Part Two

You should be crying, I tell myself internally. It’s really weird that you aren’t a mess right now. I’m standing in my small living room, where the total of five adults could barely stand shoulder to shoulder and not feel crowded, thinking about the oddness of my lack of emotion right now. I can hear my breathing in my ears and my heart in my throat. Hmm, that should be faster. Is it weird my heart isn’t racing right now? I’m trying to quiet my mind because I cannot quiet his anger.

I walked home from work today. That was my punishment for not answering his texts fast enough. Or well enough. Or loving enough? I cannot figure him out anymore. Or maybe I don’t want to. I can feel my life-force surrendering internally, more and more as the days get worse. Things will fall apart before you can rebuild them. I read that on Pinterest the other day. Has to be right, I think to myself. This is me falling apart. In front of my children and the man who has broken me. It was always bound to happen. Never even mind that our ten-year anniversary just passed, where he forced me to go out with him and pretend we were okay. He had pulled the stool out next to the one he was going to sit in and I thought, I’m onstage and this is a performance and one day I will get an Oscar from like, God or someone. There has to be someone watching this because it’s my greatest act and it is perpetual. I wake up and I’m on; I lay in bed and I’m on. I cannot stop pretending this is what life is because he will lose it and kill me, probably. Throughout the whole evening I kept thinking how it never should have come to this. Once, we were driving to visit my parents. He was holding my hand and asked me if I could go back, would I still marry him? My traitorous mouth beat my mind to the punch and told him no before I could stop it. Girl, aren’t you scared? I asked my mouth. You can’t be honest and not have it end in an almost broken nose. I remember that drive, too. Cars are dangerous.

I come back to the living room like a transition on a movie. Cut scene from the little bar with the anniversary dinner or maybe either of those car rides and pan back to hell. My little boys are in the tiny bedroom the three of them are forced to share and my oldest is standing next to his father, confused and wide-eyed. My poor baby. He doesn’t understand what is happening. See, that is why I shouldn’t have acted. I wasn’t saving them from this, I was only prolonging the inevitable. Focus!

It’s okay, I say out loud. Your dad is angry. Sometimes when we are angry, we say things that are confusing. You don’t have to make this decision, I calmly tell him.

Yes, you do, he yells back. Choose right now! Your mom says she wants to leave me so tell me RIGHT NOW who you want to live with? Tell me right now! PICK!

My son is shaking, he is so scared right now. I don’t know what to say, he squeaks out. I move to give him a safe embrace, but think twice. I saw the flash of insanity in his eyes right now when he guessed my intention. I can almost see the wheels of crazy cranking in his mind, trying to find the precise words to cut me in front of our child, except he isn’t thinking about the trauma this will cause him. His only desire right now is to make me understand what my words for the past few weeks will bring. What my declaration from this afternoon will bring. He wants me to know he won’t go without destroying me in any way he can.

Your mom is doing this to you, Sam, he hisses. This is her fault. She is the reason your life will never be the same. She is breaking this family apart and you deserve better.

I love you, I murmur to my son. I love you so much. Whatever is going on with your dad and I is between us and I’m sorry you are being forced to stand in the middle of it right now but I love you.

I know that will escalate things but I can’t stop myself from saying it either way. Somehow, after I mutter that proclamation, I feel a renewed energy in me. I stand up straighter and look him in the eyes. I hold my gaze as I tell Sam he can go to his room and play with his brothers. I’m almost daring my ex-husband to contradict me as I release my oldest from this untenable situation. I feel a fireball in my stomach, growing with each heartbeat, bigger and hotter. It rises to my mouth and I hear myself tell him that he needs to get it together, stop playing our children against me.

You love your mother, I spit at him. Why would you try to turn your children against theirs? What kind of MONSTER are you? I don’t know where this gumption is coming from but I ride the wave as I discover my strength. I have so much more to say but I leave it at that, before I become him too easily. If you think for one fucking second that THIS is going to manipulate or convince me to stay with you, think again, I assure him.

And I mean it.

Grow with me

beginningsAka – How to be a little better every day, with practice

Oh gosh. You did it. You clicked on this post to read my ideas on how to change something in your life, for whatever reason, because either you wanted to read this saying, “YOU DAMN HYPOCRITE,” and madly hit the X in whatever upper hand corner it appears in. Or because you think I deserve to give advice to anyone. Or maybe you’re just bored and it’s midnight on a Tuesday and you’re desperately crossing your fingers that this will be boring enough to put you to sleep.

Eek. No pressure.

All I’m doing is making a list of actual shit I’ve at least acknowledged as negatively affecting me and maybe that is the second step to fixing a problem. Or going to rehab. You never know!

First, put your damn phone down

Yeah, yeah. I don’t even need to explain it. You’re not continuing reading this thinking I’m going to give you some outrageous statistic that bitch-slaps you into realizing that by holding your phone, you’re holding hands with the devil. No wonder it’s called Apple.

I’m just saying, consciously recognize where your time goes. And if you’re one of those friends who thinks you don’t have a phone addiction, go ahead and pause your reading, go to screen time in your settings, and then think about whatever number of literal hours you see listed there. We can do better.

But don’t put it down yet. I’ve got more gems to share. And this is not permission to never respond to people’s texts or phone calls. FIND THE BALANCE!

Side note: my wife tells me to put my phone down a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I like to share our daily funsies but I think I’m getting better at choosing what and when and deciding when to put it away. With that said, nobody else tells me when to put my phone away and gets away with it. Not even my mother. So don’t even.

Second, listen to listen. Not to respond.

