Losing the Mirage of Control- Pandemic Blog One

Living in thought limbo is like rooting feet to pavement as a bus barrels towards you. The past couple of weeks have turned us inside out. Or outside in as laws demand.

As a conference producer, I felt the oncoming chaos in great waves of cancellations and scurrying to fill empty podiums for two San Francisco events. Control, necessary to connect all the moving parts of any live event, spiraled away with every phone call, keystroke. Find a speaker, lose three. Then came the Los Angeles County order to shelter in place, and postponement freed me from the frenetic pace of the search. Exhale.nature

Until, New York. Inhale and hold, newscaster’s grim reports, New York Times reality checks, empty shelves, daily meetings with my New York based co-workers. Tiny cosmos growing smaller, isolated. I’ve listened and not written a word until today March 22, 2020. What is there to say? When so many are talking, dying. Perhaps thought limbo is simple numbness. Worst fears realized and so the brain slows to find a pattern in the anti-melodic pace of the communication onslaught. Even reviewing these words as I write makes each feel limp with wishy-washy ideas.

While not writing, I stocked the homestead. A history that has known hunger and struggle tugged vigorously at nerve endings. Never-again, was my thought at age 12, standing in the food pantry line as volunteers put jars of peanut butter and blocks of welfare cheese into our monthly allotment. Keeping close tabs on budget, pantry and needs are habit. Now tested, all I can think of are the women who stand in that line now, little ones hungry at home. A human condition repeated.

What I miss most as I pen these inadequate words, is a sense of control. Any human who has survived chronic abuse knows that control is power. That hungry pre-teen vowed to control her future. Age twenty came and I became a rock journalist. Thirty arrived and I became a mother. Forty marched in and I became a professional writer, author, manager, producer. Decades passed and I kept as much control of my family’s environment as humanly possible.

Five, the fingers on a hand no longer outstretched but limp at our collective sides. Five decades spent believing in a higher power and my own ability to control. Melting now, into a waxy remembrance and bright illumination of the reality that it has all been a parlor trick, smoke and mirrors. A lesson on letting go, incrementally of the control that was never really mine/ours.

The gestures we make as we move forward, whether reactive, inactive, in empathy, or in self-service, are the only human authority.

First words, like toddling steps teeter awkwardly from the page. Inch forward now, inward, outward, together.

Blessings for good health, and human kindness,

V.L. Brunskill

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
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Buy my novel Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

 

Savannah’s Flannery O’Connor Birthday Event

Author Flannery O’Connor was born in Savannah, Georgia on March 25, 1925. Flannery wrote two novels and a few dozen short stories in her lifetime and is one of the best short story writer’s of all time. Her Savannah home at 207 East Charlton Street is a museum and I highly recommend that every writer, reader and Flannery fan make time to visit.

Flannery O’Connor’s Childhood Home

This past weekend (and for the last seven years) Savannahians have celebrated Flannery’s birthday with a quirky parade and book sale by local authors. I first joined the celebration six years ago, long before Waving Backwards was published by SYP Publishing. I was not yet a book author, but adored Flannery’s fiction.

This year, I attended the event with my dear friend Rosemary Daniel, who has written a gaggle of brilliant books and runs the Zona Rosa writer’s group. The event has grown by leaps and bounds and weaves a heartwarming and artsy atmosphere with local authors, art vendors, chicken-poop bingo, a giant birthday cake, and a huge parade of costumed characters. Marchers are led around Lafayette Square by the Sweet Thunder Strolling Band.

Author V.L. Brunskill

Savannah is my heart place, and since so many of you write asking what to do when visiting our glorious city, I am sharing a few photos from the weekend festivities. Enjoy and come on down for next year’s Flannery-fest. See you there!


Sweet Thunder Strolling Band
Happy Birthday Flannery!

Reclaim Your Gifts- Secret to Healing?

My world slowed to an introspective, desperate spin in May 2017. It was eight months ago and yet it feels like forever. My family and I had returned from a beach weekend on my beloved Jekyll Island in Georgia. I awoke that Monday morning with a huge bump on the back of my neck and swollen lips.

Jekyll_C_LisaWestberry

Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island. Photo by Lisa Westberry

The doctor assumed that either fried oysters or a new medicine were the cause. I stopped consuming both. I took steroids and antihistamines. But nothing worked. I was soon covered with plate-sized welts that itched and hurt.

Off to an allergist for food testing. No allergies found.  I was diagnosed with chronic  idiopathic urticaria, a fancy term for hives. I was told that they are not food related and that they will someday go away in the same mysterious way they arrived. The allergist suggested that I take truckloads of antihistamines (five different kinds at a time) and wait.

