HerStory Book Cover

Coming from Pagan Writers Press on March 8, 2013!

Search

Powered by Blogger.

Follow by Email

Tribe

Publisher

Pagan Writers Press
Friday, May 17, 2013

A Mother and Her Daughters

Malashka and daughters, 1947

 World War II seems like ancient history but it is still keen in the mind of our eldest elders. Many of us in the US aren't so familiar with events on the Eastern Front, but my neighbor's mother lived them. I had to look them up. I learned that in September 1939 Poland was invaded by the Germans from the west and the Russians from the east as the result of a non-aggression accord between the two super powers. Poland was effectively divided and conquered. In 1941 Germany invaded Russia, expecting a quick victory, but the Russian army was strong and the Russian winter stronger. Russia pushed Germany back from Moscow, but they continued to fight for 3 years. In 1944 Russia was able to push Germany back through central and Eastern Europe including Poland. In 1945, Russia was part of the Battle for Berlin. With the success of D-Day on the English Channel and victories in the Low Countries and France by the allies, Germany was defeated in 1945. These are the relevant points on which Malashka's story rests. The order of events her daughters remember may not fit history exactly. What came first? What came second? How accurate is the history we read in a book. 

My neighbor Alina read a few selections in HerStory . I had suggested I write about her as my everyday heroine. She insisted we talk about her mother Malashka, born in a small village in Russia and sent wandering in Europe as a displaced person during the war years of the 1930's and 40's. I am glad I agreed. Malashka was her husband's endearment for her. It means "little one". Her name was Melannia, Melonie in English.

Married at 17 in 1925 to Nikolia the son of a wealthy family of land owners in Russia, Malashka saw her husband arrested with two of his brothers in 1929. She was 21. The men were sent to a concentration camp by the Communists because they were suspect as rich landowners. Why three of them were imprisoned and two brothers remained home is unknown. Nikolai worked in prison for 2 years, cutting trees and kept in isolation. Meanwhile the young Malashka ran the farm though she had only 1 year of schooling. She was a woman on her own with three daughters, Alexandria, Valintina and Katina, and her mother-in-law. My friend Alina was not yet born.

Eventually Nikolai was released to go home. Just how that came 3 years short of his release date is not entirely clear. The family still worked their lands and held on to their personal wealth but as the war started to pit Germany against Russia, roving bands of Russian guerrilla warriors called partisans terrorized the countryside. Their mission was to fight the Germans. It was dangerous to help them. It was even more dangerous to refuse. One night they came to Malshaka's house and demanded food. She tried to send them away claiming to have none, but they barged into the kitchen. One of the men threated her with a bayonet held alongside her face, and shot his rifle into the ceiling. Malshak went out with a shovel to dig up food from the storage pit and kept running, thinking they would all be killed. In the morning the band of men was gone and all of them survived.

Then the Germans came and took over the house. It was 1941. Malashka hid from the soldiers in her mother-in-law's barn, dodging the bayonets they struck into the hay, hoping they would not hit her. She was pregnant. Somehow they missed. Her family left their home in the middle of the night, after Nikolai buried things of value they could not carry. They had one wagon, one horse and their 3 surviving children. Traveling with another family and one of Malashka's brothers in law, they went to Kiev. In 6 weeks they moved on staying ahead of the army, avoiding the wandering bands of marauders. The brother-in-law turned back, and no one knows what happened to him. The other family offered to take one of the girls; traveling would be easier with fewer children. Malashka and Nikolai refused. Their family must stay together. The new baby died shortly after birth. They wandered for 2 years with forged papers, scared and hungry most of the time. Alina's oldest sister remembers. She sold candy for bread, but where did they get the candy?

Eventually the family was captured by the Germans and sent by train to a concentration camp but only for 9 days. They were Russians, not Jews. A Polish farmer came to look them over and take them as laborers. In those days there were over a million eastern European workers in Poland. Malashka and her family were fortunate. They were kept together and housed in a barn, not behind wire in a camp. They stayed for the better part of the year until the Russian Army invaded Poland. That may have been in the 1944 push back across Eastern Europe. The Communists were brutal, and the family's papers were forgeries so they ran from their own countrymen moving westward toward Germany. The farmer gave them 2 cattle and a wagon and sent them off to escape the best they could.

Alina was born in that wagon, the date is not known. Calendars and birthdates have little meaning when you are running for your life. They had no food or clothing for the baby. Malashka was in such poor condition her milk never came in. They were on the road and stopped only long enough for Malashka to birth her child. Then they moved on, afraid to stay anywhere very long. Despite the cold winter, Malashak insisted her daughter Alina be properly baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church. The cold and hunger may have been the near death of Alina. The baby's arm was infected, who knew why or how, and eventually burst its poison leaving a scar. They were on the road and dared not look for doctors. How frightened Malashka must have been! Not only had her last infant died, her two sons had died of whooping cough. Sometimes they had to run for the hills to avoid the armies. Sometimes they hid in forests. Life in a war zone is uncertain, but Alina survived. Her 3 sisters survived. Her parents survived.

Eventually they were again rounded up, this time in Rosenberg, Germany where they again worked on a farm until the war ended. Then Nikolai signed up for mine work in Belgium. The family traveled by train and was housed in barracks until they could find a flat. That was after the war when people were on the move everywhere in Europe. Alina was 3.

These were likely the Eisden Coal Mines in Flanders where the Russian POW's had been forced to work during the war. There were half a million such workers, many of whom died because of the working conditions. After the war over, records show the mine workers were replaced by German POW's, and the Russians became the supervisors.

