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Take Off That Little Black Dress

8 Dec

You know what is worse for me right now than bathing suit shopping? Little black dress shopping. Ugh. I have my Christmas party this weekend and I always buy something new to wear. Something fun. So Kevin and I had to stop at the mall for something else recently and we were breezing through stores looking for something, anything, for me to wear. It is amazing how much different life is trying to shop with rules, boundaries, and so many physical flaws now. I really want to start a clothing line (bathing suits, bras, undies, party outfits and fun tops) to help people like me not feel like such a total freak in the dressing rooms. You see, this is all still new territory for me. In my previous life (before surgery) I could basically wear anything. I was in decent shape, I didn’t have any drastic things to hide, and I was thin. An easy shape to cover in clothes and bathing suits – and I took it for granted.

So we are shopping for something fun to wear and the rules are – nothing that shows cleavage, nothing that shows above the breast area, nothing that shows the front of my armpits or anything close to my armpits – like below them on my side. I have dips, gaps, creases, caves, scars, and all kinds of crap going on now and it looks freaky if it’s allowed to show. So, the more dresses I tried on, the more I realized how hard it is to find a party dress that covers all of that destruction and that isn’t a dress for a 200-year-old woman, and in my size. It isn’t easy let me tell you.

This is why I want to start a clothing line. Not to make money – but wouldn’t it be nice to offer regular women, who have had surgery like mine, a way to cover the scars and still feel feminine? There has to be a way. I have so many ideas…but no time and no money to take this on.

On the way to the store I was remembering all of the fun cute clothes I was able to wear in my “prior” life and when I got into the dressing room with some cute clothes on, it just became all the more real that those days are gone. Gone for good. My surgeons have offered fat grafting surgeries – they said it would probably take 5 surgeries. To me, it just isn’t worth all that. So, here we go….two years and nine months post breast cancer diagnosis and I am still adjusting and still taking steps toward what is going to be my new way of looking and feeling. Some days are easier than others and some days just purely suck….and that is the truth.
In this blog I am in NO WAY minimizing the true destruction of breast cancer. I have several friends who are battling their brains out right now, fighting for more weeks, months, and years to spend with their families. I am not comparing myself to these precious women; I love them and they know it. There is no way to even explain where my heart goes when I think, and pray, for these friends of mine.  And it has nothing to do with clothes.

I know people who have had a bilateral mastectomy that don’t have as much destruction as I do, they also didn’t have the type of cancer I had and sometimes not the brca mutation, some are quite a bit younger, some were able to have skin sparing surgery, some have more meat on their bones, and some had prophylactic surgery where the insides of the breast are scooped out and an implant is put in. Everyone has their own surgical path, their own story, their own happiness – or lack thereof, with how they look post surgery, and that is what makes us each so interesting. We are all so different in our recovery.

As for me, I am going to keep things covered up, try to find things to wear that I like and that fit ok…. and just keep going.

Human Trafficking In Charlotte?

1 Dec

(It’s all about education and helping fill a huge need)

COPIED FROM ALL WE NEED IS LOVE WEBSITE

Human Trafficking is usually thought of as a foreign issue. The images that may come to mind could be in Eastern Europe, and while trafficking in this those countries remains a huge problem (as noted in the 2013 TIP Report), trafficking is a growing problem right here in the United States.

Our home base in North Carolina is one of the many states affected by the problem of human trafficking. The statistics are startling: North Carolina is ranked as a top ten state for human trafficking. It is estimated that North Carolina ranks number 7 or 8, this depends on which article you read. According to the Daily Tarheel, the state does rank in the top-ten the country. While doing research for this blog, what I found to be frustrating was the lack of recent statistics. Many of the statistics floating around the Internet account for the entire country and not for a particular state.

The statistics are staggering: more than 1700 girls are estimated to be trafficked in North Carolina each year, but probably the most sad statistic of them all, being that girls as young as 12 years old are apart of that number. The city of Charlotte (our home base here at AWWIL) ranks as the 6th city in the country for trafficking.

So you might be thinking to yourself, “How do I stop this?” or “How do I protect my or anyone else’s children from becoming a victim?”:

•The first step is to educate yourself and others around you about the presence of human trafficking in North Carolina. You can download one of our ebooks (the link to download the ebook is below), to help better inform yourself and others. The saying is true: “Knowledge is power”.

•Come volunteer at a AWWIL event, buy a tshirt to show your support, or DONATE to AWWIL.

To download the free e-book to learn how you can help – click the link below – click the blog tab and the free e-reader book is down a little on the right hand side of that page.

