Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Yesterday I stood beside the casket of the man one of my sisters loved with all her heart, and watched in agony as she bid him farewell. She spoke to him from her heart. She whispered in his ear, stroked his hair, kissed his lips. I had promised myself and my sister that I would be there for her support, but for a few moments, my mind was reeling at the love and strength that I saw. My sister was clothed in a snazzy skirt and heels, but when I looked at her through my overflowing eyes, I saw her gleaming in armor. My sister was a warrior of love and grief, and she conquered both.

For months now, I have been reading and researching warriors, and battles, and bravery. I have written on my heart the names of women and men who have given their lives for a cause they believed in. I have found myself amazed, stunned, frightened, breathless, and occasionally filled with a sense of wild exhiliration. From the time that Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, history is chock-full of warriors who have laid down life and lance for what they believed in. I have no concrete reason for this research, beyond the fact that I felt compelled to do it. But this evening it hit me that I have been surrounded by warriors my entire life, and that I carry a sizable shield myself.

I rose before the sun on the morning we were to bury my sisters' husband, determined to steal just a few moments to myself....to sort my thoughts and catch my breath, and to raise a few fervent prayers for the day ahead. Text messages were buzzing in from friends and family, as were email messages from the office and school.....all of which I successfully ignored until just one caught my eye. With a racing heart and turning stomach, I read a message that informed me that my ex-husband had somehow stolen a photo from my Facebook page, and posted it on his own. A photo of two of my children, both his former victims....a photo I had snapped in my very own kitchen on Easter morning of this year. I realize that the phrase, "I feel violated" is often used as a punchline these days. That aside, there is no other term that can more aptly describe my reaction.

Once upon a time I described myself as a victim of domestic violence. Then....after time (and extensive therapy and soul-searching) I called myself a survivor. Both statements are factual. But I write this tonight as a warrior - a warrior against domestic violence, yes. But more specifically, I am waging a war against the man who bestowed upon me those titles, the monster I continue to fight, and the sociopath who sees nothing wrong with stealing and posting photos of his former victims.

The day will come when the state of Washington will decree that said monster is permitted to be in the same room with my innocent, precocious, larger-than-life daughter Penelope. Parental rights aside, Penelope has done nothing to deserve such treatment. She has never been exposed to evil or depravity. She thinks that rainbows are real, that Santa Claus is in the nearest chimney, and that my kisses truly heal all boo-boos. She loves and adores a man that she calls Daddy of her own accord, and he is not the creep who claims her as if she is a piece of furniture. Her tenacity and her intelligence are inspiring, and I will never stop swinging on her behalf.

I have a nine-year old son who still flinches if you reach for him too quickly. I have a nine-year old daughter who cannot bear to be startled. I cannot stand the smell of vanilla, the sound of rap music, or any surprise that is orchestrated outside of my knowledge. I have a costly and ridiculous security system on my house that I activate nightly, and years worth of sleepless nights that I have logged, checking and re-checking locks and watching out darkened windows.

There was a time when I wanted nothing more than to bury my story. Those were the days when I still assumed the shame of what was done to me, and to my children. But here's the scoop...I didn't ask to be abused, nor did my children. We were conned....manipulated...bamboozled, if you will. And now our warrior eyes are wide open, and trained on the one person responsible. Since photo ops seem to be the name of the game, and since I am not prohibited by any court orders, I feel the time has come to put a face with a name, as the old saying goes.

I do believe this charming photo was taken in the parking lot of the courthouse where I was granted a domestic violence protection order against him until 2051....does this look like the face of a man who has assumed responsibility for his abuse? And who is working to make amends?

I ask you this, and only this. Read our story. Post it. And post it again. I know that I am not the only woman or mother in this position, but perhaps I am the only warrior brave enough to speak the truth.

This is the face of abuse. This is the face of cruelty and deception and hatred. I am sharing it because I swore to myself some time ago that I would not allow any other innocent women and children to suffer. As Yehuda Bauer once said, and as I remind myself every day, "Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tiny Bubbles

It's been a while since I wrote anything worth posting (in my humble opinion) on this little blog of mine. It occurs to me that I've been living in a bubble, provided by the state of Washington via a domestic violence protection order. Bubbles don't last forever....and sadly, neither do protective orders. So tomorrow, in the middle of a busy day at the office, I will go behind closed doors and wait for a call from the Family Court in Washington state. I know that my attorney will be on the other end, as will a Judge and a stenographer, and I expect that my evil ex-husband will be there as well.