In Belgium Malashka's life improved. Her daughters went to school and she was able to stay at home and care for them. I asked Alina how they came to the States from Belgium in 1955. She explained her oldest sister had married a man whose family had been found in Buffalo NY. They were all displaced persons, DP's in the vernacular of the time. Because Nikolai and all of them were healthy, they were allowed to join the oldest daughter in the US. Alina remembers they had to wait more than a year, but the government—one of the governments—sent them on a plane that landed in NYC May 18, 1955. Alina was about 11. She spoke Russian, French, Italian and a little English. The American schools wouldn't let her study languages because her English wasn't good. Instead of recognizing her intelligence, she was steered into secretarial classes. It was the 1950's. That's what women did. Her parents had higher hopes for their daughters, but peer pressure being what it is, all three girls married after high school and settled down as housewives. 
Malashka and daughters, 1990s

But life comes around full circle sometimes. Alina married and had 2 sons. She kept books for her husband's painting business. Later she ran the business in her own name. When her sons were grown, the older went to Alaska to work. He likes the cold outdoors and wilderness. The younger one married a woman from Russia. In Russia she was a nurse anesthetist. In the US her credentials are not recognized, so right now she is a housewife and mother. Some things change a lot. Some things don't. 

I have seen Alina struggle with all kinds of problems, from raising teenagers to illnesses and financial reversals. She always does what she has to do. 'You just keep going on," she says. "What choice do you have?" She is a strong woman who handles things.

I asked her if the women in the family repeated any lessons learned from the war years. She gave me a straight look. "You are stronger than you think. And you can survive anything." I know she must have heard that a hundred times growing up. I think it was her mother's voice that came through to me. There is something else besides strong people who survive war, illness, politics, immigration policies, and that is love. People do what they do, not really for money. They do it for the people they love. Whatever happened, whatever didn't happen, it was about family and people that loved each other, and did whatever they had to do to survive because they were together.

***

Dorothy Abrams lives and writes in upstate New York. She met Ela when she visited Salisbury Cathedral with her partner Eric Reynolds in 2010. Dorothy's recent nonfiction title Identity and the Quartered Circle: Studies in Applied Wicca will be released in 2013. Her essay Moveren the Sea Queen appears in Sorita d'Este's anthology Faerie Queens to be released in 2013. Her current project is The Witches of Fawsetwood, a historical fantasy novel about medieval England.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Across Generations

The world is a very different place from the world our Grandmothers walked. Hem lines have gone up and down. Hairstyles have ranged from never cut your hair to let’s see how short we can get it. Women have gone from stay at home mom to soldier and a full range of occupations and endeavors in between. Those of use today who are mothers and grandmothers have moved forward as a result of the efforts of our mothers and grandmothers. And, we in turn will undoubtedly leave something behind for generations to come.

Yet, through all the change, good and bad, one thing has remained constant—the fact that women are the mothers to the world. Without a mother where would any of us be? Every mother is different, but for the most part they are our anchor. They keep us grounded, attempt to keep us safe, and are often rewarded in less than generous ways. As children, we can be ungrateful, not intentionally, more often simply by the nature of where we are in life in any moment.

We take our mothers and our grandmothers for granted often until we become a parent or reach an age when we can see more clearly what the job required. This is when our eyes are opened to how much work is involved with being a mother. Motherhood is sacrifice, sadness, worry, pain and sometimes sheer terror. However, it can also be colored with joy, relief, elation, and wild bouts of laughter.

This Mother’s Day do something different. If you always buy mom a card, make one instead—like you used to when you were a kid. Instead of taking her out for dinner, cook her dinner. Instead of buying her something, take her shopping. Gifts fade and lose their luster, but moments of your time will linger long in the memory.



***

Morgan Summerfield grew up an avid reader and by her teens was a hobby writer. As an adult she has been a teacher, a technical writer, an instructional designer, a consultant, and a freelance writer. Her recently published first novel, Blood and Magnolias, was a dream fulfilled. In a recent contest, the characters in Blood and Magnolias were given a 5 out of 5 rating. When she is passionate about something, it shows. Beyond her writing, Morgan is a painter and works with a domestic violence shelter and education council.
Monday, May 13, 2013

What I Learned From My Mother by Tara Chevrestt



I learned a combination of things from my mother. I learned to not give up, to brush things off and smile, and trudge on. Don't let things beat you. I also learned that it's okay to be alone. Though it's nice to have a life partner, you can have a full and wonderful existence without one. True strength comes from within us, not from a person by our side.

I'll explain this strange thought of mine...

My mother had breast cancer a few years ago. She was going through a divorce, she lived thousands of miles from me, and except for a handful of family members, she faced the disease alone. When I say alone, I mean, without a partner to speak to you in the darkness of night--that moment just before sleep when it feels like the weight of all your troubles are suffocating you--that's when most of us turn to our partners and whisper, "I'm scared."


That's when the tears fall, when nearly no one but the person we choose to see us at our most vulnerable is there to see.

She faced death, chin up, and defied it...alone. She had surgery, not once, but twice. She had radiation for six months. I mean, I look at her now during some of my darkest and most frustrated moments and say, "Well, gee, my mum faced cancer and said "screw you!", surely I can tackle this tiny obstacle.

Chin up! Defy! Trudge on!

I have to remind myself of this many times in my life and she is my inspiration.