http://www.allwewantislove.org

Stars and Stripes

30 Nov

A few blogs ago I wrote about one of my bucket list items being a talk (a real one) with Edwin McCain. He is truly one of the best musicians I have ever heard – the talent he has is mesmerizing. If you have never seen him live, it is something great, and achievable, to add to your own bucket list. I know he has the radio songs that we all have heard a million times. One is called “I’ll Be” and “I Could Not Ask For More” and everyone knows them. I’ll Be has been voted the number one wedding song, the number one prom song, and it appears as if half of the people trying out for American Idol or one of those other shows tries this song more often than not. He said last night that he is always asked in interviews if he is mad about how much that song is played, covered, performed by others, and he said something like – are you kidding me? That’s like winning the lottery and each time you see the framed lottery ticket, while walking through your big house, you say “stupid lottery ticket” – I am LUCKY. A great perspective from a fella who made several hits that are still on the radio daily and the funds he continues to make from those songs allows him to travel and perform the way he wants to – full, big, soulful, raw, and awesome. He tours around the US, and overseas, all year-long and if you go to his website you can see if he is coming to a town near you. He lives in Greenville SC so Kevin and I are lucky enough to have seen him 15 times or more, all over NC, SC, GA and FL. Until I got sick we were seeing him at least 5 times a year in different venues. The good thing about seeing him last night was that it was at the Don Gibson Theatre in Shelby so the venue was small (maybe 600 seats), the crowd was extremely respectful, and we were able to sit down in a comfy theatre type setting. It was just Edwin, Craig (sax player) and Larry (lead guitar). Before each song Edwin told a story so the people in the audience could connect to these songs. Being avid fans we have heard many of the stories before, but there were quite a few doozies that he told that we had never heard; his humor is dry and his heart is big. The last few times we have seen Edwin he mentions that his wife had breast cancer (she was dx around the same time I was) and he encourages women to get their mammograms because early detection saves lives. GO EDWIN! That is a powerful message coming off a stage like his to some of the fans in these venues. You can always hear the shock and murmur coming from the crowd when he says it. Well, guess what? Last night I finally got to thank him for carrying that message in his shows. I was able to ask how his wife is doing (she is good! NED and she recently turned 40), we talked about his kids, we talked about how his voice is getting better with age (if that was even possible), we talked and laughed and Kevin was in his glory – as was I. It wasn’t the sit down for half an hour chat that remains on my bucket list, but I think it mended the fences with Edwin for us having accidentally stalked him at a bed and breakfast inn several years ago – and then later mentioning that we were staying across the hall from him when we met him at the concert. He seemed uncomfortable with that little piece of information, and with Kevin’s man crush, so we may have scared him a little. It was truly “stalking by accident” folks, I promise!!

So anyway, last night was terrific. Another way to truly celebrate the blessings we have. Like my clear abdominal CT scan results that came back yesterday – blog post to follow. I just found this blog post way better than talking about cancer – or lack thereof.

The name of this blog post is stars and stripes for a reason. Anyone who knows me knows I am not a big fan of famous people. I have never wanted to meet any famous politicians, I have not wanted to meet many famous actors/actresses (except for Lucille Ball), I have only had a few musicians or rock stars that I have wanted to meet (Edwin), and there have been several Christian artists that I have wanted to meet. And luckily in the last two years – I have met two of them (Chris Tomlin and Brandon Heath). So to make myself seem like my bucket list is driven around star sightings would be very misleading. That is so not me. The funny part is that in the picture below you will see I am wearing the same shirt I had on for my meet and greet with Chris Tomlin – different sweater but same shirt. So maybe this shirt is my “meet my most favorite famous people” shirt. Funny how that happened because we didn’t realize we would be meeting Edwin last night. Or that we would get to talk to him for five minutes, or talk to his sax player for ten minutes after that. I guess we should always be on the look-out for our bucket list items, sometimes they need to be planned out and paid for – and that way you know they are coming (like our Nascar Driving Experience someday when it doesn’t rain). And sometimes God puts these great moments into your life when you least expect it. Don’t assume that if you have something on your bucket list it is just going to fall into your lap. Plan it, put yourself in the position to make it happen, go for it. Take the time and plan for what’s important to you, because as my life continues, I see more and more women whose lives change with one phone call, one CT scan, one new lump, a cough, a constant pain in a bone. Their cancer is back – their life has been changed, sometimes down a path they never imagined facing – not really anyway, and now the items on their bucket lists seem impossible to check off; physically too hard, financially impossible; or there just might not be enough time.

I wasn’t worried about my CT scan coming back showing signs of cancer. I would have been shocked because my cancer is most likely to recur in my brain, liver, bones, or lungs. But I am living the life I am, constantly reminded of the possibility of the return of cancer because I have far too many precious friends battling for their lives, and their futures, right now. Some are finishing out their treatments for their first diagnosis and they will end those treatments stronger, smarter, more positive, and changing their lives because “they get it”. Some of my very dear friends are fighting recurrences/metastatic breast cancer and their lives are focused on chemo/hormone therapy/scans/radiation/clinical trials/and getting their stuff in order. They don’t have much time (or strength) to be going to concerts to meet their favorite musicians. What I am trying to say friends is LIVE your live with purpose. Don’t assume tomorrow is the day you can do the things that are precious to you. I am all too aware that one of those pains in your back, that new tiny breast lump, or that cough, can truly be a life changing event for a cancer survivor, so let’s get the bucket list started and let’s start making memories. Give back, plan for memories and stop buying “stuff”, spend time with people who matter and guard your life against people who try to suck the energy out of you and cause drama, and cherish your children – no matter how old they are.

Here is a picture of one of my new favorite “half-checked’ bucket list item. I am still going to sit down and visit with Edwin someday. You all will just have to wait and see how I figure that out – but I am going to do it!

I got to meet Edwin!

Below is a video of Edwin taping his “Walk With You” song. This song means a lot to me because my daughter Morgan danced with her Dad at her wedding to this – and she was nice enough to let me suggest this when it was brand new. I just LOVE it even though it doesn’t show the huge talent of Edwin on the stage, but it is still a very special song!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8LBUMnQgSTs

Here We Go Again….

