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Friday, June 19, 2015

Admitting racism exists and other hard things

I've learned two things over the past several years:

1)  It's hard for people to say the words "racism exists."
2)  We use excuses. A lot.
3)  The more open my mind becomes, the less I share.

I used to write about every situation that came down. My audience wasn't as broad and I felt semi-protected (!) in putting my opinions out there for the world to read. I say semi-protected knowing full well the privilege I am granted in being a white woman. There, I said it. I know that though I may incite heated arguments, disagreements, or a all-around nodding of heads in agreement - that in the end I will still remain a white woman who tends to side with the minority (at least in our area) of things "better left unsaid." And I will still be able to give my opinion without being bashed mercilessly, or at the very least called a "bleeding heart liberal" which is a wretched thing to call anyone. Wasn't Jesus an open, bloody, bleeding heart for those around him?

Now, I hesitate - and mull over - every single word I put out there.
I tremble when I say the hard things.
But there is no time to tremble.

Our world is close at hand, as close as the glance of an eye at words spoken on a post...through a picture...on a tweet...or through a snap. All is seen and I am quite sure that all is filed away in the memory banks of most to be brought out when the right post or thread spools itself out.

We are separated into neat, tidy piles of humanity starting with Republicans to the right, Democrats to the left, and the rest of us clinging by fragile tendrils to what little purchase remains in between. Christians, you're over there with those beliefs, and those of you who believe things should be a bit more equal, you sit over there with those people. We file people by what they say, do, and especially say on social media.

I'm not sure I want to be so easily defined.

We are a world of sound bites and chunks of flesh ripped away bit by bit. We know immediately that if a black person protests, defends, or is accused that they are guilty until innocent. They are thugs, by nature, to be handled and pressed down.

When Mike Brown was killed all I heard for days was, "But he stole cigars!" As if that meant he needed to die.

"Trayvon was a thug who smoked pot!" As if that meant he deserved to die.

"Tamir looked much older. And that looked like a real gun." As if that meant he deserved to be shot point blank in his neighborhood park at 12 years of age.

"But that black girl was talking back to the officer!" As if that meant she deserved to be thrown to the ground and SAT ON by the cop. She is 14 years old.

 If one is of Latin descent, then they are most likely "illegal" or "working under the table" and had "better go back to where they belong." They are treated as guilty before innocent, and this I know well and will say no more.

If a white person is caught doing something heinous - even committing mass murder - we carefully sift through what we know - in very grave tones - what might be, and deem them to be possibly "unstable" or "mentally off" in some capacity. There are never words being spoken like, "That white guy was a thug. A terrorist." We hear how he was quiet and reserved and got good grades in school. We don't hear  how he may have smoked pot, drank a bit, or was a menace to society. Because white kids do all those things. Every day.

Our categories are swiftly brought out, like a menu to be read off and memorized, so that we can say what is happening and put it in its place. I have been appalled and heartsick at what has happened in Charleston. Nine beautiful souls shot down in cold, cold blood by another soul that although also beloved by God, chose specifically to claim these lives because of their skin color.

You may argue that fact if you want. Though you might want to know the shooter said this himself.

What makes me the most sad is the denial I see on social media...on TV...and elsewhere. It crawls right up inside my heart and drops it quick like a punch to the stomach.

From a comment thread on FB:

"I also say that yes Dylann Roof committed a racially motivated mass murder and I condemn his act...but my goodness he looks like such a young boy. It's killing me that this child (and yes I know he's 21 but still that is SO YOUNG) has so much hate in his heart. Hate doesn't kill hate. Only love conquers hate. Condemn the act. Love the sinner. I'm praying for the victims but also for this young man. Tragic all around!!" Find that thread here.

Why do we excuse? Why do we explain away? Why does darker skin mean older and more dangerous? Why does white skin mean young and seemingly innocent? Worthy of pulling a gun first? And before you can say "but" please listen...

Admitting that racism exists can only serve to set you free from excuses.
Can you say the words with me?

Dylann Roof committed a racially-motivated crime. He chose the church, he walked in and sat with them for an hour, then he pulled out a gun, told them he was there to kill black people, pulled the trigger and reloaded, and nine people were murdered.



