Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's here.

2013 I am so glad for you. You have taught me how to parent my children better, how to create better boundaries with others, how to cook yummy burritos, how to budget wiser, how to trust and speak with God again. I've moved my family, a major move that involved 9 hours on a plane, 13 plastic totes, and 4 car seats!!!! I've started a new job. I've gotten engaged and then un-engaged. I've stated this blog. I've started working on a business idea that could encourage others and could provide help to women getting out of domestic violence situations. I've made a couple of close friends. But you know what? 2014 makes me nervous. Really nervous. I will turn 32. The last couple days have been hard for me... I dread the year changing. I've wished I could skip to 2015. It feels like this is a final year of being haunted, this is the year that my death was spoken for. And it is a dark, heavy, oppressive .... ahhhh. How do I describe the years of waiting, sometimes wishing for, and watching this year come? How can I tell you how I wished it would come sooner just so I could be done being hurt, be done being so removed from my children, be done with the ups and downs of catering to someone else's fight with anger. The amount of fear I hold concerning actually dying this year is small. But years of it being predicted has left a scar- its still a little tender around it (obviously as I'm teary while typing). But beyond that, the fact of my death being spoken was so accepted in my former home that there was no more questions regarding it happening. So much so that I ran, hid and got my children away from him two years before this one.... this 2014... I know, my body knows and my life attests to a new life that has been given to me. A life that has no fear, that is full of hope, that is honest and without violence. So tonight... tonight I'm going to cheer, probably cry a bit, but cheer nonetheless- it's here. My year of life. My year to be truly brave. I am probably going to keep learning, failing, smiling and laughing my way through all of this- but I will live. And maybe just maybe I will throw the biggest birthday party the world has ever seen just so everyone knows how glorious and good God, life, new chances and hope is. (Invites to come later... lol)

Dark Corner
"I wish you would just die. You don't belong here. You don't deserve to be here. You should die so I don't have to see your ugly face. You don't have much longer, God won't be patient forever." 
Those are the words that went along with the pain in my body. I was to be perfect (his perfect) or he and God would kill me before I turned 32. I'm not going to say more today. To me, his words convey enough darkness and fear. Part of me is sorry to share those words with you. The other part of me is sure that the more I expose the lies the more I shed them and know truth for myself.

Whether it is physical violence or the threat of physical violence - that is abuse. Sometimes our minds accept lies as truth so that we can make things feel better for ourselves. I never would have admitted I was being abused. Yes, he hit, strangled, kicked..... and on and on and on- but.. that.. wasn't...abuse.... It was, it is. You can call domestic violence anything you want, but if you are being hurt or threatened by an intimate partner or family member- that is domestic violence. I am sorry. Don't spend another year there. Don't get hurt again. They have done enough, they have stolen from you- taken your well being, your security and most likely a long list of other things. Be Brave this year, be Brave now!

If you need help in the US:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Balancing and Breathing

Welcome to Brave. I'm amazed that I've gotten to hear from so many of you. You bless me with your encouragement and stories. There is so much to learn in life, so much to sort through, sift through and consume. Its an honor that you read my small words. This is my place, a reminder of bravery in everyday life, my stories of fear and an encouragement to others to find hope and courage! 

There is a measure of confusion that comes with living. Our bodies live. We breathe, we eat, we sleep. Our existence is married to our bodies. We are. We think, we process, we judge, we feel. (Those, of course, are not in any particular order.) And then we do both with the seven billion other people on this planet. Personally, my body gets caught up with my existence's feelings and judgements. My accuracy and reliability in my thinking and processing are completely dependent upon my physical well being. (A sleepy Abby is a crabby Abby!) Even though I know that the two parts of me coexist- I really would rather they wouldn't- and that causes great confusion and stress in my life. I wait too long to eat because I'm working or thinking. I don't sleep because of (my children!!!) my stresses and little worries. I throw off the perfect balance that I could live in because I neglect the balance that is there. As I typed that I noticed my body taking deep breaths- as if being reminded to breathe to keep this thought process moving. 
All that to say, I was grumpy today. I, who am beyond blessed. I, who does not live in fear but knows what fear is. I don't have a lot of tolerance for grumpiness in myself- why be grumpy. Life is too good. But beyond that, today I should have slept more, I actually had the chance to. Today, I should have hugged my mom and just enjoyed that. Today I should have taken care. I was confused today. My body and self were not knowing the balance of contentment- and that sucked. ARGH! But sitting here now, I know that I will survive this too. Whether we are grumpy, smallish, a little fearful or just tired after the holidays, we can survive. When we look up we can be Brave! There is much to live for!

Dark Corner
"Breathe, Abigail, Breathe" my friend said. I was hyperventilating for the umpteenth time over the course of the week that followed leaving and then hiding from my husband. I paced. I cried. I hyperventilated again. "Breathe, Abigail, Breathe." I have heard these words pretty consistently during my first year out. It is a far cry from the screams of "I wish you would just die." that my husband liked to yell as he would strangle me. Once when I was actually fighting back, I saw his eyes change. I was clawing at his neck and back while his arm was pressed across my neck. I was losing feeling in my head, tingly all over and several times I pushed myself to focus my eyes. The look in his eyes changed, no- don't be hopeful here- I didn't see sorrow, or love or anything. I saw myself dying in his eyes. This might have been the lack of air- but my reflection in his eyes was a dead one. I quit fighting back. My arms fell to my side. I woke up a little later, head hurting, eyes red and puffy. No one told me then to breathe. No one told me everything would be ok. All I could see was the death I'd seen. And I made dinner. 

I have a little grumpiness left over. Next time I write there will be words of life and forgiveness- but today that grumpiness has bred a snarky attitude. No one should have hurt me. No person has a right to inflict pain and fear upon another. No person has the right to take another life unless their own is threatened..... I refuse the regret road. I won't allow myself down the "I should have done...." path, the variables of our lives are endless. We make choices everyday that change and impact everything we do- that change the course of our lives. So I'm just grumpily acknowledging that my life sucked, that violence was scary, that I hate dealing with the aftermath. 

