Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Looking for a god Doctor?

This was my recent response to a Mom at Yahoo groups (ADD) on how to find a Mom in her area:

You wrote on Oct. 27, 2008 at 9:49 AM

Phone or email any one of the major suppliers of naturopathic supplies, like the outsource labs and pharmacuetical grade supplements. I don't have the websites but here are some of the names I can think of for supplements: Thorne, Medi Herb, Standard Process, and Pure Encasulations. For outsouce labs, there are two I can think of right now: US biotek, and Genova Labs. I have worked for a holistic chiropractor and these are folks she used. Often these websites will have a place for you to type in your zip code and they will respond back with the doctors in your area, and the driving radius. They want you to buy their producst so they will refer you to the doctors who use them. Do not feel bad at all contacting them.... this is what they do daily.... it helps them turn a profit. And yes, you may have to drive more than a half an hour, I have driven two hours one way often, but quite frankly, you just may not.

Another idea, is call the nearest chiropractic, naturopathic, acupuncture schools, and see where their doctors are practicing nearest you. Many chiropractors practice nutritional counseling, finding the underlying causes of many illnesses, including ADD/ADHD and by nature, naturopaths and acupuncturists do this daily with every consult. I think you wll have great luck with the first option, calling outsource labs and supplement companies, but this is a good second.

If all this fails, and I doubt it will, a third idea is that I have had great success in phone consultations with my holistic MD ( and with my holistic pharmacy ( -- I usually call the Lamar south location.) and so have all my friends who have contanced them. Both of these advise people all over the world, you don't have to live in Texas or the United States to use them. I have found them to be worth every penny of their time.

Do you have a health food store nearby? This is my fourth idea. Ask them if they know of anyone. I have worked in a health food store, They can't refer you to anyone, but they can say. hum, here are some names of doctors that our customers have used and liked.

There, I have given you four ideas, and they should all work. But, start with the first one, calling, and emailing those outsource labs and supplement companies, to get the best doctors nearest you, the fastest. And good luck! keep me posted. I don't check back here often, but I do care. Hang in there!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Phthalates and Baby Boy Birth Defects!!!!

I adore hitting some of my favorite websites to get the latest news they know about. I highly reccomend you do the same. This I got from US Biotek.

Common chemical may cause defects in baby boys
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
For the first time, scientists have shown that pregnant mothers exposed to high but common levels of a widely used ingredient in cosmetics, fragrances, plastics and paints can have baby boys with smaller genitals and incomplete testicular descent.

The paper, published Friday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that the more a mother was exposed to the chemicals, called phthalates (THAL-ates), the greater the chance her boy's reproductive development would be harmed. Similar changes have led to decreased semen quality and fertility in rodents.

"We'll follow our children to see what the consequences are," says lead researcher Shanna Swan, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) School of Medicine.

The changes described in the federally financed study were seen at phthalate levels found in one-quarter of the female population in the USA.

The study tested levels of four kinds of phthalates in the urine of pregnant women. Researchers later examined 134 of the baby boys 2 months to 30 months old who were born to those women.

Previous work had shown that prenatal phthalate exposure in rodents can critically affect male hormones, resulting in impaired testicular descent and smaller genital size. The Swan study is the first to look at effects in humans.

While none of the boys showed clear malformation or disease, in the 25% of mothers with the highest levels of phthalate exposure, the odds were 10 times higher that their sons would have a shorter than expected distance between the anus and the base of the penis. This so-called AGD measurement is a sensitive indicator of impacts on their reproductive system.

A statement from the Cosmetic Toiletry and Fragrance Association said the "use of phthalates in cosmetics and personal care products is supported by an extensive body of scientific research and data that confirms safety."

But, Swan says, no one had ever studied phthalate exposure in infant boys.

"It's way premature to have concern," says Marian Stanley, who manages the Phthalate Esters Panel of the American Chemistry Council in Arlington, Va. "More study is needed."

Andrea Dunaif, chief of endocrinology at Northwestern University, called the findings "strong evidence in humans that this endocrine-disrupting chemical is associated with changes in boys."

The changes are subtle, but male infertility rates appear to be rising, she said, and it's hard to know if the problem is environmental or just diagnosed more often. "The public health implications are enormous."

Men's aging, testosterone, depression.

Men, have you had a testosterone level done? If you haven't, get one. Are you twenty, make sure you get one. If you don't have a holistic health care provider, get one. I have given you several links in my main page of professionals to contact, who do phone consults. Often these hormonal tests are saliva based, ordered by the health care provider, shipped to your home, you ship it back. Then send the results to the holistic health care provider and he/she calls you with the results.

Why is your testosterone level so important? It's more than sex, it's happiness versus depression. Who wants to be depressed.

I know I have talked about this before, but I am going to do it again. Just like women have varying levels of various hormones at different ages, so do men. And this is an important thing to remember, and only holistic health care providers seem to acknowledge it, what may have been normal for the average man at 40 is not a normal decline to a man, who say, was very athletic in his prime at 21. This is important! If you were very athletic at 20,say playing college ball, and are now 45, and depressed yet your testosterone level looks normal, tell your holistic doctor. What is normal for the average joe, is not normal for you!

And honey, I want you happy. Sex can be a byproduct of the happy, but let's work on happy and correct testosterone level for you, OK?

Men's Fertility Affected by Aging Too!

Many times I will enter emails, or something of interest written by other people and this is not different. I don't agree with everything from WC Douglas, MD, but often I agree with a lot and he, like other authors. puts things so much better than I can. As well, although I may well lose you as a reader, I hope you will hit their websites, and gather even more information, or just know that I am gleaning the best of the rest for you.

I got this article today from Dr. Douglas in his group email (yes you too can subscribe.) I have been hearing about this sort of thing, mens aging and menopause, for a while, but not connected to fertility and birth defects, etc.

Here is the article:

Guys: do you know what time is on your biological clock?

Dear Friend,

Hey guys. Hear that steady "tick, tick, tick" sound? Well, if you don't, maybe you ought to be listening more closely, because it turns out that the whole "biological clock" thing isn't just for women any more. More and more studies are discovering that a man's fertility is just as likely to come with an expiration date as a woman's.

For years, it was assumed that because men constantly produce sperm every 90 days for as long as they live, age didn't play a factor in fertility. But that might not be the case after all. A recent study in France found that a father's age could have as much of an impact on the rate of pregnancy and miscarriage as a mother's age. In fact, the older either potential parent was, the lower the odds of conception and the higher the odds of miscarriage.

Another study found that only eight percent of couples where the would-be father was younger than 25 would take longer than a year to conceive. But when the father was over 35, that number jumped to 15 percent taking over a year to conceive.

Honestly, I don't know why this info would come as such a shock to everyone. It's well known that men are most fertile when they're around 24 years old. It's all downhill from there. Age leads to a drop in testosterone level, which can lower the number and viability of their sperm.

Here's what I did find interesting…

Older men are also at an increased risk of having children with birth defects such as Down syndrome. The children of older fathers also have higher rates of autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Men are increasingly found to be the "problem" in as many as half of all infertility cases due problems like low sperm count due to factors other than age.

The older you are when you have a child, the more likely you are to have a kid with psychological problems. Men who have kids when they're 55 or older are 37 percent more likely to have children who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder at some point in life.

Many researchers believe the risk factors for psychological disorders in children (like autism and schizophrenia) have more to do with genetics than age. Men's sperm can be affected by DNA mutations that come with age, which has a negative impact on the quality of the sperm being produced.

I'm sure a lot of women reading this are thinking, "Welcome to the party, pal." Many are probably well fed up with years of hearing the old saw about the woman hearing the tick of the biological clock in their 30s. It turns out, we're all on the same fertility clock, more or less. And it's time for men to start hearing the tick, too.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Bullies at work, UK, illness statistics

Hum, while we are on the topic of bullies at work, try this one.

Bully at Work

Interview with Tim Field

By: Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.

Also published by United Press International (UPI)

Malignant Self Love.

In 1994 Tim Field was bullied out of his job as a Customer Services Manager which resulted in a stress breakdown. Turning his experience to good use he set up the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line in 1996 and his web site Bully Online in 1997 since which time he has worked on over 5000 cases worldwide. He now lectures widely as well as writing and publishing books on bullying and psychiatric injury. He holds two honorary doctorates for his work on identifying and dealing with bullying. He is the Webmaster of Bully Online.

Question: What is workplace bullying?

Answer: Workplace bullying is persistent, unwelcome, intrusive behaviour of one or more individuals whose actions prevent others from fulfilling their duties.

Question: How is it different to adopting disciplinarian measures, maintaining strict supervision, or oversight?

Answer: The purpose of bullying is to hide the inadequacy of the bully and has nothing to do with "management" or the achievement of tasks. Bullies project their inadequacies onto others to distract and divert attention away from the inadequacies. In most cases of workplace bullying reported to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line, the bully is a serial bully who has a history of conflict with staff. The bullying that one sees is often also the tip of an iceberg of wrongdoing which may include misappropriation of budgets, harassment, discrimination, as well as breaches of rules, regulations, professional codes of conduct and health and safety practices.

Question: Should it be distinguished from harassment (including sexual harassment), or stalking?

Answer: Bullying is, I believe, the underlying behavior and thus the common denominator of harassment, discrimination, stalking and abuse. What varies is the focus for expression of the behavior. For instance, a harasser or discriminator focuses on race or gender or disability.

Bullies focus on competence and popularity which at present are not covered by employment legislation.

Bullies seethe with resentment and anger and the conduits for release of this inner anger are jealousy and envy which explains why bullies pick on employees who are good at their job and popular with people. Being emotionally immature, bullies crave attention and become resentful when others get more attention for their competence and achievements than themselves.

Question: What is the profile of the typical bully?

Answer: Over 90% of the cases reported to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line involve a serial bully who can be recognised by their behaviour profile which includes compulsive lying, a Jekyll and Hyde nature, an unusually high verbal facility, charm and a considerable capacity to deceive, an arrested level of emotional development, and a compulsive need to control. The serial bully rarely commits a physical assault or an arrestable offence, preferring instead to remain within the realms of psychological violence and non-arrestable offences.

Question: What are bullying's typical outcomes?

