is a single person who is reading this blog who has not either personally experienced such behavior directly or saw others inflicting this upon other children.  Many girls are told that they are too fat or two skinny or too ugly, etc. and end up spending their adult life so self-absorbed in their personal appearance that they never even consider that they are beautiful people just for the people that they are.  They never consider that their real happiness in life would be found with a person who appreciates their willingness to trust and to nurture and to be allowed to be just whom and what they are.

Many of the same things happen for boys.  If they are not into playing sports and being the big man on campus and working out in the gym all of the time, they are constantly being reminded that they are failures as men and less than desirable and that no woman would ever be interested in them.  They have a difficult time growing into adults who understand that physical acumen has nothing to do with being a wonderful husband and great human being.  And the sad part here is that the abuse usually comes from the fathers who never succeeded in the athletic arena themselves and are now trying to live vicariously through their sons.

I do understand that most people act and talk to their children this way in the hope that it will spur them on to do bigger and better things.  After all, this is the way that the children’s parents were treated by their own parents.  However, if every adult would stop to think about the verbal abuse that they experienced as they grew up, I think that it would be a whole different ballgame.  How did you do in your adult life as a result of being told that you were dumb, stupid, lazy, too fat, too skinny, not smart enough, not working to your potential, not doing the best that you can, etc.?  How has such verbal abuse diminished you as a person?  How much did you buy into the abuse that was repeated to you over and over and over?  And now, most importantly, as a result of this abuse, how has it changed you as the person you are and what are you going to do to change from who you were told you are into the person that you actually are?  The easiest way will be to start speaking to the children in your life in a manner that is completely respectful and to offer your help and knowledge to them if they need it.  The more that you treat the children with dignity and respect, the more you will become a positive role-model in their lives and the more respect you will have for yourself which will lead you to being the person that you truly are and/or want to be.  And we will not end up raising another generation of people who will perpetuate the same destructive behavior on their children as we have been doing for so many generations.

If you need help or have questions about child abuse or child neglect, check out www.childhelp.org.

I would love your comments.

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I don’t know about anyone else but Memorial Day is a very special holiday to me. It isn’t because I personally had a lot of people in my family and/or circle of friends who went to war for my country because I didn’t. In fact, I don’t personally know a single person who died fighting for our freedom. Nevertheless, I am extremely moved each year on this holiday as I contemplate what type of person would go to fight for his/her country and who would ultimately give their lives for our lives here.

I don’t know a family whose son or daughter did not return from war or one person who had to spend the rest of their life without their best friend in this manner. And I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to go to war and to lose one or more comrades next to you in a fire fight. All I have to say is that when I think of such people I am so very grateful for their ultimate sacrifice for me and my fellow Americans and I know that I could never do what they have done for me.

I look at the military graveyards with the American flag beside each headstone and tears come to my eyes. These mark the lives of so many young people who sacrificed their lives for us. What kind of a person is that giving? Who could be that self-sacrificing to go to war for our freedom? I can’t begin to wrap my mind around such a choice.

So this year on Memorial Day as every other, I always take time to stop and think about all of these unique individuals who are my heroes. I watch the parades and the memorial services and look into the faces of those veterans who are in attendance and I say a lot of extra prayers for all of those who have worn the various uniforms of those military people who have served our country. I admire every single one of them who have had strength of character that I will never know and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for their sacrifices.

I feel so very fortunate to live in this, the greatest country in the world, and to have a military that is willing to fight for my freedoms and the freedoms of others. The strength and bravery of so many people from both the past and the present is just mind-boggling to me. Although I am not able to let these people know how I personally feel about their sacrifices, I am so glad that we do have a special holiday to acknowledge their accomplishments and to allow us as a nation to thank all of them and let them know what their sacrifices mean to us. And I hope that we never forget what they have done to keep us free and to have all of the future generations know and respect the sacrifices that have been made to make this the greatest nation.

I would love your comments on what Memorial Day means to you.

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This post has been moved to my new and improved blog at http://www.letlifehappen.com/2009/05/17/i-fired-my-friend/

Thanks for visiting!
Barbara