My mother never incited a revolution. She didn't join marches for causes or make a ton of money. She never did anything that will go down in history books, but her strength and courage inspires those around her. Sometimes that's all it takes. A small ripple in a big ocean and her ripple becomes a wave. And a wave...is powerful.


***


Tara Chevrestt is a deaf woman, former aviation mechanic, writer, and an editor. She is most passionate about planes, motorcycles, dogs, and above all, reading. That led to her love of writing. Between her writing and her editing, which allows her to be home with her little canine kids, she believes she has the greatest job in the world. She is very happily married. 

Her theme is Strong is Sexy. She shares a website with her naughty pen name: http://tarachevrestt.weebly.com/index.html and they have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tara-Chevrestt-Sonia-Hightower/218383211513877.
Friday, May 10, 2013

Lessons from Mother by Dorothy Abrams

Dorothy Pearl Russell was the kind of child a mother wishes on her daughter as retribution. My Victorian grandmother often said she didn't know whether to spank her when she got up in the morning or wait until she deserved it. Deserved is a poor choice of words. There was guilt and karma, jealousy and fear all wrapped up in their relationship. To thrive in that milieu, Dorothy rationalized everything in terms of what would keep her from the worst punishments, or at least make it worth it. If she was late home from school, she figured she might as well be really late. The switching wouldn't be any worse for it. If the rule was one friend a piece to play in the back yard for each of the three Russell kids, Dorothy would take stock. She realized her much older brother was off with his friends. Her sister was inside reading because it was too hot or too cold to be outside.

"Can me and my 10 friends play in the yard now?" she would ask. My grandparents found it hard to say no.

When her 10 friends were not around, she climbed up the old apple tree and hid with a book. She cried and screamed on the rare occasions her sister was spanked. She made a room in the attic so she could have a dreaming space of her own in the summertime. It was too cold up there in the winter. She decorated the neighbor's pansies with fresh tar from the street because the colors contrasted so nicely with the black sticky stuff. She washed her friend's brother's tobacco pipes because they were sticky and smelly. They were a Catholic family, and that brother was a priest. He wasn't supposed to say bad words like that. He spanked her too.

Despite her mischief, the whole neighborhood admired Dorothy's spirit. She had been born with a clubbed foot in 1919 when medical science said she would be forever crippled. Her father would have none of that. He found a doctor who was brave enough to break the infant foot in two places, turn it, put it back together in a brace and hope for the best. Her leg was skinny, the ankle misshaped but she played tennis, rode horseback and walked without a limp most of her life. Dorothy was a survivor.

She also was my mother. I suspect she was a near genius undercut by old fashioned schools that failed to recognize her potential. She was in high school until she was 20 because she couldn't pass geometry. Feigning unconcern about her failures, she focused on her friends and having a rollicking good time. When a teacher finally figured out that she repeatedly failed the state test because she missed something in the beginning of the year, not the last semester, he walked her all the way through the book. On the 5th try, she got it. She taught it to me a generation later using music to sing the theorems I couldn't remember.

After the geometry incident and being stuck in Latin too many years and denied French or German, Dorothy refused college. Both her siblings had attended Syracuse University. She could have but she went to work instead. She took off the summer she graduated to work the state fair circuit on the midway. Her father gave her bus money so she wouldn't hitchhike. She and her friend Isabel took the buss out of town and then stuck out their thumbs. The ticket money kept them fed until they could meet up with the carnies. Mom was a rube among the cons. Fortunately she had Isabel to protect her. She found a department store job was waiting when she came back home, but first she saw the world's fair in NYC. It was 1939. Apparently she had a gift for retail sales. Working her way up she became an assistant buyer in a fancy local store.

Eventually, my mother married my father because he loved her so much, and would not go away. Marriage wasn't her goal, but after turning him down 3 or 4 times, she finally agreed. He had been her cousin's beau. Because she was so independent minded, men were usually her close friends not her lovers. Most of her dates were leftovers from her sister. She hadn't been interested in picking up after her cousin too. I think she was surprised Dad was so persistent. Who she might have married if she had married for love is a mystery she never shared, but although she liked and cared for him, I knew he loved her more.

One thing did happen in her marriage that was totally for love. Me. My mother had only one child, a daughter born 5 years after her wedding, after she had given up hope, after everyone else had given up hope. She was determined about several things.

My daughter will not be spanked or beaten.

My daughter will go to college if I have to spank her all the way there.

My daughter will think for herself and make her own decisions.

I don't know if she saw the inherent contradictions in those axioms. I didn't until I wrote them down. I did know what they were and that they were true. She started talking to me about college so early in my life I never questioned whose idea it was. I thought it was mine. I certainly didn't need threats or spankings to be cooperative in that regard, or any other. If my grandmother had wished a difficult child on my mother, it didn't work. I was 10 years old before it occurred to me I did not have to do what I was told. My friends laughed at my astonishment. By the time I was in my teens she declared I was a boring child and bought me Beatle albums to liven me up. I promptly fell in love with George Harrison. She seemed relieved.

As I went through adolescence of course, her resolve was tested. I made many decisions she thought were foolish. I heard her tell my father they had raised me to think for myself and they had better trust me. That was when I thought I'd be a missionary and live in Brazil. I never got there. They didn't want single women and I didn't want a husband--not just to go to work in Brazil.

