The Devil’s Hold

god and food

The smell of seasoned steak over an open fire, teasing your senses with a longing for more. The taste of a warm cookie fresh from the oven. The melted chocolate kisses your lips and caresses your palate. The feel of a warm croissant on a cold day cupped in your hands ever so gently. Opening it’s buttery layers one piece at a time. Hungry?

This is my food addiction. Sensual, sexual, romantic, food addiction. It’s a relationship that is hard to let go. I mean, let’s face it, you HAVE to have food to live. There is, however, an ugly side. It’s killing me. Slowly, it wraps the rope around my neck and lowers me enough to gasp for air but not enough to completely shut me down. It slowly raises me back up with the alluring taste, texture and touch of its beautiful ugliness.

Food, I refer to as the devil, will over power you and convince you that you’re not full. It plays with your mind until you can no longer hold on. You give into seconds and thirds and before you know it, you’re snacking at midnight and crying at 2 a.m. Because you’re now sad, you open your night stand drawer and reveal your secret. Your eyes widen and your mouth waters. You open it and eat your divine treat until your tears dry up and relief kicks in. Then shame. Shame that you must have a secret to begin with. Shame that you have to hide it because it’s yours and no one else will understand. Shame because it’s now 3 a.m. and embarrassing enough, you want more.

You weigh yourself and become sad AND pissed off that you gained weight. The scales flashes your numbers back at you as if to scream, “You fatass! Look what you did!” You look down wondering how the hell it happened. Promising that you’ll never eat like that again, you head to the kitchen. You open the fridge. The cupboards. The hiding spots. Back to the fridge. The devil is toying with you. Convincing you that there’s food to satisfy your desire. You leave the kitchen and try to get your mind on something else. No matter how much you try, craving, boredom, and a sense of needing to feel satisfied overtakes you. This revolving door leads no where and you know it but it’s not enough to stop you. Addiction. A nasty vicious cycle that hates you but that you love more than anything.

Disease has finally caught up. Diabetes, sleep apnea, joint pain, trouble breathing, high blood pressure, peripheral neuropathy. The devil smiles, “Come here, I will take care of you. Everything will feel better. All you need is this large plate of carbohydrates and fat. Remember, you need me to live.” You feel alone in your darkness but food is there to help ignite a passion in you that no one and nothing else can. The devil steps back with a low laugh and whispers, “Eat.”

Survivor of Sexual Abuse

I smell propane. I see the pea green shag carpet. It reeks in here. I climb up the small camper stairs and into hell. I know he’s there. I know he approached my mother asking if I could come to his camper to help him clean. Why would she let a young kid come help this dirty, selfish, disgusting, devil? Help me.

This has been going on for years. Too many years. God, why so many? He used to come over late at night when both my parents were gone. Sit on the couch with me and “help” me with my scholastic while his hand fondled my breasts. I don’t remember anything past that. I don’t remember him leaving. That bothers me. It’s hard for me to make it make sense to anyone when I don’t remember all the details. All I remember is that….something happened. It’s more a feeling than it is a vision. Many years later, he was charged with sexually assaulting a handicapped, wheel-chair bound woman. Guilt still lives within me.

Reminisce with me. I’m five. I had a little friend in the trailer court we lived in. She was my only friend there and I adored her. She was raised by her father and I’m not sure where her mother was. One day, her father took me to the back of his trailer. There, he pulled down his sweat pants and showed me his penis. Remember, I was five. Tall enough to be face to penis. Darkness. I remember nothing from that point on. What happened? Years later this friend magically shows up in high school. The last time I saw her we were both six years old.  I approached her excitedly one day in the cafeteria. “Hey, (name)! How are you? I haven’t seen you in years!” Her reply still bothers me today. “Stay away from me, Tonia and don’t talk to me again” After that, I never saw her in school again. That reply left me with more questions than ever. Why would she not want to talk to me? We were best friends so many years ago and I don’t remember leaving on a bad note. What the hell happened?!

