Family and Choices

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Deathly ill, I sat in my grandma’s tiny white and aqua kitchen drinking coffee.   She and I had always been close but had grown even closer since Grandpa passed away in April and my husband left the state in July.  She, too, was seriously ill, but no one realized she was dying.  Except her.  Perhaps me. 

She gave me a look that let me know I was not to question her and flatly stated, “We decided on this because R is the only one of you kids who is in a position to do the assessment work.  We want the mine to stay in the family and be open to all of you.  It just needs to be in his name because he’s got to be responsible for it.” 

I was devastated, but I understood.  He lived locally, unlike my three cousins; he was the only one of us with a truck; and I was sick and pregnant and abandoned.  But, why couldn’t it go to all of us?  Why couldn’t we all contribute somehow?  Monetarily maybe?  Why was one grandchild gaining sole ownership of the mine upon her death?

Of course, upon her death R gated it and locked it.  It was his.  The papers said so. No one was allowed up there without him, without his invitation, which rarely came. 

My uncle inherited my grandparents’ house and all of its contents just six months after that day in the kitchen.  And, I recall the horror of walking in on him and my oldest cousin pulling drawers out onto the floor and rummaging through Grandma and Grandpa’s things.  A lifetime of work and collecting and organizing in heaps on the floor.

Once he’d sufficiently sorted through their belongings and stripped the house of anything of value, he rented the house to my brother R.  The piano was still there.  My aunt wanted to give it to a local church, but my mom and I begged her to let it stay.  Three years later I offered my uncle $250 for it.  He refused.

A few more years passed and my uncle sold the old home, once the stage coach stop when it was down beside the creek, and the acre it sat on to R.  For $28,000.  With the piano included for free. 

R quickly bulldozed the old historic building and burned what remained.  He tore out the trees and bushes my grandparents lovingly planted and tended.  Well, what was left that my uncle had not already uprooted.   The old home place, the only home we’d ever experienced, was gone. 

In its place he put up a small shop and an old double wide someone just gave him. 

Our safe retreat, the warmth of Grandpa and Grandma’s old and small but sweet home, was erased from existence. 

The piano had been removed before the demolition, and it now sat in the trailer where the dogs chewed one leg off. 

My mother had been given the adjacent acre as her early inheritance when she left my step dad.  And, she left it to my daughter with my son in law as next in line, acknowledging my brother and me as her children yet admitting it was her intent to leave us nothing.

R was furious.  He demanded I help him go to court to get back what was rightfully ours.  I couldn’t.  I was knee deep in a court battle with my ex, fighting for safety for my children and myself.  R saw my refusal to help him as “siding” with my daughter and just letting her steal our inheritance.  So, when dad died seven months later, R once again made sure that he took everything Dad owned, denying me any right I had to it. 

And, here we are…..4 1/2 years later.  Why do I bring this all up now?

Yesterday on vistation (after putting away the naked blow up doll hanging in the dining room–that’s a whole other story) my ex told the kids that he was “just out in” the small area where I live and decided to swing in and say hi to my brother.  However, two strange guys answered the door and said they are his renters.  R doesn’t live there anymore.

I texted my daughter.  My brother has sent his dogs after my daughter and her friends when they’ve been working on my mom’s empty, old place, and he has stolen off of that property.  My daughter wouldn’t even go to the property alone when she was pregnant.   Now, they no longer need to worry about R bothering them. 

Maybe I should have left well enough alone. 

She immediately began checking public records to see if he had sold it.   In doing so, she found that he owns a second mining claim that none of us knew about.  And, it appears he abandoned my grandparents’ claim they left him all those years ago.  The government tried to contact him multiple times, but he failed to respond. 
It’s gone now, too.

I updated my 16 year old on what his sister was finding, and he looked at me, shaking his head, and said, “Wow, EVERYone in your entire family f-ed you.”

I woke up this morning to a frigid cold house I’m just grateful my landlord doesn’t kick me out of.  I tended the animals and brought in wood.  I attempted to wash my hands, but the ice water coming from the faucet was too much for my already cold hands.  So,  I moved on to building a fire in the tiny box at one end of the house.  And, all I can think about is how my brother and daughter have stolen and then just WASTED what should have been partly mine.  My stuggles could have been greatly eased had I received my portion.  Yet, those who wanted it all placed no value on that which could have changed my life.  And, in all honestly, they only acquired it all because, not only mom, but my grandparents, my uncle, and my dad allowed it. 

Like my son said….. everyone in my entire family f-ed me.  

And, people ask how I ended up marrying an abuser.  They ask what attracted me to a man like that.

It’s really all I knew.

No Story, No Glory

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I’ve been STRONGLY feeling all of your prayers going up on my behalf!  Thank you!

