Cry Purple

One woman's journey through homelessness, crack addiction, and prison, to blindness, motherhood, and happiness

Archive for February, 2013

My First Trip To The State Capital And Beyond

Posted by crypurple on February 21, 2013

I will never forget the first time I went on a journey to the state capital to testify in  an attempt to  lift our State’s life time food stamp ban and TANF ban for convicted drug felons.

I had had one eye removed  and a  prosthetic already in it, but the left eye had just been taken out days before.  The skin around my eye socket was still bruised from the eye removal, and was without a  prosthetic.  So, with  just an open empty socket, I wore  dark shades to cover the ugly gaping hole in the side of my face.

They called my name to speak. I had made this journey with a  wonderful group in Kansas City that had agreed that the food stamp and TANF bans were not helpful to those that change their lives.  Every other American can get food stamps if they lose their job or become injured in a car wreck, or on the job, or any other life changing event that  lessens their economic  status.

The leader of the group that I  partner with, or shall I say they invited me to join in,  saw my past mistakes and life change as a strength,  that all offenders are not bad offenders

People do change.

And if we help to open doors to those like jobs, housing, and even food stamps (if they meet the requirements), they should be allowed this basic staple of life – food.

A criminal/offender is less apt to re-offend  if they can find work.  It is wise, in that it builds safer communities and saves taxpayer’s money, to create opportunities for those returning from the prison system to our communities, whether that be food stamps if they lose their job and their economic status changes, or just a job, or fair housing.

I remember the lady on the House Committee  interrupting.  She asked” Is this really a law in Missouri?  Can I get information on such a law?”

The current speaker  said,  “Yes, in fact a pedophile, or murderer can receive food stamps if they are in need in our State, if they meet the economic guidelines  as every other Missourian.  However,  anyone with a drug related felony only is banned for life, with no exceptions.

I spoke – I took off my glasses, and said I did not get food stamps  when I  lived in a park.  I had nowhere to store or cook food.  Now I have been clean a number of years, and am totally blind.  I was a single parent, needing the same resources other American’s  can tap into.   However, at the time of this hearing at the capital, I did not need the food stamps.  I had a salaried job in non-profit management.  I just wanted to be that visual example that life happens  beyond our control.  My blindness/eye removal was not related to my drug usage,  and I, for sure, did not ask to have to have both my eyes taken out and to live in total darkness with no chance of sight restoration. I shared that everything is not always black and white.

People change.

If  convicted felons are trying to do the right thing,  after they do their time,  and are turned down job after job after job due to their mistake,  then they are banned from something so simple as food, the State saying No, you did drugs. Never in life may you tap into  such a resource that every other  American can. Then landlords  refuse to rent to you  once you find a job, due to your criminal history,  and you are forced to live in the ‘hood, or the seedy, drug infested areas of a community where slum lords are the only ones willing to rent to you.  Time passes, and you are still doing the right things, and you have now a family.

Believe it or not,  even felons doing the right thing wants the best for their family,  like a good education for their children, a safe place to live so their children  and family are safe. And that maybe their children won’t make the same poor choices that they have made.

Our expectations of a convicted drug felon in our state is not to just give out food stamps, it is for people to meet the same requirements, as anyone   else would have to and that they have to go and complete treatment and prove they are staying clean.

But who are we  as people that totally  paint a picture that you are not worthy of Food, never in  life  will you change?

It really does save taxpayer’s money by opening doors for offenders to find jobs and housing.  If they are paying their own taxes by working, we are saving ourselves, at least in the State of Missouri, about 21,500 dollars a year that it costs to house a non violent drug  offender.

I worked in non-profit management for a number of years.  I lost my job in November when all 12 of our offices in the state closed their doors.

I have had about 45 interviews , and today my criminal history still keeps me banned for employment.

Today I am on unemployment, and do not draw disability,  and still can’t tap into food stamps.

I, just as many other offenders/ex-offenders, just want to be a tax-paying member of my community. I just want a chance to bring up my 6 year old in a safe area, and allow him to attend good schools.  Of course, I chose to find a creative way to attempt to help myself when I saw that finding a new job was  going to be a battle, even with a good solid work history,  as people just see felon and judge.

Or people see I am blind, and judge, what can a blind person  do?

I took my time in this to continue to grow by finishing my book, so I could share some of the social struggles  people such as myself face, some of society’s barriers and misunderstood perceptions of the lifestyles people have.