My mother managed to be a great mom and my best friend. When my parents could not live at home on their own anymore, they moved in with me and my new family. Dad didn't like it because Eric and I weren't married. Mom told him she was going so he might as well come along. He was ill so he had little choice. Eventually he learned to like it. Reunited after 20 years of my moving around the eastern seaboard, my mother and I picked up where we left off, playing cards and scrabble, making dinner and generally befuddling the men in our lives. I didn't like watching either of my parents lose their edge, but I especially didn't like seeing it happen to my mother.

Her demise could have been different. My parents were in an auto accident that could have been avoided. Both of them received poor emergency care. We successfully intervened in my dad's case, but mom's got away from us. She had been home, readmitted to the ER and then everything went wrong. She had said if it was too hard, she didn't want to do it. It was too hard. No matter what we fixed something else went haywire. I hate that it was her time. She was only 74. We had more games to play!

At the end, she said I would have to finish her stories. We had taken writing courses together at a nearby community college. The one goal my mother left undone was to be a published fiction writer. She left me many beginnings, middles or ends of stories. None of them are complete, but none of them are my stories. I can't finish them. I must write my own. She knows that, of course.

My mother was magical. She read the clouds, saw visions in them and told tales about what she saw. I am sure that was what she was doing all of her life. The Monday after she died, I saw her write my name in block letters in the mackerel sky. Underneath my name, she wrote Wheeee.

One last lesson, I think. Got it, Mom.

Dorothy Abrams lives and writes in upstate New York. She met Ela when she visited Salisbury Cathedral with her partner Eric Reynolds in 2010. Dorothy's recent nonfiction title Identity and the Quartered Circle: Studies in Applied Wicca will be released in 2013. Her essay Moveren the Sea Queen appears in Sorita d'Este's anthology Faerie Queens to be released in 2013. Her current project is The Witches of Fawsetwood, a historical fantasy novel about medieval England.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Motherhood Experience by Toni Rakestraw

I worked as a doula for awhile. What’s a doula? The most frequent description I see today is someone who attends a birth and ‘holds a woman’s space.’ What this means is they act as a buffer between the birthing woman and the medical personnel. When I was a doula, what I did was attend the mother and her partner. But I’m not writing about that. My everyday heroine is the mother.


Giving birth is hard work. Heck, everyday parenting is hard work… it doesn’t matter how you got there. But back to birth. Like death, birth is a transition. But unlike death, you’re not doing this one alone. Your mother is an integral partner in the journey. During birth, the mother and the baby are working together whether they realize it or not.

Today, giving birth can differ greatly from woman to woman. One may have surgery, another may have an epidural so she doesn’t feel the pain, yet another may feel every contraction. Even so, every birth is a journey that requires courage. From that first tightening in the belly to that final grip that compels a woman to push with all her might to expel a being the size of a bowling ball out of a hole the size of a … well, I can’t think of any common household item exactly that size, but it’s considerably smaller than a bowling ball. Labor is an exercise in learning to let go.
A woman in labor must learn to let go of her modesty. Labor leaves no room for it. You may feel overheated to the point you need to shed your clothing. You must let go of your manners. Words often leave you during labor, and when you can form words, every one counts. If you need something, you may not have the effort to spare for ‘please’ or ‘thank you.’ You may need to curse, especially during transition when someone touches you and you cannot bear it. You must let go of what society expects of you. When that baby is coming out, it isn’t uncommon for baby to clean out your bowels for you at the same time in front of whoever is there with you. You must let go of any timidity and howl, moan, or scream if you must to move that baby down and out. And last of all, you must let go of that baby that has lived inside for nine months and let him or her out into the world.

Of course, some of these are adapted a bit for a surgical birth, but mothers are still learning to let go in other ways.

Watching a woman turn into a mother is a gift for those with the eyes to see. It’s an inner transition, one that is born of pain and sweat and love. Some women reach this moment when the baby is first put into their exhausted arms and they look into that tiny, scrunched face covered in goo. Others come into it gradually over the first several weeks of sleep deprivation and baby cries. While I haven’t had the privilege to see it in adoptive mothers, I hear it happens there, too, as their hearts answer the squalls of motherhood. It is this transformation that turns the maiden to the mother, a nurturing force to be reckoned with.

So, I honor all those mothers out there that have gone through labor, been cut open in the operating room, have taken in children that others have borne, and made room in their hearts for caring for these new scraps of humanity. It is a Herculean task, yet women do it every day and have done it since people began.


***

Toni Rakestraw is an editor by day and a writer by night. She has written another short story, The Longest Night, for Pagan Writers Press. She also co-authored Titanic Deception, a full-length novel, with her husband John.
Monday, May 6, 2013

My Mother, My Mentor, My Teacher, My friend by Lorraine Nelson

Mom has been, and still is, the most important person in my life and I love her soooo much.

She brought me into this world, nurtured me through the growing up years, and supported me in everything I’ve ever done. Always, I can count on her for a smile, a hug, a kind word, or words of praise and encouragement.

Mom taught me morals, manners, and the importance of me being me. She also taught me how to cook. J With her by my side, I learned to make bread from scratch. There weren’t any fancy machines to do it for you back then. Mom said, “If you can set a decent batch of bread, you can cook anything.” To this day, I still make my own bread. I love the smell of fresh bread and rolls right out of the oven. Slather it with butter and dip it in a small bowl of molasses. Now that was a treat! But my cooking lessons didn’t end there. By age ten, I could bake cookies, pies, cakes, squares…any recipe that sounded good was tried and enjoyed.

