The Next Step   

...getting through life one step at a time.

...getting through life one step at a time.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Next Step

Yes, I know "The Next Step" is the title of my blog, so why would I make it the title of a blog post?  Well, because that's what this blog is all about.  Navigating the next steps in my life, and sharing with you the laughs at good times and the laughs at the misery along the way.

As you can see - the last time I posted was ONCE in December.  And before that it was a couple times in  October.

Do you know what happened in November?

We moved.

Yup!  All that whining and complaining I've done over the past few years about being so far away from home and my long-time friends, and family - that's all done now.  We moved back to our little house in Virginia that we had (almost 10 years ago now!) remodeled and designed perfect for us.

The packing, the moving, the unpacking 2300 square foot of stuff into a 1300 square foot house.  So the house isn't SO perfect for our size family anymore, but we squeezed in and are managing. The twins are sharing a room, 6yo has her own space but no closet, and Hubs and I are shoe-horned into a room that just barely fits.

Then getting our 6yo settled into her new school, trying desperately to get spots for the twins in a preschool (fail - they are all booked up until next fall).

Then Thanksgiving.

And play dates and parties with so many of those friends I missed so hard!

Then a four hour car trip south to see my parents for Christmas, and fun side-trips along the way to avoid the car-sickness erupting all over the car seats.

Then New Year's.  (ha! Who am I kidding?  New Years was such a non-event for us.)

Then snow days on top of "closing for cold" days on top of snow days. (One super fun thing about living in Virginia is that they don't know how to handle snow - so when we get 3" starting at noon one day, the schools close that day, and for two more days, because the municipalities have not only not pre-treated the roads before the storm, they waited until it was all done before the started clearing and treating, which took them all the way through day 2, and then what they pseudo-scraped off the roads on day 2 melted in the bright sun and then promptly froze overnight giving us no school on day day.  For 3" of snow.)

And I look wistfully at my paintings above the fire place and wonder when I'll have the time to paint again.

And I look at the box marked "Garage China" that makes me laugh so I don't really want to unpack it.  (It's full of breakable stuff off a yard sale table that was in the garage - so the packers marked it "garage china.")

And I think about lots of things to write about, like the move home with kids strapped into car seats and the only way to get the carsick one to stop thinking about her churning stomach was to encourage the "knock-knock" jokes that all ended in "poop" or "pee" or "guts" or some other distasteful topic that elicits raucous laughter from all three girls, but I get distracted before I make it to the computer.

And I'm contemplating a whole new career path - so that's taking up some serious real estate in my head.  But I'm not ready to put that down in writing yet.

So for now,  we're home, still unpacking, still squeezing in, and reveling in the sunshine that comes with knowing friends for so long that you can see them three years later and feel like you just saw them yesterday.

Should I unpack it?  Or just take it straight to Good Will?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Red Flags That Could Save You, or Someone You Love.

In college I took a class called "Marriage, Dating, and Divorce."  It was an elective to satisfy some of my Sociology credit requirements, and I thought it might teach me some helpful information for the future.  Among the handy bits of knowledge about communication, safe sex, and major stressors in marriage, were the red flags to watch for in abusive partners.
  • Isolating you from friends and family
  • Hair-trigger temper or mood swings
  • Hacking your email or checking your phone without permission
  • Playing to your own insecurities and pointing out your flaws
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Making false accusations
  • Possessiveness
  • Telling you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it
  • Expressing disappointment when you don't live up to their expectations
  • Repeatedly pressuring you to have sex
  • Physically hurting you in any way
  • Apologizing over and over for the same actions that they keep doing
I am writing this now, because one of our own, Christine Keith of Adventures of a Thrifty Mama, lost her battle to spousal abuse.  Chris was killed on December 5th by her estranged husband.  The man she thought would be her other half, the man she at one time trusted and loved more than anyone else, the man she was raising babies with - betrayed her trust and took her life, and that of her 14 year old son. 

Lea Grover at Becoming Super Mommy broke the news to a group of us who have become close through our conversations on Facebook. And as we do when someone needs to vent about life, needs a little back up with the Trolls, or really, truly needs help, we are banding together for a rapid response awareness campaign.
Click the links at the end of this post to read what other people have to say about domestic violence.

As I mentioned, I took this class in college that handed me all the information I needed to be on the look out for an abusive relationship and avoid it.  And in college, I had a relationship with so many red flags it could have been part of the text book.  The day he almost hit me, was the day I left.  And I look back and can't believe it took *that* long to figure things out.

But then again, these abusers, they are wily creatures.

Abusers do not just walk right up and smack you in the face.  That would be playing their cards too soon.  They woo you.  They bring you into their trust.  They take advantage of any personal insecurity or emotional hurdle you are facing.  They try to control you, own you.  They isolate you from your family and friends so you have no one to turn to when they finally show their true colors.

For over a year I was wined and dined, given presents, enthralled with stories of his "heroic past," brought home to meet his parents, and treated like the most important person in the world.

While at the same time, he was pointing out every flaw in every friend I had, including my roommates.  He was analyzing their behavior and showing me how clearly it meant they didn't like me, were not my friends, were completely selfish bitches.

He worked his words into my mind when I talked about my mother.  He pounced on every story I told about my teen angst and pointed out how horrible my mother was, how I was right to distance myself from her, how not even my sisters were worth my time because they had not stood up for me.

