This Friday is WORLD BOOK DAY. To celebrate authors, I’m giving away five pre-ordered copies of The Stone Sister by Caroline Patterson. I will notify five recipients by email. Readers of my blog are already registered. If you would like to be in on the action, sign up for my blog here, or in that little box to the right.

Spanning the mid to late 20th century and set in the Elkhorn Valley of southwestern Montana, THE STONE SISTER is told from three points of view–a father’s, a nurse’s, and a sister’s. Together they tell the unforgettable story of a child’s birth, disappearance, and finally discovery in a home for “backward children.” Robert Carter, a newly married man just back from World War II, struggles with his and his wife’s decision to entrust the care of their disabled child to an institution and “move on” with family life. Louise Gustafson, a Midwestern nurse who starts over with a new life in the West, finds herself caring for a child everyone else has abandoned. And Elizabeth Carter, a young journalist, uncovers the family secret of her lost sister as she struggles with starting a family of her own.

THE STONE SISTER explores the power of family secrets and society’s evolving definitions of “normal”–as it pertains to family, medicine, and social structure. The novel sheds light on the beginnings of the disability justice movement as it follows one family’s journey to reckon with a painful past. Incredibly, the novel is based on Caroline Patterson’s personal story. As an adult, she discovered she had an older sister with Down syndrome who had been written out of her family history. In fact, that sister’s name was also Caroline Patterson.

I’m excited to share this work with you when it’s available. In the meantime, enjoy WORLD BOOK DAY!!!

This content may dredge up difficult emotions. Please read with care.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention month. As an advocate for youth integrity, I strive to illuminate the impact of child abuse to the self and to society. Recent news articles have revealed, yet again, the toll of psychological damage and its destructive effects on safety—either to the self or to the public.

It came as no surprise to me to learn that the shooter convicted of killing ten people in Boulder had been a victim of bullying. Bullying counts as abuse, especially when it becomes pervasive and is extolled by anyone older than the victim. Some households discount the severity of bullying, diminishing it by placing blame on the victim. Common phrases surrounding diminishment include: You’re too sensitive. You need to toughen up. It was just a joke. Get over it. You have to forgive them.

The very act of diminishment serves to propagate further neglect of the problem by denying the victim’s reality. This is where trouble doubles down and turns adversity into trauma. When a child feels overwhelmed by their reality, the brain will resort to its psychological tools for survival. Self-deception is a reflex of traumatic experience, armor to protect the ego from collapsing into despair. A multitude of avenues exist for a person to steel away from their truth. One can live a fallacy for a lifetime, finding a million excuses to avoid their pain, perhaps killing others in an act of Displacement.

A great book for the lay-person about self-deception is Hide and Seek, by Neel Burton. In brief chapters, the author breaks down the primary modes of self-deceptive behaviors that the Self employs to diffuse difficult emotions. The purpose of the book is to supply the reader with knowledge in which to address their own bad behavior, to curtail negative social interactions, and to ultimately live in truth. As the author says, “Ours is a dirty business.”

Returning to child abuse, I became deeply concerned when a recent article revealed the decrease of child abuse reported during the pandemic. Typically, teachers and school staff are primary observers of children during the school day. Due to at-home learning, it is conceivable that even more children will suffer abuse at home. In this case, the irony of ensuring children’s safety is hardly laughable. Household stress is a common factor in child abuse cases, and with many parents struggling, it gives rise to the idea that our future generation will struggle from long-term psychological damage, simply due to unhealthy household environments. We as a society have to remember not to rely on statistics and numbers, but to apply them to the reality of a context. When we see the bigger picture, we have a more accurate view of the dire need for help. Let us remember to recognize victims as the most important members of society.

What can we do?

Personal missions to become involved in governmental processes remain an immediate call-to-action. Where you focus your intention is up to you: gun control, child protective services, or mental health advocacy are important routes for public safety. Self-awareness and parental education will empower the Self with tools to retrain reactions into responses.

Child safety begins with parents who live in truth. I will continue to maintain hope that the human desire for connection and compassion will overpower the violence and vitriol exposed during this time of adversity. I will continue to advocate for victims of all abuses. If you’re struggling, please seek help today by calling a professional. If you need help doing this, I’m here for you.

Let us celebrate the Easter weekend with hope for the future. Let us live individually in truth so we can live together in peace.

It has been quite a while since I’ve visited my blog, and I’ve missed it. To me, it is like an old sweater—warm, no frills—waiting to be used when I need it. Now, it is sweater weather and nearly the end of the year, so what better time is there to put on the old thing?

