A Letter to My Daughter

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More flowers for your birthday. Ephermeral cherry blossoms.

When I tell people about the day you were born I say it was the most empowering day of my life. Your birth was magical. You were born in the house where we lived, surrounded by people who loved us, as the sun was setting. And at the moment of your birth there was a gentle breeze that flowed in from the front window and with it the scent of delicate rock roses. And as I breathed in that sweetness, I knew your Granpa G. was there with us. Unlike many people, your birth name has meaning. I love you with all my heart.

Today my second child and my youngest is turning 23 years old. My first child was born in a hospital. My second was born at home with a midwife. As a woman and a mother I felt strength during her pregnancy and birth. My mantra was, “I have confidence in my body to do what it was created to do naturally.” Her birth was a back labor and lasted 23 hours. Having her at home was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my whole life. It truly was empowering.

I remember digging up those rock roses from the front yard of the home my husband grew up in. He lived in the same house his entire childhood. When we got married, no one lived there, as his parents had retired further south, so we moved in. Those roses were originally in front of the room his sister grew up in and the room that eventually was our first daughter’s nursery. My father in-law, Tom,  was a horticulturalist by hobby. These were his roses. My father in-law was a second father to me. I lost my own when I was nine years old. I am not sure I could have loved Grandpa G. more for all the kindness, affection, and love he gave me. He died before my littlest was born. The irony, both my father and father in-law were taken from me by cancer. Roses do not survive well when but these were his roses, for his little girl. I was not surprised when they survived. I think I willed them to live.

My daughters each have a family name. Hers is Serene, after Tom’s mother. I remember sitting at his bed side and him saying he wished he could live to see more grandchildren. I didn’t know it, but I was pregnant. Eight months later Serene was born. The breeze winding in the room and the scent of those roses. I knew Tom saw his granddaughter. I felt it in my heart.

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The Lotus

lotusAirial wrote that, “The lotus flowers live in ponds. At night the flowers close and sink into the muddy waters, only to emerge perfect and pure when the sun rises.”

She challenged me to write about a moment in life when things got dark and to reflect on when the light returned. There have been a few times in my life when life was dark, but like the lotus flower, so far I have always emerged from the darkness and resurfaced into the beauty of light.

Some of my darkest times are related to loss of loved ones. I am not good at forming shallow connections. I gravitate toward deep bonds. I do not love half heartedly, I offer the best parts of myself to my loved ones, and wear my heart on my sleeve. My open heartedness and vulnerability are at the core of my inner beauty. Being and loving this way comes with risks. Its who I am and I don’t want to be any other way. I am risk taker.

Some love dies a natural death while other loves die or whither of neglect, lies, and betrayals. One time the harm was so great I nearly drowned from the pain. Nearly, did not resurface like the lotus. How I get through dark times has been with love, care, and nurturing from the kindest of friends. I’ve learned over and over that I cannot be an island. As an introvert it is all too easy to allow oneself to become and island. Me & my books & movies! This last time though, the lesson stuck. When I look back on it now I think of Dickens and remembering that suffering is never a waste if we learn from it. I learned a lot that I wish I hadn’t needed to learn, but learn I did and although I was bent and broken – I hope – into a better shape.

“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. ” Charles Dickens

This was a writing assignment to earn a Lotus Pin for NYC Littles Scouts, Troop 212

 

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Purple RibbonI knew 16 days ago we began National Domestic Violence Awareness month. I have experienced physical and emotional abuse in my past. I read some things today that compelled me to speak out on the topic. There were some folks using the term gaslighting incorrectly and others were throwing shadow on claims of gaslighting as possibly being a matter of, “…I got confused, and emotional, and now I feel bad.”

I came across this journal entry in FetLife about 1 ½ years ago. I had never heard of the term “gaslighting” before I read that journal entry. The term is best known from a 1944 classic movie starring Ingrid Bergman, titled Gaslight. This past September it was being shown at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) Cinema and I went to go see it.

What is gaslighting? A psychological definition of gaslighting is “an increasing frequency of systematically withholding factual information from, and/or providing false information to, the victim – having the gradual effect of making them anxious, confused, and less able to trust their own memory and perception.”

So yes, we are dealing with perceptions.

I was in a very destructive relationship in my past were I was physically and emotionally abused. The physical was easy for me to forgive, the emotional has been far from easy. Fairly early on, after I left my abuser, I realized I could not get past this problem. I had to work through it and that I needed professional help to do that. Some of the emotional abuse definitely fell under the term gaslighting. It can still be traumatic for me to relive those experiences. I was subjected to behavior that resulted in psychological trauma, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s an invisible scar I wear.

