A LETTER TO MY INSTRUCTOR, AND FRIEND

My friend and instructor Jim Robinson tested for his 7th Dan in July. The testing was in Memphis, and there was no way I could be there. When our mutual friend Diana Hampo told me she was putting together a celebration party for Jim, I suggested that she compile a book of letters and photos from his friends and students.

There are people in our lives that make a difference. They challenge you, push you, force you outside your comfort zone. We may not realize it at the time, but they are part of the fabric of who we are and who we become. Jim Robinson is one of those people in my life. My challenge to you, dear reader, is to reflect on those people in your life that made a difference, and let them know. A phone call, a letter, an email, it doesn’t matter. Don’t take them for granted,or think that they must know how you feel. Tell them!

This is my letter.

Jim,
It’s not often that we have an opportunity to tell someone how much they mean to us. I’ve been guilty of telling others of your impact on my life, but I never told you.
You were my first instructor. You were the person that challenged me to do that which I thought was impossible. You were stingy with your praise, generous with your criticism. You lit a spark inside me that is still alive 35 years later.
I remember you trying to teach me new techniques. Smiling at my ineptness and shaking your head, walking away. All that did was motivate me to try harder. It never was the trophies that motivated me to compete. It never was the color of the belt that motivated me to test. It was your approval that mattered to me.
You taught me to never, ever quit. You taught me to set an example for lower ranks. To be stronger, tougher, and never stop if anyone else in that room was still going.
Remember that attitude instructors had? Not only did your students believe you could walk on water, you did too. You were so darn arrogant.
I remember the trip to Lansing, Michigan in 1977 or 1978 to compete in Nationals. A group of us borrowed Ron Turchi’s van and made the drive. There is no way to describe the pride we felt when we watched you compete. The fierceness of your techniques, the way you could side kick straight up in the air, and hold it.
You weren’t the biggest guy in the ring when it came to sparring, but by golly your opponents knew they had been in a fight when you got done with them.
I’d never gotten rid of that martial arts spark. I bought the school that you taught me in. Your spirit was all through that school. I found myself using the phrases you had used with me when teaching. “The reason you twist your wrist when you punch is because it takes less effort to twist a screw into wood than hammer a nail.”
We had lost contact, so it was surreal for me that day you walked in the door, the first time I’d seen you in twenty years. Those visits to the school, the phone calls, you working out with us in class, meant so much to me.
My sister Tracey and I sat on the floor and watched you compete a couple of years ago. She looked at me and said “It’s like old times again, isn’t it? Watching him compete. Being proud to be his student.”
I watched you test in Dallas for your 5th. Remember working on yourself defense demonstration? The cowboy hat?
And full circle for me. I tested for my 5th in December of 2009. You were on the panel. What a very special honor for me, to have my friend and instructor still a part of my life. Over thirty years Jim.
The influence I had, the lives I changed, were because of you. The ripple of your influence spread out over and over throughout the years. I’m just one. I wonder how many of your former students are out there, proud of what they accomplished because of your tutelage.
I’m sorry I could not be there to see you test. But know that I was smiling when I saw the pictures. And if I could be there now, there would be a big hug for my instructor and friend. Love you Jim.

Michelle

THE THING ABOUT FACEBOOK….

