Posted in Christmas, Family, Holidays, indigo inspiration, Thanks for the memories, The Future

Christmas Past


I finally did it.

I took down my tree.

I said goodbye to last year’s Christmas.

I’ve been thrashing myself with a whip of cords for the last 10 years.  I’m such a bum.  A lazy mom.  A loser that would leave the tree up until Valentine’s Day.

I walk past it over and over, wincing at the thought of unwrapping the lights and boxing up the ornaments.  The stockings come down first, usually around MLK Day.  Then the mantel lights.  The tree skirt comes off.  The Christmas Tupperware sits on the floor by the tree for a time and I throw in a few of the kids’ handmade goodies as they flutter to the ground.

Lazy, lazy, lazy.

My manger is still up.  It might not go for another month or so.

The deck lights might become permanent.  I unplugged the porch ones.  That’s good enough for now.

I figured it out this morning.  While I sawed off the branches.  Yes, in the house.  While it was still in the stand.  What?  You have you your process.  I have mine.

The Christmas tree represents for me the magic of the holiday.  The 6 of us picked it out and cut it down as per our tradition.  Jim sets it up.  I light the tree.  The ornaments are about 40% handmade by my children.  I didn’t even hang them this year.  My  children did.  Well, 3 of them hung ornaments.  My 2-year-old threw them at the tree and clapped when they landed on a branch.  It was pure perfection in my eyes.  We sit around it on Christmas morning and hand each other gifts.  My kids buy for each other now.  Watching them light up over the thoughtful choices was the pinnacle of Christmas spirit.

It is us.  It is love and joy and magic.

By this time every year, I have a dried piney fire hazard in some corner of my living room.  An old man of a tree.  An elderly Christmas past.

And I have to euthanize it.  Every year, I have to kill Christmas.  I have to put it out of its misery and make way for the new year to blossom.

I’m not lazy.  I’m grieving.  Just a little bit.  But enough to give me pause.

What if we’re not lazy every time we think we are?  What if we’re anxious over change?  What if we’re sad at letting go of something?  What if we’re overwhelmed?

Feel your feels, peeps.  Give them a name.  Own them.  Embrace them.  Give them the attention they need so you can move forward in your life.  In your day-to-days.  In your living and loving.  You are included in your loving.  There are 6 people in my home that need me to care for them, not 5.

So today I am saying goodbye to 2016’s Christmas.  I’m giving myself room to grieve so I can be wholeheartedly in 2017.

January 2018 will bring the death of 2017’s Christmas but I know what it is now.  I can embrace the goodbye.  I can beat myself up over one less thing.  I can go forward feeling the unpleasant emotions so that there is room in my heart for the other ones.

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Posted in Family, Insane in the Brain, of yore, Thanks for the memories, The Donor Chronicles

“I am waiting for you, Vizzini.”


I’m putting it all together, one piece at a time.  I’m rebuilding and rewiring.  I’m Peeta Mellark asking over and over, “Real or not real?”

In my pursuit of the truth, I pondered the role that the church I grew up in must have played in shaping my childhood experiences.  Until recently, I had not given much thought to the connection between the teachings of what I now realize to be a cult, and the damaging parenting practices that I grew up believing were appropriate and necessary.  I naively assumed that being in a new family with a healthy religious environment somehow negated or cancelled out the destructive nature of the previous 16 years.  After connecting online with someone else who was raised in the same church affiliation, I hesitantly put pen to paper.  Or fingers to keys… For the first time, I attempted to objectively chronicle my upbringing as it relates to the religious beliefs of the people who brought me into this world.

I was born in 1985, the second of seven children.  Until I was around 9 years old, my biological parents attended a gathering of Faith Assembly, under Dr. Hobart Freeman, in Endicott, NY.  We drove about 2 hours each way to be there every other Saturday evening with very few exceptions.  The teachings or messages were brought by James Mansfield.  I believe we met in the basement of a school or community building of some kind.  The meetings began on Saturday evening and went late into the night, sometimes early Sunday morning.  A man named Lemuel Dees was the song/worship leader and Sean (bio father), among other people, filled in at times when Mr. Dees could not be there.

