I would like to dedicate this to Officer M.P. Maxwell #1365 of the Anne Arundel County Police Department, eastern district; and all the public servants across this country like him.

It has been way too long since my last blog entry. To say life has gotten away from me would be an understatement. Not to worry, there are big things on the horizon! That’s for another day; however, today I would like to pay tribute to a phenomenal man who went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that a victim felt heard, validated, and most importantly–safe. In previous blogs, I have briefly discussed how broken and in desperate need of change our current system is when it comes to how it responds and treats the victims of domestic violence of any kind. This includes the police, social services, and the courts. I can’t tell you the countless instances where myself or my children–the victims–were treated and viewed like the criminals and the “real” criminal was looked at as the victim. It cuts a person to the core when they are desperately trying to free themselves, their children, or advocate on the behalf of someone else; when you are viewed as either a waste of time and effort on their part, or they are so hardened and desensitized to these situations that they have made their mind up with regard to guilt or innocence prior to getting all the information needed to formulate an accurate opinion. It is because of this that people end up silencing themselves for fear of persecution, ridicule, or that their situation is made even more direr due to the ineffective involvement of those with the authority to help those who so desperately need them—and—they don’t.

I vowed many years ago never to be silenced on my own behalf or on the behalf of anyone who is unable or too afraid to stand up for themselves. I know all too well the familiar feeling of helplessness and desperation that a person feels when they aren’t being supported or heard by those put in place to do just that, serve and protect. I remember on one occasion “The Devil” brought my girl’s back to me after having supervised visitation and Emma, 9 months at the time, was visibly upset. I immediately asked the supervisor, his father–“The Devil’s Protector”– what happened? He looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about and proceeded to hand her over, turn and walk away. I knew something was wrong, although she wasn’t walking yet, she still liked to pull herself up on anything she could find. There was a point when I went to put her down and the moment she bore any weight on her leg she let out a scream unlike anything I had ever heard before. She was completely inconsolable. Typically, nursing fixed all boo-boo’s; however, this time was far different. I immediately called the on-call doctor at the pediatrician’s office to ask what to do. I explained the situation to her, indicating that her father had had supervised visitation for the preceding 3 hours, therefore I had no idea what happened while in his care. She informed me that it was highly unlikely that it was serious because it was so difficult for infant’s bone to break. However, if she was still not baring any weight on her leg in the morning and continued to be as hysterical as she was to bring her into the office. The rest of the evening and night didn’t get any better. She barely slept, cried most of the night, and nursing wasn’t helping at all. First thing in the morning I brought her to the doctor’s office where they looked at her and immediately sent us to the hospital. The doctor had called over to the ER to let them know we were coming so that we didn’t have to wait once we arrived. My best friend Kristin was in town visiting thankfully, so I had a witness to all the goings on the previous evening. We arrived at the hospital and Kristin kept Bella with her in the waiting room while I was with Emma getting examined and sent for x-rays. When the results came back that my sweet baby girl had a broken leg I was god smacked. Of course, they wanted explanations and I couldn’t provide them with any.

They immediately called the Police and DSS, because in their myopic minds, it was clear that I had abused my daughter. They also called her father, who I had a stay away protective order from at the time because of his abuse of me. “The Devil” and his “protector” arrived at the hospital feigning complete ignorance that Emma was injured prior to being dropped off to me at the hotel. Their denial would have been laughable had people not bought his bullshit story that it had to have happened while in my custody. But, like every other time DSS was called on him they bought he and his father’s version, hook, line, and sinker. “I mean how in the world could this atrocious act happen while under supervised visitation with a known abuser?” Really? At no point did they consider that this father conceivably could have either caused this trauma by his own actions or failed actions. Either way, I was the one they automatically assumed was not telling the truth. To this day I will never understand how “The Devil” continued to get away with all the abuse he was inflicting on my children for as long as he did, but never the less, it happened. Much to the misfortune of those misguided souls involved that had the audacity to question my integrity, character, and ability to keep my babies safe; I happen to have an incomparable ability to have the door slammed in my face repeatedly, both figuratively and literally; however, keeping with who I am: stubborn, relentless, a consummate warrior for truth and justice, I refused to accept what appeared to be the inevitable—defeat. Instead, I chose to give that “door” a resounding “fuck you” and open it back up. It’s a damn door, that’s exactly what they were created to do, open and close. It is with that veracity and passion that I approach any challenge I meet.

