My Original Non-Fiction Essays

2014 Non-Fiction Essays (2015 follows these posts) 

Is your glass half full or half empty???

This is my son back in 2000; time goes by so quickly.  When I was in my twenties, I wish I had known how precious every minute was.  I would have spent more time cherishing these moments and never letting the small stuff build up and get in the way.  If only our older selves could mentor our younger selves.  Hopefully, our children will learn from the lessons we learned.  Haha.... I know .... did we listen to our parents?

For two weeks leading up to my son’s birth, I would wake up crying, having dreamt I had died giving birth. I never had dreams like this with my first two children, but these were so vivid, that I begged my husband to videotape the birth in case something went wrong. I was scheduled to have a Cesarean section on February 11, 1997 at seven in the morning. The thought of an early morning surgery made me happy. This meant I would not have the stress of anxiously waiting all day to be split open like a pig after the slaughter; unfortunately, the events of the day did not go as planned, and my miracle child would not come into the world for another five and a half hours.

It was very important to me to stay awake for my C-section, so I could witness the birth of my child; therefore, I did not want to be put under with general anesthesia. First, the nurses attempted to give me an epidural, which is a supposedly, somewhat simpler and less evasive form of anesthesia. “Supposedly” being the key word. The nurse had me arch my back, as if I was a double jointed contortionist in a circus act, and yet hold completely still while she inserted a needle around my spinal cord into my lower back. I had always heard how an epidural was the best thing invented for pregnant women, but I was shocked at how painful it truly was. It felt like someone was hammering a nail through my big toe. The purpose of the epidural was to numb the area below my stomach in order to perform the C-section, as they said my recovery would be much quicker than if I had received the spinal block I had with my previous two children.
Once the needle was in place, they inserted a catheter into my back so the numbing medications could be given to me periodically throughout the surgery. The next step was to have me lay there until I started numbing up, and then they would wheel me to surgery. About 20 minutes later the nurse checked on me, and she found that I was still not numb, so she administered more medication. She repeated this two more times to no avail. The weird part is that my legs were completely numb as if I was paralyzed, but I could feel every poke and prod on my belly, as if I was their own personal voodoo doll. The doctor assumed that I must have had so much scar tissue from my previous surgeries; therefore, it may have been blocking the medication from getting where it needed to be. They said they would have to take me to the operating room and give me a spinal block after all.
The anesthesiologist was waiting when I arrived. Spinal blocks are not an improvement in the pain department either, but by this time, I just wanted it all to be over. I remember lying on the table like a side of beef prominently displayed in a meat market window. The room was extremely bright with stainless steel everywhere, and there were people circling my table peering down on me like a lab rat that had failed to escape. They told me I needed to lie on my right side and rolled me over like a helpless, injured seal that had washed ashore. I had to keep my right arm extended out to monitor my blood pressure. It is crucial to remain still during a spinal block, or a side effect can be excruciating spinal headaches that make a migraine feel like a spa vacation. My legs were still extremely numb, yet I also started having contractions, and had no way of controlling the movement of my body; there went any chance of staying still. My mom told me if I was ever modest, I would lose this modesty in child birth; yet, I do not think she had ever experienced such a loss of self than I did lying there, like a naked slab on that operating table, unable to flee the degradation of public violation. The anesthesiologist was able to insert the first needle into my spine, but again, like the epidural, nothing happened. She tried again and again and again; seven times to be exact. My arms were covered in tears, as I could not quit sobbing from the enduring trials I was being subjected to. C-sections are never an easy operation, but I was a human pincushion going on five hours of painful prodding and was gradually losing hope. The doctor looked at me and said he thought they should take me back to my room and try again the following day. I cried out “No!” – delaying the surgery would be too much for me and I begged them to try again. As a result, they paged the head of anesthesiology, who could have done the spinal block blindfolded. He walked in the room, inserted the needle one more time into my spine, and almost immediately my body went numb, but this time my entire body was asleep from my chest down. I now understood how a stroke patient must feel. I was entombed in my own body and had no control or sensation. They decided to act quickly while I was still anesthetized. Minutes after they sliced into me, I started choking and could not breathe; my throat was now numb too, and I instantly realized the horror of suffocating by my own tongue. I tried to cry out, but I felt like I was in jeopardy of swallowing my tongue, and I was unable to communicate the horror I was experiencing.
My husband was now next to me, but was no help to me either. Within minutes sensation began to return to my throat and I could breathe again. I would learn years later that I had been over medicated, which caused my throat and tongue to go numb. I then asked the doctor to explain to me about what was happening, since this was my third child, I thought a play by play would get my mind off my fears, and time would pass by more quickly. He said I know this is a cesarean, but your son is so big that we are having trouble getting him out. They informed me they would need to use suction to pull him out, and needed me to try and push. Even though I was numb on the outside, I started feeling what was happening on the inside. This was frightening at first, but then I embraced it, because I thought this would be the closest I would come to a natural birth; maybe that of an alien birth, but still a natural birth. When my baby son came out, he was beautiful, and I realized that everything I just went through was so worth the precious life I was gaining. The nightmares would now be a distant memory because we had both survived the birth, and therefore, I sent my husband to witness my son being weighed in the adjoining room, as the surgeons finished sewing me up.
What a relief! As I breathed easy again I was struck with the most painful sensation. It was as if someone had reached in my belly and grabbed my organs, and pulled them as far out as possible, and suddenly let go, releasing them from a sling shot at a speed of a hundred miles an hour. I heard myself screaming for help. From deadness to extreme pain was more than I could bear. The doctor calmly reassured me that due to all of the pain medication, my organs were shutting down, and I swear I heard him say the pain I was feeling was from them knocking my uterus on the table to revive it, but that they had it under control. What? I could not understand what was happening, but before I could ask anything else, the pain quickly subsided and was suddenly over.
The pain had been silenced, and I felt a peace I had never experienced before. I watched as the nurse weighed my beautiful new baby in the room next door. He weighed nine pounds twelve ounces and was 21 ½ inches tall. My husband stood their video taping everything for me. Next, I watched over my two older children sitting at my friend Diane’s kitchen table playing cards seventy miles away. My three year old little girl sat there in her adorable French braids, short bib overalls and little freckles all over her face, while laughing with her older brother, now seven, who loved to entertain and watch over his little sister, and this day was no different. I tried to call out to them, but everything started to fade, and I felt myself floating further and further away. I was weightless like a feather gliding through the air with the aid of a soft summer breeze. I did not have a care in the world. I wanted to linger there forever, and bask in the warm rays of the sun. As I was drifting away, I was jolted and quickly remembered my three beautiful angels waiting for me to take care of them. What was I doing? Where was I going? Please Lord, do not take me away and separate me from my innocent children, I frantically thought. You above anyone else, I cried out, are so aware of the monster he secretly is, please do not leave my helpless babies with him.
That was the last thing I remember before waking up in the recovery room. My eyes opened to two nurses hovering over me with huge smiles at the sight of my eyes flickering ajar. To say I felt like I had been run over by a 40 ton eighteen wheeler would have been an understatement. They continued to inform me my organs had shut down, and for a little over a minute I had died on the operating table. Fortunately for me, the surgeons did there job and were able to revive me. I was so grateful at being alive; I never again questioned what happened that day until years later.
Recently, an OB nurse I know said that the anesthesiologist probably over medicated me, and then when I started choking on my tongue had no choice but to pull back on the numbing medications, only to back out too far to the point I began to feel my own surgery. She said she has been in surgeries before and the patient awoke and could feel everything; she then concluded I was most likely minutes from bleeding out and dying, so they would be left with no other choice, but to put me completely under, so they could focus on saving me. The nurse’s explanation of my one-minute death went along with my out of body experience. I do not know if I experienced a second chance from God, but no one to this day can explain how I was able to know what my baby weighed and measured before anyone had the chance to tell me; or the whereabouts of my other two children, and how they looked and were dressed. Both of my visions were true upon verification to the very last detail.
As I lay in recovery contemplating the events of the day, I found myself very grateful to be alive, but I was also haunted by my cry out to God, begging him to save my children from the fiend that was their father. I do not know at this point in my life if I had ever acknowledged my feelings towards him. I had always blamed myself for his abuse. He worked too many hours. The kids were too loud. I was not attentive enough to his needs. He always shouted that if I did not always think that life revolved around the kids and me, he would not have to be so angry.
My marriage had been shaky since the time my husband put a ring on my finger eight years earlier. A ring symbolized ownership to him, and from then on, he thought he controlled not only his own life but mine as well. It seems so simple looking back, but abuse is never simple, and not as easy to see as people may think. There’s an analogy about a dog, which is locked in a kennel day in and day out. The dog is starved and beaten almost daily. Three years after consistent neglect and abuse, someone sneaks in and opens the kennel gate and runs away. No one else is around; the dog can run; yet, the dog stays still. Why? The dog knows nothing else. How does the dog know the world on the outside is not even worse? When a woman, a man, or a child are in long-term abusive relationships, they do not see them as abusive relationships; they see them as their reality. What else is there? They have been beaten down so much; they start to believe their abuser’s insults and degradation. If there are children involved, it is even worse, because it is too risky for a woman to run from her abuser, and risk the man having alone time to torment her children, so it is easier to sacrifice herself, for a chance at a better life for the future of her children.
