Three-Year Blogaversary: Resilience, Gifts, and Not-Quitting

I just received this notice from WordPress:

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This makes me smile, for just this morning, while strolling through the garden, I began composing my three-year blogaversary post. I thought the blogaversary was a few days away and that I was early–but here it is, today!

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While I was thinking of what I wanted to comment on about this past year, my heart kept turning towards some of the challenging points of my three-year involvement with SimLit blogging. Some of my friends and several acquaintances have been targets of cyber bullying through their blogging and involvement with the SimLit community. I’ve experienced some meanness, too.  When this happens, we often think, “Why stay with this? Why not quit?” And, indeed, sometimes, withdrawing for a while, to heal, rebuild confidence, and regain strength is the best strategy.

Over the past three years, each time I’ve considered whether I wanted to stay or withdraw, I’ve chosen to stay. This creative outlet gives me something that adds to my life, and I love the SimLit community.

During my first six months of blogging and being part of the SimLit community, I felt I’d found a niche. The community was small, friendly, open, welcoming, accepting, diverse, and a little bit quirky. It seemed possible to read and keep up with all the new TS4 stories, and almost possible to get to know all the writers. We had fun, goofy, and inspiring collabs; we celebrated each other’s legacy births and weddings, and mourned the passings of each other’s founders, heirs, spouses, and spares. I was full of joy for nearly all of those six months: I’d found my place online.

During the second six months, I experienced a painful situation common to many bloggers and collaborators. I had a public falling-out with a close friend and collaborator that ended in a personal attack made in the comments on my blog. It was the result of a misunderstanding, and looking back, I wish I’d been able to handle the situation with more grace and skill. I don’t regret the post I made that brought on the attack, for I was clarifying misinformation about me, my beliefs and attitudes, and my approaches to game-play that had been publicly posted. It’s within our rights to clarify misinformation that’s posted about us. I regret my lack of skill in handling the situation: Causing pain to someone I love and admire is deeply regrettable, as is the loss of a friendship–or several.

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My own pain surrounding this event was sharp and raw around the time of the first Blogaversary celebration, during which we acknowledged many of the one-year-old SimLit blogs. I had come close to cancelling the event, and I seriously considered quitting altogether. I’m glad we held the celebration: I look back fondly on our enthusiasm as readers and writers. I’m glad I stuck with blogging. It was during my second year of blogging that I finished Goofy Love and started many other stories which have been gratifying to me.

During my second year of blogging, I learned cyber bullying happens in the Simming community. BullyOnline.org offers this definition of cyber bullying:

Cyber bullying is the misuse of communication technology (email, SMS texts, social networks, Internet forums etc) for conducting campaigns of hatred. The impersonality and distance between bully and target makes such technology an effective means to cause conflict and hurt.

Types of Bullying, from BullyOnline.org

One of my good friends has been the target of bullying through a Sims site that promotes these types of  “campaigns of hatred.” I was shocked to discover this site existed and dismayed to see the extent of harm that it causes. Each week, people are torn down by the hateful comments posted there.

What happened to that “friendly, open, welcoming, accepting, diverse” community I fell in love with during my first six months of blogging? Could that still exist alongside a community that systematically tears down other people?

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And should I stay involved with a community that had these corners in it? Once again, I considered quitting.

Of course, even though I was just discovering this subterranean corner, it didn’t mean that it was new. It had been going on for nearly a decade and had been just as violent during the six months I thought the community was bliss.

During my third year of blogging, I learned that derogatory comments had been made toward me in the cyber bullying corner. It explained a lot: the shifts in attitude, the cold-shoulders, the unaccounted for spikes in readership on a few blog posts, as well as the dropping-off of readers. Sensitive people can pick up when feelings towards them change, even when there is no evidence at hand for what’s causing this. As I discovered these posts and comments about me, I noticed that they correlated with the times when I noticed these changes in attitude.

Online gossip and hate cause ripples, even when the targets aren’t aware that the comments have been made.

I didn’t feel safe. When I talk with others who’ve experienced these situations, that’s what they say, too: “I don’t feel safe.”

