My New Family… The Barnes & Noble Book Event

I can’t lie, I have fantastic parents. They have grown so much in their views on mental illness. From telling me to keep my mouth shut to being proud about how open and honest I am with my suffering. I have a great husband, whom I chose. He is truly my best friend. He has seen the worst in me and the best and has always stood by me. My daughter is amazing, an old compassionate soul. A kind loving artistic creature and a huge support for me, her mom.

With their support, there has also been some great disappointment with other family members. Since I do not want to upset anyone, I am going to leave them alone and respect them for who they are even if they aren’t very supportive.

They say blood is thicker than water, but I do not believe that. There are plenty of people I know who are adopted or have been adopted and have terrific relationships with their adoptive families. There are many I know that chose friendships over their blood because their blood is just toxic.

I am lucky because I get to have a mix of both. Something a lot of people do not have.

I first ‘adopted’ my oldest and dearest friend ‘J’ as my younger sister. We met when she was 4 and I was 6. For the next few years we had many playdates that included dolls, dollhouses and Lego. Even though there were some years where we were apart, we rekindled our strong friendship and have since been in each other’s weddings and have supported each other with our children. I consider her 3 kids like my own, even though I haven’t met her youngest yet. We try to see each other every year although sometimes it goes longer. And you know what, we pick up conversation as if time hasn’t passed.

Recently, I am choosing to ‘adopt’ more siblings into my tight-knit family.

We all first met online. I know, creepy, right?! You never know who is really behind the online person. We were joined together by who we call our Supreme Leader… CEO and founder of both Stigma Fighters and our publishing company, Eliezer Tristan Publishing. I first met the Supreme Leader through Stigma Fighters as I am a frequent contributor… usually at least twice a year. We met in person at a reading in NYC at the NYU bookstore (wow, that is a lot of letters!) a few years back. What an amazing woman!. I totally love and admire her.

Well, she created this publishing company and was seeking authors who wanted to publish their books. Um, hi, hello, me! I jumped at the opportunity. And hence Rising From the Ashes, the book, was born on October 23, 2018. It is a collection of many of my blog posts here from its birth over 4 years ago until the summer of 2018.

Because of this book, I have met some great people. These people are my family now, including our Supreme Leader.

It all started one day a few months back with a text from the Supreme Leader, “Can you do a book signing in CT on May 17th?” Well, hell yeah I can! She proceeded to tell me that a few other local ETP (Eliezer Tristan Publishing) authors would be there as well. Awesome! I’ve read quite a few of their books and was ecstatic to meet them in person. Well, it got closer to the event, like May 13th closer, when the Supreme Leader didn’t know if she could make it. Usually flying standby, there were no available standby seats.

Panic commenced between the rest of us. We can’t do this without her! It was as if the sky was falling and we were Henny Penny. A group chat was started between us authors to try to raise money for our Supreme Leader and her 2 children, the Little Supremes, to get her here in CT for this event. This chat started out as the “I’m confused” chat because, frankly, we were all very very confused with the situation.

With some begging, a decent donation from myself, and pure luck, we were able to fly the Supreme Leader here. Sadly, one of our fellow authors remained back in Oregon to watch the Little Supremes. This author was my cover designer as well.

Well, in the mass confusion of whether or not our Supreme Leader would make it, Sarcastic Asshole (author of 100) was in a bit of a panic on where he was going to stay the evening of the 16th. Him and the Leader were supposed to be sharing an Airbnb. He was going to back out of coming. Well, I couldn’t have that… no Supreme Leader and no Sarcastic Asshole! No way. I invited Sarcastic Asshole to stay with me.

We had never physically met before. (Insert my mother panicking right now)

So after some mass confusion of which Union Station in CT he was coming into (Yes, we have more than one) and an Uber ride, Sarcastic Asshole landed on my doorstep. Honestly, it was like we were old friends. Conversation was easy with him. We were both very sarcastic people, and some of the oldies of the group of authors. He did think I was going to kill him though as he found my list of what not to do when committing a crime (expect that follow up blog post soon, see the first one here) and quickly took a swig from his bottle of Fireball. But all was well the next morning as we continued our sarcastic banter.