This is how I saw my married life. Every time I thought about running, something would happen in my life that kept me from leaving; my pregnancy with my youngest son was one of those things. I had been preparing for months to leave my husband when I suddenly came down with the flu; a flu that never ended. Finally, because my period had not arrived, I bought a pregnancy test to rule it out. I could not be pregnant, as I was using three forms of birth control. I had just quit using the birth control shot Depo-Provera, and immediately, started birth control pills; yet, I still insisted on my husband using a condom just to be safe. As sick as it may sound, no matter how much I hated him and wanted to escape with my children, I wasn’t allowed to say no to sex, or I risked him hurting my other two children; therefore, I always gave in, but I took lots of precautions. My newest son decided he was not having it, and made his way into this world, despite my safety measures; what a blessing in disguise he has turned out to be.
Three years earlier when I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband brought home the cutest chocolate lab. I might have been more open to this gift if we did not already have a five-year old Chesapeake Retriever, a small house and yard, and I was eight-months pregnant with my second child and suffering with Toxemia on top of that. I was in no position to take care of and train this sweet puppy. My son fell instantly in love with the puppy and quickly named him Charlie. Charlie loved us, but was still unhappy from the beginning. He wanted to run and play non-stop, and if he were not getting constant attention, he would begin barking non-stop, even at night! I was so tired and tried everything to get him to stop, but he would bark and bark and bark. I was miserable, my son was miserable, and even our other dog was miserable. One night we had friends over, and my husband over heard me ask our friends to find a farmer for Charlie to go live with. It was not Charlie’s fault. He was full of puppy energy, and he deserved the right to live in a home where he had room to run and play.
My husband spoke up and said he was so sorry that Charlie was so unhappy, and that was never his intention, so while I was having our baby, he said he would find Charlie a farm or ranch to live on. I was stunned that he was being so sweet and understanding, and I have to admit I was so relieved. A few weeks later, after just giving birth to our daughter, my husband came to the hospital and said he had good news; I would never have to worry about Charlie again. I said great, did he find a ranch for him to live on? His eyes became very cold and he said he definitely found him a place in the country. I asked what that meant. He glared at me and said he drove Charlie outside of town, shot him between the eyes, and buried him, so I would never be bothered by him again. My horror turned into tears. As I was sobbing, he told me to shut up, he did not want to do it, but my whining had left him no other choice. We never mentioned it again. Down deep I hated him, but I had just given birth to my second child and had nowhere to go. Maybe my friends and family would agree with him and blame me for Charlie’s death, so I saved them the time and blamed me too.
Right then the nurse came into recovery to take me back to my room. But all I wanted was to find my son and get the hell out of there. That also proved easier said then done, because later when I woke up in my hospital room, my baby was nowhere to be found. My husband was asleep in the chair beside me, and I yelled for him to wake up and tell me where my baby was. He said our baby had started running a fever, and they moved him to incubation in the nursery. The nurse heard my screams and came running in the room. She tried to calm me and reassured me he was okay, but due to my catheter, IV, and the fact that I had just survived major surgery that I was in no condition to make a trip to the nursery; and she added that my son could not be moved from the nursery to me. She did offer to take my husband to see our child, to prove he was okay. I told her this was not good enough and I kept arguing that my baby needed me. After giving me a condescending eye roll, she exited with my husband in tow.
Twenty minutes later I heard my husband arguing with the nurses, explaining he knew I would never give in until I could see my son for myself, but they replied that was not possible. They obviously underestimated the love of a mother. At that moment, I pushed through the nursery room door, hunched over, holding my catheter in one hand, and my IV in the other, with a trail of my bloody, laden footprints following me down the long corridor, demanding to see my son. The shock on their faces was priceless, and once they understood there was no reasoning with me, they negotiated a solution to appease both of us. I was informed there was an available room across from the nursery, but the problem was that it was for outpatients only; therefore, if I moved into it, they would bring my son to me for feedings, but I would not have nursing care for me. I had read that all a baby hears in the womb is the constant sound of their mother’s heartbeat, and if they are sick, the best way to soothe and heal them is to lay them on their mother’s chest so they can be close to her heart. I insisted as long as he needed to be in the hospital that is where he would be, so I took their deal and was able to spend the next five days with my baby at the hospital. My husband told me if I took this deal, then I was on my own, and he would be returning home to our other two children. I agreed.
I was very sore from the surgery, but having my son asleep on my chest took my mind off the pain and instead brought me peace and tranquility, the same peace and tranquility I felt when I was floating to the heavens during my surgery. But this serenity became short lived. Later that night, I started to become hungry and realized the nurses had never brought me in food during the day. When they came to retrieve my son for the night, I asked them when dinner was. They laughed and said “Remember you are an outpatient now?” No nursing staff, no meals, but I was more than welcome to order in. After they left, I grabbed my purse to see how much money I had and found it empty. My husband had left me without a dime to my name.
How would I survive the next five days and have enough nutrients to feed my baby? I called my husband immediately and told him my predicament. He clearly said I made my choice, good luck with that and hung up. Again I laid there in shock, which led to tears, and then to a realization, I was all alone. As I thought of a solution, I remembered when I was an in-patient the nurses would go down the hall and bring me back unlimited amounts of Jell-O, instant soup, and juice. All I needed to do was find that survival pantry. After putting on my bathrobe with the huge pockets, I spent the next hour attempting to navigate my walking skills.
When the nurses saw me in the hallway, they immediately asked where I was headed. I informed them the walk would do me well, to build up my strength. Every step I took was a constant stab to the belly, but I trekked on searching for the elusive pantry. After going down one hallway and turning the corner twice, I spotted the pantry door. Leaning against the wall to rest, I waited patiently for the nurses to clear the hallway. As soon as the coast was clear, I went into the closet and quickly filled my pockets with as much bounty as they could conceal. I continued these missions for the next three days, living on Jell-O, chicken noodle soup, and cranberry juice. Not once did my husband check in on me or on our son.
Day four I awoke to an incredible headache. It hurt to open my eyes, and it was as if a drum corps had snuck in my head and was competing to see who could beat their bass drums the loudest. I started to cry, but it made my pain worse, so I laid as still as I could, praying for God to take away the pain. The door opened and the hall light pierced through my pupil like an ice pick to a block of ice. The nurse began to wheel in my baby for his morning feeding. Gritting my teeth, I told her to take him and leave. She just kept coming closer. Again, as the drums beat harder in my head and the light blinded me with pain, she kept coming towards me. My voice rose and I firmly told her to take him and leave. She said, “for days you have gotten your way and now you don’t feel like taking care of your own child?” I screamed, “GET OUT, AND GET OUT NOW!!!” She realized there was something wrong, and took my son quickly back to the nursery and rushed back to my room. She called for a doctor to come quick. The doctor was horrified to hear how I had been surviving for almost a week on Jell-O and juice, and was not receiving any type of healthcare. He instantly readmitted me to the hospital and gave me an IV filled with medication to relieve my excruciating pain.
In the weeks following the spinal headaches, I also ended up getting hemorrhoids, and then hives, as a follow-up gift from all of the stressors my body had been through due to the surgery. My husband’s job granted him a three-week father’s maternity leave, so that he would be able to care of me until I healed. This would have been an amazing gift if my husband had used it for that purpose. Instead, he worked outside building himself a welding cart for work, and left my care in the hands of my seven-year old son.
I wish I could say life improved after that, but I was finally able to escape with my children 10 years later. There are days I wish I could go back and open that kennel gate, and yell for my younger self to grab her children and run. I would tell her that she’s beautiful and a wonderful mom, and that she can survive without her husband’s daily deprivation and abuse. My children and I will never get those years back, but my youngest son’s birthday is an invisible measuring stick of where I have been and how far I have come. Currently, instead of needing that kennel gate opened for me, I am now working my hardest to open that exit gate for all of the other emotionally and physically caged women in the world. Every human being, no matter what their gender, sexual orientation, color, religion, culture, and so on are valuable and should never be treated otherwise. I hope one day to live in a world where we respect and love each other for our individuality instead of the current world I see, where we tear down people who refuse to conform and fit inside the box. Uniqueness is what makes our world beautiful, we just need to stop, look around, and soak it in because no matter what abuse my ex-husband put me through, I will continue to see the glass half full, and learn from my past, while thanking God every day for the three beautiful children he blessed me with and for the ability to now use my experiences to pay it forward; no one deserves to live their life inside a kennel. No one.
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See the Whole Person, Not the Label

