Hero of the day…Finding Hope

Have you ever wondered why certain people enter and leave your life at certain times?  Is it God or the Universe’s plan to guide the people who shape us to come into and out of our lives at the precise time to teach us lessons?  There is a Buddhist belief that we are all spirits that travel together, living this life over and over again.  It is thought that we ask to learn a certain lesson and then our spiritual pack enters and leaves this life together to play certain roles to help each other gain the knowledge we were seeking. What makes this belief so fascinating to me is the possibility that I get to meet up with and love the same people over and over again, for eternity!   If this were to be true, I am quite certain that this life’s lesson for me must be to learn about perseverance and forgiveness.  My journey so far has taught me so much about these character traits.  Yet, it makes me a bit nervous to think I am coming to the end of my lessons, and then what???  What would my purpose be? Would I have to leave this life if I served its purpose?  I decided that if this was a true outlook, I am going to seek new lessons to learn to borrow some more time. Lately, I have found myself drawn to the unsung hero.  These are the common people in our everyday lives that face incredible adversity, yet, essentially go unnoticed by most, but not me, at least not anymore.  I make it a point to notice them.  And when I do recognize them, I smile and think, “This is my hero of the day.” And I try to burn the memory of the encounter into my conscience, so it stays with me forever, shaping me into a better person. 

I love this new adventure… finding the hero of the day. But what constitutes a hero in my view you may be wondering?  Well, clearly there are the heroes that society recognizes without questions…The soldier, first responder, the doctor and nurse.  But the past 2 years in particular, I have discovered that I am learning about strength in the unsung heroes.  My unsung heroes are the people who fly under the radar.  The ones that take on their challenges with dignity and respect, but somewhat quietly…privately.  The ones that refuse to take what life has given them and who confront their pain, fears, barriers head on to create their own destiny, a better chapter of life than the one they have been dealt.  Maybe it is simply survival for them.  Maybe these people have no choice.  But for a person from the outside looking in, I stand in awe and learn more about who I want to be by witnessing their displays of valor.  These are the people I admire the most.

Let me start by acknowledging that the recognition and appreciation of those in need is a lifelong passion…thus the career I chose. But this passion is a bit different, as my appreciation is not focused on those who have needs but rather those my life needs.   There are certain people who impact your life, both negatively and positively.  Up to this point, my blogs have been mostly about those negative people who haunted me and my journey of healing the past.  Those blogs have outlined the ugliness that broke me and the kindness of my husband’s love that allowed me to brush myself off and move forward.  But now, I would like to shift my blogs into living in the present.   It is ok to glance backwards to learn from the past, but the past is a terrible place to live. It no longer exists.  To survive and ultimately thrive,  we must live in the present, right here in this moment, in the second that is, well, real.  My life has shifted towards trying to recognize my blessings as they are occurring and as a result my existence has shifted to one of gratitude and admiration.  I would love to tell you that this was an intentional shift.  However, events in my life sort of forced me to become more aware. Nevertheless, I have begun to set new priorities and goals for myself for the future. 

Bizarrely, there is usually some sort of silver lining in our most heart-breaking events.  For me, almost 2 years ago to the day, without any notice or warning, my husband was diagnosed with advanced Laryngeal Cancer.  To say that I was angry was an understatement. I had spent my lifetime trying my best to be good and kind, despite how poorly others treated me, and yet I was faced with disappointment, heart break and challenged after challenge.   Oddly, I had found a gift in the journey his illness took us on.  It was a gift in that my eyes were finally opened to the fact that, although my life up to that point was completely tarnished by complete assholes, those people and events meant nothing to me in the grand scheme of things. I was now blessed with a life filled with people, who I believe, were sent into my life to teach me great things:  Lessons in love, compassion, hope, admiration and strength.

The first day at Penn Medicine’s Roberts Proton Therapy Center for my husband’s cancer treatment was a miserable day.  I was so angry, sad, scared and overwhelmed.  I was completely helpless in helping him.  I can say that it ranks up there with one of the worse days of my life.  I resented that we were there, resented being part of this terrible world.  Everyone in the room was sick, everyone had cancer…I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  My husband who was perfectly fine a few weeks ago was very, very sick and there was nothing I could do to change it or make it better for him.  As we waited for his appointment, there was a baby, no more than 2 years old who walked proudly across the waiting room with her parents on both sides of her.  Her bald head and chipmunk cheeks told the story of her journey.  But today was clearly a good day.  As her parents lifted her up, she giggled, reached out her hands and began pulling on a rope which rang the bell attached to it. She was ringing that bell to signify that she had just completed her last radiation therapy treatment.  I paused and noticed there were several more people with her, they were all smiling and clapping, some wiping away tears.  I started to look around the room.  Some people smiled and laughed excitedly for her.  Others clapped and looked nervous, perhaps wondering if their day to ring that bell would ever come. As people cheered, she rang the bell again and again.   Before I knew it, I was sobbing.  I never met this child, but I was so overwhelmed with emotions. My heart was thrilled for her while at the same time it broke for my husband.  As I looked between her beaming face and him barely able to keep his eyes open in the seat next to me, it hit me…yes, I am surrounded by sickness, but more importantly, I am surrounded by love and hope.  These people were fucking rock stars.  These people too, were indeed, heroes. And, yes, it was easy to “feel sorry” for them.  But I didn’t focus on that, I felt proud of them.  Proud to be blessed to witness this moment and stand in their presence. Strangely, for a few minutes, I no longer felt the despair in the room.  I am sure it was still there, but I chose not to look at these people with sadness and pity, but rather with admiration of their strength, bravery, and hope. 

The patients we encountered at Penn clearly left an imprint on my heart.  There were 2 very special children in my husband’s radiation loop who never leave my mind:  The teenager whose mother spoke only Chinese yet we found a way to communicate while we waited for our loved ones every day for 7 weeks and the young boy with the recurring brain tumor, whom which, the Eagles took to the Superbowl with them the year they won.  That young girl always had a sweet smile each day to greet us and would apologize, yes APOLOGIZE TO ME, on the days she would vomit in the trashcan because the chemicals of chemotherapy combined with her daily radiation made her violently ill.  And that little boy, he just had no idea of the battle he was in because he was no more than 7 or 8 years old and just wanted to go home and play. To date, these children occupy a huge space in my heart, but my, no our, unsung hero at Penn was not a cancer patient.  Rather, he was the young man who greeted us from the reception desk the second that elevator door opened each day.  

My drive to and from radiation and chemo were typically in silence.  We sat in traffic and I am sure there was a sea of noise around us, but my husband slept and I was numb.  We were exhausted.  Each day we would take the elevator up one floor to the radiation suite.  The doors opened and we would step towards the reception desk to check in.  On the second day of treatment, a young, very tall and stocky African American man greeted us.  My husband weakly stepped forward….” Footit”  he said to check in.  The man looked up and smiled.  “OK Footit’s, you are all checked in”.   We took our seats and waited to be called again for the Proton waiting room.  We carried out this routine every day for 7 weeks.  By the 4th day, the elevator door opened, and there was our friend…big smile on his face and he would shout out, “Hey, the Footit’s are here!” As the days progressed, we became the Foot’s and finally…”Hey…the Feet are here!”   It made us laugh every day.  There were days we were there for hours.  I watched this young man work the room.  He went out of his way to greet people by name.  When he had a break, sometimes he would pass out cookies left at the desk by other patient’s.  He would stop by and ask me if he could get me a tea or a coffee.  And, he was a football fan.  We found great pleasure in harassing each other about being Philadelphia natives yet I was a Cowboys fan, and he was a Patriot’s fan.  This was the year that the Pat’s and the Eagles went to the Superbowl together, the year the Eagles won.  This young man proudly wore his Pat’s jersey Superbowl week and he laughed at the harassment he received from all of the Eagles fans in that waiting room.  On the day after the Superbowl, the doors to the elevator opened and he took one look at us and we all laughed.  I handed him a card…it was a condolence card.  Expressing how sorry we were for his loss, haha!  Everyone got a big kick out of it.  The next week, our final week of radiation, he was gone!  I waited a few days to ask where he was, was he on vacation?? The other receptionist informed us that he didn’t work on that floor…he was just covering. I asked where he usually worked, and they responded they had no idea.   We were so sad, I never got to tell him how much he impacted our lives, how his smile made our miserable days better, how his kindness turned my bitter and angry heart into a gentler, more accepting heart.  I never got to give him the letter I wanted him to give to his parents to thank them for raising such a beautiful soul.  No one else seemed to notice his absence, but it was a hole in our day.  During this experience, this man was truly our ‘Hero of the Day’…maybe of a lifetime.  This gentle giant transformed a room of illness into one of humor and compassion.  If I live a thousand lifetimes, I will never forget him. 

As I continue to step through this lifetime day by day, I tend to encounter more and more people like this young man.  People who are making such significant impacts on those around them, but perhaps never notice or realize it.  My husband and I like to get up early and ride bikes at the beach.  As much as I enjoy it, there are some days I just am not in the mood for it.  On one of these days, as we rode, we came across a young girl, perhaps in her late 30’s, early 40’s.  She moved slowly and as we approached her and it hit me that she has a left sided paresis in which she held her arm to her chest, most likely due to a contracture of those muscles, and she drug her left foot a bit.  Despite her disability, she was out on the walking path, taking step after step to regain a lost function of her body and perhaps a lost time of her life.  Our eyes met for a split second and we exchanged a quick smile.  My heart sunk.  I instantly thought…” Hero of the day- The girl who has no limits!”  Here was another unsung hero who was working to overcome the obstacle life threw in the middle of her journey. Her spirit was totally ignoring the limitations her illness projected onto her body. 

A few days later, I had a brief conversation with a young man who lost his wife to an illness.  We talked about the children he was caring for and I erroneously said to him something to the fact that he was a great guy raising his stepchildren alone as I was sure this wasn’t something he signed up for.  His look was very sincere with a fierce love and commitment in his eyes as he corrected me.  “No, I absolutely did” he said. “I signed up for this the second I met them all.”  As a mom who is remarried, we are so grateful for a man who comes along and loves our children.  But this wasn’t the love of a stepfather, but the love of a dad.  It filled my heart. I immediately realized my mistake.  Not only did I now understand how lucky all those kids were to have him, but I recognized how blessed he felt to have them.  “Hero of the day…the man whose love breaks the barrier of blood and obligation.”  What an honor and gift for them all, especially to the special woman they all lost. 

As my summer progressed, out of the corner of my eye one day I noticed a much older man, well into his 70’s running on the beach in the soft sand.  Each stride he took was notably a challenge.  It was hot and his feet were trudging through the sand as if someone was pulling them backwards.  He was driven.  He kept his eyes fixed on his goal at the other end of the beach.  I pointed him out to my husband.  I said, “I am ashamed I do not exercise more and complain about aches and pains.”  This man is clearly struggling but the reward to perhaps persevere and maintain his strength is clearly more valuable to him than the discomfort or challenge he was experiencing.  And then it hit me again.  “Hero of the day…the man who refuses to accept age as a limitation in order to achieve personal satisfaction.”  Give me an ounce of this drive, please!

As the summer came to a close and the crowds left the beaches, I drove the empty streets of North Wildwood and noticed 3 teens walking down the street.  One of the young men was in a wheelchair.  I could tell from the size of his body in his clothes, the posture he maintained in the chair, and the paleness of his skin that he was nearing the end of his journey here on this earth.  The teens who pushed him along, talked and laughed, bending over to look him in the face in an effort to include him in the conversation.  I slowed down and quietly sobbed as I watched them for a few minutes.  These boys were clearly aware of their friend’s frailty as they pushed him along.    I sensed they knew the warm sunshine and gentle breeze was a gift to this young man when he pushed his head back to allow the sun to soak into his face.  What a beautiful friendship I had the pleasure to witness. “Heroes of the day- the young men who kept some normalcy in a day to spend time with a friend in need.”  Let me never be too busy to spend time with those who need it. 

I share just these few examples to show you that, yes, this life IS filled with sadness. And I have learned the hard way my best efforts cannot change that. But in the emptiness and despair we sometimes experience, there is still beauty. It is a collateral beauty that sometimes get blurred by our tears or hidden behind our huge pile of fear and heart break.  But it is there.  The beauty is concealed in these people who enter our life unexpectedly and teach us something we may need to learn in order to grow, heal, and forgive.  We need to find this beauty in the chaos of situations.  In order to do that, we must somehow learn to be present as much as possible.  Stop, breath, listen, see, and learn to feel the love and kindness.  These treasures are hidden in others and are yours for the taking, if you are open and willing to learn.  Look for the unsung hero who may be there to act as your guide in order to show you the way…the way to perhaps a better you.  One of my most favorite movie quotes seems to point in the same direction of the unsung hero…although she refers to it as “Ruin”.

“A friend took me to the most amazing place the other day. It’s called the Augusteum. Octavian Augustus built it to house his remains. When the barbarians came they trashed it a long with everything else. The great Augustus, Rome’s first true great emperor. How could he have imagined that Rome, the whole world as far as he was concerned, would be in ruins. It’s one of the quietest, loneliest places in Rome. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. It feels like a precious wound, a heartbreak you won’t let go of because it hurts too good. We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked at around to this place, at the chaos it has endured – the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic, it’s just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

Persevere Bitches!

