A Glass Half Full Kind of Girl

We’re living in scary and discouraging times. Last Friday Hawai’i began monthly tests of a nuclear warning siren, designed to let residents know of an impending nuclear attack, apparently to give us time to say good-bye to our loved ones. Other things, like ending net neutrality or the tax bill to name a couple, are things that could have profound effects on all Americans (well, unless you’re included in the 1%) in the very near and not-so-distant future. Arguments are actually being made for why it’s OK to support a child molester for elected office. Truth and facts have been turned on their heads.

I’ve had my share of hurt, heartbreak, illness, misery, loss, betrayal and violence during my life, and have several times wanted to crawl in a hole and feel sorry for myself for a good long time. I’ve felt really, really, really angry. I’ve gone through a spell where I wanted to leave this world. But deep down I’m an optimist, and overall I’ve always focused on the positive, on looking forward, accepting that the past is past and that thinking “woe is me” never really gets anything accomplished in the end.

One of my strongest role models growing up was my grandmother. She lived in the same town we did, and I often spent weekends with her at her house, reading with her, watching TV, and asking her to tell me stories about her early life. She had had a tough childhood, but although she’d tell me about things she did, she didn’t dwell on her past, and always stressed the power of positive thought. She was someone who lived the saying, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything.” She always could find something positive to say about any situation, and her kindness, optimism and positive nature stayed with me. To her, I was a “diamond in the rough,” destined for great things. She taught me to think that even if life seemed unbearable, or a situation impossible, it didn’t have to stay that way, that everything changes eventually, and we all have the ability to adjust, adapt, learn and grow.

For the most part I’ve found it just isn’t worth the effort it takes to be negative, or at least not for long. I’m not a Pollyanna though. I still feel frustrated or scared at times, and I still get (very) angry about things. As tough as I think I am, I can still be easily hurt, and it can take me a long time to get over those hurts. But, I stick up for myself, my family and what I believe, and I’m assertive when I need to be. I’ve found I get a whole lot more done and the world turns more smoothly when I see my glass in life as half full instead of half empty. I honestly believe the main reason Brett and I have made it as far as we have is that we’ve both stayed positive and continued to look forward, hard as that’s been at times.

Written on a 4″ x 6″ card that now sits in the drawer of my nightstand is a set of thoughts I’ve collected over the years, ones that, whether I knew it or not, channeled my grandmother, and guided me through both good and bad times. They’ve help me re-focus when I’m feeling out-of-sorts. I think they’re worth sharing:

  1. However good or bad a situation is, it will change. How I face those changes and what I make of them is up to me.
  2. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful. Including relationships, sad to say, or ways of thinking that aren’t productive.
  3. Frame every disaster with these words: “In five years will this matter?” Or one year? Or a month? Or a week?
  4. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need. In my case, I’ve probably always had more than I needed but didn’t want to accept it. I have been incredibly blessed.
  5. Your children only get one childhood. My job is to love them. All the time and unconditionally. And for all of my life.
  6. Not “Why me?” but “Why not me?” Why am I so special that bad things should only happen to someone else?
  7. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift. I am grateful for every day of the life I’ve had.
  8. Growing old beats the alternative.
  9. The most important thing is that you loved. Yes, yes and yes again.
  10. The best is yet to come. This is why I continue to hope.

I Hung the Jury

The trial ended yesterday with no verdict. Eleven jurors voted not guilty, but I voted guilty and refused to change my vote. A mistrial was called.

We heard testimony about and deliberated on not one, not two, but 28 counts of sexual assault. The defendant, a former police officer and then the manager on the island for another state law enforcement agency, was accused of raping his stepdaughter, beginning when she was 14 years old (she’s now 24). According to the victim’s testimony, over a period of approximately four years, he assaulted her two to three times a week. He threatened her with death if she told anyone. She eventually broke down and told a friend and then a relative what was happening, and from there it went to the police, the prosecutor’s office, and the grand jury. The trial was the last stop on a long, difficult road.

