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SusanDolphinDelaney

Healing and Empowerment for Women

Category Archives: Writing

Fifty three years ago, I was a senior at Bladensburg Senior High School in Maryland. I was a rising star in the science world and in the science fair world. I was Photography Editor of the yearbook.

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I had been a scientist, in my soul, since childhood. I came from a family of photographers and had worked in the darkroom since I was 7. My dad was the Medical Photographer at George Washington University Medical School in DC and I had gone to work with him often, on Saturdays, all through grade school. I had hung out with medical scientists when I was there.

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My success and my gender were apparently too much for my high school Physics teacher and the Photography teacher. Sadly, their classrooms were across the hall from one another and  they were best buddies. This allowed them to gang up on me more.

I was the only girl in my “Double Physics” class. Back in the day (1964-65) we didn’t have AP classes. Serious science students could sign up for classes like Double Chemistry, a two hour class which I had taken the year before. Now I was in Double Physics, another two hour class, this one with a total of 12 students.

The Physics teacher would have been fired the same day if I’d had an iPhone and had recorded his daily, sexist, misogynist remarks to me. “There is only one thing a woman can do that a man cannot do, and she needs a man to help her do it,” he said one day.

By some miracle of grace, I paid him little attention in these attacks. I was there to continue my science education by learning Physics.

Only two of us in the class took the Science Talent Search exam. Only one of us was named to the Honors Group. That would be me.

Only one of us would earn a slot in the International Science and Engineering Fair. That would be me.

The Photography teacher was the yearbook advisor I had to work with. And of course, I had to use his darkroom, right across from the Physics classroom. I had worked in darkrooms since I was seven. I really had no questions for the Photography teacher, I knew what I was doing and did it quickly and efficiently.

The Photography teacher was actively hostile to me, every day, for no reason. The two teachers were “best buds.” Neither touched me. They just tried to shame and discourage me.

It didn’t work. I was respectful to both of the teachers, and held myself aloof from their cruelty.

I was able to exact revenge on the Physics teacher twice.

The Maryland Academy of Sciences chose to honor me at a special dinner in Baltimore, 38 miles away. Your science teacher was to accompany you. I told my Physics teacher of this requirement. He suggested that my old Chemistry teacher do it instead. I replied that they wanted him to be there. I could have asked my Chemistry teacher, who had moved to another school. He would have been glad to support me, but I wanted my Physics teacher to have to drive me there and back, and to sit beside me and watch me be honored.

The second “revenge” came twelve years later. I knew that the Physics teacher had always wanted to go to medical school and had not been able to get in.

When I graduated medical school, I had already earned a MS in Human Physiology, I learned that my Physics teacher had retired. I called the office at the Prince George’s County School Board and spoke to the woman who sent out the checks to retired teachers. “Oh,” I said, “he will be so thrilled for me. If I mail you a copy of my graduation announcement, would you mail it to him for me.” She readily agreed. I sent it.

Of course, I never heard from him.

I am writing this today because I read an article in the Washington Post about a math teacher who tried to tear down female students. I am here to say that teachers like that have tried to tear us down for a very long time.

It is my understanding that both of my former teachers are deceased. I leave their names off out of respect for their families. I am sure that both men did good in their lives, although not to me.

An organization, Stop Sexual Assault in Schools, created the hashtag that leads this post.

Here is the link to today’s WP article:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/in-a-prestigious-high-school-math-and-science-program-alumni-say-metoo/2018/03/01/b17f68ac-f1b6-11e7-b390-a36dc3fa2842_story.html?utm_term=.8b9e7ac9a8d3&wpisrc=nl_mustreads&wpmm=1

*The portrait of me was taken by my brother, Stephen C. Delaney, who was the photographer for the EPA for its first 25 years. The second photo was taken by my dad. I am standing with my uncle and grandfather.

Susan Delphine Delaney MD, MS

Doctor Delaney was honored by the Prince George’s County Regional Science Fair; The Westinghouse Science Talent Search; the International Science and Engineering Fair; The Washington Academy of Sciences: The Maryland Academy of Sciences. She is a 1969 Graduate of the University of Maryland in Chemistry, in an American Chemical Society accredited program. She worked as a Chemist, wrote operating systems for large scientific computers and did hospital data processing. She earned a MS in Human Physiology in 1974 from the University of Wisconsin. She earned her MD from the University of Wisconsin in 1977. She is a 1981 graduate of the Menninger School of Psychiatry. She was a Staff Psychiatrist at the Menninger Hospital and taught in the Menninger School of Psychiatry. She is the author of two books. The first won a Gold Medal for Health Communication from the American Association of Medical Writers. She is the author of two nationally distributed columns and many magazine articles. She has given presentations at the UTSW Medical School and at several Dallas area colleges.