Domestic violence is a prevalent problem in our world. The World Health Organization's 2013 report cites that 30% of women worldwide live with the affects of domestic violence. Their report also states that research shows domestic violence occurs in all social, economic, religious and cultural groups. There is no one exempt here. There is no "safe" group of people. No west, east, north or south side of town that is "safe" or above domestic violence. I say this a lot: Domestic violence continues because of the silence the abusers and societies create, require and enforce. Be aware. Open your eyes. Speak and be Brave!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Greatness after hatred

Welcome. It is an honor to have you visit with me. I tell my stories of my years living in domestic violence below in the Dark Corner. But more than those stories, greater than those stories, is the hope and the belief that we are all brave. That everyone needs a little courage, a shared perspective to remind us of how amazing a brave life is! Welcome.

I was in Walmart a couple days ago, my kids were tired, I was tired. Whining commenced- from all of us! And then I noticed, there was no music on- none. It was almost Christmas time and there were no carols actually no music at all. I looked at my youngest, such grumpiness- kicking at her sister she fussed. I started to sing jingle bells. My children looked at me, they knew that song, they wondered what I was doing.... and then their eyes softened. They began to sing with me, some with words and the younger with just sounds.  I thought about being embarrassed but sheesh- the whining fit throwing that was the alternative was far worse! And so we sang. When we finished, one of my daughters shouted, yes shouted in her shrill little girl voice, "AGAIN! AGAIN!" Everyone in our vicinity turned to watch.... And so... I busted out with Jingle Bells again! Only a couple of people shot grumpy narrow glares at us. I didn't care at that point. I had remembered that I was teaching my children to be brave, teaching my children to look for fun and good instead of complaining, teaching myself to not worry about what other people think. 
You see, I have a purpose here, with my children but also in this life. At time it feels like greatness is busting out of me. Its there that I just take a deep breath and choose to be brave. This isn't because of me. If you've read any of my stories you will know that. I'm not even sure what my greatness is. Did it matter to someone that I sang in the store? Do my words reach my children? Is my intent and perspective important? HOLY COW!!! Those are not my questions. The answers aren't mine to have. I just am impelled to let this strength, this power, these bold and crazy ideas out. Greatness, Bravery... it comes from whom we come from. The connection of meeting a stranger's eyes and sharing a moment, a knowing look or a smile, a truthful conversation or generosity can change a perspective, change the course of a life or a way of being. Don't be afraid to be big. Take care of the impressions that you have of yourself, to see yourself as you are- there isn't enough time set before us to do otherwise. There is no normal, no small life. Live real, live boldly. Be BRAVE!

Dark Corner
He told me I had ten seconds to straighten up. He didn't need to express what he would do to me if I didn't comply... I was well aware of the heaviness and quickness of his feet, his hands. But... my mind went blank. I honestly didn't know what I was doing to straighten up from. My eyes looked back and forth, searching- as if I'd see something in front of me that would clue me into my bad behavior. His hand struck my face. And..... He told me I was lying. How could I agree with that? He took my frantic fear and not meeting his eyes as a sign of guilt. He hit my back. I felt his fury. Hatred, anger, a deep darkness struck me again and again. My backbone burned each time he found it with his hand. My right thigh stung, tears hit the floor. He told me to go to the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. He told me to look at myself. My eyes were swollen with tears, my face was red, my hair disheveled.... He instructed me to tell the truth to myself. My heart and my head told me that there was no safe way out of this. From the bathroom, in front of the mirror, standing and shaking I was oppressed with the magnitude of hate. Like so many other days I cowered. I couldn't keep myself, his hate had too much fuel that day. 

I don't cower anymore. I'm not always happy, not always brave, not always thrilled with how things turn out. But it has been proven to me that who I am, what I do and how I chose to live should come from me- not anyone else. My dear friend sent me a magnet for Christmas that said, "Dance as though no one is watching you, Love as though you have never been hurt before, Sing as though no one can hear you, Live as though heaven is on earth." Souza
Can you do that? If you have the freedom to chose to live those sentiments DO! If you don't have the freedom to make that choice, if you are controlled, hurt... please please get help. 

Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. More often, the abuser is a member of her own family. 
Domestic violence is ugly. The prevalence of it is disgusting. Live, be Brave because you can!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sincerity verses lying


I wrote a song once. Well I've written quite a few... nothing spectacular but songs I liked. (I'm grinning here!) One of the songs was about sleep. And my favorite verse says, "I hate to be lit up at night, It invades what's inside, In the daytime I need clarity, But the night shall be sincerity." I love nights. A clear sky with lots of stars and good company is bliss. No facade. Our hearts just are. It is past the time in which we seek betterment of our circumstances or ourselves. We just are. 
In the years that I lived being abused the nights became a place of struggle and fear. Sleep was a delicate matter in our home. I was not supposed to want to sleep if he didn't want me to. If he was up I was supposed to be up working. Cooking, cleaning, laundry- it was all too common to finish my chores at midnight or one and then try to not act sleepy as I went to bed. I was to be tireless without laziness. But I was a human being and my body needed sleep. As everyone does I needed a time to just be.
Now I seek out times and places to let my heart just be. The picnic tables in my backyard are a prime night location... My spot on the sofa after a long shift at work. Its as if there are secret places in time that we can just be. If I look for them I seem to find them. My kids sometimes just sit and snuggle with me. My youngest crawls in bed and sings with me. I'm not being anything in these moments- I take off the mommy hat, the advisor hat, the housekeeper hat, the friend hat, the writer hat and what is left is just me. I am those things but shedding the weight and responsibility in those moments I embrace the sincerity that is there. Its Christmas time. I think I shall go look for more moments. I hope you find some for yourself. I can't think of a better way to celebrate!

