Grief and Loss, Love, Pets, Uncategorized, Unconditional Love

Unconditional Love and Four Paws

For as long as I can remember, I have always had a dog, sometimes many. My childhood was not filled with happy memories; but it was filled with love and lots of fur. There were many times in my life where I didn’t have friends, well not the human kind, but I always had a friend in my dogs.

I was lucky to have dogs at home and at my gram’s house, and even at my dad’s house for much of my time there. Some of my earliest memories are of times spent outside playing with my four legged friends. My gram had a hound dog, Daisy, who she adopted when she failed to make a great hunting dog. She was tall and lean and brown spots covered her silky white coat. She was older when we met, and to escape from some of the other dogs my gram had, she would rest on the floor of my gram’s closet. She made the perfect companion when I needed to escape from the world with a book. I remember many days when we sat together under coat tails and slacks.

Another friend was Jake. He was a handsome red Golden Retriever. He was gentle and patient and made a great friend to lay on the floor under a comforter in front of the television while I colored. He was a calm old guy, who could always make me feel safe. When he went for rides with us he loved to sing. A favorite song of ours had lyrics that went sort of like this: We’re going for a ride, and we’re never coming back, and the train goes choo-choo. A little darker than I remember as a kid, but he loved it and howled along with us. I can still see his smile as he sat in the back seat between my brother and me.

A sleek black Doberman Pitbull mix was one of the many dogs that lived with us when we moved in with my dad. She was my guardian, and tried her hardest to keep me safe. This often resulted in her getting hit or kicked out of the way. When a neighbor boy broke into our home as a joke, she was the first to greet him with a fierce bite…he learned to never try that again. She came to Bob’s house with us when we left my dad, and her fine judge of character skills was sharp…he knew the easiest way to get away with being miserable was to get rid of Zuul. He pulled her tail and when she growled at him we had to find her a new home. That was one of the hardest goodbyes, because she didn’t understand why she couldn’t come home with us. I felt like I had let her down. In hindsight, she probably had a much better life without him in it.

Candy was a sensitive Husky that lived with my dad and his mom. She was white with grey course fur. She loved me as her own, even though we didn’t see each other that often. My dad could be cruel, but she loved him no matter what. After he died, she would sit at the end of her leash on the top of my grandmother’s lawn waiting for my dad to return. She eventually died of a broken heart. She was my savior when I visited my grandmother and dad. I didn’t speak unless I was hungry, thirsty, or wanted to go to the bathroom, but Candy didn’t care. She sat with me and let me pat her as anxiety and fear circulated my insides.

Lady, a slender Golden Retriever with long red hair came home with my mom one day she went to the grain store. She came to us with two names because her previous owners were in the middle of a custody battle over her and couldn’t even agree what to call her. My mom said the man said if she didn’t take her he was going to shoot her. My mom could never resit a new pet and Lady came to live with us.

Lady quickly became my best friend. There were many days she was my only friend. She was sweet and motherly, giving me the love and comfort I couldn’t find in my mom. She played hide and seek and tag with me. Some days when my sister and I were at school Lady would walk the half mile to see if she could find us. Teachers sent her home, but she was always looking for us. When I moved in with my gram, a scratch at the door would let us know Lady was there for a visit. She would sit on the couch with me or even lay on my bed with me while I listened to sad 90s music. She would stay with me until my mom yelled over for her to return for the night.

When I was seventeen Lady was at the end of her life. She had Cancer and we were told we had to say goodbye. I went to the vets with my mom and stayed with her as they administered the dose that would stop her sweet, gentle heart. I lost my best friend that day, and vowed to never let any other dog past my wall because I never wanted to feel that pain again.

Toby was an early Christmas gift the year my dad died. He was a long haired mix with big brown eyes. His brown, white and black fur never stayed neat, much like how I wore my hair. He was my first dog I could call my own. He loved me and helped me through my first real loss. He came with me when I went to stay at my gram’s house, and later, when I was in foster care, he was able to live with me too. He got me through many emotional days and nights. He knew all of my secrets and loved me just the same. After losing Lady, I still loved Toby, but I distanced myself enough to not feel the pain. I honestly do not remember now how or when Toby died.