Many years ago, I became familiar with this concept known as, “A Day-Maker.” This is when no matter what is going on in your personal life, you take it upon yourself to set aside your own troubles, stress, and disappointments to be the light and hope in someone else’s life. Because you never really know what a person is struggling with internally. They can tell you one thing, you can see another, and the reality could be quite different. It just takes one person who is willing and has the desire to try and put a smile on someone’s face, give a stranger a hug, or provide an open and non-judgmental heart and two ears to listen when no one else has; that can literally change the trajectory of a person’s life. Your selflessness was able to take another human’s invisible pain and transform it into hope. That is precisely who Officer Maxwell is, “A-Day Maker.” In the sixteen years I have been home in Maryland I have never met anyone so selfless, empathetic, and kind to a perfect stranger. Yes, he was doing his job by protecting and serving the public; however, what he did for a terrified and overwhelmed young mother went far beyond his job description. I was so privileged and grateful to have had the opportunity to witness how he goes about doing his “job.” The love and kindness he has for others emanated from him. You could feel his goodness and knew with him in your corner everything was going to be okay. I mean what greater gift could any person give to another but unconditional love and acceptance. I believe that when you see something you say something. Well, I saw so much beauty in one man that I felt compelled to say something. People aren’t told enough that they are doing a good job. Especially those men and woman in law enforcement. Currently, our society has become so filled with criticism, mistrust, and violence toward the very people who are putting their lives on the line every day for our safety. In some small way, I hope this provides hope, comfort, and peace to those who have lost faith, knowing that there are really wonderful people out there who truly want nothing more than to be good and do good with the intent of making this world a safer more loving place to exist. I never had the pleasure of encountering an “Officer Maxwell” in my life, although I desperately could have used him. But, meeting him now and knowing what he is doing for those people who I once shared their same fate, somehow takes all the pain and disappointment from my own past and makes it a little more palatable.

So, I thank you Officer Maxwell, from the bottom of my heart for giving me the peace I have needed for so long. And thank you too, on the behalf of all those who are scared, hopeless, and don’t know what to do or where to turn, for giving them everything they need to feel empowered and sharing your own strength with them when they are unable to find it within themselves.

You serve as a resounding example of what we all should aspire to be. May your goodness be contagious to all those you bless with your sweet spirit and warm heart, and from you may they take what you bestow onto them and go out into the world and share it with others. That is what will make America great!

Listen to that inner voice that doesn’t quiet. It’s trying to tell you something.

I want to follow up my last post with an example of the importance of PAYING ATTENTION and ASKING QUESTIONS. I awoke early one morning to find my oldest daughter awake and on the couch instant messaging on FB. I immediately thought it was strange considering she looked as though she hadn’t slept and she already should have been up and getting ready for class. Instead, she was intently typing on her computer and not paying any attention to me as I asked her, “Are you going to school today?” She didn’t respond, so I walked around the couch stood in front of her and repeated my question. She quickly snapped out of her little world and looked up at me and said, “Mom, do you remember, David, from when I was in placement?” She obviously saw the puzzled look on my face as though I was trying hard to remember. Then she went on to give me more details in hopes it might jog my memory–which it did. She then said that she was really worried about him and asked if I would reach out via FB messenger to talk to him. I, of course, was happy to do so; however, I needed more information from her perspective, as to why she was so concerned. This child of mine was far from an alarmist, therefore if she was concerned I knew it had to be serious. I also was aware the kids that she was in placement with were there for a reason and it wasn’t because they were doing great in life. They suffered from a variety of one or more mental health diagnoses. With those details at the forefront of my mind I went on to ask her how she thought I could help. She had expressed concern for his physical safety which I knew better then to take lightly. I immediately sat down beside her and took the computer to start to write a message to him. However, before I did so I needed her to tell me exactly what specifically she thought was going on, so I had an idea as to how to approach him without freaking him out. This child of mine is brilliant when it comes to reading people and assessing situations, especially serious ones like this seemed to be. Her own experience with trauma and the daily struggle of living with PTSD and its lasting effects, have made her hyper vigilant when it comes to breaking a situation down quickly and taking action on it.