Yeah, it’s tough. I see it everyday. You ever feel like you’re talking to someone who just is not.hearing.you and you are getting frustrated? Well, brace yourself. Chances are, you have done it, too. I participated in an activity at a seminar once that I’d like to share. It’s pretty easy. Fairly eye-opening. You just need a counterpart. This helps you practice being engaged and active as a listener, which is essential for having real conversations. <– you know you’ve been a part of conversations that were really just someone else soliloquizing to you. Don’t front. Anyway, here is how it goes:

  1. Set a timer for one minute. Yes, you can use your phone that you just promised to put away more often. Don’t be an ass. So, one minute. Literally just 60 seconds, which turns out is not really an eternity unless you’re planking or otherwise punishing your body. Sit facing whoever you dragged into this exercise, not to be confused with the plank.
  2. Elect who will go first. I’m a big fan of the ole adage of saying, “Whoever raises their hand goes first,” as you shoot your whole arm into the air. It works like a charm and this activity has nothing to do with humility. You can go first. Someone has to.
  3. Hit go on the timer. The elected speaker (aka you) will speak for the whole damn minute about a recent, major accomplishment. You know, that in and of itself is hard because we are told not to boast. Eff that noise right now. You get all these sixty seconds to brag on about yo’self. Finding it hard to figure out what to say about it? Explain that. Just keep your lips moving until your duck quacks or your robot does the waa-waa-waa-WAAA-waa-waa-waa-waa. Mmmkay?
  4. While speaker #1 is talking, Silento needs to just listen. No interrupting allowed. They cannot open their hole until the duck or robot goes off. And during this time, they need to be actively NOT thinking about themselves, what to make for dinner, if there’s enough clean underwear for tomorrow, etc. JUST.LISTEN.
  5. At the conclusion of that minute, the silent listener will write down three questions to ask later about what speaker one spoke about. THREE. It isn’t that hard because you were listening, right?! Not waiting to get a word in?
  6. Next, set the time for one minute. Wash, rinse, and repeat. That means speaker two is up. Thundercats are go and it is their time to share.
  7. Upon that timer meowing or whatever, speaker one will write their three questions.
  8. Now, ask your questions. It can be alternating or all at once. Whatever feels right.
  9. Practice. Even if you think you are already a phenomenal listener, try this every now and then. Hone those skills.
  10. Revel in the fact you are working on listening better. You cannot control other people and how well they will listen. You can only set the example.

And if you don’t have anyone to practice with or are scared to ask because this is your first time and you get nervous, reach out to me. I’ll practice with you.

Sweep your socials

I know plenty of people who did or want to rid themselves of the social medias. Now, if you really want to, by all means. If you prefer one over the other, nobody says they’re beanie babies that you need to have a whole set of to matter. But if you’re just wanting to delete them because everything you’re seeing is negative, depressing, mean, etc, then it is time to evaluate who and what pages you are following. You are in control. I want to add that I also think it’s worthy to leave one or two sources of contention on your page so you aren’t oblivious to the stupid shit people say and do, but that’s just me. You do you.

Listen to the memes

Here is what I mean by this. I recently saw a quote (I know, they probably aren’t actually called memes. I’m just referring to the photo you can save that has inspirational ish on it, funny photos and odd captions that make you LOL, etc. I can call it what I want. You call it what you want), that said something to the effect of, I want to sit at tables that I’m not the topic of conversation of when I get up.

Dang. Can I get a HELLLLLLL YEAAAAAAH. Shitballs. That hit me like my fourth shot of tequila! I legitimately fist-pumped the air and felt instantly fired up! Who doesn’t want that? I mean, I was about to throw on my power hoops and my fave lipstick like it was a damn lava flower! You know, the one Super Mario eats? Watch out, lava balls coming your way!

Except, I also took a moment to think about the flip side, because being 37 can do that to you. Here you are aging, and also maturing! It’s the tits. When I reflected, I realized I’ve talked about people who have gotten up and left the table. Now, maybe my table is shorter and not full of directors. Yet. That doesn’t matter. I’ve still been guilty of this.

You hate excessive meetings? Don’t hold one after the initial one is over. You don’t like gossip? Don’t engage. Or better yet, say that. Literally say, “This conversation feels gossipy and I’m working on not doing that. I’m going to step away.” And I know that is awkward. I know it calls some people out. But damn it, I’m done tiptoeing around the boundaries I need to establish to make myself feel healthy. I empower you to do the same. And if you’re sitting there about to pop out of your damn chair because I’ve done this exact thing with you, just know this.I KNOW. I AM A HYPOCRITE WHO HAS DECIDED TO BE BETTER. Alright? Good. 

Don’t be that person who makes everything about yourself

There’s one thing about connecting with someone, which is empathetic. There’s another thing about making everything about you. And maybe you’re feeling called out right now. Well, lace that sneaker up and get close because I mean what I am about to say. This is important. And I don’t say this maliciously. I’m bringing awareness to it because you are still reading and maybe this might help. Chew this over. Think about it. And ask yourself the following:

  • do I read posts and then comment about myself?
  • do I listen to my friend’s problem and then comment about myself?
  • do I interact with someone and turn what they say into something about myself?

It might sound something like this…

Person A: I feel crappy today. I haven’t pooped in a couple days. **Oh shit, no pun intended! Twice!**

Person B: I am so regular. I poop every morning.

Side note: Yes, I am always person B here. I KNOW!

Or it might sound like this…

Person A: I can’t believe Carol got that promotion over me.

Person B: I get skipped all the time because I refuse to play the politics, too.

Or like this…

Person A: I cooked some amazing fish and chips last night! I am so proud of them!

Person B: Oh, we make fish and chips all the time. They’re so easy.

See? What I’m saying is, sometimes, let up on you and be about them. Don’t be a B. I’ve practiced this a lot and let me tell you, it now stands out to me like a sore thumb (who came up with that? I’ve never really noticed anyone’s sore thumbs before), and I almost want to apologize (in fact, I think I have) on behalf of person B to person A before. It isn’t pretty.