It was time to pick up Young Possum at the train station. After confirming which Union Station we were going to, Sarcastic Asshole and I popped in my car for what would be a fast trip up to Hartford… hahaha. Fast trip on a Friday?! No, CT believes that rush hour starts at 3pm on that day. It took some time but we made it there just in time as Young Possum exited the train station. Now Sarcastic Asshole, of course, started to be a sarcastic asshole with Young Possum but it was all in good fun.

We arrived in West Hartford and was quickly met by Lucky Rabbit’s Foot, her husband, best friend and the cutest toddler you have ever seen. Rabbit was the editor on my book. I admire her so much. What she has gone through and she always seems to have such a cheery positive disposition. Honestly, everyone from this event has gone through so much… so much that some of them shouldn’t physically be here. But that is their stories to tell.

Soon after, Corpse Bride and her mother arrived. I could tell she would fit in perfectly on the sarcasm meter.

But where was our Supreme Leader?!

As the event commencement time was approaching, again, all of us began to panic. What the heck were we going to do without her?! Our anxieties were quelled when she literally popped up in the room.

It’s funny though. If you had attended the event, you would never know that we all had met in person that night. Conversation flowed between us. We read from our books, clapped for each other and had a great panel discussion with the representative from NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness).

I was saddened to see the night end. The drive back from West Hartford to my home was a depressed one for this depressive. I missed my new family greatly. None of us knew when another ETP event might happen. The thought of meeting these great people, brought together by mental illness, and not seeing or hearing from them for who knows how long overwhelmed me with sadness.

This sadness quickly dissipated as our private messaging has continued. I have totally ‘adopted’ all of them. They are not only friends. Each one of them… Supreme Leader, Sarcastic Asshole, Young Possum, Corpse Bride & Lucky Rabbit’s Foot, are now close family.

Totally looking forward to our next family event!

I believe it involves breaking things…


Note: I have used nicknames that we have given each other through our messaging and time together. If you would like to know, my given nickname is How To Get Away With Murder because of the above mentioned list and my true crime obsession. They can call themselves out, but I would like to keep their privacy if they do not want to.

And because I love them, I would like to promote their books (which kind of gives away their names):

100

In The Gray Area of Being Suicidal

Nobody

Stigma Fighters Anthology IV 

Untranslatable

Redeeming The Anti-Fairytale

And although my cover designer couldn’t be there, his book:

Cultural Savage: The Intersection of Christianity and Mental Illness

You will not be disappointed!

The Reality of Being a Shorty

I’m not going to lie, I’m short. I was never the tallest in class growing up and through the years, I slowly moved towards the front of the line (the short side) in height. Genetics were not in my favor. My mother is a shorty too. My father is not tall. I guess I should have known what to expect.

When I was school-aged, I watched my older sister grow up and admired her final height of 5′-7″ (although I am not sure where she got it from?!). Those recessive genes became my biggest desire. I would compare my stature to all of my friends and get disappointed as each one surpassed me in height. In 7th grade when my ‘special friend’ came to visit, I thought “This is it! Now is my time!” Every morning I would wake up and look in the mirror. I looked taller. I felt taller. I mean my body was maturing in many other ways so why not height, right?!

And then I went for my yearly physical to only be disappointed. “You grew 1 inch.”

What?! Wait a minute?! I got my period so shouldn’t I be going through some sort of growth spurt?!

Height was never meant to be part of me.

After many years of complaining to my parents about my height, how it was their fault I was such a shorty, I finally gave up. What was the point? Complaining wasn’t going to make me taller. I arrived at my final height of 5′-1 1/2″ at 16 and remained there until I hit 30. It has only been downhill since then. At my latest physical (age 39) I only measured 5′-0 1/4″. Don’t ask me how I shrunk 1 1/4″ already. I am a bit shocked myself.

Being a shorty has its pros and cons. Not going to lie, it does suck most of the time.

