Happy Birthday “R”!

balloon treeI’m breaking away from the “super proud mom” theme of the past few days, but I can’t quite let go of it completely.  I’m just going to mix it up a little bit, because I’m not done being super proud.   Today’s post will from the perspective of a “super proud wife”.  This won’t become a series though, because the last I checked, I only have one husband to brag on and he deserves to be bragged on!  We’ll stay with the letter theme and name him “R”.  It’s his birthday today, so this post is perfect timing.

I’ve already told you how we met in “My Knight in Shining Armor Story”.  After two previously, really screwed up marriages, I finally got one right.  Some of us just need a bigger learning curve.

“R” met me as a single mom with two kids already.   Having the courage to take on an instant family makes him “point worthy” right off the bat.  The night of our first date was as the Christmas season was approaching and my kids and I were decorating the tree when the doorbell rang.  “R” got to put the angel on the top of the tree before we left for dinner, which has been a tradition ever since.  My kids seemed to be really comfortable around him, too, and he was good with them, so that raised his score.  Yes, after twoscoreboard to many screwed up relationships, I was definitely keeping score.

Not only did “R” inherit a prepackaged deal, he also won the rights to my bill drawer.  I must tell you that this bill drawer had its own organizational system.  I didn’t have to do anything but put the unopened bills in the drawer and they organized themselves with the oldest being on the bottom and the newest on top.  It was a system especially developed to ease my mind and cut down the financial stress of being a single mom.  Whatever was in that drawer became out of sight, therefore, out of mind.   As hard as it is to admit how horrible that system was, imagine the courage it took “R” to accept that drawer when he accepted me.  Yes, give that guy some more points, maybe a high five even!

In the early days of our fast moving courtship, my soon to be husband did everything right.  He always had the right answer, he was super intelligent and seemed to have wisdom beyond his years, he had a good job and he was incredibly talented musically.  As a matter of fact, it was a song that he wrote for me that broke down the high walls around my heart and gained him access.  The fact that he shared the song as we shared a container of ice cream may have helped a little, too.  Ice cream was a staple in my family.

Sad-love-quotes-Trust-it-takes-yearsSpeaking of high walls around my heart, previous abuse and rape meant a lot of emotional baggage was traveling with me on our new journey together.  Trust was difficult for me.  Letting someone get close and really know me was difficult.  “R” would constantly tell me he loved me, but I would just let the words roll off.  If I really believed him, it meant I was opening myself up to be hurt.  He constantly paid me compliments, I mean many times throughout the day even.  My response was always to either ignore what he said or deflect them somehow.  He would stand in front of me, look me in the eye and tell me I was beautiful.  I would look away, never saying thank you, never receiving it.  He never gave up though.  Year after year, he patiently kept doing it all right.  I don’t know how many years it took before I started to listen and believe him, but it was many.  Yeah, more points here!  Big time points!Hugs heal

Our premade family of four grew to become a family of six.  There were some wonderful years in the last 25 and some really horrible, even hellish years.  I’ve talked about some of those times in previous posts, but I’ve just shared what it was like for me, as if I was alone in it all.  “R” was there, too.  He hurt, too, but of course, no one saw that.  Those years didn’t seem to scare “R”.  He didn’t run like others surely would have done.  He stood fast and he held tight.  He remained strong and focused with an amazing ability to keep things under control.

I’m remembering the health crisis I had two years ago.  Not that I remember a lot about the days in ICU, but I do remember when I icuwould wake up occasionally and he would jump up from the spot where he kept vigil.  He would do all he could to make me comfortable or offer help in any way.  How difficult it must have been for him, not just to see his wife in that condition, but still having to carry the responsibility of his job and everything at home during that time.  He didn’t seem to miss a beat in any of it.  I vaguely remember seeing his mom walking into the room once.  I heard her ask him how he was doing.  He said, “I’m just taking care of my wife”.  He certainly has taken care of me.  He’s taken very good care of me!  And the score board numbers keep adding up.

