Friday, September 20, 2013

Being punished for what he did

I do not write in this blog often, but when I do I try to post about trips and other happy adventures since I have moved.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if that is all life was - happy adventures? Today I have to step out and talk about something real.
For well over a decade I have worked (in some form or another) with victims. Not all were victims of crime-some were just victims of circumstance.  I have always had a passion for helping the underdog--or as some would say, trying to save the world.
I guess some things never change. Over the last few months I have been helping someone who I can only describe as a classic domestic violence victim.  Oh, her spouse never physically or sexually assaulted her (as far as I know), but the power and control behavior is extremely prevalent.  They have been estranged for nine months and it has been a roller coaster ride, but finally a couple of weeks ago it all changed.  Over the last few weeks he has broken into her home more than once, taken all of their possessions (including the food from their freezer, momentos, and transportation) and terrorized her in the process.  During all of this she decided to move with family out of state...but has been dragging her feet.  Throughout this I have tried to be the calm in the storm, listen when she wants to talk, provide logical, sound suggestions during a time when her thinking is anything but logical and calm, and provide a safe place for the kids to be.  I have tried to help her see the big picture - and to look at what her options are.  I have tried to empower her - help her gain the confidence and belief that she deserves so much more than this.  I thought this was what she needed, but how is this any help when your dogs, food, photos, momentos, belongings, and most of all peace of mind have been stripped from you? When you do not feel safe and secure, but instead are frightened for your safety and unsure about your future?
Today she said to me, through tears and a trembling lip, "Why should I have to leave my home; disrupt my life?  Why am I being punished for what HE did?  I am moving because I HAVE to, not because I want to."  The truth of the matter is, I have no answers for her.  All I could say was that I was sorry for what has happened to her and wished it was not this way. All I could say, is ultimately it is HER choice and ask her to think what her life will be like if she stays; focus on the positive and quit looking back saying "coulda, woulda, shoulda."   I offered an ear and a place to feel safe if she wants it.  However,  I had to step back and consider what she was saying. She is moving (as she describes it) to "the country" where she does not know where anything is.  "Country" - with cows and pastures. She has no job or vehicle and will be staying with family. She is leaving everything and everyone she has known for almost 40 years - and not because she wanted to or because of something good, but because HE has beaten her down.   How is this fair?  I know, life isn't about "fair" but she brings up a good point.  She has taught me a lesson-a glimpse from the inside. One I hope to share with others.
I have no answers for her or other victims, but maybe I am not supposed to. All I can do (and all many of us can do) is be there-listen, help pick up the pieces, and pray. Be there for others - help them when they are down because you never know when you might be down there with them.  I left my friend with a book and a thought today as I walked away.  The book was entitled Under His Wings by Patsy Clairmont.  The book is about needing refuge and lifted up- I found it at a thrift store a long time ago and for no real reason picked it up. I guess this was the reason.  Today I told my friend I wanted to empower her-and hopefully this  book will help do that. 


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Where the Road Ends...

 Anyone that has known me for very long knows I have a special fondness for the sea.  It is by the sea that I recenter and recharge my batteries.  There is a calmness that overcomes me when I put my toes in the sand and a joy that fills my soul when I can hear the waves crashing against the shore and smell the sweet smell that is unique to the sea.  It is by the sea that one's heart can begin to heal when it feels like it has been shattered into a million pieces.  The sea, for me, is a place of respite; a place to get rejuvenated. It is a place I love to share with those who care to join me.

About ten days ago I had the privilege of spending a week at the beach, in the Outer Banks to be exact, where I would be training a group from the area. Thanks to a wonderful friend I was able to stay at a house in Duck while I trained and amazing group of folks.  As an added bonus my BGF was able to get away from work and home and join me for the week.  She was in need of respite and rejuvenation-in need of the healing powers of the sea.

I picked my dear friend up in Raleigh and off we drove to the sandbar otherwise known as the Outer Banks.  She had never been there before and I knew she was going to be in for a treat of epic proportions.  In no time at all it seemed as if not a moment had passed since we last spoke. We spent the 4 hour drive catching up on the every day happenings and discussed the upcoming week.  The closer we got to the beach the lower our shoulders dropped; the more relaxed we both seemed to be. The sea was working it's magic.