She told me that it had been years since they had any contact. But, for some reason the night before she ran across his FB post and it created such an uneasy feeling in her that she was compelled to contact him. She wasn’t even sure he would remember who she was it had been so long. However, that didn’t stop her and fortunately for both of them he remembered her. Not only that, but he felt comfortable enough to open up and tell her what he was going though. She learned that he was held up in a dingy and dark motel room, hadn’t eaten in days, and was in a very dark place; seriously contemplating not wanting to go on feeling the desolation, desperation, and hopelessness that he was experiencing.

Bella, my daughter, already knew that she was going to go into the field of psychology in some capacity after she graduated, so that, plus her own life experiences prepared her for what she needed to do next. She had the maturity and foresight to know that if she could get him talking and purging what he was keeping buried within him, the likelihood of those feelings of despair and hopelessness would subside and he would live to see another sunrise. In most cases, if you can get someone to ride that wave, as horrible and gut wrenching as it is, there will be hope on the other side. She wouldn’t let him disengage from the conversation all night long. She was committed to getting this sweet and tortured soul through the night and then knew that this was so much bigger than herself and needed to ask for help. That is exactly what she did. Now it was my turn to step in and see from my perspective, what the situation was and what needed to be done to save this boy.

I quickly sent a brief message saying hello and introducing myself, again, considering it had been so long since I had been introduced to him in the past. Surprisingly, he messaged me back almost immediately. I was so thankful to see him typing because I knew there was still hope that he was going to make it out of that motel room alive. I can not honestly tell you how many hours we spoke, both through messenger and on the phone. It was all day and into the night. The long and the short of it was, he needed help, and I was going to figure out what that looked like for him. I learned so much about him, both his past and present trials and tribulations. I heard the most horrific stories of abuse and tragedy I had ever heard in my life. I was physically sickened and heartbroken for David, and knew in my gut that Bella didn’t run across his post by accident. Nor did she talk to him through the night just because they were old friends catching up. God had put him directly in her path, because he knew that she would be the catalyst that just might save his life. Although he did not want saving, I can promise you that, that is exactly what was beginning to happen here.

First and foremost, he needed to eat. We learned that he was in some no-name town in Ohio with no money, no car, and zero resources. Oh, and to add insult to injury, there was only one place that delivered within a 30 mile radius of the motel. So, I looked up that Dominos pizza, and ordered everything off that menu, and a couple liters of soda. I was able to pay and tip the driver through the site and within the hour, David had more food then he had seen in months. He did not want to accept my buying him food. However, I made it perfectly clear that he was going to have to drop the pride thing and let go and let God! Which by the way, he didn’t believe in because he said, “If there is a God, then how in the hell can he let all these horrible things happen?” I said to him, “I don’t know the answer to your question buddy, but I do know that there is a God, and he is the reason Isabella found you last night before you decided to do anything you couldn’t take back.” He let it go with that. He also sent me a picture of all the empty boxes and containers of food, at my insistence, so that I knew he was eating. Next came how in the hell was I gonna’ get him out of there and back to Maryland. At the very least, here he was closer and I had more access to people and services who would be able to assist him. I also learned that the man he called, “dad,” and his “brothers and sister,” lived about an hour from me and that was of great comfort to him. He didn’t want them knowing what was going on because he didn’t want any more stress on his dad since he was recovering from a stroke and heart issues.