Dylan Source

This past week, my children and I presented research on Asperger’s Syndrome at the university that I attend.  I also presented last year, so this wasn’t a new experience for me, but it was for my children.  They are only 20 and 17.  My daughter attends college with me, but my son is a high school student and consequently happens to have a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome.

Our journey navigating the school system, and just society in general, has been a long, difficult road; therefore, for him to stand up in front of all these people (and to step out of his comfort zone), and not only talk on the subject, but to share his deepest thoughts, was the most amazing, brave thing I have ever witnessed.  When I grow up, I want to be just like my kids. They are determined to bring awareness to the subject, so that they can hopefully decrease stigmatism.

At the end of our presentation, my son stood up in front of the room and read the following poem that he wrote.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the room when he finished.   His honesty as he read his words was inspirational.  I asked him today if I could share his words on my blog and he said of course.  For years, educators have told me that I had unrealistic expectations for my son.  Thank goodness I didn’t listen to them.  Never let others tell you that you can’t do anything.  Only we know what we are truly capable of.

See the whole person, not the label

What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
Mental Illness?  I think not.
How does someone get Asperger’s Syndrome?
A gift given to children through birth or heredity.

Mental Illness.  I think not.
I am different; I am socially awkward.
A gift given to children through birth or heredity.
I don’t have a clue.

I am different; I am socially awkward.
I have significantly increased intelligence.
I don’t have a clue.
I have sporadic, hyperactive behavior.

I have significantly increased intelligence.

I am socially awkward.

I have sporadic, hyperactive behavior.

I grasp academics slower than others.

I am socially awkward.

I do not like being labeled.

I grasp academics slower than others.

I feel like another product on a conveyor belt.

I do not like being labeled.

Others see me as indistinguishable from other people with the same label.

I feel like another product on a conveyor belt.

Quit putting me in a category.

Others see me as indistinguishable from  other people with the same label.

I am a loyal and generous person.

Quit putting me in a category.

I am fun, outgoing, and energetic.

I am a loyal and generous person.

In the future, I would not want people to know I have Asperger’s Syndrome.

I am fun, outgoing, and energetic.

Asperger’s Syndrome does not define me.

In the future, I would not want people to know I have Asperger’s Syndrome.

The early years of my life, they held me back.

Asperger’s Syndrome does not define me.

Over the years, I learned social cues, behaviors, rules, respect….things that come easier to normal children

The early years of my life, they held me back.

Teachers put no effort into providing the education I deserve.

Over the years, I learned social cues, behaviors, rules, respect….things that come easier to normal children

Teachers put me in a box and never try to approach my learning in a different way.

Teachers put no effort into providing the education I deserve.

I feel judged. I feel isolated. I feel helpless.

Teachers put me in a box and never try to approach my learning in a different way.

My teacher’s motto “I can’t drop everything to focus on your problem”

I feel judged. I feel isolated. I feel helpless.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.

My teacher’s motto “I can’t drop everything to focus on your problem”

Ignore the label and treat me like a human being; a human being who is effected by your judgment.

Don’t judge a book by its cover.
How does someone get Asperger’s Syndrome?
Ignore the label and treat me like a human being; a human being who is effected by your judgment.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?

–          By D. G. @2014

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In My Father’s Image

fathers and sons

Recently, my son became very ill, and as the doctors asked me about our family health history, I found myself becoming angry again at my ex-husband. The anger wasn’t because he deserted me and his children (though I find that seeping back in once in a while); the anger was due to how he left us. He made it impossible for me to ever find out if the symptoms my son is having could be related back to his family history; therefore, there is this big unknown part of my children’s history that I would like to access, so I can help them be healthy for themselves and for their future children.

I took this photo of my son and husband (at the time) right after my father’s funeral. My husband said that my losing my father reminded him of how quickly time passes and the importance of cherishing every precious moment we have with our children. The portrait symbolized to me the relationship between a parent and their child and how important it is, as parents, to guide our children to the future that is waiting for them. I never thought that my own husband would disregard the gift’s God has bestowed upon us. I no longer try to understand what made my husband do the things he did, as it is out of my control and is time wasted. Yet, inexcusably I still witness daily the internal pain and damage he left behind. I always thought that maybe he was too damaged from his own childhood to ever be a parent, but three years after deserting his own children, he had another one.

It may seem cruel, but I sometimes view my ex as created in Hitler’s (interesting enough, he liked his employees to call him that) image because when our marriage became the darkest is when he could not handle his youngest son (in this photo) being different from other children. I’ve mentioned in my blog before that my son has Asperger’s Syndrome, and my ex-husband had no patience or empathy for the symptoms that developed from my son’s diagnosis. I almost think that he kept having children until he could create the perfect specimen of himself. My heart aches for his new child that he had with his new wife, and I pray for the innocent boy’s safety every day.

This photo has been hidden in the back of my closet for years in fear of it bringing back the pain of the past for my children. However, this week as I have been filling out medical forms for specialists for my beautiful, kind-hearted son, I looked back at this portrait and realize that it doesn’t have to represent the father that walked away, but it reminds me of the characteristics my son shares with his maternal grandfather that I sadly lost that Thanksgiving week in 2000. My son grew up not having the guidance of either a father or a grandfather, but I have kept my father’s image alive within my son, by sharing his stories, his morals, his ethics, his love, and so on. As I look into my son’s eyes, the eyes that trust that I will find him the best care and answers this week, I see my father’s soul looking back at me. My son may have been born from a man who has no soul, but that doesn’t mean that’s how my son’s story ends.

My son has a heart of gold and carries his grandfather Jim’s heart and soul with him everywhere (that is what I see in this portrait now), and as long as I bring him up with wonderful people surrounding him that also share those similar ethics, morals, and love, my child will take that into his future and it will continue to touch the ones fortunate enough to come into his life. I will never be convinced that blood defines a family, but instead family is defined by the incredible people who lift us up and encourage us to live each day being better than we were the day before.