Answer: In the majority of cases, the target of bullying is eliminated through forced resignation, unfair dismissal, or early or ill- health retirement whilst the bully is promoted. After a short interval of between 2-14 days, the bully selects another target and the cycle restarts. Sometimes another target is selected before the current target is eliminated.

Question: Can you provide us with some statistics? How often does bullying occur? How many people are affected?

Answer: Surveys of bullying in the UK indicate that between 12-50% of the workforce experience bullying. Statistics from the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line reveal that around 20% of cases are from the education sector, 12% are from healthcare, 10% are from social services, and around 6% from the voluntary / charity / not-for-profit sector.

After that, calls come from all sectors both public and private, with finance, media, police, postal workers and other government employees featuring prominently. Enquiries from outside the UK (notably USA, Canada, Australia and Ireland) show similar patterns with the caring professions topping the list of bullied workers.

Question: Could you estimate the economic effects of workplace bullying - costs to employers (firms), employees, law enforcement agencies, the courts, the government, etc.?

Answer: Bullying is one of the major causes of stress, and the cost of stress to UK plc is thought to be between £5-12 billion (US$7-17 billion). When all the direct, indirect and consequential costs of bullying are taken into account, the cost to UK plc (taxpayers and shareholders) could be in excess of £30 billion (US$44 billion), equivalent to around £1,000 hidden tax per working adult per year. Employers do not account for the cost of bullying and its consequences, therefore the figures never appear on balance sheets.

Employees have to work twice as hard to overcome the serial bully's inefficiency and dysfunction which can spread through an organisation like a cancer.

Because of its subtle nature, bullying can be difficult to recognise, but the consequences are easy to spot: excessive workloads, lack of support, a climate of fear, and high levels of insecurity.

The effects on health include, amongst other things, chronic fatigue, damage to the immune system, reactive depression, and suicide.

The indirect costs of bullying include higher-than average staff turnover and sickness absence. Each of these incur consequential costs of staff cover, administration, loss of production and reduced productivity which are rarely recognised and even more rarely attributed to their cause. Absenteeism alone costs UK plc over £10 billion a year and stress is now officially the number one cause of sickness absence having taken over from the common cold. However, surveys suggest that at least 20% of employers still do not regard stress as a health and safety issue, instead preferring to see it as skiving and malingering.

The Bristol Stress and Health at Work Study published by the HSE in June 2000 revealed that 1 in 5 UK workers (around 5.5m) reported feeling extremely stressed at work. The main stress factors were having too much work and not being supported by managers. In November 2001 a study by Proudfoot Consulting revealed the cost of bad management, low employee morale and poorly-trained staff to British business at 117 lost working days a year. At 65%, bad management (often a euphemism for bullying) accounted for the biggest slice of unproductive days with low morale accounting for 17%. The study also suggested that in the UK 52% of all working time is spent unproductively compared to the European average of 43%.

The results of a three-year survey of British workers by the Gallup Organization published in October 2001 revealed that many employers are not getting the best from their employees. The most common response to questions such as "how engaged are your employees?" and "how effective is your leadership and management style?" and "how well are you capitalising on the talents, skills and knowledge of your people?" was an overwhelming "not very much". The survey also found that the longer an employee stayed, the less engaged they became. The cost to UK plc of lost work days due to lack of engagement was estimated to be between £39-48 billion a year.

Question: What can be done to reduce workplace bullying? Are firms, the government, law enforcement agencies, the courts - aware of the problem and its magnitude? Are educational campaign effective? Did anti-bullying laws prove effective?

Answer: Most bullying is hierarchical and can be traced to the top or near the top. As bullying is often the visible tip of an iceberg of wrongdoing, denial is the most common strategy employed by toxic managements. Only Sweden has a law which specifically addresses bullying. Where no law exists, bullies feel free to bully. Whilst the law is not a solution, the presence of a law is an indication that society has made a judgement that the behaviour is no longer acceptable.

Awareness of bullying, and especially its seriousness, is still low throughout society. Bullying is not just "something children do in the playground", it's a lifetime behaviour on the same level as domestic violence, sexual harassment, and rape.

Bullying is a form of psychological and emotional rape because of its intrusive and violational nature.

Bullies, sickness

A lot of sickness stems from allowing bullies to run your life. This happens from childhood on up to adulthood. Often years of bullying manifest in chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia. And adult bullies can come in all forms, including alcoholics at home who threaten violence if you tell on them.

I just got through reading a long letter from a school psychologist saying that bullying programs in schools are making bullying worse because all the focus is on the bully not the victim. That's sad. And this only gives the bully what he/she craves: attention. the answer is to focus on the victim response.

This is what he writes:

Get ready for this! The real reason you are being teased is because you are getting upset!

This probably doesn't make any sense to you. After all, first the kids tease you, and then you get upset. You aren't making them tease you, you are only making them stop.

I like that. But from working in public schools as a sub, where all kinds of bully behavior takes place, I really think the person being bullied has to give back just a little bit more than what they have recieved and then ignore the offender. If not, the act of ignoring is attention getting to the bully.

There is a lot more to the website., if you want to read it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dr. Amen: alcohol shrinks brains

I adore Daniel Amen, MD. This is the latest from him. Darn, will have to cut back on my alcohol consumption now.... so much for the champagne. Interesting though. Here is the article:

Alcohol is Not a Health Food
CNN recently reported on a new study that confirms what I have seen on SPECT scans for a long time – alcohol is not a health food! Any amount of alcohol can decrease brain size. I like to say when it comes to the brain, size matters. People who drink alcohol — even the moderate amounts that help prevent heart disease — have a smaller brain volume than those who do not, according to a study in the Archives of Neurology.

While a certain amount of brain shrinkage is normal with age, greater amounts in some parts of the brain have been linked to dementia. “Decline in brain volume — estimated at 2 percent per decade — is a natural part of aging,” says Carol Ann Paul, who conducted the study when she was at the Boston University School of Public Health. She had hoped to find that alcohol might protect against such brain shrinkage. “However, we did not find the protective effect,” says Paul, who is now an instructor in the neuroscience program at Wellesley College. “In fact, any level of alcohol consumption resulted in a decline in brain volume.”

In the study, Paul and colleagues looked at 1,839 healthy people with an average age of about 61. The patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and reported how much they tippled. Overall, the more alcohol consumed, the smaller the brain volume, with abstainers having a higher brain volume than former drinkers, light drinkers (one to seven drinks per week), moderate drinkers (eight to 14 drinks per week), and heavy drinkers (14 or more drinks per week). Men were more likely to be heavy drinkers than women. But the link between brain volume and alcohol wasn’t as strong in men. For men, only those who were heavy drinkers had a smaller brain volume than those who consumed little or no alcohol.

In women, even moderate drinkers had a smaller brain volume than abstainers or former drinkers. It’s not clear why even modest amounts of alcohol may shrink the brain, although alcohol is “known to dehydrate tissues, and constant dehydration can have negative effects on any sensitive tissue,” says Paul. “We always knew that alcohol at higher dosages results in shrinking of the brain and cognitive deficit,” says Dr. Petros Levounis, M.D., director of the Addiction Institute of New York at St. Luke’s — Roosevelt Hospital Center, who was not involved in the study. “What is new with this article is that it shows brain shrinking at lower doses of alcohol.”

Less is better.

To your brain health,


Daniel Amen, M.D.
CEO, Amen Clinics, Inc.
Distinguished Fellow, American Psychiatric Association

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Say No to Antibacterial Soaps!

This is from Yahoo Green. One of the things I learned in pharmacy tech training was that all of these antibacterial soaps actually are destroying the really good bacteria you have on your body to keep the horrible bacteria in check. This article is pointing out that all you really have to do is remove the germs from your hands, not kill them. (No wonder really good washing, over a minute, scrubbing under the nails, etc, with water only has proven to be 99% effective huh?) Here is the article for you to read:

Say no to antibacterial soaps

By Lori Bongiorno Posted Wed Oct 15, 2008 12:01pm PDT

281 votes
Buzz up!
Washing hands (iStockPhoto)

Global Handwashing Day, held earlier this week, was established to promote a simple message: Wash your hands with soap and water to prevent disease. It's also the perfect time to visit the topic of what kind of soap you're lathering up with. This is an important decision that many of us don't think twice about.

The main ingredient in most liquid soaps lining store shelves is triclosan, a pesticide that kills bacteria. Turns out you just need to banish germs from your hands, not kill them. Studies show that antibacterial soaps aren't more effective at preventing illness or removing germs than good old-fashioned soap and water.

In fact, antibacterial soaps may do more harm than good.

There are concerns that triclosan may contribute to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It's also present in human bodies and breast milk, as well as in streams. The Environmental Working Group says triclosan has been linked to developmental defects, liver toxicity, and cancer in lab studies. It also may affect thyroid and other hormones that are crucial to normal development.

The best thing you can do is avoid soaps that claim to be "antibacterial" while we wait for more research to be done. A quick read of the label will tell you if triclosan or triclocarban (a similar compound that's found more commonly in bar soaps) are active ingredients. If so, move onto another product.

Here's a small sampling of triclosan-free liquid hand soaps to get you started:

* Trader Joe's Lavender & Chamomile Hand Soap
* Method Hand Wash (Pink Grapefruit)
* Softsoap Soothing Aloe Vera Moisturizing Hand Soap
* Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 Pure-Castile Soap (Hemp-Peppermint)
* Terraessentials Organic Real Soap for Hands
* Desert Essence Castile Liquid Soap with Organic Tea Tree Oil

For more suggestions, visit the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database.

Environmental journalist Lori Bongiorno shares green-living tips and product reviews with Yahoo! Green's users. Send Lori a question or suggestion for potential use in a future column. Her book, Green Greener Greenest: A Practical Guide to Making Eco-smart Choices a Part of Your Life is available on Yahoo! Shopping.

Arthroscopy Knee Surgery Useless for Osteoarthritis

This is from Dr. Douglas. What he doesn't tell you to try instead is 1) eliminating food allergans from your diet with a IgG/IgE test from your holistic healthcare provider (food proteins from offending foods,escape the gut, and lodge in various parts of the body including knees)2) taking a good broad spectrum digestive enzyme inbetween meals (to eat up food particles trapped in the knee area) and 3) using arctic cod liver oil, one tablespoon in the morning, one tablespoon at night. do all this for six weeks only, and see if your knee pain is gone. When I worked for both a holistic chiropractor and the health food store, I found, repeatedly, when people with knee pain, often in their 60's and 70's did exactly this, (on medicare, and desperate because of the pain)they would come back in, walking ohhh, so much better, hug me, and thank me profusely.

