Wednesday, June 14, 2017

My Dad

I remember an interview of John Mellencamp I watched years ago. He shared that his child's class was assigned to do a presentation on what his parents did for a living. His son shared that his dad was a painter.

Many of you know John is a world famous rock star- but his son saw him as a painter- because in his son's world that's what he experienced.

My Dad is a carpenter.
Not in his day to day career- but I always think of my dad as a carpenter.
Even though my dad's job is very much a white collar job.

A week ago my son and I built a rabbit hutch. I taught him how to measure twice and cut once, how to make a working pattern with wood pieces, to create angles and "square" up with a tool that looks like a triangle. As we worked, I sang along to the lyrics of 60's and 70's music, in between giving directions.

At the end of the day, sitting around our backyard campfire I thought of my dad.
I remember making dog houses with him in the garage, "Hold it steady Katie." He would tell me when we hand sawed through boards together.

I remember bringing him his jug of water as he roofed the house or built the pergola- all the while, his battery powered transistor radio belted out music- with a knob that you had to finesse just right to find the oldies station. And HE would sing along.

I am one of the lucky ones.
My Dad is one of the good ones.
I learned more from my Dad by the way he lived his life than how he spoke.

My Dad worked 5 or 6 days a week and on Sundays he was gone serving at religious gatherings. Some Saturdays, we went as a family to assist the widows. We built fences, moved boxes, and shoveled snow in the winter.

The day my dad walked down the stairs of our family home missing his brown hairbrush mustache, my little sister cried. We had never seen him without it.
He had been asked to serve in our Church and part of the position required him to be clean shaven.

When fall came, we raked leaves on the church property and carried them away in our 59 GMC pickup truck. The children and the leaves rode in the back, a few blocks to our home-where we children would sit and watch as he worked the leaves into our family garden. NO ONE was allowed off the deck because he worried our legs might get stuck in the RotoTiller.

My Dad worked LONG hours, and was usually gone when I woke. We had 6 children in my home, my Mother was a homemaker. Sick, or tired, or exhausted- my Dad worked to make sure we had food and shelter.

 My dad is also a Warrior. I witnessed it.

It was after a co-ed sports night at the community church center. Most of the teens had gone home, the majority of lights were off in the large building except a few dim lights in the corridors.
My dad and Mr. Mathers were in the accounting office of church donations.
Dee was Mr. Mathers' daughter and physically disabled. She walked and stood crookedly. Her facial features were slightly different, she wore hearing aids.
She was smaller than her age would dictate. Because she had trouble speaking physically, people often mistook her as mentally inept- but that wasn't the case.
Dee and I sat in the hallway on chairs waiting patiently- like kids outside the principals office.

My dad finally joined us. "Ok, Katie, let's go."
Mr. Mathers wasn't quite finished- but we were free to leave.
Dee walked with us for a ways and used the drinking fountain before U-turning back down the darkened hallway.
Doors from the gym exploded open in the gap between her and us, and passing through them were some rowdy teen boys carrying a basketball.
They didn't see my father and I, they noticed Dee clumsily walking down the carpeted alleyway.
They laughed at her.
My dad stopped abruptly.
They began to follow her, tease her and mimic her.

My dad's eyes locked the three young men who were unaware of our presence, when he said; "Katie. Get in the car."

He began walking down the hallway, I saw his silhouette against the light, as if it were a tunnel. To me, he walked like a gladiator towards the arena.

The teens didn't hear him through their taunting until he was 6 or 7 feet away and spoke ONE word:


They turned slowly, I'm sure sensing the danger in his tone the way you know the power of a grizzly bear upon the path in the forest.
"It appears to me that all three of you like to make fun of ONE person. Three on ONE? I'm ONE person. Make fun of me."
He didn't yell. His words were like thunder. It was a dare. It was a challenge.
I didn't go to the car- I was frozen in place.

I couldn't move. I had to see. Like watching a scene in a movie that you can't tear your eyes from- even though you know what's about to happen.
My dad raised his tone louder "I said: Make fun of me."

I could see my dad's outline opposing the 3 large teens.
He was ready to fight.
I didn't have to see their faces to know they were terrified.

I don't remember after that.
I know my dad never fought the Young Men.
I know I hurried around the corner before my dad could see that I had disobeyed his order to  "Get in the car."
I also know that I witnessed how a real man behaves.
I learned my dad doesn't walk away. He stands for the underdog. I learned he will face three to one if it's a just cause.