At 13 I was already out of control and a major pain in my mother’s ass. She sent me to group counseling with teens that were “just like me.” The groups were mixed with boys and girls and to this day I have no idea why, since a lot of us spoke about our past sexual secrets. After group, we would sit in the back yard while waiting for our parents to pick us up. One boy sat with me in the backyard. We talked for a few minutes then out of no where, he grabs my breast and runs. I had no idea what the hell to think. Another person saw what happened and reported it to one of the counselors. Before I know it, I am in a room with my mother, counselor, and two other adults. They were apologizing for what happened. I don’t remember too much of the conversation but they kept telling me how it was wrong and that they were going to change the way things happened there. Honestly, it wasn’t a big deal to me for whatever reason. I can’t even tell you why I felt that way.

Years of therapy and counseling have not brought out what happened to me as a child. These are only few of the instances I remember the most of. There are several over the years but I’m not able to lay them out to make sense. What I have learned is, it’s not OK. This is my body and no one is allowed to touch it unless I say it’s OK. I write these blogs in hopes that many of my readers can relate and perhaps heal with me. If you are being abused, speak out! I wish I would have. Perhaps I would feel a better sense of relief knowing that they weren’t doing it to anyone else. You too can take back control.

Need help?
Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

Somewhere Over The Sugar Rainbow

“What do you mean I can’t have pizza for breakfast?” I don’t think my doctor is taking me seriously. “Look, Tonia. You’re going to get diabetes among other health issues that you don’t have already, if things don’t change. You’re not 20 anymore. You have to start thinking of your health and well-being.” I stare at him blankly while smacking my sugar-free gum. I leave the office feeling like nothing was accomplished. On another note, I did get a new pill and an increase in another. One for anxiety and the increase in depression medication. That’s right, Doc. Dope me up. That should help.

My therapist and I are having a stare off. “Why are you here?” he finally asks. “Where do you want me to start?” I reply with a chuckle. “Let’s start with why you sought help in the first place.” I really hope he has all day. I don’t think I can squeeze this all into a hour. “I have mother issues, anger issues, trust issues, sexual issues, and food issues. Just to name a few. Shall we start there?” Oh, God. He’s writing. Jot that down, dude. You’re going to need to remember this. Got enough ink in that pen? “Ok. Let’s start with your food issues. Why do you think you have issues with food?” I laugh hysterically inside. “Because I have mother, anger, trust, and sexual issues.” He gets paid for this stuff? He isn’t the first therapist I’ve seen and I have a suspicion he won’t be the last. This session has stressed me out. Guess I will treat myself to KFC and wash it all away with a root beer float.

My feet are starting to tingle. I work from home so I sit at the computer 9+ hours a day. I chalk it up to long periods of sitting. My legs start to ache. I try to get up and move around but my job has me glued to the screen. At night the tingling is worse. I elevate my feet and ignore it. Eight months later and I am feeling numbness. I change doctors and the new Doc schedules a diabetes test. “No biggie,” I tell him. “They’ve poked my finger before and sugars are always fine.” He laughs. Little did I know that it takes much more than that. The results: Type 2 diabetes. I barely hear the doctor talk about long term damage and dietary changes. My mind goes into a fog. “Is this going to be it? Is this going to be the wake-up call I need to change my life?” I stuff a large chunk of Kit Kat into my mouth and then take a long swig from my Pepsi. Can’t imagine how the diabetes arrived in the first place. Hop aboard the sugar train! I need to ponder this.

Portion Out of Control

If two heads are better than one, then what about double chins? On that note, I will help myself to seconds.” 
― Jarod KintzThis Book is Not FOR SALE

I’m such a bread whore. There’s something about walking through a bakery that leaves me excited and tingly. The smell kisses my lips and leaves me wanting more. The warmth whispers in my ear and entices me to try a sample. It’s heat sending shivers through my body. The softness wraps around my body and squeezes gently leaving me toasty inside. Ah. Food Porn.

Going to the gym today. I am totally going! Don’t look at me like that. I’m really going! Where are my shoes? Where’s my gym bag? Damn it! Keys?? Forget it. Just getting out of the house is too much of a hassle. Besides, looking for all those missing assholes gave me my own workout. Tomorrow. Yes. Definitely tomorrow.

