Weaving Webs…

My September plans for this blog got blown away by Hurricane Irma, then the most wicked, rib straining bronchitis I have ever experienced. So I was even more determined to make up for it in October with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

DVAM is important to me because I am sick of the narrative, “No breaks, no bruises, no PROBLEM.” This simply is not true, people can and are brought to their knees every day by soul sucking emotional abuse, never ending legal abuse through the family court system, and financial abuse.

Studies show that 99% of DV victims are also victims of financial abuse as a method of control in the relationship. Financial abuse continues in the aftermath of a relationship in the form of unpaid child support to financially cripple the escapee.

This is especially abhorrent to me as children are the collateral damage.

This should never be tolerated in any society.

So I wrote a short story, Webs, to raise money this month for three charities close to my heart: National Coalition Against DV, National Network to end DV and Allstate’s Purple Purse.

But I though you may enjoy hearing how Web’s came together, because few projects like this are woven quietly or alone!

Last summer I had asked one of my oldest friends, Zan Phillips, an award-winning photographer, if she had some old photo’s I could have and use for blog illustrations.

Zan’s amazing photograph of the web!

She kindly responded by emailing me some of her work. In the batch was an AMAZING photograph of a large garden spider web, dripping with dew and sparkling against a clear sky.

I was mesmerized by this picture but I didn’t have anything in cue that would go with it so I held on to the picture. I knew I had to use that picture for something special as soon as possible.

Fast forward to this summer: I am thinking of what I can do for DVAM, in between runs to the store for bottled water, batteries and other hurricane supplies. I walk outside and from my back porch to the side of the house and see an enormous wagon wheel web. I stopped in awe of the biggest garden spider I have ever seen sitting smack dab in the middle of this work of art and eased my phone out of my pocket to try to get a picture.

I was thinking of Zan’s photo and how she may enjoy another web, but this one with Ms. Spider appearing in all her grandeur. At the very moment I am trying to get the picture, the screen door bangs and my 15-year-old Diva bounces out. She spots the web and the spider and starts screaming…. I feel quite sure her voice was heard three counties away…

“MOM! DO SOMETHING! OH MY GOSH LOOK AT THAT THING!” She goes on and on… She slams the door to my jeep so hard I was sure it was going to fall off and continues her ranting about the spider.

I noticed that Ms. Spider was not fond of all this racket and had disappeared up her web and was in hiding. I wanted to join her, but instead joined the screaming teenager in my jeep and told her that garden spiders EAT the bad bugs and she is to stay away, leave this spider alone!

Baby Diva pouts all the way to the store.

We come back and I am again trying to get a picture of this magnificent web without luck. I am a TERRIBLE photographer.

So I decided to get up early the next morning and see if I could get the picture like Zan did, with dew on the web. Hopefully the spider would be on the web.

Next morning I go outside, phone in hand, and the entire web is gone! I do not know if the winds picking up had blown the web away or if the drop in pressure made Ms. Spider decide to move or if all the racket had scared her off… But web and spider were gone.

A few days go by, I get a text message from my friend, fellow author and editor, Christy Mann. It’s a picture of a spider… in her bedroom! Christy is almost as hysterical as my Baby Diva.

I go through my speech, spiders eat bad bugs, maybe you should leave it alone! NOT HAPPENING at Christy’s house! And to be honest, I do not think Christy appreciated my “save the spiders” speech one damn bit!

I do understand. Some spiders are poisonous and people rightly have arachnophobia.  My son, for instance, if he woke up to a king cobra hooded up beside his bed or a spider on his nightstand… Well the snake would be ignored as he crashed through the wall to get away from the spider. That is just how it is for some folks!

All of this is churning in my mind as I am up several nights with the most awful wracking, rib shattering coughing wondering what I am going to do for DVAM?

Maybe it was the cough medicine, or the insomnia…But Webs came out of one of those nights in between coughing spells, cough medicine and zinc lozenges.

Next thing you know I am calling Christy and asking her if she would consider donating her time as editor. And oh, by the way, the story contains a spider!

HAHAHAHA! Christy is a good sport and a great editor! I can show you the rough draft and you will see what I mean. Web’s is 110% better for her participation in its creation.

Now it’s on to the cover. It remains true, you do judge a book by the cover even an e-book short story!

Zan agreed for her image to be used for the cover and then the last critical piece fell into place.

Sharon Lipman of Fantasia Covers by Design agreed to donate her time and considerable talent to the cause and made the e-book cover for Webs.

Before…
After!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it was on to upload to Amazon so you can enjoy!

 

All proceeds during DVAM will be split between NCADV, NNEDV and Purple Purse to raise awareness of DV in all it’s forms and provide assistance to victims.