I hope, I can live up to that lesson. 
I hope I can be that courageous. 
I witnessed that my dad didn't just preach standing up for what was right. He DID it.

Father's Day is this upcoming Sunday.
I live 10 miles from my Dad's house but only see him a few times a year.

After 4 years of speaking, my dad was able to attend one of my events for the first time, last November.
Finishing my presentation, I sat in the audience and continued to listen to the final speaker.

My dad had already informed me he wouldn't be able to stay the whole time, so when I noticed him standing to leave I wasn't offended. He approached me, and kissed the top of my head before disappearing.
This is the first kiss I can remember ever getting from my dad.

I always knew my dad loved me. Not because of what he said- but because of how he lived in reference to me. 
Because my dad had integrity, was admirable, was honorable and courageous. I knew that when he said he loved me- he meant it. 

And while I mentioned that we don't see each other much, no matter what- I know I can count on my dad, because I know my dad is a man who can be counted on. 

Happy Father's Day.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Day I Taught My Son Abuse Was Okay

Every ONE of us has a past.
Some of us... have shadows there in the corners of the house we built.
Shadows we hide from, we ignore, or pretend aren't there.  While the memories of those shadows may be like daggers, we keep moving- keep being, keep living.

But I've been asking myself about shadows lately.
Asking the question "Is staying SILENT enabling?"
When we brush our histories under the rug... are we creating HEALING?

We have all have had moments of being weak.
I am Strong. 
But I wasn't always. 

It was late.
The children were asleep in their beds.
He came home from "Dinner with the Guys."
The stench of Alcohol seeping from his pores and Tobacco on his breath.
His eyes red and bloodshot.
Yes, he had driven himself home after drinking the night away.

I was angry.
Once again he lied about how much he drank. Once again he lied about quitting smoking.
When he pulled me into his embrace for intimacy, I pulled away.

This "rejection" by me spurred a barrage of name calling. My anger at him for lying was reciprocated tenfold with his anger for the perceived rejection.

"Bitch, Whore, Slut...." the words spewed from him like lava and sprayed over my face in rancid saliva.

He screamed, he punched the bed. He threw things that hit the wall. He condemned me for being such a judgmental bitch and that was why he was forced to lie.
In fact- he claimed, I should love him for ALL of him. Not just if he's perfect. I was hypocritical. He began to scream the list of my imperfections. ALL the inferior personality traits he routinely tolerated. All of the things about me he had to put up with, was embarrassed by and overlooked.

My initial reaction was confusion.

When I was in elementary school, I was taught to walk away when people called you names.
So I did.

As he tackled me for daring to leave, he screamed more.
He never hit me.

As I struggled against his giant frame,
I was shocked and furious.
I called him an asshole.
Like hundreds and thousands of other women in our world, I didn't know what to do. I wasn't clear what the protocol was for behavior like this.

"I'll let you go when you calm down" he threatened.
I surrendered.
I calmed down.

I held still with my eyes closed.

He eventually let me go.

I'm not clear how much time passed while I sat shame faced.
I didn't try to walk away again.
I had learned.
He continued to tell me all the horrible things I was and he had to settle for. He told me I would never find another person who would love me as much as he did.
Eventually, he passed out in my bed, snoring loudly.

I climbed into bed pensively, careful not to disturb him, also knowing if I slept on the couch and he awoke in the night, he would be angry at me for deserting him.

I cried.
I cried into my pillow, smothering my sobs so I wouldn't wake him.

I condemned myself.
I should have known better than to "set him off" after he had been drinking.
After all, "Boys will be Boys."
He had explained as much.
I began to believe it was my fault.
He had explained as much.
I finally had succumbed to his perspective.
Next time, I would calmly and rationally approach him when he hadn't been drinking and when he was logical.
Next time, if he reached out to me in drunken lust and tar laced kisses I would surrender.
10 minutes of unconscious, vacant eyed, sex was easier than this.
I had learned my lesson.
You see, even in that damaged and broken space- I KNEW.
I knew there WOULD be a next time.

Morning came.
The light filtered through the curtains. I could see the minuscule flecks of dust in the air. Those invisible specks of lint that we only see when light is harsh.
I didn't risk waking him prematurely. I waited.
Eventually he "slept it off" and awoke.

