Father Of The Bride

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My first husband, Chuck, and I were married in May of 1989. We had a fairy tale wedding — no two people were more in love than we.

A year into our marriage we learned that we were expecting our first child. I was frightened, but from the moment he found out, Chuck was elated. Once I overcame my initial fears, we had a great time planning and dreaming, making lists of names, buying baby clothes, putting the crib together. Chuck wanted a girl and shared with me so many of the things he couldn’t wait to do if we were blessed with a daughter, but the greatest thing he looked forward to was lifting her up and swinging her around in the air.

He died on a stormy afternoon, the day after our baby’s due date. Our daughter, Melody, was born a week later. Devastated over the loss of my husband, my heartbreak deepened when I delivered our beautiful baby and discovered Chuck had been sent the daughter he had yearned for but would never get to meet.

My Melody is now 24 years old and in eight days she will be walking down the aisle to marry her soul mate. She and I have had talks about her daddy, we’ve discussed how to take traditional roles her dad would have filled at the wedding and how to change them to accommodate someone else without giving the impression that they are filling in or taking his place. I was honored when she asked me to help walk her down the aisle and to give the ‘Father-of-the-Bride’ speech.

I’ve lamented the unfairness of his absence during Melody’s life, but today I’m especially grieved that he won’t be physically present on her wedding day. I don’t need lectures on how nothing in life is fair — I’m well aware. It doesn’t change that outrageous feeling, though. Melody and I were robbed, it wasn’t fair, I have never gotten over it, and I know I never will.

But that’s okay. It’s okay to have moments where I say it’s not fair. God hears me and I believe He’s just quietly and lovingly acknowledging that no, it isn’t fair, but it will be alright.

As I take that slow, sweet walk with my daughter on her wedding day I believe Chuck will be there walking with us. I think he’s happy for his baby girl and is bursting with pride over the remarkable woman she has become.

I know I am.

Mom

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It’s hard being a mom.

I’ve been a widowed mom, an abused mom, a survivor mom, a warrior mom, a single mom, a happily married mom, and a step-mom. There is not a stage of being a mom that is easy or uncomplicated. We don’t receive a guide when we deliver our firstborn, although I do tell my kids all about the rules in the Mommy Handbook that came with each one of them before we left the hospital. When they are young they believe in such a book and are more willing to follow the rules because they purportedly come from a book of life skills.

I’m always a bit sad when they come to the realization that there’s no Mommy Handbook. I wonder what they think — what assumptions they make, what conclusions they draw. Do they realize Mom is just winging it? That I’m just living day-to-day garnering wisdom as I walk this life? Do they understand that the reason I fail at making certain decisions is because I’m just as human, as incomplete, as fallible as they? Are they able to comprehend that much of what I do, what I teach them, and where I lead them is based off of gut feelings? Still, they trust me to keep leading them despite my shortcomings and downright failures.

Nothing I’ve ever gone through in my life was as challenging or difficult — or rewarding — as being a mom, but in writing this I’ve realized I survived it all because I was a mom — for the sake of the hearts who depended solely on me.

What great and boundless love we have for the children we call our own, whether they were delivered from our own bodies, or entered our hearts in other ways. What wouldn’t we do for them?

What, indeed.

My family at Bok Tower and Gardens

My family at Bok Tower and Gardens

Thank you for joining me today for the A-Z September Blogging Challenge. I hope you’ll take a moment to visit some of our other writers:

http://madeformusicforever.blogspot.com/

http://rsliwa.wordpress.com/

http://heidibethbaker.weebly.com/blog

http://squeezingthefruit.blogspot.com/

http://diaryofamotorhead.wordpress.com/

http://freckledfaerie.blogspot.com/

They’re All The Same…Right?

We’ve all heard it — or said it — before.

I was abused by my spouse and for the first year after I left him my bitter heart said all men were the same: evil.

I have several male friends who were cheated on, and eventually dumped, by their wives — some of them losing custody of their children in the process. I hear them day after day bemoaning how all women are cheaters, no woman can be trusted, and they’re all just waiting for a chance to stab men in the back.

I hear basically the same comments about both sexes on a daily basis from friends, acquaintances, family…you name it. I’m sure you are bombarded, too, and maybe even a bit offended that you, a decent and well-meaning person, are lumped into these stereotypical generalizations.

There were several things that helped me overcome my extreme distaste in all men. The first was time. Looking back, I wish I’d realized that it was the first phase of a very long healing process and maybe I’d have kept my mouth shut and not hurt and offended all the decent men I had demeaned. But maybe not. It’s all factored on a learning curve, isn’t it?

