The Whole Story ......Start To Finish ...... Added to as it Unfolds

Welcome reader!  I have undertaken to write an account of my life here.  I am doing it in installments as I have the time and inclination.  You may wonder why.  It is because I believe my story is not unlike that of many other men and women throughout history and yet it is the sort of story that often remains untold.  It is a story of profound pain, loss, grief and loneliness.  And yet, it is a story of profound healing, hope and restoration.  It is deeply personal because it is mine, but I share it with you now in the hopes that you will know that, if you've experienced something similar, you are not alone.  Or if you haven't, you will know that there are many who have and who need your compassion and your help to walk through the pain they've kept hidden for many years.  My greatest hope is that someone will find the beginning of their journey toward hope and healing through my story.  Thank you for joining me.

Posted Friday, June 1, 2012

My journey started when I was sixteen.  Or was it when I was born?  Well, the part of it that I was aware of and was purposeful  about began at the wise old age of sixteen.  It wasn't until then that I was able to realize that all the 'stuff' that had happened earlier on needed to be addressed.  Confronted might be a better term.

My high school offered a once a week group session for survivors of sexual abuse.   I can't rightly recall when I first realized that this was the correct term for what had happened to me.  But when the group was offered, I did know immediately that I should join it.

I remember wondering who else would be there and how they would feel about my involvement.  I was a very insecure young woman back then.  No wonder given my early life, but somehow that fact always took me by surprise.  I knew that I shouldn't be.  I knew that deep inside that I was a vital person with something to say.  Still, I was afraid.

In hind sight, I'm not sure we accomplished very much.  But it did open the door to conversation and helped me to realize that I was certainly not alone in my 'affliction'.  In 1988, people were beginning to talk about such things.  Not so much the older generations, but the flower children seemed to have started a movement that urged us to talk about our experiences.  I'm grateful for that now I can tell you.

Two of my teachers joined us and led the group.  It was during afternoon class, Math as I recall, which was another good reason to go.  I thought it strange that they'd let us out of class for it but I wasn't asking questions.  Evidently, they knew it would be important for us.  We talked in that group in very general terms about our experiences as we remembered them.

At that time, I had no idea that a person could repress memories nor did I have any inclination that I might have done such a thing.  I also didn't understand a thing about the formation of bonds with other human beings.  For me, it was a tiny scrap of a beginning and if I had no idea how deeply those wounds we were discussing really were.

We didn't last long as a group. Again, I couldn't tell you why, but I think we met 5 or 6 times before that little respite from Math class ended.  But I think it was enough.  It was enough to give me a beginning.

Since then, I've revisited the topic times beyond counting.  I've realized that sexual abuse has had an absolutely profound effect on my past, my present and will have one on my future.  It doesn't define who I am by a long shot, but I cannot be defined without acknowledging it's permeating imprint.

The journey I am on is about eradicating  the lies I've believed as a result.  Next time, I'll share from the true beginning.

Posted Sunday, June 3, 2012

No man (or woman) is an island.  The context of that statement here is the idea of where I came from. I certainly didn't pop into existence on my own.  Two people had to come together and invite me into this world so to speak.

Another little thing I've learned is that it's very difficult to know ones parents in the same way one knows ones friends.  The difference in age and roles prevents the normal 'one on one' acceptance, give and take and equality we experience in typical peer relationships.  With that in mind, I'll share what I know of my parents but I've realized that a great deal of it really is speculation and due to circumstances, I'll never really know if my perceptions are on target.

Both my mother and father were married once before they met one another. Both had children as well.  My older brother, Russ, is 9 years my senior and was born to my mother and her first husband in 1963, in 1966, they added my sister Kim as well.  I've never heard why exactly, but they split up somewhere around 1969.  My father says that her first husband reported it was due to Mom's mental illness.

My father had been married to Joan before my mother, for 12 years.  Their union brought about my older sister Valerie in 1963 also.  My father says he left her because of her addiction to perscription drugs.  My sister says he left her because he met my mother.  I was always inclined to believe that his explanation was the accurate one of the two, but in recent years, I've finally realized that his lifestyle has been to lie to make himself look good and so I've wondered if Valerie is right on.

At any rate, they met somewhere in the neighborhood of late 1971 in a club in Miami, FL.  My father says he was attracted to my mom's beauty and vivacity.  He always said that she 'used to be full of fun'.  Interestingly, I can't recall my mother ever speaking of their beginnings much, other than that they met in a club.  My guess is that it didn't take long for her to regret the affair and so, why talk about it?

This photo was taken around the time when they met.  I get the feeling my mom was a pretty sexy lady.  I never knew her that way.  By the time I got to know her, she'd become very committed to Jesus and her focus had changed dramatically.  But we had a few photos of her from her younger days and she was always posed like a model and looking alluring.  

I suppose I ought to tell a little of my parents early story too.  My mother was born and raised in Bombay, India to a Ceylonese Father and an English mother.  She was the oldest of four children, all of whom were extensively abused by those who cared for them.  I've never been clear on exactly who that was.  Her father was an alchoholic who was also the engineer for a locomotive.  Her mother moved back to England somewhere during her childhood and she was left as the main caregiver for her family along with some local aunts. Her education was at a Catholic boarding school where she reigned supreme and generally got herself into trouble.  When she was 19 she moved to England and soon after married her American Marine husband, Russ and Kim's father.

The only thing I know about their marriage is that he never wanted any daughters and made that very clear to Kim.  Soon after he divorced my mother, he remarried a woman named Ada who was reputed to leave my brother and sister in her car all day in Miami while she worked with no food.  When they arrived home, the story is that she required Kim to make her a martini.  Kim used to tell me that she and Russ would get out of the car while she was at work and go scrounging for food in trash bins.  Custody had been awarded to their father due to my mother's apparent mental illness.

My father, who was exactly two weeks older than mom, also married around the same time as she had.  He married in Massechusetts where he was raised but they soon moved to Miami.  While there, he was in the Coast Guard.  My father is a very large man, 6"4 and 220lbs made him rather formidable.  He also was a man who enjoyed a good fist fight.  In high school, he'd been the popular guy.  Captain of the football and basketball team and Prom King.  All those characteristics caused him to be chosen for his leadership and strength to be part of some special ops during his CG career. 

He only told us some of those stories in the last few years and from what he shared, I believe they must have left him very scarred.  

I've never met Joan so I couldn't say a thing about her.  My sister Valerie and I never had the opportunity to know one another either and so the background of what happened with them is rather fuzzy for me.  My father says Joan had significant issues with prescription medication and that is why he left her.  I really couldn't say. However, she was awarded custody and Valerie only ever saw our father for the first year of my own parents marriage and then after that, he never made any effort to see her again.    He said that was because if he tried, Joan would come after him in court and he didn't have the money to be able to afford fighting that.

I swallowed all of his stories about such things as the gospel truth and always thought Joan to be the Wicked Witch of the East herself.  Hindsight might be a little less clear on the issue.  For myself, I am sad for poor Valerie that she missed out on having a father during such a huge part of her childhood.. 

I'll leave it there until Monday.   Have a blessed day.

Posted Monday, June 4, 2012

So, back to my story.  I really don't know how many babies are brought into this world as a 'planned event'.  I can tell you that I was not one of that.  In itself, that doesn't mean so much really.  But I will say I'm thankful that I didn't end up aborted and that the infamous Roe v Wade was a year AFTER I came along.

My father always liked to tell me that he married my mother solely because of me.  Because he wanted me to have a dad.  I used to think that was so noble.  Now I think it's something of a joke.  I might even go so far as to suggest that his words were meant to convince him of that little bit of fiction rather than me.  If that sounds hurtful and mean I hope you'll indulge me for a bit.  As I've gotten to know my father over the last 40 years I've come to realize that noble is not part of his character.

My mom brought me into the world just in time on July 22nd, 1972.  The cord was wrapped firmly around my neck and I was decidedly blue upon arrival.  She delivered me on the gurney as they were wheeling her into the hospital.  She tried to tell them I was almost there but since they wouldn't listen, she had to show them.  Somehow, I wasn't any the worse for wear and it wasn't long before a hearty scream came roaring out.  (I'm still a little on the loud side.)

At that time, we lived in Crystal River, FL at a house just a few blocks from Hunter's Spring, which was the local spring fed swimming hole.  I can actually remember being around 1 yr old and walking down to the beach with my siblings.  I distinctly remember the feeling of the hot black pavement burning my tender feet and how I would hold my arms up to be held as we went.  Of course, my siblings hadn't thought about how my little feet would be affected so I toughened up those feet and just trotted along as best as a toddler could do.

By age two, we'd moved to Homosassa Springs, the next town over to a 5 acre plot where my parents began to establish a home for us in the middle of the woods.  It wasn't far from the waterfront, but the terrain sure was different.  Lots of oak trees and pine trees and a wonderful forested place for a child to explore.

We bought a small mobile home and installed it on the property and mom and dad really began in earnest to make it what they wanted.  Dad bought chickens and rabbits and pigs.  He put up pens and fencing and we raised a lot of our own food.  Some of my fondest memories are of helping my dad plant the one acre vegetable garden that we grew each year. (eating the vegetables was not my favorite memory.) They began growing a rose garden and putting in flower beds.  We kids were always around to lend a hand.  Our parents taught us how to work by making us work alongside them.

Everything must have seemed like it was going well at that time.  After my mother and father married, my mother was able to regain custody of my older brother and sister and so we were a family of five.  We were building a home, a family, a life.

Posted Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Time for a little more of my story.  I do appreciate that you're indulging me so I can walk through this story.  I know I could do it on my own, but being able to share it gives me a goal and a reason to keep walking through it.  It also tends to bring to mind things I might otherwise have forgotten.

Memories from childhood are funny things.  They are so often rather patchy.  It's certain moments that I remember, rather than an ongoing saga like a movie.  I recall little things like the last time I wet my bed because I had a terrifying nightmare about the Sesame Street monsters trying to 'get' me.  Or my dad throwing me into the water at the beach.  Or my mom teaching me what an American Red-start was as it sat at the bird feeder in our backyard.

They are all little moments captured in my brain and they certainly have a lot to do with what formed me, but they aren't a complete picture.  I often wonder how skewed my perceptions of my early life might be because it comes back in such small bits and pieces.  I do know that as I've grown older, I've revisited certain memories and realized that how I always saw it was not really accurate, but just a childish perspective which leaves so much unexplained.

With that in mind, I'll try to tell a bit about my first 5 years but I freely admit that the picture I'll paint will be incomplete at best and very possibly quite skewed at worst.  I'll share what I saw and perceived.

I think alot of what I remember is from photos we had over the years.  I only have a few in my possession now, but I still remember pouring over them as a child.  I've loved photos for as long as I can remember and looking through our family collection is one of my favorite pastimes.

When I was a very small girl, I spent a lot of time out of doors with my parents as they worked our land.  We planted gardens, raised a variety of farm animals, took walks and sometimes even shared picnic.  I can remember on Fourth of July BBQ when I was about four years old when we light 'sparklers' and roasted a whole pig in a giant bar-b-que made from a 55 gallon drum.  I remember stepping on a hot sparkler with my bare feet just after it had gone out.  Ouch! That smarted but I never did go barefoot again at Sparkler time.

My siblings and I chased fireflies in the summer, walked to the bus stop during the fall, winter and spring.  We  went to church from as long as I can remember.  We were Catholic in the beginning because that is how my mom grew up.  We went to the swimming hole, or Ft. Island Beach.  There were trips to 'The Attraction', a local wild animal park, trips to Disney World and Busch Gardens, Circus World and Sea World and Weekie Watchie. (that was my favorite as they had an underwater mermaid show!!!)

Some of my favorite things about my parents were that they taught me to love nature.  My mom and dad both loved birds and taught me the names of many of those who visited our feeders.  Mom always got excited at the sunset and passed that love on to me.  I'm so grateful for those things.

We did a lot of the things that normal families do.  In my mind, we were normal.  I think that is true for every kid.  Whatever you are experiencing must be normal because it is all you know.  It wasn't until I was much older that I realized that not everything was so normal.

Maybe that is part of the trouble.  Families who appear to be quite 'normal' are often a complete disaster behind the scenes.  

Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2012

I've been talking to my oldest sister, Valerie recently.  She's shed some light on some things and that has been both freeing and painful.

As I said yesterday, we had a very 'normal' upbringing in many ways. But there were some things in our family that were profoundly abnormal.  The one which breaks in on my rememberings first is the fact that my mother has suffered with Paranoid Schizophrenia as well as significant clinical depression.  What that meant to me as a child was that my mother was very unpredictable and not particularly safe at times.

(Me, on the left and my sister Kim when I was four)

When she was not having an episode, my mother was interesting, silly and enjoyed being out and doing things.  She told me stories, took me for walks, read to me and taught me to read.  She was a beauty and enjoyed makeup and hairstyling.  She showed me where birds made their nests and foxes had their holes.  I loved my mama and enjoyed hearing about the world from her perspective.

I especially enjoyed hearing about her life in India.  She told me often of her exploits at the convent school and how she would keep the poor nuns on their toes.  She told me of her popularity with the other students and how she was a sort of ring leader. I was proud of my mother.  She told me of how she'd moved to England as a young woman and learned stenography to become a secretary.  She still wrote in shorthand a lot of the time so we couldn't tell what she'd written.

She occasionally spoke of her sister Grace. Looking back, I believe she was quite broken hearted at Grace's unexplained death.  She also spoke of the times that she'd been locked in cabinets where bandicoots lurked when she was being disciplined. It is those times that I now wonder about.  I wonder what other horrors she experienced.  Whatever they were, she has kept them locked deep inside her mind for all of these years.

Lesser Bandicoot Rat
(Lesser Bandicoot)

But sometimes, her emotions would grab hold of her and she'd lose control.  One such occasion happened when I was about four.  She, myself and my sister Kim were in our bedroom folding laundry.  I believe I was talking when my mom turned and her elbow somehow ended up connecting with my mouth at exactly the moment when I was closing it.  She took it that I was biting her and backhanded me across the chest so hard that it knocked the breath out of me.

I can recall some screaming, but not what she said.  What I remember most clearly is how utterly terrified I was.  I thought I'd die because I couldn't get my breath.  And my mother was soooo angry with me.  I knew I hadn't done anything wrong so it didn't make any sense to me. That feeling of horror is still with me somehow.  I can call it back up and remember it like it just happened.  I think fear is often like that.

That was one time.  There were others.

 (Mama, around 1981)

Valerie recently told me of a time that mama beat the dickens out of my sister Kim with a hair-brush.

The difficultly is that you never knew when she might turn on you.  Discipline was frequently a beating, up and down the back of us with the metal end of the fly swatter.  Or you might have shoes thrown at you.  She used to make my older brother and sister pick out their own switch, clean it off and then sharpen it in order to receive a whipping.  (Luckily, that particular trick went by the wayside by the time I was old enough to find my own switch.)

When I was about six, I remember mama got very angry with a woman who lived a couple streets over.  She was certain that Arnette was trying to steal her Jafra customers, or something like that, and she put me in the car, grabbed a very large carving knife and headed to Arnette's home.  Once again, I was in sheer terror.  I thank God that Arnette was NOT home. I never heard anything about it again.

The thing that strikes me as strange now is that no-one did anything about it.  We just all trundled along as if our lives really were perfectly normal.

I can remember that children, friends, would only come over to my home once.  After that, they never wanted to come over.  My mother would tease them that she'd take them out and hang them by their toes in the trees.  They didn't seem to think that was funny and I couldn't understand why.  I knew my mama wouldn't do that, but they sure didn't.

Mama talked to the TV news anchors.  She'd say 'I know you're watching me!  But I can see you too!'  She'd talk to the planes overhead in the sky, saying 'I see you.  Don't think I don't know.'  She'd talk to God and then answer back for Him.  Everyone was out to get her, everyone around her was crazy.  We all just hated her.  Or at least that is how it looked from behind her eyes.

If only mama's mental illness were the only issue we had.

Posted Thursday, June 7, 2012

I wanted to just take a moment and say thanks to those you following along with my story.  I admit it is hard to write, but at the same time, I am not ashamed or afraid.  It is my story. It is what happened and so I must tell it.  It means a lot to me that so many of you are 'listening'.

Today, I thought I'd share about another experience that profoundly affected my life.  

When I was 3 years old, my little family was traveling along a road near our home in a Cadillac.  I seem to recall the car was borrowed, but I'm not certain of that.  At any rate, this was in 1975, the days before seat belts and car seats and the like.  My father was at work, but the rest of us were on our way to who knows where.  

As my father reports it, my mother had one of her episodes where she sort of 'went somewhere else in her mind'.  Unfortunately, the car went with her and at full speed, my mother drove off the road and into a drainage ditch!

My sister was thrown through the windshield, I flew forward and hit the dashboard head first and my brother, by God's grace, only got a scratch.  Mama was slammed into the steering wheel enough that she had a steering wheel shaped bruise.

The paramedics said my sister, Kim, was dead.  She wasn't breathing at all. They rushed her to the hospital where a doctor began the procedure to put a tube in her neck. (I'm guessing it was trach???sp??)  She suddenly began breathing just as the knife was inserted.  Our family claimed it as a miracle.  She had sustained some pretty significant injuries including broken jaws and broken limbs but was able to fully recover eventually.  There were skin graphs and a hospital bed installed in our living room for some time but she pulled through.

I arrived at the hospital with my eyes rolling around my head.  I'd hit my head so hard the nerves controlling the muscles in my eyes were severely damaged. I can't tell you what all they did to me, but I do remember being in the hospital and sticking my tongue out at the nurse when she came to give me a shot.  I was NOT happy with the shots.

Eventually, my eyes calmed and there was talk of surgery but my parents opted not to have it done as it was quite experimental at that point in time.  The result was that I had one eye that looked straight at my nose all the time and one that looked normal.  

I went through lots and lots of therapies but the errant eye wouldn't cooperate and I was to be cross-eyed until the age of nine.  By then, surgery had been perfected and I was able to get my eye corrected at least to look at.  But it wasn't soon enough to keep me from the horrendous teasing of my school-mates.

My name in school was 'cross-eyed monkey'.  It's a name that still makes me a bit ill to think of.  I have a hard time saying it out loud to be honest.  As a nearly forty year old woman, I am somewhat amazed at how incredibly damaging the taunts of youth can be.

My parents always gave me the old 'sticks and stones' adage but I knew from experience that such a saying was a useless collection of meaningless tripe. It was a lie and I knew it.  Those names did hurt me.  I would far rather have had a broken bone than to have been labeled defective by the people I most wanted to like me.  

I spent 4 years in school in a small town growing the reputation of a defective, ugly, cross-eyed monkey that couldn't play a sport involving a ball if her life depended on it.  My crossed eyes rendered me devoid of depth perception and as such, a terrible ball player.  In the South, where sports are all important, no one wanted me on their team and that often meant no one wanted me as their friend.  

I was a painfully lonely little girl.  I used to cry on my walk home from the bus stop, even as other students literally threw stones at me and called me names.  I would look at myself in the mirror and think, 'I'm not so ugly.  Why do they think I am ugly?'  I couldn't understand their cruelty.  My daddy would tell me I was beautiful but I would just feel all the more confused.

At nine, I received the surgery that would straighten my eyes, but the students never did forget and I was 'cross-eyed monkey' until I moved away from the small town at fourteen years old.

Since I didn't have friends, I spent a lot of time day-dreaming.  I loved to play with my doll, Cinammon and be her mommy. I would concoct all sorts of games with my dolls. Sometimes, I'd just sit in a patch of grass and stare at the clouds.  My mama would often join me and we'd hunt for animal shapes in the sky.  A child finds ways to compensate but I can tell you that no matter how much compensating you do, it doesn't erase the hurt.

Today, I look back at that lonely little girl and I feel sad for her.  I'm so much stronger now, so much more confident but I do wonder what I'd have been like without the hard things in my early life.  I do believe that having these kinds of 'trials' in my life has helped me to see just how much pain others suffer.  

I know that my story is not unique by a long shot.  Many people have suffered in these ways and many times worse.  We truly are all in this together.  And there is always hope and always someone out there who WILL truly love you. I can't wait to tell you the good parts, but in order to fully appreciate them, you'll have to wade through the rest of the muck with me.

Posted Friday, June 8, 2012

My sister went through an awful lot of heartache when she was a little girl.  I can't honestly tell you what all it was, but the results showed throughout her life in all too many painful ways.

One of my first memories of Kim specifically is of us sitting outside the chicken coop on a log while she told me what sex was.  I was four and she was ten.  She knew in great detail all about it.  I recall that my brother came over and told her to stop but she wouldn't.  I now know that she was sharing this because she had been violated, but at the time, I didn't understand such things.

Another of my memories is of her kicking me down the road to the bus stop.  She was a very angry young woman and perhaps the only way she could let that out was by mistreating a little sister who was unable to defend herself.  I was a punching bag, able to be pinched and spit on and to have other undesirable things thrown on me.  She'd scare me, call me names, get me into trouble.

Some people might have said we were like any other siblings but I believe her behavior was abusive.  I know for me, I felt terribly helpless and at her mercy.  I was six years younger and she was a violent young lady.

As it turned out, she was also sexually abusive and for at least 4 years, I was her subject.  From the ages of 3 through 7, I was required to do unspeakable things for her.  There is more to that story, but I will share later. For most of my life, all I recalled was that my sister had made me do terrible things and that I'd been threatened with harm if I didn't comply.

I have often thought it strange that I was never angry at my sister for her actions.  All my life I remember loving and admiring her and wanted to be like her.  I always thought she was beautiful and smart and everything I wasn't.  She was athletic.  She was tough, getting in fights with boys and winning.  She didn't take  anything from anybody.  She was hard.

I was soft, and that didn't seem particularly advantageous.

It wasn't until she was much older that she was safe for me.  At age 15, she ran away from home and never returned. She was found, but moved in with our Pastor and his wife. They provided her with safety and counseling and it seemed she would be better.

I was sad to see her go.  I still regret that we didn't get to spend more time together during that time of our lives.

Posted Monday, June 11, 2012

My memory isn't always cohesive so this next bit may not be entirely in chronological order.  Memories just don't seem to come that way.  I've been trying to decide what to share next and it's interesting how the pieces come at me in chunks here and there.  I suppose that the ones that shape us most are the ones that we most readily recall.  Or maybe not?  I'll have to think on that.

It stands out in my mind that I spent a lot of time alone as a young child.  My father worked a LOT.  I think he'd be aptly named a workaholic.  He knew how to work  That's a good thing in so many ways.  And yet sometimes it is also an escape. I wonder now if that is why he worked such long hours when I was at home.

My mother stayed home with me a lot, but she wasn't the sort of mom to play dolls or games or draw with me.  Not that she spent no time with me, but I think she did find small children tiresome.  She absolutely loved infants who could be held and snuggled but once they started talking she wasn't sure how to respond I think.

I find myself like that as well.  At least, I'm not great with young children.  Teenagers I really enjoy, at least one on one, but children from 2-8 are a struggle for me and I think I got that from her.  The result was that I spent a lot of time coloring on my own, playing house on my own.  Wondering in the woods near our home.  My favorite game was house with my doll Cinnamon.

We used to have a camper shell that sat in the yard.  I'd set up underneath it and make it a little house for Cinnamon and I.  Interestingly, one of the things I remember most about those play sessions is that I'd poke my dolly with pins and then tell her not to cry.  I think that was in response to my memories of being in the hospital after our car accident and being poked.  I was terrified of needles but I think it must have helped me to act that terror out through my doll.

The other thing I used to do was spank and spank my doll.  I would tell her to stop being so bad.  In hindsight, I think I must have felt like that is what happened to me as a child.  I don't actually remember being spanked that often, but in my childish mind, it must have seemed like too much.  Or perhaps it was a response to Kim's treatment of me.

Still, those memories are sweet to me in a way, remembering what it was to be a child and sit in the grass and play make-believe.