Knowing all of that, we decided that coming back to Maryland was his best option. I told him that I needed a little bit of time, but I would get back with him when I had all the details of what was going to happen next. I booked him the earliest flight I could get him on, which was a day and a half later. I figured he had made it this long, I had faith he could get through the next day and a half. There were lots of fun obstacles that came with that. There was one cab that ran in this town and he was booked the morning of his flight; his cell phone was about to use up all its minutes, and he was out of food again. So, I tackled one thing at a time. First, getting him food. Next, ordered a leather book bag off Amazon Prime and had it overnighted so he could put what few things he had in it to bring with him back home; the cell phone issue, I couldn’t do anything about accept pray that it would last until he arrived. Finally, finding a limo service that was an hour and a half away to come and pick him up and get him to the airport that was about forty minutes away at 3:15 in the morning. With all that taken care of, now it was a waiting game until I was able to exhale and see him in person to know that he was ok. It was a very long thirty-six hours, but finally the day had arrived and all of us couldn’t have been any more excited.

Like with most genius ideas, they don’t go off exactly as planned. There were a couple hiccups along the way, but that afternoon at 3:43 pm I got to see him in the flesh. David, recognized Bella, and came walking toward the car. I immediately went to him and wrapped my arms around him and stayed there probably too long for his liking, but I could finally exhale with tears rolling down my cheeks. He was smiling and noticeably uncomfortable at the same time. Bella and he were excited to see each other, so that definitely helped him feel more at ease, I think?! We talked–well, I talked–the entire car ride home. He laughs now because he says that he thought I was completely nuts when we first met. And still does, but in all the right ways!;)

I think by now, one can tell that I immediately develop a plan and execute it. So, as soon as we got back to the house, I went into overdrive trying to make sure that David had everything that he needed and wanted to feel at home and safe with us. I took him shopping and got him some much needed new digs and basketball shoes. Kinda’ spoiled him, but he needed it and I loved every minute of it. Although, I made it perfectly clear that I would always make sure his needs were met from that day forward, but not necessarily all of his wants. I tell all my kids that very same thing. With that, began David’s journey to learning how to trust and love without fear of persecution or disappointment. I will tell you that he hit the jack-pot when it comes to “loving to love” because if I am not good at anything else in my life, I am really good at loving someone who needs it. I am an empath, therefore, I absorb the negative feelings of others and in turn transfer lots of love, light, and peace. (I will go into the empath thing another time because it is an important part of who I am.)

Things weren’t always rainbows and gumdropsDavid had a lot of demons and suffered unimaginable trauma in his 19 years, but there was no doubt in my mind that one day he was going to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He just needed to give life and people a chance. I completely understood why he didn’t; however, I was asking him to take a risk on me–on this family. Because without risk you won’t ever reap the benefits of great reward. All I asked was that he tried to trust. I believe he absolutely did try, and little by little you began to see this new sparkle in his beautiful brown eyes, that looked a lot like hope. He actually began to talk about the future. Where as before he got back, in his mind, death was the only reasonable and acceptable future for him. When I hugged and kissed him every night and told him I loved him, he started to breath a little deeper and not instinctually recoil when he was touched. And, the best of all, when I told him I loved him, he began to feel that, and in turn showed others that same love. It was beautiful and it warmed my heart. He became one of us………dysfunctional, chaotic, off the charts, unorganized, messy, “fly by the seat of our pants,” but we are a family and he knew that he could always count on us. It was important for me that he feel what a “real” mother’s love feels like. It is the thing that dreams are made from. He needed that, he deserved that, and I was able to give him that.

Today, David is doing amazingly well. He is a hard working, independent man, who is “movin’ on up” in this world. I am confident he will continue to grow and achieve great things in his life. I miss his sweet smile and sparkly eyes, but know that he needs to do things his way, and that is all I ever wanted for him. To have the strength of self to know that he is capable of anything he puts his mind to. In addition, he is deserving of all of the goodness that this world has to offer him. My sweet boy will really be a man next month when he turns the big 2-1! I tell him that we were meant to be family since we also share the same birthday!!!

David, “I’ll love you forever. I’ll like you for always. As long as I am living my baby you’ll be.”