Life Lessons That Are Just a Click Away

How many times have you seen the Wizard of Oz?  One? Ten? I can honestly say I have watched it dozens of times.  30-40 viewings would be a good estimate having had 3 daughters that loved the movie and watched it over and over again. I have watched this movie literally my whole life, every Easter weekend, as that is when it aired on TV annually. My most favorite part was when Dorothy sung ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’.  Forget being intrigued by her beauty and magical voice, but the verse below would melt my heart.

“Someday I’ll wish upon a star

And wake up where the clouds are far behind me.

Where troubles melt like lemon drops,

Way above the chimney tops,

That’s where you’ll find me.”

I never thought about this until listening to an audio book by Oprah Winfrey last weekend, but could THIS be what I have been searching for? Was I looking for a place to escape to in order to NOT deal with my worries and stresses?  Somehow, the decisions I have made in my life actually took me far away from this peaceful place and to a different place where I became buried in heart break, betrayal, and abuse. But now that I have been clawing my way back, it literally just hit me… Could I have had the answers and directions in front of me this whole time?  Up until this point, I have always viewed the Wizard of Oz as just a movie about a girl and her dog in a magical place- Period.  There was nothing deeper.  I remember there had been some talk that the characters represented social groups of people and issues during that Era.  The Scarecrow supposedly represented the uneducated Farmers and the Lion represented the heartless Steel workers.  But my girlfriend Oprah just opened my eyes to another, totally different thought process.  So, if you have never heard this twist on what the Wizard of Oz could represent, you are in for a treat and you need to sit down and take some notes. 

There is no way my mom could have ever of viewed The Wizard of Oz from this perspective.  Clearly, I as a parent did not.  But I think this movie should be required viewing for all older children and young adults.  Not only to view it, but to dissect it and then have a serious discussion of the embedded messages and how we can ingrain these lessons into our sense of being. After listening to my audio book, I reflected on the circumstances of my life. I have long accepted how I have gotten myself into those messes as a result of my poor self-esteem. But now, I am comparing my life to some of these ‘Oz” lessons and thinking…HOLY CRAP!  I have mentioned in early posts that I am a slow learner and missed and/or ignored many red flags in my life. But these words of wisdom below seem to be the saddest and most unfortunate messages that flew under my radar. As I reach the milestone of the big 50 tomorrow, I want to share my perspective of these messages.  So, let’s get started! This is my life seen through the looking glass of Dorothy Gale from Kansas.

Do you recall this scene?  Dorothy says to her dog that they need to find “A place where there isn’t any trouble. Do you suppose there is such a place, Toto?”  Life is so hard.  I think we have all had a moment that we wanted to abandon the life we were living and just go someplace simpler. A place where there is no stress, no worry, no bullshit…a place of peace and love.   But as I have learned the hard way, that place doesn’t REALLY exist.  It would be nice.  But instead, we get a sampling.  There are periods of time we catch a glimpse of a happy go lucky life, but let’s face it,  a fair part of life is unfair, hard, and/or fucking complicated.

I deeply regret the amount of times I have allowed my heart to be broken.  Yes, allowed.  I was an active participant in my life, so I do accept responsibility for my role and refuse to play the victim role any longer.  But to go out on that limb time and time again to love, despite how much love had let me down, was a risk worth taking to me.  What would my life had been like if I made a different choice?  What if I gave up on love?  What if I hardened my heart?  What if I shut it down to the point that I no longer had a heart?  This isn’t impossible.  I meet heartless assholes all the time.  Hell, I have dated and married a few along the way.  But perhaps, if I didn’t have a heart, my life could have been different… easier.  But I would have never been happy living the life of a Tin Man.  I’m a lover, a broken heart was a risk I was willing to take.   I am glad I kept trying.  Look at the amazing love I am blessed with today. Learning forgiveness definitely aided in keeping my heart open to new possibilities. Forgiveness is probably the most important process of preserving a pure and open heart.

The Wizard says to the Lion, “You, my friend, are a victim of disorganized thinking. You are under the unfortunate impression that just because you run away you have no courage; you’re confusing courage with wisdom.”  I have felt like such a loser for leaving two marriages.  I have closed doors on many friendships over the years as well, many long term friendships.  I used to wonder what is was about me that was so horrible at relationships.  And I truly believed, I was a coward…I ran away.  I quit because things were hard or made me uncomfortable. It took me years to gain the wisdom that no one, let me repeat this again, NO ONE has the right to make you feel like you are less.  NO ONE has the right to harm you, physically or emotionally.  NO ONE has the right to control you…tell you what you can or can’t wear, where you can or can’t go, who you can or cannot call your friend, or who you spend your time with.  NO ONE has the right to talk about you, betray you, let you down at your lowest point.  I had reason to be very fearful of parts of my past, Serious reason. And yes, I abandoned those situations. But I didn’t run away, I gained WISDOM.  The wisdom to understand that these behaviors are unacceptable.  The wisdom to understand that these things in my life were deviant. The wisdom to know that I deserved better.  The wisdom to know that friends aren’t envious, petty, or manipulative. I had developed the insight of knowing that although these people were important to me at some point and they played an important role, their purpose in my journey through this life was over.   I didn’t run away.  I wasn’t a coward.  I finally started to develop a sense of self-esteem.  My courage finally surfaced in my ability to confront these people and say that I had enough.  I had enough of all of their non-sense, but more than that was that I had enough of being sad to the core.  I was brave to leave people in my life that no longer, and in some cases, never served my best interest, despite how I may have loved them.  I finally realized that I was worth fighting for. 

Experience has definitely made me smarter.  As I said before, you begin to feel so foolish when you make mistake after mistake.  I actually left mistakes and then returned to them! I returned thinking things would be different this time, that I could change the root of who and what some people really are. I think that I am always sharing my twisted past in an attempt to give people a huge head up about me.   I want them to know that I am a person who made more bad decisions than most.  More importantly, I also want them to know that I am tough.  Tougher than a good amount of people they may have ever met and if they cross me or they are not genuine, they will be plucked from my life like an ugly weed, despite how my heart may feel about you.   Experience has helped me to separate my brain from my heart.  It has taught me who is good and who is not. Very few “impostors” slip through the cracks in my circle of friends, at least not anymore.  I listen to my instincts a lot more and avert relationships with similar people and circumstances that have burnt me in the past.  I have learned from each good and bad experience in my life.  Those big experiences have help shape me into a bit of a warrior of love.  My experiences have also forced me to change me for the better. 

In the Oprah audio book, she makes an interesting point about the three characters Dorothy encounters on her journey to get back home.  She suggests that perhaps they are disassociated pieces of Dorothy’s own personality.  Here is this defiant teen, trying desperately to happiness and along the way, she has to confront some broken pieces of herself.  She tries so desperately to run away from her troubles.  She isn’t feeling loved and understood by those around her (Tin Man).   She also is afraid to confront this insecurity in herself (Lion). With experience, she learns her self-worth. (Scarecrow).  What better representation of Dorothy getting on the right road to find herself than by the guidance of the beautiful Glinda.  Glinda is a true representation of how beautiful we really are deep down inside.  Could Glinda have also been a representation of Dorothy subconscious?  The Wicked Witch of the West clearly served as the obstacle in Dorothy’s life who forced her to face each of these fears and weaknesses. Think about the situations in your life that served as obstacles?  What was the breaking point that pushed you to finally face your fears?  For me, it was a fierce desire to no longer let my children down.  My goodness, what a horrible disappointment I must have been at times.  I was driven to make sure my children were safe and felt loved. I strived to become a person they could trust and admire.   An important scene is after the witch threatens Dorothy.  “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog too!” Glinda reminds the Wicked Witch that she has no power over Dorothy in that situation.  Isn’t this the truth with all of us.  In reality, we have the power in our lives, not our fears.  When we are in crisis, we cannot see that we have power because we are unsure, scared, broken.  But it is there.  Step back.  Breathe.  Focus hard.  Your strength is in there.  You just have to melt that nasty old witch telling you otherwise.

It takes courage to look within.  For some of us, that is a jagged pill to swallow…facing the things we need to change about us.  However, if we reach way deep inside, we will eventually discover that we do have the power to change our lives and always have. It’s not lost, it’s just forgotten or misplaced.  This lesson is one that I wished I had learned so much earlier in life.  I didn’t gain any magical powers along the way in life.  I didn’t learn a new skill to deal with my life or combat my own demons.  I simply began to like me better.  I became the same advocate for myself that I was for others.   I grew up with the Catholic guilt in believing it was a sin if we were selfish.  I confused selfish with self-care.  It is not selfish to take care of yourself first.  IT IS MANDATORY. When you fly on a plane, they tell you that in the event of an emergency situation, if oxygen in needed, you should put it on yourself first and then help others afterwards.  There is no possible way to take care of others when you are a hot mess yourself.  My decisions to stay in certain situations literally left me suffocating emotionally.   It is mandatory for your physical and mental well-being to be kind to you and to help yourself.  If you are still struggling as you read this, click those heels of yours three times and get your ass in gear! Find your power

It is a natural response to run away from danger.  If you are not physically doing it, your body is most certainly doing it through its Fight or Flight response.  This roller coaster of ups and down we are riding on is aging us and for some, it can literally destroy you.  We all want to escape our stress and responsibility at times.  But we are not solving the problem.  It is still there and trust me when I tell you….it waits for you.  In increases in size and intensity. It turns into the flying monkeys, ripping you apart a lot like they ripped apart poor Scarecrow.   I ignored, pretended, and hid the truth. I became so good at it that I should have won an Academy Award for my performance!  I started to believe my own lies.  I didn’t trust me or my judgment.  I was afraid if I faced my problems, I would rock the boat, make them worse.  I was lost.  I had no idea who the hell I even was at time.  The more I looked outside myself to solve my problems, the further I got from actually solving anything. I believed things like if I just cooked better, things would get better.  If I just lost weight, things would get better.  If I  got my marriage blessed in a church, things would get better.  Crazy, right?  Well guess what?  I did all of those things and dozens more…and nothing changed.  It didn’t change because although the situation was indeed broken and needed to be fixed, I was broken and needed to be fixed.  And once I saw that and believed in me, I became stronger and things fell into place.  Not over night.  Not even over a decade.  But I am making progress and so can you.

Dorothy finally realized by the end of the move that she possessed everything she ever needed to be happy and return to Oz and her home and eventually, so did I. I started to come back home me, MY thoughts, MY beliefs, MY strengths.  It wasn’t solved by external factors; it was solved by coming home to me.   I really never lost me, I just misplaced me.   Home is within you if you look hard enough!  And finding yourself is as great as coming home from a vacation and finally getting to sleep in you own bed. Ah! There really is no place like home!

When I was lost in my land of Oz, I honestly believed that I could be enough and love enough for everyone!  My love could FIX things…marriages, friendship, finances, etc.  I didn’t know, or perhaps I forgot, that I deserved to be loved too. I forgot that I deserved to be loved and respected by others, especially people like my husband or friends. My forgetting that, I grew to dislike me so much, that this thought was just not plausible.  My heart was broken because’ I ‘ failed to fix my life and  I became exhausted by giving out all of my love. I was running on empty.  I gave my love to people who seriously did not deserve it.  And not only were they not worthy of it, they sucked me dry and never cared enough to return some love, not even a little bit.  Once I allowed my self to be loved by me, the rest began to fall into place.  And I want to make it clear that I don’t mean the love of a man, I am talking about finally feeling the love from myself, my parents, siblings, children, clients,  and yes, eventually the love from a great guy, and amazing, selfless friends.  I am home!  MY. HEART. IS. SO. FULL!!! I know many people struggle with these issues; I still have some of my own that I will tirelessly work on.  But our life is shaped by the people we meet along the way. Remember, the barriers you come across have no power over you in your home.  Stay the course.  Follow the yellow brick road.  Trust and love yourself.  Be brave and walk away from things that are not good for you.  Learn from your experiences.  And the most importance lesson of all…Persevere Bitches!

What if I am not ‘Enough’?

Have you ever looked in the mirror, saw your own the reflection, and thought…”? Who the FUCK are YOU?’ There is nothing more perplexing than being so disconnected from…well…you! I can’t be the only person who feels one way on the inside and the complete opposite on the outside, Can I?   This is probably the reason I find myself drawn to those silly videos of children on Facebook who have this outrageous self confidence that I am still struggling to find.  I have to say, one of my favorites is the little chubby girl who is flinging her hips side to side, while shaking her finger with attitude to Aretha Franklin’s RESPECT!  Why, oh why, isn’t being almost 50 and chubby with a sassy misdemeanor so endearing???? Ugh!

I have blogged about how I think I developed such a poor self-esteem.  But I don’t think I started out with any form of self-esteem at all, good nor bad.  I do know the formulation of my self-esteem bloomed from what and who people told me I was: Big nose, chipped front tooth to make my buck teeth stand out even more, short curly hair, stocky build…all negative. Sadly, I cannot remember one time looking in the mirror and saying to myself….” DAMN GIRL!” Not even to date.  I have 2 very different opinions of who I am.  I am this outer shell that is damaged and cracked but this shell has done its job in carrying me through this life so far. I am not fond of my outer shell at all.  Then I have this very different perception of who I am at the core.  I have done so much work in this area.  Before, my perception of the outside and inside used to be very similar: Self-loathing all around.  That was sort of my secret at the time.  I can remember hearing Smokey Robinson’s song “Tracks of my Tears” for the first time and almost crying. 