I do remember that I desperately wished there were other children in our neighborhood to play with but the only one was a little boy named Owen who lived next door on and off.  His family seemed to come and go very randomly for months at at time.  Still, he was a good friend and we did a lot of tree climbing, woods exploring, Dukes of Hazzard reenacting and the like.

We built lots and lots of forts. One of them we dug into the ground.  That was the best one.  We dug a hug pit in the sand, about 6 by 5 by 4 feet, covered it with an old piece of wood and used an old Washing Machine top as the 'trap door entrance'. Still sounds pretty cool to me.

Summers in Florida were hot and as often as possible, we'd head to the beach for the day and spend as much time as possible in the water.  That was before the days of sunscreen.  I'd be brown as a berry by summer's end.  I always loved best the days that daddy would come along.  He'd scoop me up and launch me from his strong arms out into the cooling water.  I never ever tired of that game.

I still remember daddy teaching me to swim the summer I was five.  I think it was just a one time deal but I recall him giving me instructions and how proud I was when I could do it.  I loved the water.  I felt strong there since I was actually good at swimming.  And it didn't involve a need for depth perception or a ball!

I have to say that growing up in the country was a good thing.  I highly recommend it.  The opportunity to explore nature seems like a wonderful thing for people in their growing years.

Posted June 18, 2012

I know that there are life changing events in everyone's lives but sometimes I get to feeling like I've had more than my fair share.  On the other hand, the kinds of 'life changing' experiences I've had has, I believe, made me more useful to others in the long run.  And look, I have interesting stories to tell don't I!?

This particular event took place the summer I was seven years old.  My mother's only living sister, Dorothy, had come all the way across the big pond from Britain to visit our little home in the sticks of Florida.  It was the first, and only such visit she ever made that I am aware of.

Dorothy was a number of years younger than my mother, having been born to my grandmother and her second husband sometime after the divorce between herself and my grandfather.  My mother had three other siblings younger than herself that were full siblings so my guess is that Dorothy was at least 7 years younger than my mother.

For myself, I wasn't a big fan of Dorothy right off the top.  They gave her my bed and she wasn't very thankful for my sacrifice that I could discern.  She also wasn't very generous with the candy she'd packed in her valise and in the eyes of a seven year old, that is a definite black mark on a person's character.

During our visit, we'd planned to all make the trek to Orlando to introduce Dorothy to Walt Disney World.  At that point, maybe 3 days into the visit, I had no knowledge of there having been any tension at all.

We spent the whole day joyfully traipsing from one fabulous ride to another and having a generally wonderful time.  In the early evening, however, we made the decision to visit the Haunted Mansion.  Now, if you've been to the haunted house, you know that there is a point in the ride when you see yourself in a mirror and there are ghosts seated with you in the car.  This, of course, happened in our cars as well as everyone else's.

The trouble came when my mother looked into the mirror and the ghost she saw looked exactly like her own mother.  She began to scream the most piercing scream I can recall ever having heard.  I was not in the same car with her and didn't understand what was happening.  All I knew was that my mother was very very scared.  My auntie tried to reassure me but it was very distressing to me.

My father was unable to calm my mother at all.  Her mother was still living in England and so I am guessing that my mother believed her to have died and showed herself there in the Haunted Mansion.  We had no choice but to leave Disney World immediately and get into the two cars we'd brought and drive home as quickly as possible.  It was a 2 hour drive normally.  I don't know how fast we made it, but I'm guessing it was less than 2 hours.

I wasn't in the same car with my mother, but rode with my older brother and sister.  My father and aunt reported that my mother continued her screaming all the way home.  She had utterly lost all sense of reality and soundness of mind.

Once we reached home, my father called our pastor to come and retrieve us.  At sometime near midnight, they arrived at our home.  My mother was still quite out of her mind and burst out of her bedroom completely naked and ran into the arms of Pastor Mike.  I don't remember what happened next, but I do remember that I was utterly mortified.

We stayed with the Reeves family for about 2 weeks while my mother stayed in the mental hospital and my dad traveled often to see her.  My aunt Dorothy repaired to a hotel near the hospital but didn't end up seeing my mother again as her presence agitated my mother no end.  Mother had accused Dorothy of stealing her husband.  Dorothy did NOT want to see Mother after that.

We had one more dinner with Dorothy at The Kapok Tree Inn.  I recall it because it was a remarkable location to a child.  Dorothy was very angry with Mother for her behavior toward and her accusations.  What is interesting is that in hindsight, I begin to wonder if my mother was right about my aunt making moves on my father, or vice versa.  I'll not ever know I guess but my father has since proven himself to be a philanderer.

It was after that long stay in the mental hospital that my mother was officially diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia.  She was very heavily sedated during her stay and certainly didn't seem herself when she did finally return home.  The prescription was to take meds daily and being therapy.  She refused both.

That started the proverbial ball rolling toward the demise of a family.

Posted June 19, 2012

I'll be honest, I've almost been shocked at how difficult my own story sounds when written down.  Believe me, there were lots of good times too.  It is not as if every moment was dramatic, but it does seem to be true that the drama in a persons life really does shape the human spirit.  
That said, there was more pain that molded a very young Ursula.  
Around the time that my mother was committed to the hospital for those two weeks, I began spending more and more time at my father's nursery.  He's got quite the green thumb and his dream had always been to own his own nursery.  Hence, I had this sort of jungle like plot of land that I got to spend a lot of time in.
I won't say it was all fun and games there (dad sometimes put me to work, ugh! ;)).  But there were a lot of experiences connected to that which I wouldn't trade.  The earth was rich and dark and I'd often dig earthworms so I could go fishing.  The trees were tall and strong and hung with vines that I used to play 'Tarzan' with.  Swinging from a vine was a great past-time, if not also a great blister maker.
Sugar cane grew on the property and I loved it when dad would cut me off a piece and I could gnaw on it. The convenience store was just down the street and if I collected enough soda bottles, I could turn them in and buy a pack of Hubba Bubba!  I also made one of my favorite childhood friends there, Mandy.
Mandy was the daughter of the Nursery's property owner, John Holmes.  She was two years younger than me and in trouble more often than not, but when she wasn't, we had a great time together riding bikes, playing house, swimming in her kiddie pool and all the kinds of things kids do together.
Unfortunately, Mandy wasn't a well cared for child either.  She regularly had bruises all over her body from her father's beatings.  I don't know what all kind of treatment she received but I do remember that there was a thick leather strap that was played a wicked part in her family drama.  It happened quite often that I'd knock on the time worn screen door and be informed that Mandy was 'in trouble' and was not allowed to play.  All the windows were blacked out so I never saw hide nor hair of her during those times.
I did however, hear a lot of yelling and carrying on from that side of the property.
When she did appear again, she never made a peep about what had happened.  I wonder now if she was beaten so bad that she was unpresentable and that was the reason she wasn't seen for days.
At any rate, Mandy and I, both being children in need of love and affection were a prime target for a creeper from down the street known to us only as 'Pop'.  Pop had a home, but to look at him, you'd think he was homeless.  He was around 50 if memory serves and would often come and talk to us, offering the proverbial candy that you always here children are warned off of.  
Where I grew up, there were no fences around yards and anyone could walk into your yard at any time.  Pop regularly sauntered into the Holmes' yard.  He was well known to the family and presumably was considered harmless.  Unfortunately, he had an unnatural appetite for young girls bodies and that was what we came to know him for.
It was two years before I told anyone what was happening.  It was two years before I realized that I should.  I can't honestly say what caused me to ask for help.  But I do remember clearly going to my dad and telling him about what Pop had done to me and what my sister had done.
Posted June 19, 2012
I shared yesterday that I went to my dad with what had happened to me.  The most unfortunate thing about that was the fact that he did nothing.  I can't remember exactly, but my impression is one of dismissal.  I believe that I actually blocked some of that memory because it was so painful. 

It had taken a lot of courage to tell him what was happening and for him to be unconcerned broke my heart.  It was many many years later that I realized the story I'd always told my husband about that day was completely false.  It was a story I had concocted in my mind of what I would have wanted my father to do, but it was not the truth.

For years, I told myself and a few trusted friends that on the day I told my dad of Pop's indiscretions, he'd gone immediately to the man's house with a gun to confront him and that Pop had dropped dead of a heart attack.  In hindsight, it sounds so foolish, but for many years, I convinced myself that it was the truth.  I wanted so badly to believe that my daddy would protect me and so I created a story that made me feel safe and loved.

Having remembered the truth, I also remember feeling utterly confused that my father would not protect me in any way from the things that were happening to me.  But there was more he would do very soon.

On Mother's Day, 1982, I woke up to cut some beautiful blooms from our rose garden for my mother's present.  She always loved the roses so well and I loved to cut a few choice blossoms for her vases.  I woke up very early to go out into the dew covered garden and choose just the right stems to show mama how much I loved her.  I was so proud of my choices. 

When I came in to present my offering, Mama didn't seem quite right.  I gave her the roses and her present and asked after daddy.  'Where is daddy?' I wondered. 

"He's gone.  For good", she said.

I can still feel the finality of that statement.  The gravity.  The utter devastation.  My daddy was my world and I couldn't even imagine life without him.  I trailed behind him everywhere he went.  I loved to listen to his stories again and again. I was so proud to hold his box of nails as he hammered together a new chicken coop, or drop seeds into the holes he'd placed in our perfectly plowed garden plot.  I would melt from a look from my daddy.  When he told me he loved me, it was pure bliss.  When he picked me up in his arms, even better.  I really didn't care what he was doing, if he'd let me be with him while he did it, I was content.

And now, he was gone.  He'd left my mama and me alone, on Mother's Day.  I can still see the photo my mother took of me that day.  She always took a photo of us kids with the gifts we'd presented to her.  I had a look of utter dejection and that is exactly how I felt.

I guess I'll have to backtrack a bit to tell you the next installment but we'll make it work.  Thanks for taking this journey with me and have a blessed day.

Posted June 24, 2012

My eyes, as you may recall, were crossed.  Well.....one of them was crossed and the other ended up straight.  All the patching and exercises weren't able to straighten things out so it was decided when I was 8 that I'd have surgery on the eye.  This event took place the summer I turned nine (this was a year before my dad left us).

I remember feeling so much hope that people would accept me once I had beautiful, straight eyes. The surgery was done at the beginning of summer to give the eyes a chance to heal before school began again.  It was frightening but as an 8 year old, I didn't really understand what was happening, only that I was going to be pretty again.  And that was enough for me.

I had the procedure an went home again later that day.  There was a lot of very red eyes, blood in the eye and such for a while and no swimming, which was somewhat akin to torture for a girl growing up on the West Coast of Florida in the summertime.  But I made it through and my eye was almost perfectly straight.

The doctor said that it was likely to look in a little when I was tired but that mostly, it should be good.  I wouldn't be able to recover depth perception because my brain had already been programmed to use only one eye at a time.  But both eyes saw perfectly so I was in good shape.  

At that same time, my parents made the decision to enroll me in the same small private Christian School that my sister Kim had attended the year before.  I was pretty excited about that as well.  I'd grown up with the same kids over the years in school and they'd always been cruel, this was the option of a whole new batch of friends and I over the moon about that opportunity.

There were a lot of wonderful things about Crystal River Christian Academy.  The teachers were very kind.  If you worked hard, there were awards to be had.  It was a self-paced program which allowed you to move ahead faster than other students if you wanted to.  And it was small, so you could know most of the students.

I did well there in many ways.   I excelled academically.  I believe I gained some confidence as I won some awards for my efforts in keeping my space tidy and for Scripture memory.  Generally, I'd never won any awards before as those were more often given out for athletics and I was never gifted in that area.  The others went to students with leadership types of skills and I was too timid for that in those days.

However, two more events happened there that were negatives.  One was that I met a 'best friend' who turned out to be my next abuser.  The other, was a principal/pastor of that church who was very fresh with the young girls.  

The friend, we'll call her Celia, was the only person who accepted me in the new school. I'd carried my fears of being disliked with me to that school and was immediately branded as an outcast.  I've since come to understand that once you have a fear of rejection, you wear that on your forehead somehow and all the bullies can read that little 'hate note'.  They may not be literate, but they can tell you'd make a good victim.

So, Celia it was. She and I started paling around at school and it wasn't long before we started having sleep-overs.  She had a tendency to be aggressive and a bit of physical bully. She'd punch me if I didn't do it her way.  I was nine when I began attending and she was 11.  That is a pretty big difference at that age and I recall feeling she was so much 'more' than myself.

Add to that the fact that she was my only friend and I was putty in her hands.  Right off the bat when we went to her home, she made it clear that we had to do things her way all the time.  If I didn't obey, I got punished in some way or other.  I learned quickly to comply, or be lonely.

I don't recall how long it was before she wanted to try sexual things, but she did.  I resisted, but it was to no avail.  If I was to be her friend then I would comply.  Since I'd already been violated so much before, I didn't realize that I could say 'NO'.  That went on for a few years before I got old enough to understand that I could say no. 

I struggled for years with wondering if having been molested by women meant I was a lesbian.  I struggled with the shame of having been a victim when it seemed as though I could have said 'no'.  I struggled to learn how to view my sexuality in a healthy way.  In the way God intended it to be.  Today, I am thankful that I've come to a place where I can say without shame that I was molested, by both men and women and that it was not my fault.  I know that I am heterosexual and what was done to me has zero bearing on my sexual identity.

I don't know any other women personally who were sexually abused by females so I can't say for certain, but I think the biggest difficulty those abuses have created for me was extreme shame.  More than the shame I felt at being abused by men.  Even now, if I'm honest, as I write this down there is a part of me that wonders who will make a judgement about me because of who my abusers were.

I can't say I've quite resolved all of that in my mind, but I do believe I am on the way to resolution.  I can tell you that today's revelation feels like the most soul baring revelation yet.  I feel pretty vulnerable putting this out there.  Thanks for listening.
Posted June 26, 2012

Celia and I had an interesting relationship, as I shared yesterday.  But, as with everything, there was a lot of good as well.  The best things had to do with exploring the woods near our homes.  In the early 80's, kids still played out of doors without adult supervision.  We used to travel miles from home on our bikes or on foot during the summer.

We both lived in wooded areas, so that was a favorite haunt.  One of the unique things about the state of Florida is that there are a variety of different types of terrain.  Celia lived on the outskirts of Crystal River.  A lot of the land there is marshy, followed by tropical and junglesque (is that a word??), followed by pine forest.

In Homosassa Springs, the land falls more toward the pine forest, bordered by Live Oak and Oak forest and lots and lots of sugar sand. 

Both of those options provided lots of places to explore.  Thickets of small trees became forts and hide-outs.     I'm not sure I can count the number of snakes we nearly stepped in, or the number of sink-holes that could have swallowed us.  Or the sugar sand pits that could have covered us.  Yes, we ran into angry wild boars, angry alligators and every kind of poisonous bug and plant you can imagine.

Mother's today would have heart failure at the things we did. 

I can remember climbing to the top of what must have been a forty foot pine tree to a hunter's lookout on more than one occasion.  (I don't believe we mentioned that to Mother (Celia's mom) Nor did we mention that it was rickety and old and very ready to fall down)

Or how about the times we got lost right before dark and simply plowed our way through tangles of briars and thickets.  I had a 'feel' for direction and as long as we were desperate enough and I was crying enough, my inner homing device would kick in and we'd end up back at home, if a little scratched and bloody.

And then there was the old burnt down house. Well, it wasn't burned all the way down, the second floor was still there, and yes, we played in it.  And 'The Pit' which was an old abandoned gravel pit.  They'd abandoned it because it developed sink holes that were extremely deep and began with narrow holes on the grounds surface.  At least one child was killed from falling in one of those shafts, but it was still our playground.

Good times.

But as all good things seem to come to an end, our adventures did too.  This may be the most frightening of all of my experiences and the one that left the most identifiable and lasting mark for me.

One day, Celia and I were riding bikes.  We'd decided we wanted to explore a new road we'd seen while riding with her parents.  We headed out of her neighborhood, Celia in the lead, and onto Hwy 44.  As we were turning left onto the two lane road, I noticed a rather loud older car turn into Celia's street.  It was a  vague sort of 'noticing'. 

We continued on our way, turning right down the street we'd intended to explore.  It was rather a dark road, having very tall trees on either side and the feeling of a very dense avenue.  The surrounding land was thick jungle.  We had gone perhaps a quarter of a mile when I heard a loud engine behind us.  I turned and saw the same older model, loud vehicle I'd seen turning into her street just minutes before. 

Somehow, I knew that car was coming for us. 

It so happened that there was a garden party going on at a home just then and so we stopped in front of it.  Lots of people were about and the offending car zoomed by.  But Celia and I were scared now.  Not knowing what was best, we made a snap decision to head back home.

We pedaled hard for home and I would guess we'd been en route about 2 minutes when we heard the car again.  My heart is pounding even now as I type out these words.  The sound of that car roaring up behind us was like the screeching of a crazed wild-cat to our frightened hearts.

We turned onto the highway and pedaled harder still!  Just as Celia came to her street, the car swerved to a stop directly in front of her! The driver leapt from his side of the car, ran around the car and ripped Celia from her bike!

Only the day before she'd made a weapon of sorts for herself out a thin piece of metal.  It was a thin metal dowel which she'd sharpened on the end.  She was trying to use it to protect herself but the perpetrator easily snatched it from her hands and threw it to the side.  He dragged her off of her bike and pitched her savagely into the car, breathing threats all the while.

I was 200 yards back, having stopped my bike in front of a small, lonely salon.  There I stood, rooted to the spot screaming and crying and watching helplessly as he sped away. 

Gathering my wits about me, I frantically waved down the next car that came by and begged them to chase him, telling the cars occupants what had occurred.  They asked me to join them in their car, but of course, I would not.  (I am still grateful for their understanding and quick response.)

The salon proprietor rushed out to see what was the matter and again, I reported what had happened.  The police were called and soon arrived on the scene.  They questioned me again and again as to what had happened and I did my best to relay what had happened. 

The car I'd flagged down had indeed, followed the perp, and obtained his license plate number, a better description of the vehicle and an idea of his direction and had then stopped to call the police and report on those items.

Within two hours, the police apprehended the man, as he returned down the same road he'd abducted Celia on.  She was still in the car and he had promised her that he'd return her to her home.  But the damage had already been done. He'd raped her, threatened her life and had scarred us both forever.

In the aftermath, we were questioned by police in a manner that demonstrated that, for their part, they thought we were somehow inviting the attack.  I distinctly remember feeling like I'd been accused of trying to prostitute myself.  An 11 year old on a bicycle.  It was a rude awakening.

Celia never wanted to talk about what had happened.  Her shame was complete and I was instructed that I could not share about what had happened at school in any way.

Any needs I had were completely ignored.  No counseling for trauma was offered.  But more trauma was delivered in the form of having to testify to what had happened while being questioned by an unsympathetic attorney.  I still marvel that we, mere children, were somehow treated as though we were the criminals.

It was especially alarming since we later learned that the police had already been on the look out for this man who've tried to accost two other women that same afternoon.  Why they seemed to be accusing us of causing  him to come after us is still a mystery to me.

When I tried to talk to my father about the experience, he advised me to be quiet about it. 'Why are you upset anyway?' he asked.  'You aren't the one who was kidnapped and raped.'  And that was the end of it.

But it wasn't the end for me.

For 25 years afterward, I would never walk anywhere alone again, never get on a bicycle again.  Always, always be looking over my shoulder, terrified of another attack.  I would wonder how it was that I had escaped, and somewhere in my distorted thinking, even wonder yet again if something were disgusting about me that would keep him from taking me instead. 

I'll tell you later on how I finally found freedom from that suffocating fear.

Posted 6/27/2012
By this time in my life, mama and I were the only two in the house.  My sister ran away from home just before my father left.  She never returned to live with us, but she was safe with our pastor and his family.  My brother turned 18 when I was nine and moved out on his own as well.  So, it was just the two of us.

We lived in a way that I was very ashamed of.  We owned the mobile home we lived in and the land it sat on, but there was no one to care properly for things and my mother didn't seem to have the heart or the skills to do it.  It wasn't long before things began to break down.  The insulation began to unravel from under the house and a family of opossums moved in.  As with many homes in Florida, it was also infested with very large cockroaches as well.

(This is a photo of me at about 8 yrs in front of our mobile home, ca 1980)

They'd join us inside the house at night, terrorizing my mother and I. She didn't know how to get rid of them or the opossums.  But after a while, she devised a plan for the offending marsupials.  She'd trap them in the plastic trash can and pour boiling water over them.  Horrifying!  I felt terrible for the poor squirming animals but at the same time, I lived in constant fear that they would come into my bed at night and bite me.

It wasn't long before they got smart and chewed a hole in the bottom of that trash can so mother had no way to kill them any more.  After than, they just kept multiplying.  Once, there was a large one in my bedroom.  I was utterly terrified. I grabbed the nearest thing I could find, which happened to be a baseball bat and beat that poor possum to death right there in my room.  I can still feel the hysteria that claimed my whole self as I 'defended' my space.

My mother didn't have many marketable skills.  She'd been a secretary in the 50's and  60's but for some reason, she never went back to that line of work after my father left.  She'd try for odd jobs here and there, cleaning house, working in a nursery (that competed with my father's of course) or caring for elderly people in their homes. 

However, due to her mental illness, she was unable to keep anything for very long.  The result was that we lived on a very tight budget.  My mother was well equipped to deal with that for the most part as, in spite of her issues, she was extremely frugal with our money.  

I never starved, but there were times that we had to rely on the generosity of our church family.  It happened now and again that a bag of groceries or an envelope with cash would show up unexpectedly at just the right times.  We ate endless TV dinners and hot dogs as they were the things we could afford. One thing in my life remained constant, my mother was a woman of deep, deep faith and always believed that God would provide for us.  

How that worked together with mental illness I will never understand. But my mother prayed hard and read her bible and begged God to care for her children.  Yes, she was also abusive, but I believe her prayers were heartfelt.  I think that she was so trapped inside her sick mind that she could no sooner treat us as she should than she could fly.

Our basic needs were always met but we often went without comforts.  In the summer, we spent most of our time without air-conditioning, but we did have fans.  In winter, the heaters went on just for a while when we first got out of bed in the morning.  Mama bought clothes in resale shops and tracked down hand-me-downs from friends.  We didn't ever buy extras, like school photos or gifts or candy.  There just wasn't any money for that.  And we NEVER went anywhere we didn't absolutely have too.  Mama would call driving any place 'gassin'.  And that meant spending money which we didn't have. 

I was never able to participate in extra-curricular activities because it would cost too much for the fees, uniforms and gas.  Our entertainment was mainly to spend time with friends when they were willing and watch TV in the evenings on our 13" black and white TV.

I was often embarrassed of my mother's willingness to 'mooch' off of the generosity of folks in the church.  Our church was in the next town and about 15 miles away. Since we were good Pentecostals, we always went for all the Sunday services. Mama would arrange with someone in the church for us to spend the middle of the day in their homes.  They'd feed us lunch and we'd just hang around and chat.

Mostly, it was older single women which meant I was bored to tears, but it's the way it was.

But my mama had faith.

I, also, believed what I heard on Sunday mornings.  Yes, God had created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th.  Yes, Jesus had been sent to be born of a virgin, to do miracles and then to die on a cross for my sins.  Yes, I accepted that free gift gladly and looked forward to going to heaven.  My faith was simple and childlike.  

And so, because of that, I prayed.  I prayed for all the broken things I was aware of in my family.  Mainly, that amounted to wanting my sister and my daddy to come home and make us a family again.  I prayed that the other kids I went to school and church with would like me.  I prayed that my mama wouldn't be sick in her mind.

How many nights I went to sleep crying and praying after my daddy left I couldn't count.  But one thing I can tell you for sure, God heard my prayers and His heart broke for me.  He was already working out His plan for me.  He was already determining how He would show it to me, how He would restore the broken years.  I couldn't have begun to understand, but He was and IS faithful to that lonely, sad little girl who truly was crying out to Him for mercy.

