Saturday, October 18, 2008

Healing Holly

Thank you for reading and contributing to the Survivor Manual. My work started and continues because of the people like you who support it. I meet heroes daily from all walks of life. What started out as a simple project of interviewing women who shared my name turned into a bond with thousands of people of all ages, races, and religions.

As I write another movie and work on my comedy show, I continue to speak around the country, consult other writers and filmmakers on their projects, and provide inspiration and avenues towards healing and awareness. I have just met another hero among you and I want to tell you about her and request your help, hope, and heart.

I started my comedy cooking show, Stirring Up Trouble, to have some balance in my life after years of working in the trauma world. I have been contacted by many of you asking for recipes and wanting to be a part of the show, one of whom is a girl named Holly. Holly emailed me, offering help on the new website. After checking out her online community for women, healing and feminist blogs, I could tell that she knew what she was doing, so I accepted her offer. She added those cute little buttons so that you can now forward the show to your friends on myspace, facebook, stumble it, digg it, or post it on delicious. Check out what she did at

Holly sent me an email telling me that the site was live and apologized for being out of communication for a bit. She said that she'd been sleeping an unusual amount and felt groggy. I, knowing some of her story of child sexual abuse, asked her if she was using sleep as a coping mechanism. Many times when things come up that we have a hard time facing, we will go to sleep, literally. I suggested that she write about that on her healing blog and I would put it on the Survivor Manual.

But the reasons for Holly's unusual sleep patterns go much deeper than coping. It turns out that Holly has Periodontal Disease, which is a gum disease that swells your gums up to the point where they become inflamed and hurt very badly. Periodontal Disease releases toxins through your gums that you swallow all the time. The reason Holly has begun sleeping so much is because these toxins are beginning to get worse and are making her nauseous. I looked up Periodontal Disease and found that if it is left untreated it can lead to a seizure or a heart attack. Recently Holly told me that she has been feeling electric-like surges throughout her face.

The reason I'm writing this is because this all began with child abuse. When Holly was a young child, not only was her mother selling her to men for sexual favors to be able to afford her drug addiction, but Holly's mother was also violent. She pushed Holly into the street one day when Holly was about 3. Holly fell, hit her face on a street curb, and all of her front teeth pushed into her gums. She had to get them surgically removed.

Holly's front teeth didn't grow back in until she was around 8 and when they did, they grew in extremely crooked and her mouth produced more teeth than would fit. To top it off, Holly's wisdom teeth are coming in. One of them is all the way grown in and another that is growing in now. Why am I telling you all of this? Because Holly is uninsured and cannot afford to get any of this fixed. She's been trying to take odds and ends jobs but the pain is keeping her from working as much as she could. Holly's father was paying child support plus the court costs and lawyer costs to try to get Holly and her younger sister away from their mother, so there was no money to get Holly's teeth fixed when she was young and they have continued to worsen. Holly has tried getting on welfare, free clinics, and sliding scale clinics, and every time they either don't have enough oral surgeons for all the help she needs or she makes too much or too little money.

I know what it's like to not have insurance and not be able to pay for health care. A few years ago I had such an intense asthma attack that I had to be rushed to the hospital. Because I was unable to breathe, I was rushed right into the emergency room. It was after I was put onto a breathing machine and stabilized that I was brought all the paperwork to sign. I began to cry when the nurse asked which insurance I had. Not only was I not insured but there was no way I was able to pay for a hospital bill. The nurse had seen my documentary and knew what I did and who I was. She was an angel in my life and erased any trace of me having been in the hospital and I never received a bill. She also provided me with some free inhalers before I left. I don't know what I would have done at the time if that nurse had not miraculously shown up.

