My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Clarification: Austin wants to hook up with Dean (Andrea's husband) to go exact revenge on Michael. That's what he meant by taking the b.b. gun.

OH! I added a copy of the original letter below.

Time for bed. Love and hugs, y'all!

broccoli and cheese soup is the new ketchup

Some entries just write themselves... Austin and I journeyed into civilization today to find a Costco and had lunch at Golden Corral (this is a treat, y'all!). He's always had the strangest eating habits... but today he actually took the skin off a piece of fried chicken and dipped it in his broccoli and cheese soup. I could hardly believe my eyes... but yep... that fried piece of fat... right into that ooey gooey soup. "What? Why are you looking at me like that? What's wrong with eating it this way?" I don't know, son. After all, broccoli and cheese soup is the new ketchup!

I had hoped to run into my friend today while I was out and about and he was in between jobs but I had second (and third and fourth) thoughts about introducing anyone new into Austin's life. He suggested that I split up from Austin for a few minutes to say hello and I really, REALLY was uncomfortable with that.... I know he's about to be 15 in one VERY SHORT month... but he's my baby... and he's a total flake... and his nickname is Lost-in... I wasn't comfortable leaving him alone for a second. Then I realized that I had never really discussed the whole Austin issue with this guy... that's a big disclaimer, isn't it?

For some reason, Austin was in the mood to talk today and I just let him run with it. Three hours walking the mall with mom is a great time to get things off your chest. The things he told me just made me want to weep... but I'm glad he's saying what he needs to say... it helped me and I know it will help him. He has asked to go stay with Dean for a few days to "take care of business"... "and, mom, can I take my b.b. gun?" That would be a - sure, you can hang with Dean whenever you like, and no, you can not take the b.b. gun with you. Austin said, "but I owe him one... not just for the way he hurt me, but the way he hurt you...".

Austin also told me that he was terrified the day after I overdosed when it was suggested that he stay in Jacksonville with Michael so that he wouldn't miss any school. He couldn't stay there. His education could wait for the two weeks that it took to get me well, settled and moved to the mountains. He has done an amazing job here at the White County Ninth Grade Academy. He loves it. His teachers are wonderful. He has made a lot of friends. He's making good grades, excited about learning, turning assignments in, bringing home stuff - actually bringing it HOME to show me. It has been a very healthy move for him. Not that we don't both still have work to do... but this is definitely the life Austin and I were meant to live. Even if there are no decent restaurants open after 8pm.

Funny that we finally have a chance to eat at a decent restaurant and we go to
Golden Corral. Oh well.

My Costco run was successful except for the fact that Austin wouldn't let me buy anything that was a staple in our house in Jax. No big pretzels. No blue crab dip. No jellie bellies. Not even bottled water "the water in Georgia tastes fine, mom!". I obliged. I've spent a lot of time focused on my healing. It's good for me to focus on his for a bit.

I thought we'd never get out of the house this morning. My phone rang off the hook! I had my usual calls from Dean... a call from my new crunch (btw, I know that the word is supposed to be "crush" but I like it better my way!)... a call from Bear... who had to track me down because I had never given him my home number! So bonus points for Barry for going the extra mile! He wants to plan to come up next weekend... and I would love for him to... it would be an awesome treat for me... but I will not be holding my breath or scrubbing my toilets.

I had to laugh, though, whatever happened to the girl who thought she'd be lonely without you know who in her life? My life is ten times fuller than it ever was with him. There are people in my life who actually WANT to talk to me rather than doing it out of obligation... and without arguing with me... or making me feel bad about myself... how much has my life changed? And I am so very grateful that it has. Life is good. God is good.

I got a second Valentine card today... two! And it's not even February yet! I'm going to be celebrating Singles Awareness Day the entire month of February and not even mind it! Especially with that big heart full of Russell Stover dark chocolate under my bed... that I'm enjoying... one... piece... at... a.... time!

I also got a beautiful note from my grandmother with the aforementioned monetary gift which will help tremendously. I am blessed. God has been so faithful to us... every time I start to get discouraged and feel like I can't do this alone... someone blesses us... it's an amazing thing to live through.

Austin has gotten so swift at sampling at Costco that he can now do it without even breaking his pace... while pushing the cart... I was impressed! I wasn't sampling much today because we were still full from Golden Corral.

Another phone call... more later! Hugs!

better blogging

I've decided the problem is not that there aren't enough hours in the day, the problem is that there is not enough me to go around. I used to joke during my last "season" of being a single mother that I didn't care to ever marry again (wish I'd stuck to that!) because I didn't need a man in my life... but I did need a wife. I still feel that way! There are so many things I needed to do last week and couldn't because of not feeling well/needing to be at work every minute I could to make up for time lost from work when I was NOT feeling well enough to work. There is potentially bad weather headed our way next week... so I have to squeeze in as many hours as I can around that too... and have to miss half a day on Tuesday to get the CT scan done.

One of the lasting impacts that Michael has had on my life, moving me - as he put it - "around like a chess piece" - is that although I have worked for the same company for six years, I have worked in four different agencies. Therefore I have no sick leave or vacation time. In some ways, that feels unfair to me because my boss benefits from my longevity with the company by not having to train me or spend money getting me licensed... but I don't benefit for my "brand loyalty". However, the economy being as it is... factoring in that I don't have a consistent job record over the past few years... I feel blessed to have a job. Even one that won't provide time off for the first year. It is what it is. I'd rather have a job with no time off than no job at all.

I do have the opportunity to earn a week off and airfare to New York City if I meet my sales goals for the year. Those are pretty stiff goals but I'm determined. The real prize was a cruise and I was less than enthusiastic because... well, seasickness. So I was allowed to choose my prize and that's what I picked! This means that I can crash on Bryan and Candice's couch and wander the city for a few days... enjoy some theatre with Bryan and some opera with Candice! I've got to get serious about sales because the commissions and rewards for sales make a real difference in my income. So all you Peaches who have been putting off buying life insurance, give me a call. I can sell anywhere in the state of Georgia and am willing to travel to any part of the state to complete a sale!

Confession: I'm crunching on someone, big time! There is this guy... we've been talking a lot. We have a lot in common. We had a lunch date scheduled last week but I was in no shape to make a first impression on anyone. I knew him in school... or knew of him, I should say... so he's legit. He's not some random person that I met on... oh, for instance, ... he seems like a good egg. I gave him all the prerequisite disclaimers - I'm not as thin as I once was, I've been sick a lot in the past year, I've had a really screwed up marriage that is not yet dissolved, I am a bit fragile... or he said, "broken"... and I'm still working through the emotional damage that was inflicted on me by a man who didn't understand the meaning of commitment. I'm jaded. I have trust issues. I don't accept compliments from a man because Michael started off with tons of honey... and as soon as I was hooked, changed over to vinegar.

Last night he and I stayed up late chatting on facebook... and my friend A.T. stayed up late chatting with a guy she's crunching on- also from our school years... and we giggled like school girls comparing notes. Who knows where any of this will go for either of us... pictures of A.T. and me at the beach last summer... she's been my friend for... nearly thirty years! She's gone thru a bit of heartache herself over the past month or so. We certainly would have never chosen to be in this Lonely Hearts Club together... but it's nice to have a friend who "gets it".

Stubby the 3Legged Wondercat is glued to me again today. He is using my foot for a pillow. He was mad at me last night because I wouldn't let him sleep in my room. I get tired of him licking me. It grosses me out. I mean... his full name is Stubby the 3Legged Buttlickin Toilet Drinking Wondercat... who knows what kind of bacteria lurks in his sandpaper tongue?

Drew Peterson's woman has left him. Pity. I think guys like him deserve to be alone.

Today's Proverb is the 31st chapter. A long part of the chapter outlines attributes of a woman of noble character. It's a beautiful passage, if you've never seen it, I encourage you to go to and check it out. One beautiful verse in it says this: Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

I don't get roman numerals. XLIII? Is that the number of this Superbowl? I'm really not invested in the process this time, although normally I'm a sports fan.