It makes us question why we stay involved. Even though I was able to think through the comments made about me and regain some confidence and resilience, I still questioned being involved with a community where this type of behavior happened.

I stay because I’m a Kindness Warrior. I fully believe that kindness is stronger than hate. I know that stories about love, mindfulness, strength, resilience, compassion, and bravery make a difference.

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I’m committed to keeping active in the official EA Sims Forums, to welcome newcomers, to encourage discouraged writers, to create and participate in joyful collaborations, and to create corners in the community that are safer, more accepting, more supportive, more welcoming, and that are brave enough to confront our behaviors, attitudes, and practices that aren’t safe, accepting, supportive, or welcoming.

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We don’t have to give in to hate or fear. We do need to take care of ourselves, maintain our boundaries,  and to surround ourselves with supportive, encouraging, loving people.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m writing about this during my three-year blogaversary: It’s not exactly a celebratory post. It is a resolution. It’s a resolution not to be blind about the hurtful things that happen. It’s a resolution to speak against bullying. It’s a resolution not to believe lies against others. It’s a resolution to have your back.

If you’ve been a target of cyberbullying in the SimLit community, I’m here to offer you support. I’ll believe you, not the lies told against you.  You’re not alone. Take the time you need to heal, regain your confidence and your strength, and when you’re ready to come back, I’m here to welcome you.

I hope other Kindness Warriors will join me. It’s our community: Let’s keep it a safe haven for diverse, lovely, quirky, creative people.

We are so much stronger than hate.

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If you have experienced cyber bullying, please tell someone you trust. You need support. You might also find these tips helpful:

Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 10

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

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Dear Kaitlin,

Thanks so much for your words of kindness! You know what it’s like to be a busy working mom–sometimes we’re moving so fast that we don’t even get a chance to stop and appreciate all we do each day! Your kind thoughts helped me pause for gratitude!

Jasper believes that gifts are to be shared–I’ve always known when he’s said that that he’s referring not just to the traits and talents we’ve been blessed with, but to our privilege.

You’ve got a big, loving heart, so you share it with all your kids and grandkids, and with Leroy. I’ve got a nice house and plenty of resources–and I used to have time!–so I share those with Jena, and now with Mizuki Suzuki.

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I don’t have much free time anymore, with going back to school. But it’s a three-day weekend, so that brings me leisure to write to you!

I’m so glad you find Ira inspiring. I do, too. She’s kind of a nut, actually. Well, she’s a great match for my nutty brother. Do you know they both still play with toys? It’s funny, but why not? It makes them happy. They’ve created this entire imaginary universe that they populate with characters based on their favorite toys. You’d think that Aari, Ira’s daughter, would be part of that, right? But she’s far too practical. She just rolls her eyes and lets her parents talk about Miss Meowness’s adventures and the llamacorn’s escapades.

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It works for them. I’ve been reading a lot about play therapy. Most of the research is on play and children, but, especially with someone as childlike as my brother, I can imagine that the findings transfer.

Landreth (2002) notes that “play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects us to people in a positive way, stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates our emotions, and boosts our ego” (as ctd. by Lilly, et al. 2016).

Ira and Norman seem to use it as a tool for communication and bonding: they can say things through play that they might not be able to approach in a more direct fashion, and this shared communication style connects them in a healthy way.

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Mizuki Suzuki is big into play, too! With her, I think it’s how she relieves stress and boredom. She’s taken on the house-cleaning chores while I’m in school, but really, I think this is just an excuse for her to “pick up the toys,” which is her code for “let’s play with all of Jena’s stuff!”

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Jena does a great job of playing with me, Jasper, and Mizuki Suzuki, but she has yet to learn how to play with kids her own age! Well, that’s what preschool is for, right?

The other day, one of her little friends came home with her. Immediately she started asking him, “So, what do you want to be?” When he didn’t answer right away, she shot out all these suggestions: “A panda bear? An abominable snowman? A sloth? You could be a sloth! And I’ll be an aardvark!”

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He just looked at her, confused.

She’ll learn to leave space for other people’s ideas, right?

Speaking of space, it sounds like you could use a little space in your life. So many things happening! So many connections between all the people you care about, and even between those you’re trying not to care about!

