Why Am I Writing This…?
I love my family. I absolutely adore them. So why write this story? A story that is my truth- but will hurt them none the less? The more I write, the more hurt I release (hurt I didn’t even know I was holding onto)- the more I know I am tearing what little shards of family I have held in a death vice of a grip away from me. I know that they will be hurt. I KNOW this. Yet, something inside of me pushes me to continue writing.
2013 was a horrendous year for me. And by horrendous, I don’t mean I broke a nail or something trivial like that. I mean, it was a year in which I was ready to call it quits and throw in the towel- literally. Suicide was a viable option. My faith was tested and stretched to points I would not wish for my worst enemy to experience. But for the grace of God, there go I. If it was not for HIS amazing grace and strength, I KNOW that I would not have made it.
I wanted to tell people all that God had seen me through, the simple gift of LIFE He had blessed me with, the triumphant feeling I had with even the smallest of victories. But I couldn’t. The opportunity never really presented itself. You see, when you share your story only because you want to glorify God, it has to be done in a way that encourages others and not in a way that makes it look like you are just complaining about everything that is happening to you and since that ‘space’ wasn’t given to me, I kept my mouth shut. I mean, I told a few people a few things, but that was in no way my testimony, my war cry, my victory shout or my celebratory dance; in fact, the people I shared with became my ‘don’t kill yourself team’, my life coaches, my cheerleading squad, my ‘I don’t know what to do problem solvers’ and my ‘I need to soak your shoulders with my tears team’. I am not sure that even my team knew how close to quitting I was or how important a role they played in my life during 2013. (Many, many thank yous to my team- [listed in no particular order] Coach Kevin Dent, Momma Justine Johnson, Sister Dee-Dee, Pastor Rodney Williams, Lady Sharon Mundy Williams and KHAT, in general.)
But, recently, that door FINALLY opened. A friend of mine from high school started a BLOG on her weight loss journey and I began following her story. The times she wrote about the struggles and how deep they really were- I could relate. I understood in a way that few people could. Still, I did not say anything, I just kept reading. Then one day, she wrote about giving up and what I read, seemed to be the key that unlocked the proverbial door. I wrote to her and told her about 2013. I didn’t do it because I wanted her to know that there was always someone worse off than she was, as some will undoubtedly say. I wrote to her because I wanted to encourage her. I wanted her to know that she was not alone in her journey. I wanted her to know that she could count on me to be a part of her support system and that I would combine my faith with hers to see her to her goal.
Writing about this experience now, the words on the page don’t come anywhere near close to conveying the depth of what actually transpired, so you will just have to take my word for it. Anyway, she read my story and she got it. Not only did she get it, but she began to encourage me! She began to speak life into me- something I did not expect nor was I searching for, but I am certain it was what God wanted me to have at that precise moment. So, to G- I say thank you, again, for the unexpected blessing of encouragement and the understanding of my testimony and the point of my sharing it. I know God is doing great things with you and that this weight loss journey is only just an experience in the BIGGER that God has for you.
Having shared my testimony, and glorified God, I didn’t expect more- but there was. A matter of days after sharing with G, I was at work, when a co-worker shared that she was going through some things. I don’t know what and that isn’t what’s important. When she shared this little bit of information with me, I could see the hurt in her eyes, I could see me reflected in her pain and I immediately knew that she needed to know that when I said I understood and that she could come to me at any time to talk- if she needed, I truly did understand and I really would listen. I went to the back and grabbed my phone (thanking God for the technology that allowed me to pull my message to G up on my phone) and handed it to her. I told her to go into the back and read the message and to know that I was only sharing that with her because I wanted her to really know that I understood what it meant to not be able to stop crying- even while at work and that if she needed to take a moment or ten- I understood and it was ok. I told her that I wanted her to see me, now, and know that trouble didn’t last always.
Whatever God wanted her to get from me sharing my testimony she got it. I saw it on her face. Yes, I still saw the hurt and pain of the situation or circumstance, but I also saw something that wasn’t there before and that something was hope.
At this point, I was ecstatic with praise. I wanted to shout and dance at work- on the sales floor. And I know it was God, because the customers (and there were plenty of them in the store at the time) were quiet, no one complained about having to wait in line for fifteen minutes before reaching the check out and no one was upset that there was no one on the sales floor to answer questions or provide service to them- everyone chatted amicably amongst themselves and a few regular customers helped those newer customers on the sales floor. Did I mention that this was mere days before Christmas during one of the season’s worst attitudes from shoppers I have ever experienced in all my years of retail employment? Yes. This was truly God.
I truly didn’t expect anything else. I thought that this testimony had worn itself out and I was ready for the next thing that would allow me to give God some glory. So when a friend of mine said to me, “have you started writing that book yet?”, I had no idea what he was talking about and I didn’t ask. And when I kept seeing posts on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter about people going through an enormous struggle and I kept having the urge to share the same testimony, I began to question what God had planned for me. And when another friend asked if I had started writing the book yet, I sat up and began to take notice. What book was I supposed to be writing? How would I know what to write about? The questions went on and on and it seemed as if God was content to remain silent in His answers.
Then one morning I woke up at 3:45am and had the desire to write. I didn’t think about what I was writing, the words just flowed and when the words stopped flowing, I stopped writing. And this is how Dancing Through The Storm was birthed.
Now, back to the why of it all- especially when I know this will not make my family happy. I have little doubt that this is something that will not make them proud of me. I am fairly certain, that this will not come up in conversations that start with something like, “so what are your children doing these days?” And there is a rather large part of me that knows in writing this, I have forever sealed my fate as an out casted member of the family and that from the very first moment when someone other than I reads the words written on these pages, I will become more than a fatherless child- I will become a family(less) woman. Am I ready to take all of this on? Can I really handle all of this?
Simply put, no, I’m not and no, I can’t. But. I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me, right? And it is more important to me that I please God. I am more vested in serving God and celebrating Him than I am in being of self service to myself or my family. I write this because someone needs to know that it gets better, even when it looks or feels unbearable. I write this because someone needs to understand that they are not alone in the world.
I write this because someone’s hell on earth is still happening and they can’t see light anywhere. I must go back for them. I write this because God has need of my story.
Maybe, you have read these few introductory sentences and you are ready to close the book even before you begin, because you aren’t into the whole ‘God’ thing… To that, I say keep reading. My intent is not to force God on you or in you, though, if you come to know Him for yourself through my story, I will praise Him all the more; my purpose is only to let you know that you are not alone in your situational circumstance and that you can make it through. The purpose for writing all that you are about to read is that you might be encouraged as you face your current struggle or that you may be healed from a hurt you have been carrying for longer than you can remember, because you didn’t think it was possible to move on from it. I hope that my story shows you it is possible to forgive and to move on, no matter how hard it may seem. I pray that my story demonstrates for you that there is joy and a reason to celebrate in EVERYTHING you endure and go through in life.
Be blessed, my friend. Be blessed.
Every negative thing I have been told in recent months (the last year); said by way of discouragement, in order to keep me from doing any number of things in and for my life is about to be rebroadcasted, live and in color.
The way I see it, I am doing something positive for myself in writing ‘my story’ and whenever that happens these expressions seem to come up… (I mean they ALL come up. Even the totally ridiculous ones.) So, I have decided to bring them up first. Deal with it- you know? That way, whenever anyone thinks it would be a good time to be a ‘Negative Nancy’- (If your name is Negative or Nancy or Negative Nancy, this comment is in no way, shape or form directed toward you or meant to embarrass, insult or aggravate you. I mean seriously, I don’t even know you.)- I have already said all the usual things and at the very least, I am forcing you to be creative in your insults, put downs, dissuasion and general lack of support and positive feedback. So there. (Insert immature and childish picture of me with my thumbs at my ears and my fingers wiggling and my tongue sticking out making that awful raspberry sound- I am not entirely sure why it’s called a raspberry, anyway. I mean it’s not like long, long, long ago raspberries made noise, is it? – here.)
Anyway, I digress. You were waiting for the negative; make me feel blah type of stuff that people frequently think I want to hear. So here goes:
*I talk/act white
*I have absolutely no rhythm
*I can’t dance
*I will never succeed
*I can’t make it on my own
*I am nothing without ________ (insert your name here.)
*I am a horrible mother
*I am weak minded
*I don’t know how to make a decision
*I never know what I am talking about
*I’m not smart enough
*I was born a failure and will die a failure
*I always have a bad attitude
*Everything under the sun was, is and henceforth forevermore shall be MY FAULT
*I have no reason to be upset (about anything)
*I am not allowed to feel the way that I do. If I do not feel the way that _________ (insert your name here) thinks I should, then I am doing something wrong and should immediately change what I am doing to ensure I am doing things the way ___________ (your name here) believes ALL should be done.
*I am no good
*I have no faith
*I’m not strong enough
*I don’t have any will power
*I am a quitter
*I am a manipulator and I always use guilt trip tactics to get what I want
*I am a mistake
*I am a failure
I think that is everything. I’m sure if I forgot anything you’ll let me know.
Now that you have read that list, I can almost see you fuming in your car, bathroom, living room, office or wherever you are because you ‘have NEVER said any of those things’, you ‘would NEVER say anything like that’ and you ‘were only trying to HELP me’- it’s cool. I understand. Let’s just say, I wasn’t talking about you, then. *Wink, wink*.
Now, if you are sitting there thinking, ‘gee- she said everything I was gonna say’ I challenge you to at least be unique when you inevitably forget that I have already said all of this and you feel the need to remind me.
Shall We Dance?
Confused? I’ll explain. Psalm 149:3 Let them praise His name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre! Jeremiah 31:13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them and give them gladness for sorrow. Psalm 150:1-6 Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens! Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with tambourine and dance; Praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; Praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Ecclesiastes 3:4 A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. Psalm 30 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing, you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness. Jeremiah 31:4 Again, I will build you and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of merry makers. 2 Samuel 6:14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might…
Still confused? It is simple, really. I am a follower of Christ- some of you refer to this as being a Christian- and that means even when I am struggling, even when life seems to throw hellacious (I just made the word up. It means the worst of the worst that you can imagine, just in case I did not provide you with enough context clues to figure that out on your own.) situations my way, and even when people talk about me or try to stop me from fulfilling my greatness; I MUST praise the Lord. When life is all topsy-turvy and you don’t know which way is up and which way is down, we Christians tend to call that a storm and I have decided and determined that I am going to dance through the storms!
So again, I ask, “Shall we dance?” (You can choose to dance with me and celebrate the victories with me or you can choose to stare at me like I have lost my mind. It matters not to me, because I’m not dancing for your entertainment- I am dancing for the joy of the Lord.
Right now I am dancing because:
*I am educated. I have enough education to help other people write papers and dissertations. I am educated enough to write speeches and I sound educated enough to deliver these speeches to government officials- AND THEY LISTEN TO ME. I am educated enough to write this book. Thank God for the education of Kim!
*God does not make having rhythm a prerequisite to dancing for Him!
*Dancing for the Lord doesn’t require years of training and classes!
*I am successful, even when I fail because, “…we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I know I AM CALLED. [Romans 8:28]
*“I can do ALL things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me” [Philippians 4:13]
*“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declared the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” [Jeremiah 29:11].
*I am not weak minded; I have simply not conformed to the thoughts and ways of the world.
*I know how to work in a moving environment. I am not so rigid that I cannot change according to the circumstance and situation currently presented in my life. I know how to pray and I know how to wait on the Lord.
*I have the ability to seek out God’s voice and He will give me wisdom.
*No one is perfect.
*A smile IS NOT a bad attitude
*If I was meant to never be upset, why would Jesus tell me I could cast my cares on Him?
*Individuality is a great blessing! I am uniquely and wonderfully made- No one is exactly like me.
*Faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to move mountains. I am a mountain mover.