Perhaps food allergies and the inflammation created by them, isn't your problem. but for a whole lot of people it is, and what a small price to pay, physically and financially (compared to surgery or a lifetime of pain). Just try it. And if it doesn't work, and if you stick to it religiously for six weeks, NO CHEATING!, then you can complain to me and you and your holistic healthcare provider can look for other options. I have never had that happen. Doesn't mean it doesn't happen, but it does mean this regimen is worth trying.

If you are too stubborn to get the food allergy panel, or don't have the money, then take a good broad spectrum, like Wobenzyme, one with each meal, and one to two between meals.... add in the arctic cod liver oil. Do this for six weeks. See the results.

Here is the email from Dr. Douglas:

Study says common surgical procedure could be useless

Dear Friend,

You might want to think twice before getting that knee surgery. According to a new study, the use of arthroscopy to treat arthritis in the knee may do nothing to improve the condition. In fact, the study of 178 men and women who'd undergone the surgery showed that the patients fared no better than other sufferers who were treated only with physical therapy and medication.

Study author Brian Feagan of the University of Western Ontario says his research shows "definitive evidence" that arthroscopy is ineffective. "If it isn't effective, patients should not be undergoing it," he says.

Amen to that. But good luck trying to convince the current healthcare system that a procedure that's not only common, but uncommonly lucrative, should be pulled off the table based on a relatively small sample group of 178 patients.

The issue here is not only that the surgery is ineffective — it's that ALL surgeries, no matter how seemingly "minor" come with a risk factor. And this procedure is no different. While complications from arthroscopy are uncommon, they can happen – and one of those complications is the formation of potentially lethal blood clots.

Nicholas DiNubile, a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, says that patient demand makes the banning of the procedure difficult. "You have this baby boomer population driving a lot of this. They really think that they can turn the clocks back and surgery can fix everything," he said.

Of course, the surgeons aren't discouraging the practice, either. That's how they make their money! You should hardly be surprised that doctors these days like to start slicing people open and poking around inside of them as a first rather than last resort. Orthopedic surgeons are especially likely to "pop the hood" of their patients as if they're just going in to do a tune up.

If you have osteoarthritis of the knee, I'm hoping you'll take this study to heart (or joint, as the case may be) and look for an alternative before you let them put you under the knife.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

US NEWS: Overprocessed food = Overweight Us!

This is from US News and World report, online, via a Yahoo link.

10 Things the Food Industry Doesn't Want You to Know

By Adam Voiland Adam Voiland – Mon Oct 20, 5:31 pm ET
Overweight People Wired to Eat More Play Video ABC News – Overweight People Wired to Eat More

* Turning to Comfort Food Play Video Video: Turning to Comfort Food FOX News
* Survey: Consumers Buy Products Teamed With Charity Play Video Video: Survey: Consumers Buy Products Teamed With Charity WCCO Minneapolis

Two nutrition experts argue that you can't take marketing campaigns at face value

With America's obesity problem among kids reaching crisis proportions, even junk food makers have started to claim they want to steer children toward more healthful choices. In a study released earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about 32 percent of children were overweight but not obese, 16 percent were obese, and 11 percent were extremely obese. Food giant PepsiCo, for example, points out on its website that "we can play an important role in helping kids lead healthier lives by offering healthy product choices in schools." The company highlights what it considers its healthier products within various food categories through a "Smart Spot" marketing campaign that features green symbols on packaging. PepsiCo's inclusive criteria--explained here--award spots to foods of dubious nutritional value such as Diet Pepsi, Cap'n Crunch cereal, reduced-fat Doritos, and Cheetos, as well as to more nutritious products such as Quaker Oatmeal and Tropicana Orange Juice.

But are wellness initiatives like Smart Spot just marketing ploys? Such moves by the food industry may seem to be a step in the right direction, but ultimately makers of popular junk foods have an obligation to stockholders to encourage kids to eat more--not less--of the foods that fuel their profits, says David Ludwig, a pediatrician and the co-author of a commentary published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association that raises questions about whether big food companies can be trusted to help combat obesity. Ludwig and article co-author Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, both of whom have long histories of tracking the food industry, spoke with U.S. News and highlighted 10 things that junk food makers don't want you to know about their products and how they promote them.

1. Junk food makers spend billions advertising unhealthy foods to kids.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, food makers spend some $1.6 billion annually to reach children through the traditional media as well the Internet, in-store advertising, and sweepstakes. An article published in 2006 in the Journal of Public Health Policy puts the number as high as $10 billion annually. Promotions often use cartoon characters or free giveaways to entice kids into the junk food fold. PepsiCo has pledged that it will advertise only "Smart Spot" products to children under 12.

2. The studies that food producers support tend to minimize health concerns associated with their products.
In fact, according to a review led by Ludwig of hundreds of studies that looked at the health effects of milk, juice, and soda, the likelihood of conclusions favorable to the industry was several times higher among industry-sponsored research than studies that received no industry funding. "If a study is funded by the industry, it may be closer to advertising than science," he says.

3. Junk food makers donate large sums of money to professional nutrition associations.
The American Dietetic Association, for example, accepts money from companies such as Coca-Cola, which get access to decision makers in the food and nutrition marketplace via ADA events and programs, as this release explains. As Nestle notes in her blog and discusses at length in her book Food Politics, the group even distributes nutritional fact sheets that are directly sponsored by specific industry groups. This one, for example, which is sponsored by an industry group that promotes lamb, rather unsurprisingly touts the nutritional benefits of lamb. The ADA's reasoning: "These collaborations take place with the understanding that ADA does not support any program or message that does not correspond with ADA's science-based healthful-eating messages and positions," according to the group's president, dietitian Martin Yadrick. "In fact, we think it's important for us to be at the same table with food companies because of the positive influence that we can have on them."

4. More processing means more profits, but typically makes the food less healthy.
Minimally processed foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables obviously aren't where food companies look for profits. The big bucks stem from turning government-subsidized commodity crops--mainly corn, wheat, and soybeans--into fast foods, snack foods, and beverages. High-profit products derived from these commodity crops are generally high in calories and low in nutritional value.

5. Less-processed foods are generally more satiating than their highly processed counterparts.
Fresh apples have an abundance of fiber and nutrients that are lost when they are processed into applesauce. And the added sugar or other sweeteners increase the number of calories without necessarily making the applesauce any more filling. Apple juice, which is even more processed, has had almost all of the fiber and nutrients stripped out. This same stripping out of nutrients, says Ludwig, happens with highly refined white bread compared with stone-ground whole wheat bread.

6. Many supposedly healthy replacement foods are hardly healthier than the foods they replace.
In 2006, for example, major beverage makers agreed to remove sugary sodas from school vending machines. But the industry mounted an intense lobbying effort that persuaded lawmakers to allow sports drinks and vitamin waters that--despite their slightly healthier reputations--still can be packed with sugar and calories.

7. A health claim on the label doesn't necessarily make a food healthy.
Health claims such as "zero trans fats" or "contains whole wheat" may create the false impression that a product is healthy when it's not. While the claims may be true, a product is not going to benefit your kid's health if it's also loaded with salt and sugar or saturated fat, say, and lacks fiber or other nutrients. "These claims are calorie distracters," adds Nestle. "They make people forget about the calories." Dave DeCecco, a spokesperson for PepsiCo, counters that the intent of a labeling program such as Smart Spot is simply to help consumers pick a healthier choice within a category. "We're not trying to tell people that a bag of Doritos is healthier than asparagus. But, if you're buying chips, and you're busy, and you don't have a lot of time to read every part of the label, it's an easy way to make a smarter choice," he says.

8. Food industry pressure has made nutritional guidelines confusing.
As Nestle explained in Food Politics, the food industry has a history of preferring scientific jargon to straight talk. As far back as 1977, public health officials attempted to include the advice "reduce consumption of meat" in an important report called Dietary Goals for the United States. The report's authors capitulated to intense pushback from the cattle industry and used this less-direct and more ambiguous advice: "Choose meats, poultry, and fish which will reduce saturated fat intake." Overall, says Nestle, the government has a hard time suggesting that people eat less of anything.

9. The food industry funds front groups that fight antiobesity public health initiatives.
Unless you follow politics closely, you wouldn't necessarily realize that a group with a name like the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) has anything to do with the food industry. In fact,Ludwig and Nestle point out, this group lobbies aggressively against obesity-related public health campaigns--such as the one directed at removing junk food from schools--and is funded, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, primarily through donations from big food companies such as Coca-Cola, Cargill, Tyson Foods, and Wendy's.

10. The food industry works aggressively to discredit its critics.
According to the new JAMA article, the Center for Consumer Freedom boasts that "[our strategy] is to shoot the messenger. We've got to attack [activists'] credibility as spokespersons." Here's the group's entry on Marion Nestle.

The bottom line, says Nestle, is quite simple: Kids need to eat less, include more fruits and vegetables, and limit the junk food.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Commercials promoting High Fructose Corn Syrup

Hum, I rarely watch commercials anymore because of --thank goodness-- my wonderful dvr! But, apparantly there are commercials out there promoting companies using high fructose corn syrup. Check my blog in search for the complete accurate truth about high fructose corn syrup. Bottom line is, corn syrup is genetically altered to increase it's sweetness capability, and with that genetic alteration, it is not assimilated by the body as well as regular corn syrup or simple sugars.... as well, because it is easy and cheaper to ship, via big honking trucks, it is used in almost all food products as the sweetner. If you want to stay safe, check the label and avoid it.... at best buy Cokes,etc., like those made in Mexico (yes, real coca cola) that have cane sugar, good old table sugar in it.

For now, after checking my previous blogs about this stuff, you can type in high fructose corn syrup commercial into youtube and get the commercials.