He cried.
He said he was sorry. He hugged me. He kissed me. He told me all the wonderful and amazing things he saw in me. He didn't know what had come over him.
He was TRULY sorry this time. He wouldn't lie again. He wouldn't behave that way again. He wouldn't drink and drive again.
He REALLY would quit smoking this time, instead of just hiding it.
He loved me. I wasn't worth losing.
He would NEVER act like that again.
He would treat me like the QUEEN he knew I was.
He would love me the way no one ever had before- the way I deserved to be loved.
He would make it up to me.

I don't think either of us realized how that night had changed EVERYTHING.

Later in our relationship I became used to this cycle.
Just like "they say" these episodes will escalate... it did.
But this was the first time.
This time I believed him.
This time I believed he meant what he said.
This time I saw the tears on his face and believed they were real.

He left for work.
As I stood next to the kitchen stove that morning. I was silent.
I was alone. Watching the edges of the eggs crackle and spit in the oil as they changed from clear liquid to white putty. I could see the steam rising. It would brush over my face and the heat made my nose itch.

"Mom." My Pre-teen son had silently approached me without my awareness.
He carefully stood beside me and put his arm around my waist and his blond curls fell on my shoulder as he rested his head there.

I reached my hand up to touch his beautiful face and feel the coolness of his cheek.

"Are you okay?" he asked timidly.

I realized then that he knew.
I realized, he had heard the names I was called.
He had heard him screaming.
He had heard the items being thrown against the walls.
He had heard me crying to be let go.
He had heard the chaos.
He didn't know I hadn't been beaten.
He thought I had been.
He had lain in bed feeling helpless as he heard his mother being abused.
He had been terrified and frozen.

"Yes." I answered him. "I'm alright."

I didn't leave for 7 more months.
The day I left, I taught my son that Abuse WASN'T okay.

But that day, that morning... I taught him it was.

You see, I thought the experience was something that happened to ME. Something that only I had "gone through."
I couldn't look in my sons eyes and justify that I had decided to stay.
That all of the wonderful, kind things and laughter I shared with this man MOST of the time had outweighed this one "tiny" experience.
I didn't know how to explain that MOST of the time this man was everything I could ask for.
To a child, even a teen... it's so much more simple than that.
To a child, their mom can do anything. To a child, their mom is a queen. To a child, watching (or hearing) their mom be treated like anything else, is traumatizing.

I can't imagine how helpless he felt.
I imagine tears rolling down his cheeks as terror overtook him.
I imagine that he felt like a coward as he stayed in his bed.
I imagine that he went to his bedroom door with his hand on the knob, paralyzed with indecision... just like me... he didn't know the protocol for this.
I wonder if he was afraid his little brother was awake and listening.

I wonder too.

After that day, my son was always suspicious of the man.
After that day, he never left my other son alone with him.
After that day, he began to "investigate" him.

Months later, when I told the man to leave, it was my son who then asked "Do you want me to show you where he hides alcohol?"

I FINALLY taught my children their mom deserves to be treated like a Queen.
It HAD to be ME to do it.
It's up to ME to teach them how their mom deserves to be treated.
No one else will if I don't.

I read a quote once that said "If you don't own your power, someone else will."
I learned this the hard way.

I FINALLY protected my children's Mother.
They deserved it.

I may not have that first day... But I have ever since.
What my son sees now, is a MAMA that will protect herself, stand up for herself, and thereby stand up for them.
He learned that IF he ever behaves the way that man did... a woman will leave.
It's not JUST about me, it's about US.
What are they are learning from my example?

It up to ME to treat MYSELF like a Queen- not anyone else.
Queens don't tolerate abuse.

So today, as Mother's Day approaches... I decided to share.
I decided to share so that all you other Mom's who are "trying to keep the peace" or "give someone the benefit of the doubt" or "turn the other cheek" or "be the nice girl who stays quiet and doesn't make waves" That you RISE up and BE the Warrior you already are.

That you protect your kids' Mom.
Teach them what a Mama deserves.
Teach them what they deserve.

And know that YOU are not alone.
We have an ARMY of WOMEN who will stand with you.

Go to the National Hotline for Domestic Violence here:

Get involved with SHEROES UNITED who is always receiving volunteers and raising awareness here:

MORE than anything, stand up for your kid's Mom. They deserve to know their Mom is safe. They deserve to know their Mom IS a Queen.

