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Archive for February, 2013

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Bittersweet childhoods.  Bittersweet tales.  Part of me wonders if it is possible to begin again at some point in adulthood as a new person with an entire abusive childhood set aside as if it never happened at all.  Would I want to forget, to have an amnesia that meant (perhaps) I could set aside all I know of what happened to hurt me, if it meant I would also then forget all of the beauty, as well?

All that I learned as a child about beauty in the world around me.  The music of a leaf, a single leaf, twisting at the end of its tiny stem as it hangs on for dear life but dances anyway.  That the hanging on and the music and the dancing and life itself all happen at the same time.  That one cannot happen without the others happening — at the same time.

One moment of time spent watching water swishing over and around rocks in a stream.  Again, making the music, doing the dancing, passing by where my eyes rested for a moment.  Just a moment.  On that spot.  And there comes the leaf!  A season.  Completed.  Leaf.  Swept by the wind to land to lay alongside a fallen branch.  Settling there.  For a moment.  Being caught in a current.  Swept away.  Swept along.  Heading — where?  Certainly past my childhood watching eyes.

I look ahead, upstream.  I look ahead, downstream.  Somewhere in time I look for the completion of this task, this story telling task, looking forward to a time when the story is all told and something else will happen.

Being in the middle of a process that has not ended.  Yet.  Sometimes feeling silly, even stupid, for caring the way I do.  The tale I tell myself.  That somehow I can write something that gives voice to what some suffering child somewhere knows — a child I will never know — some suffering child without a voice — how can I begin to think I can ever speak for THAT child?

Do I try to spin a thread of courage into my tale, to somehow prepare the way, for some suffering child down the stream of its life to be able to speak of what is unspeakable?  Unimaginable?  To speak the truth of the harm along with the beauty?  Making something a little more possible for someone else?  Because I did it?

Because I can do it?

Because I have to do it?  Have to not leave the beauty I found as a child in the world around me, in my own hands as I laid a crayon against paper and found a way to reproduce there the swaying flashing glory of the northern lights?  A little deer drawn beside a stone with green grass growing around it?  Dare I not question this task I have taken up, that I haul around with me, inside of me, because it’s not done yet?

Dare I believe that this story can be told, that it can be DONE, because I have done it?  Sometimes, perhaps for many people, what is required is the surviving of the trauma — and then the never looking back.  Never looking back.  Never.  Looking.  Back.

What is it about me, in me, that sends me hacking my way back to rescue myself as a child?  Why don’t I leave myself there?  This is all a trek of the mind.  Nobody makes me do this work. 

When really I know it is best for me not to question what I do.  I know I am going to do it anyway.  Do it anyway hell or high water.  Will I know WHY once I am done?  It probably doesn’t even remotely matter.  This must be a part of who I am.  That I collected all the parts of my story every moment of the way through those years because the story itself called for me to do so.  Tucking certain memories, collected, into a knapsack I spun and wove together out of lines between stars on moonless nights.

Carrying a story along with me as I was carried by it.  Where everything good matters.  Every fragile story about using berries on fishhooks to catch little trout because they were round and bright like salmon egg bait I didn’t have.  Because fishing made me happy.  Fishing for trout in a shallow stream pulling them out as they passed me.  I caught one and that one did not pass me by.  Small.  I threw it back.  Did it live or die?  Only it wasn’t me who lived this story.  It was my beloved brother.  He had just turned seven.

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I ordered this book and began reading it when it arrived at the post office yesterday:

Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking by

Allen Carr

I am impressed, so impressed that I stopped reading it – for now.  My brother will be here in four hours for a visit.  He lives a long ways away and doesn’t come very often.  He’ll be here a week.  Carr says (I don’t know if he’s right but I am not going to run the risk that he is) that if a smoker does not stop smoking after they read this whole book they will continue smoking for the rest of their lives.

I sure am not going to quit right now with my brother coming!  No possible WAY!  I smoked my first cigarette 46 years ago when I was 16.  I am going to have some serious difficulties to face when I snub out my last cigarette – and I am not going to do that when my brother is here.

After he leaves on March 5th – I will finish this book and hope to be among the 10 million people so far that Allen Carr’s method has assisted to stop.

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When I quit I will be working my way around some of the information that Carr presents as the informed severe early abuse survivor that I am.  There are some very particular and very special differences I am well aware of that cause the smoking experience to operate differently for survivors such as I am.  I have confidence that I can work through how these differences make smoking a different kind of experience for me than it is for people who did not suffer from relationship trauma that changed their physiological development from the moment they were born (if not even before that).

I imagine that I will be doing some writing about the whole experience as I go through it.  I hope that I am not seriously sidetracked from the book writing I will also pick up again after my brother leaves.

I will literally keep you posted!

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Last night was not a good night for sleeping.  I finished my edit for book #9 of the series I am working on.  I need to put together a list of references and of suggested readings for that book, but evidently as I tried to sleep last night the next book #10 was under construction.  It seems that this next book which will be written in between my severely abusive psychotic Borderline Personality Disordered Mother’s words in her letters from the day we reached Alaska a month before my 6th birthday intends to begin where I never would have guessed that it would:  When I was 20.

I scrambled around searching my blog for the piece of writing my dreams brought to my attention as the first writing for this next book.  It is the only piece of writing that I know of from that young adult era of my life.  Typed out on an old Adler typewriter, this piece was folded into 8ths and kept for many, many years.  The piece unsettles me, not only because of the way it was written but because it mirror back to me all I knew about being myself as a person among adults in the world I moved into once I left my so-abusive first 18 years of life.

Click on these links to read this piece as it has been previously posted on this blog shortly after it began.  On May 25, 2009 I posted:

+LEAVING NO CHAOS BEHIND – PART ONE

And

+LEAVING NO CHAOS BEHIND – PART TWO

I don’t even want to read what I wrote in those posts right now.  It’s enough for the moment that I have located the main 1972 piece that is referenced in those post links and also posted here:  *1972 – WHAT I FELT LIKE AT 20).  It hasn’t been my intention at this stage of my book writing to address anything other than what happened to me beginning in book #10 from my age of nearly 6 to when I left home at 18.  Whatever I will write about my adulthood after 18 was SUPPOSED to wait until I finished writing my childhood.