*Sometimes all you can do is stand on the Promises of God. That doesn’t mean you’re quitting. It means you are resting in His safety.
If you haven’t started already, let’s dance.
1The ‘fun’ in Dysfunctional isn’t really fun anymore…
I guess the best place to start any story, really, is the beginning. Except, where do you start when you aren’t really sure where the beginning is? I mean of course I know ‘the beginning’, but do I really want to bore you with all the details of my mundane existence from birth until now? I should think not.
Hmmm. A conundrum if ever there was one, for sure.
Wait. My family is probably going to read this. I hope. More than likely, they will just skim through or give a sideways glance in this direction. An even more likely scenario to happen, is that someone who knows my mother or one of my aunts only just well enough to pick up the phone and call them, will and they will be sure to let them know I wrote a book and that I do nothing but bad mouth them through the whole thing. And then there will be a family meeting. And then I will have closed the door of my destiny, where my family is concerned, (like I somehow had avoided this previously) as the black sheep of the clan and that this is just another one of my ‘shenanigans’.
I love my family. I really do. They are the best. I remember when I was growing up how we would all (all of my cousins, aunts and uncles) gather at my grandparents’ house on Sunday afternoons and how we would stay there way into the evening. I remember Thanksgivings there- again, the whole family showed up, it was never a question of are you coming- we were all just there. And to my young child’s eyes, we were happy. I remember my dad and my grandfather laying or sitting in the floor watching football and playing Gin Rummy. I remember my Uncle sitting on the couch pretending to watch the game, but really he was napping. I remember riding a banana seat bicycle around and around the circular gravel driveway with my sister, and later my brother and my cousins. I remember turning the basement into a roller skating rink. I remember my grandmother, my mom and my aunts sitting upstairs talking about what so and so did and what the preacher said in church.
It may sound excruciatingly dull to you, but it was fun for me. If you told me then that I would one day write the words that are soon to be on these pages, I would have laughed at you and in my little girl insightfulness, I would have informed you that you were so far from wrong that you wouldn’t ever know right.
And then I turned twelve. I don’t know what happened to me. Actually, that’s not true. I know exactly what happened. Now. Back then, though, I couldn’t figure it out and I probably didn’t try to, either. I was in seventh grade. I was a good girl (ok, I was a goody-goody and I was proud of it.) The other kids weren’t so thrilled with that aspect of Kim, though. That is when they started making fun of me for EVERYTHING. They talked about the clothes I wore (my mom shopped at places like Nordstrom’s and Macy’s and I am pretty sure that’s not where the other kids’ parents were shopping). Even the people who claimed to be my friends, talked about me. EVERYONE talked about me. And the biggest thing was that I was trying to act white and that I talked white. This all happened around the same time that my dad started telling me that I was acting white and that’s why I didn’t have any friends. (This resulted in a conversation he and I had, where he was questioning my lack of friends and I was lamenting the fact that I didn’t have any friends.) I can imagine that for my father, the most popular ‘kid’ on our street, it was hard to imagine that his eldest daughter didn’t have any friends. I am pretty confident (NOW) that my dad was only saying these things to me to try and help me make friends. Needless to say, it didn’t work out to well.
While other kids my age were going to the movies and to the mall and doing whatever else the kids did, I was at home. I spent a lot of time alone in my room and crying. I think by the definition of today’s standards, I was bullied. But, of course, back then, there wasn’t such an awareness of bullying and so I was just a ‘shy’ child and I ‘enjoyed’ being by myself. (Yeah right.)
Anyway. I think all the time I spent crying and fretting over what was being said to me and how I was being treated slowly started to have a (not so good) effect on me. I was still the good girl at school, but at home, I was turning into the spawn of Satan. It started with just a simple attitude change. I started back talking. I started disobeying. I started lying. I started fighting my mom. I did a bunch of things I can’t even remember. I was no longer innocent.
After years of counseling and meditating and praying, I am finally able to understand that for whatever reason, I was angry with my mom because she didn’t or rather, she couldn’t help or fix this problem I was going through and yet, I somehow also knew that she wouldn’t stop loving me- no matter what I did.
I didn’t know that then, though. Back then, I couldn’t see beyond my own face.
In eighth grade, I only got more defiant. I had more attitude. I took lying to new heights- I lied for the simple sake of lying. I fought with my mother like we were two crazy people in the streets. I was so out of control, I scared myself and I had no idea how to control the monster that had been created and on top of that, I didn’t have the words to scream for help or to voice what was going on in my head. People (and by people, I mean my family) started to think I was crazy.
Have I mentioned how out of control I was? Yup. I was out there.
And yet, somehow, I made it to the end of the year- ALIVE. Cheerleading try outs for my freshman year of high school and my father was too tired to take me to the parent/student informational meeting- the meeting I had defined as the turning point in my social life. Little did I know how much of a turning point this would be for me. I was horrible. I was enraged that my father couldn’t see that this was MY opportunity to finally make friends, to finally belong and to not be the outcast anymore. Out of my mouth came the worst things I have ever said to a person in my whole life… “I hate you and I wish you would just drop dead and go to hell!”
The very next day was April 30th 1993. It started out as a normal day… My grandfather woke me up so I wouldn’t be late for school. I went on a field trip to the National Zoo. I went back to school just in time for eighth period Spanish, where I heard this over the loud speaker, “Kimberly Johnson please report to the office, immediately.” Even though I was horrid at home, I was still practicing perfection in school and so I was VERY worried. (I had snuck a puff on a cigarette, during the field trip with some of the other kids and I was distraught over the fact that I had somehow been caught.) Along my ‘walk of shame’ to the office, several people told me that they had been paging me all day and they were curious to know what was going on. I had no idea. When I got to the office, the secretary looked at me and said, “Where have you been” (I was on the field trip.) “Ok, well, your grandfather called and he said you are not to go to track practice today. He is going to pick you up as soon as school gets out.” (I remember asking why and not being given an answer. I remember going back to class and watching the minutes tick by, wondering what was going on.)
When the bell finally rang, I gathered my things and went to meet my grandfather. He was waiting for me at the front door. I remember greeting him with one of my biggest and brightest smiles and asking him what was wrong. I remember him looking at me and telling me that my dad had gotten sick at work and had been taken to the hospital. I remember all the kids running past me to get on the bus. I will never forget what my granddaddy said to me. “No, honey. I’m sorry, but he didn’t make it. Your dad has died.”
The last thing my dad ever heard me say, was “I hate you and I wish you would just drop dead and go to hell!” Even then, I understood that I would never be able to take that back.
I’m not sure how, but all the kids knew what had happened. And suddenly, the very same kids who had been teasing me and making my life miserable were being nice to me. I couldn’t deal with it. I knew they were being ‘fake’ and I figured they would use my crying and blubbering against me at some later point. I was trying to come to grips with the things I had said and I didn’t know how.
On the day of the wake, May 6th 1993, my sister and brother were permitted to stay home, but I had to go to school. (I think I had had another spell of bad attitude and no one wanted to be bothered with the ‘crazy’ girl.) But, what was unknown was that in my mind, I really was going crazy. I felt like a rubber band being stretched so far that it was about to snap.
This was the day that kids decided to go back to the way things were supposed to be. It also happens to be the day that those kids realized they could get a real reaction out of me if they attacked my reaction to learning of my father’s death. (Remember, my grandfather had told me right in front of the school, while school was letting out and students were rushing past me. I had crumpled into a ball and screamed “Nooooo!” And I had sobbed and sobbed and sobbed and I had snot free falling out of my nose and I had to be half carried/ half dragged to the car. In front of EVERYONE.) So, the kids thought it would be a great idea to use an exaggerated, voice and say “nooooo” and pretend like they were falling to the ground whenever I walked by them. I tried to go home, but no one would come and get me. And those kids didn’t get tired of it that day or any of the days soon after, either.
When the bus finally dropped me off that afternoon, I was exhausted. I was hurt and I didn’t have anyone to talk to. I walked straight into the house and went directly to my room, where I locked the door (I don’t remember it ever being said not to lock the door, but I guess at some point it had been a stated rule) and I laid down on my bean bag and cried and prayed and fell asleep. I woke up to someone banging on my door and before I could wake up enough for my mind to put everything together, the lock had been picked (it was one of those locks that could be unlocked with a butter knife) and my aunt was spanking me. With every swing of the belt, she told me that ‘I needed to straighten up and start acting right cause if I didn’t I was going to kill my mother just like I killed my father.’ And then she stopped spanking me and told me to go get in the bath tub so we could go to my dad’s wake.
No one has ever apologized to me. I have stopped looking for one. No one has ever told me how to make that story hurt any less and twenty years later, it is still ripe and the pain as extreme as it was when everything originally happened. The pain of that experience has NEVER gone away.
I started this chapter off by telling you how awesome my family is and all the things we did that made us awesome. It is important that you and my family understand how special my family is to me, in spite of everything that happened.
In my freshman year of high school, I only got worse. I started smoking cigarettes for real. I started having sex. And instead of meeting at my grandparent’s house on Sundays, the family was coming to our house for the family meeting.
The ‘family meeting’ consisted of everyone in my family coming together to inform me of how atrocious I had become. (I understand now, that those meetings were really a showing of concern and support, but back then it didn’t present that way.) It was basically a preparation of the week for me. I learned that if the family meetings weren’t long, then the kids at school tended to not be as hard on me, but if the meetings were especially long and hard for me, then that meant the kids at school were going to go for the gusto and it was going to be a week filled with thoughts of how I could kill myself quickly and without pain and still go to heaven. Those were the weeks when I couldn’t eat and threw up when I did. Those were the weeks when it was almost impossible to get out of bed. Those were the weeks I convinced myself God didn’t love me. Those were the weeks when I understood that I was getting everything I deserved for how I had behaved and the things I had said.
Obviously, now that you know the beginning, you know that this is where the dysfunction began. I can’t speak for anyone else in my family, because, maybe for them there hasn’t been any dysfunction. Maybe I am the only one who has felt and seen this paradigm shift through the years, because I caused the dysfunction and the dysfunction has hindered me from participating in the ‘normal’ family stuff. But I don’t think so.
The sad thing is, is that it took me twenty years to get tired of the dysfunction, and then it took God speaking through someone else to me to even get me to realize that we weren’t functioning as a family! On Sunday, April 14th 2013, an Elder at church said these words, “God said He is going all the way back to 1993 and I’m going to fix it.” I instantly started weeping and praising God, because, as you now know, 1993 delivered an unimaginable amount of hurt to me and if you haven’t guessed, I still carry that hurt with me.
I asked Elder D. why he said what he said and his response was, “I don’t know. It was God.”
There is nothing that can dissuade me from KNOWING that this was God speaking to me. For me, this is the moment when the fun in dysfunction stopped being fun.
Shall We Dance?
Let’s Celebrate God, shall we? After reading the first chapter, maybe you are wondering what reason I have to celebrate… I will tell you.
*God did not allow that little girl to kill herself and she is alive today to tell the story.
*God spoke to me
*My aunt told me that she loved me approximately one month AFTER Elder D. told me God was going to fix it. –She hasn’t said that to me since before my dad died.
*Another of my aunts, the one who spanked me and told me I was going to kill my mother, told me she loved me two weeks after Elder D. said what he said. –This hadn’t happened since months before my dad’s death.
*My family is still alive and I can see God fixing things.
2The Road Home
I wish I could say that the little girl you just read about grew up, went to college, got married, had kids and lived happily ever after- the end. But then if I could say that, I would not be writing this and you would not be reading it. And let’s face it- it is time for me to purge myself of this story and whether you admit it or not, you want to know ALL the gory details. (I know you do.)
