The Unexpected Cruel Struggle between Victim and Family

light house my janus y on unsplash

I put the car in park, turned off the engine and stared straight ahead. I was dreading tonight and debating if I wanted to stay or just go home. As the wind swayed the car, I peered to my right into the pitch black. My eyes followed a poorly lit path that leads to the bright lights of our meeting room. They were shining like a beacon. I wasn’t sure if the beacon was a warning to stay away like that of a lighthouse or an invitation to join like that of a church. Usually, I looked forward to the meetings, well maybe not looked forward to them, but I didn’t dread them. “None of my family live around me, why am I here?” I asked myself. The assignment this week involved our families. Normally families weren’t allowed because it hinders open participation.  Tonight, however, if we had family that wanted to come they were welcome. As the car temperature dropped, I knew I’d rather suffer an uncomfortable evening than go home to an anxiety-filled house. Wrapping my coat as tight as possible I opened the door and started down the path. When I reached the double doors, I pulled on one side as the wind pushed it closed. Once it was open, the wind pushed against it not allowing me to close it.  An older man came over and helped me pull the door close. Turning to thank him, I noticed his dark eyes that sparkled, a touch of gray in his black hair and a grin that said “Hi! I’m a charmer.”


It was a chore finding a seat in the meeting room which overflowed with parents, children, and siblings. Finally, I discovered one across from a mom by the name of Thelma. After introducing ourselves, we made small talk. A few minutes later Karen entered with two women dressed in fun costumes; she announced that the playroom would be down the hallway. Excited children followed the women with smiles and curiosity. Karen welcomed the guests and talked about the struggles of reuniting a family and a victim of either physical or mental abuse. Stopping about 20 minutes later she opened the floor up for discussion. There was no response, so she approached it by asking questions at first everyone sat around looking at each other. Gradually a conversation began and the atmosphere of the room shifted from reserved to agitated. The separation of the victim and family caused a wide range of emotions, either at the changes in their daughter’s personality or by the secrecy created by what is perceived to be her protecting him. Two families from that evening stuck with me Mr. Charmer’s and Thelma’s.

At one point Karen asked, “Do any of you feel your daughter’s abuser is still present?” This question seemed to spark something in Mr. Charmer who spoke up, “Like a ghost standing in the corner!” The sparkle had left his eyes, “He might as well be around. Corey makes choices based on what would make him happy and second guesses everything. Why is deciding so hard? She is intelligent and capable of making smart decisions. Doing something new scares her.” The eyes now seemed to plead for answers, “When she was a little girl she was independent and adventurous no one told her what to do. She never needed someone’s approval for anything. Now something as insignificant at picking out clothes or deciding what to have for supper can paralyze her.”

As Karen offered encouragement to Cory and Mr. Charmer I became distracted by Thelma’s fidgeting; wringing her hands laying them in her lap and then repeating the process all the while tapping one foot on the floor.  When our eyes met, I smiled, her eyes would dart away. The conversation stalled, and the room became deafening quiet when Thelma practically shrieked, “She protects him,” then in a quieter voice “he can’t do anything right and Tina just makes excuses for him. One job, two jobs, a dozen jobs and later no jobs. He throws a tantrum and the next thing you knew they’re on their way out the door. When the pouting starts, she will move heaven and earth to make him happy which only happens when he gets his way. It doesn’t matter what we are doing she will always put him first. If she wouldn’t always bend to his will, then he wouldn’t be such a baby.“ I stared at the lady across from me examining her face. “If Tina was just tougher with him, he would’ve straightened up.”

As the group talked about women protecting their abuser, my brain pounded, “She’s not protecting him!” Glancing around the room I shrugged my shoulders, “She’s not, she’s protecting herself! Hellfire could down on him if it didn’t always land in her lap. I want to scream every time I hear someone says ‘she keeps protecting him’. She is struggling to exist with as little fallout as possible.” Looking straight at Thelma I continue, “Tantrum! It’s not an outburst it’s planned to get her to respond in a way that benefits him. He will raise the stakes. His actions will become sneakier, meaner, more manipulative until he gets what he wants and then there will be consequences for making him wait. What you truly don’t understand is that he will not lose. To him there is no line that cannot be crossed; there is nothing he won’t do. He will destroy her, the children and anything else that gets in his way. There is one goal: self-satisfaction. I am sorry but there is nothing she can do to make him do the right thing.”

 That was my sole contribution; the rest of the night I watched and listened.

After cookies and coffee, everyone ventured back into the dark windy night. Looking out the window while my car warmed I notice Cory and her father walking down the path. Cory’s children climbing all over Mr. Charmer whose sparkle had returned to his eyes. Tina and her mother also strolled down the path. I couldn’t help notice a gap between them with no noticeable conversation being made. Snuggling into my coat and grabbing my purse I made my way toward the door. Karen and I walked to our cars together she asked how I was doing. I lied and said “OK”. Truth be told I envy the ladies that have family around: cups of coffee, dinners, game nights, movies, and most of all no lonely holidays. As I left the meeting, my thoughts focused on Cory and Tina and the friction in the family. It seems to me that when a man abuses a woman, it cracks the closeness of a family. I observed in amazement and bewilderment at the divide between parents and their daughter caused by the abuser – an outsider. 

My thoughts focused on the “ghost”. My ex is my ghost and the control he still possesses over me frustrates me. Without thinking, I will act in a way I am sure will not irritate him or cause him to pout. With the help of my children, I am starting to catch myself. People assume I protect him, but in all reality, it is me protecting me. There are still days when I feel there is something wrong with me. Daily I fight the emotions that surface caused by the mental abuse. I don’t trust my emotions and am a much weaker version of myself. In the past, I was much stronger and more confident.  For a fleeting moment, I wondered if I was the lucky one. How disappointing it must be to have family around and not be able to confide in them, lean on them. How hard to realize they don’t understand. 