My dear Mr. Drake has steered me toward an attorney who can help with the divorce process. Unfortunately, I can't file until March 26 - I have to have been a resident of the State of Georgia for six months before filing. I wouldn't dare try to fudge those dates because I want this process to be entirely legal. The advice I've gotten thus far has been to file myself, file in Georgia where I can list the grounds of the divorce as adultery - in Florida there are only two grounds available: mental illness or irreconcilable differences. I want the public record to clearly reflect what actually happened. I have also been advised to seek restoration for the damages (things like making less, not having sick leave or vacation because of relocating twice for him) and protect myself from his "liabilities".

The thing is that I feel better today than I've felt in a long time - emotionally, anyway! The stupid ear thing is still giving me fits. That letter didn't hurt me, it healed me. It reminded me what a cad he is. He couldn't even come up with original material! He's recycling the same tired lines! I feel less duped now knowing that someone as intelligent as her could fall - and give up the important things in her life, the same way I did. I laughed my way through it... it's pathetic to me. It doesn't hurt. It validates the suspicions I had. It validates my decision to leave him. It validates all my accusations about the two of them. I'm good. Ten feet tall and bullet proof.

Time to glam and start my Saturday. Much to do. My house is a wreck. Austin is slacking on his chores, I have to crack the whip. I need to make a grocery run since we've been living on the "bounty of the pantry" all week. I've got bills to pay, laundry to do, etc, etc. Life goes on!

love and hugs! thanks for your encouragement!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Proverbs 30

As I've mentioned before, I typically read a chapter of Proverbs every day, the day that corresponds with that day of the month. Therefore today my reading is in Proverbs 30.

The cool thing about revisting the same chapters of the Bible each month is that it gives me real life application to this verse:
For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

There are times that I read the Bible and shout, "AMEN!" Preach it, brother. Tell the truth! Hallelujah! I can see the speck in my friend's eye.
And there are other times that I read the Bible and whisper, hoping no one is around to hear, "oh, me". Knowing that THAT verse was meant to show me the plank in my own eye.
Every trip through Proverbs reveals something special that I needed to hear that day. Every trip through Proverbs gives me a better glimpse of who God is. That's my goal, by the way, to know Him and to understand Him.

Think about it... when you meet that "special someone"... you want to know everything you can about them! You'll google their name... check out the website of their employer... you'll spend hours on the phone giggling and blushing about silly things like, "do you like your eggs scrambled or fried?" And if you're like me... on a lifelong quest for that special someone, you have the opportunity to find out a lot of info on a lot of people.

I want my passion for Christ to be a hotter flame than what has ever burned in my heart for any mortal man. I want to WANT to know Him better. Some days I wake up singing and shouting and praising God... some days I wake up sorta... ick. But every day I wake up and read Proverbs to see what new things I can learn about His character and His expectations of me.

The passage that spoke to me today was this:

21 "Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up:
22 a servant who becomes king, a fool who is full of food,
23 an unloved woman who is married, and a maidservant who displaces her mistress.

The 30th Chapter of Proverbs has several of these little word riddles. I like this passage because in a way, it validates my feelings on my marriage. "an unloved woman who is married" causes the earth to tremble... the earth cannot bear up under this... if you read it all in context, it's describing things that are contrary to the natural order and expectation of things. I know that I was not wrong, needy, insecure, desperate... any of those things. It is normal for a married woman to expect to be loved. How many women of my generation and the generation before me have suffered depression for the simple reason that their husbands did not love them? The love of a husband for his wife is ordained of God. It's supposed to be. It's a valid expectation. And when it doesn't happen as it should... the earth trembles.

God is good. It has been 19 weeks now. For all that time God has met every single need we've had... from a place to live, a bed to sleep in, a job, a car that runs, food, internet *smile* (I know that's not a necessity but it does make my life more enjoyable!). I'm happy and safe and I don't have to feel the pain of rejection every day as I did when I lived with him.

Must dash and glam! Have a beautiful Friday! *hugs*

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thankful Thursday

It's time for another Thankful Thursday post and today I'm actually doing it ON Thursday!

1. Our office renovation. I love the big open space I have now... with sunlight streaming in and the big storefront glass that I get to gaze out while I work. I also love my job, appreciate my co-workers and can't think of anything I would rather do for a living... other than theater. I am also glad to work for the company I do, to be able to represent and be proud of what we do. I am glad to work in Georgia, not Florida... State Farm is ceasing homeowners insurance coverage there.

2. My Blogger Babes (I am retiring the phrase "Mother Hens"). You guys always rally behind me and I love that you also rally around my friends. You girls (and guys!) are awesome! I am soooo sorry that I have not be a good blog reader lately. I will catch up this weekend... I'm planning to spend many lazy hours in the nest, just me and my laptop.

3. My nest. It's warm and cozy and just the right size. "Someone's been sleeping in my bed and she's still there!". Just like Goldilocks... I stumbled into this fabulous little cottage and found a perfect fit. I've got tons of pillows, a mountain of blankets, a great tv, my beloved laptop, a sweet son who brings me hot chocolate and hot cider and a cat.

4. About that cat. Stubby the 3legged Wondercat has become a demanding little brat in the middle of the night. Every night this week he has woke me up. If he's in the room with me - he climbs on my chest with his ... um... tail... in my face. If he's not in the room with me he headbutts against the door making this horrible loud knock that wakes the dead. But this is Thankful Thursday so I will say that I am grateful for my "Nurse Cat" who always wants to guard me and cuddle with me. I am grateful to have my OWN place to live where my children's pets are welcome.

5. Health insurance. Because my ear (jaw, whatever) is still hurting... the doctor wants me to have a CT scan tomorrow, if they can get me scheduled. The idea is to find out how much infection there is and what course of action they need to take. They could stick with the current antibioTic, they could put me in the hospital for IV antibioTics, they could put tubes in my ears (you know, like little kids do!) or they could, if the infection is too bad, they could remove that particular bone. That's the worst case scenario- that would take away my ability to hear in that ear. Because of the potential complications of this type of infection (like hearing loss) it's something you have to be certain to resolve. I'm grateful to have insurance to limit the amount I have to pay. Looks like I'll have another year of hitting my deductible early in the year. Yeehaw.

6. Leftovers. Tonight for dinner I had leftover chicken and rice from yesterday. Austin had leftover spaghetti from two nights ago. Good stuff!

7. Cupcakes. I love this blog: as it is all about the cupcake! It always makes me crave them! Be careful if you add yourself as a follower... they post ten times a day!

8. Friends. Between cyberspace and real life, my world is colored with some amazingly loving people. I have new friends and I have old friends. I am so blessed to be able to continue relationships, some that have lasted more than 3 decades! I am also blessed to begin new friendships. *you know who you are!* I am thankful for people who understand, who encourage, who give good hugs, who make me laugh, who share meals with us... I feel like I'm living in some enchanted story book land... the land of Good Friends. I don't take it for granted, not for a second.

9. The nuvaring commercial. I know it's about birth control... but I love the vintage bathing suits and bathing caps with the syncronized swimmers! Not that I'm against birth control, mind you, it's just not the type of commercial that people (myself) typically enjoy.

10. Did I mention that my rent is going down? Who does that?

Hope you all have your own Thankful Thursday going on, if not in your blog, at least in your heart!

love and hugs!

good stuff

This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

Repeat as necessary.

I'm better today. Yesterday I was in a lot of pain. I can't quite figure out why this "mastoiditis" hurts off and on. I'm glad that it doesn't hurt constantly. But it's weird. Last night I almost decided to go to the ER. Then I decided if I could just get to sleep... I'd see the doctor again today. I woke up this morning feeling much better. I'll see how it goes during the day today... I'm going to work, can't afford not to. Also... I hate just sitting here feeling unproductive.

Two great things have happened over the past few days (well, more than that but these are two biggies!)
1. My grandmother is sending me a "monetary gift" to help me. I'm planning to use it to buy new tires and get my car in good shape so it will last me several more years.
2. My landlord sent me a letter offering to lower my rent by $50 a month if I sign a new lease that will run thru February 2010. Let me think about it... um... Okay! Who does that? Prices are going up on everything! I was just amazed.

Thank you to my Blogger Babes who befriended Dean on Facebook. I want him to realize that he is not alone in his struggles, that there are strangers out in cyberspace who are concerned about him and his children. I am able to walk away and leave that world behind me. Dean will have to deal with it for the rest of his life. I try to encourage him as best I can.... but sometimes it's just the two of us limping along.

