Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Once Upon a Wednesday

Halfway through my morning, I tried a meditation practice aimed at being present with my true self. It's a technic called, The Mirror Exercise. Here is what you do... 

Sit six inches away from a mirror and focus on one eye. After 3 to 5 minutes, smile big and say, "You're okay with me." This, according to the author, will prompt a rush of joy AND you will be introduced to someone you are destined to meet.
This was appealing to me on many levels so I grabbed a vanity makeup mirror and positioned myself on a comfy chair beside a bright, sunny window. After intense overthinking, I chose my right eye. My gaze fixated on the hollowness of my pupil, then the burst of brown and globe of seafoam blue that orbited it. I envisioned my pupil as the moon and my iris, its galaxy. 

And then my gaze shifted to my nose. On it was a mass of blackheads. I thought blackheads were part of my 20's and had no idea it was hormonally possible to develop this post-menopause. 

I pushed the mirror aside and made an appointment for a facial. 

Later that day, I stopped at a trendy eyewear shop enquiring about my need for bifocals. Somewhere in my 50's, glasses became my favorite accessory but since corrective Lasik surgery, my only need for eyewear is sunglasses or blue light filtering glasses. The optometrist reassured me that my vision was excellent (for a woman my age) then showed me their youthful-looking frames.

Next door is Anne Fontaine - a stiff, frilly Parisian fashion boutique I am oddly attracted to. 
I grabbed a stark white, slim-cut, unforgiving blouse and headed towards the dressing room. From the inventory supply room emerged a little girl of three, a sales associate's daughter, who was entertaining herself stacking shoe boxes - one on top of the other - and then knocking them down.

I pulled the dressing room curtain closed and stripped off my top and bra. Before I had a chance to try on the suggested camisole and blouse, the little girl peaked in from under the curtain and asked, "what happened to your arm?"

My arm? I questioned, nothing happened to my arm. It's not toned, I won't wear sleeveless shirts anymore, but my arm is fine.

Somehow, this child glazed over my massive, double mastectomy scars, my three melanoma scars, my circular, bellybutton-number-three scar, my chemo port scar, my abdominal surgery scars - one stretching horizontally across the entire length of my stomach and the other vertically from the center peak of my ribcage to the tip of my pubic bone. 

"Nothing is wrong with my arm," I snapped.
"Was it bugs?" she asked. "Was it bugs that did that to your arm?"

Frayed and annoyed I answered, "YES, bugs. Big bugs - lots of them. They got me good. They got me when I was sleeping... in my bed. Bed bugs. BIG bed bugs. I hope they don't get you!"

I dismissed the latest collection of Parisian wear, stained by a little girls screams, and left empty-handed.

Back in the comforts of home, I poured a bowl of wine and looked over my phone messages. There was a text from an unknown sender. I clicked on the number and there he was... 

The person I was destined to meet. My morning meditation came true. 

Mark Ruffalo, it's YOU!  

xo, MonkeyME

Font made larger to accommodate those of us who don't know we have blackheads.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Our America, Our Pain, My Voice

On Monday, June 1st, I received a text from a client alerting me to a protest at the Greenwich police station. Fearing the possibility of violence and looting, several high-end stores boarded up and police were out in full force. After notifying my guards, stationed at various locations throughout Greenwich, I changed into a t-shirt that read, “JUST BE NICE,” wrote ONE LOVE on a face mask and headed to the protest to observe and report what was unfolding to my clients and staff.

The crowd was small but enraged. I watched and listened to numerous, personal stories of racial injustice. I listened to police officers respond over and over again, “for those of you from out of town…,” as if their voice did not represent our town. But their stories were from our town. Their stories were powerful, and they deserved to be heard.