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I turn seventy tomorrow.

I am writing to tell you that survivors of clergy sex abuse serve a life sentence.

Clergy sex abuse, with its physical abuse; sexual abuse; emotional abuse and spiritual abuse causes a SHATTERING of the survivor’s being.

Sometimes clergy are given minimal sentences for raping children. Sometimes as little as one year. But we survivors serve a life sentence.

Let me introduce you to my five year old self.

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This precious five year old was sodomized on a weekly basis during fishing season by my father’s priest.

My body will never be the same.

My emotions were savaged not only by the abuse, but by my parents, groomed by the priest, who turned a blind eye to what was happening.

I lost my faith, but regained it, bit by bit. My faith is now robust, but scarred.

I lead a full, productive life. I have left this world a better place.

I like to think that my book has been a snowflake in creating the wonderful avalanches of justice that are happening for children, women and men today.

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I published my book on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, December 28. I dedicated it to all of my brothers and sisters in this world who survived clergy sex abuse. And to those who, sadly, did not survive. So many suicides because of this horrible crime!

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I wept when I saw this photo on Facebook today. I weep as I write this. Science Fair was my salvation!

I was a teen when my family hit really hard times.

Fortunately, I was a kid who was a native of Washington DC. Four generations of my family had nourished our minds and souls at the Smithsonian Museums.

When I was a girl, Mother would pack me a sack lunch and pin two streetcar tokens to my blouse and off I would go to spend the day at the museums on the Washington Mall.

Natural History was my favorite one, especially the Hall of Minerals. I loved crystals.

Later, my science fair project would be about crystals. I grew crystals in a strong electrostatic field and observed the changes in their behavior under the influence of that field.

Even as my family was collapsing around me, I continued with my project. I did well in the school fairs and the regional fair. When I was a senior in high school, I won first Grand Prize in the Regional Science Fair and won a trip to the International Science and Engineering Fair in St. Louis.

As a result, I won enough scholarships that I could attend college. I completed my BS in Chemistry in 3 1/2 years.

Later, I would earn an MS in Human Physiology.

And later, my MD.

All because of Science Fair.

When my daughter started first grade I started volunteering to judge school, district and regional science fairs. I did so for 16 years. I judged twice at International.

My daughter was a science fair kid, too.

I coached her science fair classes starting when she was in 9th grade.

I taught the science fair kids to watch three movies:

* October Sky, because science fair CAN be your ticket “out”.

* Space Monkeys, because sometimes the judges give it to the monkeys.

* Cool Runnings, because, “If you are not OK before you win the gold medal, you won’t be OK after you win it.”

I am happy to say that science fair taught my wonderful daughter poise and grace under fire from science fair judges. She’s an alumna of the International Science and Engineering fair, too. She’s a PA and holds her own BS and MS.

So, you see, I wept when I saw the photo at the top of this blog. Because of science fair, I have three degrees. Because of science fair I’ve written two books, three columns for national magazines, many articles for national magazines and now this blog.

Thank you, Science Fair!

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A bead artist in one of my Facebook groups was bemoaning her cracked fingertips. I will share what I wrote to her, in case you are suffering as well.

I am a doctor/artist and I wrote a comprehensive health care guide for women who do crafts. It won a Gold Medal for Health Communication and was a Main Selection of the Doubleday Cooking and Crafts club.

One whole chapter of my book is on the fingers.

Here is what I am doing this winter for my cracked fingertips. Every night I put a teaspoon of sugar in my palm and pour in about a teaspoon of olive oil. I scrub down my hands, the backs, palms and fingertips. I rub my fingertips in my palms in the sugar scrub to burnish off dead skin and to stimulate the blood vessels.

Then I wash off the sugar with water under the tap, then most of the oil with hand soap.

I keep my fingernails very short so that the skin on the tips is uniformly tough, so that it resists cracking.

At bedtime I put 1/2 teaspoon of sweet almond oil in my palm and I massage it into my hands, especially my nail beds and fingertips. The massage not only delivers the oil to my skin but opens up the capillary beds so that maximum sturdiness of the skin develops.