I have few specific memories of being there, but most of what I know of the group was from the teachings that were engrained in us at home.  I feel our upbringing was the toxic result of the dangerously unbalanced teachings of Dr. Freeman and the deeply unstable emotional and mental state of both of our parents, but specifically Judy (bio mother). We would spend hours listening to cassette tapes of Dr. Freeman’s recorded teachings, as well as those by James Mansfield, and others whose names I can barely remember but would recognize if I read them.

Isolation from the world was heavily emphasized.  We were homeschooled in an extremely sheltered fashion as to be cut off from even other homeschoolers.  Aside from the occasional trip to the grocery store and the bi-weekly pilgrimage to the Endicott Assembly Meeting, we had very little contact with the outside world.  For example, even though we lived in a duplex, we were discouraged from having much contact with the neighbors who lived on the other side of the wall.  Family members on both Sean and Judy’s sides of the family were shunned and disparaged to such an extent that I grew up with very little knowledge of any of my extended family as they were not ‘walking in the light’.  I remember a few loud verbal altercations in which my grandparents were told that their ungodly influences were not welcome in our life.  Complete strangers were picked up and invited to stay in our home because they were missionaries spreading God’s Word.

We would often be without a vehicle for periods of time because Sean repaired them; we did not take them to be serviced when they broke down.  I don’t know if this was because our family could not afford to have our vehicles repaired, because outside interaction was discouraged, or some cocktail of both.  We grew up with very little.  Sean refused to take a test that would have certified him as a land surveyor and ensured that we would have been better off financially.  God would not have been pleased with our lust of the eyes and pride of life, however.  As a result, we lived off very little and were fed accordingly.  Clothing was worn at least a week before washing and baths were given weekly in as little water as possible to preserve the scant amount of cleaning products and personal hygiene products we could afford with coupons.

Any medical attention indicated both a lack of faith and outright defiance of God’s perfect will.  We were never vaccinated or taken to a doctor for any reason.  I recall being sick a lot.  Stomach viruses were rampant, but as an adult, I recognize what was most likely frequent food poisoning from the expired food we ate.  I remember once, in particular, as I was recovering from days of not being able to keep anything down, the dinner dish that was served contained sausage and I found it unappealing and I did not feel ready to eat it.   The ‘demon of fear’ was cast out of me, apparently unsuccessfully, since after eating said sausage dish and returning to bed, I proceeded to be quite sick to my stomach.  I remember my little brother often clutching at his ears, screaming in pain.  I now realize he probably had horrible ear infections.  I guess an upside of so much isolation is that we would have been much sicker had we interacted with any more people.  We were often schooled on the dangers of just about everything and warned that if we were hurt we had better have enough faith to be well as we would not be administered medical attention.  Once, when I was 11, I had an allergic reaction to something I ate.  As my mouth and throat became itchy and swelled, the response I received was that Judy hoped I was “ready to meet my Maker.”

When we weren’t listening to recorded sermons, the radio was often playing; mostly the news about the Middle East.  “See, the end is coming.  The rapture is just upon us and you have been very disobedient children.”  I lived in constant fear of being left behind.  I was certain I would have to face the Great Tribulation on my own.  I had nightmares and sleep-walked even into adulthood.  I grew to hate the sound of BBC News and anything related to Palestinian peace talks.  I felt cold all over my body from the fear.

