The Choices We Make

My Dearest Sister,

While in my father’s house, you asked a very challenging question, a question I could not answer at the time.  I was barely able to process the issue at hand that had rapidly escalated your volume to maximum.  The shake of your body and the choice of your words stopped my brain and sank my freshly broken heart further than I thought it could possibly go.  In the midst of my grief, you heaped weight upon my already crushing burden.

I have had a few weeks to think on our most recent encounter.  It hasn’t been easy to process in light of the loss of my mother just two days before the last time we spoke.  With the help of a dear friend, who always does her best to guide me in the Word, even if it isn’t what I want to hear; I think I am ready to speak.

You asked me these simple but very loaded questions, “Would you like it if I made decisions for your children?  Who are you to decide for my child?”

My response is this.  I would never be okay with you making a decision for my children at any point in their life.  I would never be okay with my husband making decisions for my children at any point in their life.  I would never be okay with myself, my father, or any other human being on the planet making decisions for my children at any point in their life.

Once that sinks in, allow me to elaborate.  My children’s lives belong to them and no one else.  I, nor anyone else has the right to choose anything for them at any time.  There are only two people that ever have any say in their life – God and themselves.  I am their parent, not their dictator.  I am a “steward” of the precious, one-of-a-kind gift that God has placed in my life, I am not their commander.  My one and only job is to guide them and teach them of the Word of God so that they may be saved and make wise, upright choices that further the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is not to control them, or dictate what they will and will not do.  It is not to demand they be who I want them to be.  It is not to manipulate surroundings so that they only come in contact and have relationships with those I deem “worthy” based on my own finite understandings of the world around me.

That being said, I am very aware that these words are extremely easy to say. My children are only 9 and 6 and I have not even begun to experience the craziness that comes with teenage children.  My children are not adults either, so I have yet to experience the cold fingers of fear as I watch them stumble and fall.  I am fully aware that these things I believe are simple when the child is young and challenging as they grow and become more and more of the person God intended them to be.  Difficult or not though, it is where I stand and it is how I live my life with ALL people, not just my own children.

Which leads me to your second question, “Who am I to decide for your child?”  I am no one.  I am not his steward, because I am not his mother.  I am however a person he has chosen to have a relationship with; and in many respects biblically, I am considered an elder in his life, as is his Grandfather.  I feel confident in this statement given the choices I have watched him make and been a part of personally: your son has chosen these positions for us.  I can guarantee you, that at this point in his life, I have never, ever made a decision for him, and I absolutely never will.  I have always given him a choice and I have always respected his choice regardless of how I felt about it.

Regarding the issue at hand, even in that awful situation, I did not choose for him.  There were only a few roads either of us could have chosen to use.  Your son and I operated within these limitations.  Had he told me to wait for his phone call, I would have.  He could have borrowed a friend’s phone and called, instead of waiting for his phone to arrive in the mail.  Or he even could have chosen to Skype with me.  I contacted him out of respect for his relationship with his grandmother.  And he chose how to respond and in what venue the conversation commenced.  The only choice I made, was to have compassion and empathy for a young adult, newly on his own, far away from family and friends.  I chose to think how he might feel finding out too late that his grandmother had passed.

When he chose to come home I was elated.  When he chose to divide his time up the way he did, I was sad.  In my grief, I wanted very much to be selfish.  I wanted very much to demand of his time and tell him how I felt he should have spent it.  I wanted very much to tell him it wasn’t fair, that we wanted more, that we should have gotten more.  I did not tell him these things because it is his life to live and his choice how he spent the very short 5 days he had at home.  It is not my place to tell him how to divide his time, or manipulate his emotions to give me what I want, or simply create situations that give him no choice but to do things my way.  Could I have expressed my feelings? Yes, I could have, but I choose not to and I am okay with that.  In the bigger picture, my little feelings were not of importance.  What was important was grieving with my nephew in our own unique way, and allowing him space to grieve in his unique way.  So again, I did not choose for your son.