Abbie and Scott are the dogs that came into my life as an adult. After a few years of not having any dogs in my life these two became part of the family. The vow to not get too close still stood, and even though their love and sweetness exuded from them, I did not want to let myself get hurt again. They have been through a lot as pets in a domestic violence household. They were both abused and still give as much love as they can. Abbie was depressed and Scott has anxiety due to the environment they were in for the first few years of their life.

When we were able to escape the domestic violence I started dating. I knew I didn’t want to be with someone like the man we escaped. I knew right away George was different. He had a best friend, Belvedere, a sweet, intelligent yellow lab. When I met Belvedere I was impressed with their relationship. George and Belvedere loved each other and I knew when I saw them together my initial thought was correct.

Belvedere’s love was strong. His big, brown eyes held so much love and he was eager to share it. Right away he let me share George with him, and as my love for George grew, so did my love for Belvedere. The wall I had built so many years ago when I lost Lady slowly began to crumble. Maybe it was because I was finally in a safe relationship, being loved for who I was, or maybe it was because Belvedere was so much like Lady. The same gentle spirit and enormous heart. It was impossible to keep his love out.

As my wall crumbled I was able to receive Abbie and Scott’s love. Now three dogs held my heart after so many years of closing it off. With great love comes great pain. That was something I knew, but chose to forget.

On my birthday this year we took Belvedere to the vets because he wasn’t acting right and it looked like he had gained a lot of weight. We were told he had a large mass in his belly area and the outcome was most likely poor. We scheduled the needed ultrasound for the next appointment, the day after the Holiday, and it was confirmed he had a mass on his spleen. Emergency surgery was the only option that we were given that could possibly save him. We were leaving for New York for our wedding just days away. An opening for the surgery was available the very next day, which would allow him to travel with us to be part of our big day.

The day of his surgery I waited for the call to let me know he was OK. I waited. And waited. And waited, until the phone finally rang. It was the vet telling me they had him in the operating room and found that the growth had spread to other parts of his body and asked if we wanted her to continue. I knew in my heart he would make it through surgery, and she had to continue. A few hours later we got the call that he did make it and we were allowed to bring him home to recover.

Four days after his surgery he took the six hour drive to New York with us and he was able to share the day with us. He even wore a matching bow tie. When we returned from our trip we had a message to call the vet, the results from the biopsy had came in. It was now George’s birthday. It was the day we learned Belvedere had cancer. It was the day the hope we held that he was going to be OK faded away. We made an appointment to talk about treatment options, and tried a few. Still the cancer was spreading, and we were told it was only a matter of time.

How do you live everyday knowing it might be the last day with one of your best friends? The first few months after his surgery he was like his old self. He wanted to play ball, he wanted treats, and he gave lots of love. His eyes sparkled and his tail wagged. As the days passed, his energy drifted away, but his appetite didn’t leave. He was changing, but he was still full of love.

A couple weeks ago we knew his days with us were limited. George’s one wish was for Belvedere to make it to Thanksgiving with us. It was his favorite Holiday, because he loved turkey so much. The Wednesday before Belvedere’s appetite had left and he was having a hard time walking. As he laid on the kitchen floor I sat with him and gave him Reiki. I sent the intention to take his pain away and let him enjoy his favorite day. When we went to bed he came with us, and early in the morning he got sick. A few hours later, after he took his medication, he became his old self for a few hours. He was in the kitchen with me as I cooked our Thanksgiving meal, and he napped by the oven as the aroma from the turkey circulated around him.

When it was time to eat, he was by George’s side, something he had stopped doing before. His happy eyes and smile returned as we gave him turkey and ate our meal. Thanksgiving was a good day, for him, and us.

On Saturday morning he stopped eating and started having a hard time walking. He didn’t come up to bed with us. His tail still wagged, and he used all of his energy to give as much love as he could. We knew the time we didn’t want to come had arrived. We hoped we were wrong, but on Monday morning, we knew we had to let him go.