I will continue each  day  to pray for a job, applying  and showing up.  Someone will, I know for sure, in time, offer me another chance, My last  trip to prison was for a parole violation in 2004. I was there a short time with no new charges. I walked down my last 2 years of parole and got off all paper in 2006.  I have gotten a GED and gone to college and worked for 5 years at the same job after college.  However, the world around me sees the labels,  not the person.

Almost five years have passed since that first trip to the State’s capital.  I have seen politicians change their thoughts.  I have heard so many people say surely that is not a law here.. I am  always surprised when I  learn that (and  here we go, again)  an organization that works with felons, or a  politician is unaware of our State’s lifetime food stamp ban, only for drug felons.

This year we will not make that trip.  Although we  have not given up our efforts to  turn over this ban for our fellow humans that live in Missouri,  the private sector, the citizens and others have to continue to be educated. I believe in equality; I believe that in our constitution it says we  face our  trials, a jury of our peers, and will, one day, be able to return to our communities and have a fair chance to rebuild our lives, too.

Often I question how often and how much do we have to prove we are changed –  how many accomplishments/milestones must be made.  I finally get to the point where I  realize that until those around us are educated, and their understandings/perceptions change, until the “once bad, always bad” , or the “everyone on state assistance is just out to rob taxpayers”, or the “all  drug addicts, are bad and can never change” mentalities go away,  we, the offenders/ex- offenders will have to continue to fight that battle to find  a  fair place in our own communitys as tax-paying, law-biding, community  members.

I believe we, too, one will have protection of civil rights.

Minority equality  comes in many forms, I guess.  I, as a convicted drug offender, am still seeking that equality. To live safe, to pay taxes, and to go to work each day to support my family seems like a odd concept for some, but it is my American dream.  And, of course, our little trailer with a fenced yard, and some sweet smelling flowers.

My next post will be some newspaper stories I was featured in over the last couple of years.

Once again, thanks for reading,

If you have not yet bought my book, Cry Purple,  please consider it and read the whole story/ journey I share of my road of addiction and  beyond!

Please share our story with your friends and family!

Blessings,

Christine

Here are the links to purchase the book!

About the book, Cry Purple:

Gritty and gripping, this is the story of the author’s journey from almost two decades of prostitution, crack addiction and prison to her present life of blindness, motherhood and happiness. Somehow, she has survived amazing brutality and discrimination with resilience and optimism. Review quotes: “Horrifying, heartbreaking, informative and inspiring. “A riveting memoir.” “An eye-opening view of life on the streets and beyond.” “A must-read filled with hope.”

http://www.amazon.com/Cry-Purple-Christine-McDonald/dp/1482053616/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1359053189&sr=1-1&keywords=Cry+Purple

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/cry-purple/id596642332

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/cry-purple-christine-mcdonald/1114232896

Amazon link to the Kindle edition:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00B3PKEM0

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/277103

http://www.dvorkin.com/cmcdonald/index.html

Visit the web site to like our page on face book, to watch a video, to contact the author directly, and more!

www.crypurple.com

Please share our grass roots effort to sell 3500 books!

Visit the web site to read and learn more!

www.crypurple.com

and if you want a personally signed copy of the book here you go!

http://crypurple.com/get-a-signed-copy-of-cry-purple/

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It’s Not Odd; It is GOD!

Posted by crypurple on February 17, 2013

Hi guys!

Before I begin this posting, thanks for all the wonderful remarks on my book.  When I read lines such as, “It has opened my eyes”, or “Changed my views”, then that is truly exciting.

Many of you know I am a Christian but I touched very little on it in my book.  Believe it or not there was a reason for that!

I wanted those still into drugs, or in prostitution –  those that might not be there yet with God –  to not be turned off and to be able to receive a message that it is never too late, no matter what you have done, to find a better path!

So from atheists to addicts active in addiction , I wanted to appeal to them and those in-between.

During my pregnancy with Ricky and after his birth, I had a fear of going out side, the whole stepping out side our tiny one room apartment –  and I don’t mean one bedroom, I mean one room apartment, where we shared a bathroom with another small apartment.

I would stand at the door entry, never stepping out alone. I found comfort and safety inside that apartment.

Matt would make me go out, for what ever reasons, and having him with me made me feel safer.

After Ricky’s birth, I had to go out and work on overcoming my fears, and learn to live my life now blind.