After all of this, may I dare say, that you are not angry that I “made a decision” for your adult child?  You are angry that I destroyed your control over the situation.  You are frustrated that things did not go the way you believed that they should.  You are angry that I did not agree with you.  And I think part of you is angry, that despite all that is between you and I, he still chooses to have a relationship with me (and Grandpa).

With Great Pain,

Your Discarded Sister

I Used to Have a Hole in my Heart

We all search for something, something that completes us, gives us meaning, happiness or contentment. We sense this “hole” in our life, in our hearts. We have this lingering sensation that we have something missing. Some of us search our whole lives and never find it. Some of us search for a while, think we have found it, center our lives around it only to have it fail us. Others of us find, grasp it, believe it, let it grow us and end up happier for it. What is “it”? Money? Fame? Family? House? Stuff?
For myself and many like me, we finally found the piece that fits that hole in our hearts. It wasn’t always this way, most of us don’t discover the hole until we are much older. Throughout most of our lives we survive on instinct, not ever aware that we are trying to fill a hole at all. But once we realize what we are doing, we are usually to the point of being able to admit that everything we have used up until that point — has not worked.

It starts with knowing what your identity is. Who we think we are is how we try to fill the hole. Who are you? In your core, at the center of your being, what are you? When all is stripped away, what remains?

I am adopted. I used to place my identity in this, in a negative way. I was fatherless and had no family to belong too.

I placed my identity in my parents, and when they “failed” me, my identity was shattered.
I placed my identity in my grades and education. When others were smarter or made it farther in school, again my identity was shattered.
I placed my identity in my weight and looks. When those fluctuated and radically changed with age and childbirth, my identity was once again shattered.
I placed my identity in my childhood and the abuse I suffered. I became a victim and my identity warped my sense of self to the point that I was shattered.
I placed my identity in a man and when he abused me to the point of nearly taking my life, my identity was shattered. If he cared so little about me, how much was I worth? What was my purpose?
I placed my identity in another man, and when he left me after we got pregnant, again my identity was shattered.
I placed my identity into friendship after friendship, and one by one they failed me or left me, and again my identity was shattered.
I placed my identity in my family. I pushed unspoken unrealistic expectations on my sister and brother-in-law. When they inevitably failed to meet these expectations, again my identity was shattered. I expected things of my husband’s family that was illogical and against their nature and when they failed to live up to these expectations, my identity was shattered.
I placed my identity into my relationship with my husband. When he disappointed me, again my identity was broken.
I placed my identity into my role of wife, and when I screwed up over and over, my identity was shattered.
I placed my identity into my role of mother, and when I screwed that up over and over, my identity was shattered.

It wasn’t until I stopped placing my identity into the things of this world that I started to be satisfied. The hole in my heart could not be filled with people, children, relationships, money, education, or anything else this world has to offer me. Time and time again, either others or myself would continue to let me down because we are human and completely fallible. To fill my heart with these things would leave me empty and broken over and over again.

Only when I filled the hole in my heart with the love of Jesus, did I ever become content. Only in Him did I stop searching for something to complete me, to satisfy me.
It was only once I fully truly grasped my need for a Savior and allowed Him to become my everything, did anything else make any sense.

I am a Daughter of the King and nothing else matters. It truly doesn’t. And before you dismiss it, before you chuck my ideas out the window as “religious garbage” let me walk you through the “how”.

In Jesus, with His power in my heart, I am who HE wants me to be. So even if my parents are taken from me, HE still remains in me.
In Jesus, with His power in my heart, I am who HE wants me to be. So even if someone else has better grades, HE still remains in me.
In Jesus, with His power in my heart, I am who HE wants me to be. So even when my body size changes, HE still remains in me.
In Jesus, with His power in my heart, I am who HE wants me to be. So even when I am ridiculed by others, HE still remains in me.
In Jesus with His power in my heart, I am who HE wants me to be. So even when my significant others fail me, berate me, lie to me, cheat on me, beat me, steal from me, destroy my things and my life, HE still remains in me.
In Jesus, with His power in my heart, I am who HE wants me to be. So even when family isn’t what I want them to be, even if I have no family, if they are all taken from me, HE still remains in me.
In Jesus, with His power in my heart, I am who HE wants me to be. So even when I am a “bad” wife, even when I berate my husband, disrespect him, or treat him wrongly, HE still remains.
In Jesus, with His power in my heart, I am who HE wants me to be. So even when my children misbehave, or are taken from me, HE still remains.