So why is my inner self, even in my sleep, demanding that I begin with the 1972 piece?  There is some kind of raw, exposed truth in that piece as it reflected exactly how I felt at age 20.  I had left the malevolent home I had grown up in – as I posted in a chapter recently from book #9 – +’ANGEL’ CHAPTER 33 – Reactive Attachment Disorder and Dissociation (long post) – and entered the next stage of my life in the supposed benevolent world at 18 and found myself in a maelstrom of trauma drama.  I had no moorings, either internally or externally, that I could have used to make my way as an adult in the world.

I had to create myself in my life as I went along.  I did the best that I could do.

Perhaps in my sleep last night some part of me wanted the day-writer part of me to remember how fragmented I was at age 20 so that I don’t lose sight in my next book writing of how I got that way.  Everything I NEED to say in this next book is about how my ongoing experience of being my own self in my life was continually, brutally and violently interrupted.  I was nearly continually sidetracked from my own life of being a child.

I also know that there is much about myself that I have avoided knowing and that I am heading into waking up into the light of day.  Am I that brave?  Is this even WISE?

Perhaps that 1972 age-20 piece is a light at the end of the tunnel in some foreign way I do not understand at this moment I can use to aim myself toward as I begin writing from age 6 forward to age 18.  Perhaps I need to remind myself NOW that I DID make it out of the years I am going to write about next.  I DID make it OUT!

It was not an easy journey.  Not before I was 18 or 20 and not afterward.  I learned to evolve “a cover” for myself within which and behind which who I am which includes what I have experienced just no longer showed – to anyone – not even to myself.  Nothing about where I came from fit the world I “hatched” into when I left home.

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As I often do when I need a break I headed up to our local laundromat cafe yesterday.  I took my laptop thinking I would head into the needed rewrite of the first two chapters of book #9 I just finished last week, but I only made it through one page before I was sidetracked into a conversation with a stranger that lasted five hours.  I feel renewed with hope, intention and inspiration for this long drawn out writing process I am in.  I needed that boost.

The conversation topic began with this woman, I will call her Sandra, telling me about her five-year-old grandson who is having his 2nd weekend visit with his mother.  Sandra has been raising this boy since he was 9-months-old, but was most fortunately an integral part of the boy’s life from the moment he was born.

Sandra, I found out, was the 9th of 15 children, loved heartily and well by both of her stable parents and all eight of her older siblings.  She is a securely attached individual.  Her daughter was doing fine, as well, until she reached age 14 and began smoking marijuana.  The girl’s life took a troubling course with bad, abusive relationships and the birth of this boy who the girl could not mother — and still probably cannot although she is being pressured by a different boyfriend (both girl and boyfriend unemployed) to get her son back.

Grandparents have no rights to grandchildren in Arizona.  I was fascinated to watch Sandra talk about her entire range of feelings and thoughts about the entire situation from the point of view of being a securely attached person.  Reasonable, calm, honest — and yet scared to death for the future of her grandson if her daughter decides to uproot her little son to take him into the chaos of her life.

I left the conversation with a more open mind about the kinds of damage being done to upcoming generations even by young parents coming out of completely stable homes with safe and secure attachment present.  Drugs are impacting next generations of parents in ways that 40 years ago were very unlikely to happen.

What has changed, so changed, in our culture that parents are so helpless in the face of what drug use has done and is doing to their children?

In my mother’s letters there are definite mentions of her use of pain pills, sleeping pills and diet pills (speed).  As a child of course I knew nothing about this drug use.  I have always known that alcohol use was nearly nonexistent in my home — but what was the influence of prescription drugs on Mother?

Sandra believes that drug use in young people is contributing to onset of Borderline Personality Disorder.  While Sandra mentioned she knows what that mental illness is, I “forgot” to ask her how she knows whatever it is she knows about it.  But Sandra was very clear that just as the anesthesia my mother was likely giving during her labor with me broke her mind (although I think BPD was already present in Mother before my birth, but not the psychosis until afterwards), Sandra is convinced that street drug use among young people is having the same effect and thus is contributing to the rise of BPD.

My children did not go down the illicit drug road.  I am so very grateful, but it makes me think about why so many young people ARE using street drugs, and not inconsequentially.  Sandra’s daughter has not yet shown signs of walking away from that druggie lifestyle.  Her higher brain cortex development, which continues until age 25 (Sandra’s daughter is now 23), is being damaged through drug use.  This is not a good scenario for our nation’s youth, and when and how is it going to stop?

In those hours of conversation it was affirmed for me again that this story I am telling, even though it is one of billions that can be told, is of value because it is a way for the “technical” information to come through as it is completely intertwined in the story.  Sandra confirmed that it will give people cause to think — she almost described it as horizontally — in wider areas of their lives.  What influenced what coming down the generations?  And even in cases where a family gave their children everything they needed to leave their childhood with safe and secure attachment, what THEN goes so wrong when drugs take over the development of young people?

I don’t have those answers, but not having all the answers is no reason not to do the work of telling a story, anyway.

My dear older brother is coming next Tuesday to visit me for a week.  Wonderful!  I am going to take a writing break, and glad for it!  I am hoping he will agree to at least an hour interview with me.  I am hoping to take him and my laptop to the laundro-cafe to do just that.  I know he won’t write a confirmation for the truth of this story I am telling.  I know he ordinarily doesn’t want to give his/our childhood a single thought.  It’s uncomfortable.

But this might also be the exact time that something he can say to include in these books will help other people.  I hope he agrees!  I will see.  We will see!

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Take a look at this – it’s worth it.  I’d never seen it before.  Maybe you have.  I am glad I went to school in an era where no matter how hard my life was at home — I was simply ignored at school, but not wounded there.  Another one of my ‘protective factors’. 

Parents need to educate children NOT TO BULLY EVEN WITH THEIR WORDS!!

Bullies Called Him Pork Chop

Verbal abuse – even kid to kid – HURTS!