So, the little girl did grow up. She got pregnant and she thought herself in love. She participated in an abortion- I say participated in because she didn’t have a choice. She had no money to care for herself, let alone a baby and she had been told that there would be no support from her family if she did not have the abortion. So when the nurse at the clinic told her she didn’t have to do it, but could not provide the answer to the question, “where will I go? Who will help me? How will I take care of a baby?”, she just closed her eyes and laid on the table and let the weight of another death fall on her shoulders and then went home, empty. That very night, the love of her life proposed…
She did go to college (sort of). I like to think of myself as a career student. I love learning and I wish I could go to school forever, just to keep learning. I love school. My first attempt at college ended in what most people (who only know a teeny tiny part of the experience) will call ‘disaster’. I don’t think it was disastrous. Though I do wish I didn’t have to go through the experience of getting shot… More on that in a bit.
At the time, I did not value the college experience. I did not realize the money that was put in to my education. I did not understand the importance of having an education. This is a big ball of should of, would have, could have for me. My first semester went pretty good. I had finally left the awfulness of my childhood behind- I was making friends; I was away from my family; the family meetings were a distant memory- I was FREE. Yeah… Free isn’t always good. At some point very near to the start of my second semester, I started waitressing (note to future self: waitressing IS NOT your forte), I started hanging out more than I was going to class.
I was changing, AGAIN. It seemed as if I was a puppet on a string and not a real person. I wanted my friends to like me and I knew from experience, they weren’t going to like me, if I wasn’t like them. I was trying to be what they wanted 100% of the time and in that process, I forgot who I was…
There is a saying that I have heard more and more as I get older, ‘if someone shows you their true colors; believe them’. I wish I had believed the love of my life when he first started introducing me to who he really was, but I didn’t. I was entirely too busy enjoying the fact that I had a boyfriend (for the first time ever) and even busier making sure I kept him happy, so that he would not leave me… Sad, I know.
The love of my life (or so I thought he was at the time) once said to me, “well, which would you rather have- me be emotionally abusive or physically abusive?”
You read right.
I should have RUN AWAY. Notice I said should have. (Just another part of that ball I was telling you about.) At first I did try to ‘run away’. I wouldn’t accept his phone calls. For two hours he called me. For two hours I ignored him. Then he left a message. “If I am not with you, then there is no point in living. I am sitting here cleaning my gun and…” I honestly don’t know what the rest of the message said as I didn’t listen to it. All I could think about was talking him off of the ledge and how I could not have his death on my hands in addition to my dad’s and the baby I would never know. I couldn’t. At all cost- he could not die because of me.
To this day, I don’t know if he really was cleaning his gun or not, but I do know that that was the day he knew he had control over me. That was the day I became a domestic violence victim.
I begged him not to do anything stupid. I told him I forgave him (even though he never apologized). I told him I loved him. I told him we would be together (even though there was a small voice in the back of my mind screaming NO).
At some point, I got pregnant, again. This baby would live. No one would force me to kill this one. I would do whatever it took to keep this baby. He and I decided that it would be best if I left school and moved to another state, so that he could take care of me and the baby. I withdrew from school and on the day he was to come pick me up, I got shot.
I was walking from the security booth to a dorm with a friend. We were laughing and chattering away and we heard a crack. I didn’t even know I had been shot at first. The bullet shattered my tooth and lodged just under my nose.
We ran to the dorm, our Chinese food, forgotten. Someone took me into a bathroom and left me there, alone. Presumably, an ambulance was being called. Someone called my mom. I don’t remember who called her, but I do remember what they said when I asked if my mom was coming. “She said she isn’t coming.”
I remember laying on the hospital gurney crying and softly singing bits and pieces of songs from church. It is amazing how I can still feel what that feeling of aloneness felt like. The doctors and nurses gave me some pain meds, told me I’d be going to get some scan or another and that they were going to take the bullet out and then they just left me there.
Hours later, my mom did show up. Apparently, my aunt (not the one I introduced you to earlier, but the one that accompanied my mother and I to the mental hospital when I was a freshman in high school and gave my mom support she needed to leave me there) had convinced her that she needed to come and check on me. And once again, she was there for moral support to my mother.
(No one has ever told this to me, but I now believe the reason my mother did not want to come was because it brought back my father’s death and how she had to go to the hospital and they told her he was gone. Maybe she thought I was going to die. )
When my mom and aunt walked in the door, I started crying all over again. Huge crocodile tears. My mom came up to me and started stroking my head and telling me it was going to be okay. I never told her I was crying from relief of not being alone. I never told her I was crying because I thought she didn’t love me anymore.
The doctors removed the bullet and discharged me with instructions to see my dentist as soon as possible. My mom and my aunt left and the love of my life (he had shown up at school to get me and had been waiting in the waiting room, as the hospital staff would not let him back to see me, because he wasn’t family) took me home.
I went on to heal completely and move to that other state. I married the love of my life. I delivered a baby girl and later a baby boy. I smiled every day. I cried every day. I had no one to talk to. Other military wives I knew, understood my torment, because they were enduring much of the same. It seemed as if this was the military way. Aside from those brief months when I was away at college, this was what normal life had become for me. I learned that emotional abuse was just as bad and sometimes worse than physical abuse. Days when the emotional abuse seemed to go on and on, I would pray for a physical lashing- because those at least, had an end in sight. I learned that there is no greater humiliation in life than to be sexually abused.
The first time the police came, he had put me out of the house in my pajamas and barefoot. I walked to a pay phone and called my mom, who told me to go home and he would let me in and that the two of us needed to stop being silly. I went back to the house and had to knock on the door and beg him to let me in or to at least get some clothes. He called the police and would not let me in until they got there. He told them that I was acting crazy and I was endangering our baby and that he did not want me there. They told me to get a few things and to leave. When I tried to protest, they told me I could jail, if I wanted to do that. I spent the night on a bench.
The second time the police came, he had a gun pointed at me and when I grabbed a sword (he collected them) off the wall- I am not sure what I thought I was going to do with it, but that is what I grabbed- he said to me, “go ahead and try to kill me. We’ll see which one is better.” I put the sword down and grabbed my car keys. I went into the room to get my son and before I could pick him up, he grabbed me and threw me down the stairs. He called the police and told them that I had threatened him and he was worried about me hurting the baby. When they got to the house, I was sitting on the front porch and they were about to put me in handcuffs. I truly believe the only reason they didn’t is because they saw the bruising starting to show up on my face. They advised him to go stay in the barracks and told me to take the time he would be gone to find somewhere else to live.
I learned not to trust the police. I learned that I needed to do whatever was necessary in order for him to not call the police. They do not protect me.
It was hard for me to work. For a long time, we only had one car and I was not allowed to drive it and then when I was finally able to go home and get my beater from high school, I had to pay child care costs if I wanted to work. But I struggled through it. I was able to have a little bit of my own money. I could go buy a cheese burger from McDonald’s if I wanted, without having to ask someone else if I could. I could buy my own personal care products when I needed them, instead of rationing out the supply that was provided for me. When my old car finally gave out on me, I finally knew what devastation meant. It was the little freedoms I had found being ripped from me. I begged my mom to help me get a car. She wouldn’t or couldn’t, but she did tell me to call my aunt (the first one you met) and ask her.
Somehow, even though I had not spoken to this aunt since the long ago days of the family meetings, my mom convinced me that she would help me. Stranger still, I believed her. I called my aunt, and tried to sound adult-like and not desperate. I was twenty years old. I tried to present a plan of how I could pay her back (even though I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to ever give her any money- but desperation makes you willing to say anything). It didn’t matter. She didn’t go for it. I don’t remember what she said to me that day on the phone, but I do remember tears streaming down my face; remembering the little girl, whose father had just died, who was being ‘spanked’ and told that she was going to kill her mother and thinking ‘God is punishing me because I killed my dad.’
I am not sure how much time elapsed between the day I asked my aunt and when I did actually get a car. The love of my life bought me one because he couldn’t keep leaving work to take us to doctor’s appointments and what have you. I resent that car. Instead of giving me the freedoms I had enjoyed before, it restricted them and lessened them, if that is possible.
Eventually, after numerous ‘separations’, where he stayed at the base, but was still able to call me whenever he wanted and where he was not required to give me any money to support our two children nor was he required to ‘stay’ away from our house or me, I left.
The assistant Pastor of the church I had been attending, offered to drive me and the two babies in a U-Haul and tow my car back home. This was the longest ride of my life. I wondered if the love of my life would come after us, as in, would he be calling me, begging me to come back; I worried that his last words to me would ring true ‘you are nothing without me. You won’t be able to make it without me.’ And I tried to avoid the physical advances of the person sitting next to me.
When we were half way home, he decided that we would stop for the night. I have driven this road several times and have never stopped. It was only twelve hours. We had only driven about six. I felt the bile rise up inside of me. That night, he said, “I could have flown to my training and not driven you. You should want to take special care of me to say thank you.” I was proud of myself, because I said no. I was firm. Then he said, “I could just leave you here.” And so, I laid down, closed my eyes, opened my legs and prayed that God would have enough mercy on me to not let my two babies (aged one and two) wake up and see me enduring his pleasure. Hot water and soap do not wash the stench and funk one smells after others have had their way with you.
Finally, we arrived in the drive way of my home. My mother came out and greeted us and told him she was so thankful for him because he made sure we got home safely and she had fixed him a nice dinner to show her appreciation. I had to sit across from this man, who proclaimed to be an Assistant Pastor, who had spilled his unwanted seed into me and smile and be an active part of the conversation. A few days later, he called me and told me to drive the two hours to come see him in his barracks at his training facility. Again, I said no. This time he told me if I didn’t come, he was going to tell his wife and the church that I had crawled into his bed when we stopped and started touching him in inappropriate ways. He would tell them that the whole time he was driving, I was making sexual advances towards him.
The only thing keeping me was the little bit of faith I was struggling to hold onto. At that time, the church had been my safe haven. They loved me and welcomed me into their homes and I could not bear being tarnished in the way he was going to paint me. So I lied to my mom about where I was going and why, so she would watch my babies and I went. I laid down and closed my eyes, spread my legs and tried not let the tears flow, while I wondered how much more I would have to endure as a punishment for killing my father and for killing the baby I never knew.
Thankfully, that was the last I ever heard from him.
Life was pretty good for a while. I got a job working at Old Navy and an apartment not too far away from the store. I thought I was living the good life- even though every day was a struggle, albeit a different kind of struggle than the ones I was used to facing. Providing for yourself and your two babies is a unique challenge all in itself.
The car that the love of my life had bought for me was repossessed because it hadn’t been paid for in almost three months. When I asked for help to go get my things out of the car, I endured a lecture in being responsible and paying my bills and not letting things like this happen. I didn’t have it in me to try and explain how things really were for me and even if I had, it wouldn’t have mattered. I was back in the midst of the family that had written me off as the black sheep, the one who doesn’t listen to reason…
I didn’t have a car for a while, but it was ok, it wasn’t the bondage it had been for me in the past.
Unfortunately, I had no understanding of fiscal responsibility. I lost my apartment and then I lost another and another. You would think being fiscally responsible would be an easy thing, but it wasn’t. During that time, I experienced homelessness, my children went to live with their father (the first time), formerly known as the love of my life for six months (the absolute hardest thing I have lived through up to this point in my life) and even after my children were returned to me, I still ended up living with my mother, AGAIN.
Shall we dance?
*I have survived without the man I knew as the love of my life
*I am alive!
*I am no longer a victim!
*I have learned how to trust others
*I survived the six month separation from my children
*My children survived the six month separation from me
*I have owned several cars since this time and I have been blessed to help others in their transportation needs, because God blessed me with a car
I do not want to write this chapter. I knew when I started down the road of writing this book, that this would come up, and I thought I was prepared and that I could handle it.
I was wrong. I do not want to write this. I cannot even imagine how the words will appear or how they will look or sound on paper. I make it abundantly clear, that I do not want to write this.