There have been no major shifts in the day to day reality of my life, but my attitude about it all has completely flipped.  I’ve been able to have more of an eternal perspective.

When I was a little girl I basically wanted just four things in life:  Lots of kids, lots of animals, to live on a body of water, and to write.  I loved to write stories and poems and play with my cats, dogs, chickens, rabbits, and calves.   Those were my happy places. But, as I grew my stories and poems got buried beneath heavy mounds of pain. 

My ex would tell you he tried to encourage me to write.  What he did was demand I write a book because he’d worked on the new home of a man who hit it big by…..writing a book.  Like one of those old cartoon characters, the dollar signs spun around his eyeballs, making him resemble a slot machine.  All he could think was that he’d no longer have to work at all.  His days could be wasted away in front of the TV, drinking beer, while living off of my royalties.

Because, yeah, starving writers aren’t really a thing.  You just write a book and get rich.  That’s how it works.  (I can taste my own sarcasm!)

I didn’t know what to write about though.  I tried.  But, nothing bubbled to the top and poured out the tips of my fingers.  They were dry.  Empty.  As though I had no stories to tell. 

The massive dam of abuse held back my ability to share my story.  Giant beams of shame and hardened layers of rejection directed the flow of my life and kept my words in place. 

Until an earth shattering natural disaster caused that dam to crumble.

Like Nehemiah riding through the ruins of the temple, I’ve spent the last five years circling the ruins of my life, trying to figure out how to rebuild this mess.  Debris is EVERYWHERE!  Some stones are so heavy there’s just no way I can possibly remove them by myself.   It’s a long, arduous process to thoroughly remove the chaotic evidence of destruction.  I can’t even think of rebuilding until the site is cleared.  Oh, just lots and lots of work to do!

As I’ve heaved and struggled, I’ve recorded my story.   I’ve written snippets, chapters if you will, of devotions, ideas and scripture verses, that have helped me with my work. 

I’ve also started writing my life story as a novel.  It’s not to make me the star of my own show.  I’m not so deluded as to think I’m that interesting.  By weaving other people’s stories into the abnormality of my own life story I’m hoping to prove there is no such thing as that elusive “normal life” and “normal family” too many of us long for.
And, now, I’m starting a third project.  I don’t think they’ll ever get published.  That’s not the point.  The point is, I’m writing.  I’ve tapped into that part of me that found solace in putting words to paper.  That, in itself, is fulfilling.  Amazingly, the abuse that took that from me has become the catalyst for my fulfillment.  It is my song. It is my story.

For now, my glory is that I have survived the cataclysmic disaster.  One day, my glory will be that I rebuilt on the site of the ruins, I will have reclaimed what looked to be beyond repair. 

Our precious Savior’s story of salvation and redemption is built on the abuse and pain of the cross.  The beauty of Heaven is built on the foundation of a fallen world.  His glory is found in the story of His willingness to become a man and suffer for the sake of all men.  
We’d have no desire to seek Him and that wonderful eternal peace He offers if we didn’t feel the terrible sting of the pain of this nasty world, just as He did.  Why did I ever think that I could escape it when even the Lord of Lords did not?  Have I not been called to follow Him?  To pick up the cross and follow Him? 

There IS glory on the other side of pain.  No matter the mechanism of injury.  No matter the cause of the devastation.  If we hold tight, it’s there.  If we can muster the strength to do the hard work of clearing, cleaning, and rebuilding, we’ll find it.  Our bodies are the temple of the living God.  And, as Nehemiah found with his temple, sometimes there’s just a lot of work to be done on that temple.  But, the beauty of the finished work outshines the disaster we began with.  It’s worth it.  Christ knew the cross was worth it.  He felt WE were worth it.

The Object of His Obsession

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I often see “How To Make Any Man Obsessed With You” on my Facebook news feed and on the covers of women’s magazines as though that’s a good thing.  It’s not.  Trust me.  Obsession is NOT love. 
Obsession is sick.  It’s selfish.  It’s cruel. It’s demanding.  It has nothing to do with how irresistible a woman is but rather everything to do with how emotionally unstable the man is.

The first time I attended the group meeting at the safe house I thought I absolutely did not want to be like those women….one, two, three years out and still stuck in the mire of recovery. I wanted to be free!  I wanted a new life!  I didn’t yet understand that they don’t just allow you to walk away in freedom and begin again.

