Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Favorites: September 12

I spent the week at an aviation conference representing Airport Improvement magazine, and it was nice to see all of my friends in the industry. I haven't seen many of them since the last event, before I left my full-time job, and they asked me how I was doing. Many remarked how relaxed and happy I looked. I FEEL happy, and I feel fulfilled, and I feel so very lucky to be able to work part time and still spend good quality time with my son. He just turned five, and it's a fun age.

Can I tell you how excited I am to be published in my first book?  It's called My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends. I keep looking at the byline with my name in print. The essays in this book are so beautiful, and I'm proud to be included. This review from Nina Badzin is an excellent summary of the book with highlights from many of the individual essays. 

Speaking of books, if you're a parent, chances are that you picked up What To Expect While You're Expecting at some point. I dog-eared mine, keeping references and looking back to it as my go-to resource when I was pregnant. Sometimes, it was like WebMD for pregnancy if I looked at the possibilities of what could go wrong and I would feel like I was mired in mud.

When my son was born, I gathered up all of the parenting books I could find - especially books on teaching babies how to sleep - and read them like crazy. In the midst of postpartum anxiety, the depth and breadth of conflicting advice started driving me crazy, and I lost my patience and donated them all to Goodwill.

I hadn't picked up a parenting book since.

And then I had a lucky break, because Dr. Deborah Gilboa sent me a copy of her new book. Deborah is a friend of mine, so I agreed to read it. I picked it up on a recent trip out of town and read it from cover to cover, thumbing back to sections I wanted to read again. It surprised me how much I enjoyed the book and also how useful I found it - and believe I will find it going forward. This one will stay in my library until my son is grown; each chapter covers various age ranges with simple solutions and suggestions to help navigate both the calm and rough waters of parenthood. I felt as though I could pick up the book and open it to any page and find comfort there. I felt as though she empowered me to be a better parent and be more confident in my decisions.

Deborah's book, Get the Behavior You Want... Without Being the Parent You Hate can be found at Amazon.

* * *
More excellent reading from around the web:

Tracy's approach to sleepovers makes a lot of sense to me... but her 11-year-old daughter doesn't necessarily agree. 
http://sellabitmum.com/2014/09/10/sleepover-rules/

It doesn't hurt to smile - Katrina's essay on kindness tips from a beloved octogenarian is spot-on and a great reminder. I found myself smiling at strangers at the airport this week.
http://katrinaannewillis.com/2014/09/10/it-doesnt-hurt-to-smile/

My son is growing so rapidly, this one hit me right in the heart:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/megan-morton/mommy-somebody-needs-you_b_4900686.html

Friendship, in its loveliest forms, from Bethany Meyer:
http://bethanymeyer.com/?p=1425

In case you missed it on my page, this post from Liz at Mom-101 on domestic violence is incredibly powerful.
http://mom-101.com/2014/09/whyistayed-and-whyileft-domestic-abuse.html

Nicole's essay on divorce and feeding the souls of her children is heartbreakingly beautiful.
http://mamalode.com/story/detail/hunger-for-love

Sarah Reinhart always brings light to my life. I love her words and her images.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sarah-reinhart/why-so-much-depends-upon-_b_5784966.html

Lastly, if you are the parent of a child with autism or know a parent of a child with autism who is afraid to travel by air, this article is for you - I was honored to write on this topic for Airport Improvement magazine, and I love to see the airports doing great things for families.
http://www.airportimprovement.com/content/story.php?article=00610

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are.

Love,
Kristin


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Rare Bird

I detest the news. In fact, the news has become so frightening to me, especially now that I have a son, that I often avoid it.  I know it’s not the responsible, civic thing to do, but sometimes, it’s the only way I stay sane.  No matter what you do, news will find you if you are online, but I prefer to keep from watching TV news or any kind of video news, most of the time.

However, I do read blogs and books. And one day, a blog post straddled my news feed from several sources, heavy with grief and pain and shock. It was the story of 12-year-old Jack Donaldson’s drowning in a flash flood in Virginia, in a detailed play-by-play that took my breath away. The meticulous detail captured by his mother Anna Whiston-Donaldson on her blog An Inch of Gray was so compelling and gripping that it was impossible to turn away. It ripped my heart into pieces.