Dark Corner
Those that know me well know the extent I go through to live honestly and in an upfront manner. After years of secrets I despise them. I won't have them in my heart for myself or for others. 
It was a Monday, March 12th 2012 actually. The night before had been rough, not abnormal. But my broken lip and bruised and swollen chin were pretty ugly looking. Ninety percent of the time my injuries were kept to what couldn't be seen by others. This was the first time since I'd moved over to my company's main building that I had gone to work with visible injuries. I was nervous. Everyone asked. "I was chipping the ice outside the house and hit myself with the handle of the ice chipper." was my answer. 
When you lie- there is the pull from your conscious to look to your heart. Your eyes shift, your head lowers- everyone does this (even great liars "tell").  It was everything I could do to lie and not hang my head. One of my coworkers asked me and made it clear he didn't believe me. I had awareness for the first time that I was lying and the heaviness of that was enormous. All I could see were all the people I had lied to over the years and for what? For a man that thought it was funny to poke my injuries that he inflicted. That hurt me because he couldn't control his temper at .... God only knows what. I was frantic all day. I paced. I didn't get much work done. My lies felt like they were crashing in on me and I wanted out. I wanted out. My coworker went outside. I followed him, still unsure if I wanted to tell everything. When his eyes met mine tears were already threatening to overflow. When he asked me if I'd been hit, I paused. And then.... I nodded. (Emotion of every kind came crashing in. If I could put a sound track to this there would have been a great build up of strings and percussion and then crashing as great as of waves on rocks...) He asked me if I'd been hurt before. I nodded again. The best way to explain what happened next is just that I saw someone be angry on behalf of me- it wasn't scary but simply overwhelming. He was fuming but not at me. I wasn't sure what was happening. My ears and heart were still feeling the effects of the crescendo that brought me to that brave nod. But I knew, I knew I had to have help. I knew if I went home I'd die. I'd told his secret. So I didn't go home. 

Recently I read an article by Rachel Jewkes (Intimate partner violence: prevention and causes, April 2002). I appreciated the way that she broke down two factors that are always present in a domestic violence situation. These factors: unequal position of women in a relationship (and in society) and the normalcy of using violence in conflicts are both necessary to create an environment that allows domestic violence. Neither of these factors are easily changed as they are prevalent in our world.  
But- I am a mother. Are you a parent? Teach your children. The need to speak out against violence is so great. People in our world die over Air Jordan shoes, over the need for food, over the unaddressed anger of their spouse, and for a million other idiotic reasons. 

Be Brave! If you are in danger find help, Domestic violence escalates. It rarely starts with being killed. If you fear another person find help. You life is precious and worth you living it. Your life has sincere moments that you can find but you have to be safe to find them. Be Brave!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ugly Shame and Living Vulnerable

Welcome. My words are a bit long today so my intro shall be short. I welcome you with a smile and hope you feel the desire of mine that all women, men and children know they can be Brave. 

Some of my dearest friends, more like family really, and I were reunited after I found life again. It was the most precious thing in the world to introduce my children to them. But I remember wanting to crawl into a hole at the same time. My house was in shambles... I was so embarrassed. Odds and ends for furniture, walls that hadn't been painted in 10 years, holes in the walls from my head, holes from knives and chairs that had been thrown. I looked at my house with new eyes and thought I should never have asked them to come over. But while I'm sure, very sure, they saw my house- they came in and saw myself and my kids. It has taken a long time to shed the shame of living in a home that was overtaken by domestic violence. At times it leers at me now. But then, when I was just lifting my head up to see again, I was given such an amazing gift. Truly one that shared courage. I have been so blessed.- Oh Abby, hang on, you veer off into the "I am so blessed" so quickly. There was a point to this! - What do we see when we use our eyes? It was later that my friends started to help me put my house together. Until then I got to rest in the peace that they were there. They didn't rush in, seeing such a need for help and take over. My friends got to know me again, they loved on my kids, they made time for me to have a break, to get out and get a coffee. They saw me. Do we give that to people? Do we see each other? I am not overly gifted at that. Its so easy to see the situation and how I feel about whatever is going on. My children challenge me in this everyday. Do I see my son and his want to hear me praise him and listen as he rambles about the coolest thing to build with Legos or are the logistics of the other four and my work schedule more pressing? Do I share laughter with them and really let them know I'm there? Do I communicate empathy with the women I work with? Everyone in the world wants to be seen- as they are. It takes a lot of bravery to see people because it lets them see us. It connects us to another person and shares life, courage and hope. It isn't always pleasant, in sharing oneself we often get hurt and it can be an enormous amount of work to care. But sometimes that Bravery makes all the difference in the world for another person. It did for me. Be Brave!!!

Dark Corner
My head hurt and I felt the wall- it was cold on my skin. I had been sleeping in bed but after being lifted by my hair and slammed into the wall was now fully awake. My heart racing I scrambled down the hall. From sleep to fleeing I wasn't sure what had happened but I was running. An hour later I'd been outside for 40 minutes in the cold and now was inside in front of him praying for forgivness. He told me to get the girls. I cried and begged and then did as he instructed. The girls had been sleeping as well. He was yelling. I was a whore. They were whores too. They were just like me. He questioned them about if they wanted to be like me. My oldest daughter said no. I knew I was alive then because that hurt so badly. I was not what he said. They were not what he said. My daughter should have wanted to be like me. 
This story is so full of shame. I cannot finish without telling you that. I put the girls back to bed. They were not hurt physically but emotionally, spiritually... AHHH. I get so upset with myself that I allowed my children to be hurt and scared. I cannot ever explain to anyone the emotions that course through me as I tell these stories. Being awake now I look at what I allowed and I have no words for myself. Not only did the state of my house feel shameful but the things I allowed to happen to myself and my children.....

