Her Rapist’s Eyes

***Trigger Warning, I’m going to discuss sensitive topics including rape in this post. If that makes you uncomfortable, please do not read further.***

I was conceived in a prison. That’s right, you read that correctly. My life came into existence because my mom was incarcerated (unjustly in my opinion, but that’s another story) and my biological father was a prison guard. In short, I was conceived in rape.

There was no clear, out of the blue moment I remember being told this, it’s just something I’ve known my entire life. In fact, I do remember a moment when I was 5 years old that I wanted my mother to clarify for me what the word “rape” meant. It was understandably a confusing concept to me as I barely understood where babies even came from—and the only reason I knew that was because I was a very bright child and demanded to know how my sister got into my mother’s belly when I was 4.
Rape. It’s an ugly word. It puts a bad taste in one’s mouth. If you’re like me and it’s something you’ve endured yourself, it might be a word that makes your breath quicken and your heart race. If you’re fortunate enough to never have been closely impacted by this act, even then, it’s likely a word that makes you squirm in your seat a little. It’s no easy topic, but it’s one I feel has to be talked about for many reasons. One big one is because people (yes, people, not just women, not just children, all people) that have been victimized deserve to know that it’s okay to talk about it. There is healing in talking and telling one’s story. If we as a society walk around whispering it like it’s a dirty word, it makes it that much harder for those that have suffered to find peace. It’s not the “f bomb,” it’s real life; it doesn’t need censored.

Now, my mother has never been fond of talking about that time in her life, and I understand that, but there came a point for me where I really started to question what had gone on, and I wanted answers. This became especially true when I got married and my mom gave me my birth certificate, and for the first time, she explained to me that I could not lose it. She told me that when paternity was established in court, my birth certificate was revised to add “him” to the father line (super confusing considering the method of my conception), but when that happened, they (whoever “they” are) also changed my last name on the birth certificate from the one I was born with to his last name. She told me that she never went through the court system to change it back since she had the original; therefore, if I lost it and had to purchase a new one, it would have his last name. This really sparked my curiosity. **In case you’re curious, I did lose it. I went to order a new one, and it does say his last name. I now have to go to court and pay a fee to have it amended.**

After that point, I started really considering finding him, but I was afraid. What all did he know about me? Did he want to know me? Did he have other kids? Did they all hate me because of my existence disrupting their lives? Would he ever face me? What if………?

When I started wondering these things, it was before the Internet was as easy to use as it is now. I started actively looking and calling phone numbers in 2002. I knew only his first and last name and a couple of states that he’d lived in over the years. I had no success, and so it was put on the back burner for a long time after that, and yet, it was always in my mind still. Thirteen years passed before I decided to try something to find him again. I paid a private investigator to find him. I gave them the details I had, gave my debit card info, and then waited. Within days I had an email. I was given what the company thought was his address, the names, addresses, and Facebook account links of his 3 children, and the phone number for the youngest child.

I immediately checked out his kids’ Facebook profiles in search of at least a picture of him. I couldn’t see much info, and so I started thinking about how I should reach out. Should I Facebook message them? Should I send a letter? Should I call? What should I say? And it was in that panic of not being sure of what to do that I let that info just sit for almost a year. It was only just over a week ago that I finally decided to just send off a Facebook message and see what would happen. I said:

“Hello, XXXX,
I hope you see this message in your “other” box. I’ve had your Facebook contact info for almost a year but I’ve been afraid to reach out. I’m looking for information (especially medical history) and hopefully some pictures of XXXX. He is my biological father, making you my half sibling. I’ve never had any real info and I’ve been nervous to ask. I don’t want you guys to shun me or shut me out. I’m extremely nervous sending this, but figure tomorrows are never promised and I might as well try. Please feel free to contact me here or email me at XXXX.
Thank you.”

I sent the message knowing it would be difficult for them to see it because of the settings with messages from strangers, so when I knew the messages hadn’t been read by the time I’d left work that day, I knew I was going to use the one phone number and just call. I stopped by the liquor store and decided it was totally appropriate to have a shot of whiskey before taking a deep breath and dialing.

Two rings, “Hello?” I felt sudden panic and was shocked at someone actually answering an unknown number (I didn’t even know other people still do that these days).

“Hi, um, I’m not sure how to really say this, I don’t know if you’re aware of me; I’m XXXX’s daughter.”

There was some shock on the other line and lots of “Um’s” in the middle. His son (my brother) explained to me that he was indeed in shock, but aware of me and asked to call me back. I totally understood his being blindsided by this and told him to go ahead and process and call me back later.

“But wait, can you tell me really quick, is he still alive?”

“No, I’m sorry, he passed away last year.”

I cried. I started crying before I even got off the phone. I hung up and cried hard. I cried body shaking sobs over this information. I felt instant grief. Not grief over my loss as one would feel over the death of a parent he or she knew, but grief simply over this missing piece of my personal puzzle. Grief over the fact I never got to face him. I never got to ask him any questions. I never got to hear his side of the story. I never got to know if he was sorry for what he put my mother through or the impact it had on me. I never got to know if he was sorry that he never reached out to me. I never got to know if he truly understood the pebble in the pond my birth was and how much I’d suffered for HIS actions. I never got to look into his eyes and ask anything at all.