I want people to pause before they speak and automatically disregard someone, who speaks up about emotional abuse, because that is what gaslighting is, emotional abuse. I want to ask you to pause and listen to people who have the courage to ask for help. Please don’t turn your back and write them off as people who want to avoid being responsible for their own actions. Please I beg you to resist the urge to tell yourself, it’s discontent/sour grapes, because their relationship ended. I implore you to consider that it might have taken that person the last bit of strength they had to hold that hand out and ask for help. I beg you to realize that if you don’t error on the side of caution when that person reaches their hand out and grab that hand, you may lose that person forever. Emotional abuse can be that destructive. Grab that hand, pull them up, keep them safe, and find them help. Question later.

It took me a long time to find the courage to speak to one person I thought I could trust to talk to. Even then I made her swear to not say anything to anyone and amazingly she didn’t; she held all my dark secrets. She is a much better friend that I am. Even after I talked to that one person it took me another 6 months before I finally left. I’m a rare statistic, once I left I never went back to my abuser. Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind to try to ask to come back. It did. I want to say I was lucky, but it’s not that at all. It’s that I did the work and continue to do the work to heal with a professional(s).

Do some people misuse this term? Yes. Do you really want to take the risk of turning your back on the many that don’t? No one deserves to be abused. I didn’t deserve what happened to me and I did not want it. Do I have accountability? Yes. I stayed. No one forced me to stay. I have to live with that. The abuse I suffered nearly killed me. I don’t say that lightly. There is a lot of shame in admitting that out loud, but choose to let go of pride and instead say my truth out loud, because… If you are suffering abuse I want you to know I have known the shame & fear you live under. There are women and men all over who understand the shoes you walk in.

And look at me today…

I am not broken.

I am not a victim.

I am not a survivor.

I am a beautiful strong leather woman.

I am here in the today, the now, and embracing life.

Show Yourself To Me

ShowYourselftoMeCover

Queer Kink Erotic author Xan West’s has invited me to join in on a month long virtual book tour. Before I get into my thoughts on this book a little about the author and the book:

A little about our author:

Xan West is the nom de plume of Corey Alexander, a recent transplant to Oakland from Brooklyn, who has been doing community kink education for over ten years. Xan has been published in over 35 erotica anthologies, including the Best S/M Erotica seriesthe Best Gay Erotica series, and the Best Lesbian Erotica series. Xan’s story “First Time Since,” won honorable mention for the 2008 National Leather Association John Preston Short Fiction Award. Xan’s work has been described by reviewers as “offering the erotica equivalent of happy ever after” and as “some of the best transgressive erotic fiction to come along in recent years.”

Xan refuses pronouns, twists barbed wire together with yearning, and tilts pain in many directions to catch the light. Xan adores vulnerable tops; strong, supportive bottoms; red meat; long winding conversations about power, privilege, and community; showtunes; and cool, dark, quiet rooms with comfortable beds. Find Xan’s thoughts about the praxis of sex, kink, queerness, power, and writing at xanwest.wordpress.com.

A little about the Book:

In Show Yourself to Me: Queer Kink Erotica, Xan West introduces us to pretty boys and nervous boys, vulnerable tops and dominant sadists, good girls and fierce girls and scared little girls, mean Daddies and loving Daddies and Daddies that are terrifying in delicious ways.

Submissive queers go to alleys to suck cock, get bent over the bathroom sink by a handsome stranger, choose to face their fears, have their Daddy orchestrate a gang bang in the park, and get their dream gender-play scene—tied to a sling in an accessible dungeon.

Dominants find hope and take risks, fall hard and push edges, get fucked and devour the fear and tears that their sadist hearts desire.

Within these 24 stories, you will meet queers who build community together, who are careful about how they play with power, who care deeply about consent. You will meet trans and genderqueer folks who are hot for each other, who mentor each other, who do the kind of gender play that is only possible with other trans and genderqueer folks.

This is Show Yourself to Me. Get ready for a very wild ride.

I like to read porn, smut, and erotica. Call it what you will, but I like things dark, dirty, taboo and Show Yourself To Me is filled with it all. There are some things that stood out to me instantaneously about this book in context to styling and wordsmithing. There is a layout here in content that I am familiar with that still somehow pleasantly and most unexpectedly managed to surprise me to find it in a book. What I refer to as wordsmithing starts on the cover with the title. From the cover to each of the following pages this book was constantly bringing forward unexpected feelings, emotions, and thoughts for me. This book, at the same time, is and isn’t made to make us feel comfortable.