I read her post about that terrible night several times, crying and rocking the first time, and then again, and again, sharing Anna’s horrible loss. 

I didn’t know her at all. I wouldn’t have recognized Anna on the street. All I knew was that she was a mother in pain; I started reading her blog on a regular basis, and commenting on her posts. It was the least I could do, I figured, to be witness to the words she was sharing about her feelings, her life, and her son.

Anna came to Austin for a conference, and I got to spend time with her at Glennon Melton’s book signing; we shared a table and dinner later that night with some mutual friends.  It has been my great honor to get to know Anna and call her a friend. She radiates beauty from the inside out.  And yet, we are still getting to know each other. Does she really need more friends? I wondered.  Should I bring up Jack? Should I ask her questions about him? How do I help her without being intrusive?  I was afraid of overwhelming her, and I wanted to do the right thing.

In her new book, Rare Bird, Anna wrote:

Blog readers question whether it is appropriate to mourn a child across the country, or even halfway around the world, whom they have never met.  Their confused husbands will ask them, ‘Why do you do this to yourself? Who don’t you just walk away from the computer if that blog always makes you cry?’ But they can’t.  They won’t. They know that writing helps me, so they miraculously commit to read whatever I write so I’ll have a reason to keep showing up.

My mother is very good at this; she knows how to do the right thing. When she hears of someone who is injured or ill, she brings food to the family. When another family member is grieving, even if she doesn’t know them very well, she shows up to honor their loss. When someone needs help, she is there with a sympathetic ear and a freshly-baked loaf of bread.  I have learned from my mother how to be a helper.

And it is from Anna that I am learning, slowly, how to be a friend to a grieving mother.

Rare Bird is about the loss of Anna’s beautiful son Jack and finding her way back to life with her husband, Tim, and her daughter, Margaret. The details are so stunningly poignant and beautiful in their completeness; the stories of old and new are woven together to create a full picture of Jack’s life and death, and those he left behind.  I feared that I would cry all the way through; and there is no doubt there is sadness over the loss of Anna’s son. But as I learned more about Jack, there was peace and even hope. I found that I wanted to know all about him. I wanted to share this burden with Anna, and somehow, she manages to lift up her readers with the strength of one hundred mothers. Anyone feeling that they are in a hopeless or impossible situation could open this book and find something to cling to, a lighthouse in the middle of a horrendous storm.

When I finished Rare Bird, I held it in my hands and felt the energy soaring from the words into my heart. Often, I look into my son’s big brown eyes, and I am reminded of Jack, the boy I have never met but have grown to mourn and love.

Don’t be afraid to read Rare Bird. It will hurt, yes. But it will hurt and then heal you in the way of the best movies and the best books you have ever read. Ultimately, Anna’s faith and love carried my heart past the pain, too. The glimmers of hope that start to emerge and then really shine through Anna and her family’s journey is humbling, and you will understand why it’s worth reading the sad things.

In the words of my friend Devon Corneal:

“I read to understand anger. I read so I'll remember not to judge. I read for perspective and to be reminded that that even in the face of loss and pain and doubt and confusion, life does not stop. We don't get to stop because things get hard -- we are supposed to save our weaknesses for the quiet hours of the night. I read to recognize bravery and to confront the fears I try to ignore.

I read because these parents endure and, somehow, in the devastation, they find laughter. And hope. I read for those moments. I read because, no matter how unfair or tragic their challenges, these families are willing to share their joy and strength with anyone who has the courage not to turn away.”

I’m grateful I didn’t turn away.  Rare Bird is worth every bit of the pain to get to the transcendent love.

* * * 
The book will be available at Amazon here: 
Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love

Watch Anna and her family talk about the book:

Love,

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Favorites - August 29

I have been off the grid on my Friday Favorites series, writing some very interesting stories for Airport Improvement magazine in the last month about special programs to help kids with autism travel more comfortably and radiant heating with geothermal technology (say what?).  These stories stretch my knowledge and help me learn new things.