We moved to our small rental house in the ‘hood, just a block where I had worked the streets for years.

I cringed at the thought of going outside.

Each day, I would just do the “It is for Ricky. I have to do this” self talking – my way to do what needed to be done.   However, upon my return, I would  find myself diving deep in sadness, and I would sleep to sleep through the emotional strain of leaving the house.

With the years of my being on the streets, well, let’s say my personality was not so charming.

I would stand on corners and rant, cursing those that were from the set that would attempt to speak to me. “ I am working! Go away”!

Warm and fuzzy I was not!

At this time I was drug free, but still lacking in social skills, and charm. I had not sought God, but somehow he sought me.

One day, I was alone in our apartment. Ricky was at daycare, and Matt was at work.

Walking into our living area, I saw a vision. I immediately  stopped walking. I was totally without sight and I was seeing, as if I was watching myself along my familiar streets of Independence Avenue. I was smiling and I was giving brown bags of what I could not tell, then. I watched the receivers open the bags and begin eating sandwiches. I saw, vividly, faces of old friends as this vision/day dream, whatever you would chose to call it, moved through my mind’s eye. I sat in the living room, stunned at the experience, yet excited to have a vision while I was awake that was so real, so clear.

I’ll never forget the calm wave that came upon me and a voice that said “That is you.”

I remember saying out loud “What?  Hello?  Who’s there?”

Moments later, I had another vision. I was in a room, I was watching my self with a group of people I could not identify clearly. The faces were blurred, unlike the vision I had just moments before where I clearly knew those I was with, giving brown bags of filled with sandwiches.  Everybody was laughing and we were making these sandwiches.  It was odd,because  for many years laughter was such a stranger to me, although holding my Ricky made me smile.

Then, as if a DVD was rolling in my head, I saw in my minds eye experiences I had always questioned, “How did I live through that?” I saw me in a trunk of a car, tied up, I saw a flash of my being stabbed and pushed out of a car. I saw me being grey-taped and hog-tied, I saw myself in the room with those shooters that killed my friend.

I shuddered, those painful horrific moments in my life on the streets, each had however a common theme, a presence I could not make out.

As these horrific scenes flashed through my mind’s eye, as I was watching them happen to me in vivid color and detail, I then saw a large something –  not sure what it was…but it was massive. Then I saw a dot on it. It very quickly came into focus in my mind’s eye. I was a speck, it was me, that tiny speck on that massive plain. It was glowing and peaceful, and it was as if the object began to cup me in it and peace came over me from the disturbing flashes of experiences of my past

I was back on my old corner where I had turned tricks, giving sandwiches to a gal I had worked the streets with just a few years ago.

She was receiving a bag of food and hugging me. I was in the passenger side of a car. I found that odd, as she and I were street enemies. It was common knowledge on the streets that we disliked each other a great deal and fought on street corners often.

Then, although this all seems like it took forever, it happened in only a moment of time and  the vision was gone..

I knew deep in my heart my soul this was God.

Then one last flash came to me. As a youth I had been saved – I had given my life to Christ. I had another friend whom had done it, so I did too.

I had attended church. I would go for a few weeks then stop, go to a different church and then stop.

But I had indeed asked Christ to come into my heart.

I sobbed.

I realized then that, all along, God was with me through my journey of addiction. He was present in all of those experiences. Then I realized that he told me that I would be feeding my friends in the very area where I had existed for so many years.

I spoke out loud, as I was wiping the tears, ” But God, don’t you remember I am the blind girl now?”

I could not do that.

The last moment I had with God that day were his words. his voice saying, “Walk in faith, my child. You don’t need sight to walk in faith.”

The following day, I had a visitor, which I do share in my book, and felt I would just share that excerpt from the book…

From the book “Cry Purple”

So we moved to the little place, and my friends helped us get a few starter items for it from the thrift store. Soon afterwards, we had a visitor.

Someone was knocking at the door. I was scared to open it, but then I heard a woman say, “Hello! I’m Kris, from the church down the street.” I guess she could see me inside the house, as we were not done hanging curtains. Sometimes I have to remember that just because I can’t see, it doesn’t mean that others can’t see me!

I opened the door and let her in, and we visited. She invited us to church. It was just down the street, on the corner. I agreed. For sure, this was what I needed to continue on my path of growth, away from the streets!

