From the heart... to the hands.

Trigger Warning: This post contains subjects some readers may be sensitive to. It's about violence and it's about love, and it's about what happens when the two mix. Domestic violence isn't something that everyone is comfortable talking about without a warning, so this is mine to you. 

The fast approaching weekend and in particular Saturday, April 12th, marks a very special anniversary. The date conjures a void that is almost tangible, like a penny falling down into the darkness of a never-ending well. It marks one of those defining moments where something happens, and then nothing is truly the same ever again. For me, this weekend symbolizes the beginning of my journey toward a lifetime as a feminist, as an advocate, and as a survivor of domestic violence. It is the same weekend that, 28 years ago, my mother Lynn was plowed down on a rural highway. Her lover was behind the wheel, alcohol and aggression exploding in between the slurs and swerves, and the topography of my life and hers was changed forever in that moment.

The moment that the tiny yellow car caught up with her brought with it a full and weighty clarity. Her body exploded in a cacophony of noise--the sound of bones breaking, organs bursting, and her heart slapping against the busted up framework of her chest cavity--to which she sang a song that I would come to know as a verse in my anthem.
May you only experience love like you deserve to be loved.   
The arrest report from that night.
But that's not always what happens when you are 6 years old and you see your mother lying in a hospital bed so badly injured that she is almost unrecognizable, statistically speaking anyway. Children like me--little girls who know what it sounds like when a full-grown woman's body smashes into the side of a single-wide trailer, who help their mothers clean up post-battle blood--we tend to find ourselves in similar patterns when we get old enough for our own relationships. I don't know what it is about seeing the matron pilar in one's life peppered with hemorrhages, weakened by blood loss and holding to life by the wire threads in her monitors, that leads little girls to believe they deserve to be treated as anything less than the queens they are; however, there is an expansive body of evidence suggesting that children who witness domestic violence are prone to play out the role in their own lives. I did too, to a lesser but no less valid extent than my mother. Thankfully I escaped that life and built up my confidence before injury ever left me hospitalized. Feeling hopeless, worthless, scared and scarred for my life, yes, but hospitalization, no. Ever since, my life has been on a steady trajectory toward empowering other women to do the same.

Kindergarten missed me.
In honor of my mother's strength through the trying weeks that she faced lying in that hospital bed, and in honor of my own experiences with domestic violence and of the experiences of as many as 4,000,000 other women in our country every year (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Violence by Intimates: Analysis of Data on Crimes by Current of Former Spouses, Boyfriends, and Girlfriends, March, 1998), I am going to do something to help the women and children in my community who live with the effects of domestic violence. In honor of the 65% of children who will also be abused by their mother's abuser--all those tiny eyes and ears who live through the terror of a violent upbringing--in honor of my boys for whom I am breaking so many cycles; and in honor of the 3,247 people served by Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services of Whatcom County (DVSAS) last year and the countless others who need but do not seek their services...
A witness statement.
You may remember the success of the Warmth Wagon coat drive (if you don't know what that is click here and here). Well, I need you to help me fill my van once more. Beginning April 12 and lasting until May 3 (the duration of my mother's hospital stay following the incident), I will be in the parking lot of the Lakeway Market at designated times collecting items of need for DVSAS. I have coordinated with the organization to determine their greatest needs at this time and would be grateful if you would join me in helping to meet them. Many of the items are low-cost to purchase, or may even be things you have spares of around your house, and will greatly help ease the impacts of domestic violence on our community. Please, for little girls like me and their moms both in Tiny Town and everywhere else, and for everyone else galvanized by the crippling damage of domestic violence, consider skipping a latte this week and bringing a donation by instead. You will soften someone's experience guaranteed; trust me, I know. Here are the most pressing needs:
Children's Programs
Activity jumper/jumperoo (stationery, not door frame kind)
Art supplies (buttons, clay, dry-erase markers, crayons, markers, construction paper, glue, etc.)
Boppy pillows
Coloring books
Cookie cutters
Disposable diapers, all sizes
Dress-up clothes, and a storage trunk for them
Ergo baby carriers in new or good used condition
Full-length mirror
Gerber sippy cups
Non-perishable single serving sized snacks and juice
Play-Doh, rolling pins and other tools for it
Wooden high-chair
Adult Programs
Blank journals and notebooks
Gift cards to help meet basic needs (gas/food/groceries)
Greyhound vouchers
Non-perishable single serving sized snacks and juice
Pre-paid cell phones
Pre-paid calling cards
Agency Needs
Coffee, tea, and creamer
Desktop photocopier for copying protection/restraining orders in client rooms
Desktop printer, any kind so long as it's in good working order
Hot plates
Large plastic storage totes
Magazine subscriptions for the waiting rooms
Bathroom supplies: toilet paper, pads, tampons, bleach wipes
Thumb drives 
So, Tiny Town, show me what you've got! I will be in the Lakeway Market parking lot at the following times in the coming week, and will post the next week's schedule in a forthcoming blog post. Be sure to join the event on Facebook too, to keep abreast of the developments as the project gets underway.
Saturday, 4/12 9-10am
Monday, 4/14 12-1:30pm
Wednesday, 4/16 4:30-6pm
Friday, 4/18 12-1:30pm
Saturday, 4/19 12-2pm
Please swing by, say hello and help me make someone's life better through your kind deeds by taking your concern from your heart, to their hands.


HLawson said...

Thank you for sharing your story, mama. I'm in awe of your ability to harness your energy and channel it into something like this for our community. You are one remarkable woman. Xoxo

Secret Agent Peanut, aka Stephanie said...

Heather, thank you so much for doing this. I can't tell you hot in awe I am of all you give and keep giving, and DVSAS is so close to my own heart. Our community will so benefit from this drive.