Once my classroom was set up we made our way to the house in Duck.  Along the way I pointed out places and activities I thought might be of interest to her. I shared my desire to go hang gliding at Jockey's Ridge (on my bucket list) and recounted my first adventure in the OBX almost ten years prior.  As we spoke I noticed I was seeing things with fresh eyes as I shared the information with my friend of seventeen plus years.   

The week started off rainy and a little dreary and cool.  My students apologized for the weather, but I just smiled and replied, "A rainy day at the beach is still a day at the beach."    I was not to be daunted by the rain. I was enjoying the class and the time in the OBX. I found myself making new friends and really appreciating how fortunate I was.

 It was on the second day of the class that the rain stopped and we were able to go explore in the evening. It was on that evening that we saw a breathtaking sunset over the sound - a sunset we would have missed had we been there just minutes later.  After the sun sank below the horizon we made our way a few miles north to where the road ends.  It is here that you must have a 4-wheel drive or turn around. It is on that patch of sand that the wild ponies run, but alas my car is not 4-wheel drive. It was here we saw the (almost) full moon as it reflected it's beauty on the water.  It was here, windblown and covered in sand, 
that I captured this photo.

We tried to make the most of our time in the evenings.  The following day, after class, we made our way south...once again to where the road ends.  On the way we made a stop in Rodanthe.  Many years ago we went together to see the movie Nights in Rodanthe in the theater and I could not wait to show my dear friend the house used for the film.    

After leaving Rodanthe we made our way to Cape Hatteras where we sat by the sea and watch the surfers as they patiently waited for the "perfect" wave. We made memories as we laughed - a common theme for the week. 
And while we watched the surfers I watched a mother and her two children as they played in the sand, fishermen hoping to reel in the big catch, and the birds as they raced along the sand finding dinner beneath it's soft grains.  I think I could have sat there for hours.  
From the lighthouse we made our way to the ferry.  Once again it was where the road least for us.  There just wasn't enough time to venture over to Ocracoke on the ferry (we will save that for our next trip!).  As we drove back we saw kite boarders  and windsurfers as the sun started to sink towards the horizon.  We got to Bodie Island just in time to see the pinks, blues, and purple hues of the sunset as the full moon rose behind the lighthouse.  Another day was done.

Our last night in the OBX was spent with some incredible women who, led by my dear friend, performed the Vagina Monologues.  Neither of us had ever seen the production, but both of us were very impressed.   The sheer talent (and courage) in that room was remarkable. The venue was a charming restaurant on Roanoke Island, with a breathtaking view as a backdrop.  It was the perfect ending to a wonderful week.  

 The next day I wrapped up class and sadly said good-bye to a fun group of new friends.  We packed up the car and made one final stop in Nags Head for a walk in the sand before making our way off the island.  We were both sad to see the week end.  The next four hours flew by as we drove along talking and laughing (I will never hear Madonna again without thinking of that trip) and with a heavy heart we said good-bye in Raleigh - but with plans to make this an annual event...a plan I hope we can keep.

Moving to this amazing place I call home,  I lost, and developed a new, core group of friends.  Over the last year I have learned that time and distance change things-whether we want them to or not.  1000 miles is a long way and while some stay in touch others find it too hard and simply fade away.  I am blessed with, and grateful for, a wonderful support system of beautiful friends here -  I wouldn't trade my girls for anything, but I still love and miss the ones I left behind.  So as I sit here during these early morning hours writing I am grateful  that over the course of five days one of those BGF of seventeen plus years... and I had the chance to travel to where the road ends...and on the way reconnect with one another. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I wonder, do you believe in angels?  Not the cherubs with wings, or even the glowing images of incandescence, but angels who walk among us.  I am beginning to.....