Take note of what isn’t working

This is one piece of advice that sounds easy to me but isn’t, in fact, easy to me. I love to say yes to the fun stuff. The wifey likes to plan ahead. Turns out me wildly agreeing to shenans all the time is probably giving her high blood pressure. When you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. That’s is what Shonda Rhimes taught me and while I still haven’t forgiven her for killing off Derrick, I see what she is saying. I AM WORKING ON IT, so you go work on it, too.

I’ll forever say this. If you know something makes you an ugly person or someone impossible to deal with, be it alcohol, video games, the political shit-show that is our country, instagramming your life, having your phone out all damn day, etc then MAKE.A.CHANGE.

Never let anything hold more power over you than you yourself hold. You’re too beautiful for that.

And last but not least…

When you can, be there. For the rallies. For those who need backup. For the hard fucking conversations. For when people are fighting for their life or saying goodbye to it. For when moms need their damn village. For when we need someone to show up and just sit uncomfortably with us without judgement. Show up for who is important to you.

And when you need someone, tell someone. <–That’s the hardest thing for me so if that sentence alone makes your throat squeeze shut tightly, I feel you. Let’s figure out how to ask for help also be willing to accept it. And let’s also figure out what isn’t working. Not for just those around us. For us, too.

Let’s do it together.

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Be in a constant pursuit of what sets your soul on FIYA

 

 

Surviving

missingbeauty

I am almost 37 years old.

I am still at a point where the majority of my adult years were spent in fight, flight or freeze.

I have a lot of nightmares. Even when I am doing well and not getting bombarded with ugly memories, I will wake up drenched in sweat from trying to run away from him.

Ku and I watch movies or shows sometimes where there is a character in an abusive relationship. I’m usually shaking my head as it happens, both as a reminder that I am not that character and that I am okay, and also because I don’t get it. I lived that life for over a decade and I still can’t comprehend WHY. I’m not just saying why it happens. I’ve read plenty of articles and attended events where phrases like toxic masculinity and gender norms and rape culture are explained. They make sense and I can see where the change needs to happen. I always leave thinking YES, we can FIX THIS, TEACH THE BOYS! Except, it is deeper than that, right?

Why me, though?

Not to say it should have happened to someone else, anyone else, as long as I was spared. No. Not at all. I’m saying why did I allow it happen? Why didn’t I know better? Why didn’t I walk away? I can’t think of any situation where domestic violence makes sense. I also cannot think of one where it made sense that I would fall victim. You see, I graduated with a 3.8 GPA, honor roll, Honor Society, accepted to my first university of choice. I guess when I think about circumstances that people find themselves in, I think that education and book smarts should help play a role in how they handle themselves.

My book smarts didn’t save me.

My Dad taught me when I was young that I had to walk on the inside of the sidewalk and him on the outside because if it was reversed than guys would think I was for sale. This seems to be a pretty universal understanding, judging from popular culture. We have been taught to buy in to this belief that boys will be boys and consent isn’t always clear, and boys who are mean to you on the playground like you. That locker room talk is just that, and should be excused. Yet somehow, guys have a basic, universal understanding that if I’m closest to the curb than I am open for business.

Early on I learned that if a man behaves inappropriately to me than it is my fault. If I’m standing on a beach in Puerto Vallarta when I’m thirteen in a one-piece swimsuit and some male walks by and ogles me, I share the blame between myself and puberty. If I’m standing in a bar, chatting with the people I walked in with, and a guy walks up to me and inappropriately puts his hand on my shoulder to say things that I don’t want him telling me, I can’t make a scene because it would be rude. What I learned when I was growing up was that if a grown man did anything disgusting to me, such as rub his erect penis against my leg even when I was fifteen, it was my fault and that if I said something, I would be blamed. That easily translated to me being responsible if I was hit by my other half. We have been taught, as young girls, to be meek, quiet, accepting and to not embarrass our parents.

Before I got pregnant with Abraham, my ex and I were living in my hometown. It was a calm, beautiful summer day and my friend Yesenia had stopped by to make flour tortillas with me. My meanager, Sammy, was only two or three years old and playing in the living room. Everything was great that day, because it wasn’t always terrible. Except, my ex-husband didn’t like Yesenia and I hadn’t told him she stopped by. Of course his mom did, though and he came home from work so angry. I don’t remember the argument but I remember I got in my car and left. I drove to Yesenia’s house because I needed space. I couldn’t stay there one more second and I didn’t feel safe. I could always tell when he was going to get physical.

When I drove up to her house, I thought briefly about how he would probably guess where I was but I knocked anyway. I remember the wind blowing gently through my hair as she answered the door with a worried look and I distinctly recall sitting on her couch feeling calmer. What I can’t conjure no matter how hard I try is what he said when he called her house and made her reluctantly hand me the phone, my drive back because he threatened banging on her door until I left if I didn’t, or walking in to my house. And somewhere between the door shutting and me turning towards both him and his mom, he hit me. Hard.

She came in to the bedroom a short while later, and as I cried in to my pillow, she told me I should never have driven away, that I should never have gone to Yesenia’s, and that I should have stopped arguing before he got to that point.

I was blamed. And I spent many years thinking it was all my fault.

I’m still so hesitant to share my story. I would be lying if I said it was because I don’t want to be blamed. I didn’t deserve it then, when someone who witnessed it firsthand was quick to place it on me or by anyone who would continue to do it today.

We become a mean type of human when we use stories of survivors’ trauma to apply irrational justification. I hear a lot (usually as a joke lobbed at trying to ease the discomfort of a terrible truth that was just shared) of comments about how embarrassed my ex must be to have lost me to a woman. What I wouldn’t give for this to not be someone’s first response when we talk about something very painful for me, still.

In reality, his manhood was gone the second he hit me. The moment he dismissed my love and loyalty to manipulate me into staying. When he decided to use my feelings to make himself feel bigger. <–That is what is really embarrassing.

Bravery is an action that is hard to muster up.