I hope you enjoy Webs and if you ever find yourself caught in one these webs I hope you will reach out for the help that is available due to these amazing organizations.

http://www.NACADV.org          http://www.NNEDV.org  and http://www.purplepurse.com

 

https://www.patreon.com/christymannauthor

https://www.facebook.com/zan.martin

http://www.fantasiacoverdesigns.com/

Is Non-Payment of Child Support, Child Abuse?

22k in arrears in a Texas case…

This question is sure to raise eyebrows and start arguments but let’s take a minute to look at the FACTS.  With child support arrears in America at an astounding 116, 360,701.209.00 BILLION dollars nationally according the Office of Child Support Enforcement, this is something that requires a closer look.

WebMD.com summarizes it as: “child abuse means doing something that hurts a child. Neglect means not giving or doing something that a child needs.”  The article goes on to further break down abuse into categories of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Then goes on to add that “Neglect happens when a child does not get shelter, schooling, clothing, medical care or protection that he or she needs. Child neglect is just as serious as abuse and is more common.”

Federal law as defined by CAPTA 2010, defines child abuse as: “Any recent act or FAILURE to act, on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or FAILURE to act that which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”

Legal Dictionary defines child abuse as: “Physical, sexual, or emotional mistreatment, or neglect of a child”

The vision of the Administration of Children and Family’s is; “Children, youth, families, individuals and communities who are resilient, safe, healthy and economically secure” The ACF oversees the Office of Child Support Enforcement so is this vision being met?

over 20k in arrears…

We have over $116 Billion dollars on the books in unpaid child support on 11,020,324 cases across our great nation. Over the past 25 years the arrears owed has increased by almost 90 Billion dollars. So something is wrong, something is not working and we need to fix it.

In a previous article, http://momsfightback.org/money-weapon-using-child-support-tool-abuse/ ,I told the story of a mother, D. whose son played on an elite soccer team. As any parent knows, extracurricular activities don’t come cheap and D. placed the costs of her boy playing soccer on credit cards for over three years while trying to collect the court ordered child support from her ex husband. He did not pay and D. was unable to keep up and her son had to give up the team he had played on for 8 years. The boy became very depressed, starting getting in trouble at school and smoking…

“neglect means NOT GIVING OR DOING SOMETHING A CHILD NEEDS.”

Does a child ‘need’ to play soccer? You can debate that all day long, but this boy who now didn’t have a dad at home still had a positive male role model in his coach. This boy had friends who were all into the same thing– a sport that requires discipline, team work, responsibility, good healthy habits to play at an elite level– all very good things, we can agree. Not to mention the possibility of higher education as scholarships are involved with sports at this level….

“Failure to act which presents imminent risk of serious harm.”

Unpaid child support was the DIRECT cause of this boy not being able to play soccer. Not being able to play soccer was the DIRECT cause of this child’s depression, acting out smoking.

In this same article I also told how in 2010 my own daughter needed surgery for an angioma on her face. She had been picked on mercilessly at school over this and the surgeon wanted to take it off on the first day of Christmas break so any bruising would be faded by the time school started back. I notified my soon to be ex husband and his attorney of the surgery and date. When I went by the outpatient center a few days prior to the surgery to fill out her paperwork I found out that he had canceled the insurance on the kids.

The next example from that article was from a mother in Utah. Her ex was made aware that one of their son’s was going to travel to California to perform at a special event with the school orchestra. He quit paying his child support and there was no way to pay for the trip.

Before you make a call on that one, think: Do you want to be the kid who could not afford to go? Do you think this boy was made fun of at school for suddenly not being able to go? Do you want it to be YOUR child who was the only child unable to participate?

Please re-read the definitions above of abuse vs neglect. What is your opinion on this? I would like to know in the comments.

183k owed in Wisconsin….

The Federal Office of Child Support is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services and the ACF,  HHS has a very interesting article still available on their website that was published in 1989: A Partial Listing of Problems Facing American Children, Youth and Families.

This article gives those problems as:

  • Child Health
  • Adolescents in Trouble (drug use, teen pregnancy, runaways)
  • Child welfare
  • Lack of child care
  • Lack of early childhood education
  • Lack of Child Support and
  • Homelessness
  • This article goes on to cite a study done in 1986 by Bumpas that states: “Studies done show that 1 out of 2 female head families live below the poverty line and a significant factor in this impoverishment is failure to provide child support.”
  • Things have not changed that much since this study. In a 2012 study in the state of Texas the stats were 48% of single mothers and 17% of single fathers were living below the poverty line due to unpaid child support. And if you read the entire article the expenditures made on behalf of the Federal government to “attempt” to collect child support are astounding. I simply do not believe that in the United States of America we can not do a better job of enforcing court orders.