This has been a year of friction and unpredictable circumstances. On top of external forces, our college-aged daughter has been living at home more than away, our dog has developed a bone tumor, and my husband and I are preparing our youngest daughter for college. We are both dreading and anticipating the quiet remainder of our lives as empty-nesters. We hope to travel as much as possible.

It has been a year of witnessing human behavior when faced with fear, discomfort, and loss. It has been an eye-opening experience to witness the spectrum of emotions toward mortality. Letting go is hard, especially when losing a loved one feels like an attack. And yet, it is supposed to be hard. We are adapted to do hard things.

My goal for the upcoming year is to do the next hardest thing on my writing journey. Querying my work-in-progress will be the first step in taking a bold leap into publishing. Whereas this step sounds routine and mundane, the act of placing a work of creativity from my hands into the hands of others is not one I take lightly. It requires a commitment of letting go, of losing control, of losing the story I’ve held inside for nearly fifty years. It requires trusting that my truth matters more to a collection of others than it does to me. It is an act of selflessness to allow strangers inside my world, to risk being put on the chopping block, to set myself up for criticism and the harshest judgment of humanity: shame.

So here we are, back to the source of this year’s vitriol. Will people ever evolve from relying on shame to relying on compassion? Will we outgrow criticism and practice empathy? My answers are yes, and yes, as long as we allow all voices to be heard. Silencing is an act of dominance, a misperception of strength in the patriarchal belief system to which our values are assigned at birth.

This is my story. This is the story for many. We are lost voices looking for a break in the wall. It is there, we are here, looking for each other.

I wish all of you a wonderful holiday season and the brightest light of hope in the new year.

Who inspires you? What is it about them that lights a spark? Why?

Sometimes we’re inspired to change a complacent pattern. Repetitive routines dull our senses. Sometimes, we’re not living up to our potential, but the tigers in the jungle of our mind hold us back: fear, insecurity, self-doubt, shame. Uncertainty can become a storm on creative waters, pushing us toward the temperate climate where we’ve become comfortable, sated but not fulfilled.

I’m inspired by women. Brave women. Curious and unsilenced women. Women who feel life’s injustices and reach toward that fracture as a place of strength. This humble spot is where the platform waits, the platform of having a life with meaning.

A photo went viral this week, taken near my childhood hometown at a BLM protest in Whitefish, Montana. The young woman is valiant, brave, forcing an irate white man to look her in the eyes. Her name is Samantha Francine. She inspires me. Read the rest of the story.

Photo by Grace Jensen

Humans are social animals that learn by the examples of others. We learn first from our parents, then from exposure to the world. Limitations of exposure equals a limitation in possibilities. When we witness situations done differently, we build a foundation based on possibility rather than fear. A growth-based mindset is not the norm in our patriarchal culture. To heal from trauma, both individual and societal, we must shatter the barriers and build bridges with our deeper sense of self. We can learn to live differently. Inspiration is everywhere.

After another death of a black human, there is nothing I can say to express my emotions in a way that is meaningful enough. As a white woman, I have the privilege of education, health care, financial security, and a non-prejudiced gaze from people in positions of power. I have never been threatened by violence from a stranger. Nothing I say can compare to the voices of men and women of color who reap the trauma of inherited oppression. The systemic nature of patriarchy and a culture intent on capitalizing from division serves to scapegoat its failures onto the vulnerable, to break them down, to trod over them like dirt.

“I can’t breathe.”

The words of George Floyd have spoken for humanity. My stomach clenches when I say his words out loud. Tears pool in my eyes. I’m sickened by the spectrum of what it means to be American.

Equality demands a transfer of power: that the vulnerable will acquire freedom from scorn and classification, and the powerful will serve the traumatized with compassion. Yet we see the opposite in our political landscape. We feel the triangulation, the bared teeth of party affiliations, the lack of leadership. Narcissism is a new face wearing an old hat. The tactics strive to break us down and disorient our vision, to instill competition between allies, to discern powerless from omnipotent.

I grew up learning surrender as a socially responsible female action, believing my lack of boundaries was an extension of compassion. Gaslit and convinced of my inferiority, I was told to be nice. By young adulthood, I had no defense against the bullies in my life. Imagine the trauma.

Imagine doing nothing for change. The how is less important than the why. Trauma can not heal until the threat is removed and safety is secured for longevity. It is unsustainable to maintain relationships built on power and surrender, just like it is unsustainable for humanity to exist on polarized means. It takes great courage to disassemble foundations, but we are better than what was built for us.

For an impactful voice on racism, read Notes on White Guilt by Jennifer Neal.