Time for me to glam and go to work. Hope you have a beautiful day! Love and hugs!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mother Hens / Blog Babes needed

I sent a facebook invitation to some of my Mother Hens/Blog Babes to be friends with my buddy. If you get a weird invitation... a name you don't recognize... it might be what I sent. He can use your kind words and support, this has been a long, arduous process for him.

a tribute to a survivor

One of my prayer warriors over the past few months has been my friend Natalie. I used to describe her as "My sister in law's friend" but now I am proud to say that she's my friend too. Natalie is a beautiful example of finding beauty from ashes. She is a dear, special, precious lady and just one of the many dear, special, precious people at First Baptist of Helen that have made my transition easier. Say what you will about organized religion - I would have said it myself six months ago - I know that without a doubt this church... THESE people at this church... have made a huge difference in my life... and continue to on a daily basis.

Yesterday was the third anniversary of Natalie's husband's death. He committed suicide. Her husband was my brother Jim's best friend. The article below is copied from The Christian Index (without permission, please follow the link back if you want to see more of their informative and inspirational articles). I want to share this because I now know how depression can change a completely normal, sane, grounded person into a stranger that they don't even know themselves.

A few weeks ago Natalie and I talked about how tough Christmas was... and although I was not alone, it was a hurt that I couldn't articulate... people want to help and I want to be helped but there are some emotions that you just have to go through on your own. Sometimes those tears are cleansing. She joked about the upcoming holiday, "Singles Awareness Day"... haven't heard of it? Most people refer to it as Valentines Day... but if you're single... it's just a big old exclamation point on "SINGLE!".

If you scroll down my blog a few entries, you'll be able to see pictures of Jorjanne from last Wednesday night.

It was a bitter cold January morning in North Georgia when Natalie Flake woke to hear her 4-year-old daughter, Jorjanne, coughing. A runny nose and the hacking cough signaled a doctor’s visit for the morning.
Her husband, Michael, told her he was getting out of the house for the day. She was more than pleased to hear those words since he had left the house only once in recent weeks.
He said he was going for a hike and planned to spend time alone with the Lord; he wouldn’t be home until God had spoken to him. She asked him what he would do if God chose to be silent. He guessed that meant he would be in the woods for a long time.
They exchanged “I love you’s” and mother and daughter headed for the doctor’s office, leaving Michael gearing up for a hike in the North Georgia mountains that he loved.
When Natalie returned later that morning, she touched the blinking red button on the answering machine and listened to her husband’s voice.
He said he loved her. He was sorry for all he’d put her through. And he asked to make sure that Jorjanne always knew he loved her.
With an overwhelming sense of fear, she hit the replay button and listened to his words a second time.

And she knew he was saying goodbye.


Michael and Natalie Flake first headed to the North Georgia mountains as newlyweds. Married less than two months, the two signed on as semester missionaries with Helen First Baptist and Georgia Mountain Resort Ministries. Michael became the assistant to Kyle Woodfin, who was both pastor of the church and director of the fledgling resort ministry. Natalie became youth minister at the church. It was Michael’s energy and enthusiastic faith that first struck Woodfin.
“He had been a leader at Truett-McConnell College and from the very beginning he felt a calling to the northeast Georgia mountains. He was so excited for the Lord. The energy he brought was an encouragement to me,” Woodfin said.
The semester assignment turned into a US/C-2 position through the North American Mission Board. Eventually, the Georgia Mountain Resort Ministries separated from the church and the couple was appointed as missionaries, funded by NAMB and the Georgia Baptist Convention.

Photos from the Flake family album show happy times. However, between the smiles the family battled the private darkness of bipolar disorder.From the beginning, Michael relished the work in the resort community. He and Natalie worked with volunteers, summer missionaries, semester missionaries, and others who came to lead Bible schools at campgrounds, host worship services at resorts, perform in downtown Helen, and minister to the year-round community.
Under Michael’s leadership the ministry gained a reputation across the Southeast for being organized, effective, and fun.
Then, about three years into his work in Helen, Michael lost his energy and his drive.

Natalie grabbed her phone and called Michael’s cell phone. In a monotone voice, he told her he was at a church in nearby Blairsville, sitting in the parking lot. He asked only one thing, over and over again: He wanted to speak to Jorjanne.
Finally, unable to get him to talk about anything else, Natalie gave the phone to their daughter. She could hear him telling the little girl how much he loved her.
When Natalie took the phone back, she knew she had to ask.
“Michael, are you fixing to do something stupid? Are you trying to tell us goodbye?”
He didn’t answer.
She persisted until finally he told her he was tired of being sick. His wife and daughter deserved a husband and father in his right mind.
Natalie reassured him that they only wanted him.
He said he was going hiking and he turned off the phone.

The couple’s family doctor diagnosed Michael with depression. He prescribed medication for a short period and it worked. But six months later, he again became tired, sad, unmotivated.
His mood swings worried Natalie – this wasn’t like her husband. He went back on the medication, this time for the long term.
Summer came and with it came the added responsibility of mentoring summer missionaries. Fanning out across the resort areas in North Georgia, the college students worked every day with every aspect of the ministry.
During that summer Michael seemed even more energetic than ever. He slept only two or three hours at night. Then he became irritable, demanding, and sometimes irrational. He stepped on toes, caused hurt feelings.
Natalie knew something was wrong; Michael just thought he was getting over his depression.
It would be another year – and four more episodes of mania and depression – before Michael was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder.
Once called manic-depressive disorder, it is now referred to as bipolar disorder – a disease that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, and ability to function. The disease cycles between mania, normalcy, and depression, although not always in that particular order, said Scott Andrews, a psychiatrist in LaGrange.
It is a disease that can be treated, although it’s never easy to treat.
“It’s one of the hardest illnesses to treat and it’s one of the most difficult mental illnesses for a family to deal with,” explained Andrews, a member of First Baptist Church.
Michael responded fairly quickly to the medication and within three or four months his moods had leveled off. That’s when he decided he could stop taking his medications.

“He believed that if he prayed enough, God would heal him,” Natalie recalled. “I told him diabetics take insulin and this wasn’t any different. The medicine wasn’t controlling him, it was controlling the illness.”
For Michael, as for many Christians dealing with mental illnesses, the diagnosis brought feelings of embarrassment and shame.
“There is a stigma attached to mental illness,” Andrews admitted. “Some people view it as a moral weakness. All you have to do is straighten up or think better thoughts or pray and you’ll be cured. In other words, you’ve done something to cause the illness, so you should be able to do something to get yourself out of it. Sometimes that’s true. But it’s not true with schizophrenia or bipolar because they’re genetic illnesses.”

When Michael turned off the phone, Natalie called one of his closest friends and told him she was afraid for her husband’s life. He agreed to call the police.
She called her parents, her pastor, and a few others. They came to her home to be with her, pray with her, and wait with her.
It was 6 p.m. before she heard from Michael again. She questioned him on the cell phone. He was confused and couldn’t tell her where he was, although he was on a hiking trail.
Night was nearing and the temperatures were dropping. She realized he didn’t have a coat or even a flashlight with him. She begged him to come home, to at least come down the mountain.
He told her he was scared, tired of the mood swings, so scared, so confused, so scared.
So scared.
He agreed to come down the mountain, but before he ended the call he told her his cell battery was getting weak.
A sheriff’s deputy came to her door seeking information, wanting to know if Michael had ever left before.
This isn’t a prank, this is real, she told him. He’s sick. We need to find him.
She prayed that someone would find his truck and get to her husband soon.
At 9 p.m. sheriff’s deputies found his truck, parked at the base of a mountain, and began searching nearby trails.

