Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Can I inspire you?

I happened upon a link to a new site called "Violence UnSilenced". I am hoping that I can inspire however few readers I have to click on one of the links on my blog and visit this site. I am in complete awe at how this tragedy has been pulled out of the closet to get the awareness it needs. Too many of our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and lovers have been victims of domestic violence. Domestic violence knows no boundaries: male/female, gay/straight, rich/poor/, old/young, religious/agnostic/atheist. It's victims are often bombarded with shame and guilt and anxiety. I encourage you to visit the site and learn what you can to recognize the signs that one of your friends might be a victim, because I know personally how hard a victim tries to hide the truth. Most of my readers (if I do have any) do not know my past and those that do, do not know the details. "Violence UnSilenced" has inspired me to open my closet and release my past, because truly, it's part of who I am. I am a better mother because of it, but nobody should ever have to live as my daughter, BB and I did.

A cracked rib. Skinned knees. A broken couch. A scar from where a hanger went through the back of my thigh. A wrist that still sometime hurts from a torn tendon. The memory of a miscarriage from the second rape. Memories that still surface from time to time. I try to keep the same doctors but this year I moved and I have to explain the medical history all over again. My brain is now 34 and, unfortunately, can only remember the list of injuries by remembering how they happened only to have that still lingering question of WHY? It doesn't help that our daughter BB is that man's child and he actually made the effort to see her the Christmas before last and she was receptive to the idea. He's been remarried almost since I divorced him because he got a Honduras teenager pregnant while we were still married and the Army he works for were planning to ream his ass if he didn't do something. That was six years ago, his mother says he's a great dad to that kid, sad he couldn't do it for us.

A cracked rib - week after Thanksgiving 2000. I was sitting on his lap on our couch in the living room of our apartment kissing him under his chin. My affection earned me a shove off his lap and a swift kick in the ribs, no words. This was late in my relationship with him and the only time I ever hit back. He left me there and went to bed. When I could breathe again, I got up and went to our bedroom, climbed onto the bed standing over him with one leg on either side of his body. With all the strength I could muster, I balled up my fist and punched him in the back of the ribs as hard as I could. Before I could blink, I was under him on the bed with my chin pressed into my throat, unable to breathe. He said, "Now we're even," and went to sleep. I could only think, "you have no idea how uneven we are."

Skinned knees - April 1999. We were driving back from his mother's house, I think it was Spring break from college, heading back to my parent's house. There was an argument about something and I asked him to let me out of the car at the mall. Instead, he undid my seat belt, pulled over, opened the door and pushed me out with the car still moving. I was three months pregnant with BB. I still married him in June.

Broken couch - sometime in 2000. Living in Ft. Polk, Louisiana, he had developed an addiction to video games. He would sit at the computer all day, I had to serve him lunch at the desk, never a word to me, never played with BB. I timed him once, 16 hours! The only way to get him off the computer was to sneak through the other side of the kitchen and unplug the phone cable, run quietly back to where I had been while he cussed that the server disconnected. After two or three times, he'd get off the computer and talk to me or play with BB. One time, I got caught. My punishment was several punches to the top of my head (because my hair would cover the bruises) while he had me pinned to the couch. When I tried to get up from the couch, he threw me down on it so hard that I went through it. One of the boards had broken as had one of the long steel springs.

The Hanger - my ex was very possessive. I was timed whenever I went to the store or to do laundry at the laundromat and I was never allowed to take the baby with me because then he knew I would always come back. If I was ever late, I was grilled with questions about who I saw, what did I say? He would pick out my clothes for going to the store: a drab green dress that went to my ankles. It had at one time been pretty but age and washing had made it a "house dress" only. If I was wearing make-up when he came home, he insisted on knowing why. I would tell him I was trying to look pretty for him but he would grab one of his swords and poke into each and every closet in the house looking for whomever I was hiding. One time I told him how silly he was being which got me pushed into my closet. There was a hanger on the floor between the shoes. I fell on it and the hanger became embedded in the back of my thigh about 1 1/2 inches. To this day, I hate seeing hangers on the floor.
To be continued....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What's My Age Again?

You've heard that song "What's My Age Again?" I seem to have it running through my head because I'm getting confused. Perhaps it's old age or perhaps it's cause I'm so young. Nobody, it seems, can agree. Within this past month, I have heard the following comments:

Four kids!?! You don't look old enough to have four kids! (asked by a fireman at least ten years younger than me with two kids of his own)

I'll need to see your ID (to purchase wine).

Oh, but you're just a kid (this person is only 8 years older than me).

