Skip to content

Who are you when nobody is looking?

July 25, 2018

Image may contain: sky and text

Who are you when nobody is looking??? Are you brave enough to share? I’ll go first:

I am a happy person, singing (off key) to the radio, laughing and crying during movies, dancing (when nobody is watching), talk to myself type of person. I dream about vacations I’d love to take, artwork I have yet to create, bread I have yet to bake and love the fact that I have the freedom to make these decisions or not! I don’t do well in a negative environment or around negative, insulting people who act as if they are better than everyone else or treat others badly; I don’t handle it well mentally or physically and I find myself internalizing the anger and injustice of the situation when I’m powerless to change/control it.  I prefer small gatherings to large crowds. I’m probably more of a homebody than a social butterfly; I’m not an introvert just more socially awkward than others.  My sisters are my best friends.  I take pleasure in the small things in life…a drive in the country, a hike at a state park, a small town diner, a piece of homemade pie with a hot cup of coffee, an antique store or quilt shop. I’d rather knit or quilt than go out on the town or watch television but, I love the internet and all it brings into my world, it’s like the most amazing encyclopedia..information at my fingertips, pictures and countries I can travel and enjoy over a cup of tea, inspiration for artwork and quilts, online friends that I’ve had for years and will never meet in person, and resources available that arrive by UPS so I don’t have to drive into the city! I love living in the country and hate big cities although I do appreciate some of the resources in cities such as specialty shops like the quilt shops and yarn shops. I like the friendly, kind people in smaller town and the slower pace of life. I enjoy sitting out back with my coffee and watching the squirrels play tag and listen to the birds sing. I can’t grow anything, all my plants die, my garden is a disgrace and I’ve accepted the fact that my interests lie within the house with my hobbies and art rather than outside with my garden tools. I take pleasure in watching the deer in the evening frolic out back when they think nobody is around, they play and nibble on the plants and fly over fences as easily as a human steps over a stone. This is me, I have reached a stage of my life where I don’t want the hustle and bustle of the city, I don’t want the high stress/high paying jobs, I don’t want people judging me by the house I own, the car I drive or the clothes I wear. I want a calm, happy life away from the anxiety and pressure of the fast paced city life.  I don’t want to step outside in the morning with a cup of coffee only to see my neighbors on four sides.  I enjoy stepping outside, sitting on my steps, sipping my hot cup of coffee while watching the wildlife as I gaze towards the trees and watch the world waking up, the bees bopping from one plant to another, the birds in the trees singing their beautiful songs, the cardinals in their bright red coats almost like sentry guards, the squirrels running around who stop suddenly and stare intently at me as if to say, “You forgot to fill the bird feeder again,” and the rabbit that believes he is hidden from my view but then dashes away and hops back to his home under the huge tree on the hill.  My house is very humble, small and old, my land is insignificant but it is the whole world to me, it is my world.

Advertisements

I Dream in Color…again.

April 15, 2018

I Dream in Color….

By Vanessa VanTrease

I dream in color, or maybe it’s not really dreaming but a level of consciousness somewhere between dreamland and the land of insomnia. I was dreaming about yarn, until the thoughts of someone more devious crept in and shattered my images of a beautiful array of color. I roll over, afraid to look at the clock, hoping it’s something close to a decent morning time like 5 or 6….but no, it’s only 2:55 a.m. This is my life…..surviving on a few hours of sleep every night and wishing for the world that I knew how to sleep! Sleep is so elemental, so basic, even a baby can accomplish the simple act of allowing the body to repair and re-energize itself….what is the trick? Benedryl, recommended by my doctor, has become my best friend when I become numb from exhaustion. So….while I’m lying there, pretending that I did not wake up before 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning…..I begin to think about my crazy life, the hardships, the lost dreams and the direction my life has taken.

I am the third child of seven children to a mother who probably should not have had children. As my mother liked to say, “I had my perfect boy, then I had my perfect girl, but then Vanessa was born and all hell broke loose!” Well, when I was younger I never quite understood what she meant other than the fact that I was a complete tomboy and resented anything girlish. I could out-ride any boy in my neighborhood on our bikes. I could ride stunts on my bikes that only sent the other boys home bleeding and bawling to their mommies. As an adult I began to understand what my mother meant. My mother is one of those rare people who should not have had children, she had seven children. And, she seemed to have children for a long period of time, after the first two children that were only one year and 11 days apart, she had the remainder of us anywhere from two years to six years apart, spending over a decade having children and then another couple of decades raising them is a very long time for someone who really did not enjoy children!

So, my mother naturally blamed my father for all her (first six) children. Every few years, she would get mad, pack up us kids, put us in the red VW bus and leave Kansas City, driving east, to a strange city called St. Louis. We would end up in a hotel for weeks  because she could never quite convince anyone to rent an apartment to a single lady with six children, remember, this was the 60’s.  After a few weeks, my father would track us down, drive to St. Louis and get us kids and my mother would follow him home in the red VW bug. In the summer of 1970 when I was 11 years old, my mother did the same thing, packed up us kids, but instead of driving east, she drove west and promptly dumped us children in a small town in Kansas called LeRoy to stay with her brother. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother but why was she hell-bent on taking us kids if she didn’t really like kids? Was this the thing women did in the 60’s?  Anyway, we spent the summer in this small town with my uncle and his 4th or 5th,  extremely lazy, wife who sat and chain smoked all day long and would get angry when my uncle told her to go take a bath.  She had two girls who were abused by both her and my uncle.  My mother returned to Kansas City and moved in with her mother. It was a strange summer to say the least and in August as I was listening to the radio while I cleaned the kitchen I heard the radio announcer report that my father had been found murdered. In my own little kid way of thinking, at first I thought someone was playing a joke on me. I went outside to find my older brother and sister and told them what I had heard on the radio. My sister got mad and slapped me across the face. My brother quietly went into the house, took the radio and plugged it into an outlet in the garage and we began to listen to the radio news flash every 15 minutes for the next few hours. My life changed that day, forever.