I had a really great day yesterday.  Friday night I had given myself permission to fall asleep on the couch at 4:30 in the afternoon.  Typically I fight through the fatigue.   There is dinner to fix.  Laundry to wash.  Papers to correct.  Animals to feed.  Not this time.  This time, my body needed rest.  So, I slept.  Until 9 o’clock!  I then stayed up until 1 a.m. doing those things I should have done while I was sleeping.  And, then slept another eight hours straight!  I woke up late on Saturday and enjoyed my coffee.  My body didn’t hurt.  My mind felt clear.  I felt happy.

In the early afternoon my teenager and I went out to cut and haul up a downed tree.  It was easier than most trees we deal with, and we worked quickly, visiting and laughing as we went.  Soon, it was time to get ready to take my youngest son to dance practice, and I decided I’d actually put make up on and do something with my hair.  I had the energy.  It didn’t feel like such a chore to fix up a bit.

As I sat at my make up table after my shower my teenager came running in.  Two motorcycles had come up our driveway.  One went up the hill above our house.  The one that stayed low sounded like a Harley.  I told my son to run down and see if the uninvited guests had damaged the gate or stolen anything. 

Nothing was damaged or taken.  But, they’d left behind an almost new bag of chewing tobacco, dropped right in the open for us to see.  Like a calling card.
Yes, you guessed it, the brand my ex chews.

So much for my fantastic day.  He had invaded my space.  Just because he can.  He just wanted to remind me he’s still here and, as he threatened when we were separating, he’s not going away.
On Thursday morning he’d left a masonry glove in my driveway.

He was bitten by a Blue Heeler a few years ago and hated them.  That was part of my attraction to getting one!  Later, it became obvious he was breaking into my house and giving my new Heeler puppy treats, perhaps trying to make friends with the dog who was supposed to protect me from him.  And, guess who just got a new Blue Heeler puppy himself?  Because he’s “always wanted one.”  He seemed a little deflated when the kids told him we’d rehomed ours and asked multiple times why I’d done that.

I also noticed on the last vistation that he now has an older green Craftsman riding lawnmower.  Just like mine.  The one that mysteriously had bad gas put in it and no longer runs.  

He also bought my favorite truck, though he’s been a lifelong Ford man. 

Someone, on Sundays, like clock work, messes with my gate, even taking it off its hinges, and throws garbage in my driveway.  Recently, he grinned and told the kids he goes for motorcycle rides on Sundays by our house and up the road that parallels our property. 

Am I honored he’s buying things I like?  Honored he wants to have the same things I do?   Honored that he “appears” to want that connection still?  Flattered that he’s still thinking of me and tries to find out what I’m doing?  NO!  Obsession is not love.  It is a means of CONTROL.

He’s even enlisted his girlfriend’s help.  I know the drill.  He did it to me.  His obsessive talking about me has stirred up extreme insecurities in her so that she harasses my daughter’s mother in law at work and has approached a friend of mine at a restaurant while she was out to dinner with friends.  What can they tell her about me?   What am I like?  What was our marriage like?
Some of my friends have dismissed this as just her possibly beginning to see through him.  I know that’s not the case.  He and his family have done this to EVERY woman he’s ever been involved with.  They obsess about the ex to make the current one feel insignificant.  That drives her to try harder to please him and be as important as the last one apparently was and still is.  In her frantic desire to please him and earn her place in his life, the stage is set for him to use and abuse her.  And, I’m left feeling like I’m living in a fishbowl, always being watched and talked about behind my back.

It seems blatantly obvious to me now, but at one point in my life it was all so confusing.  I believed the hype.  A man’s excessive attention, his obsession with me, must indicate his love for me and my worthiness as a woman. But, true love respects boundaries, privacy, and individualism.  It encourages hobbies, interests, and friendships outside the relationship.  It enjoys seeing the love between its child and their other parent flourish.  It sends the message that it loves you because of the value you already possess as a unique individual. 

Love heals.  Obsession suffocates.  Love seeks to know.  Obsession will tell you who it thinks you are.  Love desires what is best for you.  Obsession desires to control you.  Love can walk away and respect your goodbye.  Obsession won’t allow that.  Love gives life.  Obsession kills.

I’m Sorry I’m Quiet; I’m Depressed

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I don’t like those memes on Facebook that state you make time for those you really care about and if you don’t make time that’s proof you don’t care. 

I genuinely don’t have time. Even when I might, I’m too exhausted to clean up and socialize.  On those rare occasions I do I’m usually even more drained from trying to pretend that I have compassion for what I consider the non problems others drone on about. 

I’m just depressed. 

And, overwhelmed.

But, really depressed.

On Tuesday as I was leaving work my client pulled up.  I smiled and waved, and she turned away.  She then drove right on past and parked at the end of her road, waiting for me to leave.  She’s not the first to ignore me. 

I clean their toilets and scrub their floors and showers.  I wear out my vacuums and have to replace them every six months.  I have holes in the knees of all of my pants and chronic calluses on my hands and knees.  My back always burns.   And, I’m unseen.