“People say I’m the life of the party
‘Cause I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughin’ loud and hardy
Deep inside I’m blue

So, take a good look at my face
You see my smile looks out of place
If you look closer it’s easy to trace
The tracks of my tears.”

That was the first time I really understood how good I was at hiding how broken I was. But I have made real progress on liking who I am at the core, despite my struggles to align that with how I feel about my physical appearance.   

I have worked over the years to repair the damage the actions that others instilled on my body and soul.  I have become a self-help book, magazine, and talk show junkie. I am not sure where my life would be if it wasn’t for the wisdom and guidance of people like Oprah, Iyanla Vanzant, Deepak Chopra, Joel Osteen and Eckhart Toole,  Although my blogs up to this point have talked about how broken and damaged I had become through my life’s experiences, my work over the past decade has been significant enough that I do like myself for the most part.  I am a good person.  STOP, I am, for anyone who just giggled.   Don’t get me wrong, if you cross me, I will take you out.  But I am good, and my heart is even better because I have learned that although there were many times, I couldn’t help myself, helping others has bridged that disconnect within and has made me more empathetic and caring towards others, including myself.  And here is where I now experience a strange and painful disconnect with who I feel like I am within and the person I see on the outside.

 I have tried to like the outside.  And I have found some things I really can appreciate.  I like my eyes.  They are my dad’s eyes.  When I look in the mirror, I can look past all my flaws when I focus on my eyes.  My eyes are now getting tired looking with age.  The fine lines and bags are hard to ignore, but they remind me of my dad, so I tend to look past the imperfection that surrounds them.  I have also developed an appreciation for my skin, but even that is beginning to fail me as I have been diagnosed with precancerous cells from my years of sun worshipping and I will spend a few weeks this winter undergoing a chemical peel through a chemotherapy type cream.  But there is where I draw the line regarding the things I like about my face. 

I have taken my body and face shaming to insane levels. I have never been the person I had hoped I would be in that department.  I am no stranger to plastic surgery.  The mean taunting of a horrible stranger led me to be terribly self-conscious of my huge bump in my nose.  What bump you say???  EXACTLY!   The ridicule of an ex pushed my self-loathing of my body to the extent that I tucked my belly and lifted my boobs (I know…they still need some more lifting…all in good time).  Somewhere along the line, as much as my weight has been a constant source of stress for me, I have allowed my weight to creep up and up.  I have honestly lost and gained the same 50 pounds for over a decade.  I have been on a roller coaster of several diets…so many, that I can no longer keep track.  I have even woken up some days committed to Weight Watchers and by dinner, I am in a restaurant ordering wings and I thinking, “Aww, screw it…I’m on Atkins now. Waitress, throw in a Tito’s and Club!”  And even at my current age, I am undergoing a second round of braces in the form of Invisalign.  Oh, and let’s not forget the Botox trial that made my forehead and nose resemble a female version of Herman Monster?  On second thought, I think it’s best for us all to leave that story where it lies, in my twisted past.   

You have probably seen a certain saying on Facebook stating, “I AM ENOUGH!” I do not need to be what society says I should be.  I am enough just the way I am.  I have not had the easiest paper route, but I persevered.  I have survived devastating relationships and turbulent and heart-breaking parental challenges.  Regardless, I owned a very successful business with about 75+ employees across 4 states, my business has helped hundreds, no, honestly thousands of children with disabilities over a 10-year period.  I try hard to be a good wife, mother, daughter and sister. I am a friend that will move mountains to help you.  I love to a fault. I am more than enough.  I am entitled to every wrinkle and stress line I wear on my face; the ones that time is making more prominent lately.  And if I am overweight, who cares…I am enough. I am not morbidly obese.  I have earned the pizza, the wine, and the piece of chocolate I sneak when I think no one is looking.  I deserve it all.  I am enough!  My mouth could easily say those things, but my heart was singing a different tune. 

In my search to find inner peace and balance, and to confront my weight demons, I tried a little experiment. I GOT NAKED!  I did this to accept and live comfortably in my well-deserved “Enough” body. This was such a terrifying experience, that I literally stopped in my tracks, threw back on some clothes, downed a double shot of Petron in seconds, and thought to myself, WHAT THE FUCK!   However, I was committed to doin this thing I have avoided for years.  So, yes, I got naked once again and glared into the mirror. I am a ‘lights out’ girl, if you know what I mean, and I only own one full length mirror that I almost never look in, so this was a big deal for me.  I resolved that I was going to take a hard look at myself in the mirror, in my most vulnerable state and accept all that I am and all that I have endured.  I was going to accept this god given human form that supported me through the good, the bad, and the ugly of my life. 

At first, I didn’t know where to begin, so I started at the top.  I looked at my hair.  Darn it…I always wished I had long, thick hair.  But I got thin, curly hair that is ok with me at this point. Hair extensions have helped.  Next, my attention went to my eyes.  They are tired.  But the sleep I lost over the years gave me time to reflect on moving forward, which I did successfully, so in all sense of the term, my eyes are ‘enough.’  I looked hard at the scar on my forehead from when fell in my driveway as a child, the one above my eye from the truck door flinging back at me when I got out while dropping my kids off at my mom’s on my way to work, and the one on my chin that I have no recollection of but it clearly required several stitches.  All battle wounds were classified and tucked away as things that made me strong.  I then focused on the new aging and sun spots on my cheeks and neck.  As horrible as they now appear, they represented years of summers at the swim club and on the beach creating memories with family and friends that somehow kept me sane in the tumultuous world I lived in.  All Blemishes were accepted and tucked away as a well-deserved price to pay for such great times.  My torso was a bit more brutal to look at objectively.  I observed the 2 incisions under each breast from my lift which helped release insecurity of sagging boobs a bit, the ones that endured engorgement of breast milk 4 times and bore the stretch marks to prove it.  Then, there was the scar between my breasts from the mole removal.  Remnants of an afternoon in a friend’s pool slathered in Crisco Oil…what the hell were we thinking??  Next came my most recent scars. 6 small incisions that span across my stomach in a semi-circle fashion from the 4-hour surgery to remove 2 significant tumors and help the oncologist rule out ovarian and /or uterine cancer.  The successful surgery and residual scars are a small price to pay for the peace of mind it gave me: Accepted and tucked away in my memory . Scanning lower, I observed the significant scarring from hip to hip from delivering my breach 10 lb. 7 oz son.  Overlapping the C-section scars, my body displays a significant tummy tuck scar which aided in removing the excess abdominal fat from the weight gain I went through being pregnant and delivering a baby at almost 38 years old and never losing the weight permanently.  All of these ‘battle wounds’ are well-deserved scars of a life that I was, somehow, no longer ashamed of.  I scanned down my legs to the scar on left knee from where I nearly bled to death in an early-age leg shaving accident. Adjacent was a scar I sustained from running from the cops in a raid at a beer party in the woods as a teenager.  All battle wounds were classified and stored in my memory as proof that I was a stupid teenager, but boy I had some great times.  My final scar was the one I bare on my inner left foot.  The one that represents my first, real heart break from a boy.  Mission accomplished.  The front is done.  I AM ENOUGH.  My body, and all its imperfection serves as a road map to 50 years of love and loss.   I finally did a quick spin around and examined my naked derriere. 

Let me start my saying that God is an extremely cleaver being having the hindsight to put our eyes in the front of our head and our ass in a place where the eyes cannot see easily or on a regular basis.  The split second I turned around to evaluate the back of me, panic struck.  UHM, NOPE!  Reality hit me square in the ego.  I quickly dressed and opened a bottle of wine.  My rear end was most certainly ‘Enough’.  In fact, the backside of me was MORE THAN ENOUGH! Enough for me and perhaps another person or two.   And then it occurred to me how silly this saying “I AM ENOUGH” can be for some people.  I am NOT enough.   Not for me. 

Please don’t misunderstand and think that I am trying to fit into society’s expectation of being perfect.  I am not starting a new cycle of finding faults. That is not it at all.  I do accept most of me.  But I honestly believe its perfectly fine to want to be the best version of yourself…and my legs and ass are not, to my standards, an acceptable version.  I want more and better for myself.  It would be so easy for me to continue to justify my weight.  In doing that, I am justifying and accepting a state of being that is not healthy.  I think I said this before, I have no desire to be a twiggy thin person.  One, my frame was not made for that, but two, I like my curves…they are just too curvy for me right now.  So, I will continue my endeavor to achieve change, but in doing so, I vow to be kinder to me.  I vow to continue to find the good in me.  I vow to do the best I can to be kind to and help others.  I vow to use gratitude to show me that this life is good, and I contribute positively to it.  And I vow to get on the treadmill and try all kinds of lifestyle changes to bring the rest of my body in line with a version of me I can finally find peace with.  I encourage all of you to love you enough to do the same.  Be the best version of you!  Find your version of being “Enough” and work towards it.  Don’t look for perfection.  It doesn’t exist.  But self-love and acceptance is possible.  Do the work to find it. That is my plan. Persevere Bitches!

Drugs or us…you decide!

Parents, can you remember the first time your child told you what they wanted to be when they grow up?  “Mommy, when I get big, I want to be an astronaut!” Maybe a doctor, maybe a fireman? How many parents can recall their child’s dream of being a drug addict?  No one?  Right!  Because no one, not one person, ever dreams or hopes that this is where their life could ever take them. 

In 2016, the CDC noted that 719 Philadelphia’s died of an overdose. The following year, it was reported that 70, 200 people in the United States died of an overdose.  That is more than Lincoln Financial Stadium holds! This numbers worsens each year.  And, sadly, no one has any ‘real’ plan on how to combat this epidemic.  Sure, there are task forces, but if we are all being honest, their efforts are falling short. Everyone believes it is the other person, other agencies, someone else’s responsibility. But there is not one single way that is working.  Our loved ones continue to die, and that count is climbing.  So, what do we do?  I say let’s fight!

In writing my blogs, I try to be very careful not to tell anyone else’s stories, but to tell you the perspective of how certain topics effected MY life.  Addiction was this horrible asshole that lived in my home since my earliest memory.  I come from a very large family where the age span is vast.  I had a brother 10 years older than me, so by 5-6 years old, I was introduced to the harsh reality of serious drug addiction and the bizarre drugs of the 70’s.  People tell stories about my oldest brother being a really great guy who would do anything for anyone.  Unfortunately, I had never met that version of him.  My earliest memory of him was a time, when all my mind could comprehend was that he was mean and horrible.  Imagine being in the first or second grade and asking your brother to pass a knife and he throws the knife across the table with such force it cuts your ear. I am sure it was just a minor flesh wound, but at that age I thought he cut my ear off!   My next memory was not too soon after. In our home, the girl’s bedroom had 2 sets of bunk beds with trundle beds next to them that you could pop down and push underneath the bottom bunk.  I recall my brother storming into the room for no reason and coming for me as I sat on the top bunk.  Unprovoked, he yanked me by my arm and I free fell onto the unelevated trundle bed. Immediately I could feel that all of the oxygen was sucked out of my body.  I remember him continuing to pull me up by my arm screaming “GET THE FUCK UP” while my knees were curled into my stomach and I gasped for air.  Although I felt like I was dying, however, it was simply my first experience of having the wind knocked out of me.  I never really cared for him after that point.  And I believe that was the first time I began to develop an intolerance for addiction.

I would like to tell you a story that goes on to say that my brother got help and we all lived happily ever after. I would like to tell you that I changed my opinion of my brother and we are now very close, but that is not the truth either.   My brothers’ drug and alcohol use coupled with his nastiness continued to escalate.  There were days of complete chaos.  There were days of my mom crying and my dad screaming. Remarkably, no one ever “talked” about it. It was a ghost that just existed. I would also like to tell you that the other 9 siblings had learned a valuable lesson from this experience and steered clear of drugs and alcohol abuse, but that was not our reality either.  Addiction effected more of my siblings which created a whirlwind of stress and disappointment for my parents, and a feeling of deep resentment from me.  I became so bitter that I said horrible, damaging things to my siblings while they were in crisis. I didn’t mean any of those things.  I just hated the impact addiction made on a life, that I was already struggling with, seem so much worse.

Just as a child never dreams of growing up to be an addict, parents never dream their child will be part of that dark world either. But, sadly, it happens.  It happens to the rich, the poor, the popular, unpopular, the beautiful, the ugly, the prom queen, the dork, the child,the parent.  Addiction does not discriminate!  As the epidemic has worse addiction as a disease, but not everyone feels that is the RIGHT label.  There is a stigma that surrounds addiction.   There are many parents that do not feel addiction and medical illness should be in the same category.  I have heard, “My child had a brain tumor, they didn’t have a choice” and/ or “an addict CHOOSES to do drugs.”   That last statement is true; children are making bad CHOICES, but I would never dream they are choosing the addiction. That is the disease…where the brain and the body develop a constant need.  At the end of the day, parents who have lost a child to a medical illness, as well as, an addiction are left devastated and empty. Don’t think you feel or see a difference in how society perceives this?  Think about it.   Have you heard it in the voice of others?  “How did he die…cancer…ugh, that’s horrible!”  “How did she die…an overdose…Oh.” That prejudice is there. No one wants to say it out loud, but it exists, and we need to do a better job as a society to change that.  The reality is they are both a loss of a life, and THAT fact alone is horrible!