The ACES study available on CDC.gov shows the direct correlation between adverse childhood experiences and low life potential, risky health behaviors, chronic health conditions and early death…..  Childhood poverty or even financial strain is no laughing matter. A survey done by Moms Fight Back in Colorado listed in 2016 “financial strain” as top issue keeping Moms “up at night”.

9k owed in Michigan…

 

There is a church in my area that yearly does a back to school program to provide needed items for a successful start to the school year: new backpack, school supplies, new sneakers and a haircut. Every year the number of parents applying for this blessing increases, and the parents bringing kids to this event are not in pairs.

As a single mother, I can promise you that the only thing more stressful than August’s back to school, is December and holiday expenses. Paper and plastic only stretch so far…

So we have the facts– the latest Report to Congress from the Federal Office of Child Support in 2016 shows an arrearage of 116,360.701,209.00 Billion dollars on 11,020,324 cases owed unpaid child support. Millions of children doing without needs and wants, experiencing lack and often worse. This is scientifically proven to lead to deleterious outcomes in life.

What is YOUR take? Abuse? Not abuse? Neglect or not? Please comment. 

27k owed in Florida…

What are we going to do about it? Make no mistake, whether you are a struggling single parent, a parent paying support, a grandparent chipping in for “extra’s” or a TAXPAYER with no children: this is everyone’s problem.

2018 is an election year for our Congress. I urge you to find your Representative and call for appointments, bring your arrears statements along with your concerns. Ask your congress man or woman if they even READ the Report and looked at the tables showing these disgraceful figures? Let them know you are watching, expecting action, and you VOTE. I for one, am tired of empty words out of Washington. I plan to vote for the candidates who will fight for our children.

https://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

 

All arrears statements shown were previously posted online and used with permission of the custodial parent. 

https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/can/defining/

https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/partial-listing-problems-facing-american-children-youth-and-families#childsupport

https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/index.html

The True Cost of Unpaid Child Support

https://www.webmd.com/parenting/tc/child-maltreatment-topic-overview#1

 

 

 

The Nursing Student and Baby Rosebud

My maternity rotation in nursing school was during the heat of a Mississippi summer. It was a relief to spend it indoors in a cool hospital.

Maternity was an exciting rotation full of life and promise that everyone had been looking forward to. Who does not love babies? The hope and wonder that permeate the labor and delivery makes it a joyous place. Most of the time.

With six more months of clinical’s to go I was competing with four other students for class valedictorian. And my nemesis was ahead of me with her GPA so I knew I had to knock it out of the ballpark with post clinical conference grades. So when we were all lined up with our instructor and she asked who wanted to scrub in on a “special C-section” I jumped right out of line with my hand raised. THIS was what I needed to get ahead in post clinical’s!

To my surprise our instructor just glared at me. I looked back at the line of students staring at the floor and thought, “I was the only volunteer, I should get extra points for this!”

My instructor grabbed me by the arm and waved the others off to the nurses lounge. She continued to glare at me and said, “Are you SURE you want this assignment?”

“oh yes Mam! I will do a great job!”

“This is not a ‘JOB’, your patient is a very dedicated nurse who happens to be a friend of mine.”

My stomach did that flip-flop thing that something was wrong but Professor X continued, “Her baby died in utero two days ago. There is no obvious reason why. Her doctor wanted her to labor and expel the baby naturally but she refused and is here today to have a section done.”

She paused and my heart began pounding, joining the party with my flipping stomach.

“You up and volunteered for this so here is your assignment. You are to provide comfort to her and her husband. Stay with her and provide physical and emotional care pre-surgery, during surgery and post op. After she is settled in her room you will be providing post-mortem care for the baby and taking the baby to her family for them to say goodbye. The grandmother has provided a christening gown and you will bathe and dress the baby in this gown to take her to her family.”

I was now in complete shock and GPA or not, I wished I had joined my peers and kept my big mouth shut.

Professor X continued glaring at me. “You asked for this. Life is not a game or even fair.” She looked down at her spotless white shoes and continued, “You do this and do not add to the family’s sorrow. It was a unique gift for them to allow a student nurse in on their personal tragedy. They are in room three. I will be watching you!”

I made my way to the OB nurses locker room to change into scrubs, I was in shock and decided my best approach was to be as professional as possible and keep quiet and stay out-of-the-way.