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+SOME PRIMARY LINKS ON INFANT VERBAL ABUSE

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July 27, 1957 Saturday

I was five.

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That Day

I was standing next to the head of a twin bed tucked sideways under the eaves on a wooden-floored landing at the top of the stairs.  Mommy was closing a green suitcase laid on the bedspread.  I was watching glistening motes floating in light beams above a large open book on a tall dark pedestal.  Facing a long narrow window.  Old yellowed paper shade rolled up.  String hanging down.  Ring on the end.  Sheer white curtains pulled to each side. 

Slowly sliding my fingers across smooth gilded edges.  Reaching the middle.  Marker hanging down.  Touching the wide faded red ribbon leaving traces in dust.  Book pages too high to see even when I stood on my toes. 

Mother snapped the suitcase shut.  Clack.  Clack.  Walking behind me.  Past me.  She called.  “Come right now!”  I turned.  Left hand along the wooden bannister rail.  My shoes.  Clop.  Clap.  Clop.  I followed her down the stairs and out my grandma’s front door.

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Angel chapter 33

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XXXIII.  Between two worlds

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The Great Mismatch Divide

It may be as I write my way through my story that I will rediscover my real voice because I rediscover my real self.  Am I prepared to experience my own experience of myself?  I don’t ask this question esoterically.  I am beginning to understand that when I left home at 18 I didn’t only walk away from abuse.  I also walked away from myself as the person who experienced that abuse.

I left home having a kind of amnesia about all I experienced because what I knew in my life prior to 18 had absolutely nothing to do with the world I walked into.  I crossed no bridge between worlds.  I stepped onto a jet place in Anchorage, Alaska and stepped off of it in Baltimore, Maryland (on my way to Navy boot camp).  Once my feet stepped onto that new land there was no going back and no part of the life I had known before came off that plane with me.  I had simply disappeared from one world and appeared in an entirely different one.

The only possible connection between my past and my new present would have had to have existed inside of me, and I knew nothing.  I was a tabula rasa, a blank slate of a human being.  I was a refugee, but I didn’t know that.  I was an immigrant into a new and completely foreign world.  Nobody knew me.  I knew no one.  One zippered flowered cloth suitcase containing a few toiletry items and a change of clothing – and my body.  I was my parents’ abused child when I left Anchorage and an adult when I arrived in Maryland.  That was that.

Now I am writing to put my whole story together.  I am returning to my early world having lived through all of my intervening years being someone I hardly recognize.  My amnesia, though not literal in the usual sense of the word, has been handy to me.  As long as I didn’t know who I was I could be somebody else.

Who I was in my first 18 years of life was who my parents allowed me to be.  Who I have been since then is who everyone else I have ever been in the presence of allowed me to be.  Where is my in-between-me?

When I see someone, I don’t know who they are.  When someone sees me, they don’t know who I am.  It seems to me that everyone simply lives in between who people see and who they don’t know.  In between supposedly people communicate.  Certainly they look at one another, make expressions in their faces and movements and talk a lot.

How is this different from what birds and dogs and cats and horses do minus the words?  Humans make no more real sense to me than any other kind of creature does.  I don’t think I’m supposed to feel this way.  I’m supposed to know something I don’t.  Something I am beginning to see at age 62 that I can never learn.  It is far, far too late.

Before I left home at 18 I did not feel lonely.  Mildred’s abusive illness had forced me into lengths of isolation all of my life until that point so I well knew what being alone WAS.  But I had no frame of reference, no alternative perspectives, nobody had ever talked to me or enabled me to talk about my experiences.  I had no words and no conscious self-reflecting thoughts about anything that I had ever experienced that truly mattered beyond basic facts as I had learned them.  I simply continued to live, only in an entirely different world where I experienced different things than other people did.

Teicher’s research group concluded in their 2003 article I mentioned earlier in this book, The neurobiological consequences of early stress and childhood maltreatment, that there is a “mismatch” between those people (1) who were severely abused and traumatized in their earliest life within a malevolent environment who had their physiological body-brain development changed as a result, and those people (2) who were raised in a benevolent environment and did not experience trauma-altered development.  What does this mismatch mean?  I am not a scientist.  I can say nothing about what this “mismatch” between these two populations of people is like for anyone except me.  Because what I experience even now through the body the trauma my parents caused me changed during my early years, I have been forced through default to do my best to explore and to understand what dynamics within my parents were in operation within them as they traumatized me.  There is nobody else to do this work for me but me.

Those of us whose physiological body-brain-self-development was altered by trauma have been left all of our lives without the facts we need to understand our experience of being alive.  I care very little at this point in my life (or in my writing) about the so-called clinical words the benevolently-formed people have invented to describe what they may see of the “problems” we malevolently-formed survivors of extreme early neglect, abuse and trauma may appear to suffer with.  All of us on both sides of the Great Mismatch Divide can benefit from accepting the truth that while the realities on both sides of this Divide are very, very different from one another they are both equally valid.  Both sides are constructed of features distinct from one another in critically important ways.  We each live in different inner geographical territories that are essentially and profoundly unique to our own population.

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Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

Children grow into verbal language.  Those of us raised within and formed by the worst malevolent environments from birth (and/or before) most often existed in our world with verbal abuse present.  (An online search using these words together, “stop the storm verbal abuse,” will lead you to some of my Stop the Storm blog posts on verbal abuse including +SOME PRIMARY LINKS ON INFANT VERBAL ABUSE that describe the devastating effects verbal abuse has on young infants and children.) 

Along with the terrible brain-mind-self developmental changes that the horrors of verbal abuse cause, its survivors correspondingly suffer from the absence of the “nutrition” we desperately needed that benevolent-world children receive through positive, nurturing, encouraging, affirming, supportive and accurate caring words.  We received nothing in the way of verbal exchange that would have allowed us to REALLY match words to our own ongoing experience of being our own self as a child alive in the world.  Through these patterns of neglect and abuse we grew up vastly misinformed and uniformed in our thoughts – as human thoughts are designed to advance into the realms of higher cognition through words – about our self in the world.