I could not stand in silence knowing I also had a story to tell. So I shouted it, at the top of my lungs. I leaned over a wall, pointed my finger at the four police officers, including the chief of police standing outside the police building, and I yelled. It wasn’t eloquent. It was rough, but it was real.
During a lesson focused on the use of force at a Citizens Police Academy class I took in November of 2019, the officers giving the class brought up Eric Garner’s death and the use of a choke hold – stating that the choke hold was justified and did not cause Eric his death. I disagreed with this statement knowing what lead to his arrest, the excessive use of force used during his arrest, and that the medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide. During the class I voiced my opposition. I did this again at a firearms demonstration held several weeks after.
When I shouted the same opposition at the protest, Chief Heavy asked, “why didn’t you tell anyone?” This ignited a reply from several bystanders who shouted, “don’t blame her.” I also shouted, “don’t blame me.”
The video of this exchange, along with several from protesters, was posted on YouTube. A local news organization took my words from the audio and posted it in an article along with my name and several photo’s. Not all of what they posted was accurate.
Although I have not heard from any clients directly about this article, or the part I played in this peaceful protest, it has been brought to my attention that there are clients calling for the dismissal of my security guard services.
In an attempt to manage the negative fallout, I sat down to write a letter of apology to my clients.
And then I asked myself, what am I apologizing for?
Time and time again, we witness, read or hear about unjustified shootings, fatal chokings and severe beatings. Silence is NOT an option. Silence does not solve the problem of police brutality and racial injustice and apologizing is not part of any solution. What we need is action.
For those of you who are outraged by what you read, hear or witness; don’t apologize, mobilize. Stand together with the victims of murder, marginalization and repression, and with those who seek justice.
Stand, walk, kneel, speak, lead, unite and VOTE.
One LOVE, MonkeyME

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The End of My Innocence

I have no memory of my parents living together. They divorced when I was 2 years old. 

Mom moved us kids out of an affluent, coastal community in New England to Northeastern, PA so we could be near her brothers, their wives and children. But we never fit in.  

One summer we lived in a house nicknamed "The Wonders of the World" because it had four levels - each painted a different color. My mother went to work in a cigar factory while my sister Norie, twelve years my senior, cared for us.

Next we lived in the shell of a house my mothers brother was constructing. Here, my memories increase. I remember my sister Colleen, 15 months my senior, climbing onto the kitchen counter and eating an entire stick of butter, my mother administering caster oil anytime we sneezed and watching Hatchy Milatchy on a black and white TV. We had a german shepherd dog named King that we chained to a tree in the front yard. When I was 4 years old I snuck on the school bus wearing my red and white striped clown pajamas so I could attend Colleen's kindergarten Halloween party.

My mother was a stickler for good manners. If you didn’t sit up straight during dinner she'd stand behind you and shove her thumb in the center of your back. And if you didn't finish your dinner, she'd put it in the refrigerator and serve it to you for breakfast, cold. "We're poor," she'd tell us, "we can't afford to waste food."

Somewhere between working in the cigar factory and caring for us kids, my mother met a man named Mert and we moved to Mentor, Ohio.

Mert was tall and thin with slick, jet black hair.

His teenage son David, from his first marriage, moved in with us. David was about the same age as my sister Norie. David was tall, and thin with the same black hair as his father. David had a guitar but I don't remember him playing it.

In Ohio, we lived in a house that had a screened-in front porch. This is where we'd wait for the ice cream truck and the Charles Chips truck to come.

Across the street was a large house with lots of kids - girls mostly. 

To the right of us was a house full of boys. During hot summer nights we would camp outside in small green tents. We'd carry flashlights and tell ghost stories. Between our houses is where I'd find an endless supply of fireflies.  

On blustery days, small swirling tornados would form in and around our backyard. Here, tucked behind the tool shed, was our garden. There were carrots in the garden. When I was hungry, I'd pull one from the ground and eat it, never bothering to wash it.

Beyond the garden was a large parking lot. In the winter, plowed mounds of snow were perfect for making igloo forts. 