I know a lot of people that really dislike Facebook. OK, I get that. Maybe it’s not for you.
Facebook is like alcohol. Some people can use it wisely and get good benefits; others are going to be stupid and irresponsible. It’s like Steve always says, you can’t fix stupid.
When I moved to Colorado two years ago I did not know a single person.
So picture my first couple of months in Colorado. I’m using the GPS every single day because I don’t know where anything is. I get to choose between Colorado Springs, Canon City and Pueblo to shop in because there is nothing in Penrose. We have a library, an elementary school, a bank, a VFW and three medical marijuana stores. And a Kwik Stop.
Those first few months were difficult. I’d uprooted my life, moved across the country, and I didn’t know a soul. Other than Steve, the only conversations I had were telling people hello and thank you while checking out in stores.
It would have been very easy to feel lost and alone. It would have been very easy to try to cling to my friends and family in Little Rock and pester the hell out of them with phone calls, text messages and emails.
Facebook helped with the transition. Even though I’ve now got roots here in Colorado and consider this my home, Facebook still keeps me connected those I left behind in Little Rock.
I have an easy going correspondence with our friends the Brakes in Great Britain through FB. Mandy keeps up with what is going on in my life as I do with her. Although I do post a lot more than she does so I have to email her sometimes to get the real scoop.
Several years ago I reconnected with one of my old boyfriends from high school. He was single, I was single, sounds like the beginning of a love story doesn’t it? Well it is, but maybe not the way you think. I’d also reconnected with my friend Susie, also from high school, that dated the same guy pretty seriously after he and I broke up. I told them about each other and they got together. He moved from Alaska to Florida to be with her, and as far as I know they are still together today.
How cool is that?
There is a whole group of people I went to high school with that are scattered all over the country. I get to keep up with them, see pictures of their family without going to a high school reunion.
When my friend Leslie and her daughter Anna Kate came out at the beginning of the summer, she cracked me up when she walked through the house. She kept saying…”I recognize this from your pictures on Facebook”. When we talked about what to do and where to go, she had a good idea because she read my FB posts when others came to visit.

I know when my sister Tracey is having a bad day and maybe needs a phone call from her big sis. I also know when she and Terry are camping and trying to make a phone call would be a waste of time. I know what is going on with my nieces and nephew much more now than I ever did when I was living in Little Rock. I get a lot of detail about my daughter Kat’s life because of Facebook. Would I get the same amount of detail if we talked on the phone every day? Maybe, but we are both really busy and we don’t, and never have, talk on the phone every day.
Steve reconnected with some of his former co workers on Facebook. Because of that reconnection, Randy and Kathy Finch, along with their son Andrew, stayed with us for a week this month. These are some really cool people that I would have never met if it had not been for Facebook. And of course we are now all FB friends and I can keep up with what is going in their lives back in Alabama. Next time Steve and I are in Florence we will for sure get in touch with them.
A big part of my life was martial arts. I stay in touch with those friends through Facebook. I got to see pictures of my friend of 35 years Jim Robinson test for his 7th degree. I couldn’t be there, but seeing the pictures and video was a pretty good consolation prize.
A couple of years ago this person named Diana Hampo sent a friend request to me. I didn’t know her, but we had a lot of mutual friends involved in martial arts so I accepted the request. Turns out she is about my age, lives in Hot Springs, and is taking Taekwondo with my old instructor Jim Robinson. I started reading her blog, and really liked the way she thinks. We had a few short conversations through Facebook, then she had knee surgery so really had some stuff in common. We have since had several phone conversations and I consider her a friend. She has been invited to visit us and I hope she will take me up on that because I think we would have a blast.
Of course there is a down side to Facebook. There are some people that are negative and complain all the darn time, or are terminally boring. You know what? I just hide their posts. I been contacted by a couple of people that I don’t want to have anything to do with. Just block them. Easy to do.
I don’t know what social media will be like in the next ten years. I’m sure it won’t stay the way it is. There is talk about FB not being “cool” because some of us old folks are on it and that bothers the young people. I’m not thrilled with Google+ or LinkedIn, but I’m sure there are a lot of smart people out there working on the “New Facebook”. Whatever they come up with, I’ll be open minded.