I went to room three and after taking a deep gulp of air and knocked on the door. To my surprise I heard laughter coming from inside. I was invited in and found a very pretty woman sitting beside the bed with her husband. “Oh you must be my student nurse! I am so happy to meet you!” I was completely taken off guard by how nice and how cheerful she was along with her husband. We all shook hands and introduced ourselves and I asked her if she was ready for me to help her with her hospital gown and getting ready. While I assisted her, she kept talking, cheerfully.

“I believe you know that our baby is not going home with us?”

“yes Mam, my instructor told me that you found out two days ago?”

I helped her get in the bed and to a comfortable sitting position. Then I pulled up the bedside table and laid out the supply’s to start her IV. Students were not allowed to start lines at this private hospital so I pressed the call light for the staff nurse to come in.

“Yes.” Mom continued, “we did a sonogram two days ago to confirm she had died…” Mom looked down and sighed, “There is nothing to indicate what happened, the placenta is attached and in place, the cord was not around her neck…She is just gone.” Another sigh from Mom. “my doctor wanted me to wait and labor naturally, but I told him I was not going through all that and not getting the prize at the end! No way!” she laughed now, “So here we are.” She looked at me expectantly.

I could not help myself. I blurted out, “I am so sad for you! How are you dealing with this? You and your husband?” I looked at him but he just shook his head. I noticed then that he rarely took his eyes off of his wife’s lovely face.

“I do not know. All I can tell you is that I was screaming at God that this is not FAIR! I cried till I could not breathe, then even though He did not answer me I felt peace.”

I just nodded as I felt tears welling up. I did not know what to say. Twenty eight years later I type this and still don’t know what to say…

The moment was broken by the staff nurse coming in to start the IV. After she expertly popped it in she surprised me by leaning over and kissing Mom on her forehead. I realized then that this woman knew the entire staff and they were all friends. What I didn’t know was that they were all sisters, in the society of nurses that one day I would join myself, but at the moment was still an outsider.

We are supposed to comfort, not need comforting. We are the one’s who care, not the one’s who need care. Role reversal is uncomfortable. The staff nurse swiped angrily at a tear sliding down her face and glared at me, “take good care of her!” she hissed at me on her way out the door. “yes Mam.” I whispered.

All we could do now was wait. I got Dad his scrubs for the OR and showed him where to go change and then I just stood there, scared, afraid to say anything. It seemed Mom felt my angst and she started talking to me about her three-year old son and what a joy he was. I smiled and nodded and tried to look less miserable for her sake.

Then it was off to the OR. Mom cheerfully chatted up the anesthesiologist as he put in her epidural. “Give me some extra!” she joked, ” I am not willing to feel any discomfort today!” But despite her joking the mood in the room was subdued and sad.

Mom’s OB doctor came in and shook his head. “It’s okay J.” she assured him, “lets just get this over with. Please be quick.” The doctor nodded and the surgery began. I was on the right by the anesthesiologist and Dad was on Mom’s left by her head. I heard murmured prayers and “I love you’s” Mom then popped her eye’s open and said, “Its okay, I am okay.” She then demanded her doctor take down the screen that prevented her from seeing her belly. The doctor refused and she sighed and glared at the ceiling.

In what seemed like seconds the baby was out and handed to a nurse who wrapped her in blankets and set her in a warmer. Mom  was sewn up, cleaned up, curtains down. I was to wheel her back to a room. My instructor was outside the OR and directed me to a room away from the post partum unit. “We don’t want her to have to hear or see the new baby’s. This will be quiet and peaceful.”

Again, I could only nod. It seemed I had developed a growth in my throat that prevented me from talking but wanted me to start crying. I could not do that, so nod I did.

We got to the new room that was a nice suite just off of post partum. Mom and Dad’s family were already there, with beautiful flowers arranged on the table. I got the bed locked, call light in place, checked the IV, pump settings, fresh water, coffee for Grandma…Then it was time for me to complete my assignment.

I took Mom’s hand and told her I was going to the nursery and I would be back with her daughter.

She bit her lip and squeezed my hand and smiled at me.

I trudged back to the nursery. My instructor was waiting by the door and put in the top-secret security code for me. The warmer with its still wrapped bundle was off to the side, away from the window where new family’s were smiling, pointing and taking pictures. I picked up the silent bundle and followed my instructor to a side room with a large sink.  Professor X had a beautiful white lacy gown in a plastic wrapper she laid to the side. “Bath her and dress her in here, then take her in your arms to the family. Since she is deceased there is no need to push her in a cart of supply’s that won’t be needed. This is a more personal and caring way to do it.” She fixed her mouth in a straight line and glared at me, “Are you okay?” I barely managed to croak out, “Yes Mam” over the painful lump in my throat.