Cory’s story: She spent the last twenty-five years with a man that slowly and methodically destroyed her autonomy and sense of adventure. He determined where they lived, chose their way of eating, picked out her clothes. He moved her right up the social ladder. Gradually she came to accept that her thoughts really don’t have any worth. She surrendered her individual sense of being; becoming a reflection of his perception of a proper wife. Everything about her reflected him:  His status, place in society, and his idea of the perfect marriage. The persona they built crumbled when she stepped out the door. It didn’t take her long to realize there was nothing of her. Now every decision is about trying to rebuild her life and it overwhelms her. The spontaneous teenager with a sense of adventure is no more. In her place stands a 48-year-old woman who cannot afford to make foolish mistakes about her future. I expect eventually Cory will be okay; she has it better than most. She is well-educated, earns a six-figure income and has the support of family. 

Tina’s story: Tina married about 20 years ago. She expected everything would be similar to her parents and grandparents. The physical abuse was recognizable but the mental abuse was a foreign entity.  Using subtle lies, confusing accusations, and character insults he confused her until she questioned her memories and her sanity. There was something about him that was off but she couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong. Frequently she found herself second-guessing her abilities and judgment which is why given a choice she chooses to believe the judgment of others. If he gets upset she feels threatened and on-edge and learned quickly life was simpler for her when everything was easier for him. What others couldn’t see is that she didn’t understand that the stuff he was doing was wrong because she didn’t understand what he was doing. One day her stepmother, Mary, sat her down and explained in Mary’s words: “he’s crazy” and “only thinks about himself”. The more they talked, the more the confusion lifted. Today Tina is overly sensitive to how people respond to her. She worries about talking too much or saying something dumb. Without reason, Tina apologizes for her feelings, thoughts, and actions; the feeling that something is terribly wrong is ever present. Amazingly she is dumbfounded when someone wants to be her friend. Slowly, she is finding she can interact with others and have healthy relationships. I have no idea if Tina will make it; every day is a struggle. Financially she is strapped most months don’t end well. There are no hobbies, movies, or eating out; she can’t even go to the doctor when needed. The world moves around her and she watches. Tina is alone and lonesome; she doesn’t feel support from her family. She is the perfect candidate to return.


stepping into manhood

Odell Spain
Odell Spain 16 years old

Leaning over the ridge I watched as the water ran its course down the creek. I listened. It always astonished me how the burbling drowned out all other sounds making it easy to forget there was an outside world moving around me. The Creek was one of the forbidden mysteries of grandma’s house. Although as children my mother and her sisters played in the creek when it came to the grandchildren ‘they might get hurt’.

Grandpa tapped me on the shoulder causing me to jump in the air. Laughing he asked, “Do you want to go to the dump with me?” Excited I climbed into the passenger side of his Toyota pickup. I loved visiting Grandma and Grandpa on the weekends. Whenever I did something with Grandpa, it was an adventure.

Odell spain
Odell in the service

On the way back from the dump we stopped to clean the pond’s water filter. I sat on a log rambling off random questions. He tossed a frog from the filter at me. Laughing at my screech he answered my questions the questions always lead to him telling me stories. Many of my life decisions are based on these stories. This day he confessed about a stolen watermelon and what it was like being shot with rock-salt. He spoke of swimming holes and friendships. He expressed affection for his mother as one of the gentlest women he had ever known. It ended with him telling me about his 16th birthday and a conversation he had with his father.  I remember my grandfather as a mischievous man with a powerful sense of right and wrong.

The three boys walked hurriedly along the dirt road following the fence line until they were sure old farmer Murphy wasn’t watching. Dropping to their bellies they slipped under the wire getting covered in dirt. The smell of the hot dry dirt was worth the sacrifice for their intended reward. Quickly they sprang to their feet, running to the largest watermelons they could find, they scooped one up and grabbed an extra. Then fast as light, they crawled back under the fence running down the dirt road laughing with each step cherishing their victory. First, they heard a loud sharp ringing sound and then felt the familiar sting in their backsides. It repeated. Nearly dropping the loot they ran faster not stopping until they reached Carson’s Creek. Dropping to their knees, laughing and out of breath, they sat the melons in the soft green grass. The stinging reminded Odell that their getaway wasn’t clean; he kicked off his shoes and pulled off his shirt. Looking for relief, he grabbed the rope tied to an old cottonwood and swung into the water. Each boy followed finding relief from the hot dry sun. With the cool water dissolving the salt, they knew in a few minutes all the pain would be gone; they began to enjoy the water. This wasn’t the first time they had pulled this stunt and certainly not the first time they had caught a spray of salt rock. After a few minutes of horsing around and enjoying the crisp cool water, they retreated back to the grass.

Billy grabbed a sharp rock and struck one of the watermelons passing a piece to each of them. Each boy spread out in the grass looking up at the sky as they ate the loot. After a few minutes, Henry remarked, “It’s lucky for us that old farmer Murphy is half blind. My pa would kill me for sure if we got caught.” He grabbed another piece of melon.

“Not so blind he can’t still hit what he aims at,” refuted Odell. Placing his hands behind his head and closing his eyes the hot sun began to dry his clothes. With a slight smile, he added; “Besides it’s his own fault growing such a big field of perfect watermelons.”

Ignoring Odell’s teasing Billy’s mind switched gears, “Hey, Odell what you wanna do tomorrow? I mean after doing your chores and all?” Billy lived for something to do. The three boys had gotten into many scraps because Billy just couldn’t wait to find something to do.

After a couple of minutes of consideration not that there were a lot of choices, Odell answered, “Fishing, if my dad allows,” then his returned to his thoughts. He’d been acting preoccupied, Billy and Henry could tell something was up but until he was ready Odell wasn’t going to share it, so they let it go. The boys went for another swim then lay in the sun exchanging small talk. As the sun started to hang over the west side of the sky, a fall breeze began to blow. Odell stood up picked up the extra melon and said: “I’ll catch you after chores”.