But I know you: Even those people you’ve had challenging relationships with–even those people you don’t want in your life anymore–you still care about them.

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And when we care, that’s when the tangles can happen. Your situation sounds complicated now–family complications, legal complications, professional complications, romantic complications.

It must have been a real shock to run into Newt. I can see why it felt like a betrayal that you hadn’t been told he was in town. You didn’t have a chance to prepare yourself.

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You know what? I’m glad you took a few weeks’ break from Leroy and Dr. Shea after all of that. I can understand the jealousy. I wonder, too, if there was a feeling of lack of control: It seems that they were making all the decisions for you, rather than sharing information with you so that you could make your own decisions for yourself and your kids.

That must have been hard. And even though you had a break from Leroy, you still had all the kids to care for, so I’m sure you felt like you had to keep it together.

Through all this, do you ever get time for you, where you can slow down to feel your own heart beat? Maybe you find your heart as it beats for others.

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I have faith that everything will work out. Things are messy now, but things don’t stay perpetually messy, do they? Or rather, new messes come to take the place of the old ones that get cleaned out!

I’m so sorry to hear about Reid. That must challenging, especially for Ben. When someone we care about is in trouble, it can feel so devastating. I can imagine that Ben is feeling that way about Reid, and now you’re feeling that way about Ben. I wonder if it would help him to know how much it hurts you to see him feeling unhappy and worried. He’s pushing you away right now, but maybe it’s because he really needs you, and this feeling has him scared, especially when so many other people, big and little, need you, too.

It sounds like you’ve thought through your situation with Dr. Shea. You have such good intuition that if you feel she’s your best choice, then I’m sure she is!

Do you know that Jena has decided that her favorite game is “Therapist”? I guess it’s like how some kids play doctor. She knows that I’m studying to be a therapist, and when she asked what a therapist was, I told her that it’s someone who guides people to find their strength, especially when they’re feeling scared.

So when we play dolls, she has her doll be the therapist.

“Are you scared now?” Her doll asks mine.

“Oh, yes!” Mine replies. “Very!”

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She giggles at that, and then we talk through all the things that might make a little doll scared, which, coincidentally, are all the things which make her feel scared.

Right now, her biggest fear is the Void Monster which comes out of the kitchen faucet in the middle of the night, when the water is turned off.

The Void Monster’s kryptonite are bubbles. So when she does the dishes, she feels safe all night.

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When I told Jena tonight that it was a three-day weekend, which meant an extra day at home and extra time to play, she said we should have Ira and Norman come over.

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“That way,” she said, “if we run out of things to play, they can give us new ideas!”

So I guess Sunday will be a big Family Play Day. I’m hoping Jasper will come, too. He said he picked up some kites in the Spice District, and I think Jena’s almost old enough to learn how to fly a kite.

Amazing, Kaitlin! Remember when we first started writing, and both our daughters were such little things? I really owe it to you to helping me through those confusing early days! You’ve been such a great role model and such a great Mom coach!

Sending you lots of love–I know you’ve got so much strength already, so instead of sending strength, I’ll send peace.

So much peace,

Meadow

<< Meadow’s Previous Letter | Meadow’s Next Letter >>

 

Three Rivers 17.1

Seventeenth Sim of Thirty Sims at Three Rivers

AN: The Trejos are a game-generated family of Townies. I’ve moved them into a home in Willow Creek.

17. Yellow flowers on a palo verde

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Leigh Trejo had been waiting all year to begin the research paper for Botany 101.

“I know just what I’m going to write about,” she told her sister, Elaine. “And when you read the paper, you’ll know why I chose it.”

She spent hours reading about desert trees so that she would have a head start on the project. When spring finally came, and the paper was officially assigned and the topic was formally approved, she grabbed the first free Saturday to head to the national park in Oasis Springs.

The ten o’clock sun poured its heat onto the baked ground when the Three Rivers regional bus pulled into the parking lot.

“You’re Alec Dolan!” Leigh said to the Green Party candidate, who’d arrived early for a rally at the park. “My moms work for your campaign!”

“Ah! Savannah Trejo? She is your mother?”

“And Sierra, too.”