It reminds me of growing up.  Of my marriage.  Do the work.  Absorb the costs.  Suffer silently.  We don’t acknowledge you.  We don’t see you.

I should be glad to head home at the end of the day, but I’m not.  The tarped roof, the bitter cold, the filth, the dark…. they fight against the idea of rest and peace.  Of home.

We bathed in a stock tank outside for a month this summer because of plumbing problems.  You haven’t lived until you’ve hauled buckets of water in 100+ degrees at the end of a long work day.  Or, until you’ve stripped naked outside in the chill of the morning and lowered yourself into yesterday’s now cold water. 

A large tree fell across the driveway this week and I’m beyond grateful two of my wonderful, precious adult sons came to my rescue, but I missed work because of it.  I needed the money.  Instead, it cost money.  And, “friends” responded, “Yay!  Free firewood!”  There was nothing free about it.

I’m writing this from my phone because, ten months later, I still haven’t been able to replace my old dead computer.

I rehomed my young male dog after he broke his expensive cable and ate a hole in the bathroom wall.  He’s happy in his new home, but I felt awful.  And, again, Facebook memes reminded me that you don’t “give up on family.”  Three days later my old dog started bleeding profusely from two systems, and I had to make the decision to put her down.   I’ve never done that before.  It was HORRIBLE!

My ex husband’s girlfriend Facestalked me until I blocked her and has harassed my friends in public places, asking questions about me.  And, she argued with my adult daughter on Facebook as to how I took my ex for everything.  I just want to be left alone!  Yet, the lies and creepy behavior continue…..5 1/2 years later.

It just feels like nothing much has changed with the passing of time.  Any hope I had for a brighter future post abuse has died.  I remember sitting in the DV support group way back in the beginning and thinking I did NOT want to be like those women–a year or two out and still stuck.

It’s depressing.

And, people wonder why we don’t just leave abusive situations.  I’m beginning to wonder if there is ever really a way out once it happens.  Or, if the pit is just too deep to ever climb out. 

So, I’m sorry I’m quiet.  I’m sorry I can’t meet for dinner or drinks or a Bible study.  I’m sorry I don’t blog anymore.  I’m just depressed. 

My Brothers’ Friends

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I was raised with my youngest brother and only found out about my other brother around seven years ago.   But, today, I only have a relationship with my newly found brother.

Thirty years ago I met my youngest brother’s best friend.  I’d just given birth and was in the middle of a divorce I did not want.  I’d left a note on my brother’s truck saying I’d had the baby and was heading home.  His best friend wanted to come see the new baby, too, and tagged along.  I was in a bathrobe, looking like a total mess.  But, he seemed to fall head over heels in love with my newborn and me.  I could not have asked for a better friend over the next four years.  He and his family were wonderful to us.

However, my own family, my mother and my brother, did everything to discourage that relationship.  They claimed I’d never ever be happy with him.  They claimed he was beneath me.  And, my brother tried to convince him I was an awful person.

Eventually he grew tired of waiting and got involved with someone else.  He married her and lived happily ever after.
Five years later I met another friend of my brother.  This time I married the guy.  My brother claimed no one would take better care of my kids and me than this friend would.  He said the friend’s questionable past was only due to the horrible women he’d been involved with.  I drank the Kool aid hard and fast.  But, after sixteen years of abuse that rivaled that of my childhood, the marriage unraveled.

The first Thanksgiving after my second husband left I couldn’t bear to cook.  I couldn’t bear to entertain and wait on my brother who had betrayed me to my abuser.  Thankfully, my other brother, the new found one, invited me to his house to be with his family. 

And, there I met his best friend.

He had a girlfriend, and I was reeling from court, my mother’s death, the loss of everything, and was still trying to recover from the sudden onset of health problems ten months earlier. 

I really didn’t remember him.

This Independence Day my brother once again invited us both to his house.  And, the timing is right now. 

We’ve spent up to five hours at a time on the phone in the evenings this past week.  Yesterday my brother, his wife, the friend, and my kids and I went to a local lake for the afternoon.  When it got crowded late in the day, my brother and his wife headed home.  His friend, my kids, and I moved to a private side of the lake where he continued to teach my children to fish while I napped on the beach.

I don’t know where this is going.  But, I like him.  My kids like him.  I feel relaxed and calm when he talks or when he’s near.  He’s not perfect.  Far from it.  He’s just a nice guy who likes to fish and cook, who loves his kids and his dog, and who looks at me like he thinks I’m funny and pretty. 