24 Nov

I always somewhat dread today, November 24, because I know I will be sad and missing my Mom on her birthday. I was wondering this morning – what if it weren’t for breast cancer? How long would she have lived? How many memories did we all miss out on with her? And how is it at all fair that my children barely remember her when she loved them so much?

This morning we figured out my Mom would have been 78 years old today. I all of a sudden realized that had it not been for breast cancer taking her life in 1996, she might not have still been alive today anyway. My family just doesn’t have such great genes and I am sure she would have been partying her buns off in heaven already. I am not sure I really ever realized how old she was getting once she was gone because I still picture her at 61 – happy and healthy….but wow, 78 years old today?

I don’t have very many pictures of my Mom and I. This is something I really do regret and wish I could go back and change. This is also one reason why I have broken my picture phobia and have allowed myself to be photographed a lot more since my diagnosis…even through my cancer treatments. I knew I would be better off to have the photos if I needed them, or wanted them, than to want or need them and not have them. So, as hard as it was, I got rid of the bad attitude of not wanting to be photographed. Photographs are terrific ways to relive certain memories, some memories you didn’t even know you had until seeing a photo. So, for my children, I am being better about this.

My Mom had somewhat of a hard life. It makes me sad to remember back to some of the things she told me when she was still alive. She had an abusive father so my Grandma and my Mom had tough times when she was a young girl. Then my Grandma went off the deep end of the mental bridge and became quite the hoochie-mama for quite a few years. The hardest story my Mom ever told was during her cancer battle and homebound but she was not yet scary sick. I remember her sitting in the recliner in their family room looking out the large triple set of sliding glass doors that over looked their wooded backyard. They had big windows above the sliding glass doors and a soaring ceiling so the room always seemed as if you were halfway outside. She was not comfortable sharing this story and I am not sure if it’s just one of those things that shames you during your entire life, or if it was because my Grandma was still alive and my Mom was afraid I was going to say something to my crazy mean old Grandma. As my Mom looked out the window with a lost look on her face she talked about wanting to find her sister. “Your sister?” I asked. “What sister?” My Mom began her story.

When she was about 8 years old my Grandma was in love with a man and he was going to marry her, or so he said, so my Grandma packed up my Mom and they traveled from NY to California. Now back 70 years ago that was a big deal and I am guessing they took a train, or several, but I cannot remember if she told me how they got there. They stayed in a hotel room when they got to California and my Mom spoke in a quiet voice and told me that her mother, my Grandmother, used to have sex with this man while my Mom was in the room, and she made my Mom put her face in the corner. She said she wasn’t sure how long this went on since she was only a little girl, but she said it seemed like hours. Day after day. What my Mom didn’t know is that my Grandmother was pregnant with this man’s baby and when she told him she was pregnant he didn’t marry my Grandma. In fact, my Mom later found out that the man never intended to marry my Grandmother because he was already married.  So my Grandma and Mom trekked back across the US, back to NY, and moved in with family. I am not sure if they stayed with my Great Grandma or my Aunt, but I know my Grandma left my Mom there on and off for many years and they basically raised her without much input from my Grandmother. My Mom vaguely remembers riding in the car with my Aunt and my Grandmother and a baby. They parked in front of a house and my Grandmother got out of the car with the baby and went to the front door. She left the baby there (I am not sure if someone opened the door or not), got back in the car and then they drove away. Later my Mom was told that the baby in that car was her half-sister. My Mom spent many years yearning to find out more about that sister but my family was tight-lipped and protective of my Grandmother. I am not sure why – but they were. So, I am sitting in the family room thinking “WHAT??” My Grandmother was really nice and very loving for many years and then she got mean-spirited and hateful, so my guess is that was her true nature and she had some good years and was nice to people but truly, deep down, she was not nice. What kind of woman has sex in a hotel room and makes their young daughter stay in the room with her face to wall? Ugh. My poor Mom. It is also interesting to look back and realize my Mom had a whole life that didn’t involve my brothers and me, or even my Dad. I find it odd that as a grown adult; we never realize this about our parents, not while they are here anyway. The scope of how we know our parents is just that – the parental scope. Who knew they had such interesting lives before we came along? My Mom worked in some type of cool job in DC for a while and was exposed to all kinds of cancer causing crap (my brothers know the details of this, I still do not) – but could this be some of the cause of her cancer and mine? I want to say my brother told me she was exposed to high levels of radiation in a job with the government that she was not very willing to talk about. Hmmm…interesting, eh? Funny cause she never mentioned this to me – ever. But if she did, would I have been a willing listener? I know I would listen now. I know if I could have my Mom back for an hour, a day, or a week, I would be the greatest listener ever. I would want to know everything. Every past detail, what she was like as a teenager, as a newlywed, as a new Mom, what is was like to grow up with an abusive Dad and since she did have one, why did she put my brothers and me in the same situation as she grew up in? What she really thought of losing her breasts – both times, what it was like to truly look death in the face; watching it as it slowly descended upon her, how she handled having multiple miscarriages, and losing a baby at 5 months of pregnancy, what is what like to have a gun held to her head by her husband (my father) during her cancer battle, what kind of little girl she was; was she a good girl or a little spit-fire, what dreams did she have that she never experienced, did she have a bucket list, what it was like to be rich, or what it was like to be poor. I would listen listen listen and boy, given the chance to talk to my Mom again; I would want to know everything about her. As a daughter. As a wife. As a Mom. As a friend. As a lover. As a Grandma. As an Aunt. As a woman.