After all, she's the only one they got.

Photo credit Hannah Celeste Photography 

Monday, April 24, 2017

5 RULES for Dating an Empowered Woman

The world has changed. 
Until recent generations, men were relied upon for their bank accounts and physical strength.
Often, they neglected their spirituality, could behave like brutes, and use "Ole boy" tactics of treating a woman, without any severe repercussions.
After all, women didn't really have options to be self sustaining over their own lives. 
In short, men could be as unruly as they chose and women didn't have the same freedom to create and support their own livelihoods without a masculine counterpart.
We couldn't own land, have careers, or earn the same wages.
To walk away from a man, usually meant we risked financial and social devastation.

However...nowadays, we are in the age of Empowered Women.

                                                                                                            (painting by Mark Spain)

The Empowered Woman is one who knows she can handle whatever life throws at her.
She is one who KNOWS who she is.
She is the multi-faceted diamond.
The business woman, the homemaker, the lover, the leader, the pixie, the queen, the cowgirl, the fashion icon, the seductress, the saint. 
She is vulnerable but has the strength of Ocean Tide.
She isn't bamboozled by magazine covers of super models or societies projections upon what a woman is. 
She is her OWN beauty, and defines the WOMAN she is and what it means to be so. 

She is determined and has a solid identity of who she is, what she likes, and what she doesn't.
She has a career (being a mom counts as a career too)
She takes out her trash.  She pays her bills. She puts her kids' welfare first.
She knows what TV shows, music, and literature she likes.
She exercises to FEEL healthy... not to keep a man.
She accepts and processes her emotional fluctuations without relying on anyone besides herself to do it.
When the sink breaks... she calls the plumber.
When the car breaks... she calls the mechanic.
She is a problem solver.
She is a World Changer.

She has a network of Soul Sisters that aren't petty or back biting. They uplift, inspire, support... and call Bullshit on one another. 
They don't have time for games. They don't play them or engage with those who do.

She'll tell you she loves you when she loves you, not to get something from you.
She communicates her thoughts and ideas, not for outward validation, but because she knows her voice has merit and owns it. 
She doesn't flirt or tease to manipulate men. 
She flirts and teases because it's the luxury of being a woman. 
She offers her LOVE without hooks or lines or expectations but gives it freely, unabashedly, unafraid to express it and experience the totality of it.

You'll find her in work boots and jeans, cleaning up after the dog or kids and 20 minutes later... miraculously dressed in a gown- hair and make up ready for a regal event.

Here's the catch---
SHE doesn't NEED you. 
If you are in her life... it's because she WANTS you there. 

It's NOT your job to take out the garbage, make dinner, buy groceries, mow the lawn, or clean the shed.
If the oil is low in the car... it's not your responsibility.

Buy her nice things... or don't. Build things, or don't. Shovel the walk in winter, or don't.
Buy her flowers, OR don't.
BUT I will tell you what an Empowered Woman ABSOLUTELY requires:

1. Integrity
If you say you'll be there- be there. 
If you say you'll do something- do it.
If you make a promise- keep it. 
If you say you believe something- live it. 
Be an example, not an excuse. 
PS. She's watching. A woman like this knows... if you lie to others... eventually you will lie to her. 

2. Accountability
We are human. 
If you have a moment of humanness- own it. Don't justify your actions that were poor. 
When you say "I'm sorry" mean it. "Sorry" means you feel regret and will choose differently next time. 
She gets it.
We all have moments we aren't our best- but trust me... say it without meaning it... you're done.
Be accountable with your finances, your relationships, your own life, your own health. 
She's not here to be enrolled in your drama with your Ex or carry a flag in your war. She's here to live, to love and share beautiful experiences. 
You can express your struggles, your dreams, and challenges- but do it without requiring her involvement in them.

3. Respect 
An Empowered Woman, doesn't need to be on a pedestal, or beneath one- but she respects herself.
In public and privately, speak kindly to her. 
She's not a woman that is with a man who calls her names or objectifies her.
She is keenly aware that she is more than just a physical body.
You may have access to the slides, but you don't own the playground. 
She knows the depth of her soul and that she is body and soul united. See her for both-or have none. 
Guess what, she's probably been through the gambit of relationship hell in the past-and she walked away. 
So you know she will walk away from you; if you are abusive, or condescending. 
An Empowered Woman knows how to live life- on her terms. She's flexible and easy going, but not controlled. 
Be kind.
Be noble.