I WISH I HAD FIGURED THIS OUT TWENTY YEARS AGO

I love martial arts. I love the challenge of learning new forms and new techniques. I love sparring. I love hitting bags and pads. I love escrima sticks and learning knife and gun disarms.Nothing ever engaged my mind, body and soul like martial arts. That’s why I’ve done them for over 35 years.
And that’s why I have a lot of the injuries I have.
Right after I bought Little Rock Taekwondo in 2000, I had ACL surgery on my knee. I’d gotten kicked in the side of the knee in class during a two on one sparring session. The kick guillotined my ACL and there was no option but to undergo surgery to repair it.
Honestly, the ACL surgery wasn’t all that bad. But during Physical Therapy I tore my quad. Neither the therapist nor the doctor believed me, so I kept on with the prescribed therapy. Then I started having leg spasms. Holy cow they hurt. Back to the doc, he still didn’t believe my self diagnosis. Long story, but I ended up changes doctors, getting the diagnosis that my quad was “unraveling” and wearing a full leg cast (in August) for a month to try to immobilize the muscle. That didn’t fix it and I was told it was going to take some time to heal.
It took over two years. After some acupuncture sessions with Martin Eisle of Evergreen Acupuncture, my leg got better and I could start training in martial arts again.
A couple of years later I went to the doctor to see if he could treat my torn groin muscle. Imagine my surprise when he informed me I needed total hip replacement. On both hips. But one was worse than the other so I elected to have the left hip replaced. I’ll have to get the right one replaced sometime but I’m not in any hurry.
The next year, shoulder surgery on the right shoulder. They will both need to be replaced at some time.
The quad injury still gives me more trouble than any of the other injuries. Apparently the scar tissue has shortened the muscle. The result is a lot of pain when I do squats or lunges, kicks or stretching.
I am not saying that martial arts are responsible for all of my aches and ailments. I am the first to admit that I am a Type A overachiever. The need for a challenge, the need to push myself, has been a huge factor in what I am dealing with now.
If I could go back twenty years and talk to a younger self, my advice would be to use some moderation in my training. I’m trying to take that self advice now.
The daily requirements when I did the UBBT in 2009 were:
100 pushups
100 crunches
2.5 miles cardio
4 rounds of sparring
4 repetitions of my pattern (Moon Moo for all you TKD readers)
Not only did I meet those minimums, but I would do parts of that workout three or four times a day when I was teaching classes.
When I tested for my 5th Dan in December of 2009 I was in great shape. But my body is still paying the price today.
So I’m doing Crossfit three to five days a week. The classes are only fifteen to thirty minutes long but we go full out for that length of time. A session or two on the Stairmaster that we have downstairs if I miss Crossfit. Yoga for an hour and a half two days a week. If I miss the class I do it at home. Hopefully I’ll be doing Krav Maga again twice a week if we can get the instructor to do classes during the day.
But here is the big difference. If we are supposed to do lateral jumps over a weight bar in Crossfit, I modify the technique and do the jumps with no obstacle. I don’t do the 400 meter runs, I jump rope. I don’t try to overload my shoulders with the heaviest weights I can stand, and I use a lighter kettle bell so that I can get the reps in.
In other words, I’m listening to my body. I know the difference now between a pain that is screaming “stop doing this” and discomfort because of working muscles.
Let me just say that I really don’t like yoga. The reasons why are another blog. But during a conversation with my sister Tracey last week I urged her to give yoga a try. And I told her not to roll her eyes (which I knew she was doing and she admitted it)
Yoga is a good balance for the hard and punishing workouts I do. It’s a good balance for the running that Tracey is doing. It’s complimentary to martial arts and just about anything else you might be doing. So find a yoga class, grit your teeth and do it. It’s good for you. And you will thank yourself 20 years from now.
Find your activity, whatever it is, and do it on a consistent basis. But don’t overdo it.
My ego, pride, competitive nature, whatever term you want to use, is what keeps me pushing to do one more rep, one more mile, or to hold a yoga position when my arms are shaking. I have to recognize that I can’t do what I once did, and concentrate on what I can accomplish rather than what I can’t do.
Wish I had figured this out twenty years ago.

IT’S SKIN IS FALLING OFF!


“Its skin is falling off! Gross!”

That was the reaction from the backseat as Keely and her friend Michelle spotted their first Bison in Yellowstone National Park.

For the record, the skin was not falling off, the bison was shedding.

We left for Yellowstone the day that school was out. Michelle is one of Keely’s best friends, and we like her a lot. This is a good thing because all four of us were together 24 hours a day on the trip.