We were beaten often, sometimes every day for days.  We were forced to ‘confess’ sins and admit to things our parents had suspected we had done, whether or not they had in fact happened.  It took me a long time to realize that it wasn’t simply a ‘spanking’ or ‘good parenting’.  We were truly beaten.  Sometimes it was with belts and sometimes Sean would take a piece of wood down to his basement workshop and sand it down and carve out a handle for better spanking leverage.  We would sit in our rooms for hours sometimes anxiously awaiting the discipline that would make our souls right again in case of the rapture.  We were told over and over that this was God’s will for us and would make us holy.  My oldest brother’s desire to be a dairy farmer someday was squashed as a ‘selfish ambition’ that God wanted to cleanse him of.  Once I remember being locked in a room for most of a day and being intermittently beaten throughout the day.  To this day I have limited mobility in my right shoulder where the arm was yanked out of the socket to save my soul from hell.

As children, we were discouraged from thinking for ourselves.  God had given us parents who were ‘enlightened’ and we were to trust and obey without question.  We were often beaten for ‘back talking’ or saying things that were perceived as disrespect.  Gender roles were clearly laid out.  A woman’s place was to be a wife and mother only in the home and anything else was out of God’s perfect will and therefore sinful.  Women must wear dresses, especially dresses that disguise the figure and are, for the most part, plain and unadorned.  We were not to shave or pluck any body hair and were expressly forbidden to pierce any body part or apply makeup.  Perfume was also sinful as it attracts men.  I recall being told one day that my desire to drive a pickup truck was outside of God’s will.  Only men drive trucks.

We were taught that men and women touching each other in any way was wrong.  If our parents felt we were even being too affectionate or playing too roughly with one another, a no touching rule was enacted and would last for several days.  We were assured that the night before we were to be married, we would be taken out for coffee by the parent of the same gender and explained how babies come into the world.  No further education on human anatomy or sexuality was necessary or acceptable.

Judy became very ill when I was 9 years old.  She had a severe case of gallstones which eventually caused a life threatening abdominal infection when a gall stone caused a bile leak internally.  After being violently ill for quite some time, several people convinced her to see a doctor.  I believe it was around this time that we were no longer meeting with the Faith Assembly in Endicott, NY.  We were told that the group disbanded.  From this point on, our family continued on much the same as we had been all those years with the exception that we went from church to church searching for others who ‘had the light’ in the same way we did.

Eventually, between the neglect, abuse, and mental instability, all 7 children were placed in 4 different homes around the time I was 15.  None of us have contact with either Sean or Judy any longer and, in some degree or another, all 7 of us struggle with depression, anxiety, or other conditions.  When questioned a few years back by one of my sisters, Sean informed her that, as children, we had rebelled against God.  We had destroyed the family and were given over to our own desires and were not right with God.  They desire no contact or relationship with any of us until we are repentant and ask for forgiveness in a way that shows we have turned from our sinful ways and have adequately made amends.

Putting words to the memories was difficult but cathartic.  I feel in a strange way that I may even help me to forgive.  Ackowledging the abuse and giving my childhood self a voice is freeing.  There will be days ahead when I must look back and remind myself that I know I’m ok.  There will be bright days that the past can barely touch with its tenacious darkness.  I hope that bringing it into the light will lessen the power it has over me, help me to see goodness where it really is, and may guide some other beaten soul towards the path of healing that I am slowly finding for myself.

For now, I need a nap.

That trip down Memory Lane was exhausting.

Posted in Family, indigo inspiration, Living Water, Thanks for the memories, Winter

2014


Every.  Single.  Day.
Every. Single. Day.

I forget.

Every.  Single.  Day.

The new year is beginning.  So long and good riddance to 2013.  Good things came of it, but it was a hard year.  A very hard year.  Exhausting.  But not debilitating.  A disaster in some ways.  And while I’d not want to do it over, I’m thankful for who I am on this side of it.  For who I’m becoming.