Although Michael’s illness escalated, he didn’t want people to know about it. He asked his wife to keep it a secret and she agreed. During times he was severely depressed, she would head for his office at night and do as much of his work for him as she could.
“He was afraid that he’d lose his job and couldn’t provide for us. I was a stay-at-home mom and his was our only income,” Natalie said.
But the pressure of keeping the giant secret became almost painful as his behavior became more and more erratic.
Once, Michael found a house that was four times more expensive than the house the couple already owned and he was convinced that they were to own the house. He bought a car that they didn’t need and couldn’t afford. He saved their plastic milk jugs and empty two-liter plastic bottles because he might need them one day. At times, he went through the trash to make sure Natalie hadn’t thrown anything “good” away.
One cold winter day, Natalie came home to find her husband on the roof. All the windows and doors in the house were open, but he couldn’t explain to her what he was doing.
Unable to handle the stress by herself, she finally shared their secret with a small group of women in a Bible study group. “That was wonderful to know that I had people standing by me. It was such a relief,” she said.
But there were other times when the church was the place she was most frustrated.
“People just don’t understand what it’s like to deal with a mental illness. I would convince Michael to stay on his medication and then we’d go to a church where he was speaking and someone would crack a joke about depression or say that you shouldn’t rely on drugs to make you feel good. People don’t realize comments like that can be so damaging.”
During the final six months of 2005, doctors were able to find the right combination of medicines for Michael. He felt good and people noticed.
“For six months our marriage was stronger than ever. We took a four-day train ride to Lake Tahoe together and it was wonderful.” Natalie recalled.

A few weeks after that trip, Natalie left Michael at home while she attended a conference – which included one session called “When Life Hurts” – and called home one evening.
“I heard it in his voice. Sad, unmotivated,” she said. She shared her concern with a friend who wondered aloud if Michael had, once again, stopped his medication.
“He wouldn’t do that. He’s past that,” Natalie assured her friend.
But when she arrived back home, she confronted Michael and he admitted he had stopped his medication.
“He believed God had healed him, so he stopped his meds without telling anyone,” she said.
He started the medication again, but they both knew it would take at least a month, maybe longer, before he would see any results.
Two weeks later he told his wife he was going hiking and he wouldn’t be home until God had spoken to him.
There was no word throughout the night. Natalie sat with friends and family, mostly in silence. There was some small talk and a lot of prayer as midnight came and went.
At about 1 a.m., Natalie called the sheriff’s office and was told someone was on the way to her house. She hoped for good news.
It was 2 a.m. before a car pulled up in the driveway. She opened the door and, seeing a man in a cleric collar, collapsed to the floor, crying. She was told that searchers had found Michael shortly after he took his life, sitting on the mountain that he loved.
Next to him were a Bible and his journal.

It’s been almost two years since that January night. Since then, Natalie Flake has learned to continue living much as she did with her husband: one day at a time. Today she works at Truett-McConnell College in nearby Cleveland and continues to tackle the job of single parenting. In recent months, she and her daughter have begun to again experience joy.
Her church family has stood by her through the nights of grief and the days of healing. She recently completed her master’s degree. Her final project was titled, “Finding hope in depression from God’s word and His sovereignty.”

Days after burying her husband, Natalie Flake held his journal and read the last words he wrote. Among the pages scrawled with his writing, were these words:
“I know that if I die tonight God will welcome me with open arms.”

some things that make me go...hmmmm

I love the book of Isaiah. I've been reading in it a lot and am committing parts to memory as part of my current Bible study. I love the last line... "with His stripes we are healed". Not healing... past tense... healed. It's my inheritance. It's already there. I'm healed.

There is a friend I've recently reconnected with on Facebook. She was in my youth group growing up. She asked what I'd been up to lately... loaded question, right? And as usual, I was honest and transparent with her. It is never my intention to glorify the hurt but to glorify the Healer. It's a risk... I don't want to be seen as a "head case" or have people feel sorry for me. Feel sorry for who I was! Rejoice with me for who I am now! Life is good!
At any rate... she wrote back and told me that her husband of twenty years just left her for another woman. Can you imagine the hurt? I can't even pretend to understand what that would be like. My heartache is not so much in what I actually lost as it is the loss of a dream... that never materialized. To have been married her entire adult life and had three children with a man who just... walked away... I don't know that I have the wisdom to guide her. I just said, "please find someone who is trained to deal with these things and talk to them as much as you can." And I said, "please come up here and spend a Sunday with me at First Baptist of Helen and let us love you." That's the key. Surround yourself with Godly people who will love you, encourage you, admonish you when you stray down an ill-advised path. And, of course, I told her I would pray. I mean that too! My favorite picture of my "big boys". Ryan and Cody - sharing the same bed as they have for years - and sharing their bed with Cody's cat, Tommy, who thinks that Cody is his own personal posturepedic.

This picture of my Jamie gurl just makes me laugh. She is Aunt Heather's baby drama princess! So girlie-girl, so feminine, sooooo sweet! I love that little girl!

posted for Dean... which would you choose? Girls... he could use a pick-me-up... let him know that you think he is - in Kelly's words - "hot, hot"... and please, avoid the use of f bombs! Dean has had an eventful visit with his kids this time... and he's sick (he says he feels fine but he sounds awful)... and spent six hours on a plane yesterday waiting to be de-iced so he could get from Louisville to Jacksonville.

I went to sleep early last night and slept well but woke up early - before 4am. I've been watching for symptoms that I was told would indicate that there are complications from this mastoiditis... this morning I have a little tingling and numbness around my right eye, some dizziness, and horrible ulcers in my mouth from the antibioTic. I'll call the doctor as soon as they open this morning. I've been studying this stuff on the internet and it usually requires a 2-3 day course of IV antibioTics in the hospital... a CT scan to determine the severity of the infection... and sometimes the mastoid bone has to be surgically removed. The problem with the surgery is that it causes hearing loss. I just haven't got time for the pain. This is a picture that shows the "mastoid process". It's a bone that is porous - like swiss cheese - and infection can fill it. One thing they can do to drain the infection is put tubes in your ear... just like they do with little kids!

I feel bad for the timing of this thing. Kevin (who works with me) has a horrible infection in his eye. He's been toughing it out at work but he looks just miserable. Between his eye, my ear and Ginger's slipped disc in her back, the front part of the office is barely limping along.

Pain won't keep me home but the dizziness... I don't know how to work around that.

But I have lunch plans today! With a nice man! We're not saying it's a date... it's a meet and greet. Mary, I'll facebook message you to let you know who it is. You won't remember him, I don't think. But then again, you remember a lot more about our school years than I do, so you might.

Hope you all have a beautiful day! Love and hugs!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

tuesday stuff

I went to work this morning and felt pretty durn good today... as a matter of fact... I was pain free for most of the day. The ick came back around 4:30... like a bolt of lightning into the side of my head... while I was quoting some new auto business. My job is to be cheerful and enthusiastic and engaging... to convince people that they want to let my company handle their insurance business. I was faking it big time this afternoon... but I am so grateful that I made it through the whole day! I wouldn't have dreamed it possible this morning.

Look back over the last year of my medical history: adenomyosis, nevus sebaceous, mastoiditis... three words that weren't even in my lexicon... yet they all have shaped my life.

Of course, there are some other words that were out of my vocabulary at this time last year... faith, hope, love, joy, self-worth, unconditional, compassion, community, family, friends... and reintroducing those words into my life has made for a much better quality of life.

My grandmother sent me a sweet note over the weekend and she did it -without even knowing the circumstances that brought me here. It is so God for her to have written this... saying exactly what I needed to hear... even though she didn't know. In the same way, I will read the notes that were left in my Grandma Pennington's bible and they are straight to the heart of the matter. They bring me much peace.

On the way home from work today I passed a dead raccoon in the road, a dead rabbit in the road, a dead possum in the road and a dead skunk in the road and it STUNK! Sarabeth and Jamie play this game where one will say, "I was walking down the road today and you know what I saw?" "no... what?" "I saw a dead skunk with guts oozing out all over the road" "ewwww" "and you know what I did?" "no, what?" "I one it." "I two it" "I three it" "I four it" "I five it" "I six it" "I seven it" "I ATE IT!" and then they both scream "ewwwww!". This can go on for hours and involve however many people are around. This is typically a car game.

Austin has discovered Jon and Kate plus 8. He watches all the episodes and makes fun of how the kids talk. It's sorta cute.

Jim and Michelle Dugger are visiting Haight Ashbury tonight. They visited a head shop and didn't realize it. She is soooo the Anti-Kate!

BTW... I'm blogging under the influence. I toughed it out all evening but had to have some pain relief tonight. I stayed up late last night sparkin' and I'm worn out today. So I'll be checking out soon.