4. Authenticity
Be who you really are. Don't have ulterior motives or hide who you are. Have the courage to be open about who you are and let the chips fall where they may.
She's strong enough, intelligent enough, and wise enough to recognize whether or not you are worth keeping or losing. Pretend to be someone else; put on a mask or facade and she will lose all trust in you. 
Hiding who you are takes away another's choice in the relationship.
If you can't BE YOU... she's not your woman anyways.
She's the type of woman you can be open with, and vulnerable with. She doesn't need you to ALWAYS be strong. But you must have strength of character.
Have a purpose that inspires you.. and live it. Anything less is boring for her. 
Be a man she can be proud of- whether or not anyone is looking.

5. Be Loyal
A woman who has opened her life to you, a woman who doesn't NEED you but WANTS you has given you a gift. 
There are no back doors for her. When she holds your hand or lies in your bed, YOU are the only one.
She deserves nothing less in return.
Women like her are rare. A woman like her will have men lined up at the door for her. She isn't stringing them along just in case..., or letting them believe they have a chance, entertaining conversations, or "some days."
When she gives you her heart... it's yours.
She deserves the same. 

If you are able enough, courageous enough, strong enough to be a man who can stand with integrity, accountability, respect, authenticity and loyalty... you'll experience the love of your life.

It takes GREATNESS to Love an Empowered Woman... but it's worth it.

Women like her don't take anything they aren't willing to give. 

We live in a different time, a time when men are called to higher levels of consciousness. We don't need you to kill the beast, drag it to the cave and feed us or fight off lions. 
We need you to be the Warrior, the Lover, the Partner, the Wise One, the Sensitive One, the Leader, the Follower. 
We NEED you to BE who you say you are. 
It's not the bank account, or biceps, white or blue collar anymore... it's the caliber of man you are that keeps us, or loses us.
Women like us... don't settle. 

We love, we forgive, we dream, we support, we encourage, we are dedicated, faithful, committed, driven, and capable... but we don't SETTLE.
The basic RULE for dating an Empowered woman? BE an Empowered Man.

We are in the age of the Empowered Women... AND the EMPOWERED MAN. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My Son's Passing March 28th

To Love is to lose. To lose is to Love. Having only today is part of what Love is. ~ Katie Jo

Journal Entry From this Morning:

Today, is the 14th anniversary of my son, Jonah's death.

This past week and last couple of days have been challenging for me in the sense that I "feel" it approaching. Today, though- it's simply here.

My story is significant but I resist saying it's special. We all face challenges and all of us will face loss.
Unless we live a life devoid of love, we will all at some point lose someone we love.
It will be that moment when life stops and the world seemingly betrays you by not stopping.

That day when your own world has been obliterated but the rest of life keeps moving like marching Ants and you alone stand still in the chaos screaming "STOP!!!!".......... and it doesn't.

To lose is to LOVE. To LOVE is to lose.

But without Love, to hold it back because of the hurt... takes the very MAGIC and beauty of life away.
To be hurt so deeply when loss occurs is part of the Game of Life. Yes LOVE is a terrifying Jack-in-the-Box experience. That's ALL part of it. Knowing that we ONLY get today. No attachments, no agenda, no "What if's" or "You Must's" just the opportunity to LIVE the LOVE we feel.

Knowing that we REALLY only have today- we only have this moment to say "I love you" and to SHOW it.
To buy the shoes, splurge on M&M's, to take the day off work sometimes, to sit on the front step watching the sunset in silence... and MOST importantly- to express Love in such a way that when you shake the shoulder of your child, your lover, your friend and they shiver their way out of slumber while you ask "Do YOU KNOW that I LOVE YOU?" they answer "YES."

This is the gift Jonah's life taught me.
To never take it for granted.
To never take tomorrow for granted.

Because I did love Jonah; with ALL I knew how to LOVE at the time- and I was a young, inexperienced Mom doing her best.
When that Jack-in-the- Box exploded and my heart felt as though a sledge hammer had made it ground beef- the days, weeks, and years after that; what haunted me MOST was/is "Did he ever doubt his Mother's Love? Did I truly do my best?"

The only answer is: I don't know.