I swear it only took a week to gain 100 pounds. It’s going to take the next 100 years to lose it. I can look at a candy bar and gain 50 pounds. I hear myself getting fatter staring at the yellow packaging on the Butterfinger. If it’s in ONE package together, that’s ONE serving size right? So king-sized is a perfect portion for me. This is my belief and I’m sticking to it. I’ve come to a point where it’s like, “Eh, I’m already this big. What’s this ONE piece of cake going to hurt?” Before I know it, that sucker is gone and I’m a cave woman on the hunt for more.

phil

My stoic expression seeps through my face as I blink at my nutritionist. She hands me a pie chart. Mmm, pie. “As you can see here, this is the portion size that is considered the normal portion size to maintain a good weight,” she says, trying to convince me that what she’s saying makes sense. She’s a tiny, little thing and as I’m sitting next to her, the room seems to get smaller. “Look, I appreciate what you’re saying but I don’t think this is the correct portion size for a 400 hundred pound woman. I mean, could you imagine if I tried to eat protein the size of my fist?” She stares back at me with a smile and nods.  “Yes. You’d lose weight.” She’s trying to be nice, bless her heart but I am over this conversation and am looking at the door wondering if I’m quick enough to make a break for it. If only I had gone to the gym, I’d be fast enough to make the exit before she could say portion size.

 

Black and White Part 2

He’s been in jail 4 months. Now there’s no income. The cable is the first to go. Then the power. Then the food. This is all my fault…

I’ve made very few friends in the three years I’ve lived here. I break down and ask for their help. They bring over a few things to make sandwiches but I know they’re having struggles of their own. I feed my kids and go without because I’m not sure when we will get food again. Forget asking the neighbors. They hate me anyways. They’ve made that perfectly clear with the rocks thrown at my screen door and the yells of “cracker,” “honky,” and my personal favorite, “white bitch.”

From the dark living room, I hear my kids going through the Sunday newspaper that I took from the broken newspaper box. I hear my son exclaim, “Oooh I want that! And that one! Oh my God that one looks really good!” I walk towards them to see what they’re reading. “You can have that one. I will have these three.” I see little bodies lying on the floor, faces illuminated by a flashlight. His precious, short, little, five-year-old fingers touch the pictures of burgers and fries. “Sunday newspaper ads always seem to have the best deals and coupons on fast food,” I sadly think to myself. I turn my head and begin to cry. I’ve done this to them out of my own selfishness. What kind of mother am I?

I have GOT to fucking do something! I walk through the projects to get to the only payphone. There are young black men everywhere. Standing around as if waiting for a taxi. I hear, “You straight?” “Hey sweetheart, you straight?” Lingo for, “are you looking to score drugs?” NO MOTHERFUCKER I’M NOT STRAIGHT! My rent is due. My power is off and my kids are hungry. You gonna fix THAT? Ignorant. I reach the payphone after weeding through the drug dealers only to have a dozen more at the barbershop asking me the same question. I break down and call mom. She’s my only hope. I beg her to send money. Just a bit for the kids to eat. “I’m broke too, Tonia. There is no way I can send money right now.” I’m every emotion possible. All at the same time. I’m losing it.

There’s another shooting. This time, a prostitute was left in the bushes next to our apartment complex to die, naked and humiliated. There’s a backwoods club down a dirt road about 150 yards from the complex. I stay indoors when the club is open because there’s no way I’m letting anyone know a white “bitch” lives here. One night, shots rang out and four policemen….FOUR policemen show up. There are hundreds of people swarming the streets. I watch from my second story window. The police are outnumbered. What the hell can they do? I feel so safe. *insert sarcasm and hopelessness*

The police are no better than the drug dealers. Example, the neighbor’s son got pulled over with three pounds of marijuana in his trunk. When he went to court the judge told him he was being charged with two pounds. Now you tell me, what the hell happened to it and are you going to argue? I was pulled over on my way to work. I received a ticket for no proof of insurance while driving my cute, little ford focus, didn’t pay for it and didn’t appear in court. I was arrested and taken to jail. On the way there, the officer says, “You smell great. Don’t worry about Hall County Detention. Those officers like pretty girls and are usually pretty lenient.”  Think someone would believe me if I told? Do you believe it? I know I didn’t but that’s the way it went down. The feeling of helplessness and defeat will overtake everything innocent that you believe in.

Tonia

My husband was finally released after 8 months. The power came back on, the fridge was full, and the kids were happy. Life went on but we were never the same. After spending 5 years in the projects, I had had enough. I moved back home to Montana with the kids and left him in Georgia.

