The idea for My Record Now was born in a discussion with a restorative justice professional. I have four reasons for creating this directory.
The restorative justice professional told me that ex-offenders can have trouble getting jobs because their old mug shots still live on the Internet. I immediately felt connected to their troubles. I have lived with a variety of negative stereotypes since the day I was born, and those stereotypes hindered my success. Think about examples from your own life when other people stopped you from succeeding. They stereotyped you and the stereotypes hindered your success.
My husband spent 10 months in county jail as a teenager. He did commit a crime, but he served his time and stayed away from the criminal justice system after that. However, the violence he experienced in the county jail left him emotionally scarred.
In the first 20 years of my life, six people gave me positive identities. Those positive identities helped me walk away from the lures of the Chicago mob.
1st Positive Identity
When I was very little, my mother tried to kill me twice. She was raised to believe that she could prove herself to be a good woman only as the mother of a son. I was her second daughter instead of her first son. She saw me as a threat and tried to get rid of me. To protect herself from what I might eventually say about her, she taught everyone to ignore what I said and discount what I did. She gave me a negative identity and reinforced it daily. Everyone in my family except my father gave me a negative identity. My father gave me my first positive identity by letting me know he loved me.
Even though I knew my father loved me, I was terrified of his occasional rages. My mother ignored the emotional needs of all of her children and my father. Over the years my mother verbally and emotionally abused my father more and more. He became an alcoholic to cope with the abuse. He was a quiet alcoholic who went about his life, trying to satisfy my mother’s desire for more and more money. He would come home and drink quart after quart of beer to bury his feelings. Because feelings can’t stay buried forever, my father’s feelings would occasionally erupt into rages that lasted for hours. I knew my father loved me, but his rages terrified me.
2nd Positive Identity
My 2nd grade, Miss Fleming, was the first adult in my life to make me feel safe. I don’t remember what Miss Fleming did to make me feel safe, but I knew I was safe. I still think about Miss Fleming frequently.
3rd Positive Identity
During 3rd and 4th grades, I was a favorite of principal Sister Scholastica. I don’t remember exactly what she did, but I felt accepted for who I was.
4th Positive Identity
From 5th through 8th grades, Sister Mary Vianney was principal. I was far and away Sister Vianney’s favorite student. I don’t know why, but I delighted in it. Sister Vianney would often have me come to her office. How many children do you suppose look forward to going to the principal’s office? I jumped at the chance to go. Sister Vianney and I would sit across the desk from each other and have wonderful conversations.
5th Positive Identity
In high school, English teacher Jill Robinson told me I was a good writer. She encouraged me to keep writing and helped me become a better writer.
6th Positive Identity
I did not go to college after high school. My mother would have decided where I went and what I took and I needed to get away from her control. I took low paying office jobs instead. My second job after high school was with a small company that had only four to six employees for the year I worked there. Francine Fetyko was my supervisor. Francine told me what tasks I was good at and showed me how to be good at other tasks. The job lasted only a year because the owner decided to move the company to Kansas City. He invited me to go with, but I decided to stay in Chicago. Francine moved to Kansas City, but we stayed friends until her death 46 years later.
Saying No To The Lures Of The Chicago Mob
That company left in the spring. I did some temporary office work and waitressing. That autumn, when I was 21, I got a job waitressing at a fancy restaurant. Waitresses wore a uniform that was short and revealed a little cleavage. I worked the lunch shift. After I’d been working there about a month, the restaurant scheduled a Friday the 13th cocktail party. Decorations included a real black cat and a ladder to walk under. The manager scheduled me to be the only waitress at the party. Guests included prominent Chicago businessmen, local politicians, local media celebrities, Chicago Bears players, and movie star Cesar Romero (The Joker in the original Batman series). I had more fun at that party than any other party in my entire life.
The following week, I went back to working my lunch shift. The manager came into the restaurant that week, sat at the bar, and asked me to serve him. He wrote his phone number on a napkin, gave me the napkin, and told me to call him. I didn’t make the call. After a few days the manager came in and repeated that routine, this time giving me a dime as well as a napkin with his phone number. I didn’t make the call.
I knew that calling the dime manager meant having sex with him. I knew that having sex with the dime manager would mean rewards of some kind. I didn’t need those rewards because I had my six positive identities:
My father gave me a positive identity by making me feel loved.
Miss Fleming gave me a positive identity by making me feel safe.
Sister Scholastica gave me a positive identity by making me feel accepted.
Sister Vianney gave me a positive identity making me feel equal.
(Those conversations across the desk.)
Miss Robinson gave me a positive identity by making me feel talented.
Francine Fetyko gave me a positive identity by making me feel competent.
The following week, I went in to work as usual. The maître d’ told me to serve a table of top managers. The dime manager was at the table, but the other men were strangers to me. I had never heard of other mangers before. They were all older, expensively dressed white men. At least four men, counting the dime manager. I served them the way I always served customers. Right after lunch, the maître d’ fired me for “not smiling at the managers”.
It took awhile, but I finally figured out that the restaurant had Chicago mob connections and the “top managers” were top mobsters. The Friday the 13th party was a kind of audition to see how well I did in a room full of men. The mob must have been pleased. Not only was I smiling and laughing a lot, I walked right up to Cesar Romero to shake his hand and say, “Hello!” The dime manager’s order for me to call him was a second audition. The mob wanted to know if I would be comfortable having sex with any man who wanted me. Had I called the dime manager, my rewards would have included money, jewelry, cars, furs, and more parties with celebrities and Hollywood stars. None of it would have been worth the negative identity from having sex with any man who wanted me.
The top managers came to the restaurant that day to decide how severely they should punish me for refusing to call the dime manager. They needed to make an example of me for the rest of the staff. The dime manager had given me the privileged opportunity of being the only waitress at the Friday the 13th cocktail party. He — and the top managers — expected me to demonstrate my gratitude for that privileged opportunity. They took my refusal to call the dime manager as an unacceptable insult known to everyone else on the staff. I faced down top Chicago mobsters without knowing it. I got off easy. Instead of firing me, they could have made me disappear.
Other people might have recognized the Chicago mob’s participation in the restaurant right away. My own childhood should have given me clues. My childhood experience with the mob had been frightening, however. My experiences at the fancy restaurant and during the best party of my life were not frightening. You can read about my childhood experiences with the real Godfather when I finish creating a link for those experiences.
I learned very young the connection between other people’s success and my own success. My mother tried to kill me twice because she she saw me as a threat to her success. If my grandmother had created success for my mother, my mother would have been able to create success for me. Failure for my mother sparked failure for me. Success for ex-offenders sparks success for the communities they live in. See Success & Failure Choices for examples of how creating success for others sparks more success for you.
Everyone benefits from each ripple of success.
© Paula M. Kramer, 2017
All rights reserved.
Updated April 19, 2017