My mom didn’t have an easy life, yet she kept a clean house, mended our clothes, and made sure we were clean and fed. She taught love by giving it. She taught patience by showing it. She was always there to protect us and nurse us back to health. Never in my life have I met anyone who could compare. My mom is one of the best. Love you, Mom.

So today, I’m going to share a favorite recipe of ours. I hope you’ll try it out and that you think of a mother’s love as you savor each bite.

This cookie recipe comes from the Purity Cookbook. It was one of the first recipes my mother taught me to bake. Baking was a favorite pastime with us. So was eating them. J

Ragged Robins

2 egg whites
1/4 tsp.vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. dates (stoned & chopped)
1/2 cup glazed cherries
1 cup walnuts
1-3/4 cups corn flakes
1/2 cup white sugar

Beat egg whites until stiff, add vanilla and salt. Combine the rest of ingredients
and fold into egg white mixture. Drop from a spoon onto greased baking sheet.
Bake in a slow oven (325 deg. F.) for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. As
with anything involving egg whites, watch for over-browning. Enjoy!

***

Lorraine Nelson is a multi-published author who lives in rural New Brunswick, on the east coast of Canada. Always a bookworm, she’s read many novels of romance and mystery over the years, finally deciding to put her pen to work at writing one.

“To write romance and romantic suspense is my dream come true, although my mom says I was born with an avid imagination and pencil in hand, crafting stories from an early age. Now my children have grown and have lives of their own, I have time to indulge my passion for writing.”

Lorraine lives alone with an independent yet affectionate tomcat, enjoys spending time with her three sons and five grandchildren, with a sixth due in December. When not at the computer, you can find her spending time with family, gardening, baking and, of course, reading.

Lorraine’s books are listed on her website. You’ll find blurbs, excerpts, reviews, and purchase links there. http://lorrainenelson.weebly.com

She loves to hear from readers. You can keep up with Lorraine’s releases by visiting her at the following locations:

Website - http://lorrainenelson.weebly.com

Blog – http://lorrainenelson.wordpress.com
Friday, May 3, 2013

How My Mother Broke the Bonds of Control and Determined My Life Path by Morgan Summerfield

Adella is my story in the “Her Story” anthology. Adella was my mother and she is someone I admire to this day. That admiration does not come from her perfection, but rather from her imperfection. She was human, flawed, filled with fear, and dealing with some of the worst kinds of human failings. However, she did manage to keep me alive, see me stretch beyond the limitations that held her, and give me the opportunity to follow a passion she always wished to realize—writing. This story is a snapshot of the times in which Adella lived. It was an age when women’s choices were limited and domestic violence was an accepted part of life.

Adella was my mother and I was her last child. I came to know and understand abuse, in all its forms, intimately. My childhood experiences led me to work in fields associated with social reform and education. I currently work with an agency that provides shelter and services to victims of abuse and offers community education programs. I am often asked by those who have never experienced abuse: “Why don’t they just leave?” It sounds like a simple solution, but it is never that simple. Abusers are about control and that control comes in many forms.
A common phrase spoken by men of my mother’s time went something like this, “Keep them barefoot and pregnant and they can never leave.” That single phrase says much. An abuser will manipulate the money and the environment as a means of control. They set all the rules and, when the victim does not comply, there is often physical punishment. However, the physical abuse is not the thing that keeps them trapped, it is the mental conditioning.
The abuser will at first seem kind and caring and draw their victim in with the fa├žade of what the victim most wants—a caregiver, a lover, a supporter, a partner, whatever it is the victim most needs or desires. Once the victim surrenders their heart and their trust, the abuser may begin to guide the victim away from their family, friends, and all potential social support. By isolating them, they keep others from interfering with the control process. Now begins the conditioning.
Out of love or a belief that it is his or her responsibility, the victim attempts to comply with the wishes of the abuser. The wishes at first seem small and benign. Then these small, benign wishes grow into a cancer, eating away at self esteem and free will as the abuse solidifies. Should the victim try to flee, the abuser goes to his or her arsenal of ‘weapons’. One of those weapons is threat. “If you leave, I will kill myself.” “If you leave, I will kill your family.” “If you leave, I will kill you.” “If you leave, I will call the police and tell them you are crazy. They will lock you up.” “If you leave I will kill the kids in front of you and then I will kill you.”
Domestic violence crosses all socioeconomic lines, from rich to poor and everything in between. Abusers come in all shapes and sizes, making it difficult to recognize them. They can, literally, be your next door neighbor. Being a victim is not about weakness, stupidity, or bad genes. When we trust, when we believe, and when we love, those emotions can make us blind. In the relationship, power is given up to the abuser out of love, commitment, fear, or whatever tool the abuser finds effective.
It is always easy to say, “That would never happen to me.” But do keep in mind that NEVER is a very long time and we NEVER really know how we will react in a situation—until we are IN it. Don’t judge.
I invite you to watch this video that is dedicated to all those who have taken the first step toward freedom.