So, when my Mom was in her mid teens my Grandmother met a nice man and got remarried and straightened her act out. She then got close to my Mom and became a decent Mother and Grandmother. My Mom married young (to a fella named Buddy) and lived in an apartment in the upstairs of my Grandmother’s new house. My Mom and Buddy were married for a few years while he was in the service. (He was my Mom’s step-brother’s best friend and they all hung around together in high school.) He came back from the service (not sure if he was done with his duty or on a break) and he and my Mom got into an argument. He went out with his buddies drinking and they were involved in a car accident and Buddy was killed. My Mom was devastated. Totally and completely devastated. I cannot imagine the guilt she carried from that tragedy in her life. Then years later she married my Dad and the rest of that story is our family history….but before she met my Dad, I can honestly say she had her share of hard times and heartache. And then after she married my Dad, her hard times and heartaches continued, but that is for another blog post.

So, I ask you guys, do you know your parents? Do you just know them as your parent or at this point in your life are you close to them and you know them as well as a close friend or maybe just as well as you know an acquaintance? Think about the questions I mentioned above, do you know the answers to those about your own parents? I sure wish I knew the answers to those questions, about my Mom anyway.

Happy Birthday Mom! Please know you are dearly missed and I still yearn to talk to you, to hug you, to know you on a much deeper level then I knew you 17 years ago. I wish my kids were blessed enough to know you now that they are grown, and I wish you had met Kevin. But, we are living out our story and this is how things are meant to be. Regardless of what I never knew about you – what I do know about you is that you were cherished and loved and you loved us like crazy.

Mom and Kyle 1992Mom and Morgan 1993

All We Want Is L.O.V.E.

21 Nov

I have heard a few comments that my recent blogs posts are making some people uncomfortable. You know what I say to that? GOOD. Sometimes making people uncomfortable and making them think about someone other than themselves is when they may actually take a moment and see into the life of someone else. Maybe this will inspire someone to ask about signs to look for, maybe it will encourage someone to give a charitable donation to Jillian’s cause, and maybe it will just plain make someone uncomfortable enough to do something. I found this interview online and thought I would share it so you could have a glimpse into the mind of a victim. Well, as I continue to look into what Jillian is doing now, I can tell you she is no longer a victim; she has turned her personal story around and is now literally saving lives.

“So I was like, if I tell somebody does he have a connection to make something happen to me? Would he kill me? Would he deny it? Make me look stupid?” said Mourning.

Jillian’s pimp called or emailed her whenever he had a client.

 “He was like it’s not a matter of choice. You’re going to keep doing this. I need you to meet me,” said Mourning.

She says this went on about six months.

Lauren Walsh: “Did you ever consider going to the police? Did it ever cross your mind?”

Jillian Mourning: “Mmm.Mmm.”

Walsh: “You were too scared?

Mourning: “I just didn’t want anyone to judge me and say that you know, why did you do this? Or why after the first time- or why did you agree?”

Mourning says she’d hop on planes and go to five star hotels, without telling friends or family what was going on.

Walsh: “So when you get into the hotel room, there’s a man waiting for you and expecting sex from you?”

Mourning: “Yep.”

Walsh: “How did you feel about during this as you walk into each room every time?”

Mourning: “I tried not to think about it. It was almost robotic. I think you’re able to somehow check yourself out of it.”

One day Mourning’s pimp told her he’d be away for a bit.  She “Googled” him and found that he had been arrested for money laundering.  She says this was her freedom.

“In my head it was like great, I’m free. I never have to do this again.  I never have to deal with him. It’s now getting swept under the rug and behind me and I can move on with my life without feeling like I’m living two lives” said Mourning.

But Mourning couldn’t live without telling someone.  She eventually opened up to her family and friends and started a non-profit to raise awareness for trafficking called “All We Want Is Love.”

 While I was researching Jillian and her non-profit I found some really interesting stuff. She wants to train people on the signs to look for in human trafficking; the girl next door, the boy at church, a student, a friend of one of your children, or even your own child. You cannot shut your eyes to this and say “not me – not my family” because I would bet you my paycheck Jillian’s family would have said the same thing.

I found this small blip on one of the articles written about L.O.V.E. also:

All We Want is LOVE assisted in the rescue of three models from sex trafficking, as well as distributed 12,000 bars of soap labeled with the National Sex Trafficking Hotline to hotels during the PGA Golf Tournament, which resulted in five cases being reported.

Now, let’s take some of that discomfort you are possibly feeling and do something with it. I know L.O.V.E. is having a fundraiser here in Charlotte in January – and guess who is attending? Yup - we are and hopefully we can get some of our friends to go with us.  

 BLIND

                                                            http://www.allwewantislove.org/

More Light On A Dark Subject

20 Nov

Jillian’s story continues…(if you are confused on this post please read my two previous posts)…

Mourning’s abuse ended in October 2007, after five months. That’s when the federal government began investigating her agent’s investment company, which he operated in addition to his exploitation of women. In 2009, he was arrested for defrauding investors and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He has never been charged with sex trafficking, although Mourning says the FBI is gathering evidence on a potential case.