I walked back into my house after I hung up and poured another shot and then stood in the kitchen just holding it and bawling. My poor teenage boys had no real idea what was going on. My children, whom are extremely connected to me and my emotions, jumped into action and immediately came to me. My oldest hugged me tight for a few seconds while I proceeded to cry harder. When he let go and I was still standing there doing the ugly cry, my younger son then came and grabbed me with such intensity, I was surprised. He held on even tighter while whispering comfort in my ear.

I was shocked at my own reaction. I had no idea I’d feel so intensely. I had no idea it would hurt me to my very core. I had had a feeling when I was driving home from work that night that I was going to find out he had already passed away as I knew he was in his late 70’s, but I was unprepared to hear it for certain. I literally cried without stopping for more than an hour. Then, for the next several hours, I cried at the drop of a hat. And just when I thought I’d pulled myself together, my biological brother called me back.

We talked for 30 minutes, and in that first phone call, I could tell that I liked him already. He was open, honest, and tender. He told me facts I’d been wanting to know my entire life. He told me that he thought that his (eww, our) father had had an affair with my mother. We discussed how even if it was consensual (a claim my mother adamantly denies, and I believe her), the law is very black and white on this topic. When being employed as a prison guard, it is illegal to have a sexual relationship with an inmate. Much like a “willing” teenager with an adult, it is considered rape–and for good reason. It was then that he told me something that was incredibly dear to me; he told me that no matter what the circumstances were, he was embracing our newfound relationship and that he is there for me. I then cried some more.

That night on Facebook I wrote, “Those moments. . .those moments that knock the air from your lungs. . .the moments that punch your heart with the force of a Mack truck. . .the moments that hurt so intensely you don’t know when you’ll come up for a breath between sobs. . .I hate those life moments. I feel a MAJOR blog post coming on.” That blog post I spoke of is this here.

***

In the time that has passed since that first day, I’ve had so much on my mind. I can’t help but think about what my mother went through. My heart hurts for her. I can’t imagine it’s easy for her knowing that I’ve reached out to his family. I know that she just wants me to have peace. I can also imagine that me revealing what I’ve done to get in contact with them has probably also brought up old feelings for her.

Unfortunately, I don’t really get to know what she is thinking and feeling because we’re not very close and we don’t talk much.

Because of the situation surrounding my conception, we never bonded like normal mother and child. She remained in prison after I was born, and I went off to foster care. The first 2 years of my life are something I know almost nothing about. But even once my mother was “free,” she was never really free. She endured hell and then had a child to take care of in the center of that. I love my mom, but her entire situation was damaging and had an impact on everything about me. The foundation I had in life set me up for failure–and oh boy have I failed (there are plenty of old and future blog posts about that, so I’ll skip over that here). But I don’t blame my mom. She lived through a really shitty situation, and she came out of it the only way she knew how to. She chose to give me life even when the prison tried heavily to convince her to have an abortion. She kept me and later told me that it didn’t have to matter that I was conceived in such a manner, I could be just hers. Sadly, it did matter, it still matters, and it will matter the rest of my life.

Through all of this, though, I have a newfound respect for my mom. One of my first requests of my brother was to see pictures of “him.” I was simply curious to know what he looked like. Because I look so much like my mother, I never thought there would be any physical resemblance. Within a couple days, my brother sent me some emails with several pictures. I was totally unprepared, and when I opened an obviously old photo of his wedding, I found myself staring at a male version of my own face. It took my breath away and tears again sprang to my eyes (for like the millionth time in the last couple weeks) because I was looking at my own eyes in this old photograph. Once I’d gotten over the initial shock, I again thought of my mother. This woman, this incredibly strong woman, raised me as best as she could, she tried to love me, and she disciplined me–all while looking at a child, her child, who has her rapist’s eyes.13775750_1764073297203979_6408704803612900973_n

***

Side note: When I started writing this blog post two weeks ago, it was meant to be about “him” and I. It’s turned into a complicated post, but more about my mom than anyone else. My mom is exactly where I get my strength from. She is where I’ve gotten my independence, my strong will, and my courage. Ladies and gentlemen, my mother is a regular badass, and I’m proud to call her my mom.

Connectedness

How have we as a society lost the connection with others so much while we also live in the time of convenience to be connected? We have phone calls, texting, email, instant messenger, Facebook, and a variety of other forms of social media—and yet, we seem to be less social than ever before. How is it that there are people on my Facebook friend list that would also walk by me as if I was a stranger in the grocery store? I feel like we are headed downhill as far as personal connections go and I’m often just as guilty as the next person. I tell people I miss them, I say we should get together and hangout soon, and then I often don’t follow through and actually make plans.

I woke up thinking about this stuff this morning. I think that as soon as my feet were hitting the floor, my mind was going 90 MPH thinking about such deep subject matter. I don’t know where it came from or even why really, I just suddenly felt like I should be talking about something real on Facebook. My feed every day is filled with selfies, memes, people complaining, and other content that lacks in substance. If we are going to be so “connected” through social media, I want to be as connected as possible with realness. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing people post pictures of their families and share happy or funny memes, but there’s only so many pictures of people’s dinners, vain selfies, and Vaguebooker statuses I can handle before thinking that Facebook is really only a tool for narcissism and not a tool of connectivity.