If you want my book, many Amazon Booksellers have it for 1 cent plus $3.99 shipping (this keeps me humble; if you buy from Amazon Booksellers I won’t make even that one cent, which is fine).

If you need it today you can get it from C&T Publishing as an e-book. There’s a hot link to the C&T listing on my author website http://www.susandelaneyauthor.com.

BTW, C&T was the best publisher a gal could dream of!

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Today at my church, we presented the fourth graders with their own bibles. The youth minister had wrapped the bibles in five different layers of “gift wrap”. First a mailing envelope, because it was a Special Delivery. Then festive gift wrap. Then a map, because the Scriptures would take the kids to places they’d never been. Then newsprint because of the “Good News” in the bible. Finally in gold paper to mark the bibles as treasure.

It was a beautiful ceremony, but seeing the fourth graders stand there makes me tear up every year because, statistically, it is fourth-graders that are sexually abused by clergy, altar boys and altar girls. They are so little!

Sexual abuse is a fourfold catastrophe for the child: physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual. It creates a shattering of the child that takes years to heal.

My own abuse by a clergyman happened when I was five. That’s me in at age five on the cover of my book.

My faith is strong again now. People remark on it. I would not wish on anyone what it took for me to get it back!

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I have a Pinterest board “Justice for Kids”:

http://www.pinterest.com/susanddelaney/justice-for-kids/

It is based on the “Legend of the Starfish”: A woman is walking along the beach at low tide. Every time she sees a stranded starfish, she reaches down, grabs it and throws it into deep water. A man is walking toward her and when he gets to her he asks her what she is doing. She explains. He says, “it doesn’t matter, you can’t save them all.” She throws the starfish in her hand into deep water and looks him in eye kindly. “It matters to that one.”

Every time I come across a photo of a starfish on Pinterest, I pin it to Justice for Kids and add the words, “It Matters to That One”.

Protect one kid.

Save one kid.

Believe one kid.

Call the police if a kid discloses abuse of any kind. It is THEIR job to investigate, not yours.

It matters to that one!

p.s., it’s grand if you can save more than one!

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When my daughter was away at college I sent her a letter every single day. I always included an item from our shared past in the envelopes.

I had taped movie stubs, fortune cookie pronouncements, tags from when her car was repaired, programs from her schools into the family calendar for years. I also had a huge box of her school drawings and papers.

Each day when I wrote I’d include one or more of these items. I’d also include a photo, a cartoonI thought or an article or photo from the paper that might interest her. You can see the pig snouts peeking out of a stock truck in the photo above.

As a haiku poet, I’d also sometimes include one or more of my haiku, especially ones of scenes we’d shared or ones that were actually about her.

I reverse scrapbooked again this week. I’d saved the tickets from the Butterfly exhibit at Natural History, the IMAX ticket and the ticket to the International Spy Museum. I mailed them to her in a card as a memento of our trip.

BTW, she has kept every single letter I sent her. They are in her old room here and they fill a laundry basket.

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Some time back I acquired three Yellow Submarine tee shirts from Threadless. I actually started with just one, but got such positive reactions to wearing it that I ordered another two when they went on sale.

Wherever I go people smile and comment about the shirt. Recently, however, they have started singing when they see it.

A few weeks back, on my trip to DC, I was browsing the gift shop of the National Gallery of Art. A super-preppy guy, a clerk in the store, likely a summer intern, saw my tee shirt and burst into song!

The next day, I was wearing another of them and was moving through the security checkpoint at the airport. The guy who had just x-rayed my bags saw my tee shirt and started singing, “We all live in a Yellow Submarine”.  Immediately, the woman behind me in line started singing it, too. We three sang it all the way through.

The funniest reaction I ever had to the shirt came in Hot Springs Arkansas. I’d just finished a hike along the “Promenade” in Hot Springs National Park (where I got a half dozen grins and comments about the shirt) and went downstairs to meet my haiku friends for dinner in the hotel restaurant. Only one friend had arrived. He looked at my shirt and started naming all of the gray submarines. Turns out he was a submariner when he was in the Navy. He DIDN’T EVEN SEE the yellow one!

I finally understood the Threadless name for the tee: Know Your Submarines.

BTW, I took the picture after I finished knitting a “brain” hat. I’m wearing it in the photo….

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