The Cons

  • I am constantly getting neck aches from looking up at tall people. At home, I am currently the shortest. My husband is over a foot taller than me and my pre-teen (almost teen – EEK!) daughter surpassed me about a year ago.  At work it seems as if every person there is ten times my height. Not only do I look up all the time, I take 4-5 steps back. At my in-laws I am the shortest as well. For once it would be nice to be taller than someone.
  • Clothes… not sure who created Petite sizes but it wasn’t a short person. According to most fashion lines, Petites is for those 5′-4″ or under. Basically, no matter if I buy Petites or Misses, I am hemming my pants. It is a good thing I come from a long line of women who sew. I have gotten really good with a needle and a sewing machine.
  • But pants are not the only item that there are issues. Tops are usually too long and well, you can’t hem a top that has writing on it. You might hem part of the inspirational quote off and be left with “Strong As A…” (wait a minute, I am sure the word ‘Mother’ was there before…).
  • Then there is the kitchen. I have gotten very used to climbing on top of the counters and praying there is no food on them when I do. It just seems that everything I need is on the top shelf of the upper cabinets. Why do you ask? Because my husband is selfish when it comes to the kitchen. He puts what he needs on the other two shelves of the upper cabinets because that is his eye level and my stuff winds up in the heavens of the top shelf. He does this with the fridge too. For now I am mobile and in shape enough to climb the counters but what happens when I am 80?!
  • Cars. We are a 2 car household and we never share because of our height differences. We would constantly bitch when we would need to share our cars. My husband’s car is set for a tall person: seat all the way back and low. My car is set for a short person: seat all the way up front and high that you wonder how a person can fit in the car to drive. Driving to Florida in one car this past October was a nightmare.
  • The aisles of the grocery store are fun as well. The product I need is always, ALWAYS, on the top shelf. And half the time, in the back on the top shelf because supply has run out. If you see a woman scaling the racks in  your store, it is most likely me, Spider Woman. I climb the metal racks, the freezer racks, any and all of the ones I need to reach. I don’t care if I get yelled at by employees. Hey, if the shelf isn’t full and the item is on top, that isn’t my fault. And yes, I know of liability. Just make sure the shelves are built correctly. I am sure they can hold my petite shortiness.
  • I look young. I look so young and being short just aides in how young I look. I have never looked as old as I am. Some see this as a good thing, but honestly, it hasn’t been. When I had my daughter at 26 I was often mistaken for a teen mom. I saw the dirty looks I got from people in the mall as I walked around with my daughter in a stroller. Even now, many think I am 29 instead of 39. I remind people I have a 12 year old child but it doesn’t help. Embarrassingly, I can fit into kid clothing. Couldn’t you just picture me wearing clothes from Justice?! The worst part of being short and being mistaken for someone younger is I have never ever felt like a real adult. Sure, I am a loving wife and mother and am an adult in that sense but when I dress or wear makeup, I feel like a little girl playing house. In prior employments I was never taken seriously because I was the short little girl. I’ve been viewed this way so often that I see myself as that.
  • You become someone’s arm rest. Everyone thinks that since the top of your head is available that it is an invite for their elbow or arm. Let me just say this… no, my head is not your armrest. Do not stick it there or I will smack you.
  • And… I am always the last one to know when it is raining…

The Pros… Yes, There Really Are Some

There aren’t many. But when looking at the reality of something, even though I am a hardcore pessimist (hello depression!), I should look at the positives. At least that is what my therapist tells me…

  • I can fit in kids clothes.  Yes, this is both a con and a pro. Although it is embarrassing, it can also be helpful financially since children’s clothing runs cheaper than adults. My womanly hips are not fitting into any pair of jeans in that section but I have bought several plain tanks and tees. It helped as well in Disney World when I wanted a sweatshirt with Donald Duck (my fave!) on it. The kid size was $5 cheaper. Score!
  • I can fit in small spaces. Hide and seek proved well with me. If I need to be alone, I can just squeeze myself into the bottom of the coat closet. And, being serious now, God forbid, if an active shooter came through at work, I could easily fit in the corner underneath my desk. Maybe not so positive is that I am the only one who can fit in our crawl space. Not exactly a grand beautiful place to be but it does house the wine we are aging. So if I wanted to, I could sit down there, hide and get drunk.
  • My tall child can’t complain to me that’s she’s tall. She has done this and I just stared at her perplexed. I actually asked her why she was complaining about this to me, the short one. Then I sent her whiny butt over to complain to her father for passing on his genetics.