I'm ready for the weekend, but I'm not ready to say goodbye to summer - my son starts preschool again on Tuesday. Here in Texas, we're kind of lucky in that the pools stay open (on the weekends) well into September, and since it's still 100 degrees, that's a good thing.

In case you missed it, I was at the Huffington Post last week with a story about appreciating the times between the busy:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristin-shaw/the-spaces-between_b_5698649.html

And here's some great writing to take you into the weekend:  

From Shannon at Deepest Worth, musings on giving her daughter a good foundation in self esteem:
http://www.deepestworth.com/2014/08/a-strong-foundation/

From Brenna at Suburban Snapshots, a gorgeous and heart-wrenching tribute to her friend Sarah.
http://www.suburbansnapshots.com/2014/08/a-million-brilliant-things.html

This idea has been stuck in my head for a week, and I'm thinking that I need to start doing this too.
http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/08/simpler-entertaining-friday-night-dinners-end-loneliness-how-to-build-community-after-having-kids.html

Have you ever heard of Safe Families? This essay from a guest writer at Rage Against the Minivan opened my eyes to this families who are helping so many kids in times of crisis.
http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com/2014/08/what-i-want-you-to-know-about-being_25.html#ixzz3BQThuzW2

My sister means the world to me, and this post from Rachel at Hands Free Mama is a great reminder for parents of siblings. 
http://www.handsfreemama.com/2014/08/19/a-relationship-worth-protecting/

My son has one more year until kindergarten, and this post still made me cry like a baby, imagining my son all grown up.
http://www.scarymommy.com/always-my-baby

Have you ever nearly lost your mind trying to help your child find a toy? This post from Arnebya of What Now and Why at Mamalode will seem very familiar to you.
http://mamalode.com/story/detail/found-it

THINGS I LIKE

The nice people at ThinkFun sent me a Robot Turtles board game for me to evaluate, and my verdict is that it's pretty awesome. The idea is to teach preschoolers coding at a very simple and basic level, and the way it's set up is creative and engaging. My son likes the concept of telling me how to move his turtle and overcome the obstacles in the turtle's path. I just bought another copy of the game for one of his best buddies who has an app-programmer dad, and I know they're going to love playing it together.

Robot Turtles is the most-funded board game in Kickstarter history, far surpassing its $25,000 goal with $630,000 in pledges. The concept comes from former Google programmer Dan Shapiro, who wanted to share his love for coding with his two daughters. Although many computer-based platforms for preschools are already on the market, Shapiro wanted to take the learning process offline with a traditional board game.




THE LAST WORD

Last, but not least, I am excited to now have a live author page at Amazon! First up is the book My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends, which will be available next month.

Love,





Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Brave: a father's love

Sixteen years ago, a little boy was born. Austin was happy and healthy, with a shock of soft red hair, and grew up like any other little boy in the Midwest. 

At the time, Austin was related to Brian by marriage; Austin was the son of Brian’s brother in law, his wife’s brother. Brian was a doting uncle with no children of his own, spending time with Austin and watching him grow up.

When Austin was two, his life changed, and along with that, the lives of everyone around him. Especially the life of his uncle Brian.

“Austin was more than my nephew,” Brian says. “He was the first baby that I had ever gotten close to, that I had ever loved so deeply. Austin was teaching me how much I wanted to be a father, to raise and help guide and mold my future children. We were very close.”

This next part is hard to read. Bear with me to get to the better part.

One terrible day, two-year-old Austin was shaken for thirty seconds with uncontrolled rage by his biological mother’s then-boyfriend. He was literally shaken to death; when the paramedics arrived, they performed CPR and revived him, and Austin was taken to the nearest hospital. After more than two weeks in a coma, Austin awoke and spent another five months in the hospital with significant brain damage. Ultimately, the right side of his brain was dead.

For more than two weeks, Austin was in a medically-induced coma while he fought for his life. His brain swelled beyond capacity, increasing the inner-cranial pressure within his head.  The brain swelling threatened to cut off his brain stem from communicating with his vital organs. The neurosurgeon placed a pressure monitor within his head to both relieve and monitor the pressure within his head. Thankfully, the pressure relief and monitor set-up worked.