Now - before your imagination starts spinning - I had a rather ideal childhood.  I have no sad story to tell.  I was not abused.  I was not in need of "standing up for" by my sisters.  All the typical stories of growing up where one child butts heads with one particular parent - these stories I shared with him were twisted and turned so that I finally spat out one day, "I HATE my mother!"

That was when he had me.

We moved in together.  I was spending money I didn't have, on his promise that as soon as he got his first job he could pay off all the debt.  We were making plans to spend the rest of our lives together.

But then I graduated a semester before he did.  I graduated with more than $14,000 in credit card debt.  And I found myself trying to figure out what my next step would be.  I certainly couldn't continue working a part time job at a fast food restaurant just waiting for him to propose.  So I started changing my focus.  It wasn't on him all the time.  And I grew closer to one friend who I worked with.

And he started to juggle admirers.  I started getting phone calls from some girl looking for him to come help move something in her new apartment.  I started blocking her number.  I started getting jealous.

Then, I just started letting go.  I no longer cared if he saw this girl, I broke up with him, started seeing someone else, and all the while living under the same roof.

It was a bizarre situation to say the least.

But when he continued to try to come into my room at night, and started getting mad at me when I rebuffed him, and he STILL tried to talk about our oh-so-bright-and-sparkly future together, I knew something wasn't quite right with him.

So I started talking.

I told everyone I ran into about his anger, about his behavior, and that I was actually a little concerned about what he might do.

And as he left for class one day, he stopped and said, "You better stop talking.  And you better hope that Melissa doesn't hear about anything you have been saying."

I flippantly said, "Oh why?  Because she'll come beat me up?"

And he *glared* at me and said very menacingly, "No, *she* won't."

And he left.

And I went to work, and told everyone I could about the conversation.  And on my drive home down a windy, country road I was distracted.  Trying to decide if I should go straight to the police station and file a report, I had an accident.  Out of no where a phone pole came at me, I swerved, I hit a grassy embankment, the car spun off that and slammed backward into another grassy embankment.

Thank God no one else was on the road at the time.  Until just a few minutes later when someone came to my aid.  I was crying, scared, emotionally all inside out, but not physically hurt.  The EMTs who came to the scene convinced me to ride with them to the hospital to get checked out, and on the way, I called my friend.

She met me at the hospital, where I was getting written up by a State Police Officer for reckless driving.  She took me to her home for the night, where I finally called my mom.

She showed up the next day, from four hours away, to move me home.  I was crying, scared, emotionally all inside out, and I felt somehow like a failure.  I had failed at the relationship, I had failed at my first attempt to move on after college, and I failed at being an adult because I was moving back in with my parents.  Somehow I thought calling Mom to come rescue me was akin to failing at taking care of myself.

For years I couldn't believe how dumb I was to fall for his lines and not recognize the red flags when I had *just* learned about it in class!  For years I berated myself for being in that relationship.  It took a long time to realized that I'd been brain-washed by a very clever control-freak who could have done some serious harm.

Abusers never stop.  And this guy, continued to hunt me down for more than 10 years after I last saw him - emailing, calling, and claiming he was watching me.  He found me at every new job I moved to, and at every new phone number I got.  I called the police and the nice officer took a few notes in a tiny little spiral notebook and that was the last I heard of it.  No official report was filed, I guess because he didn't want to do the paperwork, or he thought I was over reacting, or  - I don't know what.

But it made me feel like I was over reacting, when I *know* I was not.  More talk, more open and honest talk about what happens in abusive relationships, and maybe women won't feel like it's their fault, or that they deserve it, or that they are overreacting and it's "not so bad."  Maybe more women will be able to get away before it gets deadly.

Unfortunately for Chris, she got away - but he came after her anyway.  He killed her, their oldest son, and then himself.  To see more of her story, click here:

If you choose to donate to the fund set up by her church for the three remaining children, click here:

An address where items for the children can be sent (as the home is a crime scene, the children have nothing but the clothes on their backs- they are a boy, age 8, a girl, age 6, and another boy, age 4:
Keith Children
c/o Ann Merrifield
1504 Wintercrest
East Lansing, MI

If you need help, or know someone who does, here's some information I just found by googling.  But as the pop up window from the NDAH indicates, googling may not even be an option for some.

 House of Ruth

The National Domestic Abuse Hotline, which has this helpful pop up window, just in case.

"Safety Alert: Computer use can be monitored and is impossible to completely clear. If you are afraid your internet usage might be monitored, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224."

If you want to read the rest of the stories in today's domestic violence awareness campaign, click the links below.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Priceless Mom Moments: Sharing, Caring, and Private Parts

My friend Dani over at Cloudy, With a Chance of Wine has conceived a really fun series called "Priceless Mom Moments" and she invited me to contribute!  I LOVE being invited to a party, and this one is well worth the read.  I am in great company, and a little intimidated by adding my story to the mix.

I think these stories are supposed to be about how your kids embarrass you, but since I have no shame, and I share everything on Facebook anyway, I thought I'd give you more of a "Master Card" priceless moment.  There's even a couple dollar figures thrown in.  And a discussion of private parts.


Click over to Cloudy, With a Chance of Wine to read the whole story.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll say it is better than cats (especially if you are a dog person.)

And when you are done, catch up on some of my favorite posts by Dani, like the time she accidentally went to work half-naked, the time she got montezuma's revenge on the side of a mountain, and the time she almost became a teen prostitute (on accident, of course!)

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