As the title says, “Hello and Welcome!”

As the first post on my blog, I just want to share a little more information about myself (beyond what is on the “about” page) and what it is that I am doing here and what I am trying to accomplish.

My name is Cranford Blackmon. I was born in the deep south but have lived all over the country and in other countries as well (thanks to Uncle Sam – yes, I’m a veteran). That has given me the opportunity to learn about people who are “different” from me and the cultures they come from. It has also shown me that, regardless of our appearances and customs, we are all quite similar in so many ways. But, even though I have vastly broadened my views of the world and its people, I am still ingrained with some southern ways. For instance, I still say “sir” and “ma’am” when I’m talking to people who are older than me. I still open doors for women (even if they are Crossfit women who are clearly stronger than me!). So don’t be offended if I open a door for you; its not because I think you are weak, its because I have a great respect for women and its one of the ways I can try to show you my respect.

I am married to the most wonderful woman I could ever hope for.  She is loyal, kind, supportive, smart, and beautiful.  She continuously makes me think that I’m pretty funny and, according to her, handsome!  Could I ask for more? I think not! But there is more: She is my partner not only in life, but also in this venture of making the world a better and safer place to live and thrive.

When I married this woman, I also inherited six step-children (and even picked up another along the way!).  You might not be surprised to find out I had a VERY steep learning curve: from “single guy with no children” to “husband and step-dad of 6” in one step!  It was certainly challenging, but I have learned so much and have grown in maturity, patience, compassion, and in love.  I learned that I worry about everything they do in growing up.  I also learned that the best I can do is to love them, give the best guidance and examples I can, and then set them free to make their own choices and follow their own paths (but I still secretly worry about them!). My seventh “child” was the friend of my oldest daughter from college.  She is a sweetheart and we were happy to adopt her as one of our own.

Now all but one have moved out and are leading their own adult lives, giving us 6 grandchildren so far! My last in-home “child” will be graduating this year and heading off to the military (just like 3 of his siblings have done).
Most of my life I have been drawn to being in service. I’ve been in law enforcement (city and federal), corrections (county and state), military (army and air force), and while in high school, on a volunteer rescue squad and fire dept. There’s just something within me that wants to protect and help people.

So, as you might imagine, I’ve seen a lot of bad things. I’ve seen natural disasters, disasters caused by man, violence, crime, and war. But far worse are the injuries, the physical, psychological, and emotional pain, and the sense of fear that lives on in the victims of those bad things. I see their loss of trust in others; their loss of a sense of security. Those feelings of insecurity and fear can and do end up affecting many others due to constant updates of crime, sickness, and war from TV, radio, movies, the internet, and shared stories of friends and family who have been hurt.

Because of my experiences(and listening to the news each day), I have to say that I do worry about the girls in my family more than the boys.  Of course that now includes daughters, daughters-in-law, and granddaughters!  But that worry extends to all the women in my family, my female friends, and so many more that I haven’t met.  That means I also worry about YOU and the girls and women in your life!

I know terrible things happen to both men and women. But women seem to bear the burden of a disproportionately high percentage of being affected, and even targeted, by crime, violent or not. Why is that? Because far too many criminals see women as being weak, fearful, and unaware of how to protect themselves and their property. What’s even worse than that? Many women believe the same thing about themselves! Sadly, this WRONG belief is also way too common in senior citizens and many men as well.

Several years ago, after getting out of the army, I was a police officer and a full-time college student.  There had been several attacks on women on the campus, but the attacker had yet to be captured.  I remember walking around campus and seeing women being SO unaware of what was going on around them.  They parked in areas that were poorly lit and then took shortcuts through unlit areas to get to their classes.  They walked with their head down, not looking at the area or people around them.  They didn’t look at me as I walked by them on the sidewalk, in the hallways, or in the parking areas.  I wanted to grab every one of them and explain how they were putting themselves in more danger, ESPECIALLY during a time when there was a person attacking women on that very campus!

“Hold your head up!  Look at the people around you! Park in lighted areas!  Walk WITH someone! Don’t go through dark areas at night just because you’re late for class!”  So many things I wanted to tell them. In an ideal world, they would never have to think about such things, but we don’t live in an “ideal” world. However, it really is easy to make yourself a less-likely target of crime, but for some strange reason the women on that campus seemed determined to keep doing the very things that would make them a “good target” for being victimized.  It bothered me.  But then, as my own awareness of what seemed to be a very common problem among college women (students AND staff) grew, I started seeing the same thing everywhere.  Whether they were working, shopping, traveling, or just “hanging out,” most women seemed to be oblivious to what was around them, while some seemed like they were living in a constant state of mild fear, the kind of fear that makes you withdraw into yourself.
I wanted to help, but I was certain no one would listen to a 23 year old kid fresh out of the army and now an eager police “rookie” trying to explain how women were putting themselves at risk.

It frustrated me as I continued to see the same kinds of things year after year.  I will never understand what it is in some people that make them want to take advantage of others.  Whether it is being sold a set of $1500 tires when that wasn’t what was needed, or being physically assaulted, the reason someone feels OK about doing something like that has always been beyond my comprehension. But they do it. And many times, they get away with it.