Bailey has had a touch of the flu and was pretty much down for the count for about 24 hours.  Today he tried to go to school, but did not make it the day.  Thankfully I work in a place that is flexible and could leave and finish working from home.  The poor child slept for almost 3 hours and when he awoke he was a different kid.  Suddenly he was his ornery self-which anyone that  knows my kid, knows what I mean. 
 Suddenly he was hungry and the only thing that sounded good was shells and cheese.  You guessed it - none in the house (trying to avoid packaged, processed foods).  Because he has been sick (and gave me the most pitiful puppy dog face ever) I slipped on the flip-flops and headed to the store. Little did I know I would be stopped by a beautiful, white haired woman as I pushed my buggy through Ingles.
As I surveyed my buggy of rotisserie chicken and shells and cheese this sweet lady stopped me as though we were old friends and began a conversation about the high cost of food.  As I talked to her I could not help but think she looked familiar, like my grandmother.  She talked about how it was cheaper to eat out than cook and how a simple meal for just herself yielded leftovers for a week. She did not say these things in a manner of complaint, but just as fact.  As she held her saltine crackers and honey wheat bread she talked about watching a man steal candy in front of his children the night before and how 'right is right, wrong is wrong.'  She talked about how blessed she was and as long as she has crackers, bananas, and peanut butter she will do just fine. She talked about being a Christian and listening to Christian radio even as she slept adding that she wakes up singing and thanks God every morning for being able to put her feet on the floor because there are so many that cannot.  She had a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye as she talked.  
The conversation couldn't have lasted more than two or three minutes, but it was long enough to leave an impression and teach me a lesson.  I think I am a pretty grateful person, but she reminded me that there is so much in this life to be thankful for and that we can never know how much simple contact can mean to another person.  I walked away from our little conversation with a smile on my face and a prayer in my heart that I will be a blessing to those I have contact with and that I will always appreciate the gifts in my life.  

I looked for this woman as I made my way to the checkout stand. I wondered how she got to the store and if she would need help getting home.  In the couple of minutes it took me to get to the checkout stand she was gone. I did not see her in the parking lot or anywhere near the front.  Was she an angel? Probably not. But for a few brief moments she was an angel to me delivering a gentle smile and sweet nature, much like my grandmother did before she passed.  You can trust that the next time I see some Reese's peanut butter I will think of her. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Fly to Santa Fe for a piece of pie

As I have said several times on this blog, over the last year I have been on the ever elusive quest for balance in my life.  I am a self-described workaholic in "recovery."  This is but one reason why I find it ironic that I am writing this blog after a long day of travel for work instead of sleeping...old habits are simply hard to break.  

A few weeks ago I was visiting with a new friend at work about an upcoming trip she was taking with her paramour.  After a particularly stressful two week class they were flying to Albuquerque so they could drive to Santa Fe for pie. We laughed at the seemingly silliness of this trip, as I told her she is my hero and I envied her ability to do this. (At the very moment I write this, she is probably having dessert in Santa Fe).  As we discussed her trip she reflected on the last few years in which she selflessly gave of herself to care for others.  She did so willingly, without complaint, and does not regret one moment of that time. But now her responsibilities have changed and she is able to up and go on a whim and is enjoying her newly found "free" time.  As a result she is taking the time to smell the taste the pie. It made me think of all the times I have said "later" or "another time" -some of the times in which it was warranted and at other times it was not.
As I gear up for a conference that always promises to be intense and rejuvenating at the same time I wonder about the importance of balance and taking time to "fly to Santa Fe."  I work in a field that is often thankless, rarely understood, and often frustrating.  Over the years I have seen things that cannot be unseen.  I have seen lives irreparably changed and as of last week have seen two lives(that I know of) end due to the violence perpetrated against them.  Young women who had their lives ahead of them, cut short because of violence. These deaths bring home the simple is short. We cannot know when it will be taken from us, so we must do what we can with what we have and make the very most of it. Not just to make this world a better place (which we MUST try to do every day) but also to take care of ourselves.  We MUST take the time to "fly to Santa Fe" or risk not being able to do the work (whatever work it is) we are called to do.  So, wherever you are in your life value each moment, for you may not get a "later" or "another time."  

I, for one, may not be in a place in my life (yet) where I can fly to Santa Fe for a pie (or wherever suits my fancy)but one day I will be. In the mean time I will put the computer down and go for a walk with the boy and/or our dog; take a drive to the coast for dinner with a lovely friend; or simply take a walk in the sand on one of the beautiful beaches in this state I get to call home. I will take the time to "fly to Santa Fe."

Friday, March 22, 2013

Only one year

 365 days...52 weeks...12 year.  A lot can happen in one year.  As I sit in my sweet little mountain cottage I think back over the last year and wonder where the time has gone.  In some ways it seems like moments and in other ways it seems like a lifetime has past.

Let me explain. One year ago I left my home, family, friends, and my job.  I packed up my son, pets, and household and moved across the country - 900 miles to be exact.  One year ago I left all of my friends and family to start a new job and a new life.  Some thought I was brave while others thought I was crazy. Still others may not have understood my decision.  I left a job I was passionate about; a job that consumed me; a job that had become my identity.  I left my family 
(including my adult daughter and friends who were like family).  I was confident I was making the right move, but terrified I would want to return a year later, with my tail between my legs, on my hands and  knees begging for my old job back.  