Another thing that helped change my negative thinking was when I realized that we’re all created in God’s image and ultimately if I was putting all men down as dogs, what then had I been saying about their Creator? That wasn’t a pretty thought for me because I love my LORD and even in those dark and heartbroken years I never sought to disrespect my God.

The real eye opener, though, came when I realized my thoughts, words, and beliefs were affecting my children. I saw college-age Melody experiencing her first crush and when the young man rebuffed her, the immediate response was that all guys were the same. Stupid men. When she was eventually involved in her first committed romantic relationship and things were beginning to sour I heard similar comments about how all guys just want the same thing. I’m not saying this guy wasn’t after her for the wrong reasons…it was her generalizations and misperceptions that all men only wanted her for one thing that flipped the light switch in my brain and helped enlighten me as to what I was doing.

Then I started thinking about my sons. I have remarkable boys. I’ve raised them to be polite, respectable, dependable young men with good character. How would I react — and how would my boys feel — if the young ladies called them lying, cheating dogs without ever first knowing who they really are? My boys would have to hold me back from girls like that because I’d be quick to tell them what I thought about the aspersions they were casting.

Meeting Atticus also helped restore my belief that there are very good and decent men living, breathing, and walking among us. We were both hurt so badly by our spouses that we placed no expectations on each other, we were just thankful to have a true friend we could count on. That friendship was the foundation for the eventual relationship that blossomed. It’s still the best part of our marriage, knowing that he’s my best and closest friend and that we are there for each other. Always.

My all-men-are-the-same attitude came from the abuse I suffered but I’m going to tell you something I haven’t shared before, not even with Atticus, but mostly because Atticus knows without my having to say this to him: my negative and hateful attitude towards men was perpetuated by me – on purpose – because it was a safety mechanism. If I hated all men, I never had to let anyone near me, and to me that translated to living safely. I wore that bitterness like my 4-year-old wears her blankie around the house — for security and comfort.

There was a time I finally gave in to the understanding that not all men are evil and accepted that the blame for the abuse and the damage it caused needed to lie only on the shoulders of the one who hurt me. When I let God guide me I was able to eventually love a wonderful man. It was a process, but the healing has been a blessing.

I have a thought if you are one of the people who keep saying all men or women are lying, backstabbing, cheaters. Maybe you’re thinking that because those are the people you keep associating with or drawing to you. Perhaps you need to do some healing, stop chasing what you want and pursue God — I mean in a full-out sprint. He’s waiting for you. When you’re on track, He’ll allow the right people into your life. That’s what happened for Atticus and me.

It’s a shame and a waste to pigeonhole everyone. We are all unique, we are all on different journeys, and we are all at different stages of those expeditions.

Most of all, we all need a bit of grace.

Please Welcome Oma

There are some graphic details in this guest post. Please use discretion when reading.

I will tell you my story, but I choose to change a few things for the privacy of my daughter.

I call myself Oma. I have a girl and a boy. I had them both when I was a teen and never married either one of their fathers because when they both found out about the pregnancies they ran and I wasn’t able to find out where they went.

When my girl was 4 and my boy was 6 I moved in with my boyfriend. At first I thought his attention and jealousy were just because he loved me so much. Soon he began to make all the decisions, control my money, even took the role of parent to my kids. I thought maybe that was good since they’d never had a dad.

My boyfriend insisted on sex several times a day. He was a bit rough at first, but I knew that some people like that, so I tolerated it, although I did not prefer it. As time went on, he eventually became very violent in the bedroom and forced me to do things against my will. In the bedroom he made me call him daddy and if I would not, me would beat me until I gave in.

Slowly over time my boyfriend had been breaking ties from everyone including my family and friends. I wasn’t allowed to speak with anyone without his approval. I had no money, nothing, without him. He told me I’d be on the streets if it weren’t for him and I believed it. I was afraid to leave because I had nowhere to take my kids, at least that is what I had come to believe.

Slowly and systematically my boyfriend had altered my thinking and beliefs until I was totally dependant on him.

I soon discovered that he was watching really terrible porn that involved rape and worse. I asked him to please stop watching it and he said I was such a bad lover and so ugly that he had to watch it to become aroused. I believed it, but it still hurt to know he watched it.

I tried to stay away from him and become invisible. I went to bed early to try to avoid sexual contact. Eventually it seemed to work and his sexual assaults lessened. Instead of several times a day, they happened once or twice a week. I told myself that was manageable.

Eventually he took to sleeping on the couch and stopped sleeping in our bed with me. It was a relief, although he still came in to assault me a few times a week.