Austin made dinner for me tonight - spaghetti! It was his first time ever making spaghetti. I made some pictures... will upload them tomorrow, maybe. He also made cobbler. I supervised him making it once and now he knows how to do it! The instructions I wrote down for him are still in the window sill. He had to glance at it, but at least he is cooking! I need to compile a book of easy recipes for my boys for when they're out on their own.

It's been a good day... thanks for all your encouragement today. Love and hugs!

just a whine

I didn't sleep much last night despite the lovely meds that were prescribed to keep me comfortable. I am not comfortable. I am not sleepy either, which is good. I am going to work today. I can't afford not to. I thought I was in pain on Sunday. This morning is a whole new level of pain... my face is swollen... I look a mess. It feels like someone is jabbing an ice pick through my ear into the back of my throat. It all hurts.

I have "lunch plans" (not calling it a date) tomorrow with someone I went to school with many, many moons ago. He's a nice guy. He thinks I'm a nice lady. We have been chatting. Life goes on, right? Of course, this is all contingent on whether or not I look like the Elephant Man still tomorrow.

Ok. I'm debating the whole idea of going to work. I'm in so much pain that I'm shaking. I think I'll try taking a shower and see how I feel after that. Prayers appreciated.

love and hugs.

Monday, January 26, 2009

well... it's not an ear infection

Well, mother hens, the old girl doesn't have an ear infection. And it's not TMJ, as I had suspected. It's mastoiditis, a rare complication of ear infections. I'm (once again) on some hardcore antibioTics, pain meds, muscle relaxers (because it causes tightness in the jaw muscles which makes the pain worse). If you google mastoiditis, it basically says that this is what used to kill children back in the days before antibiodics. It's a leading cause of hearing loss. So... needless to say, I am glad that the pain was bad enough that I wanted to go to the doctor... and slightly (only slightly) freaked out about the potential complications. I trust that I will be fine... and I will take my antibioTic, even if it makes me sick. :raises right hand and solemnly swears:

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play? Seriously. It was not a bad day. I would have loved to feel better but I think all things considered, I'm ok. I sent out a mass "everyone in my address book" invitation on Facebook and am (slightly) embarassed. Of course, being a dork is what I do best, so even that isn't as much of a problem as it once might have been. Or maybe my antidepressants are doing their job! Ha!

The good news, the really good news, is that *despite being at the end of the pay period* I managed to have enough left in the checkbook to manage the doctor's visit and the three prescriptions I needed, despite being at the beginning of the year (and having to pay everything out of pocket). I was a little worried that I would have to go begging to be able to afford one or the other (doctor visit or prescriptions) but it worked out ok. Oddly, everything seems to work out ok in the end. If it's not ok, it's not the end.

The upside to all of this is that I have ZERO appetite. Maybe this will get the weight loss jump started. I won't be running any marathons this week... but at least I'm pausing before every bite (since it feels like knives cutting into the back of my ear whenever I chew).

Life is good, y'all. God is good. Love and hugs!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

pictures and stuff

I posted during night last night about being in pain and unable to sleep. I got up this morning and deleted it because I HATE looking at those whiny posts.
What's happening is that I keep having this pain that is at the place... if you reached up from the back of your ear, right where the ear meets the head... that's the spot that it starts but it radiates up as high as my temple and as low as my shoulder... down my jaw... through my cheeks. It comes in waves and sometimes is much more intense than others. Ibuprofen doesn't help at all but muscle relaxers do. For this reason... and based on what I found out at the ENT last month... I'm thinking this is more of a TMJ issue than an infection. Ice also helps... so it seems like swelling more than infection.
Last night it was unrelenting and this afternoon it was unrelenting. I slept from the time we got home from church until about 6. I'll be back in bed in just a few minutes. We were having a big music thing at church tonight and Austin was supposed to start back to Bible Drill but I couldn't take what I needed to take to get rid of the pain and still be able to drive. Austin was understanding and kind about it... but he was definitely disappointed.... which is cool in a way, he likes to go to church.
It was bad last night and bad this afternoon but at the moment it's ok. I didn't manage to get any landry done but I was fine through church. We hung around after church this morning so Austin could help set up for the program tonight. I had a few minutes with the girls so I took some pictures of them and of my friend Michelle's kids...
Jim and Angie brought barbeque back to the church. The little barbeque shack in town only has outdoor seating and it was just a little bit too chilly for that. Jim and Angie had to stay for youth choir... and then had to be back for the music program... so they had a full day. I thought we would too... I wanted to... but wow... that was an insane pain!

Ok... pictures to share... have a great evening. Love and hugs!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

News from the nest

I stayed up waaaay too late last night. After my little adventure to discover life past 6pm, I was keyed up and the boys were keyed up and we all stayed up most of the night. I crashed around 3am, Austin and Devin much later, if ever. My mom called at 8:45 to tell me they were on the way up here... I dozed a little bit after but got a few more calls and finally gave up and got up.

My parents' car was in the shop for a week and so they had borrowed my grandma's car. Grandma lives "over the mountain" in Hayesville, North Carolina (it's about 45 minutes from here, not that far from me but a long way from my parents' house). Cody and Marquee came along with them... they drove one car while my mom and dad drove the other. Mom and dad stopped by for a minute but Cody and Marquee came and hung out with me in the nest. Yep. In the nest. I read my Atlanta Journal Constitution on and we watched a Few Good Men (just for the court scene) and chatted. Cody went and got Mickey D's and they had lunch in the nest with me. *laugh* OH how times have changed! (note to Candice, I did not eat McDonalds but I did eat the muffin that Robert Drake brought up from the city for me last night... I mean... it was a gift!) Love having my Cody boy around! He is doing great in school and enjoying his "new" car (thank you A.T.!). They brought me the paperwork so I can register it for him this week. I'm paying for the insurance for him as long as he's in school... and it's cheaper/easier for me to tag it here.

Mom and dad came back from "over the mountain" and brought me a sweet note of encouragement from Grandma. I put it in my bible so that I can save it. She's 85... and has had quite an adventure herself. She has a "sweetie" who is in his early nineties and in failing health so she is taking care of him. That's the kind of relationship I long for... one that loves unconditionally, regardless of what you have to offer in return. Some think that's impossible. I know otherwise. There are many in my life who love me unconditionally and they are a great treasure to me.

Austin and Devin had a great time together. The best thing about having Devin over is that next time it will be Tobye and Kevin's turn! Ha! I'm kidding. Having Devin over is much less stress than having some random kid over, since he's family. I don't have to use company manners for him.. I have known Devin his entire life... and his father his entire life... there is an adorable picture floating around my house somewhere of a preschool (and blonde) little me peering into a little crib at teeny tiny newborn cousin Kevin. We are so blessed to have family living near us, especially family that brings so much joy to Austin.

Today has been a fabulously lazy day. I haven't even gotten out of my pjs from last night! I haven't showered! I haven't even brushed my hair! The only place we've been is to the Ingles and to take Devin home. At the Ingles I saw my friend Pam and said, "I'm embarassed to see anyone looking like this!" and she said, "you actually look great". The old girl's still got it! I wasn't actually wearing pajamas. I sleep in these really comfy yoga pants and a tshirt... I threw a sweatshirt over it... and... well... there ya go... ready for prime time. Or something.

My big news for the day is that the Ingles expanded their salad bar! Woohoo! They also have an olive bar that includes such big city delicacies as marinated olives, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella. They also added a chicken wing bar but that kind of grossed me out. Chicken sitting out in the open air of a grocery store for hours... mmmm.... I'll pass.

Spread out in the nest right now: the remains of my dinner, my old (inoperable) cellphone which is now my phone book and alarm clock... the landline phone in case my buddy calls... the New York Times that Mr. Drake brought me... my bible... my remote control... even though I have my shows for the evening preprogrammed. Miss America is on tonight! It's not the same big deal that it was when I was a kid but I still love a good beauty pageant. I always think about the movie, Drop Dead Gorgeous with Kirsten Dunst.

I didn't quite get laundry done today but I carried the dirty laundry into the laundry room... that was a start. Cody fixed my vacuum cleaner today... so I need to vacuum. Austin is dead tired so I'm giving him a little break from chores. Tomorrow will be a pretty full day for us... church in the morning, bible drill at 5pm for Austin, church at night... and in between I'll try to straighten up a bit. Today is R&R day for me. As soon as the construction on the office is finished I'll be working most Saturdays... which will mean that there won't be any day of the week that I have to totally chill. This is both good and bad... staying busy is great... getting worn out and run down is a bummer.