His forgiveness remains in me.
His grace remains in me.
His love remains in me.
His acceptance remains in me.
His plan for my life remains in me.
His will for my life remains in me.
His joy still remains in me.
His peace still remains in me.

Nothing in this world has satisfied me the way God has. Nothing has remained even when everything else has left me empty or let me down.

Unfinished Business

So I said I was going to be posting my testimony at “regular” intervals right?  You all saw how well that went right?

It’s been a problem my whole life, there are very few large projects that I have ever finished.

I have written 13 chapters to what my husband says could be a really good book.  It’s actually the same book I have been trying to write since high school.  There have been a LOT of adaptations and character changes and such, but still, it’s the same project.  I’ve started it 3 separate times.  This last time, I even had it all loaded on some website where people could read it while you were writing it and I got some great feedback.  You would think that would motivate me, but it didn’t.

I even thought about trying to get my poetry published.  At the time I thought it was decent, but I was between the ages of 14 and 19, so you can figure how good that actually was.  I have over 100 poems, I started working up illustrations to go with them.  I had a table of contents half written up.  I could even go over to the drawer right now and pull them all out.  But that’s probably not going to happen either.

I also wrote a pretty cool short story.  I had created my own greek mythology.  For those that don’t know, a lot of greek myths, gods and demigods were once people who were cursed/blessed with one thing or another.  Like the one of the lady who boasted about being the best spinner/weaver and challenged a goddess.  Well she lost, and got turned into a spider and that’s why spiders “spin” webs.  Well, I had made up my own love story about the beauty of sunsets and destruction of storms.  It’s around here somewhere.

I dabbled in art for a while when I was in high school and part of college.  I’m not too bad.  I have a folder full of drawings and a few paintings.  But as usual, I didn’t even finish the college semester of art I was taking.  The canvases I hadn’t used yet got wet and started to mold in storage so I had to throw them out.  I couldn’t even tell you where I put my art bag full of paints and brushes that my mom bought me.

I really got into quilting about 4 years ago, and started stock piling fabric.  I got quite a bit of help from the older ladies in the quilting guild I was in, they even gave me one of their old sewing machines to replace the dinosaur I was using.  I have started 10, and only finished 3. I have the fabric available to me to make at least 5 more on top of the 7 half-finished ones.  I still enjoy it, I just don’t feel like it.

I have 3/4ths of an associate degree in…….something.

I have two 55 gallon barrels outside in my backyard half full of roof run-off because I was going to make rain barrels.

I have a half-finished fire pit made out of recycled concrete chunks I found and hauled away.

My daughters crib was half-sanded and then half-painted and then — I just gave up, put it together and put her in it.  She’ll never know.

I have done a garden two years in a row.  I will get the ground worked up and plant the seeds.  I do really well at weeding every other day and watering.  I watch ’em real close for a month or two.  I prune them, fertilize them, pick off the bugs, try to keep up on the weeds.  But in the end, the weeds win, those that can survive the drought will still be around in October, and I might manage to get a tomato or two.  My first year, I had 31 different plants!!  What was I thinking!!  I did not harvest a single thing.  I just let it grow and then, I let it die, and then I let it decompose.  I am so bad at not finishing things, I barely decided to drag in the soaker hoses two months ago.  I hadn’t been in the garden in 2 years!

Why am I telling you all of this?  Why did you waste your time reading all this nonsense?  To be honest with you…….

I don’t know.

