I Need Your Help

I have so many friends that have been in abusive relationships. Strong, intelligent women that escaped. Some are still trying to work their way out of the smothering fog. If you have been there you know what I mean.

As many of you know, I’ve been there. If you have read “The Broken Woman” https://michelleraylrma.wordpress.com/2008/12/17/the-broken-woman you know about my first marriage. Ive only shared with a few people about the relationship I found myself in a few years ago. That brief (less than a year) experience really opened my eyes and taught me a lot about what a healthy relationship DOESNT look like. I got out.

It also took me a while to figure out what was going on. I admit, I was naive. Since then many women confided in me the shame of being in an abusive relationship. We tell our stories, we nod in recognition. We feel better knowing we were not the only ones fooled.

I’m going to tell my story. The embarrassing parts, the things that shame me still because I feel I was weak or stupid.

I’m going to post some informational pieces of personality traits of abusers. Perhaps one of these will trigger an “aha!” moment for you.

Will you tell your story?

Call me and I’ll write it for you. Or email me your story. I’ll put them on my blog. I’m building a website to deposit and categorize them. Your story will be anonymous. Names will be changed. Nothing will be published without your approval.

I want to start the ball rolling here. Now.

Perhaps someone will read your story and see herself. Perhaps she’ll get help and change her life.

I’ve used the feminine pro-noun. But abuse works both ways. Men, I’d like your stories too.

Email me at mray1957@gmail.com. If you prefer a phone call email your phone number and I’ll give you a call.

When Do You Start Listening To Grown Up Music?

Joe Walsh is playing at Riverfest in Little Rock on Sunday. And we are going to miss it. Damn.
I like Joe Walsh. I like the Eagles. One of the things Steve and I have in common is we like the same music. We went to see the Eagles when they played at Verizon a couple of years ago. We went to see Eric Clapton when he played in Memphis.
We saw Gavin McGraw, Train and Maroon 5 at Red Rocks outside of Denver last summer. We went to another concert there, but I can’t remember who it was. That concert we went to just so we could attend a concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheater. Steve had worked in Denver years ago and he always wanted to go to a concert at Red Rocks. He never got to go because he was working insane hours like 6 or 7 days in a row of 12 hour shifts.
What is so special about Red Rocks? Here is a link to the website. http://www.redrocksonline.com/ABOUTUS/HistoryGeology.aspx
It’s this awesome natural amphitheater with perfect acoustics located just outside of Denver. And it’s made out of red rocks. The beauty of the experience is sitting outside surrounded by nature, with the backdrop of the lights of Denver in the background in a place like no other in the world.
I knew the words to the songs from Gavin McGraw, Train, and Maroon 5. Steve had only heard a couple of them when I forced him to listen to them in the days before the concert. It’s not that he hated them, he just hadn’t heard them before. I’ve got a couple of different stations set in the cars. One is set to the Top Forty station that I listen to. Several stations are set with Rock from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. And Disney Radio for Keely and her friends.
I like all of the music Steve likes. But he doesn’t like all of the music I like.
I know lot’s of guys like that. Some of them are even younger than I am. It’s like they made a decision at some point in their life to not to listen to the top forty and just stick with what they knew. You can’t go to any kind of class (except yoga) at a gym and not hear “Moves Like Jagger” or “Sexy and I Know It”. I like that stuff. When I was teaching class I’d play “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas and everyone knew to get a jump rope. I’d also see my friend Richard Schreiber rolling his eyes because he hated that music. Course he likes Sinatra, so that’s probably to be expected.
I love riding in the car with Keely and her friends, all of us singing at the top of our lungs. And that’s not going to happen with hits from the 70’s. Her friends love my playlists.
Granted some of the current stuff really turns me off, especially Gangster Rap. But there is so much more out there than that genre. All you have to do is switch stations.
So when and how do you decide that you aren’t listening to the new stuff? Do guys do that more often than women? Is it an age thing?
Maybe I just don’t want to grow up.

Trust Part I

Trust and Honesty

Anyone that has been in a relationship knows how important trust is. But how honest should you be in a new relationship? Do you have the need, the right, to burrow completely into your partners thought process and history? I’m not talking about an established relationship, for that is a whole other story. I’m talking about the man or woman you have been dating for a few weeks or months and you are starting to think that they may be “the one”. May. Might. Maybe.
New relationships are full of landmines. You want to know everything about the other person, you want to know what makes them tick. But if you are smart, you are looking for red flags to clue you in on the true nature of the person you are seeing.
We all wear masks. And nowhere is the masking more active than in the beginnings of a relationship. Do you go out on the first date with unwashed hair and ratty clothes? Of course not. You spend time making yourself look as good as possible.
You want to put your “best face forward”.
It’s no different when you start to divulge the stories of your life. Most of us are not going to lead off with the stupid shit that we have done, or the mistakes we have made. Well, I take that back. Some people want to talk about their ex on the first or second date. For me, that was a huge red flag that there was still a lot of baggage there and that was my cue for an exit from the relationship.
Timing is important. Balance is important.
It’s not easy to admit that you are not perfect and that you have made mistakes. It’s not easy to admit that you have hurt someone or have done something incredibly stupid. It’s really hard to admit that you were weak and that you were hurt.
I think there needs to be a foundation of respect and affection before you start telling all the dark stuff of your life. You need the balance of knowing the good and true before you view dark and the ugly.
So when is it safe to start laying yourself bare? And just how much of your past do you divulge?