The best was I can think of to describe what my own experience was and is like as a trauma-altered person who has survived to age 62 as I live on the “benevolent” side of the Great Mismatch Divide is to use the word amnesia.  My transition from the malevolent world I was raised in to the benevolent world I entered next took place across the more than 4,000 miles I traversed via jet plane on that October 3, 1969 day I crossed the Divide from one world into the other one.  While I know now that I did not forget all I had been through pre-age 18 I did not remember it in words, either.  I did not remember what I did not forget.

The writing I am doing now requires that I work with as much of the unforgotten non-remembered information I can find within myself.  Writing requires that I now find words to describe what my self-amnesia lacks.  Because I am not a scientist I am free to borrow words from the benevolent world to describe what I know of myself as a native of a malevolent world.

I apply the fluid metaphoric content within the poetry of language to the description of my experience.  My favorite borrowed and reapplied words come from the fields of attachment study.  I do not find the cold, remote harshness of so-called clinical words to be accurate or useful to me.  They originated on their side of the Divide and as far as I am concerned most of them can stay there.  I do use Borderline Personality Disorder and psychosis as support pillars for the verbal bridge I am creating because from my point of view they describe constellations of patterns within my mother as they caused her to overwhelm my experience during the first 18 years of my life in profoundly damaging ways.

I also borrow attachment study terms such as safe/unsafe, secure/insecure attachment as well as the more specific words “disorganized disoriented insecure attachment disorder.”  I understand that this term closely matches the experience of being alive in a trauma-changed body, as does this next term I wish to introduce:  Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).  I see the experience of “disorganized disoriented insecure attachment disorder” and RAD as being inextricably related to one another.

Although I believe that Reactive Attachment Disorder is a term that most accurately describes malevolent world development and experience, I recognize that I have to define how I use the term differently than do benevolent world people.  Language is useless in conveyance of information if there is no shared comprehension of what any word signifies (points to).  Because nobody owns the words in the Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) combination, they are fair use words that are not owned by anyone, not protected by copyright or patent.  I am free to use them to form the basis of my communications about life within a malevolent world.

In their formal use these words are applied by “experts” only to describe patterns seen in extremely insecurely attached children who have suffered from severe neglect, abuse and trauma in their earliest years.  Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) includes both “inhibited” and “disinhibited” patterns of behavior.  A simple online search using the word combination “child abuse reactive attachment disorder” will provide readers with benevolent-world generated meaning for the popular use of this term.

The fact that benevolent-world “experts” consider Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) a disorder ONLY of childhood does not stop me from using this term as the primo cable capable of carrying the most accurate information between worlds across the Great Mismatch Divide.  Those of us in adulthood who were “evolutionarily” altered from exposure to severe trauma during our early developmental stages (as Teicher’s research group describes) know what this term means as it most accurately describes our reality.  I believe that the term Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) defines the common ground of our inner geography as trauma-changed people.

Reactive Attachment Disorder does not mysteriously, magically or miraculously disappear at some age point as those children cross into adulthood.  As far as I am concerned that term describes the patterns of physiological changes that trauma made in our development that last inside our bodies for our entire life.  When I throw a bucket of words into the air that might be used to describe survivors’ reality it is those words, Reactive Attachment Disorder, that fall back to earth where we live.  I do not say that RAD is a “diagnosis.”  It describes physiological facts about being a trauma altered person.

Benevolent world experts use a vast array of technical, clinical and diagnostic words to describe an equally vast array of manifestations of how trauma altered development plays itself out across the lifespan of survivors.  Their words are no more or less real to me, however, than is my own term the Great Mismatch Divide.  The Divide can seem to be a heap of earth and stone raised in the center to create great heights that separate the malevolent from the benevolent world experience.  My term also represents a wide, seemingly bottomless chasm of separation between our two worlds.  The only verbal cable strong enough to cross this Divide no matter how we visualize it is the term Reactive Attachment Disorder as it spans the human experiences within both worlds.

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Order and Disorder

The malevolent world I was born into, the world my physiology had to react to, respond to and adapt to, the world I lived in for the very long 18 years of my childhood, challenged me in ways that only fellow early trauma survivors can begin to comprehend.  My world was rampant with disagreeable, disordering, disorienting, disastrous experiences.  If I had not been able to find ways to create order inside of my body-brain-self-mind I would be dead.  I therefore do not apply the term Reactive Attachment Disorder to myself to suggest or imply that I am flawed in any way.  I was trauma-changed and therefore I am different from those people who were formed within their benevolent world across the Great Mismatch Divide.

There is no possible way for anyone to stay alive and NOT react continually within their environment.  There is also no possible way to be alive and NOT be engaged in attachment processes.  These first two words of the RAD term describe nothing out of the ordinary.  This leaves me considering the third word, DISORDER.  It is only within this word that anyone could intimate a value-ridden belief that there must be something “wrong” with early trauma survivors.  Any thinking by benevolent world-formed people that misconstrues the meaning of the word disorder in the term RAD is missing the point that in our material world of duality, order and disorder exist exactly where life itself takes place.

Life is a series of changes that occupy the time in space where living beings exist.  If humans do not react appropriately to the continually disordering effects of ongoing change life does not continue.  It is the process of restoring order after disorder – or, to use attachment studies lingo, the process of creating “repair” after “ruptures” that allows us to remain alive.

No matter how grandiose our perception of being human might be, none of us escapes the molecular processes that sustain our existence.  Within the matrix of our physiological self, our body, we generate our response to life as we continuously react to disorders in our attachment to life in the best way that we can.  The patterns of order and disorder within a malevolent world contrast sharply in distinct ways from the patterns of order and disorder within a benevolent world.  It is the mismatch between these patterns – as our species allows them to continue – that needs to most concern us.

My personal sense of amnesia about myself in my life exists because I was fortunate enough to cross the Great Mismatch Divide into a different far more benevolent world that was the world I was formed within.  This benevolent world cannot actually help me to remember myself because this world shares no parallel “matching” experience of trauma.  In fact natives of these two worlds share entirely different histories right down to our most essential molecular levels.

