Monday, February 24, 2020

Review: If You Tell, by Gregg Olsen

If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of SisterhoodIf You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood by Gregg Olsen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gregg Olsen's "If You Tell" was a riveting read, which despite its length took me only 2 days to finish. That's not usually how I approach a book. I take moments to read in between chores and responsibilities and even commercials. It's low-pressure, and I eventually finish. With "If You Tell," I got absolutely nothing else done until I closed the book and took a breath.

"If You Tell" is the story of an ego-maniacal girl who grew into an abusive, manipulative monster. There's no explanation offered in the book for her mental state, but from the beginning she perpetrates measures large and small that are destructive to those involved but have seemingly no effect on her. From adolescence to adulthood these oddly orchestrated scenes intensify, as do the costs to others, but again not to her. She does just awful, unthinkable things to anyone in reach: her children, her husbands, other family members, co-workers, and other social relationships. Shockingly, despite the magnitude of some of these atrocities, no one on the outside sees it, and no one on the inside tells or asks for help. These acts include sexuality-focused abuse, cruel and humiliating forms of torture, poisoning, and murder. And she just keeps moving forward, leaving destruction behind her and beginning again. Because no one dares to challenge her.

Olsen's storytelling style confused me at first. It was narrated by an objective, unknown third person, punctuated with pieces of interviews from various people who spoke mostly from hindsight. I realized quickly that it had the feel of true-crime television programs, like 48 hours or anything you might see on ID TV. Most of the telling was just that -- telling. The reader gathers the story not from scads of dialogue between characters, but from the outside voice of the narrator. And once I had that figured out, it was a very easy, if not highly upsetting read.

Truth be told, I was horrified by what I read, intrigued enough to research the story behind the book, and saddened by the utter lack of justice for a lifetime of damage done. Many lifetimes worth of damage. I will say that it only took me 2 days to plow through the book but it's going to take more than that to stop thinking about its contents and pulling myself out of the hopeless empathy I felt for the victims as I read about their suffering. It got in my head. I applaud the author for his ability to put this all together in such a comprehensive, respectful, and candid (raw) manner.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 14, 2019

FINALLY something new from me!

Today I FINALLY put together listings for the tarot bags I've been making for my shop on Etsy. You can click the Etsy button in the top right-hand corner to look at my shop, but here are a few pictures here. Tell me what you think!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Thing to be Grasped

As an adult who grew up in a very Bible-y place, verses fly through my head in response to nearly every situation I come across. And, of course, these verses were originally taught along with their "accepted" interpretations, a la various, basically fundamental, Christian churches. I say this because although I grew up in the Church of Christ, as soon as I was old enough to dare I began studying in other variations of Christianity, such as Baptist, Catholic, and Assemblies of God. Most verses have the same "accepted" interpretations, except a few used to validate or denounce certain practices singular to one denomination versus others.

So the other day I was contemplating the outright GREED that has overcome our lives -- yes, the whole world, but especially here in the United States. As a City on a Hill that Cannot Be Hid, we are radiating GREED to the rest of the world. In the name, by and large, of Christianity. In contrast, we are lighting our lamps and then hiding them under bushels. Yes! We're the best place to live! We have more, promise more, ARE more! But...we don't want you. Especially if you are actually in need and might drain us of our resources. Please drain elsewhere. We don't have enough.

Well, we DO have enough for luxurious airplanes and expensive entourages for golf outings. Political campaigns. Huge parades and celebrations of ourselves. Yay! Aren't we amazing? Wouldn't you like to be us? Well you can't. You weren't born here. Or maybe your ancestors were but we drove them out and that's just too bad.

Then there's this little verse in Philippians. Always brought up to demonstrate just how much Jesus loved us. But it carries so much more weight when we look at ourselves, as Christ's representatives here on earth. Here in America.

Have this mind AMONG YOURSELVES, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who -- THOUGH HE WAS IN THE FORM OF GOD -- did not count EQUALITY WITH GOD a THING TO BE GRASPED, but emptied himself, taking the form of a SERVANT. ....Philippians 2:5-11, edited and emphasized by me.

What if this were applied to us? To each American? To our leaders? Who, though being in possession of wealth and power, did NOT count that as a thing to be GRASPED, but emptied ourselves, taking on the form of... Servants? Immigrants? Criminals? Hungry? Homeless?

While Christ was in the form of God and WAS God, we are NOT. We should count ourselves BLESSED, not ENTITLED. And figure out exactly what it is we are considering a thing to be grasped, so that we can empty ourselves of that and take on the form of servant. And serve those in NEED not those who can in return serve our needs. I'll scratch your back, you ... enjoy it. You feel appreciated. Your betterment is not only my reward, it is my JOB.

What is it YOU count as a thing to be grasped? What would it take to empty yourself of it? Are you brave enough?