On March 25 I embarked on a journey that has proven to be the right one for me.  With the help of friends I moved my belongings into a house located in a historic neighborhood in a quaint town a fraction of the size of the town I moved from; a house I had only seen on the internet.  God was working though and this house I had never seen almost immediately felt like home.  The house was last inhabited by a man who was a brother by profession and sometimes I wonder if he ever left, but that is a story for another day.  

Then, on Easter Sunday, I loaded Bailey, Koda Bear, Fatty McFatterson, and Isabelle into my car.  As we said tearful good-byes I could not help but think the day we moved was symbolic.  Easter.  A day for fresh starts-new beginnings. Coincidence? I choose to think it was God at work.  

Within a very short time Bailey and I met our neighbors (another first) and Bay and the neighbor boys soon became inseparable.  Before much time had past I became accustomed to having a houseful of boys every weekend.   As Bailey and I began exploring the area one or two of the boys almost always came along.   Sleepovers have become a routine  - there have been very few weekends in the last twelve months where at least one of the boys hasn't been here at least one night of the weekend.  As I type this I can hear them upstairs in his "man cave" and smile knowing that thirteen months ago I would have been working and sleepovers were uncommon because of my crazy schedule.  

Summer came and went. We spent a lot of time hiking, exploring the area, doing yard work and attending church on Sunday.  We even got a week at the beach since  I had to be there for work.  In the midst of summer (and a heatwave in MO) we made a mad dash back to say good-bye to my sweet grandmother who went home to be with God - a woman who proved blood is not a requirement to be family.  When we left MO my stepmother gave me gifts I will cherish - mementos grandma had kept over the years including cards, photographs, pictures I had made as a child, and letters I had written to her when I could not visit.  In addition to those lovely items I was given another treasure - the flag my father was given when his father died; a treasure I prominently display on my mantel.  Other than memories, this flag and my old Pentax are all I have of my dad...unless you count the visits he makes in my dreams.

As fall began Bailey found soccer.  As you can see he enjoyed the game (almost as much as I enjoyed photographing him). With soccer came more friends for him and slowly, but surely, for me as well.   We settled into a routine of soccer practice and soccer games while working and going to school.  Routine. Normal. Predictable. Music to my ears.  Melanie came to visit and after a week, and with a heavy heart, we said goodbye.
In the last twelve months I have begun to slow down and smell the roses...or rather, the pine trees and ocean spray.  I have spent as much time as possible making memories with my son and giving him the childhood he deserves.  We spend as much time outside as we can and have enjoyed the simple pleasures of long hikes, the taste of water from a waterfall, sand between our toes, and time with friends.  We have sung praises in church (and on hiking trails) and this winter we read To Kill a Mockingbird aloud.  

In the last twelve months we have explored the beautiful mountains in which we live and I have spent four weeks at the coast...for work.   I have had the privilege and honor of  training a multitude of law enforcement on a topic I am very passionate about and look forward to seeing them put the training into action.  I miss The Job, but I love my Life.

In the last twelve months I have learned so much.  I have learned you cannot make someone stay in your life-because sometimes it is too hard for them.  No matter how much we do not want things to change, they will and sometimes that is okay.  I have learned that some friends will never say good-bye (thank God), no matter what the distance.   I have learned how precious those friends are.  I have learned that miles do not mean anything when you can pick up the phone, text, or send an email-especially with family (and some of my friends are like family). 

In the last twelve months I have made some wonderful friends - both at work and away from work.   I am blessed to have girlfriends to have fun with, exercise with, and drink wine with.  And in the last few months I have expanded my very small circle to include a group of joyful women who do not care how silly I look doing Zumba.  And for those that have wondered, I actually ventured back into the dating world.  I learned three years is long enough. 

Finally, in the last twelve months, whether I am driving across town or across the state to the coast or just here enjoying my home I daily thank God for the privilege of getting to live here - in a place where I can see His fingerprints every time I look out the window and see the breathtaking beauty that surrounds me.  And on the days where I wonder if I made the right decision walking away from a career that meant so much, I look at my son and think about how much he has grown and blossomed and think...Yes!  My career may have altered slightly, but hopefully this change will allow me to make a difference without sacrificing his childhood.  As I sit here I count my blessings and cannot help but think, twelve months down...and a lifetime to go.