I’m scared.  I regret not “going for” my youngest brother’s one friend 30 years ago.  He looked at me like I was funny and pretty.  He was thoughtful and easy going.  He’d have been a good life partner.  I regret marrying my youngest brother’s other friend.  He hurt my children and me.  He not only looked at me like I was stupid and ugly, but he strangled, beat, stole from, lied about, and much, much worse, not only me, but my children also. 

Funny how life repeats itself.  I haven’t really dated at all since the divorce and here I am hanging out with a brother’s friend.  Once again.  What will it be this time?  Will I regret this some day?  If so, will I regret not allowing him into our lives?  Or, will I regret trusting him?

Only time will tell.  Right now only one thing is certain.  I’m looking forward to fishing and napping again next weekend where the wind blows through the trees and the sun bounces off the water, where children laugh, and a quiet, brown eyed man smiles at me.

Survivor Guilt

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I’m dealing wth some horrific survivor guilt. 

No, not like I feel bad I survived when so many other women don’t.  It’s a different guilt.

A pastor once told me that I didn’t create the monster, but I certainly fed the beast.  And, during the past two weeks that reality has become so clear it has sickened me and I’ve cried over it several times.

I was my abuser’s fourth wife.  And, I unknowingly helped my abuser ruin his third wife’s life.  I didn’t realize it until now.

Now, that my ex has a girlfriend.  Now, that she buys him stuff because the poor man lost everything to me.  Now, that my she mothers my adult son she’s only known for six months.  The son who was introduced to her when his father brought her home from a bar and had sex with her just feet away from my son. 

She believes every awful lie my ex tells her about me.  My son fails to tell the truth but seems to want to please his father so allows, accepts, and perpetuates the lies. Perhaps he’s still trying to earn his abusive father’s love and acceptance.  And, truth gets you in trouble and rejected.

She coddles my abuser and tells him and the world how wonderful he is.  He responds to it by increasing his aggressive, manipulative, and demanding behavior with the kids and me. 

She is feeding the beast.

I did, too.

I’m mad at her, but I’m also mad at myself.

He convinced me he’d lost everything to his third wife; she was evil, an unfit mother; she deserved to lose her child.  And, I helped him inflict pain on her via her child.  I helped him deny her child support.  I justified his evil actions.

Now, I’m on the receiving end of all of that, and I can see how foolish I was.  I long to apologize to his third wife for supporting him in his continued abuses against her. 

I had no idea.  Just as I’m sure this new woman doesn’t. 

His third wife was always nice to me in spite of what she had to realize I was doing to aid and abet her abuser.  My face is flushed with anger over a lie of a Facebook post I just read on my son’s wall…….the new woman told my son his dad lost everything to me in our divorce.  I don’t think I could be nice to her right now.  But, I have to be.  She says it in ignorance.  Just like I did.  She’s clueless.  It’s taken me 20 years to realize my participation in his “game.”  I certainly can’t expect her to see clearly after six months, in the throws of being love bombed, what took me two decades to understand.

There are enough people in this town who know the truth about our relationship.   The truth will prevail.  Outside of my son’s lostness, what bothers me most is wondering what ever happened to that woman who was left with nothing.  That woman who’s relationship with her children was fractured.  That woman who lost her kids, her job, her home, her car, her family, her reputation.   I ache for her.

I’ve become her.  And, the new one has become me. 

His cycle continues.  He’ll eventually consume all he can from the new one.  I wonder if she’ll wake up and realize what she did to my children and to me by feeding that narcissistic beast. 

While it would be great for her personal growth, in a way I hope she doesn’t.  This kind of survivor guilt is horrible.  It’s eating me alive. 

I don’t know where #3 is, so the best I can do is throw it out to the universe and hope she catches it……..I am so deeply, deeply sorry for hurting you, for believing his lies and encouraging and enabling him to take your child from you.  I’m so sorry I supported him in destroying you in other people’s eyes.  I’m so sorry I didn’t treat you with the kindness you deserved and needed.

I Am Strong

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I was dreading my son’s wedding in April.  The last time I’d seen him he told me off and left my house, saying he’d never return.  I had no idea how I’d be treated, how the younger children would be treated.  I feared what I may be setting us up for by going.

The third week of April isn’t a good time for me anyway.  My maternal grandpa died the third week of April 1985. That week I miscarried my first pregnancy after collapsing at Grandpa’s funeral.  My dad died the third week of April 2012.  In my heart it’s just a time of loss.  Significant my first born son would choose that week to get married to a woman who had torn him from his family. 

But, this wasn’t about me.  And, I am strong.  I could go and be graceful and congenial for my son’s sake.

I am strong.

That has become my mantra. 

When my eye is burning from fatigue and I don’t think I can clean one more house….I tell myself I am strong.