While Austin was recovering, Brian and his wife Vickie started taking foster parenting classes, because they knew that Austin would not be returned to his biological parents.

In April of 2001, Austin came to live with Brian and Vickie. They determined that Brian would resign from his job and stay home with Austin full time.  He was now an instant father, the stay-at-home parent of a nearly three-year-old child with a significant brain injury.

“There wasn’t much ‘staying at home’, as every day was filled with various therapy appointments, doctors’ appointments, case managers, prosecutors, and then some,” says Brian.

For two and a half years, Brian stayed home with Austin. After that, Brian became a fireman, taking a schedule that would work around Austin’s schedule. Soon after that, Austin's adoption was finalized.

Before that terrible day, 14 years ago, Austin was typical by most accounts. He was able to walk evenly, talk as well as any two-year-old, and use both hands equally.  He was happy and inquisitive, explored things eagerly, and enjoyed watching cartoons. He was just beginning to show interest in potty training.

Now, Austin has no use of his left hand and arm. He has a peripheral blind spot in his left eye. He wears braces on both of his legs to help him walk. He drags his left foot when he walks. He is 16 going on 6; a junior in high school, going on kindergarten. He has undergone thousands of hours of speech, occupational, and physical therapies to try and overcome his new disability, and relearn much of what he had already learned in the first two years of his life.  He had to relearn to walk, talk, eat and play.

Along his journey, enduring pain and frustration, anger and sadness, and even depression and anxiety, Austin has never let it keep him down, says Brian. He has an amazing sense of humor, and almost always has a smile and a laugh for everyone. He doesn’t know a stranger, and is often said to have “made someone’s day” with his smile, hugs, and love for people and life.

Austin spends the vast majority of his school time in a functional skills setting, learning daily living skills most of us take for granted.  He still can’t read or write at all. He has behavior problems that impede his learning. He takes a number of medications for seizure prevention, and ADHD. He also endures a number of other medical issues related to his brain injury; hospitalization for elevated ammonia levels and a bi-lateral hamstring lengthening surgery are just the most recent in a series of medical issues he has dealt with and will continue to deal with for life.

He has no use of his left hand, and very limited use of his left arm and shoulder; essentially, the bigger the muscle, the more use he has in that area. Essentially, he has no fine motor skills for his left hand.  He has endured a lot of therapy to attempt to regain use of his left hand, but his prognosis is weak.

Austin makes me so proud to be his dad, Brian says.  In spite of his significant brain injury, and all it brings to the table, Austin is very polite, caring, and engaged with his life. He tries hard to open and hold doors, he always says please, thank you and excuse me. He has a passion for life, and a sense of humor. He never lets his troubles keep him down, and always has a smile on his face.


Austin has three potential surgeries in the next 6-18 months. He has developed a case of hammertoe that can only be fixed through surgery, and is causing him some discomfort while walking. His left leg, the side most affected by his brain injury, is heavily rotated inward and causing him to have a very unstable gait. The correction for that is to cut his femur and rotate the lower leg to the proper position, yet another very major orthopedic procedure. The doctor has told Brian that this is something that can be done later in the future, but doesn’t want to prolong something that makes him uncomfortable and unstable on his feet. And third is his contracted left wrist and hand; they attempted to correct this a few years ago, unsuccessfully. This time they will fuse the joint in position permanently.

Brian puts on a brave face for Austin while his son goes through surgery and recovery, but he hurts for him.  Brian's Facebook posts are alternately grateful and hopeful, even in the face of so many challenges. Overall, if you followed his personal page, you would see a father who loves his son more than anything in the world.

Last year, Brian was invited to share Austin's story in Terre Haute, Indiana to a group of 200+ professionals from all over central Indiana. This was a training conference on the Period of Purple Crying as developed by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), and Brian was presented with the "Child Award" presented by the Children's Bureau of Indianapolis in recognition of his efforts to advocate for child abuse prevention all across Indiana. He speaks regularly on the topic and is an advocate for children everywhere.

