I have been in your shoes, you sweet and lovely girl. I know the panic and gut-punching that comes with finding out that your husband (my now-ex, not the current husband, who is all goodness and light) has a subscription to a cheating site. I remember how awful it felt to see "Adult Friend Finder" on the bank statements, knowing I didn't look my best because I had three children under age three and I was exhausted, haggard, and out of shape.
I know the wrenching, surreal emotions that go along with realizing that your husband is spending hours on his computer, viewing pornography. That it's really what he prefers to you, and that you can never measure up to it.
I know the shame that goes along with a cheating spouse. The blame. The voices in your mind that tell you it's your fault - if you were a better cook/housekeeper/money-maker, he would not do this. If you were prettier/thinner/smarter, he would not do this.
Let me tell you, sweet and lovely girl, that it is not your fault. Whether you stay or leave is not my business, but you need to know that this is NOT YOUR FAULT and you are worth so much more than how you are being treated.
For me, the day came when I realized my kids were learning how to treat me and other women by watching their father. My sons were learning that it was okay to be a little mean, a lot dismissive, and absent much of the time. My daughter was learning that it was okay to be treated poorly. So I got up my nerve and left him. He is stunned to this day that we have moved on.
Over the years since I left that abusive and insane situation, I have learned that it was not my fault. He was the one at fault. He was the one who chose Adult Friend Finder and images on a screen over a real family with fantastic children. He was the one who made the poor choices.
After I left, I met someone (new and Cute Husband) who showed me and my children how a woman should be treated. He is kind, he is there, he is wonderful. Slowly, he has helped me see my own worth. He is a model for my children for how a husband and (step)father behaves toward people he loves and supports. He saved us.
Sweet and lovely Anna, you do not deserve this pain. You do not deserve this all to be splashed on the pages of People magazine. Your children do not deserve this. Whether you stay or leave, know that there are legion of us out there supporting you, who have felt the shame and played the blame game. You must stand up for yourself and your children to stop this cycle. It'll be the most difficult, yet most worthwhile, thing you do.
Okay, I'll just come right out with it, and hope I don't lose readers. I like boy bands. I have Hanson and One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer songs on my running playlists. Their breezy pop tunes just make me happy, and their saccharine smiles are so sweet. One of the best times I had with my daughter (age 14) was when I called her out sick from school last August, and we spent the weekend in Chicago with another mom and three of her besties to see One Direction. While I didn't go into a helpless comatose state when Zayn left the band, I do wonder how long they will stay together. Someday soon, I fear, they will break up for good and attempt to have solo careers that will also fizzle. They will grow up, and at least one will end up on celebrity rehab, and my daughter will have to find new posters for her room...
But I digress. In my mind, I hear my 18-year-old self mocking me. "You're so lame, old lady. How did *I* turn into a boy-band loving, suburban-dwelling, cardigan-wearing, minivan-driving meal-planning, boring mom who likes BOY BANDS and young adult books? I was SO COOL and you ruined EVERYTHING."
I really was cool then, with my long, tangled hair, thrift shop clothes, Doc Martens, and red lipstick. And I was so tiny - I remember when I could wear fishnet stockings and a tube top for a skirt and not hear people whisper "eye pollution" under their breath when I walked by. My most loved "boy bands" were the Red Hot Chili Peppers (a high water mark of my college career was touching Anthony Kiedis' foot while pogo-ing in a mosh pit at one of their concerts), AD/DC (I once camped out overnight on top of Market Square Arena in the days of carnival seating to get right up by the stage for their concert), INXS (RIP, MIchael Hutchence), and The Cure. Oh, and Duran Duran, of course. I felt edgy and hardcore.
So what happened? Why do I find myself on the morning of a 5 Seconds of Summer concert, which I am attending with daughter, mom friend, and a scrum of teenage pals, kind of excited, even though we have lawn seats and it's hard to haul my old self up and down off the ground? I think part of it is trying to recapture the "cool girl" I used to be (and still think I am in some of my moments of insanity), but it's mostly the joy I see on my own daughter's face as she screams along with the lyrics and takes part in something bigger than herself as she looks around and sees thousands of other girls doing the same thing.
Or maybe, I just lost my taste in music along the way, along with toned thighs and a waistline. I'm sorry, 18-year-old self, that I have let you down. But I'm thankful for the memories.
After a few years of teaching from home for a wonderful virtual school, I decided to go back to a traditional, bricks and mortar high school this year, in the district where my kids attend school. It was a dreadfully difficult decision, because I worked with some spectacular people, but I had gained 20 pounds sitting behind and desk and spent a lot of time talking to my cat. I missed the daily interaction with people, the movement around a building, and the energy of students in front of me. I guess that makes me an extrovert, though I never really thought of myself that way.