Let me close with the letter from Dr. Douglas that I got in to days email alerting me to this:

TV ads try to sweeten public opinion on high fructose corn syrup

Dear Friend,

You've got to love American advertising: it's utterly shameless. We're so used to having a constant Niagra Falls of sales messages flowing over us that we're no longer shocked at what's being hawked. Now a big industry that's as insidious as Big Pharma and Big Tobacco is pinning its hopes on a TV advertising campaign to put a friendly face on their horrible product. This time, it's Big Corn: the makers of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

HFCS is the nearly inescapable junk food that's a major ingredient in a dizzying array of America's foods. There's loads of HFCS in nearly everything kids (and many adults) eat and drink – soda, "fruit" drinks, cookies, gum, jelly, and baked goods. And that's only a partial list. In fact, the national consumption of this hidden junk food grew from zero in 1966 to 62.6 pounds per person by 2001. Imagine what it is today!

The new TV commercials are "designed to correct the record" said Audrae Erickson, president of the Corn Refiners Association (CRA), and are "not a campaign to drive consumption."

The "record" that I suppose the CRA is looking to correct are the multiple scientific studies that have linked America's obesity epidemic in adults and children with the increased consumption of HFCS. I guess the CRA doesn't want the facts to get in the way of their sweet story.

According to an Emory University study published earlier this year, upwards of 10 percent of Americans' daily caloric intake comes from fructose – including HFCS. And I'm willing to bet that a decent chunk of that 10 percent is HFCS.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Generic Drugs made Overseas

I didn't know we had generic drugs made overseas? I guess I never thought about it. I certainly didn't know that the FDA doesn't really inspect those drugs like they a little too late. Here is a e letter I got from DR. WC Douglas at Read it and decide for yourself.

China gets another pass as FDA bans Indian drugs

Dear Friend,

Believe it or not, I'm about to praise my old adversaries at the FDA … you might want to mark the date, because this happens about as often as a lunar eclipse or Haley's Comet. Why the pat on the back for my least favorite government bureaucracy? They've finally made the right call about questionable generic drugs produced in a certain country in Asia…

They've banned them.

You're probably assuming I'm talking about is China. Unfortunately, that country is continuing to get away with murder. The country I'm talking about is India.

The FDA banned imports of more than 30 generic drugs produced by Ranbaxy Laboratories, Ltd., India's biggest pharmaceutical manufacturer. U.S. inspections of these plants from earlier this year found multiple violations that could cause contamination, allergic reactions, and other issues — yet the company didn't bother to correct ANY of these problems.

The drugs banned include generic versions of the well-known antibiotic Cipro and the cholesterol medication Zocor. The FDA even went as far as to ban pharmaceutical ingredients produced in these plants.

The FDA has taken a hard line here: it won't approve any new Ranbaxy products for import or sale in the U.S. until the violations are corrected.

This story leads me to one obvious question: why has the FDA dropped the hammer on India's Ranbaxy Labs while Chinese drug makers get a pass? And don't forget – the FDA enacted this ban because conditions in the Indian plants could lead to issues with the drugs. Meanwhile, the FDA only issued a warning to a Chinese pharmaceutical manufacturer that was responsible for tainted batches of the blood thinner heparin that was linked to 81 deaths in the U.S.!

What's more, the drugs from the suspect Ranbaxy plants have been tested repeatedly, and no evidence of actual contamination has been found.

To be fair, the reason that the FDA is playing hardball with Ranbaxy – and I'm completely behind them on this – is because there's an ongoing criminal investigation of the company because they're suspected of submitting fraudulent reports in order to slip substandard drugs into the U.S. Naturally, Ranbaxy denies this allegation.

But something stinks about this. A report from 2007, which I've mentioned before, said that as many as two thirds of foreign drug makers have not been inspected by the FDA in person. If the FDA is genuinely concerned – and this isn't a game of international trade "chicken" – why isn't the agency warning patients in the U.S. to stop using the drugs?

And again, I come back to China. Many Chinese goods — including pharmaceuticals — are notoriously sub par, tainted, and often downright deadly. But I've not seen a Ranbaxy-like ban applied to any Chinese pharma companies. Why?

I hate to think the worst, even of the FDA. But there's a longstanding tradition of corruption in China, and it makes me wonder if there's something unsavory going on between U.S. inspectors and Chinese pharma companies that allows their bad products to avoid an out-and-out ban in the U.S. Clearly, there are problems with the system.

According to Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, "The FDA is not doing its best to protect the medicines that Americans depend on for their health."

Does that lament sound familiar?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Las Colinas Pharmacy is Wonderful!

I had a chance to visit Las Colinas Pharmacy this past weekend, and they ARE wonderful. I just emailed a friend in the Dallas area about them, and realized, whoops, I hadn't sent you my blog about them.

Are they just like Peoples' Pharmacy in Austin. Yes! They carried all my favorite supplements and herbals like Medi-Herb and Pure Encapsulations. In fact, I bought Nordic Naturals Arctic cod liver oil while there, along with magnesium, potassium and St.John's Wort.

I found each employee there, from the pharmacists to the front counter folks, to be service oriented, very nice, and with a real attention to detail. If you live in the Dallas area, they are worth a visit! If you are sick and in the Dallas area, they are worth a consultation.

I copied this from their home page at

Personal Service For Your Healthcard & Wellness Needs
Proud to be one of the national pioneers in drug compounding, we at Las Colinas Pharmacy are dedicated to continuing our quest for knowledge and excellence. Keeping ourselves on the cutting edge of traditional medicine, natural medicine, and compounding insures that our patients receive the best healthcare available.

Please investigate the wide variety of services we offer. We are happy to share our widely diversified experiences, knowledge and expertise to help you achieve optimal health. We hope to see you soon!


Private Consultations
Las Colinas Pharmacy's expert staff of specially-trained pharmacists offers confidential consultations on a wide variety of topics including Natural Hormone Replacement, Pain Management, Weight Management, Nutrition and many others.

Consultation Rates

15 minutes - $35
30 minutes - $55
45 minutes - $75
60 minutes - $100

If you reside outside our immediate market area, please call us at 972-580-1814 to schedule a time for your private phone consultation.


Our Location and Hours
The pharmacy is located at 4835 N. O'Connor Road - Suite # 130, Irving, TX 75062. Store hours are:

Monday through Friday - 8:30 am until 7:00 pm

Saturday - 10:00 am until 3:00 pm

Sunday - closed

Good Luck Ya'll!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dr. Daniel Amen, M.D.: young brains

I adore Dr. Amen. He is a psychiatrist that studies brain function through imagery. (amongst many other things.) He has a new book coming out and this is an excerpt from it:

Do a Better Job of Taking Care of Younger Brains

Most people think that we become adults when we turn 18 years old. That is a societal definition, but it is not true from a brain science perspective. The prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that makes us most human (forethought, judgment, impulse control, learning from our mistakes – the stuff of maturity), does not finish developing until we are about 25 years old. The insurance industry knew this long before neuroscientists, as 25 is when your car insurance rates go down because you become a more thoughtful driver.

As the brain matures, nerve cells become wrapped in a white, fatty substance called myelin (a process known as myelinization). Like wrapping copper wires with insulation, myelin protects and helps nerve cells work up to 10 times more efficiently. Myelinization starts from the back part of the brain and works forward. The occipital lobes, involved with vision, myelinate within the first few months of life, so we can see more detail. It is not until we are much older that the prefrontal cortex becomes myelinated. Current research, including ours, suggests it is about age 25. From a study we did at the Amen Clinics, involving more than 6,300 patient scans, we found that the activity in the prefrontal cortex did not become stable until we are in our middle 20s.

Why is this so important? Since the brain is not finished developing until we are in our mid 20s, we should be doing a much better job protecting our teenage and young adult brains. Too often parents give up on their teenagers and do not supervise what they eat, allow them to get little sleep, don’t get terribly upset about early drinking or marijuana use and allow them to drive in unsafe vehicles. We allow our kids to go away to college too soon, where they engage in brain destroying behaviors, such as heavy drinking, nonstop violent video games, Internet gambling and pornography, and we are ready to toss them out of the house when they are 18, if they irritate us. I know my three adult children (31, 26, and 21) have much better judgment now than at 18. I can certainly say the same thing about my own behavior. Once this brain research was released, the Supreme court banned executing murderers who committed their crimes when they were teenagers.

Take this concept further, parents spend billions of dollars each year trying to help their children be successful. We spend money on private schools, summer camps, lessons of all sorts, including martial arts, athletics, music and dance. We spend time tutoring them or hiring tutors for them. With all the time and effort spent on helping them be their best, we should not forget the most important organ that actually tells the body how to hit the golf shot, remembers the karate kata, hears the prosody of music and improvises in modern dance. Spending time and money on youth brain health is one of the smartest investments in your child’s, teenager’s and young adult’s future. Some simple things to do for children and teens is to teach them about the importance of their brain, how to take care of it, protect it, feed it properly, get enough sleep, avoid toxic substances, such as drugs or alcohol, and share the major concepts with them from this book and my other book Making A Good Brain Great. Once properly educated on the brain I find children and teens are much better at taking care of their own brains.

You can order this book early from

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Story

This is a very long blog: it is a short story about a woman in an abusive relationship. it is written quite well. Abusive relationships are going to affect your physical body. If you think you are in an abusive relationship, read this. I gave you a list of what manipulative people do from Pastor Danny Green at Covenant Family a couple of days ago. Then this stumbled into my in box. It is This is a more real application. And it is very well written.

In case you don't have time to read, just go down to the list of numerous traits (58)to see if you are in an abusive relationship. These begin with "Does he/she ignore your feelings?"

I certainly did not relate to everything in the story, but the constant criticism, cutting me off from family, sudden turn around of love, control, and above all, fear that the public would find out.... I related to all of it in the story.

BTW, If you are in an abusive relationship, with no positive end in sight, find a really good divorce attorney, and do everything he or she says to do.

============ ========= ========= ========= ==
The Conch Shell By: Callen Damornen

(Copyright 2008 Judi Copeland aka Callen Damornen)

A family reunion is a joyous occasion. People with a common thread gather sharing their love while diving into piles of potato salad, barbecue, and beverages. And of course the mark of a truly eventfully get-together is drama. It was when I, Belinda Mills, destined to face the truth about the subtle abuse from my husband. The day it really dawned on me; words can hurt more than shards of a broken shell through my skin on a hot summer’s day.

From a town with the greatest musical pulses of Tennessee , we lived in the wealthiest area of Memphis in a typical antebellum Southern style mansion known as Manor Farm. It really isn’t as great as it sounds.