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Happy Mother’s Day: A Gift to my Children

moms blog

I can’t help on Mother’s Day to reflect back on my life as a mom. I see all of the messages on the internet to the best moms ever. Can we all be the best moms ever? With all of the dysfunction in the world, do people really believe this? I know I do. I think moms get a bad rap. If a child messes up, the mom is always at fault. I never hear in a news story, what kind of dad did they have? Yes, today we celebrate the moms in the world, but it seems the rest of the days in the year, we blame them for everything that goes wrong.
I know I live with my own guilt as a mom for the mistakes I made as my children were growing up. I have “two” amazing children. Everyone is always complementing me on what a great mom I am because of my “two” special children. But I always wonder if my daughter and son are a reflection of my parenting than what kind of parent do others think I am when they learn I have a third child? He hasn’t spoke to me in over a year and continuously blames me for everything wrong in his life. Even though, his father was abusive and I fought to get us away from him, his dad is who he wants in his life. This torments me daily. No matter how many successes I achieve, it’s always in the back of my mind, is my older son right about me? Am I the terrible person he says I am? Am I a failure as a parent or the wonderful parent my other two children say I am?
Recently, I was given a glimpse into my ex-husband’s new life. He’s remarried with a one-year old son, and has three thriving businesses. He’s the toast of his new town. Since he left, all of his professional dreams have come true; maybe even his personal ones. It’s been seven years since I filed for a restraining order, and I too, have had my own successes. I was awarded 100% custody and have gone on to receive not one, but two Bachelor’s degrees and a minor, and in a few weeks will have my Master’s degree, and in the fall will begin my doctoral program. I have watched my two younger children grow into amazing, thriving, independent, loving young adults. We have lived in sketchy places and had to scrape every dollar together to survive, but we have done it all while at the same time trying to be the best, honest persons we can be.
So if my ex and I have managed to be happier apart, maybe the common variable in the equation of our destruction was me? That scenario plays in my head daily; after all, my older son still blames me for the demise of our family. But for the first time, I decided to use my critical thinking skills I acquired in college. I decided to trace the paths of my ex and myself since we split away. My path has been hard work and hard choices. I have worked as hard as I could to make a better life for me and my kids. Being their sole parent, I strive to be the best role model I can; not only have I worked to be an advocate for people in domestic violence situations, but an advocate for children with Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s been a rough seven years, and it may be another three or four before I receive my doctorate, but I can say I traveled this path with my head held high and without hurting others in order to travel down it. I have actually tried my best to uplift others along the way. My journey wouldn’t hold as much value if I wasn’t striving to pay it forward as I headed down it.
As for my ex, he continues to avoid his financial responsibilities he left behind, and may be in his one son’s life, but he has moved on as if the other two children never existed. He has lied to his current business partners and community about his true identity and the path of destruction he left behind along with the mounds of debt. He even attempted to file bankruptcy on child support and alimony. He has all of his businesses in other people’s names, so that he doesn’t have to pay more for his children he deserted. He even lied to the judge and said he was dying of Colon Cancer. He’s committed tax and bankruptcy fraud; yet, no one calls him out on his bad deeds. He may seem professionally and personally like he has it all, but I have to wonder if he lies asleep at night wondering if he will ever be found out. What if his one-year old son finds out that he has a long lost brother and sister? What will he tell him? I doubt it will be the truth. He doesn’t know what the truth looks like. He is known in his community to be this incredible engineer and fabricator; yet, he never went to college nor graduated from high school. I am not putting him down for not going to college; I married him knowing that. What I hate is how he lies about who he is. What if his designs that people are buying, due to his engineering background, are faulty? Who takes the fall for that? Him? Or his business partners who have taken all the financial risk and have staked their reputations on his background that they never checked into? If his past speaks for itself, he won’t stick around to be accountable.
The best part of my look into my past, is that yes, it’s been a tough seven years, but I can sleep at night. I know that I am a good person, not a perfect person, but a good person. I no longer have to look over my shoulder due to his abuse and lies. I decided to take another path; yet, seeing who he is now, I know that his character and moral values have stayed the same. I am grateful to be free of him; I am grateful two of my children are safe from him as well. Yet, should I still beat myself up for the 24 year old son who chooses my ex over me? I would be lying if I didn’t say I miss my son and am hurt by it, but on the other hand, how long do we let others punish us for decisions we made years ago? I didn’t know his dad was an abuser when I met him or I wouldn’t have married him. Do I think it affected how good a mother I was at the time? Most definitely. Did I continue to be that person and bury my head in the sand after leaving his father? No! I left and I fought for three years to keep my kids safe.
I have worked extremely hard to build a life built on ethics and love. I have been in counseling with my children and apologized for not leaving sooner. I will be haunted by the memories of that man forever, but I am proud that I took a stand and left. We have struggled to make ends meet, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel and am grateful for the friends I have made along the way. I am proud of the woman/mom I have become and have decided today is the day that I give myself a Mother’s Day present – that present is forgiveness and permission to start this day and every day after, loving myself for the woman I am and finally walking away from the woman I was in my marriage. She no longer exists. If my oldest son cannot move into the future with the woman I have worked, long and hard, to become, and let go of the woman I was then, he will have to deal with that. I know my truth and am proud of who I am. I will always love my oldest son, but I cannot ever allow abuse and degradation ever back into my life, so until he can do that too, I will have to love him from afar. Today is the day that I love myself, forgive myself, shut the door on the past, and embrace the new life that awaits; my children deserve it, my friends and family who have supported me deserve it, and last, but not least, I deserve it! Happy Mother’s Day to the woman I am and to the children who have been waiting patiently for this day – I love you – always and forever!