Some things I have observed in my first two days back:
Eleventh graders are REALLY BIG. Some of them look 25 years old. My memories of 11th grade include gawky, pimply kids with braces. These kids are toned, healthy, and have shiny hair and straight teeth. My neck is sore from looking up at them to carry on conversations. The upside of this is that I feel sort of dainty, which is nice.
One kid told me I was pretty funny (which, let's face it, I am). He then pointed out that he has a concussion. He's my new favorite student.
American Literature is AWESOME. I am privileged to get to teach it.
Every teacher is different. Every teacher is effective. Every teacher loves his or her students.
Being in the same school as my daughter gives me great power. Bwahahaha.
If you tell the kids they have to give you a standing ovation when you enter the room, they will comply. In fact, they will do pretty much anything you want if they think it will help their grade, or if they think you know their mother.
Most high school boys in Indiana, especially the football players, have an unhealthy hatred for Tom Brady.
Most of the girls do not care about Tom Brady.
Picture day is still as horrifying as it was back in the 80s. You still have to tilt your head slightly and sit up straight. They do not, however, give you a flimsy comb any more. The girls come to school dressed to the nines; the boys look like they do every other day of the school year (except for the theatrical types).
Getting out of bed, dressed, and ready to leave home by 7:15 is hard.
No matter what the public perception of teachers is, I remain convinced they are the best people on the planet. One teacher stands outside her door as students enter, shaking each hand and greeting each student by name - all 120 of them - on DAY 2 OF SCHOOL. Another created a whole program for at-risk kids in his spare time so no one falls through the cracks. These stories are repeated ad infinitum across the country. I am proud and humbled to be part of education.
So while there are things I miss about teaching from my cozy little home classroom with my cat at my side, being part of a live school culture (wow, that sounds like something that lives in a petri dish and will soon be part of yogurt or kefir) is also rewarding and constantly entertaining. I only hope that the cat will forgive me.
I was 15 when my father left, almost 30 years ago. I came home from school one day, and my mother was there, which was shocking in itself. She had gone back to work as a reporter for our local weekly newspaper, and was rarely there in the afternoons, so I instantly knew something was amiss. She sat my brothers and me down and told us our father had left for awhile to think things over. I knew I'd never see him again.
A little backstory. My father was not a good man. Charming, yes. Handsome, I suppose. He had many friends and I sometimes adored him. However, he was an abusive drunk, and the words he said to me still ring in my ears sometimes. Loser. Fat. Stupid. The words he said to my mother were worse. Dingbat. Whore. Bitch. I watched her cower from him in fear, and later in my life learned that he, more than once, placed a gun to her head and threatened to kill her. But he was my father, and when he was sober I thought he was the greatest man on earth. He taught me how to ride a motorcycle, appreciate good music, and how to throw strikes in softball. He took our family camping and waterskiing and drove 95 miles an hour in his Triumph convertible as we screeched with delight in the back seat.
I wasn't sad that he was gone, which caused guilt of its own. Weren't you supposed to be sad when your parents split up? Hope that they get back together? All I felt was relief that I wouldn't ever again be hollered at and slapped for drinking "his" iced tea. Or for walking through a room too loudly while he was watching television.
The man was gone, but his legacy lingers to this day. My mother went on to marry another man who was not much better (not a drunk, but certainly not a kind person), I think because the damage my father did could not be undone. I went on to make some pretty terrible choices of my own, because a little girl believes what her father tells her. Loser. Fat. Stupid. My first husband treated me like dirt, but it was my normal so I accepted it. Loser. Fat. Stupid.
I found out recently that he died in 2010. There was no cause of death listed, and also no next-of-kin. He was 62 when he died, and I have to assume it was from the chemical abuse he inflicted upon himself. I will always wonder if he ever thought about the three children he left behind. Did he care what happened to us? To my mom? As a parent, I cannot conceive of walking away from my children and never looking back. My only regret upon learning of his death is that I never got these answers.
Sometimes I think about what life would be like if my father had been different. If he had been a caring man engaged in his children's lives. I cannot conceive of what it is like to be close to a father. I wonder if he ever considered the lifelong impact his actions had.
All I can do now is be mindful of how I speak and act toward my children. It's taken deliberate action on my part to NOT yell. NOT belittle. NOT hit. But I think the cycle is breaking. I never want my kids to think I did not love them with my entire being and believe they were the best children ever born. I hope I am doing okay.
Today is your lucky day! It's Rebel Ink Press Blog Hop Day! Rebel is the brave publishing company set to put my first novel out there - news on that coming up soon. Please visit the Rebel Reasoning Blog for links to other great Rebel authors.
Visit three different author pages and comment below on what you think of them! I'll randomly pick a winner to send a free excerpt from my book and a $10 Amazon e-gift card. Happy reading!
