Why a costume closet?

When I was a little girl my sisters and I would play dress up and put on shows for our parents. Later on in high school, I would sit in our theatre departments costume closet redesigning the costumes I found there. A costume closet is about reaching for your dreams.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Words


Brandon and I were married on a bright, chilly morning, November 15, 1997.  The sealing was performed by his grandpa, Farrell Peterson, in the Boise Temple.  I think I was happy that day but I was blissfully unaware of the hell I was about to walk in to.  A hell that would spiral me down into some of the darkest days I would ever see.  I was unprepared for such a journey, unprepared to combat the darkness that would be engulfing me.  At 20 years old I lacked the faith, courage and knowledge sufficient to survive the storm that was coming.  Truth be told, I didn’t survive, I was rescued by the Atonement but that was years later.
Looking back I can see the red flags that popped up before we got married but I didn’t see them then or maybe I didn’t want to see them. 
Brandon fulfilled all my “husband requirements.”  He had just returned home from a mission and seemed to glow with the spirit.  There were issues, flaws in his personality that, when left unchecked would turn him into a monster, but after his mission he was still doing thing he needed to do to keep the monster at bay and keep the Holy Ghost present; praying, reading scriptures, attending church, going to the temple…the primary answers to all gospel questions.
If we fail to do these things all of us would go astray.  That’s just the nature of life.  We need these little things to keep us attached to the iron rod
But Brandon’s “natural man” was filled with abuse, criticism, porn, and alcoholism.  It was a dark path that for years I was convinced was my fault.  The blame, if blame is needed, was in the yielding to temptation and not repenting.  And it started with not praying. 
Prayer was not a part of our lives.  He was the priesthood holder of our new family, so I waited for him to call us to prayer.  When he didn’t, I would make the suggestion.  That only happened a few times because his reaction at my suggestion can only be described as a tantrum.  A wave of criticism would wash over me. 
He was the priesthood holder and it was his right and authority to call us to prayer.  I was just the wife and had no right.  How dare I take his right away.  I was no daughter of God and he must have made a mistake in marrying me because any wife of his must be a daughter of God.
On and on he would go. Berating me and belittling me.
As the years went on the “fits” grew in number and intensity.  After he quit going to church, in the fall of 2001, his words changed slightly.  He no longer referred to himself as a priesthood holder; he was the “man of the house.”
Every time I did something he didn’t like, every time I said something, every time he felt like I was “stepping on his toes” so to speak, he would throw his fit.  He demanded the right to make every decision; where we lived, what we ate and so forth.
Things stayed at a tolerable level for a while.  I took myself and our daughter to church alone.  I worked and Brandon went to school.  We bought a house down the street from his parents.  I didn’t want to live that close to his parents but he promised me he would go back to church.  He said it was his home ward and he knew everyone there. 
He never went back to church.
He was also working himself into a fight and I tried very hard to avoid those.  He had me well trained.  I would give in and he would get whatever he wanted because I didn’t want to fight.  I was afraid of the hurt his words brought me, of the pain he could inflict upon me.  I would feel like I was beat up from the words he sent my way.  My self-esteem tanked and I believed his words.
I was fat.  I was ugly.  I was stupid.  I was no good.  I was a cow because I chose to breastfeed and I only chose to breastfeed because I didn’t want to allow him his husband rights to my body.  After all, his mother didn’t breastfeed so why should I.  I cooked too much or I didn’t cook enough.  I didn’t clean right, talk right, sew right, mother right, live right, move right, and think right. 
Nothing I did was right.  Sometimes he would just shake his head in disappointment.  Other times the painful words would come.  The worst was when he would give me the silent treatment.  I never knew what was wrong.  He would say that he shouldn’t have to tell me what was wrong, that I should already know and if I really loved him I would be prefect.
That hurt the most: If I really loved him then I would…
Those words still haunt me to this day.
I began to wonder if I did love him.  Maybe I didn’t.  There was nothing I could do about it though.  We were married, sealed for time and all eternity but I didn’t want my eternity to be like this.  I didn’t want to be stuck for eternity.  Eternity was supposed to be happy and I was not happy.   I wanted to be happy but the only thing in my life that made me happy was my daughter.  Brandon grew jealous of her I think.  He would say things like “why do you only smile when she’s around?  Why don’t you smile at me?”  I couldn’t smile at him or anyone.  There was nothing to smile about.  She was my reason for smiling; she was my reason for living. 
It was around this same time (buying the house that is) that Brandon started openly drinking and watching porn.  I suspected he was doing all that before but I had no proof, just a feeling that it was going on in secret.  He just decided one day he didn’t want to hide it anymore.  He had been spending his free time playing violent video games, now he added beer to his gaming sessions. 
At night he would fall asleep watching his porn.  He’d try to get me to watch them too.  He called it “educational research.”  I needed to learn how to please him because frankly I wasn’t doing a good enough job in that department. I was worn out and tired and he required some kind of intimate, sexual act every morning and every night.
With the porn came more criticism about my appearance.  I didn’t think I was bad looking and maybe even a little pretty but he made me feel like an ugly troll.  He compared me to the porn stars and asked why I could be more like them.  If I refused to watch the show with him, he would sit on me and hold my head towards the TV and then be pissed off at my tears.  “I was just trying to have quality time with you.  Why do you have to be so prudish?”
Those we not the only tears I shed.  The tears came freely and all too often.  I cried for the marriage I wanted but didn’t have.  I cried for the husband I thought I married but didn’t.  I cried for the life I would never have with Brandon.  I cried at the words he threw my direction that hurt so deeply.  I cried for the pain that filled my body and spirit.  I cried for the loneliness I felt.  I cried because I thought Heavenly Father was punishing me.  I cried because I felt like He wasn’t answering my prayers to fix things.  I realize now that my prayer of “anything but divorce” was what I was getting but I couldn’t handle the “anything” and there was more of the “anything” headed my way.
Brandon laughed at my tears.  He mocked and scorned them.  I tried not to cry so much.  I tried to hide my pain from everyone but it was always there.  Some days I was better at hiding it, other days not so much.
The alcohol made it worse. His words were more painful when he drank; louder and deeper.  The more time went on the more he drank not just beer but hard liquor as well.  I thought his DUI would be the wakeup call I was praying for.  It wasn’t.  He sobered up for only a week before he started drinking again.
He would withhold love and affection until he got what he wanted and I would give in every time because I was afraid of his words; the words that would hurt, the words that would wound, the words that would cut.
The childhood rhyme of “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” was wrong.  His words hurt more than anything I had ever felt before.  His words caused pain and bleeding deep inside.  I couldn’t stop it and I couldn’t heal from it.  There were times when I wished Brandon would just hit me.  I thought physical pain would be better than the pain the words brought.
I thought I could deal with the porn and the alcohol problems if he was kinder to me, if he just spoke softer to me and used words that didn’t sting so much.  I craved kind words from him.  None come. 
  j j j
Words.  They possess power; power to heal, power to hurt.  Words are hard to ignore especially when they cut.  Too many times the words come out of our mouths with little care of the damage they’ll do.  Physical wounds heal but sometime the wounds left by words never do. 
Years later I still find myself healing from the words he said.  Divorcing him and moving on didn’t stop the pain.  It took the Atonement, another word but one that has the power to heal all hurt, stop all pain.   