Because Belvedere hated the car, the vet was able to make a home visit the following day. We spent as much time as we could with him. When I had to leave the house to get the kids, Abbie left the comfort of the couch to lay with Belvedere on the kitchen floor until we returned. Even Abbie loved Belvedere.

On Tuesday we all spent time with Belvedere to say our goodbyes. When I returned home that morning, he took the last of his energy to greet me for the last time as I returned home. The day was gloomy, cloudy and snowy. When the vet arrived the sun came out, and as we sat on the floor with Belvedere a rainbow danced on his back. As sad as I was, I knew he was going to be happy and free. He was going to play ball and eat as many treats as he wanted. He was going to be the early Christmas gift for my gram and George’s. The image of my gram’s loving smile was all I could picture as I gave him Reiki in his last moments.

The pain is raw, and much like the day I said goodbye to Lady. The thought of the love and happiness he took with him leave me with tears. The house is empty without him, even still full with the five of us and the two dogs. We are missing a huge part of our life. It always amazes me the amount of space one person, one dog took up energetically. While we have them, it is hard to see their true impact, but when they are gone, it is all you can see. I know he hasn’t left us. I know he will be with us, waiting by the treat bag. Today, the first day I returned home and wouldn’t see his wagging tail and happy eyes, I found a tuft of fur on the floor in the mudroom before I opened the front door. I know it was his way to let us know he hasn’t left, and bring us comfort. Because even when he was hurting, he still gave his everything to make sure we were OK. His love is endless. His heart was pure. He was one of the greatest losses of our family.

As the pain floods me, I can’t help remember the vow I took to never feel this pain again. I think about the times I pushed the love away, and then I think about what I missed out on. I am grateful he was part of my life, our life. I am grateful he taught me it was OK to love again. I am grateful that the love was worth the pain.

It’s hard to understand why creatures with such big hearts have such a short time in our lives. It’s hard to understand how people can be so cruel, and judging, and evil, where there are pets who love with all they have. It doesn’t make sense, but I am grateful for the lesson.

Until we meet again. Thank you for the love. Thank you for the lessons. Thank you for being you. As Tom Petty says, “You’ve Got A Heart So Big.”

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Child abuse, Domestic Violence, Love, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Jessie’s Story

“When I was three years old, my mom, brother, and I moved into a new home with my dad. I had not known my dad for long before this move, and I was not sure what to think of the change. The nice man he had shown me before the move changed overnight. My home became a place I didn’t want to be, and was no longer safe.

My dad and mom would yell and fight. It was rarely quiet inside our home. I developed migraines at a young age, and the noise became that much more painful. My mom would cry, and my dad would yell louder. He called her awful names, and if I was around, he called me them too.

When my mom yelled back, he would hit her. When I tried to stop him from hurting her, he would leave her alone long enough to take his belt buckle to my bare behind, and then go back to hurting her. At night the sound of their fights would wake me up, and I would tiptoe out of my room to watch, to make sure he didn’t kill my mom. I had to be very quiet, because if he saw me, he would beat me for getting out of bed.

My mom found a new man and began cheating on my dad. When she was invited to live with him, she told my dad she was leaving him. It was then that he first threatened to kill her, and us. For the next five years, my dad stalked my mom, and broke into our house to try to gather evidence to prove she was unfit and have me taken away from her. We did not stop being on guard until we got the news that he died, even then the PTSD from the abuse and never knowing where he was, or what he was going to do kept us as his prisoner.

The new man my mom moved us in with was not a safe choice, and he began abusing us, and the pets. My mom was unable to find a safe partner, and continued with this type of abuse each time she found a new partner. Growing up in this kind of environment, I never learned what a healthy relationship looked like.

I found my own unsafe men, and continued the cycle. The only thing that helped me see the pattern I was stuck in was when I started to see my own worth. When I knew I didn’t have to tolerate the abuse, I started to break the generational cycle of domestic violence. My hope is that my children will know what love looks and feels like, and they will know when to walk away.

It doesn’t have to be how it always was. A new life can start with you.”

Thank you, Jessie, for sharing your story. I am glad you know that loved doesn’t hurt. I am glad you are safe.

You are strong.

You are brave.