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

It's been a year. The world has moved on but I am, in a lot of ways, still tied to the deaths of Adri and Brann. Adriana's family and friends hosted a 5k in her honor to bring awareness to domestic violence. One of the guest speakers was from a battered women's shelter here in San Antonio, and she said something that I felt like a punch in the chest. I don't remember it word for word, but it was something like, "when a person must live in fear of someone who claims to love them."

As I was there to honor Adriana, and show support to my orphaned cousin, I would never call any attention away from the purpose of the gathering. But it hurt so bad, knowing that Brann had grown up living in fear of someone who claimed to love him (his father, my grandfather). While Brann's extreme and final actions were.... extreme and final .... they did not come from nowhere. I remember hearing him scream as my grandfather beat him and his wife pleading with him to stop. His wife, my step-grandmother.

I've had to go back and censor [this very large part] of the story because saying the words out loud brought some hell down on my head. I can handle a LOT of hell, but I have literally exhausted my emotional strength with very little time for recouping. So to give myself a little of that, I redacted part of the story. Which in no way changes the truth under the black marker.

My aunt Murray shared with me a quote a long time ago. It was this:

What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open.

So when the time came for me to honor my uncle Brann, I did so by telling a truth. And by God, the world indeed split open. Then, in the wake and fallout of the world-splitting, in this age of #metoo and telling our truths bravely, I actually acquiesced by removing the post, and then further by actually APOLOGIZING for saying out loud what was already visible through the rift. I had a very, very good reason for doing so. But at the same time I'm FUCKING PISSED at myself for letting ME down.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Reblog: Guns Are the Problem

The article below is worth the read. Even if you are a gun owner. Especially if you are a gun owner. Not because you should be convinced to give up your guns. But because as a gun owner you should be open to promoting and demanding responsible gun ownership. My dad, a true gun enthusiast, throws this one out whenever the subject comes up, "There's a loaded shotgun on my front porch. It's been there all week. And it hasn't gotten up and killed a single person." I've been listening to that sort of rhetoric for years. But the truth is, it's dangerous rhetoric. It's flippant. It's not even true! My dad would never leave a gun out in the elements! But if it were true, some idiot who heard him say it could go swipe it and use it to commit a crime.

Attitudes about guns are changing. People are using them to win (get the last word in, so to speak) arguments. To "express themselves," as it were, in mass shootings in schools and places intended for recreation! And those who don't use them that way, those who own them and don't use them in bad ways, are starting to use these types of flippant responses that show just as much lack of respect for the guns they claim are so important in their lives. These attitudes are promoting and perpetuating the misconceptions about what guns should and should not represent, and how they should be used.

Here is the reblog I want to share: Guns Are the Problem, Guns Are the Problem, Guns Are the Problem … | Erin Wathen

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Day on the Floor

This post was written two days ago...I just saw it when getting ready to upload a new post. But apparently I was feeling so bad that day that I didn't trust myself to be able to live with the shame of this honesty. Yesterday I started feeling my spirits lift slowly out of the pit, and today is a little better than that.  

If you suffer depression at any level, work (or wait) your way through to the next part of the cycle. Even if you don't believe it's coming, if you are considering suicide PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR HELP. If you are familiar with the feelings I describe below, realize that I don't feel the same way two days later. 


It could be anything. PMS. Peri-menopausal symptoms. The oppressively hot air outside. The amount of things to do just to be caught up, not to mention get ahead. Also, it's not like there's been a shortage of pain or trauma in my life over the last year. And it seems like when necessary I can muster up just enough energy and determination to do anything. And to be enthusiastic enough that I believe I'm becoming the person I want to be. The person who can answer yes to every, "Does anybody happen to have any _____?" Safety pins. Aspirin. Bandaids. Super powers.

It lasts enough to feel really good. And then inevitably I sink into a pit of stagnant self-loathing, self-pity, and insecurity. I spend a lot of time chastising myself. Like, it's because I drank too much last night (which always means 1 drink above my 2-drink limit) and alcohol is a depressant so I'm just living a well-deserved day of depression and misery. Trouble is, I find other reasons to explain it if I didn't drink last night.

I usually try to work my way back into my own good graces, then feel overwhelmed and go back to sleep for (hopefully) a good dream and a reboot.

There's also L-theanine, which if I don't feel TOO terrible might help a me enough energy to lift my eyes above the quicksand of poo and see a butterfly off in the distance. But have you ever felt so bad you can't bring yourself to take the cure? Like -- it's right there on top of the fridge, and all you have to do is take it down and chew up two of the minty, TUMS-like tablets and most likely feel at least some relief from the oppressive weight. But you (I) walk right past. Because I can't believe I will ever feel better again and why take a stupid mint-flavored, chewable supplement?

So that's today.