Say it again
Now say it slower
See the horror for what it is
Acknowledge that racism exists
Roll it around on your tongue
Let it slide slowly off until it feels comfortable
Stop saying the word "but"
Then stop making excuses





Thursday, May 14, 2015

Oaxaca update: Pushing to that deadline!

Oaxaca is inching ever closer and I can see it on the horizon, peeking its little head out at me and waving. I am excited, scared, and ready for this adventure. I've gotten to know a bit more about Arquetopia, the foundation that has chosen me for this residency, and the more I see and read the more I know that this was meant to be.




Folks, I have raised right around 56% of what I need to get there. Fundraising is not my favorite thing to do, and really, this is the first time doing it for myself. I have helped the kids raise money to go on short-term mission trips, as well as the Mennonite conventions, and numerous other things. It's a bit humbling for it to be me taking the plunge. Am I worthy? Is this the right thing? As with any endeavor, you must always make sure it's the right thing to do - and this trip has been confirmed many times over. 

I am writing, writing, writing as I try to complete the book before I go down to do research, editing, as well as tweaking. At times my mind drifts to the possibility that facts will change once I get there. That if I find some of his long lost relatives that a new world will open up and change the direction of the story. Story arcs are just that, they move, drift, and shape-shift into their own beast. I am humbly the scribbler of those thoughts and they own me with their urgency. 

I find myself at odds with prayer and what it can bring for us. I'm not a "God, please give me this and this and this" type of pray-er. I know that in His good time we receive what's meant to be, so I'm trusting in that without thinking much further. There are things I want versus need to make the experience that much greater. These are material things. I believe, though, that He provides these items to get us to that 'thing' we're meant to do. So I trust, with abandon in that notion. I believe God is a supernatural God. So often we blindly forge ahead on our own, and I'm as guilty as the next person of doing that. Have you ever considered, though, that the urge to act on something is God planting that in you? Without carefully sifting through the action? I believe my supernatural God has His ear bent to us at all times, slowly meandering through our physical realm. We need only to reach through the blinder that's on our eyes to feel His presence and what he wants us to achieve. It's easy to stay in our own little boxes that this world makes for us. He is trying to help us out of them, and I'm slowly climbing out as my book takes shape and grows. I also climb out a little more each time I trust the He will provide for what I need. 

If we let him, He will be more than just a Sunday-morning God to us. He encompasses the world, the warm soil, and the flowers that bloom with their tiny faces towards the sun. We can find Him anywhere, and I believe He will meet me in Oaxaca. In fact, He is already there readying for my stay.

I believe in this story and my husband who is my crazy partner in crime and life. This story is his, yet it's mine as well. To tell softly and fiercely on my own tongue, through a mouth and body that holds his heart safely. I believe the words will flow and spread on the written page like they are meant to...just like I believe that I will be provided with the funds to get there. 

Deadlines of the first of June are approaching, and I must send the money ahead to reserve my space. If you are considering donating to my writer's residency and want to give but haven't as of yet -- now is the time. As I mentioned, it is a humbling thing to receive. Thank you, and when I'm sitting in the lush hills of Oaxaca typing away I will be humbled even more. 

Visit my GoFundMe page to give as well as read my story, and if you don't wish to donate online you can send it to my physical address:  5796 State Route 39 Millersburg, OH 44654  Or you can also see me in person and we can share a cup of coffee! 


View from where I'll be staying in the Oaxacan countryside.




Thursday, March 19, 2015

Trains, cabs, and hoofing it in NYC

I wrote an article on our trip to NYC for our church newsletter and thought I would share: 

At our fave diner Orion
Sometimes in the dead of winter you need to get away – even if just for a few days. Hunter had been after us to visit him on spring break and I mean really pestering us. He’s doing well attending School of Visual Arts in New York City, and wanted us to come spend a few days with him. We both are very busy here at home and kept putting off deciding. George looked at me one morning and said, “Surprise! Let’s go!” Ever adventurous, we looked around for the best way to get there because neither one of us had the desire to drive. The weather, with the way it’s been, didn’t sound promising. I checked around and found a steal on getting there by train. We’ve never traveled by train, or at least I haven’t. When George was a young lad, train travel was what you used in Mexico.
George watching the landscape fly by
 Excited by the prospect, we booked it with two days to spare. Waiting for a train at 3 A.M. - with the temps hovering near ten degrees – in the sketchy section of Alliance was quite the experience. The train ran forty minutes late and we were frozen popsicles by the time we climbed on. Trains don’t wait, either you’re there or you’re not! We had a layover in Pittsburgh and boarded the train to New York, which took us about nine hours – thirteen hours total with all the stops. We found that the trains were roomy, had decent food to buy, and lull you to sleep. They are also conducive to catching up on reading! We loved watching the scenery go by and got to see lots of towns we’ve never been through. It’s a different experience seeing the back side of businesses and homes as you chug by. I’m pondering a blog on what you see hidden behind what the world sees and what we deem backyard-worthy.