Soooo... that's the news from the nest for today. It's not always high drama!
love and hugs, y'all!

Heather's Boys

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closing down the Waffle House

Stop the press! I was out after dark. I know... it's crazy... so unlike me. After my last line of my last entry... that I was needing a hug from the fabulous Mr. Drake... he made the journey to the far northern suburbs of Atlanta... and I made the journey south into civilization... and we shared a few wonderful hours of conversation with each other... and Austin and Devin.

Well. The thing is... it's not a great idea to leave those two alone together. So... they tagged along and entertained us and annoyed us.

My friend was kind enough to come bearing gifts from the big city - a real newspaper, the same day edition of the New York Times! A muffin from a real bakery (the amish bakery here is closed for the winter)... some reportedly amazing chocolate... some chocolate from Lebanon, complete with Arabic writing... and some beverages *wink, wink*.

It's been three years since my last encounter with Mr. Drake and he has gotten better with age... and I got that hug that I had wanted. Life is good.

From the "life in a small town - a degree and a half of separation" files, Robert reminded me of the one other person he knows in Cleveland. He had sent us an email introduction before... but when he brought her up tonight I said, "who are her people?" Because everyone who lives here either came here for college and liked it.. or has family here. It turns out her people - her parents - are my landlords.

Also from the "life in a small town" file... we "closed down" the Books-A-Million, which amused my Austin, whose mother rarely ventures out after dark except for Sunday nights and Wednesday nights at church. We asked someone in the parking lot where we might find a place to eat "late" (10pm) at night. He said, "Atlanta". No kidding. They roll up the sidewalks! We ended up at the Waffle House for a late night snack for me and the boys... dinner for Robert. Austin said, "what if we close down the Waffle House?" Poor trick. Doesn't get out much.

It was definitely worth a "late night" drive... which reminded me that it's time to get my eyes checked. The boys were on "deer patrol". It was, I'm happy to report, a safe journey and absolutely worth it.

On the ride home we joked about the Circle M gas station. In the musical Avenue Q there is a line about starting out at Avenue A and not being able to afford it... and ending up at Avenue Q. So the joke with the Circle M is that it's for the people who can't afford Circle K (a chain gas station around here). I thought Devin wouldn't get mine and Austin's goofy Broadway reference. Turned out that Devin knew of one song from Avenue Q - the internet is for porn. I mean... he's 16. Devin was surprised to find out that I had the cd... he had heard a friend's mp3 version of just that song. I said, "Um... it's on Broadway... it's showtunes". Funny how kids don't know how cool showtunes can be. He was relieved, I think, to hear something other than my contemporary Christian praise music.

Ok... it's late for me... gnight y'all. Love and hugs!

Friday, January 23, 2009

better living thru pharmaceuticals

I don't know why I picked that title. It came to me today while I was joking about needing meds to survive our crazy job. Today we had two different people who where in the same accident come in to file claims five minutes apart. I can't give the details but one person was clearly at fault and the other was clearly a victim to someone's carelessness. I am proud to say that within an hour of the accident the victim had an appointment to get her car repaired. I'm there, man! Medicated or not...

Seriously. I do love my job. They got the glass wall put up at the office this afternoon and it looks great. They will take down the brick in my office this weekend. After that it will just be a matter of putting in the new flooring and ... I think I'm getting a real workstation instead of the two tables that have served as my desk for the past three months. Duane asked for my ideas about my workstation. I asked for a chandelier and bean bag chair. Ok, not really. I could NEVER reach my computer from a bean bag chair!

I had a great chat with Duane today about goals for this year, some marketing strategies, my role in the agency, working Saturdays, all that good stuff. I still think he's a great guy and I'm glad to work for him. We have a bank marketing contest coming up so we brainstormed on that. I will be decorating a bank display for our office. Get to let some of my creativity out. Maybe even use sharpie markers....

My friend and former co-worker Whitney "Dub-Shap" Shapiro and I had this mutual fascination with pieces of cardboard or poster board that would find their way into our office. We would drool over the sharpie possibilities. I do love markers. Whit's BF Richie Rich (ok, it's the other way around but my way is cuter) was ranked #3 in customer service at the bank where he works... a major US bank... he was #3 in the entire COUNTRY! He won a fabulous trip to Puerto Rico... which was then cancelled because of the bank bailout. No perks. I told Whitney it was ok... can you imagine going on a trip with the NICEST bank employees in the whole country? Buh-uh-oring! She'd have more fun on a Friday night here in the mountains...

But I will say that I'm snug as a bug with Stubby the 3legged toilet drinking, butt licking wondercat poised beside me. I talked to Dean, who is heading back to Louisville for the weekend and then put the phone down on the bed. Stubby always tries to insinuate himself between me and any objects he perceives as receiving more attention than him... so he is now guarding the phone. If it rings he'll come out of his fur. But he's making durn sure that I'm not going to love the phone. He's already asserted his dominance over the laptop and the remote control. I don't have the bible on the bed tonight (he will usually nudge the pages)... but I do have pulled up on the computer.

Speaking of that... I am pleased to announce that the Frog has been healed from his pebble blockage! There is much rejoicing with the Dean-ettes back in Jax! Score one for the awesome power of prayer! God cares for the sparrow... and the frog. Actually... for me, it was just a beautiful example of faith for a little girl who could use a little something to believe in right now. I am blessed to have never had to survive a divorce (as a child) but I know that there is an epidemic of walking wounded kids from the divorce wars. My own suffered a bit in that respect.

There is no suffering at the mountain hideaway tonight... Austin's best cousin, Devin is spending the night. Devin is loud. He and Austin together are loud but they have a great time together and it gives me a break since Austin is entertained. Money is tight for us until payday... but Austin was resourceful. He dug some hamburger patties out of the freezer to cook for dinner for he and Devin... (instead of the pizza we would normally order) and made tea (instead of having the soda we would normally have)... and found some tortilla chips and salsa and just had their whole evening planned. Devin brought his bb gun so we will head off tomorrow, maybe to Jim and Angie's to hunt milkjugs. Good times.

My comment section has been blown up today. Don't be shy y'all... say what you really feel! Seriously... I would prefer if we could avoid the f-bombs as I am bitter here but not profane. Look... it seems from the surface that there is a lot of unrestrained anger... and there is... but you have to know that the people who were closest to me WATCHED me deteriorate. They bore witness to the craziness in my life and begged me to get out. There were a precious few people in my life who knew what was really going on, who I cried to, who worried, who tried to intervene, all the way up to the day before the wedding. They knew. For that matter, I knew. At any rate, I debated all day about whether to leave the posts up and whether to leave the comments up... and here's the thing: for three years I couldn't say what I wanted to say. Every time I did I would be bullied into removing the posts and removing the comments. Every time I tried to speak my mind, I was hushed. You have no idea the damage that causes to a person over a period of time.

My goal through blogging is to be transparent. This is the real deal. God has been good to me. My faith is stronger than ever. I don't want to glorify the hurt... I want to glorify the healer. I know that unless you understand, at least to some degree, the full extent of the hurt I've felt, you can't understand the amazing healing that is (present tense) taking place in my life. I also know from my experiences here in the blogosphere that there are a lot of hurting people out there. If every post I write is Sunday School squeaky clean, people will think that they have to live a perfect and holy life to have a relationship with God. Let me tell you... Jesus came to save that which was lost. Jesus came for the least of these. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.... all of it... my bitterness, my imperfections, my dramatic tendencies... and I know that my calling is to help those who feel uncomfortable around "churchy" people to feel like they can identify with a God who heals.

I have read back over the posts from yesterday a few dozen times and they will remain a part of the story. They are truth. They are the closest we have gotten to truth in my blogs since April 1, 2006, the day I met Michael. There is some amazing, fabulous, exciting and... well, less dramatic, stuff going on in my life now and I am thrilled to be here... thrilled at the opportunities that present themselves to me.... thrilled to be alive, to be on the road to good health... thrilled to have a loving church family.... and I am blessed to have friends who love me so passionately that as soon as the gloves are off, they are ready to jump in and unload. It's ugly.... but it's just the ashes that are left... there will be beauty to come from these ashes. You now know our starting point, our "before picture"... and now you can rejoice with me with my successes.

