Category Archives: Writing

Pain

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Although my new book is fiction, it is rooted in my experience. As I write about the mother and her hatred for her daughter that stems from her hatred of homosexuals, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the pictures that my mother had of me. I wonder if she burned them.  I wonder if she threw them away. I wonder if when she takes out her photo albums to look back at times past, if there are empty spaces where I once was, or has she filled them with someone who took my place? I wonder if she left them there and pretends that I died on the day that she walked away from me. I wonder if she wonders the same thing.

I long to move forward and forget this pain, but it won’t go away. So, I write it. I write it in hopes of offering solidarity to someone who may suffer as well. I write it in hopes of saving someone from hurting their own child out of ignorance. Someone may respond to this and say, “Your mother loves you,” or something with the good intentions of comforting me. I don’t need comfort. I write to get it out, not for sympathy. Besides, I know a mother’s love. And, no fear of eternal flames could keep me from giving it. I would walk through those flames for my children no matter who they loved or what they did. They are and always will be mine.

{Sexual Harassment Series} Women, Ask Yourself: Am I Part of the Problem?

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In discussing Sexual Harassment Training, I have come across many instances of women who are creating the problem rather than solving it. I believe that I can speak for those of us who have been damaged by sexual harassment/assault, when I say, “Stop!” If you are participating in behavior that reinforces sexual harassment, then, I demand you to quit.

One example of women who are reinforcing this issue is the woman who uses her sexuality to get what she wants. In 2017, if you think that getting what you want by flirting or using your sexuality is okay, you’re wrong. You should only be getting what you want by means of intelligence, skills, and capabilities. Otherwise, you are part of the problem.

In trying to end sexual harassment, solidarity is required. If you want to flirt, that is your prerogative. I’m not slut-shaming. I’m not trying to say that there is anything wrong with exuding sexuality. I’m saying when someone purposefully uses their sexuality to obtain a position, a raise, or other benefits, then it becomes a different issue. This is why people think that sexual harassment is okay: because some women accept it.

I do not want to obtain a higher position because of my sexuality. I do not want to get a raise because of my sexuality. I want to obtain a higher position because I am smart, strong, and competent. I want to obtain a raise because I earned it. Women taking shortcuts and allowing their sexuality to be used are demeaning the accomplishments of people like me, and ultimately, I am sick of it.

Women Helping Women: It Happens!!!

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Coming from Atmore, Alabama, I was accustomed to women hurting women more than helping. When I started teaching middle school, I only had two girlfriends who were open and honest with me. The other twenty or so women that I worked with were pretty much out for themselves or competitive. For instance, we were encouraged to take initiative and participate in activities like pep rallies and other assemblies. When I offered to participate, I was quickly told that I was not needed. Once I moved on to community college, I was asked to attend a training for a new program. I was introduced to an exciting and innovative program that the state was funding through grants to help adult education students. When I returned enthusiastically hoping that this program could be considered for our school, I was quickly turned down by the female dean who explained simply, “It is not done here.” Here we are three years later, finally catching up and implementing the program. Even my friends were not really helpful. I watched them drop like flies when I went through a divorce. When I started different business ventures, no friends supported them. I couldn’t even get friends to come to a party/fundraiser that I held. Sometimes these experiences made me try harder to be a good friend and make sure that I didn’t treat people this way. Unfortunately, more often than not, women have not helped me.

In my new business ventures, I’ve started looking for a new tribe. Luckily, Pensacola actually has a different mindset. Last Thursday, I attended the annual Powerful Women of the Gulf Coast conference. My wife encouraged me to go, and although I expected division, I went. From the second I walked in the door, I was glad that I did. I fought back tears of joy to see so many genuine women helping each other. The group was founded by a group of friends after Hurricane Ivan devastated the area. They got together and helped each other rebuild their businesses, and this lead them to build the group.

As I found my way to the ballroom, I was greeted by vendors and realized that the group had given them the opportunity to present their businesses to the attendees. I found a spot at a table near the front and was soon joined by others who shared their stories. One lady was in a similar place as me–finding a new place in business. Another was looking for ways to recruit clients to her counseling. Another woman joined us as a rep for her sales group. An accountant joined the table who was just there for the inspiration. All of the women were nice and forthcoming in their stories and enthusiasm for the group.