I wouldn't tell you about Holly if she wasn't a warrior and a hero. She has done so much for Women's rights, helping other survivors heal, and setting up websites for amazing women - like myself! Just like people have helped me along the way, I am going to help Holly and I am asking for your help. I'm asking that all of us pitch in and get Holly's teeth fixed. If I could simply write a check and make her bills disappear I would. But I have not gotten rich by dedicating my life to helping others. I am rich in Spirit from knowing so many of you but the bank account has not caught up yet. So I set up a paypal email under so we can all chip in. I realize that we're in a financial crisis and because of that we are all going to need to bond together as a community more and more in the future.

The gist of Holly's story is in an interview she did for her local newspaper in 2007 here :

If Holly doesn't get the Periodontal Disease taken care of, she could die from a seizure or a heart attack because of all of the toxins her mouth produces. If I had not had that angel for a nurse I would not have been able to breathe - literally. I care about this girl and I want to help her. Healing Holly is not going to solve all of the problems in the world but it will be one amazing story with a happy ending that I personally really want to see.

Please be one of Holly's angels! The many procedures she needs are going to be very expensive so any amount helps. If everyone who gets this gave a little something - we may save a life! I have been speaking to one of the top dentists in Beverly Hills but if there are any dental surgeons around the world, Holly will fly wherever she needs to in order to fix this painful problem. The donations are gifts and not tax write-offs. If you or someone you know is part of a non-profit willing to collect and donate the money as well, please help.

You can contact me directly at and put Healing Holly in the subject. Go to and send money to or use this button:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Parent With Presence

Parent With Presence: Simply Essential for School Success
By: Sarah Elise Stauffer (View Profile)