Permanent Voids

Processing pain is an ever changing landscape.   Everyone is different.  Some of us filter it through jokes and odd humor.  Others of us mask it in anger and rage, lashing out unintentionally at those closest to us.  A lot of it is affected by how the pain was inflicted.  Physical pain is vastly different than emotional or even mental distress.

In the last 18 months I will have lost 5 grandparents.  I am not even sure how to process the number, let alone the intricacies of each person.

What makes it the hardest to process is the utter lack of relationship with all but one of them.  While my husband has fond memories of playing with his grandparents, I do not.  I know many people who can’t wait to go to “nana’s” house for Easter or Christmas.  They get cards in the mail, phone calls on the weekends, or trips to their house for no reason at all.  Even as an adult, these tokens of love and deep relationships continue.

These are not the types of grandparents I inherited.

Instead I inherited grandparents that haven’t spoken to me in over 12 years.  I inherited grandparents that didn’t even speak to their own children for the last 12 years.  I inherited grandparents that when they did speak to their children, words that no mother or father should even utter aloud, were spoken into their ears.

How do I process the pain of the absence of a void?  Because that is exactly what I have now.  An absence that will never be filled. A permanent void.  What do I do with the realization that these people who didn’t cared about me, didn’t cared about their own children, will never again have the chance to tell me they care?  That lingering hope of a relationship is forever lost.  That tiny speck of waiting for them to decide to include in me in their lives is forever unattainable.

Even still, how do I sift through the pain and grief of knowing there are others out there that did have a relationship with them?  What did they have that I didn’t that made them worthy of what should have been mine as well?  I feel as though it is unallowable for me to be angry at people that they love.  And yet, I know this to be untrue.  These people choose to ignore me, cast me out and turn their backs on myself and my family.  The fact that they choose to not do so with others does not cancel out the real pain and longing they created in my life.

I find myself sobbing over the broken relationships scattered throughout my family.  Parents and children pitted against each.  Children’s hearts hardened by bitter and cruel parents.  Grandchildren being kept away from grandparents.  Grandparents ignoring grandchildren.  Families scattered across the country with no attempts made to keep contact alive. How did it all come to this?  How did these relationships get so far broken that they became forever severed?  And why did God choose this brokenness for me?  Why did He choose to put a deep longing for big family in my heart and the set me down in so much turmoil?

For now all I can do is make peace with the fact that I could have done nothing to change the status of our relationships.  They made their choices and what’s done is done.  What is left for me now is to live my life in a way that is worthy of the one grandfather who did love me and cared about me.  It is time for me to live my life in such a way that I leave a legacy of grandparents behind for my own children.  I can move through my pain, acknowledge it, and have it grow me.  I will allow it to teach me a valuable lesson: that all relationships are sacred and worth holding onto.  I must choose love over prejudice and selfishness.  I must be willing to set aside my bruised ego and pride and understand that a lot of relational pain comes from my own unspoken and unrealistic expectations of others.

For the cycle of brokenness to stop, it has to start with me.

MY Story: Split “Life” Disorder

Hi!  My name is Shauna and I am an Overcomer in Christ.  I am a survivor of childhood physical, emotional and verbal abuse.  I am a survivor of physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse in a previous marriage.  I am an overcomer of food addiction, love and relationship addiction, rage and anger mismanagement, kleptomania, co-dependency and people pleasing.

And this is MY story.

Most of us are aware of the term “split personality disorder”.  I sometimes think of my childhood in these terms, but instead of myself being fractured into multiple parts, my life was split.

My time in school is easily broken into sections by grade.  I had a teachers face to attach a lot of images to inside the classroom.  It is easy to remember the abuse done to me inside each classroom because I had a distinct location for this trauma.

Life outside of the classroom, but still within school grounds (or on the school bus) is harder for me to place an age reference to the “re-telling” of the incident.  It is hard to know exactly when it happened, and where to place it in the stream of recollection.

Life at home is even more challenging to place within the stream of recollection because it was the same – day in and day out.  Everything I experienced at home sort of blurs together, making it difficult to place exactly when something occurred.