I painted this verse above the doors in my living room.  Where the sun shines in almost all day.  Because I need to remember.  It’s all that puts one foot in front of the other at some moments.  Because without His fresh mercies, I have no leg to stand on.  No reason to be.  No wherewithal for life.  Without Him, you do not want me in your world.  Without Him, I don’t want you in my world.  Every good thing about me is because His mercies are new.  There are surviving mercies.  And recovering mercies.  And rebuilding mercies.  There are mercies for not being terrified to move forward.  And mercies for all the stuff I messed up that’s hurting you.  And all the stuff you messed up that’s hurting me.  There’s mercies for putting it all back together afterwards.

His mercies are going to keep being new every morning in 2014.  They have to be.  Or there’s no hope for me.  Or you.  They have to be because He said they are.  And He cannot lie to me.  He cannot lie to you.

Posted in Emberleigh, Family, Insane in the Brain, Levi, Molly, Thanks for the memories, The Donor Chronicles

It’s Not About Forgiveness Anymore.


June 2004
David, Me, Scott, Hannah, Brian, Katie, Evan

 

It’s really not.  That’s been happening for a while now.  There’s not hate.  Or desire for revenge.  There is some anger.  Tears.  A lot of confusion and questions, especially now that I have and love children of my own.

But it’s not really about forgiveness.

Not anymore.

It’s about rewiring the circuitry.

I get that it’s broken.  I’ve moved on from that.  I’ve moved on from blaming.  I’ve moved on to seeking out healing.

Well-meaning people keep saying things like “forgive, so they don’t have the power to hurt you anymore”.  I know you mean well.  Please just hug me instead, or don’t judge my unfinishedness.  That’s the lovingest thing you can do.

I’m not holding on to hurt.  If that was all, I’d have let go a LOOOOOOONG time ago.  When broken people have hordes of offspring with no thought to their own wholeness, they crush their kids.  They wire them wrong.  They tell them f’ed up things that make them unsure of their worth, both to mankind and to the God Who created them.

I cried today.  Because it’s September 11th.  But not because of the tragedy that hit our nation that day over a decade ago.  Before you gasp at my cold heart, hear me out.  I got home from school that day to something that never should have been said to me.  That never should have been said to my siblings.  Or to any child, ever.

“You’re just like those terrorists.”

I remember it every year.  And then I stuff it back down in the box where I keep everything connected to my childhood, lock it up, and go on.

This year I took it to therapy with me.  Until this point, I have always remembered it as something said to me, neutrally, with very little in the way of positive or negative emotion attached to it.  Very carefully.

It was wrong.

I honestly didn’t know that.  I’ve thought for the better part of 27 years that the emotional, verbal, mental, physical, and spiritual abuse was merely their idea of doing the right thing, and who was I to say that they were wrong in any of it?  After all, don’t we all make mistakes in the name of doing what we believe is right?  There is a difference between making a mistake and abusing your children.  Having a difficult day is not the same as discarding human decency in the name of parenting.

I am terrified that I am a horrible parent.  That my love compass is broken.  That I am irreparably destroying the single most amazing thing that has ever been in my life.  The more I heal, however, and learn that the way I was raised was not an acceptable childhood, the more confidence I have in being a mom.  The less fearful I am of myself.  I am not her.  I am not broken beyond repair.  I can love.  I am loved.  I am as normal as I need to be.  I may be re-raising myself along with my 3 children, but I am ok.  Do I mourn the childhood I should have had?  Yes.  But I have forgiven.  That is not my burden to carry.  It’s such a mess that only God can sort it out.  I am left with pieces, and empty spaces, but He restores my youth like the eagles.

So, no.  It’s not about forgiveness anymore.  That was awhile ago.  Forgiveness doesn’t make me magically unhurt.  There is no magic reset button.  It doesn’t undo 16 years of trauma.  It just puts things in the right place so I can start to untangle my own mess and realize just how precious I actually am.

Posted in Family, Insane in the Brain, Living Water, Thanks for the memories

No Choice But Up


I do not have a choice.  There is no other option besides well.  The pattern of abuse ends with me.  The cycle of dysfunction is in my court and I will not pass the ball.  No games.  I refuse to mess around with the health of my mind and my heart.  I am telling myself again for the millionth time that I choose wholeness.