He started walking down the road. Henry and Billy knew the stolen melon was on its way to Mrs. Winters, a widow with three pretty daughters, and two small boys. Odell always did things for her. The boys agreed if they took one for themselves they would get one for her. Giving her a melon was restitution for the one they ate.

James and Odell
James and Odell

Fall then winter now it was spring Odell knew the time had come.  He rehearsed his words over and over in his head. Listening as mama rattled things in the kitchen it meant that the fire would be hot and the kitchen would be cozy. His youngest sisters’ voice crept up the stairs. Peggy always got up with mama. She was 11 years younger than Odell and the youngest of seven children. Odell called her ‘mama’s shadow’ when mama did something Peggy followed right behind her. The morning was their special time.

Odell slipped down to the kitchen when he thought it would be warm. Mama set a hot cup of coffee in front of him and kissed his forehead. With a hug she wished him a Happy Birthday then she set about her business. Mama stepped outside and headed for the barnyard. Peggy followed her brown pigtails bouncing with each of her steps. She picked spring flowers while mama gathered eggs and feed chickens.

Peggy and Juanita
Juanita and Peggy

Odell was enjoying the warmth of the fire when his father entered the kitchen. James poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the table. “Birthday Son” he offered as he glanced over the paper.

“Thanks, Dad,” Odell replied with his eyes fixated on every move his father made. Odell loved his father, but his father also puzzled him. James was a complicated man who professed to love his family but his actions contradicted this claim. Odell and his father looked a lot alike, both with sandy brown hair and a square chiseled face. Odell stood as tall as his father and sturdy like him. Blue eyes that were serious or fun depending on the situation, by all accounts everyone could tell they were father and son. The biggest difference between the two, Odell never drank, James did.

Odell’s older brothers, Virgil and Dick, found their way into the kitchen. After wishing Odell a happy birthday the three of them strolled out to do chores. Mama and Peggy returned put the flowers in a jar and began fixing breakfast. About that time Juanita made her way down she surveyed her surroundings making her way to the wood stove. Stopping to smell the flowers she noticed her pa, so she busied herself with setting the breakfast table.

After breakfast James studied Odell, he could see something was troubling the boy he’d been squirrelly all morning. “What’re your plans?” being his birthday he didn’t have to work the fields, the other boys would pick up his work for the day.

Odell stood up; It was time to be a man. Odell grabbed for the words he had been rehearsing and spoke in a matter-of-fact tone, “You won’t be hitting me or mama anymore.”

Playing with his grandchildren and Fishing


odell in service


The room grew still and silent, all eyes were fixated on James. Eddie Bell looked from her son to her husband anxiety was starting to knot in her stomach. She slipped her hand into Peggy’s squeezing softly. James stared at Odell their blue eyes locking; after what seemed like an eternity James slightly nodded his head, they had reached an understanding. Odell opened the door and started walking toward the barn he was going fishing.

Mama began clearing the table; taking her lead the boys high tailed it out the door. James sat silently staring out the window. His son walked down the road fishing pole in hand. All of a sudden James was seeing Odell in a new light. Not a boy anymore but as a formidable man. Eddie Bell closed her eyes and whispered thank-you.

James and Eddie
James and Edith

Over the years I heard many stories about my Grandfather one of the stories shared was as he gave each of his daughters away, he warned his soon to be Son-in-Law “you better never lay a hand on my daughter.” To the day Grandpa died he always thought a good day involved fishing.

Sadly, James died alone, they found his body lying on his couch with a bottle of booze in his hand. It’d been 3 days.

Edith “Eddie” Bell and her oldest Child Pauline


Perspiration trickled down the back of my neck as I tried to discreetly glance at my watch, twenty minutes until our session ends. Pushing hair back from my face I became convinced that between menopause and the broken air conditioner that I’m going to die. Closing my eyes I tilt my head back while a rather pregnant young girl spoke. Sophia’s voice sounded soft matching her personality. I thought “her voice suits her”. Opening my eyes, I tried to feign interest in what she was sharing but was rapidly losing the battle to the heat. As she explained the events of the week, elephant tears dropped from her big brown eyes. In an effort to reassure her one of the older women slide over and wrapped an arm around Sophia’s shoulders saying, “It’s going to get easier, Honey. Things always work out.”

Now I was interested, “Don’t tell her that!” I blurted out. Followed at once by, “Sorry” for disregarding the no interrupting rule.

The older women’s eyebrow lifted as she replied, “I’m trying to be nice!”

“We’re not here to be nice! We’re here to help each other! You can’t promise her it’s going to get easier or work out because you don’t know,” Turning my attention to Sophia and ignoring the glares I press on, “I’m being real with you. You need to be told the truth not a half-truth; Life will be tough; no one can guarantee that anything will work out!”

Karen, the counselor, tossed me the speaking ball, “Okay, We’ll let Teri start the feedback for Sophia.”

Taking a second to gather my thoughts I paused and lowered the volume of my voice, “Sophia, without question you need to leave. Ted is going to kill you. You’re covered in bruises. Your eye is black and you’re pregnant!” I pressed my lips together drawing a deep breath. I began to speak as air gradually exhaled, “You’re barely married you should be in your honeymoon period. If you leave him, he won’t be able to beat on you, but precautions will have to be enforced to keep you safe. A few things may change right away. One effect might be the intense tension that comes from being under constant surveillance will fade.  You’ll be able to sleep deeper at night and breathe easier during the day, hopefully, without glancing over your shoulder.” leaning forward “I wish we could guarantee that Ted will leave you alone, but more likely than not, you’re going to have to make that happen. There are other things too, for instance, what a Judge says is fair and what you consider fair may be two different thoughts. I pray family will stick by you, call and visit you. Many families don’t. This group will help in every way possible, but the truth is it will be hard and you must be tough.”


After work, I use to drive home and park in front of our house. I sat staring at the front door dreading what was on the other side. More than once I became tempted to drive away, far away. To get my body to walk through the door, I told myself how much easier life would be once I got a divorce. I knew better. In the shadows of my mind lurked uneasiness. It’s that feeling you get when you are only being told a half-truth.