So why share my shameful stories? Because I don't believe in living in shame. Shame, and I'm going to borrow Brene Brown's definition here: is the fear that my actions or inactions make me not worthy of connections with others. And that is not how anyone should live. Regrets, yes I have them. But shame- no. I choose to live in hope. I offer my stories to inspire, to make others aware and to possibly reach someone that needs a little courage to live. I'm choosing vulnerability. Vulnerability like this kinda sucks though. This is not pleasant. But my vulnerability with my kids is what makes our love and bond so amazing- it is my greatest blessing to know their love. It is from me being me that the life I have now is being born. Shame no. Brave yes. Katy Perry's song Roar... my daughter loves it. And I love it that she does. Personally not a huge KP fan, but this song speaks of standing up and being strong (like a tiger). And for my daughter that is huge! So, my daughters and I sing Roar. My sons and I giggle at silly TV shows and build Legos- together. They know we were in danger. They know I was there and didn't and couldn't protect them. But they also know I got us out.

If you live a life in which you feel shame you can lift your head up. It is not easy, it is hard. But there is no shame in real life. Real life is living bravely, boldly yourself, its full of love and care. I am so glad that you have come today. Thank you for reading my words. I am so blessed! (I'm laughing at myself!) Yes, I am so blessed! Roar today and be Brave!

*If you are being hurt get help. Any help. Tell someone and if they don't help or listen, tell someone else. Your life is worth living. There are women's shelters that you can call, there is a national hotline that can talk to you about how. There are restraining orders and protective orders that you can get. It is not easy. It is overwhelming but talk to someone, find help. Your life is worth living!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Where is Waldo?

Brave is the outpouring of my soul, my person, my pain and suffering. I am so glad you have come. I am so young, so little, so unwise and yet this is my attempt to share what I've found. To share what I see after I've been given another go at life. It takes so much courage to live thoughtful, careful and helpful lives. I am here and glad you are too.

Where Is Waldo books are so wonderful! I keep telling myself I need to order some for my kids because they are so timeless. And I think they teach us the value of seeking. The object is to find Waldo, to find his red and white striped hat and scarf and sweater and then to turn the page and find him again. The reward for finding him is.... Well there are no candies handed out, there is no monetary gain, there is no physical reward of any kind. Except that, we congratulate ourselves inside when we've found him. Achievement! I wish I would look for good and hope and chances to be brave in the same way. 
I probably wouldn't have minded when my daughter peed all over the dinning room chair AGAIN today (as in three times by noon....). Because we are potty training at our house- or as her sister says "on the potty train". I would have been thrilled that her big sister is "on the potty train" with her, running around in their panties together, cheering each other on when they get to the potty. I should have celebrated that their sisterly bond is so amazing. The potty train will arrive at some point! I can have hope because those two giggly sisters will catch the train together!
How much effort do I put into seeking to see what is amazing? If I created a  Where Is Brave book it would be amazing. Think of all the blessings I could hide in between daily life pictures. I have FIVE children! FIVE perfect blessings that all love me. I have a home to sleep in, I have plenty of food in my fridge. And then there are things like- I will not get hurt today, I will not cry due to unkind and hurtful words today, I can express myself freely and I can love my children, family and friends. Oh the blessings just go on and on! Waldo isn't wearing a red and white hat in my life, he is just the blessings I can choose to see! And when we know our blessings oh from there we can be so Brave.

Dark Corner
In the winter of 2011 I took a class at work to learn how to drive and operate a forklift. It was not a long class, the instructor showed us what to do and then let us have a few practice rounds and decided if we were a danger or whether we could operate the forklift without incident. The instructor of the class was fun, a few coworkers watched and offered humorous judgement and tips in regards to our progress. It was fun- and I wasn't as bad as I'd expected. I felt pretty good about myself that day. I went home. The house was tense... the air was stale it was that tense. It felt like the air was gone from the house. Gone. I did not want to be there. I did not want to go upstairs and see him, to try to get dinner made in the half hour he allotted, to try to nurse the baby while making dinner, to try to get my oldest to work on the school work they hadn't done.... I just didn't want to do it. I wanted to go back outside and pick up the "I had a great day" feeling again. But I'd shed it already, they all knew I was home. He was mad. He challenged my attitude the minute I got upstairs. I started to feed my daughter. He hit the back of my head. My daughter started crying, her food was being interrupted. I slid her to the couch as I was pushed to the floor. He hit my back again and again. He challenged my mood calling me arrogant and proud and continued telling me I should die. He made me tell him why I was arrogant. He decided I was being unfaithful and called me a whore. His foot caught my collar bone. Not hard but it was a pain I hadn't felt before. It felt like my chest was being torn off my body. I will stop my story there. I did not die that day. I was able to feed my daughter. We no longer live in that fear. That is the important part. The Waldo of this story is that I learned what Bravery is. 

Life is this big learning opportunity. This hope and bravery that I write about- good grief they are not learned lessons! I've taken big brave steps, I hold hope most of the time. But often as I write I am learning more, growing more and hopefully being more of what I write about! I want to be Brave! So what do we do? Look for the Waldo blessings in our lives. Look for the ones that sit right next to the hard things. Yesterday was hard- I had a friend to call, Two years ago on hard days I didn't have the ability to call anyone. YAY!!!! Be Brave! 

If you are one of the 12 million men and women that are being hurt or controlled this year- be BRAVE! There is hope. There is help. There are other men and women that know the shame, know the fear and know that there is hope. Find them. That may be at work, that may be a local shelter or police station or maybe a domestic violence help line. I can't tell you the number of times I was going to just pull my car over to the side of the road and call the police- to show them what he had done the night before, to tell them I was terrified of going home. I should have. It would have spared me so much hurt, tears, time. It would have kept my children from witnessing as much as they did, from being subjected to watching violence to their mom and living in fear. I can't go back, you can't go back. Today though- there is help. I can't implore you enough for I know until you believe there is hope my words cannot persuade. But there is hope. There is HOPE! Be Brave! 