As we drove into the park, Steve instructed Keely and Michelle to keep their eyes open for animals. Bison, deer, elk, moose, bears, wolves, coyotes can all be spotted in the park. We agreed that if anyone saw something we would say the name of the animal…”bear!” “bison!” If we couldn’t think fast enough to name the animal, we could simply say “critter!”
There were so many bison in the park that we got to the point that we didn’t even acknowledge them.
From the backseat…
“Deer!” “A Deer!” “Deer peeing!” Then a gale of laughter.
Another time…
Keely said “It’s an elk. A white butted elk!” Michelle responded “They are all white butted Keely”
More gales of laughter.

We saw an eagle, and an osprey. We pulled over and watch a young wolf roll around in a meadow. We spotted a grizzly bear in the woods, although some of us were more sure of that than others. We did get to see a black bear and her two cubs pretty close. We watched an elk walk around a building in Mammoth. It actually walked up four steps to stroll around. I can’t imagine what my reaction would have been if I had walked out of that building and came face to face with an elk.
As we were driving across the park to West Yellowstone we stopped at Old Faithful. We were in luck, we only had to wait about 15 minutes for the show.

Since we had been in a plane or a car all day, I suggested we take one of the trails. Two hours later we made it back to the car in a slight rain. We only threatened to leave the girls once. The rest of the time we just kept walking when the moaning started. They always caught up.

We learned on that excursion not to let the girls walk in front of us. Neither Keely nor Michelle could walk a straight line nor could they keep a consistent pace. Steve and I either bumped into them or were constantly dodging them. So the kiddos were instructed to always walk behind us.

Steve and I had been to Yellowstone before, so we were watching for the reaction when the girls got the first whiff of sulphur from the bubbling pots.
“Oh it stinks! It really stinks!”
But the view was too good to miss, so the next comment was “Hold your breath and come over here!”

Michelle and Keely

On the drive in from Cody, Wyoming, trees stand blackened from forest fires. Michelle wanted to know “why don’t they clear out all these dead trees?” During one of the stops at the ranger stations the ranger talked about how forest fires help renew the forests. As we drove back the girls mentioned that those forests would be growing again.
We went through Gardiner, MT which at the North Entrance to the park on the third day. While we were walking around the town I saw a big bird flying close to one of the shops. It took a minute for me to realize it was one of those kite like things attached to a pole. By now the girls were so attuned to looking for “critters” that I wasn’t surprised when I heard Michelle yell “Look Keely, critter! A bird! Oh, that’s not a natural bird!” We all doubled over with laughter.
We bought them some postcard kits that they could color themselves. The cards were of animals or scenes in Yellowstone and came with a small box of crayons. There was a frantic scramble one time when Keely couldn’t find one of her crayons. “I have to find it! I have to! I only have one of those crayons and that is why I cherish it!”

The National Parks have a great Junior Ranger Program. Each of the girls got a book with lots of activities in it. We spent the next couple of days visiting specific visitor centers and taking specific hikes just so they could get the answers to their questions and fill out their book. The talk at the ranger station (required) was about bears, and the girls listened very intently. That particular station had a wolf pelt, which the rangers let them try on.
On the last day, we stopped at one of the ranger stations. They were quizzed by the ranger and took the Yellowstone Junior Ranger Oath. Then they received their Junior Ranger Yellowstone Patch. Keely has hers on her Yellowstone Cap. Hopefully it will be the first of many. It’s a great program and I strongly urge you to let your child participate if you happen to be in a National Park.

We were amazed at how much the girls enjoyed the exhibits at the visitor centers. When we walked around the park, they read every sign. They now know a lot about volcanoes and geology. They stood at the Continental Divide. They weren’t embarrassed to be with us and were interested in learning. It was a great time in their lives to let them experience the park.