I am not going to waste any energy in assuaging the ego of benevolent world people as they excuse their lack of understanding about what I say exactly as I intend it to be said.  Yes, the species I am a member of has reacted to restore order throughout our long history of surviving trauma – much of it created by members of our species against one another (which is what infant-child neglect and abuse is).

The ways that I have had to adapt myself to living in this “benevolent” world have not, in MANY, MANY ways, been good for me.  In essence I have been forced to retain my amnesia, to not remember what I will never forget about the hardships and horrors of growing up within such a malevolent world, because this benevolent world wants to ignore the truth of the existence of a world of which they want no part.

Where is the line between “ignore” and “ignorance?”  Why shake up one’s perception of a comfortable reality if such a breach can be avoided?  Once a change in the order of ongoing experience is detected anywhere a reaction inevitably takes place.  As we are challenged so shall we respond.  If we can avoid knowing a problem exists we are spared having to attend to it.  All negative judgments levied by benevolent world-formed people against malevolent world-formed people are ultimately intended to shut out the truth about neglect, abuse and trauma done to infants and children.

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Dissociation

I will no longer pretend I am a native of the world built on ignorance about the other world that formed me.  I didn’t ask for what happened to me.  I didn’t ask to be pushed so far away from the ordinary experiences of ordinary people during my childhood that I don’t even know what a person really is by ordinary definition.  When I was a very young child I fought back in reaction to the trauma being done to me in every single way I possibly could.  Mother fought back harder.  As time went on and as no help for me arrived, my range of adaptive reactive options became increasingly limited until they hardly existed at all.

I write these words today at this point in the writing of my story to create an opening for me to increasingly speak in my own voice about myself in my childhood during the years covered in Mildred’s writings.  I have to create a way to find myself in my own amnesia.  Except for a few glimpses into my own reality within the malevolent world of my childhood I have preserved my own amnesia as it enveloped me the instant I boarded that jet liner to leave Anchorage so long ago.

The act of breaking through the enclosure of my amnesia requires that I reattach to myself without reacting with negative judgments against myself as a child.  I find I cannot proceed forward unless I exactly have a cable to grab ahold of to guide me between my childhood world and this current world I reside in at this moment.  That cable exists in the verbal construct of Reactive Attachment Disorder.  This cable, this concept, directly connects how I was in the world as a severely abused child to how I have always been in the world even as an adult.  That cable stretches taunt and true through the vagaries of my amnesia.

I feel my body chilled and shivering from blasts of hostile wind.  Muscles tighten.  Teeth clench.  I summon my determination.  I understand that my own experience of being a self in my life was brutally challenged every time Mother attacked me in any way from the time I was born.  The only hope I had of survival existed inside my own skin.  Every single attack created a rupture in my ongoing experience of being my own self as a child in my life.  Benevolent-world terminology would most likely apply the world “dissociation” to my experience of these frequent repeating abrupt changes Mildred’s attacks created in my ongoing-self-in-the-world experience.

Dissociation is another word I use as carefully as I do the word evil.  Please take a moment to read again the words above I underlined.  I mean exactly what I say.  Dissociation had NOTHING to do with how I experienced the attacks themselves.  Dissociation happened at the junctures where traumatic change took place – in between my ongoing-self-in-the-world experiences – as repeating traumas interrupted my life.

I had to endure the overwhelming stimulation of all the senses inside of me during Mother’s attacks.  My attention went nowhere except into hyper-drive.  I am very certain that if I had “dissociated” during most of Mother’s beatings she would have killed me.  I had to actively “participate” in her physical attacks to protect my body in any way that I could.

While attacks were underway and during the time it took for me to physiologically recuperate after them, I lost that same amount of time I needed to simply BE a child doing what children need to do.  I had massive segments of my childhood stolen from me.  Nothing can return to me what I lost of myself in my own life during those stolen times – and there were MANY.  What I can only refer to as my amnesia began to take place across the span of time Mother’s attacks captured my own experience of myself in my OWN life separate from my mother.

I claim use and meaning of the word dissociation as I take the word across the Great Mismatch Divide into the world I knew.  From as far back as I can remember I was entirely present, fully awake and aware during every attack.  I believe it is fundamentally an inaccurate assumption that dissociation automatically takes place during active abuse.  Again, I have no memory of sexual abuse and make no claims regarding surviving those traumas.

If this word dissociation describes any aspect of my childhood life it only relates to the great, virtually impossible action of connecting these brutalizing patterns together with my own ongoing self experiences when abuse was not directly happening to me.  So great were the ruptures that Mother’s attacks caused me that I could not “hook” the end of one abuse experience to the beginning of my own ongoing self experience.  The ends of these totally different realms of experience did not match up with one another.  They would not have done so for anyone.

I see this as being simply a microcosm example of the profound differences between a malevolent world experience and a benevolent world experience.  My sense of myself in my own ongoing life was by definition benevolent.  My other set of experiences through abuse attacks were of a malevolent world. 

There was a Great Mismatch Divide created in my life to one extent or another nearly all of the time due to the comprehensive psychotic abuse Mildred did to me.  It would take a special kind of stupid ignorance to ever suggest that anyone, especially an infant or a child, could put together these kinds of contrasting experiences into a coherent whole.  By essential design these two world experiences do NOT belong together!  They do not connect to one another.  They do not attach to one another.  They do not associate with one another.  They are fire and water.

Developmental neuroscientists describe what happens to infant physiology when STOP and GO – patterns of stimulation and of tampering down of stimulation – take place in the nervous system-brain at the same time.  Simply put, when this happens “there’s hell to pay.”  If you floor your moving car’s gas and brake pedals at the same time you will get a little idea of what this experience does to a human body, especially to the small developing body of an infant or a young child.

This kind of reaction to stressful changes in the environment is certainly not the most helpful one, but sometimes a body has no other choice.  How can we fight against or flee from an attack we cannot fight against or flee from?  How can order be preserved within a body that is suffering the massively disordering effects of ongoing attack?