If you are in the US and need help: 
They can help you with a plan or give advice or just listen. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fraudulence and a room for hope

Welcome to Brave. Bravery comes out of hope. Bravery makes us stand up and chose life. Bravery causes us to breathe deep when life shows us only the shallow. Thank you for coming. This is real thoughts on being brave, having hope and sharing awareness. The Dark Corner below is the place I'm sharing the dark stories of domestic violence as they happened to me. Thank you for reading. I pray you will find hope and bravery here!

There is a certain aspect of fraud that goes on in our lives. We live with smiles on our faces, happy Christmas cards, children who dress nicely at church and cars that have been through the car wash. What is on the inside very rarely lines up with what is on the outside. We may not be smiling, we may not be happy at all, our children may wish they were dressed in all black and they may have snarly mean attitudes. During the first few weeks of leaving the abusive home I'd lived in for years I was as high as a kite. I felt like I was free and truly I was for the first time in 8 years. But then reality started to sink in. Single parenting is not easy. Working full time and single parenting five is not easy. Working through years of traumatic events is not easy. HOLY COW!!!!! How was I going to hope in the face of all that? I confided in a close friend. I told him that I was giving up, that hope was the cruelest trick God put here on earth. His response came in a quiet voice telling me that his heart hurt over that and he implored me not to give up. My friend lived a life that was full of love, not easy but had lots of love. I, meanwhile, felt alone. But as I looked at him I knew he spoke the truth. 
Hope isn't cruel, it is the peace that makes the rest bearable. 
Now Hallmark says hope and love happen when I buy a card and get teary-eyed. Their movie channel says true love will come at Christmas. Hahahahahaha. Life is no card. Hope comes from life. I live and breathe and therefore have hope. Hope- you can live in my heart and be whats inside. In the middle of my kids needing a nap and when my period starts and I'm so grumpy I think everyone should go live with my aunt... Hope you can live there too. We are not fruadulant. We are not fake. We are people that need to keep telling Hope that there is room for her. Be Brave!

Dark Corner
The ground was so hard. My back hurt so badly. My pregnant belly was so big and swollen and not liking being outside on the ground. He had told me I could live in a tent in the backyard. That was just a few hours ago. I had set up the little tent we had... the tent that had been a wedding present. My heart was sunk. It was July so the sky was light even as it got later in the evening. I sat in the tent. I had to pee. The doors were locked. I relieved myself by the shed. I sunk farther inside myself.... I started looking around... it was so close to the neighbors house... The kids were inside with him though.  My mind raced but all I could see was that I had no job right then and four kids and pregnant with another... oh goodness... I was ok. The tent was ok. I tried to sleep.
The knife pressed my pregnant belly. The threat of dying while watching my baby die too was just too much. Tears spilled out of my eyes. His eyes were cold and hard. His voice full of hate. The knife he held was sharp- a nice Wusthof carving knife. Oh ....my..... I wasn't breathing. I couldn't comprehend living like this... living was a thing of the past. I hid inside myself. But... my baby, my only fear was for my girl that moved inside me. He threw the knife down and told me to enjoy the cold of sleeping outside. I cannot find words to tell you how I felt. I felt so little. Scared, terrified, small, fading, sinking, alone, cold, alone and alone.  I couldn't see hope. I couldn't see anything other than fear. I had married fear.

The CDC has labeled violence, threats of violence, stalking and rape by an intimate partner as Intimate Partner Violence or IPV. According to the CDC on average, 24 people per minute are victims of IPV in the United States- more than 12 million men and women over the course of a year. Something is wrong with our moral alignment when 12 million people in our nation are facing Intimate Partner Violence every year. Regardless of the severity this is a huge problem in the US. My situation went on for 8 years before anyone knew or recorded it as part of a statistic. Domestic violence continues because of the silence that the "intimate" partner creates. 

Make room in your heart for Hope. You may identify with the fraudulence of looking as if you have hope- that is ok. Just make room in your heart for hope. Ask for hope and create that room. If you find yourself in a difficult or threatening situation have hope. Keep your eyes open and look for hope! Hope is not cruel, it is God's gift to make everything bearable. If you are being hurt, find help- I promise it is there. You can hope. Be Brave! 

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Welcome. I am so thankful of your time. I am so glad that you've come. The holidays can be so busy, it is an honor that you are visiting. I am creating a place here of hope, of courage. I am creating a place where stories of darkness can inspire because they don't last forever. Today the Dark Corner below is kind of raw, not painful anymore to tell but raw nonetheless. I am sorry. I include it with hesitation, but I so seek that hope would shine. Light shines brightest out of the darkness. The Dark Corner is no more. You have my permission to skip this one, but if you read it- remember The Dark Corner is no more. 

It is definitely Christmas time. Hope is in the air. Children are dreaming of all the toys that they will find on Christmas morning (or wailing, whining and begging for everything in the store). But it is the season of delight. It is the season of stories of Jesus and the three wise kings, the story of Mary and Joseph's journey. I think children and their wonder at life is what really makes Christmas though. I watch my kids and their eyes shinning as we talk about how the star shone brightly over Jesus, how the wise men knew to follow the star, how Santa Claus finds our chimney and how we can give a little present of cookies to the neighbors. They love all of it. Its the wonder and majesty of the unknown happening, the impossible coming true, the extravagance for everyone. What makes your eyes shine with wonder? I was dancing in the kitchen the other day to a Mumford and Sons song. My daughter asked me why I had my arms in the air. I told her because that song makes me feel alive. Since then its come on a few times. She told the other kids each time, in a rather conspiring voice that "This is Mom's alive song." I had death and now I have life. I know now what I'm supposed to be. I am supposed to be alive, brave and bold. I am supposed to dance, to wonder at life and all of its pieces, even when my kids refuse a nap and are cranky. The season we are in fosters so much wonder. Lets be Brave in it!