Less than two weeks after my father was buried, my mother married her lover. A manic depressive, 30 something man who had never married before; imagine marrying a woman with six children? So began my new life with an abusive stepfather who wasn’t fond of working.  He would talk about how smart he was and would try to prove his point by insulting and making fun of people who were educated.  He always liked to move telling us how much better the new place would be, you know, the grass is always greener on the other side syndrome.  Each move taking us to a new city, new state and we moved, and moved and moved, each move taking us one step closer to poverty. My stepfather was not much on working a regular job and if it were not for my father’s social security my mother was drawing on us kids, I believe he would have split years ago. My mother and stepfather ended up having a child together, so brings the total to seven children.  I wondered, even as a child, if he was not too proud to live off my father’s social security why he too proud to take food stamps?  When the check came in each month he was out shopping, buying himself his cigarettes, beer and new boots or clothes and such while my mother walked around in cheap canvas tennis shoes with holes in the toes and a hand me down coat from her brother-in-law?  This is the type of crazy life we were subjected to living with this abusive alcoholic.

At the end of my eight grade year the stepfather moved us to Lake Dallas, TX and life got worse.  He would beat the younger children constantly but it was especially horrific for my younger brother Phillip.  He tried to play football but he had to walk home after practice every day in the blazing heat.  One day the stepfather found out his coach was giving him a ride home and he beat Phillip for hours, then put him in his truck, drove him to the field and made him walk home alone.  The beatings got worse and he would kick Phillip in the butt all the time with his pointed cowboy boots.  The verbal abuse was just has horrible.  I would do things to make the stepfather mad just to get his attention on me and off Phillip.  I tried telling teachers but nobody listened and it got so bad I finally ran away.  I was trying to get to my older brother in Kansas City so he would help me get help from the police.  I had tried to tell my principal and a teacher at the school but they would just look at me and basically I could tell they were uncomfortable offered no help.  Well, I didn’t get far and that night the sheriff picked me up.  I told him why I ran away and he said he believed me but they didn’t have anywhere to take us.  They stated the stepfather had said I was a rebellious teen, lazy, etc.  The sheriff said he talked to the  principal and they didn’t believe him but he stated that it was deceiving because they walked into a spotless house, my mother crying because I was gone, etc.  So I was returned to them.  Then report cards came out and as usual I had all A’s and B’s but my younger siblings did not so they got ‘so many licks for each grade below mine’.  This man was so crazy we would think of stupid reasons to beat the kids.  School came easy for me but my younger sister Sharon had to work very hard just get C’s.  It was the most awful feeling to watch them get in trouble.  Arguing with him, trying to reason with him just made the situation worse and made him extremely volatile.  So I went to school the next day and began writing my name on the top of my papers and tests and turning them in blank.  Of course I was called to the office where the principal said my teachers had expressed concern; I told him what happened and asked again for help.  One time I was called to the office and when I went into the principal’s office the sheriff were sitting there.  They tried to tell me I was only hurting myself by flunking but I told them it was the only thing I knew to get pressure off the little ones.  I told the sheriff, who has been going by the house to talk to the stepfather and check up on us, to either get us out of that house or get out of our lives because every time he went by to talk to the stepfather and did nothing it was like the stepfather felt more empowered and the abuse was escalating.  They said they didn’t have a place for us and stated I would not want to be responsible for splitting up the children into different foster homes.  I told them anything would be better than what we were living through now.  I accused them of not caring because once when Phillip was covered in welts all over his back, buttocks and legs and I told the principal and begged him to go look at his body, they did nothing, nothing at all to help.  It was sickening and I felt totally helpless.

In the spring of my freshman year of high school the stepfather quit his job and moved the family from Lake Dallas, Texas to an apartment in Denton, TX.  I requested to stay with a friend and finish out the school year.  I was shocked when they said yes.  But the school year ended and living in Denton was horrible that summer.  My stepfather would lay around sleeping all day and when he was up, he was yelling or beating on the children and walking around with his robe open, flashing his nude, disgusting body.  It was so scary and trying to talk to my mother fell on deaf ears.

One day, he was beating the children every half hour or so and I finally found the courage to confront him and said I was calling the police.  He began beating me with his fists into my chest.  I covered my chest and turned toward the wall and he just beat me in my back, arms and head.  Then he grabbed me by my hair and threw me in my room.  He put something around the door knob to lock me in.  I was so scared but listened closely and he left the other children alone.  I was in there for about six hours and needed out to use the restroom.  I began beating on the door and he wouldn’t let me out.  Finally I told him he wasn’t very smart locking me in, he responded he was the smart one because I was locked in and he wasn’t.  Our apartment was on the second floor and my window faced the 7-11 store behind the complex where the Denton policemen would go for coffee.  I told him to let me out and he just laughed and I heard him walk away.  I opened the window and began screaming for help and he came in and jerked me out of the room.  He never locked me in again.  When my mother came home I told her what had happened and her response was to ask me what I did to make him mad again.  My little sister Tina broke her arm that summer and the stepfather refused to take her to the hospital.  She spent three days with a broken arm before my mother finally told the stepfather she was taking her regardless of what he said!  Her arm was in a cast for the next couple of months.