Attending the church, I realized that it was located right across from my favorite corner, the one where I had worked for years, at Spruce and Independence Avenue. There were three churches there, one right on the corner. That one used to run me off all the time, or someone there would call the police if I was outside the church. The other one was on the hill across the street; it always had police parked in the parking lot ready to run me off.

Then there was this little church. It was very small, kind of like a little house, behind Sonic. I had slept in its doorway before, gotten high in the parking lot. I think I had even been invited in for service one year by someone who was going into the church on a Sunday morning. At the time, I was walking to the corner to work, returning from a dope house. I had of course kept walking.

Now here I sat inside that same church. I asked someone, wanting to make sure I was correct in my thinking about where it was. I was.

Feeling a connection, feeling drawn to attend, I joined that little church and got baptized. When I was taken out of the baptism water, I asked, while wiping the water away, in front of the congregation, “Can I join your outreach team now?”

You see, I had a dream. I had a vision of something pulling at my heart strings. But I knew I couldn’t do it alone.

They agreed, and I started attending the meetings. I sat in a meeting listening to their plans to reach out to the community. At last I had a moment to speak. I asked, “What about the homeless addicts and prostitutes who exist outside here, along this street?”

I told them that when we’re in addiction, it totally governs our thoughts. We don’t think about spending money on food. It isn’t on purpose; it’s like bondage. You mean to buy food, but then you think about what you did for that money, and it’s easier to get high, to wash away that thought, the guilt and shame. You’re fighting off the emotions with drugs, rather than food.

It was a go. We started Brown Bag Fridays. We took sandwiches, sometimes burritos, and sometimes $1 double cheeseburgers. We would drive up and down the streets of the area and ask if they were hungry. Rarely did anyone say no! But in that case, we would say, “You can always save it for later,” and they would take it.

We expanded, collecting coats and jackets and socks. We would go out on Christmas Eve and pass out goodie bags, also food. On Thanksgiving, we would put together a hot Thanksgiving meal and then drive up and down the streets, giving out hot meals.

This was my passion, my calling. I knew it. I knew in my heart that these folks needed us, that they would at least eat when we came through.

I would often meet up with my friends, the people I had co-existed with on the streets. My journey on the streets, through all those years, had given me an understanding of their lifestyle, an empathy, an understanding of their needs. I had walked in their shoes and had survived. Now I was filling a need, helping these people to not feel invisible, the way I had all those years, often wishing, even praying, for someone to pull up beside me and hand me food, with no strings attached — not having to be preached at, not having to be turned away due to having no shoes.

Now I had this huge passion for acceptance, for acceptance of those people right where they were.

Now my life was starting to become full. I was a new mom. I was also continuing to learn to live blind, becoming less scared as each week passed in my rehabilitation training. And now, with this new passion for community outreach, I was giving back, offering hope to those with none.

I was walking with blind faith.

From my book “Cry Purple”

I noticed with each passing day my responses where nicer, even sweeter if you may, I once very soon after my God experience, responded one way in my head, but out of my mouth were kind thoughtful words.. I remember, pausing, and saying out loud, wow did I say that?!

My dark despair was melting away, I was becoming softer, kinder thoughtful of not just my family, but of other’s, seeing perspective on larger scales, realizing one person at a time is wonderful to plant seeds of hope but if we change the views of society around us, that is where the stagnant perceptions can be changed.

I was learning to be interdependent with thos around me I had the passion they had the sight.

From that amazing experience in my life, God has open doors for me and placed people in my life to allow me to use my experiences, my mess and offer a educational message, of what life is really like on the streets, often I find it is far different than those I speak to had previously thought..

I have all these God winks I see in my life, I will just keeping loving God who never left me all those years I had left Him and always be thankful that on those nights I begged Him to let my life end, so I no longer had to live that life, as He had a plan, all those experiences would indeed mold me to do His work!

 

As for the vision that I was in the passenger side of a car, handing and hugging a girl I worked the streets for years, she and I in fact were enemies of sorts of the streets, always bulling one another, as I did experience that moment with a driver from that church he pulled beside her he said to your right I rolled the window down and said “Hey you hungry? Want a sandwich” she said sure, then she said Ellie? That was my street name, I paused, thinking oh my it is her it is Linda, we had duked it out on the streets a few times over the years, now I am here blind, unable to defend my self, then she reached in the car and hugged me, and kissed my cheek, and said thanks I am starving..”