Dark Corner
I stopped crying. I could not come up with any more tears. If one can become dehydrated by crying I had done it. I felt so dry, my lips chapped and it had only been a couple of hours. "Submit." he said.  I hung my head again. I was shaking knowing what was coming. He hit my arm again. I looked up, "I do, I do." I said. Silence. His eyes held mine, I dropped mine and watched my hands shake. He hit my arm again. Why my submission wasn't enough I will never understand. How does one submit any further? Everything I did was under his control and according to his wishes. But he was insistent that I wasn't submitted to him and that I complained inside my heart.  "Submit" he growled. Tears poured out of my eyes again, surprising me. I did not look up this time. After two hours my arm was already swollen. Swollen and purple. He declared I wouldn't make it much longer and left me there. What do I do with my arm? I was worried about how to get my shirt off it was swollen so much. The next morning my arm had purple lines leading from elbow to my wrist. AHHHHH! Long sleeves, how was I going to get my swollen arm that I could barely move into a long sleeve shirt. He thought it was funny. He poked my arm asking if it hurt. My eyes welled up with tears for that hurt my heart as well as my arm. I didn't understand anymore what was expected of me. I didn't know how to be whatever it was he wanted me to be. 

One in every four women in the US will experience domestic violence. That is a quarter of our female population. That doesn't exclude anyone, not the women that are churched nor the women who are highly educated. Rich and poor alike will experience domestic violence. My Dark Corner is no more. Yours, if you are in one, can end too. There is hope. You are supposed to be something. Hurt is not it. I pray that you will find hope, courage and Bravery to be who you were meant to be!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cookies and tears and hiding humanity

Welcome to Brave. Lots of words here and hopefully in them courage, a story and awareness.

In the middle of the night you sneakily walk in the kitchen, see the chocolate chip cookies and... Oh temptation takes over. Your head and your hand are at war but your hand gets that cookie to your mouth. And as you stand there in the still quiet of your sleeping house you wonder, "Can they hear me chewing?" Your chewing and crunching is as loud in your ears at that moment as a lawn mower on an early Saturday morning. In church I cry. I can't help it. So many years of being told God wanted me to hurt or God would kill me, because I was that bad.... I have yet to sit through a service that I didn't bawl like a baby- just to be back sitting before my King. Knowing that He does love me, did love me. But in my tears I wonder sometimes how disruptive I am being. I don't wail, but I wipe my tears away from my cheeks. A lady sitting near me handed me tissues once...
No one hears you chewing in the middle of the night. And not too many notice my silent crying. But, the crumbs you left on the counter... seen. Your chocolatey breath- possibly smelt by your spouse if you shared a morning kiss. My teary smudged makeup and slightly puffy eyes.... probably noticed by the Sunday school ladies when I pick up my kids and obviously by the woman who shared tissues with me. 
Shucks! While eating cookies or crying didn't really change anything- just think you were worried that they might. Worried about your humanity being seen. Everyone with access to chocolate chip cookies, or bacon or Lays potato chips has eaten them in the middle of the night. Everyone cries. We hide our humanity for fear of it being obvious to other humans.... Sounds kinda crazy when put like that huh? Be Brave! Eat, cry, sing and dance with abandon. The God I cry in front of likes it when we aren't so worried. 

Dark Corner
Domestic violence has victims. What an awful word. Needing help can feel awful.  Domestic violence is a world of misplaced shame. The victims carry that shame.
My head spun, well all the images in front of me did. It was dark. It was -5 F. It was 7pm and the wind was whipping through the Costco parking lot. I held my youngest son in his snowsuit and tried to walk without slipping on the ice or tipping over as I was dizzy. He had just pounded my head into the car window 6 times. He told me to walk home and to take the baby so we could die together in the snow. I did not have a hat. I did not have gloves- my coat wasn't suited to the -5 F windy night. The snow from the parking lot was swirling in the air as the freezing wind blew. My ears burned. I got to the ToysRUs parking lot and a man in a big Suburban asked if I needed help. I shook my head no. What would I have said? It felt like too big of a problem to share and beyond that he would find me and ..... that would be the end. Two more cars pulled over and spoke with me. I kept moving. He came for me as I passed the bank- it had taken me 20 minutes with the snow and the traffic and my son. He was mad. I was just cold. I had looked like a victim he said. He had seen me he said. That dark scary night was long.

Humanity is what it is. God made us. We are. Domestic violence has no place in truth or life- it is not God's will. The victim of domestic violence does not cause it. Sadly victims tend to believe they need to endure it. Knowing you are a victim only makes the dark corner you are in darker. For me it felt like a black hole that I was just being sucked into farther and farther. Carrying the shame of his actions was probably similar to being coated in tar. A black sticky death trap. I am so sorry if you understand this. It is ok to tell someone. You can tell someone. People will help and that is good. Let someone help you. Let someone share courage with you. Cry. But please don't stay where you are. If that is not you be glad. Be thankful and help those around you to be brave! Be brave with your humanity! 
(and just so you all know- its 3am and I just ate a chocolate chip cookie! )

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Waking Up

Hi. I am glad that you are here. Thank you for coming. This is Brave. This is a stand up and say it straight kind of place. This is for sharing courage, cheering for life and speaking truth. Brave is a pretty good place to be. I'm glad you've come. You will find words below. Take them and use them to propel you as you are brave. And then after that there is the Dark Corner, that is my own account of the darkness of domestic violence. Read as you choose. But thank you for coming!

