Friday, September 19, 2008

The Road of Lost Innocence

The beautiful weather this week has been wonderful for my joints. Cool, but not cold, temps with low humidity. I felt so good, that I had to admit, I went a little crazy. Wednesday and Thursday, I did all of the laundry. And when I say all, I mean all! With five people in our house, it accumulates quickly, and it hadn't been completely finished in a couple of weeks. I even hung it all out on the line and folded it. Ten loads, at least, carried up and down the basement steps, outside, and then back in again. Yesterday when the laundry was finished, I took every single piece of clothing out of my closet and separated it into piles: sell, donate, keep. The good news was that I've lost enough weight that some things that haven't fit in a long time fit again; the bad news is that I still don't have any decent dress pants because I tend to buy them from thrift stores, and they never fit right.

By mid-afternoon yesterday, I was already starting to feel the results of my labor. My hips and shoulders were starting to ache, and I was mentally kicking myself for overdoing it...again. My mood, which had been good, plummeted. I was angry with myself and frustrated with God for letting me hurt like this when I all I want to do is serve my family. At 3:40, I drove down to the bus stop to pick up Mia. She looked a little tired as she got off of the bus, and she was talking quietly on the way back to the van, but I couldn't hear her very well over the roar of the bus driving away. I didn't really look at her until I turned to lift her into the van. Then I saw her face. It was bright red all along the right side with several small scratches and scrapes. The whole world stopped as I held her face in my hands and gave her my full attention to find out what happened. My pain didn't matter, my anger and sadness, none of it was as important as knowing what had hurt my baby girl.

In Mia's own words, she was "playing Rocket Ship to the Moon [a game she created that requires her to swing really high] when I fell off of the swing and did a double flip onto the woodchips." Two teachers and a friend carefully checked her out, cleaning the woodchips out of her hair and tights, and her teacher looked for blood after recess and didn't find any. (That explains why I didn't get a phone call). She was completely okay after her gymnastics, just a little tired and clingy, and I was so grateful to God for sparing her from any serious injury. I knew kids in school who broke their arms doing similar stunts. Mia got off relatively lightly. Isn't it something how I can be so caught up in my own stuff, in my own head, that I need something big to shake me up and make me see the world again? Her face looks much better today; although this morning, I had to be careful washing her face after breakfast, because it was hard to tell what was cereal and what were scabs. She's completely back to her normal, exuberant, life-loving self. And while I am still paying today for my exertions, I can see it with a bit of humor. Thank God! Then when I think about the size of my troubles compared to those below, I am awed with how truly blessed I am in this life.

The Road of Lost Innocence by Somaly Mam is a heart-breaking story of a woman's fight out of slavery and her quest to save others from suffering as she did. Somaly was raised in the forests of Cambodia in a primitive tribe without electricity or running water. Living in the remote jungles, her parents abandoned her and left her with a grandmother who then died before Somaly could remember any of them. She raised herself until the age of eleven, sleeping in a hammock, fishing for some meals, and receiving some little care from the rest of the villagers. At eleven, a man claiming to be her grandfather took her to a larger city and used her as slave labor, beating her and forcing her to work for others as well. She learned how to read at a small school run by a man who claimed to be her uncle and tried to do his weak best by her. At fifteen, her grandfather sold her into a violent marriage with a soldier, until he disappeared, and the grandfather appeared again to sell her into a brothel in Phnom Phen. There Somaly was raped and beaten until all of her will was driven out of her, and the fight to survive overcame the desire to be free. Eventually a French aid worker came to her aid, and Somaly was able to break free of this devastating life. But Somaly is more than the average women. She was unwilling to let other women suffer as she did, so she began distributing condoms to the brothels, and then opened a home to take in girls who fled their life of forced prostitution. She has faced threats, including the kidnapping of one of her daughters, but has emerged unwilling to bend again. Her story is amazing and awful, not something that is easily considered. It's much easier to skim over the details and refuse to internalize them. But when I read about men raping 5 and 6 year old girls and then pimps sewing the girls up again so they can be resold as "virgins" again and again, and then look at my own 5-1/2 year old daughter, my heart is broken. I can't imagine the degradation that these girls suffer daily. Somaly tells her story in raw, harsh words. They are not prettied up, nor does she gloss over what she has faced. This book needs to be read to expose the world to the truths about what is going on in Cambodia to these young girls. A portion of the profits from this book go to Somaly's charity that helps free girls from their abuse, and I know that her foundation is one that I will be donating to in the future.

The winner of Sweet September was Teresa Lacombe. Congrats to her! I'm going to watch Molly cheer again tonight; luckily, she's not a flyer anymore, so I won't be holding my breath through most of the evening!