But Mourning won’t be in court if the FBI moves forward with charges. In 2011, she told her then-boyfriend about being forced into sex trafficking, and he found the Internet videos of her being raped. Mourning watched the footage and stayed awake for two days afterwards. She then made a suicide attempt. Her family found out about the tapes when they visited her at the hospital. She says she won’t press charges because she doesn’t want to relive the trauma.

“For me to go through that process and have to watch all that, I just don’t know if it would be worth it to me,” Mourning says. “It would be too hard on my emotional wellness when I’m trying to be in a better place.”

In October 2012, Mourning launched All We Want is L.O.V.E., short for Liberation of Victims Everywhere. As the founder and owner of this local nonprofit, she is committed to raising awareness about sex trafficking in the U.S. and around the world by helping to fund existing human trafficking rescue and advocacy groups. L.O.V.E. eventually will use donations to build its own shelters.

One of Mourning’s biggest goals for L.O.V.E. is to eliminate the stereotypes about sex trafficking among women. While watching the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Uptown, she realized many women who do not have breast cancer are quick to support organizations like Komen. But it had been her experience that some women are quick to pass judgment on female victims of sex trafficking — either actively, by saying the victims had “asked for it,” or passively, by not supporting related organizations. Breaking that stigma would encourage more victims to come forward, Mourning says. Women who have been trafficked “wouldn’t be afraid to come out [as victims], because they wouldn’t be afraid that the girl next to her is going to say she’s a whore or she deserved it,” she says.

 All We Want Is LOVE fights trafficking through three main components:

Education

Through education of high schools, colleges, and individuals everywhere All We Want Is LOVE is dedicated to making sure everyone knows of the injustice of trafficking. We teach people anything from the basics on trafficking, types, why, acquisition, the trap, and tangible things individuals can do. Through our education we create individuals capable of recognizing a potential situation and the drive to report such findings. We also educate to break the stigma and silence. The often harsh and alienated stigma associated with trafficking victims keeps them silent and leaving us in a world where the victims are criminalized and people don’t know how to help because not enough are talking.

 Trainings

We facilitate trainings for different business groups to train employees who may come across trafficking situations. From hotel workers, cable and power companies, and creating events for law enforcement, providing resources and training to those most likely to come across a trafficking victim plays a crucial role in their potential and hopeful freedom.

 Rescue Resources

We provide rescue resources from tangible items marked with the hotline number as well as packets describing human trafficking and the signs catered to specific businesses. We truly believe the more resources out in the public the greater the impact made to end this massive injustice.

We partner with several other organizations that help us in our goal of fighting human trafficking. Thanks to support from counselors, attorneys, and businesses we have resources to provide victims coming out of trafficking.

As The Story Unfolds

18 Nov

So where were we with Jillian and her trip to Arizona? If you are confused on this blog post, please read my previous post called Not Here – Not Now.

So Jillian is taken to Arizona by her modeling agent and in the middle of the night her agent and some thugs break into her room, rape her, and video-tape it. This is when Jillian became a sex slave. Here are some excerpts from interviews she has done:

When she flew back home to Charlotte, the agent demanded she see him. He threatened to release the footage online of her being raped if she didn’t do as he said. Fearful that her family and friends would see the tape, she would go to him in various locations in the city twice a month. He filmed and photographed himself raping her, uploaded the videos to the Internet anyway and sold them to websites.

Mourning, now 25, was a victim of sex trafficking, the criminal act of using fraud, force and coercion to sexually exploit people for profit. Victims include anyone forced to perform a sex act to earn money for a trafficker, according to the North Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Sex trafficking is characterized by psychological and physical coercion and can include, but does not require, transportation of the victim.

North Carolina consistently ranks in the top 10 most active states in the country for sex trafficking, according to the coalition. Reasons include the state’s transient population, including immigrants who could be in debt bondage, which is when someone pledges themselves to labor to repay a loan. More cases of sex trafficking are reported in Charlotte than any other city in the state, according to a 2012 annual report from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, likely because it is the biggest city between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, and the airport is the sixth busiest in the U.S.

In the U.S., the Internet is the No. 1 platform for traffickers to buy and sell women and children, including boys, for sex. The Polaris Project, part of the National Trafficking Resource Center, studied domestic sex-trafficking networks that hide behind businesses on the Internet, and use “recruiters” who make false promises to people online to lure them into a sex-trafficking ring. For example, a female recruiter asked Mourning to join a local modeling agency, which is how she signed on with her “agent.”