Fun things are around every corner!


We chugged into Penn Station by late afternoon Thursday and it was like coming into a dungeon where the where night creatures lived. The train tracks take you through a tunnel under the river and gently rise into the station. Debarking, up, up, up we climbed until we reached the daylight and hopped into a taxi that sped us to Hunter’s dorm which is housed in the George Washington Residency. This building is an old hotel turned into apartments, and later into dorms. The first several floors actually house many elderly people who had lived there for years. When the college bought it for dorms, they promised these people they could always live there. Hunter is on the eleventh floor, but he greeted us in the foyer and there were hugs all around.

We buzzed up the elevator to his dorm room – which would be our accommodations for the next three nights. I believe it was the best digs in all of New York. If you can spend three nights on a XL twin bed (he had bunk beds) TOGETHER, your marriage will definitely last another twenty-five years. Another reason for him wanting us to come was for us to meet his girlfriend of nearly seven months. They met back in the first week there and hit it off. Her name is Danielle, she’s from Batavia, NY, and we really like her.

Hunter and Danielle <3 td="">


After we had freshened up a bit, we hit the sidewalk to find some food. If you haven’t been to the city then you don’t know how much walking you do. You walk everywhere, and I’m telling you that these people are serious about their shoes and their walking. We huffed it a couple of blocks to their favorite place called Schnipper’s, where I fell in love hard and fast with the best burger I ever had. Poblano peppers and gruyere cheese? Yes please. We stopped for coffee afterward and chatted for a long time, catching up on things. I observed my son to be growing and maturing in ways we never quite think they can. He loves school, is astute and on time with his projects, and is excelling in every way…and I could see this all over a cup of coffee. Beware, though, if you’re in a snooty coffee shop in the city. There ARE NO REFILLS. We found out the hard way.

George and Hunter...my favorite pic.


The next day (Friday) George and I got up early and went out for breakfast while Hunter caught up on some sleep. He had been up for twenty-four hours finishing a project with a deadline. We went to the Orion diner and had a stack of pancakes and endless cups of Joe (Yes, they refill in diners). We browsed all four of the thrift stores that are on his street, losing ourselves in the vast array and quality of items. I could’ve been there for hours. We came back to the room, fetched Hunter and Danielle, and went for lunch. Unfortunately, Hunter realized he was coming down with something and decided to rest for the afternoon. George and I meandered down to two of our favorite stores that were close by – ABC Carpet & Home and Fishs Eddy. Fabulous, marvelous home d├ęcor and design in a vast old building held up by massive columns was ABC. Anne and Bruce had taken us here on our Menno House/mission trip/paint project several years ago. They also introduced us to Fishs Eddy which focuses on kitchenware like mugs, plates, and silverware. What a fun environment. When we arrived back at the dorm Hunter felt better so we moseyed down close to Union Square to a fun eatery called Big Daddy’s. We pretty much let them take us where they wanted us to visit, and it turned into some very fun eating sessions. Funky and bright, my Au Jus sandwich, tots, and chocolate malt went down just right.

Outside Search & Destroy which was fascinating


Saturday morning was sunny and beautiful, so once again George and I went solo looking for a diner to dine in. They are on every corner and we slipped in and sipped coffee and ate scrambled eggs. Back to the dorm for the kids we went, and it was decided to try Pizza Pub for lunch. We were the first customers of the day and had the very first pizza out of the oven. The pizza was so delicious, those New York­-style pies, and even better when eaten inside a cool building with authentic exposed brick.