You are loved.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Child abuse, Domestic Violence, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Love, Sexual abuse, sexual assault, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Kourtenay’s Story and the TD Project

As I searched the TD Project Survivor Stories Facebook page, I knew I had to reach out to the founder. After talking with Kourtenay, I learned about what led her to start the TD project, and was moved by her desire to help others. Her story will also be shared as part of this project, because like many of us, domestic violence has touched her life. I encourage you to take a look at her Facebook page, and read the stories that have been shared. Her project covers all different types of trauma, and I am certain it will speak to you on some level.

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“My story and purpose of this project .
My story didn’t begin on March 16 , 2013 , it began far before that . March 16 , 2013 was only the spiral that lead to me coming out from other traumatic events .Most don’t know my story , many will be shocked . First and foremost I am not ashamed , and I am okay . March 16 , 2013 my father was shot multiple times along with his friend by his friends ex-boyfriend , who committed suicide shortly after , her two sons escaped through a window . That’s the thing with PTSD , it likes to hide, block , disassociate. It likes to tear you down blind you with depression and anxiety. My story began when I was 4 , I was ” touched ” by a family friend . It was one time , but not the last encounter I would have . At 15 I became an alcoholic, now that doesn’t happen with reason you could say I was dealt those cards as my family history has a long record of both substance abuse and alcoholism. I began to run away , bottle my feelings , my Mother tried her best with mental health facilities and rehab , but I ran . At 16 I was jumping house to house until I met a boy , he loved me and well I loved him ” teen love ” when I found out he was sleeping with someone else and threatened to leave him , he beat me , this happened numerous times , until one day I left while he was at work . He did save me in one way, I no longer needed to drink from the time I was with him . This only led to one unhealthy relationship to another, I didn’t know what love was or what it felt like . At 18 I worked at a restaurant ( my first time waitress) .Six months in I got had gotten fired for not properly ringing out add on salads , they had threatened me with law enforcement ( I never was properly trained working the computer system ) I thought I would need a lawyer, I never had gotten fired from a job , he took care of it ( I trusted him, he asked me to go to his office to sign paperwork and talk about what was going on . I was sexually assaulted , there was no paperwork . He instead have given me a gift certificate upon leaving , that week was followed by indirect threatening calls . I didn’t say a word for 10 years . I finally told my therapist when I was seeking help for dealing with PTSD . I would come home that night crying and told my husband ( no details ) he would be the second person. Then there was quite again until the Me Too movement where I felt triggered , again I went back to therapy but a sexual assault therapist . That was this year, where I would tell my mother what happened as well . It was suggested to get a lawyer before coming out but nobody would take my case. I am not ashamed , but I am scared and that’s okay, I don’t need to come out I just need to be okay with what happened to. I felt shame and disgusted for so long until this year . After my father was shot and killed in a double murder suicide , it brought on such intense feelings I even contemplated life itself . But these last 2 years I have found myself , I picked up a camera and well taught myself everything , it’s like I have came out of the darkness , I have found me again , I have found the light .A spiritual awakening. A few months ago while I lay wide awake I came up with this idea of empowering woman , it took a few weeks to get over the am I crazy part ( Lol ) but the idea wouldn’t leave my mind at night . I wanted to spread a message empowering one another , I wanted to make a statement like ” Hey , this is me I have something to say !! ” so the ideas kept flowing and well one post led to another which led me to create a private group , and well everything else. Everyone has a path , something they are MEANT to be doing , it’s up to you to find it . This is why I am here, no shame , no embarrassment, because I’m not alone , I have a mission to do . ❤ A movement I have created and a vibration that has been felt in all 50 states .


I own K.Me Photography ( located in Warwick , Rhode Island ) and founder of TD Project . https://www.facebook.com/TDProjectSurvivorStories

I have photographed several woman in Rhode Island as well for the Rhode Island  part of the project and also the first state to start . The project has not only helped me in finding my voice but it has sent a vibration across the country as it travels to now it’s 15th state ( Wisconsin ) ! It doesn’t end with 50 states only traveling once this dress will then go to a number of different countries and I will be also adding two more dresses to travel all over again , we all have a voice and I think we all need to be heard . “

Photo Credit: Sail AwayPhotography

Thank you, Kourtenay, for sharing your story, and helping so many others share theirs. Your project is so important, I am grateful I found you, and the TD project. The world is a better place, when we take our pain and use it for good.