The day progressed in empowering speeches and presentations. I didn’t even realize it was nearing the end because I was so impressed with ALL of the presenters. At the end of the day, we participated in a networking exercise where we exchanged our business cards and pledged to stay in touch.

That night I cried as I explained all of this to Alisa. I cried tears of joy in finding a group of women who genuinely want to help other women in business and in life. I also cried tears of anger that I was just finding this group at 35.

What happens when we help others? Only good things. I vow to be even more conscious of helping others, especially women because we need it. It is not easy to be a woman in business or society. We need each other.

I Didn’t Know it was rape

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I pulled into the parking lot and waited on him to arrive. He was old enough to buy beer, so I’d asked him to meet me and get me some. I was upset. My boyfriend had broken up with me, and at 17, I thought that that merited a drunk night.

“Why don’t you ride with me?” he asked as I went to grab the beer. “I’ll drive while you drink.”

I didn’t want to get a DUI, so I agreed. He was a friend of my boyfriend, so I thought that it would be fine. I hopped in his truck, grabbed a can, and popped it open. He was listening to some sad country music, so I turned the dial to find something more upbeat.

As the alcohol started kicking in, I loosened up and started dancing to the music. I remember glimpses of his Pepsi can fading in and out, and I remember offering him a beer. He refused and said that he needed to drive.

I was passed out when we pulled up to his house. He grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the truck. I mumbled something about what we were doing, but I just remember him pulling me into darkness. Flashes of his sand-paper skin thrashing against me. Waking up to the smell of cigarette smoke.

The next day I got a call from the ex-boyfriend. “You fucking whore. You fucked my best friend?”

I didn’t know what to say. I had.

Afterwords, when he came around, I was still polite. The boyfriend had taken me back, made me pay for my whorish behavior. They were still friends. He came to our house.

Years later, I read a similar story, but the woman was accusing the man of rape. I did not know that this was a possibility. I thought it was my fault. I got into his truck. I drank the beer. I didn’t say no.

Then I replaced myself with someone else in the scenario. What if it had been my daughter? Would I have still felt like it was her fault? No. If she was not in her right mind, she could not consent. Why did I feel so differently when it came to myself? Was it because my boyfriend told me that it was my fault? Was it because no one talked about rape in my town? Was it because women are held responsible for what men do to their bodies?

What if I had gotten pregnant? Did I have the ability to ask him to wear protection? No.

What if I had gotten a disease? Did I have the ability to make sure he wore protection? No.

I physically survived unscathed thankfully. Unfortunately, the mental and emotional scars are deep. I hated myself. I probably made decisions based on this hate. I still feel responsible. I have lost many nights of sleep wishing that I could go back to that night and not get into that truck. I cannot even express the damage that this does to a person. I probably missed opportunities to improve my life because I did not feel that I was worthy. I still battle with my confidence. I also have issues with my body. I want to look nice, but I don’t want to attract the wrong attention. I am not strong in my skin. I have been weakened. It takes a lot to fight. It takes a lot to speak. I could not even name his name in this story because I am still ashamed.

Unsung Hero

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Unsung Hero

This weekend I was awoken by the dreadful sound of a cellphone ringing at 3:30 in the morning. You know those calls…they’re never good. My heart stopped as I jumped out of bed to retrieve it. It was my stepson calling my wife. First of all, our story is complicated, as many people know. We joke about it because of the stereotypical nature of us being from the South–implicit jokes about inbreeding and such nonsense. But, the truth is that we are just two souls linked together in unusual circumstances. We are a blended family. My stepson is also my wife’s stepson, but she raised him like her real son. So, he has basically become our son. At first, he was reluctant to cross over into my dark side of culture. I was an alien with my record player blaring anything from Louis Armstrong to David Bowie and my sauteed vegetables and my refusal to fry anything. It took us both a while to adjust to each other, but now he is family. So, when he called to say he’d been in a wreck, I too jumped up, dressed, and tried to suppress my fear.