Last day, Keely and Michelle were about “crittered” out. Keely started making dolphin noises. She is actually quite good with dolphin noises. She has also been reprimanded a few times in school for demonstrating her talent at inappropriate times. As we were driving along I heard dolphin noises. Then they stopped. Then they started again. Finally Steve had enough and said “If you want to keep that you need to keep it quiet”. There was a stunned silence from the backseat. Then I said “Steve, that was her mouth.” Laughter throughout the car on that one.

As we left the park we stopped for a drink and potty break before making the drive to Cody, Wyoming. At this particular stop, the toilets were in a log building adjacent to the store. As we walked back to the car Keely stopped dead in her tracks “Well you don’t see one of those every day! Look! A phone booth! With a phone in it!”
Wow. She was right.

Our last evening was spent in Cody, Wyoming. We didn’t have enough time to see the museums, which evidently are quite good. We did, however go to the rodeo which is held every night throughout the tourist season. I would definitely recommend it. The girls got to go down to the arena to participate in an event. They didn’t know what the event was going to be when they raced down, they just went. The game was to grab a ribbon that was tied to tail of a calf. Neither of them even got close to one of the calves, but they ran their butts off. I laughed until I cried.

It was great for Keely to have a friend with her on the trip. I have never in my life heard so much farting or fart jokes. Who would have thought those two little girls (10 and almost 10) could have so much gas? Steve and I finally quit looking at each other when the giggles erupted. We even got to the point where we didn’t even roll our eyes.

They never had an argument or got cross with each other. The only real issue we had with them was we could not get them to shut up sometimes. And that wasn’t much of a problem until we were trying to go to sleep and they were farting and laughing. We could live with that.

RESPONSE TO I’LL NEVER FORGET THE FIRST SLAP

This was received in response to “I REMEMBER THE FIRST SLAP”

 

I think it is only fair to know there are two sides to every story.

Abusive relationships work two ways. The husband/father gets abused and holds it all in and can only discuss the occurences with family and co-workers.

The husband does not drink, smoke, do drugs or anything illegal. His focus is only on wife and kids. His hobbies are fishing, golfing, and spending time with his wife and kids.

There is no time for fishing or golfing. He works two jobs and his wife works part time. In that period he still spends more time baby-sitting than the mother does. She sleeps during the day and does not have the energy to function at night.

He gets yelled out for not doing enough for the kids. He gets screamed at for not doing enough house work or yard work. His solace is going to work to get away from the spousal abuse.

Tempers rise from both parties. She attacks verbally and physically and he yells back and leaves to get away from the abuse.

He does not tell the kids or others about the abuse. He bottles it up and holds it in. What is the purpose for telling kids negative actions about their mother?

The mother intentionally made it a point to make her husband miserable. He wanted to leave the relationship many years prior. The right thing to do is be two parents for children and not a split family.

There are two sides to every story. Abuse works both ways, physical and verbal. Staying in an abusive relationship for the kids sounds noble, but in reality it is a death sentence.

Time is supposed to heal all wounds. Unfortunately outlets like Facebook and Twitter just seems to cut the flesh that much more.

I’LL NEVER FORGET THE FIRST SLAP

I received this story in response to my blog “I NEED YOUR HELP”.
If you would like to contribute, please email me at mray1957@gmail.com

This is her story,her words, and I think you will agree that it is courageously and beautifully written. Names have been changed.

I’ll never forget when I found out you had been through an abusive relationship. It was a complete shock. I’ve always pictured you as a smart and strong woman-strong emotionally, physically, and spiritually. The kind of woman every female aspires to be. When I found out, I figured maybe if it could happen to you-it’s not so surprising that it could happen to me. I wish I had known back then and I might have reached out to you. It might not have made a difference, but I didn’t talk to anyone about it-I was too ashamed and that’s part of the problem-people don’t talk about it and people don’t know what to do or where to turn. I’ve thought long and hard about your blog and whether to go ahead with my story, but if it helps one single person it’s worth the retelling. I tossed and turned most of the night. I’ve cried and prayed about telling you this, but it’s got to stop and if you have the strength to share your story, I feel obligated to share mine. You know how much it hurts to remember something you’ve tried to bury. But I keep telling myself-it may make a difference to someone out there hurting. I will try to keep it as brief as possible, but I never wanted out of my marriage-I wanted to make it work and it lasted two decades.