Two trips to the emergency room later (with a swollen tongue and closed eyes) I sought out fellow sufferers on Facebook. It was there that I discovered how urticaria ruins lives, breaks hearts and tests the fortitude of the human spirit. Doctors gleefully remind us that our condition cannot kill us (as long as we keep an EPI pen close by). While it is not fatal, we live the torment of being covered in raised patches that move, change size and shape, and itch like a constant case of poison ivy.

I have looked at every treatment under the sun, including Chinese medicine, herbal teas, supplements, and finally rearranged my life to a Paleo, low histamine food lifestyle. I still have hives. I still cry at night as I tear my skin from the itch and cringe at the pain.

This brings me to a phone call I had last week. I was chatting with a prospective speaker for an upcoming webinar. I am a conference producer in addition to writing books. The woman, also an author, asked about my forthcoming memoir and when I explained the topic (my trans dad and how hiding ‘her’ gender for a lifetime stole her ability to be human), she inquired about my health.

Now, here’s where I go out on a limb. Risking a ridicule, that I spent the last twenty years avoiding. The author I spoke with last week is a Reiki master. According to Wikipedia, Reiki is a form of alternative medicine developed in 1922 by Japanese Buddhist Mikao Usui. When I explained my itchy woes, she asked if I considered myself to be spiritual. I explained that I am spiritual and have a strong faith.

“Are you an empath?; she inquired. The question stopped me in my tracks.  An empath is a hypersensitive, intuitive person who feels everyone’s emotions times ten. 

“I used to be,” I replied.

She laughed, “Well, then you still are. When did you start blocking your gifts? I think this is the cause of your illness.”

Now, I am somewhat science-minded and this explanation sounded ridiculous at first. How could blocking out the painful absorption of other people’s angst, hate, hurt, and moods cause hives? Ridiculous, right?

Maybe not. I was once a gifted tarot card reader. It started as fun. Yet in readings, I told people they were pregnant before they knew it and foretold many things that I could not know by any earthly knowledge. I stopped reading cards when my daughter was born for fear it might bring negative energy.

“Reclaim your gifts and the illness will leave you,” my new author friend told me.

The first step in my journey of reclamation and healing is this blog entry. Admitting that the gifts exist is difficult in a world mired in insular, earthbound ministries. People will think me mad for writing this. I may lose credibility. Yet, I felt the force of her words and think the message may be my truth.

I reclaim these gifts today. I will share my journey to wellness of mind, body, and spirit here, and pray that other’s will find healing as I learn the medical, and spiritual path to a cure.

  • Have you blocked your gifts?
  • Are you having medical issues?
  • Did you find your way by reclaiming your power?

Please share your story in the comments. You can also email me at vbrunskill at gmail.com.

Blessings for healing and love,

V.L. Brunskill

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy my novel Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

 

 

 

 

Domestic Violence Awareness Month- Memoir of Abuse (We Survived)

For the three women murdered every day in the U.S. by current or former romantic partners, and for those still trapped in abusive situations, I share an excerpt from my forthcoming memoir Transgressions in Rouge: A Father’s Gender Rage, a Daughter’s Reckoning.

This represents a typical night in my childhood home.  Domestic abuse is family abuse.

——Christmas Eve——

     Mom did not answer, and something about her silence made me inch towards the bathroom door. It was open when I peeked in. Dad had the bloody towel pushed to Mom’s face, obstructing her nose and mouth. Unable to breathe, I watched her fall to her knees.          

     Preying on her low position, Dad let go of the towel to grab her curls with both hands. Hurling her towards the toilet, he slammed her face on the porcelain bowl three times before immersing her head in the water.  Mom moaned, her breath bubbling at the surface.

     Fed up and fuming with adrenaline, I crossed to the corner of my brother’s room where his finally useful baseball bat rested. Taking the bat in hand, I closed Robbie’s door behind me lifting the weapon over my head. My heart slammed against my ribcage as I entered the bathroom swinging. I had no idea what I might strike as blind rage engulfed me. I only knew I had to end him. The weight of the first wide swing knocked the extra roll of toilet paper with the crocheted doll cover from the partition between the sink and toilet.

     Dad ducked, releasing Mom who came up for air, gagging and spitting. My next swing landed on Dad’s arm, which he’d raised in defense. “Why are you doing this?”, he asked in the victim’s voice he slung on like a holster after every battle.  I lost my footing then, which softened the impact on my father’s hand to a mere tap. He squealed like a newborn pup, grabbing his barely bruised hand with the other.