We all want our children to be successful in school. Children need to know that they are loved, safe, and sacred to us. There are many ways to demonstrate this to them. Words are one thing, but action is key. One simple way I want to discuss is volunteering your time in your child’s classroom.
Children spend their days at school, and we at home or at work. When we let them go into the world, we have to be absolutely committed to remaining a PRESCENCE in their lives even as we are physically apart.
When a parent makes the effort to come to school, and volunteer, even for half and hour in the classroom, you are giving your child the gift of your presence, by way of your time spent in his or her world. I must also stress the importance of Dads going in and helping out as well. My son lights up like a Christmas tree when my husband or me comes in to help out. He says,” I feel so…special, Mama. Just…. like, I can see you are always caring about me.“
That’s the truth, kids see that you are there with them, aiding the teacher, acquainting yourself with the staff, the other children, and their lives as they know it at school.
Many of us did not have present parents in any sense of the word. I come from an abusive family. I can vividly remember never having a parent come to school for anything. When I was in a school play in the second grade, I was so excited I could barely stand it. I was a doll, and my job was to sit on the stage for the whole play! I got to wear a special dress and special doll make up. When no one showed up, I felt such a deep sadness, and sense of invisibility. This is a mild example, but a poignant one nonetheless. I vowed years later that my children would never feel such feelings; stinging rejection and the humiliation of being stared at when your name is called and no parent stands up for you in the crowd. I know many of you have had similar experiences. If this is your legacy, it can stop with you.
A good compass for parenting with presence is getting as involved in your child’s classroom as much as you can. I understand parents work. As a stay at home mother, it has been a challenge for me at times to find child care for my youngest so that I can get to school. I have seen parents who come in once every two weeks on a lunch shift. Children talk about it all week and are overjoyed when their mom or dad comes in. What a gift!
One that we can give just by showing up. Isn’t that true for so much of life? Just show up. Showing up emotionally, not just physically.
Here are some simple and easy tips for fostering presence in your child’s life:*Make friends with the teacher, every year. Whether you talk on the phone, by email, or in person. Just talk. It’s all about communication. Some teachers are better at this than others. If you have a teacher who is not so hot in this area, voice your concerns calmly. If you are blessed with a teacher who is on the ball, be sure you thank her or him often.
*With my son, who is a second grader, I am co-room parent. I was sole room mother in kindergarten and chaperoned every field trip. This year I talk three or four days a week with my son’s teacher. If you wait until conference or progress report time, you may end up having a much bigger mess to clean up. Kids can fall behind in a flash. It’s all about being a maintainer, a sort of diligence cop. If your child is behind, it falls on you as much as your child, because it is our job as parents to set rules and boundaries and enforce them, they need us to be on their backs all the time. Resist as they might, that is to be expected and is even more reason to get in there and stay in the process with them. Some suggestions:
*Join the PTA, try to go to meetings. Your PTA needs you. You need the PTA. It’s a win-win.
*Go to as many school events as possible. We go to almost every one. This gives my son an extra dose of belonging in his school community.
*Offer to bring in extra supplies for the class. Yes, they always need supplies. It could be Kleenex or disinfectant. Small or large, it will be appreciated.
*Have an ongoing conversation with your child’s teacher about how your child is doing. Read the lesson plans if you can. Ask for handouts on exactly what they are learning. For example, for reading levels, most schools have certain levels your child needs to be at in order to be making adequate progress. Your library should have corresponding handouts with age appropriate books that aid in your child reading on the correct level. If they do not have this, ask them to provide them.
*Stress the importance of education, in general. Education is the key to the future. My son knows it is fundamental right and also a responsibility he must take very seriously.
~Let me preempt, you think you do not have the time? Prioritize. Make the time. Don’t talk about it, be about it. The laundry can wait. Start early, kindergarten, even preschool if your child is in one.
As a mother who makes an effort to be a present force in my child’s life at school, as well as home, I pop into class early. I help organize, along with the my co-room mother, Learning Experiences, Center Time, Book Fair, and the volunteer list. It’s sort of like being a detective. It’s a fun way to be in the know. I can see Dominic’s self esteem and sense of self value rise each and every time I reach into his life at school by being there. Yes, sometimes I am simply stapling their journals together for the week. I sit and staple and watch and listen. Every few minutes Dominic will look up and smile at me. The other kids do too, and I feel so blessed to be a source of presence for them. Other times I am working with groups, and at times I am assigned to some one on one time with a particular child. I have made an effort to know each child in his class beyond their names. Dominic loves this. In this way, you get to be a sort of Earth Mother to all of your child’s friends. The hugs and hi-fives I receive from his classmates when I come in makes my day!On the research side, in study after study, researchers discover how important it is for parents to be actively involved in their child's education. Here are some of the findings of major research into parental involvement:
When parents are involved in their children's education at home, they do better in school. And when parents are involved in school, children go farther in school — and the schools they go to are better.
The family makes critical contributions to student achievement from preschool through high school. A home environment that encourages learning is more important to student achievement than income, education level or cultural background.
Reading achievement is more dependent on learning activities in the home than is math or science.Reading aloud to children is the most important activity that parents can do to increase their child's chance of reading success.
Talking to children about books and stories read to them also supports reading achievement.When children and parents talk regularly about school, children perform better academically.
Three kinds of parental involvement at home are consistently associated with higher student achievement: actively organizing and monitoring a child's time, helping with homework and discussing school matters.
The earlier that parent involvement begins in a child's educational process, the more powerful the effects.
Positive results of parental involvement include improved student achievement, reduced absenteeism, improved behavior, and restored confidence among parents in their children's schooling.
Involvement in your child's education can mean:
Reading to your child
Checking homework every night.
Discussing your children's progress with teachers.
Voting in school board elections
Helping your school to set challenging academic standards
Limiting TV viewing on school nights
Becoming an advocate for better education in your community and state. 
We are witness to our children‘s lives. We need to band together as parents and be a strong, stable, encouraging presence in their school life. For me, it is really about being there in mind and body. This is parenting with presence.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Finding Butch

Inspired by Finding Angela Shelton, Ron Tebo is now Finding Butch!

Ron Tebo and his younger sister are survivors of sexual abuse (he was 6 and she was 4) and they have created Finding Butch so other survivors have a positive place to speak out and share their story.