Growing up living and loathing addiction, I was never ever going to let my children do drugs.  I was in their shit all day every day.  Nothing was sacred or private.  I have talked about in an earlier blog of how I eavesdropped and followed my kids to make sure that they would never do drugs.    My private, prep school children had no opportunity to experiment with drugs because I kept them involved in sports and other extracurricular activities.  And I was too mindful of a parent, too strict, too involved to ever let addiction rears its ugly head in my family.  I did everything the media and books said to do.  I was on my high horse, feeling so sorry for and praying for friends’ children.  I had my head so far up my own ass that I never saw that addiction snuck into my home in the middle of the night and stole MY baby.

My daughter was not a discipline problem.  She was not breaking curfew, talking back, nor stealing or lying.  I did not see the stereotyped warning signs. She was an athlete, an honor student at a private academy, National Honor Society officer, she was taking 12 college credits in high school while working 2 jobs.  She was the role model daughter with a secret $3000+ a month drug habit.  How and why my daughter made the decision to use drugs is not my story to tell, how we as a family chose to handle it is.

During my daughter’s final months of her senior year of high school, her drug use was brought to light.  And honestly, I was not the one to see it.  Another parent, a stranger knocked at my door to tell me that she was going to lose her daughter to addiction, and she didn’t want it to happen to another parent.  This stranger told me my daughter was using drugs!  I was floored.  My daughter denied the problem, saying she had a fight with the woman’s daughter, and this was all a lie.   Not long after this, she was off to living away at college. My daughter spent one year leaving in the dorms before she returned to living with me.  I finally started to see signs of trouble on my own.  In the tradition of an addict’s behaviors, she denied my allegations, lied, and initiated a deflecting strategy to throw me off.  At times she was successful and at times, although I didn’t really believe her, I desperately wanted to. DENIAL! She was the recipient of a President’s scholarship at Drexel University with a 4.0 GPA and working 2 jobs so what I suspected and what I saw were out of balance with each other.  It was out of balance until her car was repossessed, TWICE.  The first time I believed her story of being busy, falling behind on sending the payments, etc.  By the second time, I was armed with drug test.  POSITIVE…POSITIVE FOR A SLUE OF THINGS!!

Unsure of where to even begin, I reached out to people who have been living decades clean and helping others.  Once I told them what was going on, they sprang into action.  A facility for detox was set up for my daughter and my brother allowed her to live with him to help her daily.  She didn’t initially return to living with me because, honestly, I could not and did not want to handle it.  It was the coward’s way out and just another way to not have to face it. Given how I felt about addiction, it was like being severely burnt by a fire and then suddenly, a flame was in front of me and I was horrified.   After a few weeks, she was doing what she was supposed to be doing on the road to recovery, so she returned to living with me.  I found myself telling family and friends she was doing well over time, but my heart knew otherwise.  Now that my eyes were open to it, I could sense her deceit every time she spoke.  I would ride her over my suspicions and, as a result, she became more withdrawn from spending any time with me. 

When my sister first entered recovery, I remember her identifying the dysfunctional family members that supported her addiction. Some play the Enabler.  I thought I recalled my sister saying I was a Saboteur, but that is someone who is jealous of all the attention the addict gets and that was clearly not me.  If anything, I tended to be Apathetic, the person who didn’t see the addiction as their problem and didn’t want to help.  Not that any of these roles are good, I resented the stress and chaos addiction created and I just wanted to be free of it.  Perhaps if my first experience with addiction as a 5-year-old wasn’t so damaging and fearful to me, I would have been able to show more empathy and support for my other siblings and others.  It’s not a good excuse, I know.  I can only assume I developed it as a protective mechanism as a child and it morphed into an intolerant and avoidant behavior as an adult.  And here I was, in my 40’s playing the same role. But this time it was different. I had to fight for someone I loved more than myself, so I needed to change immediately and quickly.   I became desperate!

One Saturday afternoon, my daughter left the house to run errands.  I went out as well.  When I returned, there was a letter on my vanity that said, “Mom, I am so sorry for what I have put you through.  I hate myself.”  I almost died.  All I could think of was that she was going to kill herself.  I have been there myself and sensed the despair in those words.  I kept calling her phone until she finally answered, and she sobbed explaining what transpired that day.  After being exhausted from days of no sleep from drug use, she fell asleep driving and went head on with another driver.  Thankfully, she was traveling at a very low speed on a side street and no one was injured.  As the officer pulled up to the scene, she broke down.   She handed him the pills she had and explained she had an addiction.  That was it.  Jail, loss of job, never being able to get a student loan to finish college, ruined!  But, shockingly, that was not what happened.  This police officer told her that everyone gets a second chance at life and that day was hers.  I was furious.  I wanted her arrested, I wanted her off the streets.  I was losing the battle.  She clearly liked drugs more than me.  I had no leverage, no knowledge of how to get her back, no hope she would ever live through this.  I urged her to come home to talk to me right away.  Immediately after I hung up, I talked to my husband who was just back from a year’s deployment in Afghanistan and asked him if he would help me do something.  I explained that I knew I was asking a lot and I was ok to leave if he couldn’t do this with me.  She was not his daughter and he was reentering civilian life after returning from a war zone. He didn’t need the stress.  But he agreed.  This sweet loving man agreed.  So, we waited for her to come home.

My daughter arrived home and was given 2 choices.  “You need to choose now.  You need to choose to get clean under my conditions and live by every one of them, or we need to say our goodbyes today because you will die from this, and I want to say goodbye now while I can.”  They were the hardest sentences I ever uttered.  The words came out like razor blades.  I could feel my heart breaking.  As she cried, she said “Ok”.  I said, “Ok what?”  She said, “I will go where you want me to go.”

The last rehab she was in for detox was disappointing to me.  I know that belief will cause some controversy, but she went in with an addiction to certain opioids and was introduced to different ones. Those drugs kept her right in the game in my opinion.  No, this time, there would be no rehab to “ease” her out of this.  She was going to be owned by my husband and me.  She was going to detox cold turkey at home under our supervision.  I was going to withdraw her from Drexel University  and she had to attend her college classes on line at Temple University under our supervision.  I was going to inform her employer of what was going on to protect her under their Human Resource policy, but also to open their eyes to watch her when she was not under my direct supervision.  Her phone was to be turned over to me immediately and I was changing the number, wiping out all contacts and disabling all of her social media accounts.  We were opening a joint bank account and I was going to monitor every cent in and out to make sure all was accounted for.  She was not permitted to have any cash.  I would buy her cigarettes each week and gift cards for 1 Dunkin Donut Coffee each day.  She had 20 Minutes to get to work and she had to call me from an office phone the second she got there.  She had to call me at the time she walked out the door from the same office phone and had 20 minutes to get back home.  She was going to be drug tested randomly for months.  The only time she was allowed out of my presence was to go to work or go to meetings.  That was it.  And I would release all of these restrictions if and when I felt she was ready, not the other way around.  I was floored that she still said yes, so we put our plan in motion. 

The first week was brutal as she detoxed.  She was so sick.  She vomited, had the chills, leg pains, insomnia, sweats.  I had to keep calling people to make sure she was not going to die during this.  We googled and found natural remedies to get through all the withdraw symptoms, things like Magnesium oil for the leg cramps.  By week number 3, she was physically able to get up and return to work.  People have said to me over the years that WE were so amazing for doing this for HER.  That is a completely inaccurate statement of what happened.  My husband and I held our ground, sure.  But she did the work.  She was ready. SHE did this for HERSELF.  I needed to get her to the other side; past the withdraw to remember what her life was like.  I felt confident that if she remembered what it was like, that she would want to stay there, and she did. During her recovery, she said that any time she thought of doing drugs again, which was often in the beginning, she remembered how sick she was during the withdraw and that fear kept her from relapsing.   My daughter has been on this side of her addiction for 6 years, 2 months and counting.  Her rationale to addiction, road traveled, and mountain climbed is hers to share at her meetings.  But nothing in life seems too hard to me anymore after watching her battle through and continue to win, one day at a time.

What worked for us is not for everyone and could very well be carried out the same exact way and still not work for someone else.  We had no idea what we were doing, but I had no choice to fight as hard as I could for her in order to not lose her. She was ready and we were lucky.  The first and most important step for me was that I had to accept the problem and come at it head on, despite the roles I played in addiction with my sibling in the past.  Whether you play the role of the Guilty Party, Redeemer, Inside person, Denier, Saboteur, Enabler, Clueless, or Apathetic it is never too late to change.  Be the Acknowledger, Be the Fighter, Be the Advocate!!!! Drug control alone is not working, police enforcement alone is not working, rehabilitation centers alone are not working, family and friend intervention alone is not working.  None of these are working for every addict by themselves, but if we work together, use the best of all systems, fight for our kids and loved ones, then maybe one day it will work for everyone.  And I feel strongly that our country needs to look at non chemical ways to handle rehabilitation.  Drugs of any sort are damaging to the addictive personality. We need to advocate for change and collaboration. Don’t give up!  Persevere Bitches!

Love is Love…it’s that simple!

I believe in a God that is good and loving. My God is merciful, forgiving, and peaceful.  This is the state I strive to achieve each day in order to be closer to my God.    My God is not the hateful, vengeful or punishing God that I was raised to fear through my Roman Catholic upbringing.  You know, the God that will strike you down with lightning for your sins and send you to burn in hell for eternity; the God who we learned will seek retribution for our wrong doings.  I do not have a God who would be so wicked.  I believe my God has created every one of us.  He has made us to be unique so that our world would be filled with diversity and perhaps, so that we could learn from each other and appreciate our differences. 

I believe humanity consists of some bad things such as ego, hate, jealousy, greed, conceit, and prejudice.  I live trying to find my balance between not getting myself caught up in these human traits and living a more enlightened path to earn my place in paradise.  I can say that the older I get, I feel that I am living a life in which my see-saw teeters heavier on the spiritual side as I am more aware of how my human instinct of feeding my ego weighs negatively on my heart  and I can breathe easier and sleep better when I ignore the ego and follow my conscience.

I firmly believe love is love.  I have been blessed to have friends from many walks of life.  I have a good number of friends from the heterosexual gene pool as well as the homosexual gene pool.  I have always had a keen ‘gay-dar”.  So, no one has snuck onto my friend list by mistake.  I choose my friends for their spirit and hearts, for the positive energy they give off and the love they exuberate.  I choose my friends by the way they make me feel and I can only hope that I reciprocate those feelings and add positivity to their lives.  I do not discriminate because of a person’s race, religion, sex, political views (although some people try my nerves in this department), nor their sexual preference.  I believe there are great people from all these groups, and I believe there are some real assholes in each as well. 

I have worked very hard to pass this well-rounded love of all onto my children.  I can recall a time we spent a few days on a gay beach in Rehoboth, Delaware while my kids were in their early teens and on the last day, I asked them if they noticed anything different about the beach we have spent at least 4-5 days on by that point.  They all looked at me very confused.  I said, I want you to walk from one end of the beach to the other and tell me what is different.  They walked up and down the beach and came back and said, “We have no idea.”  I said, “You did not notice that there are mostly women on this part of the beach and only men on that part of the beach?”  They laughed and said, “Well, now that you pointed it out!”  My work was done! They had no idea we spent the week on a lesbian beach and all the homosexual males were on the next beach.   They spent the week noticing how similar we all were and did not notice how different we were.

I am a mom of 3 adult daughters and 1 pre-teen son.  There is nothing they have in common but me.  My girls have all participated in dance lessons, like the little princesses I raised them to be, although, they have played every sport.  My son is trying to figure out the world of sports as he was blessed with more artistic, musical and academic talents.  My youngest daughter was the athlete of athletes!  Everything that kid tried she excelled at.  She spent her teens living at a boarding school on an ice hockey scholarship.  During her second year of high school, I was driving her back to school after Spring Break.  As I looked in the rear-view mirror, I saw tears falling down her cheeks.  I asked what was wrong and she said…I need to tell you something.  My heart sank.  She is not someone who cries…ever!  I couldn’t imagine what she was about to say.  I asked her to give me a chance to pull over so we could talk and so I didn’t have an accident in case it was bad.  By time I pulled over she was sobbing.  What could be so terrible and upsetting?  I finally asked, “What do you need to tell me?” She began, ” You know that girl so and so from my school?”  she cried. YEA??? “Well I like her.”   OOOOOKAY??? I respond.  And she cried harder.  ” I ‘like her’ like her?” 