THE FIRST TIME

I married young-halfway through college to my high school sweetheart. He was the kind of young man that mothers and fathers want for their daughters. He was intelligent, hardworking, and ambitious. We both came from good families. We went to the same church and shared a couple of college classes together. It really didn’t surprise anyone when we married after several years of dating. As I finished college, we had made the decision to start a family. It was something we both agreed on-I say this to let you know that we really didn’t fight about anything serious and agreed on what was important-I thought.
I’ll never forget the first slap. The right side of my face still stings when I think about it too hard. We were fishing on a hot day out on a boat in the Arkansas River.. I think I said something about not standing up in the boat. I think I said “only an idiot would stand up in a boat.” It was a very small boat really nothing more than a dingy. It rocked hard and often. There were lots of snakes in the water, and I was very pregnant at the time. I never saw it coming. Later, he said I was disrespectful. I don’t remember him saying he was sorry, but I wondered what it would be like to be a single mom and I thought my baby deserved both parents. Maybe it was just the pregnancy hormones making me over-react and I really was being disrespectful when I said it. After all, nothing like that had ever happened before. Surely, it was a fluke.

THE SECOND VERSE

Fast forward a couple of years, the baby came and she was joined by a little brother. Like most children, they loved to play and a favorite game was “fishing”. They’d climb in the boat and throw their lines out. Pretending to catch fish or drive the boat around the lake. They’d do this for hours and it was fun to watch them, but one day I didn’t watch them close enough.
Their father came home and laughed at them and climbed in the boat himself. He noticed that they keys weren’t in the ignition. He started yelling about the keys. It was unbelievable how one could laugh one minute-and be red in the face with anger the next. The anger was enough to scare me so I had my niece take them inside so I could help him look for the keys. After looking for a short time, he said he was going to whip the children because they had lost the keys. I was not about to let him spank in anger so I half ran to follow him into the house. I put myself in front of their door and refused to move. He threw me into the wall-I crashed through the sheet rock, but quickly got up to stand in front of him again. I don’t remember what I said-I was probably hateful. I might have made some threats, but whatever I did it worked-he left for a couple of hours. He came back smiling with a new key and nothing was ever mentioned again.
Later that week I wall papered the hallway to cover the hole and I wore three quarter sleeves to cover some bruises.
His anger had begun to scare me, but I figured that this was my fault-I should have watched the children closer and watch them I did. Every day checking for bruises-making sure his anger was directed at me-and not my babies. He seemed to love them very much but every once in a while that temper would flare out of control.
There was a day I did find whelp marks on my son. His little bottom was tiger stripped. I felt crushed as I had been so careful about watching. He never denied spanking him-and I very calmly explained that he would never, ever touch any of my children in anger again. His life would be in danger if he did. I think he believed me because he never used his hands against them again. Then, he started throwing things.