Morgan Summerfield grew up an avid reader and by her teens was a hobby writer. As an adult she has been a teacher, a technical writer, an instructional designer, a consultant, and a freelance writer. Her recently published first novel, Blood and Magnolias, was a dream fulfilled. In a recent contest, the characters in Blood and Magnolias were given a 5 out of 5 rating. When she is passionate about something, it shows. Beyond her writing, Morgan is a painter and works with a domestic violence shelter and education council.
Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What Others Are Saying About HerStory

On Goodreads:

"Since I like to read biographies I loved to learn more about the strong women who strived to live their lives in a freedom that wasn't granted to them, no matter in which time period they were born. Things like the right to be divorced, to work in a job we like or/and to use contraception seem almost normal nowadays, and we owe this to those women who fought as the very first for them." --Kruemi


"The stories that I'd rate most highly were: 1) "Southern Daughter" by Megan D. Martin which seemed to be a Southern belle story when it started out, but turned into something totally unexpected. 2)"Silent Suffragette" by Tara Chevrestt--Tara returns to the time period that she portrayed so well in Votes For Vixens. 3)"Without Borders" by Dianne Hartsock--A knock out punch noir near future tale that warns us of what may happen if some current trends continue.

I'm glad I had a chance to read this anthology during Women's History month. I'm sure that other readers will have different favorites." --Shomeret


"A great collection of shorts stories featuring all kinds of different heroines. With stories ranging from Ancient Rome to the 1970s, and even a story set in the future, we were met with realistic heroines, flaws and all.

Some stories had characters that were entirely fictional, others were based on women who actually existed, famous or not. Some stories were even based on the author's own family member. Whether the heroine made strides in world affairs, or just strides in her own home, she was admirable.

Also noticeable was the fact that were met heroines who were from all walks of life: different classes, races, etc. This was a refreshing change." --Christie

Follow the links for the full reviews.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Do You Know Alice Paul? by Morgan Summerfield


If you are a woman, you should. Alice Paul was a feminist, suffragist, and political strategist, and helped to bring about some of the most relevant political achievements for women in the 20th century. She was born in 1885, to Quaker parents, which in itself speaks volumes. She was raised to believe in gender equality, working for the betterment of society, and staying in tune with nature.
She started Swarthmore College in 1901 graduating in 1905 with a degree in Biology. She went to Birmingham, England, in 1907 to study social work at the Woodbrook Settlement. While there, she joined a militant suffragette group and was incarcerated several times for breaking windows to draw attention to the cause of women.
On her return to America in 1910, she brought her newly found aggressive tactics and lit a fire under the women’s movement in this country. She was part of the organizing committee that had women marching up Pennsylvania Avenue as Woodrow Wilson was being inaugurated. The women were attacked while police looked on and did nothing. If one could say any good came out of this bad situation, it was the fact that it made headlines and elevated the cause of women to a national level.
Paul suffered more arrests and brutality along with her fellow suffragettes. When their mistreatment in prison found its way into the media, the public outcry caused President Wilson to reverse his position and announce his support for a suffrage amendment, calling it a "war measure." It was ratified in 1920. Women finally had the right to vote.
Acquiring three law degrees and still not satisfied with the limitations of the 19th amendment, believing it did not speak clearly enough to equality, Alice Paul penned what we know as the Equal Rights Amendment. "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." This amendment took years to find a life. In 1972, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the amendment, and it went to the states for ratification. It still has not been ratified.
Alice Paul died on July 9, 1977, having devoted her life to the cause of equal rights for women. She was inducted, posthumously, into the National Women's Hall of Fame In 1979. This woman was a hero, and we all owe her much.
For more information on the ERA: http://www.equalrightsamendment.org/
***

Morgan Summerfield grew up an avid reader and by her teens was a hobby writer. As an adult she has been a teacher, a technical writer, an instructional designer, a consultant, and a freelance writer. Her recently published first novel, Blood and Magnolias, was a dream fulfilled. In a recent contest, the characters in Blood and Magnolias were given a 5 out of 5 rating. When she is passionate about something, it shows. Beyond her writing, Morgan is a painter and works with a domestic violence shelter and education council.



Friday, April 26, 2013

Everyday Heroine of the Past: Irina Sendler


Recently I came across a story that really got my attention.  The story was of a woman who had been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize the same year that Al Gore won.  The woman’s name is Irina Sendler, and she had the courage to silently fight the Nazis, some of the most brutal men and women in all of recorded history.   She was a nurse and a social worker who worked with an organization called the Polish Underground.  With the assistance of approximately two-dozen other volunteers, she saved 2500 infants and children from certain death by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Irina was granted permission to work in the ghetto as a sanitation inspector due to an outbreak of typhus.  The living conditions in the ghetto were horrifying, filthy, and grim.  Many died in the ghetto before being transported to the concentration camps because of the “living” conditions there.  They were dying of starvation and disease.  The Nazis “tolerated” the presence of a group known as the RGO, or Central Welfare Council, a polish relief organization of which Irina and her crew were a part. 

Irina walked into the ghetto with her big, black bag.  She looked around at the despicable conditions of the camp, overwhelmed by the rancid smell of decay and death.  Though she had been there countless times, she couldn’t get used to it, the sadness and the bleak inhumanity to which these innocent people were subject.  She glanced from person to person, some still having a flicker of life left in their eyes and faces, others with eyes that seemed dull and lifeless.  The wind was blowing that day, soft and bitterly cold. She tilted her head back, and looked at the grey sky as the wind graced her cheek with just a hint of hope. The buildings were once teeming with life, and now stood ominously, coffins upright. 
That day, she knew she was there to visit a family with two children.  The young mother desperate, panting, eyes scarlet in color.  She would have no tears to shed, as her eyes had almost dried up. 
“Please, please take the baby,” she begged, seeming like she was on the verge of vomiting.  Her voice trembled and shook.  Her husband was quiet and timid, and Irina could sense that he must have been a strong man before the round up.  He had broad shoulders, and wore a tattered, dirty jacket.  The sleeves were too short, and she noticed he had no shoes on his feet. 
He spoke softly to his wife, so softly that Irina could barely make out what he said.  He glanced at Irina and said, “take her to a new family.  Give her…” At that, he choked and sobbed, and fell to his bony knees.  He looked up and silently, but furiously begged to a god he once believed in.  Why have you done this?  Why?  Irina had visited so many families like this one.  Families who, because of their Jewish identity, were rounded up like cattle and shipped off to die agonizing deaths if they survived the ghetto, hell on earth. 
She gently took the baby from mother’s arms and placed her softly inside the big, black bag.  The mother let out a soft, terrifying squeal as the baby was closed gently and safely within this bag of freedom.  This was the sound of a heart breaking, and Irina had heard it before. 