Hunter took us, after lunch, to a funky section of the city called St. Mark’s Place. Never decide you won’t try new places and things, because life becomes stagnant that way. We took the subway and emerged in a world of little shops filled with vintage rock band clothing and kiosks that sold Indian jewelry. What fun and out of the norm each little gem of a store was. After browsing there for a while, we headed uptown on the subway to a place I’ve always wanted to go –  
Girl with the pearl earring/Vermeer
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We walked quite a distance and finally it came into view. The museum fees are by donation only, so don’t let that ever stop you from visiting. I really have no words to describe the place other than wow. There are so many sections to it that you can’t see it all in one visit. The highlights, for me, were seeing the many famous paintings housed there. Until you see true art in a painting, you haven’t really seen art. We saw Picasso, pondered Rembrandt, and my very favorite was standing and staring at Vermeer – The Girl with the Pearl Earring. I’m hard-pressed to remember it all, but we have lots of pictures to remind me. Just remember not to TOUCH any statues in the museum or you will be yelled at like a three-year old. Tsk, tsk Missy. (Honestly, I haven’t been to a museum in years!) Dead tired from hours taking in art, we left the Met and hopped in a taxi. We were on our way to a place I had seen on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives called The Trailer Park Lounge. Frantic and full of kitsch, our meal was great. We tucked into a tiny bakery afterward and nabbed some treats to take back to the dorm. Once there, tired yet satisfied, we devoured the delights like we had never seen a cupcake before.

Us outside The Met!



Sunday morning dawned cold and bleary with snow on the immediate horizon. Back home we read was getting pounded by a massive winter storm, and we were on schedule to hop on a train and glide back into it. We rounded up Hunter and Danielle and went for several more stacks of pancakes, coffee, and conversation on life. Life can be found in these tiny moments over morsels of food and hot coffee that steams down your throat. You can see and find your kids’ futures in those moments, if you look hard enough. We packed up our things from the tiny dorm room, hugged our son goodbye (each goodbye gets easier), and hopped into a taxi that took us through sedate Sunday morning streets to our waiting train. The ride home on the train was snowy, yet gentle and mesmerizingly soothing. We slept, read, and contemplated our kids and their futures. We glided into the Alliance station around 2:00 A.M., after a four hour layover (!) in Pittsburgh, found our parked car and head home to crash. Sweet dreams were had in the best way. We had a fun several days – days that sometimes you must decide to step out of your life and take.

It's like the rooftops hold another story

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Semi-Wordless Wednesday

This. 


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Christians, politics, and a misguided hate

I must say that I put most of the awful words I hear into a box with a lock on it. What are these awful words, you ask? They are strings of misguided, misplaced, and misinformed letters that string themselves together ever so incoherently, with religious thread to hold it tighter.

I started paying attention to them back when Bush and Gore battled it out with all the ridiculous posturings of the hanging chad drama. I listened to talk radio and was drawn into Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck's show. I tuned in everyday as my kids went to school or were playing in the other room. I became frenzied in watching the news shows, hanging on every word, and letting those words soak into my blood. They became part of me and my rhetoric and anyone who disagreed with me was the worst kind of uninformed. **silently tucks away the fact that I nearly voted for Clinton in 92** I mean, it was Rock the Vote!

Bashing. 
Ugly words.

When the 2008 election came around and Barack Obama became the Democratic candidate I was still in this frame of mind. My mind was a vast diorama of soundbites, from TV and radio, plus social media that would echo hollowly through my head.

He's not really a citizen.
He's from Kenya.
We demand his birth certificate.
He's a Muslim.
He's a socialist. A marxist. A communist.
He's a n****r. 

Most of all, he's a n****r.

When he won and the celebrations happened in front of our eyes,on national TV, all I could hear was, "Those people celebrating like he's their God. Like he's going to give everything to them. They need to get over their past and move on." For a people not allowed to vote, even in the early 60's, wouldn't this be cause for celebration? Isn't this a win for them having a voice in the highest held office in the land? The bitterness stuck deep and hard in the people and Obama became a person worthy of the worst kind of hate. 

Four years gone. And then came the next election.

If there ever was a time I wanted to close my FB page, this was it. Although I never put much on my wall about political vibes, I carefully watched people and what they posted. The most vile, putrid, and outright lies that were posted day after ever-living day. Posts that simply took my breath away with the evil the words contained. People that live 'Godly' lives

Okay.