Georgia left me hateful and blind and I couldn’t stand how that made me feel. I learned to hate because I was hated.  Eventually, I moved on and learned that things didn’t have to be that way. The world was full of color and flavor and it was up to me to reach out and taste it. When will racism, poverty, hate crimes, and general judgement cease?  It’s up to you, my dear readers. The world is not always……..black and white.

Black and White Part 1

The year is 1999. My then husband moved to Georgia with our two oldest kids to search for work. My youngest stayed with me. He calls from Georgia a few months later and tells me to come down. I pack up and move all that I know trusting that he would provide and take care of us in this new and unfamiliar world.

Just a few short months later we were broke and living In Gainesville Housing Authority AKA, The Projects. There are large apartment complexes made of brick with bars on the windows. Shortly after moving in, I get a taste of reality. I hear my son yelling for someone to get off him. I rush outside and another boy is straddling my son punching him repeatedly. I pull him off and yell, “Where is your momma?!” I large, boisterous, black woman steps out of an adjacent apartment and yells back, “I’M HIS MOMMA!” I turn and walk toward her to speak to her about what just transpired between my son and hers. She tells me, “Don’t come any closer. Keep your white ass and your wet-back over there.” I feel blood rush up from my feet to my face. My hands clench into fists. I go to open my mouth but start to notice a group of people gather to watch me get my ass beat. I grab my “wet-back” and head back into the house. I sat there on my poor over-used, flowered-upholstered couch and cried.


My husband bought me a car! I cute little white ford focus. It’s our first “brand new” car. The payments are a bit high for our income but it’s OURS! One day, I pack up my daughter to take her to get immunizations. As I head to the car, I notice black coloring on the doors. I get closer and read in bold, dark black, spray paint “white bitch.” Who would do this?! I feel SO helpless. Relentlessly, I get in and drive to our appointment. There’s no point in calling the police. I have no proof of who did it. I have no money to fix this. I have no other choice but to return the car and continue making payments. I call the housing department and tell them to move me somewhere else. One week later, another apartment opened up in the back-end of the projects. I jump on it!

January 2nd, Sunday. A day I’ll never forget. Someone knocks on my door. When I open it, a smaller, somewhat chubby girl, was standing there before me. She smiles slightly and says, “I just want to tell you that your husband and I are sleeping together.” I slam open the screen door, pushing her back. I tower over her. “You sure it’s MY husband?!” As soon as she says his name, I want to punch her in the face. Instead, I tell her to get the hell off my porch! I want to go to his work and rip his face off. He best feel lucky I don’t have any money for the transit. I do the next best thing. I grab a pair of scissors, go upstairs, and slice his clothes. One thing I can say about my husband is he likes to dress and look nice. After carving up his preciousness, I light a joint and smoke through an entire pack of cigarettes. I hear the key in the door. I get up and stand near it. As he enters, I smack him along side the head. He didn’t even see it coming. HA! I smack him again. This time he raises his arm up and yells at me. “What the hell are you doing?!” “No sweetheart, what the hell are YOU doing? Who the fuck is (I say her name)?” I’ve never seen a Mexican look so white. “I want you to go upstairs, get your shit and get the hell out of my house!” What can he say? He heads up to grab his cut up clothing, cursing in Spanish when he finds the destruction. He comes down and heads for the door. As he does, I bring my leg up to literally kick him out. He falls forward and immediately turns back towards me. He comes at me full force, punching me straight in the face. I feel blood rolling down into my mouth. We fight back and forth for what seemed like hours but must have been mere minutes. I see police lights. I stop swinging and go into actress mode. I’m the poor, defeated, beaten wife. He was arrested and taken to jail on a felony domestic violence charge. I’d like to thank the academy. At least I know he’ll be in a jail bed and not hers.

To be continued…

Carnival Ride To Nowhere

“It seems like you may be an emotional eater.” I stare back at my therapist blinking rapidly, thinking about him sitting at a desk in college taking notes on paper instead of an electronic device. He seems totally outdated. He’s a great guy, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t think he quite gets food addiction.

Way back when my grandparents were growing up, everything came from their OWN fields and hen houses. Now, it seems like everything is genetically modified. Sprayed chemicals on our fruit and veggies to help them grow faster and larger. Hormone injections are put into our cattle so that they grow faster and larger. Anything to feed our hungry and obese. I am the starving fat lady. God knows I need my over-sized burger and gigantic fruit!