I Think The Killing Is Over

Keely planting 2012

Last year I killed a lot of plants. Tomatoes, squash, watermelon. The deaths were legion. I’d put a plant in the ground, water it well and find it dead the next morning. No joke. It is so very dry out here, with no humidity, that those plants would die overnight. Sometimes they would make it a few days, but I killed a lot of plants.
The plants were put in on Blossom Festival weekend, which translates to early May. I learned the hard way last year that you don’t plant until after Blossom Festival because it can still freaking snow on your new baby plants. In May. Snow kills them just like lack of water does. Paula told me about the Blossom Festival timing after I’d killed a couple of dozen plants by freezing them to death.
Welcome to Southern Colorado.
This year, we are going about it differently. Steve built some raised beds, we lined the bottom with landscape material to keep out the weeds, placed metal mesh on the bottom to keep out gophers and moles, and then we wound soaker hoses throughout. Good garden/potting soil on top and we were good to go.
Tomatoes, cantaloupe, butternut squash, peppers and celery are in the ground and doing well. I haven’t lost a plant yet and it’s been two weeks. Fingers crossed.
Keely has planted marigolds in the beds. I handed her some carrot seeds and we discussed where to plant them.
“I guess this means you are going to want me to start eating healthy now.”
Smart girl she is.

An Update On Marty


It’s been a tough couple of years for Mom. Those of you that know her understand that she is a truly remarkable woman. She reluctantly retired from the Little Rock Police Department at age 83. She really didn’t want to stop working, but Dad’s health was getting so bad that he needed someone with him and she was the logical choice. I think she’d still be working today if she could. She loved kidding around with the guys at the police department, and I’m sure she delighted in embarrassing Tracey every chance she got.
Sgt. Marty Garrison was one of her all time favorites. Marty is not a real common name and the fact that they had the same name is really funny . Marty and I went to high school together. I guess he likes older women because once he met my mom she became his favorite girl friend instead of me or Tracey. Of course “Moe Dee” has hundreds of girlfriends but his wife is a really good sport about it.
Marty would call my mom and say “Miss Marty, what are you wearing today?” Mom would answer “Well Marty, you know today is Thursday, so it’s Thong Day!” or “Well Marty, nothing but a smile!” and then they would both roar with laughter. Now she was sitting right smack dab in the middle of the Detective Division, and everyone around her would hear the conversation. How could you help but laugh with that feisty little 80 year old woman?
She had a couple of episodes this last year that really scared us. We thought it might be dementia or Alzheimer’s but apparently the problem was with some of her medications. Mentally she is still the person she always was, but physically her body is showing her age. She is frail.
The problems started when she was staying with us here in Colorado. She was dizzy and getting more and more weak . She broke down one morning and told me she was afraid every night when she went to bed. She thought she was going to die. We thought it might be the altitude since we live at 5,000 feet above sea level but we couldn’t be sure. It was impossible to get her in to a physician out here so we got her back to Little Rock so she could see her doctors. We both cried when I put her on the plane. I really thought it would be the last time I saw my mom.
Those of you with older parents know the struggle. They want to stay in their house. They want to stay with familiar surroundings and all the memories that live in the brick and mortar of their home. But we were all scared to death of her living by herself. My brother was living with her to help out, but he is a fireman so he could not be there every day or night.
I would talk to her on the phone. She always tried to put a good spin on it, but once or twice she broke down. She was lonely, depressed, bored. Sitting in her recliner, reading and dozing in the chair. Afraid to walk, plus it hurt. Phone calls and visits from friends and relatives helped, but life was not fun anymore. Even when Michael or Tracey took her somewhere it was an ordeal. It takes a long time to get her loaded and unloaded in a car. She walks very very slowly. She’s even agreed to use a walker instead of a cane, which showed us how precarious it was for her to walk. She would apologize for taking so long, tearing up a couple of times at her helplessness. It broke my heart.
She got more and more weak at home. Stopped taking her “pee pills” because she didn’t want to walk to the bathroom so much. I think she was afraid of falling. Some ups, more downs, then we had to put her in a rehab facility to help her get her strength back.
In retrospect that was one of the best things that happened over the last couple of years. She was around other people, she got her strength back. When Steve and I stopped by to see her on our way back to Colorado from a trip to Alabama she told me that she wanted to stay there. I never thought I’d hear that.
She was too capable to stay in the rehab facility. But Michael did some research and got her on the list for a place in West Little Rock. She insisted on a lake view so they had to wait a couple of weeks.
Mom is now ensconced in her apartment. She has all her meals provided for her, which is great because she is an awful cook and wasn’t eating anyways. She has made some new friends, and toodles around checking on everyone. She is painting again and having fun. She likes to sit on her porch by the lake and nap in the sun.
This was not an easy process. There was conflict among us siblings. Miscommunications and anger. All of us wanted to do the right thing; none of us really know what the right thing was. My brother Michael really stepped up and found the place, made the arrangements. He handles the bank account and make sure the bills are paid. He is the chauffer for the myriad of doctor’s appointments. Tracey stops by everyday to see Mom almost every day. She and Terry took her to Tunica for Mothers Day. Together they make sure that what needs to be done gets done.
She told me today that she likes her place. She’s glad she is there. This time is a blessing, she is safe and at peace. She said “you know Michelle, these extra years have been a gift.” She doesn’t have to worry about being alone if she falls, or if she has another heart attack. She doesn’t have to worry about money, or if the roof needs to be fixed. I’m so very thankful that this all worked out the way it did.
She is 86. Marty is the miracle lady with several heart attacks, a hole in her heart and a pacemaker that doesn’t work anymore. I know her time on this earth is measured in months instead of decades. I wish I could see her more. I wish she didn’t hurt. I wish for so many things but they can’t be changed.
But I’m so thankful that we still have her and I can talk to her on the phone. I’m thankful that Keely, Steve and I had months with her while she lived with us in Colorado. And I’m thankful that her friends in Little Rock stop by to see her and take her to lunch.
My mom does not like getting old. I don’t blame her. It sucks. But she does know without a doubt that she is loved.

