Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"I never thought about the children..."

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of being invited to Fort Myers, Florida, to be the keynote speaker for an educational symposium on the family dynamics of hoarding. One of the organizers, Dr. Belinda Bruster, had read my book, and liked its perspective "from the inside out." She passed it along to members of the Lee County Hoarding Task Force, and next thing I knew, I was on my way to Florida Gulf Coast University, where the program was being presented.

I'm a writer, not a speaker, but I felt this was something that I needed to do. The members of the Task Force were warm and welcoming and eager to learn about the COH experience. With the help of my college-age son, I had put together a Power Point presentation, and my husband, who had accompanied me on the trip, managed the slides. For about 30 minutes, I talked to 60 or more people about what it was like to grow up in a hoarded home. One of the points I stressed was how animal hoarding seems to get a lot more press and sympathy than children living in the hoard. I emphasized that we, as COH, don't want to see animals living in this kind of environment either, but if it is bad for animals, then it is equally as bad, if not worse, for children (animals don't have to go to school, leave home with no basic life skills etc).

I've included some links to interviews from the seminar below, with a couple of disclaimers:

The gentleman who interviewed me for the first story (he mentions my "hoarder mother," wrong...oh, well..) told me that he had never once thought about the children prior to my presentation.

The female reporter in the second story mentions that I couldn't sleep in my own bed; she pulled that out of some other COH information, but not mine. I could sleep in my own bed; it just took a while to get there. :)

I ended the presentation by telling about a program on hoarding I had attended a week or so before coming to Fort Myers. The presenter had done a great job: really nailed the frustration of dealing with  hoarders and the difficulty, if not impossibility, of getting them to change their behavior long term. After his program, I went up to him, and asked what he and his associates (whose job/career it is to  work with hoarders) were doing to help the children they encountered in these situations. His response?


When he saw my face, he hastened to explain that they were "too busy working with the hoarder."

After citing this example at my own presentation, I said (or attempted to say, as this is where I got choked up in front of all those people), it is time to change our priorities and put our focus on innocent children who have no say/ no choice in how they live and how they are brought up.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Library event focuses on the complex problem of hoarding

Saturday, March 30, 2013 at 2pm, The Randall Library, 19 Crescent Street, Stow MA, will be combining an author event/book signing with a panel discussion on hoarding. In addition to author and child of hoarder Barbara Allen, program participants will include professionals who deal with hoarders and hoarding: Forensic Clinical Nurse Specialist, Michelle Caron; professional organizer, Michele Matties; Stow Fire Chief, Mike McLaughlin.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Book Signing Event at Tatnuck Bookseller


Sunday, December 09, 2012

Tatnuck Bookseller
Westborough Shopping Center
Route 9 & Lyman Street
Westborough, MA 01581
TITLE: Author Event: Barbara Allen's "Nice Children Stolen From Car", a memoir 
TIME: 1-3 pm
LOCATION: Table at front of store
I'm always glad to meet other COH!  Hope to see some of my Massachusetts supporters there.

Monday, October 22, 2012

A day of unspeakable sadness

A little over a year ago, my husband and I traveled to New Orleans, to gather with other Children of Hoarders at Dr. Chabaud's research center. One of the people I was most interested in meeting was Sidney Patrick, a spunky, sassy, talented writer who had posted comments on my blog and whose blog I had begun to follow.

Sidney in person was exactly how I imagined her to be from her writing: freckle faced and wholesome but with a wit that was razor-sharp and wickedly funny. She was an amazing advocate for the Anti-Hoarding cause, Children of Hoarders' best Champion. She cared deeply about us, and the issues that plague us, a result of the damage we sustained after life in the hoard.

I, for one, can't believe she's gone. What will we do without that bright voice? Who will make us laugh with her crazy chilcken remarks?

I would like to send prayers and deepest condolences to the Patrick family and to Greg, on the loss of dear Sidney.


     It has been about six months now since my book, Nice Children Stolen from Car, has been available on, and through several other booksellers. The support from COHs has been phenomenal, and I thank you all for your words of encouragement and recommendations of my book to other COHs.
     Since the book was first released, I've been receiving quite a bit of feedback. The reactions of non-COHs have been as follows:
1) Expressing a desire to hug me, sometimes actually doing so. Here are just two examples: I was waiting in line after church to speak to our minister, when I noticed an older woman, one of my fellow choirmembers, hovering nearby. When I greeted her, she came right up to me and said, "I read your book, and I just want to hug you." She is a lovely woman, but not someone I think of as the "hugging type," but that day she embraced me as if I were her own child.
      A similar scenario occurred at work... my boss had bought the book, read it, and passed it on to her husband, a psychologist. A few days after she had given to him to read, she appeared at the doorway of my cubicle.
     "Stand up," she commanded. I did (she is my boss, after all). She then folded me gently in her arms, gave me warm hug and said, by way of explanation, "That's from Terry [her husband]. He just finished your book."
    That fourteen year old hoarder-home child that still lives somewhere within me has appreciated every one of those hugs/hug offers.
2) Marveling at my "normalcy." If I received a dollar every time I heard the phrase: "But you're so normal!" I would most likely never have to work again.
     When I hear this remark, I usually respond with a laugh and a "Well, relatively so, I guess."
The fact of the matter is that I left my hoarded home almost forty years ago, and it has been a long journey from there to what most people call "normalcy."
3) Trying to explain to me that my father's hoarding was a result of the "Great Depression." I have to admit, I am not very patient with this reaction. To be blunt, it pisses me off.
     A friend of mine's dad actually lived through the Great Depression. His basement has a cabinet with a lot of canned goods, more than his small family needs. When my friend went off to college, her dad sent her with bags and boxes full of food, fearing that his daughter would be hungry.  His home wasn't a fire and health hazard.
     My father didn't live through the Great Depression. It was over when he was an infant. Unlike my friend's father's home, there was never enough food in our house, except for my father. You know those books and movies where there is one scrap of food, one crumb, and the parents give it up for the children... well, not in our house. My father always took the biggest portion and we six kids were left with whatever remained, even if that left us with next to nothing.
     He was truly a hoarder extraordinaire... everything was his.
4) Expressing anger at the way Child Protective Services handled the case.  While I agree that our situation could have been managed better, I remind people that this happened almost forty years ago, and children weren't removed from abusive or even dangerous homes as promptly as they are now.
5) "I never thought about the kids when I was watching "Hoarders."" That's one of the reasons I wrote the book.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

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