And then, of course, at the end of the summer he moved the family to Montgomery, MO where I began my sophomore year of school but, within a few months, he moved us to Middletown, MO where I attended Wellsville High School, the closest school.  Of course, he still wasn’t working and the poverty was a reality.  I came downstairs one morning before school and my mother was sitting at the kitchen table crying, she said she didn’t have any food to even make us breakfast and nothing to make our lunches for school.  I was shocked, I mean I knew we were extremely poor but I had no idea and it scared me.  Remember, the stepfather lived off my father’s social security but he was too proud to take food stamps and too lazy to work.  It was disgusting.  I asked if she could call Edna, the stepfather’s mother, and ask for some of her government commodities.  Edna had these huge bins in her garage full of different types of beans, flour, sugar, cocoa, oats, rice, salt, powdered milk, etc.  Government commodities were what people received before the system switched to food stamps.  She said she had already called and asked and Edna said no.  Now let me explain that Edna was probably just as mean as her son…that acorn didn’t fall far from that tree.  So, I asked my mother would she care if I called and tried.  My mother looked shocked.  Edna hated me and the feelings were mutual.  She said I could try.  So I called Edna and asked if she could teach me how to sew a collar on a shirt, she called me stupid but said to have my mother bring me to town.  I told my mother to get the kids dressed and when we were there I would tell Edna that her son asked for some beans.  So, we went to town and I told Edna that her son had asked if she would mind sending home some of the beans she gave him last time that were so good.  She adored her son so she told me to go to the garage and get a bag full enough to feed the whole family.  Edna has stated many times she didn’t eat ‘that food’ in the garage because she had to live on it for too many years.  So, began my life as a food thief.  I stole bags of beans, rice, oats, flour, sugar, salt, cocoa, powdered milk and other basics and filled the third seat floor board full of food.  I was so scared I would get caught.  When we got home I was scared to tell my mom but the stepfather was asleep and I asked her to come out side and look at something.  When she saw the food she told us to hurry up and get it in the house and into the pantry before he woke up.  After that, when we were out of food we would make a trip to town and I would steal Edna’s government commodities.  She never noticed anything missing, probably because when I said she had bins full of beans and other staples, I mean barrels full.  I felt so guilty but felt I had no choice.  I would get angry because on the first of every month the stepfather would buy his cigarettes and beer to last the month, a nice piece of clothing or coat and we went without, without basics, without food.  I told myself there would be a special place in hell for someone so selfish and abusive.  I never understood why my mother never stood up to him.  I even told her one time that if he left we would have more money because he wouldn’t be spending my dad’s money!

So in the spring of my sophomore year the stepfather began talking about moving again because he got in a fight with his brother who lived on the next section of land behind where we rented so he began planning a move again.  Letters of interest were went to chamber of commerce organizations all over Texas, California, Nevada and Oklahoma and the brochures began pouring in and the dreaming began.  I asked a question one evening of where the money would come from to move and begin this new life he described and he turned bright red and I was sent to my room.  I spent most of my time up there anyway so it was not a true banishment!  I was not allowed to sit on the couch downstairs when everyone was watching television and if you’ve ever sat on a cold floor in an old farm house in the winter that is heated by a wood burning stove then you know why I chose to go to my room and read.  Also, it kept me away from the abuse.

We finally ended up in Norman, Oklahoma again that summer.  This is where I began my junior year of high school. This is where I began making poor choices in the fact that I dated a guy whom I should never have dated. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he was so nice, and to me, good looking, but he would make the strangest comments and his behavior was often strange, but then again, who was I to question strange? Look at my strange life! But, I knew something wasn’t right with him and broke up.  Then after Christmas of that school year the stepfather began talking about moving again, first he moved us across town to an apartment complex and then he began talking about moving to California. I began to panic. Every move took us one step closer to the level of poverty that makes it very hard to eat…especially when, as poor as we were, my stepfather was above accepting food stamps or welfare! He would find an excuse to quit his job (as an adult I now question whether he quit or was fired) and would come home with a grand plan to move to a new state. He would paint a beautiful picture of prosperity and promise us kids new bikes, new furniture and clothes, but he would always sell our household possessions to finance these moves and basically promise to whisk us away from poverty to a land of prosperity! Well, at the age of 17, after witnessing eight of these moves, I had my doubts about anything wonderful happening in California. All I wanted was to finish high school and go to college; I had applied for a college scholarship.  I wanted a better life than my parents had provided for us; I wanted more out of life, I wanted a normal life with stability.  The stepfather said I wasn’t invited to move with them because I kept calling the police on him for abusing the little ones.  I looked at my mother and asked what I was supposed to do and she said marry your boyfriend.  I stated what they already knew, we had broken up, something was wrong with him.  I knew his parents were moving to St. Louis in the summer and he was moving with them. He was a freshman in college and flunking out and at one time had told me he wanted to quit school and get married to which I just laughed and told him no way! Then I had broken things off with him.  Now, I was quiet and kept to myself and without money I didn’t run with the popular crowds, I made my own clothes and didn’t date much, all my activities were church related, but I was smart enough to recognize that he had sent up enough red flags to catch my attention and know that he was not someone with which I should be spending my life. Did I love him? No, but I was in love with the fact that he seemed to come from such a normal family and I craved the idea of living a normal life but knew in my gut he was anything but normal.

When I had broken up with him he would stalk me, I’d come out of a classroom at the high school and he’d be standing there.  I worked at a sandwich shop within walking distance of the apartment and he’d come in and just sit for hours.  It was creepy.  He went to my stepfather and asked him if he could marry me and he said yes. My mother told me one day that the boyfriend was picking me up to go to dinner with his parents and I’d better be ready.  She said they were moving to California and I was not invited and I wouldn’t have a place to live if I didn’t marry him.  She stated that the stepfather and the boyfriend’s father and talked on the phone and they didn’t want their son moving to St. Louis with them.  When I told my mother that I thought arranged marriages were against the law she said she couldn’t help me and the stepfather wouldn’t let me move.  I asked if I could move in with my older sister in Oklahoma City and I was told no, it would put a hardship on them and they couldn’t afford for me to live there.  So, that night I went to dinner with the boyfriend and his parents tried to talk us into getting married. After dinner, after I kept saying no, they drove us to Zales Jewelry store and picked out rings for us. WHAT THE HELL?  I felt like I was being forced into something and I had nobody to turn to for help.  Life at home was so horrible and I knew with every move it only became worse but to marry someone who seemed controlling and not too stable was scary.