And here is where the split happens: the struggles I faced at home were radically different from the struggles I faced at home.  The feelings attached to my memories at home are so dissimilar to the emotions of my school memories that I sometimes experience a sort of whiplash when reliving them. Things are so disconnected that I scarcely even know how or where to start retelling them.

At home there were consequences for my bad choices at school, as well as consequences for my bad choices at home.  But life at home was not all horrible.  I have a lot of happy memories, and I honestly thought my home life was pretty normal.  It wasn’t until I moved into adulthood, and shared some of my experiences with others that I realized that quite a bit of it was anything but normal.

I experienced the usual spankings, time outs, toy removal, sentence writing and television loss as most children.  But after that, the normality ended.  My parents tried a lot of different techniques in order to modify my behavior.  All the while, completely unaware that they were fighting a losing battle we could never hope to win.

Being “grounded” was actually pretty pointless.  I was an only child, and I was used to be ostracized by schoolmates, so being “sent to my room” did not have the desired effect.  In an attempt to facilitate the desired effect, the items in my room were removed little by little until I was left with absolutely nothing other than a bed, dresser and desk.  No posters on the wall, no decorations, no pretty bed spread, absolutely nothing that I could use to catch my attention.  Still, I was content to sit on my bed for hours on end.

We had textured walls and ceilings.  Did you know that if you stare at them long enough and let your eyes relax the wall will start to waver and all kinds of designs and details will appear?  It’s kind of like looking for shapes in the clouds.  That is what I learned being confined to my room for days on end.  I didn’t think about what I did wrong, heck, most of the time I didn’t even remember.  I spent my time finding elephants and boats.

My mom took away my dolls, and I just used my hands instead.  They would carry on full conversations with each other the same as if I had two toys to play with.  I would do “eenie meenie minie moe” type songs with my fingers until I had eliminated them all.  Then I would start over again.  It didn’t really matter.  I remember spending whole weekends sitting on my bed staring at the walls.  Not just an hour or two after school, but two whole entire days not leaving my bed except to eat and go to the bathroom.  You would think that this would be enough to drive any respectable 7-12 year old completely stir crazy and whip them right into shape.  But it did nothing for me.

As much as I found ways to entertain myself, I absolutely hated being confined to my room.  The silence and blank walls irritated me to no end.  But it didn’t motivate me enough to change my behavior because I never remembered what I had done wrong by the time I was finished serving my sentence. Not to mention that with the ADHD came a complete lack of impulse control, which most children lack anyway.

I remember weekend after weekend after weekend pulling weeds and picking up dog poo and working in the yard with my parents.  I knew at the time that these were consequences, and I know looking back on them that it was supposed to be a form of “punishment”.  Unfortunately for my parents, these were also completely normal occurrences in our household as well.  We had 1/2 acre and on that acre we had nearly every fruit tree you can think off, lots of grass and plants that constantly needed care and 2 dogs.  Those dogs had to be picked up after whether I was in trouble or not.  So to use this as consequences, kind of back fired.  I actually remember most of these days with fondness and togetherness — MOST of them.

There are of course, those exceptions that stand out like a sore thumb.  I do remember one summer in particular where the weeds in one section of our yard were nearly as tall as my father – 5′ 7″.  And the are we grew up in was granite rock.  You usually needed a pick axe to do anything more than a small hole.  And it was HOT.  My job for the summer was to pull the weeds in this approximately
12′ x 12′ section.  My “torture” would end when I finished pulling all the weeds.  That sounds awesome right?  Get them done quickly and I could go about my merry way?  Need I remind you that these weeds were bigger than me, growing out of rock at most had at least a 1″ thick stalk? Oh — and it’s usually about 99 -102 degrees, and I am probably between 9-11, with severe ADHD.  I couldn’t have stayed focused on eating long enough to finish my meal even if it was the last one I was ever going to eat.  My dad often joked that I was so forgetful that I would forget my own head even though it WAS attached.