Posted July 2, 2012

The year I was eleven was pretty eventful.  It was, as you'd imagine, my first year as an official middle school-er.  Sixth grade is definitely a time of major transition.  All kinds of crazy things are happening to a young woman's body.  She doesn't know if she's coming or going, and more importantly, do 'YOU' like her?  Whoever you are, you need to likeher or she will have a complex.

Let's just say that ........I had a complex.

I may have gotten a little ahead of myself with that last story as I think my friend Celia was kidnapped in the early part of  1984.  At any rate, 1983 brought lots of changes. 

My father had  a girlfriend named Bobbie Jean.  She was 9 years older than Daddy and, as far as I could see, a very angry woman. In hind-sight, I have learned that he had her in his life before he had left my mother and I. However, at the time, I had no idea of that.  

All I knew for certain was that she wasn't a big fan of me (during this time when it was so important to be liked).  She was constantly snapping at me to stop hugging my dad, or sitting on his lap or whatever.  I couldn't even begin to understand why she seemed to want me to never get any love from him, but that is how it seemed to me.

I can remember trying to like her and trying to make her like me.  I wanted her approval, I wanted her to be okay with me.  But it never seemed to work.  

Bobbie Jean worked at my dad's nursery with him and in that year, the two of them got married.  They didn't invite me to the wedding.  I believe it took place in the justice of the peace.  All I can remember is that one day my dad was just my dad and the next, he was married to someone who hated me.

I felt like I had entered the Cinderella story in some ways.

It wasn't long before Bobbie Jean convinced Daddy that he should move out West.  She was certain there were greater opportunities for him there.  The truth was, she liked the West better for it's climate and she wanted to get him away from me and my mother.

They would be moving across the country in the Spring of 1984.  I was devastated.  Already, I didn't see nearly enough of my daddy and now he would be all the way across the country.  My little heart was utterly broken and the nights of crying myself to sleep continued.

Meanwhile, my mother's mental state went from bad to worse.  She was broken-hearted as well, having hoped that the love of her life would return to her.  Daddy marrying BJ solidified in her troubled mind that she was to remain single and she began receding more deeply into herself.

Not wanting to lose my daddy, I begged to go with him to Arizona.  He'd been supposedly fighting in court for custody of me all along.  (I don't believe that he actually did this, but he placated me with enough references to how the court wouldn't help him in this area that I wanted to believe he was fighting for me.)  But, since he didn't have custody, he 'just couldn't' have me live with him.

However, it was decided that I would take the road trip with he and BJ out West and then he'd send me back home.  I'd get to see where they'd be living and fly on a plane for the first time.  In my young mind, that seemed a reasonable compromise.  I had something to look forward to.

The truth was, I had no idea what the next few years would hold for me.
Posted July 3, 2012

So it was decided that I would travel with my father and step-mother 'Out West' in their Chevy Truck and Airstream trailer.  Sounds like a great adventure doesn't it.

It was 1984 and we were going across the country.  I'd never been to the West before so the only notion I had of it had come from 'Bonanza' and 'Little House on the Prairie' (which it turns out wasn't really West at all).   

Not only that, but I was anticipating my first airplane trip when I returned home after Daddy and BJ got settled in to their new home.  

We planned our trek before the school year was even over, which was another bonus.  I was still attending the small private school, which was a self-paced program so it worked out perfectly.

The three of us rode together in the cab of the Chevy Silverado.  I don't honestly remember a lot of details, but I do recall that we would end our day of travel each night at a KOA campground.  Up to that point in my life, I had always stayed in nice campgrounds so this seemed about right from my 11 year old perspective.

The first memory I have of those campgrounds is how we made a game of paying attention to the signs for when one would come up.  For a kid, that helps pass the time and gave me a little boost when I could 'discover' one.  I'd pour over the map looking for the little KOA symbol which had been cleverly included.  I believe it was second or third night on the road when we stayed at one which had a very special visitor.

We'd pulled into camp and were all set up when we decided to take a walk around the grounds.  What do you think was staying in one of the sites near us?  

A baby bear.  

Seriously, I kid you not.

Somehow, this family owned a baby bear and they were traveling with it.  It was very small, perhaps weighing 20-30 lbs and it was super friendly.  I plopped myself down immediately to play with and love on that sweet little cub.  But it wasn't long before I realized that even a baby bear has formidable claws.  Even so, that may be one of my favorite memories ever.  I have such a love for mammals and bears are at the top of that list.  What a treasure that memory remains.

Perhaps that was a little gift God allowed me to hold me through the coming storm.

We'd been on the road a few days, and as I'm sure you know, tempers can get heated when people are in close proximity to one another day in and day out.  I'm almost certain that BJ wasn't a big fan of kids to begin with ,so I'm sure that didn't help matters.

Somehow, BJ decided that I was not to sit near my father or hug him more than once per day.  Of course, that was absolutely out of the norm for us. And I'm not sure that she ever told my Daddy about this rule.  What began to happen was that each time we'd stop for a restroom break, she'd begin to bawl me out in the bathroom for being to 'lovey dovey' with my father.  She told me that I was acting like a baby and that girls my age didn't hug and kiss their father's like I was doing.

The climax came when she progressed from yelling to slapping me at one of the stops.  She was so angry that I would dare to touch him and when I argued with her, she just hauled off and slapped me across the face several times for being such a disrespectful, disobedient girl.

By this time, we were almost all the way through Texas.  Thinking my father would put a stop to her ridiculous behavior, I immediately ran out to 'tell on her'.  This was the first time I would come to understand that my dad's beliefs would change according to the beliefs that his woman held.

He told me that I wasn't respecting BJ's wishes and so I'd have to go back home.  We continued to El Paso where my dad took me straight to the airport and put me on the next plane to Tampa.  I was being punished for wanting affection.

He'd been unable to raise my mother and so he'd called my friend Mandy's father, John Holmes and asked him to collect me from the airport and then bring me home to my mother.

I don't know if I can describe just how crushed I was.  It was devastating to be abused by my step-mother.  But to then be rejected by my beloved father.............. that was agony.  I had always believed that my daddy really did love me so much.  This caused me to question that love a great deal.  

Any joy I might have had in a plane ride home was completely lost.  How does an 11 year old girl reconcile that her father is okay with sending her away for loving him too much while he continues with a terrible, evil woman who manipulates him continually.  (there are more stories about that which I haven't taken the time to share.)  It was just too much for me to understand.

Seven hours later, at 11PM, I arrived in the Tampa airport, afraid of how I'd get where I needed to be.  Luckily, John was there to meet me so I didn't have to worry for long.  John was a quiet man and really didn't say much at all.  He had arranged for us to stay with a friend of his family's for the night.  We would drive back to Homosassa Springs in the morning.

We woke the next morning, downed some cold cereal and piled into his truck.  John and I said very little during the trip home.  Instead,we just sat quietly, each turning over our own thoughts.  John did share with me that he'd still been unable to reach my mother.  But that is where we were headed all the same.

When we finally pulled up in front of the house, there was mama's car, sitting in its usual spot.  All looked to be normal.  John never even pulled into the driveway, just hopped out of his truck in the middle of the road, hefted my suitcase over the side of the truck, handed it to me and then jumped into his truck and sped off.  I stood there in the road, looking back toward the house.

I couldn't imagine how mama would feel about me showing up unexpectedly.  I thought she'd be pretty happy about it since she hadn't been too keen on my leaving in the first place.

Posted July 4th, 2012

You'll recall that I had been left 'holding my bag' in the road by the chivalrous Mr. Holmes. 

So, what's a girl to do?  I walked to the door, tromped up the steps and turned the knob.  Locked.

Well then, knock, of course. I did. 

It was an eternity before Mama answered the door.  When finally she opened it, she simply stood there, drilling me with the most vacant eyes I can recall having ever seen.  I was on the ground, she standing above me in the doorway and we seemed to be suspended together in a moment that would never end.

'H..Hh...Hi Mom', I stuttered.  No response.  I tried to explain what had happened, all the while standing there in the burning sun at the bottom of those broken down metal steps while she quietly surveyed me with a confused expression.

She obviously wasn't happy to see me there.  She couldn't understand how it was that I'd come back.  What was she thinking,  I wondered.  She seemed to be in utter shock.

I finally had to ask her whether I could come inside.  It was the strangest experience because I had the distinct sensation that in her mind, I was an intruder in her home. 

I went into my room to put my things down and unwind.  There was a bathroom in my room, which I used.  Then, very soon after having arrived, my mother came in and sat down on my bed. 

I've never been able to describe quite what it was like during that time.  Mama's eyes were vacant, her voice soft and slow.  The closest thing I could compare it to was a trance-like state.  Her movements were very deliberate and she just seemed determined. But I could make no sense of what she was doing.

The reality was that I'd come home to a full-blown nervous breakdown.  I've thought for many years that it was my arrival that caused it, but in hind-sight, I suspect her state of mental incapacity was in full swing when I arrived, perhaps actually kindled by my departure days before.

Mama didn't want to leave my room.  She only wanted to pet me and keep me locked up.  She'd sit and brush my hair and talk, but I have no memory of what she said.  Perhaps I blocked it.  I just remember her brushing my hair for hours.  I remember that she wouldn't let me out of my room, wouldn't feed me and didn't even want me to get up and use the bathroom. 

She would get up and leave the room, but repeatedly tell me to stay where I was.  Even after dark when it was time to sleep, she wouldn't leave, but just kept 'petting' me. Not in a sexual way at all, just running her nails gently over my skin and a hairbrush through my hair. 

This went on for a couple of days.  All the while, I begged her to take me to school.  I didn't feel I could leave the house and get help because she watched me continually.  Using the phone was out of the question considering her vigilance.

It was terrifying. 

I felt imprisoned with no idea how to proceed.  'Please mama, they need me to go to school and finish my work!  PLEASE take me to school!' I kept pleading with her, hoping to reason with her.

All during this time, I don't recall being allowed to eat, to leave my room or to bathe.

Finally, on day three, she relented to drive me to school. 

We got into the little blue X-tra Cab Toyota Truck and started slowly down the road.  She drove the entire 13 miles at 25MPH or less.  Most of the road was a 55MPH highway but she wouldn't budge over 25MPH.  Again, I urged Mama to go faster, fearing someone would hit us, but my requests fell of deaf ears.

Relief flooded me when we finally arrived at the school.  I fairly leapt out of that truck as quickly as I could, telling mama 'Come get me after school.  I'll be here.'  I fled into what I hoped would be a sanctuary for me.  I needed someone sane to give me a place of safety, to guide me as to what to do to help mama.

I found Miss Hansen right away and explained in detail what had been going on.  I assumed she'd know just what needed to be done.  But somehow, Miss Hansen seemed to think I was making it all up or blowing it out of proportion.  She sent me promptly to my desk to get started working as though everything were ordinary.

Tears of frustration filled my eyes. I was helpless.  I was vulnerable and evidently, no one seemed to think I was worth helping. Or so it seemed. The old familiar feeling of being 'prey' fixed itself within my heart once again.   

But I was desperate and couldn't give up, so next, I found Mr. Hanson, Miss Hanson's father and the principle of the school.  But again, I was rebuffed.  Somehow, the stories of an eleven year old girl simply weren't to be believed.

Even now, as I type this story, I can feel the gnawing sensation in the pit of my stomach.  What to do?  How to make them understand? I feared for my life.  I knew that mama had fallen as far off the deep end as I could imagine and yet no one else seemed able to recognize it. 

I didn't have too much longer to wait.  By 11AM, Mama had returned to the school, presumably to retrieve me.  It was just as we were about to have lunch.  The students were filing into the hallway, where windows looked out on the limestone covered parking area.  As I looked out, there was my mama, her truck just about dead center in the parking lot.

But she wasn't just parked there.  She was occupied in an activity which was proving to be fascinating to the entire school. She was on her knees, in the dust, and appeared to be bowing to the truck.  She was 'walking' on her knees around the truck, arms outstretched above her head touching and lifting off the surface in turn, her lips moving in some unknown incantation.  For all the world, it seemed she was worshipping that little blue Toyota.

And every student was suddenly glued to that window.  And one frightened young girl simply wanted to melt into the linoleum.

Posted July 6, 2012
I left off with all the students staring at my mother in her prone state smack in the middle of the parking lot.

While it was horrifying for me in terms of humiliation, it did help my teachers and school principal to realize that I'd been telling the truth.  So Child Protective Services were called. The men in white coats were called.

I hadn't counted on CPS being involved, nor would I have had any idea what that meant any way. At any rate, I hadn't counted on being removed from my mother's custody and placed into the care of strangers.

In my mind, I'd be allowed to stay with my friend Celia and her family until they could determine what needed to be done.  Her mother and father would parent me indefinitely.  They'd already offered to adopt me were my parents to agree.  I was certain I'd have a safe place to be.

However, that is not quite how it worked.  'They' took my mother to the hospital in Clearwater.  The school day wore on and I continued through PE, but as we were out in the field tossing around the soft-ball, some police cars rolled in and with them, the friendly folks at CPS.

When you are a child, no one asks you if it is OK with you if they take you away from everything  you know and place you with complete strangers.  They don't even consider what you might request.  You can beg and plead with them to allow you to stay with your friend and her family.  You can tell them that her father is a pastor.  'They' don't care.  They don't care AT ALL. Ask me how I know.

Instead, they take to a home that is so far from where you live and attend school that you don't even get to go to school.  They take you to what is called a 'foster home'. 

Now foster homes come in all different shapes and sizes. Some foster homes are pretty darn wonderful. They come equipped with a mom and a dad and sometimes even some sisters or brothers.  These people will love you like you were their own child.  Since they know you are coming into a strange situation in which you are terrified, they will do everything they can to make you feel at home and to help comfort your poor broken soul.

On the other hand, some foster homes are equipped with money-grubbing, selfish, hateful people who's only reason for opening their home is the extra income that they can 'earn' by doing so.  They offer you a spot in a smelly bed, but there is no place for any belongings you may have.  They throw one hot dog on a plate at dinner time and call that a meal.  You'll get a half a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and a single bowl of cold cereal for breakfast. There will be no one around most of the day to take any kind of care of you.  Their children will think you are their personal punching back or insult receptacle.  Under no circumstances will they carry you to your school, after all, no one is paying them extra for gas.  They won't talk to you any more than they have to.  They won't try to help you to understand what is happening to you.  They are simply collecting the cash for providing a roof over your head and three 'square' meals a day.

You can guess which kind I got.  Yep, it was the second one.  I was there for about two weeks.  I actually think I might have preferred being home with my crazy mother. Not sure though, the jury is still out on that.

After two weeks, the case-worker came one day and told me I was going home.  I panicked.  Was my mother OK? Was she going to be normal?  What had happened?  Where would we stay?  How would we live?  Did anything get 'fixed'?  Had there been a diagnosis?

I got no answers of any kind from the case worker.  None.

We arrived home, I was told to bring my stuff inside.  Mama and the case worker spoke briefly and then off she went, never to be seen again.

Mother wasn't normal, but she wasn't as bad as when I'd returned home.  We'd just have to settle back into something that I hoped would approach normalcy.

Posted July 9, 2012
I've been trying to think how to organize the rest of my story.  I feel like this next bit may not be precisely in order, but I hope you'll bear with me if I just wonder back and forth a bit.

In some ways, this time of my life was one of the most frightening for me.  Perhaps that is because I was now old enough to be aware of what was going on and the uncertainty of my position.

I finished my 6th grade year at the private school after mama's 'incident'.  That summer, I turned 12 years old.  Twelve is an important time in a young woman's life.  The hormones are raging because puberty has hit, or at least it had for me.

There is a kind of 'coming of age' that happens during that period.  A girl is becoming a woman.  And yet, she's still very much a girl.  Now, I realize just how important having a good father around really is.  It makes a difference in how a young woman sees herself.  Without the direction of an intentional father, I just bumbled about and tried to be what I thought people wanted me to be.

With mom's issues, I tried to spend as little time at home as possible and diligently searched out any opportunity to be away that I could grasp onto. 

The neighbor to the south proved the easiest target.  I'd played with the oldest son since I was quite small.  His name was Gavin.  He was still smaller than me, at 10 years old, with a thatch of the thickest, darkest hair of anyone I knew and piercing, nearly black eyes. 

Gavin was about as desperate for company as I was.  There really weren't many other kids in the area where we lived.  Or at least not any kids that would play with the likes of us.  Both of us were from rather unorthodox families.  In his case, his family moved back and forth between this house and one somewhere in New York every year or so.  He never could seem to make many connections. 

If you add to that the fact that his father was physically abusive; a yelling, drinking, chain-smoking, shirtless, shiftless sort of fellow, you'd get the picture.  At this point in time, he was shackin' up with Gavin's aunt, having tossed aside his wife and Gavin's mother, Charlotte, for her younger and more impressionable sister Nina.  (there's a whole other story there, but I'll save that one for later)

So, unlikely as it might have been, Gavin and I became quite good friends.  We explored the woods, climbed trees, visited all those same spots that Celia and I had discovered.  We argued like any friends would.  I think that for both of us, the chance to get out of our suffocating homes and with people who weren't criticizing was a blessing.

However, we did spend some time at Gavin's home.  I'd spend the night occasionally, or just be over during the day.   Gavin's house was the second place I'd seen pornography.  His father had quite a collection of magazines and various erotica books.  As curious kids will, Gavin and I would sneak in and look at it from time to time. 

It didn't become something we did constantly, but I do believe it had an effect.  I can't say how it spoke to Gavin, but for me, it solidified an idea that had grown in my mind due to previous experience:  that women were to be used for sex.  It wasn't a conscious thought at that time, but now, I can see how it was the idea that my mind held about my role in the world.

However, at that time, I was oblivious to how such things would affect me.  I was just a carefree adolescent trying to find ways to enjoy life, make friends and see whether I had 'what it took'.

Since dad was no longer in town, he didn't think he should continue paying for my tuition at the private school.  Mama was scarcely able to make enough money to keep food on the table or clothing on our bodies and so back to the public school arena I went.

I wasn't altogether unhappy about that idea.  In my mind, there were likely to be more opportunities for friends with the bigger school.  Since I'd had the surgery on my eye's to straighten my gaze, I was sure the students would accept me just like any other student.

What I found was that kids have an amazing memory.  My thinking was that I looked enough different that everyone would see who I was and accept me.  They'd see that I looked pretty normal and be willing to take a chance.  I think I've always been pretty optimistic that way.  I'd grown up, got a new hairdo, I was wearing make-up.  I'd even secretly shaved my legs!! (yep, it was rebellion, my mother had told me not to, but I did it anyway.  And yes, I paid the price of a dry shave.  Ouch!)

But once again, I was wrong.  The first day of school, I ran into my old nemesis, a pint size, adolescent boy named Jordan.  Jordan was at least six inches shorter than me and looked like he was about 8 years old. But Jordan had 'it'.  He had 'cool kid' status.  Jordan had designer jeans and name-brand shoes and a stylin' haircut.  And, all the other cool kids followed him around because he was THE one to impress.

I never had a chance.

Jordan was a bully.  Jordan remembered me. And Jordan was in every single one of my classes.

How such a small kid could maintain bully status I'll never understand, but he'd had it since 1st grade and he wasn't letting it go.  I walked into the halls of 7th grade so sure I was going to like this new adventure. What I was greeted with was 'Hey, Cross-Eye'd Monkey is back!!!'.  You guessed it, that old moniker was courtesy of Jordan.

And that is a pretty strong indicator of how the rest of 7th grade went.

Posted July 10, 2012
I shared about one of my escapes yesterday.  There was another escape destination.  Across the way from us lived a very normal family.  As you might expect, their home was a lot nicer than ours.  Actually, it looked a great deal like the one I now live in, but coming from where I did at the time, I was sure it was a palace.  It was a two story home set on 5 acres of pastureland.  Almost the entire property was enclosed by a fence to keep the cow and horses in.

Miss Ann, the family mom, was very sweet and welcomed both my mother and I into her home.  I really don't think we had anything in common with their family, but that didn't seem to matter to Ann.  She had two children who were a few years older than I and a very kind and dutiful husband who worked all day to provide for his family, like you might expect.  Ann drove a silver Camaro which made her the coolest mom  ever in my book.

Mama and I would go there together to visit, watch soap operas and drink sweet tea.  Sometimes, Ann's daughter, Veronica, would clean out her things and pass along some hand me downs.  I almost felt like I could be normal when I was with them.  I'd imagine what it would be like to live in a nice home and have enough money to keep cold Coke's in the fridge like Ann did, or to own more than one pair of blue jeans at a time.  It seemed like heaven to me.

I was very grateful for their friendship. 

My 7th grade year went by relatively uneventfully.  I went to school every weekday. Stayed home mostly on Saturday's since I hadn't really made many friends.  Church all day on Sunday's.  Gavin's family had left again, so I didn't get to spend time with them. 

Sometimes I'd go for walks and haunt my old hiding spots. 

We did make another connection with a family named the Reese's.  They were a family we'd known quite some time before but had lost touch with.  I'm not sure how, but mama reconnected and we began spending time at their home also.  They bred Akita's for show.  They loved dogs and they also loved me.

One day, Mrs. Reeves asked me whether I'd like to have a dog of my own.  I can't tell you what prompted her to ask me, but she did. 

I couldn't imagine that my mother would allow such a thing, but of course, as any kid would, I was immediately enamored with the idea.  Mr. & Mrs. Reese talked it over with my mother and it was decided that they would get me a puppy.  They felt strongly that the puppy needed a fence also and so they also committed to build him a fenced in area. 

The idea of a fence was a foreign concept to me.  Back then, at least where I lived, the only people who had fences were those who kept cattle and horses. Nobody's dogs were fenced in, that was for sure.  I envisioned a fence that went all the way around our 5 acre lot. After all, a dog needs room to run.

Oblivious to how all this would work, I happily anticipated the beautiful, snuggly puppy I would own. 

The school year was winding down and not only were the Reese's planning to find just the right puppy for me, they were also planning to host a birthday party for me for my 13th birthday.  I can't recall when I'd ever had a real birthday party before. 

Once again, I was beside myself with excitement.  We plotted and planned.  Decorations were purchased, invitations were sent.  It was going to be a grand affair. I don't know when I ever felt as special as I did just planning for that occasion.

Finally, the day arrived.  The party was to be held at the Reese's home.  Mama and I arrived in plenty of time to help set up.  The Reese's two young children were there, very excited for the festivities to begin.  It was to be a slumber party and I and my girlfriends would sleep on the living room floor while mama slept in the guest room.

All we had to do was wait for the guests to arrive.  We waited.

And waited.

And waited....................................................No one came.  Not one soul showed up at my birthday party.

There were lots of hurts in my life, but that one somehow solidified for me the truth about myself.  No one would love me.  No one wanted me. No one really cared.  I was alone. 

Yes, my mama was there and the Reese's were there, but somehow, that didn't matter. That I had no friends to call my own meant I wasn't really lovable.

In an effort to cheer me up, the Reese's took me out to meet the puppy they'd chosen for me.  He was the sweetest little ball of black and white fur I'd ever encountered.  While all the pain wasn't washed away by his happy puppy kisses, I did feel I'd found a friend.

I named him 'Biffer'.  (don't ask, I have no idea where I came up with that one)  He was a black and white Australian Shepherd, and he was mine.  I might not have any girlfriends, but I had a puppy who loved me.  I curled up on the living room floor that evening with Biffer and the Reese children and tried to sleep and dream away the heartache. 

I was glad in the knowledge that there were some good things happening. And besides, I was thirteen.  Surely good things happen for those who are thirteen.

Posted July 12, 2012

My birthday is in July.  July 22nd to be exact.  Please make a note of it! ;)  As you may know, that puts me right in the middle of Summer.  Which also means I have a bit more than another month at home with my mom.

During this point in time, our little household was really hurting for cash.  My father did faithfully provide the child support, but that was only $200 per month. Even in 1985, that wasn't a particularly generous sum. Certainly, it wasn't sufficient to keep two people afloat.  

So mama had to find work.  As I mentioned before, keeping a job wasn't her strong-suit.  The most common employment she found during this time frame was as an in-home nurse for elderly people.  