The next school day I went to see my counselor and told her what was going on and thought she might be able to guide me.  Imagine my surprise when she said you don’t have any options, you need to marry him!  So, I got the ex -boyfriend to drive me to my sister’s house in the city, they didn’t have a phone, and I told her what was going on but she said she already knew, except that mom had told her I wanted to get married.  I looked around at her very tiny one bedroom home she rented with her husband, they had one daughter and another child on the way and knew in my heart she didn’t have room for me to live with them even though if I asked they’d say yes.  When I got home I talked to my mother and tried again to explain how I felt a panic at the thought of marrying him, I tried to explain his strange behaviors that scared me.  She looked at me and said, “You need to marry him, you are not invited to California.”  When I asked why she said, “We told you to quit calling the police on him (stepfather).”  I should mention that my stepfather’s abuse was even worse, beating the kids with a belt for minor infractions such as the way you held a taco to eat it, the way you buttered your bread, the way you laughed; he would choose anything to begin his tirade and berating that often ended with a beating.  He also had no problem kicking us with his pointed toe cowboy shoes, punching us girls in the chest with his fists and even exposing himself to us. The Norman Police were no more help than the Texas Deputy, Sheriff and school officials, life was so scary.  Well, I felt all alone in the world, I didn’t want to get married, but I didn’t know how I could support myself; I wasn’t invited to move with my parents to California (who does this to their children) so, as a scared 17 year old without much confidence I finally agreed to marry.  I knew deep down inside that I was making a huge mistake but as a young girl I didn’t know where else to turn and I was getting pretty used to making the best out of life’s bad situations. So I married in April of my junior year but refused to drop out of school which infuriated the new in-laws.  They said I had to get a job to support their son while he went to college, forget the fact that he had flunked out of college during his first semester and dropped out the second semester!   I won a college scholarship from Dayton Tires but my husband and in-laws refused to allow me to accept it and said it was time I went to work full-time to support him so he could return to college.  I had nobody to turn to for help and so with a heavy heart, frustration and anger toward the pressure from him I turned down the scholarship and with it the dream of going to college.  He promised that if I would turn down the scholarship he would finish college and then I could go to college.

The next year I graduated from high school and went to work full time. I convinced my husband to go back to college and he promptly spent the next year skipping classes, dropping classes and basically sleeping through most of his school year while I worked a full time job at an office and worked at T. G. & Y an additional 30 hours each week so we could survive. At this point I began to believe I could support myself and I was so tired of all the bullshit that came with being married to a manipulative, overly jealous, controlling, lazy bum. I wanted out of the marriage but was scared to death to make a move. I made a huge mistake by telling my mother-in-law that I wanted a divorce and they stepped in with support to make sure that I didn’t leave their lazy son. It worked because I didn’t leave and he changed to a 2 year college and finally got an associate’s degree in radiology. He also got a decent job finally. We had a baby boy five years after we married and at that point I knew deep down inside that I would just have to make the best of my life and I did. I got a better job and quit the second job; we bought a house from his parents who charged us over $10,000 more than it was worth, got to love those in-laws, and 7 years later we had another baby. Well, I had my normal life on the outside, as normal as it can be when you live with a controlling, abusive husband.  I had a home, food, and clothing and to the world we presented the perfect family. Throughout the years I would beg my husband to go for counseling and he would say, “No, I’m not going to someone who is just going to tell me I’m crazy, I already know that.” Yeah, isn’t that the idea, to get help? I knew at this point with two children to support I could NOT do it on my own without an education as I could not support myself and our children.  But every time I reminded him that he had promised to send me to college he would say crazy things such as, “I’m not going to allow you to go to college so you can be around single men.  Why do you want to go to college?  Am I not good enough for you?  It will just give you a way to leave me if I allow you to get an education.”

Eventually I got a better job and my job required occasional traveling. Well, try traveling when you are married to a control freak who is jealous of anyone (woman or man) talking to his wife, yet greedy enough for money to want me out in the working world. He made my life miserable to the point that I finally quit the job. He was happy, I was miserable. I stayed home for a few months and then when he youngest son was about to start kindergarten my older sister came to me and said she wanted to go to college.  My dream was always to go to college and I read everything I could get my hands on but it wasn’t the same as actually going to college! I was envious but then she begged me to go with her.  I starting bringing up the idea with my husband and spinning a web of more money in the family, what he would be able to do with the money I could make if I had an education.  The one thing about him was that he liked to put up a pretense of being as rich as the cardiology doctors he worked with so money was like a candy addiction to him.  It worked. He said I could attend college BUT on the one condition that he got to choose my major. I was so upset and furious, but, I agreed because I wanted to go to school so badly that I thought any education was better than no education. I started in the fall and my sister dropped out at Christmas because of her controlling husband, but I continued. It took me three years and I finished with a degree in elementary education with honors.  Not my choice but remember I’m the type of gal that will always make the most out of what I have. I promptly got a job and I felt excited and anxious.  This proved to be the beginning stages of confidence and I looked at life in a different perspective.  I began to realize how bizarre my life had been. I realized that I wasn’t as stupid as everyone in my life had me believe. I began to build confidence and this was not good. It’s almost like it triggered something in my husband and he began to be more controlling, more abusive and meaner to the children. A couple of years after I began teaching the local university offered a free master’s degree to teachers through a federal grant. I approached my husband, telling him over and over how much more money it would bring into the family, and since he had bought himself a new truck worth more than my annual gross income and run up the charge cards on golf and hunting equipment he agreed.  This surprised me because he threw it in my face all the time that he was angry that he only had an associated degree and I had a bachelor’s degree.  I continued to teach full time and went to school one night a week and during the summer. It took three years to complete the master’s degree program. Life, at home, just got even more bizarre. My older son refused to go to college because his father was hell bent on choosing his field of study and instead joined the Marines.