My list of pros are short (ha ha, see, I used a pun there!) as am I, but I don’t let it bother me as much anymore. I will never be able to change it and at this point, I am not sure I would want to.

They Should’ve Warned Me… The PMAD Addition

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I recently read a blog post (written in 2015/revised in 2017) by Jenny Studenroth Gerson on the Huffpost which left me slightly angry and annoyed. Actually, ‘slightly’ is an understatement. I was pissed. In the post, They Should’ve Warned Me, Jenny explains that throughout her pregnancy, she was told to “sleep while you can”, “enjoy your husband now”, and “You’ll never have time to shower.”

Then she proceeds to explain how ‘they should’ve warned her’ about the immense love she would have the second her child was born. About how crying is happy thing. About how you would love your husband so much more. About how eating healthy would create enough milk to nourish your child. About how even being extremely exhausted, waking up in the middle of the night to take care of your child is so rewarding. About how the little cries and screams wouldn’t piss you off but make you feel like a rock star… and so on and so on.

As someone who suffered from two PMADs (Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder), I was angry after reading this. First off, you do not need a ‘warning’ about loving your child. Everything she lists in this post are happy things (and frankly I can’t buy that all of them are true). Who needs a warning that you are going to cry at your child’s birth because you are happy?! Really?! With all this anger, I decided I needed to counteract this post with one of my own that deserves the word ‘warned’ in the title:

They Should’ve Warned Me: The PMAD Addition

12 years ago, I suffered. I suffered first from severe postpartum anxiety that slowly morphed into severe postpartum depression. This is what ‘they’, whoever ‘they’ are, should’ve warned me and, in turn, you about:

  • They should’ve warned me that my anxiety would start right after birth. That I would constantly worry if my daughter was getting enough colostrum. That I would have anxiety attacks in those first few hours in the hospital about why after 2-3 hours she wasn’t brought to me for a feeding.
  • They should’ve warned me that the anxiety would only grow as I had to identify the color of her poop. Is it green? Is it mustard in color? Is it brown?
  • They should’ve warned me that breastfeeding is hard work and sometimes it is not the right answer to feeding your child and that that is okay. Why is she falling asleep on my boob after 5 minutes? Is she eating enough? Oh God, what’s wrong with her?!
  • They should’ve warned me that although crying is normal, keep an eye on it, it could develop into something more than Baby Blues. I cried from day one. Sure it started out being 3-4 times a day but it slowly grew in excess of six times a day.
  • They should’ve warned me that sleep is important and to push for it. Yeah, I get it, you’re not going to sleep much when you have a newborn, but if you have a prior mental health condition (such as myself with depression) then those around you should know the importance sleep plays in your life and allow you to rest for a few hours.
  • They should’ve warned me that my anxiety would worsen that no matter what I tried to eat, it wouldn’t stay down. That vomiting would become my new way of life. That Ensure won’t cure it all and that the smell of chicken cooking would have me running to the bathroom.
  • They should’ve warned me about how my love for my infant would grow into hatred. That with each shriek, I would want to pull out my hair or bang my head against the wall.
  • They should’ve warned me that I would become hysterical enough to make plans to run away, that my husband and daughter would be better off without me. That the whole world would be better off without me.
  • They should’ve warned me that I would scare my family and friends with my hysterics.
  • They should’ve warned me that I would see myself as useless, unworthy and undeserving of love.
  • They should’ve warned me that all this would occur in the first month postpartum and would culminate into admitting myself into short-term psych.
  • They should’ve warned me I would have to be inpatient for 12 days.
  • They should’ve warned me that I would go through many therapy & psychiatry appointments after my stay.
  • They should’ve warned me that I would go through multiple medication changes that first year to find just the right combination.
  • They should’ve warned me that it would be a few months before I loved my child again.

And…

  • They should’ve warned me that it would be a year before I would smile for real.