FLYING OBJECTS

After the conversation about spanking in anger, he was pretty good at not using his hands. He chose to throw things. Eating utensils, game pieces, books, softballs and even a boat oar. I had hoped that most of this was directed at me-but I can’t be sure what happened when I wasn’t there. The kids never mentioned anything so I’m really not sure. Again, this is one of those things that families need to talk about but don’t. I’ve always wondered if he meant to miss on purpose. Maybe he just threw things because he was mad and those things happened to fly my way. He had pretty lousy aim or bad eye sight because he rarely hit me with a flying object.
Except the boat oar. I can’t lie that really hurt. I picked it up and contemplated hitting back, but no one saw him throw it and it was just too easy to let it go. Considering his mood that weekend, I’m glad I did.
We were at the lake and I had my head deep in some book as I often did on hot summer days. The kids were taking an afternoon nap and I wasn’t far from it myself. I was laying on my stomach not far from nodding off. All at once I felt a stinging slap on my buttocks and I rolled and lashed out in one even motion. God forgive me- I made contact. I slapped for all I was worth-and I didn’t even realize what I had done or who I had hit until the punches started coming one after another. Over and over. At some point, I yelled out. I think he stopped when he heard footsteps coming down the hallway. It was the kids wondering what was going on-I told them to get their swimsuits it was time to go swimming. Crisis adverted.
I really did take the kids swimming-though I considered leaving. He showed up a couple of hours later and the incident appeared to be forgotten, but I took off my wedding ring and told myself I would put it on when I could forgive him. I never wore it again.
Later one summer evening he threw a shoe at my son. Before you judge me for not leaving right then and there consider how many times he missed hitting me. He made contact with his head and cut it open. I was hysterical. I know head wounds bleed more than they should, but there was a lot of blood. He took my car keys from me and wouldn’t let me leave. He said he had medical training and that it wasn’t serious.
Somehow, child services came to interview our family(another family member had contacted them after seeing the wound). I thought this would be the end. That everything would stop. We were instructed to leave the living room so the counselors could interview the children. Later we were called back-they children had never seen us fight but they recommended counseling.
So to counseling we went. I outlined instances of “outbursts” and the counselor deemed it nothing out of the ordinary. No one had received any medical attention and the police weren’t called. We were fine outstanding members of society. Nothing amiss here.
The fact that I had been slapped, punched, and thrown through a wall didn’t matter. It was all in my head, but the bruises weren’t.

SELF DOUBTS

After the session with the counselor, I had a long period of self-doubt. If the counselor saw nothing wrong, maybe I was over reacting and things weren’t as bad as the seemed so I began to do even more. Anything and everything to stay busy. Three kids. Three scout troops. Three ball teams. Dance lessons, music lessons-a full time job-anything to keep busy and to keep me out of the way.
I thought if I worked a little harder everything would magically get better, but it didn’t’. I built a wall and only let him in on occasion. Every time I did I got hurt physically or emotionally. I think the verbal abuse started without either one of us being aware of it. It wasn’t long before he found some much needed friendship with someone else and I started divorce proceedings.
Apparently, I couldn’t even do that right-his anger spun out of control even more. We tried counseling again. It didn’t work. He moved out and back in. I filed for divorce in December just weeks before Christmas-and doubts continued to plague me-was I making a mountain out of a mole hill? Didn’t the kids deserve to have both parents together? Did I really want to throw away a 23 year relationship? I was breaking up the family.
I received an email. He wanted me dead.
I know he was hurt and angry but the email cemented the deal for me. I wanted to live. I didn’t care what the counselors thought anymore. I wanted to live and to feel safe.
I take full responsibility for the divorce. I selfishly wanted to feel safe in a way that I never had before.

BREAKING THE CYCLE

You would have thought my story ended with my divorce, but it isn’t complete until you hear what happened to my daughter.
Like so many teenagers, Stephanie fell in love for the first time in her Junior year in high school. A good ol’ boy drove up in a jeep and captured her heart. They fished together, four wheeled through the country, and went to school together. He carried her books and walked her to class. She’d drive to his house in the morning to take him to school and he’d fix her favorite breakfast. For a lot of people-they were the “favorite couple”. At the prom, they were voted runner up as the best couple-an award reserved for Seniors only.
I got the call one afternoon again in December. “Mom-Wayne beat me up.”
Not he hit me, but he beat me up. What was normally a 30 minute drive became one little more than ten minutes. I determined her injuries didn’t need immediate medical attention and drove her to the police station. Because she was under eighteen, I filed the police report. Everything went pretty quickly and I explained that I wanted an order of protection because they still attended the same school. The officer told me that I needed to have the judge sign it if I wanted the order in place the next day-which I did. It was getting late in the afternoon-and everyone was scheduled to leave at five, but the judge would see us before he left. I handed him the papers for him to read while Stephanie stayed in the back of the room still quietly crying. He asked her to come forward and she did. He looked at her blackened eye and busted ear and I think I saw tears in his eyes too.
He signed the papers and they were served the next day.
The school couldn’t have been better about helping out.
I explained to my daughter that I know she loved that man and that he probably loved her. I explained that I loved her more and that as her mother, I couldn’t allow that relationship to continue. I told her it would be hard breaking it off-just because you love someone doesn’t mean you should be with them. I told her I know how much it hurt and that I would be there for her-did she understand? Did she know she had to leave this love behind?
And she answered : “Mom, if you can do it-I can too.”
We cried a little while.