You know who Bruce Springsteen is? He was hot when we were in high school, how could you know who he is? (This person is only three years older than me, so I was in Junior High)

Mom, where were you when Abraham Lincoln was killed? Were you there when Abraham Lincoln was killed? (Asked by my 11 year old)

Ouch! How that last one hurt. I've been lucky to inherit my mother's youthful genes but I do have a few silver hairs courtesy of my dad's. I have been carded at 23 for being with a friend who was buying a lighter, let me repeat: A LIGHTER! He wasn't even buying cigarettes, just a lighter. I was carded at 26 when my (then 20 year old now ex-)husband took me to a rated R movie for our 1st anniversary. And even last fall, when I took said 11 year old to her first middle school dance, the chaperon lady asked the both of us if our mother knew she had to pick us up by 10 o'clock. She was quite surprised when I told her, "I'm the mom and yes, I'll be here to pick her up." She apologized (I actually thanked her for the error) and said I looked like a student. Even Daddy's ex-wife has mistaken my age. She was going around town telling people he left her for a younger woman because I was pregnant! Daddy's ex-wife is three years younger than me.
And no, he didn't leave her for me, he left her because she was always passed-out and the last straw was finding Josie covered in her own feces while The Big B was passed-out with earplugs in and the phone off, she couldn't even hear Josie crying. Daddy and I didn't start dating until after the divorce was signed but you can bet I was loving on him as it had been quite a long time for this here mommy and BOB wasn't cutting it anymore. Hence, the B-Boy's rapid conception.
So how old am I? I guess it's a matter of perspective. To my children I am old, our youngest daughter thinks I'm twelve, which to her I'm sure is old. It is twice her age after all. To other adults, I'm still a (pick one) girl, kid, youngster. In actuality, I am turning 35 this year. So how about we take 12 and 35 and average them: I'll be 23 1/2 again! Let's go buy a lighter!!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Coupon

I will admit to everyone that I have the best mom ever. She is the strongest woman I know and I admire her more than she will ever know or believe. She has impeccable style even if all she's doing is running outside to pull some weeds. But most of all, she gives the best mom advice.
Last night, my family was out at Target to buy some shoes for our eldest daughter who was going to her first Valentine's dance to meet up with a boy. On one of the end caps, were neat rows of Lighting McQueen galoshes. B-Boy fell instantly in love! B-Boy wants everything that could be Cars themed. He has the toddler bed, table and chairs, toy shelves, pinata, wall stickers, PJ's, underwear, socks, pants, shirts, toothbrush and toothpaste, beanie, and toys. Naturally, he WANTED those "wain boots." Payday wasn't until today and our budget last night only covered Lena's shoes and what money she needed to get into the dance and snacks. But B-Boy doesn't understand the concept of "waiting until payday," so his happiness at finding Lighting McQueen galoshes turned into a full-scale on the floor crying temper tantrum and even becoming the weepy-eyed little angel pleading "but I've been good." Luckily, and as if by telepathy, my mom called. Naturally she heard her little grandson crying and I explained what was happening. Without skipping a beat, my mom said "Write him a coupon to get his shoes tomorrow." Just like that, as if it were the natural way to do things. Of course, to my mom, it was the natural thing to do, "That's what I used to do with you," she said. I relayed the information to Daddy who promptly took out a business card and wrote out the following:
To B-Boy, Good for one pair of Cars boots from Target
He handed it to B-Boy and told him what it was and what it meant. Instantly, the tears and wailing ended and were replaced by a cheerful smiling little boy who took such pride in his "coupon" that he even showed the cashier on the way out who reminded him to hang on to his coupon and she'd see him tomorrow. Daddy and I just had to call Grandma back once we got home to thank her, thank her, and thank her some more.
Isn't my mom just AWESOME.

Friday, February 6, 2009

A complement!

I'm feeling pretty good right now. I'm feeling pretty good about what I'm doing. Yesterday, I got a phone call from a client who was just laid off from her job. She said she was telling her mom she was so glad she has me as a caseworker because I would help her out, make her feel better about herself, and she saw me as inspiration to go back to school.
Apparently, sharing a bit of my single-mom-doing-the-best-she-can-going-back-to-school-and-succeeding self was inspiring enough that when she was laid off from work last weekend, her first thought was if Christine can do it, so can I. It had been my dream my whole life to help people. I thought I wanted to be a teacher and that's what I was going to college for, but in the past few years, I've slipped into this role of helping those seriously less fortunate than myself. It has really changed the way I look at my contribution to the human race. Yes, we all need teachers and I'm sure I would've made a good one. But perhaps my place is to help people make better lives for their families. After we all leave school, either through graduation or other means, who do we have helping us to give our lives direction? If we're lucky, we have parents like my own who poked, prodded, nudged and yes, even screamed us in the right direction. But what about everyone else? The world is full of those who are too scared to ask for help and those too scared to offer help that may not be wanted. I decided long ago to stop being scared and to at least show people by example what is possible and offer assistance along the way. A friend/co-worker of mine who retired last year was wonderful at what she did to help people. If a young man on public assistance came in to our office because he just lost his job and his wife was expecting their fifth child, she was not afraid to (very grandmotherly) ask him if he didn't understand where babies came from! She would tell a client to their face that she knew they were lying about why they didn't look for a job because their mother had already "died" three time this year! And she did these things in such a way that people never got mad or upset, they just sheepishly smiled at her knowing they were pinched and either went out and did better or didn't but at least didn't lie about it anymore. She didn't sugar-coat reality because she believed that people wouldn't take responsibility for themselves if all we ever did was coddle them because we didn't want to get in trouble with the higher-ups, and how were we supposed to help them become self-sufficient if they didn't start taking responsibility for their own lives and families. While I'm not quite brave enough to tell people I know they are lying, I apparently am helping people turn their lives around in my own way by not being afraid to let them know me. I truly do feel like I'm on the right track.