The first thing I should notice is the cover and book title and I do, but it happens in more of a passing glance and it’s lost on me until later. I am too greedy wanting to dig into the meaty pieces inside and I missed something that would come to me later about this title. Instead of being the first thing I absorbed, the title is the last and final thoughts I have before I sit to write today. Since last night I have been pondering the words Show Yourself To Me. I have been thinking of how loaded these words are. What is it we do when we allow ourselves to be seen? There is so much risk and so much possibility of reward. We allow ourselves the possibility to be and to feel, vulnerability, fear, excitement, dread, pain, longing and more. What a litany of feelings and emotions we open ourselves up to. When I first read the title I assume the author is looking for us to open ourselves up and I believe Xan West does want us to do that, but even more I believe what is done here is we are being shown our author. There is a strong metallic taste pouring into these pages from tears. We are reminded life is not neat, things get messy, and Xan turns the wet messy and often ugly pain here into something beautiful. When you read through the stories in this book you get to see raw reconstruction of self, along with a proclivity for knives, tears, rough trade, and leather. This wasn’t the erotica I was expecting and I am glad. It’s the first time in years I have had erotica make me pause and think about what I show of myself to others.

What I noticed right away was the contents page and the warnings listings. Between each Story and its page is a detail of warning content. I read stories on alt.sex repository and I am accustomed to lingo for content warning in online porn, but for some reason I never expected it here. I feel compelled to talk about the warnings ad content listing. It’s so great and I wonder why it’s not more standard. Not only does it do the obvious of helping people divert themselves from stories that have content they need to turn away from, but it helps you steer to content that makes us hot! Seriously, at each of our Smut Club meeting here in NYC our little group always seems to have one or more women (it’s a women’s group) who will say they had to stop reading and couldn’t finish because of certain content they were triggered by. This book’s erotica touches on real and very sensitive areas of our lives and sexualities. Content information, so simple, but so brilliant. I’m excited to go talk about this book with my friends at our local Smut Club.

One last thing I wanted to comment on is something I read on Heather Elizabeth’s blog Kinkopedia. During her tour stop of this book wrote about a reaction she had to Xan West commenting that…

The secret truth of it is this: many of us that moved to the other side of the whip did it to approximate what we had longed for and rarely received… No one tells those stories.

I think of all the virtual book stops on the tour this one observation stopped me in my tracks, because its part of my story.  She is right that people probably don’t speak this type of truth often, but I believe people are hungry for this queer erotic and are ready to hear these stories.

Show Yourself To Me can be purchased at:

Go Deeper Press and Amazon

Going to the place that’s the best…

This is my best friend jade. I can’t think of a better friend than her to have. I love her. Here is a little piece of her to share…

The Chrysanthemum and The Sword

Unlike what most people imagine, my experience with the Biker gang wasn’t fundamentally different from my gender rigid role childhood.  While i most fervently hope that there is one single Club House in the Sky, where all of our fallen brothers and sisters went before us and are waiting for another reason to have a cook-out.  i hope heaven has miles of clean ocean and rows of Harley’s.

My biological father is a biker.  The very best memory i have of him is wrapping my arms around him and sitting so close on the bike.  i didn’t have to let go.  i couldn’t stop smiling and swallowed a bug.  He called me Angel.  He smelled like leather, sweat, and a bit sweet from his pipe.  i wanted that bike ride to never end.

My mother said the only time she was happy during her pregnancy was on the back of…

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The Smut Club

sleepingbeautyOnce a month a small group of submissive women friends get together to here in NYC to review a work of erotic literature. This month and the previous month we did two classics; The Story of O by Pauline Reage and this month was The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, by Anne Rice. Just like last month the story was very easily divided into the loved it and hated it groups. There were a few common themes in the discussions for the past two meetings. This month we took a little more time to discuss why the two camps might happen.

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty is not the fairy tale you may remember of your childhood years. One of the girls talked about when she first found the book at a local book shop and picked it up and bought it. She said when she picked up the book she had no idea what she was getting into and what she thought she was buying  was the more common variety of romance smut. She said if she had known she would have at least blushed a bit and been embarrassed when she took it to the counter to buy it.  She also recounted that when she got home and started reading it she found the book disturbing, but yet she couldn’t put it down and was excited.  One thing we all agreed on is Beauty and all the other prince & princesses spend a lot of time getting spanked. The spankings are never ending. I am fairly sure there is spanking in every chapter. Another consensus was that Beauty cries a lot and was very whiny. Some of the women were annoyed, “I wanted to tell her to shut up. Nothing had even happened to her yet and she would be crying!” Another spankingperson was quick to point out most the whining and complaining was actually happening in her head and not out loud. That we were privy to her thought processes. All agreed to that and understood how we do that ourselves. This book is filled with sex, spanking, crying, more spanking, pony play, exhibition, paddles, dildos, humiliation, voyeurism, more spanking. What it didn’t have and the big topic of discussion was the lack of consent. This is a adult fantasy book.