I was a great student. I graduated in the top 10% of my class with a set determination to make something of myself. What took me a long time to realize was that even though I stepped back and chose to start a family over my education, I was still smart. Even though I fell into an abusive relationship, I was still strong. And when I got away, in those first few steps of freedom, I found the road lonely. I lost friendships. I fought with family. I was scared yet I was without quit in me. I was judged, sometimes to my face, even. I sat in my car and cried because I couldn’t immediately fix everything.

bravery

I rebuilt, brick by brick, my insides. Somewhere in all the mess I had made, I began to see the beauty again. One of the best discoveries was that I could use my scared, shaking voice to recount my stories, share them publicly, and discover that I was encouraging women to stand up and leave. I don’t blog as often as I initially meant to about surviving domestic violence, but every single post brings at least ONE woman forward, who chooses to disclose to me a trauma she is currently or has gone through.

That fuels my fire. Telling someone your deepest secret is a big kind of scary. To each of you who has found the strength to break your silence to me, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And know I don’t judge you.

 

Raising Men

 

 

 

littleloves

Back when they were super cute and easy to handle. No, wait, that’s wrong. Easier? Agh, forget it. They were little.

This has been a tough week to be a growing man in our household. And it is only Wednesday, friends! What the hell?! Is Mercury in retrograde or WHAAAAT… Often times the boys will take turns on who is going to give us the most grey hairs but every now and again we are reminded that life isn’t fair because they all wake up on the wrong side of their bed and collectively come down and play Who-can-be-the-biggest-A-hole all at once. It’s fantastic.

Yesterday, which was only TUESDAY, was a real effin treat and I thought to myself, people think we have it easy. I don’t know why, I don’t understand what is giving them this impression, but it’s not true. Since forever, when I would be out with all three at once, old ladies would stop me at the grocery store or wherever and make sure to tell me how blessed I was. Never mind that this mostly happened in Hawaii and almost all the grandmas were Asian. Having three boys made me a LUCKY GAL to all of them. A hero walking amongst the commoners, with the golden uterus that only pushed out males. I didn’t take that crown so easily. Mostly because I didn’t feel lucky. I will say, though, that I never imagined myself with girls. I just don’t think I could have done this world any favors trying to raise a boss babe. I’ll leave that work to my darling gal pals who are crushing it in terms of raising empowered, strong, brave ladies.

allfive

The fam bam

In the meantime, I’m over here, surrounded by crotch scratchers who love to fart and talk about things that are downright gross. Doing things that girls would never do because they’re all natural princesses who’s hair falls in perfect ringlets. No? I’m dreaming, you say? Huh. I was sure that was the law of the land. I get asked a lot how we do it. Ku and I both. “How do you do it? How do you raise three boys into gentlemen?”

Oh maaaaaaaan, am I glad you asked, because here come a whole heck of a lot of truth bombs. Buckle up.

#1: All boys are different

Whoooooaaaaa, did I just blow your mind there? What are you TALKING about, Vee?!? Yes, friends. I don’t lie to my fraaaaaans. While there are absolute similarities between my three boys, holy mooooosssseeeeessss, was I surprised at how each is their own person. One is quiet and awkward, one is articulate and political, with the remaining one athletic, stubborn and sweet. Yes, all those words can go together because I’m the one writing this. I’m the expert on making all the mistakes with them and so I get to choose how to string my words together. What I’m really trying to say, though, is that each one of them has to be handled uniquely. We use different tones and tactics with each one sprinkled with a healthy dose of losing our ish almost all the time. I’m not perfect, friends.

threecrazies

When they upset me more than usual, I look back at old pics that make me smile. It’s the easiest way to get over the moment.

#2: It’s okay to lose your ish

That leads me right to this point. We are not without our own faults and one of mine is I can have goads of patience for almost any other little but if my own spawn come at me with ‘tude or sass or utter ridiculousness, I.WILL.LOSE.IT. I will start to huff and puff, roll my eyes, break out some serious sarcasm, and then say something like, “Are you friggin KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW?” And then they shape up. Seeing the whites of my eyes really freaks them out. And when friends ask me how to not lose my cool, I have some suggestions but I always throw in that sometimes you will just lose it. And as long as you don’t rage on your children, it’s okay. We’ve all been there and we get it. It happens.

 

#3: I make up punishments that I hope I don’t get my bluff called on

Abraham used to be a total little ish to get to go the eff to sleep. He was so naughty. We yelled all the damn time at him to just close his eyes and stop talking. All.the.time. So, one day, I told him that if he kept it up I was going to make him sleep all by himself in the car. We didn’t have a garage then, we had this tiny little duplex in Lynden (so I wasn’t worried about his safety) and this carport four steps away where we parked Ku’s car. I didn’t really mean it and he figured that out and I remember like it was yesterday that Kulia turned to me and said, “Now you have to follow through,” which made me even more mad, because of course she was right and I never really meant it. All I’ll say about that is that luckily the cops weren’t called on us because he LEGIT screamed bloody murder in her backseat. But he went to sleep when we let him back in, so who’s winning?

#4: Bodily functions are funny. And safe in our home.

We try our damn hardest not to be pretentious. Not in our house. We allow burping, farting, itching, adjusting at your heart’s content. They have to be able to do it somewhere, guys. We let it be with us. I’m not sorry.