You are strong.

You are brave.

You are an inspiration.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

#TDprojectTheTravelingDress

 #StoriesofSurvivors 

#TDProject50statesandbeyond

#DomesticViolenceAwareness, Child abuse, Domestic Violence, gas lighting, healing, Hope, Love, Uncategorized

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Jen’s Story

“When I was 17, I met him online and he asked me out over and over. I finally agreed to go, but I knew the first day he wasn’t for me. I found out he had schizophrenia & was no longer medicated. That night he insisted he would pick me up the next day. Half of me was worried I was judging and being mean, thinking “no thanks” and the other half was kinda worried what could happen if I said no. From that day he wanted to be with me every day. Within 2 wks he had already started yelling and blaming me for stupid things, but his roommate would stand up for me…but soon, I’d be on my own. We moved in to our own place 2 months after meeting. That’s when things really fell apart. He would get angry and throw scissors and knives at me, scream and swear, call me names, threaten me, and turn the whole apartment upside down. I was never allowed to go with my friends, he’d even get mad if I talked to my mom too much. One night I woke up to him standing over me in bed with a gun pointed at my face. He thought I was cheating and he was going to make it so nobody could have me. I was terrified & I was stuck there. My brother died tragically and my boyfriend was so mean to me because men he didn’t know would hug me, that my older brother had to tell him to leave the funeral home and not come back. Shortly after that, my family showed up and moved me out. I went back, he was mentally ill and threatening to kill himself…I just knew I could help him! After all, his family wouldn’t. His dad was a decent person, he was well off, but lived 4hrs away and had nothing much to do with us, and his mom was a drug addicted prostitute who only made life harder on everyone. Finally one day, I had enough and we broke up. He moved to his mothers. THEN… I found out I was pregnant. I decided to do the right thing and tell him…surely a baby would fix them all!!! Boy was I wrong!! At 19yrs old, living on half my heart, fighting to have my baby despite the doctors saying I would die and now having to put up with mother and son making every day hard. Him always screaming, even kicking the back of my chair and sending me flying. My son came in the world, we almost lost him as an infant..and I could see, I was on my own. I mostly let my boyfriend sleep in the daytime so my son and I would be ok. When he was awake he was always mad at us..or someone…or something. At one point my son was a baby, and my Ex was mad that my sister in laws family had more money then us and he lost it. He held me and my son at gun point. He wouldn’t let me out of the house and he wouldn’t even let me make a bottle for my son. He progressively got more out of control. The last straw was when he got mad at me, I don’t even know why and decided himself we were done. I thought I hit the jackpot…until he told me that I wasn’t moving on. In fact, I was going to die…and I could chose how. He could pour gas on me and set me on fire or he could hang me with a noose. I knew my son needed me, I knew I had to survive. I quickly started telling him how much I loved him and wanted him, it was my only option if I wanted to live through the night. It worked. The next day he left for work & I knew I had to take my chances if I wanted to live to see the next day, and I called my parents. They came and got us and we never looked back.

I swore I would never be treated badly again… I moved on, a couple years later I met the man of my dreams. He treated me and my son like royalty. I quickly was pregnant, just like he wanted but I had a lot of complications. I was hospitalized for 10weeks until my daughter was born. He took a leave from work and stayed by my side, for the entire time, hours away from our families. He would cry because he missed my son. He was perfect…until we took my daughter home and got engaged. Then the real him came out. He was so mean to me, but I convinced myself I could deal with it, I wanted a family for my kids and he was only mean to me…he wasn’t as bad as my ex so it would be ok. Until Good Friday, 2011. My dad was dying in the hospital…it was 5 weeks until our wedding, and my friends decided they wanted to get together at my house and see how was I was…little did I know, my world was about to crash. They showed up and asked me to sit. They called my son to the room and they told me that he had came to them while I was with my dad. He had bruises and had reported that my fiancé was hitting him…he had even punched him in the face! He was 8 years old!! He had thrown my 1yr old daughter at a wall…. she was his own blood!! The list would go on and my heart would shatter more. I called the police and he was arrested. My children haven’t seen him since, I will protect them with everything I have. I will never understand how two men who were so very different but both swore to love me, could be so abusive…how they could hurt me and my children. That’s not love. We didn’t deserve that. Thankfully, now our life is great. We have moved past that. My son is 16 and has spent the last 8yrs or so attending rallies and events to end domestic violence. He tells his story, he has no reason to be ashamed. My daughter has grown to know the man of my dreams as her Dad. I’m completely in love with a man who will drop everything for me, OUR kids, & my mother…he’s always there. I thought I wasn’t worthy of this type of love, but I know now that I am, it’s just too bad they didn’t know it. They are missing out on some extraordinary kids, and that’s their fault, not mine.”