I saw a different side to so-called 'religion' and what it meant in the political arena. Over time, I had little thoughts and words poking me in the back saying, "Missy, love is what is needed. Hate and taking sides only serves to divide us." I read books, I read the Book, I read and pored over articles that talked about why the religious right has changed over the years. I had an awakening, if you will, that called me to be accountable to what was in my heart and the political arena. Blindly being led by what we've "always done" is not the way and only served to make my heart deaf and dumb. 

I may have nearly had a breakdown from all that was said during that election. My husband would tell me to stop reading the posts, stop letting it in. But when people you know let you down by calling our President a n****r, a Muslim, and someone 'other' than who should hold that office, my eyes couldn't be torn away and the veil was torn. I would never again see people through the same eyes.

Hate.
Evil. 
The anti-Christ. 
The Kenyan lib-tard. 
O'Bummer. 

This is how people I knew described Obama. And hated him. The pure and rancid taste that was left in my mouth became a bitter taste on my tongue - one that wouldn't soon be washed away. I was left with my head in my hands day after day after day and election day couldn't come soon enough. But not soon enough to affirm my belief that he was never to be accepted because he was 'other', he was different, he was black and not white. I believe the vitriol would never have been quite as ugly and festering if he was just another white democrat. 

Last night I watched the 2015 State of the Union address. I saw a great speech filled with things every President says on this day. They talk about accomplishments, things left to do, unemployment, healthcare, minimum wage, and personal stories that bring the points home. I was moved by it. I live-tweeted it, I took it in - just like I did for every other president that's been in office while I've been alive. As Americans we ALL need to watch the SOTU address, not reject it because you hate the man in office. The office of the President is one to be respected, even though we live in a country where we have freedom of speech. I like spirited debate and joking about his suit or how gray his hair is. 

Instead, what I saw on social media was hate-filled rancor that made my skin fill with goosebumps:

"I won't watch that BS." 
"He's a liar and a twister of words."
"He's evil."
"He only talks about himself."
**Insert whatever Bible verse talks about someone evil**

When Obama leaves office, and all the nonsensical remarks people make about him end, what will be left? What candidate/President will we have that will be everything you need? Or will you be left with no words in your mouth because the racial epithets won't fit? What will you say then? 

Did you hate Bill Clinton this much, a democrat, who served two terms?
How about Jimmy Carter? Or maybe JFK? How about FDR, a democrat, who served for twelve years as president during WW2. All democrats. Does the political affiliation even matter? 

I live my life, whoever is in the Oval office, and I live it well. I love, use kind words, and push back a bit when needed. Hate doesn't fill my heart over one person and what he was able to accomplish with all the negativity and hatred pointed toward him. I see a man who broke barriers and stayed poised while shit was thrown at him from all sides. ALL SIDES including a Christianity whom I thought could never hate that much. May God forgive us from our hate. I for one, choose to love. We can disagree on issues, we don't have to side with his policies, but the hate must stop. 

the hate must stop






Wednesday, January 14, 2015

And the demons shall flee




Blood into ink. 

Those words evoke a vivid picture in my mind of scratching onto paper the words flowing from a bleeding heart. This is what I am attempting to do as I turn my husband's life into words. 

It is hard. 

The encouragement I've received after posting the initial six stories has been overwhelming and heart-wrenching. I am mightily heartened and lifted up by your words. So many of us fight to do what we're meant to do. Daily we battle demons in our push to be who we are. The devil is not above using the dirtiest tricks to keep us off base and he's worked very hard on me. His tricks and traps are ones I've fallen into many times over the years. 

He's used my own vices and failings on me over and over to keep me from the keyboard. I've felt the presence of his lurking demons when I even attempted to write one word. Their hot breath shivering down my back. I don't say this lightly....but I do say it because it's true. The devil wants us to fail. He delights in bickering, procrastination, and the setting upon the shelf of aspirations not realized. Giving up means he wins and I hear him cackling every time he tries to make us stop.

Last week, before I posted the blogs, I had the most severe moment or attack, if you will, I've ever experienced in attempting this novel. Mind you, I've been "trying" to write this book for years. As I hovered over the blank word document my hands were unable to type a single word. Tears sprung from the depths and outright sobbing took over. I shook from within and with every part of my soul. I could feel the darkness sitting with me...right next to me.

I cried out and yelled, "Why Lord? Why can't I write the words I have in my heart?" 