As parents, our obligation is simple.  We love our kids…love is love!  It is supposed to be an unconditional, undying love.  Obviously, if you are Charles Manson’s mom, that may have been a significant bridge to cross, but a parent loves their child. PERIOD! A parent’s love should not be based on a standard or an expectation, ” I will only love you if….” We do not love our children only if…. I still stand dumb founded when I hear that a parent will disown their child because they are gay.  Let’s go back to where this started.  I believe in a God who loves.  There is nowhere…NOWHERE…NOWHERE…NOWHERE in the Bible that states that God does not approve of homosexuality.  This is the breaking point for some parents of gay children. It’s where their love ends. Somewhere down the line, ignorant humans, with their large egos, have interpreted the Bible to fit their agenda; An agenda of bias and hate.  One of the most referenced statement in the bible for the homophobic Christians refers to God’s disapproval of the Sodomites.   Look it up, it is there!  God disapproves of Sodomites.  Our so-called Christian leaders have used this term to prove God’s law against homosexuality.  Let me let you in on a secret!  That is not what Sodomite means! Did you know that God destroyed the city of Sodom in the time of Abraham in the Old Testament because of its evil inhabitants?  City of Sodom…Sodomites.  City of Israel…Israelites.  Get it?  The bible is not referring to anal sex, to gay men or homosexuality?  Come on… Jesus, the son of God, loved Mary Magdalene…a prostitute!!  If you really believe your God does not love the person he created, who happens to loves another person of the same sex AND if you believe this same sex love between good people will result in them burning in hell, then you need to go find yourself a new God and religion. 

My response to my daughter was one of a little bit of disbelief. “Are you trying to tell me you are gay?  Let me tell you something, when you were 2 years old, I enrolled you in dance school.  At the recital, while all the other kids danced, you threw your tiara into the crowd and laid on the stage ripping at the crotch of your tutu in tears.  You went on to wear only boy clothes and play street hockey.  You clearly are NOT blowing my mind right now.  But what does make me sad about what you are telling me is that people are mean.  And I understand that this is more accepted in today’s society.  However, people will still be mean to you and judge you for this and this makes me sad because no one wants their kids to be hurt.  But rest assure, you are NOT blowing my mind.”

I see people and their hate towards others…their ugly prejudice. What I will never understand is how can any parent turn their back on their child because of who they chose to love, especially if that person is a good person who loves them back?  Isn’t that what we want for our kids…for them to find love and for someone to love them back?  Love is love! The thought of a parents hate towards their child destroys me.  The story of my daughter being gay is not my story to tell, but I can tell my perspective as being a parent of a gay child.

As much as homosexuality is accepted in today’s society, I did not live most of my life in the presence of people of the same gender in intimate relationships with each other. I would be a liar if I said to you that having a gay child was an easy thing for me to get used to. My daughter being a Tomboy was something I grew accustomed to over many years. Trust me, I wrestled her to the ground to get a dress on her for a holiday or a special occasion. Once she was openly gay, the first couple times she was affectionate or lovey dovey with her partner in my presence was a jagged little pill to swallow.  This had nothing to do with her and everything to do with me.  Although not “prejudice” or judgmental of her choice, my lack of exposure to same sex intimacy made their display of affection feel ‘wrong’ because of my ‘programming’ in this area.  And as she becomes more comfortable with who she is in terms of her style and sexuality, I still catch myself a bit uncomfortable with some of her choices.  Again, not because she is gay, but because she is different…stands out…and I don’t want anyone to talk about her or hurt her. Plain and simple!  I am a Mama Bear like no other and I will rip your throat out if you hurt my child.  I didn’t have that conviction for myself, but I do for my children.  I can tell you that after 10 years, it’s still is a little odd for me at times to deal with homosexual issues but here’s the beauty…it’s not about ME! They are not my issues. My only issue is to love and support my child.

My overprotective nature and lack of experience also didn’t make me the ideal parent at times either.  I attempted in a loving way to sway her a bit along the way by teasing with her about the fact that it was so unfair that she got the great hair and wore it in a bun or ponytail all the time.  I also wanted to choke her for wearing a suit to her sister’s wedding rather than a bridal party dress.  I tried to play the “I’m the mom and I said so” card with my adult daughter to make her wear a dress for this special event.  I also found myself compromising with her….”Ok, I’ll give you the boy outfit, but you need to have a girl hairstyle and some lip gloss.”    I have said to her several times over the years….”You are so beautiful…why can’t you be the chick in the relationship and wear that dress.”  Although she would always laugh and tell me to get over it, I sometime wonder if my teasing and requests hurt her or made her think that I really did not accept her for who she was.  Yes, my motherly instincts want her to be like everyone else as a protective mechanism. Maybe I am trying to protect me. I reason with myself by thinking that I just want my kids to be accepted and included in all things no matter how old they are. I don’t ever want them to be the kid I saw bullied and teased when I was a child.  But I assure you, her sexual preference has no impact on how much I love her or how quickly I will go to bat for her if someone treats her unkindly.  

I love and truly admire my daughter.  Her decision to be openly gay at such a young age was extremely brave.  I admire her for her courage to talk to me about it.  I admire her for trusting me.  I admire her for being true to herself and not being someone or something for someone else, not even for me.    I admire her for being able to light up a room with her smile and personality, even in her suit and tie. I admire her for being kind and good hearted.  I admire her for trying to be the best version of herself during the chaos of her trying to figure out who she even is and what she actually wants out of life. I only want happiness for her.  That is my greatest dream and prayer for all my children, despite their sexual preferences. 

I sometimes think that parents that can disown or not accept their gay child may see something in their child that they do not possess themselves and it causes a fear and maybe even a resentment.  Maybe they see the courage to not live within the boundaries of a society or religion.  Maybe they see the courage to stand independently and live and love despite the challenges of that lifestyle.  Maybe they see someone who is true to themselves and willing to do whatever it takes to live the life their God created and intended for them to live. To those type of parents, I would like you to ponder this. You should be horrified if your child grows up to be a mass murderer.  You should be heartbroken if your child becomes an addict, thief, or prostitute. But nothing…none of these things should make you disown or even dislike your child, even if is as simple as being born gay.  I hope just one parent, who may think this way, reads this and reconsiders their decision.  I hope that you learn that love is love, for all of us.  And if you don’t learn this lesson, I hope you are prepared for how you will explain your hatred to your God when you meet him at the gates of heaven.  ‘Cause you’ll have some explaining to do!  In that I feel confident. Persevere Bitches!

Who will pull your plug?

You are going to die!  Get over it.  You are!  Like it or not.  This is such a horrible and scary concept, but it is one that we are all going to face, so stop pretending.  It dumbfounds me that people spend a lifetime not preparing for this moment.  And for those of us who are planners, it is still taboo to talk about it.  It’s like we don’t want to press our luck, as if luck plays a role in this stage of life.

Being a young mom with not a ton of faith in the people who would have been dubbed responsible to fulfill my wishes, I typed them out on a piece of paper and had them notarized and gave them to my sister to make sure it all happened the way I wanted.  So just a sneak peek…if you didn’t take time to see me or spend time with me in life, you are not going to get to do it in my death!  My funeral will be fast, furious and fabulous!  Honestly, if I could pull off a Vikings funeral at the Inlet of North Wildwood without my friends and family going to jail for abuse of a corpse and probably a string of other felonies, that would really be my final wish.  Can you imagine a bunch of intoxicated people standing along the shoreline with flaming arrows in hand? Be still my heart!

It is terrible not knowing what your loved one would have wanted when that time comes.  Not everyone is as morbid in planning in this area as I am.  The most brutal conversation I had with anyone in my life was the one I had with my husband when he was diagnosed with cancer.  I knew he had life insurance and a pension.  I also knew he had a plot in Indian Gap through the Army, but I had no idea what and where or how to even access any of it.  Even worse was the night I had to say to him, “If this goes south, honey, what do you want me to do, what are your final wishes?” Talk about a sucker punch in the gut.  He was a military man for Christ’s sake, why in the hell did I not know this before facing his illness?  I promise you, as the day is long, this will be the most horrible conversation you will have with anyone when the issue of death is standing right in front of you staring you in the eyes.  Do you want a viewing?  If so, one day or two days? Do you want to be buried or cremated? Where do I bury you? What do I do with your ashes?  Do you want a mass of Christian burial?  Do you have an organization that you would want donations in your name?  I know that most people just make decisions for their love ones, because, let’s face it…THEY ARE DEAD, and THEY GET WHAT THEY GET AND THEY CAN’T GET UPSET!  How many schoolteachers just laughed at how I used that phrase for an end of life subject?    But I have watched families torn apart when everyone has a different view of what their loved one would have wanted.

Not only is the plan important, but how do you choose who will carry it out?  My husband is an ICU nurse and I spent the first 12 years of my career in Subacute and Long-term Care.  Lots of people have died around us.  I cannot tell you how many people had expressed wishes to their loved ones that those people did not honor.  Those poor people seriously did just get what they got…intubated, ventilators, feeding, etc.…all the things they explicitly told someone they did not want. The mistake was this…it wasn’t in writing, notarized as their wish, and put in the hands of the person who has the balls to make sure it happens.   I hope these poor people haunted their loved ones a bit afterwards as a get back!  But in all seriousness, you need to have a plan and a solid person to make sure you plan is carried out.  But be warned!  If you have that final say over another person’s life, or death to be more politically correct, there is a stiff price to pay. 

In 2000, my father started to have health issues.  It started out as mini strokes, syncope episodes, and memory issues.  The initial diagnosis was Parkinson’s Disease.  But after spending a week with him on vacation that summer, I was positive they were wrong.  I drug my poor dad to more doctors to be poked, prodded and continued to push to get what would be his final diagnosis…Lewy Bodies Dementia.  This is not your typical dementia.  It has the cognitive/memory components of Alzheimer’s Disease and the physical components of Parkinson’s Disease however, none of the medications that work for those diseases will help in this disease. There is a severe psychosis that goes hand in hand Lewy Bodies.  There are visual hallucinations and severe personality changes that made this amazing man I adored so much, mean and violent at times. The change was so significant and horrifying to him, that he attempted to take his own life on 2 occasions so that the disease would not.  I mention this here because if I see one more person share a picture of Robin Williams as a depressed man who took his life I am going to SCREAM!!!  He had Lewy Bodies Disease.  He could have easily been in a hallucinogenic and psychotic state at that moment.  UGH!  Sorry, I digress. This is a fast-progressive disease with a typical life expectancy of 5 to 7 years.  In 2001, when the doctors finally figured this out, my dad was only 63 years old. 

Most of us are in this sandwich generation, where we are raising our kids and taking care of elderly and ill parents.  It is a demanding and painful place to live in.  I was so utterly blessed during my father’s illness.  I did not have to face that task alone.   I shared this daunting task with 8 other siblings.  (Really 9, but one doesn’t count for the purpose of this story.) And even then, it was not easy.  When my dad was first diagnosed, I did what I do best, I took control.  There were doctors’ appointments and therapy and I organized things with everyone to see who could be where and when.  But there was one task I needed to do myself.  I showed up after work and told my parents that we needed to get some things in writing, we needed Power of Attorneys and Living Wills.  At first, they both balked at the idea and then I said…” Do either of you really want to do this when you are actually dying?  Have you not met the 10 of us?”  Besides having the same parents and genes, my siblings and I are all very different in the way we live our lives and our thought process.  So, my parents reluctantly answered all my questions as I typed.  I asked the same questions as above…do you want a mass of Christian burial, one day viewing or two, etc.  We went so far as, “What do you want to wear to your funeral?”  At this point, we were having a good time.  “I want to wear my brown suit that I wore to Tom’s wedding!  But I don’t want them to cut it?”  “What do you mean, Dad?”  “You know, they cut the suit in half and just tuck it under you?”  “Really?” I said?  “Well I am just being thrown into the fire naked!”  “Naked! And if you don’t want that suit cut, and you feel that tonight might be your night, I suggest you wear that suit to bed!”  We found a way to make it fun. My mom wants to borrow my sisters’ shoes for her viewing!  As if we will take them off of her at the end!  Even when my dad decided to donate his brain postmortem for research, I said, “Great, we can have a Wizard of Oz themed funeral…’If you only had a brain…do doot do doodly do!”  I can assure you from experience, when you are facing the real possibility of a death when you are sick, you are not having fun. So, get your asses in gear and get this done! 

When it came to choosing a Durable Power of Attorney, the one who hypothetically gets to say, ‘Pull the plug’, it was my mom first, of course, and then me.  Why me?  “Because you know the most about the medical field and you won’t cry like the others?” Cry like the others?  Was that a compliment or was it an insult? When my dad first got sick and started to have these episodes, I was the first person they would call.  He made it clear that I was not to call anyone else because they would get emotional. I can recall once he was sent to the ER and I was a distance away.  In a panic, I called my sister and asked her to go.  On her way, she called everyone else.  By time I got there, everyone was around him…crying, petting his head, etc.  He took one look at me and said, “You’re fired!” I couldn’t help but laugh.  I am clearly the realist and most levelheaded when it comes to death, but that doesn’t mean that it does not completely tear me up inside.  Yes, I had the task of POA for my dad’s medical decisions, as my mom sort of resigned her primary role to me.  And to some degree, it did cause some ill feelings with others in my family that I was asked and not them.  But let me tell you something.  This is not a prized role.  It is equally a curse as it is an honor and there is a very steep price you pay to be that person for someone else.