Let me give an example of my own personal needs. Last night I had to do a quick run to Walmart for a few things before I could make dinner. I was a little stressed and in a big hurry, but as I was waiting to check out, I saw a Facebook friend of mine. I know that she works, goes to college, has a handful of children, and has many busy similarities to my life. She looked like she was in a hurry too and probably had a lot on her mind. But you know what she did? She walked over to me. She said hello, she asked how I am, and she hugged me. While to many, this may not seem like a big deal, to me it absolutely was! She could have just walked by and gotten away with a wave as she passed and I wouldn’t have judged her at all. We are busy. But the fact that she took that moment to personally say hello and to reach out and hug me had an impact. It made me feel good. I loved that she cared enough to make that personal connection, especially when I know her and her family have been going through so much lately that no one could blame her if she’d just kept walking. It made me truly realize just how much I don’t just want personal time with my friends and loved ones, my heart ~needs~ that.

I don’t want to ramble forever here, I just wanted to share some of those thoughts. Normally I would put this into a blog, but my blog is fairly anonymous and I wanted those “around” me to read this and know these thoughts. If nothing else, can y’all do me a favor? Reach out to at least one person this weekend, stop by and have a cup of coffee, make time for a backyard BBQ, or call someone you love that isn’t nearby. Do something. Just please make a personal connection that has nothing to do with Facebook or any other social media. If even just one of you does that, that will make my heart happy.   

**This was adapted from a long Facebook post I wrote a few months ago. I left it unedited because I felt it should be whole for y’all to really understand, even though my blog is no longer anonymous like this post states.**

My Child, I Would Die For You

There is nothing on this earth like a mother’s love. It is strong. It is fierce. It is unbreakable. A mother’s love can make a calm woman rage, a safe woman get into a dangerous situation, and a passive woman become aggressive. This is something I’ve known since the first moment I laid eyes on my precious firstborn and it was solidified when I noticed the hospital had somehow burned the back of his scalp. I’m a non-violent, loving, tender woman—until it comes to my children’s well-being being threatened.

I have a child that has been a handful for his entire life. As an infant, he cried constantly and no amount of rocking, shushing, feeding, burping, or changing could soothe him. By the time he was a toddler, he had meltdowns that could blow anyone away with his ferocity. By the time he was entering kindergarten, we knew that he was different and would likely always require tender care in parenting. We’ve had our ups and downs, but he has mellowed out a lot and is figuring out his way in this world as a teenager now. He is sensitive to many things though, such as how he perceives others to perceive him. He gets upset easily and has a hard time handling “big emotions.” This causes problems sometimes, but I never give up hope that he will figure out how to manage it by the time he’s entering adulthood. But the other day I had a moment that truly reminded me of how intense a mother’s love is.

As my son was upset about something small, he went out to the front of the house to cool off. He’s very good about removing himself from situations he knows will cause a blowup. I happened to be with a friend at a local thrift shop when it began, but when I arrived back home, he was sitting leaned up against one of my vehicles parked on the street. I was concerned, both for his safety sitting on the road and for his emotional well-being in general. Because of him sitting against the van, I stood near him on the street as I tried to coax out of him what he was feeling. Then what happened next seemed like slow motion.

I glanced up as a car passed us and I watched the driver turning to look at us over his left shoulder. This caused a chain reaction. It made him veer slightly to the left as an oncoming car came around the corner. The man veering made the oncoming car turn wide to the right as she was making a left turn onto my street. I immediately could see her laughing and looking at her passenger—and NOT seeing my baby sitting right in her path. Now mind you, I live in a small town in a residential neighborhood. I live in an area where you can’t speed and you have to pay close attention because on any given day at any time, someone’s small child could go running into the street after a ball or a pet could go darting out. This young woman though clearly was not paying attention. As my son sat oblivious on the asphalt, I saw her coming right for him. There was zero time to think logically and going off of instinct, I screamed out at the same time as I moved towards him with my arms outstretched. In my panic, I just wanted her to see me and so I was running forwards towards a car coming straight for us. I was standing over him and leaning my arms out as if I could protect him from her car by shielding him. She heard me and I made eye contact with her as she then swerved back to the left to miss us. I was so angry that she wasn’t paying attention and I was angry that my son didn’t realize he was putting his own safety at risk. It was several seconds later that I realized—I just stepped in front of a moving vehicle without thinking rationally to protect my child! I just risked my life to save his! In that scary moment though where I didn’t know if she was going to look up in time, there was no real thinking, I just was willing to do whatever it took to save my child.

At the end of the day, it’s not like she narrowly missed us by inches (she was several feet away still when she saw us) so it was nothing harrowing. But it was eye opening for me and for my son who also realized what I had risked to help him. The worst case scenario that we avoided was for her to hit us both. I didn’t think about that risk when I did it though.

Even the best behaved teenagers can be hard to raise and be a handful. But as moms, we keep up the good fight and continue to parent even through the ugly moments. There’s nothing in the world those teenagers can do that would make us go, “Nope, never mind, I don’t want to be a mom anymore; I don’t love that kid anymore.” And in the hard moments where we feel our child is in danger or he or she is being wronged, well…like a meme I just recently saw on Facebook said; I solemnly swear I’ll be a classy mommy…until you mess with my kids. Then I swear I’ll be the biggest, redneck, ass whoopin’ mama you’ll ever meet! And this is true. Believe it.