I love you all.

PS to Robert... your postcard made me laugh out loud. Have I told you lately that I love you? Will find my way down your way very soon as I am in need of one of your hugs!

Thankful Friday

I missed my Thankful Thursday post in the middle of my rant... and I am thankful! Life is beautiful.

1. that I had the foresight to purchase a "go phone" last December. It's activated and loaded with minutes and I will not have to fear an emergency.
2. that I never really had to fear an emergency. God is good. He has protected me from so much as bumping a toe and met all of our needs throughout this process.
3. casual Fridays - the best free benefit an employer can give. it definitely changes my morale
4. friends who have stuck with me throughout this whole ordeal. friends who have cried with me and for me. friends who have passion and anger beyond even that which I can muster.
5. my friendship with Dean. it was an unexpected gift throughout this process. his passion for his children and for being a good father is unsurpassed.
6. Abbie - yes, Remo, I do treasure her. Every time I see her I say, "Abbie, do you know that I love you?" and she always grins from ear to ear and says, "Yes. I know".
7. I stayed up past midnight last night talking to a new (old) friend. Right at the time I needed a pick-me-up I got a message complimenting my pictures on facebook. We chatted until after midnight and exchanged phone numbers.
8. Austin is delighted because his best cousin Devin is spending the weekend with us. It's sort of a tradeoff... they are loud and goofy together but nothing makes Austin happier than hanging out with Devin. Devin is one of the big reasons we moved here... after being a gypsy for my time with Michael, Austin deserved to settle in the town where his "best cousin" (really his second cousin) lives. Next year they will be at the same school. I'm sure at some point we'll be bailing the two of them out together... but they make each other happy.
9. The power of prayer, the Grace of God, the forgiveness for sins, the fact that his mercies are new every morning. God is performing an awesome work in my life and I am grateful that he is with me throughout this process.
10. I'm free, y'all. Every time I talk to Michael he says something else stupid or mean or hateful and I just hang up the phone (as I did last night) with a smile on my face. I can't tell you how precious freedom is. I can hang my clothes however I want in the closet, hang the toilet paper however I want, I can reuse towels, wear ponytails and open toed shoes, I can sing in the car, I can blow kisses heavenward when I go through a yellow light, I can say whatever I want, eat whatever I want, weigh whatever I want, wear whatever I want, I don't have to wait and wonder when he's coming home from work, I don't have to worry about whether or not bills or paid or what dirty little secrets are contained in all of his unopened mail, I don't have to be called a head case or a pill popper, I don't have to face persecution for my faith, I don't have to worry that my children will be physically and emotionally abused any more, I don't have to dig under the bed to find his dirty socks, I can watch whatever I want on tv and I can EAT IN BED if I want. Freedom.

About the pictures... Robert, don't worry. I don't WANT to post those pictures. I think it's an abomination that they were taken in the first place. If you can imagine waking up in ICU and realizing that you had come close to dying, watching your family members gather around you and feeling the full weight of guilt for causing them worry, knowing that you could never go back to the situation that drove you to that state of depression and then... your "loving" significant other sticks a cellphone in your face and says, "I want you to see what you looked like". What? I can only assume that it was done to push me over the edge and to finish me off... in the same way that bringing the rest of my pills to the hospital and giving them to me showed a lack of judgement... and in the parting words I was given as I was taken back to the psych ward for my state mandated stay, "You're Terri Schiavo now... I have all the power... I can keep you here for six months if I want...".

The pictures were meant to be a tool of control over me, the mention of them and the threat to use them against me meant as blackmail. I don't think it's prudent to post them anywhere. Yet I wanted to make sure HE knew that he has no power over me any more. I'm acknowledging that for nefarious reasons, those pictures exist and all who know me and love me will be traumatized by those pictures as I am. It's not like they're a sex tape made with my knowledge... while I was unconscious he violated my trust, when he should have been protecting me. To me, that's a greater infidelity but also a great example of the abuse I suffered. The tip of the iceberg.

Dean has a great attorney and I believe he will be successful in his attempt to protect his children from the pain that my children suffered. My children are more than willing to help in any way they can. I have not contracted with an attorney yet... but have a good friend who would help if I asked.

Time is running short... have to get ready for work. It's good to be here and good to be free!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Good times!

Dean's kids - Troy and Alexis on the 4th of July at my (soon to be ex) brother in law's house.
Pictures of the kids posted with permission from their father.

Alexis eats her first crawdad with encouragement from her dad and Cody
Cheyenne surveys the action from the safety of her car. She's a bit shy.

Alexis and the crawdad. She's an amazing girl. You can tell what a close bond she and her dad have. She is definitely a daddy's girl!

aking of daddy's girls... here's my Jamie-gurl playing the drums before church last night. The drums are in a plexiglass cage to reduce the noise a bit.
I've mentioned before that my sister-in-law Angie, Jamie's mom plays the drums for our worship servies. Jamie has a pretty good form there, doesn't she. And she couldn't be any cuter!

I couldn't get my Picasa program to work to be able to edit the picture but you can tell how precious she is!
Speaking of precious... this is Abbie and Jorjanne. Jorjanne's mom is my friend Natalie.
And this last picture is Jorjanne and Sarabeth. Sarabeth has lost a tooth - this time it was one of the top front teeth... and she is wearing goggles for some reason that only a six year old girl would understand.
Good times!

the gloves are off

Wow. So much to blog about tonight... I don't even know where to start! This will be a "text" post and then I'll do a photo post. Too much trouble to blend them!

Major construction at the office tonight... they're supposedly taking down the big brick wall that is in the middle of what will be the lobby/my office once construction is finished. I have pictures... will post later. So much to say first.

Alexis' frog is still hanging in there. Funny story - Dean had the frog over the sink trying to massage out the little pebble blocking ... well, the frog's exit... and he accidentally dropped the frog in the garbage disposal! He ended up having to take the garbage disposal apart to get the frog out! And by that time the pebble and some poo had made their exit. This morning, however, there appears to be another pebble. I'm not sure where the pebbles are coming from but Froggy seems to be totally wrecking his digestive system with them! Alexis is very emotional about her friend but appreciates our prayers for his well-being.

My sweet Abbie asked me last night at dinner about the guy who came to Christmas Eve service with me... she said, "um. that guy with the hat, is that your husband?" I said, "No... that's my son". And we had a discussion about who my kids are and how old they all are. I've only been closely acquainted with one other child with Down's Syndrome, so I don't know if it's coincidence or if this really is a common trait... Abbie has a deep interest in relationships, who belongs with whom. And our friend Ashley was the same. Every time she would see me, she'd ask about each of my children and where they were. Once she had established who was where, she was happy. So last night Abbie says, "where is your husband?" I said, "Florida". She said, "are you married or divorced?" I said, "well, we're still married but we live in different places and we're going to be divorced." She said, "are you sad about that?" I said, "oh, very sad. I think it's sad any time a husband and wife can't stay married." She asked if she should pray for him. Definitely. I said, "oh, that would be very nice". Abbie was content to know where everyone in my family is.

So. About that family. Well. Since our separation, the only real support that Michael has provided for me is in paying for the cellphones that Austin and I use. He also pays for Andrea's cellphone, although he says that is none of my business. Lucky girl! Her attorney is requesting that Dean pay ALL of her living expenses, including her car payment and insurance and all their debts... and Dean has to maintain a residence in Louisville since he *wisely* accepted a transfer there to keep from losing his job (which has been phased out in Jacksonville)... AND... her attorney wants to prevent Dean from staying at the family home while he's in Jacksonville 3-4 days a week to care for his children (while she works as a waitress and contributes nothing to the support of the family)... so if you're counting, that means that Dean has to pay for THREE residences... and on top of that my husband is paying for her cellphone.

