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

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

Posted Friday, June 1, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted Sunday, June 3, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted Monday, June 4, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted Tuesday, June 5, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted Wednesday, June 6, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lesser Bandicoot Rat
(Lesser Bandicoot)

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

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

That was one time.  There were others.

 (Mama, around 1981)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted Thursday, June 7, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted Friday, June 8, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted Monday, June 11, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted June 18, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted June 19, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

"He's gone.  For good", she said.

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

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

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

Posted June 24, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good times.

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

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

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

Somehow, I knew that car was coming for us. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it wasn't the end for me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But my mama had faith.

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

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

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

Posted July 2, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A baby bear.  

Seriously, I kid you not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted July 4th, 2012

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

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

Well then, knock, of course. I did. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was terrifying. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I never had a chance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was very grateful for their friendship. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And waited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted July 12, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted Friday, August 17, 2012

My thirteenth year had it's allotment of difficulties.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted Thursday, October 11, 2012

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

Now, to the next installment.....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'YOU LIAR!' Step-mom snarled.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11-5-2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I was utterly and completely humiliated.  Ashamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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