“R” works a very demanding job that doesn’t sleep.  Even if it did sleep, since it’s an international company, it’s always 8:00 to 5:00 somewhere.  They keep him around, they’ve promoted him over the years and the pay checks keep coming in.  All the people that I know that he works with really like him, so I think he must be really good at what he does.  I can’t forget to mention that I’ve been sleeping with a college student for the past few years.  “R” takes classes, too and I’m proud to say he’s a straight A student.

cyclist_superhero_by_night_oval_decalWe’ve had lots of highlights in the past couple years, thanks to “R” getting us involved in this running thing he loves so much.  He’s my marathon man!  We’ve been doing races every couple months and most of them we’ve gotten to travel for.  It’s been so much fun!    He is also big into cycling now and he’s become a mad man clipped on pedals.  I slow him way down when we ride together, but he doesn’t mind because he says he loves when he gets to ride with me.

There is so much more I could say, but I think you get the idea.   He may not be perfect, but he’s still my Mr. album coverRight.  This past summer we were cruising on the Mediterranean.  We had many beautiful nights, but one in particular stands out in my mind.   Picture it with me.  Sitting on our balcony with good wine in hand, sailing over smooth seas, warm air, gentle breeze, full moon reflecting on the water, sound of the water lapping the sides of the ship and “R” is singing to me.  “You’re once, twice, three times a lady…”  Yep, he melted my heart.

Let me tell you this “R”.  While you’ve racked up more points than I could ever count, I’m the one who scored the most when I married you.  You’re once, twice and always my man!  I’m proud of you “R” and I love you with all of my heart!

#NaBlaPoMo

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Let the Future Begin!!!

Red_Desert_ButtesYou’ve heard, “kids say the darndest things”, and indeed they do!  Having raised four children of my own, I can vouch for that.  I have to tell you about a particular little 7 yr. old boy that I met last week.  I’ll call him Jaxson.  I’ve been thinking about him ever since.  He was super sweet, yet kind of shy, and he had the roundest chubby cheeks framing his huge, playful grin.  As I talked, I asked him questions to get to know him a bit, but he would just quickly bob his head to respond.  He didn’t say much but, he did say one thing to me that I’ve thought about ever since.

He was telling me that he enjoyed reading.  His Grandma had given him a Bible for Christmas.  A Bible isn’t your average 2nd grade reading material, you know.  While his was a version designed for kids, it still has a hefty volume of text for a 2nd grader to wade through.  Jaxson said he had been reading his Bible, but he was having a problem.  He said, “Every time I start to read, I have to start over again because I don’t have a book mark”.  I had an urge to laugh, but just smiled as I explained that he could just use a piece of scrap paper for a book mark.  I wonder how many times he’s reread the story of creation.   “In the beginning…”  He couldn’t get past the beginning.

Jaxson’s little confession also caused a tear to well up in the corner of my eye, from a different place than where the laugh came from.  I baby hand with fatherwasn’t quite sure why.  Maybe I was just touched by the sweet innocence that was expressed by this child, but something about my experience with Jaxson had touched something deep in me.  His statement taunted me this week as it played over and over in my mind.  Now I know why it resonated with me.   Jaxson was stuck at the beginning and so was I.

Perhaps you’ve read some of my earlier posts where I have talked about being raped at knife point as a teenager and being physically abused in a previous marriage.  If you have personally experienced rape or abuse, you understand that the after affects can be extremely damaging and far reaching.  While I have previously gone through counseling and participated in recovery groups to find healing over the years, I am currently involved in yet another round of group therapy sessions.  I’m doing this as part of a training program to be able to facilitate support groups for women who have been abused, as I have.  By going through the sessions as a participant, I not only gain experience with group dynamics, but I’m forced to take an even deeper look at myself.  It seems that each time I go through this, still another elusive wounding is unearthed from the rubble of my past and I become more whole.  That’s a good thing!  It makes me a little easier to live with, so my husband should appreciate that.

Monument ValleyIn our recovery group, we have homework assignments to complete between sessions.  As a part of the homework this week, we were instructed to draw or find images that would serve as a visual prompt, a reminder of our healing, like a monument, a stone of remembrance.  I love stones!  I know that sounds strange, but there is just something about them that draws my gaze.  When we hike, I always take a stone from the trail home with me.  I live in the rocky state of Arizona.  The rock formations that may be drab to some are fascinating, even beautiful to me!  I was excited about this assignment, or so I thought.