So perhaps it isn’t the food itself we are addicted to. Like a heroin addict during withdrawal we are addicted to the chemical. It leaves us wanting more. It tickles our insides when we finally have it. Add a dash of convenience to the mix and you’ve got a hot ass addiction. We try to do good. I know I do. I can’t count how many diets and life change rodeos I’ve been to. Just eat better and exercise. Oh, that’s it? Thank God you’re here to tell me that. What a break through! meme Can you imagine if I tried to exercise all the calories I consumed? There aren’t enough hours in the day OR night to burn those suckers off.

My shame is unlimited. I walk into a restaurant and the first thing I look for is whether or not the booth tables are movable. Before going to an unfamiliar movie theater I call ahead to be sure their seats are large enough. Carnival rides? Forget about it. Being overweight you are constantly reminded just how fat you are. Every where I go I have to think about my weight. Can I walk that far? Can I fit? Will I be looked at and judged?

So do something about it! *nods at the stupidity of that statement* You know those little excited wind-up toys? You wind it up until it takes off real fast and then eventually it burns out and slowly winds down until you crank it up again. Well, that’s my “doing something about it.” I start out excited and ready to go. I take off! Full steam ahead! Then, I start to wind down. I no longer have the energy or care to try and I am back where I started until something else comes along to wind me up again. The roller coaster is unreal. All I know is, I want off this damn ride. Get me back to the concession stand. I’m starving.

cake

 

My Safety Shell

Oh Tonia! You are so pretty. I look down at the floor as if to feel ashamed. “Thank you,” I say politely. You know those kids, teens, and adults that model clothing sales in your local ads? Well, one of them was me. I remember the embarrassment when one of the women said, “This is for maternity. Let’s stuff this pillow in.” Looking back now, she was paying me a compliment without knowing.

I married years later, popped out a few kids, and got comfortable enough in my relationship to no longer care what my body looked like. The compliments dwindled down to “Oh Tonia! You have such a pretty face.”

A few more years later and I gain even more weight. The compliments have ceased and I take a breath of relief. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the feedback people gave me. I truly did because they didn’t have to say anything at all. But I cringed inside when I heard them. “What do you want from me?” “You are JUST being polite and don’t really mean that.” Inside I feel my gut turn and my heart race. It takes everything I have not to scream out, “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” But that wouldn’t be very lady-like of me, now would it?

Perhaps it was the conditioning and abuse. Years of molestation by many different people damaged me beyond belief. I was tainted. I was dirty. I was no longer whole. I kept my secret for many years. It ate at me like a worm to an apple. It took over my core and left me feeling bitter, angry, and unsure. To hear someone compliment me on my looks made me cringe and I have my abusers to thank for that. When I finally did tell a family member they scolded me for not telling sooner. What the fuck did you want me to do when I didn’t trust anyone? The adults in my life betrayed me and I was taught to respect them. Thank you sexual molesters for ruining my life, oh by the way, here is your dosage of respect. It was much easier to just get fat. It has become my shell and well, I’m comfortable here.

I will definitely cover more of this later. But for right now, leave me to my donuts of despair.

Rewards With Consequences

“You’re going to finish all that is on that plate.”

“But I’m full.”

“Don’t move from that table until it’s gone.”

Ever hear this in your home growing up? It was always important to eat everything on your plate even if you’re not the one that dished it all on. So what you’re telling me is, you piled all this food on my plate not knowing how much I would eat and you want ME to finish it? I’m sure my parent’s parents told them the same thing. So, who breaks that cycle? Who will tell their child that it’s perfectly OK to throw food away? That wasting food is OK. That making your own choices about how much you put on your plate is OK. Once we’re adults it’s embedded so deep in our minds that we don’t even realize that we’re doing it. So we dish up our child’s plate and control the portion ourselves, not knowing our child’s OFF switch. So why not scoot Johnny up to the counter and have him dish his own? Within common-sense of course.

What about advertisements? Stop for a moment and think. How often do you see a food commercial after 5 pm? How many food advertisements on billboards did you read on the way home? How many grocery stores announcing great deals on their orange-bulb sign did you read?

Two for five!

One free when you buy two!

Kids eat free on Tuesday!