After so much improvement and finally seeing the sun through a break in the cloud bank, a new storm system moved in.  The vortex returned with its original vigor.  Some days it’s like crawling up an escalator going down.  I cannot let it carry me to the bottom, yet the energy to maintain status quo, at the very minimum, is beyond me.  The demons return with their shrieking.  The voice of gloom in its 1611 King James reminds me I am nothing.  There is no end to the darkness that I had once climbed out of and seen as but a  thing I had once experienced.

I was better.  I was loving my life.  The past was living where it belonged: not in smack dab in front of me.  So much victory over things I don’t even know how to put into words, yet had lived with for years, being consumed by them.  I was beginning to experience things that had been a part of my life, yet that most people take for granted.  Simple things that were not simple for me since the parts of me that should know how to live were crushed by abuse.  A paralyzing fear that I was unable to love.  A certainty that I would forever long to know God, but never reach Him.  A question of when, not if, the relationships in my life would be over when the respective recipients realized my damaged self was too hard to love.

You can quote me the verses and sayings all day long.  Tell me it’ll be ok.  Say the right things.  The Jesus things.

My healing is on His timeline, not mine.  Or yours.  Which means 2 things: 1) It will happen.  2) It is for real.

It means that the progress I made is not for naught.  That I am not back at Square 1, even though it feels more like Ground Zero.  That even though it seems my genetics demand disaster, that is not reality.  That if you turn out to not be as ok as I thought you were, I can still be ok.

I went back to therapy.  It’s exhausting starting again.  To open up the closet doors and let the skeletons fall out in front of someone new.  But I need perspective outside of me.  Visibility is at an all-time low.  Just past the tempest, is my life.  And it’s still there.  Even when the people whose wellness I was subconsciously measuring myself by are dropping like flies.  

I can be ok.  I must be ok.  I have no choice.  I will not pass on the inheritance passed on to me.  I will not give you the curse that was gifted to me.  The children God has entrusted to me are worth more than I was ever made to believe I was.  My marriage is worth too much to leave him at the mercy of my pain.

I choose to believe the devastatingly enormous love He has for me.

I have seen well and I cannot go back.

Posted in Family, indigo inspiration, Insane in the Brain, Living Water, of yore, Thanks for the memories

Please keep ripping my heart out.


The phrase that comes to mind is “casting your pearls before swine.”

The fact that I walked away from the relationship doesn’t mean I don’t forgive.  It doesn’t mean that a part of me won’t always grieve for what should have been.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t rejoice in the knowledge that with heaven comes wholeness, and that they and we will have healthy minds and hearts capable of knowing and being known.

It means I am well-er.  That I have prioritized my own health so that I can seek and know Him, the knowledge of Whom was nearly decimated by the 2 from whom I walked away.  That I know God has placed me in a family, and I do not take that lightly.  That I am responsible for my own health and decisions.  Regardless of the havoc wreaked on me by my residence on planet earth.  That no matter/because of the pain my heart feels over the manipulation and rejection, it is my responsibility as a person, a child of God, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, to be progressively more whole.

The enemy of our souls would love nothing better than for the broken to wallow in the fragments.  Embracing the shattered nature of our hearts cuts us further, cuts the people who come in contact with us.  Our God commands us to be and do that which only He can make us well enough to do and be.  So that we end the cycles of breaking and broken.  So that He is made glorious to ourselves and to those to whom we had previously played the porcupine. 

I went to see my new niece.

Grace Elizabeth O'Neill
Grace Elizabeth O’Neill

Today, she is 6 days old.  She is beautiful.  Her family is beautiful.  Her daddy, my brother, is broken, devastated by the childhood we shared.  And he keeps going back for more.  My heart breaks for him, but I cannot change him any more than I can change the people who birthed us into their insanity.  His heart is too soft and generous to long withstand the level of pain he continues to inflict upon himself and inevitably, eventually, his family.