So my mind has been chewing on this subject ever since I found out about Jillian last week. And please forgive as I ramble in my thoughts and writing. If a man, say a regular fella that you work with, or live near, married or single, goes away for a weekend to a PGA event, let’s say in Tampa. Let’s say he is away from his work and family so he decides to live on the edge a little and crosses the line into buying some time with a young lady for the evening. And let’s say he pays her for her services and the returns home feeling guilty for crossing “that” line, whether he is married or single. He feels guilty why? Because he paid for sex, cheated on his wife, possibly endangered his health by having sex with someone he doesn’t know….but what about this thought. If he paid for services from someone who chooses to sell herself, then he has just either had sex with a stranger or committed adultery, right? But what if he happens to pay for services from a young lady who is actually doing this against her will, she is a victim of sex trafficking and he is….a rapist? Uhh…you mean the regular guys that just go and have a good time in their fancy golf shirts? Aren’t they just thinking there is no harm in having a little fun while they are out-of-town? They ARE paying for services after all so do they ever wonder if this girl is being held against her will and is a victim? A human trafficking horror story right there is his arms? Would it ever cross his mind that he is no different than the dudes arrested on tv for raping someone? How exactly does this work? I am asking you because I honestly don’t know. Also, what if she is 14 and is made up to look like she is 19 – then what does that really make him? Is it all pushed under the rug because he doesn’t know all of the facts, because he paid his fair share for this service, because he is from out-of-town and is just having a good time, or what? Where is the thought process behind this – or is there no thought process at all?

Isn’t this the core of the problem? If men were not buying sex from women, willing or unwilling participants, wouldn’t the industry collapse? I know this is all my naive view on the world, but if the demand isn’t there – doesn’t the market go away? What is wrong with this picture and how can this be happening in our own backyard with the fellas we work with, live with, and sit in church with? I don’t understand. I know some people have problems with sexual addiction etc – and for that I am sorry, but my guess is that is not what the driving force behind this trafficking industry is. Whenever I hear of the human trafficking industry I always picture slums, in another country, poor people with their kids being taken away and no one doing anything to help them. I also picture seedy men purchasing these girls in dark alleys and rancid hotels. I didn’t picture nice hotels with regular businessmen buying into this industry and raping women or young girls, during regular old sporting events. I just never imagined it, not during my darkest days. But the truth is that it is happening – by the bus load.

So back to Jillian – she has started a non-profit organization called All We Want Is L.O.V.E. and she is doing GREAT things. I will continue to blog about her organization as her story unfolds, but for now you can see her website here:

http://www.allwewantislove.org/

Looking for a great cause to support? This one would be it. She is not only changing her horrific ordeal into by raising awareness, but she is DOING something to help anyone being held against their will. More more more on this to follow!

 

 

Not Here – Not Now

16 Nov

Several months ago I met a lovely young woman through my job. She was working for a company that was selling software to our company. We have since bought this software and this girl stopped coming into the meetings. I assumed it was because she was one of the first faces you deal with on the sales side of this organization and then I assumed we got a different set of sales people as we moved forward with our software package. She is a beautiful girl and her name is Jillian. Well, as assumptions usually are, mine was wrong. Jillian left this software company to work more on the non-profit company she started a year or so ago. I just found this out yesterday from the fella we are continuing to work with on this software for our company. Stay with me now readers….

I remember Jillian being extremely smart and very pretty, well spoken, and helpful. In fact, she is beautiful. She is so beautiful that she is actually a model and has been a model for years. When her co-worker shared with me what she is doing now, and why, I was floored. I came home and immediately googled her and began doing some research on this incredible woman. I have since emailed with her and I have her permission to write about what I know about her. As you read my blog, please remember that God does not allow you to go through horrible things without using it for something good. Also remember that the face people often wear to work, to the gym, to school, and to the grocery store, is more often than not, a mask that is hiding secrets, despair, horrific memories, and pain. Everyone has pain in their lives so remember this as you go through your days and encounter people in bad moods, in a rush, maybe they are rude, or maybe they are just plain emotionally closed off.

Jillian was none of the above when I interacted with her at my job. Like I said before  – she was professional, smart, funny, and beautiful.

Jillian was 19 years old when her modeling agent took her to Arizona for a modeling opportunity. The first night she was there her agent and a few thugs came into her room, drugged her, raped her, and video-taped the entire thing. This is when Jillian, a beautiful 19-year-old model, from Charlotte, North Carolina, became a sex slave.  You think this doesn’t happen right here in the beautiful Bible belt? You think this doesn’t happen right here under our noses while people turn their heads the other way? I wrote, and deleted, a blog about this several months ago because I felt it was inappropriate. Now, I regret not posting it. Did you know that buses of young women and boys (sex slaves) are brought into our city for large events (like a PGA golf tournament and the DNC)? Did you know that this is basically done across the United States for Super Bowl games, political conventions, and anything else that draws large crowds of men? Did you know this? Think about it. Buses are coming in – filled with children and young adults – as part of the sex slave industry – to be raped by our businessmen, fellas in high dollar golf shirts, sporting event fans, and people involved in the political arenas. These are the same men who are going home to their wives and children that night or after a weekend in another town or city for “Super Bowl Sunday”.  These children and young adults are being brought to our city for “special events” IN LARGE BUSES. How does this happen right under our noses? Why does human trafficking and the sex slave industry seem to happen “in other cities, states, or countries?” Not in OUR city. Noooo…….well guess what folks, it’s true. I am going to blog more of Jillian’s story and tell you the fabulous things she is doing with her experience. First of all, I wanted your attention. Do I have it? For all of my breast cancer followers out there – this “theme” folds into female exploitation, the amount of pressure we have on us for having breast cancer surgeries that leave us scarred or forever changed (as in breast removal), pornography, strip clubs, and all of the other things that roll into this ugly little package of what so many of us want to pretend isn’t happening in our city, in our neighborhoods, and possibly in our own homes.