My dad was not the first person who asked me to be their Power of Attorney, the first person was my brother’s girlfriend.  Her illness was very short, and I had to make the decision to put her into hospice rather than let her go back to my brother.  He did not have the cognitive, emotional or physical means to care for her so, she was transferred to a very nice hospice facility where she died pain free and with the amount of dignity that a situation like death allows.  I do understand that my brother has a mental illness issues, but the texts labeling me the angel of death was enough to almost make me lose my mind.  My dad, however, had a much longer illness, which took a greater toll on my soul. 

Although Lewy Bodies Disease has a life expectancy of 5-7 years, we were so educated and aggressive in my dad’s treatment, and therefore, my dad lived 16 years after diagnosis. His decline was painful to watch as he fought it like no one I ever saw fight.  Early in the disease, he had watched stories of how Dr. Kevorkian was ending people’s suffering with mercy killing.  In what I thought was a joking conversation, my dad said, “If I ever get that bad, promise me you will call Kevorkian and get me a little pill.”  I teasingly responded, “You got it!” I never imagined that this conversation would ever come up again, but when my dad started to get very bad, he said to me, “Remember that little pill you said you could get me, I think I need it now.”  I literally stood there with my mouth open.  How did he remember this?  He couldn’t even remember if he ate breakfast or how old he was.  I remember stumbling over my words, almost stuttering when I said, “Dad, Kevorkian is in prison, and we do not live in a state where something like this is even legal!”  He began to cry.  Tearfully, he looked me directly in the eye and said, “You let me down.” Typing these words are just as painful today as the day he said them to me all those years ago.  I have a picture of my dad on my vanity and from time to time, when I look at it, I hear those words over and over…YOU LET ME DOWN.  I find myself still saying to him, “I am so very sorry Dad” all these years later. 

As my Dad’s disease progressed, it became more and more painful to carry out this role as his Power of Attorney.  My dad had made the decision on NO MORE HOSPITALIZATION.  So, he was a DO NOT RESUCUSSITATE AND A DO NOT HOSPITALIZE.  When he fell in the nursing home and cracked his head open, do you think it was easy for me to say, “Stitch him and send him back?” No MRI, No CAT Scan?  There was no point because he wasn’t staying. My Dad clearly said he did not want any of this as per HIS wishes.  Do you think that when he had a severe change in mental status, I did not want to send him out to the emergency room to see what the hell happened?  I simply said, “Make sure he is comfortable and monitor him there.”  Do you not realize how hard it was when he stopped responding and was having difficulty breathing to not send him to the hospital to see if we could fix it?  Do you not think it was a brutal and gut-wrenching call to say to consult hospice, no IV, no oxygen, no nothing when I could clearly see he was struggling, dehydrating, dying?  Do you think that I am not haunted by all of this every single day of my life?  Do you not think that it eats at me that my mentally ill brother reminds me that I was the angel of death, twice?  Do you not think that the arguing with my family over these things didn’t take its toll on me?  It has all changed me.  It changed relationships. That is why I warn you that this is an honor and a curse. We all deserve the opportunity to die the way we want.  We all need to honor the final wishes for those we love. But my God, it is hard to do!

If you take anything from all of this, I hope you take this.  You will die so plan your death day as you plan your birthday. Make it grand because it will be the last party your will be planning.  Do this not only for your peace of mind, but for your loved ones because what you do not make clear, will be a nightmare for the ones you love…especially issues like who you want to be with you in that final stage.  That is one I never thought of that brought tons of stress to our family.  Don’t ask for things that are impossible or illegal. And do not make a promise you cannot or will not keep.  It took everything in me as my dad suffered to not take a pillow and just lean in to end his struggle in order to ‘not let him down.’   Make sure your plan is clear, notarized and entrusted to someone very strong.  I am not sure in looking back that I was the strongest.  But I did the job I was asked to do the very best way I knew how.  And finally, if you play the role of ‘pulling the plug’ for another, know that there is a price to pay as well.  Ask God to help you find peace along the way, you will need it!  Persevere Bitches! 

Love is Patient, Are you?

Are you confident that you have met your soul mate? I was quite certain…more than once!  Who am I kidding?  I had every warning sign that my first two serious relationships were doomed to be complete disasters, but I was so desperate for love I consciously ignored those signs that were blowing up in my face like grenades.  My 102-year-old grandmother even said to me once, during my second marriage that, “There is only one lid for each pot.  Other lids will work, but only one will really ‘fit’.”  How could she see through the nightmare I was living at that time, when I couldn’t even see it myself. 

I cannot remember at what point in my life I lost myself.  I can remember being such a carefree child, so full of happiness.  I recall being 5 years old or so and I was dancing in my backyard in the dark while tons of lightning bugs flickered and sparkled everywhere.  The night sky was perfectly clear, and the moon was so bright.  The radio was playing the song, “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest.  I can remember spinning in a circle till I was dizzy.  What I knew of life was perfect.   But as life would have it, at some point, something inside me started to twist. Maybe it was the time a stranger whistled at me and when I kept walking without acknowledging him because I was embarrassed and he yelled, “Fuck you, you have a big nose anyway!”  Perhaps, it was the first time I really liked someone, had my first real kiss, and he was mean to me the next day.  It could have had a lot to do with being heavier and not as attractive as everyone I hung out with and being the only one not to have a boyfriend. I wanted one so bad that I never really realized the price I was paying along the way.

I dated guys in high school, but nothing too serious.  In June of 1986, I met someone down the shore in Wildwood.  I remember the exact place and time.  We spent the day at a pool party at the Thunderbird Hotel.  I was 16 years old; he was 18.  It’s funny, I have no idea who I was down the shore with, where I stayed, or what else I did that entire weekend, but I do remember walking home from the party with this guy.  He was so stinking cute!  He had on white shorts and a pink Izod shirt with the collar sticking up. As we walked, at some point, he reached for my hand.  I can remember losing my breath for a second.  And when we got to the corner where his hotel was, he leaned over and kissed me, literally making my heart skip a beat.  It was the first time that ever happened to me.  We dated on and off that summer through the winter of 1986.  I can’t say it was serious, but it was so easy and sweet. There was no arguing, no expectations, no stress, no jealousy.  He lived at the beach that summer, so I didn’t see him all the time and when he came back home that Fall, I was a senior in high school, and he was beginning college. We had a lot of other things going on.  By the end of that first semester, he decided that college was not for him and he enlisted in the Military.  I do not have a ton of memories from that time frame, but I recall kissing him goodbye on his parents deck off their kitchen at his going away party. We exchanged a few letters: his talked about basic training, mine talked about wanting to go to the senior prom. And then I never heard from him again.  I went to his parents’ house to make sure he was OK, and they assured me he was.  I resigned to the fact that he must have met someone else and so life sadly went on. 

As I look back right now and I evaluate this time in my life, I can see why my self-esteem may have been a bit damaged, but I don’t think I was different than any other awkward teenager.  What was different was how I chose to evaluate it and categorize it in my life.    I internalized all the bad things I experienced as a teenager and somehow saw myself as this completely unworthy person.  I did not understand that we are not the things that happen to or are said to us.  I would have done better to live by that childish thought process of “I am rubber and you are glue…”.  You know, “Sticks and Stones may break my bones…”  So many of us fall into the trap of absorbing these terrible things we experience and allowing them to define us. 

It would be so easy for me to blame my poor self-image on the people in my life for ‘making’ me this way.  But I have learned to take responsibility for many things, and this is a one of them.  As an adult, I can clearly look back and recognize the role I played in the things that went wrong and how my early adulthood unfolded. But when I was in the thick of it, I could not see what was going on or see any way out.  Had I have had any sense of self-worth; I clearly wouldn’t have stayed in an abusive marriage for almost 8 years.  I absolutely wouldn’t have moved on to spend another 13 years in one of the most fucked up and damaging relationships that was so bizarre and painful, that I only can only refer to it all as unspeakable. I regretfully allowed myself to morph into the events in my life.

So, let’s get back to where we started with all of this.  When my second marriage fell apart, I was defeated with no direction, no self-love, no self-worth.  I began to pray, meditate, and read lots of self-help books.  And as I became stronger, my life took an interesting turn.  Remember that military boyfriend who completely ditched me without so much of a Dear Jane letter?  Well, I learned through social media he was still serving our country for over 2 decades and ironically, he would be home for the holidays!  Curiosity started to get the best of me.  What the hell ever happened to him?  Who did he meet?  Did he ever get married?  Why did he never write me again?  I found myself needing some answers so I did what every sane person would do.  I reached out to people who were friends with him to arrange a get together for when he got home. Maybe it would help me to move on or at least understand why THAT relationship fell apart.   

I was so nervous.  It had been almost 25 years.  I was divorced twice, had 4 kids, put on weight, was nothing short of a train wreck emotionally.  We talked briefly when he arrived in Philadelphia to tell me he was here and that he was looking forward to seeing us all on Sunday night to watch the football game at a local bar.  I couldn’t believe the words as they came out of my mouth, “Would you want to meet me for a drink tonight?” I regretted the question immediately.  To my surprise, he said yes.  We met at a local bar in our parent’s neighborhood.  As I walked in, I saw another old friend standing at the bar.  He spun around to say hello to me and then he said, “You are never going to guess who this is?”, as he re-introduced me to this old boyfriend of mine.  We all laughed, and I let my friend believe I was equally surprised to see this guy there.  It was so nerve wracking, but the beer eased the awkwardness.  He looked the same to me.  I mean, older, some grays and wrinkles like me, but the same sweet smile.  I finally got up the nerve to ask why he never wrote me again.  He explained that when he received my letter saying I wanted to date other people, he realized how his decision to go into the military was unfair to me because I was still in high school, so he decided to let me go.  THAT WAS NOT WHAT MY LETTER SAID.  After the last letter I received from him, I had realized that he would not make it home for my Senior Prom and I wanted to know if he would be OK if I asked someone else to go.  I didn’t want to miss it; I was seventeen and self-centered.  Talk about a lack of communication.  He proceeded to tell me that once his life became more settled over that next year, he came back to talk to me, but when he asked around (this was the world before internet and cell phones), he had heard I was pregnant.  If you recall in an earlier blog, I was pregnant at the end of my first year of college.  That was it.  I spent the next 25 years between 2 miserable relationships however bearing and raising 4 great kids, so it wasn’t ALL bad.  He spent those years still single and serving our great country.  By beer number 3, it felt like we had stepped back in time.  It was so easy, so fun, like we never missed a step, like a quarter of a century did not completely escape us.  It was great, right up to the second he told me he was being deployed to Afghanistan in about 3 months for the next year. NOOOOOOOOO!

The unit he was deploying with was stationed in California so after the holidays, he had to return.  We talked and skyped every single day while he was on the West Coast and he deployed out of the Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst in New Jersey which gave me the opportunity to see him for a few weeks before he left. One night during this process, he arrived at my home with a gift.  It was an Army sweatshirt.  Inside the pocket was a stunning ring.  As he gave it to me, he asked, “Will you hold onto this for me until I come back.  I promise I am coming back this time. “It literally broke my heart and scared me a bit. Would he really come back and if so, what kind of a partner could I be?  I had proven I was terrible at relationships.  However, I accepted that ring and wore it and a sweatshirt he left me every day.   Ironically, at that time, I owned a business which gave me access to certain military bases.  So, on the day his unit left the country, I drove him onto the base.  I had to keep saying to myself PLEASE DO NOT CRY.  After saying our goodbyes, I watched him walk down that driveway toward the bus. He was in uniform with his bag in his hand and as he walked away he looked back one more time. I literally felt ill.  How could this happen to us twice?  It was so unfair.  Thankfully, technology had advanced and we were able to Skype…No more stupid letters to misunderstand one another.  I took my computer and headphones everywhere.  And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere.  If I went to dinner and bars with friends, I opened my computer waiting for him to wake up.  I went onto the beach and took my computer with me. When I drove to my office at Fort Drum in upstate NY, I used my phone as a hotspot and had the computer sitting in the passenger seat.  We spent the first year of our relationship with no physical contact but spent every possible second together in cyber land.  During this time, I worked on me.  I worked on trying to come to terms with the things I have been through, liking myself again, and finding peace through forgiveness.  I must admit, I did not come close to accomplishing those things in that year, but he supported my growth when he returned in 2013 and I continue to work on it every day.  In April of 2016, we were married on the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey…almost 30 years after our first date. 

This love is so different than any love I have ever experienced.  It is just like the bible says. It is patient, it waited 25 years for us to figure it out. It is kind.  I sometimes find myself waking up in the middle of the night and we are still holding hands. And I melt at the kiss on the forehead before I fall asleep.  Our love is not easily angered. Don’t get me wrong, we do not always see eye to eye, but we agree to disagree. At least that’s my take on it.  Our love protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.  Most importantly, it never fails.  Not even when we learned a year and a half into our marriage that he had Stage 3 Laryngeal Cancer. And by the sweet grace of God, his cancer went into remission and has remained in that state for over a year now. 