Austin doesn’t know what happened to him, or why he is different from other kids. He also doesn’t question it. He lives his life as he knows it, happily sharing his spirit with family, friends and strangers alike. Even as he struggles to walk these days, he refuses to use his wheelchair, it removes his independence.  Austin is the reason I do the things I do.  I wouldn’t be a firefighter without having gone through this experience with him. I wouldn’t be an advocate for child abuse prevention. I wouldn’t be an advocate for people with disabilities and their families either.  

Here's the part that chokes me up:

And most importantly, I wouldn’t be Austin’s dad, the most awesome role I could ever ask for.

*  *  *

When I met Brian, we were just a couple of kids in high school. He ran on the cross-country team with some of my friends, and he was a nice, quiet boy. I'm so proud to see what he has become. 

For more information on Brian and Austin:
http://www.gofundme.com/Austins-Story
http://www.help-our-kids.org/





Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Six lines


On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade.
At the time, the Russians were winning the space race. The U.S. needed a goal; something to aim for, both figuratively and literally. JFK set the goal nine years out to give the space program life… to tell the world that this is what we are going to do.

In 1969, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong was the first astronaut in the world to set foot on the lunar surface.

You can’t reach a goal unless you set one.

This year, in January, I approached my group of writer friends with a proposal: let’s set our goals together, publicly within our group. I needed a target.

My list was short: only 6 lines.

1)  Win a VOTY in 2014.
2)  Be chosen for a spot in the HerStories friendship anthology
3)  Choose a direction for a novel and get at least half done before the end of this year.
4)  Get a children's book published
5)  Go to the gym 2x a week and fit into my clothes better
6)  Be published on Brain, Child
7)  Submit an essay to Precipic

Each goal looked like a small mountain; in fact, the very first goal was one I saw as a major stretch.  Last year, when I sat in the audience at BlogHer and listened to Adrienne Jones, Ann Imig, and Kelly Wickham as they made me laugh and cry, I knew that I wanted to be up there, too. I didn’t think for a second it would happen a year later.

When I got the message that one of my essays had been chosen as a BlogHer Voice of the Year, I picked up my son and twirled him around. Out of 2,500 essays, they picked mine as an honoree. And what was even more amazing to me was that it had been chosen to be one of twelve to be read on stage at the annual conference.  I had purchased a ticket with hope in my heart, but I wasn’t at all sure I could swing the trip without a good excuse. It was a thrilling moment, and my friends online were incredibly supportive and shared my celebration from the moment it was announced.

Last year was the first time that I had attended BlogHer, and I loved it. When I walked into the hotel lobby, the first person I spotted was Lizz Porter of Am I a Funny Girl?  I walked right up to her and gave her a bear hug.  She’s a hugger, see, so she didn’t mind. That one hug set the tone for two days of connection with people I never knew I needed. But I do.

This year, I walked in feeling confident and excited. Maybe a little too excited, because my nerves were on high alert on Friday before my on-stage reading. I dropped several things in the room while getting ready, because my hands were shaking. During the day, I know I was more distracted than usual, and I’m sure I missed out on meeting some wonderful people because I was stuck in my own head. Luckily, my friends rallied around me and walked me through it all.

Support system:
Top row: Kristin, Angela, and Greta
Middle row: Jennie, Arnebya, and Tonya
Bottom: Elaine, Jennifer, Katie, Leigh Ann, and Poppy
Photo by Elaine Alguire


Backstage during the Voice of the Year presentation, I got to meet some amazing women that I have admired from afar, and it is a privilege to now call them friends. Their stories were riveting and beautifully crafted. Their photos were haunting and gorgeous. And when I took the stage to read mine, I started out fast and then remembered how I had practiced it, and eased into a rhythm. I worked hard to keep my own tears in check.



The women themselves lined up to hug each speaker after her time on stage, and the support and love was tremendous. Women, catty? Not there. Not anywhere that I saw. In fact, maybe it’s the company I keep, but I met scores of talented and beautiful and sweet women (and one man, Neil Kramer, who has the most amazing Instagram account).

The exhilaration of reaching this goal feels so good, and last week, when Scary Mommy published my essay on her site, more than 30,000 people shared it.  Perhaps it struck a nerve.