I was scared not only for his safety, but my wife’s as well. I know how deeply she cares for him. She never actually birthed any children, but she’s mothered two and is now mothering my two as well. She tells me all the time that she doesn’t have the mother thing, but she just doesn’t realize that she does. Perhaps she has the mother thing more than most birth mothers. She shows it in her unwavering commitment to her children. As much as she wants to be free from the worries, responsibilities, and headaches that come along with mothering, she can’t. The mother thing inside her won’t allow it. She loves her son as if he was her own. She pushed him through high school even though it killed her to fight with him. She just wanted what was best for his future. She bought him a truck even though she was struggling financially at the time. She wanted to teach him responsibility and pride of ownership. She is plain out rude to the girls that he brings home who don’t deserve him. She just wants to make sure he finds a good relationship. She forced him to become responsible and get his own place. She just wanted him to be independent for when she can no longer help him. I’ve watched them fight, and at times that I would have given up, I’ve watched her persevere out of love. Now, I think he is finally seeing what she has done.

When we got to him, it was a relief to see that he was okay. He would be in pain, but he would recover. His truck, not so much, but material things can be replaced. We took him home, and she was the one who helped him when he felt that he could not take the pain. She was the one who insisted he go to the hospital. It wasn’t convenient. It would have been easier to let someone else take him, but she wouldn’t have let that happen.

People like to share their opinions on lesbians having kids. They like to say that kids need a traditional family. They say that kids need a mother and a father. I’ve seen those traditional families. Sometimes they are fantastic. Sometimes, however, they are not so great. I’ve seen the mothers who become addicted to pills because their husbands are abusive. Neither of those parents are good for the kids. I’ve seen the fathers who work 40 hours a week and then complain that they are too tired to spend time with their kids. I’ve seen the mothers who do the same.

People also like to say that kids raised in a homosexual household will end up becoming homosexuals. Homosexuality is biological. Scientists and researchers have proven this time and time again. No one can make anyone gay. Our sons are great examples of this. Both of them like women. And, they have an advantage by being raised by two women: they will know how to treat women.

My wife is an unsung hero to the children that she did not birth. She is the one who makes sure they are taken care of. She is the one who will be there when others walk away. She is the one who will fight for them. She is the one who will sing happy birthday with her guitar even though she can’t play or carry a tune. She is the one who will push them to be better students and parents and lovers and friends and people. And, because they know this, she is the one they will call when they need someone.

Divorce Sucks but the Results Are Great

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Divorce Sucks but the Results Are Great

I stayed in a marriage for too long because of the frightening process of divorce. I had kids, so I was scared to hurt them. I was a woman, so I was scared to be financially screwed. However, as I was writing my book this morning, I realized that I focused a lot on the process and not the product. Most of the time, the process is more important than the product, but not in divorce. The product of divorce is freedom! Nearly nothing is better than freedom. I wish that the many times I had attempted to end my marriage I could have seen the freedom. I would have pushed through all the bullshit sooner so I could quit wasting my time.

I talk a lot about divorce in my book because it was a major turning point in my life. I was a different person before I got a divorce because I was trapped in a bad situation. Being free has allowed me to change in so many ways for the better. My health has improved, my financial situation has actually improved, and my confidence has improved. I am following my dreams (cheesy, yes, but true!) because I am no longer held back by a negative view of life. Divorce sucked. People got hurt; money was blown; things changed. But, at the end of the day, these struggles were invaluable learning experiences. And, the light at the end of the tunnel is amazing. It was truly worth it.

I am in the editing process of writing, so, fingers crossed, the book will be out soon. I’m self publishing for the first time and am super nervous and excited about it. I will be writing about the process as well. The book is going to be called, Evolving Through Bullshit. Maybe you’ll try it out.

Struggles Teach Us Something. Listen to Them.