She walked out the door, and out of the ghetto with that precious child in her keeping.  That child, along with approximately 2500 others, was saved by Irina Sendler, a true woman of strength, honor, and sacrifice.  She kept all of the names of these children in a glass jar she had buried in a secret location, and when the war was over, she attempted to find their families and reunite them.  Most of the families had been executed, but a few were reunited. 

Irina was eventually found out by the Nazis, beaten, tortured, and sentenced to death.  She was saved by members of the resistance group, Zegota, by bribing German guards, and until the war ended, she spent her time in hiding.   She died at the age of 98, in the year 2008 in Warsaw, Poland, the place where her heart would never abandon.  

***

Gina Tonnis is a part-time college writing instructor and a full-time mommy. She is happily married to her best friend, and they live in Atlanta with their two beautiful little boys. Gina is also a cancer survivor, which has given her the gift of appreciating each and every moment of her life.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Are You Lacey Wolfe's Everyday Heroine?


This month’s topic is Every Day Heroes. I sat and pondered a moment on this topic and thought, sure I could choose a police officer, teacher, mother, and so on. But then thought about it and wanted to write about women in general.

Every woman is a hero in some way. Whether she’s a stay-at-home mom who is raising the children, kissing boo-boo’s and such. Or a mom who works outside of the home to provide for her family. Teachers are helping mold children of today. And police officers are keeping us safe.

No matter what, you’re sure to find a woman you admire and can look up to. One of who is strong, doesn’t take crap, and fights for what she believes in. I bet she just popped into your mind too.

I’m proud to be a woman. I am proud of the women before me who fought and the women after who will continue to fight. If you sit back and watch, women are everywhere now and women aren’t taking no for an answer.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

***

Lacey Wolfe – HerStory: A Baby of Her Own
Lacey Wolfe has always had a passion for words, whether it’s getting lost in a book or writing her own. From the time she was a child she would slip away to write short stories about people she knew and fantasies she wished would happen. It has always been her dream to be a published author and with her two children now of school age, she finally has the time to work on making her dream come true.

Lacey lives in Georgia with her husband, son and daughter, their six cats and one black lab who rules the house.

You can find Lacey at the following places:
Facebook / Facebook Page / Twitter
Monday, April 22, 2013

Everyday Heroines: Kim & Tori by Laura DeLuca


Many years ago, a girl named Kim moved in around the corner. I knew she was special from the first time I saw her. She caught me singing at the top of my lungs on my front porch and she didn’t make fun of me. It turned out she was transferring to my school and was even in the same class. We wound up carpooling for several years and were pretty close friends in grade school. There are a few things that will forever remind me of Kim—punch buggies (our arms were always black and blue from hitting each other on the way to school), the musical, South Pacific (she had the lead and I was in the orchestra), and the fact that she was one of my only grade school friends who never acted uncomfortable around my aunt who had Down Syndrome.

Fast forward more than twenty years, and Kim and I are still living in the same little county in New Jersey. When the authors from HerStory decided they wanted to honor everyday heroines, Kim and her beautiful daughter, Tori, were the very first people who came to mind. In HerStory, I talked about my grandmother and how her love for her daughter helped her overcome all the odds. Kim and Tori have a comparable story with a similar happy ending.

Eighteen years ago, when she was scarcely twenty years old, Kim became pregnant with her oldest daughter. During her pregnancy, she was misdiagnosed with Lyme disease and treated with a drug she later learned wasn’t safe for pregnant woman.  Several months into her pregnancy, her baby started to develop problems. Two months before her due date, she was told the baby had died in utero. Where other people would have fallen into despair, Kim never gave up hope. She prayed every day for a miracle, and her prayers were answered. When Tori came into this world breathing, Kim was so grateful, it didn’t matter that Tori was handicapped. She was a gift from God, an angel.

Tori was eventually diagnosed with microcephaly, a disease where a person’s head is significantly smaller than average. She is missing two thirds of her brain and parts of her brain are deteriorating. Tori is unable to speak, to stand, or even to sit up without assistance. Kim was told her daughter would never live to see her first birthday, but like my grandmother Tessie, she has proven that a mother’s love outweighs any prognosis.  Although doctors claim Tori was the mental capacity of a three month old, Kim knows there is more hiding behind those beautiful brown eyes. Although she isn’t able to speak, Tori expresses herself through laugher and gestures her family understands.  One of the things everyone knows about Tori is that she’s a redneck girl at heart and loves her country music. She also enjoyed getting trussed up for her prom just as much as any teenage girl.

Not long after Tori was born, her biological father cut ties. Kim raised her alone for a few years until she met her current husband, Chris. Between the two of them, they have become a modern day Brady Bunch with five children ranging in age from two to eighteen. Chris legally adopted Tori and has helped make it possible for Kim to stay home with the children. This is important for Tori because her immune system is easily compromised. What would be the sniffles for the average child could become a two week hospital stay for Tori.