I walked or rode my bike to school. I had two boyfriends. Their names were Michael Pope and Jimmy Griffin. I gave them each a key to my bike lock and I'd watch them race each other down the corridor, out the side door, to the rack where my red Schwinn was parked. Whoever got there first unlocked my bike and walked me half way home. I knew not to tell mom about Michael or Jimmy. When my sister Colleen threatened to tell her, I hit her with my hairbrush. 

I fell off the monkey bars during recess one day and got a bloody nose. Mom was angry because I ruined my pretty pink dress.

I sang, "I Want To Be Free" by the Monkee's as I held onto the metal fence railing that bordered the schools playground. I sang at the top of my lungs. I sang while the other kids merrily slipped and slid on sheets of snow that transformed the basketball court into a skating rink. I was too afraid of falling to let go of the railing.

I spent a long, steamy summer digging holes in a dirt road that lead to a large gray house I was convinced belong to a witch. I'd filling the holes with rotten food and dog poop - then covered it with leaves and twigs, hoping the witch would get stuck in it. 

My stepfather Mert wore white collared, button down shirts to work. My mother would wash them, put them in the freezer wet, then iron them. In time, his crisp white shirts where replaced with blue collared shirts. My mother did not iron these. One day, Mert no longer went to work, instead he walked the house wearing white, V-necked, t-shirts. 

As the story goes, Mert was once a low level executive but I knew him only as a raging alcoholic who eventually died from cirrhosis of the liver and malnutrition. 

My mother and Mert had a child together - a boy they named Mark. Mark slept in the bedroom with mom and Mert. Norie slept in a second bed room and Colleen and I shared the third. 

My sister Colleen was coined early on as the pretty one. The one with the golden curls and a sunny disposition. I was the loud one.

Because Colleen was 15 months older, she was, in her words, “the boss of me." She got to stay up 30 minutes later than me and she got everything new.

And she got Davy, and I got Micky. They were the best part of the Monkee’s. The Monkee’s were bigger than Elvis and better than Lassie. And we were just sisters, and I was little and she was big. They were the reason we raced each other down our staircase, around the corner, to our black and white TV every Monday night at 8:00 pm.

I was convinced that, if it weren’t for her, I’d have everything I ever wanted. I’d have her side of the room. Davy’s picture would hang right next to my bed. Davy’s face would be the first thing I’d see every morning and the last thing I’d see before Mom made us turn out the lights.

If it weren’t for her I’d have the bigger pillow, the better blanket, and I’d have her “Bummy,” her best friend, Bummy.  Her NOT REAL stuffed bunny rabbit. But I wouldn’t have sucked him till he turned gray. She hugged the pretty pink padding out of him, pulled the tickle of his fur from the tip of his tail.

Everyone knew she loved Bummy more than me.

Just outside our bedroom door, in the open hallway at the top of the stairs, is where David slept. He got to stay up as late as he wanted but instead David waited for me in his bed. He kept a flashlight and a red rubber ball under his blanket. He called it his fort. We played games in David’s fort while mom and Mert watched TV downstairs.

When we were in the fort, David would tell me to find the red rubber ball hidden in his underpants. He kept a bat and baseballs hidden there too. He wanted me to play with his toys but I had to be quiet or I'd get in trouble. We'd both get in trouble.

We didn't stay in Ohio very long. We were back in Pennsylvania in time for me to attend third grade at a co-ed catholic school. But I got in trouble when I brought a green gardener snake to school and was told I couldn't return. Both David and Norie moved away. I don't know where David went but Norie married and moved to Cleveland. 

After graduating from high school, I moved back to Greenwich, Connecticut where my father lived and built a business.

My son was born when I was just 19. His father was 12 years older than me. We never married. His drinking reminded me of Mert. My daughter was born 12 years later. Her father was gentle, soft spoken and hard working. Nothing like Mert. Our marriage lasted 7 years.

Shortly after the birth of my daughter, I was at home caring for her when an episode of Oprah came on the TV. She was talking about an uncle who molested her when she was a child. It was the first time I had ever heard anyone speak openly about child molestation. Images started to form, one slow motion frame after another. Memories I had suppressed for more than two decades. I cried for a very long time and then I called my mother. I was certain she would comfort me. I was wrong.