Thank you, Jen, for sharing your story. I am so glad you found true happiness, and you and your children are safe and loved.

You are brave.

You are strong.

You are important.

#DomesticViolenceAwareness

Depression, EMDR, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Love, Onsite, Uncategorized

April Is Almost Gone

April is almost gone, just twelve days to go. Usually, grief latches on as the calendar page turns from March to April. Depression soon fills all the creases and crevices from my inside out, leaving little room to breathe. The pain of knowing what April stole from me was unbearable, no matter how healed I thought I was. The pain was still there, taunting me from a far off place.

This year, my therapist and I started using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing ) therapy. EMDR is used to help people who have been through a traumatic event reprogram their thoughts, beliefs, and reactions to the trauma. This process helps remove the block a person created in order to cope with the traumatic event. Once the block is removed, healing can begin.

I had heard about EMDR, and saw it used when I was at Onsite last year. It was just by chance that my therapist asked me if I would be open to trying it. I wasn’t sure it would work, but I decided to give it a try–I had nothing to lose.

The first session was just days before April 1st. It was perfect timing to test the results. If April could sneak past me, without depression following it, I knew it was working. The first part of the session was used to create a safe space, and a feeling that I could pull up if I needed to. Then I was to think about the two most upsetting memories or beliefs about my gram’s death. That was easy, because, even after so many years, the guilt still haunted me. My first belief was that I killed my gram. A nurse at the ER even cast the blame on me. After my gram’s surgery, I had not filled her prescription; mostly as an order by my gram who just wanted to get home. The following day, I forgot to fill them after work, and then she was on her way to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. I was told it was irresponsible to not get the prescriptions filled, and it was my fault that my gram had a heart attack. My next regret was that I did not follow the ambulance to Dartmouth when she was transferred. I wanted to, but my gram insisted that I go home to my children; who were eleven months, three and five years old. I felt guilty that I listened to her. I felt guilty that she arrived at the hospital alone. I felt guilty that I wasted minutes I could have spent with her.

As I explained these thoughts to my therapist, I told her, “Logically, I know I didn’t kill her.” But logic doesn’t always come into play when there is trauma. The doctor at her bedside after she died told me it was not my fault. And, if I had not listened to her, and followed the ambulance, she would have been angry at me. I know these things, but the guilt was overpowering.

During the session I went through that day step, by step, and pulled up memories and feelings that have been swirling inside of me for the last ten years. I cried. I smiled. I felt sensations throughout my body. I was exhausted. It felt like years of pain and memories were lifted out of me, shook around, and re-positioned. I seemed to have responded to EMDR quickly, and effectively.

The following days came and floated by. The dread that usually arrives with April was not there. I was able to think back to those last few moments with my gram without the overwhelming pain, without the longing, without the deep sadness. A few tears fell, quietly, and quickly on the ten year anniversary. But, they stopped as soon as they started. I felt comfort and even smiled at some of the thoughts that came. 

She was ready, and she knew I never would be. She picked how and where she wanted to die. She was in charge, and went peacefully. There was nothing more that I could ask for. She deserved to die with dignity. After ten years, I let her go. I let her go, and accepted that she will never leave me. Her love and guidance are with me everyday. And, for the first time, I actually believe this.