     Mom sat on the toilet in a trance, staring at the cheap butterfly art on the wall in front of her. Dad howled, “Look what you made her do. You turned my daughter against me. You see this, you bitch?”

     I grabbed my stomach, the angry scream of the ulcer and seism of my muscles nearly bringing me to my knees. My voice ricocheted through the bathroom, “It’s you, Dad. It’s always you. You’re evil. I hate you. We all hate you.”

     Dad stopped his venomous blaming to look at me. The mask of hate melted into a pathetic mourn of false accusation. He tightened the drawstring waist of his red and green pajamas which had loosed in the melee. I raised the bat again; sure he would punish my mother for my tirade.

     Dad turned away from my hateful stare, his voice deflated. “All you had to do is clean the fucking bathroom. Now, see what you done to my daughter.” He pushed past me, leaving through the master bedroom. I knew he was headed to his chair. The sulking throne where he rocked away his perceived wounds.

     “My daughter. You made her hate me,” he mumbled over the indignant creak of the rocking chair.

     Inside the bathroom, I coaxed my mother to her feet helping her rinse her face. Patting her cheeks dry, I watched her retreat to the semi-conscious cave that was her refuge. Her eyes were open, but she did not see me.

     Guiding her to her side of the bed, I kissed her forehead before pulling the blanket over her motionless body.  She stared at the ceiling, not blinking at my father’s rant in the other room.

    “You made them hate me you bitch” Dad chanted his spent soliloquy. “You turned dem against me.”

     Confirming that Mom was breathing by laying my head on her chest, I left my parent’s room to check on Robbie. He stirred as I shut the door, “Santa?”, he asked as I caught my breath, wiping away tears to hide my upset.

     “Yes, Robbie, Santa,” I lied, wondering if there would be any gifts under the tree. Spooning my brother’s back in the twin bed, we slept five hours as the malevolence of my birthday morphed into Christmas.

     I woke with Robbie’s finger poking the small of my back, “It’s light out. Let’s go see.”


If you know someone who is being abused, find a local resource and help save them.
My family escaped to a shelter for battered women.

If you are being abused- please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.

Blessings for the safety of women & children everywhere,
V.L.
—————
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy my novel Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill

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Bully President- Daughter of Transgender Dad on Trump Rescinding Bathroom Law

Yesterday, President #Trump rescinded the rule on #bathroom choice for #transgender students. Without an iota of empathy or understanding the President (under pressure from right wing, ding-dong Attorney General Jeff Sessions) took away non-discrimination rules put in place by the Obama administration.

Our bully president demanded that Education Secretary #DeVos agree with his bold-faced bigotry. Telling her, according to The New York Times, “that he wanted her to drop her opposition. And Ms. DeVos, faced with the alternative of resigning or defying the president, agreed to go along.”

The reason behind this heartbreaking decision is right winger’s fears that transgender people using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity will create an unsafe environment for children. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As the daughter of a brutally abusive man, who transitioned to become a women in her seventies, I have a unique view on this topic and can tell you that fearing transgender people in the bathroom is about as set in reality as having Mexico pay for a border wall.

Here’s what I want all the bathroom quaking, fear-mongers to know:

  1. You are already using the same bathroom as transgender people. You have been for years. Are your worse off? Have you been harmed? Attacked? Please get over it.
  2. Forcing a person/student who lives as a girl/woman (or visa versa) to use the men’s/boy’s restroom will incite violence, bullying, depression, and suicide. In the case of public schools, yesterday’s ruling is nothing less than publicly mandated child abuse.
  3. Forcing trans people to hide their truth is a ticking time bomb in terms of mental illness and suffering. My father was from an entirely different generation and denied her truth for more than sixty years. While it was by no means, the cause of all her dysfunction, denial and hiding certainly ignited hyper-masculine, coping behaviors which resulted in the brutal abuse of two families.
  4. Transgender people do not want to be called out for being different. They are not trans for attention. It’s not a phase. These fellow human beings were born into the wrong bodies. Like squeezing a size fifteen foot into a size four shoe, their bodies never fit, and no amount of force will make it so. They are not the gender of their birth. Genitals do not define gender.

The idea that Secretary of Education DeVos, is so weak-willed that she kowtowed to Trump, sentencing a segment of America’s school children to torment, torture and horrific discrimination, further proves her unworthiness and the hateful spirit of this administration.

A transgender woman (living in denial) beat my family into a homeless shelter. Yet, even I can see the truth. Why? Because as I write my memoir Transgressions in Rouge, I am taking the time to learn. I have researched my father’s behavior, her transition and what is means to be a transgender person.