I wasn’t the only one telling me half-truths. In an effort to be supportive friends, family, loved ones reassured me that life would be better and easier. On one occasion when picking my daughter up from her counseling session the counselor made this statement, “all the stress will be gone and you will notice an over whelming sense of relief! Life will be great.”

In our little group, we have seen that statements like “Don’t worry things always work out for the best” or “Everything will get easier!” isn’t the norm. Few women have families that jump in to help, find the courts reasonable, and the ‘ex’ to be decent. Most ladies are fortunate to get even one of these.

Just to name a few examples:

  • Lady 1 was killed in front of her four-year-old by her husband the day she left.
  • Lady 2 receives $100 a month in child support. She has two under age children and two in college.
  • Lady 3 shares custody of her two daughters with her ex who beat her so severely that she spent a week in ICU.
  • Lady 4 never gets her child support. So she and her 3 kids moved into her parent’s three-bedroom apartment. Three of her siblings likewise live in the same house.
  • We have several women with ex’s who won’t leave them alone. No matter how often the police are called.

I don’t believe people think much about what a survivor’s life will be like during or after the divorce. People put more thought into what is being escaped than what victims are facing. Victims generally aren’t concerned with their present circumstances in other words what’s being escaped; they recognize the wrongness, but for the most part, know how to maneuver through it on a daily basis. When the decision is made to make the move from victim to survivor you analyze and agonize over every prospect of what is in front of you. It’s foreign territory every obstacle is new terrain. So when someone tells us a half-truth not to worry, or things will get easier, or it will get better it comes off dismissive as if you don’t understand, don’t care, or you are belittling their circumstances.


I don’t accept everything always works out, gets easier, or even gets better. Unfortunately, sometimes the abuser wins whether it’s by taking the victim’s life or because the victim is so bruised, she unable to move forward. Sometimes even with taking all the right steps life won’t give her a break.

Instead of telling a half-truth, I assure her I will pray, show her I will listen, tell her I will lend a hand in any way I am able. Then I follow with action I pray, listen and lend a hand in any way I am able.



Generally, I am a happy person. I smile and laugh often. Not really an outgoing person but not an introvert.  Unless asked I don’t give my opinion. This Journal entry is my perspective and opinion that formed from personal observation and experience. What I have absorbed in group and life. It’s not optimistic, but it’s the truth as I see it.

First Major Decision!

A sense of excitement rushes over me. I haven’t felt this way in a long time. I stare at my phone shaking my head in disbelief this kind of stuff never happens. A former employer called offering a weekend and evening scheduling position from home! The hours fit perfectly into my schedule. Involuntary, a smile creeps across my face. Maybe, yes, maybe this is possible. Next, I need to get approval for a second job from our Executive director. At the end of tomorrows shift, I’ll present it to him. Closing my eyes I whisper a small prayer, “Oh please God”.


Shuffling back and forth I waited for the answer. After Jim went over the particulars He gave the go ahead saying he wouldn’t stand in the way of me making a living. So on my days off, I trained. In training, I learn that this scheduling position could turn into a full-time position with the potential of earning $120 more a week than my primary job pays. Hope fills my soul. For the first time in years I begin to believe possibility lives!


Two months later I was called into the office to be made aware that my schedule will be changing. I stood there staring, tears brimmed my eyes. “So I have to leave my scheduling job?” I muttered as my stomach sank into a gigantic knot. I was thinking “are you kidding me, please God tell me he is kidding?” Jim wasn’t kidding. Filled with anger and anxiety, I left the office realizing I was on the verge of making my first big decision. Was I going to keep my primary job, virtually blocking me from moving out of D’s house or was I going to quit my first job, keeping the second and having to search for another full-time job? Driving home the sound of my heartbeat filled the car. Up till now these types of decisions were always made by D.


After 3 days of making calls, the only positions available pay $3 less an hour than I presently make. Sitting on my bed knees pulled up to my chin. “Why is this so hard? Does everything in life have to be hard; can’t one thing come easy?” stopping the mounting pity party I return to reality; time to choose! I begin to review the papers that scattered across the bedspread-a list of pros and cons.



  1. There is no higher position I can achieved in my present employment.
  2. The pay isn’t high enough to move out I require a second job.
  3. The new schedule will not allow a second job.
  4. Keeping the scheduling position means a drop in wages.
  5. By keeping the scheduling position I will have to immediately find a new full time job.



Ugh, I hate this!


Okay, call Barbara! When I have a problem and need an honest, straight-forward answer I call my sister. If I’m being reckless, Barbara will be the one who will tell me. I need logical and solid counsel; she’s the one who will give me a loving prayerful answer.


Holding my breath I handed Jim my two-week notice. After giving him the chance to read it, I explained my belief that it would ruin my reputation if I were to quit a job just after being trained. I pointed out that the other company had invested a good measure of money to train me. I thanked him for the opportunity to work for his company. Then I walked out-Scared. Am I doing the right thing? I don’t know. How is this going to work out? Oh it’ll work out, but how remains to be seen.


Side note: on my last day they announced they were closing the doors.




Thanks to pexels for the free images.



Assignment for class:
List one thing you are experiencing that you never expected when you left your abuser, explain.

Flipping off the lights I listen to the humming of the overhead fan. As I crawl into bed, my head lands on the big white fluffy pillow the day’s events randomly run through my thoughts. I turn to speak stopped by the emptiness of the other side of the bed. Remembering no one shares my covers with me anymore. Turning back I continue listening to the fan until my mind stops and falls into a restless sleep.


The evening news has a ridiculous report I call out your name to share the stupidity, abruptly I stop, recalling no one is here. Gossip at work, craziness downtown, something broke my heart, stirred feelings of happiness; these go unshared. Hours of being alone watching TV, discovering new music, no hand to hold, no lips to kiss, no snuggling on the couch or smile that melts, these are the moments you don’t realize you will crave.