The testimony we heard from the complainant was disturbing, to put it in the nicest way possible, and sad, but I found her very credible as well as the other witnesses that spoke for the prosecution. The complainant was consistent, and her distress on the stand as she recounted what had happened to her was obvious. Other witnesses supported her testimony. She wasn’t acting. The defendant and his wife were the only witnesses presented for the defense, and the wife made false statements in her testimony. They didn’t refute anything the victim said – the defendant only said, “I didn’t do it.” I had been eager to hear the testimony from the defense, but in the end it was completely underwhelming. Basically, there seemed to be no defense – just a lot of smoke and mirrors from the attorney (which was his job, I guess).

From the moment we entered the jury room though, the other eleven jurors began to tear apart the victim. They accused her of making it all up. There was no acknowledgement that an act of assault causes trauma, that a victim might not remember every single detail, that a victim might have been terrified. There was no attempt at all to try to understand what it might mean to have been assaulted repeatedly, especially as an adolescent. Not one other juror ever took the time, at least not in the jury room, even for a moment, to imagine how the victim might have felt. Over and over again someone would say it couldn’t have happened because she didn’t tell anyone, or she didn’t run away (she testified that the stepfather had threatened not only her but her siblings with death if she left).  My least favorite comment though was “Where’s the evidence?” like she would have kept mementos from the assaults, some that occurred seven years earlier. One juror seemed to want or expect pictures of her in torn clothes, with blood and semen running down her legs – without those it just didn’t happen. Several of the assault descriptions were judged to be physically “impossible,” like having intercourse standing up in the shower for example (intercourse is too polite a word for what she described in her testimony).

Here are a few things I heard in the jury room:

  • She was in love with her stepfather, and they were having an affair, but when he broke it off she accused him of assault. (This juror stuck with this story until the end. Unbelievable.)
  • She cried on the stand because she had lied and now her lies were coming out.
  • I have a lot of family on this island, and I don’t want to deal with me or any of my family living with the aftermath of [the defendant] being convicted. (It didn’t matter that he had been abusing his stepdaughter for years.)
  • She was jealous of her younger (biological) sister so she made all this up. (This was actually the motive someone offered – sibling rivalry, which caused the victim to falsely accuse her stepdad of assault?)
  • She enjoys being a victim and likes all the attention it brings.
  • His daughter is getting married on Saturday, and if we convict him he won’t be able to walk her down the aisle.

There was more, but I think you get the idea.

They also all believed if he was not guilty of one count, he was therefore not guilty of ALL counts. They were ready to acquit after less than an hour of deliberation.

The judge came and spoke to us before we left the jury room yesterday, and told us there was no problem with not being able to reach a unanimous verdict. She told us that it can be difficult to do so in sexual assault cases, especially one with so many counts. She also told us that there was lots of evidence we didn’t get to see, things that had been preemptively excluded from the trial. I hope that registered in a few people’s heads.

While the trial is over it’s going to take a while for me to get over it. Besides the testimony, besides the deliberations, it was a bitter experience. The other jurors hated me for not agreeing with them, for arguing, for defending my opinion. I was accused of always dominating the conversation – I guess it seems that way to others when you’re the only one arguing for a side. One juror said she wished they could call in the alternate juror (so they could get rid of me) and acquit the defendant on all counts. Another juror asked me at one point, “What can we do to help you see things differently?” I told her I didn’t need any help, thank you, that I  believed the complainant’s testimony, and it was my belief based on that testimony that the defendant was guilty, guilty, guilty (28 times). Only one other juror stood up for me, and reminded the others that I was entitled to my opinion, and that it should be respected.

The whole experience has also caused me to wonder why any women or child bothers to report sexual assault. The journey this young woman took to get to this trial took a long time and was emotionally grueling. She had told her what happened to her seven times before the trial – to a friend, to family members, to the police, to the prosecutor, and to the grand jury – they all believed her. But 11 people on the jury yesterday thought she was a liar and had  fabricated the whole thing. It was ugly and cruel.