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I Know Asperger’s

Chef Dylan blog

“I know Asperger’s, my friend has a child with Asperger’s Syndrome” are usually the words I hear when I tell my friends my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome six years ago. Other words I hear are from friends who have a child with the same diagnosis, and who believe since our kids have the same diagnosis that our kids are the same person, will be “are you sure your son has Asperger’s Syndrome, my child doesn’t do that.” This can be very frustrating for me when my passion is to bring awareness to the subject, but a wise person once told me “at least they are talking about it.”
Does having a child with Asperger’s Syndrome make me an expert on the subject? According to my son, he isn’t even an expert on the subject. All it means is that I am an expert on my son who happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome, and even then, I am a secondary authority because he is the primary expert regarding himself.
What I can say is that according to the Center for Disease Control, Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) can be identified by the onset of non-verbal behaviors, and it distinguishes itself by an individual’s lack of eye contact, lack of facial expression, and peculiar body postures. The diagnosis itself is based on a list of symptoms (listed in the previous Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV-TR): impairment in social interaction, repetitive and restrictive stereotyped patterns of behavior, activities, and interests, significant social and occupational impairments, and delays in language; these impairments can lead to difficulties in making friends, having an awareness of non-verbal social cues, poor motor skills, narrow areas of interest, inflexibility in regards to changes in routine, and an inability to understand another person’s perspective. Other issues can be having a lack of direction, problems with loud noises and with large crowds.
The list can go on even more, so what if I had ten, male 17-year olds with Asperger’s Syndrome stand next to each other in a room – I highly doubt one of them would be the same. That would be like hanging ten of Van Gogh’s masterpieces next to each other on the wall and saying they were the same. They may be from the Post-impressionist era, they may all be from the same artist, and they may have similarities; but in the end, they will all touch us in a completely different way; therefore, I also see my son as a masterpiece and would never begin to lump him in with another person, nor would I want another mother to feel she needed to lump her child in with mine.
Instead of pulling apart a person with Asperger’s Syndrome to analyze what may be wrong with them, I wish more people would stop and look at everything that is amazing about them. Once we lift our children up and focus on their strengths, only then will they have the chance to soar and have the incredible life they were destined for.
For example, two years ago, my son decided he wanted to be a chef. This may not seem that unusual, but in his world it is. He doesn’t especially like food, or rather the taste of food. Since he was little, his taste buds were on sensory overload. His pediatrician had a great analogy; food is to his taste buds as extremely loud sounds are to eardrums. This has made it very hard for him to enjoy food or rather a wide selection of food; he tends to keep his selections to pork, chicken, fruits, and so on. He does not like if condiments are added to his food; a little ketchup to him is like pouring hot sauce on someone else’s tongue.
Despite his food issues, he is fascinated with cooking and loves to create new dishes. When he talks about culinary school, I always ask how he would get through it since he doesn’t like to taste his own creations. He quickly states, “That’s what taste testers are for.” To prove his culinary skills to me, he told me he was going to a friend’s house to create a dinner designed around my favorites. Not wanting to ever stand in his way, I agreed to come to his special dinner that night. When my daughter and I arrived, anticipating a delicacy of my favorite foods, I was not ready for what I saw before me.
At first it wasn’t that shocking, he had made a beautiful raspberry vinaigrette salad, he then presented us with bread sticks with grape jelly, but next to those foods was something odd. I couldn’t really explain it. It looked like a cross between eggplant and a giant mushroom. I smiled and said it all look delicious, but may I ask what the main course is. He was slightly irritated, and he asked me if I noticed my “favorites” theme. I said I wasn’t quite sure and maybe he could help me; after an eye roll, he gave in. He said he designed the meal after my favorite color: purple. What? A meal based on the color purple? I was in shock and not ready for his next statement. He said, “I made you purple chicken! I marinated the chicken in your favorite drink; diet Pepsi with purple food coloring. I was speechless as I saw my daughter trying to sneak out of the room. Not on my watch. We were in this together.
To our surprise, he had cooked the chicken perfectly and it tasted delicious, even though we had to close our eyes before we bit into it. He also surprised me with diet Pepsi with purple food coloring as my drink. We only learned about the purple food coloring when we saw our purple tongue and lips in the mirror afterwards. He finished the night off with a brownie surprise with a delicious purple marshmallow topping.
Having a son with Asperger’s Syndrome has taught me so much, but primarily that I may never understand what is going on in his head. What I do know is that whatever he is creating in his imagination is spectacular and the days he chooses to share those thoughts are among the greatest days I have experienced. My hope with my blog is not to lecture to anyone about Asperger’s Syndrome, but instead to enlighten others on how fantastic it is to have someone with Asperger’s Syndrome in one’s life. I cannot ever judge a book by its cover, it’s better to leave judgment at the door, and open the book and enjoy every surprise it has waiting.
With my son, life is never dull and always interesting, and I count my blessings everyday that he was born. Getting glimpses of life through his eyes is glorious, and my only wish is that others would learn to set down their critical eyeglasses and pick up a set that helps them see an entirely different perspective. Enlightenment is the entrance to a new, diverse world filled with great gifts beyond our own expectations.

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Happy Birthday to My Prodigal Son

kids when babies

Today is my oldest son’s 24th birthday.  Some would be full of joy, but instead waking up and thinking about it, brought me to my knees.  He was my first-born and I have never forgotten the day I found out I was pregnant with him.  I was at my parent’s house, with my fiancée, addressing wedding invitations.  The phone rang and it was a nurse calling about my pregnancy test earlier in the day.  The only reason I agreed to the test was because during the marriage license blood test, I learned I had a low Rubella count and the doctors couldn’t give me the vaccine if there was a possibility I was pregnant.  I laughed at the thought of it, as I knew I took birth control, but nevertheless, the doctor insisted on the test.

To my shock, the test came back positive.  I just stood there in my parent’s basement, holding the phone, speechless.  I did not know what to say.  My fiancée was scared something was wrong and begged me to tell him what the nurse said.  I looked at him and told him I was pregnant.  To my further shock, he grabbed and hugged me and said, “you are having a boy and his name is Cody”.

My pregnancy and delivery were extremely hard, but were all worth it when I held my beautiful son in my arms.  He was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen; he had stolen my heart. I went on to have two more incredible children, but still, no one forgets the feeling of having a first child.  It is so scary.  Children aren’t born with instruction manuals, so I was constantly worried about being the perfect mother.  I have learned through the years, I was not.   I could have given my son all of the love in the world, but it would not ever erase that I had chosen an abuser as his father.

I didn’t know his father was abusive, that was something I slowly learned over the years.  It’s like putting a frog in a pot of hot boiling water, it will immediately hop out, but if you put that same frog in a pot of warm, comforting water and – s l o w l y – turn up the heat, the frog won’t know to jump out before it’s too late.  That is how my ex-husband introduced me to abuse.  He courted me and was charming, loving, and doting; he made me feel like I was the only person in his world. It wasn’t until he had a ring on my finger and our first child was born that he started to gently turn up the heat.  He always had reasons for the way he talked to and treated me.  I knew I could take anything he sent my way, as long as he didn’t hurt my children.  I never wanted a divorce because I may not have been there to protect my children from him if he got custody, so in my mind, I thought it was better that I endure his abuse until my kids were grown and then attempt to escape his madness.

What my husband’s abuse never prepared me for was the torture I would suffer after I had left.  I realized I couldn’t wait until my kids were grown because once he kept turning up the heat, I didn’t know if I would survive and then my kids would be left with no one to protect them.  So when my children were 17, 13, and 10, I fled; that was almost 7 years ago.   I got all of us into counseling and have worked 18 hours a day to be the best parent and person I can be.   My younger two children have flourished in our new environment, but my ex was successful in turning my oldest against me.

We were always so close, and he told me how proud he was of me that I had the strength to leave, but a year afterwards, he started talking to his dad again and I saw him being drug down into my ex’s way of thinking.  He told me that year that abuse is genetic and he had no other choice, but to follow in his dad’s footsteps.  I felt those words as if someone had slit open my chest and ripped my heart from inside of me.   When I had my children, I thought of the beautiful futures they would have; I didn’t picture them to grow up with anger and hatred.

Today when I woke up and knew it was his birthday, I pictured the boy, who when he was three, would pull me into the living room to dance to video music on VH1.  When he was in elementary school, he loved to have me play Lover Boy’s “Working for the Weekend” everyday on the way to school.   I never missed one of his concerts, soccer games, basketball games, or swim meets.  In the summer in California, we would go swimming every day and on the way home from Six Flags, we would turn on the Backstreet Boys and sing their songs, at the top of our lungs, all the way home.

Yet, one by one, we lost his grandmother, his cousin, and then my dad.  With each death, he started to build a wall that I didn’t know how to get through.  Unfortunately, that wall has grown so high; he may never reach around and grab my hand.  Even though, I see him once in awhile, we have not had an honest conversation in five years.  I miss my son with all of my heart and every year when he turns a year older, I wonder if I will ever know him again.  He lives less than a mile from me, but it might as well be a thousand.  No matter how much I loved that little boy, I cannot embrace a 24-year old man, who chooses hatred over love.  I can only live my life with honor, and then hope, one day, he will see that he too can choose that path.    Until then, I guess there will be days I wake up in tears, not just for what I have lost, but for the future, he too, deserved.

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How do you define the man in your life?

Fool or Hero?