You get a divorce thinking life will be peaceful and satisfying when loneliness pounces on you like a lion. A majestic roar deafens your sense of accomplishment. The nothingness sinks its teeth into everything you do; feasting on your contentment. Lying in the shadows he watches waiting to creep into the darkest the deepest depth of your soul. Borden sets in attacking any glimmers of hope and shredding any peace. While the shadows of night fall, Loneliness snarls.


It’s Just Us

On St. Patrick’s Day I always make Corn beef and cabbage. It’s kind of a tribute to my Irish heritage. A week before St. Patrick’s Day I asked my son if he could cook it because I work a 10-hour shift. He replied, “Ok, but it will be just us are you sure you want me to cook it for just us?” I told him he was right it made little sense to cook a holiday dinner for just the two of us.

I went to work, and it kept gnawing at the back of my mind. So what are you going to do Teri quit celebrating holiday’s because you’re not married anymore? What about Christmas and Thanksgiving?

Friday night at D.V. group I was still irritated with the situation. When my turn came around I inquired how other ladies handle holidays. The answer was disheartening, most had similar reasoning and agreed that it didn’t make sense to go through all the hoopla for just them and the kids. They were too tired, or it cost too much and how they can’t do everything. After several women gave their opinion Karen asked what I thought of the feed back. Weird question from her.

My forehead scrunched up with confusion, “Why? Did we only do it for him?” I was staring at the light hanging from the ceiling. “Yes, I can see now that even after we leave, they still win. We quit living.” Taking a deep breath I looked around, “Why would I be too tired to do all the hoopla when I just have my children to celebrate with and not be too tired when I am living with someone who drained the life out of me?” I looked at Karen, “Why is it if we are no longer with our abuser we are no longer a family?” Slightly shaking my head, “I’m sorry, I really think I need to live even if he isn’t there. My family is me and my kids right now! Why would I give us less than I would him? Personally, I will not let him win by only existing without him.”

Karen smiled at me, “You are learning a new way of thinking.”

My son and I feasted on the Corn beef and cabbage he made. It was just us and we had a great dinner.

down tonight.

Dear God

I am tired of crying myself to sleep. I feel pulled by work and home. Something has got to give.

I’m sick. Everyone at work is sick and since I am their supervisor if they can’t work I have to.

I don’t want to have to force my work smile, I want it to be a real genuine smile; an expression of real feelings.

I  want to slip into an alternate reality. One where I like my job, my daughter’s mind is whole, and I can feel hope.

Now I  lay me down to sleep, I pray for hope to keep.


Oregon, My Soul

In the 8th grade, my parents moved us from Myrtle Creek, Oregon to Carlin, Nevada. My Uncle Jim owned a drilling company and my father would work for him. During the move, Dad and I rode in a U-Haul truck on an endless stretch of a deserted highway.  In the distance, I spotted Doherty Summit or as my family calls it Buzzards Gap. The summit stood massive and barren. Looking, I wondered ‘where are the trees?’ I turned to dad asking about the trees. He responded, “there aren’t any, just sand and rocks”. My expression prompted dad to say, “it’s not very pretty, is it?” I shook my head no.  He proceeded to tell me how things will look different in our new town. As he talked, I began to understand how much my father loved Oregon. He wasn’t talking about where we were going, but what he was leaving. He painted a picture of Oregon’s beauty, joked about the people, shared his family connections and memories. In my 12-year-old mind, I began to grasp the deep love between my father and Oregon!

We returned to Oregon a year later after graduating from high school I moved away, returning in less than a year. A short time later our family moved back to Nevada where I married someone who didn’t share my love of Oregon. My next trip to Oregon was 20 years later with 3 more visits in the years to follow. As my massive family slowly dwindles, my continual prayer is to go home.

The minute I enter Oregon I become overwhelmed with emotion. It never fails as my car climbs the winding mountain passes tears will brim my eyes. Sitting in the passenger seat I’ll watch the trees grow stronger and taller. The forest grows thick only allowing me glimpses of her deep blue lakes. The sights, the sounds, the smells begin to confuse my thoughts with a mixture of memories and familiarity.  I try to share what’s happening, but the words choke in my throat. Climbing down the other side of the mountain, there are farms with rows and rows of freshly tilled land. Cows will be gathered in the corners of pastures. The closer I get to the town I call home the worse it gets.

This town holds my youth, my history, my childhood dreams. As I drive around, I see the past. My schools. My old homes.  Every corner brings familiarity. A wrong turn brings back lost memories. If I look closely, I can see ghosts. In our old home, my mom tends her flower beds while my brother’s tinker with their bikes. At my grandparent’s farm, grandma is feeding her chickens while grandpa mows. There’s the cafe I worked at in high school if I gaze there’s me as a teen waiting tables. In the green grass in front of my high school, my friends and I sit laughing, teasing, living out the day-to-day drama of teenagers. The foundations of my opinions were shaped here. What was to become my life was started here.

The first place I usually go is to one of my many Aunts houses. There is nothing better than being wrapped in someone’s arms who unconditionally loves you.  A woman who’s genuinely happy to see you.  A person whose eyes bring back pictures of ancestors long-buried. There will be laughter, food, and stories of days gone by. The stories I’ve heard a million times, but my soul longs to hear them a million more. I will be made to feel important, cared about, and loved beyond measure. I am connected.

Another place I will visit is the Roseburg Memorial Cemetery, I know weird! I love that I can go to one cemetery and visit both sides of my family. I sit by my father’s grave and visit. I say hi to my grandparents, uncles, and aunts; it’s strangely comforting.

Eventually, time runs out. Reluctantly, I start my trip home with every mile my heart grows heavier. By the time I reach the state line pieces of me are missing. Once again I’m disconnected.