SSCThis month we found our little group again divided in the discussion of consent in the book. People had issues all over the map regarding the questionable ages of the characters and lack of consent period. My argument for this both times was to look at the dates that these books were published and that this was fantasy writing. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty was published in March 1, 1983. It is exactly at that time, in 1983, that David Stein was writing a statement of identity and purpose for the now defunct New York group Gay Males SM Activists (GMSMA) and it was most likely the first time the future mantra of Safe, Sane, & Consensual was penned. I tried, perhaps not too well, to tell them about the difference in the times between then and now. We had conversations on consent, but it wasn’t like it is now. I can’t even hug someone now without asking consent. Is that good or bad I am not sure, but I digress. I tried to tell them that SSC, and now RACK, PRICK, or whatever mantra people are using… well SSC came to be some type of creed or slogan that slave david stein ever meant it to be. Here david writes,

“In the beginning, however, ‘safe, sane, and consensual S/M’ wasn’t a slogan

but simply the preamble to a statement of purpose that goes on to talk about

such things as community, responsibility, tradition, education, and gay

liberation.” … “The ‘safe, sane, and consensual’ formula was put forward as a minimum

standard for ethically defensible S/M, because that must be the basis for any defense

of S/M rights. Today, however, and especially in the hetero and pansexual

communities, S/M itself (or “BDSM,” which some find more palatable) is

frequently defined in terms of SSC, while the SSC slogan is treated with quasireligious

reverence and even explicitly referred to as a “credo” or “creed.” Instead

of asking people to think about what it means to do S/M ethically, and to make

the hard choices that are sometimes necessary (if only between what’s right and

what’s right now), many organizations today act as if these issues have all been

settled, assuring us that sadistic or masochistic behavior not deemed SSC isn’t

S/M at all but something else — abuse, usually, or domestic violence or poor selfesteem.”

It was during this long conversation about consent one of the women asked a question and made a point that I think resolved why we were so split on the liking or disliking of the book and also on our issues of consent. One comment was the observation that most of the other books we have read so far in our Smut Club were not fantasy and this book and O were both fantasy based. You have to be able to apply suspension of disbelief. I’d say it’s likened to believing in fairies! Just for a moment you must be able to believe the unbelievable. Those who enjoy fantasy books, like this one woman, will be more likely to enjoy the Beauty Trilogy. The other question and observation was regarding to when we read the book in reference to when we entered the S&M scene. Myself and a few others read this book before or near the beginning of their journey in BDSM, while others had been involved in the scene long enough that they don’t think of themselves and novice per se, but having some experience. We didn’t get much of a chance to even get into character discussion, but I think the favorite character from what I recall was Prince Alexi. The least liked character was the Prince. The impression was he turned out to be too much of a mamma’s boy. He wasn’t dominant enough *gasp*! Overall this book was not hated as much as O, but I think the majority of women in our group do not lean toward fantasy writing.

As much as we women enjoy the discussion about our smut the truth is we love to be around people who make us laugh, smile, and feel welcome as we are. Each month our Smut Club moves around the city and this week we were on the Upper East Side. This month our host, who is a vegan, asked we keep her home a meat free zone. I have to admit that it was great. Usually we all bring the unhealthiest gluttony of baked goods and preserved items anyone can imagine. I hope everyone enjoyed the snacks as much as I did and that we start bringing more yummy goodness. So gathering together over smut although it stimulates are minds in a laid back way is really just a very good reason to munch out and socialize. At this moment the Smut Club is probably the best female social group for submissive/slave/bottoms in NYC.

Along the lines of good smut, next month I’ll be doing a book review here as part of a virtual book tour of author Xan West‘s newest book, “Show Yourself To Me: Queer Kink Erotica” Its a book filled with 24 short stories. The book will become available is eBook and old fashion paper on October 2. My review for the tour is scheduled for October 12th.  I’m looking forward to checking out all the good girls, bad girls, fierce girl and the Daddies in this newest release of queer erotica!