Giving In

13 Nov

A week from Thursday is finally the day I will go to the doctor and allow them to do one of the bone shots for my osteoporosis. Ugh. I asked the nurse last week about the other patients they see and their side effects and she said they don’t have any side effects. Then I asked the doctor about the side effects and he also said his patients don’t have any. He asked what side effects I was worried about and I told him – bone pain. He said that doesn’t really happen to people, they just mention it in the pamphlet. Hmmm….really? So, this is what I believe until I am forced to face something else. NO BONE PAIN. I didn’t do so well with the bone pain with Fosomax or the Neulasta shot, so my fingers and toes are crossed for a much better outcome next week. Time will truly tell won’t it?? I am having it on a Thursday so if the bone pain comes I have a day to get pain medication before the weekend. This shot is only given twice a year and it is only safe for me to take for two years. All of the doctors scratch their heads and say after that we aren’t sure what we will do for you. My oncologist was against this medication because it can encourage bone cancer, my osteoporosis doctor is against what the oncologist wanted to administer because we know I would have a bad reaction to it and could be in the bed for a long time. SO, what is one to do? It is time to do something – but who am I supposed to listen to? My right elbow has been really hurting for about 6 weeks. The osteo doc twisted it and turned it and bent it all around last week and he ruled out tennis elbow and tendonitis so he said he wanted an x-ray of it to see what was going on in there. The result – bone thinning. I keep asking them – does osteoporosis cause pain, should I have bone pain INSIDE my bones, what is causing this…the answer continues “we don’t know”, “damage from chemo”, “osteoporosis is not painful until something breaks”….well, what the heck is wrong with my bones then?

Before this bone shot I have a few fun things planned, so I am thankful for this. We are finally attempting our very late reversed Mothers Day on Sunday. Kevin and I are taking Morgan and Kyle to the racetrack to drive the Nascar race cars on the track. We tried a few months ago and we were rained out. So, I am going to bend my rickety old bones and fold them inside a race car and speed along the Charlotte Motor Speedway track with three of my favorite people. There will definitely be a blog post and pictures coming. I have also already thought through and purchased our 2014 Mother’s Day trip and this time it’s just for Morgan, Kyle, and I, and we will do it right around Mother’s Day – so hang on kids….more fun is on the way!

We are not planning anything for Thanksgiving so if I am sick I can just rest and not be stressed. I am hoping someone brings me enough turkey for one real turkey sandwich. That is my favorite part of eating at Thanksgiving – leftover turkey for a sandwich! Hint, hint….someone? Anyone?

Last weekend we were lucky to be able to go and see Chris Tomlin again, only this time in Atlanta. We had some quality time with Morgan and Mike (this was his birthday present) and we had so much fun. I love love love these concerts. It is a huge worship party and I really needed that. I also needed the two large bags of cotton candy I ate pretty much by myself…gross, right? I know!

That’s my quick blog update. Nothing great to write or say, I think I am a little bummed that the bone shot is coming. I have put it off for long enough and I just really want to scream “I AM DONE WITH DOCTORS” – but as we all know, the doctors are not done with me. Take care of your bones my friends, you need them to carry you around to where you need to go, and once there is a problem with them, you really do have a problem.

For Better or Worse…

3 Nov

“For better or worse” – those are some powerful words when you hear them, and repeat them, standing next to the Caribbean Sea, in Ocho Rios Jamaica. Kevin and I said those words four years ago today, but in some ways it seems like a lifetime ago. Our wedding “made for two” and our honeymoon were perfect. We picked Couples Tower Isle for this occasion and the minute we got off the ride from the airport and stepped into the open air lobby, we knew we picked the right place. The internet does not do CTI justice and we were not disappointed, for one moment, with our wedding, honeymoon, the service, staff, food, moments, wedding dinner, and the friends we met there – and still stay in contact with. We LOVE Couples Tower Isle.

As we stood there by the Caribbean Sea we had so much excitement and hope for our future. We were going to return to Charlotte, sell my house, give up his apartment, find a house we loved, and settle into a happy future. We were going to blend our families with ease – and we would all live happily ever after.

Vows...We DO !

Our days in Jamaica were perfect and, as some of you know, reality struck as we were seated on our return flight home from Jamaica, when we saw Kevin’s ex-wife as one of the flight attendants on our flight. What? You say? I know, right. She “worked” the other side of the plane, not looking our way or acknowledging our presence. She walked up behind our seats at one point in the flight and rammed her hip into my left shoulder. Now was my left shoulder hanging out into the aisle or was it in its own parameters of the seat range and the hip cruised into my area – innocently or not – I will never know. The aisles on those three section planes are smaller and she had a hard time getting up and down the aisles without turning sideways, so I am sure it was an innocent bump. There are 3,000 flights that leave Charlotte each day and she just “happened” to be on our return trip home. “God’s will” she stated. She had a 1 in 6,000 chance of being on our flight that day – and that was normally her day off because she went to dance class in the early evening. You can draw your own conclusions, but for my new readers, this is how we were welcomed back into the states as a married couple.