Images of things that would serve as my “stone of remembrance” came to mind very quickly, but all the thoughts surrounding my stone lighthouse in wavemonuments were emotionally exhausting.  Today, my tangled mess of thoughts seemed to jell together to form a realization that sparked excitement.  It was an excitement that I once had, but had forgotten.  I had some moments of enlightenment that I won’t go into detail on in this post, but I can give you the bottom line.  Tough seasons of life over the years have dulled my expectations for my future.  Goals and dreams that I had imagined for my future hadn’t totally disappeared, but it was like I had placed the goals and dreams up on a very hard to reach shelf, in a perpetual place of waiting.  I truly believed in my heart they would happen someday, but not now and not anytime soon.  I would have to wait and wait and wait…  I had forgotten some of the lessons of the past.  I didn’t have those stone monuments in place to help me remember and I realized that I’ve been stuck.

I’ve been living my life like Jaxson has been reading his little Bible.  Each day, instead of moving forward to my future, I begin in the very bookmarkssame place, waiting…  I’ve spent years looking up at that shelf, longing for the day when I could take hold of those things.   Here I am at my age, still in the creation story and there is so much more ahead that I’ve been missing out on.  It’s like, I didn’t have a bookmark!

Going through another recovery group, yet again, will be my ladder.  I’m choosing to hoist this ladder through the darkness, through the dust and the cobwebs, as I ascend to that very hard to reach place.  I intend to take hold of that box, those goals and dreams.  This blog post will serve as as one of my stone monuments, my bookmark.  It’s not over yet, not even at this age.  I say, let the future begin!

Domestic Violence… It’s NEVER Ok!

As always before I went to sleep, I reached down to be sure that the knife was still hidden between the mattress and the bed rail.  I kept it there just in case I would need it to protect myself during the night.  There was always the fear that somehow he would find it and the weapon that I hoped would protect me could be used against me.  Of course, this was not my only fear.  It was just one of many that come with having an abusive partner.

Knives themselves brought terror to me.  To think that I would even consider that one would protect me was almost ridiculous; however, it was now my best option.  Well, I guess my best option would have been to leave, but to consider that also brought fear, so much so that it didn’t seem to be a viable option in my mind at the time.

I love to cook, but cooking involves knives.  I understand how a chef’s knives are a prized possession.  In the hands of a chef, they are a necessary tool used skillfully with speed and accuracy.  A Chef can do such amazing and creatively wonderful things with a knife.   That’s what knives were intended to be used for.  To this day, even seeing a knife in the hands of a skilled chef makes me cringe.  I can only watch them work with one eye open.   I will never be able to handle a knife with the speed of a chef.  Knives bring back memories…

There was the time that a knife was used in a sexual assault against me.  It doesn’t feel good having a knife blade pressing against your skin, not that it really distracted from the atrocity that was happening to me.  All these years later, I can still see it at my waistline, almost still feel it.  I wrote about that in an abstract way in series of previous posts in my Fairytales from the Dark Side.  “The Dark Room…”, “The Dark Room… Continued” and “The Dark Room… The Final Chapter”, tell that story. 

On another occasion, I remember not only the sight of knives being hurled past my head, but also the sound as they stuck into the wall behind me.  It was all for the thrill of watching me be terrorized.  Yes, that’s a really bad memory, too.

It wasn’t just knives that brought fear.  Actually, any object that could be picked up and thrown or any body part that moved suddenly in my direction, those brought fear.  Hands that could be used in a loving caress one minute could have a death grip around my throat the next.   Arms that could hold me in a secure embrace one minute might be pushing me down a flight of steps the next.  A mouth that could be offering kind words one minute could be screaming obscenities the next.  Never knowing what was going to happen next, that brought fear, too.