When I have no one to lean into with the burdens of my life….I tell myself I am strong.

When a log is heavy and I strain to lift it….I tell myself I am strong.

When my children are behaving badly, and I’m unsure how best to deal with their confused emotions….I tell myself I am strong.

When I just want to lie in bed and not face the bills, people’s rudeness, being ostracized, my physical pain, and the unreal amount of work to be done….I tell myself I am strong.

And, it’s working!  I am strong!   And, I’m getting stronger!

I’m building muscle and am getting in wood for next winter.  I can clean eight houses in a week and then come home and clean my own.  I can walk into that community center with a smile and face those gossips.  I can parent these hurting children and watch them blossom.  And, I went to the wedding feeling nothing but joy for my son’s happiness.

Turned out, it was a great weekend.  There was nothing but joy.  Everyone was kind and loving.  It was all good.  I think some healing took place. 

And, I might have missed it if I hadn’t convinced myself I was strong enough to deal with rejection one more time.  I’d have missed the sweet words, warm hugs, and dancing with my son.  By not going, I’d have probably solidified the end of our once close relationship.   By trusting I had the strength to go, I opened the door for forgiveness and grace.

I am strong.  I’ve been through A LOT.  And, God and life aren’t done with me.  But, I can make it.  God will continue to strengthen me.  So, I am able to pick up my sword with confidence and set my face with determination as I prepare myself for today’s battle.

Trying To Keep My Perspective

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Yesterday was vistation.  We knew it would be tense.

The last few vistations have been rough, and the kids have seen increased agitation in their father.  In March he sat and glared at them and watched them as they walked out to go to the bathroom.  My 16 year old was afraid.  He is afraid.

I called the ex to see if we could switch weeks, so the kids could go to their oldest brother’s wedding.  He never returned my call.  When he called the kids a week later, they asked him.  He told them he was moving but didn’t give them the address and didn’t call again at his regular call time. 

The night before visitation, Friday, at almost 9 o’clock, my 16 year old called his dad to see if visitation was still on.  I suspected their dad had no intention of giving us the new address but would then file contempt charges against me for denying his vistation.

He angrily told E it had not been two weeks since he’d called.  He snapped out that he had called Sunday before last.  His call time is Sundays at 6. He had not called in 12 days and three hours when our son had to call him to get his new address, but we’re not going to call that two weeks.

There’s been no child support again. 

I dropped the kids off at the lovely older cottage with the new truck and the Harley Davidson parked in the carport.  I could see all of the weight equipment he claimed he had to sell in desperate poverty post divorce.  It was arranged in the garage in a way that was obvious it is being used.  And, I headed to work……my sixth day in a row. 

The kids usually ask to be picked up anywhere between 1:30 and 3:30.  The last two times they did stay until 5:30.  When I left work at 3 I texted the kids to see if they were ready.  E was obviously PANICKED.  They wanted to leave, but their dad was riled.  They were afraid.  He didn’t want them to go yet and was acting hostile.

E begged, “What do I do???”

I told him to explain to his dad that they had appointments to get haircuts for the wedding.  That only infuriated him more!  “Why does your mom do that?  Why does she schedule stuff during MY time?  I could take you more!  You do realize that, don’t you?  I have the RIGHT to take you more!  Why does your mother do this?”

I’ve never done that before. 

However, it was a legitimate reason.  I work six days a week.  It’s what you have to do when their deadbeat dad refuses to pay child support consistently.  And, they needed haircuts for the wedding.  They hadn’t had haircuts in months.  But, bottom line is, they were afraid of their father and wanted out of there.

When I got there I was cool and acted like everything was fine.  I’m really good at that. He and my family trained me well.  Let’s play pretend this is normal and no one sees you’re a monster.

I handed him mail that had come to my house for our 19 year old.  He grabbed it and acted like he was going to throw it on the ground.  He stood in the doorway of my car as though he might get in, blocking the kids from getting in, and went into a tirade about how they hadn’t eaten and he didn’t realize I was going to get them soooo early. 

I calmly explained that it was about the same time I always pick them up and that with my work schedule it was the only time I could get the kids to the barber without taking time off work.  His eyes were sharp and his jaw was flexing.

He then offered me a smart TV.  He has three and only needs two.  He thought the kids could use it in their room.  I said no thank you to which his glare sharpened and his mouth pulled tight.  He leaned further into my car and snapped, “Fine!  I just thought they could use it upstairs.  It was given to me, and I don’t need it so I thought I’d give it to the kids!” 

I remained calm and smiled and explained that the kids have tablets; we have a TV; and (as he knows full well) I think too much technology isn’t good for their study habits or their behavior.  And, if we watch TV, it’s all together.