And yet, the emotional undercurrent of my life at home did not compare to that of my life at school.  At home, as angry as I would get, as frustrated as I would become, I always felt loved and wanted.  I felt safe and secure.  There was a consistency and routine to my life that made it easy to cope with the disjointed mess in my head.  I may not have always been able to stay on task, but I wasn’t often surprised by the consequences.  And most of the time, there was an emotional disconnect for my mom.  Most of time, I did not feel as though her consequences and punishments were given out with shame attached.  She punished because I had done wrong, not because she was ashamed of me or simply angry with me.  I know I drove her crazy, I could tell she was at her wit’s end a lot of the time because my behavior was like a bad record stuck in a groove constantly replaying the same line, but it usually wasn’t personal.

At school, there was always shame involved.  Every aspect of every day was full of shame and worthlessness.  Teachers abused me, students abused me, teachers allowed the students to abuse me, and it was always personal.  It was always an attempt to squash, diminish, shame or otherwise destroy my integrity and sense of self.

There was a brokenness to my life, to my every day being and surviving.  In the differences of school and home, there almost was a sort of personality split within me that I still battle today.  The little girl who wants so desperately to no longer feel ashamed and broken and for others to accept her for exactly who she is constantly at war with the adult who has tentatively grasped at the notion that I am beautifully and wonderfully made.  I am a unique and eccentric individual who must not put her light under a basket.  My ideas are worth something to my family and the world around me, and the little girl who was always silenced and pushed down will one day soon stand strong and proud, and she will roar and be silenced no more.

MY Story: The Blame Game Begins

Hi!  My name is Shauna and I am an Overcomer in Christ.  I am a survivor of childhood physical, emotional and verbal abuse.  I am a survivor of physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse in a previous marriage.  I am an overcomer of food addiction, love and relationship addiction, rage and anger mismanagement, kleptomania, co-dependency and people pleasing.

And this is MY story.

My behavior issues were noticed by the school administration.  I was quickly labeled as a “problem child”.

I don’t know about you, but the picture that comes to mind when someone says “problem child” is a student that adamantly refuses to follow instruction, rude, often disrespectful, highly disruptive, sometimes violent, possibly even destructive in nature and basically makes the school classroom unmanageable for the teacher.

I have no issues in admitting that I was not an easy student, but at this age, I was in NO way that kind of problem child.

However, the school continued to claim that I was a major disruption and that there must be something going on at home.  And my parents continued to maintain that it must be something happening at school because at home there were no indications of the behavior the school claimed to be dealing with.

At the time I had no idea what was going on, my mother did not reveal the schools accusations to me until I was well into high school.  Once she did, a lot of what happened that year made sense.

On more than one occasion I was called into the principal’s office to have a “talk” with the principal, two counselors and two other people who I did not know.  I can only assume now that they were some sort of school board or state people.

I was questioned at length during these interviews about life at home.  I was repeatedly asked if my parents were “hurting” me.  On more than one occasion I was asked to strip so that the “officials” could document bruises, cuts and scrapes.  These interviews were never done with my parents present and at the age of 7 I had NO idea that this was not okay.  All I remember is wondering what I had done wrong, why they were asking me so many questions.  I felt vulnerable and scared.  When I was asked to take off my clothing, I felt dirty and broken.  I just knew in my heart that I was a horrible monster and there must be something very, very wrong with me.  If there wasn’t, why wouldn’t they just leave me alone?

After one particular “interview”, after filling my brain with plenty of suggestive material, I must have finally said what they wanted me to say.  The state showed up at our house to do a thorough search and determine whether or not I was a victim of child abuse.  Needless to say, nothing at all was found to support this evidence, because it didn’t exist.