The handle is rotating. The music is jingling along.
Eventually- all of us experience the end- LOSS.

Who am I today? How do I love today?
Because today is ALL we have.
That's the BEAUTY of it.
That's the POWER of it.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Camel Drum Story

In sweltering 120 degree heat we crammed into hot taxi's like smashed tuna fish permeated by the choking stench of exhaust fumes, and made our way through the hectic and chaotic streets of New Delhi, India.
May 2016

A handful of good friends and I were on a trip to serve and speak at an International Women's Conference. We had taken a break from the Air Conditioned, Luxury Hotel to battle the car horns, beggars, rickshaws, bicycles, and occasional cow pulling a cart through the packed and bustling down town.

Arriving at the 3 story department store, we were amazed and enamored by the scope of wares and bobbles available at it.
Linens and silks, Persian rugs, Sari's and shoes, bedding, Nick-knacks and Tibetan Singing Bowls were on every shelf, nook, and cranny.

It was like entering the book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as we explored the cultural phenomena.
Incense burned, candles flickered. New and polished vases sat juxtaposed to 1000 year old antiques. Fascinating.

I had come along for the ride. I hadn't intended to purchase anything and laughed as my sweet beautiful girl friends twirled and spun in traditional Indian gowns and worked with designers to create their very own tailored outfits.

While the men in our group indulged in the limitless drinks that the sales people refreshed at no charge; I was content to play the sound bowls and peruse Taj Mahal magnets and leather bound journals.

Then..... I saw it.

A four foot in diameter Steel Base Drum.

I remember sticking my head out around a corner of the stairway and crying out to my friend upstairs  as I snatched a drum stick and pounded the leather rawhide drum head.
A resounding echo filled ALL three floors.
He heard the echo... and came running.

I asked the sales person what animal hide it was created from.... Camel.
(mind blown)

A CENTURY  old Camel Hide Drum.
Hand tied, Hand hammered base.

$1000 was reasonable when the dealer asked for it.
Drums this size in America are usually $2500-$4000
Another $800 shipped it via Freight to Salt Lake City, where- after 3 months of waiting; I hired a friend to get the crate back to my home in his truck.

We stood at Customs for a half hour while the Customs Agent tried to discern whether or not we were legally allowed to have a Camel Hide Drum in Utah.
(It turns out you can as long as it's antique. Phew)

On my way out the Agent asked "Waiting a long time?"
"Yes!" I sighed exasperated. "Trust me, I'll never buy anything again I can't smuggle in under my shirt."

The words at which, my buddy with the truck grabbed my arm and hauled me out of the office before they could do a "cavity search."

After all this, I FINALLY have the drum. AND... I was SOOOOO happy . AND I still AMMMM SOOO Happy.

My kids say it SHAKES the WHOLE HOUSE!!!

But- It's time for it to find another home.

I've enjoyed it for months and love it- but it's time that it lives somewhere else.

I'm posting it here for $950

(you saw my prices earlier- you know this is a crazy bargain)

I actually bought another "Grandmother Drum" the same size here in the States and feel like having TWO large drums is too much.
My loss is your gain.
Please message me on Facebook.

Thank YOU!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Romance of Abuse

"You cannot tell just by looking at a person whether or not they are an abuser. An abuser may be your next door neighbor, a friend, someone with whom you work, or a person whom you pass on the street. They may hold high profile jobs, be out of work, using drugs, or have a drinking problem. No level of society is exempt."  

Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes, Inc.

Every year a gathering in February occurs called ONE BILLION RISING. 

This movement is a peaceful rise of awareness that ONE in THREE Women will be beaten, raped, or murdered in her lifetime. Each year, people dance, wear red, pink, black and hold rallies and flash mob dances to bring Empowerment and Inspiration to the world. 

"In the nation of Colombia, where I ministered last month, a woman is killed by her husband or partner every four days. The problem is so serious that sociologists have coined a new term for it: femicidio, or femicide." Charisma Magazine J. Lee Grady

Making it real... look to the left and right. If you aren't one of the women, it's one of them you see.