I saw the nursery nurses watching me in the side room as I unwrapped the bundle. In the blanket was a perfect little baby girl. It did not seem possible that she would never open her eyes, cry or grow up. She was so beautiful…I was thankful for the water coming out of the faucet to mask my gulped sobs and the tears that were now pouring down my face. I bathed this gorgeous baby in warm water, put a diaper on her and then the christening gown. I brushed her scant brown hair to dry it and it curled on top of her little head. Her skin was as white and soft as alabaster and there was not a mark on her tiny body. What I could not stop staring at was her mouth, it looked like a perfect rosebud in miniature.

Her lips were a perfect deep dark pink, almost scarlet. There are no words this side of heaven to describe the perfection of her lips, the shape of her mouth and the extraordinary color that seemed to grow deeper the more I looked. Rosebud, what a perfect name for lips like that…It seemed to me that her lips were perfectly shaped for an eternal smile, even as her eyes were eternally closed in an expression of peace.

Finally I was satisfied that I had her hair perfect, the gown just right and was ready to go. I picked up Rosebud in my arms, got her positioned and fluffed out the gown so she looked just right. I grabbed a scratchy paper towel and swiped at my tear-stained face then headed out into the nursery.

The nurses seemed to be standing at attention waiting for me to walk out with her. The curtain had been pulled down so visitors could not see in and every nurse inspected the baby in my arms. I felt the silent approval that I had done a good job. Rosebud looked like an angel doll. One of the older nurses patted me on the shoulder as I left the nursery.

My instructor was waiting. She too, inspected the baby doll in my arms and nodded. We walking silently down the hall to the room where the family was waiting.  Professor X knocked for me then pushed the door open but did not enter with me.

There was a collective gasp as I walked in and Mom, who had been so stoic, so cheerful, so accepting of this horrible situation threw her arms out towards me and finally started to cry…

I laid little Rosebud in her arms and she wept. “She is so beautiful and so perfect… OH God! She is perfect…”

I had not been dismissed so I just backed up a few steps and stood there. I honestly did not know what to do. Then a man in a suit came forward from the corner and said, “Let us pray.” Everyone grabbed hands and gathered around the bed. Now I really did not know what to do, this was a very personal, private family moment, do I disturb it by trying to sneak out? Do I flatten myself against the wall and try to be invisible? My dilemma was solved by Dad who grabbed my hand and pulled me into the family circle. I held hands between him and a grandmother as the Pastor led this lovely family in prayer. I do not remember what he said, I do not remember feeling comfort, but I do remember feeling confident and sure Jesus was present and listening.

After the Pastor prayed and Mom had stopped weeping, everyone was exclaiming how perfect and beautiful Rosebud was and taking pictures for keepsakes. I still had not been dismissed but the clock on the wall told me I was already late for clinical conference. After a few minutes of indecision I decided to slip towards the door.

“WAIT!” cried Mom.

I turned and ran back to the bedside, crying opening now. “I am so sorry for your loss. I don’t know what to say, but I will always be grateful to you for letting me be your student nurse today.”

Mom hugged me, tears rolling down her face. “Thank you, you took wonderful care of my daughter. You will be a good nurse.”

Still crying I hugged Dad and the grandma’s and slipped out. In the hallway I could actually let the sobs out.

I still could not go to clinical conference without giving report to the staff nurse so I went to the nurses station, let them know Rosebud was still in the room with the family, Mom was stable, left to claim on her IV.  The staff nurse gave me the “nod of approval” and I headed to the conference center.

I did not bother to change back into my uniform, I was already late so what difference did it make? All I wanted to do at this point was get out of there, go to my mother’s house, let her comfort me and have a good cry.

Professor X saw me slip into the back of the auditorium and glared at me then the clock. “I’m doomed,” I thought, “she’s going to give me a clinical U for sure.”

After all the other students finished presenting their patient’s and care plans for the day I heard my name. “Alana had a very interesting case today, come up here and present please!” Professor X bellowed.

I walked to the front hanging my head. I had no notes prepared, no care plan, no idea what to say.

I looked out at my fellow students who stared right back at me. I was a mess in OB scrubs that were wrinkled and still wet in spots, what little makeup we were allowed to wear had long since been cried off and my eye’s were red. I took a deep breath and said, “I took care of a mother today whose baby died in utero. She elected to have a C-section rather than labor with a stillborn.” I wanted to go on about how beautiful Rosebud was, how perfect. But I needed to present the facts of the case and the nursing care involved, but at that moment the tears started again. With no thought to GPA or valedictorian or even a clinical U I just said, “And I learned it’s okay to cry with and for your patient’s.”  Sometimes that is all you can do for them.”

 

Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Matthew 5:4