PMADs deserve warnings. The things Jenny Studenroth Gerson mentions in her article do not. It took me to one year postpartum to feel like myself again. To fully embrace my daughter with infinite love. To know my life is the way it was meant to be. For some women it is longer. Although most women will not be affected by a PMAD, there is a high percentage that are. About 1 in 5 women will experience postpartum depression. That’s just one PMAD. Let’s not forget about postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum PTSD, and postpartum psychosis. These are things to be warned about.

If I could tell Jenny Studenroth Gerson one thing it would be:

Research your definition of ‘warn’. Most women understand and have the immense love for their partner and child at birth. Most women will successfully breastfeed. Most women will cry tears of joy when their baby coos or cries. But you need to realize that over 20% of the postpartum population will not feel that. They will not see these items as warnings (and they didn’t, I took to my Warrior Mom community with this one). Some will find your article cruel, like if they didn’t feel what you did, they weren’t as loving as a mother as you are. And, if they read this while going through a PMAD, it would just make them feel worse. I understand you enjoyed your postpartum stage (and around 80% of mothers will) but please show compassion for the rest of us.

If you are someone you know is suffering from a PMAD (Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder) resources can be found at the sites below:
The Bloom Foundation for Maternal Wellness
Postpartum Support International
2020 Mom
If you know a mother or are a mother considering suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at
1-800-273-8255
or text 741741

The Day Jim Cantore Came To Town

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I have been an avid Weather Channel watcher for decades. The storms and catastrophes that Mother Nature can produce have me in awe. I am amazed at the destruction that can be caused and, unfortunately, the many lives that are lost.

When I was in college, I had to reapply to the architecture program after 3 semesters. It was required of all of us undergrads at the time and just because you were in the program didn’t mean you were guaranteed a spot to continue after the review. I feared that review. My drawings skills were average with many others who were way better and my design concepts weren’t highly imaginative. So I sat there, in the midst of waiting for my results thinking about what major I would transfer to if I had failed to receive acceptance. Meteorology was my number one choice. Although I did wind up continuing in the architecture program, in some ways I wish I didn’t.

Weather has been an interest of mine since I was young, the desire not as strong as architecture for me. I slept through Hurricane Gloria in 1985. I was a young kid who took a nap. When I woke up and saw the chaos outside my window, I was in wonderment. A force of nature could do this?! My little 5-year-old brain couldn’t comprehend this. Once we got cable several years later, I would sit and watch the weather channel instead of cartoons after school. Hurricane after hurricane… I watched wide-eyed, mouth gaping.

This continued through college. Every morning I would turn on the Weather Channel and wait for the Local on the 8s to appear so I could see what the weather was like for that day. That is when I started to learn the names of the anchors. That is when I became aware of Jim Cantore. He and Stephanie Abrams would start off my morning. After graduation, when out on my own in the real world, shows started to pop up on the Weather Channel with Jim Cantore hosting. My fave was ‘It Could Happen Tomorrow‘.

As the years passed, it became apparent that when there was a massive hurricane or snowstorm hitting, the Weather Channel always sent Jim Cantore to what they deemed would be the worst hit area.

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Forget Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, now it is Where in the World is Jim Cantore!

And then the day came, the day all of us dread, the day Jim Cantore came to town!

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In March of 2018, Jim Cantore came to my town. Winter Storm Quinn was approaching and predicted to drop feet of snow. There were many areas where he could of been sent, but instead he was sent to my little town. I sat at my TV watching, debating back and forth whether I should go to where he was and get a selfie with him. In some ways I idolized him. He was what I would have liked to have been had I gone into meteorology.

This storm was so unique, according to Jim, because of the thundersnow. Basically, instead of thunder during a rainstorm, there is thunder during a snowstorm. Aside from the 12+ inches of snow and the thunder, we had blizzard conditions due to the strong winds. A perfect set up for Jim Cantore. And here he was, frankly, scaring the shit out of us residents.

Through the decades, I never actually thought I would be living in an area where Jim would show up. There usually isn’t any weather that would warrant a visit from him. Sure we get snow, but we are used to it in the northeast, even a storm expected to produce more than a foot.

I decided that I should stop fan-girling him and did not go down to meet him. I had until noon that day since the snow really hadn’t started until then. With flakes falling, the wind howling and the growling thunder, I stayed in the comforts of my home watching him on the TV. The warmth of the pellet stove was more comforting then the mess going on outside.