The intimidation, coercion, kidnapping, forced slavery, assault, rape, and abuse of women and girls sickens me. It tears me up inside to know that so many women experience some level of fear every day; that so many have been abused physically and emotionally by a stranger or even someone they were supposed to be able to trust or even love. As a dad and a husband, whenever I see these women, whether it is on the news or in pictures, my heart breaks and I want to wrap those girls and women up in a a hug so they will feel safe, even if its for just a few moments. I want to tell them that they DIDN’T deserve whatever bad thing was done to them, that they are NOT damaged goods, that they are NOT unworthy of love or happiness.
But I can’t really do that. The number of hurt and scared girls and women is just too vast. Not to mention that, since the majority of violence against women is committed by men, those very same girls and women I want to help are probably (and very understandably) wary of men, even the good ones.

As I’ve grown older, I have come to realize that a HUGE percentage of the women I’ve know, including the women in my family, have had experiences with bad people doing bad things to them.  The number of crimes committed against women is staggering and it is an invisible wet blanket of shame that seems to lie across every culture on this planet.  I’ve thought many times about ways to help, but I never really believed I could make a difference.  The numbers of victims, the crimes, the terrible things that don’t quite count as “crime” were just too great.  What could I possibly do that would make a difference?
But the women who have been hurt are not just strangers on TV to me. These things have also happened to the women in my life. To my female friends, and to my family. There’s such a horrible feeling of guilt that lingers as a man who wasn’t there to protect my loved ones. It doesn’t matter if it was something that happened hundreds of miles away, or during a time before we even met, or something that happened before I was old enough to do anything about it. As ridiculous as I know it is to be able to be everywhere, with everyone, to protect them from everything, the questions still linger: what could I have done differently? Could I have protected them somehow? Taught them something? Warned them of something? I’m sure there are probably a lot of dads, sons, brothers, and boyfriends in the world that deal with the same questions I continue to deal with within myself.

So, even though I can’t do anything about what has happened in the past to my family, my friends, and the millions of other women victims and survivors, I could do something. But even with my constant desire to make the world a better place, I wasn’t really doing as much as I could.

Then something terrible happened.  One of my girls was sexually assaulted. It was the second time in her life.  But this time, it was so violent, she needed surgery and metal pieces to put her female parts back together again.  She tried to fight, but the one thing every girl “knows” to do to a man trying to assault her, didn’t work.  She was terrified, tortured, and raped.  She can’t have children now because of what some sick monster did for his own hateful twisted pleasure.  He was eventually captured and imprisoned.  It turns out that he had assaulted several other women too. They only came forward AFTER his capture. They were too scared.

This was my tipping point.  I realized that, because of the many odd twists and turns in my career(s), I have an incredibly unique set of experiences that I can use to teach women how to NOT be a victim; how to be a “target” that a criminal would rather pass by; how to fight off an attacker WITHOUT going through years of self-defense or martial arts training; how to use what is around them to hide, escape, and survive; and how to think about what has happened to find the strength do more than just “survive.” Not only can I do those things, I can do them in simple everyday language, for women of all ages, all fitness levels, and without regard to any physical challenges they may have. I do it without sounding like a drill sergeant, without being intimidating or judgmental, and without being a fear monger.  I KNOW that they (you) don’t know what I know. It doesn’t mean you are stupid or dumb! It just means you haven’t had the opportunity to learn these things yet. I don’t want women to be afraid of what or who is “out there.”  I want them to know they can avoid most trouble, and when they can’t, they CAN survive and overcome the situation, with what they already have.

So I decided to create my company, LaBCaf, LLC.  Its an acronym for “Legs and Brains, Claws and Fangs.”  Its what you have to work with in every situation.  You can learn more about what we do by going to the “Why We’re Different” page of the website, or just click “here.”

So, back to “me.” As you can see, I tend to be a bit wordy when I write. Not only that, but I don’t do a lot of editing either. From what I’ve read about blogging, I’m already NOT following the “guidelines” just by writing such a long post. But no one ever changes the world by staying in the box of “accepted guidelines and actions,” right? Since I plan on changing the world, I guess you should get to know me as I really am: sometimes I get excited about something and then talk too much; sometimes in trying to make a point clear, I blurt out something that I should have probably worded differently (anyone else ever do that?); sometimes my brain goes faster than my mouth and I have to stop for a second to let them get back together; I’m kind of a nerd and I try to find lots to laugh at (its my own style of personal therapy!). I don’t like meanness, rudeness, lying, or disrespect. I don’t like the mistreatment of people or animals. I don’t believe in PUSHING political or spiritual ideas (I DO believe in SHARING them. I love to know what others believe and why, as long as they’re not trying to sell it to me as the only acceptable TRUTH!). Finally, I don’t like the judgment of people, but I wholeheartedly believe that what they do CAN be judged. I can completely disagree with what someone does or believes while still accepting the person.

You see, I love people. I don’t want there to be theft or violence or fear. But I know there will never be a world like that. But I also know that we CAN create places that are like that. It might only be within our family and maybe within our circle of friends. And then maybe it can be our community. But it requires knowledge, effort, and sometimes, tough choices.
Well, that is probably a topic for another “too long” post!

So let me end this now before I get on another topic and forget to stop typing!

Thank you for reading this.
Thank you for coming to my website.
Thank you for being a person who wants to be brave and strong, who wants to make a difference (I know that about you already just because you’re here and still reading).
And thank you for putting up with my rambling style of writing!

Please share with me whenever something I provide (in my classes or from this blog) helps you. Its the way I’ll know I’m being successful in helping the world be better. You can email me at cranford@labcaf.com or you can just click “here.”

Working to make the world a little better,

Cranford

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