We were together for 12 years, and were considered common law spouses, when I came home unexpectedly early from shopping because I’d forgotten my list. I found my boyfriend in my daughter’s room. He was raping her. I took up her lamp and started hitting him with it. I was screaming but I don’t know what I said. He fought me and beat me badly. My daughter was afraid to do anything and I kept telling her to leave and call the police. He kept telling her if she did, he would kill me. She stayed, but I know it was because she was afraid of what he would do.

I thought he was going to kill me that day. When he was done with the beating I crawled to the bathroom to clean up the blood. My daughter tried to help me, but he wouldn’t let her. He told us both that if I would have taken care of his needs he wouldn’t have had to use my girl. Later, when he was in the basement watching his TV, I went to my daughter and told her we needed to get out. My son wasn’t home from his job and I didn’t want to go without him. I asked her if that was the first time my boyfriend had touched her. She said he had been doing it for many years.

The anguish when I heard that is unexplainable. So many questions raced through my head like where was I when it happened? How had he hidden it? Why hadn’t she told me? But I knew why, really, because it was the same reason I had never told when he did it to me: fear.

We left the next day with nothing but what we were wearing. I walked into the police station and told the officer at the front what had happened. They helped us.

Eventually he was arrested. He went to jail.

I live with guilt I cannot bear. Everyday. I feel I somehow should have known and stopped it from happening to her. Although she says she does not blame me, I have always believed that she really must blame me on some level. How could she not?

There have been times since I left when I’ve thought it would be better for my girl to send her to live with my sister so that she would not have to look at me or remember.

I have seriously thought of ending my life, but I think I’m supposed to stay here and suffer for what happened. My bad choices since I was a young girl led my daughter to this place. I don’t ever see a way to heal from this, but I hope my girl can. She sees a therapist and she says it helps.

I want people to know what domestic violence is and what it can do to a person and their kids. It devastates lives. It’s so much more than broken bones and bruises. It guts you to the core and leaves you standing as a shell of the person you were.

Law and Order Mentality

Some things take time before I can talk about them. Sometimes I need to mull things over and kind of digest them before I open my mouth. In my ‘old age’ I’m starting to gain a bit of wisdom regarding when to speak and when to remain silent. Well…sometimes.

When we escaped our abuser and began to tell close friends and family what had happened, we got mixed reactions. People were shocked at the abject depravity of my now-ex-husband, but not surprised that we were living in an abusive situation. Many, many people knew he was abusing us long before I was able to see it for what it was.

Now, if you’ve ever been a victim — any kind of victim — you’ve more than likely dealt with ignorant people who chose to blame you, instead of blaming the criminal who victimized you. It’s a horrible feeling. I know that when I experienced it, those people made me feel tiny, insignificant and dirty. Although I know I never did anything to warrant the abuse, I still choose to be very selective when I speak of my past. I don’t need inaccurate judgments by uninformed individuals messing with my head. I’m three years out of the marriage and I’m doing pretty well — I don’t need triggers to set me back — so I live my life and pretty much keep my past to myself, unless I know a situation where I can really help someone.

There were a few people who went way beyond blaming. When a few months passed and my ex wasn’t arrested these people actually told me I was lying about everything because he’d be sitting in jail if it were true. These are people who claimed they know criminal justice inside and out because they watch crime dramas. Let that soak in for a minute — go ahead…read it again…I’ll wait….

Someone I had truly thought was a very close friend — for years — turned on me viciously claiming that if my ex had actually done what we were alleging, he would have been arrested the day we left him. I was floored at her ignorance and tried my best to explain, but she wouldn’t hear of it. She was absolutely positive that I was pulling the wool over the eyes of everyone involved and offering up an innocent man to be sacrificed. It didn’t make much sense but there was nothing I could do. I was incredibly hurt to have someone who was so close to me saying the horrible, untrue things she was saying. She did not understand domestic violence, nor did she want to. It came down, I suppose, to needing to blame someone and not understanding the dynamics enough to place that blame where it belonged.

I call this having a Law and Order mentality. When people think life works like TV shows. Many criminals — especially of the domestic violence penchant — do not get arrested by the police as soon as a victim gives a statement. I was asked countless times by countless people what was going on in the year before his arrest. I want to share the timeline from that year — in a nutshell, of course — so that people can truly — finally — understand. It was a grueling time for my kids and me. We lived in fear of him finding us before the law could do what needed to be done.

We escaped him at the beginning of December, 2009. We immediately gave statements to the police and then they took us to a domestic violence shelter. They transferred us to another shelter the next day so that we were out of the county and harder to track.