I knew, as a mother, I had failed my children; I failed to protect them from their father.I knew I had to leave, but I was scared to death of the man. It was clear one night when he said that just because I had more education than him did not make me smarter than him! What the heck? Where did that come from? His insecurities were in high gear. I always felt, deep down inside, that he had girlfriends, but I could never prove it. No hard evidence. Well, he began to get more daring, not coming home until 10 or 12 at night, women calling the house and asking for him and he always swore it was work related. With his intensified controlling, abusive behavior it played hard on my confidence and self-esteem as I slowly began to gain weight. I gained 70 pounds in 7 years. I was miserable. My children were miserable and I knew his behavior was more bizarre than ever.  When he had a girlfriend, he was horrible to everyone at home, stingy with the money, spending as much as $1,000 a month on his American Express card and Texaco gas card, buying himself new clothes, supposedly going on business trips yet all the bills were charged to charge cards that he never seemed to get reimbursed for from the hospital, buying three tanks of gas in a two day period, etc.  But, I could always tell when the women dumped him because he would come home with gifts and try to act all nice and pretend to be a victim of control and abuse by his bosses at work.  The few times I had the nerve to confront him, such as when he came home smelling like he’s just had sex and smelled of perfume he would lie and then begin picking on the children or blowing up about something else to get the attention off himself.  I never understood that if he hated us so bad, why didn’t he just leave?

Can life get any worse? Actually yes. I would wake up during the night and he would be roaming the house, going through things, searching through cabinets, my sewing room, the children’s rooms, looking for evidence that I was hiding something from him. I guess since he screwed women and stomped all over our marriage vows that he was looking for justification by trying to imagine that I was doing the same thing. I wasn’t. I didn’t have the confidence or the desire. At one point I told my sister that I was accused of messing around so much that I had decided to find a man and sleep with him. She begged me not to, but I said, “NO, I am going to do this to see what I am missing!” Well, about six months went by and she finally asked how it went? What? I had forgotten what I’d said, promptly burst into tears, and in a crying rage told her I didn’t even know how to meet a man and sleep with him! The tears dissolved into uncontrollable laughter and we realized how naive we were in life and how miserable our lives had become. Shattered dreams, shattered confidence, shattered self-esteem make for sad individuals. It was embarrassing. So, to the outside world, we presented the most perfect families, the most perfect lives, it was disgusting that people were actually jealous of us; they had nothing to be jealous of, but they didn’t know what we kept hidden behind closed doors.

My husband’s behavior became more bizarre and I was afraid to sleep for fear of him hurting me. In an arrogant moment he bragged about the cameras he hid all over the house and it suddenly became clear how he knew my every move. I had tried to save money to leave but he always knew where my stash was and how much money I had. He knew everything! I began to panic and at one point, I won’t go into details, but one night I knew with such definite clarity that if I didn’t leave he would kill me. At this point, I had been teaching for seven years, the older son had joined the Marines to escape his father but had recently gotten out and returned home in the hopes of going to college. This is strange, but I felt hope in the fact that he might protect me from his father. The husband’s behavior had become so bizarre that when our older son returned home to go to college he refused to let him have a bedroom. We had a large 4 bedroom home and only two children. He made him sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor next to the pool table in the game room! It was a very, very strange time, a very scary time in our lives. He also began to build in the formal dining room to make a small, windowless room for the older son. A room that had a lock on the outside of the door….scary doesn’t even describe his actions. It was so small with a tiny 3 ft. wide closet that at one point I measured the room and realized that a twin bed would not even fit into the room and a hanger would not fit into the closet as the depth was to shallow! Imagine completely, incoherent, bizarre, behavior here. When I told him that night that I had measured the room and asked him again why he was doing this, a huge fight broke out and he tried to cut my hands with his tape measure as he measured the bed and the room several times. When he realized it was 6″ too short he grabbed a sledge hammer and began furiously swinging at the 2 x 4 posts of the wall. I was scared to death and grabbed the younger son and got in my car and left for a few hours. Leaving the house without permission was scary enough because we weren’t even allowed to leave the house without his permission! So, do I leave? Ask permission from a raging lunatic swinging a sledge hammer?  This is how strange my life had become.  I wanted to cry but put on a brave front for my son.

Well, it was just a few days after this incident that I left for the visit with my brother in Kansas City, of course with granted permission from the controlling jerk that controlled every aspect of my life. I had told him my bother needed me to come clean his house and my son to work on his yard since he was divorced.  After four months of explaining why my brother needed me he granted me permission.  I had to stop in Stillwater, OK and take a test for national boards and the husband kept calling all the way up there and screaming at me, I believe his goal was to try to upset me enough that I’d flunk the test, but it didn’t work.  After the test we drove to Springfield to visit Bass Pro and the museums and then we drove to my mother’s house in Ladonia, Mo, of course, without permission.  The husband found out and called screaming and yelling that he didn’t give me permission to go there.  I told him we had just decided on the way to go by my mother’s and I would go to Kansas City in the morning.  He was screaming so loud everyone in the room could hear every word as he threatened to come up there and get me.  It was so embarrassing and scary.  So, in a heavy thunderstorm, at 10:30pm at night my son and I got back in the car and drove to Kansas City.  I told my son on that drive that I was leaving his father and he got scared.  He said, “No, don’t, you know how crazy mad he gets if you don’t agree with him on the color of the sky, you don’t know what he’ll do if you do this.  Please don’t mom.”  I told him no, that I was leaving and should have done this years and years ago.  Somehow, just saying it out loud seemed to put things into action with more bravado than I felt.  I knew he would kill me rather than let me go.

My older son had not come with us and it scared me to death that he was there alone with his father. I had my son and his friends out looking for an apartment for us that I could afford but nothing was available except in the very poor parts of Oklahoma City. So, my older sister who was getting a divorce and was moving back from Kansas City suggested that we share a house or apartment. I really didn’t want to depend on anyone else, but in desperation I agreed. I returned from Kansas City after a few days and spent the next 2 days in a teacher conference where I got a few friends to agree to show up and help me move while he was at work. I took money from a charge card to pay for the townhouse and utilities and reserved a rental truck. On Wednesday, he left for work, we got the truck, my friends came and we loaded up the boy’s furniture and personal possessions;  I took my clothes, my sewing machines, some of the small kitchen appliances like the toaster and microwave, half of the food and we were gone. We went into hiding. I left the car, the cell phone, the charge cards, my check book and everything else. I just wanted OUT!