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Him <3

I’m feeling pretty good today. I’ve had a lot of up and down lately which has been pretty chaotic inside for me. Raising teenagers, man, let me tell ya…it is not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. And of course, money stress is always…well…stressful. But all of that aside, I’ve had some really big blessings lately and I feel pretty damn lucky to be where I’m at.

When I was a scared 17 year old kid walking down the aisle to say “I do,” I knew it was a mistake. When I was immediately upset afterwards and didn’t want to leave with my new husband, I knew I’d made a bad choice. With all that I endured in the years after, I totally understood the joke about why divorce is so expensive (because it’s worth it, duh!).

divorce

I had many ups and downs in the years following and endured a few bad relationships that left me with little hope about finding “the one.” I thought that I would never get the amazing relationship I’d always hoped for.

When thinking of relationships, I always dreamed of feeling like a princess. I had dreamed of being with a man that said sweet things to me, a man that didn’t raise his voice to me (or worse), a man that connected with my children in ways that made them feel the broken inside of them was being healed, a man that would hold me tight and scare away my demons, a man that made me feel that no matter how I look, I’m the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, a man that would show me I was worthy of being loved, a man that would make me feel safe in every way. This seemed like the impossible, but I still kept trying… And then something truly amazing happened—I met Him.

*Please know that everything I say after this point may sound like a bunch of clichés strewn together, but I truly mean every word.*

Never before had I clicked so instantly and so well and on so many levels as I did with Him. He made me feel amazing from the start. His sense of humor stood out immediately upon meeting him. He clearly marches to the beat of his own drum and I’ve always loved that. He’s not afraid to be goofy and silly and for me, being the kind of person that is mostly serious and takes everything at face value, it was the total opposite of who I am. You know how they say opposites attract? That is us. There are so many things about us where we are extremely alike and there are others where we are total opposites. We complement each other well.

He also was the first to be so tender with me physically and with my heart. Of course being a man, he brought up typical flirty “man-like” topics, but he did so in a way that never made me feel belittled or like he was just hoping to hop straight into bed. On our first date, he very sweetly took my hand as we talked. He didn’t rush me, he listened to me, and at just the right moment, he leaned over and sweetly kissed me. I felt like a school girl with a crush; I was all full of butterflies inside. It was a great date, and from that night on, we were inseparable.

Let’s face it though, all relationships are good in the beginning or they wouldn’t start at all. Even for the beginning though, things with him were better than any other beginning I’d ever had. But you know what is even more awesome? Now that the honeymoon phase is fading and real life is setting in, things are still amazing.

In a relationship, you have to learn about the other person, and I don’t mean their favorite food or movie. I mean the things that you learn a little later on, like what makes him or her tick. When he or she is angry or upset, what does he or she need most? Close comfort? Space? Time? These are the things one starts to really learn once the honeymoon phase is over. This is where he and I are at right now. He is busy learning that if we have had a disagreement, I don’t care how upset either of us are, I still want kissed and hugged and told “I love you” and “goodnight” before we go to sleep. I’m busy learning what upsets him about the way I talk during a disagreement and that he needs space when frustrated and that it’s nothing personal against me. These things are important. And while no one likes to argue or have uncomfortable moments, I find much comfort in knowing that we have been together long enough that there are no facades. We are well aware that we each are not perfect. He knows that I get overwhelmed by noise and can’t even fake being okay when I’m overstimulated. I know that he gets overwhelmed sometimes by my constant desire to be “mushy” and intimate and needs a break from my emotional intensity. He knows that I need quiet time in my room to destress often and I know that he needs time to visit his family frequently. We are learning each other in ways that only time together can teach.

While living busy lives, both working, both having children, and both being exhausted regularly, we truly enjoy and appreciate each other. This is also a new concept for me. Never before have I felt in the middle of real life, after the honeymoon has ended, that I have been so connected to another. His smile, his eyes, his humor, his tender touch, his goofy dancing, and so much more—I can’t get enough. For the first time in my entire dating life, there are no red flags, no little nagging feelings of “is this really right?” going on in my heart and head that I’m choosing to ignore. For the first time ever, I don’t want anyone else in any way, shape, or fashion. He is everything. Everything I need, everything I want, everything I intend to keep. Forever. It’s all about Him.

Thrivin’ Survivor, That Is Me

*Repost from old blog site*

You’d think that knowing that I am strong, plus surviving some of the hardest things one could experience in life would automatically make me fearless, right? Wrong.

I’m facing a breakup. Lord knows that isn’t easy. After almost 3 years of dedication, 2 sets of children, and 1 combined household, I’m pretty much dreading “the talk” happening. How is that though? How is that so scary when I have been through so much—and survived?!

I’ve been sexually abused multiple times since I was a kid. I have had children as a teenager, gotten married a week after I turned 17 to a man that turned into a raging, abusive drug addict, and endured several years of mental, emotional, sexual, and physical abuse during that marriage. I have watched my then husband overdose, almost die, and recuperate—only to watch it happen all over again. I have battled chronic pain more than half my life that is at times crippling. I have held my infant daughter as her life support was turned off and she took her last breath, battled CPS, and pieced my life back together after meth. I have gotten through being homeless, jobless, and broke. I have battled court systems. I have battled people that wish me harm. And I have battled my own inner demons.