It often meant she had to stay away all night as that was the shift that was available.  Usually, when that happened, I'd stay with the neighbors, Gavin and his family..  That had been a relatively acceptable situation in my mind up to that point, but somewhere along in here, things began to change.

Hal, Gavin's father turned out to be yet another in a string of unsavory character's during my life that had a special taste for young girls.  His particular taste tended to be girls just past puberty. 

Hal's girlfriend, Audra, who was also Gavin's aunt, had become a close friend for me.  She'd begun to tell me a bit more of their history.  Audra was only 19 at this time, which now seems ridiculously young.  She told me how Hal had seduced her when she was only 14 on this very same property.  He was married to her sister Darlene at the time, but that had no impact on him.

Now that I was 13 and developing as 13 year old girls do, Hal was taking an interest in me.   The comments began pretty innocently, or so it seemed.  He'd just say nice things about me or compliment me on how my clothes looked well on me.

But soon, the comments became too explicit and he was 'noticing' things about my developing body and commenting rather specifically about those as well.  I began to make sure I didn't end up there with him alone.

I wonder now whether Audra had been aware of his interest.  I would imagine she was, but given how she'd gotten connected with Hal, she probably didn't know what to do either.

I  kept out of Hal's way for the most part and spent my time with Audra and Gavin and Audra's little son and daughter, Jake and Sally.  We'd drink cold Pepsi's or ice coffee by the gallon and talk and play cards while Hal watched his porn movies in the living room or read erotica.

I think we were all happiest when Hal got called to go out of town for a job.  

One day, Darlene called Audra.  She was in trouble, having been severely beaten by her live-in boyfriend.  Gavin had been living with her in Georgia at the time. "Could Audra, Hal and the kids come up and get Gavin and help her until she was healed enough to go home from the hospital?" she wanted to know.

Audra immediately began packing.  She also asked my mama and I whether I might go with her to help care for the little ones while she was tending to her sister.  It meant getting away from mama for a few days and being with Gavin again so I jumped at the chance and mama consented.

We drove straight through, about 8 hours to arrive at Darlene's home by around 11pm.  Audra, dropped us at Darlene's trailer and left immediately to go to the hospital.  

I helped Hal to get the little ones situated and to sleep.  Gavin was not there, having stayed with a friend while his mother was in the hospital.  I went out to the kitchen to tell Hal I was heading to bed as well.

His look told me he had other ideas.  He had the strangest sly smile on his face.  And then, the propositions began.  I won't go into the details, but I can tell you that they were graphic, disgusting and terrifying.  Hal was certain that he could convince me I would like what he was offering.  

I was disgusted.  He was a 45 year old man and I only a 13 year old girl.  By that time, I'd learned enough to know that I could say no and that I wanted NO part of that.  However, I was scared to death.

Finally, Hal told me that if I wouldn't consent to 'be' with him, then I must be a lesbian!

Blam!  It was a hard blow and one that might have caused me to cave in.  It was manipulation, and by God's grace, I knew it for what it was. Instead, I retreated to the front porch where I stayed the entire night. Crying. Afraid.  Alone.  Cold.  Uncertain.

Hurt and ashamed to have been talked to in that way.

I watched the sun come up and the dew on the grass that morning.  The sound of children waking was music to my ears.  Hal stayed in bed and I couldn't have been happier.
Posted Wednesday, August 15, 2012
As I've been doing this exercise, I've also found myself encouraging others to do the same.  To write their own story.  Somehow, it helps to look at it with a bit more clarity.  More honesty.  Writing it down means you need to be careful of the details and try to think through the feelings, the smells and the reactions.  As many of you have mentioned, it's a kind of therapy all it's own.

That last bit about Hal, Gavin's dad was one of those events in my life that I think changed me in some ways.  It was the first time I'd stood up to someone and said a resounding 'NO!'  I'm proud of that young woman.  She made a strong choice.  It was frightening, but it was strong all the same.

I'm finding as I go along that fear and strength often go together.  I used to think that fear was weak but it doesn't have to be.  Sometimes the fear simply reflects the reality.  It can be both strong and fragile at the same time.  Like a new leaf starting to unfurl.  It's growing from it's own strength, and yet, it could be crushed by a misplaced step or a careless hand.  But it can often bounce back even from such attacks.

The next event I want to share is one which, at the time it occured, I don't recall feeling exactly horrified about.  However, for many years, I've felt this one was a huge loss to me.  Perhaps at the age of 13, I didn't realize the implications of that moment in time.  I didn't understand that I'd forever regret my mother's actions.

I believe that a lot of things had been escalating during this period.  My mother's mental instability.  My realization of the precarious place I was in.  My rebelliousness.  Our lack of financial resources.  We were infested with rodents and insects and my father was now thousands of miles away so there was no one my mom felt she could ask for help.  It seemed everything was conspiring against us.

And then, just like that, my mother decided to erase all the memories of what had been in the briefest puff of smoke.  She took all of our family photos out to the burn barrel and set fire to the entire collection.  I can still picture opening the back door and poking my head out, seeing her standing there, watching all those moments go up in smoke.

Most people are broken-hearted to see their precious memories turn to ash.  Mama did it on purpose.

I can't recall how I knew what it was she was doing.  I must have asked her at some point.  I don't remember seeing her carry our photo books out.  Maybe I did and I tried to forget. 

I can tell you that I have regretted the loss of those photos all of my adult life.  I know, they are just photos, but it makes me sad.  No baby pictures, no sibling pictures, no vacation memories.  I had used to pour over my parents wedding album at least once a month. 

By God's grace,  I had tucked away somewhere around 25 of my favorite photos.  I'd had them in my bedroom at the time.  I'm so grateful to have those today.

Times continued to get tougher as Mama retreated more and more into herself.  Her 'weirdness' was a regular thing now.  People from school began to tell me why they would never come to my house.  They were scared of my mother, afraid she'd do them physical harm.

I became rebellious.  I no longer obey my mother's directions.  I ranted and screamed at her when she would follow me down the road, praying for me out loud.  I turned up the radio as loud as I could to drown out the confusion I was feeling.  Not that it helped, but I tried.

Posted Friday, August 17, 2012

My thirteenth year had it's allotment of difficulties.  

One had to do with a fight I had with some girls from school.  I came out on the bottom, mainly because I was afraid to show my face right after the 'event' and so the other girl got the last word.  At the time, I just wanted to disappear into the ground, and so I did.

I had some run-ins with a young man who'd made it his job to put me down.  

On the other hand, there were some very sweet people that I went to school with. Paula, Beth, Lisa.  Kind young women who looked for ways to build each other up and enjoy each other.  I still remember those girls with a smile.

It is interesting to me how often the bad seems to outweigh the good.  I think this may be more true for a person who's had more trauma in their lives. There comes a point when any bad seems to feel equal to all bad.  By this time in my life, that is how I defined my life.  It felt like I'd never 'make up the difference'.

Summer came, and with it, more time at home with Mama again.  Her dissociation became more marked and I began to feel desperate.  I phoned my brother to request his help.  At that time, neither he nor my sister really understood my mom's issues.  They were still young themselves. They'd basically kept their distance since leaving home.

They urged me to just stay with Mama, telling me that she needed me and wouldn't be able to live without me.  But I felt I was losing my own mind and I simply couldn't let it go.

I turned to my friend Mandy's parents and begged them to help me. They'd watched the situation and knew that it was getting more and more critical. 

I felt so grateful when they finally stepped in.  They called my father and explained to him that he MUST get me out of Mama's house.  I couldn't tell you how they convinced him.  I'd tried before,but with no success.  With the Evan's help, my brother's help and Daddy, we convinced my Mama that I needed to 'visit' Daddy in Arizona.  

One overcast morning in August, we met the Evan's at the local Post Office and they drove me to the airport in Tampa.  Mama didn't know that I wasn't coming back.

I had dressed to kill.  I didn't have a lot, but I'd found an outfit at KMart that I felt pretty good about, figured out how to get my hair up into a bun and tried to look 25.  I was 14....just!  

I can distinctly remember that my thoughts were in the direction of wondering whether I could catch the eye of a nice, good-looking, well off man. (It was one of the messages my mother had always instilled in me.  She'd told me I could be happy if I could find such a man and marry him)

I sometimes marvel at how happy Mama looks in this photo.  She was always beautiful in front of the camera.  But when I contrast it with the phone conversation I had with her a few weeks later, my heart still breaks a bit.

On the one hand, I don't want to sound tragic, on the other hand, that was a very tragic time in my life.  As I look at this photo today, it still makes me sad that I don't have a Mama like everyone else's.  It makes me sad for her and how deeply chained she is to the torment of a broken mind.  

On the other hand, I am grateful that my own children have a mother who is present and (relatively) normal.  I am blessed to have a relationship with my children and to hope that will continue.  And I have the ability to appreciate in others what I don't have myself and that is unique as well.  The contrasts have allowed for appreciation.
Posted Wednesday, Augusts 22, 2012
I left off last time having boarded a 'jet plane' for sunny Tucson, Arizona.  This wasn't the first time I'd made it out here.  I'd also visited my dad and his girlfriend Rosalie and her daughter Lisa once before.  That had been the summer I turned 12.

Here I was again two years later.  My dad had moved farther out into the sticks by this time, to an area known as Three Points (so called because of the three main cross-road on the map I presume).  This was going to be an adventure.  I hadn't known my father was eccentric, turns out he is.

So here was our schtick!  We lived 40 miles outside of any town, at the end of 3 miles of very bumpy dirt road.  Once again, I was in a trailer, 14 x 60 or so.  This one had two bedrooms, one at each end, so felt roomier than the one I'd grown up in.  But here is the catch.......no running water, no electricity. 

You got it, step back in time to 1872 or somewhere thereabouts and you'll have the feel. Well, sort of. 

Water had to be trucked up the hill in the back of our pick-up.  We used large trash cans for the purpose.  A friend down the hill shared water from his well.  We used kerosene lanterns for light.  Coolers were used to keep food cold but shopping had to be done for only a few days at a time.  Water was heated on the stove for bathing and carted into the bathroom where it was added to water which had been bucketed into the tub. Laundry had to be taken to town once a week to a laundromat where we did a marathon of laundry in a 3 hour period. (that was my least favorite day of the week)

In Winter, we utilized free-standing kerosene heaters.  Once in a blue moon, dad would fire up the generator so we could vacuum the two carpeted areas. 

There was no TV, no radio, no hair-dryers, no microwave, no telephone (we had one, but calls to any where were long distance and that was expensive). No refrigerator (we got a gas fridge eventually, but that was a while in coming) No washing machine, no long hot showers, no flipping on a light switch, no air conditioning of any kind (did I mention I lived in the desert?)

And this, seemed like a good alternative to living with my mother.

I arrived in Arizona just in time for the school year to begin.  I believe I arrived on Saturday and school began the following Monday.  It was to be my Freshman year in High School, a frightening time for anyone I would imagine.

The community had voted that it's students would attend Flowing Wells High School, which was West Central Tucson, because it had the strongest academic record in the city of Tucson at that time.  As a result, students were bussed from the Three-Points area all the way in to town. 

For me, that meant waking up at 4:15 every morning, while it was still dark.  I'd bathe before school, heating water on the stove and hauling some in to dump in the tub. Meanwhile, make lunch, set out clothes, etc.

I had to leave the house, dad driving me, thank goodness, by 6 am to catch the bus at about 6:10.  Then, it was a one hour bus ride to school.

On my very first day, two days after I'd arrived in town, I climbed on that bus, nervous, but hopeful.  The sun had recently made it's way over the horizon and I could see the students on the bus.  (bus rides hadn't been good for me in the past, I had usually experienced them to be a trap where whoever cared to could hurl insults at me while I had to sit there and take it.)  And the students could see me.  I don't suppose I looked so different from anyone else on the bus. 

I was a young women in jeans and an oversized button-down top, belted at the waste.  My hair wasn't as high as I wished it would be.  In fact, it was pretty much flat.  Actually, it was pretty much a mullet, girl style.  I hadn't had the necessary tools to fix it up like I'd had it on the plane ride out.

But there must have been something else there.  It was the something else that bullies have some sort of radar for.  I still don't know what it is, but from the back of the bus rose another young woman, two years farther along than I and filled with an acid tongue.  I'd been on the bus for all of 3 seconds when she stood to her feet, puffed out her chest and screeched 'Hey B*t$h!' 

As quickly as I could, I found a seat as far from that girl as I could.  Had she meant me?  There'd only been me and Lisa getting on the bus.  What had I done?  What is wrong with me?  Why does this always happen?

As it turned out, she had meant me, but no for any explainable reason. But my entire time on that bus was utter misery because that one girl decided to dislike me, and since she was the self-proclaimed 'Queen of the Bus' I was to be the pariah.

What I had hoped would be a wonderful new beginning was already shaping up to be just another chapter in my sorry existence.  Would I ever get out from under the stigma that said I was a loser?

Posted August 30, 2012
Here's another installment of story from my first year living with Daddy and Rosalie, his girlfriend, in the deserts of Arizona.

During that first year, as I mentioned before, I dabbled in drugs.  It's no surprise to me that kids do.  At that age, you just aren't thinking about consequences and you really do feel invincible.  You are certain that you won't get disgustingly hooked or become a junkie in a dark alley someplace.  If you even think about such things at all.  The drugs are in front of you, 'friends' want you to try them and so you do.

For me, I had a friend I'll call Cassie who was making the suggestion.  Since I admired her so much, I gave it a try.  At first, it was marijuana.  We used it in whatever form we could find, joints, bongs or laced in brownies.  The guys providing it lived in her trailer park and kept inviting us to 'party' with them.  So we did.  Every chance we got.

After a while, that wasn't enough of a rush and the same guys suggested we try snorting some cocaine.  They provided the cocaine, free of charge and so, you guessed it, we tried it.    Very shortly, we also tried LSD. 

For me personally, the cocaine didn't do a thing.  I can only assume this was a very significant 'space for grace' as it should have sent me flying high.  I remember being confused at what all the fuss was about as I literally didn't feel anything at all related to my usage. 

On the other hand, the LSD scared me half to death, I saw visions of rats all over my body and other weird trips.  That was enough to turn me off and I never tried that again.

However, my friend Cassie very much liked the high she got from the Coke and quickly became addicted.  As you often hear about, those who offer drugs for free in the beginning will quickly begin charging their victims are hooked.  Cassie had to find a way to earn money for her new habit.

I looked on sadly  as this beautiful young woman with so much promise, became a topless dancer.  She quickly dropped out of high school and I've literally never heard from her again. 

It broke my heart to see that.  But one thing that has always stood out to me as God's grace was that I knew, from watching Cassie, that I did NOT want to go down that same road.  Without Cassie in my life, I didn't have access to any of the drugs, nor did I want to.  I simply stopped using any form of mind-altering drug, even alcohol. (there's a story about that too, but I'll save it for another time)

I can't tell you how many times I've thanked my God for literally yanking me out of that particular pit of destruction.  It would have been so easy and so natural for me to have become fully addicted to drugs and alcohol, but I didn't.  It wasn't because of anything I did.  I know without a doubt that God opened my eyes to what I was headed toward and gave me spiritual sight in those few days. 

I've not done studies, or read a great deal on the subject, but I've often heard it said that a person can get hooked on the 'heavy' drugs such as Coke and LSD after only one use.  And that regular usage of alcohol and marijuana over relatively short periods can produce the same result.  For me, it just didn't happen.  I'd call that miraculous.

Having avoided that particular set of traps, I carried on through my Freshmen year relatively unscathed.

There were issues heating up at home during that year, but I'll share those next time.

Posted Thursday, October 11, 2012

I've been praying since the last installment that God would show me how to proceed.  After all, it's as much His story as it is mine. He's been there with me through it all, even when I didn't know how to see Him, he was undoubtedly there.  

Now, to the next installment.....

As my freshman year wound to a close, things in my relationships at home were heating up.  Like a typical teenager, I hadn't put a whole lot of thought into how I'd pass those long, hot summer days at home.  As I shared before, we lived a LONG way from town so I'd be spending all day, every day at home in our un-air conditioned mobile home.  

Well, let me correct myself, I'd be in the home except for the times when I was toting 5 gallon buckets of water, two at a time all over our several acre plot watering my father's thirsty plants and animals.  Or when I was feeding hungry animals, or doing laundry at the laundromat in town, or cooking dinner, or cleaning the house. 

My step-mother was on disability since she'd had a work related back injury several years before.  While she seemed very capable indeed of walking anywhere she pleased, she was entirely incapable of doing any type of actual work on our considerable homestead.  She was, however, very much able to carry 12 packs of beer home from the market and heft said cans to her mouth from 7:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night.

At the same time, her daughter was also somehow not skilled enough to do much of the work.  Instead, I was expected to do it.  Laura was 1 year older than me and while she was in the lower range of educational classes, she was still a high school student and from my point of view, quite capable indeed.

Once we began spending all day, every day, in one another's company, the temperature started to rise.  Step-mother, who wouldn't lift her gnarled fingers to do a lick of work, very much enjoyed following me out to the chicken-pen to see whether I'd adequately fed and watered the squawkers. 

She began making a habit of inspecting every job I did and promptly grading me, usually poorly, on my completed efforts.

As you might imagine, this didn't go over well.  The 110° days grew exponentially more uncomfortable and I began to feel I'd jumped out of the pot and into the frying pan. Why had I left Florida again???

I've always been a perfectionist, so the fact that Step-mom was accusing me of doing halfhearted work really went against the pride in work that I felt.  I'd do the job and invariably she'd tell me to do it over until I did it 'right'. (can you say 'Cinderella'?? I was identifying!)

One day, I'd come in from doing chores and had settled myself in the living room to read.  Step-mom came in and ordered me 'Get up and go out there and water those pigeon's again! Their water bowl is FILTHY!'  

You have to know a bit about pigeons to know that they literally poop everywhere.  No kidding, it was EVERYWHERE.  They even build their nests in the stuff. (look it up!)  I had emptied and scrubbed their water dish only thirty minutes before this demand was made of me and I wasn't about to do it again.

'No.' I said. 'I just did it and if you want it done again, do it yourself.'. I actually spoke calmly at this point.  

'YOU LIAR!' Step-mom snarled.  

Step-mom had a habit of walking about in the nude.  It was, after all, over 100° in our stagnant home.  As per usual, she was nude today. Step-mom, in her nudity, fairly ran over to me and pulled me by the hair on my head up out of the chair. (mind you I weigh a good 40 lbs more than she does, but her disabled body somehow was having a miraculous moment).  (and yes, it was utterly humiliating to be in the presence of a full grown nude woman getting bawled out.)

She began trying to physically push me toward the back door, but by that time, I'd had enough.  'NO!' I screamed.  I am not redoing the work again just because you say so!  You are drunk and that is why you are being so mean!'

This seemed to really set her off and, SMACK, right across my flushed face.  She started swinging at me again but I tried to stop her.  The next thing I knew, the two of us were down on the floor, wrestling it out.  She was sitting on her backside pulling at my hair.  It was excruciating.  I didn't know what else to do so I grabbed her inner thighs which were on either side of my head and ripped my fingernails through her bared flesh with all the force I could muster. 

(this is a photo of my father in our mobile home living room, in the forground, you can just see the globe of one of our kerosene lanterns.  We had electric lights too, but rarely used them as we had to run the generator to do so and that was too expensive.)

To that point, I hadn't wanted to hurt her, having been taught just how fragile she was and how I needed to be careful of her.  However, in that moment, I dispensed with any pity I may have felt for her and my animal survival came roaring out with a vengeance.

My assault on her tender thighs did the trick and she released me to tend to the stinging pain.

I quickly jumped up headed into my room, grabbed a bag and raced out the door to run away. I didn't know where I was going but I was certainly not staying for any more of that treatment.

I walked about a half mile when Laura showed up beside me, out of breath but bringing water and some food. She had decided she would join me.  The two of us walked for 9 miles to the home of the person we know who lived nearest us. That was Bob.  Bob and his wife Sandy were friends of the family.

We told them our story and that we were NOT returning home.  Bob was actually good friends with step-mom but he was kind enough to give us some time.  Laura and I were dusty from our trek and tired, so they offered us a shower.

As I washed, handfuls of my hair fell out.  I wept as the strands washed into the drain.  How could this have happened?  I thought I'd escaped insanity but instead, I'd just traded it in for a different brand.

Later that evening, Bob insisted we at least call my father to let him know that we were safe. 

I dialed his number and he answered, somewhat frantically.  I told him the story of what had happened.  At first, he blamed me, having heard only Step-mom's side of things.  However, after hearing from Bob as well, he began to see that I was telling the truth.

Somehow, Dad had not realized that Step-mom was an alcoholic or that she was drinking from the time he left in the morning until she went to bed at night.  

It was only about a week before he and I moved into an apartment in town.  It may have been the only time my father ever stood up for me, but it was very important for me to know that he finally would.

In retrospect, I wonder if that is really what happened.  Was it for me, or was it because he didn't want to support a lazy drunk.  I may never know, but I can tell you I was glad to be rid of that situation and never in my life have I appreciated the comforts of modern electricity and gadgets as I did once we moved to town. 

Posted 10-25-2012
Living in town was a first for me.  All of my life, my father and mother had chosen to live as far out in the countryside as they could get.  For the most part, I'd resented that.  I was quite certain that I had been missing all the fun to be had by living 'in the sticks'.

Dad chose an apartment that was literally across the street from the High School I attended.  While it wasn't in a pristine neighborhood, it was in town and I didn't really know any better anyway.

He'd rented a furnished unit, so for the first time in my entire life, I was living in what felt like a regular palace to me.  All the furniture matched and was the current style.  There was wall to wall carpet and even a microwave! (the first I'd ever had access to!)  And best of all, there was electricity!

The TV became my best friend.  Dad bought cable and I could watch whatever I wanted to see.  All of this was a brand new experience to me. 

There was even a heated pool in the center of the apartment complex and summer was only half over.  I felt as though I had arrived.

But one bit of truth had escaped me. I still didn't have any friends.  Though I was right across the street from a city school filled with 1500 students, I'd not made the kind of connections with any of them that would allow me to call them up so that we could 'hang out'.

But I didn't let that worry me.  I set out to meet people right there in my new community.  It wasn't long before I met Misty, a woman who, for the most part, lived alone with her two children.  Her husband, Tom, was a military man and was on deployment so she was left to care for their babies.

She and I hit it off right away.  It began because she was looking for a babysitter for the kids so that she could go out on the town with her husbands brother, Brett.  That first night, I went over at the appointed time  just in time to meet the kids, get familiar with what she had in her home and for she and Brett to take off.

But I certainly had enough time to realize that Brett was the best looking guy I'd seen in quite a while and that he clearly had some money to burn.  Brett drove a very tall Ford 4x4 complete with it's own beer tap. He was a cowboy type and he was HOT!  He was also 23, but that didn't seem too much to overcome to me.

That night, when Misty arrived home, we talked into the wee hours.  I pumped her for any information I could get about Brett and so began my epic chase of a man much too old and much to wild for a young girl like me.

Did I mention I was fifteen?  Yeah, I was.

From that point on for at least 6 months I spent every moment I could at Misty's place.  It seemed like the perfect place to me. The apartment below hers was filled with three guys who loved to party and smoke weed.  Her neighbor was a spunky stripper who went by Tabitha with a voice that sounded a bit like Micky Mouse and her firefighter boyfriend.  We had a regular party crowd every single weekend.

I really thought I had it made.  I chased and chased Brett, who, for the most part, tolerated my advances graciously but mainly just ignored me.  Only once did he let me get anywhere near him, but it wasn't for lack of my trying.

But Misty and I became great friends.  She was a bored young mother who resented her husbands absence and so I was a distraction.  In hindsight, I think she felt honored to sort of school me in the art of being a woman.  In addition, she taught me all about the use of a Ouija Board.

One night, we were bored and restless and so we got out the Ouija board to see whether we could rouse anyone.  We hadn't been playing for very long when Misty asked the spirit we were speaking to to reveal itself to us.  The next thing we knew, a trivet that had been hanging on the wall fell off the wall and her little girl, 2 years old at the time and watching a movie came over and looking right at me said a clear as a bell 'Here I am.'