Have you ever had a day where you just wake up? Where you have a relaization that is so huge you wonder how you have lived life without noticing the elephant or the plank or the skunk in your life. I remember waking up one day and realizing I was kind of snotty.  It changed a lot of my attitude. I began to see my shyness instead of pretending that side of me wasn't there. Being puffy was a stupid way to ignore being shy. And I lost my swagger. Haha, well I'm not sure I had a swagger but I certainly found myself with bigger eyes to see what was going on around me.
 And one day I realized my heart and life did not belong to the one that was hurting me. I took my heart back, physically felt that shift and left the next day. But I find it so amazingly humorous, sad, interesting and challenging how those "wake up" moments happen. I've had a couple moments that I cannot tie to anything regarding how my life was shaped. But these two very big moments for me were very clearly influenced by my environment. I was shaped to be better by the people around me. When I lived and worked in Australia I worked under and was mentored by one of the most humble women that I have ever met. She was amazing and her spirit was huge but she was markedly humble- held no pretension. She lived simply, honestly and it was beautiful.  
My other revelation came while I was working in Alaska with men that treated others with respect, care and humor. After 6 months of watching the men around me the dissatisfaction for what I was living in helped open my eyes. What we do matters. My leader in Australia had no idea she would teach me humility. My coworkers had no idea they would inspire me to have boundaries by their respect and kindness. All those people were just living as they were meant to live. What an honor to live with people. To be shaped and changed by those around us. Be Brave, live brave- you have no idea who you are changing, inspiring or waking up.

Dark Corner
The night I woke up had been a long one. My body would have bruises on my legs, arms and back. Not that this was new or different or unlike any other day. It just is now marked for me as my last. I brought myself before him again to apologize, beg for forgiveness, pray for mercy. Whatever I was doing was wrong. I could tell from the set of his face and his eyes that I shouldn't be talking yet but I'd already started. From across the living room he raised his arm and BAM. The remote control hit my mouth. From a distance of about 14 feet that hurt bad. I looked down and there is blood on the floor. There is something about seeing yourself bleed that makes your adrenaline go crazy, at least when you are scared it does. A few hours later, I could not close my mouth- my bottom lip was swollen and huge. My chin area was bruised and looked pretty bad. I was in bed. My heart was still racing. I started counting backwards to slow myself down. A technique he taught me for after I'd been hurt. But that wasn't ok that night. "Did you want me to smash your *&$%# face in?" he growled. I calmed all my emotion and answered no. But right there inside I laughed. My face was smashed in. Right then my heart said enough. Enough. I had no plan. I had no idea I was even considering leaving. But my racing heart said enough. The following day with the shard courage from a coworker I did the bravest thing I could comprehend. I went and hid elsewhere. 

The US Office on Violence Against Women defines domestic violence as a "pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner." Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women- more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. 

If you are being hurt I hope my words help you wake up. It truly is better to live, if you are being hurt that is not life. 
If you know of a woman in danger don't look away. You can't make her wake up but don't leave her alone. She might be functioning but not aware of her danger. 
Everyone else- please be brave. Be brave and honorable and wonderful in your lives. It is worth it. You might unknowingly be helping a woman that is scared and in danger. 

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The existence of words.

Hi. Thank you for coming to read my words. My hope is that there might be someone who understands in a greater way the prevalence of domestic violence or that someone might take on some shared courage and do what is difficult but right. Welcome to Brave. 

My intent with this blog is to share some of my story with each post in what I've titled my Dark Corner. I separate it from the rest so that those who don't want the details can still come and find courage too. The details of domestic violence are often disturbing- they certainly are for me. Today though I will not be showing you my Dark Corner. My Dark Corner today is invading the space of my life that I generally reserve for living. 
A counsellor once told me that I had an amazing ability to compartmentalize and cope with this in a very structured manner. I took that as a compliment. There is a time for tears and there is a time for living. My children certainly dictate a lot of when, where and how my dealing with things happen. My environment dictates that a lot as well. And after a year and nine months since the very last time I was hurt I feel that I've moved beyond most of the deep hurts. Beyond that I want to live- I want it very very much- for myself and my children I want LIFE! But here is when it gets tricky. "Abby, its time to die. Abby come home. Abby it is time for you to say goodbye. I will kill you today. The garden is ready." Those words invade from time to time. The evil creepy existence of those words come out of their compartment occasionally and they don't leave without a bit of a fight. I am convinced that our actions, our words and our lives don't die. Words don't disappear after we've said them. Time doesn't take the existence of our actions away. In the same way that I will forever remember that my mom loved seeing me come in the door after school I will forever remember being called to die. It makes me conscious of my actions. It makes me tremble at what I've known. It makes me careful with my children. What I do matters. What you do matters. The choices you make will not disappear. 
We are humans. We fail all the time. All the time. But what we do exists. I do believe that there is freedom. I do believe that people can move beyond the past. I do believe that the God that loves us also forgives us and covers our sins, trials and troubles. But that does not change our memory. I remember. My compartments work most of the time but there are days when they don't. I am not falling apart. I am not unable to continue or function. I am just simply sad. My Dark Corner is off limits to you today. 

In the US, everyday more than 3 women are murdered by their husbands or significant other. 
That is the only statistic I am going to share today. It means that today, in just the US-  more than three women died scared, alone and frightened. They died at the hands of someone they at one time loved and might have died loving. They were most likely thinking they were surviving- that if they could keep it under control they would be ok. That he would change. Oh the lies and secrets and insanity that is wrapped up in domestic violence is a list long enough to take 50 years to discuss. I didn't die. I am a statistic but thankfully not that one. 

If you are in a fearful situation- please listen for a moment more. Its better to not be in that situation. Life afterwards is not easy. In someways its harder. But its life and not death. Be Brave. Life is worth it. Living in truth is worth it. What has happened won't magically go away. But that is ok. You are ok. Be Brave. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Asking for help

Welcome. I'm very honored by your presence. My words may be small, my experience is just one in the millions. But I hope that you will be encouraged- as the magical thing about courage is that we share it! Welcome to Brave. 

My children ask for help. Ok, I might have to rephrase that- (small chuckle from me) my children beg, cry, yell, weep, whine, whisper, sing and speak their need for my help. With five of them 90% of my time is spent addressing these reminders that we live as a unit and we are unable to function on our own. Grownups can of course make it on their own- but I do believe probably 90% of the time they too are begging, crying, yelling, weeping and wailing for help of some kind. People were meant to live with each other. Meant to have help, meant to share this horrible and wonderful experience we call life. Today look at the people around you that you depend on- that you cry to, that you listen to, that you share brownies with, kisses with and those spectacular things we call hugs. Look at the people that you let into your own personal bubble, the people that know you when you are being really crabby, the people that know you can't cook well yet eat your version of ummm.... hot dogs for dinner again. See them and be filled with thanks. Be filled through what you see, what you hear and what you feel.