#5: ADHD is a real thing

When Sam was in fifth grade, his lovely teacher called us in for a conference. “He’s not dumb but he’s testing in at below average. I think he has ADD and should be tested.” I’ll make this short. He was tested, put on a small dose of medication and subsequently on the Honor Roll. Abraham was tested and we have tried almost EVERYTHING under the sun. He is a work in progress but I bristle when people make assumptions that ADHD is this or that. Over-diagnosed? Maybe. Not real? False. Just boys being boys? I have no words. Boys are a lot of things and they are most certainly a lot of energy, usually in the form of wiggling and playing and roughhousing. Yes. Sometimes, though, something is going on in their premature frontal lobe and it all starts to make sense. Trust your instinct. It’s not always taken care of with a certain diet or eliminating food dyes or making them do one thing or the other. Just stop with that judging. Mom-ing is hard effin work and the less you judge your fellow peeps, the better this world will be. And if your son loses his $350 trumpet for the SECOND time and you yell at him in the car because you cannot contain your words, just stop and take a deep breath and be grateful he’s not living with someone else who doesn’t advocate on his behalf and doesn’t try to understand him and doesn’t just friggin hug him when he needs it. I’m not trying to be uber specific there….I’m just sayin.

#6: Boys love their Mamas

And in this case, they get two for the price of one. My three are especially lucky. Each of them (false, I have to beg the meanager) is pretty loose in handing out hugs (what can I say, I love hugging!) and I make sure to try get one in on the roughest days. Except yesterday. Yesterday was ridiculous.

halloween

We are ridiculous when it comes to Halloween. Or are we just ridiculous. That’s probably more right.

#7: Wine and coffee

I’ve already touched on how much of an anomaly I am when I’m out with my three guys. Aside from the elder adorers I gain I also have the younger ones who might blurt out, “Three boys?!?! (Insert incredulous face) How do you DO it?” I almost always blurt out, “Coffee and wine, friend. Coffee and WINE.” Emphasis on the wine. Did I mention we order it by the case? Yeah, we have quite the hookup through Barclay’s and I’ll send you a coupon code for a HELLUVA deal if you’re interested. Delivered to your doorstep and ready for the parenting magic because a) everything is funnier with a glass of wine in your hand and b) it’s okay to deal with a little help from the grapes. They are fruit, everyone. No shaming here. No shame.

#8: Not everyone is going to adore your kiddos. That’s okay

This one. It’s a conundrum. What do you MEAN not everyone is going to love the crap out of my offspring? How is that even a thing? Yeah, I know. I thought everybody would adore my littles and the reality is, they get on people’s nerves sometimes. They rub them the wrong way, maybe piss them off, say something unacceptable or just have that face that you can’t handle. They might feel like they can say that to you and it’ll be nutso because why would they think that? It always blindsides me and hurts my feelings because they are little projections of my persona. Of course it’ll hurt my feelings. But don’t fret, I’ll get over it and love on them harder. They aren’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea and I’m sorry that life is so harsh sometimes. Just keep loving them.

I’m not ending on a normal number. I’m leaving it at eight because I write this for a little bit of a laugh and a release. I fully realize that my heart is walking outside my body in three separate forms and I don’t take it lightly that one day they may be husbands and fathers. I want them to have solid foundations of love and respect with a whole lotta silly. And I want them to know I am not perfect and neither are they. Cheers to all you mamas, putting in the work and the care. We are raising the future, friends. That’s tough work.

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15 Ways I knew I was in an Abusive Relationship

15 Ways to Recognize Abuse

October is fast approaching, which just so happens to be Domestic Violence Awareness month, but in all honesty, I feel like every month is it for me. I never lose that awareness. I never lose sight of what I’ve fought so hard to survive. When I think about my previous marriage and the things I went through with my ex-husband, all the red flags stick out. I recognize them now and wish my blinders handn’t kept me from acting on them during that long ten year period, but I want to speak them now, share them, give them a voice. It’s easy to call physical altercations abuse, because it’s so obvious, but it can be more than that. It’s also harder to acknowledge…

1 – He always wanted to know where I was

While we were dating, I thought it was understandable. We weren’t together 24/7 and so he just missed me so much that he had to message me constantly and would get upset when I didn’t immediately text right back. When I was pregnant, I made excuses for it. Of course, he had to know where I was because you never know when an emergency might happen, right? It took years for me to recognize this was his way of keeping control of me.

2 – He wasn’t nice to the waiter

I see this quote making its way around the web every now and then and I can instantly think of four handfuls of occassions when I witnessed my ex being extraordinarily rude to the waiter. You can’t be nice to some people and not others. Life doesn’t work that way. This in and of itself doesn’t spell abuser, but throw it in with a few more and it’s clear why I put it in here.

3 – He constantly judged my friends

Sure, we all have a crazy friend or two that might make your significant other wonder if they’re the best person to have around. We know why they’re our friends, but it’s not always easy to explain to someone you’re trying to keep around. My ex didn’t just like one person. He disliked all of my friends and he would nitpick each of them. It didn’t take me long to figure out it was easier to stop hanging out. When I wasn’t with them I wasn’t constantly answering texts on my phone regarding where I was or what we were doing, I wasn’t leaving early because he wanted me home for one reason or another, I wasn’t defending what I was up to, or explaining who all was there. The jealousy was overwhelming.

4 – He started making me skip school/work

I was a freshman at the University of Washington when we started dating. Yeah, it was cute to be convinced to skip one or two classes here or there, but it became a constant. One time he waited outside my Socioeconomics class until it was over, to make sure I came straight home after. I called out of work a bunch because “me being gone made him sick.” It was the worst kind of manipulation and I just kept giving in because his anger scared me.

5 – His anger scared me

This is the biggest red flag. I remember sitting with a friend recently, who was adamant she wasn’t in an abusive relationship and I asked her why she was certain she couldn’t go back home. She responded that it wasn’t safe, she wouldn’t be safe because she didn’t trust his anger. It was a sort of ah-ha moment that took me right back to the first time my ex got upset with me. He yelled so terrifyingly at me that I was legitimately scared. After that incident, anytime I could see his temper rising, I went into survival mode.

6 – He put me down in front of others

Whenever I did something commendable, he found something to be negative about. Sometimes it was obvious but more often than not, he found a way to say it in a way that made it sound constructive, helpful, or even right. Not everything we do will always be amazing, but constantly criticizing your significant other in front of people is deplorable. It’s no show of love, in my opinion.