I was so scared I didn’t stop shaking for two weeks. I knew, deep down inside, that if he found me, he would kill me. It was the scariest action I’d ever taken in my entire life. This is a man who would go into a blinding rage if you disagreed with him about the color of a shirt, can you even imagine the amount of rage over this type of defiance?  One time when he found my new voter card in the mailbox where I had switched from Democrat to Republican he went into a tirade and punched me for not asking permission.  He would actually tell me how to vote and I would agree with him and went to the voting place and voted the way I wanted but would lie about it later.  This is a man that would go in to a rage throwing groceries if it took me an hour to drive to Wal-Mart, pick out groceries, get in line, pay and drive home because he would accuse me of out having an affair even though my son was shopping with me.

I phoned the police after a couple of days and they talked to me and asked me questions and said he fit the profile of an abusive controller. They warned me to be careful, keep everything locked up and they watched my house constantly. I was so afraid of this man that I was afraid to go out into public. The police put me in contact with a women’s shelter and I began going to counseling. I was so ashamed that my life was such a mess. To the outside world and even my family they thought we had the perfect life, a husband with a good job, two children, a nice home in the suburbs, schoolteacher career, yeah right! Don’t ever judge a book by its cover because I had become an expert at presenting a perfect image to the world. So, when I went to counseling I was scared. Look at me! I was 45 years old, 70 pounds overweight, without a stick of furniture or a car to my name. I even slept on a sleeping bag in the floor! It was worse than the embarrassment of living in poverty as a child. But, a miracle happened the first time I went to group therapy, everyone went around the circle telling their circumstance and I began to cry. I could not believe that I wasn’t the only one that found myself in a crazy, abusive situation controlled by a mean, abusive bully. In all the years I stayed in that marriage, trying to make the best of my crazy life, I could never understand how a man could treat his own children so poorly. At counseling I began to understand the cycles of abuse and our situation was not uncommon. Then, I began to get angry, because it so hard to believe but once you finally break free of that type of situation and you begin to live a normal life you look back and realize how strange and bizarre your life actually was and you get angry at yourself for not having the strength or courage to get out sooner. You are so busy trying to survive that you don’t take a step back to realize how crazy it really is and how you should RUN!  I knew my fear had paralyzed me and the only reason I left was because I truly believed in my heart that he would kill me or the children and this is what gave me the strength to break through the fear and take action.

The women’s resource center gave me the name of an attorney and without any money I began to file for divorce. The police felt like he was enough of a threat that they watched our home closely and had a car parked out front almost constantly around the clock for 17 days straight. He stalked my family, showed up at my nieces work and home and forced his way into their house.  He did the same with my neighbor.  He found out where I lived by following my sister home from work one day and the stalking began with a new intensity.

In the fall, I applied for a new position as an instructional trainer and I got the position which greatly improved my financial situation. It also built my confidence up. It took from July, when I filed for divorce and August when I was granted a legal separation with custody of the younger child until April 1st of the following year to get my divorce. He tried to get custody of the younger child so I would come back, as he told his friends, “She’ll come home if I get custody because she won’t leave her children.” He knew me well, but in the end he didn’t even get visitation, except at the discretion of the child. His sons have never attempted to contact him to my knowledge. He tried other methods of getting me to return such as going to church to show the world what a good man he is, on the surface trying to prove how he had changed his life. He also went to a psychiatrist for counseling to prove to me that he had changed. He was diagnosed as a paranoid psychopath; as the police and the psychiatrist would tell me later that this is your serial killer type of people that shows no remorse or empathy for hurting others, we were nothing more to this man than possessions, we were not humans with rights, and these type of people would rather kill you than let you go. Well, from the day I walked out, I’ve never talked to him and this created part of his fury. In all his crazy letters to me, I finally stopped reading his whining letters that were all about him, or this threats, but in one of the letters he did acknowledge that he hadn’t been the best father or husband but not once did he apologize. The psychologist stated he would manipulate any therapy or person to make people believe he was better but it was a control tactic.  Paranoid psychopath’s have no empathy or remorse….no conscience, and they are not ‘cured’.

The following year my principal encouraged me to apply for the assistant principal position and I was hired as an assistant principal. I only worked for one semester because my older son and his wife were moving to the east coast and my younger son wanted to move also, so, since I had no family ties to Norman, Oklahoma, my older sister had moved the year before to California to live near her son, I made the career and life changing decision to move to the east coast. I felt like moving would truly give me the space I needed to escape the stalker and start a new life in a new area, so I moved with high hopes of building a new life.

My life, in my mind, is divided into phases: 1. Before Dad died, 2.After Dad died, 3.After I got married, and 4.After the divorce and THIS is the best phase of my life! I love the freedom that comes with being single, being able to leave the house without permission, not constantly living in fear, life is good and I can’t complain!

I have always been creative…but now…..I find that my talents are flourishing.  My career, even though I didn’t choose this field, had flourished and I worked as an elementary school principal.  I had purchased a few acres with an old house that I my sons, my brother and I renovated.  I did run into health issues with a cancer scare so  I retired/resigned from my job as a principal to focus on my health.  I had three surgeries and took six months off work, spending one of the months around Lake Tahoe with my sisters and basically learning to relax and enjoy life again.  I came home and after six months the savings account was gone and I had to return to work so I went to work for a lady at church doing insurance billing.  This job pays the bills but there is never enough money for extras such as rebuilding the well house, siding for house and other repairs so after being out of education I have decided to go back to teaching and am interviewing for jobs for next fall to teach in a small school district closer to home.