Nothing quite feels as terrifying as one’s husband hitting her in a rage, making her fear and know her life is in danger. Nothing feels as heartbreaking as laying one’s child on a hospital bed and turning away knowing one will never get to pick her baby up again and smell her scent, feel her warmth, nurture her at her breast, or hear her sweet cry again. Nothing is as hard as having to fight for one’s children against a government agency with a vendetta. And yet, I’ve been through all of that and survived and come out on top. I’ve not just survived, but I have thrived!

Even with that being the short list, I’m reading back over it and now sitting here wondering, how the hell am I afraid of a little breakup??? I need to just face it head on. Ready, set, go. 3, 2, 1, takeoff. Get it done, woman. There’s no way in hell that this is what suddenly breaks me! I am STRONG! I am powerful! I am woman—HEAR ME ROAR!!

The Richest Broke Chick You Could Ever Meet

I recently have allowed several things going on to stress me out and kind of takeover in my personal life. I’ve dealt with gossip, work changes, miscommunication with my lover, parenting issues, financial stress, and overall hurt feelings. I started to feel pretty chaotic inside. In this, I started writing and banging out blog posts like my life depended on it. And in that, I started to find some peace. I have been able to sort through the muddled chaos in my brain and start to make sense of it all. I have spent so much time in my head lately that’s it’s almost shocking I’ve been able to be productive with anything because thought are spinning ‘round and ‘round All. The. Time. BUT through all this thought, I’ve finally reached a good, calm place where I’ve had some realizations.

 

I’m so freaking blessed! I’m scared shitless financially because…well…money! I know, I know, money isn’t everything…blah, blah, blah. You’re right, it’s not. But money is how we survive. I need it to keep my house, maintain and run my vehicle so I can get to the place where I earn my money, feed my children, provide all the supplies for daily living my family needs like clothes, toiletries, and household products, and the list goes on. In these recent financial troubles, I’ve started to become overwhelmed with stress. It was all I could think about. I go to bed with it, I wake up with it, and I even sleep with it. Have you ever been so stressed that it follows you into your dreams and ruins any chance you have of getting quality sleep? I’m so familiar.

 

Then, please add in teenagers. ‘Nough said there.

 

Then also add in drama. I don’t even want to go there, but y’all can imagine that with everything else, this did NOT need to be added to my plate, especially to have an impact on my relationship or to hear negative things said about me when I’m trying so freaking hard in life.

 

Anyway, I’m straying from my point here, so please keep following along.

 

I’m blessed. While all of this garbage is going on, at the end of the day, I climb into my cozy bed next to the love of my life. When I found this man, let me tell ya, I knew pretty much from the get-go that there was no way in hell I was ever going to willingly let him go. He’s everything I could have ever hoped for and dreamed of. We are both extremely busy so often the only time we get together is when we are falling into bed exhausted, but those moments are the highlight of my days. Taking a few minutes to talk and laugh and just enjoy each other’s company is a priority. He shows me he loves me through his touch every single day. He gives me affection even when I’m feeling taken over with the crazy. He soothes the chaos in my heart and mind when he pulls me close, kisses me tenderly, and reassures me that he loves me. How many people go to bed lonely and without that? Too many. When I crawl into my bed at night, it’s with a roof over my head, it’s after having eaten dinner, and it’s with knowing my children are safe and sound in other rooms of the house. How many people are lacking those basic needs? How many people don’t even have a room or a bed to go to? Who am I to be stressed out and letting my worries rob me of my joy and blessings?! I may struggle, but I’m never losing this fight, so why do I let my worry take me to places I’d never really have to see?

 

I recently wrote a blog where I touched on one having the ability to control his or her emotions and feelings, and I’m touching on it again here because it’s SO important. Not only am I hurting myself when I let the stress take over, but I hurt those around me. My lover feels when I’m stressed and upset and naturally, it makes him stressed and upset. The same goes for my kids. We are in sync. They feel my intense emotions and it rubs off on them too.

 

It took me several days of feeling like a sourpuss and letting my brain constantly roam every nook and cranny of my stress and hurt to remember and truly realize what damage I’m doing here—and that I can control it! Of course part of me is embarrassed because I’ve had some outbursts and meltdowns and others have been able to witness this, but I’m just as human as anyone else. So, I’ve had an outburst or two, but that doesn’t define me. It’s never too late to decide to pull out of that poor me mindset and change up my thinking, and so that’s what I’m doing.

 

I have to count change for gas money to get to next payday. My daughter has to use an old blue backpack for school until I can replace her broken one next payday. We will have to make creative meals from what we have in the kitchen before I can grocery shop on next payday. I’m super broke and payday is still a week away. But you know what, friends? I’m the richest woman in the world.

Growing Pains

What do you do when life gets a little messy and you start to fall apart and that starts to have an impact on the people around you…? Well, if you’re like me, you start to write. So here I am, ready to ramble because I feel if I don’t let it all out, I might explode. Or implode. Either way, the consequences of that can be devastating.

 

I have a lot on my plate in life. Those that know me personally know that. Those that know me intimately know that sometimes I don’t handle it very well. But what can I say, I’m human. I work full time (out of town, so add travel time to my full plate), I have 3 teenage children that can be a handful as they struggle with some normal issues and some extreme issues depending on the kid we talk about, I have a shit ton of bills and financial stress, I have an ex-husband that doesn’t pay a penny in child support and I honestly don’t think he ever will, I lack a support system from my family (though, side note, the support from those I do have close to me is pretty freaking amazing, especially since they choose their relationship with me), I struggle with anxiety and depression frequently, and a hundred other things I could list here. My point is, sometimes I feel like I’m drowning and I’m overwhelmed. Sometimes I’m needy. Sometimes I’m emotional. Sometimes I require more love and attention from those close to me.