This is what my goals list looks like now:
1)  Win a VOTY in 2014 – Check!
2)  Be chosen for a spot in the HerStories friendship anthology – Check!
3)  Choose a direction for my novel and get at least half done before the end of this year – in progress
4)  Get a children's book published – Scheduled for fall 2014
5)  Go to the gym 2x a week and fit into my clothes better – well...
6)  Be published on Brain, Child – Check!
7)  Submit to Precipice – Check! And chosen for a spot in the book to be published this fall

It’s time to create some new goals.

* * * * *
Jamie and Casey - new friends.
Amazing women.

Please don't miss reading all of the VOTY posts here.
So much amazing work all in one list.

At the risk of sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech, I want to say thank you to some special people: 

Thank you to Leigh Ann for leaving a session early to give me a hug before I left for rehearsal. And my other two roommates, Angela and Greta, who brought gifts and smiles and hugs.

Casey, for the voice of experience and encouragement.

To my tribe, for supporting me before, during, and after the event.

Kate, Sarah, and Stephanie, who gave me their precious time to rehearse via FaceTime. 

Jamie and Jill and Kim, who went out of their way to find and meet me.

All of the other VOTY winners, plus Elisa and Alexandra and Rita.

All of you, who cheered me on.  Thank you. 


Love,






Friday, August 8, 2014

Friday Favorites: August 8


Hello, and welcome to August!  My little boy is going to be 5 soon, and I can hardly believe that.

In case you missed it, I was at my friend Laura's blog this week, with a contribution to her marriage series.
http://www.mommy-miracles.com/2014/08/i-choose-to-love-him.html

Other essays I have loved this week:


Playing in the rain, by Lisa Allen. This post captures the bittersweet feelings of being the mother of kids who are almost fully grown.  It's beautiful.
http://backtoallen.com/playing-in-the-rain/

This summer has been one of the best of my life, and this post from Lisa Rosenberg captures the sights and sounds and smells of summer perfectly.
http://www.smacksy.com/2014/08/about-summer.html

Do you have any book lovers in your life?  I thought this was a great list of gift ideas.
http://www.allparenting.com/my-life/articles/971457/gifts-for-your-favorite-book-lover

This story, about extending kindness and humanity, is lovely, and it made me think about ways I can help.
http://mamalode.com/story/detail/my-name-is-tom

My sister and I are very close, so this post from Kim spoke to me.
http://www.copilotmom.com/gift-brothers/

This CEO stepped down from his high-level job to be a better dad. I love that he knows what he wants and he knows his own limits, and I respect his choice. 
http://www.today.com/parents/why-ceo-decided-being-better-dad-was-more-important-his-1D80024905

If you don't have it on your reading list already, add Anna Whiston Donaldson's Rare Bird. It's a book about loss - she lost her 12-year-old son in a flash flood a few years ago - but it's also about hope. It's stunning.
Here's her book trailer:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnnSisC4auQ

And this... this is my newest bucket list place. Gorgeous
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/08/comino-island-in-malta-ha_n_5647511.html


Have a fantastic weekend.

Love,



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Because

A new friend of mine, a beautiful, caring, compassionate woman, sent me a message after I posted "To All the Maggies of the World" a few weeks ago.

"I had no idea you had been through this," she wrote. "I am so proud and in awe of your ability to speak so bravely and openly.  I feel strangely...comforted that another strong, intelligent woman I know has actually experienced this too."

She said that she had been trying to write about her own experiences for years and couldn't get the words out, but she was inspired to do so after reading about Maggie... and about me. She isn't ready to own her words publicly in her own name, but she wanted to share them to attempt to help other women feel less alone in a similar domestic violence situation. She is already stronger and braver than she knows.

I honestly hope this does not resonate with you, if you're reading this. [*Trigger warning]

But if it does, know that you are not crazy. You are not weak. You can get out of this situation. One foot in front of the other, until you're out the door. If you are nodding your head to any of this because it sounds so familiar, at the bottom of this post, you'll find links to national organizations to help you if you. Let someone help you.

* * * 

BECAUSE

Because he was handsome, and charming, and smart, and hilarious.