Originally, this two story home, painted in white with a rare basement feature belonged to Gertrude Mills, who ran a successful secret bordello. She spent a lot of money to transform a farmhouse into a mansion with 8 bedrooms with 4 full and 2 half bathrooms all decorated in her favourite color of success – red. Red carpet, walls, sofas, bedding, lampshades; everywhere was red with elements of white to highlight the red features. Inside was cheaply made, expensive décor which was not meant to last forever and looked tacky to most people.

Gertrude’s son inherited the house and business after her death. He allowed his mother’s entire legacy fell into decay through neglect and laziness. The lawn, overgrown with weeds and barren patches revealed the Southern red clay. That was the first thing you saw approaching the mansion. The white paint chipped away, the roof caved in and windows were broken and the wild animals clamored about the porch. It warned most decent folks to stay away.

Inside was no better. The carpeting, matted down and darkened in years of filthy was ripped out showing barren floor boards. The walls and floors were mostly moldy and rotted through. This chaos housed three generations of the Mills family along with several squatters and a huge collection of dogs and cats.

I had to suffer with it in silence. The kids and I had no choice. We lived in such filth and muck since we were saving money so Carter refused to consider moving out. He made me feel as if I were an ungrateful cry-baby for bringing up the idea. He said I should be grateful we weren’t paying rent. It did not seem to faze him that the kids and I suffered colds, allergies, and infections on a regular basis. He said if I could get a job that paid $25 an hour, he would consider moving. Impossible to do under the circumstances I faced.

The day of the reunion, we had to wake up early and travel to Paris , Tennessee . I was wide awake before everyone else. I felt instinctively trained to do this so I did not miss a chore that had to be done. Carter loved everything to be perfect. If not, a verbal lashing followed.

I stepped over lethargic in-laws who crashed on the puke-soaked floor, careful not to wake them. Just another day of figuratively walking on broken glass while telling myself everything will be fine because Carter loves me and I love him.

After I got some of the bigger projects completed, I woke my family so we could prepare for the 3 hour trek in our British racing green 1981 Rolls Royce Silver Spirit. I had 5 month old baby Geo sleeping strapped to my side in a sling while working on a supper dish. Then I attended to the needs of Carter and Melissa.

I took time to dress, to look presentable according to Carter’s standards which often failed his mark. When we first dated, I was more willing to cater to his desire of how I dressed, but as time went on, it seemed to be the least of my priorities. I still cared what he thought about how I looked, but not enough to follow through to try and make him happy.

I picked out a floor length, flowing black skirt with a long sleeved black sweater and spaghetti strapped white shirt and a pink scarf for my head. Although it is warm day, I had to dress in this manner to cover the self-inflicted scars on my arms and legs. Carter wished I were more of a fashion plate, but if I wore the style of clothing he liked, he would protest because people could see what I did to myself which reflected poorly on him.

I remember once he wanted to drag me to some formal affair when I was too depressed to go anywhere. He saw my nice dress which exposed the fresh marks on my arms. He was more concerned with what his friends would think than the reason for those scars. Perfection and what others thought of him was important in his mind. I was more concerned with how people felt and making them feel better. I could bow where he would shatter, so often I had to compromise my desires and needs for his sake.

People often commented on what a mismatched pair we made. Carter, who just celebrated his 33rd birthday yesterday, seemed older than me. At age 35, I often passed for 21. When I stand next to him, his height of over six feet would dwarf me by six inches. His fair-skin would contrast with my medium-dark olive complexion. His entrancing hazel-green eyes and light brown hair worn in a three inch high quiff stood out in stark contrast to my intensely dark brown eyes and raven black straight hair, often put in a bun and hidden in a scarf.

Carter’s appearance was not the only one that mattered. He loves his car almost as much as he loves his family. His car is a reflection his value for refinement and sophistication. This car he bought inexpensively because it was old, rusty, and needed lots of work. He spent most of his free time fixing it.

Tired and sweaty, trying to get ready, I asked, “Carter, you’re just sitting there watching TV, can’t you give me a hand with the baby or something?”

He stood in my face with a sneer, “I work hard all week long and didn’t even want to go to this function anyway, but I’m doing it for you and the kids. Can’t I get a break? I need to make sure the tires are inflated and the oil level is right. Unless you want us to break down in the middle of nowhere and have me pay for a tow and repair. Why not? It’s only money. So what, right, I’m Mr. Money Bags?” Then he stormed out leaving me with a sense of frustration and tears in my eyes wondering where that came from. All I wanted was a little help and he turned on me again. What did I do wrong?

Before working on the car, he locked himself in the bathroom to powder his face to hide his oily complexion and skin blemishes which was a big problem in the heat of the South. When he was done, he gave me a big hug and kisses me telling me he loves me. Then he strolled outside to start his project on the car. It is hard to resist him when he shows that charm.

People on the block thought he was strange as he worked on his car wearing his blue pinstriped three piece suit with matching tie, pocket handkerchief, and cufflinks while working on his vehicle. I don’t think I will ever understand why he tried so hard to impress people, but it was his style and manner that attracted me when we met.

Carter worried about what people would think when we moved in a house falling apart and didn’t have the money to make the needed repairs, so he slapped on a fresh coat of paint, patched the roof, manicured the lawn and garden, and put up a new mailbox to give it a fresh look. They were not fooled by him or the outer shell of our house. An aura of agitation of the house gave them the chills. Daily barrages of deafening music, fighting, and frequent visits from the cops could never be hidden by a home makeover.

I put Geo in the crib then washed the dishes from breakfast. Melissa had already finished getting geared up and waited in her room listening to loud punk rock music. She did that to drown out the predictable, the profanity from her father fussing at the car. Inevitable, as if on a train schedule, Carter yelled out, “Where the fuck is my oil filter that I put in the trunk last week when I bought them?”

Carter came storming in the house, slammed the door, knocking it off the hinges again. He stood nearly two inches from my face, snarling like a wild animal about to pounce on prey. “What the fuck happened to my oil filters? You know the ones I just bought last week and left in my trunk so they would not disappear? Did you do something with them?”

Taken aback at the allegation and flustered because my mind was preoccupied on my task of doing the dishes, “What the hell would I do with oil filters? I didn’t do anything with them.”

“Well somebody did. It sure as hell wasn’t me. Did my brother get into it?”

My stomach was tightening, feeling the terror of a situation I could not control, wondering how far he would take it this time. “I don’t know. I wasn’t even aware you bought oil filters last week or put them in your trunk. Are you sure you didn’t misplace them again? Are you sure you looked carefully in your trunk?”

“Stop accusing me of these things. Whenever something is missing you do this. I know I did not do anything with it. You people are always getting in my stuff and hiding them.” The veins in the side of his forehead were visibly throbbing and his face was red.

Ignoring his tantrum because I was tired of this routine, I responded, “No, the majority of the time when something is missing it is because you misplaced them and I am trying to pinpoint the possibilities before running around half-cocked looking for something that could be anywhere in here.”

“That oil filter better be found NOW or we aren’t going anywhere!” Then he threw his socket wrench and it accidentally hit my leg. As he left, he punched a hole through the wall.

I was glad he left, but he wasn’t finished with this paroxysm. “No one is getting any sleep until I get my oil filter and we are not going anywhere either!” Then he paced about the house making sure everyone was doing as he told them, ignoring the scowling faces of sobering drunks angry at him. It was an untold command to stop what I am doing and find those damned filters or he won’t shut up about it. I never used to stand up to him when he got in my face over something missing, but these incidents were getting so old and predictable.

I propped up the front door and hobbled barefoot outside before looking in his trunk figuring it was probably there, buried under something he had moved during the week. My daughter, Melissa snuck out of her room not wanting to be around her father and quietly followed me. I opened the trunk and moved the black vinyl wheel cover. In the pit of the wheel well was a white plastic shopping bag. Inside was an unopened package of oil filters. I ran inside to Carter with Melissa right behind me, “I found them. They were in the trunk of your car.”

Still angry at his inconvenience and trying to find a way to deflect the blame, “You must have put them there. I didn’t see them there at all.”

I knew it would go nowhere to argue further, but I had to set the record straight, hoping he would see my point the next time he did this, “You had them under the wheel cover. Did you bother at all to move it?”

He rolled his eyes in frustration, stormed out the house knocking the door to the ground and back fussing with the car. Melissa gave me a hug and asked, “You okay mom?”

Too stressed to want to hug back, I brushed her off me, “I’m fine. Why don’t you go back to your room until we’re ready to go?”

I know she was tired of the conflict at home. It couldn’t be easy for a 13 year old teenager to live in this dysfunctional family: Aunts and uncles always drinking and fighting while she barricaded in herself in her room; a grandmother who nagged about little things like socks in the living room while defending the innocence of her children who were taken away by cops. I can only imagine what Geo thought of this situation.

The thing Melissa hated most was how I put up with her father. Every now and then she would mention how she wanted me to leave and take her and Geo. It wasn’t if I had many options. No job history for 13 years. No money saved up. No resources. And to boot, two children who needed things to survive. It’s not like I could leave on the drop of a dime.

Besides, the times when her father decides to behave, his nice period can last weeks or months without him acting up. He loves to buy her nice clothes, toys, whatever she wants. It is not something I could do as a single parent.

I think somehow she feels if I was this miserable in love; she might end up the same way. In most things, she is almost exactly as me. She looked like a slightly smaller version of me, but with the spirit I used to have before Carter.

About an hour later a shout came from outside, “Come on everyone before we’re late!” Carter blasted the car horn seven times not caring that some of the neighbors were still sleeping at eight in the morning. Melissa strolled to the car, looking down at the pavement walking with headphones plugged in to keep her music in focus. I was bundled with Geo, a diaper bag, and parcels rushing to the car, while an impatient Carter nagged, “Can’t you go any faster? “

“Could you at least help me get Geo in his car seat?”

“The car is already started and you are right there, just finish up.”

“Dad, the invitation was for noon until midnight , we have plenty of time. I’m sure everyone won’t be waiting with their thumbs up their asses if we aren’t there right at twelve.”

“I don’t care if they have low standards. I won’t sink to their level. If they want to live on CPT, that’s their problem.”

I got in and Carter peeled out of the driveway nearly missing a neighbor out walking his dog, before I could even strap on my seat belt.

During the trip, Geo was quietly hypnotized by the scenery. Melissa was glued to her music and a book to pass time. Carter calmed down as big band music played on the radio.