 

I seem to be in a growth spurt lately, and let me tell ya, I feel the growing pains. Like a child, it hurts, I cry, I accomplish, I laugh, I fall down, I get up, and it all repeats. Growing is hard. I’ve learned many important life lessons in the last year and a half and I’ve lost many “friends” and have had my heart stung through these lessons and losses. I’ve been used. I’ve been ignored. I’ve been treated badly. I’ve felt the crushing weight of stress. I’ve been scared. And through all of this, I’ve had to learn how to care for myself. I cannot put others’ needs before my own needs. I definitely cannot allow the poor choices of others to impact me to the point of me breaking. I’ve had to learn to depend on myself, even for emotional support. It’s been intense. It’s been painful. And in some ways, it’s been fulfilling. I’ve been learning and I’m still breathing and I keep moving forward. I’m succeeding, even through the changes. That’s what life is all about anyway, right?

Healing in a Hat

When I told my boyfriend this morning that I was going to write a blog about my new hat, I literally laughed out loud. It sounds like such a silly thing, but there’s a big reason behind it.

 

Let me backtrack for a second and explain that on Sunday morning, as the skies were blue and the sun was bright and the day was already heating up towards 70 degrees, we were preparing for a day outside in the sunshine. We stopped at good ol’ Walmart for a few necessities; water, sunscreen, a couple pairs of shorts for The Littles, and sun hats were on our list of needs. As we rushed through each department grabbing the items we were in search of, we ended at the sun hats. I personally would rather have my children’s faces shielded from the sun than to continuously slather them in sunblock, but the big deal for me was deciding what to do for myself. My 13 year old picked a mesh cowboy hat that complimented her personal style and I knew would be worn several times over the next few months of sun. The 5 year old picked a sun visor that matched the hat of one of her favorite people in the whole world—my 13 year old, and the 3 year old picked an adorable black traditional sun hat. I looked at the wall of choices that I’ve seen several times over the years when the weather turns warm, and I was secretly nervous.

 

So many times, I’ve walked by that wall and thought there were many cute choices, but I was too afraid to stop and try any on. Why, you ask? Because like many women in today’s times, I struggle with insecurity. This time, I was stopping because it was a true necessity, but I still worried about judgment. Am I too old to try the cute mesh cowboy hats? Are the big floppy brimmed hats too “old” for me in my early 30’s? Is there something in between that would be seen as more appropriate for my age and weight and looks? Would people judge what they see with me wearing one of these choices? Would younger/skinnier/more attractive women giggle to each other if they walked by while I was trying on hats with my kids? I was flustered at the thought of it all.

 

I realize that to many, it would seem silly to be so worried about picking out a hat, but for me, it’s something I’ve always been really self-conscious about. Lately, I’ve had a hard time in general with self-esteem. I seem to have periods of time that I feel confident and attractive, but then I have other periods of time where I feel fat and ashamed and unattractive. I’ve been struggling greatly with the latter these days. This is in part due to the fact I was recently a victim of Internet bullying. To have another human being put me down and shame me for my looks was a little bit of a hard pill to swallow. To have some woman that I don’t even know decide to single me out, taunt me publicly on social media, and then message my boyfriend about it all and put together a side by side picture of her and I pointing out how she’s thin and “more attractive” was more difficult to deal with than I thought it would be. That had a bigger impact that I thought possible. Every picture I’ve put on social media since, I’ve thought of people like her. I’ve wondered who is judging. I’ve wondered who is looking at it and thinking I’m unattractive and unappealing. I’ve wondered if there are those that think to themselves, “Oh, she’s pretty.” My point is, I’ve spent way too much time worrying over these things.

 

Back to standing in front of the wall of hats…my daughter and my boyfriend made it fun for me to try on different ones. I wanted one that was cute, but more than anything, I wanted one that greatly served the purpose I was looking for—to shade my face from the sun I would spend my entire afternoon standing in. As I picked up different styles and colors to try, I relaxed a lot with my fears of other people seeing me. I realized that to anyone walking by, I would look like every other Walmart patron and that most people wouldn’t even notice, let alone care that I was trying out hats. It was in that moment that I took a leap of faith and said to myself, “F’ what anyone thinks,” and I bought the big, floppy billed hat that I knew would be best for blocking the sun.

 

Looking back now just a day later, I can’t believe that I was really considering sacrificing the safety and comfort of my skin over what people ~might~ think of me. I decided to not care about what other people’s judgments might be. I put that hat on in the parking lot as soon as we left, and I proudly wore it all day long, and guess what? It worked wonderfully and protected my face, ears, and the back of my neck from the sun without the use of sunscreen, and I didn’t catch a single person looking at me funny because of my choice. I’ve decided that I need to take this approach with the rest of my life and all of my insecurities. I refuse to be a victim anymore to the mean people of the world. At the end of the day, while I may not be everyone’s cup of tea physically, that woman that chose to be cruel to me is much more ugly than I could ever be. She’s a special kind of ugly on the inside and no matter what the outside looks like, when you’re that ugly in your heart, you’re ugly everywhere.