We had not called the girl, but she was responding as though we had.  In that moment, I knew that a spirit had entered that little girl and I began pulling out all the commands I could remember from my days as a Pentecostal that the spirit must leave the girl 'in the name of Jesus!'

The girl became quiet and then went back to doing what she had been before.  But Misty and I were completely freaked out.  We put that board away and I don't believe I ever went to her home again.  I knew better than to mess with such things but I had ignored what I'd been taught and now the fear was on me.

School had started and I began instead to pour my energies into the relationships I hoped to build there.

Where was my dad during all of this?  He was dating his latest girlfriend.  He didn't seem to concerned with what I was doing.  Since I wasn't causing him any trouble, he left me alone.

Looking back, I can see this as a time of transition for me.  It was a time when I began to see a little of what I was doing and tried to make some decisions that made sense.  I certainly didn't always get it right, but I think I became a lot more introspective during that year.

Thanks for joining me today and I pray your day is doubly blessed!

Posted 11-5-2012

The thing about high school is that it's either really a great time in your life, or it's terrible.  The people I've spoken to on the subject seem to hold one of those two opinions.  I'm sure there are some here and there who are in between those two extremes, but more often than not, the folks I've asked had one opinion or the other.

My opinion?  TERRIBLE! With a lot of capitals!  Why?  Because I never fit in anywhere.

While that shouldn't be the goal of a high school student, the reality is, that for most of them, that is THE ultimate goal.  You get to school and you quickly realize that you must find a group of people to call your own.  If you don't do that quickly, it very likely will never happen.

If you're unfortunate enough to be coming from outside (meaning another school or town), you'll have an especially difficult time.  Well, unless you happen to have the certain something that draws people toward you like a bee to honey.

I didn't have that. I also didn't have a group.  Sophomore year was spent trying to be a 'prep'.  I couldn't tell you why exactly, except that I now had electricity and thought I stood a better chance of getting my hair right.  I'd learned that being a 'stoner' didn't work well if you wanted to be liked by the majority. (when you wear super short skirts and tight jeans and revealing whatever, you've very likely to be branded a 'slut' and that doesn't work well for fitting in.)  At least that is how it was in my experience.

  (The requisite school photo - this happens to be the only one my father purchased of my entire time in high school.  Please not that this was my version of 'big hair'.  Its' the biggest I could make it go.  My hair was always completely uncooperative when it came to attaining body. In hind site, I actually like the way it looked whereas I now look at the hair of my fellow schoolmates and cringe. LOL)

  (The school ID - this, together with the yearly photo are the only photos taken of me that year)

So, I tried the route of turtle neck sweaters, big hair and rolled up jeans.

I honestly can't even recall who I might have called friend that year.  I can recall the classes, Mr. Weber's Introductory Algebra, Mrs. Kirk's English, Driver's Ed, Typing, Biology with Mr. Morgan, French with Madame Woner.  But who were my friends?

I'm sure there were some. I did make a few friends but none were the sort that I spent all my time with.

I do remember trying to acquire my first boyfriend. (unsuccessful) Getting my first kiss (a boy who couldn't, in all honesty, be called friend) And my first experience with sex (a shameful event that happened in a public restroom and which I'm not sure I'll ever be able to reconcile myself with. I think the fact that I allowed it is what pains me the most. At least it did at that time.  I was mortified because after the fact I realized I'd only been used.  He was the same non-friend boy and it was a one time event that left me humiliated in every possible way.  

Lunch was often spent walking across the street to the strip mall that held a Hardee's and a Round Table Pizza. And where did I get any money for those things anyway???  Daddy wasn't typically one to give me pocket money.

I did cook alot that year.  My dad had given me a Betty Crocker cookbook for my 15th birthday the previous summer.  (I still have it and I still use it.)  Hmmm, wonder if he had ulterior motives?  Did he hope I'd cook for him?  Good possibility.

I can tell you that I made it though that year academically. I was a good student, a natural student and I got on well with my teachers.  Better, in fact, then I ever got on with my peers.  Perhaps that was the thing that caused me to struggle so to fit in. Having experienced life in a rather ugly form up to that point, I was in a very different place than many of my peers, but I seemed to have a report with my teachers and school counselors.

By the time Junior year had rolled around, dad and I had moved back out to the homestead. Step-mom had gotten clean and sober with some help from AA, made her amends and we were back to being a happy family again.  And Dad was thrilled to be back in the boonies where he could do as he liked.  And that summer, the two of them were married.  (Wife number 4 at this point)

I had turned 16 and dad and Uncle Monte helped me buy a junky old car which Monte helped me get running. It was a 1973 Datsun 610, complete with peeling vinyl top!  White with what had been a blue top, it had....uh....seen better days.  No air conditioning, barely any heating and it would automatically not run if the weather turned wet and especially if it snowed.

 (The photo below is not my actual car, but is a pretty good representation of what it looked like when I had it.  Well, this one looks better since it without the peeling vinyl top, but hey, it's the best I can do!)

However, with the car, I could begin to rule my own world a bit.  And so I embarked on my independence.
Posted Feb 4, 2013
As I shared last time, I had a car, which meant I had to be able to work enough to pay for gas (40 miles from my home to anything at all!) and insurance and my smoking habit.  Dad had never been one to give me anything much in the way of money and so if I wanted it I had to work for it. 

At that point, my Dad had a small business selling plants at the local Swap Meet (an outdoor flea market for those anywhere except for Arizona).  The place was open on Wednesday evenings as well as Friday through Sunday.   Since we'd been around the Swap Meet for about six months by that time, I easily landed a job working in their snack bar establishment.

It was an uncomplicated position, serving soft drinks and over-steamed hotdogs to hoards of bargain hunters.  It didn't require a lot thinking, but it did require stamina so I was good to go. I also I was able to move up quickly (not that there was far to go, LOL).  Many of the employees were short-term and so any longevity at all made you a candidate for upward mobility among the 'elite' staff.(yes, believe it or not, there was an attitude of elite at the Swap Meet.  I find it laughable now, but its true.)

Within about 9 months, I was managing my own snack bar.  That meant slightly more pay per hour and the opportunity to work a LOT of hours.  The result was that I began working 40+ hours every week between those 4 days.  I'd work 5-10 on Wednesdays.  3 - 12 on Fridays.  7-2:30, 30 minute break and then 3-12 on Saturday. 7-2:30, 30 minute break and 3-8 on Sunday's.  Sometimes I'd work a little less than that, but mostly that was my gig. 

It happened that there were also 'The Coke Cart' guys.  They were the epitome of coolness.  They were college age and drove their carts all over the Swap Meet offering cold soda's for sale right off of their carts.  And one of them caught my eye. Mike was tall, blond and the coolest Punk Rocker I'd ever laid eyes on. And he was fine! (yep, screaming 80's!)  I was absolutely smitten.

Mike was also a friendly fellow. He drove a sweet baby blue rag top bug and wore his hair in a perfect punk rock doo.  I would've given anything for him to notice me.  The trouble is, I really wasn't a Punk Rocker myself (I tried, I truly did, but I'm not sure it quite took).  And so, as much as Mike was nice and always polite and would chat, he really wasn't interested.

Funny story.....Once, I was checking out Mike and his fine self as he walked away from the snack bars. I was on my way into one of those snack bars.  But I was so focused on a certain young man's backside that I opened the door smack into.......yes, you guessed it, my face.  Huge bloody lip!  Embarrassed much?

Well, Mike hadn't noticed me but Jon, another Coke Cart driver did.  Jon was one of those guys that everyone likes really well.  Always nice, always polite, always offering a hand with whatever you might need.  But he really wasn't my type.  I'm not going to say he was unattactive per se, but he wasn't attractive to me. (I've had a thing for tall blond haired, blue-eyed muscular guys for as long as I can recall and Jon didn't fit that description). 

But, Jon was also persistant (another of his positive qualities) and so after being asked out more times than I can recall, I finally consented to join him for a movie after work.  This was my first real date. (Heck, it might of been the only real date I ever had thinking back)  It seemed like I was on cloud nine.

Jon also drove a cool bug, but his was slammed with dark tinted windows, shiny red paint and the thumpinest stereo I'd ever experienced.  I felt pretty cool, going out with a college man. 

Our date was nice, just a movie and then Jon drove me home.  We hung out in my room, which was actually a small travel trailer parked near our mobile home.  Around 1 am, my dad came out and sent Jon packing with a gruff, 'it's time for you to leave young man'.  Perfectly appropriate.  Before he left, he asked if he could kiss me and I allowed it. 

Yeah, me and cloud 9, we were good friends now.  Jon was suddenly more attractive than I'd initially thought.  We had talked and talked and Jon seemed to 'get' me.  He liked me, and he was willing to drive 40 miles to date me.  This was a good thing!  And so it began.  My very first romance.

Posted Friday, April 12, 2013
For some reason, this chapter pains me to share a bit more than the others.  I can only assume that is because I can't just say that someone else did something 'to' me.  This is where I have to begin to take responsibility for my own choices.

When I began dating Jon, my dad evidently became concerned that I might become pregnant.  And so, he did what he thought was the responsible thing to do and suggested I get started on the pill.  I remember thinking how very cool and 'forward thinking' my father was to suggest such a thing. 

His reasoning was, of course, that I was 'going to do it anyway' so I may as well avoid an unwanted pregnancy.  Funny, he never mentioned the use of condoms......

So, in my young mind, that meant I needed to start considering how I might make use of this new opportunity. 

Now, what I knew about sex had come from what my sister had told me, what I'd giggled about with friends, what I'd seen in the various bits of pornography I'd been exposed to at the neighbor's house and what I'd seen in various movies (which if you recall the 80's, was quite a lot).  Still, my views were fragmented and unrealistic at best.

However, armed with a month's worth of contraceptives in my system and the well-intended (I guess) advice of my father, I offered myself to Jon.

I honestly can't recall how it all went down but I can only assume that we discussed it in some capacity because he had arranged to have the shared dorm bedroom to himself for a period while the other guys lounged in the living area drinking beer and watching sports.

What I do recall is that Jon felt the need to ask me if he should be expecting a mess after we indulged ourselves.  I can remember that in my mind, I went over the various sexual encounters I had had and decided that there was no way that my hymen could still be intact.  I can actually still see in my minds eye what I was thinking.  Having gone over past events, I lovingly reassured Jon that there was nothing to worry about.

The reality was that I really had no idea.  I didn't know enough about my body.  I hadn't asked the doctor when I'd gotten my prescription and they had volunteered nothing and so I really didn't know what I was talking about.

All that I wanted was to be loved and from what I'd gathered from the world around me, this was how I could be loved.  Jon had told me he loved me by this time.  He'd told me many times.  I believed him.  He was very kind and caring and an upstanding young student and I felt good about the whole thing.

And so passion ensued.  When it was over, there was a very large red stain on my loving boyfriend's dorm room bed.  And my loving boyfriend was furious with me.  He yelled, he rushed into the bathroom to try to clean up 'the mess'.  He ranted about how I had lied to him and why didn't I just tell him the truth.  He was in a rage.

And I was utterly and completely humiliated.  Ashamed.

Jon hurried me through the living room and out to his car and drove me home in silence.  Within the week, he broke up with me, sighting the fact that he really didn't have time for a relationship, that he didn't really love me and that I lived to far away for him to be driving back and forth all the time.

It was over and I was crushed.  I'd given myself and gotten nothing in return. 

Now, I am far from the first girl to have experienced this particular type of devastation.  In fact, it's all too common for a girl to be used sexually by a man who claims to love her, only for him to find that once he's gone there, he doesn't want her any more.  I can't explain why this happens.  I assume there is something going on in the mind of those men that is similar to many many others, but I couldn't begin to tell you what it is.

But one thing I can tell you is that this particular brand of rejection hits a woman at her deepest core.  It's a rejection that begins to infect every aspect of how she sees herself.  It's like a cancer, only it doesn't kill, it just debilitates.

I didn't know all of that then. It wasn't long before I put on an armor coat of anger and a desire to hurt him back.  I tucked the pain as far away as I could and only in recent years has that particular bit of pain resurfaced so that it could be examined.

Instead, I set out to show Jon that I was indeed a very desireable woman.  I would show him and he'd regret his decision.

Posted Jan 20, 2015
If you've followed along with the story at all, you'll recall that when I last shared, I was thinking how I could show Jon that I was, in fact a desirable woman. That's a loaded topic if ever there was one.  The women who could tell stories on this topic are endless in number. I'd venture to guess that most every woman can relate on some level.

In the case of my young self, the best way seemed to make him jealous. I needed to find someone else who would want me and then, surely, Jon would see what he was missing.

Lee was the most obvious choice. Lee and Jon worked together, only Lee was Jon's superior AND I'd had a thing for Lee for a while. So I began my pursuit. I'd find any excuse I could to talk with Lee, so much the better if Jon was around. 

I was a pretty outrageous flirt in hindsight.  If I had been my mother, there would have been a LOT of correction happening. Alas, I had no mother looking over my shoulder, nor anyone else really so I fell headlong into that particular mud bog.

Lee was amiable enough and I think he was even attracted to me. The trouble was, he'd only recently ended a rather long relationship with a nice Catholic girl whom his mother well approved and I was pretty much that young lady's opposite. Not even a little bit Catholic, or nice or from a good family. And so, Lee, being the oldest, slated to take over the family business and a very responsible young man was diligently redirected by his adoring mother. I was not on the approved list and Lee was responsible for alerting me of this fact.

Lee wasn't trying to hurt me, he was unfortunately caught between his mother and a flirty girl and it made the most sense to him to listen to his mother.  So he did.  But not without some effort on his part at compensation. In the hopes that I wouldn't fall too hard, he suggested I invite his best friend on an outing.  (Lee had canceled a date with me due to Mommy's call). Desperate, as I was, I decided I didn't have anything to lose and so I called up Chad.

Chad was, himself, on the rebound from a two year relationship wherein the girl had dumped him.  He was truly in the dumps as a result.  Chad was a nice enough fellow, if you enjoy guys who are a bit on the techy/geeky side.  I apparently did.

And so, Chad and I began our relationship.  We went to a local park and sat and talked for hours, sharing our woe's of relational heartbreak, and on that level, we connected.  The truth was, I didn't find him at all physically attractive.  In fact, I found him the reverse.  But people weren't really supposed to care about such superficial things, so I told myself to let that go and stick with this a while to see where it led. 

On that first night, we kissed, in the dark, where I didn't have to see him very well. Anti-climactic would be a perfect description of that kiss. 

Post January 22, 2016
Chad is a bit of a longer installment in my life.  About 18 months had passed before I closed that chapter.  I'm not the least bit proud of how it went, but I'll endeavor to lay it before you.

Chad was a classic rebound relationship for me, and I for him.  We were both very young and very hurt.  We both had the experience of CSA (ChildhoodSexual Abuse) under our belts and we were both living out of the lies we'd believed from those experiences. Our relationship began on Labor day of 1989 and he'd see me through the entirety of my Senior year.

Chad had grown up in a home of three boys and one girl. His sister was the oldest and had behaved as expected.  Chad was the third and was the boy who hadn't turned out as desired.  His father was career ex-military, the type that looks at anyone who's not hyper-masculine with suspicion. 

Chad didn't fit his father's idea of a son.......at all.  He's was short, thin and nerdy.  He didn't enjoy or participate in sports.  He didn't hunt and he certainly wasn't interested in the military.  The result of that was a constant, nagging reminder to him of what men do.  Both his brothers had met his father's requirement for manhood, the older via a military career, and the younger via a tree-trunk build and a lot of football. Dad wasn't overt in his disdain of his middle son, but it was plain enough and the effect it had on Chad was profound.

So what was Chad like? 

Well, he was an angry and hurt little boy and the way it came out was through selective bullying in very specific ways while avoiding adult responsibility in others.  Take him to a restaurant and you'd be guaranteed a loud complaint about the food resulting in a confrontation with the restaurant staff and ending in a free meal if at all possible. His goal was, I believe, to avoid paying for meals.  So, bullying and avoiding adult responsibility. 

At his job, he was a collector of monies and he enjoyed harassing people in that arena simply because he could. He got joy out of bad mouthing those he'd bullied regarding their fees.

He had no friends to speak of, aside from the illustrious Lee, but time would demonstrate that this friendship was a surface one.  Chad was a loner, he didn't fit in and he was angry at the world as a result.

We began a committed relationship under all the weight of our past stuff and with no real intention directed toward who we wanted to be as people.  We became intimate relatively quickly and were engaged to be married by the end of a year together. 

Looking back at it now, I realize that I didn't really THINK about any of it.  My day to day life was just a reaction to whatever was going on at the time. I had no plan and no thought as to how we'd make a marriage work. In reality, I didn't see marriage as a permanent thing anyway.  Divorce seemed like a very good option if you didn't like how things were working out.  I'd never seen an example of a couple working through their differences and saw no reason why they should even try.

Chad and I rolled through my Senior year of high school together, he a 20 year old man in a relationship with a minor and me just trying to get through that last year. All the things that, in a typical story are wonderful milestones, felt like let-downs to me if I'm honest. I'd been an excellent student up to that point, but Senior year I took every opportunity to slack.  Somehow, I still made it out of that year in the top 10% of my class.

I felt like such a victim at that time.  I still remember Prom and all the preparations leading up to it. I'd pour over magazines dreaming about the dress I'd wear, but I had no money to actually obtain the one I really wanted.  And I felt like a victim because of it. I wanted a fancy dinner and a limo, but I had no money and Chad wasn't offering. And I felt like a victim because of it.  I wanted a nice car and a nice apartment and nice clothes.  I didn't get those, and I felt like a victim because of it. The night itself was a major let down as no one there talked with Chad and I. I'd solidified my status as an outsider and it showed clearly at prom.  And I felt like a victim because of it.

I'd moved into an apartment at the age of 17 with a girl I worked with. My dad hadn't cared, it was likely a relief to him.  He didn't help me with it financially, or help me determine if it was a good idea. I asked, he immediately said yes and that was that.  The girl I moved in with was much like me with predictable decision making.  We lived together for a few months before she announced her pregnancy and that she'd be moving out and I'd need to find another place.

I decided to go back to my dad's place since I didn't have the money for a place of my own. I was disappointed because we lived 40 miles from town and it meant going back to a lot of driving, but otherwise I didn't care much.  The roommate  become less pleasant to be around and it was an easy answer.  When moving day came, I packed my very few belongings and left, but what I hadn't noticed was that she'd helped herself to the one thing I had of value, my Grammy's heirloom jewelry.  It wasn't actually particularly valuable, but it meant something to me and I'd showed it off to her.  So she took it, and I felt like a victim because of it.

I finished my Senior year living at my dad's house out in the boonies, but with very little contact with him.  He was in a relationship with a new woman and that was his priority. This was familiar space and I didn't really see it as an overt problem.  In fact, it seemed convenient given my relationship with Chad and the desire I had for independence. It never occurred to me that it would have been appropriate for him to prioritize time with me. He never had before, why should he start now?

I would be turning 18 in July of that year and that would mark the time when Chad and I would finally get our own place together. There'd be no more long drives and inability to talk on the phone (calls to town were 'long distance' and expensive, so they were infrequent) Oh, and did I mention that I'd have electricity!!??  Yeah, that was inviting all right.  Things were surely looking up in my mind.

Posted Jan 26, 2016

My mom came to Tucson for my graduation and we had a bit of a reunion, which seems like a positive thing.  It was relatively uneventful, with only one altercation between my parents.  

By that time,  Mom was pretty far gone emotionally. I think that my moving away served as a catalyst that sent her permanently into the pit of victim-hood. When she left I believe she completed the turn within herself and from then on, she burrowed deeper and deeper into her own tormented soul.

I only vaguely recall the days that Mom was here with me.  I believe she may have stayed with her good friend Yvonne, who lived in Phoenix, and only lingered in Tucson a day or two. I do have a few photos from the day I graduated.  Mom joined me at my house along with Dad's girlfriend Judy, who graciously snapped a few photos for us.  

(Judy was the kindest woman I can remember that my dad ever dated.  I remember how much I wished he would stay with her.  She was a nurturing woman, always thoughtful and giving.  I'm sure she had issues like anyone, but of all the women who came through Dad's life, she is the one who stands out as potentially a good choice of partner for him.

As I consider my memory of her now, I feel the emotion rise up in my throat.  Had Judy remained, how would our lives have been different? I still see the hurt on her face as she spoke of the difficulties she and Dad had toward the end of their relationship. Perhaps she saw me as someone she'd like to have loved too.  I was willing and up to that point, we'd had a good relationship.  Perhaps that was part of why my father couldn't allow it to continue, he never was any good at sharing his women with anyone else.)

Thankfully, Judy was camera happy.  The only photos I have of the years from 14 to 19 were those which she took in my 18th year and shared with me. Here are a few from that day.

  (I evidently wasn't great a looking at the camera! You can see the little travel trailer that was my bedroom when I was a teenager just behind us)

 (I like that these also picture the home where I spent most of my high-school years. Dad was wonderful with plants and it showed in the beauty of what grew around our humble home.)

I recall feeling a sense of relief as I marched behind a classmate out to the field where we were to be seated.  Not one given to crying, I surprised myself by being unable to hold them back on that occasion.  I had earned scholarships to several top schools, but had decided against college in favor of pursuing my relationship with Chad (as if I couldn't have done both?). So this ceremony came with a sense of finality.  I was DONE with school!

I didn't see Mom until the ceremony itself was over and then, only for the briefest of moments.  As I remember it, she reached over the well-wishers crowded around me to hand me a card and then disappeared into the darkness.  That was it.  No hug. No 'I'm proud of you'. No good-bye. No, 'I'll see you later'.  Just gone.

It was an odd sensation and probably the thing I remember most clearly.  I still recall staring hopefully into the bleachers, thinking she'd surely just gone to the bathroom. But she never returned. I still don't quite know what happened, I never asked her and she never volunteered the information.  But that was the last I'd see her for several years. I can only assume that her friend picked her up and they returned to Phoenix.   

Once again, as I consider that moment, I feel the pang of regret and perhaps a bit of the hurt of rejection.  Does a mother really do that?  Mine did.  

I do think I understand now.  Her hurt and rejection were so intense that she didn't give a thought to what she might project onto her children.  She only knew to run from the pain.  At that event were my Father, whom she considered the love of her life, with yet another replacement for her.  She must have been reeling inside from the pain of it, desperate to shut off the flood of emotions.

My journey through High School was now complete.  The darkness of that night well illustrates what I was walking into as I moved away from the brightness of Flowing Wells High Schools football stadium.  School at least had purpose in educating.  What I was walking toward held very little of purpose.

Posted Jan 28, 2016

I'd like to start by saying that Chad, for all the difficulties we had, was as much a victim of my foolishness as I was of his.  We were young, selfish and lacked perspective and the result was that we bumbled rather badly.  Well, I'll tell the story and you can judge for yourself.

After graduating from high school, my next task was to get moved in with Chad to the apartment he'd chosen for us.  Looking back, I realize that is what happened. Chad chose it without consulting me on any level. The expectation was that we'd share the expenses equally, but evidently it didn't occur to him that I might have some input as to where we'd live. 

I vaguely recall the feeling of having been ignored, but I quickly overlooked it, as this was my ticket out of Egypt, the land of no electricity, running water or cable!  And so, the move went rather quickly.  We moved to the part of town that Chad was familiar with, near where he'd grown up and began our 'adult' life together.

Our first order of business was to get the video game player up and running and commence playing Zelda at every available opportunity. Such a stimulating activity, don't you think? Aside from that we watched movies and worked and I honestly can't recall that we did much else. 

Chad had a brother and sister-in-law who lived nearby and with relative ease, Christine and I connected.  I used to spend endless hours at her kitchen bar chugging Coke, smoking and venting the frustration of Chad's and my relationship.  Christine was a kind and listening ear, but didn't offer many solutions, due to the reality that the same issues were evident in her own marriage.  But she did have some version of faith and that seemed enough to keep her committed to her marriage.