Since her death happened on Good Friday, Easter has also haunted me. This year, as we approach Good Friday tomorrow, I am free. I am free, and so is she.

Christmas, Grief and Loss, healing, Hope, Love, Uncategorized

Christmas Memories Between Mother and Daughter

In 2011, five years before my mom died, she wrote on my Facebook wall her Christmas memories. I don’t remember what inspired her to do this, but I am grateful to have this. It helps me remember the good times, and gives me insight into what was in her heart. We have a lot of similar memories…but that is what makes us family.

This is a memory of tradition of my childhood Christmas, around age ten. I am leaving out the bad stuff, it isn’t welcome here. After Thanksgiving and my birthday the local stores would deck out their windows, the lighted trees would bedeck the light poles and the crown of lights all of blue. 
Our front porch had a five foot electric candle on both sides of the door. The door was decked out with a huge wreath. 
Out front atop the snow was a lighted Santa riding in his sleigh with his reindeer. The side porch….which everyone used had a medium sized wreath and a tree decked out with lights, honking big lights, no mini lights because they were not sold yet.
In the parlor of the house was a sixteen-foot tree somebody had set up, and my Dad put the lights on it. As a family we decorated the tree with mostly hand-blown ornaments, many given to the family by friends. The lights were three inches across, and covered with colored plastic granules.
Tinsel was applied and I got the job of watering the tree.
Mom and Dad didn’t mind if we got up about an hour before them to open our stockings and this Christmas (I was about ten years old) I went in to my brother’s room and jumped on his bed to wake him up. He wasn’t keen to wake up, so I jumped and bounced, and made a nuisance of myself until he woke up.
I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but I do remember going back to my own bedroom and getting back into bed until 9am until somebody came to get me out of bed.
Our stockings were red felt with white trim and hung up on the fireplace (the fire wasn’t lit or Santa would have been scorched!). I could always count on a navel orange from my grandmother, and a book with “Lifesavers” candy in! The rest of the presents varied, but of course, there were never enough. I was also allowed to pick out one present to open before our grandparents and Aunt Marge arrived for Christmas Dinner and to open the rest of our presents.
Before the relatives got here we always had a good breakfast and got dressed. When Grampy, Granny and Aunt Marge came I got hugged and kissed way too much! They brought their presents into the parlor and placed them around the tree then Grampy would go off with my father and the women would try to help my Mom (which made her crazy) and Gram always made the gravy. She was always the last to sit down to dinner (and the last one to get up from the table). She liked to talk and Grampy would yell “Shut UP Avis!” but she never seemed to hear him.
We opened presents, except for my grandfather who said he wanted to keep his for later. Go figure!
After opening the presents we sat down to the table in the dining room and we always had cranberry juice with lemon sherbet to drink after Grace.
Then my father would cut the turkey and people would pass their plates to him and he would put the meat on, then the rest of the food would be passed around. No-one got up until everyone was more-or-less done, then Gram and Aunt Marge and my mother would take care of the left overs, clean the kitchen and do the dishes (mostly loading up the dishwasher).
Dad and Grampy kind of hung out and then as the sun began to set my grandparents and Aunt Marge would set off back to my grandparents house and we would pick up the parlor. By now we had a fire, so we threw the paper in the fireplace, gathered up our presents and took them happily to our rooms.”

A few days later, I responded with my memories of Christmas with her.

My Christmas memories are almost like the ones you posted. I remember going to bed and listening as you did your last minute things while I peered out the window hoping that I would hear or see Santa. I would run back to bed when I heard you on your way to bed and stayed there until I couldn’t stand it any longer. I don’t remember seeping….but when I knew that it was close to morning I would wake Peter up and beg him to look down stairs with me…he usually would give in after a while but we got sent back to bed until a normal time. When it was late enough to wake up (6am rings a bell), we would all go downstairs and open our stockings. I don’t remember breakfast, but I remember that you let us each open one gift before we went to Bill’s family’s and had Christmas there. Then we would go home and wait for Gram to come and open presents with her and have our dinner with her. I have lots of different memories from all of the places we lived, but these are the main ones. I remember the orange and thinking “what that heck is this,” and I also remember the Lifesaver books.
I remember the Christmas in Waterford where it was thundering and lightening and being scared for Santa that he might not be safe out delivering his gifts. As a kid it was awful waiting for Gram to come, but I am glad that we did because it was more than worth it to share it with her. Thank you for all that you did for us over the years and giving us things that were special and for giving us memories to keep. I do not remember any of the gifts (except for a few…TV with no remote!, Pamela doll, and the Bulls jacket) but that shows me that the gifts are not what the kids will remember, it is the time that we share together as a family.”