Riding in a car and not being the driver brings fear.  I think anyone who I’ve ridden with can attest to that.  I can’t seem to keep myself from giving driving directions as a passenger and it doesn’t matter what seat I’m in.  You see, I remember the time that the car was spun around wildly in the middle of the freeway, more than once.  One time, I must have deserved it, though.  He was right.  I didn’t have a picture of him in my wallet.  There were the times that the car was driven onto railroad tracks, dangerously close to oncoming trains.  That was more than once, too.  I will never understand how someone finds pleasure in seeing someone else in terror.  I guess it must be like watching a reality horror flick.  Of course, you never forget someone trying to push you out of a moving car vehicle either.  Yes, I’m much more comfortable being the driver.

This particular night, the feel of the knife on the bed rail brought enough of a false sense of security that I thought I would be able to sleep.  He had tried to throw me out of the upstairs bedroom window earlier on this day, but he seemed pretty out of it by bedtime.  I thought the large amount of alcohol in his system would keep him asleep for the night.  Or it could have the opposite effect as it had done in the past and turn him into a raging lunatic.  Yes, the knife was a false sense of security, but thankfully that night the alcohol did keep him asleep.

Yes, there was mental abuse, as well.  There was the unfaithfulness in a relationship that brings betrayal.  That’s mental abuse.  (Yes, that happened more than once, too.)  Being verbally degraded and devalued on a daily basis is mental abuse.  The constant need to have to “walk on eggshells” out of fear of making the abuser angry is an abuse.  Having to live in fear 24/7 is mental abuse.  The ramifications of such abuses are just as long lasting as physical abuse.

Why didn’t I leave?  I didn’t leave because I was afraid to.  I was afraid for my life.   He threatened to hurt me if I tried to leave and I believed him.   I couldn’t see any safe way out.  How would I take care of myself and my son, and now the unborn baby I was carrying on my own?  Where would I go?  It was all just too overwhelming to consider.

I couldn’t tell anyone.  He would hurt me if he found out that I did that.  I knew that whoever I told would just tell me to leave.  They really wouldn’t understand.  I mean, he was always sorry afterwards.  He promised to never do it again.  Maybe this time, he’d really mean it.  People can change, right?

This was all years ago for me, yet the unnatural fears I was left with as a result, took years and much help to recover from.  I was one of the lucky ones.  I made it out alive.  Many aren’t so lucky.  You would probably be surprised to find out that someone you know is the victim of abuse like I’ve described.  Maybe even, it’s you.

Abuse is NEVER ok, not even once.  Too many ignore those first warning signs.  It’s easy to let reasoning justify the choice to stay in an abusive relationship.  The reality is there is NO good reason to do so.

Warning signs: http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_types_signs_causes_effects.htm#warning

October is Domestic Violence Month.  There really is a lot more help available today then there was when abuse was happening to me.

If you are a victim or know someone who might be, please get help.  You don’t have to stay a victim, but it usually can’t be done alone.

I’m happy that here in Arizona, Maricopa County just launched a new website to help victims of domestic violence.  Please, please, if it’s you or someone you know is being abused, go to: http://geo.azmag.gov/maps/victimadvocates/  Here you can find a map of places that will help, as well as phone numbers and other helpful links for those outside of Arizona.  Do it now, while you are still one of the lucky ones.

The Dark Room… The Final Chapter

Streams of sunlight were beginning to glimmer through the sheer curtains hanging over the open window.  The cool breeze caressed the bare skin of the Princess causing her to awaken enough to pull up the blankets, snuggling them around her neck.  She really did not want to wake up this early, yet so many thoughts flooded her mind, that trying to sleep any longer would be futile.  She had been anticipating this day.  Her plans would include another journey back to her little playhouse in the forgotten forest.

With fearful resolve, she got up and dressed, as she knew what she just had to do.  It was time to come face to face with a teddy bear, a teddy bear which represented a moment in her past that had been hidden in the darkest depths of her mind.  She did not feel like putting on any of the silky flowing gowns that were typically part of the princesses’ wardrobe.  After all, the playhouse was so dusty from years of neglect and today, she just did not feel like a princess.  Maybe the plain black cotton servants dress would do, for this day felt more like a day for mourning.