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Firstly, I would like to say that EVERY month should be “child abuse awareness month,” and every other important cause that plaques us as a nation. Why we choose to only recognize things for a day or a month is beyond me?! With that being said, I would like to share how this horrific topic of child abuse has effected me and my family.

As I talked about in my first blog post, I suffered tremendous abuse of all kinds by “The Monster.” I was young and incredibly naïve, but I never thought that he would hurt them–our precious daughter’s. I couldn’t have been any more wrong. It was pretty early on that I realized that he had an obsession with our first born. It made me feel incredibly uneasy, but like most people, buried those feelings and chalked them up to “new mommy anxiety” or just being a

 

really young mom who was learning as she went. However, I was smart enough to never allow him access to her without my direct supervision. Yes, I thought I could protect her from him, which we all know how that story goes, no one

could. I vowed to protect her at any cost. Like with most abusive relationships, I left several times, but kept getting pulled back because every time I tried to get free, he would attempt to charge me with kidnapping and sue for sole custody. I couldn’t escape him, or the great state of New York. At one point, I couldn’t even leave the county we lived in with her. I was in my own personal prison and resigned myself to the idea that my daughter was far safer with me staying with him and suffering the constant sexual abuse I had to endure, then for me to leave where he would then have free access to her to do as he pleased. With that decision came another one; if I was never going to get out of this relationship alive with my child, I at least wanted her to have a sibling to lean on in case he killed me and that was all she had.

I appreciate how crazy this sounds, but you have to remember that I was twenty-one years old when I had her and twenty-three when her sister came along. I was still a child myself, thinking that I could love him enough to make all his demons go away. Of co

 

urse, as I got older and wiser, one realizes that no one can save any person from themselves. Finally, it got to the point when I understood that, and  I wasn’t able to keep the girls safe from him any longer because he had become much to dangerous. So, I began to plan our escape. It took a little while, but eventually it happened and I finally made it back home to Maryland. We were okay for about a year and a half because me and the girl’s had a complete stay away order of protection from him. Looking back, that was probably the last time I felt any amount of peace and safety with regard to all of our physical and mental well-being. As soon as that order expired, that very familiar knock at the door where I would find a serving processor or a Sherriff on the other side waiting to give me papers indicating that he was at it again– trying to gain sole custody of the kids. This went on for so many years. The whole time I remained steadfast in my plight to keep my babies safe from him.

As the years passed it became increasingly more a

 

nd more difficult to protect them from him. His control over them was at an all time high and both children’s minds were being completely controlled by him. He was everywhere they were. And he could be because he didn’t work. Therefore, he was at school everyday volunteering in the classroom. If he wasn’t in the classroom, he was there during lunchtime. He had reframed their entire childhood to where I didn’t exist and that I was “Cunt Satan, whore, bitch,” or what ever other name he insisted they refer to me as. In addition, it was instilled into them that I was never to be trusted. It was unbearable to watch as my children’s minds were taken over by a mad-man.

I have spent countless seconds, minutes, hours, days, and years trying to understand and come to terms with how one evil human being can cause so much damage

 

that lasts far longer than the direct offense in the first place. It is one thing to be traumatized and victimized as an adult, we have a far greater capacity to have the perspective, understanding, and ability to help ourselves. But for that same thing to occur to your innocent child/children, or any child for that matter, it’s next to impossible to watch and live with on a consistent daily basis. This is not a one person problem, it is a problem that is insidious and infiltrates the DNA of an entire family until everyone is effected. Regardless if they were directly involved in the original trauma, they are traumatized by living in an environment that is wrought with constant chaos, anxiety, angst, uncertainty, and fear.

I feel like I am constantly wrestling with my own beliefs of what I know to be true about life, love, and most of all faith. This is what I grapple with, when you lose a child to an illness or tragic unexpected event, they are gone forever and you know that. I can’t imagine the grief, loss, desolation, devastation, and heart break. I have seen it first hand and it is something that you never get “over,” you merely get “through” and find your “new normal.” This process can take years and still there are those that never find peace. I imagine the goal is to never forget, but to move forward and experience some form of happiness and fulfillment again, because if you remain s

 

tuck in that emptiness, negativity, and the all encompassing sadness and guilt, you aren’t living either, and mind as well be dead with them.

