Sunday, December 6, 2015

Now Where ~ Meeting @Mariska!

She appeared 'in the moment' when I handed her a Women of Distinction magazine with a feature article I said I thought she would be interested in reading. I desperately added, 'and follow me on twitter too'. And then her attention diverted swiftly and she darted around me hollering 'Mike, Mike' over the top of the noise in an attempt to get the attention of a bodyguard standing close by.  I was taken aback somewhat.  What happened next was so unexpected.  One of the other members of our sponsor group of four was acquainted with Mariska and not in a good way, apparently.  I reflected on Mariska greeting the woman in an odd fashion, asking 'Are you feeling better today?' And on a first name basis. I'm thinking, huh?

Reflecting, I stood dumbfounded wondering what happened. Was there something I had done unknowingly to offend this powerful, high-profile activist.  I couldn't believe it. I was certain there was nothing.  Suddenly I felt hunted, an extremely old trigger, but the heightened level of excitement in the room magnified the fear. Survivor instincts are always right below the surface of our mask.  I convinced myself nothing I had done was causing Mariska to comb the room in order to point out to Mike where the stranger in my group had gone.

Abruptly, I reminded myself why I had come on this trip to meet Mariska Hargitay. I found the remainder of my group. Natasha and Theresa needed a bio break, so I broke off solo to mingle in what remained of the reception.  Food was great.  Non-alcoholic drinks were easily found.  I wandered once more around the huge ballroom.  Passing through the hallway to the sanctuary I reconnected with my party, minus one stranger.

We were directed up the center aisle toward the front stage. Front row center, I sat between two sweet New Zealanders, probably the only Tennessean in the room. We were 15 feet from the star of the conversation, Mariska.  Little Gold Book in hand, open and ready to write. I got some great notes about Mariska and her plans ahead. 'Shelved' is due to deliver in 2016. This documentary is about the journey to ending the backlog of rape kits laying unprocessed in county evidence lockers.

I sensed during her conversation she feels the pain and suffering of survivors as if it happened to her. Empathy beyond one's imagination. Mariska embraces "the gift I have been given" and faces the challenges of her work bravely and directly.  She is aware of the platform and opportunity available to her. With persistence to end the shame, stigma and isolation, Mariska guides The Joyful Heart Foundation's (@TheJHF) mission to shine light on the darkness of domestic violence, rape and child abuse.  She has been instrumental in raising awareness of these problems to a social level where individuals are beginning to choose to stand up and speak out for those that cannot for themself.

I needed to hear her words.  I needed to see her embracing her gift, often a burden due to the dark, and ugly nature of the topics of child sexual abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. 'Perseverance and fearlessness' characterize my fight for no statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse. Thank you, @Mariska!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Now Where ~ Securing Sponsor I

The day started so early, the birds weren't even stirring yet. The rain pelted down hitting pavement and hurling back bursts of glare illuminated by headlights. I was content to be one of a few drivers on the road at this hour. I could see pools of rain hanging on the highway's edge thinking hydro planing would come easy and I must be extra careful this trip. Weather reports filled the next few days with rain showers for the duration of my trip to Nashville. I planned to arrive an hour early for my meeting with Representative Darren Jernigan so there was no risk to get a commitment to carry my bill to eliminate the statute of limitations in the state of Tennessee. 
I grew tense as I approached the city limits and saw bright red tail lights for all five interstate lanes. My approach to the capital was reduced to a standstill in bumper to bumper traffic with 30 minutes to spare for the remainder of my trip. The time to get to the center of Nashville turned out to be an hour. I prayed not to be late. What it took to make that possible blows my mind. An huge act of kindness by a local merchant allowed me to be on time. Not only did the attendant save me from walking two additional blocks uphill, I suspect the parking space I was permitted to park in belonged to a customer with a permit for a "reserved space". She assured me that I could take all the time I needed at the capital, just be back before 4:55 pm. Shocked, and immediately appreciative followed by an ear-to-ear smile, I thanked her enthusiastically for helping me out. 
My umbrella popped open with the flick of the release button. I swung the umbrella skyward and began with a  up the hill toward the War Memorial Building. I arrived at the entrance noticing the long line awaiting entry. My hopes dashed for a moment as I realized I would probably be late.  I used to be late for everything. Why couldn't this be different? I squeezed through the first doorway only to realize there was not a long line, but just a couple of gentlemen in front of me. I passed through the security process and picked up my gait toward the information center to retrieve the TN's 109th session General Assembly. I needed to make sure he was in the same office as last year. I looked for a spot to stop and inspect my booklet.  Finding an open seat along the bustling hallway, I sat to verify my destination and take a breath. Ah, same place. I was close. I looked at my watch to discover I would not be late to this very important meeting. I sighed relief for a split second and my mind raced in anticipation of speaking with Rep. Jernigan again.
When I could wait no longer, I entered suite 24. I was greeted by Rep. Jernigan's executive assistant with a familiarity nod and a smile.  I stepped toward her desk and she asked me if I knew who happen to be sitting directly ahead of me. Retired Senator Joe Haynes has come by to visit.  She wanted to take me over to speak with him.  I could hardly believe my eyes.  This man represented my bill in the Senate when I attempted this change to TN law in 1996. What are the odds?  Another mind blower. 
I reached out my hand to be enveloped by Senator Haynes' out stretched hands. I leaned in to be able to whisper and still be heard. 
"Do you remember who I am?" I asked.
He nodded and smiled with eyes sparkling behind his spectacles.  'Yes, I do.'  
I reminded him that I had said 'yes' when he asked me back then, would I come back and try again.
Quietly he responded, 'I knew you would'.