Things continued to decline for me at school.  ADHD was not yet on the radar, but I was labeled as hyperactive and it was suggested that my diet be restricted of foods that might escalate this behavior.  So anything with caffeine was strictly forbidden and sugar was drastically reduced.  In today’s world, children are restricted from all sorts of foods due to allergens and there are a lot of options available, including sugar-free for those with diabetes.  In the late ’80’s this was not the case.  Not only that, I did not suffer any adverse reactions to eating these foods, such as a stomach ache, headache, or hives, so there was not external motivation to stick to this diet.  Needless to say, at school, I did not follow orders.

I made my own lunches with the approved snacks and such, but once I got to school, I usually didn’t eat it.  Suffice it to say that I was very creative in getting my hands on the goodies I was not supposed to have.  But I would do not so smart things and I would stuff the wrappers in my bag or pockets so the teachers wouldn’t see me throwing it away.  Of course, the attention span and memory of a 7-year-old quickly kicked in and I forgot.  Once I got home, the evidence was discovered and I was busted.

One thing led to another and the teachers were fairly successful in keeping me away from the sweets.  I eventually began stealing from the other students lunches.  I was quite good at it too, which did not help matters at all.  Needless to say, I had been in an environment that for the last two years I was told I was not good at anything, that everything I did was wrong. I was constantly under ridicule and being demeaned for speaking out of turn, refusing to conform to the rules and being a “know-it-all”.  When I was able to steal without being caught, it excited me.  There were quite a few times I was caught, but not often enough to deter me from doing it again and again.  The immediate gratification appealed to my short attention spanned nature and I was unable to use logic to stop this behavior.

I can look back now and see this series of events as the seeds for my addiction to this behavior being planted by the enemy.  As an adult, I have little to no memory of the thefts.  I remember eating the goodies, I remember a few instances of consequences.  One of those is very distinct.  I can see myself and my mother standing in the grocery aisle.  I am supposed to be picking out the replacement of a sweet I stole from another child.  I remember her explaining to me that I needed to replace what I had stolen, and an extra to show that I was sorry for what I had done.  I can very clearly remember not feeling sorry.  It’s kind of creepy as an adult to go back through that and have no memory of feeling remorse.

Another memory I have is of stealing candy from the grocery store bins.  Our store had several plastic bins stacked atop one another, a lot like the ones at the Candy Factory in the mall.  This loose candy was just too tempting for me and I pulled several pieces out and put them in my pocket.  When my  mother discovered I had done this, she made me go back in and return the candy and apologize.  Again, I felt no remorse for my actions, I was numb and unaware of how damaging my decisions were.  I had no clue the vicious cycle that was being created in me.  The enemy was working in me, and over the next five years, he would have me tightly bound in these chains of kleptomania.

Where to Begin?

Where to Begin?

Originally Penned: 10/8/1999

I know what I see,
I know what I feel.

I know how much it hurts,
I know how much it aches.

I can see the fear,
I can see the darkness.

I know where it hides,
I know where it hides.

It will destroy,
it will trick.

All it wants is victory,
all it wants is your despair.

But how to fight it,
how to make it run.

That I can’t really answer,
of that I can’t really be sure.

I know it has to do with love,
I know it has to do with hope.

Of these we have both,
and plenty enough.

How to use them,
how to make them work?

They are weapons before us,
they are the way to win.

Now we are lost,
now we are failing.

For our love and hope,
our strength and need
are not as strong,
are not as powerful.

If we do not know how
if we cannot see why.

How can you fight?
How can you win?

When you don’t even know
When you don’t even know

how to begin?

In Between Dances

In Between Dances

Originally penned: 11/2/1999

     The music stops

the rhythm keeps on

the beating flows

the feelings flow.

     In between dances

in between heartbeats

and in between glances.

     Do the feelings

really go on?

     Does the love stay strong

ready for the next song?

     Where do you go

between roads?

     What do you do

when you think

you have no where to go?

     Your heart twisting

and turning so fast

the precious times

never seem to last.

     Waiting and reaching

hoping and praying

that the next song

will begin and then

     we will be able

to hold each others hearts

                               and dance once again.

MY Story: The Simplicity Ends

 Any names, unless given specific permission, have been changed to protect their anonymity.