This is my friends story:

"I remember the first time Jeremy told me I was beautiful. We were at a hot springs and I was playing in the water with his and my own children. My hair was wet and slicked back. I caught him staring at me with adoration. 'You're so beautiful.' he whispered. In that moment, I felt cherished, treasured and so loved. Loved for just being me. A few short hours later- he had cracked my skull and strangled me." 
Mailee Valdez
This violent attack was heard by her children in another room who sat huddled together crying in fear. 

photo credit Katie Jo Welch

In my interview, Mailee continued to share with me how romantic Jeremy was. Often, abusers do what is sometimes called "Love Bombing," dramatic and over the top gestures of romance and love. Frequently, abusers are charismatic, dynamic and well spoken. Mailee shared of their weekend he planned in Las Vegas, including limo rides and helicopter tours, and a stay at the Trump Tower. She said "It was the best and worst." It was and is confusing for many women in abusive relationships understanding the Jekyll and Hyde experiences or the undermining comments that occur. 

An example she shared was window shopping together, holding hands, the flickering lights and circus type fun energy of Vegas all around them as they laughed and strolled. Casually, she glanced at a pair of boots and commented "Those are cute." 
Jeremy's demeanor shifted and he said "You're so stupid sometimes." 
By the end of the trip she found herself in the Emergency Room with a broken rib. This was the first time he hit her- the first time he beat her, all because she had ordered herbal tea. 

So, First of all let me clarify that NO ABUSE is acceptable. Not once, not ever. Second, that time and time again I hear stories like these. Stories of these men who are sensitive, loving, generous and tender who have a "moment."

Are we ALL abusers? What is the definition of Abuser?
I know I have said and done things that I regret. I have said cruel things I didn't mean. Am I an abusive person? I find myself asking Who AM I when the chips are down? Who is that Katie? And do those moments of not being my best define me?

Kasia Merrill, Certified Social Worker answered my question by saying "When we go in to assess a situation we are doing our best to evaluate if there was just a 'bad day' where everything got out of control or if there is a pattern and the victim is in perpetual danger."

I feel like this is the same assessment that many women are doing day to day in their own relationships. Asking "Is this just a bad day, or will it happen again?" Also asking "What can I do to love them enough so those bad days don't come again?"

We like to see the best in people, the best in our lovers, our partners, our mates. In fact, we DO see these things.
We see the beauty and innocence of those Inner Child souls and love them, listen to their life stories, have compassion for their own childhoods and the pain they have suffered and see their magic and intuition and dramatic Light... in fact, I believe that that is what many of these unstable personalities are. Dramatic and beautiful... but just like Mailee's Jekyll and Hyde metaphor- too many times the pendulum swing is far and wide. Just like a child throwing a tantrum IS NOT the tantrum... there also must be consequences for their actions. 

The truth of abuse is also that the same Man who says he loves a woman, that she is beautiful, amazing, the girl of his dreams is also the Man who calls her profane names when he's lost control.
A woman finds her attacker the same Man who is the comforter. The source of not just her pain, but of pleasure, joy, tenderness and love.

It is confusing and undermines a woman's trust in herself and her partner. If the words "I love you. You are beautiful."  are true when he speaks, are the verbal beatings true too? Is this love? Does a man who attacks verbally and physically LOVE the woman he attacks? 

Sitting in the courtroom, next to Mailee, I remember the way Jeremy claimed to be the victim of a vindictive woman who was just trying to destroy him.
He truly sees himself as a good man who was momentarily pushed past the limit. Not only did he deny the extremity of his actions, but excused them as trivial. After all... it  was just a few lapses of his otherwise WONDERFUL character.

Routinely, a person who abuses will feel attacked and condemned for a brief loss of control.
The gap of understanding comes from the reality that the brief loss of control effects 100% of the relationship. Once a boundary is crossed and a victim now knows it can and will be crossed again, she is constantly aware, afraid and paranoid that it will happen again. Usually, it does.

Due to the beautiful parts of a relationship, many women (and men) in relationships DO NOT understand or recognize they are in an abusive relationship. 
Many men (and women) who abuse DO NOT know or acknowledge they are abusive. Many of our young teens, boys and girls are unaware of what abuse is and find themselves as victims or perpetrators without the consciousness that certain behaviors are wholly unacceptable and abusive. 

             photo credit Love Lambeth - Lambeth Council

There is a clarifying and enlightening website for teens that brings light just as to WHAT is ABUSIVE behavior. Teaching our teens, the boys and girls about phone safety, texting, controlling behavior and jealousy.
Research more about that here:

One of the TOP MYTHS about Abuse, found in an article by NEW is:

"I never thought it would happen to me!" 
At a training at our shelter put on by Action Ohio – the trainer asked a question of the audience, "How many of you think you could be the victim of relationship abuse?" Not a single hand was raised. 