I have leaned so many lessons on this journey. First, communication is key. What if he wrote a letter asking what I meant?  What if I wrote a letter asking why he didn’t respond?  WHAT IF?  Communication should be a required subject in school and taught throughout various stages of our life.  How much of life’s stress is based on miscommunication?  I try hard to not think of the time we missed and focus on being grateful for the time we got back. And speaking of ”what if’s” …what if I didn’t let the things in my life define me and just saw them as unfortunate things that happened to a good person.  Would I have spent 50% of my life in such disarray and chaos?  Perhaps self-love, balance and kindness need to be practiced by us all a little bit more as well.  I am not sure who set the standard that we NEED someone to love us.  I apparently didn’t know how to love me.  If I couldn’t find the good in me, be happy with me. How could I ever share that with another person?  Maybe I had to learn all of this before I could enter this special relationship.  Finally, I have learned that love happens on its own terms and in its own time.  It cannot be forced. Don’t try to make a lid fit your pot!  And now I know for sure that the right love is very patient.  It will wait for you and it will find you in its own time, if you give it a chance.    Persevere Bitches!

Choosing your Death Date

Do you know the exact day you will die?  The exact minute?  Under what circumstance?  In 2017, 47,000 American’s knew.  That was an average of 123 people per day.   These were the people who had nothing left to give this life: No energy to inhale or exhale one more time and no desire to see the sun rise or set another day.  These were the ones who were in so much pain and darkness that the unknown state of death, was the more optimal choice than the certain hell they were living.  These are the one who decided to end their pain and sorrow once and for all. They were the 47,000 people who committed suicide in the year 2017.  It is predicted that worldwide in 2020, someone will commit suicide every 23 seconds. These are the latest statistics I found using google. Those numbers are DEVASTATING!

I couldn’t find any statistics for December 2010.  That time frame was very important to me.  That was the time I chose as MY death day.  That was the Thursday I woke up and thought, ‘You Win!  All of you horrible, sick, judgmental, lying assholes win!  I am out.’  My letter would read.  “This is what happens when you Fuck with people.  May my death haunt your conscience for the rest of your life.  But as for me, I am free!”  It would be addressed to no one in particular, but those who would read it or got news of it would have known exactly who it was intended for and what it meant. 

You will hear people say that a person who commits suicide is a coward and/or selfish.  If I handed you a gun and told you to point it at yourself and pull the trigger, would you deem that a cowardice act? No friggen way in hell.  You have to have some serious balls to do something so horrible and tragic.  And let me tell you something else.  The place you are in to make that decision is so utterly dark and cold that not even the hand of those who love you deeply, nor the hand of God can reach that place to pull you out.  That place is empty, callous and ever so implausibly lonely.  The decision is not selfish, it is the epitome of despair so intense that you can no longer see or feel those around you, let alone understand how YOU being set free could ever impact THEM.   So, I personally do not agree with that stereotype.

I also do not buy into the rationale of Depression being the ultimate cause. If you know me, really know me, you know that I am a very upbeat, happy go lucky, fun loving person.  Not at all the person who would take their life.  I am the token life of the party, right?  So, it doesn’t make sense that depression would the sole cause for this act of desperation, would it?  I was not depressed, not at all.  I was heartbroken.  I felt betrayed.  I was lied to.  I was threatened.  I was bullied.  My pain was so intense, I swear to you, on my death date, I must have said to myself a million times, “Breath in, Breath out, Breath in, Breath out.”  It was no longer automatic, and I was so very tired and exhausted.  I recently spoke to someone who shared with me that he had a death date and wrote a letter.  He too shared that he was not depressed, just heart sick like me.  I never met anyone else who went down this frightening path, a path where the thought of living was so much more painful than the thought of dying and yet was still here.  Can you imagine escaping a feeling of such agony in the final moments?

I had a plan, one that I thought was a good plan. They say that people who have a plan are the most dangerous because they are the most serious.  It was not the first one I came up with, because that first one could have caused injury to someone else, so I came up with a second one.  I was clear enough to know that I needed to end my pain and but not take anyone else with me.  And when I left my house that night, nothing else mattered to me. I felt that I was already dying, suffocating in my very own life, and as I headed towards my destination something changed drastically…I had this overwhelming feeling that my son needed me to protect him. Ironically, my friend, shared how his plan was very real, vivid, and in process as well.  And then he repeatedly heard the words, “I need you” on the other side of his door, and he was stopped in his tracks too.  TO BE NEEDED!  Ugh.

A good amount of humankind are horrible, terrible people.  This is a very sad but true statement.  People will lie, cheat, steal, and wound another individual with very little regard to what it can do to that person.  It is all done to serve their own ego.  I read that a person’s ego can be one of the worst poisons and can actually be lethal.  I cannot agree with this more, if not lethal to them, most certainly to someone else.  Ego is what causes people to be self-serving and arrogant.  Think about the coworker who sabotages you to get the promotion or win the bosses favor.  Fucking Brown Nosers!  Or the spouse who lies and cheats.  The person who talks behind your back so that you can be the favorite friend in that group. The rapist, murderer, embezzler. I can go on.  It is all done to serve that person’s ego.    All of these terrible things are done to serve one person’s self esteem or importance.  The egotistical person has no regard for the repercussion on those hurt in their path in order to fulfill their own need, as long as it is filled.  It is this type of person that can push a person right to the edge and for a good amount of those 47,000 people who chose their death date in 2017, this type of person can literally push them off the edge and send them plummeting to their death.  Dear Lord, get some help immediately if I just described you!

In recent years, you have heard more and more about the parent who will seek legal means to bring charges against their child’s bully after the child has committed suicide.  AFTER!  After is the key word.  What the hell are we doing BEFORE? What happened to the morals of humans?  I was raised on some pretty simple principles:

  • If you don’t have something nice to say, you say nothing at all
  • Keep your hands to yourself
  • Be honest 
  • Be kind
  • Help others
  • Don’t steal
  • Don’t Lie

In my situation, every principle I was raised on, everything I listed above was destroyed. Mostly by one person, but in all honesty, almost every person I loved and cherished had in some way broke one of these rules at the same exact time. I don’t think it was done to hurt me intentionally, but it was done.  So, we cannot continue to look at a person who commits suicide as depressed and therefore something in THEM is broken that caused them to end their life.  In many situations, people like me are not broken at all in terms of their psychological well being, but rather broken by the world and people around them because humanity has regressed in its standards.    

I can remember a nun in my catholic grade school describing how we use the words, “I’m sorry”.  She said, “If you hit Jesus in the head with a baseball bat and then said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry’ and then you hit him again? Do you think he would believe you are sorry?”  Probably not, right?  And if you are kissing your wife/ husband goodnight and saying you love them, while you are screwing around with someone else, you can’t possibly really love them.  You do understand that right?  It is no different if you get angry and call someone fat or ugly.  I love the saying that “Words hit harder than fists!” No truer words have been spoken. I have mentioned before that the hardest things to get over in an abusive relationship are the words, not the bruises.  The cuts and bruises heal within days, those words…ugh, they ring in your ears, head, and heart for a lifetime.  These inconsistencies in life that occur, in order to serve one’s own ego, are truly destroying others sense of EXISTENCE!!

I believe strongly that we need to mean what we say and say what we mean.  If I am your friend, you can count on me.  I may tell you things that you need to hear that may be painful but  I honestly will not tell you to hurt you.  I am trying to save you from the hurt and humiliation that is already swirling around you.  I will never say it behind your back.  If I tell you I love you, then I do…more than those words can ever communicate. And, if I tell you that you have hurt me, and I no longer trust you?  You can rest assure that our relationship is over and although I may miss you, I will never look back. 

Things and people in my life devastated and shattered me so completely, that I chose my death day.  I chose it despite my Catholic upbringing that I will burn in hell for eternity and I chose it despite the Buddhist confidence that if I do this in one life, I will do it many more lives to come. I chose it to end my pain and to set myself free.  I was not saved by the words I love you, because at that time of my life,they meant nothing to me.  They were said so freely and irresponsibly that they felt no different than if you told me to go fuck myself. 

Once again, what stopped ME in my tracks was to be NEEDED.  My son needed me to be around to protect him from one of the biggest things I was trying to escape.  My son needed me to be here to teach him all the principles that he has to live by in order to not hurt others.  My son needed me to teach him to ride a bike, tie his shoes, spell his name.  I was needed.  My friend was NEEDED, he had no idea how much at that time and thankfully, he is still here and now he understands why.  Perhaps, if everyone thought that they were needed, they would find value in their life again and they would take a different course.  Maybe we should tell each other that we NEED one other more often and why.  My husband and I have a thing…its sort of a silly thing but its OUR thing.  We don’t do it as often as the traditional I love you, but when we do, it melts my heart.  Our thing is this…. I love you; I need you; I worship you; I cherish you; I adore you and I cannot live without you.  To know that I am needed and to know that my existence is so important to someone else has changed my life. Horrible people and events will continue to exist, but perhaps being needed can change your life or the life of someone you love today!  The short of it is this, we need to continue Persevere Bitches! No Matter What!

Please, if you find yourself feeling so desperate in life, know that there is someone who needs you.  Don’t give up. Please seek help:  http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Parenting Fail

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I have heard people say that there should be a test administered for parenting before someone is permitted to bring a child into the world. I have witnessed stupid parents in action and sort of agree!  Yikes. A few years ago, I accidentally bought a Christmas gift with the wrong name monogrammed on it.  A friend recommended I try to sell it on a “Mommies” group on Facebook.  So, I sent a request to join the group, and posted my item.  It didn’t sell, but that is not where I am going with this.  I stayed on this group for a few weeks, and literally watched in shock as some of the most absurd posts surfaced.  “My child has been vomiting all night and hasn’t eaten in 2 days…anyone have a similar experience with this and have recommendations on what I should do?”  I immediately wanted to write, “You should call the Department of Human Services and tell them that you are an idiot and that your child needs to be put in foster care immediately!”  Why in the world would you ask Facebook people, most of which you have never met, what to do instead of hauling your ass to an Emergency Room or calling your child’s pediatrician?!?  The stupidity and peer pressure on that site was INSANE!  Another post went something like this, “It’s my son Biff’s 3rd birthday.  Looking for new ideas for his party.”  I found myself checking this post frequently out of curiosity.  “Oh, we had Ted’s Exotic Pets come to my son’s and the kids got to ride the Alpacas” Uhm…. What?  Or “We had a casino night and gave my 3-year-old and all his friends $30 to play games while smoking candy cigarettes and sipping juice cup martinis. It was so adorbs!”  I’m pulling your leg on that last one, but that is how outrageous some of the responses were.  What happened to the Good Old Days of “I made a Betty Crocker Cake, bought some Turkey Hill ice cream and we sang happy birthday with the kids on the block?”  I appreciate that I raised most of my children in simpler times. 

Let’s face it, there isn’t a science to parenting.  It is a hard and stressful job a good amount of the time.  I watch families in meltdown mode, dragging their kids through amusement parks and restaurants and think…How the hell did I survive that insanity? As I watched some of the comments in that group, I couldn’t help but think that somewhere along the line, we have lost track of the fact that a good parent doesn’t have to throw elaborate parties and buy expensive gifts.  We just need to teach our kids basic moral fundamentals:  Be honest, work hard, and love deeply, you know, important thinks like that.  But we also have an obligation to guide them onto that course and protect them along the way. This was a task I was not consistent on performing in my parenting.   I was really good at that for so many years, all the way up to the second I wasn’t. If there WAS a test on parenting and this section was on it, I am afraid that I would have failed miserably and would be childless today. 

I had the unique experience of being a very young mom and then an old mom.  Three of my children were born before my 24th birthday, and one after my 37th. I have to say that I didn’t dream of being a mom.  It was not part of my high school finance plan as I believed that I was going to be one of the top attorneys in the city, living in the penthouse suite at Rittenhouse Square, driving my brand-spanking-new, red Lamborghini, What else, right?  Lol…Talk about straying from your dreams.   As that young mom, I can remember being excited at each milestone my kids reached, not as an accomplishment to be proud of, but one less thing I had to do. I was trying to survive myself those days.  I regret that terribly looking back now.  The old mom version of me was so much more patient and present.  I was established in my career, had my own business, made my own hours and cried each time a milestone was met, and my son no longer needed me.  So, although, having children was not a planned thing for me, once I had them, I fell in love and I was fierce in protection them. 

As most moms, I spent more time making meals, doing laundry, helping with homework, and running to sports than there were hours in the day.  I also wanted to be the cool neighborhood mom, so if someone wanted to have a friend sleep over, the answer was typically yes. I rarely had a house of 3 kids; it was typically 5 to 6 most times.  As my girls got older, I ‘wanted’ to stay the cool mom, but I found that I tended to ‘lose my cool’ instead.  My older children were raised in a time of no cell phones, so I could keep track of them better believe it or not with my secret weapons…. EAVESDROPPING and INVASION OF PRIVACY!   If I heard there was a keg party down at the train tracks and they were going, sure enough, I was venturing back with a flashlight yelling to them by their first and last name and warning them that if I caught up with them, they were done.  YES, I was that mom!  I can recall my one daughter being on the phone on night, you know, the one attached to the wall. I overheard her talking about her friend’s mom being away and everyone going there for a party. When she finished, I said, “I hope you don’t think you are going to that house with no parental supervision.” “Oh, please mom, I’m not” was the response.  When she left, I called a friend of mine that lived in that neighborhood and asked her to look outside in about 15-20 minutes and let me know if she saw my daughter going into that house.  As sure as the sky is blue, my phone rang about 20 minutes later and my friends only words were, “You are good!”  Like most rationale parents, I drove to the house and calmly knocked on the door.  Suddenly the background music stopped playing.  So, I proceeded to knock again and wait patiently.  After a few minutes, all I could think is …You have got to be friggen kidding me?  Are they this stupid?  I stepped back and looked at the house: all blinds and curtains were pulled shut.  As I starred at the house trying to resist the urge to borrow an axe and chop through the door, I noticed that the half-moon window at the top of the storm door had clear glass.  A quick scan of the front of the house brought my attention to a large trash can.  I grabbed the trashcan, turned it upside down in front of the door, climbed up and looked in.  Can you imagine if this happened today, in the day and age of cell phone videos and social media?  I would be an internet sensation overnight with this type of insanity.  As I looked in, there were about 12-15 kids sitting on the living room floor looking up and me.  For the love of God!!!!   I tapped on the glass, pointed directly at the little liar that belonged to me, and made the motion with my thumb up and moving backwards over my shoulder that signified …” Let’s go!”  It took me all I had not to choke her right there. 