*************I need to make this perfectly clear, I am not pretending to understand the magnitude of what these parents and loved ones are going through when it comes to the loss of a child. Nor am I minimizing their experience and feelings after such a loss*************

I am attempting to make sense of this idea both for myself and others of what a parents life looks like when you suffer essentially the same loss of your child/children due any form of childhood abuse and neglect, but instead of them being gone from this earth, they are still present and ostensibly doing “ok,” in our archaic and totally screwed up judicial systems eyes.

From my perspective it is imperative that society see’s that change is essential and it is critical for everyone’s future that we stand united in this fight to save our innocent youth from future damage that can be avoided by simply taking the time to listen, observe, and fucking give a damn.

Imagine for a moment that you are like I was, forced into

 

silence to protect your babies from further damage. Bound and gagged by the ideologies and laws that are much larger than yourself and you watch your precious children, day in and day out, being brainwashed and taken over by something and someone much bigger and stronger then themselves. Children are innocent and vulnerable, nor do they have the cognitive ability, perspective, or resources to protect themselves and their fragile psyches (mind, body, spirit) from the perpetrator. This person can be anyone in any position of power who is using these children to turn them into pawns to achieve what ever that individual’s desired outcome is. In my case, the “monster” wanted to eradicate me permanently from their lives.

The best way I can describe this to you is, it’s as though you are watching “who” your child once was, slowly being ripped from them and they for all intensive purpose are slowly dying at someone else’s hands. But, the strangest and most tragic part is that “who they once were” has been replaced by someone who looks and sounds just like the precious and

 

 innocent child you once knew; however, their mind has been so altered that they are nothing more than a physical shell of who they once were. They are  completely unrecognizable to you, even as their parent, the person who knows them far better then anyone else .

I realize this sounds very dramatic and unbelievable; however, I assure you that this is real because it happened to me and my children. I, as their mother, was forced to sit idly by and watch all of this occur because we live in a society where we make hasty uninformed decisions because doing ones due diligence and actually reviewing a case or looking further into allegations is far to time consuming and requires additional work. Most, not all, of those individuals in these positions of power don’t take the time or the extra effort to do the right thing and are far to quick to judge based on a whim, or how they are feeling that day, or the most egregious—passing judgment on one of the individuals purely because of their appearance and thus basing their decision or ruling on that. I know this to be true because that was my reality. We as a society have allowed the powers that be the cart Blanche ability to imbue us with their opinion that is loosely based on domestic law and flimsy statutes and precedents that are largely open for interpretation. And those of us suffering the loss, have to sit back and take it. You can choose to fight like I did, but that too can c

 

ome at an enormous cost:  financially, emotionally, and psychologically. Still leading to the to the same conclusion; those little people who you know to be your children have become strangers to you and have been brainwashed to believe that you are nothing and desire to have zero involvement in your or their extended families lives.

I ask anyone reading this, how is this acceptable? How do we as parents move forward?  Because unlike those beautiful souls who have passed on; if you believe in God and heaven, they are in a much better and happier place. Our unrecognizable and tortured

 

 children, are still here.  Living, breathing members of society, sometimes functioning and sometimes not. Except one very important detail: who and what those innocent souls were once to become, has been stolen from them.  Some find their way back with a lot of love, strength, internal fortitude, and hard work, while others remain lost forever.

It’s only natural that you want someone to blame to ease your pain and suffering.  Of course, there is the very person who caused all this suffering in the first place. But, they weren’t capable of doing it alone. In my case and for many others, the blame starts at the top and should be placed on the very institution that was set up to protect my children and all the others like mine. This is the reality of the world that we live in and the archaic judicial system we rely on. It is a travesty of the highest level and is completely unacceptable to me. I refuse to participate in perpetuating a belief system that turns a blind eye to life changing and/or life saving information that is simply overlooked because no one has the time or desire to care.