Because he spit in my face, and told me I was worthless, and I stayed for seven more years.

Because he was adventurous, and full of fun, and brought me along for the ride.

Because he called me a whore when I got upset that a complete stranger at a crowded bar grabbed my crotch.

Because he planned romantic surprises.

Because I felt so very sorry for him, but my sympathy wasn't enough to keep him from turning on me.

Because he was strong, and I felt like he could protect me from anything.

Because the first time it happened I let the red marks show, hoping someone would notice and validate me and tell me to get out.

Because he was driven and ambitious and hardworking and wanted a better life, and I could relate.

Because after the first time, I hid the bruises and silently, sadly, joked to myself that I could tell people I "fell down the stairs."

Because when I looked in his eyes, I could see the sweet little boy he once was.

Because my brain was fully aware, but my ego let me think I could be THE ONE whose cycle of abuse didn't proceed in a textbook fashion.

Because he always sincerely, enthusiastically complimented my cooking.

Because he pushed me backwards out of my chair when I was angry that he wouldn't turn down his video games while I was studying.

Because we were inseparable.

Because he found ways to let me know I was lazy, and fat, and unattractive more times than I can count.

Because he made sure I had birthday and Christmas presents, even when my own family forgot or could not.

Because he hated his estranged abusive father, but began behaving eerily the same.

Because I knew in his heart he was a better man.

Because a random guy in the Applebee's parking lot said "That ain't right, man. GIRL. That.ain't.right." as those strong fingers squeezed my neck.

Because he had so many friends who saw him as such a great guy.

Because he drunkenly and angrily ran us off the road after a baby shower in a residential area, and I was sick with the thought that he could have killed us or, worse, an innocent bystander.

Because he could be a really wonderful and loving big brother.

Because I spent money I didn't have to prove my love with a birthday party, and he repaid me by bruising  a one square foot area of my right hip and thigh.  And I deleted the picture proof.

Because I knew he had plans to be a really great dad someday, and I thought he could be if he really tried.

Because every joke was at my expense.  Like the one that fractured my tailbone.

Because he indulged my love of the sappy romantic comedy.

Because he distrusted every negative thing our couples counselor said, merely because she was a woman.

Because he loved to snuggle.

Because I was an uptight, humorless bitch if I asked for respect.

Because he told me I was wonderful, and beautiful.

Because I told the neighbors they didn't need to call the police, and they mercifully ignored me.

Because I know I have my flaws, and we both wanted to be better people.

Because he dragged me inside the house and, when I wouldn't stop arguing, slammed my head against the wall.

Because he tenderly and tearfully bandaged me up when he found me half conscious.

Because I lied to the police, but they took him away anyway. 

Because his puppy loved him and missed him when he was gone.

Because I woke up with my hair glued to the pillow with dried blood.

Because I loved his family, and didn't want them to be disappointed.

Because the white shirt was so bloodstained even my beloved Oxi Clean couldn't save it.

Because I thought he was my best friend.

Because I bailed him out with student loan money and felt guilty he spent his birthday in jail.

Because he had become my family.

Because he knew himself well enough to know he probably couldn't ever forgive me, but he wanted to try.

Because he loved me intensely, more than he'd ever loved anyone.

Because he hated me intensely, more than he'd ever hated anyone.

Because he left me sweet notes to start my day.

Because I couldn't sleep at night knowing he had guns.

Because we had a hundred soul-touching, happy, fun, loving moments after that night in jail.

Because he grabbed my arm in anger yet again.  And we both knew what was coming next.

Because I NOW know what it feels like to be truly respected and loved and unafraid.  No matter any mistake I could possibly make--unafraid. 

Because I got out alive, when so many do not.

* * *

Love, Kristin

Do you need help? Here are some ideas:
From Violence UnSilenced: Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
http://violenceunsilenced.com/resources
http://www.feminist.org/911/crisis.html

http://www.nrcdv.org/
In Austin, Texas:  http://safeplace.org/

If you're new to my blog, this will explain my passion for supporting women in domestic violence situations: http://www.twocannoli.com/2012/01/why-does-she-stay.html
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