A traumatized little person’s body-brain will choose to “dissociate” activation of the gas pedal from activation of the brake pedal if at all possible to preserve life.  If so-called disorders end up being physiologically built into a developing person they were put there because life was preserved in the midst of conditions that never should have existed in the first place.  Ever.

That human caused trauma exists in the life of infants and children being raised within a malevolent world is a tragedy beyond description.  That we endure and survive these conditions is the epitome of a miracle.  That we made it out of our malevolent childhoods should be heralded as the greatest feat our species can accomplish. 

There is nothing defective about us.  We are trauma changed and we are different.  That we are met upon our exit out of hell by an ignorant, uninformed and uncaring population of fortunate benevolent world-formed people is just another traumatic tragedy in our lives.  That the world we knew doesn’t match the world ordinary people know creates more of the same patterns of discomfort that we have lived with all of our lives.  Although we cannot change the past we can change the present and the future.  It is in the best interests of all of us to do so. 

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Alone

So where does this leave us, those of us whose very bodies were built by suffering and those whose bodies were not?  I am left only able to speak for myself.

I must find my own common thread.  The combined forces of my childhood created me to be alone.  Within a world so unpeopled I was barred from sharing anything more than the simplest expressions of humanity to humanity.  The same abilities I used all of my childhood to remain visible as a body while remaining in isolation as a self let me leave one world to enter a different one that I have never been a part of.  I watch.  From a great distance, I watch.

Like a pendulum set into motion and left alone long enough I stop inside.  I stop.  I watch again.  This is a very lonely way to live, a loneliness that cannot be fixed.  An enduring aloneness that cannot be more than temporarily altered.  No one should have to live this way.  Between two worlds in a permanent state of belonging to neither one.  Being a person between two worlds.  Watching.  Hearing.  Suspended in life like a leaf on a tree by nothing but life itself.

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Angel chapter 29

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XXIX.  Mirroring self

What would happen to you if the next time you looked into a mirror you did not see yourself reflected back to you?  How would you feel?  What would you think?  What would you do?  Something would happen to you.  I guarantee it.

“Impossible,” you say?  Unlikely?  Perhaps.  But for some of us this kind of invisibility is what we were born to.

When an infant comes into the world it relies from its first breath and its first cry upon those who give it care to be guided into the world.  A newborn has no other way to begin to know it has a self because it IS a self.  Newborns are biologically designed to seek their self in the mirror of their mother’s eyes.

A mother who is to one degree or another preoccupied with unresolved trauma in her own life will show an emptiness back to her infant where the infant is supposed to see itself shining.  A mother’s preoccupation with anything other than her infant’s complete well-being can literally starve the self of her infant to death before it has ever had a chance to recognize itself in her eyes.

We can use words like “missing love” or even describe this vacancy as “preexisting distress” in a mother, but the physiological facts of early infant body-brain-self-development are that if a mother cannot mirror her infant back to itself in what is termed “good enough” ways, such a fundamentally deprived infant cannot develop properly no matter how well its other basic biological needs might seem to be met.

An infant’s need for its mother (and other earliest caregivers) to attune to it is a body-brain-self essential developmental requirement.  Any infant who is deprived of the chance to have itself attuned to and mirrored not only in the eyes of its mother but also in her voice and movements toward her infant will have its earliest development altered by the trauma these missing interactions cause in the infant.

Under ordinary conditions the patterns within safe and secure infant-mother attachment interactions happen naturally.  Under unordinary conditions parts and pieces of what an infant needs to have to build a healthy body-brain-self are missing.  Over time such a deprived infant will suffer from disturbances in its patterns of being alive that few of us are prepared to recognize.

Unsafe, insecure and inadequate responses by early caregivers to infants cause insecure attachment disorders that underlie disturbances on every level of being alive as a self in a body.  HOW such an early trauma survivor will be in its lifetime will inevitably be far different than it would have been if its first 33 months of life (conception to age 2) had gone correctly.

Missing parts and pieces of safe and secure attachment patterns change the way a self develops from the start of life.  These changes are complicated because all aspects of early development are interconnected and dependent upon one another.  Given enough of the wrong kind of experience an infant will simply come down a different chute prepared in every way to live a life in a world that is a malevolent rather than a benevolent one.

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My mother was devastatingly altered in her development from the time she was born (see Story Without Words.)  By the time she grew to an age of beginning cognizance the patterns of her young life followed a theme best described in a childhood ditty often repeated to her:  “There was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  When she was good she was very very good, and when she was bad she was horrid.”  For all its purported innocence, the patterns contained in those words became very real in a mantra that clinched the inevitable destruction of my mother.

By the time I had completed the process that birthed me into the world, Mildred’s mind had suffered a psychotic break along the fissure within her caused by very real enactments of that child’s poem during her childhood.  Long before Mildred was old enough to understand the meaning of those words neglect, abuse and trauma had interfered so much with the development of her body-brain-self that she had no healthy defense ability to coalesce into one whole self once she was further attacked by the influence of the disastrous split-child mantra that ran the world Mildred continued to grow up in.

“Very very good” Mildred seemed to be loved.  “Horrid” Mildred was hated, “punished” and ignored.

After her psychotic mental break there were two literalized sides to Mildred.  The all-good Mildred was her husband’s wife and her all-good children’s mother.  “Horrid” Mildred was my mother.  As a result I was not recognized by her as myself.  She had no ability to attune to me or to mirror me back to myself.

Through some miracle that I may never be able to comprehend in this lifetime, the love in my 13 ½ month older brother, John, enabled him to attune to me as he mirrored enough of me back to me that I was able to grow my own self far enough into the world to survive.  However, I suspect there is more to that part of my story.

It seems possible to me that because my mother was ONLY Horrid Mildred, and because Good Mildred had an all-good child to mother, and because my brother and I were so close in age that she could not be Good Mother to John at the same time she was Horrid Mother to me, during much of my first two years of life a safe zone was created for me by accident.  Because Mildred could find no way to be Horrid Mother to me at the same time she was Good Mother to John, the worst of her interactions with me were eliminated from much of my ongoing early experience.