While, I have shared this story countless times before, I have done so to show that I am stronger because of it. I have done so to give God all kinds of glory and honor, because my kids showed no signs of life long trauma because of what happened and because we, my mother and I were able to reconcile. I have NEVER shared this with as much detail as I believe I need to expose here…
I have taken a week off from writing. This hiatus comes not from a lack of subject material, but from an utter distaste for writing about this… I had pretty much decided that I would skim over this in the briefest of ways possible and that it would appear more like a foot note, rather than a dominating chapter in my life. I was going to remind you of the title of the chapter and refer you to the movie referenced and let you draw your own conclusion and move it right along.
That’s what I was going to do- not necessarily what God wants or would have me to do. In all actuality, though, I really didn’t care how God wanted me to handle the telling of this. I had already decided what I was going to do. And it definitely was not sharing this with you.
That was all before Christmas 2013 happened. I read on the Book, (if you haven’t guessed already, I do a tremendous amount of dithering on social networks) a story one of my social media friends posted about a Christmas when she was growing up and her mother had a ‘moment’ and beat her with cooking utensils… Following her post, she wrote something akin to, “that actually happened!!!”
I didn’t feel pity or empathy or sympathy or anything like that. I felt relief. I am not the only person in the world whose mother has had a moment. It doesn’t make sharing my mother’s moment with you any easier, but it did wake me up and realize that if I felt like I was the only one, then surely there is someone else out there who thinks they are the only one and maybe they aren’t lucky like my FB friend and I to have lived to tell people about it… Maybe, they are living it right now.
So, after much prayer and deliberation (deliberate procrastination, really), I find myself here- about to write about my mother’s moment…
Before I begin, I have to reiterate the fact, AGAIN, of how much I love my family- especially my mother. I have to stress that the story DOES NOT end here; there is more to it.
I LOVE MY MOM.
I have loved my mom forever. Even when I have been frustrated with her or unhappy with things she has said or done, I have loved my mom.
As I mentioned previously, fiscal responsibility was a skill I lacked knowledge of and so I found myself living with my mother, AGAIN.
I have told a different version of this story in the past. In other renditions of this life event, I was too ashamed to admit to my ineptness at being financially responsible and so I explained living with my mother in this way- it helped us both out. In addition to me and my (now three) kids, my sister, my brother and my brother’s friend were all living with mom and I was the only one working. So, I helped my mom pay bills and I helped my mom take care of her house and all the people living there.
Yeah right. My mom was helping me out. I had no clue about what any of the bills were. My money supported me and my kids and occasionally, I put some food in the refrigerator. That was the extent of me helping my mom out.
I knew my mom was getting weary of this living arrangement. Any chance she got, she told me that I needed to leave. More than once, she told me to take myself and my kids to the local homeless shelter. The problem was, I wasn’t tired of how things were. Oh sure, it bothered me when she made comments like this, because I was working and I wasn’t asking her for money for this or that like my sister or brother were and I at least was supplying the house with food to eat, but I wasn’t ready to pack up and leave. I was comfortable.
My sister even had a dog, which my mother was expected to care for, so I couldn’t really understand why it was me that was being pushed out. And in the quiet moments, I remembered the troubled little girl I had been and I wondered if the real reason for the insistence of me leaving had anything to do with how that little girl had behaved. Alas, I never questioned it.
My son wanted a dog of his own and a few months before his sixth birthday, he was given one. I did not talk it over with my mom before allowing him to accept the gift. Instead, I pleaded with her afterwards and depended on her seeing how happy he was to allow the dog to stay. It was a very thin line of acceptance. Even then I knew how fragile that acceptance was and it angered me, because I was the one providing for the dog, not my mother and because I was the one in charge of its care and not my mother- she openly made remarks about getting rid of the dog and not liking the dog, while continuing to share warmth and love with my sister’s dog.
It was infuriating for me. My son did not understand and I had to endure his tears each night.
Finally, it became all I could stomach…
I returned home after class one night (I had finally taken steps to get my college education) and my mother was waiting for me in the kitchen. She was holding my baby (only a few months old). I walked into the kitchen and scooped my baby up, like I would have done on any other night and went to leave the room. It was then that my mom stopped me with these words, “the dog has to go.” I just stared at her. I remember asking her why, though I don’t remember her response. I remember asking her if my sister’s dog had to go also. I remember her telling me “no.”
I couldn’t believe it. I remember questioning her as to why a grown woman could keep a dog and it was ok, even though she (my mother) had to take care of it. I remember expressing concern over what it would do to my son, who had only had the dog for a month and had already fallen in love with it.
And then, I picked up the phone. I don’t know who I was going to call or what I would have said, as I was back to that state I know so well of not having friends. At any rate, I never called anyone. I hung up the phone and let the phone roll from my fingers to the counter. I remember my mother saying something about not treating her things that way and to not do that again. I remember that I readjusted baby on my hip, picked up the phone and let it roll from my fingers where it clattered to the counter. I remember turning to walk out of the kitchen and seeing my mother come up behind me from the corner of my eye.
I whirled around shouting, “What? You’re going to hit me? That’s rich. You would hit me with my baby in my arms? Your grandchild? Whatever.” I attempted to leave the kitchen, but that didn’t happen.
My mother swung. She knocked me into the refrigerator. My baby struck her head against the handle of the refrigerator and started screaming. I think I was yelling. I am not sure. I remember cradling baby in my arms like a football, trying to protect her from whatever was coming next. I was doubled over baby, trying to keep her safe, but still standing. My mother kept swinging. And she wasn’t missing. AT ALL. I remember falling to my knees and thinking that I wasn’t going to be able to protect this precious baby of mine much longer. I remember thinking this was the worst of any beating I had ever received.
And then my son, who was only just five, came running into the kitchen. He was screaming, “Mommy! Mommy! Give me the baby!” I remember him practically pulling her from my arms and me finding the strength from somewhere to push him and the baby out of the kitchen.
My oldest daughter came running in next. She was only six, but she was swinging her little arms in windmill fashion, trying her best to get my mother off of me. My mother was banging my head into the tile floor, by this point. I remember shoving her out of the kitchen so hard she almost fell down the stairs and screaming for them to get out. I remember thinking I was going to die in front of my kids. Just before I passed out, I remember thinking that God was finally going to kill me for all the killing and chaos I was responsible for.
I am not sure how long I was unconscious. I am not sure if my mother continued beating me during this state. Presumably, it was only a few minutes of blackness for me and that she was unaware that I had even blacked out. When I came to, everything was fuzzy and my mother was on her knees with me laid in between her, looking up toward her. She was reaching backward into the knife drawer, where she pulled out a butcher knife and held it over me like she was going to stab me in my chest. I remember pleading with God to let me die swiftly and without any more pain. I do not remember if I said this prayer aloud or not.
All of a sudden, my mother dropped the knife to the floor and got off of me. She went to the sink like she was going to wash dishes and with a backwards glance, said to me, “Kimberly, get off of the floor, you’re scaring the babies.”
I was wobbly when I stood up. I couldn’t see straight. I saw the knife where it had been dropped. I picked it up. I remember pointing it at my mother and saying this, “you hit me when I had my baby in my arms. You tried to kill me in front of my kids. I could kill you right now, you bitch.” And then some sort of reality hit me, because, I dropped the knife just like she had and looked at her and said, “You’re not even worth jail.”
With that, I packed a diaper bag as best I could. Later, I discovered that I had only put a few diapers and an onesie in the bag. With the little strength I had, I marched my kids to my car, they had been sitting on the porch ever since I told them to get out and bless them. They had had enough sense to get coats on and a hat and coat for the baby. While I was buckling them into the car, I saw my baby’s face was red and starting to bruise. My plan was to drive us all to the hospital, but when I sat in the driver’s seat, I just wanted to go to sleep. I had just enough presence of mind to call 9-1-1. And then, I passed out again.
I came to at the same time the EMT’s were loading my kids in the ambulance. I remember being hysterical. I remember them trying to calm me down. I remember a neighbor rushing out to see what was wrong. I remember them telling me the police were there. I remember being told that my mom was in handcuffs and being placed into the police car. When we got to the hospital, I was insistent that they check my kids out before me. The older two were thankfully, unharmed. But the baby had two black eyes and a mild concussion.
They asked me who they could call. I had no one. I ended up calling the former love of my life and his wife. I did not want to call them. The hospital told me that if I didn’t have anyone to come, that they would call social services so someone could come and stay with the kids and take them somewhere they would be safe. I did not want that for them, so I made the call.
I can only imagine the stories he had told her about me or what she was thinking when they arrived. I don’t have to try very hard to remember what he was thinking or what he said to me upon arriving in the hospital room that night. He whispered into my ear, “I told you, you would always need me.”
I almost wish I had died on my mom’s kitchen floor, than to hear that statement in my ear for all eternity.
But, I didn’t die. Against, the advisement of the doctors and nurses, I refused to be admitted into the hospital for observation. I called the neighbor who had come out to the ambulance earlier that evening and asked her if she would come get me and the baby and if she would allow us to stay in her home for the rest of the night.
She came to get me from the hospital and the two of us stayed the remainder of the night with her.
I remember not wanting to wake anyone up in the morning as I got ready for work and trying not to cry as she gave me a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt to wear. (I still had on my torn and bloody clothes from the night before). I remember making up in my mind that I was going to work and that I would worry about where my children and I were going to go after work. I remember thinking that if I acted normal, somehow, it would all be normal.
I drove to the babysitter’s to drop baby off and I remember giving explicit instructions to her to not let my mother, under any circumstances, anywhere near my baby. I remember her discreetly handing me a tissue and not asking me what was wrong. I remember her telling me that she had some formula and some clothes and extra diapers and that everything would be all right.
After that, I couldn’t go to work. I knew I would not be able to make it the whole day without erupting into tears and I knew that I would not be able to hide the stiffness that only another abused person could understand.
And so, I went to see my boss. She was understanding and compassionate, without being overbearing- which is what I needed at that moment. She helped me find a place to go. She was the catalyst in my moving from victim to survivor. Without her help and guidance, I am not sure I would have been able to grow from that experience. Without her and God, I might still be curled up in the fetal position on someone’s hospital bed.
Shall we dance?
*I am ALIVE
*My children have no recollection of this night
* My children were not harmed in their efforts to save mine and my baby’s life
*My baby and I suffered NO LONG TERM damage from that night
*My babysitter was willing to be a vessel
*My boss was willing to be a vessel
*My mother and I have reconciled
*GOD IS GOOD
*My children and I never saw my mother in handcuffs or being put into a police car, and therefore do not have to suffer that memory
*God kept me from doing to my mother what had been done to me
*God stepped in and said, “That’s enough.”, when the devil would have rather me dead.
*I KNOW I AM LOVED
*I love my mother
*My mother loves me
4Homeless doesn’t mean helpless
Well, here I was. Homeless. Again. Believe it or not, this experience was not the challenge you would expect or think it to be. In fact, I have only decided to include this tid-bit of my story to show you that everything in my life has not been as hard as you have been reading. I think that if you are still hanging in there with me, you deserve this bit of ‘refreshing’ air.
The place my boss helped to ‘find’ was a Domestic Violence Safe House. I was amazed that a place like this existed and I wondered (often during this experience) where I would be in life if someone had said to me you can go here… this is a safe place… all those years ago when I was living a love affair with abuse on a daily basis. Alas, I knew then, that if someone had offered me this great freedom back then, I would not have taken it; I would not have known how to function in it; I would have went back because it was all I knew and I didn’t have the strength to make it, back then. Plus, if I had been able to get away all those many years ago, I would not have been blessed with the little Angel God has placed in my care.