Dad

In a recent conversation with my mom, I could sense her concern on how others perceived my father, not just my father in general, but also my father as a man who had Multiple Sclerosis. At first I didn’t understand her worries because I only saw my dad as my loving, devoted father, I never defined him by a disease, just as I wouldn’t want others to define my son as Asperger’s Syndrome, or my daughter as PTSD, or me as a divorcee of an abuser. If people did only see my dad for his Multiple Sclerosis, then they missed out on knowing a great man.
No matter what life threw at him, he always handled it with dignity and stride. I asked him the year before his death how he did it. Every time I came to visit him, he always greeted me with a huge, loving smile and would ask about me. Me? He never wanted to talk about what the disease had done to him. He went from a vibrant, hard-working man to many years later barely being able to leave his bed. My amazing mom was always by his side, making sure his every need was taken care of; yet, the first thing out of their mouths was how was I?
My dad was not perfect, who is? What I do know is that from the minute he said, “I do” to my mom his first priority was always taking care and honoring his family. Six and a half years ago when my ex told me (on our 18th wedding anniversary/Father’s Day) that he was tired of being a husband and father and either I do it all or find someone to take his place because he had better things to do in his life; I remember being in complete shock by his words, and the worst part is my 13-year old daughter over heard him. I remember asking him “What kind of man abandons his family? My dad lost his first business right after I, one of five children, was born. Did he walk away? No, he sought out another career. After that he developed Multiple Sclerosis. Did he walk away? No, he sought out another career and started his own upholstery shop in his home, so he could provide for his family. When the MS took over and he could no longer work in his shop, did he walk away? No, he sought out another career (in his sixties now) and went back to college, so he could run a tax service out of his office. My dad never gave up. He was a real man and father.” My ex husband stood looking at me with dark, callous eyes, like a dementor from the book Harry Potter, who was about to suck away my soul, and said “Your dad wasn’t a man, he was a fool.”
I knew right then that my ex could never be a real role model for my children, as he showed me who the real fool was. My father may have already passed on, but my children knew him. He was their role model. They drew the above picture of him while I was still with my ex. When I asked my oldest son to draw a picture of family, he drew his grandparents. His version may have had my dad’s wheelchair, but it didn’t show my dad being helpless and defeated, it showed him the way I will always remember him: full of love for everyone that walked into his life. My parents taught me what love is.
When I was in college I was brutally attacked and I was so ashamed I never told anyone. My attacker began tormenting me and I decided I could no longer live with the shame anymore, and decided to end my life. Before I did, a co-worker, I barely knew, reached out to me and told me whatever was eating at me could be worked out. He told me if I ended my life, my oppressor won and the people I loved lost. He convinced me to tell someone; I went to my dad. I expected him to yell and scream at me and to be so ashamed, but instead he was calm, loving and gave me a huge hug; he told me he loved me and always would. He said there was only one thing that could change the way he looked at me, and that was if I ever gave up. He said I could fall on my face a thousand times, but the time I decided not to get up again, and try again, was the day he would walk away from me.
Those words carried me through the last twenty-five years. I have people constantly say they think I’m brave for surviving a sociopath, but what other alternative is there? My dad taught me that we are more than then the blockades that are thrown in our way. I work hard every day to honor my father, not a fool, but my hero; if I can pay it forward one way for him; I know it would be to help others see that obstacles are never so enormous that we cannot work to find a strategy around or through them. My journey has not been an easy one, and I’m confident there will be more barriers along the way, but life is always a work in progress, and as long as I am moving forward and making a better future for my children, myself, and others around me, then I have lived. Truly lived.

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Is Selling the Story More Important than the People it Hurts?

Blog SH

Does the news need to blame someone so much that they don’t care if they stigmatize a whole group of people who have done nothing wrong? Tonight I received a text from a colleague asking me if I heard the Sandy Hook killer had Asperger’s Syndrome? I thought I was going to be ill. I really thought the news had let go of that. I remember when the shooting happened, and a diner owner had reported that to the news. He said the mom had told him once (years earlier) that her son was being tested for Asperger’s Syndrome. TESTED!!! Tested does not equal a diagnosis, and even if it did, it does not mean that was the cause for the shooting.

The shooters own brother said he had been diagnosed with a personality disorder. That could mean so many things, but again did not mean Asperger’s Syndrome. And just so we are clear, when the brother was interviewed by cnsnews.com, he was interviewed under anonymity because he was under orders from the investigators not to disclose information to the media. All of the sources I have searched up weren’t credible enough to say for sure or even to say “could be” or “might be” or “we have an inkling” that the shooter had Asperger’s Syndrome. Where were the interviews with the shooter’s therapists and doctors? You know, the ones who were actually treating him.

Having a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, I know first hand the stigma he faces in our world without having the national news pointing a finger at him. I thought our society had out grown away from the mentality of the Salem Witch trials, but I guess I figured wrong. When a tragedy happens, everyone wants to point fingers and come up with an easy solution to the problem, even if that solution could ostracize a whole group of citizens unfairly. As long as it doesn’t affect us, why not, right? Wrong! It’s time our society grows up and realizes that not everything can be wrapped up nicely in 30 – 60 minutes like a television show. As a society we need to get off our social media and start educating ourselves on the world around us.

I am not saying that the killer wasn’t mentally ill, but that’s all that needed to be reported. Putting a name to his illness without 100 percent proof is unconscionable. Yet, tonight NBC news did it again. My colleague pointed out that the information was coming from the shooter’s father and that this time it was a major news show that was airing it, so she trusted the validity. It made me wonder too, so I went on to watch the interview. The only problem when I watched the interview is that the interview wasn’t with the father of the shooter. It was with a reporter who had interviewed the father. In other words, it was one reporter interviewing another reporter on his interpretation of the father’s words. Might I point out that the shooter’s parents were divorced, and it was the mother who had been seeking out the mental health help for her son, so now we have a reporter interviewing another reporter on his interpretation of his interview with the father who was actually giving his second hand knowledge of what the mother had learned year’s earlier. Have any of you played the telephone game as kids? How well did that information get passed around the room? Well, these are adults playing that game, yet it has major affects on a whole group of citizens from around the world.

Instead of pointing fingers at individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome and causing them to be feared like the witches were in Salem, or the Jewish people and the Japanese were during World War II, or even how the Muslims have been since 911. We are so quick to blame a whole group of people for something one or a few might have caused. It is soooo much easier and quicker. Instead we need to educate ourselves about mental health issues and find ways to help each other, instead of judging each other. The time and energy it takes to point fingers and gossip, people could put that towards lifting up their fellow citizens.

I read Frankenstein recently to a group of my college ESL students. I had never read Frankenstein before, and it brought me to tears. The monster wasn’t evil and ugly, society made him evil and ugly. Even his own master turned against him because of how ugly he thought he was. He didn’t bother to get to know him and love him, instead he banished him and sent him out in the cold to die. We do that to people everyday and then people cry out “what’s wrong with the world”? We all need to take a look in our own mirrors, including myself. Not one of us is perfect, and if we quit striving to be perfect and accept each other for who we are, we might be able to walk out of our glass houses and get to know some truly amazing people that we have been building up walls to protect ourselves from.

My husband did not want a child who was different and walked away and started a new life, pretending the first one never existed. He tossed his kids out, just like Frankenstein did his creation. No one ostracizes him! When I searched for positive, male role models in my community for my son, no one stuck with it because it’s not easy to work with a child with special needs, it’s easier to be a big brother to a child who is “normal”, or to go to a foreign country for one week a year to volunteer. Those make better Facebook photos. I never thought I would have to be afraid to say my son has Asperger’s Syndrome, but now due to sensationalized reporting, my son and a whole group of innocent people, have been stigmatized even further. I can only pray that awareness and education will one day reach others in society and that we stop hating a community for what one person did.

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Mary Lambert: From Tears to Laughter

Mary Lambert

I had the fortune in attending Mary Lambert’s concert Friday night.  I learned about Mary’s music after hearing her perform with Macklemore on the VMA’s.  Her voice was incredible, but I could also sense a spirit about her that I connected with.  I met another woman recently that I also connected with in a similar way.  Without words we both knew that somewhere in our lives we had encountered abuse.  We never talk about it, but we can see it in the way that we both embrace and look at life.  I felt that same kinship when Mary Lambert walked out on the stage; she had yet to sing, but I could feel it in the aura she exuded.  Sometimes when others learn I suffered from domestic violence, their faces turn to sadness, almost pity.  Yes, I would never wish an abusive husband on anyone, but I don’t choose to live my life as the poster child for domestic violence; rather I would prefer to be the poster child for perseverance.  Having walked out of the darkness, I want to dance, I want to sing, I want to laugh- as if I won’t wake up again tomorrow.