I chose Kim as my everyday heroine because, like my grandmother, Kim doesn’t see having a handicapped child as a trial. She doesn’t want people to pity her. Kim’s own words say it best, “Walking and talking are overrated. Having a perfect baby is overrated. Having a handicapped child isn’t a bad thing. We’re blessed. Tori is a gift and I wish more people would understand that. She smiles at me every time I walk into the room. She always appreciates me, and she makes even the most miserable person smile when they see her.”

Kim’s words are like hearing my grandmother whispering in my ear. Both of these amazing women understand that a special person came into her life for a reason. Tori has touched the lives of many people around her, but most especially her family. Kim told me that one of the lessons she learned from her daughter is the power of unconditional faith. Tori never worries about whether her family will be there for her. She simply trusts they will be. If we all held onto that simple faith, if we learned not to doubt ourselves and others, how much simpler and more beautiful life would be. I am so grateful for people like Tori, who touch my soul with their innocence, and for women like Kim who prove every day of their lives that you don’t have to risk your life to be a real hero. You simply need to open your heart and love unconditionally. 

***

Laura “Luna” DeLuca lives at the beautiful Jersey shore with her husband and four children. She is the author of six young adult novels and several short stories.
Friday, April 19, 2013

Happiness is a Choice by Megan D. Martin


My story Southern Daughter is based entirely on a fictional character I created, but this doesn’t mean that some of her attributes weren’t inspired by people in my life. For my everyday heroine I have chosen my mother. Her name is Paula and she is a very unique woman because she gives a real meaning to the word strength.

In 1992 my parents were in a terrible accident where my mom ended up suffering nerve damage in one of her legs. She had many surgeries to try and correct the damage, but none were successful. The damage ended up triggering RSD, which is a chronic disorder that affects the nerves. She deals with pain every day. She told me once that she has to wake up each day and decide that the day is going to be a good one and that this is the only way she can function on account of the never-ending pain.

It is this that makes her my everyday heroine. If you saw her, you would never think she dealt with pain based on the way she acts—she is happy and fun-loving. Something I don’t know that I would be able to do if I was in her shoes. She has taught me so much, but the main thing I’ve learned from her is that happiness is a choice. You can make the best out of your situation or you can spend the rest of your life feeling miserable. No one controls your happiness, only you do and if you remember this then you’ll be able to live a full and happy life for as long you live.

Thanks mom, you rock.

***

Megan D. Martin is a multi-published author, mother, student, and editor. In her spare time she enjoys decorating her house with strange things that do not match, playing her old-school Nintendo Entertainment System, and buying fish for her many fish tanks.
To learn more about Megan, check out her blog http://megandmartin.blogspot.com/.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's the Little Things by Toni Rakestraw


Every day I see my hero. She gets up and comes downstairs. She spends most of her day online because it’s an effort for her to do much else. She’s my daughter, Ostara. Last week, she turned 16. 

Ostara has POTS. That’s Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome for those of you who don’t know what it stands for. The doctors that deal with this condition estimate conservatively that 500,000 people in the US suffer from POTS, though they say there may be many more because it’s difficult to diagnose, and many doctors don’t consider it despite the fact it’s been written about in medical journals. POTS has several symptoms that make it hard to pin down, including a general feeling of dizziness, an increased heart-rate when the patient stands up, chest pain, nausea, headache, stomachache, joint aches, and brain fog. It seems to manifest slightly differently in each patient. It can occur suddenly or gradually, at almost any age. Women seem to get it five times more often than men. Ostara got it at age 13.

She was walking across the room. She stretched her arms, you know, like many of us do, and then she fainted. From then on, she’s been on a downward spiral. At first, she was dizzy off and on. The doctors had no idea what to tell her. She didn’t quite know how else to describe how she felt. Gradually, it got worse. We went to doctor after doctor until we finally discovered her current pediatrician. While she wasn’t sure what was wrong with Ostara, she wasn’t willing to give up. As Ostara’s dizziness increased and she began showing other symptoms, the doctor finally ordered a tilt table test last fall.

During this test, they were able to recreate Ostara’s fainting and we finally had a diagnosis: POTS. We had something to research. We found a book on the subject and learned a lot. Ostara has continued to worsen. She had to give up her walks around the block that she so enjoyed because her dizziness was getting so bad she couldn’t handle it. We ended up getting her one of those rolling walkers. Now on her good days she can go out. When she gets dizzy, she can sit down on the seat until she feels better. Her brother always goes with her so she’s not alone. She knows she’ll probably have a bad day or two after she does a walk, but she does it anyway. I admire her for not giving up.

She’s still willing to try anything her doctor suggests in the hope it will help. So far, nothing really has, but she’s always positive.

She uses her time on the computer to work on her art. In the past year her skills have improved immensely. She draws the cutest characters. I admire that she uses her time to improve herself however she can, despite the brain fog she often complains of. The brain fog makes it hard for her at times to put coherent thoughts together or concentrate for long periods of time. But still, she doesn’t give up. She has her sense of humor, she greets every day with a smile, and she’s always ready to laugh, even when she feels awful.
She’s my hero.

***

Toni Rakestraw is an editor by day and a writer by night. She has written another short story, The Longest Night, for Pagan Writers Press. She also co-authored Titanic Deception, a full-length novel, with her husband John.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...