Buy 1 Get 1

The list goes on. Think about how much our grocery bill would shrink if we only bought what we NEEDED. Because it’s on sale, does it mean you should buy it? Do you write a grocery list to shop and then pick up a “few extras?” Does convenience outweigh obesity?

Rewards with consequences. Food becomes the reward. Obesity becomes the consequence.

When I first learned to tie my shoes, it went like this:

Over, under, around and through,
Meet Mr. Bunny Rabbit, pull and through.

“You did it! You tied your shoes! Every time you tie them on your own you can have a Twinkie!”Ah grandma’s house. I love grandma’s house.

Besides feeling hungry, when do you eat? My nasty cycle is, “You celebrate, you eat. You’re rewarded,  you eat. You’re fussy, you eat.  You go out with friends, you eat. You’re sad, you eat. You’re happy, you eat.” And again, it doesn’t help that there are signs and colors and smells… oh my! So today (just try for today) step back and take a look at your surroundings. Count up the billboards, the signs, the coupons, the sales! Take a list to the store and only get what is on that list. I will walk this with you and will post results! You can leave yours in the comments. Are you going to be the first to break the cycle?

My results done on 4/10/2015 within a 15 miles radius

  • 4 fast food commercials in 2 hours.
  • 6 food billboards
  • 4 family restaurants with large advertisements.
  • 18 fast food restaurants!

Thirty-two!! So at the least, 32 times a day I am subjected to food advertisements and how great food is and how cheap and easy it is!

 

Room Without A View Continued…

We line up for chow in pairs of two. I hear one girl ask another, “Want to be my two?” I move to the back of the line since that’s where the lonely “one” goes. In two weeks I’ve made just a few friends. I’m in what they call the “Cottonwood” cottage. There is a “prison shower” which is a large room with multiple shower heads. There’s a living area where there’s a TV, tables, chairs, and puzzles. The walls are nothing but square bricks painted white. The office is a bubble of glass, brick, and one door that always remains locked. Then of course there are our cells. Two more weeks. I can do this.

The sight of that state car never looked more sweet. This time nutcase must have stayed in her nut tree because it was a handsome young man that made the drive back home more enjoyable. You’d think that it’d be amazing to be home after being away for that long. But alas, it’s just like old times with mom driving the control boat and me trying to jump off without a life vest. I run. I run. And I run like hell. I run to alcohol and drugs. I run from the law. I run to every boy who is willing to give me the attention I crave. I run in a stolen car. I start fights with anyone and everyone who tried to take away the control I thought I had on my own life. Truth is, I was totally out of control.

Red, white, and blue stands for freedom so why is it that I’m locked up again? The judge gazes at me over her glasses. “Eighteen months in Mountain View School for Girls to run consecutively. Defendant is to maintain counseling and drug and alcohol treatment. And Tonia? I really hope you’re able to turn your life around. If you choose not to, you’ll be 18 soon and I will have no other choice but to send you to adult prison. Have a nice day.” SMACK goes the gavel.

I return to see old faces. Name calling and glares have been replaced with hugs and welcome backs. Perhaps last time the girls were trying to scare me straight on my 45? It was however, their home and I was just a visitor at the time.  What they don’t know is that I was lured back. Lured by a feeling of love, acceptance, and of being wanted. Some of these girls had been beaten, abused, raped, molested, and left to the world to survive on their own. They were only teenagers.

I was allowed to work in the cafeteria. It got me out of my cell and I moved up into one of the top cottages for good behavior. I learned how to cook and serve at least a hundred girls and staff. It was nice to have responsibility. The girls really became some of my closest friends. I had affairs with a few but after realizing relationships with girls cause way too many dramatic issues, I was done. After 18 months, I was released into a group home. Then a foster home. I was bounced around between five foster and group homes for what seemed like eternity.  I was able to complete drug and alcohol counseling and maintain a job that paid off all of my restitution to the state and the victims of my crimes. I was ready for 18 in two months and I sure as hell wasn’t going to see that judge as an adult.

“Tonia, you are now released from state custody. You are no longer a ward of the state under the juvenile statute.” The judge again peers over her glasses. Doesn’t she have some that fit?! “I hope you take this as an opportunity to grow and learn. I wish you the best. I don’t ever want to see you in my courtroom again.” The SMACK of the gavel no longer holds fear. It now holds freedom.