As my children became teenagers, I was hard on them at times…a lot of times if I am being honest.  I needed them to be great and stay out of trouble as I didn’t want them to turn out like me…mom at 18.  It was so important to me to show people that MY mistake as a teen would not carryover to my kids.  So, I could be super fun but super strict.  If you have one, you can also relate to that fact that teens like to test limits and in testing limits, they will tell lies along the way.  Some of my children lied more than others.  It was like the little boy who cried wolf.  At some point, I no longer believed a word that was being said by any of them.  This is the ultimate parent fail. It is my ultimate mom fail.   I will refer to the “unspeakable” event in my life many times in my blogs, but this is not my story to tell and its origin will remain private to protect people as a result.  My mistake is something that will haunt me forever, but I was fully committed to the belief that teens will lie to deflect attention away from the things they are trying to get away with.  In a lot of cases, I was 100% accurate and my theory worked.  However, in one very important situation, I was wrong. 

When you make a vital mistake as a parent, no matter what the situation is, it is extremely hard to accept.  As the parent, you are supposed to be correct all the time…Right?   You aim to be perfect in your children’s eyes.  When you fuck that up so significantly, how do you ever recover? You are clearly no longer their hero, or someone they can even count on, trust, or look up to.  Perhaps I am very hard on myself, perhaps other parents have made mistakes but adopt a ‘oh well, I tried my best’ attitude and live stress free, or perhaps, some of you are lucky enough to have not messed up.   But I am painfully aware of this reality EVERY…SINGLE…DAY!   And every so often, some of my adult children will get mad or frustrated with me, and do not ever miss the opportunity to remind me of my mistake. I feel that this is a perpetual sin I will be paying for indefinitely. 

I wanted to be the perfect mom, but I was not.  I have accepted that I have made a very big mistake that I can never change. I live with a terrible, gut wrenching fear that the thousands of things I have done right as a mom will not be the ones remembered at the end of my life, just the one I screwed up.  I watch the movie Eat, Pray, Love at least once a year, it’s one of my favorite movies! I watch it faithfully on New Year’s Day to remind myself that it is a new year and I need to continue to work on letting go all these demons that keep me trapped in the quiet torture of my mind and find balance.   The scene that touches me the most is when Richard from Texas and Liz are in the car after the wedding and she talks about wanting her ex-husbands forgiveness who she believes she hurt very deeply.  Richard says, “Forgive Yourself.  If you do that, then everything else will take care of itself.”  In the very next scene, Richard proceeds to tell her the story of how he messed up with his son.  Liz then asks, “Is that why you are here, to forgive yourself?” Richard replies that he is working on it.  Well I, too, am still working on it. At times I fear I will spend the rest of my life working on it.  But each year, when I watch that movie, that line breaks my heart a little less, so perhaps I am making progress. 

A Bruised Fairy Tale

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There are typically events in a person’s life that define them.  They are things that make or break their character and shapes who they become.  Regretfully, these are some of my defining moments. 

No one ever “wants” to be in an abusive relationship.  No one ever “plans” on it. I mean, come on, I had a prince charming waiting to sweep me off my feet. I didn’t sit around as a little girl or even a teenager saying to my friends, “When I grow up, I hope that someone will beat the shit out of me.”  These words are extremely painful to write and even harder to see right now as tears roll down my face. This is such a painful memory to relive and if my kids are reading, I beg you to stop here and pick up at the next blog.  I absolutely hate this part of my life. This chapter closed 19 years ago.  You would think this would be so easy to bury and forget, but the scars are those deep ones that never really heal.  A simple word or situation can hurl me back in time and plunge a knife so deep into my heart, that it makes me gasp for air. 

I am and have always been a tough girl on the outside.  I can go nose to nose with the bitchiest of people and I am the queen of the one liner insult that can knock someone over…” It’s so disappointing you are mean” I said to someone once, “Usually god makes the ugly girls nice.” BAZINGA!  Ugh, not a proud moment, but it gives you some insight on how I can fire back.  I was the master of the verbal lash back.  However, I was a coward when it came to physical violence.  I think it’s important to point out that it’s not like I never had a fight.  I do have 9 siblings and we were always smacking the shit out of each other for something, but I never threw a punch.  I pulled hair!  That was my specialty. I can recall someone offered me out in grade school.  For those who don’t know, this is where you meet at a place and time and start beating each other up.  It was the most barbaric and asinine thing I ever heard of.  I still have no idea what I did to piss this person off.  I was so scared.  My friend told me to accept and not worry about it.  We showed up at the scheduled time behind the shopping center, and as the girl walked up, much to my surprise…MY FRIEND BEAT HER UP!  Honest to god, if my parents weren’t so strict with being home on time for dinner, I may still be standing there with my mouth wide open. I did not see THAT coming.  I sort of thought I accepted, and we were going to talk things out! NOPE!

My next experience with violence came in high school. I went to a party with a guy I was dating.  A friend from a different crowd showed up and I talked to him for all of a few minutes until he left.  The guy I was dating drug me outside by my arm screaming at me for talking to this person.  He threw me up against a car, hauled off and threw a punch right at my head.  It never totally connected because the guy that I was talking to earlier had seen this unfolding, pulled him off me, and proceeded to beat him up.  Ok, so apparently I knew a lot of people who were fighters, lol, but I was not one of them.

When I first started dating my first husband, I was a single mom. We were only a few months into the relationship when we had an argument at a bar. On the way home, he grabbed my hand and twisted it while he drove with the other.  It hurt so bad that I literally had to lean forward to offset the movement and my face was touching the dashboard.  As we arrived at my apartment, I jumped out of the car and told him to lose my number.  I cried for hours.  The next few days were filled with phone calls and heartfelt apologies on my answering machine.  I couldn’t bare to pick up the phone.  A few days later he showed up at my door with flowers and in tears apologizing and begging for forgiveness.  Being so young, so naive, so stupid, I accepted his apology and we continued to date.    

Sadly, abuse never digresses or stays at the same level.  In order to gain control, the abuser ups the ante.  Whether in the form of physical or verbal abuse, it gets worse and literally obliterates all traces of who you used to be.  I was so embarrassed.  I couldn’t really tell anyone what was going on and even more pathetic, I somehow started to believe that I was to blame.  Since we didn’t ALWAYS have bad times, I started to think that maybe I was crazy and overreacting.  This is the sickness associated with abuse, you actually become detached from reality. There were so many days I thought he would kill me, but not as many as I wished he would so that it would finally be over.

In looking back, I can remember and still feel in my heart the day he broke me.  I felt like such a loser, so undesirable, so useless.  After a big argument, he drug me into the bathroom and threw me on the floor. Being a baseball player, he did what he knew how to do best…he started throwing things at me.  Whatever was not attached to something in the bathroom was being fired at me at a high speed and precision. Each time something hit me physically an insult crushed my soul emotionally.  “You’re a fucking loser” as the toothpaste hit me in the face, “a whore” as the toothbrush bounced off my head, “Ugly piece of shit” as the razor hit my legs.  You get the picture. I had no idea we had so many things in the bathroom! I shit you not, I think he hit me with a spoon.  What the fuck was a spoon doing in the bathroom?!?  It felt like it went on for hours.   I could get over the physical stuff after days like this, those bruises healed quickly…but I began to believe I was a ‘worthless piece of shit who was lucky to have someone like him love me’, so I decided I needed to work harder to fix this.  To add insult to injury after this incident, I had found out I was pregnant.

My pregnancy with my second child was a nightmare.  The fighting and stress were unbearable. Once I survived the hand twists, the shoving, grabbing and dragging, the throwing of things, the squeezing of my face until my teeth cut the inside of my cheeks and the insults, then more force was needed to control me.  The day I came home from the hospital was the day the abuse moved to a new and more dangerous level.  My baby had colic.  She was crying nonstop.  It was the 3rd time she had woke up and I was so sore from stitches from an episiotomy that I could not physically get up to get another bottle.  I gently tapped his arm and asked him to get the bottle that time.  I was sitting up in bed, holding my screaming baby in the dark when suddenly I experienced a massive and violent blow right in the nose.  I can recall holding the baby so tight so not to drop her as I scrambled to feel if my nose was bleeding.  I literally saw stars and could barely breath between the sobs.  A few minutes later, the bottle was tossed at me and he returned to bed.  This was the day I knew I had to work even harder…not to make him happy any longer, but to GET THE FUCK OUT.!

It was not as easy as it seemed.  It was very hard to just get up and go. I was a college student, had 2 jobs and now 2 kids. I tried on so many occasions.  I saved money, tried to avoid all occasions that I thought could end up in an argument, I even left once. I let him visit with the kids a few hours and when I returned to get them and he would not give them back. I called the police and they let him keep the kids (my ex was in law enforcement and the police took his side) . I all of a sudden did not have my children.   This was the very second I became the smarter one in the relationship, or so I thought.  I did whatever it took to get him to let me move back in.  I moved back in to protect my children, earned my degree, got a great job, and planned my escape. 

Over that last year of our marriage, I avoided most eye contact and all physical contact after learning about his multiple affairs.  He worked nights and I worked days and for a short period of time, I had some peace.  I started to go to counseling since I now had health insurance.  I grew stronger and bolder every day.  The final day of our marriage was a typical day.  I dropped the kids at daycare and then he picked them up later and started dinner.  He was not working at this time as he was out on a disability after a significant car accident.  As I walked in, there was my now 5-year-old sitting at the table crying.  She had cut her bangs for the second time and he was belittling her…” You are bad and now you are ugly!”  It was like she was an eggshell and I was watching her crack.  He was doing to her what he did to me! It infuriated me.   I put my things down and yelled,” God gave you a second chance at life and you don’t even….”   I never got a chance to finish, he finished it and said “Deserve it?  Deserve it?”  With that he smashed a plate of food into my face so hard that I was convinced my nose broke this time.  He drug me out of the kitchen into the bathroom, smashing my head onto the glass shower door.  I have no idea how long that lasted or how I even got away, but I ran as fast as I could back to the kitchen and scrambled to grab a knife from my block of them sitting on the counter.  I found myself pulling the biggest one. I could feel him right behind me.  I closed my eyes and I jabbed my arm backwards with the knife in hand in an effort to hold him back.  I had no idea he was so close and before I knew it, the very top of the knife entered his neck.  I was horrified.  He was shocked.  I am not sure if it was because I fought back or that I just stuck him in the neck with a knife but in my horror that this was actually happening, I almost started laughing.   I finally fight back, and I just stabbed him in the neck with a knife?  What the fuck?  I most certainly did not intend on that.  My three kids were sitting at the table eating, completely unphased and never moved.  It hit me at this very moment that they thought this was NORMAL and it sickened me to think that they would allow someone to do this to them.  I held that knife as still as I could, told my oldest who was 8 years old to grab my pocketbook, get everyone seat belted into the car, and hold down the horn until I got into the car.  I had no idea if once I let that knife go whether he would bleed to death or finally kill me.  Once I heard the horn, I backed him into the corner of the kitchen, let go of the knife and ran. I never looked back.  In case your wondering, I didn’t killed him, it was a simple poke in the skin!   Also, please note that although I was elated that I fought back and got out of there, this could have ended very differently. So differently that you could have been watching this story on SNAPPED instead of reading it.

I try each day to remember I am not that person he said I was.  But it is not automatic.  I have to work at believing it. It is not easy. I have very simple advice when it comes to abuse.  NO ONE EVER, EVER IS TO PUT THEIR HANDS ON YOU IN ANGER and the same goes for you.  Abuse in an insecure person’s way to feel bigger and better about themselves.  They need to step on you, squash you in order to find their importance and significance in life.  No matter what you do in life, no matter how much you may be at fault for something, you do not deserve to be physically or verbally assaulted.  Repeat that to yourself over and over again.  You did not cause this. It took me almost 10 years to learn this lesson and break free.  If someone does this to you once, RUN! Do not stay like I did. Love yourself enough to walk away. I do not recommend fighting back either.  The Grace of God was with me that day. It could have ended so much differently. You will survive, I did… Persevere Bitches!

If anyone is reading this and is in this situation, please go to the following site for help. My love and prayers are with you