Hi!  My name is Shauna and I am an Overcomer in Christ.  I am a survivor of childhood physical, emotional and verbal abuse.  I am a survivor of physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse in a previous marriage.  I am an overcomer of food addiction, love and relationship addiction, rage and anger mismanagement, kleptomania, co-dependency and people pleasing.

And this is MY story.

I do not have a lot of memories of kindergarten, just a few snap shots here and there, nothing very concrete.

1st grade however, was a whole different animal and I remember it very well.  I may not remember it in perfect chronological order, but I do remember it.  And there are a lot of times, when I think back on my childhood, that those were some of the years I wish the most that I could forget.  It was a major turning point in my life and I firmly believe that had the school system handled things much differently, the rest of my life would have been drastically different.  I am not always sure whether or not I want it to be different, because it has made me who I am today, that classic cliché response.  It is, however cliché, still very true that our paths shape us and mold us.

My 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Tims, was a cold and cruel older woman.  She was well on her way to retirement and possibly past her time to no longer be teaching.  Now as an adult, I can look back and surmise that her “light” had gone out and she no longer had a passion or love for teaching, if she ever had it at all.

Mrs. Tims was my first abuser.  Discipline in her class was special for me.  I was singled out and humiliated in ways that the other students were not.  Had the other students received the same punishments as I did, I would have thought nothing of it, but this was not the case.  I was made to sit facing the wall in the front of the classroom for an hour or more at a time.  I was called stupid, idiot, brat, heathen, savage, etc. if I made the smallest error.

I remember at one point she used the check system for the class, one I am sure some of you will be familiar with.  At the first infraction your name would go on the chalkboard as a warning.  The next mess up was a check mark and you had to sit out 1st recess.  Second check mark and you sat alone at lunch.  Third check mark and you sat out second recess – you get the picture.  If you sat out at recess like you were supposed to, then your check mark was erased.  And at the end of the day the names were erased and everyone started fresh the next morning.

I was not allowed to start with a fresh slate, my check marks remained on the board for everyone to see, every single day.  And more were added daily, with no end in sight. When I sat on the bench, my check mark wasn’t erased.  Since there was no end to my check marks, I stopped obeying them, and I would go play at recess.  When I did this, I had another check mark added.  Needless to say that within a few months my name was on the left side of the board, and my checks extended to the other side of the board.

I have no problem looking back at my past and admitting that I was a handful.  I had a lot of energy, my mind went a mile a minute and I am sure my mouth followed suit.  As I sit here and write this, that small voice is trying to come back into my mind and make me question what I experienced.  It wants me to minimize how I was treated and dismiss it because it was only a bunch of silly check marks.  And I am sure a few reading this might be inclined to agree.  But I know that I have every right to be hurt by what this woman did to me.  I know that there is no way for a grown woman to justify treating a 6 year old little girl with this level of animosity and callousness.  I was 6 and these check marks were only the beginning of a long list of “special treatment” that I was subjected to my entire childhood at the hands of authority figures.

During this same year we were beginning to learn to count money.  For some reason, God only knows why, I just didn’t get it.  Mrs. Tims would explain it, show us the difference between a penny, nickel and dime.  We would walk through a few problems together and then be given our own worksheets.  I remember easily working on the sheets, finishing them and turning them in.  Over and over my worksheets were returned covered in red check marks.  Every single problem was wrong, day after day after day.  I would ask for help and be told ‘no’.  I would ask for help and I was told, “if you don’t get it by now, there is nothing I can do for you”.  I would ask other students for help, and I would be sent to the corner for being disruptive.  When my mother finally caught wind of this issue, she came to the school to discuss it with Mrs. Tims.  Her words to my mother were this:

“I have done things to Shauna that I have never done to another student.  I don’t know what else to do to her, I cannot teach her.”

For Mrs. Tims, I was not a child in need of help, I was an entity that would not conform and bend to her will.  She did things TO me in an attempt to conform me instead of doing FOR me in an attempt to guide and educate me.