January Saturday 

Saturday 9 am: Sitting on the floor in my comfy black sweats, back to the sofa, laptop on grandma’s old coffee table, smoking hot cup of salted caramel coffee, I’m ready to work on genealogy. D comes out of the bedroom “What you doing?”

“Genealogy” I answered observing that he was wearing a dress, “You must not be working today?” Dam! I thought I had the day alone.

“You sound disappointed. I have the day off is that alright? It’s like you don’t want me around anymore. You need to put away all your Christmas stuff today.”

“All that’s left is the snowmen I always put them away at the end of January. I got up early and cleaned house so I could work on my genealogy.” I answered exasperated.

“I want all your stuff out of my den.”

“What stuff?” I ask confused.

“Your Christmas stuff and if you’re going shopping go this morning before the storm hits.” he goes over and looks out the window. “DJ needs to shovel the snow. Aren’t you doing your laundry today? It’s your day.” He rambles on with his list of chores.

“I don’t have anything in your room.”

“I want you to take the van to Les Schwab to get the windshield wipers changed. Put all your Christmas stuff in your storage unit. When’s Lisa coming home?” He continues ignoring me.

“I checked them yesterday, they’re fine. My storage is full. She’s staying until at least Monday.” I’m starting to feel cornered.

“I already set it up. You should get a bigger unit for your stuff. What’s for dinner? Tomorrow I’ll go pick up Lisa with the van………………………….” and on and on he goes. I set on the floor

How can anyone have a conversation that only consists of badgering? I want to scream at him:

#1 Our daughter is 22 years old she can come home whenever she wants.

#2 Our son shovels the snow every day. He also checks my oil and changes the windshield wipers when needed. I’m not paying anyone to do it, for that matter, I can do it.

#3 Yes, I don’t want to be around you. That’s why we got a divorce, but I would settle for some space.

#4 Ask! don’t assume it’s okay for you to use my van. It’s mine I’ve made all the payments, and the judge gave it to me.

#5 Put the Christmas stuff under the house. I pay almost $700 a month for me and the kids to live here. I can’t afford another shed.

Last, but the most important, quit telling me what to do. I am a grown women. Don’t plan my day!

But I just sat looking at my computer

“that’s all wrong”

The other day when in an innocent conversation a relative made a comment describing my decorating style as she chatted I thought “that’s all wrong”. It was like the person in front of me was a perfect stranger. A woman I love someone and spend a great amount of time.

On Christmas morning my son told his sister that blue was mom’s favorite color. My favorite color is red, dad’s is blue.

How can people who know you; actually not know you? Well, it’s easy, when all I reveal to them is what will keep the peace, guarding anything that may cause anxiety for my spouse. I do this particularly with the people I love, constantly seeking to project the image of happiness. When you’re with an individual that gets upset whenever you choose something he doesn’t like the result will be dramatic or physical. He will carry on using criticism, badgering, pouting, or passive-aggressive behavior. Finally, you just do whatever it takes to have peace. Over time, you learn to adjust your choices to match what will keep him from losing it.

An example: I absolutely hate pizza, especially Hawaiian pizza. Why? Because when asked “where do ‘you’ want to go for dinner?”  I would suggest a restaurant only to have that choice followed by 20 minutes of badgering until we ended up going where he wanted, usually pizza. After arriving at the pizzeria, he would order his favorite pizza, Hawaiian, if I suggested another flavor the harassment would begin until I caved. After years of this, I learned to just choose Hawaiian pizza. So people around me believe I like Hawaiian pizza.

As I forge forward with my old relationships as a divorced woman, I’ve noticed this pattern occurring in everything from food to my religious beliefs.

I find it difficult to reveal my true self to others when I do I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. This has been an issue since childhood. This needs correcting. I want honest and true friendships.  O.K. now I understand what needs fixed, now how to go about it? 

Assignment: Loss

At the end of the Friday night DV meeting Karen, the counselor, announced a new assignment, “For the next month I would like everyone to work on writing a paper listing 5 things you lost by staying in an abusive relationship. I want you to describe what you loss, how it was lost, when you realized you lost something. Then tell us why you plan on trying to regain the loss or if you suspect it wiser to let it go. This paper is one I want you to share with the rest of the group.”

Leaving I thought this will be easy; a month later I am still agonizing. I never concerned myself about what happened yesterday, my only care was surviving tomorrow. There was one goal: to live long enough to get my kids through college. Eventually I came up with these five losses.

  1. What: Being myself. I am afraid to express myself even to people who love me. I fear they will realize I am stupid and will stop wanting to be around me.
    • How D did this: everything I said or did was wrong from my opinion to the way I did the laundry. When I disagreed with him, he withheld affection, attention, and his presence.
    • When: I realized, I stopped expressing myself at a family gathering setting with my family and was afraid to join in a conversation for fear of looking stupid or being rejected.
  1. What: destroyed my self-worth. When I look in a mirror all I see is ugly. No matter what I weigh, how I do my hair, or what I wear – I see ugly.
    • How D did this: It was subtle; I can count on one hand the number of compliments D gave me. Each one holds a memory like they are some precious jewel. I also remember all the compliments he lavished on other women. Each affair-took a bite out of me.
    • When: One day D told me I had beautiful blue eyes, I realized that compliment meant way too much. Another time I read a letter sent to one of my friends from an anonymous person, it was sweet, kind and wonderful. It made her feel beautiful. Years later I learned D wrote the letter to her, I realized I never felt beautiful.
  1. What: I quit believing in a future. More times than not when plans were made something bad happened. I prayed just for nothing bad to happen.
    • How D did this: He never kept a job and refused to save for tomorrow. If I saved anything I had to hide it. D got loans without telling me. He had a constant attitude of nothing’s going to happen. In our marriage the cops came to our door 5 times because of his behavior. We had hospital visits that could have been avoided. If I got anything nice we sold it to pay for his lawyers.
    • When: One day I realized things will never change that we are living our future now, this is as good as it’s going to get.
  1. What: Squashed my creativity. I use to paint, write and draw. I use to love crafts.
    • How D did this: I wasn’t allowed to leave them out; everything had to be put away even if I was only half way through a project. He criticized all that I tried to create by critiquing it with passive-aggressive compliments. D complained I was neglecting the kids and him if I had a hobby.
    • When: I realized what you did to me when I watched you do it to our children.
  1. What: I have lost the ability to trust.
    • How D did this: D cheated on me and manipulated me for his gain. Everything in our marriage was a lie. Every promise he made to me was broken. I couldn’t trust what I saw, heard, or what seemed logical. The secrets created an atmosphere of insecurity in the end I couldn’t even trust my own mind.
    • When: When he went to jail for hurting me and all his secrets came pouring out like water. One after another: his second life, the mail not being delivered when I was off work, the extra women, bills I had no knowledge.