And then it was over. And like with any other winter storm in the northeast, we cleaned up in less than a day. Jim Cantore left for his next adventure in weather. Turns out, he should have gone one town over. We only received about 18″ of snow while the next town received over 26″. All in all, it was both scary and amazing to see the legend of Jim Cantore in our town… a town that would never have been known to most had it not been for him.

 

 

Teen Suicide & Social Media

Over the weekend, a local 16-year-old girl took her life. A permanent solution to probably years of bullying.

And the bully laughed. Instead of stopping her, she watched her jump off the top deck of the mall parking garage. Then, she took a photo and posted it on social media warning people to stay away from the mall. If that wasn’t bad enough, she expressed joy that this young lady was dead and even remarked, “Rest in peace, bitch.”

It’s time we discussed teen suicide and the ramifications of it with the effects of social media.

When I was a senior in high school, a freshman took her life by hanging herself. We were all sad and confused. Even myself although I had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder four years earlier. I was still not fully aware of what goes through a person’s mind to think ending their life is the only way out. That quickly changed when I found myself sitting on the floor of my bedroom with a case cutter to my wrist debating slicing through a major artery. The numbness, the self-loathing, that feeling that the world would be better off without you in it. I understood then.

But I was in high school in the late 1990s… a generation without social media.

Now, I have a 12-year-old daughter. She is only 2 years shy of my first depression diagnosis and 4 years shy of the young woman who committed suicide. I constantly talk to her. She has known about suicide since she was eight because I was unwell and she was old enough to see that. Our discussion can be found in my post “Mommy Is Not Going To Kill Herself“. After learning of this teenager’s demise, I sat my daughter down for another discussion. I didn’t know if the school would bring it up, but I wanted her to know. I told her everything I knew. I told her about the young woman’s suicide and then I told her about the bully.

Her reaction was pretty much the same as mine as we are both highly emotionally and compassionate people. We were heartbroken upon hearing of this girl’s death. We were livid with the bully’s reaction.

How could someone be happy that another person committed suicide?! How can you express it on Snapchat and be okay with that?! How could you then degrade her by calling her a bitch?! I am sure like most teens she thought nothing would happen to her, that she is invincible. The local paper has pretty much kept the story hush-hush as these are minors and the police are still investigating.

The weird thing about all this… I had just watch Friday night’s Dateline concerning the Michelle Carter case. Michelle Carter is in prison for a couple of years because she coaxed her then boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to take his life. They were teens at the time. On the day of his death, he was having second thoughts and left his truck (where he would later die from carbon monoxide poisoning). Michelle told him to get back in and just do it. It is known as the “texting suicide case”.

This recent local event is somewhat similar. It involves teens and cell phones. I believe the Carter case has set a precedent. Will this local bully be charged with anything related to what she put on Snapchat? Who knows. There may be way more concerning the young woman and her bully on all forms of social media.

And that is the issue, isn’t it?! Social media. We can lay it all out there. Say anything we want and hide behind the cell phone or computer screen. The problem is, whatever you say on social media is there forever and it can come back to hurt you days or years later. But once again, teens think they are invincible. It’s time we told them they aren’t.

My heart breaks for the family and friends of this young woman. I am not sure what could have been done. Her parents lost a child. All these hopes and dreams they must have had for her, taken away by a teenage bully. The pain they must be going through. Then I think of the parents of the bully and the shitstorm that is coming their way. Are they in denial… my kid couldn’t do that, she is a perfect angel and so kind… or have they come to the realization that no matter how good of a parent they are, some kids can be mean, downright cruel and immune to others feelings, almost sociopathic. I hurt for those parents as well.

For  now, I weep internally (because of Lexapro I can’t externally). I cry for the young lady, her family and friends and for the parents of the bully. I am an empathetic creature and want to feel their pain. I will continue to talk with my daughter because I do not want her to become the bully or the victim.