Please, right wing America, I beg you to take your head out of the toilet and attempt to understand the truth of being transgender.

This nation needs to quit worrying about who has balls and who does not. It’s none of your business. Except for when it comes to Trump, whose actions yesterday are a clear indication of a testicular deficiency gone wild.

Help Author Panowich Raise Funds for Domestic Abuse Shelter

My author friend Brian Panowich is a superstar supporter for the Safe Homes Domestic Violence Shelter in Georgia. He is participating in a fundraiser, and I humbly request your help.Brian Panowich.jpg

As some of you know, my current book project Transgressions in Rouge chronicles my adoptive father’s abuse of two families, and his transition (late in life) to become a woman. I watched helplessly as my father brutalized my mother and brother for twelve years. The scars left by his madness will never fully heal, but are the catalyst for me to speak out about the pervasive violence that is happening right NOW.

When my mother, brother and I escaped, we stayed at a family shelter for victims of domestic violence. Housed in an old motel, the shelter was the first of its kind on Long Island, New York. Without that shelter and the amazing staff of volunteers who ran it,  we would have been trapped in the cycle of terror.

In America, one in four women are abused by their domestic partners.
Organizations like Safe Homes are their only way out.

Donating to this essential organization is easy.  Just click here and  choose the ‘Donate Toward a Team or Individual’s Goal’ option. Search for ‘Brian Panowich’ and give whatever you can afford.

Shelter is freedom. Freedom is life.
Blessings for a safe place to be,
V.L.

Ten True Things for my Daughter and the Graduating Class of 2016

Advice will come from many mouths as you finish the long journey to graduation. Some will wish you luck, but I wish you something more- karma. The future rests in your capable hands and if you choose the path of kindness, humility, empathy and charity, yours will be the most fulfilling future.

As I have passed the half century mark, I have learned a few life lessons.  On this graduation day, I share ten true things that I’ve learned along my way.graduates

Always say I love you. You never know when it will be the last opportunity to do so.

Travel often, and far. When you have an opportunity to travel, do it. Life builds boxes and boundaries around us. Break free, travel. The opportunity to travel may come with college or in business. Don’t be afraid. Take every trip you are offered. Someday your body will not be able.

Don’t take it personally. People are walking around with big insecurities, doubts, regrets, and they deflect these things to others in order to free themselves. Smile when they frown. Be gentle when they lash out. You may be the only happiness they experience that day.

Attend college to learn and grow. Grades are important, but opening your mind to care about what you are being taught is the truest education. Ask questions. Challenge opinions. Expand your mind and your heart through knowledge. Take classes even after you graduate.  Try to learn one new thing every day.

Marry the steady, constant companion who makes you smile, puts your feelings first, and makes your heart skip a beat or two. Marry with a lifetime in mind. Don’t rush. Don’t jump. Don’t take those vows unless you know you have found the other half of your soul.

Do good deeds, and don’t tell anyone. The things that will give you the greatest contentment are not things at all. They are the small actions– helping someone who is short of cash at the register, carrying someone’s groceries, holding a hand of someone who needs to be reminded they are not alone. These are the greatest gifts you will ever give yourself, and others.

Be true to yourself. Never, ever change to suit someone else’s expectations. Be your true self and you will shine for all of your days.

Worry less. If I had a nickel for every worry I fretted over, that ended up being for naught- I would be a millionaire. Bad things will happen. You will find a way to survive. Worrying steals years and precious moments better spent living.

Look for the light. When the days are dark and you cannot see your way around an issue, step outside and look for the light of life. Watch a bird fly. Feel a breeze on your face. Smell a flower. Howl at the moon. The light of hope is everywhere, and I have found that when I am down, forcing myself to look for it, eases the emotional toll of the issue at hand. There is power in changing your physical location and stepping into the light.

Make friends. Join clubs, organizations or churches, even if you don’t feel like it. Nearly everyone feels socially awkward. Even if you happen to like your homebody, introverted life, make an effort. Life is lonely. Social Media is okay, but you’ll need a hug one day, and that phone/pad/laptop will never be able to wipe away a tear, or hold your hand. Make the effort and even as friends fall away. Keep reaching out to make new ones. Social life is the spark that ignites great ideas, love, companionship, and social change.

Blessings from my heart for all graduates,

V.L.

Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U

A Mother’s Day Post Worth Repeating

Reposted from last Mother’s Day.
Happy Mom’s Day to all the Mothers, and Grandmothers of the world!

As Mother’s Day is folded and tucked away like a treasured quilt, it is hard for me to imagine a more blessed weekend. I had the good fortune of engaging in a day of celebration with each of my mothers.