Anyway, back to my story. I was in a Domestic Violence Safe House. Even though I was less than twenty minutes away from my mom and even closer to the former love of my life, I was SAFE. For the first time in my life- that I could remember, I was not just safe because someone said I was. I was safe because I could feel it. It was an awesome feeling- one that if I had all the words in all the languages of the earth, I would still not be able to explain.
This is where God really grabbed ahold of me and started working within and around me. Don’t get me wrong, I have been believer for as long as I have been alive and so this wasn’t my ‘come to Jesus’ moment. Rather, this experience became my ‘Jesus is real for I can feel Him deep down within’ moment.
A house full of women and children, who have all suffered varying degrees of abuse, makes it easy for hate to run rampant. That is to say, most of the women were filled with hate for their abuser(s)/attacker(s). This is a dangerous place to be. I was just as susceptible to the hate-charged atmosphere, but it seemed whenever I was about to be consumed by the hate, God snatched it from me. This happened almost every minute of every hour of my first seventy-two hours in residence. I could not hate my mother. And the angrier I tried to be with her, the less angry I became toward the former love of my life. It was surreal. I began praying more and more. (Not because I was confused, but because I wanted more of what God was doing.)
Prayer works. I was filled with so much love that even the other women and children could not act in their hate around me or my children. If I walked into a room, you could see a literal transformation take place in the conversation, in the faces of those present in the room, in mannerisms displayed, and even in the atmosphere itself. (Understand that in no way do I take any credit for this occurrence. I bless God, because only He could do such a thing.)
It was around this time, that I began to realize just how much God was doing. My children’s counselors began talking to me about there seeming to be zero evidence of the experience I had shared with them. Volunteers questioned whether my children had actually witnessed what happened or if I had just assumed they saw everything. God is AMAZING. My children were discharged from therapy, because ‘there was nothing wrong with them mentally or emotionally and there was no need for further treatment of any kind.’ Whew! I could dance right now just writing about it! I became aware that people were changing because of the God in, around and on me. I became mindful that I was the only God these women and children had ever known. That is a priceless treasure- to be used by God in that way.
Even when things didn’t go my way, the amount of God these people had seen in, on and around me allowed them to minister to me! It was miraculous! The pure joy I experienced in allowing God to use me and then seeing Him move in others that had been touched by Him through me is not given its due justice with mere words. I can only pray that you will or have had an experience of being used by God, so that you will understand the total depth of what I am trying to say.
God was not through with His blessings on this house, though. Under ‘normal’, worldly circumstances, the rules of the Safe House were that you could only stay there for thirty days; this way there was always room for other people to come in and get help. Without asking anyone and knowing the rules, I determined that I wasn’t going anywhere until God was ready for me to go- whatever that meant.
(At the time I made that declaration in prayer with God, I had no idea what the fullness of that meant.)
Hours after I said this to God in prayer, the Director of the Safe House called me into her office. I was on day twenty-seven of my thirty days, so I figured she wanted to talk to me about my plans for leaving. I wasn’t wrong, I just wasn’t right. She sat me down and looked me straight in the eye and said, “Have you thought about what you will do or where you will go when you leave here?” (FYI, prayer can make you bold.) I looked at her and replied, “No. I will go wherever God wants me to go.” She did not bat an eye. She didn’t turn away. She said there were three 2-year transitional shelters in the area (Manassas, Fredericksburg and Richmond). I told her that I would go to whichever shelter had room for me and my three children.
I remember the look on her face. I remember the feeling of nerves that instantly coursed through my being. I remember how my hands had gotten clammy all of a sudden. And I remember thinking, ‘whatever you would have me to be God.’
She had tears in her eyes, when she finally spoke, “None of those places have room. There is a six month wait list- at least.”
I have said it before and I will say it again. Prayer makes you bold. I held my head up; despite the frustration I was feeling. I did not let the tears that had pooled in my eyes fall. And I said to her, “My God will make a way.” And then I stood up and walked out of her office.
(It should be understood that I at this point in my life, my new found faith was not as sturdy as it is today and hopefully, will not be as sturdy as the faith I will possess in the future.) My faith was shaken. I felt like I was wobbling on the edge of a cliff and I was struggling for balance so I would not fall over. I had to come up with a plan. I had to do something. I had to act. So, after some careful thought, I called my dad’s mom. Growing up, I had always enjoyed spending time with her and she seemed to always have a house full of kids, so I was sure that she would welcome me with open arms into her home for however long I needed to be there.
Unfortunately, there was no room at the inn. I was dejected. I was hurt. I was appalled. I wanted to scream into the clouds like a mad woman and give God the tongue lashing I felt He deserved for letting me down. Thankfully, I just sat in the cold and let the tears flow. I felt like God had left me in this desert, alone, without any guidance. Day slowly turned into evening and I remember still sitting there. Even though I couldn’t see it then, God still had His hand on me. People were inside taking care of my children that I had for the moment, abandoned to hopelessness.
Evening turned into night and I still sat there staring off into nothingness. The weight of all I had experienced falling like snow all around me. Suddenly, the night staff person came walking briskly towards me. A blind man could have seen she had a purpose.
She looked at me and said, “Spill it.” With that, all that I just described came pouring out of me. It was like the damn just broke and was no more. When I was finished and only had a small trickle of tears sliding down my cheeks, she looked me up and down. She didn’t yell. She didn’t tell me I was foolish. She didn’t laugh at me. She didn’t exhibit any pity or empathy. She opened her mouth and asked, “Have you prayed?” (for this to come from her lips was astonishing in its own right, because she had flat out told me on more than one occasion that she had no time or need for a belief in a God that she couldn’t see.) I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t utter one word. The truth of the matter was I had not prayed.
This women, who had professed to not believe in God, sat down beside me and whispered, “Dear God, this girl believes in you and because she believes so much, I have started to wonder if you are there, if I have been wrong all these years. If you are there, God, please bring peace and comfort to her right now. Please restore her to the role model the other ladies in the house need her to be. Amen.”
There was nothing I could say, so I got up, hugged her and together we went back inside.
The next morning, before I could make it out the door on my way to work, the Director poked her head out of her office and asked me to come see her when I got home from work that evening. She would not leave for the day until she had spoken to me.
When I finally entered the office, she said to me, “Richmond will interview you. They are willing to bend the rules and let you interview over the phone instead of driving all the way down there.”
Within the next day or two, I had my ‘special’ phone interview and was accepted into the Flaggler Home at Saint Joseph’s Villa- if I could wait one month. Of course I said I could wait, though I had no clue where this waiting would occur. Turns out, I didn’t have to worry. Once I told the Director how my interview had went, she offered to bend the rules even more and allow me to stay the extra thirty days in the Safe House. God was working all throughout this situation. During my extended thirty day stay- no one was made to leave. The only people who left were the ones who decided to leave of their own accord and strangely, it wasn’t until someone decided to leave that there was need of that person’s bed. Hmmm. I am ready to take a timeout Praise Break.
The day my family left the Safe House and made Flaggler Home our new home, was December 23, 2005. We were welcomed and we were surrounded by other God-fearing and God-obeying individuals. The time for us being the only God that people knew had drawn quietly to a close.
On December 25, 2005, my children and I were blessed with so much. We had been given to a family for adoption and they made this first Christmas in a new city and a new home more than I think we were deserving of. Thank God for this family, that I have never met, but that provided monthly care packages for me and my kids the entire time we lived at Saint Joseph’s Villa.
It was through the blessing this family gave us that I knew the time for forgiveness had come. It was time to let go of a meaningless apology. (During my stay in the Safe House, I had contacted my mother one time and asked her if she was sorry and her response had been, “I am sorry I allowed you to push me to that point.”) It was time.
So, after celebrating Christmas morning with my kids, we drove first to the Safe House, where we celebrated with the families still there for a bit- and where I realized, with a tinge of sadness, I no longer belonged and then to my Nana and Granddaddy’s house, where we surprised my family and especially, my mother.
On this day, my mother hugged me. It wasn’t long. It was extremely awkward for me. But it was a hug. It was the first time my mother had hugged me in over fifteen years.
This was a very special day. It was the day I knew my wounds had healed. It was the day I decided I would never again live in fear of another human being. From that day forward, I would live for me. I would live for my three children. I would live for God.
We lived at the Villa- as it is called by those who have ever been fortunate to be guests in its rooms- call it, for nearly two years. During that time, we met wonderful people, made a few lasting friendships and learned how to live. We continued to grow with and in God.
On June 17, 2007, we walked out of the doors of Cottage 7 for the last time. Being homeless wasn’t an easy road to walk. At times, it wasn’t an easy bed to lie in. It was in no way as hard an experience as the ones I was used to, but nonetheless, the experience stretched me. Years later, it would be having lived through the experience of being homeless and the renewing, reshaping and re-strengthening of my faith walk during this time, that I would rely on.
This is what you call a ‘set up for a comeback’… See you in 2013!
Shall We Dance?
***I have been dancing all throughout this chapter, but just in case you missed it or need a refresher, here’s the recap…***
*I finally know what it means to be FREE!
*I know for MYSELF that Jesus is REAL! He is a keeper!
*When I should have been riddled with hatred, God filled me with LOVE UNCONDITIONAL!!!
*Other hurt people were coming to know Jesus
*The hate-filled attitudes that surrounded us COULD NOT touch us!!!
*My children and I received a CLEAN BILL OF MENTAL HEALTH!!!
*Grace was extended to me and my family, by allowing us to stay longer than the predetermined length of time allowed.
*Grace was extended to me in the process leading up and including the move to Richmond and Saint Joseph’s Villa.
*God has a plan for me- even when I don’t know it or my faith isn’t strong enough to believe it.
*I forgave my mother
*My mother HUGGED me
* I am healed
*God knows me. He calls my name. God USES me.
Crazy is not how I would describe myself- Ever. Crazy is not a word I would ever use to describe any of my children- Ever. Crazy is a word the former love of my life enjoyed using in the past and probably still elicits a tickle of pleasure out of referring to me as ‘crazy’. As in, that girl is physco. Sadly, it is a word that he has recently started using when referencing our oldest child, my Apple. I am not crazy. The Apple is not crazy. And yet, here I am writing all about the Apple.
The year was 2008 and it was the start of some trying times…
When my daughter entered the fourth grade, something happened. She changed.
I would look at her and see that twelve year old little girl from 1993 all over again. I wanted to help her. I wanted to save her. But, I couldn’t. At least I couldn’t save her then.
Whenever I tried to talk to her about the things I did and went through as a child, she would erupt in a rage and scream that she was not me and I was not her.
I wanted to know what had happened to make my princess turn into a disrespectful monster. The problem with this is NO ONE believed me when I asked for help. No one believed me when I tried to explain the madness that was going on.
My daughter had become me; about the same age; same chameleon behaviors and I was powerless to stop it.
You can pretty much imagine how this part of the story goes…
My daughter dictated what we would do and for how long we would do anything. Going out in public with her became a game of chance. Finally, it got to the point where we stopped playing the game- we had lost too many times to count and we became prisoners in our home. I could not find anyone willing to come and ‘baby-sit’ her- as her behavior had deteriorated so much so that no one was willing to stay with her for fear of the harm she might do them or herself, while in their care.
I could not leave her home alone, for fear of what she would do to herself or my home. My other two children became prisoners just as much as I did, if not more so. Several nights were spent with me and two of my children locked in my bedroom, while my Apple rampaged throughout the house. She spoke of killing me and her siblings. She spoke of pushing one of my friends (who happens to live life with an altered ability that the rest of us) down the stairs and killing him. She fought me without regret. It was a living nightmare, reminiscent of my days spent with her father, the former love of my life.