 

Oh! And guess what else I did yesterday? I took a picture in my favorite new hat…and I put it on Facebook for the world to see.

“Man, I just love…”

I laid in bed at 11 o’clock last Saturday night and listened to the wind howl outside. I’ve always been soothed by storms and listening to it that night reminded me of an early memory from my childhood.

 

I must have been about 3 years old and I was awake in the early morning before my mom was. It was windy outside and as I sat on the couch with my face in the window, I was trying to figure out how it was that I could hear that wind howling through the house. I remember feeling a twinge of fear at how big the weather was and how small it made me seem. More than fear though, I felt comfort deep in my soul. That feeling has stayed with me even now in my 30’s. There’s something about the chaos of storms that soothes whatever chaos I have going on inside me. To me, storms are a reminder that I’m in control of so little in this world, I’m like a speck of sand in the desert, and that reminder calms me.

 

Lying in bed that night, with the wind in one ear and the soft snoring of my love in the other, I felt total peace in my heart. I felt an overwhelming calm, happiness, and contentedness. So much in my life right now is falling into place. Knowing all the children were cozy, sleeping in their beds, knowing I had no stress to worry about in that moment, being soothed by the wind storm outside, and enjoying that delicious feeling of comfort at the warmth of my sweetheart next to me, I knew I would later sit down to write a blog post about all the happy things going on right now.

 

*****

 

He finally said it. He said those 3 magic words I’ve been waiting almost 5 months to hear from him. As the days have turned into weeks and the weeks have turned into months, I’ve yearned for him to acknowledge love in his heart for me. I was totally head over heels, crazy in love by the time we were a few weeks in, but he was not. His pain was still fresh and his guard was high. This was something I totally understood, but it didn’t make me feel any less anxious for it. As time went on, I would have moments that would stop me in my tracks and I would be so filled with love and think to myself, “Man, I just love him so much.” This made me a little fearful that I was so completely in and yet I was unsure of what was going on in his head. I became fearful that I was going to get my heart broken.

 

You see, I’ve never in my entire life been in a relationship where it just felt so right. He made it so damn easy to fall for him and when I got scared, I started wondering if I was going to have to prepare for the heartache of a lifetime. I was so confused. He wasn’t telling me he loves me, but his actions definitely were. B is more sweet and tender with me than I’ve ever experienced in a romantic relationship in my entire life. The moments he would look lovingly tuck my hair behind my ear, or the way he would caress my skin without thinking while we were watching a movie, or even just the way I would look up and catch him looking at me–all of it screamed love. The only thing that didn’t was his own mouth. I allowed myself to become fearful despite that whole “actions speak louder than words” thing that should have given me reassurance. But let’s face it, anyone who knows me personally and anyone who reads these blogs knows that I am an animal driven by emotion and words. I can’t just feel things, I have to tell people what I feel. Constantly.

 

A couple weeks ago, B and I had a misunderstanding that hurt my feelings. Not because he was mean or intentionally hurtful, but once again, because of my own emotional intensity. I panicked and suddenly was thinking of all the worst case scenarios. I sat at work and wrote out an email to him that explained that I know I’m intense and I know that he cares and I will work on trying to relax a little. Instead of being annoyed with my sensitivity, he reminded me that he’s not going anywhere, that he likes me being me and doesn’t want me to try to change my need to talk about my feelings, and he gave me reassurance in general. He was kind and sweet and once again, made me sit back and think, “Man, I just love him so much.”

 

That conversation helped me to greatly relax. It was the reassurance that I needed to know he may not be proclaiming love to me, but he’s not going anywhere. We’ve had several tender moments since then, a fabulous date day, and two weekends in a row of amazing-ness. The most amazing part though, was waking up early on a Friday morning to get ready for work just like any other normal weekday. There was nothing special about this day, or at least there wasn’t until I got a text from him…

 

“Moonshine Niki…”

 

“Yes?” I asked, and then pretty much held my breath somehow knowing what was coming next.

 

“I love you, I really do.”

 

I sat there staring at my phone dumbfounded at the random revelation. I didn’t know what to say. We’ve had moments in the past where I’ve told him I don’t want him to feel pressured, but I can’t always hold it inside, and I confess my love for him. He always would smile sweetly and wrap me tightly in his arms and kiss me. But suddenly in that moment, I just couldn’t say I love you too. I was at a loss for words (something that is ~extremely~ rare for me) and I just smiled at my phone with what I’m sure was a ridiculous grin. I was filled with joy and happiness. We fell back into our regular texting after that, but I was on an intense high the entire day from it. I told him I’m anxious to be wrapped in his arms and have him look me in the eye and tell me in person. He promised it would happen soon.

 

*****

 

This last weekend was a “Littles Weekend” meaning that B had his children for the weekend. I call them the Littles because my children are teenagers and his are small. It’s a cute, affectionate name for them that distinguishes which kids I’m referring to without claiming “mine” or “yours”.

 

Anyone that has ever had (or even been around) a blended family knows that dating as single parents is not easy. There have been tough moments as far as all of the children go and we never really know what we’re going to get. But every Littles Weekend that happens, we bond more and more and we have fun. This last weekend was no different.