Ok. I'll admit to being a bit bitter. I'm working on it. I had a long, unpleasant conversation with Michael tonight and I believe this will be our last. Michael cut mine and Austin's cellphones off today. He says that he couldn't pay his bill and they all got cut off and that his mother had to pay to turn them back on... and his mother would only pay for his and Andrea's. I find it hard to believe that his mother said, "Let me pay for your phone and that of your mistress". Or girlfriend. Whatever she's going by. She told their neighbors that she's not seeing anyone. Michael called her his girlfriend on the phone tonight. They haven't done a good job of coordinating their stories.

So those of you who have my cellphone number... who are used to texting me... well. Those days are over, friends! For the time being the only cellphone I will have is a go phone I bought on December 6th (the day after Michael told me to leave him and his girlfriend alone - only he didn't say it as nicely). I have a landline at home and I have a phone number at work. Otherwise, it's email only, baby! The Go phone will be for emergencies only. It's too expensive to use with any regularity. My credit is too screwed up for me to get any... ANY sort of plan. Believe me, I checked all of them back in October when I first left Michael. I'll be ok. God keeps providing for me exactly what I need. This is just another one of those things that I apparently don't need right now!

The sweet thing... something I'll always remember... Misty was concerned about me being without a phone and offered to buy a phone for me. That's the kind of person she was.

I have been warned, cautioned, whatever you want to call it (threatened) that if I reveal anything here about my relationship with Michael, that he will post pictures of me that he took while I was in the emergency room after my overdose. I invited him to do that. I think that the first question people will have is ... "why did you take pictures of your wife while she was unconscious?" And the second question would be, "why did you take pictures of your NAKED unconscious wife after she had attempted suicide and FORWARD them to your girlfriend? and then why did you lie to your wife and tell her you had deleted them when you hadn't?" I have nothing to hide. The truth is that I entered into a relationship that was never right for me and tried to make it work. There was an enormous amount of pain for me and it led to a deep depression that was improperly treated and exacerbated by an unfaithful and abusive spouse. The end result was that I wanted to die. By the grace of God and the love of some wonderful people in my life, I have moved on into a life that is a perfect fit for me, one in which I am appreciated and validated and ... well, happy.

The fact that I have moved on does not mean that I will not occasionally feel anger/grief/bitterness/frustration/hurt/disappointment/etc from the traumatic events of the past few years. The fact that I have moved on doesn't mean that I won't need to talk about things here... in my forum... on my soapbox... in the way that I need to... to be able to work through this. I knew when I married Michael that it wouldn't work out. That doesn't mean that I didn't love him... I loved him beyond what he deserved... I loved him sacrificially to the point of losing myself. I still love him. It's a different love now. It's a sad sort of ... I can't believe another human being is capable of inflicting that much pain on me... especially when they claimed to love me... it's a regret, more than anything. For almost the entire time we were together he would say to me, "you don't really love me". Or, "you don't even know what love is". I found that insulting, I still do. Look at the relationships in my life that have lasted DECADES... look at the commitments I have kept... the compassion (a word he would not allow me to use) that I have for my fellow man... I understand love. And I loved him. And I would have continued in that state of loving him, while starving for his love in return, until I died. And the simple truth, the inescapable truth is that once he said to me, "I've tried to love you but I can't" I couldn't imagine a world without him.

He says that it's the fact that I'm a drama queen, that I need to be the victim, that I need to make him evil. I can only tell you what I feel. It was dramatic. It was the most desperate feeling in the world... to have walked away from everything that mattered to me in life - including my children - and to realize that I had given it up for nothing. There are stories that I couldn't share then, that I have restrained myself from sharing in the time since our separation out of fear that he would punish me by cutting off the cellphones. Well. They're off. And so are the gloves. I will say whatever I need to say, however I need to say it, as it comes up.

I am healing. I am working so hard on my Breaking Free bible study... breaking the chains of captivity... the things that hinder me from an abundant and spirit filled life... let me tell you, my love for Michael is the heaviest chain around my heart right now. I will not be able to spring forward successfully into a new life until I free myself from all of those bonds. Part of that is in talking it through... venting, maybe. He mocked my religion tonight... he has always mocked it... and said that he has atoned for the sins he committed against me... (although he did NOT, he says, violate our marriage vows as he claims that since we were not married in "the church" that our marriage is not valid. *eyeroll*) He says that every time I talk about him or the things that went wrong in our marriage that I'm sinning against him. God will deal with me on that and I will submit myself to God's authority. I know that when someone plays the kind of headgames that he has played with me, that the only way to sort through to the truth is to speak the lies out loud and hear how ridiculous they are.

I tried to reason with him, yet again, tonight. I tried to make him understand the depth of the pain I felt. He says I wouldn't talk to him then so he didn't know... now... anyone who has known me for five minutes knows that I talk about EVERYTHING, ALL of the time. Little chance that I failed to talk to him. Maybe he didn't hear me. Maybe he didn't hear me because he didn't listen. Maybe he got scared once he made that huge commitment. I just know that almost immediately after we said, "I do" everything in him screamed, "I don't" ... I mean, we spent our wedding night at a bar in a casino with him chatting it up with one of his work friends while I sat (ignored and exhauted) waiting to go back to our fabulous hotel room and start our mini-honeymoon. We got back to the room and he passed out from drinking so much. Woohoo! Feelin' the love!

There are so many stories like that I have been unable to talk about. For so much of the time that I was with him I had to watch every word I said. I was constantly "in trouble" for something I said or didn't say to the kids, to his co-workers, to his family, to Misty, to Stephen's mom... I was always in trouble for anything I felt. I was always in trouble for the things I ate... and the programs I watched on tv... and the fact that the house wasn't clean... part of my freedom now is in being able to say whatever I want to say... however I want to say it.

Now I'm off to post pictures and then catch up on my facebook. Love y'all!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

there are more stars here

On the way home from church tonight Austin said, "hey mom, have you noticed that you can see more stars here?" In the mountains, he means. I think the truth is that we can see a lot of things more clearly here.

I have some cutiepatootie pictures that I took of Sarabeth & Jamie, my friend Natalie's daughter (and Sarabeth's BFF) Jorjanne and my sweet Abbie. I just can't get my editing program to cooperate. Maybe tomorrow.

Abbie overheard us call Austin, "Auggie" which is the name that the family has always called him. Abbie asked if she could call him that. I told her he wouldn't even notice. She tried it tonight... and then she giggled after he left, "I called him Auggie". Auggie thinks I've lost my mind because I suggested he could take Abbie to their school Valentine's Day dance. He's new here but he's made a lot of friends and I think if he were to show some compassion to someone like Abbie, it could only endear him to the other girls. I told him it was up to him... no pressure.... but that if he doesn't have a girlfriend by the Sr. Prom that he's taking Abbie. I just want her to be able to participate in all the normal activities of a teenage girl.

Dinner tonight at church was meatloaf and mashed potatoes and salad bar. Angie and I were laughing so loudly that we got shushed (in a friendly way) and called cackling hens. We just enjoy each other. She's the sister that I had to wait 26 years to get. We just have a good time together.

Church on Wednesday night is so much more about fellowship than any other service... visiting between tables, getting hugs, catching up from the week... it's just very relaxed and friendly. And since Angie plays the drums on Sundays we don't really get to sit together on Sunday mornings until right as the sermon starts and then after the service they usually have a meeting or a rehearsal or something going on. Wednesday nights are our bonding time.

My Breaking Free bible study went well. We have a few new ladies in the class and it was the first week of the study so we were a little reserved. But I do love those girls. Austin came in at the end of the study *we're all moms so no one minds when a young'n comes in* and one of the new ladies said, "I know who you are! You're Jim's sister!" And then we had to debate whether or not Jim and I look alike. Mistie had her new baby in class nursing. We had another little on... it's just a warm loving, friendly, family place to be. I love these girls!

My sore throat was only a minor irritation today. I didn't lose my voice as I had thought but it IS hurting now that I'm home and still. God got me through the whole day. Now I can chill.

I am up to 237 friends on facebook! I could be like.... Facebook Prom Queen or something! *joking*

The last I heard on the frog who swallowed a pebble was that he was hanging in there. So is dad. He had an important review today regarding the custody issues and he feels encouraged. I have been praying... I almost want to go down there and just wrap my arms around them all and pray right there, in the moment and let them feel the awesome power of God... and the compassion ofthe holy spirit.

Well. Without pictures, this is just a boring entry. Leave me some love and some inspiration.

love y'all