Right about now, I am sure you are remembering everything you read in the last couple of chapters and I am pretty positive that this thought is running through your mind… ‘I knew it. This is all happening because of that crazy mess you talked about earlier.’ To that, I say, “You are wrong.” I would be a lying fool if I tried to convince you that this same thought never crossed my own mind. But the thing is- I serve a Living God- who NEVER lies or makes mistakes. I do not believe He would stretch His hand of protection over my children and keep them safe from that incident all these years and then suddenly remove it and allow all the harm He had been holding back to suddenly fall on my Apple. Now, if you need worldly proof that something else was the root, try this on for size: in all the many, many, many (countless, really) counseling and therapy sessions that my Apple has been a part of, those things you read about previously, have only come up one time. And it wasn’t my Apple who brought them up. It was her daddy, the former love of my life. Admittedly, the current counselor and my Apple jumped on this bandwagon for one session, and this one session ended with my Apple saying that she didn’t even remember the incident; her brother saying he had no idea what his father was talking about and the counselor stating that she did not believe what that my Apple was suppressing memories of the ‘incident’ and that she actually believed that my Apple and her brother had absolutely no recollection of that even happening. God is good. (I love it how the former love of my life tried once again to make me look incapable with my children and failed. Again. Here, you have to understand that by this point in the story, the former love of my life had introduced me formally to the lovely people known as Child Protective Services. To say I knew them intimately was an understatement.)
At any rate, another licensed and practicing therapist/counselor/psychiatrist had said, “as unbelievable as it is, I can find no evidence of any lasting effects on the Apple or her brother of the ‘incident’ I have been told about. This might be hard for some of you to swallow- especially if you don’t know MY GOD- but this is what MY GOD does: the unimaginable, the impossible and MY GOD does all of this in ways that we will never understand so that we (all the people of the world) will know that it was God and nobody else. Believe or don’t believe, I really don’t care, because it is what it is.
Now back to my Apple…
She went in and out of treatment facilities. She received numerous counseling services. Everyone gave up on her. I am ashamed to admit, that even I gave up on her- for the briefest of moments. Doctors were ready to release her from the latest treatment facility, and I was not ready for her to come home. I had observed the destruction being done to my other children via my Apple’s actions and the lack of attention they were getting from me, because I was so engrossed in what was happening with my Apple. I was desperately trying to do some serious damage control. On the very day the doctors wanted to release her, she assaulted another patient- without cause. I could not allow her back into my house. She was not ready. I wanted further treatment for her. I wanted her to be placed in some type of long term treatment center, where she could get the help she needed. I wanted my little girl back. I still do.
The doctors, her father and his wife did not agree with me. They thought she was fine. In the words of her father, we were too much alike, which is why we were constantly fighting each other and later, he would say that I just didn’t know how to be a mom and that was reflecting on our daughter. And so, having done all I could, I released my daughter into his care and custody. I hate myself for doing that- even though I know this is one of those things that had to be done; even though I know that it wasn’t me or something I did and the only way for others to see that my daughter was experiencing a serious problem, was to let them experience the problem for themselves.
To this day, I regret not talking to the GAL when it came time for discussing the custody and living arrangements of my daughter. I regret sitting in that court room and not speaking up when the Judge lectured me on having a relationship with my daughter and all the things a mother is supposed to be and do. But the truth is I didn’t speak up and I didn’t say anything to wipe the nasty smirk off of her father’s face. I only just sat there.
For the first couple of months that my daughter lived with her father in the land of yes, everything was bliss for her and them. It was bliss for us too. In fact, I enjoyed the peace we were experiencing so much that it hardly bothered me when the former love of my life and my Apple started spouting off all the horribleness that made me. It barely bothered me when my daughter didn’t call me or visit me for more than six months.
And then the volcano that had lain dormant erupted more ferociously than Mt. Vesuvius. And it did not die down. I got phone calls every day describing my Apple and her behavior or current antics and letting me know in no uncertain terms that if I had been a better parent, she would not be acting out the way she was. Eventually, when it could be denied no longer, this lie was recanted and a new one born. In this new version of my daughter’s problems, I was not part of her life enough and if I would be more involved, then she wouldn’t be acting the way she was. Again, this whimsical version of the truth sputtered out, in due time. Now the story is, “well, her mother is crazy, so I am not surprised that she is crazy also.”
The round robin of mental hospitals, treatment facilities and counseling sessions started again with a vengeance.
Even when she visited me, the tornado that had become my Apple would tear through my house and my neighborhood causing all kinds of damage and destruction. She was doing drugs. She was having sex. It was a fast downward spiral and it was painful to watch.
At one point, it was discovered by her ‘new mom’ that my Apple was involved with an older man, who knew my Apple was only fourteen. This predator had a CHILD and he was completely okay with my child sharing his bed. I was furious. I was enraged. I went to the police, but they couldn’t do anything because she was not in their jurisdiction. Her father and the ‘new mom’ did NOTHING. They had this information and they shared it with NO ONE.
This is when I stormed the castle gates. I showed up to a counseling session, where once again, the counselor was trying to get my Apple to understand that the behavior she exhibited was not acceptable in her home, school or the world in general. By the time I arrived, the session was nearing a close and still the former love of my life and the ‘new mom’ said nothing about what had been discovered. I was shocked and sat numbly in disbelief- for a minute, maybe two. And then the Mama Lion was unleashed. I tore into the counselor. I tore into the former love of my life. I tore into the ‘new mom’. I reminded each of them how they were employed in places that required MANDATORY reporting of these types of things. I wanted the police called and I wanted them involved. The former love of my life, the ‘new mom’ AND the current counselor actually debated on calling the police at that time or WAITING until the next day and just going to my Apple’s school and talking with the officer charged with keeping the school safe.
I saw red. Literally. I was no longer the person who had been beaten again and again and who had no voice. I looked at each person sitting in the room and made certain they understood that if the police were not called immediately, then I would be reporting them to their respective agencies of employ within the hour. They opted to get the police involved. Not surprisingly, they did not and have not involved me in the process that followed. The little information I have gained has been because I was tireless in asking questions.
I am no longer his victim, but that does not mean that the hurdles of being his victim no longer exist. When it comes to my Apple and her brother, I must jump these daily. So when you are reading this and wondering why I didn’t do more, you have to understand that he was and is trying to keep me in ‘my place’- that is, the place he thinks I should be and that is the starring role as his victim. Things were set up to make it more than hard for me to be a mother to my daughter. I was given information based on what they thought I should know. I was not provided with information about the people treating my Apple and when I asked, I was given a roundabout answer that didn’t really answer anything. I was not listed as my daughter’s mother ANYWHERE. Where my name should have been written and where my contact information should have been provided there was the ‘new mom’. For any purpose where professionals and my Apple were concerned, I only existed if her daddy, the former love of my life deemed it necessary that I exist.
I wish I had had the gumption to return to court and take my Apple back right then and there. I wish that everything I am about to write and you are about to read had been seen much sooner than they were. Alas, that is just wishful thinking and that is not how things transpired.
After the incident with the man, my Apple deteriorated even more swiftly than before. There were other men, though nothing compared to what happened before and nothing that I could prove happened or was happening. People expressed their concern and empathy. People said they understood, it was comforting at the time, but I now understand they had no clue.
My sister expressed concern for the way my Apple was being treated. My brother voiced his opinion concerning the well-being of my Apple. My mother worried about my Apple. My Nana, my aunt and my cousins were all troubled about the road my Apple was on. My Apple voiced concern about what was happening to her. Everyone articulated an unease that my Apple was being treated unfairly- not in a lock her in the closet type of way, but in an even when you are on your best behavior, you are deplorable and not worthy of the luxuries or a few of the privileges the ‘new mom’s’ child are afforded kind of way. And for a long while, I remained blind. I was blind, BUT NOW I SEE.
I have only recently looked at my Apple with new revelation. My Apple is demonstrating behaviors that present when one has been abused and bruised. I don’t have any proof that she has been made to be someone’s victim. I only have a memory from long ago… (You’ll remember I told you about my inability to manage my finances and how I ended up homeless- A LOT. You will also recall that during one of my homeless experiences, my Apple and her brother went to live with their father, the former love of my life…) When my Apple was four, she returned to me. A few weeks after she came back home, my Apple woke up screaming in the middle of the night. It was a scream filled with terror and I could not comfort or calm her. At some point I called my mother and asked her to come over. It took a long time to calm my Apple. When the hysteria finally dissolved, I remember asking my Apple if something happened that she was afraid would happen again. I remember her shaking her tiny head in the affirmative. I remember asking if someone had touched her in places she didn’t like. Again, she nodded her head in affirmation. I remember being distraught over this and not knowing what to do. I don’t remember the decision we made or how we even came to that decision. I think we decided to wait and see. At the time, I think we were in shock and not certain if my Apple had given us answers her little mind thought we wanted to hear or if she had admitted something weighty and profound. (I am disgusted with myself for not acting more ferociously then. I am appalled at this memory, where I did nothing to protect my child.) This has not been spoken of since then. My Apple has never brought it up again nor have I thought about it more, until very recently, that is.
More on my Apple’s situation later on…
Right now, I feel the need to dance.
Shall We Dance?
*My Apple is still ALIVE
*Another doctor has said my daughter was not affected by what happened between my mother and me
*God has given me a memory that could be the key to my Apple’s healing!
*I am not under the control of the former love of my life’s hand
*God is good
*I am a mother to A BEAUTIFUL Apple
*I survived the time of my Apple’s mass destruction
*My children survived the time of my Apple’s mass destruction
*My Apple loves me
*God loves my Apple
*God loves me
*I was blind, but now I see
*God has filled me with courage to take on the world with my Apple
*My Apple is NOT alone
*I am NOT alone
*God is WITH us
6April 2013: The Fight
You’ve heard the expression, ‘if you don’t stand for something, you will surely fall for anything’ in some type of variation, I am sure. Many assume that I have always stood for something, but I am not completely sure of the accuracy of that school of thought. For a long time, I didn’t know how to stand for anything- myself included, so to say that I have always stood for something is a vast stretching of the truth. No matter. It’s April. It is 2013 and I am finally standing for something.
This is another one of those chapters where nothing happens that requires you read with a year supply of Kleenex waiting patiently at your side. The story of April is only told so that you know the things that are happening in my life. April represents the normalcy my life has become.
April was the calm before the storm. If ever an actual working time travel machine is invented, I am going back to April and I am going to warn my past self that a ‘storm is a comin’ and to ‘batten down the hatches’.
But all of that happens later, we were talking about finally taking a stand…
My youngest child was in second grade in a wonderful school. I loved the teachers. I loved the administrators. I loved the students. I loved everything I knew about this school- which actually, wasn’t much as I would later come to know. I was an active part of the PTA, that is to say, I served as Vice President of the PTA. Everyone knew me and I knew everyone. I volunteered. I was accepted. My daughter was happy and she was excelling. I was happy.
Enter the mean and nasty dragon with fire shooting from its huge mouth and a set of gigantic razor sharp teeth on display for all to see. Ok, it didn’t really have fire coming from its mouth. And it didn’t really have razor sharp teeth. Truthfully, it wasn’t actually a dragon… but it sure acted like one! In reality, it was the School Board.
Apparently and unbeknownst to me and my closed little world, they had decided to talk about closing our beloved little school. This could not be happening. I had a plan. I was going to be PTA President in the coming year. My daughter was going to be on the cheerleading squad. She was going to be hall monitor. She had friends. I had associates. This school could not close and yet this was the path it was on. So when a teacher approached me and asked me to speak at the upcoming school board meeting, I agreed wholeheartedly and with very limited information and even less thought of anything other than how my child and I would be affected if the school was closed.
I arrived to City Hall straight from work in jeans, a t-shirt and boat shoes and entered the chambers. Whoa. I instantly felt out of my league. I was underdressed. I was under-informed. I was unprepared for the journey I was embarking upon. Thank goodness I was early.
