Archives for April 2013

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Ragdoll Redeemed: House with no Paint

image_12 (4)One day while napping I overheard  ten-year-old Ronnie speaking in soothing tones to our four-year-old brother Russell. As often happens with the oldest child, Ronnie had become responsible for protecting Russell and me from the screaming  matches. The fights between Howard and my mother were escalating in tone and regularity.

I was pretty sure the reason that I was not welcomed into any of the neighbor’s homes was because the whole neighborhood could hear the verbal battles in our house. That and the sap on my feet, the lice in my hair, and the dirt from the dumpsters. In spite of any prayers and wishes from Grandmother and me, the hollering became more and more intense.

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Ragdoll Redeemed: House with No Paint

holy water 5This gypsy lifestyle of roaming the woods and the neighborhood was a daily ritual from the time I was barely four years old. From sun-up until well past dark, I was on my own in my wanderings. Sometimes I would seek shelter in the hot afternoons by sneaking into an abandoned barrack. Many had not yet been converted to homes, and it was easy to break into broken doors or holes punched in the walls by vandals. But most of my comfort came from the exhilaration I felt when supported  in the loving arms of my trees. No one, except my brother, ever questioned my whereabouts or went looking for me. Usually he didn’t come, either, because we both knew the farther I stayed away from the house with no paint, the safer I would be.

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Attachment: If Not to a Person Then What Substitute?

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In posting this week’s excerpts from my book Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe, I am reminded of the developmental challenges of children who feel safer attaching to things in nature, animals and soft toys like tattered ragdolls. I was luckier than some children in that I had the consistent connection of my beloved grandmother and the watchful eye of my older brother even though both were either too scared or too young to protect me from abuse.

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Ragdoll Redeemed: The House with No Paint

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Howard also inherited  my grandmother. Like a barnacle, Elizabeth was permanently attached to her daughter’s life, embedded  in her very existence. Not long after the marriage, what quiet had existed in the house was gone, and it was a condition that lasted for years. Too little to understand the sheer volume that bellowed from our dingy house, I hung my head in shame when the children playing outside gawked at the noise. The neighbors simply closed their doors or turned their heads from the earsplitting arguing.

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The Faces We Live: What Faces/Roles develop from PTSD?

“I don’t think she ever gave a thought to what Howard might be hiding behind his coal-black eyes. No one thought about post-traumatic stress disorder in those days. A man just went to war, waded through his buddies’ blood and guts, killed the men who killed his friends, and then, without fanfare, came home and started a family. To the government and society, this was a simple sequence. No one considered the potential ramifications of witnessing the horrors of war.” Excerpt from Ragdoll Redeemed: Growing up in the Shadow of Marilyn Monroe

Lisa Cypers Kamen, MA Executive Director, Harvesting Happiness says, “When PTSD transfers from the battlefield to the home, this disorder quickly becomes a family affair. So set an extra plate at dinner tonight; PTSD is joining you. One of the things I hear time and time again is that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an isolated condition. If you think that’s true, you’re not alone; I used to be one of those people. But when I began working with veterans, I discovered something profound: PTSD affects every person in the sufferer’s life, from spouses to children to extended family to friends. Secondhand trauma is real, and if it lingers untreated, can be just as scarring as having PTSD yourself. For children, the exposure to PTSD is especially toxic.

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Ragdoll Redeemed: The House with No Paint

Christmas w HowardMy  mother—God bless  her—couldn’t carry through on many things. She couldn’t hold her temper, a husband, or a job. Maybe it was failing to marry my real father that made her so determined to never fail again at landing a husband. She made a vow even before I was born, that she would find me a father and make me legitimate. My older half-brother, Ronnie, had been born with a proper heritage: two married parents. Unfortunately, he also never got to know his dad, who died in the war.

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The Development of “self” as Multidimensional

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From the beginning of my blog, The Faces We Live, using everyday language and the Internal Family System Model, I have attempted to demonstrate that a “self” and/or our minds are multidimensional. Ten years ago, together with Jeanette Rodriguez, Professor of Theology at Seattle University, we collected large amounts of research from various resources such as sociology, psychology, culture, religions  and neuroscience that normalizes and affirms the human person as a multifaceted, pluralistic and relational self.

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The House with No Paint, Ragdoll Redeemed

Brother in backyard (3)WHEN I WAS five months old, Mom found a way to move us all from Redlands to San Diego, where she deliberately set out to meet and marry a handsome sailor. Mom was attractive, with her long, chestnut brown hair, sapphire blue eyes, and porcelain skin, and she looked younger than her thirty-two years. In no time, she had done just what she intended, with one small difference—he was an ex-soldier, not a sailor. Howard T. Kelley had striking, blue-black, wavy hair, and eyes so dark you couldn’t tell the pupils from the irises. Eyes of coal and choking hands—those would eventually become the most predominant recollections of the only legal father I would know for the first ten years of my life.