 

On Saturday morning, we did projects and then went to the grocery store to pick up some stuff for lunch. After loading the children and the groceries up to leave, it was in that parking lot as we were getting ready to leave that B randomly leaned in, hugged me, and said “I love you” out of the blue. Nothing else about that moment was romantic. It was just normal, everyday life stuff, and he suddenly made it magical. My heart soared.

 

I spent the weekend on Cloud 9 and was truly happy. There was lots of fun had and I enjoyed the little moments of silliness and laughter. Everything from painting projects, to snuggling a sleepy little one as he wakes up from nap, to just watching the Littles play, I felt full of bliss. I wanted the weekend to continue forever.

 

As we drove home from the kid swap on Sunday, I already was thinking of what we could do on the next Littles Weekend. I now find my heart missing them when they are with their mom. For the first time since B and I started dating, the Littles are on my mind all the time, every day.

 

I sat in my car on my lunch break yesterday and suddenly realized how much I have feelings growing in my heart for those babies. I’ve been guarded with my feelings for them because of the previous uncertainty with B. We’ve always had fun and done projects, they’ve always had stability and consistency with me, and I’ve always been interactive with them, but I’ve worked hard to keep my emotions in check with them. Watching the clouds cross the sky yesterday as I pondered all of the recent changes, I realized that B finally professing love for me subconsciously gave me permission to love his children.

 

In that moment, I thought to myself, “Man, I just love them so much…”

 

Bonded Blessings

Friendship is a powerful thing. It can help with healing the hurt, it can soothe the burn of daily living, and it can lift low spirits. A good friendship between two women is a bond unlike any other, but it wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I truly realized how important female friends are to a woman.

 

When I was growing up, I had a difficult time fitting in socially. That was especially true with other girls. I have always been socially awkward and I tend to say too much too soon and so people tend to think that I’m weird. I have a huge heart though and I’m closely tied to my emotions, so I don’t give it much thought to just say what is on my heart and mind. It’s like my social filter is broken, or it was just never there to begin with.

awkward

Me socially summed up

 

Every great once in a while in my life though, I meet someone amazing that understands me and isn’t weirded out by my awkward non-filter. Every great once in a while I meet someone that I instantly click with and the bond is immediate. Every great once in a while I meet someone that makes me feel okay for just being me. I recently had one of those “every great once in a while’s” happen.

 

Do you ever meet someone and within minutes, you just know deep down that you and that person were just destined to meet? You know, when you talk and there’s an instant connection? It’s so very rare for me (and for most people I think), and it’s only happened a few times in my life ever.

 

*   *   *

 

I got laid off a couple of months ago from a job that I loved. It felt like the world was ending for me. How was I ever going to find something that was just as good with Monday through Friday business hours with only a year and a half of recent office experience? I live in a small area where jobs like that are fought over by even those with much experience. I was terrified that I’d have to go back to working in retail, and worse yet, have to go back to working two jobs just to make ends meet. I hated the environment where I worked, but I loved my job, and my family had become accustomed to my cushy, steady work schedule. I was determined to find something similar and so I only applied for new jobs that were in similar fields. It took 4 weeks to even get called for an interview. I was so nervous for many reasons. I sat in that group interview silently praying that they would love me and think I was the best person for the job. The company seemed great and while I would have to travel to get to work every day and the pay was lower than my last position, I just knew in my heart that it was “the one” for me. A day later, I was called and offered the position. I was ecstatic. My long, hard month of being unemployed was finally over. While my heart still stung from the loss of the job I loved, I was so happy and recognized my blessing of the new job. But I didn’t realize yet just how much I was blessed until my second day.

 

“K” was gone the day I started my new position. I began my training with the lady that was retiring and that I would be eventually taking over for. In the office, there are two older women, a male boss, myself, and K in her late 20’s. I was nervous because at my last job, I worked with all men. Would I be able to relate to other women in the office? Would I have a difficult time getting along with another younger woman? Would my social awkwardness shine through?

 

On day 2, my trainer was gone and I got to meet K and get some training with her. We talked on a personal level pretty much immediately. We had a lot in common and it took a total of 10 minutes for me to decide that I already was going to get along fabulously with her and that we would work great together. She told me a little about herself and everything she said, I could relate to. I felt weird for admiring her already and then really hoped I wouldn’t say anything stupid or do anything to make her wonder why I’m so odd. It’s not like when you meet someone you can just immediately be like, “I love your natural beauty and how your good heart shines through your smile and I love your laugh and the way you don’t seem to care what anyone thinks about you.” So I sat there largely silent at first and secretly texted my boyfriend and told him I’d met this amazing woman and that she is going to become my “work bestie” before she knows it.

 

A few days in and I could tell I wasn’t alone in feeling the connection between us. After a couple days we started to talk more on a personal level whenever the office was empty. That quickly led to talking outside of work. Within a week, I was then telling my boyfriend that K and I were going to become best friends, even if she doesn’t know it yet.

 

In just a few weeks, I’ve gained not just a job and not just a friend, but a best friend. The bond is tight and the laughs are many. I love that I already feel like I can talk to her about anything and she will listen and lack in judgment. I would do the same for her. Finding real people anymore is so difficult and I truly see how blessed I am for finding the friend in her. The loss of a job turned into one of the greatest blessings I’ve recently received. I’m happy at my new job and totally in friend love with K. I couldn’t ask for more.