The mothers in my life wear labels cast upon them by society and the process that brought them to, and removed them from, my life. They are my birth mother and adoptive mother.  No matter what the labels, they reside in my heart with an enormity so wondrous that at times I feel it will burst.mom

While some take the existence of a maternal figure for granted, I count both of my mothers as blessings hard won, and hard kept. I was born into a world that was not ready, and in her desperate need to see me well, my birth mother made a tortured exit from the hospital with empty arms.

After foster care, I was placed for adoption seven months later. While my adoptive family was not the safe haven my birth mother envisioned, my home was survivable because of the heartfelt love of a woman who never once questioned her role as my caregiver. She lifted me from the crib at the adoption agency and never looked back. In sickness, in health, in torture, in want, in love, she became my mother.Nana

During the seven-year search for my birth mother, I was not looking for a replacement mother. I wanted roots, a face and name to stitch myself too. I was never content to just be. I felt an existential craving to know the place from which I came. I could not move on in life without a biological connection, without touching the face of the woman on whose belly I rested after being born.

I hold in my soul a deep bond with both of my mothers. Their fragility, endurance, and lifelong search for happiness, are life lessons that allow me to smile and forge on.  No industry label can fairly represent the way in which these women became the nurture, and nature of who I am.

They are my earth link, and angels. They are loved far beyond Mother’s Day dinners and swapping of gifts. Without either, I would be so much less.
Love you ladies!

Blessings that all mothers know their worth,

V.L. Brunskill


SALE< SALE< SALE
SYP Publishing is having a Mom’s Day sale on all books.
Get 15% off all books now through May 8. Coupon code: MOM
Shuffle over to the SYP site to buy Waving Backwards, or another delightful read.
Southern Yellow Pine Publishing /Waving Backwards.

Sheltered in Place- Domestic Violence

 

We hear it on the six o’clock news, an order born of our increasingly terroristic society- “Shelter in place.”  We all shudder at the idea of frightened school children waiting for danger to pass. However, the panic of choosing inaction amid chaos runs deep for me, building in my mostly sedentary soul, an insatiable urge to run.

For me, shelter is a secret place, far from the hunter. When faced with my father’s hard-edged abuse in the 1970’s, residing any place other than a shelter for battered women and children would have been a death sentence.

Lately, as I conduct research for my new novel, I find myself scouring the internet for photos of the single-story South Hampton motel that hid my at risk family. Last week, without the effort of a single keystroke, the shelter of my childhood found me.

My adoptive Mom met a new resident at the senior apartment complex where she resides in Georgia.  The woman, a former New York social worker, was a harbinger of helpful information. Mom was chatting up my novel Waving Backwards (a bestseller at Ashleigh Senior Apartments. Take that NY Times.) She explained to her new friend how I found my birth family, and revealed the domestic abuse she suffered for seventeen years.

When Mom talked about the shelter, the woman lit with inside information, discussing every dilapidated inch of our motel. She also revealed the miraculous timing of our survival.

The South Hampton family shelter opened a few months before we arrived. 

The old adage that ‘timing is everything’ has never been more apropos. For without the locked doors of the shelter, our little family, and a dozen others who resided with us that sizzling summer, would be statistics.

Today, New York has 2,768 shelter beds available in a total of 132 licensed residential programs across the State. In the late 1970’s, our shelter was one of three in the state.  One of three! And it happened to be within driving distance of our home, and it happened to open just months before our arrival.

When I think of our good fortune, I also reflect on the abused families who sheltered in place and died for lack of options. In the United States, a woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds, and back when ‘domestic abuse’ was not even a term, spousal murders were often reported as accidental deaths. So we will never know how many women died at the hands of their husbands in the years before our shelter opened.

Our survival was made possible by a group of angels who decided that beaten women and children deserved a safe place to stay.

A sobering statistic for anyone who believes that domestic abuse against women has declined since our shelter stay:

Between September 2001 and June 2012, nearly 6,500 American troops died in Afghanistan and Iraq; during that same period, more than 11,700 women died in acts of domestic violence. 

If you are being abused, please don’t shelter in place. Get help!
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
You can do this. You deserve help!
Call today- 1 (800) 799-7233.

abuse

Blessings for shelter wherever and whenever you need it most,

V.L.
———-
Follow me on Twitter- @RockMemoir
Like my Facebook page-http://www.facebook.com/vlbrunskill
Buy Waving Backwards for Kindle $4.99 at Amazon.com-amazon.com/author/vlbrunskill
Waving Backwards book trailer-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_ufjmq0l-U