While at the shelter I contracted a battery of lawyers who immediately went to court and secured a Civil Protection Order that kept him from contacting us in any way. During our three-month stay there, we worked with social workers, police, investigators, lawyers, detectives — you name it. It was grueling to have to tell strangers of the depraved and humiliating things my ex did to me. I would spend hours with them and not even scratch the surface of all he had done.

A detective was assigned to our case and he talked with anyone he could who might be able to give him facts or testimony about my ex. He investigated everything we told him. He verified. He was thorough. He wanted to make sure that when he eventually arrested our abuser, he wouldn’t again see the light of day.

By late spring most everyone was asking me why he was still walking the streets. Concerned citizens in the town where we had lived — where he was still living — had set up a watch to keep general tabs on his whereabouts. Detective Baeker had submitted his findings to the county prosecutor and informed us that from there on out it was a waiting game. I didn’t understand, so he explained that the amount of cases that pass through the prosecutor’s office were vast. We had to wait for the file to be read, but our Detective was confident that we had a good case.

In the summer of 2010 we were contacted by victim’s advocates from the Prosecutor’s office and we began the horrendous process of again telling every detail we knew. It took a long time — many meetings. Several times the Prosecutor sent us back for more interviews with Detective Baeker — to get more details or go over things that were difficult for us to discuss.

By late summer Melody and I were slated to appear before the grand jury. I think it was the hardest thing I’d ever done up to that point because I had to give such personal testimony to strangers. When I finished, I was crying. When I looked at the grand jury members, there was not a dry eye in their midst, either. Still, I was afraid I had not been clear enough in my testimony. As I left the room, Detective Baeker and the Prosecutor both told me my testimony was outstanding — very well-spoken.

And then we waited some more.  It was nerve-wracking waiting to hear whether my ex would be indicted — and for what — even though the Prosecutor was confident that he would be charged. When we finally got word that he had been indicted, my victim’s advocate read the long list of charges and I was so grateful that things were finally going to start moving. I thought he would be arrested immediately, but it took a week for the police to even receive the warrant. They were trying to decide on the safest way to approach my ex — at home or to wait and arrest him after he left the farm and wasn’t as likely to have a weapon — when he called the county sheriff and asked to make an appointment. He had no clue that any of this was transpiring — he had actually been telling people that nothing had come of our allegations and that there had never even been an investigation. So that’s when he was arrested — when he walked into the sheriff’s office for an appointment. That was at the end of August.

He was given a pretty high bail, but his mother and brother found a bondsman who was willing to post the bail. I knew if he was released, we were sitting ducks, and the shelter we had stayed at knew it, also, because they called me and told me to pack bags and come back so we would be safe. We did, although I hated leaving our home.

My ex was fitted with an ankle monitor and was waiting to be released when the Prosecutor asked for an emergency hearing with the judge. It seems that my ex violated the Civil Protection Order and had not surrendered all this weapons to the sheriff all those months ago. The judge revoked bail and told my ex he could sit in the county jail until trial.

We moved back home and I soon learned that my abuser was facing three life sentences, among other things. Trial was set for late October. We geared up and worked hard — going over evidence, being questioned by the Prosecutor — again — because she wanted the facts solidified. No mistakes. She wanted to see him behind bars permanently for what he had done.

While all this was going on, trouble was brewing at home. The pressure of the trial and testifying got to be too much. One of my children tried to harm themselves and ended up in a psychiatric hospital. The prosecutor immediately backed off and reassured me that my child’s health was paramount, not the trial. He was so afraid to be in the courtroom with his abuser that he begged to be dismissed from testifying. The prosecutor agreed because he wasn’t giving any key testimony. But after that I realized the toll it was taking on the family and I asked if there was a way to make a plea deal in order to keep my kids out of court. The prosecutor agreed to make an offer and after considering for one night, he accepted. Fifteen years, no early parole, no contact with his victims.

The sentencing was in November. I wrote a statement to read. It didn’t make me feel any better. I listened to the judge sentence him and I watched my ex’s cocky expression through the whole ordeal. He spoke, too, and said he was sorry only for the things that his wife perceived as abuse. He never truly apologized, but I hadn’t expected him to.

And then it was over.

I wrote all of this to help people understand that the wheels of justice turn very, very slowly. Of course we want things to move swiftly and for criminals to be off the street. We want our children and loved ones safe and protected. It takes time, sometimes, for that to happen. I wanted him in jail so that we would be safe from him, but I’m thankful that Detective Baeker worked the case and did his job so that there is one less criminal walking free.

I’m sorry that the woman I thought was my friend couldn’t understand that. But I hope that in sharing, it might save the relationship of someone else who is going through a similar experience.