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Struggle Meme

I was forced out of bed this morning by thoughts of writing. It’s amazing how passion can make us do things. As I was proofreading the second chapter, I decided to share my thoughts on struggle. I have struggled for years, no, decades, with wanting to write, but I have never followed through. I actually finished a book last year, but have not touched it sense. This struggle is one of self-doubt. However, as you’ll find in my book, I do not believe that we struggle for no reason. Our bodies physically try to protect us, so they get confused by our fears. When we fear something, the body turns away from it as a means of protection. Unfortunately, these fears are often irrational and reinforced by a false sense of security. My fear of writing is that I won’t be good enough. It is that someone will read it and think I’m stupid. Or, no one will read it. Why do we fear these things? Because we have struggled with something similar. Someone somewhere has put these thoughts in our heads, whether it is social media, television, friends, enemies, family…But, a cool thing can happen when you realize that this struggle was just meant to be a lesson, not a debilitating reality. This struggle was meant to prepare you for the possibility of rejection. But, this struggle is not permanent. No struggle is. That’s why it’s a struggle. It’s hard, you push through it, and you’re better on the other side. You can appreciate it more. With me, I’ve learned that I don’t care if I’m rejected. I have been there. I don’t care if someone thinks I’m stupid; I know plenty of stupid people. What I care about is finding my voice and letting it out. It’s been screaming at me for decades inside my head. It needs out. SO, if you are struggling with something, take a good step back and try to see what the lesson is within the struggle. Then, push past it. Get on the other side and remember it for future struggles may come, but they too can be lessons rather than realities. Happy Wednesday!

No More Bullshit?

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Image result for no more bullshit

I’ve finally decided to jump in to my dream of writing and stick with it. I’ve always had a writing project in the works, but I’ve never felt so passionate about it as I do this new one. So, I’m going to share some of it with my audience in hopes of finding encouragement to keep up the momentum. I’m 20,000 words in, so I feel pretty confident about it. If you have any opinions, please share.

I’m still playing around with a title, but I like No More Bullshit: Life Lessons because it encompasses the premise of the book, which is ultimately about the changes I’ve made in my life after becoming more enlightened. The book also contains my real voice, which is a potty mouth accompanying my Southern accent and intellectualism. I want people to be aware that this is supposed to be a humorous look at the experiences that prompted me to change. It is not faith-based although I do incorporate some spirituality that has helped me, so I do not want the wrong audience to pick up the book and be offended.

So, if you have any feedback, I’d really appreciate it. Feel free to comment.

Sexual Harassment Training

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As a consultant, I identify problem areas, research best practices, put my own spin on these practices, and conduct training. With sexual harassment, it’s personal. I have been a victim of sexual harassment all too often. Unfortunately, the online training and video training that I have always been required to participate in has not helped me in any way know how to actually handle sexual harassment in the workplace.

What happens to organizations when sexual harassment training fails?

  • They are at risk of a lawsuit
    • Lawsuits are expensive, duh
    • Lawsuits are time-consuming
    • Lawsuits can be detrimental to an organization’s reputation
  • A hostile work environment is created
    • Even if there is no lawsuit, problems are still created
    • Employees need to feel safe and protected by the organization
    • When employees do not feel safe, they lose their loyalty, their enthusiasm, and their confidence in the organization

The misconception that you are safe if you are not involved is being torn down. If you are a leader and you do not practice due care to prevent sexual harassment, you can be held responsible for someone else’s actions. Look at Penn State. Leaders who had nothing to do with the charges are responsible for the lack of handling the situation.

It’s time to be pro-active and get proper training!

WHY CHOOSE ME?

I understand sexual harassment from the inside. I know that it is not easy to deal with sexual harassment at a job that you have worked hard to obtain. I know that people get backed into corners and file lawsuits out of desperation. But, I believe that lawsuits are not the answer. They do not help the situation. I want to help both victims and organizations avoid lawsuits and end sexual harassment. What has been done is not working, so it’s time to try something new.

My sessions will not only cover the legal and organizational needs, but they will also help to develop stronger employees. I have researched the problems with current training and developed solutions for better training. The sessions are fun and interactive, which means that they will last. I will continue to provide assistance as needed even after training.

OSHA says that online/video training is not sufficient for sexual harassment training. What does this mean? That if this is the only method of sexual harassment training an organization employs, and there is a sexual harassment incident at that organization, the organization can be held liable for not having proper training.

FOR VICTIMS:

Everyone knows what sexual harassment is, and everyone knows that it is illegal. However, you may not know how to deal with sexual harassment when dealing with it threatens your career and your livelihood. You are not alone in this.

For information on how to book my services go to my website: julietsmilesconsulting