He argued that the boys could use it for their video games in their room.  I stood firm.  They play in the living room. No thank you. 

I thought he might lunge at me.  I could clearly see what E was texting about.

He went back to arguing about losing his time, and I offered to bring them back to him to have dinner with him AFTER the haircuts.  He backed off and let the kids in the car wth that.

After the haircuts, from the barber shop, I called him.  He answered but wasn’t home.  We waited an hour for him to come back before I left the kids with him to eat pizza.

Another hour passed, and I retrieved my emotional children.  They started in on how he has all of our old furniture in his new place.  The expensive furniture he claimed he had to burn because I had allowed it to ruin.  They told how there is a shotgun hidden in the top of the entertainment armoire and a pistol in his bedroom.

His boss, the one who is not garnishing his wages as he’s supposed to, is the one who is renting him this cute little house.  His boss is well connected, a big wig in this town.  His boss is good friends with my cousin who fired my teenager without reason or notice.  His boss is enabling him and further victimizing us, all in the name of being a good Christian. 

I’m fighting to keep my perspective. 

This man who had nothing but a sleeping bag, a small mat, a stereo, some plastic bowls, and A LOT of debt when I married him, walked away with A LOT of very nice material goods.

When I married him I had so much, so very much, but no debt.  And, all I walked away with, for all of my years of hard work, was his debt, the full responsibility for my wounded children, and a broken down body.

It’s hard not to be angry.

The youngest two crawled in my bed and asked to sleep with me.  My little girl was sobbing.  In between gasps she expressed her fear that her dad would take her away from me.  With two kids in my bed tossing and turning and moaning all night, needless to say, I didn’t sleep.

As I lay there in the dark listening to their fitfulness, random thoughts seemed to come from outside myself.  The Son of God had no place to lay His head.  Elijah thought he was alone and was fed by the birds.  Jeremiah was lowered into the pit.  David was hunted by Saul and later by his own son.  Job lost everything, including his children.  Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, lied about, falsely accused, wrongly imprisoned, and then forgotten. Lazarus was covered in sores and ate with the dogs.  Jesus was hunted and eventually murdered by His own people.

Each case was unfair.  Unjust.  They suffered things they did not deserve as a direct result of the wickedness of others. 

My Sister Survivors, on days like yesterday we need to keep an eternal perspective….. we’re in good company.  We’re on the right side.  And, in the end, our team wins.  Stay strong.  Fight the good fight.  Our redeemer is coming back but next time it’s with a double edged sword, riding his horse into battle.  Do not grow weary in doing good, or what is right.  Your reward will be great.  Possess the spirit of Jael but maintain a soft heart.  And, look up, our redemption draws near. 

I’m Still Here

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I’m sorry I’ve been away.  I miss you all.  My computer died.  I can’t afford to replace it.  And, it’s really difficult blogging from my phone. 

And, I’ve been dealing with a lot.  Physically.  Emotionally.  Financially.  Relationally. 

I’m working six days a week and am also trying to get wood in for next winter while battling the last few pieces of wet wood we have left this winter.  We’re cold all the time.  The breaker for the dryer finally went, so I’m hanging wet laundry in the cold living room and also driving into town late at night to a laundromat.

I’m tired all the time.

My ex bought a really nice truck, a TV, sound bar, a Harley, a tablet, and two pistols…..he has a girlfriend and hangs out in the bars a lot.  I shake my head at the unfairness of it all. 

He glares at the kids during visitation.  He lays on them.  Puts his head in their crotches.  He talks incessantly about taking them places and teaching our teenager to drive. ……. the kid he tried to kill in his car.  Yeah, the teen is really excited about getting in a motor vehicle again with him.  Not.  They HATE visitation.  They develop headaches and stomachaches the day before they have to go, and, a month ago, my youngest suddenly developed an obsession with hand washing upon returning from vistation.  She can’t get clean enough to satisfy “whatever” is bothering her.   Where is their justice?

One of my closest friends rarely has anything to do with me anymore and only makes snotty remarks when I do see her.  She has money and social position.  Her friends have money and social position.  And, the ex has wormed his way into their circle.  They look past the long, unkempt hair and beard, the dirty clothes, the lecherous expressions, and self-indulgence.  They feel sorry for him.  I’ve become a “story teller” in their eyes.  Where is my validation?

There seems to be no rest.  No peace.  No end to this nightmare of a life he forced upon us.

But, in the middle of it all…… my second son, the one who suffered the worst and most severe abuse, asked me to do the flowers for his wedding.  He and his fiancé trusted me and gave me creative license to create something with no direction from them. 

Their wedding was sweet, tender, and beautiful.