I have tears in my eyes right now as I write about that as it is was such a confirmation of the vision I had alone in that living room that wonderful day. It is tooo a confirmation that God will remove our enemies.

Last year I would learn that Linda died, she had gotten clean and we went to some meetings together, but she just could not find that glimmer of hope to hold on until it got better, she returned to using and she was battleing cancer, instead of treatment she chose to numb the pain with Crack, her comforter, I can’t blame her it was mine for years as well.

She was at last unable to work the streets and get high she was admitted in the hospital and soon died.

God had made my enemy my friend, so for the last few years of her life she was indeed my friend.

I am so sad when a friend from the past does not make it.

Our lives don’t magically get better, and we carry scars for a life time, but we can heal, we can find hope and happiness…

So, I hope you enjoyed reading this. I have shared it with some. Some folks find it odd, the whole seeing without sight in those clear visions. I just say,”It’s not odd; it is God.”

I do believe that if I had not given my life to God  as a youth,  I would not have survived.  To me, in the visions, not only did He show me who I was to become, he clearly showed me he had me in  His hands, and I believe that is why I survived all the experiences in which I did.

Although I had turned away from God, he had truly never left me through my journey; he was always present.

And in his time He, indeed, reintroduced himself in my life.

We still have a very long way to sell enough books or collect enough donations for that little trailer house with that fenced yard, so if you have not shared the book with your friends,please do. I believe that by the end of this year Rickster and I will have two bedrooms, and that fenced yard for him to play and for me to plant flowers!!!

As I have learned on my journey, one thing for sure is that all things are possible with God. Even I, with no eyes, can have visions without sight!!!

All for now,

Many blessings,

Christine

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Living with Blindness

Posted by crypurple on February 7, 2013

Hi,

Today, I wanted to take some time to talk about what it is like to live day to day with a disability and be a parent.

I was triggered to write this as this week I was asked a question, “How does having no eyes change your daily activities?”

I chuckled and thought to myself, really?  What area of my life did it not effect might be a much shorter answer!

Living in total darkness, sheer blackness, endless nothingness, can have its down moments. I dream when sleeping in vivid color, so often that, when feeling down I like to sleep to capture those   colorful things – things that are not black.

I have a team of people that assist me. That is the only way I can live alone and care for myself and my little guy.

So I get 4 hours a day of assistance.  They help clean where I miss, they help match our clothes so we are ready to face each day, they assist in mail reading, finding things in the store for me, and even putting together toys when Ricky and I cannot  figure out the directions ourselves!

You see, although there are many things I can do without help, like type up a blog post, there are many things I cannot complete without some assistance.

I mean, I cannot walk in to a store and find my items without asking for help.

I have to admit, it is humbling over and over again.  If I visit a new place I have not learned my way around, then I have to ask for assistance to the restroom.

After all the years on the streets, all the things I have survived and experienced, I cannot find my way to the potty in a new place.

Often this inhibits me from going to places or visiting friends or family.  It is very stressful to be where I can’t even find my way to my own drink of water.

But in my home, where I know where things are that  I can cook, get a drink, or make coffee for my company, I can function without stress,  I can tend to my needs  and my son’s own needs,  and most  importantly find my own way to the potty!

I long to see the sunlight’s bright gleam, the green of the grass, the endless blue skies, or the floating of a cloud.

My heart longs to see the face behind my son’s laugh that I hear so often.

I, however, know I did abuse my sighted life, and I learn each day to see in other ways, I have learned to have vision without sight.

I am learning to become interdependent of those around me, in order to live as normal of a life as I can.

I love giving back to my community and my voice and experiences are tools that I am mastering to be able to do just that.

I struggle sometimes as to where I fit in as a person with a disability.  Having lived in the abled world so long, that is indeed where I feel more comfortable, but often the abled world does not know how to receive me past the disability.

Just as if someone’s eyes are blue or hair is blond, my blindness is a characteristic of me; it is not my identity. However, the world around me often identifies me by my limitations, not by my strengths.

In seeking employment, I find employers puzzled as I enter for interviews, questioning my abilities to do the job.

I am confident that God has a wonderful job for me in line where I can use my life experiences, as well as my learned talents, to help others and continue to attempt to make a difference.

Stay tuned for my next blog post.  It will be about my attempting to date now that I am blind! I will share some of the experiences I have had trying to meet new folks and hopefully those stories will make you laugh!

Christine

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