Yes, I have a BFF. We became friends in the third grade when, after I was kissed on the cheek by a captivating, bespectacled redheaded boy at the top of the curly slide during recess which resulted in my life and limb being threatened by a bully thrice my size who apparently held unrequited love for said redhead, she saved me and immediately we became inseparable. Her name is Amy, and I love her like a sister.
I was thinking about all the things we have done in our lives, and how she is one of the few people on this planet who gets why I am funny. She is now the lovely mother of 4 wonderful children, and homeschools (though she is not an anarchist). We both lament our messy homes and lack of free time, but ultimately really like our children and want to be with them.
In youth, we were forever trying to be popular. Amy coined this phase "our never-ending quest for popularity." I am sad to report the quest just sort of faded, and neither of us reached the pinnacle of social success. Our biggest attempt included choreographing and performing an alluring dance (with 3 other friends) to Celebration"by Kool and the Gang in the fifth grade talent show. She, the more realistic of the two of us, knew that if anything we'd become less popular. I, the one who is perpetually embroiled in unrealistic fantasy to this day, envisioned the reigning Queen Bee asking us to teach her and the other popular kids the dance at recess and taking us into their fold. Since Amy is infinitely smarter in all ways, our social stock did indeed plummet.
But we always had fun. I loved going to her house, because her mom was a great devotee of Hostess snacks. I don't believe there was ever a time that the pantry wasn't well-stocked with Crumb Cakes. Once, we buried an old lipstick in her yard, and we tortured her brother, who to this day speaks only in grunts. We immensely enjoyed torturing my mother, once by brandishing matches in the woods and threatening to "blaze a trail". In our baton class, we were taught a routine to Superfreak by Rick James. Whatever was that teacher thinking!
We were once yelled at by the elderly couple across the street from my house while singing/playing piano for our own rendition of Tonight, I Celebrate My Love for You. Later on, I realized with horror that we had just performed Kiss by Prince on karaoke night at the Bombay Bicycle Club in front of my future step father (see the Karoake post for more details on this). Music, for some reason, was always a big part of our time together.
We went to rival colleges, I to the great Indiana University, she to Purdue (also known as Undue Perversity). She was in a sorority; I just mocked them with my unsuitable, mohawk-wearing boyfriend and shot the poor pledges with water guns during rush. She married the perfect man; I, well, didn't. (At least not the first time around. My current husband is perfection and will likely pop up in a future post). She's tall and dark; I am squat and blond. But through it all we have never forgotten all the times we've laughed until we cried (and after all our collective kids, probably peed a little, too). Amy always listens and doesn't make fun of me when I am sad, at least not until later when I can see the humor. She is as good as a soothsayer in predicting the next girl to be eliminated from America's Next Top Model, too.
So here's my homage to Amy, the best girl there is! I only hope that everyone has a friend like her.
My friends in another state are having an ABBA karaoke party tonight, and I can't go. I found out about the soiree on Facebook, where I get to read about all the people having more fun than I am. If not for the low balance in my checkbook, I would have boarded a plane immediately to hang with them all for nice round of Dancing Queen.
My plan tonight includes folding laundry, convincing children to go to bed, and reading another chapter or two of Brideshead Revisited. If I am lucky, The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia will be back on the Netflix. But my heart will be with my most awesome friends and a certain Swedish band who produced the most singable music in history.
I admit without shame that I love karaoke. My first flirtation with it was singing the great Prince song Kiss with my BFF Amy at the Bombay Bicycle Club in Indy. We did a fine falsetto, and to my horror after we were done I saw that my future stepfather (who turned out to be a vile man who is now contesting my mother's will, but that's another story) was at the bar....
Another song I can do very well is Tainted Love by Soft Cell. I perfected that one the summer of my 20th year after being dared to do it by Bill the Lawyer (one of only two lawyers I can abide, and whom I always referred to as Bill the Lawyer, which caused him no end of eye-rolling) who was 7 years my senior, which was our ultimate downfall. He made me sing it every time we went out anywhere, so accurate was my rendition. I was very popular in the boring-lawyer-party circuit of the early 1990s.
There really is nothing more goofy and life-affirming than singing pop songs to bad, tinny back-up music. For awhile, a few terrible years ago, it seemed that karaoke was fading out of style. Thank the heavens and good sense that it seems to be coming back into vogue. One great example was the dulcet tones of Hammer Dan (who has a fantastic blinking sign announcing "Dan-A-Roke"), overheard at Hopwood Cellars, home of the amazing wine shake and moonshine grape. I felt among my people as I watched Dan bring everyone out of their shells for some great tunes.
In the meantime, the mountains of laundry await me in my current mundane life. I keep checking my phone for messages calling me away to somewhere else, but alas, none are there. I will never end my quest to convince some innocent bystanders to come along with me to sing badly in front of strangers (could be tricky, but I did birth twins, so anything is possible). Hammer Dan will be back August 21 - any takers?
Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.