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmasperhapsmeans a little bit more.”

~Dr. Seuss

Hold your memories close, some day, they will be the only thing you have left.

Take time to love yourself in the days to come. Be easy on yourself. There is no such thing as perfect. Let go of that desire, and just be.

Be present.

Be free.

Be you.

And remember, you are amazing.

Hope, Love, Uncategorized

The Year That Made Me A Believer

Five years ago, I was a newly single mom of three.  A five, eight and ten year old depended on me for everything. This was not something new, but the circumstances had changed. When I lost my childcare, I also lost my job. In between the fear that I was going to be murdered by my ex-husband, and trying to find enough money to just feed my children, I was blessed to find a job that fit into my children’s schedules. 

The job was part-time, and I had full-time bills. Each week I was a little more behind, but I figured out how to make it work. Until Christmas came. I knew it was coming, but I didn’t have time to focus on it, or what it meant. There was no way I had any extra money to even buy one gift. My kids had already lost so much with the divorce and fire a couple years before, I could not take Santa away from them. I didn’t know what I was going to do. 

The stress of the whole situation ate at me. I felt like a failure, and times like this was why I had stayed in a toxic, abusive relationship for so long. I stayed awake nights as I thought about how I could make it work. I did not have anyone in my life that had money to help. I had already sold my gram’s coin collection to my brother, so I could buy groceries and gas until my first pay check came in.

That was when it hit me. I might not have had anything of extreme value, but I had gathered enough stuff after the fire, to replace my belongings, that were worth something. I got out of bed, and started going through my things. All my hopes and dreams of free time, and hobbies turned into dollar sings. I took pictures of the items and placed them on Facebook marketplaces, and Craigslist. 

Soon, I was getting emails, and things started selling. As my pockets became full with money, I was able to fill stockings. That was one of my biggest concerns. I didn’t want to be the reason the magic of Christmas was stolen from my children. After I had enough money to ensure they were full, I started my search for the perfect gift from Santa. One by one, I was able to find a gift suitable for each child. Some of my shopping took place at thrift stores, to make the money last longer. 

A friend knew of my struggles, and placed us on the list for the Santa’s fund. This was not something I had ever had to do before, and I hated taking the help, but I had to. Not for me, but for them. A neighbor was the one to deliver it, and as he handed me the basket, shame heated my body. This was not the life I had planned for my children. 

The ladies I worked with handed me a card before we closed for the Holidays. Inside the card was about $200. I could not keep the tears inside. This gesture of kindness and love meant more than I could express. A little while later, I received a call from my children’s school. When I arrived there I was taken into the principal’s office and handed a card and a gift. The principal told me, each year the teachers put money together and give it to a deserving family. 

When did we become a deserving family? I could not stop the shame from coming over me. This was not the life I wanted for my children, but neither was living in abuse and turmoil. This was going to be the price of our freedom and safety. 

Inside the card was a gift certificate to Walmart. I don’t remember how much it was, but I know it was enough to fill in some gifts, and make sure the kids had the warm clothes they needed for winter. Everything was falling into place, and I realized, there was a Santa Claus after all.  On Christmas Eve, I helped Santa put things into place, filled the stockings, and waited until morning for the kids to wake up. The magic in their hearts poured out through their eyes, when they saw that Santa had come. 

Their excitement, and the feeling of community that this situation had brought to us made me believe. It made me believe in better things. It made me believe there is always a way. It made me believe the impossible is always possible. It made me believe in love, and magic. It helped me see that Santa is never far away. 

When things get hard, remember to believe. In better days. In love. In yourself. And of course, Santa.