You see, my beautiful little daughter Penelope turned three years old today....and for me, that means my days as of late have been filled with cupcakes and Dora bracelets and pale pink balloons...and after all of the party favors are cleaned up and everyone goes home, I wrestle with my fear into the wee hours of almost every morning.

Penelope has had a domestic violence protective order in place since the tender age of one. The state of Washington only grants protective orders of this type for one year at a time for minor children, in the hopes that the abuser will mend his/her ways and suddenly emerge as a model parent. If there were an icon for dripping sarcasm, this would be the place to insert it. So, August of 2011 was spent writing motions and wrapping presents.....and we all got the gift we wanted the most.....a swimming pool for Penelope, and a protective order for another year. Now here I am another year later, asking for another year of protection for my daughter. The financial cost of this process is literally smothering me. I expect to make a monthly payment to my attorney in Washington for the rest of my life. I cannot begin to describe the emotional toll that this process exacts.

I don't talk about this openly or with any sense of ease, as it is painful and yes, still shameful to me. But every year when I write a motion and beg the court to further protect my daughter, I am required to recall the past. I have to write motions and eventually give testimony about the war zone in which my kids and I lived, and that nearly breaks my heart. I was raised with the mantra, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." It makes me laugh now, remembering some paperwork that I had to fill out for the court in Washington two years ago....some idiot handed me a form that asked me to say something "nice" about my ex-husband. The only thing I could come up with was, "He is tall." I said something nice. Now I am speaking only the truth. And tall, short, or otherwise, he is dangerous.

If you are reading this, pray. Pray for my strength tomorrow, and pray that I am given the fortitude to say what the Judge needs to hear. Pray that Penelope passes safely from 3 to 4 years of age without being exposed to evil. Pray that I eventually go to bed and sleep. Pray that Roan and Posey are no longer afraid. Pray that the birthday wishes that I sent up on Penelopes' behalf are granted.

I have my notes prepared for tomorrow, and at the top of them is a verse that has been sent to me over and over.....2 Corinthians 3:12 "Since we have such a hope we act with great boldness."

I have hope. Pray for boldness.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Things I Like....and Things I Do Not

Things That I Like:

-The smell of clean laundry.
-The smell of your skin when you come in from a walk or run on a cold, windy day.
-Giggling. I think there is far too little giggling in this world. I intend to change that.
-When Sadie dreams, and her little dog legs twitch, and she yelps in her sleep. I like to imagine that she is dreaming of walking on a doggie runway somewhere, and that she is yelping everytime a young pup throws a rose in her direction.
-Turtlenecks. Yep, I said it. I do!
-Taking a shower before I take a bath, to avoid sitting in my own filth.
-A warm hoodie.
-Waking up in the middle of the night, looking at the clock and realizing I have several hours of sleep still coming my way.
-Puppy breath.
-Tiny silverware. I cannot resist it, and have been known to slip it into my purse or my bra on occasion.
-Kissing. Oooooowwwweeeeeee do I love me some kissing!
-High heeled shoes, both shopping for and wearing.
-Poetry, but only if I can understand it.
-Childrens' books written in rhyme. So much easier to read.
-Snuggling. Spooning. Holding hands, pinching behinds, and waking up in the middle of the night to find his hand on my hip. Is there any better middle-of-the-night feeling?
-The freedom to be completely honest.
-Eye contact.
-Slipping into my home pants and slipping off my bra at the end of a long day.
-New projects.
-Music. Music. Music.
-Laundry. The sorting, the washing, the drying, the folding. I get a charge out of knowing I have filled the closets and dressers in my home with fresh, clean laundry.
-Pooping. Look, Freud had plenty to say about it, but I think it is great.
-New tennis shoes.
-The stars, and the wonder of lying in the backyard or the driveway and looking at them with people you love.
-A warm car on a winter morning.
-Being Dutch.