Grabbing a quick bite to eat, the Princess scurried out into the castle courtyard and down the garden path to the edge of the forest.  She did not stop to enjoy the beauty surrounding her.  She could not be distracted or worse yet, allow her thoughts to cause her to wait until a better day.  It was too easy for her to procrastinate on this one.  This she knew, because she had already put her plans on hold for many days.

Her pace slowed as she neared the edge of the forest.  She hesitated for a moment, finding that she had to force herself to take each step.  Yet there seemed to be something else coming from the inside of her.  She felt a somewhat comforting sense of strength, something that made her feel that everything was going to be okay.  Even though this journey today would be painful, she had a strange knowing that it would end well.

The path before her was clear this time.  She knew exactly how to get back to the place that she had accidently stumbled upon weeks before.  Just a little farther ahead, the Princess could see her old playhouse.  Once again, the fearful anticipation crept over her, but she forced herself to keep going.  She knew she needed to make herself to remember and relive the moment that had changed her life so dramatically.  She stepped over the rotted wooden step onto the porch and pushed open the squeaky door.  Tip toeing as she had done as a child, so as not to disturb her sleeping baby doll in the opposite corner of the room, she approached her old play kitchen set.  There was the prized teddy bear, exactly where she had left it just weeks ago and where it had fallen so many years ago.  She did not pick it up today, but chose to sit on the dirty floor beside it.

The Princess closed her eyes as she reached to hold onto her fuzzy teddies soft paw.  Hot tears began to stream down her cheeks once again as she allowed herself to adventure back to that day so long ago.  She was just a very young teenager then.  She had stopped coming to her little playhouse as often, but still found herself attracted to the peacefulness of the forest.  She would still occasionally sit and rock her baby doll, not seeming to want to let go of the special parts of her childhood.  More so now, she found herself contemplating her future dreams of being the best wife and mother in the whole world.

It was one of these occasions that the Princess had been admiring her treasured teddy bear and thinking of one day passing on this treasure to her own daughter.  She was startled by the sound of footsteps on the porch.  She had never seen another person in the forest before, and only those friends whom had been invited had ever been inside her little playhouse.  The playhouse door was suddenly thrown open.  In walked a man, only familiar to her, as she had seen him before on her trips into town.  She remembered him because it made her feel uncomfortable when he looked at her.  He seemed to stare at her and he was often at the same places that she would visit.

A wave of terror instantly swept over the Princess, even before her eyes fell to the large silver knife that was in the stranger’s hand.  Frozen with fear, the Princess was unable to move. The stranger grabbed her arm and threw her to the ground.  He clasp his hand over her mouth to muffle her screams.  She felt the cold blade of the knife against her side as the assault began.  She remembered the hot tears that had fallen that day, too.  She could not look at this persons face.  He was a horrible monster!

She was having a difficult time grasping what was being done to her.  Her thoughts ran wildly as she attempted to comprehend what was happening.  Why would someone do this?  How could someone be so horrible to another person?  What would people think of her if they found out?  Surely somehow she had caused this.  Had she smiled at this man when she saw him in town?  She was always smiling at people, in spite of being warned that not everyone was a nice person.  She should have never gone into the forest alone.  This day, she was supposed to be working, not day dreaming in her playhouse.

The assault felt like it came to an end as abruptly as it had started.  The monster almost seemed to become afraid of something himself.  As he left the little playhouse, he told the Princess that no one must ever know of this.  He threatened that if she told anyone, he would find her and next time he would really hurt her.  She would be very sorry if she ever told a soul.  The man disappeared into the forest as the Princess sat and cried.  She could not tell anyone what happened that day.  It was a horrible thing.  She felt dirty and sickened by the tragic event that had just occurred.  She knew she had lost some thing that day.  Innocence, worth and value had been robbed from her.  She knew she would never be the same because of this.  She would not realize until years later, how life altering this one event would be for her.  The man was right, no one must ever know.