As I looked around, I saw many children from the school and I began to realized how invested I had become in this school and that others (especially children) were equally invested in this building. I looked around at the faces I had seen on a near daily basis and understood that I was not just seeing familiar faces. I was seeing the VILLAGE. In these people that had gathered in that room to speak out against closing this particular elementary school, I saw the people that had helped my son reach the promised land of Middle School; the people I wanted to help me guide my baby girl to that same promised land. I looked around and I saw my family.
I hurriedly pulled some scrap paper from my purse and crafted a letter denouncing the closure of the school, not just for my benefit, but for everyone’s benefit. As I stood at the podium for my three minutes, I was nervous; my throat was dry; my hands shook and I feared my legs would at any moment stop supporting my legs without warning. But I did it. I took a stand. I entered the fight.
In the weeks that followed, I learned more about our beloved school. It was a top performing school, as in number 9 out of 29 ELEMENTRAY SCHOOLS. It was comprised of mostly black kids from the PROJECTS, whose families were not rich- in fact more than eighty percent of the families were only just at or below the national poverty guidelines. This school was accredited, without warning or restriction, when most other city schools were precariously close to losing their accreditation or had already lost it.
In those few weeks, I became a true Champion for the school, the staff and the students. I wish others would enter the fray, but that is neither here nor there. The point is- I became the voice of the people.
Days led to weeks and weeks to months and school board meetings became as much a part of my week as work and sleep. I became a modern day Newsie- I spouted to anyone and everyone who would listen about the travesty that was happening to our kids. I wanted everyone to know that it was not okay- under ANY circumstance- to mistreat my kids. (By this time, my kids had come to mean every single student enrolled in that great little elementary school and later, my kids would grow to encompass each and every child within the city limits.)
What’s that? Oh- You want to know what awful sorts of wrong making had riled my feathers so. That actually happens a few months down the road… so you will just have to keep on reading, my pretty. In April, I was learning to become an Active Advocate for children. In April, I was speaking out against something I thought was wrong, something I wanted to prevent my kids from having to endure. In April, I was just getting warmed up…
Shall We Dance?
*I learned how to stand up for something
*I did NOT back down in the face of opposition
*My children were thriving, each in their own right
*I had acquaintances
*My life had found balance
*My life was taking on a direction instead of just flitting by
*I was happy
*I had JOY
*I had found a VILLAGE in my daughter’s school
*I had found leadership in my church family
*god allowed me to become a part of something profound
7May 2013: Getting to Know Job
Before I really get into this, I have to explain something. I want to make sure you understand where I am coming from. If you miss it now, then you will wind up missing the entire point of these last few chapters. Pay attention. We will only be going over this once.
Everything happens for a reason. I do not believe in fate or the Greek gods. There is but ONE God and He determines the outcomes for HIS purpose and HIS plan. He is in control of my life and my destiny.
When you agree to this and when you accept this with sincerity and without hesitancy you anger the devil and please God. When you please God, you find favor with God. Favor is not fair. Favor is not always EASY. Favor sometimes opens the door for God to say to the devil of you, “Have you considered my servant _________ (insert your name here)?” Favor sometimes means that you have a Job experience. (Job is a book in the Holy Bible. He is a man who was loved and favored by God and the devil told God the only reason Job was so faithful was because God was protecting him, thus God removed His protection to prove to the devil Job would be faithful without it. A lot of stuff happened to Job. You really should read the story- yes, the entire book of Job- because I can’t tell it all here.) What I am about to write is the beginning of my Job experience.
God is still good.
Don’t judge me; I can clearly see your glass house from this here window…
***It is important to know that in the week leading up to what I am about to share with you, the Department of Social Services, Child Protective Services had been in the news because it had been found out that abused children were being left in homes where the abuse was taking place and these children had injuries that had gone untreated or covered up- not sure which one. But you can look it up for yourself. Google is your friend here. You know my name, you know where I live and you know the date (roughly) shouldn’t be that hard to scratch that itch, if you really want to. I just wanted to give you some back ground information, to put this story in complete perspective for you.
God is still good. (It is the truth as much as it became my mantra. Get used to seeing it.)
Let’s begin, shall we? The day is May 2nd, 2013 and I am about to enter an arena far worse than ANY other I have ever been in.
I had only recently returned home from having been in court over the custody of my son. (You guessed it. The former love of my life was not content to be in control of when I saw my daughter and what information I was given concerning her. He was now coming after custody of my son.) The Judge was not happy about the decision she had to render. She said that there was nothing that warranted my son not being in my care and therefore, her hands were tied and she could not legally say that I could no longer have custody of my son. She lectured me on allowing my son ample time with his father- even though she had been told by myself AND the former love of my life that my son was able to visit him whenever he felt like it outside of school hours. Ironically, this was the same sentiment echoed three years previously, when I allowed my daughter to go live with him. Hmmm… Can we say stereo typing? (My daughter should be with me, because I am her mother and I am a bad mother because I allowed her to go. My son should live with his father because he is the father and I am a bad mother for standing in the way of this…) To be fair, the Judge did not actually say, “Ms. Jones, you are a bad mother because….”, but she did use other terminologies that left no doubt as to what she thought of me. They were not very high or esteemed thoughts.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against sons living with their fathers. I am against my son living with his father. My son goes to Franklin Military Leadership Academy- a FREE military school in Richmond and one that only takes a select few each year and that is well recognized by military affiliates- EVERYWHERE and since my son has talked for ions about joining the military (first the Army and now the Air Force) I believe this is the best school for him. It is my opinion that going from Franklin Military to regular JROTC is akin to ringing the bell at Ranger School, but hey that’s my opinion, right?
That is not the only reason I do not believe it is in my son’s best interest to live with his father, but it has been the only reason I voiced. Until now. I was not sure how to put into words the fact that the most important reason I did not feel my son living with his father was a good idea or was in his better interest, was/is because his father was teaching him how to be him, the former love of my life.
It is an extremely difficult thing to admit and an even more difficult thing to hear your son, your pride and joy speak to you and your baby in the same manner and tones that his father had once used with you. Those tones only lead down one road. I was trying desperately to save some young girl of the future from becoming me, to save my son from becoming the monster responsible for someone else’s hell. But I couldn’t very well tell all of this to a Judge, could I? Judges want proof of everything. Judges are lawyers and they ask some very probing questions and they do not have to go home with me and play nice with this man that used to hold the key to my very life breath.
Anyway, I didn’t have to talk about any of that. The Judge ruled that my son was to remain with me.
God is good.
So, I had just returned home when I received a phone call. In this day and age, Caller ID is a wonderful feature that I am sure everyone is familiar with, right? Well the Caller ID display read ‘private caller’. I do not answer these types of calls. I firmly believe this is the sole purpose of voicemail. At any rate, my ‘private number’ caller left a message. It was CPS. You know, Child Protective Services. This is the message the worker left- (Word for Word- journaling is a wonderful tool. I recommend everyone use it.) “Ms. Jones, my name is J.G. I am on my way to your home. I will be there in about forty-five minutes to an hour. I need you to be there. It is very important that you are there.”
My immediate thought was to call my best friend and tell her to come to my house right away and that she needed to get to me as soon as possible. (Thank goodness she is a true friend. She didn’t ask questions and she didn’t hesitate. She just said, “Okay. I’m on my way.”
Unfortunately, the CPS army showed up before K did. I opened the door and invited them in. (Nosey neighbors is a problem I have. It was bad enough the car they drove in was labeled CPS, I did not need them to hear our conversation as well.)
I asked them why they were at my home and they proceeded to play ‘good cop, bad cop’. The ‘bad’ cop, J.G., asked me if I had ever heard of the play ‘Hugs and Kisses’. (No, I hadn’t, what was it?) The ‘good’ cop- name unknown, because she only introduced herself once, did not sign any documents and did not appear in any subsequent encounters- said that it was a play essentially about good touch/bad touch (my heart sank. Who had been touching my daughter?!). She told me that she had seen it and she had varying opinions about it, because it was very vague in what it taught the children and that she believed more false reports came of the reporting from children than true incidents of abuse… blah, blah, blah. I wanted to scream at this woman to shut the f up and tell me what was going on, but I didn’t. I sat there and waited. Finally, ‘good’ cop was silent and ‘bad’ cop spoke up and explained that my baby had seen the play and when the children were given the opportunity to stay and talk, if they had anything they wanted to share, they could stay and share in a safe environment; my baby stayed and shared.
I remember taking a gasp and saying something like ‘oh my God.’ I remember ‘good’ cop giving me a look of pity.
I asked what my baby had shared and let me assure you I was not prepared for what they told me…
According, to ‘bad’ cop, my baby told those people, whoever those people actually are, that at night, while I was at work, when she was in the bathroom, her brother touched her. And her daddy knew about it.
Mouth agape. Breathing stopped. Heart nowhere to be found. This is what it felt like to hear those words.
Now, I know what I just wrote a few pages ago about my son slowly becoming his father, but there is not an ounce of being in my body that believed that about him. Not one little bitty iota. I looked at these two women sitting in my living room and I said, “If someone has touched my baby, I want to find out who it is and I want this investigated to the fullest. But that someone is not my son. I do not believe he would EVER do that to his baby sister.”
At that point, ‘bad’ cop said, “well, that is the story she told and her story never changed and she has told the same story to several people today. So, she is going to need to be removed from the home.”
I responded with “I wouldn’t expect her story to change! She likes to tell stories. She is a story teller. I could show you some of the stories she has made up, if you want.”
I started crying. I told them again my son would not do that. I told them to talk to my son, who was up stairs. They declined. I called my mom (she was at work in DC) and begged and pleaded with her to come to Richmond. I sobbed big, huge sobs and asked her again and again to leave work and come to Richmond. I couldn’t tell her what was going on. I could talk in complete sentences. All I could manage to get out were the words ‘MOMMY PLEASE COME.’ Of course she couldn’t come. She did not understand, but she could tell I was hysterical. The more she tried to calm me down, the more hysterical I became. Finally, ‘good’ cop took the phone from my hand and held my face so she could look me directly in the eye and asked if she could talk to my mom. I vaguely understood that she needed my permission in order to talk with my mom. I nodded my head in assent.
About this time, I saw K’s little red car pull up in front of my house. Forgetting the neighbors, I ran outside and into her arms. (K is not a hugging type of person, at all. She knew right away that this was something bad.) She kept asking what was wrong and as with my mom, I couldn’t get anything but uncontrollable sobs out. We stayed out there, me in her arms and crying and her holding me for I don’t know how long. It felt like ten to fifteen minutes, but the reality is that it could have been no more than two minutes, at the absolute most.
When we entered the house, ‘good’ cop handed me the phone and my mother began talking about how I needed to pull myself together and get a grip and she knew it was hard and that I was going to make it through this and everything was going to be ok. I don’t actually remember her saying any of this. K is a good remember-er of things and so she has filled me in on what I can only remember as gibberish from my mom.
Just before I completely lost it, ‘Bad’ cop took the reins, again and said that my baby could not stay in my home as long as my son was there and that I needed to find somewhere for my daughter to go or she would and the decision needed to be made right then and there. Thank goodness K was there. She asked ‘bad’ cop if my baby could go to her house. I believe ‘bad’ cop said, “I don’t care where she goes. She just cannot be here and we need to figure that out right now.” (But, maybe my memory is playing tricks on me, though I doubt it.) K decided that my baby would go with her and that she would assume custody of my baby while all of this was going on. Again, I nodded in assent. ‘Bad’ cop whipped out some papers and pointed and I signed. And with the last stroke of my pen, K became legal guardian of my baby, my little faith angel.
I ran around and threw clothes into a bag and gave them to K and then I fled. I could not be there when my baby got off the bus. I could not look at her and pretend that everything was ok. I couldn’t not ask her what had happened- as that was one of the rules. If I or anyone else attempted in any way to sway my daughter’s story, she would be removed from K’s care and whisked away deep into the bowls of foster care.