It was therefore the combination of John’s adoring attentiveness to me during this time as well as the particular patterns of Mildred’s psychotic mind I am describing that saved me.  Although I am certain that never, not one single time was my Horrid Mother able to look at me, speak to me, or touch me with anything like genuine affection during this time (or ever), in the interest of preserving the entire sanctity of her Good Mothering of her little adored Johnny she did not openly harm me when I was in his presence.

It can best be said that in Mildred’s broken mind it was as if I was my brother’s doll baby.  She allowed this because she could not be Johnny’s Good Mother and prevent it.  I know that as a baby if I ever winced he was instantly at my side with the fullest intention to “repair” whatever “rupture” I was experiencing.  I also know that the “borderline” that preserved the silence between Mildred’s two minds could not actually be crossed when my brother was with me.

Did her illness allow her to be aware of the seething hatred Horrid Mother had for all-bad Linda during these times?  Did that hatred erupt any possible time she could get to me without John being present?

These early years as the patterns of Mildred’s split mind processes were in play let me experience enough safety and security that I could survive all that came next as Horrid Mother was increasingly able to separate me from John as we grew older.  In the meantime it is important for me to describe another protective factor that I believe was available to me from birth because of the exact way Mildred’s psychosis operated.

It is my belief and understanding that all humans are born with the essential characteristic of being good.  Because of the complete good-bad split in Mother’s mind, because I only had Horrid Mother, because all she ever felt for me was the hatred the all-bad mind enabled her to feel for me, that is all I ever saw reflected back to me in my mother’s eyes any time she looked into mine.  To varying degrees – depending on who was present with us – I would have heard hatred in her voice and felt it in her hands, as well.  She never fooled me because true goodness cannot be faked.  No pretending can mimic true goodness.  I knew the difference.

(I recommend three books related to essential human goodness:  (1) Born for Love:  Why Empathy Is Essential – and Endangered, by Maia Szalavitz and Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, William Morrow, NY, 2010; and (2) Born to Be Good:  The Science of a Meaningful Life, by Dacher Keltner, W.W. Norton and Company, NY, 2009; and (3) The Oxytocin Factor:  Tapping the Hormone of Calm, Love, and Healing by Kerstin Uvnas Moberg (translated from the Swedish by Roberta W. Francis), DE CAPO PRESS, MA, 2003)

Because all the patterns of Mildred’s broken mind were in operation from the time I was born, I was simply constitutionally incapable of ever accepting the hate in Horrid Mother’s eyes as being any reflection of me back to myself.  What I saw in her eyes was not mirroring me.  It was there.  It was something fierce.  But it was never a reflection of me.

Having such hate in her eyes meant that this entire attachment mirroring process that is so essential for forming a growing infant’s brain-body-self never happened between Horrid Mother and me.  When it came to Mildred’s interactions with me, her mirror turned toward me was wrought iron black.  No part of me could possibly be reflected back to me in those eyes. 

Because I had NEVER seen myself in her eyes I never knew what I was missing.  More importantly, because I had never seen myself mirrored back to me in her eyes I did not ever look for what had never been there.  I do not minimize the pain Horrid Mother caused me.  I understand the vast impact that the trauma she caused me had on my physiological development.  But my environment did not damage me in the ways that Mother’s had damaged her.

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My entire piece of writing this morning, as inadequate as it is to address the complexities of the processes I have alluded to, has been intended to take me in the direction of an important point I want to make about one of the central reasons why I write this book.  Humans not only require attunement and mirroring with others at the start of our life, we need these processes all of our life.

If I had not experienced any positive early infant contact with my father, grandmother and most significantly with my brother, I could not have grown into my body-brain the connections, pathways and circuits required to experience attunement and mirroring between self-and-self and self-and-others.  No matter how minimal, even pitiful, the opportunities I had might seem to be if compared to nearly everyone else, they were enough for me to use all the way through my horrific childhood and through the rest of my life.

Because humans are designed by nature to look for the mirroring of their own inner self reality wherever they can find it, that’s exactly what I did.

Most tragically child Mildred heard her own experience accurately reflected back to her in the good versus horrid child nursery rhyme.  Her patterns of attachment to her caregivers were broken along the lines those words describe.  As I grew to an age I can clearly remember I found myself and my experience reflected back to me of course in the story of Cinderella, very importantly in the book of Heidi by Johanna Spyri, and as I grew past middle childhood in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.

These are just a few examples of how important I believe it is for those of us who live very unusual lives because of the early trauma we survived to be able to see our reality reflected back to us in any way we can!  Right now I wish to say that as I make my way forward in the writing of this book (and any others that may follow this one) I am aware that there may be readers who see the reality of their own childhood reflected in the mirror of my writings.   These readers will resonate with my words because they will recognize themselves as they were also forced to endure in a psychotically abusive early world.

The possibility that I can create such a mirror for others who endured what I did motivates me to forge ahead as honestly as I can as I leave a trail of words behind that fellow sufferers call follow as they will.  For all the difficulties in my life that Horrid Mother Mildred created for me, it was the very complete break in her mind that saved me coupled with the existence of my baby brother – exactly how and who he was (and still is!).  Mildred’s caregivers mixed her up completely.  They reflected two different Mildred’s back to her.

My early life was horrible but it was completely clear.  That clarity preserved me.  It also enables me and obligates me to write my story.

 

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Angel chapter 28

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XXVIII.  What cannot be spoken

Linda would have fussed all over the place.”  It matters to me even now at age 62 as I write these words that I am still struggling to learn the truth about what Mildred in her illness was doing to me even as she wrote her words.  I am learning how to free myself from the power her words still have over me.

When I read “fussed all over the place” the deepest parts of who I am BELIEVE HER!  I feel shame.  I feel guilt.  And as I do I lose any sense of my own reality as if Mother, as long dead as she is, still owns the essence of me.

I hear all of Mother’s words about what a horrible child I was as a cascading torrential tumult of truth.  She was big.  She was powerful.  She was right.

Where am I?  Where is my foothold?  My perspective?  Some deep part of me is grappling with what her psychosis even was.  How can I learn to know that nothing Mother ever felt, thought or said about me was TRUE – because it was not real?