The Princess sat for a long time in the old playhouse that day as she relived her victimization.  She allowed herself to grieve and thought about the years that had transpired since that day.  She could now clearly see how this one event had caused her to lose so much more than a moment of time and childhood innocence.  Being able to see clearly into the past, brings light to the present and healing to move forward into the future.  Another day, the Princess was sure she would spend more time here.  But for this day, she was done.  She knew that she had taken an important step.  She had faced her past and would tell her story now.  Maybe it would help another to venture into their own hidden memories and allow light to fill that dark room they’ve been unable to enter.

It was time to go back to the castle and put on her beautiful “princess” garments once again. She must never allow fear or the past to keep her from being who she was.   Once a princess, always a princess!  And yes, even when bad things happen, a princess can live happily ever after and that she did!

 

It’s My Story and I’m Sticking To It…

OK, so remember that I said I wanted to be open here, in hopes that it would help someone else.  Today, I am doing that.  We all have struggles in life and often the tendency when things get really tough is to isolate ourselves, bury the pain and try to move on with life.  We can feel pretty alone that way.  Since we won’t talk about our ‘junk”, we don’t always realize that there are others out there that are experiencing the same kind of “junk”.  Our own little world becomes just that, a life consumed by our own little world.  I’ve spoken about the band aids that we use to cover our wounds, but we often don’t allow them to heal.  I’ve learned that talking and sharing is healing, thus, my post today.  Just hoping you’ll still love me in the morning.

Here goes, you know the long story…  It all started when I was born, some years ago now.  (Numbers aren’t important in this story.)  I was the firstborn of five.  We weren’t well off, but had what we needed and were well cared for.  Practically raised in church, three to four or more times a week, that’s where you would find our family.  I am very thankful for parents who did the best that they could with what they had, plus some.  Besides their own five to deal with, we often had foster children in our home and I can vouch that between all of us, we kept “adventure” happening for my parents.  Amazingly, they live to tell about it today.

My story is not so unusual until the teenage years.  There were many events and details that I will share at later times, but today, for the purpose of getting to know each other a little better, you get the nutshell version.  Why would you want to know anything about me?  Well maybe you don’t, but my purpose here is to build relationships and that involves getting to know each other.  I just get to go first because it’s my blog.

My first job at the age of 14 was a paper route.  I delivered the local news, hot off the press.  After school each day, I strapped the clumsy bag to my bike handle bars, along with my ring of paper route cards and hole punch.  F.Y.I., I was a very stylish looking paper girl at the time.

Getting out into the world means that you get exposed to things.  There are some pretty nasty people out there and one of them had their eye on me. One day on my paper route, I was assaulted and raped at knife point.  That day had a huge affect on the rest of my teen and adult years.  A single event took me into a tailspin journey of negative, life altering decisions, all because I kept the event hidden.  I was afraid.  When I came home crying and muddied, my excuse to my mom was that some kids had jumped me on a path I took through the woods.  I never revealed my secret until years later.  We will leave that as a discussion for another day.

The rape led to an intense need to feel better about myself.  I worked hard to gain approval from others.  I took responsibility for everything that went wrong around me as if it was my job to make it all better.  I got involved in several bad relationships which included two bad marriages to alcoholics and addicts, naturally followed by divorces.  The marriages involved all forms of abuse.  I’ve been physically beaten, verbally degraded and had knives thrown at my head while I screamed, just so someone could be amused.  I’ve slept with a knife hidden in the bed railing, just in case I would need to protect myself.  I’ve known the fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, looking and dressing the wrong way, smiling at the wrong time.  I understand the betrayal of someone who is supposed to love you, sharing that love with another, more than once.  Yes, those will also be other stories for other times.  Let’s just say this.  I’ve truly learned most of my life lessons the hard way.

Following the divorces were the single parent years.  Struggling to raise two kids and provide financially on your own, as many of you know, is not easy.  Trying to do the teeter totter balancing act often puts you on the end of the board with your but on the ground.  Then life throws a boulder hitting the other side of the board and throws you spinning, uncontrollably through the air.  It can be scary, lonely, overwhelming…  Again, more stories for another time.

Hold on a minute.  Don’t feel sorry for me.  It’s going to start getting better.  The knight in shinning armor part is coming, and no, the armor is not really just tin foil.  Yes, a story for next time…

Anyone out there relate to any of this???