7 – He kept trying to “teach me”

For some reason he had it in his head that I was a country bumpkin that hadn’t somehow gotten herself accepted to UW, which is not an easy task. Aside from putting me down, he would mansplain what I was doing wrong, no matter what it was. He would say things like, “I guess nobody taught you this, or nobody showed you how to be respectful.” Constant mansplaining. I am not stupid.

8 – He hit me

One day, after a major argument, his sister called as we were arriving at Target in North Seattle. He pretended as if everything was okay, as if he didn’t just yell at me until I was crying and felt two inches tall. He then had the audacity to hand his sister the phone so I could say hi and be “respectful” to her. When she asked me how everything was going, I said it could be better, if only he could be nicer to me. I said, “Tell him to be nice to me.” We never made it inside Target. We left right after the phone call, drove home in complete silence and as soon as we walked in the house, he exploded. It was the first time he actually hit me.

9 – He convinced me it was my fault

“If you hadn’t disrespected me to my sister, if you would have just done as you were told, if you hadn’t kept making me upset….” Two seconds after he struck me, I was apologizing. To him. The list of what I could do to deserve him losing his cool was neverending. NEVER.ENDING. For ten years. I could have written a 20,000 word book over all of the things that I DID to justify his rage. He always successfully made me think it was my fault. It was not my fault.

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10 – He monitored my phone

It wasn’t blatant, but rather sneaky. He was always reading through my text messages. He had the passwords to my emails. Not giving him the codes to stuff caused a fight. Made him accuse me of hiding stuff. While I almost never saw him reading my conversations, he would bring them casually up in arguments.

11- He took me away from everyone I knew

Right after we were married, he moved us to Southern California on the pretense we would be by family that wanted  us in their life. That was something he always threw in my face. My family isn’t like most. There isn’t this close Sunday-night-dinners and we-are-always-there-for-you feel like some people are so lucky to have. He did have that, to a fault if you ask me, and I could not have forgotten it if I wanted to. Eight years later he moved us to Hawaii because it was his last ditch effort to try to keep control over me. Moving away isn’t what makes it wrong, it’s making contact with those you need in your life impossible that is not okay.

12 – He corrected me in front of our children

I’m a firm believer in united fronts, as difficult as they may be with the undestanding that sometimes that won’t happen. In our case, whenever one of the boys asked me a question or if they could do something, he would override my answer or decision in front of them. It took away my credibility, which I feel like we still deal with sometimes, even now.

13 – He took away my method of communications

Things got especially heinous the year we moved to Hawaii. His answer to some mistakes on my end was to disconnect my phone, take away my car, deactivate my social media and monitor me even moreso. It was like living with the FBI. Both my Mother and my BFF at the time called the police to have them come check on me, which made matters worse.

13 – He allowed his parents to disrespect me

Whatever problems couples have in marriages, there should be some semblance of respect from either family. The thing is, even though we stayed together a whole decade, he always shared my downfalls to his mother, from the word go, so she constantly put me down. He allowed it.

14 – I always defended him

When my friends, family or anyone mentioned his behavior was questionable, I immediately defended him. I was about to type that I never understood why, but that’s not true. It’s because I took it personal, as proof that I had made the wrong decision in marrying him and desperately wanted to prove everyone wrong.

15 – He threatened me

Whether it was in regards to our children and leaving to Mexico with them, to “never be seen again,” or how if I left he would make sure everyone would know what a piece of shit I was, or that he would prove that I was an unfit mother, he would find the threat necessary to keep me from dialing 911, to keep me from seeking help, to stop me from leaving and to make me stay.

 

I haven’t even mentioned money. It’s a trigger for me. Yes, all of the above can be at any time, but finances and feeling like I have none will send me into a tail spin panic attack faster than you can say moola. Money stresses me out. Still. To this day. The thing is, domestic violence, which one in four women experience severe physical violence from their significant other, is a systematic pattern of power and control. It is not always physical. In all my reminiscing above, only one bullet point is about him putting his hands on me. The one constant component in each of my examples, is the constant effort to maintain both of those over me. Power and control.

My wish is that none of my friends have this in their relationships, but if you do, there is help. There is always help. Leaving isn’t easy. God, I know that is absolute truth. It doesn’t even end what was going on, because then, being “out of control” they become even more unpredictable, begin to harass and stalk and text ugly ish to you. Leaving is not easy, but it’s doable. And whether you’ve dealt with this for one day, month, year or decade, you can save yourself.

For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now.

If you’re in immediate danger, call 911.

Girl, be brave

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An AHA moment for me came recently.

I talk often of changing your life if you aren’t happy with it. Rewrite your shitty first draft, great things don’t come from your comfort zone, make today day one rather than  one day, etc. It’s a notion I have taken to heart so deeply, because life is so short. IT.IS.SO.SHORT. If you can do what it takes to stop being unhappy, I WILL CHEER YOU ON! Even 100 years is not but a ripple in the waters of this world.

Except, change is hard. I talk a lot about that, too. We all either work with or have worked with or know people who are hesitant/against/vocal about change. It’s hard, friends. I get it! Even the most adaptable people can find moments of struggle. I like to say that it takes one moment of insane courage to change your life. You just have to find it. A recent interaction with a friend experiencing a lot of change right now made me step back and re-evaluate my life motto. It’s incomplete.

Defining life moments can be grand when looking at them up close. Most of us can pinpoint very certain occasions in our past that changed our journey. We have to zoom out, though, to see that it was many, many decisions of bravery, of that insane courage that got us to that point. Not many things in life are sudden. Not many at all. I shared a story, a while back, of how my re-birthday was April 14, 2012 because that was the night I jumped out of a moving vehicle and ran for my life. Yes, it was such a big minute in time. If a movie were made about me I can guarantee that moment, so powerful and unmistakably brave, would have the heart stopping, dramatic music playing during the scene. I didn’t need music that night, though, because my heart was pounding hard enough in my ears to have drowned any sound out, anyway.