MY DAD DID NOT LOVE ME THE WAY I WANTED HIM TO

Here are some excerpts from a note I wrote to someone recently:

Your dad loves you guys. He doesn’t show it like your mom does.

I did not like my father. He was an angry, physically violent man and as the oldest I got the brunt of it. He spanked me on my 16th birthday. Lot’s and lot’s of all kinds of physical and mental abuse. I didn’t want to have anything to do with him, I didn’t want to be in the same room with him. I wished many times that my mom would get a divorce. So I GET how you feel.

My mom chose to stay with him. I don’t know if it was the right thing to do, because I think she could have found someone that would appreciate her and made her happy. I don’t know what would have happened to my dad if she had left. She felt a lot of loyalty and stayed with him, he died a couple of years ago. Now she is alone, 87 and living in assisted living.

As I got older and could clear the anger from my mind, I realized that my dad did love me. HE JUST DIDN’T LOVE ME THE WAY I WANTED HIM TO.

Your parents had a bad marriage. Neither was happy.

It may be that you can’t get past the negatives that you remember. I hope that’s not the case. I hope that you might be able to step back at some time and see that your dad is human, and like all of us is not all good, or all bad. Neither of your parents was ever going to be happy if they stayed married to each other.

I am close to several dads that are agonizing about the anger and resentment that their kids have for them. As a parent, and as their peer, it would be very easy for me to look at this and condemn their kids as being unrealistic and ungrateful. But the fact is I didn’t want to have anything to do with my dad either. The difference in my situation and that of my friends is that my mom stayed with him and balanced the negative with her take on his good traits. And there were some, even though I didn’t see them for a long time. I doubt that I would have ever seen them if mom hadn’t pointed them out. Because I really didn’t want to see anything good about him.

My dad could piss off a saint. Mom called me the morning of their 50th anniversary party to tell me that it was cancelled and she was “going to divorce his ass”. I don’t remember what the fight was about, but they made it to the party. She was able to stay with him because she chose to see his good points.

The truth is I don’t think I would have had a relationship with my dad if he and my mother had divorced.

We justify leaving a relationship by listing all of the faults of the person we are leaving. Human nature I guess. How often are we able to step back and say yeah, they do have all those faults, but there were some things that were good too? That is certainly not going to happen in the early days of hurt and anger. But I would hope that there would be some balance in the memories after a while.

Probably not though. It seems that the longer we hang on to the hurt and anger the bigger those things are. Until that is all there is. If the other parent is chiming in on the negatives, the child really doesn’t have a chance to pull their head out of their butt and look at the situation with a clear head.

I don’t think anyone sets out to have a bad relationship with their kid. I know my dad’s father was a real SOB that was physically and emotionally abusive to his kids as well as his wife. His family was relieved when he died. Thing is, we learn by example. My dad didn’t have counselors and self help books to teach him how to parent in a different way than his father. He and my mom fought about it, and he made some adjustments. But it was an uphill battle.

We are getting smarter about this stuff I hope. There is a lot of information out there. Blogs, books, seminars and counseling are available. Of course you have to recognize that there is a problem and be open to change. That’s a big step right there.
So if you are one of those people that has cut a parent out of your life, or you are thinking about it, take a leap of faith and acknowledge that your parent loves you. Maybe not the way you want them to, but in the way that they know,. Can you remember good times? Can you look in a photo album and see that there were trips and swimming pools, joy, laughter and love?

If you look back with honesty and cannot see any good, then so be it. As I have said before, you have to remove yourself from toxic relationships. But recognize that you may not be looking at the relationship with clarity.