It is Kindness Week at her middle school this week. Kind of fitting with recent events. Today is yellow or ‘joy’ day. I hope the school does mention this teenager’s suicide and the bulling. These kids are not little innocent beings anymore. They need to know because the person who is sitting next to them could be the one contemplating taking their life or the one causing pain and suffering to someone else. They need to know that death is permanent. They need to know that rude comments leave scars. They need to know the damage that can be done.

Teen suicide is real. If you know someone who is in trouble please push them to get help. If they are not willing, stand up and speak for them.2417122_1280x720

In A Little Town Called Bethel(hem)…

Small town America. A town of roughly 18,500 people. There is a nice downtown with quaint shops, a true homey feeling.

And yet, there is something that divides this town.

For years, decades even, the town has displayed a nativity scene during the holidays on P.T. Barnum Square, a triangle piece of land right smack in the middle of the charming downtown. It is where almost all the town events occur. It houses pizza joints, our special ice cream shop and a bridal store among others. I am constantly over there since my gym is right across the street.

The nativity has been an icon to the downtown area, and now, now it is the source of the resident split. This year there is a new nativity:

Creche

I am not going to lie, it is beautiful. Funded by a GoFundMe and several residents, it sits right in front of the Christmas tree. Although breathtaking, it is huge. I mean big, bordering on massive. I think it is because of this reason that certain residents became not irate, but annoyed that other holidays weren’t being represented while the nativity just grew bigger. One resident, an Atheist, decided to submit an application to display a banner on P.T. Barnum Square:

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Well, this caused quite an uproar on the local Facebook pages and within the town itself. This is where true colors showed. This was when I realized we are a town that is divided. There is only love if, if you are a Christian, according to many residents.

A good number of residents didn’t understand why the Atheists would want to put anything on the Square… after-all, they do not celebrate anything. A few told the anonymous Atheist banner submitter to move out of Bethel, that they do not belong there. With all the recent antisemitic news, I, a Jew, began to feel uncomfortable in my own town. People were becoming just downright cruel.

But where this is dark, there is light, right?! Some of us religious minorities spoke up. Inclusion! If you can have a creche on a public, town-owned, piece of property, why not have other things?!

We discussed a possible Menorah (Hanukkah candle holder) and a Kinara (Kwanzaa candle holder). Those of us that wanted inclusion were renewed with honor and strength in the possibility of displaying our faiths, of increasing the knowledge of them to the majority of the town residents who are Christian.

But, the town realized that with all this, they needed a rule. In the first meeting held for the Atheist banner, the room was divided. Majority felt it wasn’t needed, that it was a way for the Atheists to call out themselves (because a nativity on the green doesn’t scream Christianity?!). They thought it ruined the holiday spirit of Bethel, ruined the Christmas feeling of Bethel. Back and forth, back and forth… the good news was that after this first meeting, many people understood the Atheist resident’s desire in the banner, the need to include every member of this town regardless of religious belief. By the second meeting, the banner was approved. A committee has now been formed to look at the long term guidelines to displaying things on the Square.  It has been about 2 weeks since the approval and the only thing on P.T. Barnum Square is the creche & lit Christmas tree. Where is the banner?

I had mixed feelings on all of this. I am Jewish by birth. I am not religious by any means but I take pride in my religion/ethnicity. I light the Menorah every year. I make challah and will bake Hamentaschen for Purim. I love my given Hebrew name (Shalva Maera). I also married a Catholic. He is not religious either which is good because there were no arguments when our daughter was born of which religion to raise her. I have respect for all religions and their practices. I am a very fair and just person. So where did I stand?

I think the nativity is beautiful. It is a great symbol for those that are Christian and deserves to be displayed. But where to display it? The town owns the Square. By displaying a religious symbol on something that is town owned, is this not overstepping the separation between church and state? If the town committee starts allowing all religions to display things during the holiday, what happens when we run out of room on the Square? Are the nativity and banner grandfathered in at their size and everyone else’s displays become smaller?

Ultimately, I am with a minority group of residents concerning a certain solution. Because the land is town owned and because it is not a big piece of land to start displaying everyone’s holiday, I believe it should just be left empty. Leave the walkways and benches. Leave the foliage and landscaping. Leave it to its natural beauty. Move the nativity to one of the many churches.

If you can’t include everyone, then include no one.