My story of leaving a decade of abuse is tough to talk about. Still. Yet, I keep doing it because a) it’s aiding my healing and b) it’s helping, even if a tiny bit, change the view of domestic violence, because there is a stigma. In my opening up about my experiences and how I left, what I learned about the process, my self-discovery and how I and my family still deal with it now has shown me something deeper. There’s a c) now. There have been people reaching out to me for help, to get some questions answered, or just to share their story. Not just about domestic violence, but so many issues. Eating disorders, self-hatred, molestation at a young age, rape. I’ve been told things that just break my heart.

There are statistics about domestic violence that I know very well. One in four women experience sever physical intimate partner violence, meaning they are together, or dating, or married. One in four. Without meaning to, when I’m surrounded by a bunch of females, I think about that number. I think about the many people who probably think it can’t possibly be that high, except when I’m in that group, that is me. One in three woman experience physical intimate partner violence, so maybe they didn’t have the shit beaten out of them, or were choked or forcefully shoved into concrete, but an abuse of force was used on their bodies. This doesn’t even account for the verbal, emotional and psychological abuse that organizations such as *DVSAS, of which I am on the board, recognize. The court system tends to only recognize physical abuse when requesting a protection order. The other forms of abuse are harder to get legal help with. They are even harder to prove.

I sat with a friend not too long ago, during a hard time in her life. I held her hand, hugged her, listened. It was hard. When I think of my story, the things I went through, my one big moment of bravery to leave, I only thought about it from my point of view. That makes sense, right? I watched it through my eyes. While I was sitting there, hearing reasoning and worry, vacillation between two shitty choices that just creates deafening guilt because there are repercussions either way,  and justifications being made, I listened harder. I thought of my experiences and how I did the same things. When we parted ways after, I got in my car and cried. I remember my one huge shift; calling Kulia on the side of the road in the middle of the night, trying to remember where I was and coordinating how I could stay hidden, just in case but she could still find me. All of a sudden there was a movie playing in my head of all the many other courageous moments I had, like when I shared that I was being abused and when I took the time to write down when he hit me that I could remember and put dates to them. I was back in my work’s lunchroom, sitting on a dirty 70’s style couch, dialing the numbers to numerous divorce attorneys and meeting no success because not having money gets you turned down from help really fast, friends. I was sitting across from my manager and assistant manager, on the eve of my last day of work with them, answering why I haven’t been myself the past couple of weeks, why my work was suffering. They thought I had leaving-itis. They made it clear I had let them down. Not once did they ask me if I was okay or safe. Not once did I offer that information up.

I never thought about Ku’s side. Of how it must have felt to hear someone tell you things no voice should ever share. As I sat in my driver seat, I texted her and told her I was crying. That I don’t know how she did it, I don’t know how anyone does. How do you sit there and have your heart break over words that cause so much pain, how do you hear them blame themselves, call themselves selfish and not scream out in agony? She listened so intently without telling me I was worthless, a piece of shit, only thinking about myself. She didn’t hurt me when I needed love. She was pure grace while I fell apart and I never even noticed how. And being kind of, not all the way, but sorta, in that boat was so.damn.hard. It shook me to my core. If it did that to her, I couldn’t tell. All she ever did was hold me. If you had that or have that in your life, someone who was unconditionally there for you, get up and go hug them. Run to them, kiss their cheek, tell them thank you. You probably already have, but do it again anyway. Life is short.

Yes, you can make a giant, easy-to-see step of epic proportions to change your life. Just remember that you are also taking baby steps, even if they are hard to see. And don’t you ever give up on them. Those baby steps are making progress. I guarantee it. If you need help, someone to talk to, or a place to feel safe, we are always here for you. I am always here for you.

*DVSAS stands for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services. This phenomenal organization is located in Bellingham, WA and is open to anyone needing help. You can find more information at http://www.dvsas.org including how to volunteer, donate and/or attend one of it’s upcoming events. Not everyone will be as vocal as I am. That’s okay. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

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Body Image Vibes

IMG_2377“Mom,” my oldest says to me one night. A deep, pensive night. He has stuff to say to me and I make sure to turn to him to give him some undivided attention. Sam, my meanager, as I lovingly call him, has always been a deep thinker. English is his second language; he didn’t learn it until he was in kindergarten. I thought it was the right thing to do, definitely thought it would give him a leg up in the world. Being fully bilingual before he started first grade would have been an awesome gift. Except, that didn’t happen. He was fully immersed in his class, had no classmates to converse with in Spanish, and began struggling from the word go. He doesn’t have either language mastered. His brain just wasn’t wired for it. I try to remember that when he is trying to chat with me and cannot find his words. Tonight is no different.

“Sometimes, when you come to pick me up at school, people see you and start laughing. They say, Sam, your Mom is so fat. It really makes me angry.”

What do you say to that? I want to tell him it doesn’t bother me, that my size doesn’t determine my worth. I find myself saying these words, but the truth is, it does affect me. I would be being untruthful if I didn’t acknowledge that. I feel myself go into robot mode, tell him that it’s a cheap insult and he should shrug it off. That him getting upset shows that he loves me and that’s all that matters to me. I speak slowly and with little emotion. The last thing I want to share with him is that I’ve been hearing it my whole life and it sucks and I try to not let it define me. Except, it does.

I can almost pinpoint the moment I realized I wasn’t looked at the same as some kiddos along with the moment I realized that when someone really wanted to hurt your feelings, especially if they were family or friends, they would immediately go for your biggest insecurity. It’s something I have a hard time doing today, even when I really want to. Cutting people with your words is easy, but what are you sacrificing to gain a moment of superiority? For me, it was my thighs. I’ve heard it all. Damn, check out those stumps! Oh, hey thunder thighs. Your legs are COTTAGE CHEESE! I started saying it myself. And what’s worse is when I’m having a really shitty day, even now. Even in these times, because nobody says horrible things to me like I do; I will stand in front of a mirror and tell myself I am fat, ugly, have the most horrendous thighs, the biggest baby apron, the widest bat wings. I tell myself all of it, because I’ve been hearing it for so long.