He mellowed out, almost as if there was no tension earlier that morning. He reached for my hand and gently kissed it, then placed my hand on his lap. He sensed my frustration.” What’s the matter?”

“I’m just tired from all that activity this morning.”

“Well if you were more organized then you might feel better now.” Then he kissed me while his eyes were still on the road. “You are so beautiful and wonderful. I don’t think I could live without you. You are the greatest thing to happen in my life.”

Carter glanced in the back seat from the rearview mirror as his eyes met with Melissa. He gave her a wink. She tugged one end of her earpiece down.


“How’s my little girl?”


“You know you don’t have to isolate yourself in music. If you want music listen to this good stuff.”

“I like my music. Your music is lame.”

“It’s not lame. It’s classic.”

“Why don’t you ever play music mom likes?”

“She suffers from a serious illness called ‘Blacks without Soul’ and will only listen to music that is truly lame.”

“Whatever.” Then she quickly retreated back into her own world trying to ignore everyone.

Carter looked over at me and asked, “Is that all you could find to wear?”

Feeling a bit self-conscious, “I like it. What’s wrong with it?”

A look of disgust crosses his face, “You look like a frumpy housewife.”

“I wanted to wear my sundress, but you didn’t like that either.”

“You know why. I don’t want anyone to see what you have done to your arms lately. They will start asking questions that are none of their business.”

“You never like what I pick out anyway,” crossing my arms and looking away, hoping he would end this conversation. He turned his attention to the road. I started wondering if I was making too big a deal over what happened earlier.

At least there was a nice view to appreciate. I was fascinated watching the bucolic roads from outside Memphis heading towards Paris . It was a good way to relax and think, a luxury I was not often given. Living in the state of Tennessee for nearly 15 years after growing up in Chicago , has made me appreciate the Southern culture. It was nothing like I thought it would be when Carter told me we would be moving here.

Driving along the Interstate you can spot many small towns to fill up with gas. Sometimes you would spot friendly folks that hung about the diner next to the station. What better way to know your neighbors than over a plate of chicken fried steak, eggs and biscuits with white gravy! We had to make one stop along the way. The people seemed reasonably educated, willing to talk about almost any topic, but human enough to be insulted if you spoke down to them. Having a Southern drawl did not necessarily mean they were stupid hicks. Carter really loved to stir them up. I felt embarrassed.

His desire to be seen as an important person got in the way of being able to relate to what was going on around him. Experts would probably classify him as having narcissistic personality disorder. Whether he thought the people were beneath him, in his peer group, or whom he felt as very important people, be they stranger or familiar face, he had to put on a show. Even people with problems need love. Wasn’t it my duty to put up with that?

We appeared to be a happy couple, but some family and friends thought he was a bit standoffish, especially around me. Out in public, he rarely let me out of his sight, especially around my family and friends. He would make his way over and wrap his arms around me, acting as if he would not let me go. It was Carter’s way to assure I would not talk about anything taboo. As far as he was concerned, anything going on at home was nobody’s business.

Watching the road go by, in trance with my own thoughts, I was getting depressed. Lately, Carter has been more controlling and domineering. I have been so isolated from family and friends over the years that I had no one left to talk to about my problems, except Carter. He was my main problem. I had no outlet. The only way I could cope was to lash out on myself. Although I have become used to doing whatever it took to keep the peace, it was starting to eat away inside me. It all seemed too unfair and unbearable. A marriage is supposed to be an equal partnership, but I often felt like Carter’s car; he loves it as long as it runs fine, but the moment it doesn’t behave the way he wants it he can kick and scream at it.

Carter feels he is singled out for inconvenience and these things don’t happen to anyone else. If something goes wrong, he does not get his way, or things don’t go according to his plan, it is always a conspiracy against him. He lashes out on me or the kids or even innocent by-standers. He will yell and scream at a baby if agitated enough. It doesn’t matter a problem, small or big, his tantrums are all the same – scary, attacking, profane, loud and embarrassing when done in public. After he gets his way, he acts as if nothing happened. Days like yesterday were typical day and it was getting wearisome.

Carter worked all day. He tried phoning and got no answer, so he left a nasty, sarcastic message on the voice mail for me. I tried to return his call but he was with a customer and would call later. When he called back, he screamed at me over why no one answers the phone. He was so loud I put the phone on the floor and could still hear him. I’m sure people in the restaurant were uncomfortable hearing this. It didn’t matter that I was busy doing something and everyone else was gone, someone should have picked up. By the time he came home, it was as if nothing happened earlier. He brought me a bouquet of flowers, telling me how special I was. He left me to question myself, as if I just imagined the fight earlier. He never apologizes or admits to what happens in these fights.

We finally reached the gravel access road going to the trailer park. Located in a poor section of a medium sized town was Three Rivers Trailer Park crammed in a span of 3 acres just off North Market Street , across the street from the train tracks and a long distance from the Interstate. Each unit looked exactly the same, small, white, and rusty with creaky wooden stairs looking like they would fall apart. Children would play on the dirt and gravel roads ignoring the cars trying to get by. Stray pets would roam up and down the aisles looking for scraps of food left in various garbage bins. The heat brought out the crane flies, mosquitoes, and grasshoppers looking in vain for puddles of water to cool off.

My sister’s unit had two bedrooms, one bathroom, living room that flowed unblocked into the kitchen with a laundry area, stove, refrigerator and a small counter space. Due to such cramped conditions, furniture had to be sparse. She had a kitchen table with four chairs, a microwave oven, a television in each room, two beds in the bedrooms, and a pullout sofa bed. To make things feel more comfortable, she added purple curtains and displayed posters of the Beatles all over the walls. Outside her unit was a beautiful flower garden. She may not have much, but she had lots of love.

As we stepped out of the car, my family greeted us. Carter grumbled under his breath, “I’m amazed you found room to fit all these people in that tin shack,” to which my sister, Tina rolled her eyes trying to ignore his usual digs at her.

Tina was below the poverty level. The trailer was all she could afford on welfare and disability. While in college, she became a mother at age 19. Her son had special needs. She got married and they had another child, but her husband died leaving her with a load of debt. Then she was in a car accident leaving her permanently injured. All this stress left her daughter to act out and she had been in and out of trouble at school and with the law. It was an unfortunate situation for her, but it made me cringe when Carter would make some snide remark about her. He made it sound like we were so much better. We may live in a fancy, pricey mansion, but I envied Tina in ways.

After putting Geo in the play area with Grandma Julie and Great Aunt Linda, I caught up with Tina. We briefly talked about general sister stuff, nothing really serious or prohibited. It wasn’t long before Carter honed in and bolted through the crowd to hang on to me, letting everyone subtly know I was his property and they should back off.

Some of the cousins were starting to unfold the picnic tables for the buffet. Tina turned to Carter mustering up as much sincerity in her voice as possible, “Would you mind going to the store to pick up some rolls, chips and beer? I’m not sure we will have enough.”

Carter, loving to feel like the important hero, agreed after wrapping his arms tightly around me leaving me with a sloppy, wet kiss. After he left, Tina hustled me towards her bedroom. Melissa was waiting there with my mother and father.

“Belinda, Melissa wanted to tell you something important, but she was afraid you would be mad at her for bringing it up.”

I was afraid of what she would say because I felt I knew what she was up to, but braced myself for it anyway, “You can tell me anything. What’s the problem?”

Tears filled her eyes as Melissa started to shiver, “Why don’t you divorce dad?”

I felt as if everything stopped that moment. My parents and sister leaned in with anxious curiosity wondering if the situation was as bad as they thought. It was very quiet as I paused to think how I would handle this situation. This was a delicate matter and I wondered how Carter would handle this kind of fallout in front of my family if he knew we were discussing this to what he feels are outsiders. It was no real secret, just unspoken. Everyone knew for years.

Melissa mentioned, “I wish John was my father instead.” I wish she didn’t go there in front of my family. She did not realize how my family had seen me when he broke my heart. Ever since she met him, she was more inclined to compare how her father behaves with John.

“It’s not as simple as that. I can’t just leave your father and run off with John and live happily ever after. That choice was made a long time ago.”

Tina leaned in towards me and grabbed my arms, “Could you roll up your sleeves?”

Embarrassed, I felt betrayed. I told Tina her about this in confidence. I did not want to try and explain it to mom and dad. Hesitant, I rolled up my sleeves to reveal a smattering of fresh cuts, fading cuts, and scars up and down both arms.

My parents looked horrified. Mom said, “Only someone in so much pain could actually harm themselves in such a manner. You need help.”

Tears started flowing down my eyes. I did not want anyone to see me this way. I believe I must have glared at my sister for sharing my secret because she seemed to be trembling, with tears in her eyes she said, “If you’re that unhappy, you need to leave. It would be better for him to beat you than to have you do this to yourself.”

I felt like they were ganging up on me and beating up on Carter behind his back, “And that’s the key difference, he doesn’t beat me. He tries really hard to make a better life for us. He loves his family. If we left it would destroy him. You remember what happened the last time I tried to leave and serve him with divorce papers. He got really controlling, began to stalk everyone I knew to find me, and then threatened to kill himself if I didn’t come back.”

Dad interjected with force and concern, “That sounds like his problem, not yours.”

Deep down I knew they were right, but felt guilty for being disloyal, “I still love him. I don’t want anything bad to happen to him. I just want him to get help.”

Mom turned to me, holding my hands as she tried to look me in the eyes, “You know he won’t. He won’t admit to having any problems. Melissa tells us every time you bring up the idea of counseling; he agrees in the beginning and then decides later he doesn’t need it because he resents having to tell strangers his problems. He can’t be helped unless he wants it.”

Suddenly Melissa started sobbing uncontrollably. I put my arms around her and gave her a kiss. “Will you excuse us? I think I need to talk to my baby in private.”

I did not want to have such a conversation where Carter was likely to step in. I asked Tina if I could borrow her orange 1976 Ford Pinto so we could go for a little ride and to tell Carter we were picking up some cousins at the airport.

Melissa hopped into the front passenger side. As we drove off she got into my purse, digging around for some lip gloss, instead pulling out a note she read:

Dearest Belinda,

Oh my God, I can’t believe you found me. That was my oldest son, Don you spoke to that day. I’m sorry I missed your call, but glad I have your address.

After all these years I have been wondering what happened to you. You may not know this, but Cindy died a few years ago from cancer, so it is just me and the kids now.