Then, the time drew near for their baby to be born, and my son let me know I was to be there with them as they welcomed Little Man into the world. 

When the day arrived I got off work, showered, and hurried to the hospital.  It was a long night of terrible suffering for my tiny daughter in law.  My son, too.  He threw up.  He nearly passed out.  He left the room to go to the chapel and pray.

In the final moments I watched as my son stood at his wife’s head, wringing a cool cloth onto her forehead, and as her angry mother stepped back into a corner, hurt that her laboring daughter snapped at her.  I recognized those dynamics so well!  This was supposed to be all about her mother, but the young wife forgot that in her pain.

I lifted my daughter in law’s upper body with each push, encouraging her as she worked to birth her firstborn son.  I could feel the power and strength of every muscle in her body. I could see my grandson making funny faces before his body was out.  And, I was in awe of her. 

Until that moment I cared for her.  But, suddenly, I loved her fiercely and respected her immensely.  I bonded with her.

She gave me the most beautiful gift.

She let me witness the amazing strength and beauty of femininity at its fullest.  She loves my son.  She brought him to his knees before his Lord.  She let’s me love her son.

I stopped by their house after work yesterday just as she was leaving for urgent care.  In her exhaustion, she fell asleep with a contact in and her eye is full of blood.  So, I sat with my son and held my grandson.  My son and I visited, though it was obvious I was disrupting his TV show on Bible history.  We just relaxed and talked while the baby slept cuddled to my chest. 

The beer bottles have been replaced by the Bible on the coffee table.  My son’s pained and angry expression has been replaced with a mix of worry and contentment.

And, I was content.

In the home they’re making together, healing brokenness and looking ahead, I found an hour of rest, fairness, justice, and validation.  And, hope.

My ex devastated our lives, but We’re Still Here.

Everything’s Gonna Be Alright

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Today is Valentine’s Day.  Not a single card, flower, or piece of chocolate.  No sweet messages of love for me.  I’m alone.  Sitting in my old bathrobe, sipping the coffee I just made, in front of the fire I started.  Alone.

I went to a Jonny Lang concert Friday night.  Alone.  I bought a single ticket before Christmas.  And, I walked in there Friday night all by my lonesome.  While couples and groups chatted and laughed and hugged, waiting for the show to start, I sat and worked on my book.

My seat was dead center, six rows back in the intimate little venue.  I actually made eye contact with Jonny twice.  Squeal!  Once was while we were all singing in unison, “Everything’s Gonna be alright.”  Now, concerts can be almost spiritual–it’s a strange thing–but he had us sing that over and over and over again until I think every soul in there believed it.  Perhaps that was his purpose.  But, when he looked at me and sang those words as I was singing them, they penetrated my spirit.

The couple next to me included me in their conversation and kept offering to buy me drinks.  We hugged when I left, and the woman told me we’ll all get the same seats next year so that I’ll never have to be alone at one of Jonny’s shows.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon and evening buying and delivering Valentine’s for my kids and grandkids.  As I walked into one store, a darling toddler with a crop of dark, wavy hair caught my eye.  He’d gotten away from his mother and was reaching for the sliding door.  I gasped.  That cute little guy was going to get his fingers caught!
His mama was quicker than he was though and grabbed him away just in time.  As she stood up I realized that’s my grandson’s mother!  It was then that I noticed my 4 year old grandson had kept walking out the door as his mother struggled with his brother.  I froze and beamed, waiting for him to notice me. 

He did.  He yelled my name and came running, arms out.  He hugged me over and over again, telling strangers that walked past, “That’s MY grandma!”

After they left, his mama sent me a video text of him telling me he loves me.

My final stop was my daughter’s house.  She breaks my heart on a weekly basis, but she has valiantly birthed two little girls who don’t see me through her eyes.  The loose afro bounced as my granddaughter came to me.  That bear hug must have taken every once of strength a 2 year old could muster!  She rubbed my hair. 

We’d been exchanging texts earlier in the day.  My daughter would read mine to my granddaughter, and she would record voice messages to me…….”I love you, Nammy.”  These hugs were the culmination of our verbal love fest that morning.  We’d both been looking forward to seeing each other all day. 

Her baby sister cooed and “talked” back to me, smiling, and opening her mouth, asking for kisses.

So, I’m alone on Valentine’s Day.  In a cold house.  With nothing but what I make for myself.  Yet, I’m bathed in a sense that “Everything’s gonna be alright.” 

Everything’s gonna be alright. 

Thank you, Jonny.  Thank you, strangers I sat next to.  Thank you, my sweet grand babies.  Thank you, Lord.

Everything’s gonna be alright.  Everything’s gonna be alright.  Everything’s gonna be alright……

Happy Valentine’s Day