In my haze of tears I picked up my bible, a new bible I received as a gift this Christmas, and I opened it. I couldn't even see because of the tears so I held it close to my eyes and this is what I my eyes fell upon:


Isaiah 32: 3-4


My entire life I've been a receiver of words and verses. God has communicated with me this way, always giving me a verse that to me, is a promise. The demons fled and I knew that my stammering tongue would become fluent and clear, and those who read my words would listen and their eyes open. It also promised me that my fearful heart would understand. 

I opened up my word document and started typing. 

I'm only one thousand words in with 99,000 to go. To be categorized as a novel I need that many words. One of my fears has always been how I will have enough words to fill this story. I know now that I needn't fear. The words will come and be poured out of my fingertips. 

Thank you to those who said I am making a difference by writing this book, those of you said I am being obedient, and those who simply cried with me. It will be an ongoing battle and why the project and his story is so persecuted I haven't quite figured out yet. I've left a job in the past year, and readied myself for this writing. There must be something big in the future yet for him that the evil doesn't want to happen. He is an amazing man and has amazing things to share. 

And I write. 



Monday, January 12, 2015

Abusador / George's story part 6



From the corner of my eye I could see it coming. It was big and hard, and wobbled slightly as it cut through the air. The stale smell of alcohol washed over me as his fist connected with the bones of my face. The blood on the wall trickled slowly, spiraling ever downward. Vision, when you have it, lets you see the world as it is. My vision crept slowly toward the center of my eye, blackening my world as it faded. The last thing I saw before blissful unconsciousness took over me was my mom in a huddle on the floor. Her face was bleeding, and angry purple bruises were creeping over her arms – the kind of purple you only see in a stormy sky.

Home is a place in your mind where you go when you want to escape. Home, for me, had been non-existent in the three long years I had been lost to it. For most, a homecoming such as mine should have been like the prodigal son. But where love and warmth had always been, was now replaced by fear and made bleary by alcohol. My mom and brother, when my stepdad was gone, let me know how much they had missed me. These times were meaningful, but brief - fear of him returning was greater than anything.

I had two more siblings upon my return, so my mom was busier than ever. I knew she loved me, but I soon discovered that nothing was to be spoken of my time spent lost. It was better to forget it, and tuck it away into the history of my heart. I did not fit in. My home and mom, as I remembered them, had ceased to exist. I tamped down the memories of my real dad and brought them out stingily, to be savored one at a time.

My stepdad was a mason. Hard, heavy work – when he had it – filled his days. His mind was very intelligent, and he had lots of knowledge of things unknown to me. His passion was the violent history of Mexico and everything it entailed. He could recite story after story of Cauhtemoc, Pancho Villa, and the Oaxacan-born president Benito Juarez.

Mexico is a land bred with the warrior-like spirits of its ancestors. The blood-thirsty Aztecs took no mercy on their prisoners, but fought for their land against the equally blood-thirsty Spaniards. My stepdad, although born and bred a blood Aztec, had none of their fierce spirit. Instead, cowardice ran through his veins and came out his pores smelling of alcohol. He was drowning in it.

I tried to live my days as a carefree 9 year old should, but I was no longer carefree. My time lost had hardened me to a fine point and I would never be that little boy again. We didn't have much money, and my mom suffered trying to make sure we had enough to eat. When my stepdad would be paid for a job, he would disappear. Days later we would go out searching, only to find him passed out in a ditch or lying on a sidewalk. The money we needed for food gone, already coursing through his veins. The liquor permeated every inch of him. Still drunk, my brother and I would pick him up and half drag him through the streets to home. Alcoholism is rampant in Mexico, but the eyes of everyone still bore into me. It was a sad walk home, his feet dragging in between us.

To help my mom, my brother and I would sell popsicles out of a box. We would run to the Piramides de Teotihuacan where the magnificent Pyramid of the Sun and Moon resided. These were located approximately two miles from my house. Tourists flocked there and money was to be made. The art of selling something came very easy to me. The sun was hot, we were hungry, and the popsicles would melt if we didn't sell them quickly. We would scamper up the steep steps of the pyramids peddling our wares. Down the Avenue of the Dead to the Pyramid of the Moon we ran, making money in the process from tourists near and far. When finished, we patted the wad of cash in our pockets and smiled. I would give most of it to mom, and bury the rest. I still believe I have buried money in Mexico.