I am making it my life’s mission to make the time. In hon

 

or of my children and all those parents and children who don’t have a voice for what ever reason. Please know that I won’t stop until there is real and lasting change. Change that finally looks out for the “best interest” of the vulnerable and not what is in the best interest of those who could care less about how many countless innocent lives that are being sacrificed and ruined because no one cares enough to stand up and proclaim, enough is finally enough!

They say obstacles are the innovation of invention. Well, this is quite the obstacle and I am prepared to figure out how to invent a way to fix it. I challenge all of you who are reading this, don’t turn a blind eye to a situation that just doesn’t “feel right” to you. Take the time to observe and dig a little deeper and ask the sometimes hard questions when the answer

 

s don’t add up. Not everything is what is seems and having an open mind and heart may lead you into a position to change someone’s live forever.

I honor all my beautiful children with this; those directly effected by “The Monster” and those indirectly   effected by the aftermath of the trauma. It is because of all of you that I will never give up the fight to help protect and save as many innocent and helpless souls as I possibly can. Every child deserves a chance to be granted the innocence that they deserve. I fought l

 

ike hell and never gave up the fight to protect you at all costs, but unfortunately it never seemed to be enough and by the time I finally got you away from him, so much damage had been done. However, you all are such strong, amazing, and beautiful souls, I am confident that because of it all you too will become better, stronger, more loving, and phenomenal advocates for those in need.

To The Monster I Once Called My Husband

kelley small face
Todd, without having gone through the hell I did with you, I would never be in the position of having the opportunity to write my memoir, ‘Backbone.’ It is also because of you, and all of the terror and torture that you bestowed onto our lives, that I was able to become the empowered and liberated woman I am today. I never have had the ability, like my contemporaries, to just live life free and without fear of what you could possibly do next. I don’t know what that kind of freedom of heart, mind, and spirit look or feels like. Everyday I had to wake up and figure out how to keep my head above water and , “just keep swimming.” Always having to find another way to get what I needed and keep us safe, because sometimes what I was doing at the time wasn’t working.  Thank you for teaching me never to stay still and under no circumstance to ever accept “No” for an answer.I am not the type of person to stay stagnant and get caught up in all of the horribleness you put me and our children through. Nor do I sit around hoping and praying for the same horrible and unspeakable things to happen to you because you perpetrated those heinous and unspeakable acts onto me and my family. That is not who I am now or ever have been.  Instead, I choose gratitude, I am grateful to you, the very man that tried to destroy me, because you failed miserably. Thank you for helping me to discover where one’s true power lies, which has led me to become the woman and empowered force of nature I find myself being today. And I achieved all those great and wonderful things in response to you being the man and monster you are. Thank you for leaving me destitute and hopeless, where as a result I had no choice but to find a career that would provide me the ability to make the most amount of money in the least amount of time, in effort to successfully provide for myself and my family. Thank you for making me the mother to two of the most amazing gifts I have ever received .  Thank you for tearing me down to my core because without that I wouldn’t have had the strength to build myself back up from the nothingness I had become from all the years of your abuse and control. I also would have never had the empathy compassion for others that I do today.  I would have remained the self important entitled brat I was.  Thank you for helping me to recognize that all we need in life is love, food, and shelter. I was forced to leave all my material possessions behind for safety and would have done it a thousand times over again to free us from your wrath. Thank you for helping me find my purpose through helping others free themselves. Thank you for teaching me never ever to give up.  Thank you for giving me the ability to prove my strength to myself by saving the girl’s from you.  Thank you most of all for showing your daughter’s what never to accept in their lives and that there is goodness out there.  Thank you for allowing Dave to be their “real” father as a result of your actions.  Thank you for teaching me that although I lost more battles than I care to recount, I never settled or accepted the bullshit uninformed decisions made for me or our daughter’s, thus finally leading me to the end of “our journey” winning the war! Todd, I want you to know that I am truly free in every sense of the word. I am proud of who I am, I am passionate about my life and the path I am on, I love who I am, and most importantly– you didn’t–nor couldn’t–break me. And for that my Lovely, I am eternally grateful. With all that being said, “I thank you”