“Oh. Sierra is not your sister? Or your cousin, then?”

Leigh laughed. “No. She’s my mom! My other mom’s my birth mom, and Sierra, after she married my mom, she became my other mother!”

“Oh, yes. I understand. She is so young, but never mind. So the two mothers. Yes, yes. I understand.”

Leigh began to rattle on about desert biomes.”I’m most interested in indicator species,” she said, “but for this project I’m working on, we have to write about adaptation. So I thought, heck! Why not write about the adaptation of an indicator species? That’s why I’m writing about palo verdes.”

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“The green stick?” Alec asked. “And what is the significance of this tree with the funny name?”

“It’s only like the most amazing tree of any of them!” Leigh said.

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Alec analyzed a chess position, while Leigh listed some of the facts she’d learned about the green-trunked tree.

“You must be talking about the palo verde,” said Haley, a community gardener. “We’ve got both species growing here in the park, Parkinsonia florida, the blue palo verde, and Parkinsonia microphylla, the yellow palo verde. Both provide shelter and food-sources for native insects and birds.”

“See?” Leigh said to Alec. “I’m not making this stuff up!”

Alec laughed. “Are you of the age to vote? If so, you and your friends can come to the ballot for me! I will make sure that all of the blue green sticks and the yellow green sticks get the protection of the legislation, non?”

“Not old enough,” said Leigh. “But I bet I can get my friends to persuade their parents to vote for you!”

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The gardener told Leigh where she might find a few palo verdes of each species, and Leigh took off down the trail before the sun crept much higher in the sky.

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Leigh had been to the park once before, when her elementary school had taken a trip. She was surprised to see how much she remembered.

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She’d taken this same trail on that trip, when she’d slipped away from her class. They had all been in the visitor’s center, being lectured on gila monsters and scorpions. Leigh had snuck out and followed this trail, all the way to the edge of the mesa, where she sat and looked out over the valley.

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Those had been sad years, her long childhood, before her mom met Sierra. When it had been just her and Savannah, Leigh thought her clothes were made of lead and the sky was blue cotton. Everything felt heavy and dry.

It’s funny how when you’re happy and you visit someplace you’ve been back when you were sad, everything looks different, brighter.

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It smells different, too. Now, Leigh smelled the perfume of Texas sage and creosote bushes.

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When she’d been a kid, she just smelled mildew.

Her senses closed to pleasure back in childhood. If you close to pleasure, you’ll close to pain, too–that’s what she thought, back then.

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It hadn’t worked. The pain poked through.

Leigh had a hard time remembering the numbness and the aches. She knew them in theory–once she reread a diary she kept in third grade. She’d been startled by how matter-of-fact the entry was:

Mom was asleep again. I had graham crackers and milk for dinner. I couldn’t figure out the fractions for math homework and Mom said she’d help but she went to bed while I was washing dishes.

Those years were like that. She’d grown up alone, sad, and as self-sufficient as a little kid could be. And then, Sierra changed everything. Her mom began to smile.

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Leigh found the bench she’d sat on years before at the edge of the mesa. In the valley, yellow palo verde trees grew alongside the arroyo.

Leigh looked out over them and began to mentally compose her paper:

How can a tree survive when conditions are so extreme that the tree cannot support leaves? The palo verde are “green sticks” because of the chlorophyll in their trunks and branches; this is their secret to survival.

When leaves become a deadly luxury, losing through transpiration the moisture needed for a tree’s survival in a harsh and unsupportive environment, then leaves are shed. A tree doesn’t need them if its green trunk provides the core for photosynthesis; what provides the tree’s strength and support can also provide the needed nourishment.

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And when conditions change? After winter rains, or in the late summer, after the monsoon, then the tree sprouts delicate leaves of unmatched beauty. And when the winter rains have been especially generous, the entire tree bursts into brilliant bloom, a source of sustenance for verdins, hummingbirds, and honey bees.

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This early spring, before the yellow buds opened, Leigh looked out at the palo verdes in the valley, heavy with green leaf and supported by their strong green cores. These trees can make it through the toughest times, and when conditions are right, still burst into bloom. Is it any wonder that the palo verde is Leigh Trejo’s favorite tree?