I am not entirely sure how I made it across town to Momma Justine’s place of business. I was a wreck. I wasn’t wearing my glasses; I couldn’t see a thing because of my heavy tears and lack of eyewear.
All I can say is God Is Good.
For a brief moment, I had managed to pull myself together. I had control over the tears. I had wiped all the snot from my nose. I thought I was presentable. But then, I walked into the building. I saw the smiling faces of my self-named, adopted family and it was like I never had it together. I have been to this place several times, yet on this visit, I could not tell you who was there and who wasn’t. All I could do was feel those strong arms of Momma Justine and Sister Dee-Dee envelope me in what I needed most at that moment; a hug.
I don’t remember all the details of what happened when I was with Momma Justine and Sister Dee-Dee. I remember Pastor Williams being called, but I can’t recall what he said. I stayed with Momma Justine and Sister Dee-Dee for a long time. By the time I left them, the tears were all dried up and I felt like I could go on. I felt like I could make it.
That night I didn’t sleep. I did a lot of tossing and turning and praying. I even did some more crying, but on Friday, I carried on like nothing had happened. I passed Saturday in the same manner. On Sunday, I went to church. Like much of this part of the story, I don’t remember what was preached, but I do remember blessing my God in a way I had NEVER done before. I can well imagine some of the people in church thinking I had lost my mind, maybe they even thought I was just being dramatic (I know how certain church people can be), but I didn’t care; I don’t care. My God is too awesome for me to be worried about those people and their thoughts. I think it was about this time that I started realizing that, although painful, it was a blessing to be chosen by God to go through a storm such as this and that whatever was on the other side would be a true blessing and a wonderful gift. It was on this Sunday; during church I decided I would bless my God- no matter what- through this storm.
On Monday, I spoke with the Detective assigned to my case. He was very positive and his words gave me hope that this situation would be resolved quickly. One of the first things he said to me was that every time he had gotten a case as a result of the Hugs and Kisses play, it had been proven false. He also said he wasn’t going to talk to my son because he didn’t think he had done anything and he had no interest in talking to him unless the District Attorney said he had to, after my baby was interviewed.
I could dance right here. But this is not where or how the story ends.
On Wednesday, my baby’s teacher called me. I was at work and I was on the sales floor. She complained that my baby had lashed out angrily and she didn’t know why and she couldn’t understand why my baby was so angry. She told me I needed to talk to her about her disruptive behavior, because it was unacceptable.
Even though on the inside, I was fuming, I calmly asked her teacher if she was aware of the situation going on with my little faith angel. She wasn’t. I had to tell her teacher all that had happened. It was humiliating to have to relive even the most basic of details and it was even more embarrassing that I had to divulge these details while I was at work and customers were milling around.
As soon as I was able to leave, I called the CPS worker to question why nothing was put in place to help my baby deal with all the changes happening to and around her. Without stuttering or hesitating, she asked me this question, “How was I supposed to know she would need services?” She went on to tell me that it was not her responsibility to ensure my baby had services because my baby was not her child, in response to my questioning why services weren’t automatically put in place; I reminded her that she had removed my child from my home and therefore, I believed services would have been put in place proactively. At this time, the CPS worker seemingly relished telling me that she had not removed my baby from my home. If she had removed my baby from my home, then my baby would be her child and she would have made sure my baby had everything she needed, including counseling services in place. She went on to say that since I wasn’t capable of giving my baby what she needed, she guessed she would arrange for someone to be put in place for my baby to talk with.
At that point, I told the CPS lady not to worry about it, because I would take care of it. I also pointed out that I did not believe she had done her job, because she had not explained any of this when she first came to my house. I also questioned the paper she left with me, which that my son could not be in charge of my baby- NOT that my baby had to be removed from my home. She said, “I think you’re a bad mother and your baby wasn’t safe in your care because you immediately took the side of your son and called your daughter a liar. That’s why I took her out of your home.”
My only response was to ask for her supervisor’s name and number. She gave me a name and a number, after I asked for it multiple times. After hanging up the phone, I immediately called the Supervisor and left a message. Sometime within the next twenty four hours, I received a callback from the Supervisor. According to the voicemail message she left for me, she was not the Supervisor, nor had she ever been the worker in question’s Supervisor.
On Friday and Monday following this, I called the CPS worker in an effort to determine when the required assessment would take place. I received no answer and no response. On Saturday, my baby had another breakdown; she expressed feelings that her mom didn’t love her anymore. (It hurts me to write that, because I love her so unbelievably much.) On Sunday, May 12th, 2013 (Mother’s Day) I again went to church and again I blessed the Lord with a mighty cry, I blessed Him in a dance, I blessed Him in my tears.
On Tuesday, I began to understand what it truly meant to say, “It is well with my soul.” If you are in the will of God, it doesn’t matter what is going on in or around your life; it doesn’t matter that your heart is grieved. There will be peace in your soul.
I called the CPS worker again, leaving yet another message and again she did not return my call. I began to actively search out legal representation in an attempt to get my baby back home. It was a hard process to go through. I was usually at work or at home (where my son was never too far away) and it was very hard to disclose information in either of these environments and when I was able to provide the necessary information, most people are not up to the challenge of taking on the entity of CPS. With all that has been happening, it would be easy to feel defeated, but just as my mind was headed in that direction, I was able to talk to Coach Kevin. After talking with him, I was feeling much better. I was ready to get back in the game and fight some more. On this day, Coach helped me understand the value in simply standing. I am not a quitter.
This part of the story goes on in much the same manner for another few days, with the same pattern of no response and no action. I went to Social Services and inquired about filing a formal complaint. I found a lawyer, but he wanted $3000 before he would do any work. It was one let down after another.
I finally, received an appointment date for my baby’s interview to take place. On the appointed day and at the appointed hour, I arrived with my baby and she was taken into a back room and interviewed. When it was all said and done, the Detective said he was not pursuing this incident any further, because it was clear and evident that my baby and her brother were only playing.
I could dance right here. But that’s not how the story ends.
Even though, the Detective and the Professional Outsiders determined that there was nothing going on, that there was nothing illegal or harmful in the treatment of my children- the CPS worker had already made up her mind that I was a bad mother and she was determined to prove herself right. She set up all kinds of parameters and restrictions before allowing my baby to come home. She established a variety of hoops in which I had to jump through in order to maintain my family unit. Oddly enough, she never checked to see if her established parameters were being followed. To this day, I have not received any notice of the case against me being closed.
That afternoon, before my baby came home, I sat with my son and explained to him how his sister had told what was her truth and how that truth had been construed as something evil. I had to explain the role he had played, unknowingly. I remember he asked me how we was supposed to be around his sister after this. I remember I told him that it was completely his choice to make. I told him that I would love for Him to welcome his sister home and love her, because that it what God would want, but that if he chose to be angry and not want to be around his sister, no one would be mad at him and no one would force him to act in any way he didn’t want to.
May was a very long month. But thankfully, it is finished.
If only May was the end of it all. But without there being more, God would not have me in a place where He could really reach me or teach me. Without there being more, this would not be my JOB moment. I will see you in August and we shall see how the summer has progressed…
Shall We Dance?
*It is well with my soul
*my daughter was returned home
*I had a friend who was willing to take on the responsibility of my child
*I had people who were there just to hug me
*I had people I could call for moral support
*God is GOOD
*I am still standing
*I did not quit
*I am STILL in my right mind
*The guidance counselor at my child’s school was understanding and supportive of the situation
*My son never had to undergo the humiliation of being interviewed.
*My son ran to my daughter and picked her up in a bear hug and with tears streaming down his face told his sister how he loved her and missed her.
*My job bent all the rules of employment for my position while I was going through this
8August; The Punch Intended for Me Strikes My Boy
So, here we are in August. It is the end of the summer. Back in June, my daughter’s school was closed, despite all those people who stood and fought against it. Yet, the fight rages on.
I haven’t heard from the CPS worker in regards to finally closing this case or any other part of that process.
I quit my job in July. I didn’t quit because they were putting any kind of stress on me about my circumstance. I quit because I could not handle the pressure I was putting on my own self concerning my situation. (Somehow, it made since to me that not having a job would lighten the heavy burden the May situation had placed upon my shoulders. Makes perfect sense, right?)
Anyway, here we are in August. We are getting ready to go back to school. My daughter is coming to terms with going to another school. I am still fighting with the School Board for the wrong doing they have done.
On a Sunday night around 9pm, in late August, I told my son to go walk the dogs. It is a request I will regret for a long time to come…
He was right around the corner from our home. A young boy thought it was okay to throw sticks at my dogs and to hit them. My son said “don’t do that”. The boy went and got his friends. They ganged up on my son. They beat him. They recorded it. They had a five or six year old hold the leashes, so my dogs would not interrupt them. They were my neighbor’s children. We called them friends. As if this weren’t bad enough, they put their tape on Facebook and the powers at Facebook determined that the video was in no way a violation of anyone’s rights. It was only with the help of my Facebook friends, that the video was finally taken down.
I think this is the time that my son started to hate me. The way he talked to me got more and more like how the former love of my life used to talk to me. A few times, my young man postured to me in the same way his father had done so many years before. I can’t begin to explain to you what it is like to be afraid of your son and afraid to do anything to correct his behavior because to do so would mean having to deal with repercussions from his father, who sometimes still terrified you.
At any rate, I still fought for my child. I pushed for him to excel, I continued to give him things I really couldn’t afford- all so that he would have an edge when it came to his future. In the end, none of those things mattered.
My son alternated days of loving me and hating me; of being himself and the wonderful boy I knew and the awful man I had once loved. There is not a bone in my body that doesn’t believe his father wasn’t poisoning his mind or coaching him as to what to say, but again, one might ask, where is the proof and all I have is my gut.
As you might imagine, his father ceased upon the awful incident that had happened. He appealed the decision of the Judge in May. He told the Circuit Judge that I abused my son, that I and my friend fought in front of and with my son, that I lived in a drug infested area, that I could not provide for my son, that I forbade him to play sports. The list of complaints was endless. The woman who was put in the position of doing what was best for my son, never came to my home. She never made any effort to contact me or return my phone calls. She never visited my son in his school environment (though, she told the Judge that she had) and she only ever visited with my son when he was at his father’s home. She echoed everything that had already been said. No one listened when I told them in no uncertain terms that those things were untrue. No one batted an eyelash when I revealed that a registered sex offender lived in the house next door to the former love of my life. No one was interested in the fact that my son had been given a choice of piano lessons or sports and he chose piano. No one believed me when I said that my son, my daughter, me or my friends all rough housed- ALL THE TIME. No one cared that we had full on Nerf Wars or that we crawled through the house like we were in a war to create a surprise ambush on someone. I thought we were having fun. I am pretty smiling indicates that. And we had rules of engagement that we followed: if someone started crying, we stopped playing; if someone said I am not playing, we didn’t play; and if someone said I am not playing anymore, we didn’t push them to play. But like I said before, none of that mattered. Come January, my son would be gone.
As I am writing this now, it is May. I haven’t heard from my son since he left. I haven’t been invited to go see him play whatever sport he is playing. I haven’t been invited to any coral concerts- if he is even still in chorus. I haven’t seen him. I ask people to check on him. I ask people to have him call me. His father has told him not to talk to me because I will try to manipulate him.
I believe I have lost my son. Even though I will always be his mother, I don’t believe I will ever hear him utter the word ‘mom’ to me again.
Shall We Dance?
*I am still standing.
*My God is still GOOD.
*The hurt isn’t so bad.
*God has a plan and it all works out in the end.
*Even though things are bleak with my son, my own life is more at ease than it has been in a long time.
*God knows the truth and vengeance is mine says the Lord.