As I’m about to turn 60 I reflect on this crazy life I have lived and wish I could have been stronger to stand up more effectively to the abusers in my life, to have chosen my own career rather than just “going along to get along,” wish I’d had the confidence to have been louder and more verbal to the police, school counselors, principals and sheriffs that stated they were helpless to help us.  I went to counseling for 17 months when I finally found the courage to leave the husband and my counselors stated I had been in survival mode and should be proud that I am as successful as I am but deep down inside I still feel anger that I wasn’t strong enough to make a difference.  But I don’t dwell on the past like I used to.  I’ve quit beating myself up for my lack of confidence and courage and I’m moving forward. I have dated some but find that I still have trust issues and for now, I’m okay being single because I never want to forget the pain of living with an unstable abusive bully so I’m cautious.  I see couples out in public and the husbands are actually focused on their wives, not staring at other women as they walk by.  I’ve never had a relationship where the man loved me for me, never valued me, never respected me and although I wish for this kind of love I’m realistic and know I may never find it.   I feel free, I feel safe and I have found my love of arts again, but, like any other woman, I wish for true love, I dream of someday finding a true gentleman, one with integrity who would cherish me as much as I cherish him and have the trust and love that builds a strong foundation for a stable, loving relationship.  But, for now, I am enjoying life to the fullest, I spend my free time quilting, knitting and doing my other hobbies.  I am making friends through my quilt guild and in the community and I have found that I remember how to laugh and I again have learned to dream in color.  Life is good.

A neglected blog….but here is an update!

December 17, 2017

I’m sitting here looking at another quilter’s blog and wanted to compliment her on a table runner but had to use an identity to leave a comment so I put in this WordPress site that I seem to forget about on a daily basis!  I haven’t posted since February!  I read a post from last December and I have to laugh at my dreams and goals because I’m not quite there so here again I will post a picture of my Christmas Tree!

Tree 2011

And because the news man kept repeating yesterday that we may have snow here this coming Friday and Saturday here’s a picture my son took of a car down the street when we lived in town.

Car

It’s been a rough year but I’m blessed to have such great support from family and friends.  I resigned from the high stress, 70+ hour a week, job I had, had two minor surgeries and a major surgery, took six months off work to recuperate and took a new job in a new field of work that only requires 40 hours a week.  While off work my sister flew out and spent two weeks to help me through the surgery and then I flew back with her and spent a month in the Lake Tahoe area with my three younger sisters.  I would have to write a small book to tell of the adventures we had and the sights we saw, it was so much fun to spend time with my sisters and the only down side was that our older sister couldn’t join us.   This year I have made several quilts with a few more in the works.  That doesn’t seem like much but I was also working on the land and the house which still isn’t complete but it’s getting there.  So here are a few pictures:

026This is an ongoing project, a paper pieced pineapple quilt – each strip is cut 1″ wide.  I love this pattern by Edita Sitar.  I purchased the pattern at Quilter’s Station in Lee’s Summit, Mo (my most favorite quilt shop)! I’m about half way done with the piecing on this quilt.

******************************************

IMG_1258This is an English paper pieced quilt I’m making.  I designed the pattern on EQ7.   You can see the glue stick which is my least favorite way of holding the paper in place, it’s harder to remove the paper but when traveling with my hand project it’s more convenient.  The neutral centers (pale, pale green) and the borders are (gasp) a sheet from my linen closet.  I searched high and low for the perfect fabric and ended up recycling this sheet!  Yes, I break all the ‘new rules’ in quilting, I will use a good quality poly/cotton blend fabric and thread, I will use sheets (have for decades and they have held up through 30 years of washing), I piece on old sewing machines, including my hand crank Singer, and my high end Bernina, and I will use fabric from Hobby Lobby, Walmart, Joann’s and on-line vendors, I recycle fabric from clothes and I turn old worn out jeans into jean quilts; although I LOVE high end quality fabric and use the best fabric most of the time and try to buy from local quilt shops sometimes it’s just not feasible and I like to think that quilter’s didn’t always have the perfect cotton fabric and supplies yet we cherish the old, antique quilts!

**************************************

Hexagon quiltI’m also making an EPP hexagon quilt that has 1″ sides.  I’ve been working on this one for a couple of years and made more progress on it this year.  My favorite method of pressing the fabric over the paper is using spray starch I make from Sta-Flo starch and use in a good fine mist sprayer and I press with an old small antique iron (without steam).  It holds the paper and fabric in shape while I hand stitch the pieces together and the paper is very easy to remove.  Also, all my EPP projects are printed using regular copy paper printed on my home printer.

*********************************************************

1495759832183

Preston's quilt

This is a tumbler quilt I made for my younger son for his birthday.  Bottom picture is the completed quilt.  I made this completely from scraps I had and it’s hard to tell from the picture but we are University of Oklahoma fans and this OU fabric is throughout the quilt, including the borders.

***************************************

tumbler quilt

And when my older son saw the quilt I’d made for his younger brother I made this one for him that is almost identical but has a solid black border.  The boys loved their quilts.

****************************************************

IMG_1296

And this is a miniature that I finished but for some reason I don’t have the completed picture after it was finished!  This is a good reminder to TAKE PICTURES!  I still have the mini quilt tucked away somewhere and will try to snap a picture.  It was a fun little kit I bought at the Log Cabin Quilt Shop in Bixby, Oklahoma.  The flower buds are actually tiny buttons.

*************************************************

four square quilt3 (2)

And, this is NOT my picture put a picture of the quilt I’m making that is only about 1/3 done.  This was a quilt kit from Craftsy.com.  Can you tell I get bored and put projects aside, usually to make a gift but sometimes because I get excited about a new technique or project, but eventually they all get finished!  This quilt I’m keeping myself.  For all of my years of quilting I’m embarrassed to say that the only quilt I have for my self is a lap quilt!

************************************************************

And here is another example of pushing aside other projects to try a new technique.  This was a video by Jenny Doan from Missouri Star Quilt Company, I can’t remember the name of the pattern but it seems like it’s a rhombus star pattern.  It’s been a fun project that I’m making using civil war prints and muslin.  She made her quilt using large templates and I’m making mine with smaller triangles, the length on the side is 3″ unfinished.