When it became painfully apparent that Chad and I were bored with one another, Chad introduced what he hoped would bring some renewal into our union.  One night after work, he proudly dumped onto the kitchen table a video tape copy of bootleg pornography he'd acquired at the Swap Meet. "Let's watch this tonight before bed he suggested!!"

How the heck did I respond to that anyway?  I honestly can't recall, except to say that watch we did and it had significant influence on our relationship.  At any point, I might have said, "I'd rather not." But in reality, that wasn't the truth.  I was a willing participant, whether I'd come up with the idea or not, I certainly didn't reject it. I became captive to a twisted need.

Pornography quickly became one of the primary entertainments of choice, informing our physical intimacy and poisoning our marriage and, I believe, our souls.

Somewhere along in there, Chad must have proposed and we planned a wedding, though my memory of that process is clouded.  I've often thought how odd it is that I never had any pictures of the event that I can recall.  There must have been some, but I don't recall who did them or what they were like.

What I most recall about that day is that just before I went through the double doors on my father's arm, I looked up at him and he said these words, "You don't have to do this you know." In that moment, I knew that I didn't want to.  But I felt it was too late. I felt completely trapped. I couldn't let the guests down now. 

We walked through that door and up that aisle and I said 'I do' to a this man when in fact, I really 'DIDN'T'.

As I write, I find myself wringing my hands a bit and grasping for words that will express the emotion behind them. I don't feel adequate to the that task.  In hind sight, I can tell you that the young woman who promised herself to Chad was a shell of the woman that God created her to be.  She was completely self-centered and yet somehow, also completely without any self-awareness.

The wedding itself had been hastily planned, poorly attended with little attention to detail.  My own mother was completely un-involved.  Chad's mother and sister-in-law must have done all the planning and if memory serves, just about the only people in attendance were Chad's family, my father and best friend from Texas and Lee. Looking back, I've wondered whether Chad's parents saw the handwriting on the wall and so they weren't interested in investing much in a marriage that they expected to fail.  That's all speculation, but I can tell you that not much effort or money were put into the affair and that in itself may have been a bit of foreshadowing.

Our honeymoon was not.  We drove back to the apartment together.  There was nothing new and exciting about our marriage , save a snazzy red negligee.  We'd already done the things that were meant to be set aside for marriage. The day to day grind began again as soon as the holiday's ended and we were right back to video games and pornography and scrapping about who left the cap off the toothpaste.

Not even two full months passed before it was over.  We didn't agree on how to run the finances, our home or even what kinds of activities would be enjoyable. The lack of physical attraction that had existed from the very first date was trumping any relational intimacy which had grown over the course of our affair. Chad became increasingly interested in what he called adventurous sex and I felt increasingly violated.  Until one day, the violation was that last one.

On that final day, I'd been visiting Christine and had gone home later than usual.  Her husband was deployed to the crisis that was Desert Storm, so she was happy to have my company.  We'd been discussing the difficulties Chad and I had been having but finally, she urged me to go home to my husband. As I recall, it was past 10:00 when I arrived home.

Chad was in bed and it was dark, by which circumstance I was relieved.  It meant I could avoid interaction with the man I'd increasingly come to see as my nemesis. But when I got into the bed, Chad made it clear that hewasn't asleep.  I tried to feign sleep but in the end, Chad wouldn't allow it.  He pushed until I felt I'd been raped. 

Had I said 'NO'?  Had I made clear how I felt?  Had I done anything that would let him know that I had gotten to that point?  No, I really hadn't.  I had just laid there passively, disengaged, simply waiting for it to be over.  When Chad finished and fell asleep, I got up and began packing my things.

At some point Chad woke up and asked me what I was doing. 

I told him I was leaving. 

He was stunned.

I refused to talk to him about any of it. In my mind, I'd already tried and had gotten nowhere. I gathered an overnight bag and went back to Christine's house. My face was swollen from crying as she opened her door and I fell inside, begging for a place to sleep.

I wouldn't see Chad's face again for 3 years.

Posted Feb 1, 2016

When I left Chad that night, I didn't have a plan.  All I knew for certain was that I didn't plan to go back.

The next day, when I knew he'd be at work, I went back to the apartment and cleaned out everything that was mine as quickly as I could.  I packed it all into my little Datsun 610, which gives you an idea of how little I owned and drove out to Dad's place to lick my wounds.

After this, things are a bit of a blur for a few weeks.  The few details I recall were that I somehow communicated to Chad that I was not going to come back, that someone communicated to me Chad's crazed gun waving rage and that I might be in danger.  I have the idea in my head that Dad communicated to Chad that if he didn't leave me alone, he'd be confronted with my 6'4" father. 

And then there wasn't anything else.  It seems like I felt a few days of drama over the issue with the gun.  I'm sure I told people that I thought Chad might kill me, or perhaps himself.  That would have been like the victim version of me that dominated at that point in my life.

By that time, I'd gotten a job at a local call center and was regularly conducting surveys with unsuspecting people about their financial information.  I was dressing professionally and I felt I was going to do well. I saw myself as a career woman. 

I laugh at that now.  It was an entry level, minimum wage position and it offered no place to go, unless I wanted to be the supervisor at the end of the row of cubicles. If I leaned my chair back, I could see the woman at the end, too much make-up. scraggly dyed-black hair and pinched mouth from years of smoking.  She proudly sported a nasty disposition to match her appearance and to be honest, the package did not appeal.

First, I needed to figure out my living situation.  I was right back to the farm in Egypt with no running water and I didn't want to stay.  My only company were a few chickens and ducks since Dad spent most of his time in town with his current girlfriend. 

I set about running through my contacts to see who might have a place I could live. It was a short list and the options were rather pathetic.  I settled on the best one, the ONLY one.  A room was available at the home of my high-school best friend Ingrid.  Ingrid had become pregnant her Junior year of high school and married the father of her child.  Her room had remained empty, perhaps her parents would allow me to rent it.

I'd stayed the night with Ingrid a few times and I knew her family to be eccentric, but there was electricity at least.......and people. Electricity??.....eccentricity???......I went with electric.

Ingrid's family home was situated at least as far out in the boonies as Dad's and quite possibly there was just as much dirt road to traverse to get there.  But, like I said, the lure of electricity was enough to tempt me and so I moved in within about 3 weeks of having left Chad.

This is where my memory gets a little fuzzy and I can't quite recall the order of events accurately so I hope the reader will bear with me as I may jump around a bit telling about the next 8 months.

If my family was dysfunctional, this family was...........well, what would be worse than that?  Really dysfunctional I guess!!!  I'll start by setting the stage, perhaps that will help you to get a picture.

The Hansen home sat on 5 acres of desert, but since it was near a riparian area, it had some beautiful large Cottonwood trees and boasted a more welcoming feel than much of the surrounding areas.  The house, a double wide mobile home of around 1800 square feet, sat in the center of the property. On two sides of the house, but set apart from it by a distance of perhaps 75 feet, were rows of dog kennels, the house itself being fenced in with standard box wire fencing.

One needed to enter at a gate into a small front garden, hand tended by the lady of the house. Up onto the porch you'd go to access the front door.  That is where the beauty stopped.

(Sitting in the home made garden swing with an unnamed dog!)

On entering, you found yourself in a long, dark front room.  There was a bed on the left, though you couldn't see if from the door, for the room was completely full of  mismatched cabinets, tables and even an old piano.  The room was always kept dim (did it even have any lights at all?) with only a narrow path through the furniture to the family living area. This was the dividing line of the house, where the two halves of the double-wide came together.

Behind the bed was a small room that served as a sewing/craft room for Mrs. Hansen.  At the opposite end was another bedroom, which I believe belonged to an older brother who I don't recall ever having met. This front portion of the room was nearly never used, with the family congregating in the back half of the house.

Once you walked through the archway into the back half, you the kitchen and dining area were to the right, with a small bedroom behind that (this was the room I rented). Right in front of you was the family area, with a small bar area on the left end of that room.  This actually had a door too it and was perhaps 7 by 3.  It had an open counter between it and the living area.  Behind that was the Master Bedroom and through this the room was the home's only functional shower and toilet. Directly behind the living area was the other bathroom which had an occasionally functional toilet and a mirror, but no running water otherwise.   A small hallway led to this bathroom and behind it was a washer followed by an added on room belonging to the youngest son.  Across from that was another small added on room belonging to the youngest daughter.

(This is me in my room with Sapphire Blue, the kitten I bought from the Hansen's, and one of the Dachshund puppies that lived in the house.)

The result a family of 4 living in about 900 hundred square feet, though they had much more space available to them in the front of the house. There is of course, nothing wrong with living in smaller spaces, it's becoming quite the fad these days to live tiny, but this seemed odd to me due to the fact that nearly half of their space was taken up as storage for unused belongings.

Well.....and then there is the issue of all the dogs.

There were a number of things which made living in this environment challenging, but the dogs might have been the one of the most challenging for me personally.  The family raised and sold dogs, quite a few breeds of them.  You might refer to this as a puppy mill. They bred Dachshunds, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Doberman Pinschers,  and quite a few other larger breeds. Then, they also began breeding Himalayan Cats.  All in all, there were over 80 dogs on the premises along with a variety of other animals of the farm variety.

This would have been no problem, save for the fact that Mrs. Hansen was rather insistent in requiring all the small dogs to sleep inside the house and NOT in kennels.  These furry little scourges had the run of the house all night long.  I never counted how many dogs roamed the house at night, but I can tell you that walking through the house in the middle of the night or the next morning was an exercise in dodging land mines. They were allowed to jump freely onto the bed in the Master Bedroom where they released quite a few smelly packages for Mrs. Hansen's children to clean up each day.  Yes, I said IN THE BED. The couches, chairs and carpets also provided a handy toiletting spot for these wretched creatures. I did all I could to keep my own bedroom door firmly closed, but my efforts didn't always pay off.

And then, there were the people.

Posted February 3, 2016

Most people are well intended and I know that was true of the Hansen family. They were a product of who knows what kinds of upbringing and circumstances. 

I once heard Dr. Ed Smith, of Transformation Prayer Ministry, say that people always do the things they do for a very good reason. What he meant by that was that people do what they do because of a belief that they hold.  It's not a commentary on whether or not their belief is true.  Instead, it demonstrates how strongly they hold it. 

Why am I saying all of this?  Let me step back a bit.  A few years back, when I began writing this story, I was writing from the perspective I held at that time. Unfortunately, there was still a large degree of 'victim' thinking in my mindset at that time. When I wrote about people, I tended to lay blame to some degree.  Today, I'm in a different place and I would really rather not point fingers at people to saddle them with all the responsibility for my experiences.  

While it's true that we profoundly affect one another, each of us must own our personal response. In telling you about this family and the influence they had on me, I want to be clear that I chose to stay in that situation of my own free will.  It was not my only option and even if it had been, I still could have responded differently in the specific instances where I fell into poor choices.

Back to the story.........As I said, this household was rather dirty and I suppose that reflects on those who lived there.  Interestingly, I can recall that it was part of my responsibility when living there to do some cleaning, yet cleanliness seemed the last priority to the Mistress of the home. 

It's difficult to adequately put into words what it was like to live in this environment so I guess the only thing to do is share a few of the specific dynamics that caused me unease.  

Mr. Hansen was a very large man, and by large I mean 450lbs and about 6 feet tall.  He tended to wear denim overalls and nothing else.  No shirt, no shoes and, no underwear (sadly, this last bit was obvious to anyone in the vicinity).  He was, as you might expect, completely sedentary as well.  His primary activity was to yell directions at whomever was in earshot.  These usually included demands for a drink, cigarettes or food.  These demands might be followed up with an order to retrieve some trinket or other his Lordship required.

He always reminded me of that horrible smoking caterpillar from 'Alice In Wonderland'. Bulging and huffing and not very nice.  He was witty, if you want to call it that, though I often find the acerbic wit people of his sort use to be more aptly described as cutting humor. Perhaps that was only a reflection of my own insecurities at the time, but I doubt it.

The thing about Mr. Hansen which most notably discomfited me was the fact of his common residence in his bedroom in a state of undress.  Perhaps it seems that this should be a good place to be in such a state, but given that the only usable toilet was through his bedroom, his situation in that room proved awkward. 

If I needed to use the bathroom, and walked through while he was there, I always had this feeling like I was doing something dirty. Clearly, I wasn't, but something about his manner seemed lewd.  Perhaps it was his perpetual lack of undergarments?  Or maybe the sexual innuendo that regularly comprised his comments?  

Mrs. Hansen didn't help matters, for she frequently presented herself in a very sensual manner towards her husband.  I can't say that I ever saw anything obviously inappropriate, but her eyes always held a look of seduction.  Even now, I feel I'm grasping at straws.  All I can think to say is that I often felt as though I shouldn't be in the room with them, as though she might leap naked into his lap at any moment and ravage him.  

Just typing this out causes me to pause in thought as to what might be the difference between a loving glance between a husband and his wife and something more raw and sensual which is meant to be shared only privately.

Parents and teenagers are another thing altogether and this household had two parents and two teenagers.  Now, this doesn't necessitate that there be weirdness.  But in this case, the two children remaining at home, Carter and Connie, had a hunted look about them. They consistently drug themselves about the house, shoulders drooping, back hunched, never looking up.  They were unkempt, scraggly little things and onlookers might suspect, malnourished. Surely the hunted, vacant look in their eyes could be related to Mr. Hansen's ever ready 'swatting apparatus'.  That pretty much meant that whatever he held in his hand might be used to swat a passing child as he or she happened by.

While my own upbringing included some horrendous experiences, this particular type was not something I understood, at least not as coming from parents.  My own parents had never had a flippant attitude towards us in quite the same way.  If we were swatted, it was usually a result of some specific infraction and we knew for certain it was coming.(at least that was true most of the time).  In the Hansen's home, the children never knew if one of their parents might fly into a rage and so I began to think that I was also in danger of a stray swat or two. 

Pondering this, I'm reminded of the same feeling which did exist in my home, but coming from my siblings.  I was the youngest by 6 years, quite susceptible to whatever my older siblings might wish to perpetrate upon me.  The one thing that sticks in my mind as reminiscent of my above description of the Hansen household was the way my brother and sister would twist up the damp dish towels and play the game of who could 'SNAP' whom most squarely.  As a smaller child, I was never going to come out on top and so, sustained quite a few angry welts at the end of a well-snapped towel.

I guess the bottom line for me was that I didn't feel safe.  Sharing an opinion was a sure way to be on the butt end of Mr. Hansen's caustic tongue.  Relaxing was a sure way to be given a job to do in the never ending list of duties on the property. Walking through a room might elicit some sort of inappropriate comment from either Mr. or Mrs. Hansen.  

Yes!  That is it!  I often felt that I might be physically attacked in that home.  Not that it ever happened, but it seemed the threat of assault always hovered.

I'll share a little something that I hope will come as an invitation into my heart.  It feels vulnerable to share this particular piece of the story.  I'm actually surprised by the emotions coming to the surface as I recall that time in my life.

I'm finding that taking the time to write this story is therapeutic, which isn't really a surprise, but I guess I wasn't anticipating all the things I'd shoved under the veneer until I started writing it all down. Hmmm, more to ponder and more opportunity for healing and wholeness! I am thankful.

Posted  Feb 5, 2015

People tell stories for all sorts of reasons, but most commonly, when one tells a story from one's own life, it is designed to present either some funny anecdote, or perhaps more often, the subject in a positive light.  We like to tell of our trials and triumphs in which we appear as the hero.

What I'm about to embark upon in this next chapter of my story may have precisely the opposite effect. I've struggled with how to share this bit and at the same time avoid judgement.  It can be a fearful thing to lay bare past indiscretions.  On the other hand, it can bring freedom in that there is no longer anything to hide. 

The events of the next 8 months or so of my life are rather jumbled in my mind, so that I can't accurately recall the order of them and that may serve to invite confusion over the course of the retelling. I apologize in advance. To add to that, I missed something important, choices that formed dark places in my soul, from the period when I was with Chad.  I'll start there.

During my relationship with Chad, before our marriage if memory serves, I continued to stoke a flame for another man.  He was a man I'd been attracted to for a long time but who had, up to that point, seemed out of reach. He had a way of listening to me when we talked that spoke to my heart and gave it value.  Or at least, that is how it seemed to me at the time. His name was Mike and he was beautiful to me.

At the same time, my feelings toward Chad were not especially filled with affection.  How can I explain staying with a man I didn't even like very much?  My understanding of the reasons are this, Chad and I had things in common that were unhealthy, primarily, the desperate need to be accepted and loved, at any cost. I think that is why I stayed. Chad was a sure thing. Because of his own desperation, I was certain that he would not leave me and so I stayed.

But the flame that I stoked for Mike continued to grow as I pursued him (this is important, if I hadn't pursued him, that flame could have died a natural death).  Perhaps I was hoping to discover that he'd choose me over the things that kept us apart and then I could more easily let Chad go. Isn't this the desire of adulterous women everywhere? At any rate, there was finally a point where our relationship did become physical.  In the dark.  Hidden. Wrong.

And that is always the nature of cheating.

There wasn't any romance, there were only secrets and fear of being discovered and, at least for me, a decided feeling of cheapness. Back seats of cars in dark, deserted parking lots never will bring about an awareness of actual love.  They are all about lust and the hope of gratification. They are cheap.  And yet the irony is they costeverything!  Dignity and integrity are fully lost.  What I bought with my actions was shame. Shame that I would carry for many, many years following.  I bought a question stuck on repeat, 'Are you really a trustworthy woman at all?'.

In all of that, I did KNOW that what I was doing was wrong, wrong, wrong.  But the power of justifying ones choices is extraordinary.  Justification held me in a tight grip, it had me doing it's bidding, willingly destroying myself and Mike and another friend as well. I was entering into what is known in the psychological world as'escalation of commitment'.

As things progressed with Mike and I, I shared our relationship with a friend.  And then, at some point, invited her to join the party. 

Shame grew.

I was responsible for every choice that led me to participate in this deviant affair. At the same time, I believe it is important to recognize that the Enemy of my heart, Satan, was also participating.  I cannot blame Satan and thereby exonerate myself from responsibility, but I do think it's important to understand that Satan has a very real, substantial goal in enticing people to sin.  His goal is to crush them under the weight of SHAME.

The more shame we carry, the more we will hide who we are.  The more we hide who were are from others, the more we hide who we are from ourselves as well. Finally, we don't even know ourselves who we are.

One of the results of hiding our real selves is that we end up inventing a 'cover' self. That is the person we present to the world and we secretly hope that the world will not get too curious and start to poke around to learn more about us.

To keep that from happening, we have a few resources up our sleeves.  Some of us retreat.  We shrink back into the shadows, never letting anyone see us at all. We say very little, stay mostly to ourselves and keep building up an image of who we are inside our minds.

Some of us become VIP's.  We're the ones who get things done.  We keep you from probing by being very necessary to the fabric of life.  We are the doers and you'll never have the chance to know what we may be hiding because we are always so busy being productive that there's never time to ask the first question.

Still others respond quite the opposite, and this was me. We set the stage and begin an acting career.  We become the people who are always presenting something interesting and exciting. We may even borrow pieces of our story from our past, but you can be certain that we've dressed them up to look just so.  We're painting you a picture of our heroics and perhaps, making you laugh uproariously in the process. You'll never even consider getting past our facade because we've been sure to tell you just how transparent we are.

Or maybe we combine all of those options.  In the end, we remain hidden and that just means lonely.......and did I mention ashamed?

Posted 2-9-16

Shame is a tyrannical companion.  It secretly dictates every thought, every word and every deed. It is a bully. And often, as is the case with bullies, it's tactics are so difficult to define and nail down that it gets away with it's destructive antics for a very long time before it finally gets kicked to the curb.

Shame defined many years of my life.  She was a tyrannical companion I hauled around, strapped securely on my back without my even recognizing it's existence.  She morphed into a voice which I wrongly recognized as my own.  She whispered to me 'they don't like you, you aren't accepted, he only sees your body, you'll never be good enough for them' and other angry and hurtful phrases.  Shame murmured in my ear about rejection, disapproval, and mental illness. I wore her like a shield, unwittingly using her to protect me from reasonable expectations.

My stomach lurches uncomfortably as I consider the way Shame twisted my thinking.  What a waste all those years were, when I believed that the babblings of shame defined who I was! I didn't notice she was an outside voice at all, it had become ME.

Reflecting over the past, I can see that I scarcely gave even the briefest thought to my actions in 1991.  Such a foreign concept to me now, as today I analyze everything for motive and purpose. But then, I simply existed, with the hope that I'd somehow stumble onto the ONE who would finally cherish me.  And yet......I had no real understanding of what love even looked like.  Experience had been an effective teacher, love was sex, physical approval.  That is what I sought. And that was distorted thinking.

Almost from the moment I moved out of the apartment Chad and I shared, I began hunting. I was literally grasping atanyone and everything that might fill the emptiness I held inside. One man I pursued a relationship with was a Deputy who was easily 10 years older than I and could most aptly be described as a womanizer. But I was too naive to realize his predilections.  I suppose he was in the same predicament as I, he too was searching for something that was proving elusive. 

Another man was really just a boy, perhaps 17, who thought he loved me immediately after we met.  Interestingly, he was perhaps the most decent guy I encountered during that whirlwind of promiscuity.  But he liked me too much and it scared me, perhaps reminding me of Chad.  So I used him and went hunting again. The list goes on, but a couple stand out as especially harmful to my soul because I think each of them solidified in me an element of shameful identity.

The first was an encounter with a woman friend of mine. She and I had been friends for a while and she was in the middle of a separation from her husband.  I'll call her Lucy. Lucy and I shared in  the misery that comes when dreams crash down, this commonality brought us into a sort of sisterhood. We fell into the questionable habit of visiting one another and comparing notes late into the night. (I say questionable because, basically, we were just gossiping.  No good ever comes of that.)

There's something profoundly shadowed about night and the way it sometimes seems to breed an even deeper darkness. Things you'd never consider in the light of day can be given birth in the dead of night. Perhaps that's why wehave such phrases as 'dead of night' or 'witching hour'.

I can still see the way the room looked the first time we entertained the idea of having an affair with one another. We sat on Lucy's bed, chatting about intimacy, about what it was like to be a lover.  A single bare bulb fixture lit the room, glaring a harsh, shadowed light onto the rumpled sheets.  The naked lamp was a stark reminder of the painful reality of our lives.  'What do you think of trying something together?' I asked.  Her face registered shock and surprise, but quickly recovered and turned into something sly, trying to laugh off the scandal of what I'd just suggested. Her manner held an air of superiority, as if she wanted me to know that she was greatly more expert at such considerations than I.  'Hmmm, maybe sometime.' she replied, and left it at that.

But a switch had been flipped in my mind. I began to obsess over this new possibility. For the next week or two I examined it in my mind.  The idea of sexual intimacy with a woman seemed like it held a kind of safety.  The fact that this woman and I already had a close friendship only served to deepen that particular appeal.  Lucy and I shared many of our deepest thoughts and had done so for at least a couple of years.  She knew me and I knew her and that was attractive all by itself. It seemed as though she really cared for me.

I pursued her.  It was a recent revelation for me that I used to have a tendency to seduce.  It's not something I like the sound of, but there it is, true. Seduction is self-serving.  Its aim is getting it's own needs met. Seduction doesn't think for a moment about the consequence to the other party.  In my case, I had a felt need and I reasoned that Lucy would be the safest way to pursue getting it filled. I never thought at all how it might affect her.

One night, during the hours when we should have been sleeping, Lucy and I gave ourselves to one another in sexual intimacy.  This moment is one of the heaviest moments of shame I've carried.  We each concluded that girls weren't for us and didn't need to experiment further to be certain. We knew. Yet the shame contorted my soul.  I had the sense that no one must ever know about this and I carried that burden alone for 20 years before I shared it with another soul.