And conversely, Things I Do Not Like:

-Bullies. They bite the big one.
-Stains on my carpet.
-Stinky bathrooms. Have you ever noticed that the bathrooms at drive-in movie theaters are the most foul?
-When my dog digs in the trash for diapers...and finds them.
-Dirty ears.
-Freezing rain.
-Cold toes - mine, or that of my children.
-The life envy I experience when I watch a Lifetime movie.
-The miles that separate me and my sisters.
-Interrupting. Seriously, now.
-People who judge other people.
-AKA...self-righteous behavior.
-Creepy men.
-Women in the workplace who don't support other women in the workplace.
-Women who work outside the home who don't support women who stay home.
-Women who stay home who don't respect women who work outside.
-Any person (male or female) who refers to Father/Child Time as "babysitting". Oh, hell to the no.
-Gossip. Save it for 90210, people.
-People who post on Facebook what they are making for dinner, or how many loads of laundry they have washed. Seriously....nobody cares. Say something funny or inspiring, or say nothing at all.
-Unibrows. My son is 8, and I am already talking to him about the wonders of waxing...
-The strong, silent type. Be strong. But for the love of all that is good and holy, don't be silent.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Things We Can Count On

A wise friend recently told me that I should write just how I talk. I'm not sure everyone will agree, but it made sense to me. So tonight I'm on my couch, with my faithful sidekick Sadie snoring and farting beside me, and I'm talking. I guess I'm talking to you...

Here's the thing. I check out my brows in the mirror every day, and I tend to think they look just fine. But then every once in a while I glance in the rearview mirror and nearly gasp in horror to see my brows in the light of day. Good God, there are times when I make Brooke Shields look as if she has alopecia. It doesn't matter where I am headed, or if I am looking in the rearview mirror to see if the officer behind me has noticed my plates are expired.....only the brows matter at that point. And yes, that often means I pull into the parking lot at the office, grab the tweezers I keep in my car (yes, I do) and take care of those bad boys there and then. I've learned to improvise. One moment we think all is well, the next moment we are wildly plucking our brows in full view of our co-workers. This is the stuff of life. If you don't believe me, take a look at your brows, my friend.

Every night when I tuck Penelope into bed, I say to her, "Do you know what?" And every night, she looks me in the eye and she nods, with her signature grin. It nearly takes my breath away, despite the fact that this has been our routine for months. She does know. She knows that what I'm going to say next is, "I love you soooo much." I'm grateful and relieved and delighted that my 2 1/2 year old daughter knows without a doubt that I love her soooo much. It's a gift, and one that I wish we had all been given.

I make a habit of reminding myself, my staff and my kids that the one thing we can rely on in this world is that nothing remains the same. One of my favorite quotes has always been, "If you are going through hell, keep going." Sometimes, that is all we can do.

I returned to Iowa some time ago, skinny, scarred, and scared. There were many nights when I kept my composure just long enough to get my kids into their beds, after which I would crawl under my (borrowed) covers and cry into my (borrowed) pillow for hours. I cried so long and so hard that my eyes ached. I knew that the very next night, I would do the same. It was what I needed to do. I didn't miss my past life, or my past love (if you can call it that). I missed knowing how I would feel when I woke up in the morning. I missed the ability to look people in the eye. I missed knowing how to respond when kind-hearted people asked how I was doing. I missed the ability to walk down the street without feeling ashamed of what had happened to me. It is a huge cliche' but I missed me - the smart and sassy woman who didn't have second thoughts, and who didn't apologize for her opinions. I guess I was mourning the loss of that Dori, and the circumstances that brought me to that loss.

But every morning, when my alarm went off, I put my feet on the floor and I stepped into the next day. My heart wasn't always in it, but it was the right thing to do. I thank my Iowa work ethic, my Dutch heritage, and my parents for giving me the fortitude to keep breathing when everything in me wanted to give up, close my eyes, and stay under the covers. Oh, and having a screaming baby in a crib two feet away and two hungry seven-year olds circling my bed didn't hurt, either.

As it turns out, if you do just that...just keep going....one day you fall asleep because you are tired and content, and not because you have swallowed a sleeping pill. And one morning you wake up and you know it's okay to stay in your warm, cozy bed. Not because you want to avoid anything outside of that...but just because you are 40 and tired and you have a sweet, spitty toddler next to you who wants to snuggle. And one day, you look someone new in the eyes, and you aren't afraid anymore.