Star quilt

*************************************************

 

Trails End quilt

And, I made this lap quilt, although this is NOT my picture, I made the quilt and haven’t finished it because I didn’t quite get it finished before my DIL’s birthday so I showed her the basted quilt and she fell in love it and wants it made into a queen size for their bed so it’s at her house while she’s searching for more fabric she likes to make it larger.  This is a Robert Kaufman Trails End quilt kit from Craftsy.com.

****************************************************

Batik quilt

And this is a batik quilt I’m making from a class I took from Elsie Campbell at the quilt retreat at Lake Murray.  It’s a pattern from her new book.  I have finished all 300 triangle blocks and now I just need to lay it out and sew the blocks together.  Each triangle block has three half hexagons that have Y seams and the triangles are sewn together on the diagonal in strips so I won’t have to make Y seams on the whole construction.  This modern quilt took me out of my comfort zone of working with random scarps using only light, medium and dark values to construct each block.  I’m not crazy about the quilt but with all the money I’ve spent on batiks and the time to piece all of the Y seams, I’ll finish it and gift it to a sister.  I definitely love batiks BUT I’m not a fan of modern, bright quilts.

***********************************************

And then I began experimenting with hand applique!

Rose of Sharon blocks

I’m making these blocks from Sharon Shaumber’s Rose of Sharon book and her templates.  This is needle turn applique using batik fabrics on Kona black cotton.  I love the way it’s turning out so far.  My only problem is having to go to work every day, it’s getting in the way of my creative time!

I also made oven mitts and hot pads, a baby quilt and clothes that I failed to take pictures of to share!  And, of course, I knit so here are a couple of my knitting projects in progress:

Top left is Turn a Square hat for my son for Christmas, top right are some bright blue and purple socks for me using Jitterbug yarn, bottom right are Rosebud Socks for me that I’ve been working on for a couple of years but made good progress this year (the picture does not do the intricate lace pattern justice), and bottom left if the Leftie Shawl which is a fun project.  I also knit a few scarves and I’m also knitting a sweater that is a bottom up that is only about 1/3 of the way completed that is an easy knit color block stockinette stitch in size 8 needles and a cabled aran sweater that has the back and left side done and I’m almost finished with the right side and then it’s on to the sleeves.

When I added the pictures above it made me feel better because even though I don’t have many complete projects this year it’s been a busy year!  I’m not one to wish away my life but I’m looking forward to retirement so I can spend more time on my artistic interests!  I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful, happy new year.

Take care,

Vanessa

Kitchen finished (almost)!

February 1, 2017

This is my country style kitchen.  The back splash was completed using contractor stakes that I stained different colors and finished off with clear polyurethane sealer.  The cabinet doors where my stoneware is displayed will eventually be stained glass as well as the little window by the stove.  My antique glass jars (and some not so antique) came in handy with storing flour, quinoa and other staples.  The bay window will be perfect for growing herbs.  My home is very small and very humble but I love it.  I still need to put in the baseboards and molding around the ceiling and I’ve installed the new light over the kitchen table since the photo was taken but it’s finished and functional!

Merry Christmas to all!

December 23, 2016

tree-2011

Merry Christmas everyone!  I should know by now that the best laid plans are usually a shot in the dark!  I had visions of standing in my own home, baking pies and dinner for family and friends this year.  Well, next year will be the year!  I don’t have my tile down and my stove and fridge cannot be moved into the house until the floor is down.  We are making progress, but progress is slow!  So, This is a picture of my tree from years past and next year I’ll be able to put up my actual tree and decorate my home for the holidays.  I’ll be cooking Christmas breakfast  Christmas morning for my older son and his family and having Christmas deserts with my younger son and his family on Christmas evening.  Life is good, I can’t complain.  I’m looking forward to a new year!  I wish everyone a safe, happy and stress-free 2017!

New Opportunities….

December 12, 2016

road

The Road Less Traveled by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;….

This poem keeps going through my head. I had a job that was one of the most rewarding, most frustrating and the most stressful jobs ever. The 60 to 80 hours a week at this stressful job was affecting my health and after much soul-searching I made the difficult decision to resign. Within the hour I felt the stress physically leaving my body like a burden too long carried on my shoulders; I realized within two hours that my headache that had been my constant companion for weeks, was gone. I have spent the last week working on my house and planning yet I find myself staring off into space as I contemplate the possibilities for the future. It’s like a wide, open road and the choices are broad. What shall I do? I have opportunities yet I find myself wanting to take the road less traveled. I want to make sure that I choose a new job that does not mirror my last job, one that I will truly enjoy without all the heartache, the stress and the inhumane hours. For right now, just this month, I will take this time for myself and leave the decisions for 2017!

My Most Memorable Christmas

December 11, 2016

My favorite Christmas memory was the year I was eight. My father was an electrical engineer and his company had been on strike for months and months. I remember my mother mixing up powered milk for our cereal and the atmosphere in the house was one with tension and anxiety. It was not a good time for our family of six children. But, in the late fall the union settled with the company and all was well in the household. I remember walking into the living room on Christmas morning to a wondrous sight under and around the Christmas tree! Six beautiful, gleaming bikes and tricycles! I knew mine was the shiny purple Schwinn bike with ‘banana’seat and white streamers and I was beside myself with excitement. Our mother was distraught when we got dressed to go test out our new bikes rather than open our other gifts and wait for her special breakfast she planned to cook! I rode up and down the street in the freezing cold air. I was such a tomboy and all the ‘foofoo’ on the bike was not for me so my brother helped me remove the basket and fenders so I could ramp and pull wheelies easily. My older brother and I took our bikes over to a construction site to jump the small hills that were the mounds of dirt from their work. When we returned my father met me at the door and told me that my mother was upset I had destroyed my bike! What? No! I made it better! How is a girl to jump and ramp her bike, pull wheelies and such with a basket and fenders in the way? What? So, this particular Christmas turned out to be remembered as the best/worst Christmas as I experienced joy and disappointment within a matter of hours as we put the bike back together!bike.jpg