The other incident that is seared into my memory was one night with a seemingly anonymous man named Brock.  I met Brock at a party on Davis Monthan Air Force Base back when you could still drive on base relatively freely.  I'd been invited by someone I didn't know and when I got there, I still knew no one.  The only thing to drink was beer from a keg, which is typical at such parties.  I never have been a beer drinker, but I wanted to be part of things, so I grabbed my Red Solo Cup and began 'fitting in'.

I don't remember much about that party. What I do recall was that the house where it was being held was owned/rented by Brock.  I stayed until the end.  Brock was handsome....... if indifferent. The conversation I had with Brock is completely unmemorable. I think he was the sort of guy that had VERY LITTLE to say.  What I recall was asking if I could stay the night, to which he responded agreeably.  I recall sex. 

Not love.

Nothing like love.

What I recall was something that felt dead........empty. 

And it all happened very late into the dark night.

I didn't sleep at all and in the morning, I simply left, with a bottle of orange juice in hand. It was Brock's only offering to me.  I called him a time or two, but I never heard anything from him.

Why did that stick in my memory? I think because I felt so cold and dead before, during and after.  It had felt mechanical.  In every other case where I was with someone, there was at least some level of relationship.  With this man, there had been nothing at all. Just sex.

I hear about people having one night stands all the time.  In the world, there is an attitude that this is fun and exciting.  People imply that it is an adventure of sorts and that they enjoy having no emotional ties.  And yes, I do mean women, as well as men.  I can't relate to that being a good thing.  This instance may be one of the largest regrets I have because I gave something of myself to someone who literally couldn't care less. And I chose to do that. I could see right up front that Brock was indifferent and I went forward, allowing myself to be used with no tenderness of any kind.  I think that to me, it seemed like how it would be for a prostitute.

I felt like a whore.

There'd been girls back in high school, my Freshman year, who'd walked behind me one day as I was heading to class, who'd said as much, only slightly under their breath. I'd been wearing a short, tight skirt and very high heels.  I looked the part and I knew it.  I didn't want to be labeled that way.........but there I was. That title had stuck.  Slut.

With Brock, I felt I'd confirmed those girls title for me.

Shame, the tyrant, held sway over my heart for decades. Through the choices I had made, I'd given Shame license to teach me who I am.

Posted 2-11-16

Now that you have seen the shame, let me share a little more of how I walked under that mantle. Not so that you will come to believe that there is no end to it, but so that you may see that it often takes a good bit of pig slop before a Prodigal decides to go home.

I shared two incidences that seem in my mind today, to be the two most significant events of my promiscuity but there were others which set the concrete that was forming in my heart.

Back in high school, I'd made a brief attempt at pursuing a modeling career. On a random visit to Gates Pass, my dad and I had met a photographer who wanted to photograph me.  My claim to fame, he'd told me, would be my 'incredible eyelashes'. (He was quite adept at flattery.) He took me on a couple of shoots where I put on a bikini and posed among some construction equipment, complete with sprayed on oil.  He then offered to take me with him to Mexico for a 'real' shoot.  Thankfully, my father had seen through his scheme and declined the photographer's 'generosity'.  I was livid!  (And sooooo very naive, I marvel at the things I believed then. Eyelashes!!!  Seriously, any girl can have those with a pair of falsies and some glue!)

In my naivety, I imagined that I could have what Vogue and Cosmo advertised if I simply looked the part. Among all the humiliation of my earlier life, I somehow still believed that I was beautiful, even beautiful enough to join the ranks of Cindy Crawford and Claudia Schiffer. (Yeah, it was naive, but young people have hopes that aren't always quite realistic. And besides, who needs to be 6ft tall, the agents just hadn't seen me yet, that was the only real holdup.)

I was operating under a very specific belief.  If I am a model, it will mean that I am 'good enough'.  Or maybe even that I am better.  So I pursued that goal.

I shopped for just the right ensemble in which to present myself at the local modeling agency. (Did you know those are really just schools expecting payment from would be models? Erhmmm.........I didn't.) I found a short, tight skirt, a cute jacket and a strapless top with the highest heels I could manage. To that, I added reasonably well applied makeup and a rather pathetic effort at 90's hair. I was so sure they were going to feel lucky to have me.

With all the confidence I could muster, I strode in and presented myself for the next available modeling gig. The man at the reception desk, in his fashionable suit and well practiced lisp looked down his perfectly straight nose and haughtily handed me a clip board. "Fill this out over there and bring it back when you're done," he scolded, shooing me irritably in the direction of a very posh row of chairs.

'Well, this isn't what I was expecting', I thought to myself. But not to worry, once the photographer saw me, it'd all be good. I set about answering the questions and filling in my info. When I got to the bit about how I'd pay, I began to worry. Looking more carefully, the realization hit me that this was actually a school to prepare people for a career in modeling.

After finishing the paperwork and finally being ushered into a room to actually talk to someone, the stark truth hit me upside the head.  I was too fat, too short, probably needed a boob job, needed to tone and I'd require a ton of training to learn how to walk right, hold myself right, blah, blah, blah.  I weighed about 132 lbs at that time in my life, I was 5'7.  When I looked in the mirror, I thought I looked pretty good, but the truth was, I didn't look like a model.

Not to be deterred, I went back the next week for a 'trial session'.  I really had no idea that modeling was actually hard work and required technique.  In the end, I could pay up for lessons, quite a few of them for a quite a few dollars, or 'there' was the door.  I walked through it.

I was crushed.  My hopes for 'making it' were in the toilet and I realized I was going to have to figure out how to live.  Reflection is an interesting thing.  I've spent years telling people I modeled as a young woman.  I suppose on some very small level it is true, but really, it is just how I wanted to be viewed.  I wanted to be seen as a woman who held sway over the world through remarkable beauty. Somehow, I thought that would put me in a better light than the reality. 

The reality was that I was an ordinary pretty girl. Lots of girls are pretty because God makes girls pretty, it's part of the plan.  But beauty doesn't define or elevate any one of us above the others.  It's a gift like any other, from the Maker, for His glory and our good.

With my ego deflated, I went back out and tried again to attract a man who'd make me feel like I was worth something. I found a few who were willing to pretend for a bit. One man was a Sportscaster on the local news station.  That gem invited me back to his apartment and tried to force me to have sex with him.  I escaped, thankfully, but it terrified me.

I reconnected with a guy I'd known in high school who was recently out of jail for selling drugs.  I'd liked him in school and thought perhaps we could rekindle something.  We couldn't, but it required sex to determine that.

I dated a few guys from work.  One was a great guy who had a girlfriend back home.  The reality was, I didn't date him because he wouldn't date me.  He was faithful to his girl, a genuine good guy, but I told myself we were dating.  And I hoped I could lure him away from her.

The other fellow was a confessed, practicing alcoholic, but I didn't mind. He was someone to be with when I was lonely. Meaningless, empty sex.

One man I dated as a challenge. A friend told me that she could get him into bed before I could.  He was 32 years old, married, and the father of a two year old.  I took up the challenge, and won.  What a lousy prize!  He was the biggest pig of all, a mechanic with a garage full of pornography and no shame in the way he spoke to me or about me to others.  He humiliated me often by 'bragging' on our sexual adventures as I stood there.  It wasn't any challenge at all to get him to bed, but I fell for it all the same. He was a philandering pig and I his accomplice.  Once again, I was willingly participating.  In the end, his wife found out and he divorced.  More shame. I was to blame, at least partly, for the break-up of a family.

I slept with another mechanic when I needed my car fixed. I was living cheaply, smoking away most of my earnings and barely managing to survive.  But I still wasn't ready to do anything different. I was still grasping at what I thought would fulfill.

My life at that point had been greatly informed by lewd Jackie Collins novels which painted a vivid picture of the need for a young woman to be a confident 'bi%$*' and a distorted 1980's entertainment industry and I was pursuing that dream for all I was worth.

Posted 2-15-2016

Much of 1991 had slipped past and we were well into August when I finally found an opportunity to move into town.  I was overjoyed to say good-bye to the Hansen's and hopeful that town might offer some solutions to the troubles I was having.

One of the men I'd dated had introduced me to Terri, who was on the lookout for a room-mate.  In his defense, he'd hinted that Terri was a bit of a loose cannon, but once again, I was desperate and I didn't much care if there was a place in town to live.

On a Saturday, I moved in, hauling black plastic trash bags filled with clothing and a mattress someone had generously donated to my cause into Terri's place. That was pretty much it.  I had nothing to call my own but those few items and some kitchen goods.  A crock pot, some cheap cookware and a carton of cigarettes.

In the beginning, Terri and I seemed to get along well enough.  She was honest in her assessment of herself.  She told me that she sometimes got a little crazy with anger.  She told me she didn't trust anyone after the things she'd been through.  She didn't particularly want a friend, just someone who'd help pay the rent and keep a reasonably tidy house.

We spent a little time swapping stories, but for the most part, kept to ourselves.  Within a week of moving in, it was already time to pack up again as her lease was up and she'd found an apartment she liked better.  I agreed, so together we moved into a two story older apartment complex on Prince Road.  Our new place was quite spacious, which made it seem that much emptier given our lack of furniture.

I'd brought my cats, Checkers  and Sapphire Blue with me and the four of us seemed to get along pretty well.  I quickly found a new job waiting tables at Coco's restaurant and began to feel like I was making progress.

Terri and I would smoke and talk in the evenings when we weren't working. We had no TV so there wasn't much else to do.  It seemed like it was working out all right.

I'd been dating a guy I had met at the call center off and on.  Cole was very different from me in that he was attending college, part of a business fraternity and seemed to be pursuing his goals with a decent measure of focus.  Still, we'd been friendly and had dated casually for a while.  At this point, the dating had ceased but he'd sometimes invite me to join he and his group of friends to go dancing at the Wildcat House.

Given my emotional state, it's safe to say that each time he extended an invitation, I got my hopes up that he might be interested again.  One night, October 8th, 1991 to be exact, Cole invited me to join the dancing and so I'd gotten a ride with him to the Cat House.  We pulled up and were outside chatting with Cole's buddies when 'HE' pulled up, motorcycle humming.

Cole and company instantly lost attention as the new addition zoomed onto the scene.  Though Cole was super into his hot, yellow motorcycle, I'd failed to notice much about it, or how he looked on it, or to be honest, any other guys on motorcycles.  But this new fellow's bulging biceps and trim figure yanked my full attention.  Hmm, no that's not strong enough, he caught the attention of every fiber of my being.  It was as though every single neuron I had zeroed in on Mr. Teal Motorcycle guy!

Mr. Teal pulled off his helmet and revealed a chiseled jaw, blond hair and sparkling blue eyes.  All 6 feet 2 inches of him stepped confidently off his speed machine and I lost all ability to focus on anything else.  Butterflies were having their way in my stomach, it was a veritable 'Marioposada'!! I'm sure we were introduced properly, but I couldn't tell you anything much about it.  All I can say is that I was very impressed.

I remember following Mr. Teal and the others inside and thinking 'this guy will never talk to me'.  He looked to me like a frat boy and I knew who I was.  I wasn't in his league.  He was definitely too cool for the likes of me.  Everyone seemed to know Mr. Teal and he seemed to get along well with the gangl.  I, on the other hand, felt decidedly on the outside of the crowd.

Inside, where it was darker, I watched him, waiting for an opportunity to make a connection.  He appeared to be single, at least for the moment, though Laura, one of Cole's friends did appear to be interested in him. The night wore on, we danced a little, chatted a little and smoked a lot.  I kept waiting for Mr. Teal to invite me to dance, but to no avail.

Finally, around 10:00 PM, we were out there on the dance floor, initially in a group but after a while, it seemed we were dancing together.  'Now we're getting somewhere' I thought.  I was pulling out all my best moves and so was Mr. Teal and I was thinking we might actually be impressing each other a bit. Suddenly, Cole came on the floor and barked that he needed to leave and I needed to go with him.  He seemed irritated.

I don't recall what I said, but whatever it was, I intended it to hint to Mr. Teal that he could give me a ride home.  Sadly, Mr. Teal didn't take my bait and so I sulked off the dance floor with Cole and we rode home in silence.

I was half-way to love already. Not that I'd actually talked to Mr. Teal enough to know anything about him. But I'd seen him, he was pleasant and that was enough for me.  I wanted to know more. 

Posted 2-17-16

Since I hadn't gotten Mr. Teal's number, I had no idea when I'd see him again.  I had heard some vague reference to the fact that he and Cole had been considering rooming together, but it was uncertain and I didn't spend enough time with Cole to feel comfortable asking.

Life went on.

Over the course of the next weeks my pattern didn't change any.  I went to work, I flirted, I went home.  I woke up the next day and did it again.  Occasionally, I'd find some guy or other to hook up with but it was always brief and always without future.

One day, I stopped in at Cole's house for something and as I was walking in the door, down the stairs came Mr. Teal!!!  With NO SHIRT!!!! 

Let's just say I was impressed again and fumbled about for something impressive to say or do myself.  I came up empty and the opportunity came and went without much to help my plight.  

Halloween also came and went.  I'd dressed up in the same costume as Terri had for work that morning. She'd rented a Court Jester costume and worn it to work and I'd worn it that evening.  Two for the price of one!  It was the first time I'd dressed up for Halloween in 6 or 7 years.  And it was pretty much a dud.  Nothing to write home about.  I was hoping for something remarkable.  I simply got a pink and black face. Really there is no point in my sharing this, but I'm hoping you'll enjoy it as trivia, and a picture!

And then, for no explainable reason, I happened upon a ray of hope.  

Cole had gotten up a party of dancers again on a Tuesday night, this time, November 5th, 1991 and we'd all headed down to the Wildcat House to dance the night away.  And guess who joined in?  Yep, you guessed it, Mr. Teal!!

I'd heard some of the others talking over their need to head home early that evening as they had a test early the next day.  In fact, everyone had a test the next morning.  What great luck!! I made my move! When the party was breaking up, I asked the group casually if anyone wanted to go over to Carrow's, an all night restaurant to hang out a bit more. I was banking on the fact that they'd all say no since they had to study and sleep in preparation for their tests.

What I hadn't banked on was the fact that Mr. Teal too, had a test the next day. 

Once again, my hopes deflated and I went home alone. (can you tell what a yo-yo my emotions were?!)

By some miracle however, at around 1:00 in the morning, my phone rang and who was on the other end but Mr. Teal himself!  'Would you still like to get something at Carrow's tonight?' he shyly offered. Ummmm, YES, yes I would!  My plot had worked, just a bit more slowly than I'd expected!

I drove over to Carrow's and we went in together and sat in a booth.......all night long!

It was the first time I could remember having a connection with a man.  I can't tell you what all we talked of, or what we ate, or what we were wearing.  What I remember is a feeling of euphoria that told my heart I'd come home.

When 5:00 AM rolled around it seemed like we ought to call it a night......er....morning.  Mr. Teal (yes, it's actually Jeremy for those of you who've been dying to know) and I stood, face to face trying to figure out how to end our conversation.  Perhaps one of the silliest things I've ever said has become one of our 'held onto' memories.  'Can I give you a hug so we can call this a date?' I queried.  Jeremy agreed and that became known as our first date.  

It was the beginning of the REAL story of my life.  It was through Jeremy, with all of his own flaws and imperfections, that God was going to bring new life, REAL LIFE into my broken spaces. It was through Jeremy, who hadn't the slightest idea what he was getting when he said 'sure, give me a hug', that God would do what can only be described as a miracle.

Stories get more difficult to tell as you begin to involve the people you live with so I hope you'll bear with me as I begin sharing the next bit. I'll have to leave some things out to respect the people I love with today, but I hope God will allow you to see the work He's done in me and in my family.  

If you've come this far with me, I want to say THANK YOU.  The writing of my story to this point has been a journey I never expected to go on.  There are ways without number that God has used these musings to speak to my damaged heart and expose things I didn't even know were hidden. So thank you for allowing me to get it all out there.  I hope that in some way, this has blessed you as well.

Now, on to the story of Jeremy and Danielle!

Posted on Feb 19, 2016

After Jeremy and I burned the midnight oil on our first date, I raced home to tell Terri with absolute certainty that I'd met the man I was going to marry.  I know, I know, there's no such thing as love at first sight, but I'm willing to say there is such thing as love at first real conversation. 

I had no explanation for this certainty, but I WAS CERTAIN.  This was a kind of certainty in the area of romance I'd NEVER encountered. It was the kind of certainty I'd bet everything I had on. (Granted, everything I had wasn't much, but if you imagine it was........) Now, how to convince Jeremy that this should be the case was my obvious dilemma.

The next evening, I arrived home to a card from Jeremy tucked into the doorjamb. It happily contained an invitation to get together again later that night.  Perhaps we hadn't exchanged numbers?  I don't recall, but I do believe it's safe to say that this may not have been typical behavior for him, given that he was exceedingly shy with girls.

Please keep in mind the sort of woman that I was while I explain this next bit.  Meeting Jeremy was not quite the same as waving a magic wand and making me into a good girl.  I was the same girl I'd always been, with the only difference being that I was now exclusively dedicated to Jeremy. 

Right after informing Terri of my impending engagement, I promptly reported to the various fellows I'd been seeing my permanent lack of availability. I couldn't see them any longer.  And I didn't. 

With that taken care of, I focused on getting to know this man who seemed to me to be nearly a god.  You may be wondering why I would say that, after all, I was no stranger to men.  But Jeremy was unlike anyone I'd ever dated before.  I'll try to explain what was different.

First of all, among the many men I'd dated, none of them had stood out to me as particularly physically attractive.  You may think that is shallow, but I believe God designed us to be visually stimulated by the person we end up with.  I suspect that if that isn't part of the relationship, there will likely be some issues down the road.

Secondly, Jeremy was kinder to me than any male I'd ever known and had a way of listening to me that made me feel I could share the vulnerable places with him.  It seems as though I must have shared my story, at least some portion of it,  with those who'd come before, but if I did, I can't recall ever feeling as though they knew me or cared about me as a result. Jeremy, on the other hand, wanted to know me.

Thirdly, Jeremy was a responsible young man who was on his way to typical 'American' success. He was a student in a promising field that would likely result in his being able to earn a good wage. (Jon and Cole had fit that part of the description too, so Jeremy wasn't the first to have this quality) Other's I'd dated tended to be somewhat lacking in stability.  In hindsight, it's what I'd grown to expect from men as my father might have been the poster-child for fatherly instability.  Jeremy was the exact opposite. Not only was he personally stable, he was also personally able to accomplish anything he set his mind to.  He is the poster child for 'Jack of all trades' as he can do anything and do it well.

Fourth, and this is one of the most important bits, Jeremy came from a family who strongly believed that Jesus Christ is the Living God and they lived in such a way as to proclaim that to those who came under their influence. Jeremy himself wasn't terribly convinced that this needed to be given much heed, but it was part of his family legacy and that legacy would eventually transfer to him personally.

Fifth, Jeremy gave me evidence that he wanted to spend time with me. I didn't feel like an afterthought.  I can even recall times when we'd talk about the future and what we'd do together. That was a new experience. It seemed as though he saw a future for us.

I'd go on to say that Jeremy was not primarily interested in sex, but I suspect Jeremy himself might debate that point.  He was, like most young men his age in the 90's, certainly open to and hopeful for a physical relationship.

Since that was my typical MO, I didn't waste any time with him.  I invited him over that second night and before he knew what had hit him, I was snuggling in his lap.  He didn't exactly refuse my advances and so we began our relationship as I had each of the others before.

The two of us aren't so proud of that.  We've often wondered how things might have been different if we'd waited, but at that point in our lives, we couldn't really understand why that was important anyway.

By the time two weeks had passed in our burgeoning relationship, my assurance hadn't slipped a bit. The fact was, I was beginning to feel impatient, perhaps even a little desperate.  I didn't know Jeremy well enough to understand that he always took his time with decisions and when he hadn't told me he loved me by the two week marker, panic began to set in.

I decided I needed to spill my heart's desire to him. I needed to DO SOMETHING!! But what? 

I settled on writing him a letter.  I can't recall what all I said in that letter and I've never seen it again so I assume it found it's way to the trash.  What I can remember is that it was several pages long and that it very likely sounded desperate (have you ever read your journals from when you were in your teens?! Yikes!!?? I'm pretty sure it was like that!).  I'm sure I poured out my love for him and my desire for our relationship to be serious, monogamous and well..........I was likely angling for a proposal.

The anxiety I felt as I waited to hear back from him was excruciating!!  What did he think?! Does he agree?!  Will he still want to be with me?!  What is he THINKING!!!!!!?????

How long it took in actuality to respond I can't say, but I do know that it seemed like forever. Amusingly, I doubt he picked up on the gravity of my feelings or my desperation.  Whether that is because he's super logical and, at that time, not terribly emotional or because he's male and I'm female and that means foreign, I am uncertain. At any rate, somehow, as a result of that letter prompting things to move along, we became serious about one another. 

I loved him and he loved me and all would be right in the world as a result.

Posted 2/23/2016

Sometime in late November, I received a call from my sister Kim.  Kim and I had never been close.  Well, that may be an understatement.  When we lived together, we fought like crazy.  From my childish perspective, it was primarily Kim's fault, after all, she was in a perpetual bad mood and I, being unperceptive, didn't know how to navigate her moods effectively.

On the other hand, I incessantly asked childish questions and was likely to have been generally annoying as younger siblings are inclined to do. At any rate, the result was a regular routine of bickering and hitting, tattling and general sibling rivalry. 
  (Kim at about age 12, wearing a necklace that she heisted from ME!!!)

Even so, I fiercely loved my older sister. I saw in Kim, everything I wanted to be.  From my point of view, she was beautiful, smart, athletically gifted, popular, and in charge.  She always had some sort of witty response. She always dressed fashionably.  She always had all the right friends.  She was, in a manner of speaking, my hero.

I was vaguely aware that she suffered some mental instability, but again, in my childish naivety, I didn't really have a good grip on what that meant. I certainly didn't see her through that lens. The reader may recall that Kim had run away from home when she was 15 years old. That event stood out starkly in my mind as one of profound change. 

The tension in our home had been building and building. One particular incident involved a physical and verbal explosion surrounding the cooking of a simple pot of rice. Kim had been taking a Home Economics class in school and the lesson that day had been 'how to cook rice'. Rice was a staple in our home, with Mom having grown up in India, we paired it with most meals.  As you'd imagine, Mom had refined her technique and the rice was always perfectly cooked.  Kim rushed home from school, excited that she now knew how to cook rice and offered to prepare it for that night's family supper.

When it came time to serve, it was discovered that Kim's rice was NOT perfectly cooked.  In fact, the condition of the rice catapulted our mother into an all out rage in which she physically attacked Kim, hands firmly tangled into Kim's long, thick, brown hair and she pulled.  I still have the image of the two of them locked in anger.  Kim's instinctual response was to reach out and strike Mom's face with all her open palm.  The loud thwack resounds like a thunderclap in my mind.  It was one of those moments where time seemed to stand still.

Time gets jumbled, but that may have been the very night that Kim ran off. I never tasted the rice so I have no idea of just how 'bad' it was but I admit to having doubts that it was bad enough to merit any of what happened.

Several days passed during which we didn't know where Kim had gone, but eventually, she settled in at our Pastor's house and there she remained until she was 19.  They nurtured her heart in ways that my mother and father were unable to do.  Their family even paid for Kim to see a therapist for her struggles. In the end, it seemed a much better place for her.
(Senior Portrait, 1983?? This would have been purchased by the family Kim stayed with for the remainder of her childhood.  Our parents only purchased a very few portraits of us kids and never our Senior portraits.)

 (Innverness High School Graduation, either 1984 or 1985.  I didn't get to attend this, not sure if my mom did but I doubt it.  Our parents didn't attend most of our events. Mom was very unwell at this time so I think we missed it entirely.)

Kim attempted suicide through overdose more times than I can recall.  Her mental state was much worse than my mind could comprehend.  She seemed so very different from our mother that I couldn't quite understand how she could also be so mind-broken.  To my young mind, she appeared so very together.  In truth, I dismissed the reality of her extreme mental illness in favor of my prettier version of who and what she was.