I have done a few searches for you without luck since I only went by your maiden name. I'm so glad you found me again.

Love always,


Dearest Belinda,

It was so nice talking to you on the phone again. I miss those days in high school when we would be on the phone all the time. I miss roaming the night streets with you.

I was glad to hear that you got married and became a mother. I just wish you were as happy as I was with Cindy.

In all honesty, I never stopped thinking about you and how we ended. I’m sorry I hurt you and led you on, but Cindy was carrying my first child and we had to get married. I wanted to do the right thing. It was never easy hiding the fact that I never stopped loving you, but I honestly had deep feelings for Cindy, too.

I don’t have regrets for what I did because I have beautiful children, but I can never forgive myself for hurting you in the process. To this day I still love you and probably always will.

I respect the fact that you are now married and have children, I will bask in the fact that you are allowing me in your life again as a friend. I do so cherish your friendship. I know you are going through hard times right now and your marriage is difficult, but you need to find a better way to handle your problems. Hurting yourself will not make your situation better. You know the solution to it, but it is not my place to suggest it.

I love and care about you and to hear about such things makes me angry that there is nothing in the world I can do to stop you. It is up to you to get the help you need. When you are ready, I will be here waiting.

You asked me last time if there was a moment in those years we were apart if I ever thought of you in that special way. I would have to say yes. To be honest, I have had to fight those feelings through the years any time I thought about you. It is also hard to see you and not to hold you in my arms. It is a relief to know you felt the same way, but it is a moot point since we can’t do anything about it.

Love always,


“What happened mom?” Curiosity got the best of her, “you obviously love him and he loves you, so why is it so hard to consider divorcing dad and marry John?”

Exasperated at the prospect of having to tell her the whole story, I turned to her and said, “We are very good friends. Right now that’s all we are.”

Giggling, “Sounds like more than friends to me.”

“Put that back now!”

“If you are only friends, why do you carry his letters with you?”

“It doesn’t mean anything,” then I quickly snatched the letter from her hand and stuffed it back into my purse. As if I didn’t have enough on my mind, here I am in the car thinking of him.

John is 34 years old. He is a medium sized man at five feet seven inches with clean-cut reddish brown hair and deep green eyes hiding behind wire-rimmed glasses and a very fair skinned complexion with a face scattered with freckles. I have known him on and off for 20 years when I was bussed from my school district to his. He lives with his four children in a middle class neighborhood of Chicago’s Southside called Mt Greenwood.

This region was mostly blue collared workers. Carter, who grew up in the rich suburbs, tended to look down his nose at John and the so-called yokels of the area who seemed to have no further aspirations than making it to the next paycheck and grilling on the weekends. It was a kinder epitaph than he had for the people from my old neighborhood.

John worked extra hours while Cindy was alive so she could be a stay at home mother and they could have a home paid off before they had to send the kids to college. He was racked with guilt for not spending more time with her. He now owned his home, but lost her.

They lived in a modest 4 bedroom brick bungalow. On the porch was a wooden swing which seemed inviting to all who visited. Everyone approaching knew they would be treated like family. Inside was more love than possessions. With so much space, there was more than enough room to invite family and friends who served as better décor than a fine leather sofa could ever bring to his home.

I can’t help it, but every time I thought of John, I keep wondering what if things were different and feel disheartened because it will never be that way. I love him as deeply as he hurt me. I don’t know if I can ever get past that.

Snapping her fingers at me trying to get my attention, “Mom, you can deny it all you want, but you know you would rather be with John than with dad. When we came back from our visit with him last year, you were so happy and he was all you could talk about. John even spent the last of his savings just to come and see you last month when he could have easily used it for something else.”

The mall was only a minute away which didn’t give me much time to steer her away from that topic. “Can’t we talk about this when we get to the mall?”

Hampton Hills, a beautiful 15 years old mall in perfect shape went bankrupt and was marked for demolition. The stores catered to the upper middle class who could afford the high prices of exclusive stores, but this was not an upper middle class town. It had nothing to offer residents what they needed or could afford. As a result, it is a ghost town still open to mall walkers who were dwindling in numbers. Grand dreams of glory were on the façade, but a broken dream stood lonely inside.

Remnants of a past life included shelving, mannequins, and barren spots which used to contain cash registers, signs, and display stands; the only evidence this place once had a pulse. Although most of the lighting, except for the emergency lights, were shut off, during the day you could still see the beauty inside thanks to the glass ceilings which hung above the second floor and shone down the silver-plated banisters. In areas where the light could not reach, an eerie darkness called out to stay away. It was clear its days were numbered.

As I pulled into the parking lot, Melissa bolted out of the car before I could completely stop and ran towards the main entry doors. I chased after her. I found her spinning around next to the water fountain.

I sat next to where she was standing on the edge of the concrete pond. I turned slightly and noticed a pretty, small conch shell in the pond. I scooped it out with my hand. The shell was shiny, tan with a wide creamy white area on the outer entrance and white strips going around the top. I shook the shell and heard a noise like a hard rock rattling around inside that sounded like the remains of the poor creature that had died. I could hear the sound of an angry ocean rushing back and forth inside the shell. I pocketed it as a sign of good luck.

“Seriously, mom, why do you stay with dad? He’s an asshole.” She rolled her eyes towards the skylight in exasperation.

“You shouldn’t say things like that about your father,” defending a man I still have deep feelings for, “You may not like it, but he will always be your father.”

Pulling out a folded and worn brochure from her pocket, she hands it to me, “In school they were discussing the signs of an abusive relationship. Everything they said fits you and dad to a T.”

“It’s not all that bad. Sure he has bad moments, but he can be really good, too. You make it sound as if he beats me or something.”

“You’re in denial, mom. He doesn’t have to beat you; you do enough of that to yourself because of him. Look at the pamphlet. Out of all 58 signs, I can point out 52 that apply.”

The Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse

Does he/she ignore your feelings?
Does he/she disrespect you?
Does he/she ridicule or insult you then tell you it’s a joke, or that you have no sense of humor?
Does he/she ridicule your beliefs, religion, race, heritage or class?
Does he/she withhold approval, appreciation or affection?
Does he/she give you the silent treatment?
Does he/she walk away without answering you?
Does he/she criticize you, call you names, or yell at you?
Does he/she humiliate you privately or in public?
Does he/she roll his or her eyes when you talk?
Does he/she give you a hard time about socializing with your friends or family?
Does he/she make you socialize (and keep up appearances) even when you don't feel well?
Does he/she seem to make sure that what you really want is exactly what you won't get?
Does he/she tell you that you are too sensitive?
Does he/she hurt you especially when you are down?
Does he/she seem energized by fighting, while fighting exhausts you?
Does he/she have unpredictable mood swings, alternating from good to bad for no apparent reason?
Does he/she present a wonderful face to the world and is well liked by outsiders?
Does he/she "twist" your words, somehow turning what you said against you?
Does he/she try to control decisions, money, even the way you style your hair or wear your clothes?
Does he/she complain about how badly you treat him or her?
Does he/she threaten to leave, or threaten to throw you out?
Does he/she say things that make you feel good, but do things that make you feel bad?
Has he/she ever left you stranded?
Does he/she ever threaten to hurt you or your family?
Has he/she ever hit or pushed you, even "accidentally" ?
Does he/she seem to stir up trouble just when you seem to be getting closer to each other?
Does he/she abuse something you love: a pet, a child, an object?
Does he/she compliment you enough to keep you happy, yet criticize you enough to keep you insecure?
Does he/she promise to never do something hurtful again?
Does he/she harass you about imagined affairs?
Does he/she manipulate you with lies and contradictions?
Does he/she destroy furniture, punch holes in walls, break appliances?
Does he/she drive like a road-rage junkie?
Does he/she act immature and selfish, yet accuse you of those behaviors?
Does he/she question your every move and motive, somehow questioning your competence?
Does he/she interrupt you; hear but not really listen?
Does he/she make you feel like you can't win? Damned if you do, damned if you don't?
Does he/she use drugs and/or alcohol involved? Are things worse then?
Does he/she incite you to rage, which is "proof" that you are to blame?
Does he/she try to convince you he or she is "right," while you are "wrong?"
Does he/she frequently say things that are later denied or accuse you of misunderstanding?
Does he/she treat you like a sex object, or as though sex should be provided on demand regardless of how you feel?
Do you express your opinions less and less freely?
Do you find yourself walking on eggshells, careful of when and how to say something?
Do you long for that softer, more vulnerable part of your partner to emerge?
Do you find yourself making excuses for your partner's behavior?
Do you feel emotionally unsafe?
Do you feel it’s somehow not OK to talk with others about your relationship?
Do you hope things will change...especially through your love and understanding?
Do you find yourself doubting your memory or sense of reality?
Do you doubt your own judgment?
Do you doubt your abilities?
Do you feel vulnerable and insecure?
Are you becoming increasingly depressed?
Do you feel increasingly trapped and powerless?
Have you been afraid of your partner?
Does your partner physically hurt you, even once?
(Matiatos, 2007)

As I quickly scanned through the checklist, feeling the heat of anger from the pit of my stomach realizing some truths I did not want to admit, “It’s not as bad as you think. I don’t think it’s that many,” then I pause and reflect how Carter would see it. “Besides, it goes both ways. He would probably accuse me of some of those things on the list.”

“Only because he brings it out of you,” she said with a loud exasperated sigh.

I was starting to feel cornered, “That’s no excuse for my bad behaviour; your father does work really hard for us. He loves us. He has sacrificed so much of himself to keep us together.”

Incredulous at my state of denial, Melissa raises her voice, “Mother, stop making excuses for him. Everyone is freaked out by his control over us. What about the time when he didn’t feel like waiting any longer for you to cash your check and he drove off leaving you behind so you had to walk five miles to catch up with him? Or the time he was pissed off over not finding a parking spot and he drove like an idiot and ruined his tires then started screaming at us?”

“Look, Melissa, I know your father has problems, but what am I supposed to do about it? I don’t have any money saved up. I don’t have any skills to get a job. How do I support two children without him? There are no laws against what he does. There are no legal grounds for divorce for it either. Sooner or later you and Geo will want a roof over your head, clothes on your back and something to eat. I can’t give that to you, but your father can.”

“John could.”