Friday, February 28, 2014

Monday, November 11, 2013

Freedom is worth the sacrifice!


The year was 1944.  His message was short but held all the love he felt.  “My Dearest Wife and Children, Merry Christmas.  I miss you.  Chancy”  He was part of the “Greatest Generation;” a generation that left their wives, children, parents, and other loved ones to fight a terrible evil.  They knew full well the risk they were taking.  They knew that many would not return to see their children grow up.  They knew that any moment could be their last.  Still they marched on, pushing the enemy back and liberating town after town.  They knew the consequence would be horrific if they gave up.  They couldn’t let that evil flood the world so they sacrificed everything they had, sometimes their very lives, to stop it. 

My grandpa came home from the war but so many of his friends didn’t.  With the rest of the country he mourned the loss.  “Oh my friends, my friends forgive me That I live and you are gone.  There’s a grief that can’t be spoken.  There’s a pain goes on and on” (Les Miserables).  Yet he knew that their sacrifice was not in vain.  Good triumphed and freedom prevailed.  The price of that freedom was sealed with their blood. 

What lessons can the Greatest Generation teach us?  What can we learn from their sacrifice?  What hope can they instill?  What light can they give us in a world that feels so dark and alone?  What would they say to us today if they were here?

“Never give up!  Don’t you ever give up!  The way may be dark but there is light up ahead.  Keep on marching.  Keep on fighting.  Endure to the end.  Freedom is worth the sacrifice!”

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Gratitude


November is the month of gratitude and thanksgiving.  Facebook is filled with people listing daily things they are grateful for.  In the past, I joined in this tradition but this year I’ve remained silent.  It’s not that I’m not grateful but I’ve been so caught up with life that I find myself on my knees “asking” instead of “thanking.”  I’m starting to feel like a little kid asking her daddy for help with everything. 