Much like my errant eyebrows, this change crept up on me. Without realizing it, I cry less. I laugh more. I let people into my life and into my heart, and I don't question their motives. I don't look over my shoulder as much. I sleep at night, and my dreams are filled with the wonderful strangeness of past highschool teachers and aquariums and fields of corn...and yes, those dreams where you go to school in your pajamas (do we ever get away from those?) I can't recall the last nightmare I had.

This very morning I woke up and I looked around my messy, haphazard bedroom, which is still lacking any artwork on the walls, but boasts an impressive collection of pacifiers on the nightstand. And in that moment between hitting snooze on my alarm clock and putting my hand up to feel how large my hair had become during the night, I smiled. Crazy eyebrows and crazy ex-husbands aside, I am one very lucky lady. And you know what? I love that. So. Much.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Three Reasons

I saw the musical "Showboat" many, many moons ago, and as is typical of me, I instantly ran out and bought the soundtrack the next day. I have that soundtrack on my ragged Ipod, and I listen to it daily. I'm listening to it now. One song is called "Can't Help Loving That Man of Mine". Look....I'm not even going down that road. BUT a portion of the lyrics speak to me..."Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly"...it seems to say that we all do what we gotta do. I understand and embrace that concept.

Today I spent three hours driving to the Omaha airport with my sister Deidra and my niece Maddison, so that Deidra could catch a flight back to Utah. She flew Roan and Posey from Utah to Iowa a week ago after their annual visit with their Dad, and it was time for her to return "home". It's still hard for me to accept that any place she calls home is so far away from me. Again, fish gotta swim. Birds gotta fly. The drive passed quickly. Maddison read a book for the first hour, while Deidra and I de-briefed about her visit. We talked about the controversial Pork and Chicken Night at the Coffee Cup Cafe, and laughed about the wild game of Uno Attack that took place at our parents dining room table. Soon, Madds joined us in discussing the merits of a hospital bed that would allow patients to "do their duty" while seated in bed, but without a bedpan. Due to pending patents, I cannot reveal further details, but let me say that intricate diagrams were created.

Maddison and I bid farewell to Deidra at the curb, and shared a few moments of silence as we left the airport. And during the next three hours as we ate up the miles between Epperly Airfield and Sully, Iowa, we talked. We laughed. We even shed a few tears. And I was reminded, as I have been so many times over the years, that I am an incredibly lucky woman.

Yes, I have men in my life who will always be dear to my heart. My brother-in-law Kendall, who has been a part of our family for what seems like forever (or even longer, in his estimation.) My brother-in-law Jeff, who sung the first lullabies my kids had ever heard. My Dad, who spent a lifetime in a cloud of hairspray and lipgloss and snagged nylons, to emerge on the other side as my hero. My brown-eyed son Roan, the one who hugs me at the most unexpected moment, who called me from Utah dripping in homesickness, the one who has wanted nothing more than to sit beside me and hold my hand since he was a baby. I want them to receive the credit they deserve. But tonight the women in my life are on my heart and my mind.

I have three sisters who make me laugh wildly, and who hold me when I cry. I have a mother who may not always approve of what I do, but who has steadfastly remained in my corner. I have two nieces who are wise beyond their years. They amaze and astound me on a daily basis. And yes, I have two daughters. They are separated by six years and sixteen pounds. They inspire me, they challenge me, they exhaust me. I look into their big blue eyes, and I know. I know they are a gift from God. I know that my heart has reason to smile. I know that I will do everything in my power to help them find the confidence, the kindness, the moxie to do what they gotta do. Fish, birds....they will rule both. And then some.

I told Maddison tonight that I believe that I met and married a monster for three reasons:
1. I was meant to be a mother to Penelope. And that wouldn't have happened otherwise.
2. Although I wish it weren't mine to bear, I was the only person who was going to fight and fight and fight until he was backed down, if not defeated. Two other wives and countless girlfriends had escaped and decided it was too risky. I escaped and decided he had to be stopped. And clearly, I was the one who had to stop him.
3. I will take what happened to me and I will use it to help other women. I will someday look other victims in the eye and I will say, "I am living proof that there is life on the other side. I will help you find it."