Michelle, Tracey and Michael

There Is Hope For The World

“The Boys” at Tunnel Drive, Canon City
If our future is our young people, I’m here to tell you that there is hope for our world.

We had four young men as our guests this week. My nephew Paul brought three of his friends for a graduation celebration trip. All four have graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. That is something of an accomplishment nowadays. I know a lot of young people struggle with college, many start and stop several times before they get through the process. I give them all a lot of credit.

But many don’t even try. They are too busy getting high and sleeping until 2:00 in the afternoon to even think about college and their future. And some are in a minimum wage job because they are waiting on a court hearing to find out if they are going to jail or not. Several of my friend’s kids are in this situation. These are kids that have been brought up right. Their parents are successful, moral people. It’s like their kids get a big ole dose of stupid somewhere between age 12 and 14 and they are going to completely submerge themselves in stupid for a couple of years. Some of them never get out of it.

But “the boys” as Keely called them are good kids. These are young men that any parent would be proud of. They were polite. They thanked me after every meal that I cooked. They told me that they loved our house. They told me Keely was really cute and really smart. They told me they thought I was in my mid 40’s. They cleaned up their own mess. They listened when I got Steve to talk about some of his war stories from work and show them pictures. In other words, they did everything right. Paul didn’t even say anything when I was driving his 2WDrive Jeep on rocky paths that weren’t even roads trying to find our way out of Red Canyon. He did hold his breath a lot though.

Their first day I took them to Red Canyon. It gave them a chance to see some awesome scenery and adjust to the altitude. We climbed on some rocks and hiked a bit, then went into town to eat at “The Owl”. A drive on Skyline Drive and then we headed home. Dinner on the deck, then they cleaned up and went into Canon City to check out the nightlife. Evidently there is some nightlife, because they didn’t get in until 3am.

They went whitewater rafting on Thursday. They had met a “river rat” in Canon City the night before so they decided to go with him. Evidently Dominic decided to see just how cold the Arkansas River is and went head first into the water. Paul helped pull him back in and they all got really wet. Steve took them up in the plane that evening so they got to see the Royal Gorge from the air as well as rafting under it. They came home to a spectacular sunset. It was great sitting out on the deck that night listening to them talk all over each other describing how awesome it all was.

Friday we took the top off the jeep, loaded up our friend Boris and one of “the boys” into the jeep. The other guys took the 4WD truck with no air conditioning or radio. We piled tents, sleeping bags, leftover brisket and baked beans and lots of bottles of water into the bed of the truck. Then we took off for the Great Sand Dunes National Park.

We went up to Westcliffe, then over to State 559. Then we went off road into the San Isabel Forest and later the Sand Dunes National Forest. It took us about four hours to go 30 miles.