Six weeks after our wedding we had to put our precious cat Haley to sleep. She had cancer and it was beginning to close up her throat. She was almost 15 years old and that day was one of the hardest days of my life. This is no joke. Morgan (my daughter) and I took her to the vet and going through that process was enough to break our hearts. It was almost 9 months later that Kevin took me to a store that had rescue kittens for sale. I saw one, held her, fell in love with her, and now we have Gracie. Luckily she came to us on September 11, 2010, and no one knew how much I would need her in the coming months. We thought we were adopting her and rescuing her, but what we didn’t know is that months down the road, she would stay by my side, every single day, and help me in ways that no one else could have done. I know Haley somehow sent her to be by my side.

We bought a house that needed lots of love and attention since the previous owners pretty much trashed it, we are stillllll working on it! But we do love it. My daughter was married in May 2010 and Kevin and I merged our families, or tried to. It is hard to merge families when one side of the equation is constantly hearing lies and sewage about the other side. People – if you are going through a separation or divorce, please remember that when you use your children as pawns in anger and for retaliation, the people who are hurt the most are your children. When I was in the midst of a divorce I know I said my share of ugly things, but never, in my life, have I seen someone use their children as heavy artillery against the ex-spouse and wife. Not at this level.

Then Mr Lumpcake came into our lives. We have no way of knowing how long Mr Lumpcake was riding around inside my breast, but March 2011, he was discovered and the battle began. On the day of my first cancer surgery, Kevin’s son was here at our house and his ex-wife brought wedding pictures over, they were wedding pictures from their wedding 20 years ago. She told her son “I think your Dad might want these”….what an odd way to teach your children how to act when cancer hits the family of your ex-spouse. Was she hoping he would be happy the day of my cancer surgery to be reminded of the biggest mistake of his life? Who wakes up with thoughts about doing such an odd thing? After my cancer was removed and my full diagnosis was revealed, our focus was taken off of our marriage and everything else, and fighting and surviving became my full-time job and my life. Triple negative breast cancer is nothing to mess around with – so we didn’t. Out came the heavy artillery, this time aimed at my body. This time it was directed by an oncologist, a genetics counselor, surgeons, radiologists, and pathologists. The battle has been won, I am considered NED (no evidence of disease) and I am speeding toward my three-year anniversary mark. That is a big day for triple negative breast cancer survivors. March 1, 2014. A big big day!

Life has continued on here at the house. We have poured lots of time, money, and attention into this house, inside and out, trying to cover over the stains of the previous owners, the neglect, and the destruction. We still love this house and we continue to work on what should have been finished years ago. Our path took a little detour for cancer, but now we are back on track, we even added on a screen room, that we LOVE, and spend a lot of our time enjoying.

We still continue to struggle with the mishaps of a loosely documented divorce. The two lawyers that navigated this divorce should be reported to the bar. If only people would understand how often issues arise down the road – and the legal system will say “what does the document say?”….well, what if the document states barely anything? Then you have a lot of room for a lot of issues, drama, and more legal bills. If you are going through a separation GET YOUR PAPERS IN ORDER and have every single detail hammered out and written in your original document. Thinking that you know your soon-to-be ex-spouse and thinking they wouldn’t ever do this or that – is pure insanity. You don’t know the person you are married to, and what they are capable of, until you start separation documents. Trust me on this one. Our lives would be a whole lot easier had the two original lawyers done what they should have done….you know, done what they were paid to do. But no. So our drama continues. Three more years until Kevin’s youngest ages out and we can be done with the insanity of what we live in. Three more years. Seems like a long time doesn’t it?

Kevin is now spending rotating weekends with his aging parents. He has the sweetest parents in the world. Cute as two little buttons those two. They are aging quickly the last three months or so – 91 and 90 years old. They are beginning to fall, they are getting confused, they have to stay at home more due to the fear of falling, and they just don’t feel well. They are precious to me and are one of the silver linings of meeting Kevin and getting to know his family. His siblings, and their spouses, are all terrific. We don’t see them enough – but they are great.

Usually by November we have a spring trip planned to go back to CTI. We don’t have one booked yet. I am not sure if this means we aren’t going, or are going someplace else, but I know I have never felt so at home someplace before in my whole life than I do at CTI. Taking a Caribbean vacation anytime soon? Check out Couples Tower Isle in Ocho Rios and let your dreams begin.

Love in the Caribbean

So here I am, reflecting back to the side of the Caribbean, with Pastor Rose marrying Kevin and I next to the beautiful aqua sea. We had so many dreams of a great future back then. We didn’t imagine dealing with drama and constant insanity, we never imagined cancer, we never thought about not being able to blend the families easily. We just imagined and hoped for a happy easy future, but that isn’t what we got. I realize now that no one really gets that. Everyone has their issues, their struggles, their battles within wars, good days, bad days, financial struggles, financial stability, trouble with kids, having their children be their light and their happiness, health issues, losing people they love, disappointments, broken dreams, and surprises – some good, some not so good.

So, even though this isn’t the four years I had imagined, it is the four years I have been granted. This is my path and this is Kevin’s path. Our lives together, and our lives apart, this is path we are on. Since I have had a warning flag thrown onto my track, I am living my life differently. I do things that mean something to other people. I don’t waste time anymore because time is precious. You just don’t realize how precious it is until it is threatened to be taken away. I know, in my heart, that the next few years are going to be better; one way or another. I also know that once Kevin’s youngest starts driving and ages into college, our ties to drama will be basically cut. And that my friends, will be a happy day.

For better or worse….the words I continue to try and live by. Not only in marriage, but in life.

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