“What makes you think he is any better than your father? You don’t really know him the way I do. He may not have the same issues as your father, but he does have issues. If he didn’t, we would have been together.”

Melissa seemed stunned. I think she finally started to understand why John was not an option, but disappointed still that she has her father, “What do you see in dad anyway?”

“I met him just as he turned 18, shortly after I broke up with John. Your father used to live in the suburbs of Chicago until your grandfather inherited the house. He left home when he received a full scholarship to attend law school. We met at a park while I was on break from work. It was love at first sight and we were engaged only within a few days later. Back then he was so full of charm he was hard to resist.”

“Is being with him for his charm worth losing your soul? I know he is my father and I am supposed to love him, but I don’t believe ‘love is never having to say you’re sorry’ like that movie you love. He keeps hurting us and you let him get away with it.”

“I know he doesn’t always treat me right, but there are times he does. He can be sweet and kind and loving. And he does love you and Geo.”

“Then why is it he wanted both of us aborted like those other abortions he forced you into?”

“How did you know about that?”

“Everyone in the family knows it.”

“Our first year we were together, I got pregnant. We were engaged and I thought the right thing to do was to tell him and hoped he would be happy. Instead, he blamed me for getting pregnant and insisted I get an abortion; he said if I didn't do it he would have to leave me.”

“Why didn’t you just keep the baby?”
“It wasn’t that simple. We were living together with his parents. We both had temp jobs. My parents would never accept the situation of having an unwed mother living in their home. The few friends I had were not in a position to help. I contacted an adoption agency, but faced a different problem. The agency said I needed permission of the birth father to sign away his rights. He did not want to put his unborn child up for adoption because he did not want it coming to haunt him 20 years later, so he refused and continued to pressure me to get an abortion. I had no money and no place to go.”
“But couldn’t you have left him after getting an abortion?”
“I could have, but I still loved him and he promised things would get better. He promised we would move out on our own and eventually we did. Then we got married. We had another encounter later with an unexpected pregnancy after getting married. He insisted on an abortion again, but I stood up to him and refused because by that time he talked me into four. I wrestled a gun out of his hand as he threatened to kill himself if I didn't go through with it. I miscarried a few days later. The gun wasn’t even loaded.”

“That is so fucked up, mom. Why didn’t you leave him then?”

“I was afraid that if I left, he might kill himself. I did try leaving him a few times and he threatened to do it, so I always came back. It wasn’t until I actually had to fight with him over the gun did I feel his threat was serious. You have to understand something, he might be a jerk, but I love him.”

“You’re right, mom. I don’t understand.” Melissa put her arms around me and kissed my forehead. I hugged her and looked into her worried face. “You still deserve better.”

“You are only going to be around for a few more years and then you will be free. Hopefully you won’t make my mistakes, but you will see that life is not as clear as you think. What you are asking me to do will affect everyone. Besides, the idea of being a single mother, quite frankly, scares me to death, especially with a baby.”

“All I’m asking mom is that you just think about it.”

Looking down at my watch, I knew I had to cut it short. “I’ll do that. We’d better get back before your father starts to wonder where we are.”

We left the mall behind and headed back to the trailer park. I was glad I cleared the air with Melissa, but I don’t think it gave her the comfort she hoped for. As I parked the car, Carter broke away from the buffet table to bolt over to us. “Where the hell have you two been? Tina said you were at the airport to pick up your cousins. You sure took a long time to get back here. Geo woke up about half an hour ago and needs a change.”

I was mildly annoyed, hoping he wouldn’t put on a show for my family, “Why didn’t you change him?”

“I don’t do diapers. You know that. Besides, he likes it better when you do it.”

“I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded if you attempted it. Where is he now?”

“He’s in the play area with the other babies.”

“Has anyone changed him yet?”

“No. Julie and Linda fell asleep on the bench. Geo went to sleeping in the shade.”

I walked quickly to get Geo and tried to avoid Carter, but he decided to follow after me.

“Do you need something?”

“Not really. I just wanted to be with you. What were you really doing?”

I picked up Geo dodging his questions and tried to ignore him while I made my way inside the trailer to give Geo a much needed change. Carter started demanding answers as I began to change Geo in the small bathroom, “Well, where were you, really?”

I quickly started thinking of a lie to get him off my back, “If you must know, I went to the mall with Melissa. She just wanted to talk to me about girl stuff.”

Seemingly satisfied with that answer, he responded, “When you’re finished with the baby, can you fix me a plate of food? I haven’t eaten yet.”

I was really losing my patience with him. After everything I had been through already today, he was being an annoying toddler, “You were just at the table and you haven’t eaten yet? Why can’t you ever do things like that for yourself?”

The veins started to pop out and his face turned red, “I work hard all week long. I bring in the money. I sacrifice everything for the family. I didn’t even want kids, but since you insisted on having them I had to go broke in the process. I don’t ask for much, just a little respect and cooperation.”

Something snapped in me. Suddenly my normally soft-spoken voice got loud and angry, catching the attention of relatives standing outside the trailer listening with anticipation to the drama inside. “So you think I do nothing worthwhile. You think my contributions don’t matter.”

He backed down a bit and lowered his voice before people started getting into our business, “I didn’t say that. All I asked is for you to fix me a plate and all you get hysterical.”

“You are implying that you are the only one doing the work for the family. You imply that it all rests on you so I should submit to anything you request.” Feeling sick to my stomach, sad and angry, I got up to his face, trembling I told him, “I do plenty of hard work everyday without a break. I sacrifice everything I have for this family. I can’t even go on vacation or have a day off because I am always doing something for someone. You’re a grown man. You should have walked over to the table, taken a plate and piled on what you wanted to eat.”

Looking like a defeated puppy, he backed off and softly said, “I just wanted you to fix me a plate like you always do, without the lip.”

“Carter, you treat me like a machine under your control. That is sick.”

“Who have you been talking to? Who’s been putting these silly ideas in your mind? You need to stay away from them before they poison your mind.” At that moment, as he was defending himself, I saw him in a whole new light. He fit the pattern of abuse I did not see before. Right now, he was justifying his outrage over not being able to control me.

“You have total freedom to do whatever you want. I work full time at a job I hate just so you can have the money to buy anything you and the kids need. I work hard so you don’t have to go out and get a job and be a stay at home mother like you wanted. I gave in to your demand to have the children I never wanted. If anything, you are the one controlling me.”

It seemed surreal to hear this déjà vu conversation as if I were a stranger looking at this scene. Instead of reacting how he expected with me backing down, I called him on his distortions.

“I have begged you for months to move out but you won’t consider my needs unless I get a full time job, by that you are controlling my freedom. How about the fact that you hang over me every moment in public? That is control. You bullied me into having 4 abortions I didn’t want. You insisted if I wanted to keep Melissa I had to prove I could work so I worked 2 full time jobs which caused medical needs that have kept me unable to work. You were the one who bullied me into having my tubes tied after having Geo. You want to control my body. If that’s not control, I don’t know what is.”

“Forget it. You are being so damned unreasonable. I’ll get the plate myself.”

I reached in my pocket, grabbed the conch shell and threw it at the wall. It burst into dozens of pieces on the floor while some shards of shell embedded into my cheeks. I felt no pain in comparison to what was going on in my head. The broken pretty shell revealed its emptiness, just as dead as my feelings for Carter in that moment. “You know what; you can get your plate on your own from now on. I’ve had it. While I still have some love and respect for you, I must leave you now before I end up hating you.”

Tears came in his eyes as he realized I was serious, “You’re not making any sense. Has your family spoken to you about me while I was gone? Why don’t we go home and forget all of this? You know I love you.”

“Sometimes love isn’t enough. I need respect and that is something you are not capable of giving me. You don’t know when you are doing it. When I point it out to you, you get too defensive to hear it and turn it around on me. It’s over. I can’t take it anymore.”

Almost begging Carter tries to hold on to my hand, “What is everyone going to think?”

I took my hand back and could not look him in the eyes for fear I would fall for him again and started to cry, “Why do you care so much about what other people think? Why don’t you care about how I think or even how I feel? I just can’t continue being your slave.”

“You make it sound as if I am some kind of monster.”

“You really don’t see it do you? You are not interested in fixing the real problems. You would rather gloss things and look like the hero. The problem is you are a scared little person afraid of being hated so you control me. I have waited for too long for you to change, but now I know it will never happen.”

“I can change. We can do the counseling and I can do anger management like you mentioned before.”

“Carter, we’ve been through this before. You always say you will and you never follow through. They need to know the problem or they can’t fix it. You don’t want to admit to having any problems and those problems are eating away at me. I can’t live like this anymore.” I took off my long sleeved sweater and pulled off my scarf.

A look of horror came over Carter, “Put that back on. What’s your family going to say if they see the cuts all over you?”

I glanced at him only to see his usual act of control and started walking out the room, “After all I just said you don’t understand why this is the essence of me leaving you. I don’t have to put on airs for my family. I am in pain and I need their help since you won’t do it.”

Realizing he lost the fight, he got angry, “Fine, have it your way. I’m out of here.” Carter got into his car and slammed the door hard, breaking the glass on the driver’s side. He revved the car and peeled out knocking loose the gravel as he sped on out towards the street.

As Carter drove off, I tucked Geo in the bed. Tina knocked on the door after picking up the shell pieces which landed in the hallway and poked her head in. Melissa came creeping up and burst into the room.

“You and the kids are welcome to stay here until you can figure out where you want to go from here.”

“Thanks. You know where I want to be.”

“I can’t say I blame you. Stay with us a few days and I’ll help you find a place back in Chicago . Maybe you and John will have that happy ending you have always dreamt about.”

“I want to be near him, but I can’t think about moving on with him yet. He still grieves Cindy. Two rebounds never work. We can at least be there for each other and see where that takes us. Besides, the reason we weren’t together in the first place is he dumped me for someone else. How would that make me feel any better than going back to Carter who claims to love me? I already lack self-esteem. I don’t want to be a second prize.”

At least I knew my family was there for me and took some comfort in that. The day was over and everyone went home. Deep down I knew this was a new beginning. I had no idea how it would end, but guessed it would have to be better than the last 15 years with Carter.

Matiatos, Irene (2007, January). Abuse Signs. Retrieved August 21, 2008 , from Dr. Irene's Verbal Abuse Site Web site: http://www.drirene. com/verbal1. htm