    Why I will or won’t be trying to regain the loss. I think it is too late to regain some of the losses, age and life circumstances make it impossible. Others I think only time and education can fix. So really I have no plan-that’s my plan.

Roller Coaster 2 Weeks

I hate change, partly because every time my life changed it seemed to make things worse for me and better for D. The last couple of weeks I have been living way out of my comfort zone with many changes and a roller coaster of feeling. As the days passed, I jotted down these short notes.

Wednesday the 12th: Phone call, the divorce is finalized. Judge went over everything. Papers will be mailed. ~Feeling strangely unsettled.

Thursday the 13th: Boss informs me of a new work policy. If someone calls in sick, as the supervisor, if I can’t find someone to cover the shift I can’t call agency anymore I am to cover the shift. Also they are cutting the crew and changing the shift rotation. ~Feeling frustrated.

Friday the 14th: Received divorce papers Judge gave D. 40% of the bills I got the other 60% because he doesn’t work full-time, seriously! He got the house and his boat. I got the van. Really! Did the judge read everything? I didn’t share at D.V. group. ~Feeling cheated.

Saturday the 15th: Packing while D. hovered over me questioning everything I packed. ~Feeling frustrated

Sunday the 16th: Someone called in, so I am working the shift so I can’t go to church. ~Feeling agitated

Monday the 17th: Met the new E.D. He has great plans. ~Feeling hopeful.

Later today: D. Informs our kids in front of me that everyone has to buy their own food for now on. Without missing a beat DJ asked his dad if that included him. ~Feeling humored.

Tuesday the 18th: The E.D., the nurse, and I have a meeting. I like him she doesn’t, Oh wonderful. ~Feeling nervous.

Later today: screaming, banging, and cursing when I run downstairs to see what’s going on D. yelled at me that my dog at your piece of pie. My dog is shaking and scared. ~Feeling pissed

Wednesday the 19th: Training a new girl 5 minutes in she quits because she is told to stop talking and to pay attention. Later I found out I have to do two 16 hour shifts (3pm to 7am) on Thursday and Friday. My sweet Karla offers to cover 4 hours of Thursday for me. ~Feeling thankful and frustrated at the same time.

Thursday the 20th: nurse text me “We need to talk”, so we scheduled a meeting for tomorrow. ~Feeling anxious.

Later today: D. seems ready for us to leave. D. asked when I was moving out because he found someone to rent our daughters room. ~Feeling confused and happy at same time.

Friday the 21st: When the nurse met with me she complained about the E.D. goes on and on about how it’s his way or the highway. Complains how she has to catch up her charting. (I told her that 6 months ago) She is mad because he likes me. ~Feeling confused.

Saturday the 22nd: only slept 2 hours before the dogs woke me to go outside. The sun was up so I am up too. ~Feeling tired

Sunday the 23rd: I have to cover another shift. No church again. ~Feeling like I need to get my resume ready.

Can’t we raise the standard?

A man puts a gun to his wife’s head. His sister tells the wife it’s both your fault.

A man in power has sex with a young secretary the wife defends the husband. The girl is shamed. She loses her job.

A mother tells a wife if he doesn’t like squash don’t cook it then he won’t get angry.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard women justify, defend the abuse that their son, husband, brother, or father inflicts on another woman. To me personally, this is as abusive as the man’s behavior.

The adage of “Stand by your man” is disgusting whether it’s their son, husband, father, or brother. If you are a woman and you condone the behavior of a man that either physically or mentally abuses a woman – you’re being abusive! You’re an enabler and part of the problem. If a woman tells me it’s my fault somebody strangled me, hit me, threw me around that’s offensive.

Society would be outraged if a man made any of the above statements. We need to hold women to the same standard we hold men. I agree wholeheartedly we need to hold men accountable for their actions, still, if we don’t as women meet this standard ourselves then the world will never change.

Why aren’t you afraid?


Almost every Friday I set with a group of women who like me are victims of emotional and physical abuse. This is a closed group with strict rules: be faithful, honest, and listen to the feedback.  It’s a tight group with a committed core. I sat perched waiting for the talking ball to be passed to me. I usually come in and say little, but tonight there was a plan, I wanted to vent…..

I received information that D is setting himself up as a victim. He told his transgender group I am leaving him because of his chosen lifestyle. He’s never mentioned to them his conviction of domestic violence. I’m sure his affairs or the years of gas lighting me until I began to believe I was crazy never came up. He told his family that I am leaving him because he doesn’t make enough money. Twenty-nine years of marriage and over twenty jobs with years of unemployment, yes money was an issue!

Yesterday was the last straw I damaged my van, the second I pulled up in front of my house he was waiting on the curb. I watched as he paced around the van, arms crossed, eyes glaring at me. I joked with him, “Aren’t you glad I’m getting the van in the divorce?” It was met with a cold face as he muttered, “I haven’t got any divorce papers.” His response is confusing, it’s illogical. One would assume only the person making the payments on the van would have an interest in the damage. What isn’t understood is that D thinks of me as property and anything of mine is his.