I realize it may seem odd to others, but having been held down for almost twenty years, as if a pillow was constantly held over my face, I learned how to breathe again and I now want to savor every breath I take in.  I laugh at silly things, I laugh at how Anchorman 2 paid homage to Ice Castles – that made me laugh hysterically even to the dismay of my teenage children sitting next to me.  Everyone needs a little cornball in his or her lives; yet, I even laugh at the darkness.   That was my favorite part of Mary Lambert’s concert – she could leave us in tears with a song about rape, but in between she would have us laughing at the most random things.  I didn’t walk out of her concert feeling sad for her; instead I walked out knowing I had just witnessed a strong woman who had turned her own darkness into beautiful art.  My laughing at the darkness doesn’t mean I am minimizing it.   My laughter and my perseverance are sending the darkness a clear message – it won’t control or hold me down ever again.  The darkness is isolating and gray, but my light is full of potential and hope.  I am not naïve that the darkness won’t sneak in, here or there, but I refuse to allow it to ever take me over again.

Immediately after Mary sang her first verse about abuse, I was drawn in, but I never had a chance to really take in what she was singing because out of the corner of my eyes, I noticed my friends and family on both sides of me sneaking glances with their watchful eyes.  They were worried how the song would affect me.  I loved their concern, but what I wish others could see is yes, maybe the song would have made me cry, but tears are okay, they are therapeutical, but no song or words will ever break me again.   Instead I was overcome with joy that a woman would be brave and stand on a stage and sing about abuse and rape and body image.

Darkness wins when we stay silent.  Abusers, rapists, bullies win when our voices are hushed. Laughter, joy, support, happen when silence is broken, and each of us stands up and throws off our chains of oppression.  My abuser no longer hurts my children or me; it is the complacent people who walk by with blinders on that cut me to the core.   Yet, it isn’t my job to judge them either; we all grieve or heal in our own way and time – maybe they aren’t ready to walk into the light yet – until they are, I can only hope that women like Mary Lambert will continue to light up a path to freedom for all who are oppressed, whether it’s due to race, gender, sexual equality, political freedom, and so on.  Holding hands, our light will out shine the darkness; my hope is that it will shine so bright that in turn the darkness will learn from us and walk away too.

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Is it Possible to be TOO Honest?

Phoenix Rising 2

Last night I was out at dinner with friends, not just friends, but the amazing, supportive women who hold me up when I am too tired to get up and try again.  The year I left my abusive husband, my youngest son was also diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  My life was in such a fog, I never thought I could find my way through it.  For the first week of my separation, my husband was unaccounted for.  He told me he flew to a job site in Colorado, but his work said he took an extra week of vacation to spend with his family.  As I tried to get a protection order, I was terrified he would appear and try to kill me or one of my kids; I would nap during the day, while my teenagers were awake, and then at night, I had moved a mattress into our living room, so my kids could sleep on it, and I would sit on the couch watching over them all night with a butcher knife under my pillow. For months, I was out of my mind and the only thing I could focus on was our survival.   It has been six and half years since those events, and I am a different, stronger person now, but those nights all came flooding back last night at dinner.

A close friend is going through her own divorce hell right now.  It has similar characteristics of mine.  I found myself advising her, bluntly advising her. I was sharing what she could expect her first day in court.  I wanted to prepare her for anything that may be thrown her way.   Before we could finish, she ran out in tears.  I felt ill inside.  It made me think about whose truth was I telling?  I think we are all guilty of that.  We see our friend in pain – a pain that is similar to something we experienced – and we want to spare our friend that pain.  Maybe we can a little, but sometimes they may have to go through some of that pain to come out stronger on the other end as well.

I found myself up half the night asking myself just that; is it possible to be too honest?  Throughout my life, right after someone has just served me up a huge dose of reality, they end the conversation curtly with “I was just being honest.”  Those words cut through me like a knife.  Really? Just being honest?  When we hear those words, do we ever stop and ask whose definition of honest are we using, and do we give power to that person that their definition is the correct one?  As women, when some well intended friend or family member is advising us on our life, we need to stop and thank them for how much they care about us, but inside we need to question where their well advised words are coming from.  Are they projecting their own baggage on us or do they really know what’s best for us?  I think only WE know what’s best for us.  Don’t get me wrong, I live for my group of supportive women, but what I love most about them is if I ask for advice, they give it, but they give it with no intentions for their outcome, but instead for me to figure out what I need to use and what I will toss aside.  They trust that I know what’s best for my family and me.

So it’s less about being too honest and more about giving your opinion and advice, and letting it go, and supporting your friend no matter how they choose to take the advice.  We are all at different stages in our life, and we can’t expect our friends to be in the same place.  What we can do is to hold their hand and remind them of all the reasons we love them.  If they need more, they will ask.

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The Art of Survival is a Story that Never Ends

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Seven years ago today my ex walked out the door, never to return.  At the time, I did not know that would be the last time he lived in our home, as we did not officially separate for 10 more months.  My marriage was an abusive one; I thought it was the only life I was destined for.   It was like I was on a roller coaster ride that would never stop long enough for me to escape.  Fortunately, in June of 2009, the roller coaster paused long enough for me to jump off and run with my three beautiful children by my side.  I thought life was rough within the marriage; it was just as rough outside the marriage. It was just a new kind of terror.

I exited the roller coaster and entered a maze that I did not know how to navigate.  I quickly learned how to survive and provide for my children and me, and along the way, I have learned every type of resource necessary for survival.  I had worked as a part time professional photographer while raising my kids, but my new journey changed me, and I knew there was a reason for my past and that was to use it to help others. I have spent the next part of my life taking care of my children (one having more needs than his siblings), going back to college: on top of my Associates in Business Administration, I recently graduated on the 30-year plan receiving a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology, a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies of Social Sciences with a minor in non-profit management, and am currently pursuing a Masters in Education, Higher Education; volunteering for many non-profit organizations, etc. From the outside it would seem that I finally have it all, but I’m really not there yet.

I am determined.  I strive to be both mother and father and be the best role model I can for my children.  Yet sometimes, I realize I tend to always be focusing on making everyone else happy.  This is where I went wrong in my marriage.  I got lost in his demands. I believe the closer I come to having it all, I freeze.  I don’t know why this is because I can clearly see the future I want, but I am afraid to say it out loud; thus, the purpose of my blog is to let go of the past and embrace the future I want and to remind myself that I am worthy of the next chapter of my life.  If I send my vision out to the universe, there is an accountability my competitive side will hold true to.  This is not a New Year’s resolution blog, it just happens the date my ex drove his truck away was New Year’s Day.  The symbolism, however, has not been lost on me.   I know that I can only create this path, stone by stone, because the best part of setting goals is designing another route around the barriers that get thrown in the way.  So here it goes, my cry to the universe, “I will spend the next year living a healthier life full of exercise and a healthy diet, continue to make time for myself and my children, apply and be accepted into a doctoral program that will help me make a difference in the lives of students with Asperger’s Syndrome and other learning disorders, and to put my fears on the top of my to do list and attempt new endeavors that I would normally stray away from.   Look out 2014, here I come!

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2015 Writings:

Naked and Ashamed

Naked and ashamed

Even though, I started my blog a year ago, I have kept it very quiet from my friends and family; I believe sharing my deepest thoughts and creative side can be a very scary feeling. Making a category on my blog and posting some of my essays for original non-fiction writings is like walking into a stadium full of people and realizing I forgot to put clothes on.  First, there will be a quick hush among everyone.  Some will be frightened for me and others will be frightened by what they see.  Others will cheer for my bravery and others will cheer because it wasn’t them that foolishly exposed themselves in public. In a stadium, I may have the chance to turn around and run and pray no one recognized me (though social media would capture my hideous mistake for eternity and track me down to find out who I am, so they could torture me with the photos and videos until the dire end), but by putting my writing and art out in the universe for my family and friends to see, I risk them seeing a part of me that they do not like.