Many thanks to the friends and family who stuck with us — there were so many times that you all carried us and I love you.

Where ARE You, God?

I’m a woman of faith. At the age of 12 God sought me and bought me and I’ve been walking with Him ever since. It’s not been an easy road, and there have been times I’ve drifted from Him. I always know it’s me that wandered — never Him. I have always believed known that He’s near and wants to be as close to me as I will allow. I have always known, too, that the relationship — whatever form it takes — is also my choice. In the 32 years I’ve been a daughter of the King, I’ve never believed He left me or wasn’t aware of the trials I was facing…until now.

I’ve never been one to cry and complain over my circumstances. I’ve always been a roll-up-my-sleeves-and-take-the-bull-by-the-horns problem solver. I learned that from my mom. You want to meet a strong woman of faith? I’ll introduce you to her.

I’m not sure what has been going on with me to put me in this place of feeling I’ve been abandoned by God, but I think it has a lot to do with the feelings of inadequacy I feel towards God — I know I am the chiefest of sinners and don’t deserve one single speck of the grace He’s doled out on me for years. I’ve been feeling lately like God must have finally realized I’m not worth His time and effort.

I don’t think for one minute that the things I’m facing are any more difficult than anyone else’s problems and struggles. I just feel lately that it’s getting piled on in such abundance that either He doesn’t care or I’ve done something really bad to tick Him off.

I wrote recently about being diagnosed with a rare disease that is basically crippling me. One day I can be fine, the next I’m in agony, or I can’t move/stand/walk. The pain is always there, I just never know to what degree. I just found out it’s in my feet now, too. Sunday the pain was so off-the-charts that I stayed in bed most of the day and I ended up swallowing twice the amount of opiates I was supposed to take by evening. When I have unbearable pain I vomit, so add that to the fun I experienced all day. Oh, and the fact that I was a miserable, cranky pain in my family’s butt. Good times.

So I do my best — and sometimes my not-so-best — to carry the pain and do what I have to do regardless. It isn’t easy, but what other choice do I have? My family depends on me.

We are struggling financially. Some months we are out of money — I mean really out of money — well before the end of the month. I just lost my health insurance and didn’t know it and now we are facing medical bills we can’t pay. Forget about Christmas — I have kids that aren’t old enough to understand that there’s no money for gifts, but really, even my teens are going to have a hard time not receiving a few gifts, even though they know times are super tough. The landlord just raised the rent on the hell-hole we live in and is threatening to evict us for things that the realty which represents them is screwing up.

I pray constantly for God’s will — I ask Him to help me make the budget stretch and I work hard to cook creative, healthy meals on a shoestring. (At the end of last month, Atticus and my boys complimented me on how many creative ways I had made pasta that month and my heart overflowed!) My husband and kids never complain about the meals I make, but my step-kids have no problem letting me know when they don’t like a meal — basically every one I make that isn’t hot dogs.

It’s all wearing on me. I need a break. I mean, somethings gotta give. When the pain is unbearable and my whole body is screaming in agony and the expenses far exceed the budget and even mac-n-cheese has to be criticized, I sit and look at the bottle full of opiates — all 120 pills — and I wonder how long it would take after I ate all those pills till I felt nothing — and I imagine how that must feel. When I’m feeling the pull of those drugs, and the lure of oblivion, only one thing is enticing enough to make me stop — it’s not loving my husband or my kids or my parents. It’s just that it’s wrong. It isn’t what God wants for me — so I set the bottle down and walk away until the next time it’s too much to take. Hopefully I’ll never get to the point where I don’t believe it’s wrong anymore.

I suppose God hasn’t yet abandoned me if He’s still keeping me here, but it really doesn’t feel that way.

I don’t know what to do…except keep hanging out and hanging in…

Did You Know?

Did you know…

…Oprah Winfrey was demoted from her job as a news anchor because she “…wasn’t fit for television.”

…after being cut from his high school basketball team, Michael Jordan went home, locked himself in his bedroom, and cried.

…Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for “lacking imagination” and “having no original ideas….”

…The Beatles were rejected by Decca Recording Studios, who said,    “…we don’t like their sound…they have no future in show business….”

…at 30 years old, Steve Jobs was left devastated and depressed after being unceremoniously removed from the company he started.

…Albert Einstein wasn’t able to speak until he was almost 4 years old, and his teachers said he would “never amount to much.”

…Eminem was a high school drop out whose personal struggles with drugs and poverty culminated in an unsuccessful suicide attempt.

If you’ve never failed, you’ve never tried anything new.