If you are not sure what characteristics of Abuse is, OR if YOU are being abused.....  here are two great articles by Safe Harbors to give you guidance. 

As I have witnessed media, movies, and marketing, I have been discouraged and disgusted by subconscious abuse messaging being fed to our society as well as our teens. Flipping through popular fashion magazines I'm routinely bothered by images of waif-like, stoned-looking young girls appearing in submissive or suggestive posing and photography.

photo credit Marc Jacobs S/S 2012

There is an inaccurate viewpoint that we would KNOW who an abuser is. So many times the "bad guy" on the movie screen is portrayed as the villain, we watch him and the despicable things he does and validate the illusion "I would NEVER be with someone like that. It would be easy to tell who the bad guy is."

These scenes in movies create a DISCONNECT, for those who abuse and those abused. Abusers don't identify with a chronic bad guy and women abused validate staying under the idea "See, it's not bad ALL of the time." The Romance of Abuse is that it's MOSTLY good. (Yes, I acknowledge that there are ABSOLUTELY CHRONIC abusers)

The REALITY is that abuse happens BEHIND closed doors. These are the parts of someone that most often NO ONE except the victim sees. These are the "well thought of", the prestigious leaders, coaches, church leaders, speakers and "Good Guys" who everyone loves. Only when their mask has fallen, only when their inner demons escape from their shackles does the monster come out- and when it has-the monster is quickly re-chained and smothered and hidden until the control is lost again so that NO ONE but the victim knows it exists. 

photo credit The Wrap

In the movie Dr. Strange, the Ancient One said “We never lose our demons, we only learn to live above them.” 
So, to any of us who has demons... FACE them, acknowledge they exist and be humble enough to reach out learn HEALTHY coping mechanisms, taming them.

If you are being abused, love someone enough to give them the space to face their demons and empower them to seek counsel and support. 
Have the courage and love to step away, allowing them the FREEDOM to heal these tendencies as well as the FREEDOM for you to heal the emotional and physical wounds.

If you ARE someone who recognizes in yourself the perpetuity to control, call names, or physically dominate another- recognize this IS abuse and that you are GREATER than these tendencies and that you can CHANGE them. It IS up to you.

OUR behavior is OUR accountability.
WE are all responsible for our choices. I have compassion for the FEAR, for the torture that must be inside of us to be so AFFECTED by outward circumstances that you lose control  of yourself. 
Ther is NO excuse for abusive behavior. 
It's UP TO US to SHIFT... and it IS possible. It IS possible to face inner DEMONS and to master them, to be IN HARMONY in relationships and to HAVE the INNER PEACE you crave. 

If you are someone who recognizes you are in an unhealthy relationship, reach out. There are hundreds of online sites, personal places, and support groups for you. We know that many of you DON'T want to leave and just want it fixed. There are places and people who are there to support you in your journey of healing your family and your heart.

For Utah Residents start here: 

Connect with One Billion Rising. Reach out to SheroesUnited for volunteer opportunities to be part of the CHANGE. 

We gather FEBRUARY 10th to take a stand and to RISE. 
Karen Gail Miller Conference center 9750 S 300 W, Sandy, UT
Our intention is to let those affected know they are NOT alone. 
Our intention is to break BOTH sides of the chain. To support the Victim and support the Abuser in Higher Choices and Healing.

Mailee's Story? 
In the end, Jeremy served 3 months in jail after a 2 year court process. He's set to be back on the street in a few days, with 2 current active protective orders against him (for other women). 
As for Mailee- she is a dedicated mother, achieved her Associates Degree, has a stable career, and is an advocate for raising awareness and supporting other women in understanding and leaving these relationships.

In closing, I would like to share that I believe and know that ALL of us here on this planet are DIVINE. We are ALL perfect and beautiful dynamic souls. We are full of LOVE and GRACE and MAGNIFICENCE.

As humans and divine souls I encourage both sides of the chain of abuse, the abuser and the abused to know that YOU are not these brief moments. You are more.

Let THIS be a turning point for the world. LET THIS TIME in HISTORY be MARKED with CHANGE and HEALING. 


One Billion Rising Video (may not be appropriate for all audiences)