Last Spring, I shared with a professor that the part of growing older that I hate the most is that I wonder if the person someone is sharing with me is their true authentic self.  The professor chuckled and said authentic people are an illusion and that I need to quit setting my standards so high.  This put me on a quest of really wondering if the ones closest to me, at work and in private, were truly authentic.  I learned that a lot of the people I looked up to were not truly authentic, but I also found a great deal of people who were. However, in this quest, I remembered something my mom told me when I was a teenager.  I tended to be a very judgmental teenager and even broke up with a guy because he yelled “Damn” at me when we were on a scary carnival ride and he thought I was silly for being so scared.  My mom asked me if I was perfect and I laughed and said “far from it”. She quickly replied, “Then it was time I stopped judging others so harshly.”

Thinking back about this, I realize in my quest to find authentic relationships that I, myself, may not be completely authentic, and if I am ever going to be a true artist, then I need to own up to the fact that being a published author (other than my research studies) is my ultimate dream; a published author of a body of work that many others want to truly read. However, after I posted my dreams on my Facebook account, I literally became ill wondering if anyone was reading my non-fiction writing and if they were reading them, were they enjoying them or were they judging the life I used to live?  I spent the weekend frozen in time barely being able to do anything.  All I could picture was that stadium full of people staring at me and whispering to each other as I stood there and froze to death, naked and ashamed.

There’s nothing like a Monday morning to thaw me out.  I tend to wake up on Mondays and panic about what I did not get accomplished the week before. This morning, I woke up barely being able to move, I had wrenched my back somehow and was in so much pain that I could not sit up.  As I carefully applied icy hot, I thought about what I did to cause it.  That’s when I had my “aha” moment and remembered frantically running from the stadium, naked and ashamed. Yet, it was too late – when I shared my writing, I did it on the internet, so there was no covered back room to run to.  What happens now?

Next, I took some ibuprofen to help with the pain and made some hot tea and contemplated what the universe might have in store for such an idiot. Before I could think anymore, I retreated to my Tumblr.  That’s where I disappear when I want to see what everyone else is looking at.  I learned quickly that there were not any photos posted of me in the stadium that I had conjured in my mind; the worst that could happen is that someone does not approve.  But for most of my life I have been a people pleaser, so disapproval is like a knife in my back.

I also realized this morning that I do not like waking up in excruciating pain either, so I knew I was at a crossroads.  What now?  I thought about this and asked myself, “What would Bob Marley say?” Good question!  Bob Marley said “Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you are riding through the ruts, don’t complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don’t bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!”

There’s no taking back what I shared this weekend unless I deleted my blog, but if I was honest with myself, I want to create, I want to write, I want to help others, I want to live!  At that moment, I started creating the above image on my computer; I have spent the last seven years struggling to find the light that is waiting to take me to the next part of my life.  Today, I finally can see a glimpse of that light hitting my face, and whether others like me or hate me, I am ready for my next chapter.  For better or worse – sink or swim – Look out world, here I come!

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25th Anniversary of my First Child’s Birth

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Twenty-five years ago today I gave birth to my first child; I, myself, was only 25 that beautiful day. The day that I found out I was pregnant with him was such a shock and a blessing all in one since previously a doctor had told me I would never be able to carry a child to term due to problems that I did not even comprehend at that time.  However, the further I became in my pregnancy, I gained more hope that I would prove the medical doctors wrong and be able to have my beautiful child.

Six months into my pregnancy, I developed preeclampsia, which is a condition that is discovered due to high blood pressure and proteins in the urine. I was told I needed bed rest for the next few months.  I followed every order the doctor gave me because delivering my son meant the world to me regardless of the stress going on around me.  I actually went through 48 hours of hard labor before they discovered that he was crooked and his head was too big to fit into the birth canal; the doctor said that if I kept on trying to deliver him naturally that his neck could be broken and that it was time to perform a C-section.  I remember how terrified I was, but once I saw my gorgeous, blonde headed son, I fell in love with him instantly and the ordeals of the months before became a distant memory.

I am so aware of the mistakes I made along the way, but I was not that woman that I have become today.  I was a scared 25-year old, learning how to be a wife, learning how to be a mom, and learning how to navigate the world for the first time as an adult.  Every decision I made from there on was based on what I thought would be best for him.  Did I make mistakes? Of course I did, who hasn’t, but no one ever told me that the day you become a mom, no matter how young, naïve, or inexperienced you are, everything you do from the day forward – good or bad – will be used as a blueprint to praise or crucify you.

In the news, it doesn’t matter how old a person is – the press, commentators, talk shows, and so on, will always ask about the person’s mom – not the person’s parents or the person’s dad, but what was wrong with the mother.  Everything that is wrong in the world can be traced back to what the mother did wrong. This was something I was never, or will ever, be prepared for. Even when my husband deserted me and my three kids, I heard the whispers and the gossip, what did she do to drive him away? I didn’t even handle that correctly; I did the best to grasp together what pieces of a family that I had left and be both mother and father to my children. However, I was also judged for that. What people, and even my own children, forget is that my husband had not just deserted his kids, he had walked out on me. I am the one who fell in love with him twenty-years prior and chose him to be the father of my children. That first year as a single-mother my life felt like I was walking through a fog.  I remember some things people said, but even when I try to recollect that first year alone, it feels like a dream sequence that I can only pull bits and pieces from.

Yet, even that year has been held against me. As mothers, we are expected to respond perfectly to everything that is thrown at us. Others forget that we are human beings too – we experience fear, we feel pain, and we, too, bleed. My son, who turns 25 today, holds me up to those inhuman standards. He keeps a score card of everything I have ever done wrong; yet, I have never heard about what I did right.  He has never been willing to calmly sit down and ask me questions on why I did certain things.  Maybe I will have a good explanation or maybe I won’t, but at least I would have the chance to a trial before my conviction.

CJG

Maybe giving birth and loving your child isn’t enough to base a relationship on, but I believe it has earned me the right to not be wrongly convicted.   One thing I have learned along the way, is that people who want to be judge and jury and quickly toss you out of their life are hiding from their own skeletons, their own issues, their own ghosts.  If they allow a healthy conversation to pursue, then they may have to take some accountability for their own pain or even hold others that were involved in their life accountable as well.  Doing so would stir up memories and emotions they would rather keep buried, so it is much easier to blame someone who will love you despite the hate and anger you throw their way.  They are a safe scape goat for every wrong that has happened in their life.  But maybe, just maybe, that person could become the entry way into a world that could be lived without anger and hate.  My son has told me that he has let go of the past and that is why he chooses to have his father in his life and not me.  If this was true, then he would have also let go of the fear, the hate, and the anger

Fear is debilitating; it can take years from each and every one of us if we let it. Does it pain me that another year is passing without my son being a part of it?  Yes it does. What pains me the most is what he has let fear do to him.  He has let it stand between us, he has let it stand between him and his sister and brother, but most importantly, he has let it stand in between him and the incredible future I imagined for him.  However, despite what the rest of the world believes, mothers are not to blame for everything that has gone wrong, and as long as my son wants to blame me for everything, then I will choose to love him from afar. Not because I want to, but because I believe it is the safest choice for me and his siblings.

I will continue to live my life the best way I can and continue to have healthy relationships with his brother and sister.  He may have cast me out, but he cannot take away the incredible childhood memories I have of him, or the undying love I will always have for him.  The only gift I have for him this 25th anniversary day of his cherished beginning is my love for him and the fact that I will wait the rest of my life if I have to, for him to let go of his fears and let me in – one day at a time. Change does not come easy, but in the end it will be so worth it.

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