These thighs of mine have been the cause of a lot of stress, learning, working around. I’ve dealt with chafing, pants not fitting right, clapping when I go down stairs, ruined pants, not fitting in chairs, having to turn sideways to fit through aisles. They are chock-full of cellulite and jiggle. They are HARD.TO.LOVE.

Enter yesterday.

I was fresh back from NOLA, feeling really bloated and blah. Traveling makes me swell and even more self-conscious. I decided it was a fat pants day. Squeezing into my normal pants and feeling gross just didn’t sound like the kind of 24 hours I wanted to have. I headed to work and visited with friends. It was all making me feel better until I sat in the conference room and felt something cold on my inner thigh. And then it dawned on me. My pants had ripped in the inner thigh. AGAIN.

These are the kinds of things some people just won’t get. They don’t understand it. Their clothes don’t have to be replaced more often because their legs, butt, arms, whatever aren’t breaking down their articles of clothing faster. It’s humiliating and frustrating having to explain why I need a new pair of jeans or leggings. Why I don’t wear skirts or dresses as often as I want. It’s harder still to acknowledge that even though I am far into my journey of getting healthy and fit, I STILL HAVE BIG ASS THIGHS. AND A STOMACH. AND BAT WINGS. When I run into people, I feel like they are sizing me up (pun intended) because I CONSTANTLY size myself up. I don’t understand why I’m a year and a half in to this and I’m not a size 12 like I so desperately want to be. I try not to be envious of the people who cut out soda and lost ten pounds immediately. My body works against me every single day and I don’t get it. I got divorced and gained weight, which is opposite of most people. I get stressed out and gain weight. I stop eating and the pounds pack on quickly. I eat less and samesies. I weigh myself every day and it goes up. I weigh myself once a month and sure as shit, it creeps. Yes, I lose inches but my brain cannot love the scale no matter how hard I try to convince it.

I had packed my stuff for a run in the afternoon. I changed and drove to a nearby park that has trails. I told myself I would run for 2.5 miles and then go home. Becoming a runner has been one of the bigger surprises that I took on in 2015. I constantly told myself I could never do it, and then little by little proved to myself that I could. I am by no means a sprinter but I can go long distances. I remember being freaked THE HELL OUT to run a half marathon and so I committed to, signed up for, and paid for one. I dove into training and worked my ass off, but only figuratively. The day came and I did it without stopping once to walk and it was phenomenal. Except, then I stopped running diligently. I let excuses win more and more. I told myself it was okay, because I was still getting other workouts in. Sometimes.

Now I have another goal in mind, much different than a half-marathon. It’s Ragnar season and I was invited to be on a team for the second year in a row. The thing is, I was more prepared last year because I was still running some, not as much time had passed so my endurance was still up. I also took on a longer run position, with my first leg being over 5 miles long. Running 2.5 right now doesn’t seem like much, but it is. It’s eternal.

I was on the trail, going slow and steady; much slower than I am happy with but continually telling myself that at least I am out there. Usually I will incessantly check my running watch to see how far I have gone and what my pace is, but that makes me crazy and get hard on myself, so I mentally tell myself I won’t do that today. And I don’t. I stay true to my word. When I run, I don’t use headphones. Listening to things, especially music, distracts me. It’s bizarre and unheard of, apparently. Me? I like to run in silence. I’ve found a tranquility in the pain, beauty in the rhythmic movements. I focus on my breathing, control my gait as much as I can. I revel in the landscape and admire our Earth. Running did things I couldn’t find a way through. It reminded me how to be proud of myself, what it felt like to reach a goal. It helped me reconnect with my emotions on a very cellular level. Ku likes to joke that running made me human again and the reality is, she was right. I didn’t cry for a number of years after leaving my abusive ex. I was certain that all my tears were dried up for good. Running brought that ability to feel deeper back to me.

The one thing I had on was my mileage tracker. A velvet computer lady voice that tells me when I hit a mile. I hit two and thought, half a mile to go. I had fleeting thoughts about walking. My mind tried to convince me that nobody would know, because no one was around. Except, I would know and I would speak poorly to myself. Heaven knows I don’t need more reasons to do that.

As I’m trying to reach my goal, I pass a playground on my right, where there are two older kids playing on a tire swing. A young teenage girl is trying to swing a similarly aged boy and they are enjoying their time. She must have caught a glimpse of me, huffing and puffing along the gravel trail and she points and starts laughing.

“Look at that fat girl try to run.”

He turns and starts laughing, too.

Yet I just truck on, because they are right. I am fat. And I am trying.

I looked down at my run watch and realize I’m at 2.6 and then I think, well, that’s closer to 3 so I might as well run 3 miles today. What’s .4 more, at this point? And not far up ahead, a runner is coming towards me in the opposite direction, wearing a hot pink tank top and cute little running shorts. Now there’s a runner! As we get closer to each other, she smiles and in turn I smile back. She waves to me and says, “Great job!” It means so much more to me than those kids.

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You see, I do have thunder thighs but when I finished, I took a moment to stare down at them, with my hands on my knees, trying to catch my breath. These bad boys helped me leave a decade of domestic violence behind me. They helped me jump out of a vehicle and run for freedom. They have taken me across multiple finish lines after so many miles, so many more than a lot of people have run, they have helped me walk into new opportunities that have been life changing and in NINE DAYS they will walk me down the aisle to the love of my life. Yesterday, I could have hated them more than anything but after a small poor-me moment, I reflected on how far these boom sticks have taken me.

And I loved them.

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