The weather was perfect, and the guys had never done anything like that road before. We drove over rocks, went splashing through streams, bounced all over the place in the vehicles and just had a blast.

Offroading to the Dunes

We got to the Dunes, the boys dropped off their camping stuff, and then we drove to Alamosa. We discovered Calvillos Mexican Restaurant on our last trip. They serve a buffet. I’m not usually a fan of buffets, but this one is really unusual. They have dishes made out of cactus that I can’t begin to pronounce. All I know is that it was all really good and you can have all the sopapillas and honey that you can eat. Now you have to understand, Steve is not a “foodie”. He always rates what I cook on a scale of 1 to 4. Mostly I get 3’s and 4’s. If he gives something a 2 that recipe goes in the trash. He raved about the food at this place, even took pictures of it and posted about it on Face book. He has never done that before. So of course we all had the buffet. Boris, who is from Guatemala, said he was going to be coming back real soon. He also found out that the chef is Guatemalan, so maybe that is the difference with the food. It’s not the typical Tex/Mex that we are used to that’s for sure.

Sunday morning we had breakfast and then they all piled into the jeep for the 12 hour ride home. Lots of hugs. I’m going to miss them.

FREE RENT IN YOUR HEAD

Have you ever noticed how some people just can’t let stuff go?  They just want to wallow in self pity and negativity and they want to bring you down to their version of hell with them.  I don’t want to be around people like that.  Do you?

Years after a divorce, a friend is still bitching about what his wife used to do.  She has remarried, and he has too.  They both have new lives, and I bet that both would say their life is better now.  So why keep bringing up all the bad stuff?  I don’t want to hear it.  I like his ex.

I was talking to someone the other day who was bringing up stuff about her ex from 20 or 30 years ago.  They haven’t been together for three years, but she could still recite chapter and verse of his transgressions.  How many times has she thought and talked about this stuff if she can still remember it so well?  Why in the world would she want to keep hanging on to all of that negativity? He has moved on with his life.  She obviously hasn’t.  She is playing the victim role to the hilt.  Wallowing in it.

Free Rent.

She is giving him free rent in her head.  There she is, stewing about this stuff, and he is living his life, oblivious.  Who is she hurting?  Not him, that’s for sure.

I know what I’m talking about.

A story from a long time ago…

Charles and I sold our company for $2,500,000.  We took the money in stock, because the people buying our agency convinced us that we were going to go public in a few years and our stock would be worth a lot more money.  I’d started that company by myself.  Kathy was born on a Friday and I was back in the office on Monday with her in a basket by my desk.  Charles joined me a couple of years later and we grew that company into a national company.

I remember talking to one of the guys, Rick, and telling him that I didn’t like not having control of my business.  I can remember very clearly what he said “Michelle, we are not spending this kind of money to buy your book of business.  We are buying you and your relationships, and your ability to build a business”.

With that reassurance, we did the deal.  We were the largest individual stockholders, owning more stock than any of the people above us in the organizational chart that were in the home office.  We were making six figures each and we going to conquer the world.

Flash forward less than two years.  Intercompany politics had just about killed us.  I had over 250,000 Delta points because I was traveling all of the time.  I got wind of a deal they were going to do that I knew would devastate the company.  I told them it was a bad deal and we got fired.  We weren’t “team players”.  We couldn’t sell the stock and the company went into receivership about a year later.  We never got our money and we almost had to take a bankruptcy.  It was a really dark time in my life.

Was I pissed?  Oh yeah I was.  But I looked at the decisions that we made, and they were good decisions with the information that we had.  And there was nothing I could do to change what had happened.  Nothing.    So I wallowed in anger and self pity for a couple of weeks and then I got on with rebuilding my life.  If I had stayed angry, if I had stayed depressed, then I would have been a victim.  And I am not a victim.

I knew I could not live with the kind of anger and desire for vengeance that I was feeling.  I would become a bitter negative person.  I was not going to let this action define my life and who I was.  I wasn’t going to let them have free rent in my head.

That’s when I bought the Taekwondo school and started in a new chapter of my life.

I could tell more stories, but we all have them.  Some include my family.  I don’t talk to some of my family members anymore.  Too much stuff has been said and done; they are out of my life.  Yeah, that might be harsh but that’s the way it is.  And I can think about it and talk about it if needed and I just feel sad that it has to be that way.  But I’m not going to let them live in my head rent free.

Anger is a killing thing:
it kills the man who angers,
for each rage leaves him less than he had been before –
it takes something from him.
– Louis L’Amour

If you are dealing with something like this, there are a lot of books that can help you.  Talk it out with a friend, a counselor.  Contact me if you like.  But bottom line you have to figure out how to let it go.  Don’t be a victim.  Fight it.