Day turned to night and soon we realized we had stayed out too long. Rushing for home, we ran at top speed. I let Chucho run ahead of me so he reached the house first. As I ran in the house, breathless, a swift blow to the head knocked me to the floor. "Where did you get this money?" my stepdad screamed. "We earned it selling popsicles," I said, "I was going to give the money to mom." A fist to my ear sent me sprawling.

When you are abused, the world stops spinning and you are the center of it. I willed myself to an empty room that contained nothing but silence. The room became a vacuum as his blows rained down on me, but I heard nothing. My head was silent save for my mom's screams as she tried to pull him off of me. Her head went back in a whiplash motion as he backhanded her to the floor. Blood poured out of her nose as she tried to stand up to help me. I saw the helplessness on my mom’s face and all the pain and anger she was feeling. She wanted to help me, just like she had wanted to find me when I was lost. I could no longer hear as I was punched broadside on the head, but my eyes stayed on my mom’s as my dad raged on.

Suddenly he grabbed me and dragged me outside to a room that was unfinished. The darkness in his eyes was tangible - I could taste it and feel his hatred. I was not his son. I was born of another man to his woman. It mattered not that he had left my mom pregnant and alone with my older brother. Nothing mattered except that I, the one he wanted rid of, had suddenly come back to life after being found. He had willed me dead.

He stripped me of my clothes, and shivering, I stood there in the corner of the half-built room. My eyes, proud and unwilling to show fear, stared back at him. "Hold your arms out," he said. My arms went up quickly as I bore into his eyes. Heavy cement bricks were placed in each of my palms. "You will stand here until I say you can move." It's at these times that your mind will wander and you will think you won't make it. I thought of my dad and of how much he loved me. The memories of him throwing me into the ocean and learning to swim. The times he would come home and I would throw myself into his arms and he would hold me. I thought of the nights I spent on the streets and how I longed to come home. I knew now, that I could never come home. He would never let me. My arms burned with a fire so deep, and blood from the cuts on my face slowly made their way down my body. Like so many red little rivers flowing freely. He sat in the corner of the room just watching me and waiting for me to break. Abusers revel in the pain they are inflicting, and I vowed then, that he would never, ever see that pain reflected in my eyes.

Hours passed until he passed out in a drunken stupor. I dropped the bricks and ran out. I ran into the night to where I could breathe air not laced with the sourness of alcohol. I ran to where I could stand and stare at the horizon, now blooming with tendrils of pink and orange. The sun meant a new day and a new chance. I had been home a mere six months and had endured unending horror at the hands of a man who was weak in spirit. Nights spent outside our door because I was five minutes late. Blows to the head and gut so hard it took your breath away. My mom had endured these blows, and had endured them for years. This was her choice – but not mine.

I went to her in the early morning hours and sat quietly beside her. She brushed the hair from my face, and together, we wept tears of what was lost. What she had lost – a husband and children, buried and gone. I knew, at almost 10 years old that I had lost the rest of my childhood. It was gone, and the only thing to do now was move on. I told her I was leaving and she knew, down inside, that it was the only way for me to live. If I stayed here, he might eventually kill me.

I left that day with a few clothes in a bag, my heart filled with sadness, but my spirit soaring because I felt free. I headed to the bus station a little older and wiser. I asked the man behind the counter what bus went to the beach. I found myself traveling along a palm-lined road that led to Acapulco. The bus deposited me beach side. It didn't take me long to meet up with others traveling along, because Mexico is a land filled with people always moving - trying to get somewhere. I found myself around a fire on the beach with other young kids who had left home for various reasons. The stories poured out of each runaway, every one of them teary-eyed telling stories of abuse, neglect and rape – boys and girls alike. I felt connected to this weary band of travelers. I spent several weeks here with the sun on my face and oysters in my stomach. It felt like a reprieve from the violence my dad had bestowed on me. Talk soon turned of travel and moving on and my ears perked up. I asked what they were talking about.

"Do you want to hitch-hike with us to el norte?" they asked.

I rolled this around on my tongue. The north. The United States. Little did I know what this simple question would mean and how it would change my life. I pondered this, thought of everything I had been through in my 10 years and simply looked at them and said, "Yes, I'll go."