"That's impossible," she said, "It never happened."  It was just part of my overactive imagination.

Later, my sister Colleen called and scolded me for upsetting Mom. She told me never to speak about it to anyone but her. She told me I was not alone in David’s fort. Mostly we were together, sometimes it was just her. More memories to process. More tears. 

I listened to my sister and kept our secret until 2011, when I published a blog post titled “1961 to 1966.”

Most of my family stopped speaking to me after that because “you never air your dirty laundry in public” but my readers were supportive. One of them was Marilyn. She told me she dated David in high school and that they remained friends. She told me she reached out to David and that he confirmed the abuse. He also told her he was sorry. He was young and he was troubled. 

My mother continued to welcome David into her home. I have not confronted or spoken to David Hoffman since memories of his sexual abuse first surfaced. 

I had no idea what happened to David until Sunday night when I saw Marilyn’s post on facebook.

"Friends for life are always there when you need them. House is finally getting painted. With awesome Dave Hoffman."

When someone asked how she got him to paint her house she replied, “God is good!”

I don’t know how to describe the pain I felt when seeing David Hoffman’s pictures but it was just as fresh and as cutting as it was 30 years ago. On top of that, I feel betrayed by Marilyn, a woman I know as kind, compassionate, and caring. A woman I considered a friend.

I don’t understand how anyone welcomes an admitted child molester into their home. I know I would not.

I contacted the police department where Marilyn lives, and was told I need to contact the police department in the town where the crime took place. When I called the police department in Mentor, Ohio, I was told I need to know the address where we lived. That, I don’t have. All I have are photos of the house we lived in.  I have contacted several real estate agents in the area hoping they can help me identify the neighborhood. The police also have copies of the photo’s along with the photo’s Marilyn posted on facebook. The police assured me they will do all they can to help me. I have also reached out to several advocacy group including RAINN (National Resources for Sexual Assault Survivors and their Loved Ones).

David Hoffman robbed me of my innocence and left me with wounds that range from guilt and shame to insecurity and self-loathing.  He should be punished. He needs to be registered as a sexual predator. It doesn’t matter how long ago the abuse happened. There may be other victims.  I hope to God there are not.

According to statistics…
1 in 10 children will be sexually abuse before their 18th birthday.
Of children that are sexually abused 20% will be abused before the age of 8.
60% of sexual abuse victims never tell anyone.

If you or someone you know has been sexually abused, there are resources that can help. Speak out and begin the process of recovery and healing. It is never too late.

Love, Light, Peace, MonkeyME

June 5, 2009 

Oh Shannon,

David called again!... I reminded him of why we broke up, and he finally apologized.  I told him that he owes you one, too.

He said that all he remembers is waking up one morning to find he had a new family, and they were all strangers... his father was never around, and he was angry.  So, he would leave and go to his mother's until she would try to rein him in, then he would come back to his father's.  Whenever he couldn't get his way, he would just find somewhere else to stay...  He said, again, that he was very sorry, that he was out of control, and that he wished his parents would have been a bit tougher on him.  He was apparently really acting out when he hurt you...


Wed 7/24/2019 3:52 PM

...Dave has always had his own deep struggles, which he has apparently been working on for decades.  Abandonment and emotional issues can be draining for us all.  As we near 70, his heart health has really deteriorated.  He had to stop driving, which he loved, started classical house painting five years ago, and called me for the first time since as he was doing a house in PA... He offered to take a look at my place, which was perfect timing as I am tied up with so many other projects...  If you remember,  Dave was sent to a military academy in VA as a teen by his mother.  He learned much, is currently married, and has many children/grandchildren of his own who he tries his best to help.  He is a workaholic, and is so thin you would not even recognize him. His work here is simply work, and I have been impressed.  He has helped me much, and we have remained friends...

Wishing You Well.


Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison