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This week marks the two year anniversary of my escape from someone I consider to be extremely dangerous. Why is this person so dangerous? Because he is charming. He goes to church. He uses flattery. He does “nice” things for people. And he uses guilt, manipulation, and emotional blackmail to get people to do what he wants.

When people think of abuse, they tend to think of someone who hits his wife or girlfriend. But mental and emotional abuse can be so much worse. Because the victim usually has no proof and may not even realize it themselves for a long time. There are no bruises. There are no scars. (At least not visible ones.) They are slowly pulled into the relationship until they can see no way out. It is her word against his and these types of men are often respected leaders in the community. The same charm that they use to draw in the women they abuse is used on their neighbors, their boss, their pastor, their rabbi, etc. So when the woman comes forward with the truth, the reaction is usually that she is lying. That she is trying to get out of trouble for something. That she is jealous of him. There are many things that people tell themselves so that they don’t have to deal with the fact that they too have been duped by this man (or woman).

In my case, I had made some very wrong decisions concerning my relationship with him. I take full responsibility for those decisions because they were my responsibility, no matter how I felt. However, he too had responsibility. He had the responsibility to respect me when I said “no”, no matter what my body language or anything else told him. He had the responsibility to not use guilt in order to keep me in a emotionally unhealthy relationship. He had the responsibility to own up to the full extent of what he had done when I finally told someone the truth.

If  someone makes you feel like a bad friend/spouse/daughter/son/etc., you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If someone makes you feel like you are crazy and that you can’t trust your own perception/judgment, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If someone won’t listen when you say no, whether sexually or not, you may be in an abusive relationship.

If someone seems like they are trying to control you (they have to know where you are at all times, they flip out if you ask to go one day without talking to them, etc.), you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If you feel like you need to change your behavior or otherwise be perfect or else that person will get upset with you and withdraw, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If someone has different standards for what they can do and what you are “allowed” to do, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If someone criticizes or teases you about your looks, your work, or anything that they know you are insecure about, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

If there are aspects of your relationship that you are uncomfortable with and have asked them to change and they say they will but make no obvious attempts to change (or change for a short time and then slowly reel you back into it), you may be in an abusive relationship.

If someone tells you that you are an idiot any time you disagree with him, you may be in a mentally abusive relationship.

You don’t have to be someone’s spouse or girl/boyfriend for this to apply. This man was supposed to be my friend, my father figure, my spiritual leader. In the process, he drew me away from my other friends, he did nothing to help my relationship with my real father and only encouraged my bad perceptions of him, and he used his spirituality as a way to guilt me when I did things he didn’t like. Or to convince me that our inappropriate relationship was fine and that I was being too legalistic.

If you find yourself nodding along to this list, you need to speak up to someone that you trust. You need to do everything in your power to escape the person you are thinking of. They will not change unless they are given a serious reason to and even then, they may not. I cannot promise that the people you tell will believe you at first. Some people may never believe you and that is their choice. Your choice is to stop letting this person have any part in your life. It will be hard. You may lose a lot. But I promise you, it will be worth it.

Two years later, I am happy. I am more confidant. I have a husband who loves me and doesn’t make me feel like a horrible human being or an idiot when I disagree with him. I don’t feel like I *have* to talk to someone every single day or they will be upset with me. I don’t worry about someone destroying me if I “make them too mad”. I made him mad and you know what? I was not destroyed. What would have destroyed me is staying in that relationship. Abusers only have the power that we (and others) give them. Do not allow someone who fits the descriptions above to have any power in your life anymore.

Let me say this again: I promise you it will be worth it. Maybe not today. Maybe not a month from now. But one day you will look back and say with pride “I made it stop.”

You Are Not Crazy

Signs of Mental Abuse in a Relationship

Signs of Abuse and Abusive Relationship

Spotting Signs of Emotional Abuse

Schrodinger’s Rapist: Or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced

“…a man who ignores a woman’s NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well.

So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.

Day 5 - 9/19/10

Since this was what I wore for a Sunday morning that I was potentially going to have to help with the kids at church, I wanted to make sure my clothes were fairly kid friendly. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a classroom setting with munchkins but the 10+ years that I have spent in childcare haven’t completely left me.

At our second church we rotate by house church for who “hosts” each Sunday. Hosting involves folding bulletins, buying and preparing communion, greeting as people come in, and helping with the kids. I had been putting that last part off for as long as I possibly could.

It’s not that I don’t like kids. But those 10+ years I mentioned before have *really* burned me out on them. Baby-sitting, nannying, Tuesday morning Bible study baby-sitting, choir baby-sitting, Mom’s Day Out and Mothers of Preschoolers baby-sitting, teaching 2-3 year olds for Wisdom Builders, working as a teacher at a Hebrew school, and on and on and on. I still like kids. I find them hilarious half the time. I simply have no desire to be the one in charge of them right now.

Fortunately, helping out in Sunday school went better than I thought. There was a head teacher who had everything planned out and kept the kids entertained and moving the entire time.  And since there are a number of house churches at Trinity, I’ll only have to do it every few months. Now *that* is a reason to praise the Lord! 😉

Shirt: Target

Jeans: TJ Maxx

Shoes: Sears

Cardigan: Forever 21

Necklace: The gold chain is from my MIL and the sea shell is from Hannah.

Earrings: A gift from my dad. (A non-dangley, barely grabbable gift perfect for wearing around kids.)

Day 4 – 9/18/10

So I haven’t been getting overly creative with the outfits and have pretty much stuck to jeans and flip flops. But, because of this challenge, I paired this shirt and cardigan! I know, this is a life changing moment. Novels will be written about it. A Lifetime movie will be made.

At the end of the day, I go for comfort with a little bit of style. I try to dress to flatter my shape and look pulled together. But I flat out refuse to teeter around on 5 inch heels, wear clothes that make it impossible to breathe, or jewelry that makes me look like I should be on the Discovery Channel. I know that some people enjoy these things and that is just fine. Everyone has their interests. Keeping up with the fashion Jones’ just doesn’t happen to be one of mine.

*Also, the Four Square title does NOT refer to the asinine “social networking” thing. It refers to the children’s game.

…why I don’t read Twitter anymore. Most people are not that funny.

Also why I no longer tweet. I’m not that funny.

Although I did get a good reaction from my “‘Your Body is a Wonderland’? More like an amusement park.” 😉

Three times now (this week…) I have left the house in my pajamas. The first was on Wednesday when I went to pick Shane up from Sasha’s house. They were having Jew Appreciation night at his house since I had turned ours into the IKEA sale pictured in the previous post.

We had left Shane’s car at his work because A: he currently has no air conditioning and B: he was planning on dragging me out of bed at 5:30 to go get his Droid X. So that meant that at 11:30 at night, I was walking out to my car in a tank top, very thin pj bottoms, a robe, and my flip flops. Of course, this just happened to coincide with our next door neighbors arriving home so they got to see me in all of my glory. (Actually, the fact that I have trouble remembering that I shouldn’t walk by open windows before I get dressed probably has half the neighborhood seeing me in all my glory. I’m a peeping tom’s dream!) But I held my head high and walked straight to my car. Then when we got home, they were STILL out there. Probably hoping for a repeat performance. So before we got out of the car I told Shane to act drunk. “Then I can pretend that I just went to drag your drunk ass off the bar stool and bring you home to your family.” His drinking upsets the kitties.

The second and third times were yesterday. After being dragged out of bed at the crack of dawn, I was exhausted and working on a migraine so I stayed home from school. I finally decided that a nap was in order around 4:17. At 4:46, I woke up to a downpour that rivaled the rain I saw when I was caught in a hurricane in Florida. My first groggy thought was “Wow, it’s really storming out there.” Quickly followed by a not-so-groggy “Oh sh*t, my car windows are open!!!!” That is the last time I listen to wunderground.com. 30% chance of precipitation they said. Apparently in Indiana, 30% is code for 110%.

Worst times to not be able to find your keys:

1. You are in labor.

2. You have cut your thumb off with a kitchen knife.

3. It is a freaking monsoon and your car windows are open.

I fly out of bed and downstairs, dig frantically through my purse for my keys, finally find them buried under crap on the table, and go flying out the front door into the downpour in my bare feet and pjs. Thank God I wasn’t napping naked for once. (Just kidding.)

By the time I get to my car, I am completely soaked. Fortunately, the inside of my car wasn’t as bad. I rolled up the windows and then debated what to do. On top of the Ark building quantities of rain, there was also “frequent and dangerous lightening” crashing down around me. Finally I decided to pull my car around to the back of our house and at least park it in the driveway so someone wouldn’t hit it while driving in the storm. Not that I could actually park IN the garage since *somebodies* trailer is in my spot. (Love you, baby!)

So I park, open the garage door, and then wait for a brief pause in the lightening before I jump out of my car and make a run for it. As soon as I am out the door, I hear some guys voice yelling “HEY!” at me. As if I’m going to stop in my second (okay, first) shower of the day and find out what he wants. I continued my dash and made it inside without being struck by lightening. I have no idea who it was that yelled. Maybe it was one of the neighbors wanting to comment on more of my fine attire.

After my mad dash into the monsoon

These pictures do not do justice to how soaked I was. Or how hot my pajamas are.

The third time was later that day when it stopped raining and I went out to get the mail. Our neighbor who lives on the other side of us has a new girlfriend whom I have not yet met. She just happened to step outside to make a phone call as I was traipsing back into the house in my third set of pjs for the day. (The first pair got wet because I was washing our carpet and didn’t roll the legs up.) And of course she’s this really cute and nice girl who, even though I wasn’t even making eye contact (which all people who live in neighborhoods know is code for “I’m acting like you aren’t here right now!”), she gives a very chirpy “Hi!” I reluctantly lift my head, mumble hi, and hurry back inside. Sorry, Neighbors-New-Cute-Girlfriend. You seemed very sweet from our brief exchange and I promise to be nicer the next time we meet.

Assuming, of course, that I’m not in my pajamas.

Him: Do you feel married yet?

Her: Not really.

Him: When do you think you will?

Her: Probably when we have our first big fight and I realize “Oh crap, I can’t leave! I have to stay and work this out.”

Shane and I had this conversation the day we got home from our honeymoon. I’m not sure why but I guess both of us were expecting some switch to flip and that we’d magically feel married. Shane does somewhat. It still doesn’t feel any different to me. (Maybe that says something about how hard of a time one of us has been giving the other? …..nah!)

In all honesty though, not much has changed. We have more activities to choose from when we’re bored at night (*wink wink*) and I am in the process of getting my last name changed. (Curse the man who decided that women had to take the husband’s last name! As if we don’t already deal with enough!) So far I have my new Social Security card and everything at my bank changed over. I’ve been putting off getting my new driver’s license because I’m vain and the picture that is on my current one is actually a really good picture. I can’t get that lucky twice! (Don’t think I didn’t hear that collective rolling of the eyes…)

Anyway….as I was saying, not much has changed. Shane and I already lived together (*gasp*) so even that isn’t new. We’ve already been working on the “How do I live with this other person who has different ideas about how things are done and what should go where and whether the clothes hang on the hanger this way or that without killing them?!” thing.

And no, I’m not kidding about the hanger issue. We have no problems with the toilet seat being up or down because we both think the seat AND the lid should be down when not in use! But he hangs his shirts with the tip of the hanger facing the left shoulder and I hang mine facing the right. And since I do most of the laundry, guess who has to remember which way to hang each piece of clothing! 😉 I know. Such a First World problem.

I’m sure we will hit snags. We are both sinners and can be selfish and eventually, that will have us fighting about something. But for now I’m thankful for my saint of a husband who didn’t kill me on Sunday when I dragged him to every store imaginable because I couldn’t find towels in the colors that I wanted. Or a dress for my cousin’s wedding. I was having quite a day.

For now I am going to enjoy our honeymoon period. And speaking of honeymoons, here are some pictures from ours!

And one from our wedding:

Because we are incapable of doing anything the typical way, our wedding is not going to be very traditional. For starters, we aren’t having the big ceremony and reception this year. Shane and I don’t want to have a long engagement. We know we want to be married and there is no point on dragging it out for years. (We have nothing against people who do this, it’s just not for us.) However, I am trying to graduate by next May and don’t want to be dealing with the stress of planning a wedding in a few months on top of getting good grades. Plus this will give us time to save money and not go into debt for a one day event.

So what we are going to do is get married this coming May. We’re going to do a very small thing, without a lot of fanfare or fuss. Just family and a few close friends who have been an important part of our relationship together. It is probably going to be a 10 or 15 minute deal, no one standing up with us, no party afterward. Then NEXT year, somewhere around our first anniversary, we want to have a “vow renewal” where we do the big ceremony with everyone there and a reception afterward. This is the one that we want everyone to be at. Neither of our mothers will probably be able to come to the one this year but we want the celebration next year to be the thing that everyone puts on their calendars. (Not that our actually getting married isn’t important. That’s kind of the entire point. But it’s going to be so short and we want everyone to come have fun with us next year.)

Another thing that we’re doing differently is the “gift registry”. Shane and I have discussed this and we both feel as though there isn’t much that we need. Shane has his own house which is pretty much furnished. While new sheets and towels and dishes would be nice and pretty, we really don’t need them. We are incredibly blessed. So we have decided that we aren’t going to register for these things. We are still working out the details of what we want to do but we think it is going to involve a charity of some sort. (Which will make wording invitations that much more fun! I’m sure Emily Post will be having my hide.)

That’s really all we know for now. We will keep you updated as we figure more things out!

Last night, Shane and I went to the Pink Tie Ball which is a fundraiser to support breast cancer awareness and research. We had gone last year and had a great time so we wanted to go again. At one point I had thought to myself that it would be cool if Shane proposed at the ball. But because of how we got my ring, I thought it wouldn’t be until March or April. So I was completely shocked.

I told Shane that he could propose after we took our vacation to LA last November. I wanted to make sure that we traveled well together and that he didn’t stress out easily and lose his mind over little things. (That, apparently, is my job. :-P) But we traveled just fine together so I told him that I was comfortable with us getting married. This began his four month search to find a ring for me.

We had gone to a number of jewelry stores, just looking to see what was out there, and I was so not impressed. I found the rings to be ugly (looking more like a class ring than an engagement ring) or they just didn’t wow me. I wanted a ring that I would love, since I have to wear it for the rest of my life. I ended up finding two rings online that looked like flowers that I thought were really cool and told Shane that if he could get one of those or something similar, that was what I wanted.

He tried to get both rings and neither were available. He searched for about 40 hours trying to find someone that had something similar with no luck. So he decided that he was going to have to get my ring custom made. This began a whole process of finding someone who would do custom work, finding a diamond that both he and I liked, finding someone who would set the diamond, etc.  Four months, six jewelers, and four labs later, he finally had the ring.

He got the ring on Friday, after cracking the whip on these people to get them to beat their usual 8-10 week time frame. After the design had been finalized, he got them to get the ring done in 2 weeks instead of 2 months. I knew he was getting the ring custom made and had some say in the design. But I thought we were stuck with the 2 month time frame, so I was completely shocked when he had the ring at the ball.

We got to the ball and walked around looking at the items they were auctioning off to raise research support. Then we wandered off to look around the Scottish Rite Cathedral. It is a beautiful place with multiple ballrooms so we snuck off to a dark empty one. Shane started dancing with me (which is what we had done last year in the same empty ballroom) but what I didn’t know what that he was working on getting the ring out of his pocket so he could propose.

Earlier that night, I had taken the ring that he gave me for Christmas in 2008 and put it on my left ring finger as a joke. He started laughing and asked if I was going to be his fake fiancee for the night. So when we stopped dancing, he said “Will you stop being my fake fiancee?” I thought he just wanted me to move the ring to my other hand so I was like “Oookay”. Then he said “Will you be my real fiancee?” At first I thought he was just joking around but then in the faint light I saw a flash of metal and realized he was holding a ring. I was all “Is that really it? Is it done?” He grinned and said “Will you marry me?” I started to cry a little and hugged him and kissed him. Then I realized I hadn’t actually given him an answer so I said “yes”. Then we walked out into the light so I could actually see my ring that he worked so hard on.

The diamond is a lab grown blue diamond. Shane and I both feel very strongly about not supporting blood diamonds and since 90% of the diamond industry is owned by one company, we didn’t want to give them money even for a conflict-free diamond. I also love the fact that the diamond is blue which would have been next to impossible had it been a mined diamond.

So that is the story in a nutshell. I had absolutely no idea that he had the ring and was going to propose last night and since I am very hard to surprise, he did a very good job. 🙂 We couldn’t be happier and our families support us completely. Both of our moms said that we seemed “perfect for each other”. 🙂

Wedding date is yet to be determined. We have my school schedule to take into consideration, which of course throws a huge kink in things. But we’ll work it out. 🙂

Yes, I realize that we are more than halfway through January and I am just now getting around to writing this. I’m busy, people! The time I spend on the internet is much, much, much less than it used to be (but we’ll get to that later).

2009 was quite a year for a myriad of reasons. I made many mistakes and it has made me grateful for 1 John 1:9. But I hope that I learned from those mistakes and was able to grow from them. Time will tell.

In 2009, I continued with my education at IUPUI. During the Fall semester, I took a full load for the first time since Spring ’08. I came through with 2 A-minuses, a B-plus, and a C. (The C was in Sociology which was one of the most boring classes I’ve ever taken. Hard to learn when you’re counting the holes in the ceiling.) This is better than I did the last time I had a full course load and without a “tutor” so I was quite proud of myself.

Shane took me to my first ball. This was for breast cancer awareness. Hence all the PINK!

I completed my year as treasurer for The Moving Company.

My parents got divorced and my mom and sister moved to Arizona. While this was tough on all of us, I do think that it was in the best interest of everyone’s happiness. Joshua, Shane, and I just got back from visiting in AZ and we had a wonderful time.

I made many mistakes in my dating life and have many regrets. People were hurt who shouldn’t have been and for that I will forever be sorry. That situation taught me a lot about needing to speak my heart, even if it’s going to hurt someone’s feelings, and not letting anyone but myself and my significant other have control of the relationship. Ladies, if you have met someone who likes you but there is just no chemistry for you, you need to flat out tell them. They’ll probably be hurt, they might get angry, they might not want to be your friend anymore. But that is better then letting them think there may be a chance when you know there isn’t because you want to spare their feelings. Do not lie to them or yourself.

I freed myself from 4 years of being caught in a spider’s web of manipulation, guilt, emotional blackmail, and lying. I now consider April 18th to be my own personal Independence Day. That is when I finally told someone the truth about what had been happening and made it end. I never thought that the words “You are dead to me” could bring me such joy. Since then, I have learned that I am not crazy or over-dramatic when I stand up for something. I know that I am not a bad friend because I don’t call or otherwise contact someone every day. I know that I don’t need to feel guilty when I need time to myself. I know that if my school work, spiritual life, circle of friends, and church all revolve around one person, there is something seriously wrong. I know that someone who truly loves you will do what is in your best interest. I know that no one “has to” know where I am every second of the day and that if somebody wants to, they are probably trying to control me. I realize that all of this may seem like “duh” to you. But when you are slowly pulled into a relationship like this, you don’t realize what is happening until it is too late. This entire situation has given me so much compassion for people. As Shane Fuller always says, “You are one person, one choice, one event away from making the same mistake you vow you never will.”

As for the spider, they are out of my life for good. I am working on forgiving them, not for their sake, but for mine. Right now I swing back and forth between wishing them well and hoping they rot in hell. But through the strength of my Father, I will forgive them and I will one day be able to love them. From a distance. Toxic people have no place in my life anymore.

Author’s note: Please understand that I am not blaming this person for my actions and responsibility to make it stop. I should have ended it when it first began. I had decisions and choices and I made bad ones for a long time. That person did inhibit my ability to make good choices by lying to me about certain things and making me feel guilty when I did try to take a stand or make changes. In trying to keep the peace, and in fear of losing my friends and church, I allowed bad things to happen for far too long. But I also made them end and for that, I will forever rejoice.

On a lighter note, this year I finally learned how to cook. Shane has been a huge help in this endeavor. We bought a magazine that gives recipes that make enough for two people and this took a lot of the stress out of cooking. Math is not, and never will be, my strong point and having to figure out how to halve 2/3 of a teaspoon makes my brain want to explode. I have made a number of meals and have been expanding to recipes outside our magazine lately. I am actually enjoying cooking!

Don’t I totally look like I know what I’m doing? 😉

After a brief (yet all too long) absence from The Dwelling Place, Shane and I were able to return in October. It has been a spectacle having to juggle going to two different churches but we are so grateful for both of them that we don’t want to leave either. Both helped us walk through a difficult time in different ways and both are dear to our hearts.

Shane and I joined a small group at Trinity called JustFaith. It is a group specifically brought together to go through the JustFaith curriculum which focuses on social justice. It has been extremely eye opening and I highly recommend the curriculum. It does entail a lot of reading though, so if you are a slow reader, you may want to read the books on your own. We get assigned about 100 pages of reading a week and it’s tough on the slower readers in the group.

I turned 25 and wasn’t dreading my birthday for once. Shane completely spoiled me, as did the rest of my friends, and made that whole quarter of a century transition so much easier. 😉

Shane and I took our first vacation together to Los Angeles. We didn’t kill each other so I suppose that’s saying something.

I took Shane to his first ballet and he didn’t hate it.

I took him to his second ballet and he didn’t hate that one either. So far so good!

Shane and I hosted my family’s Christmas dinner. That was my first time being in charge of a family holiday gathering and while it was a little stressful, it was also a lot of fun. I may not have Martha Stewart quaking in her orange jumpsuit but I’m working on it.

Most importantly, I fell in love with the most amazing man I have ever known.

These are just some of the highlights of the year. Some good, some bad, all working to shape me into who I am supposed to be. As Douglas Adams said, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I was meant to be.” 2010 looks to be a promising year. May it be covered in God’s blessing and redemption. May we all strive to go where we are meant to be and to become the children that God created us to be.