I need a couple of days to recover, but I’ll be posting again by the end of the week.


I Am Juror #12

My name was the last one called for the jury yesterday, and I apparently passed the voir dire questioning because I was eventually sworn in with eleven other jurors (and two alternates) and we began hearing testimony yesterday afternoon.

It turned into another long, exhausting day, but at least the courtroom is cool, and we now get to sit in comfy chairs versus hard wooden benches. There’s a fridge in the jury room for us as well as a microwave which will make bringing my own meals easier. There’s also a cold filtered water dispenser so we can refill our water bottles.

We have no idea how long the trial will go – originally we were told we’d finish on Friday, but jury selection took much longer than expected, and there are a LOT of witnesses to go through. Plus, once the trial is finished we have to deliberate and who knows how long that might take?

All this is to say I’m not sure how regular I’ll be with posting for the next week or so. I’ll do my best.

But now I’m heading to bed – I’ve got another very long day ahead.

We Have a Winner! Japan Giveaway #3

The randomly chosen winner (I used Random.Org) of the Ultimate KitKat Tasting Experience is Vivian – congratulations!! Coincidently, she was also the only one to correctly guess my favorite KitKat flavor: rum raisin (matcha is my second favorite, followed by raspberry). 

Top Row: Shinshu Apple, Japanese Strawberry, Dark Chocolate, Rum Raisin, Okinawan Sweet Potato

Middle Row: Matcha (green tea), Wasabi, Cherry Blossom-Green Tea, Sake, Roasted Tea

Bottom Row: Strawberry Cheesecake, Melon, Raspberry

I want to thank everyone once again so much for all the lovely and informative comments I received during the past three weeks, and for so enthusiastically supporting the giveaways. I was amazed by the response to all three Giveaways: there were over 50 entries for the bird cookies, 71 for the kitchen set, and this last one had 84 entries – that’s a lot for my little blog. I have said it before and I’ll say it again; I have the best readers!

Japan Giveaway #2 Winner & Japan Giveaway #3: Ultimate KitKat Tasting Experience

The randomly selected winner of the Japanese Kitchen Set in Giveaway #2 is: UnwrittenLifeBlog – congratulations!! I will be contacting you by email this afternoon and will get your prize off to you as soon as possible. Once again, I want to thank everyone that entered for the lovely comments. I have the best readers, and wish I had a prize to give to everyone that entered.

I’ve saved what I think is a very fun prize for the last giveaway this week: the Ultimate KitKat Tasting Experience! Inside the red cloth pouch above are 13 different flavors of snack-size Japanese KitKats.

The flavors the winner of this giveaway will receive are:

Top Row: Shinshu Apple, Japanese Strawberry, Dark Chocolate, Rum Raisin, Okinawan Sweet Potato

Middle Row: Matcha (green tea), Wasabi, Cherry Blossom-Green Tea, Sake, Roasted Tea

Bottom Row: Strawberry Cheesecake, Melon, Raspberry

This giveaway will end on Wednesday, April 19, at midnight HST, with the winner announced the following day. The rules for this giveaway are the same as for the first two plus one new way to win an entry:

  • Comment on this page. You can comment every day until the giveaway, but just once a day. The more entries you have, the greater your chances of being chosen the winner! I will post the link a couple of extra times during the week. Commenting in another post will not count.
  • Subscribe to “The Occasional Nomads.” If you are already a subscriber, you will receive one extra entry. Please comment below and let me know that you are already a subscriber or that you just joined.
  • Post about the giveaway on your own blog, if you have one, and receive one additional entry.
  • There’s also an extra way to earn an extra entry this time: Guess which one is my favorite! I won’t answer in the comments, but if you guess right I’ll add an extra entry to your total.

The winner will be announced in the blog and also notified by email. You must respond by comment to the blog or to the email to receive your KitKat Tasting Experience (I will email you back to find out where to send them). Also, I can only mail to addresses in the U.S. and Canada.

Looking forward to hearing from you – you know you want to try them!