As I write today, my heart breaks even more when I consider how easy it is for people to dismiss the reality, the gravity, of the hurt their loved ones are experiencing in order to maintain their own false vision of the person.  I wasn't able to do anything else at the time, and perhaps this is typically the case in such situations.  It is heartrending though, to consider how frequently emotional instability goes unaddressed because people are so dedicated to their own personal view of an individual. 

Back to that phone call I mentioned at the outset.  Kim called me one evening, it must have been quite late for her in Florida because it was late at night for me here in Arizona.  We'd been building some relationship over the phone for a while so it wasn't terribly unusual for her to be calling.

I wish I had a recording of that call.  I can't remember much that was said. She seemed desperate, begging me to fly to Florida to see her.  She was missing me terribly and she was lonely.  Kim wasn't making a whole lot of sense and, in hindsight, I believe she was drunk or high.  She'd shared with me at some point her multitude of diagnoses, including addictions to alcohol and cocaine, Bi-polar (then called Manic/Depressive) and Kleptomania.  When she called, she'd finally been caught stealing and was in considerable trouble with her employers. 

She'd had and maintained a housecleaning business for sometime, but had taken to stealing objects from her clients homes and hiding them in her home. She hadn't been arrested, but I suppose she must have been in danger of that in the near future. She was panicky and I assumed she was also having a manic episode. As much as I would have loved to fly out, I didn't have the money to take a trip like that.  I was living hand-to-mouth, spending everything I had.  Our conversation ended with my apology that I wouldn't be able to see her anytime soon and a quick 'I love you'.

After our conversation, I recall thinking that I was glad that our relationship was improving.  It made me feel loved that she 'needed' me, even if I wasn't actually able to come through for her.

Jeremy and I, on the other hand, were spending every free moment together.  Christmas break was approaching, and with that, a brief separation while he headed North to visit family in Flagstaff and then to LA to join extended family for Holiday celebrations.  I was NOT looking forward to our time apart at all. Hoping to limit the length of the separation, I proposed that I could drive up to Flag and stay with  him and his family during the second half of his break. 

He agreed, and we made plans accordingly.  I'd join him and his family in Flagstaff on the 29th of December and spend a week with them.  I had also decided that was when I'd quite smoking! I figured that since I knew I'd not be able to smoke inside their home and it would be below freezing outside, it was the perfect time to quit.  Everything was arranged and I was excited!

Christmas break came and Jeremy left.  I wasn't thrilled with that, but I knew I'd be ok.  I had work and Terri and a litter of kittens to keep me company and that ought to be alright.

I can't remember what I did on Christmas Day, I may have spent it alone, or maybe working?  Coco's stayed open on holidays to serve those for whom roasting a ham was a fate worse than death.  At any rate, it came and went with no particular memory.

But on the evening of December 26th, very late at night, I received another phone call. It was my mother.  She didn't call to wish me a joyful holiday.  Instead, she called to tell me, in a voice devoid of emotion that Kim, my sister,  had taken her own life.

Kim was dead. DEAD.  forever

Posted 2/25/2016

The shriek that burst out of my mouth at my mother's words is something I'll never be able to describe.  It must have been quite chilling to a hearer.  It was enough to bring Terri running to my door to see what was the matter but I refused to answer her calls and knocks.  Something had happened between Terri and I that left me feeling I couldn't trust her and so the only comforter available to me at the time was a comforter I refused to allow in.

I was completely devastated. Wailing and crying and broken. 

I didn't know what to do. 

There was nothing I could do.

I'd been rebuilding something with my sister and all was now lost.

(This is the last photo I received of Kim, she'd visited South America with our brother, Russ and this is one of the photos that was snapped and which she mailed  to me when I'd requested some pictures of the two of them. It was sometime in her early 20's but I'm not certain when.)

My mother told me that the suicide had taken place on December 21st but they hadn't wanted to tell me, thinking I wouldn't handle the news well.  They'd already cremated her body and held a service.  Everything was over and I'd been left out of the loop.

'How had it happened?' I asked, hoping that would somehow help me to assimilate this information.  Mom said it had been like the other times, she'd overdosed but no one had found her in time.  'Do you have anything of hers that I can have?' I asked, this time, hoping that an object of hers might somehow assuage my pain.  'No, everything is gone.' was her only explanation. Years later, I learned the truth, that she'd shot herself.

I can't imagine the grief Mom must have felt.  Yet I believe she immediately numbed it, as she'd learned to do with so many other painful experiences. 

Our brief conversation ended and I was  left alone to mourn.  When I called my father to tell him, he offered that he was sorry, nothing more.  He said little by way of comforting words, not even suggesting that get together. He simply hung up the phone and continued his life with the woman of the moment.  I hadn't realized that until typing it just now.  I wonder now why he was so indifferent.  How could he have so little feeling towards his daughter that he would abandon me to grief rather than offer even a modicum of comfort?  That still smarts, only I never considered it until now.

And so, I did the only other thing I could think of to do, I phoned Jeremy in Flagstaff.  And he answered.  I was overcome and it must have been difficult for him to understand all my rushing-out words.  But he listened and allowed me to pour it all out.  I asked if I could come right away and after checking with His parents,  he said yes.

I hurriedly shoved a few clothes and things into an overnight bag, poked my head into Terri's room to tell her what had happened and that I was leaving and then got in my car at 1 AM and drove all night. I reached Flagstaff, chain-smoking the entire time and staring down the darkened, lonely Interstate through the tears coursing down my cheeks.

It's impossible to adequately explain all the thoughts that go through your head when you've lost someone in such a despicable manner. Or the thoughts that keep on, even 25 years later.  Suicide is such a senseless thing.  It's completely selfish,  and done in desperation.  So many experiences that should have happened, never shall.  And you know, as the one who is left behind, that all those things are now lost to you.

So many memories flew through my mind as I drove in the deepest part of the night.  But one in particular haunted me.  Was this my fault?  Was it because I hadn't gone to visit last month when she'd called me?  Could I have prevented her death?  Tormented with that possibility, my heart broke all the more.

When finally, I arrived in Flagstaff, I received a greeting unlike any I could recall before this one.  It was cold and snowy outside but a soaking warmth permeated the cozy little woodland home of Bob and Dorothy Schneider.  That warmth didn't come only from the well stoked wood stove in the center of their home, but from their kindhearted smiles and open arms.

Bob and Dorothy are the sort of ordinary folks whom a girl like me hadn't had occasion to encounter.  Or at least, not in a way that I'd been able to receive up to that point in my life.  There was nothing the least bit pretentious about their family.  Instead they were down to earth people who offered comfort to a young stranger when she needed it most with no expectation of anything in return.

One evening as we sat crowded around the dining room table talking, I shared my concerns for my sister's soul.  I'd been raised to believe that suicide was a direct ticket to hell.  Bob and Dorothy took the time to explain to me that this was not a biblical concept but that God's grace was shed on the despairing souls of suicide victims just as it was on anyone else. They reassured me that if Kim knew Jesus, and I was sure that she did, then she was with Him now, in peace.  They took plenty of time to answer my questions and in so doing, eased what may have been the worst part of my grief. 

Did anyone else ever take time to really talk with me about faith before Bob and Dorothy?  If they did, I hadn't really heard them.  Bob and Dorothy's love reached through all sorts of barriers to carve out some healthy space in my broken heart.  I'll never be able to repay them for the way they welcomed me when I was in such a desperate and hurting place.  Ever since then, when I've thought about what unconditional love is, I've thought of the way they welcomed me on that Winter morning into their home and into their hearts.

Posted 3-3-16

The first thing I noticed was how tired I felt at the end of my shift.  I'd worked a normal shift but by the time it was over, I felt completely exhausted. 

Next, I noticed some other changes in my body, things 'just didn't feel right'. 

And then..........I think I might be pregnant.


With child.

I thought about Jeremy and I, the intimacy we'd shared. The care we hadn't taken.  And I knew.

To be certain, I'd need to see someone.  Searching through the Yellow Pages I found a local clinic that invited young women to come and receive a free pregnancy test. I told Jeremy my suspicions and that I would be going to the clinic to find out whether I was right. 

Jeremy didn't offer to go with me.  He wasn't happy. 

I went alone one afternoon, into a shabby little house in a shabby part of town.  There was a kind woman who signed me in and had me fill out some paperwork. 

I was invited to pee in a cup and wait.  While waiting, I heard a motorcycle outside and looked, hoping Jeremy was coming to be with me.  It was Jeremy, but he drove by. Several times. But he never came in. I felt alone.  Scared. I was alone and terrified.

After what seemed like an hour, the nurse called me back into her office and asked a few questions.  WAS I? was the question screaming out of my mind!  AM I PREGNANT?!!  STOP TALKING AND JUST TELL ME!!!!  She droned on.  I have no idea what she was saying, until finally, she answered the question that was about to cause my mind to explode. 

'Your test came back positive. Do you know what you want to do?'

Tears, panic, fear.  No. No, I don't know what I want to do! I'm not ready to be a mother! I don't know HOW to be a mother! I hardly even have a mother! How can I be a mother?!

I'm ashamed to say now, that the first place my mind went for a solution was to abortion. I asked for and received information about how to go about obtaining one and hurriedly escaped the clinic to absentmindedly drive home, hoping Jeremy would come by so we could discuss the results and what we'd do next.

When I was in high school, I'd been part of a Speech and Debate class in which my primary goal had been to have an opportunity to debate on the topic of Abortion.  I was strongly Pro-Choice and had a bit of a militant attitude toward anyone who didn't agree. I was a woman and I was angry and I wanted my voice on the right of women to choose to be heard.  I felt perfectly justified in this position, having lived through years of sexual abuse and watching a friend being kidnapped and ultimately raped.  In my mind, every abortion was about those kinds of cases.

That wasn't the case here at all, but it didn't matter.  My intellect didn't take the time to separate the circumstances out.  I just knew that I had a choice and I could choose abortion if that was what I desired.

I don't recall many details from that day.  Primarily, I recall the fear, the feeling of being alone and worrying that Jeremy would desert me.  That was probably my biggest concern at that point.  I was desperately in love with him but I feared that this could easily send him scurrying away.  Given that, I was inclined to do whatever he wanted to do.

When he finally showed up, and it seemed like an eternity before he did, I bawled my eyes out in his arms.  We talked things through, the options, abortion, adoption or parenting and ultimately decided that we should seek an abortion. Jeremy would help pay for it.  I'd call my friend Celia and ask her to come and support me.

Then, I set about making appointments.  I called Celia and she did agree to come, though she tried to talk me out of going through with it.  But ultimately, she was willing to support me either way. I was grateful.

I went into the abortion clinic shaking with fear.  I had a preliminary appointment where they would draw blood and give me instructions.  I remember asking them on the phone why I couldn't just make one appointment and simply get it over with all at once.  They had a procedure and this was the way it was done.

So the afternoon before the abortion was scheduled, I went in for the preliminaries. For reasons I now believe to have been divine, during that appointment, I began to doubt my decision.  Still, I followed the plan and did what they told me to do.  I mechanically drove home to find Celia and Jeremy waiting for me and we spent the evening together, trying to distract our minds from the reality of what we were about to do. 

We had cleared a space on the floor for Celia to sleep and Jeremy and I got into bed.  I had set my alarm for the next morning at the appropriate time.  The appointment was early and we'd need to get up before first light to get ready. 

Then, I turned off my alarm clock.  I had made my decision.

I wasn't yet strong enough to tell Jeremy, because I was afraid he'd be very angry with me.  But I knew that I could not abort my baby. I lay there restlessly through the night, pondering how I might be trapping Jeremy into parenting a child with me and how would I explain what I had done the next day and what if he woke up early and tried to make me go.

I'm sure that I slept some, but I don't think it was very much.  Morning arrived, with the light of the sun streaming through bent blinds waking us from our sleep.

'I'm not going', I said to Jeremy. 'I can't do it.'

I wish I could remember his response, but I can't, not specifically anyway.  I know that he wasn't happy.  Frustrated would likely be a good word.  Maybe he stormed out?  Maybe he just sat there dumbfounded?  Maybe he asked me why?  He likely did that at least.

All I knew was that I could NOT kill my child and I had made the decision that I WOULD NOT.  And then, I went back to sleep thinking we'd figure out the details later.

Posted 3-17-2016


Details are always the place where things get complicated.  Many of us might prefer to be like Scarlett O'Hara and say "I'll think about that tomorrow", but tomorrow always come quicker than you imagine and you find you must look at those dreaded details.

It didn't take long for Jeremy and I to decide that we would get married and raise our child.  We'd gone over the possibility of adoption but that didn't seem a viable option.  It's amazing how quickly you become attached to the life growing in your womb once you know it is there. It's almost like someone designed it that way.......

So, one March evening, Jeremy bent down on one knee in my ultra-romantic studio apartment and asked me to share his life with him, to be his wife and I, without the slightest hesitation, said "YES"!!! 

With that decided, we proceeded with how to let our parents know what was happening. For my part, I didn't find myself self tremendously nervous to tell my dad.  I'd watched him live a life that was decidedly outside the lines (rules for Christian living) and I knew that my own mother had been pregnant with me when they'd been wed. So one day, the two of us went out to his home and shared the news.  His response was as expected, pretty calm and not particularly emoting one way or the other.

Sharing with Jeremy's parents proved to be considerably more difficult for Jeremy. Bob and Dorothy were and are committed followers of Christ.  They had taught Jeremy the need for abstinence before marriage.  Jeremy, as a first-born son is also a dedicated pleaser and he was crushed at the idea of disappointing his parents with news of his indiscretions. It took him some time to finally come to a marginal measure of peace with the idea of posting a letter in the mail to break the news.

If you know Jeremy, you know that even composing such a letter was going to take a great deal of time and effort, but eventually, he completed it and mailed it. If he'd have been a nail-biter, his nails would have been nibbled to the quick during the interim.

And Bob and Dorothy, just as they had when they received me with love, received this news with love and acceptance. Rather than point fingers, they reminded us that we are all prone to stumble and they at least were looking forward to meeting the little darling I was growing in my tummy.


It was decided that we'd marry on Jeremy's grandparents 56th wedding anniversary in Bob and Dorothy's Flagstaff church home.  May 16th was not much more than 6 weeks away by the time all of this had been settled and there was much to be done.

Dorothy had an amazing group of friends who threw themselves wholeheartedly into planning our wedding day, even including a bridal shower for a young woman they'd never met.  All I had to do was approve of color choices, baseline ideas and find myself a wedding gown.

It is a little to strange to think now how few people attended for me.  At that time in my life, I had very few friends and the only family that came was my dad.  In fact, only one friend outside of my two bridesmaids came to my wedding and to this day, I can't imagine why she did.  She was a lovely young woman I worked with and she brought her brother.  I can't recall that we ever did a single thing together outside of work, but her support at our wedding showed me that sometimes you never know who truly cares.  That kind of gesture can sometimes mean everything.

Jeremy's family and friends filled out our gathering and before we knew it, we were bound together under the sight of God and man. Our wedding was simple but lovely.  We held our reception in the beautiful back yard of a family friend and everyone brought potluck to share.  We danced, laughed, opened presents (they still did that AT the wedding back then!) and enjoyed one another.  And then, Jeremy and I hopped in our little chariot (a 1973 Toyota Celica) and headed to Lake Powell for a camping and boating honeymoon.

Posted 3-23-2016

Most new brides have a certain expectation for what marriage will be like.  If they tell you otherwise, they aren't being honest. It's not really something that can be helped. If you literally had zero idea what to expect when entering into a legally binding agreement of matrimony, what would entice you to go in the first place?

So, like any other bride, I walked happily into marriage anticipating a certain type of bliss that at least marginally lined up with, you know, just every fairy tale I'd come across over the years.

And, like any other bride, I quickly discovered I'd made a significant miscalculation. It's not that marriage was terrible right off.  It's just that it didn't look anything like a fairy tale and that takes a girl off guard.

Let me start by saying that I am fully convinced that I have the most amazing husband on the planet.  I will tell anyone the same story if they ask me.  He's been an absolute blessing to me in so many ways that I couldn't possibly express all of them. He's the most loyal, committed man I've ever met.  He's also the most meticulous and, personally, I'm pretty sure he can literally do anything he sets his mind to.  He's kind, compassionate, a great listener, intelligent, hilarious and wise.  He's the best, truly he is and if I ever have to find another husband because he has died, it will be pretty much impossible to find one who will hold a candle to this man. I'm almost certain that I wouldn't want to even try.

With that said, he did have a wee bit of growing to do after we got married.  Ok, a LOT of growing.  But so did I. And so began the process of discovering in exactly what areas we needed to make adjustments.

The first thing that presented us with a difference of opinion was how money ought to be spent. For example, I had in mind that we'd be spending money on new things for our baby.  Jeremy, on the other hand, anticipated yard sales and hand-me-downs. I anticipated that we'd go out for dinners on a somewhat regular basis.  Jeremy, on the other hand, liked home cooking quite well and didn't much fancy offering his hard-earned cash to the local prepared-food vendors.

Well, you probably get the picture.  It took a lot of effort, and would for years to come, to agree as to how to make purchases.  To be honest, there's still work to be done in that area, mostly on my part.

You may have heard that money is the number one reason for divorce. By God's grace, though we certainly didn't agree about how to spend it, we did agree that we didn't want to let it divide us and in the end, that issue, though difficult, has not been successful in bringing an end to our union.

We were also still adjusting to the idea of being parents. The truth was that we weren't prepared with the attitude of a healthy couple expecting a child.  We'd thrown ourselves headfirst into the jungle of parenting and we lacked the basic necessities to prepare well. The primary problem, the one I see existing in most young parents, was SELFISHNESS.

(I turned 20 the first year of our marriage and we celebrated at Carlos Murphy's restaurant.)

A grown person can have an extraordinary tantrum when faced with even the mere idea of having to give up a bit of self when they hadn't previously decided on doing so. Given that we were expecting a baby, a few such selfLESS ideas presented themselves and let's just say the the walls in our apartment did require a bit of patching before we moved out due to the aforementioned tantrums.

But there were wonderful parts of being married too.  Right from the start, I knew that I'd married a good man. We worked together to earn money for our family, pooling our resources.  In the year we married, we also spent a lot of time learning about the politics of our country and choosing which side we were on.  We formed many of those ideas together.

(Just another day to go to work)

Jeremy attended school at the U of A and worked as a server at Coco's restaurant. I was working as close to full time as a server as well, so we didn't have very much free time together as a couple. Our car and motorcycle always seemed to need something and Jeremy and his dad were prepping a demolition derby car for the Labor Day derby event. All of that meant that we really enjoyed what little time we could scrounge together.

(Jeremy and Dad work on the Derby car in Flagstaff)

(A trip to Tombstone added interest to our summer)

God blessed us right from the start with a sweet couple a few doors down who were also expecting a baby.  It was great to be able to talk with Sabrina about pregnancy and parenting.  She already had 3 older children, all under the age of four.  She and her husband Aaron were followers of Christ and that seemed to be their primary focus in life. That being said, we never felt judged and were able to develop a casual friendship as we watched their family romp in the grass of our common area.

(We took a couple of trips to Lake Powell and enjoyed fun in the sun, I even tried to learn to water-ski while 7 months pregnant!)

The Summer passed relatively uneventfully and Fall was now upon us.  Fall, and new life!


  1. Wow. Thanks for being so brave and sharing. I'd love hearing more of your story. My mom was abused too and she made sure that her kids weren't. I am extremely grateful for how protective she is.

  2. You are such a beautiful talented woman. One would never know the pains you carry inside! You are so brave for sharing this. My heart aches from reading your story. And I painfully recall the pain other children caused me too, though my story is totally different, and I am just as shocked as you are how it never seems to go away. I often wonder and pray that I Will be able to better coach my own children thru their youth, so it Will not hurt as much.

  3. You are so brave to share your story. <3 I am sure that it will help many people who have been difficult times like you.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story. You went through many things & I know its not easy to put it all out there. After reading your story, I'm now inpired to write mine. It is sad how scarred you can become from school aged kids. I'd love to hear more when you get the chance.

  5. Sweetheart you are such a brave and courageous young woman! I always had an inkling in high school that you had a deeper story than most our age. I regret that I wasn't a better friend to you at that time. I am sorry for not reaching out to you like I should have.

  6. Your post on June 6 made my heart race because I felt like you were describing my own mother. She was an abusive alcoholic and would often fly off the handle and grab a belt or an extension cord to whip us. I know what you mean about the fear being so memorable. Now, as an adult woman, I can see that she was venting her anger on us. Her frustration about her miserable life. She wasn't mentally ill. Just a thoughtless, selfish, abusive woman.
    I just wanted you to know that I understand that part of your life. The rest? No. But I understand your need to tell your story. I understand your need to be open and honest and let it out. I admire you for that. I'll check back for your updates. I have compassion and hugs in my heart for you now and for the little girl that you were that was hurt so deeply.

  7. I too grew up with an abusive alcholic, drug addicted mother and was abused both physically and emotionally by her. I was also sexually abused, It has only been the last 6 years that i have been able to talk about my past with my therapist and even now I still believe i have blocked things out. Thank you for being brave enough to tell your story.....there are many of us out there.

  8. <3 Ursula, sweet girl! I'm too softhearted to be reading this. It makes me so angry about the beasts praying on vulnerable little girls. They sniff them out, it's like they have 6th sense. Both my sisters have been subjected to them more than once, exactly because they needed to be liked and loved and were eager to please. I've been lucky to have had a home away from home at my granma's that my sisters didn't have. (We don't share the same father.) Only one of those men were taken to jail. Take care! I will keep reading.

  9. This is intense to read, but must be healing to share. I feel like I know you on a much deeper level now. So proud of all that you've done for yourself! It's also interesting, because my own first memories of faith are as a young child dealing with a family issue.

  10. I am so glad that I know the rest of the story! I know that God will use this for His glory, He already has! Wow, I admire your for sharing the raw hard truth!

  11. I read your story in one sitting, even though I am very busy and should be doing other things. I also had abusive parents and feel like I was not valued as a child. Perhaps I can find the courage to post my story here in the future.
    Thanks for sharing!

  12. My dad was kidnapped after we were all held at gunpoint early one morning when I was probably in late elementary or early middle school... To this day I am scared of the dark if I am by myself. I have felt what you felt that day your friend was taken. My dad came back unharmed thankfully.
    I am enjoying reading this because I can relate in more ways than the one listed above.

  13. I am at a loss for words!! I became so engrossed in your childhood stories of tragedy, fear, and heartbreak that I had to constantly stop and tell myself that it wasn't a fictional book I was reading, it was your REAL LIFE. I, too, had my own "dysfunctional" family growing up. However, I cannot even begin to woefully compare it to yours. What I will say is that you are doing a very brave and therapeutic thing by sharing your story. From what I can gather, you have come out of all this a beautiful person full of faith. By the way, I share the same birth date with you. :)

  14. Our lives have mirrored each other so much it almost frightens me. Hal sounds like my step-father. Fortunately for you, Hal never got a hold of you. I can't say the same about my step-father. Yes, we've both seen the ugly side of what the world offers, but it has also made us much stronger women in the long run. I will always be blessed that you are my baby sister. <3

  15. Ursula, since I joined scrapbook.com early this year I've always peak in your blog every now and then following your beautiful creations and today wasn't any out of the ordinary than usual. I came here to look at the new layout that you posted and somehow I clicked on "the story" tab. I'm sitting at work just reading through when tears starting coming down my eyes. You just remind me of the ordeal that I went through as a child and that still hunt me 'till these days. I'm a 32 year old woman that wanted to forget it all. Reading through your lines made me to relive the pain, the memories, the abuse (sexual and emotionally) on the hands of some that were supposed to love and protect me.

    I cannot even type clearly, my hands are shaking and it feels like you were telling the story of my life in some of the situations that you described. For many years I have gone to therapy and now that I have a child, I know is more to be done. If it makes you feel better, I want to tell you that you're so brave for sharing these with all of us strangers and that you're not alone....Me and unfortunately so many others have gone through this as well. And yes, in God's grace, he has allow us to continue our path despite the tribulations. Thank you and God bless you!!


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