I can only say that it has been a supernatural work of God’s love that has enabled me to make the choices I have made in response to the disaster that my heart has been.  I carry a question mark in my heart.  But “what if’s are stupid”.  I have to live in the “what is”.  And take responsibility for the status of my own person as the grown-ass adult that I am.

I see it like this: In the airport they tell you not to accept baggage from unknown people.  Suppose someone leaves baggage at your feet and walks away.  Quickly inform the important clipboard-wielding airport people and deal with your baggage, yo.  And don’t go back for more.  It’s your responsibility once it’s at your feet and blaming the terrorist who gave it to you won’t make it go away.  Nor will tracking down the terrorist and inviting them to join your flight.

“So, it’s like you made peace?”

That’s what my brother asked me.  I’d have to say “yes”. If peace is the absence of turmoil, and not associating with emotional terrorists removes the turmoil they bring to your life, then, yes.  I have brought peace to my family and myself by dealing with the baggage.  I’ve come to terms with the fact that they are ill.  The only relationship they wish to have with me is based on the version of reality that they, in their illness, have created.  They want contact with me as long as it entraps me in the game.  If I lend them control, they will seize it.  I do not play the game so they do not reach out to me, and therefore have proved to me that the game is what they were after.  Not me.  They want control.  Not love.  Because to them, love is control and instability and dependence are affection.

There is no fear in love.  They do not have love to offer me.  So I jealously guard the peace that I have learned to embrace.  And I eagerly await the healing of eternal life, both now and in heaven.

It’s not presumptuous to believe that He desires stability and wholeness for His children. 

It’s obedience.

Posted in Insane in the Brain, The Husband

Dang it, Jim!


Funny story:

Around 5am this morning, I was awakened by one of my children in need of a change of garments and sleeping venue.  To prevent embarrassment, the child in question will remain nameless due to the nature of the early morning rendezvous.  As the loving mother that I am, I dutifully showered and changed said offspring, threw the offended bedding into the washing machine, and tucked the small one into a hastily assembled ‘hollywood’.  (A ‘hollywood’ is a pallet on the floor.  Refer to my little brother, Dylan, for explanation.)

The floor in my room, to the chagrin of my husband, is rarely as tidy as it should be.  Due to this prolonged lapse in housekeeping, I usually turn on my bedside lamp before putting out the rest of the lights when going to bed so as not to injure myself at the end of each day.  In a rare, and as it turns out, unfortunate occurrence, the path to bed was clear, causing me to forego the typical illumination progression.  I turned out the lights before heading back to sleep, congratulating myself on the uncharacteristic cleanliness of my environs, knowing I would stumble over nothing on my way.

I made it without incident to the bed where a sharp crack, blinding pain, and stars in my vision elicited an involuntary scream.  To which Jim responded by sitting up quite violently and yelling, having been rudely torn from a deep sleep.  Cue the silent weeping.  The kind where tears stream uncontrollably down your face…

Had I turned on my lamp before canning the bathroom and hallway lights, and dragging myself back to my bed, I would have seen that my husband was sleeping on his back with his feet flat on the bed, with his knees in the air.  And I could have avoided finding his left knee with my face.  Directly in the nose.  At 5am in the morning.  After doing a load of laundry and showering a young child.  At 5am in the morning.

Possessing the appendage which inflicted my acute agony, Jim ferreted out an ice pack for my throbbing schnoz.  I fell asleep holding it to my nose.

I have 2 black eyes.

And my nose is deepening its lovely purple hue by the hour.

magic
magic

This is my only salvation.

And this…

another magic
another magic

The moral of the story is that cleaning your room is bad for your health.

Yup.  That’s what I’m going with.

My room was clean and now I look like I got punched in the face.