My Dark Corner is below. This is my personal experience with domestic violence and a life of threatening fear. I no longer live in that life. Read it to be aware. Read it to gain understanding. Read it to empathize with the millions that live it everyday. Read it to remind yourself that someone else's life may look ok but in their home it may not be. Read it to let me share my brave with you.

Dark Corner:
This was my deepest shame. 
I looked up. My eyes would not focus. The wind tunnel of anger was taking over the house. I was on the floor- my head or rather my hair in his hands. I could no longer keep my eyes open but I did know that was important. I had to stay awake. He is screaming about my death. I lay there thinking about whether feeling where my head was- was important. He.. is.. screaming... about... my... death... I opened my eyes really wide, very wide. My children were standing a few feet away all watching silently. He was screaming but no one else was making any noise. It was so quiet. I made my eyes focus for a minute and catch the eye of my oldest son. I whispered, "Please help." My head hit the floor one more time hard. And the wind tunnel moved away. My children still stood in their little line. One of my daughters came and handed me a handful of my hair. I brought myself to my knees, everything was reeling. My daughter and I picked up my hair. I had just asked my children for help. The thought of what might have happened if they had is overwhelmingly dark. I carried the deepest shame that I can imagine at the thought of... I cannot even now finish that sentence. I would handle the darkness- I never again would ask for help. I was alone. It was just too risky for the dream of help. 

To live without hope is death. I saw myself die a long time ago. I had ceased to function as a person, as a mother, as a partner- as anything. I was as detached as I could be. BUT there is hope. There is a new day. Someone shared courage with me, I will share that miraculous story soon, and life began again. There is new life! 
The US believes that nearly 55-95% of women that suffer physical abuse from a partner will never contact a non-government aid organization, shelter or the police. Domestic violence continues because of the silence. Nearly 10 million children worldwide see domestic violence annually. Domestic violence continues because of the silence. 

The bravest thing one can do is to hope. There is hope. Whether you are surviving, in the middle of some form of terror or whether your greatest trial is stretching your meager budget- there is hope. And on this amazing Thanksgiving day- be thankful for those whom you can ask for help from. Be Brave.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My eyes above the waves

Welcome. I give you a great loud, BRAVE, whispering and very real welcome to my blog. I am sincerely glad that you've stopped by today. 

Imagine with me being in the ocean, treading water, maybe there is land in sight and maybe there isn't. Cold, tired but without too many choices or maybe there is just an infinite number of directions to turn but all without clear hope of land.  But our eyes are above the waters. We are not drowning yet, not giving up and we are able to keep on for just another moment. 

Last Sunday in church we sang a song by Hillsong that had the lyrics "Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander And my faith will be made stronger." and then "Keep my eyes above the waters". I shed a couple of tears as I knew what these lyrics meant. And it is time to tell the world my story of barely making it, of drowning, of waking up day after day to an ocean that threatened my life and left me without a direction to go to for help. This world is full of tragedy, despair and darkness. BUT there is hope. It really doesn't last forever. There is a new day. Everyday I will share a little hope, a little courage and light here. Below, if you'd like to read more you will find the darkness that shows off this light. The stories you might find below will be uncensored and real. They are not pretty but they make my light all the more bright. It is due to the knowledge of death and being alone in fear that I have found my voice. My faith was born when I was a child, I didn't lose it but the darkness left me with deep wounds. Those wounds move me now to give voice to what Bravery entails. So welcome again to Brave. 

Dark Corner:
Bravery in the darkness has many faces. I am convinced now that most faces walking in bravery wear survival. I did. I couldn't see anything past getting through each night and hoping the next one wouldn't been like the one that was happening. And happening it was. His punch found the bottom of my rib cage and my expected and accurate response was to hit the floor like a dead weight. I had no air and got up to a kneel while gasping like a fish. Horrible dry air filled my mouth but nothing went in, nothing was happening. My brain felt scattered and frantic and then air. Peaceful air came, my mind settled just as his bike shoe landed on my back and then my upper thigh. OW, ow, ow and I scrambled out of the way. He was yelling at me for moving, for complaining, for not having dinner ready when he got home- but this all happened in the windy tunnel that would suck up his voice when it got scary. I don't think I could process the fear or maybe his anger that seemed so senseless. The windy tunnel allowed me to see the kids are watching, moving slowly and silently out of the way... good. I just needed to move quicker, not too quick to show too much fear, but quicker than the - ow- bike shoes so they wouldn't get my face. He took me head and put it to the wall- I thought about how that should have hurt. My glasses were no longer on. I was crying, he was yelling. But everything was far away, farther away. Then I found myself on the floor. He went downstairs. It was time to clean up and be good so maybe it wouldn't get worse later. My head hurt. My children had such blank eyes- that must be what my eyes are like. Dinner, I had to get dinner finished. Breathe and smile. Survived. That is ok, that was ok, it is ok- I told myself. Be ok or later will be worse. 

If you reached the end know this: Bravery is birthed when evil or harm presents itself. Bravery first may wear survival before moving on to courage. I wore survival for a long long time. The story you just read is nothing compared to how it was- as that was a very mild story and because nothing can share the fear of the death I knew would come one day.  Domestic violence is not new- it is as old as humanity. In the US it is thought that one in four women will suffer some form of domestic violence. But the one known fact regarding domestic violence is that most cases are never reported. My story of bravery comes out of this. Yours may be breast cancer, the death of a loved one, a truly horrible boss with unrealistic expectations or raising your children. No matter what you walk through we can all be brave. 
Be brave today- whether that is surviving or engaging. Be Brave.