I sat listening to a young woman who had attended about three meetings. We had spoken a couple of times after group. As she spoke, she reminded me of myself about 10 years ago. I was thinking, I hope she gets out sooner than I did. With no warning, she looked me in the eye and asked: “why aren’t you afraid.” She tossed the talking ball to me. Startled I halfheartedly laughed, “I’m afraid, very much so.  I’m afraid of everything: to write a blog, of losing my job, of not paying bills, of what people say, of disappointing my family, of my kid’s opinion of me, of the silence when I enter the church, of his silence.”


“I can see what’s going on around me. I sense the escalation; his panic with every box packed. He yells at our kids, my dog, and inanimate objects; anyone, anything but me. I’m like the forbidden fruit. His anger management class training is being stretched to the limits. I realize if he crosses the line he won’t stop. Knowing he feels he’s losing control and all of this adds up to a ticking time bomb.” The talking ball rolled back and forth in my hand I sat silent for a while before continuing, “I made a choice some time ago, that no matter what he did I would stay with him until my children were out of college. I wanted them to have a chance at a great life. I wanted them to have choices. I chose not to tell anyone what was happening. If people regard him as a victim, and they can’t see through the layers of lies; that’s their problem, not mine. Don’t know what will happen in the next couple of months if he’ll let me slip away or if he will snap. I am afraid” I stopped and focused on trees outside the window.  Lowering my voice I continued, “I also made the choice he wouldn’t do it anymore. God gave me peace with this decision, my pastor blessed it. For this change to happen I kept moving forward with my fear.” I looked her in the eyes, “You need to keep moving forward with your fear. The fear we share is of the unknown because we both know it can get worse. How many times have you said ‘it can’t get any worse’ just to go to a new level of hell? I came here tonight to vent, but now I realize it was a step backward. People will think what they want. If I stress over my ex’s behavior it won’t accomplish anything except maybe make him happy.”

She asked, “How are you moving forward?”

I shrugged my shoulders, “I don’t know. I pack hoping God has a place I can afford.  I pray through in my heart I believe God favors D. I force myself to do things that will make me more independent. God whispers and I listen that’s it.”

After the meeting, we exchanged phone numbers. I promised to text her every day.

I left focused: my fears in one hand, my goals in the other, and my ears on God.

my rambled thoughts today

Halfway through dinner, you started the dishes….

I’m putting my clothes in the washer, you go through them to make sure I’m doing it right…..

Trying to watch TV and you decide to listen to your music so loud I can’t hear the TV….

I tell you I have to be in the shower by 6am, so I am not late for work. ..5:58 two minutes before my alarm goes off the shower turns on….

You’re not making the bed right, that’s not how you fry eggs, this is how you put away dishes…nag, nag, nag…..leave my kids alone……

Seriously you’re telling your son to cheat people….

Will you put some clothes on when mowing the lawn, you’re mowing in a bikini…..





My ex was working the late shift so when I got off work I decided to stop at the grocery and get something for dinner. I wandered around the store trying to decide what to buy picking something up and putting it back down. I knew what I wanted, but would he want it. If it’s not hot dogs, pizza, or fast food he’s not interested in it. He’ll come home look at what is cooked then suggest we eat out. When I say no thanks I already made dinner, the pouting will start and snide remarks followed with “I was just kidding”.

I buy the broccoli, cube steaks and rice hoping he’d be too tired to fight. Next, I wanted to buy a glass of wine, but do I want to open that door? If I drink it seems to give him permission to get wasted. Every night he goes to his room and has a few shots of vodka. If I drink he will add several glasses of vodka and coke along with the shots.  When he drinks life gets unpredictable.

I am so tired of having to monitor everything I do to make sure he behaves. I want to go to the store and buy what I want for dinner and not have to worry it will turn into something more. It would be nice to have some wine or whiskey and not worry that the cops will be at my door. I am praying for God to be preparing me a way out of here soon.

Who does that?

After working a day shift, then covering the graveyard, I crawled into bed at 5am. Luckily it was still dark. My goal was to fall asleep before the sun rose. I can’t sleep if the sun is shining and I had to be back to work by 11a.m.

7:30: I woke up to “What time are you getting up?”

I mumbled “10”

“I need to wash the pillow cases”

Seriously! My eyes flew open, dam, the sun!

I lay silently as he strips his pillow cases. He must have thought better than to even try to touch my pillows. Glaring at the ceiling I knew I might as well get up. All I could think was who does that?

Smile Sis, life is just waiting on you


When you get a divorce, you worry. How am I going to pay bills? How am I going to repair the van? What will people at church think and how are they going to act? Do I care? Then you focus on how you failed. The day before I filed these were my thoughts. However, on the day I filed I realized that women like me have a whole different reality – we are alone. We have no close friends. There will be no one deciding whose friend they will be, mine or his. There’s no shoulder for my tears. I needed contact with people I knew wouldn’t judge me, so I text my brothers and called my sister. She encouraged me that I was doing the right thing; that this will give me a chance to be happy, but I couldn’t touch her. I needed to look in her eyes. I sat in my car searching my brain for one person to share my sense of loss. I wanted someone to hug. Someone to listen. What do I mean by women like me? I spent 29 years married to a man who was abusive, mentally and for a while physically. For reasons not to be discussed here, he wasn’t able to make and keep friends. When I had a friend visit he was in the middle of everything: our conversations, projects, or he pouted about being ignored. I learned to have my friends over when he was working, but when I went to work that was no longer an option. Over time, my friends dwindled away. As I drove to work feelings and thoughts rushed into my head. Are you crazy? There’s no future for you! Is this better than staying? Is this my life now? For months I prayed, planned, debated, and agonized. I dreamt of the sense of relief that would come on this day – but instead, I felt isolated and overwhelmed. After work I attended group, watched a movie with my children, trying to adjust to what I was sure to become the new normal. As I crawled into bed, my phone lite up. It was a text from my brother, Matt, saying “Smile, Sis. Life is just waiting on you.” Then I realized I needed to find my life, instead of waiting for it to find me, I needed to find……’me’.

Why a journal