Earlier this week, I arranged a meeting at the eye doctor for my Posey. She needed to pick out her first eyeglasses, and I wanted her to walk into the fray with resources aplenty. We stormed the clinic - Posey, my Mom, Sister Deidra and Niece Maddison (and yes, Roan, with a frog in his pocket.) Posey picked out the frames that she felt were best for her. And I wrote a check, and while I silently prayed that it wouldn't bounce, I silently thanked the forces of the universe that allowed me and my daughters our grace and good fortune. It must be somethin' that the angels done planned.

Tra la la.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

21 Days - Day 3

OK, OK. I am making my own rules now. 21 days of writing. I'm gonna do this. But....the 21 days may not be consecutive.

Here's the deal. Sometimes the things I write (such as my blog on Day 2) are heavy. It takes a lot of time and energy to write them. And it takes more time and energy to shed them. I've been shedding. I've been thinking and praying and hoping. I kinda feel that I should burst into song at any moment. Tra la la la la.

We recently celebrated Independence Day. It's a wonderful holiday, and I love the BBQ's, the parades, and of course, the fireworks. But this year, Independence Day has an even more personal meaning. I spent the 3rd and 4th of July communicating with my attorney, as we worked together to prepare my motion for a renewal of my domestic violence protection order. In the fine state of Washington, where my DVOP was granted, the "law" requires you to request a renewal exactly 90 days in advance of the expiration date. For me, that 90-day mark is July 7th. Let freedom ring, indeed.

I sent my attorney my declaration earlier this week, in which I stated that I was afraid for my life, and for the safety of my children. I wrote that I had given up a lucrative position, a beautiful home, and a network of colleagues and friends to escape my situation. All of those things are true. And none of them matter to me, not in comparison to the safety and security and happiness of my children. It hit me today that I would gladly pay this price and then some for my kids. Roan is learning to hit a baseball with a bat. Posey is toothless and lovely and a budding artist. Penelope counted 1...2....3 today for the first time. What does it matter that I am afraid, really? If they are happy, I am happy.

This is the stuff of life.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Name is Dori - Day 2 of 21

My name is Dori, and this is what I am....a college graduate, a daughter, a fierce negotiator, a friend, a singer, a successful businesswoman, a loving sister, a writer, a reader of hundreds and thousands of novels, a person who cares about people and who makes a point of asking the right question at the right time. I am a mother. I am the person that many people reach out to for help and guidance and love. I am also a survivor of domestic violence. And I believe that if it happened to me, it can happen to anyone.

My name is Dori, and this is what I am.....lucky. During the two years that I spent with my abuser, who happened to be my husband, I was beaten, I was shoved, I was locked out of my own home in the pouring rain, I was jailed, I was called a whore and a slut and a worthless bitch, I was left stranded at countless restaurants and stores, I was homeless, and I was afraid. And still, I am lucky. I got out.

My name is Dori, and this is what I have become...a woman who speaks the truth. I spent over two years lying to every person I loved to keep my dirty little secret under wraps. I told concerned co-workers that everything was fine, and that I was wearing long sleeves in July because I was cold blooded. I told the nurses at the hospital that my husband was under a lot of stress and acting completely out of character when he stormed out of the hospital the day I was to deliver our daughter. I told my girlfriends that I was happy and secure in my marriage, and that the fact that my husband tried to bed them was amusing to me. I am smart and I am tough and I believe in honesty, even when it hurts. And I lied every day. I have no doubt that there are other women living the same lie - because the truth is too horrible to accept, much less admit to anyone else.

The million dollar question that everyone eventually asks is this: Why did you stay? It is difficult, if not impossible, to explain to anyone who hasn't been there. I stayed because I was convinced that if I did everything "right", he would no longer be angry. I stayed because he said I was the problem. I stayed because he told me he would take our baby from me. I stayed because he promised me he would take medication and see a counselor. I stayed because he had pushed my friends and family so far away from me that I felt alone. I stayed because I felt sorry for him, because he had buried us in so much debt that I couldn't see my way out, because he made me believe that I was worthless and ugly and pathetic. I stayed because I was deeply ashamed of what my life had become. I stayed in the hope that the rare moments of normalcy would last. And ultimately I stayed because I knew that leaving him would be the most dangerous decision I'd ever make.

My name is Dori, and I've only just begun.