How can I free myself from the horror, the death grip, the condemnation of ME – everything about ME – that her sick psychotic mind told her WAS real, that she told others was real, that she told me was real?

There was a tormented man at the hospital where I did my art therapy graduate degree internship who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.  I often saw him lunge through midair, fists flying in defense as he fought back against invisible assailants nobody else could see.  Mother’s psychosis was equally real.  But because her psychosis created a reality centered on me from the time I was born, she made her reality real to me.  Her assailant was me.

But I wasn’t invisible!  I had a body that occupied space.  I was real.  How could I know she placed her own invisible demons exactly where I was?

I try a different mental tact.  I try to imagine how I would feel in the presence of any sick child.  My own children when they were small.  My own young grandchild.  I would never perceive – never possibly perceive – that anything they said or did was fussing “all over the place!”  Why do I believe it about myself?  What power had her madness that it still has me?

These words.  As I write them.  Bring tears to my eyes.  I have always been in the face of such a tragedy.  I had no other childhood.  No mercy shown to me.  Such conflict between a mother and child.

Can it ever be retrieved from within?  Is there any rescuing?  Will what was so broken ever be made right again?

Who do I cry for as I write?  What do I still remember?  Usually, of course, I do not ever entrance myself with my own reality.  I do not come this close to what I know.  What my body remembers.  Those claws of hers.  Inside of me.  Clawing away my own rational thoughts.

Thoughts fail me now.  There are places inside where only tears reside.  They cannot fight back against psychosis.  They cannot turn the knob on a different door I can choose to walk through.

Instead I do what I’ve always done.  I leave the pain alone.  I walk away, but not far enough.  Never far enough as my stomach now tightens as tears obliterate my words.

Because there were no words then inside of me to fight back against the words of my mother.  A kind of grinding silence overcomes a child’s powers because.

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From Mother’s letter to Father with my comments — the italicized words were Mother’s — from chapter 27 of ‘Angel’

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July 7, 1957 Sunday night

I was hoping I could tie up our shots here tomorrow but Cindy still cannot have hers.  She’s well (or better) one day and sick the next.  Now she has developed a very bad glandular condition.  On the same order as Linda’s (supposed mumps) only much worse!  The big difference is with Cindy.  She never complains and is such a good girl!  Linda would have fussed all over the place.

Tones of my wretched witch mother here!  My “supposed mumps?”  What?  As if I invented my “supposed mumps?”  Who told her I had “supposed mumps?”  At five years old I sure doubt that I did!  Oh, God’s child “never complains and is such a good girl.”  And Me?  What a NASTY sentence, but I am glad those words exist in this letter.  This was the voice of my hate-filled mentally ill psychotic mother:  “Linda would have fussed all over the place.” 

Evil, awful, bad “devil’s child” me who could not even get being sick right.  This is Mildred hating me for Cindy being sick “only much worse” than I had been.  “The big difference with Cindy” – was that Mildred’s psychotic mind had broken in half creating evil child me, and then had broken a third time (as I mentioned earlier) to create an entirely new branch of her psychosis regarding perfect Cynthia. 

This is a tiny example of how the broken hope and broken shame worked in real life.  I had no way of knowing how doomed I was.  I could not know how impossible it was for me to ever BE right, ever be “good.”  Did I ever think about wanting to be loved, wanting to be adored as my sister was, as all of my other siblings were?  No.  I did not.  There was never an opening for me to enter THAT world, most certainly never even in my thoughts.  Not once. 

Not one single time in the entire 18 years I spent in Mildred’s hell was I ever given any chance of gaining a perspective that NOTHING was WRONG with me, that what was wrong was that Mother was terribly, terribly mentally ill.  Were my circumstances any less dire because I DID NOT know?  I strongly suspect that my complete innocence ended up saving me. 

I was not spared suffering by my not having a solitary clue how wrong, how unfair, how insane, how evil what happened to me was.  I was spared any mental conflict; the kind of conflict that I believe broke my mother’s child mind.  I could not try to understand what was not possible to understand.  I did not try to answer questions I did not even have enough information available to me to ask.  I had never known anything different.  This was my reality.  That was that.  There were NO alternatives.

I certainly do not blame my sister for any part of this.  She was barely four years old at this time.  But I can still feel Mildred’s poisoned knife twisting inside of me because I was fundamentally programmed from birth to believe I was as hopelessly evil as Mother said I was.

I will never know in this world how I continually felt hearing these kinds of mind-control words that divided me and my world apart from the world everyone else lived within.  How can a child be so despised and hated?  How did I survive? 

All of us heard these repeated patterns thousands and THOUSANDS of times!  Darling Cindy.  Adored Cindy.  Angel Cindy.  Cindy my parents’ love child.  And I couldn’t even get something as simple as being sick right.  (I am hoping that Cindy will agree to write for these books.  So far she has not said yay or nay to my repeating requests.  I understand.)

Today we decided to go out to breakfast for a change and Cindy said she wasn’t hungry.  (She seldom is anymore.)  She looked listless and just not well.  I felt her and she was truly burning up – but it was another ‘scorcher’ of a day!!  But I felt the others and they were not as hot to the touch and I knew Cindy’s heat was not all due to the weather.  She wouldn’t eat so I ordered her some peaches, which she enjoyed.

I felt her glands and her left one under her ear was the size of a small egg!  Brought her right home and took her temperature = 104°.  This afternoon I brought her to Hankins Medical Group in Azusa.  The doctor gave her a very thorough exam and said it’s a bad cold (or virus) which has settled in her glands.  They gave her a shot and she’s to have two more for the next two days.

Poor darling Cindy!  She never even winces – how I love and adore that child of oursShe’s such an angel – I die when she’s sick.  I gave her some birthday presents and she was better tonight –.  Oh, Bill the other day All On Her Own she made the sweetest picture, which I’ll send you, of you.  It is when we got married, holding hands.  She did us very well, even – hands, arms feet etc.  The thought was so sweet – she’s our “own love child.”

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