Life is busy and never ending with 5 kids.  There are doctor visits, orthodontic visits, and driving to and from scouts and gymnastics and an array of many activities.  The laundry only takes hours to complete.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it.  I find myself pleading for strength and stamina to get through my day.  My need for blessings and help from my Heavenly Father always come first.

Tonight as I was scrolling through Facebook, I noticed a post from The Busy Mom about some advice her mother-in-law gave her.  She said, “Praise instead of pray.  Praying takes a sort of energy that I don’t have right now.  Praising, on the other hand, requires nothing of me except a thankful heart” (https://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/busyhomeschoolmom).  Thomas S Monson said, “Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven.”

I still have needs and require help.  I’m still that little girl crying to her Heavenly Father to lift her up and sustain her during hard times.  Life is hard and anyone who says differently isn’t living it right or is trying to sell you something.  But instead of focusing on my needs (of which there seems to be plenty to go around,) I’m going to be grateful for my blessing and praise my Father in Heaven who endowed me with those blessings. 

The help will come, of that I am sure.  God is in His heaven and He is in control.  I praise Him for His tender mercies and loving kindness.  I thank Him for the infinite Atonement of Christ, which is far greater and more vast than just a forgiveness of our sins.  I thank Him for love; love of my husband, love of my children, love of my parents and siblings, love of friends, love that sustains me and lifts me up higher than I can go on my own.   

Friday, October 25, 2013

What love is…

     I am a mother of 5 amazingly wonderful, talented and beautiful children.  (Yes my boys, I just called you beautiful…deal with it!)  2 of these children I gave birth to and the other 3 I married into.  I have always wanted a big family.  From the time I was a little girl, the perfect size family to me was one with 6 children.  (Hey, I’m just 1 away from the perfect size!)  Although, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that I would be a stepmother.  I mean, who in their right mind would? 

Stepmothers are vile, mean, ugly and wicked and there is plenty of evidence to back those claims up.  Ok, so they’re actually not “evidence” per se.  They’re known as fairy tales but you have to admit that fairy tales have ingrained a stereotype of stepmothers into our brains.  You can hardly say the word “stepmother” without thinking the words “ugly” or “wicked” beforehand.  In fact, I have actually had someone come up to me in all seriousness and say, “Oh you must be the wicked stepmother!”  Yet, here I find myself, smack-dab in the middle of my every own fairy tale, where I have the starring role as the stepmother.  (Please hold all applause until the end of the performance!)

After my divorce, when the possibility of being a stepmother became more real, I thought more about finding a good stepfather for my own children than I did thinking about the day I would become a stepmother.  To me it was never a question of if it would happen but when.  (In the Mormon community it is a rare thing to find a 30- or 40-something without children so I was quite certain the man I married would have children of his own.)  I heard horror stories from friends about their experience with step-motherhood.  Many times I heard the phrase, “I’m just not sure I could love them like I love my own children.”  At the time it didn’t faze me.  I didn’t worry myself sick whether or not I would be accepted as a stepmother or whether I would like let alone love my future stepchildren. 

Since my marriage to my darling husband and love of my life, I have pondered (many times in fact) my role as stepmother and the feelings and love that have come because of this role.  (Yes, you read it right! I love my stepchildren and I love being a stepmom.) 

Today, I was told that I couldn’t love my stepchildren.  That I may try but I could never them with the same love I have for my own children.  Why not?  Why can’t I love my stepchildren?  Why can’t I love my stepchildren as if they were my own?  For you see I do, I love my stepchildren so much!  I love them with a love I never knew was possible!  I didn’t give birth to them but I love them as if I had! And I defy anyone who says otherwise!

It seems so natural to me to love them with my whole heart.  I love the way their eyes twinkle at exciting news.  I love their laughs and giggles.  I love their playfulness.  I even love the way they roll their eyes at me, it makes me feel like a real mom.  I cry their tears of sadness and long to hold them tight.  If they only knew how my arms ache to comfort them, to sooth away the hurt, heartache, and sorrow they feel.  (I wish someday they will allow this of me.)

I did not give birth to them but is that really a requirement for love?  I don’t think so.  I think God sent them to me through a different manner than birth and expects me to care for them and love them as if they were my own.  I believe He has entrusted them into my care with the same expectations as with my original two.  And since it is God that is asking this of me, how can I say no. 

I want to love them.  I want to help them reach the potential that is in each of them.  I want to show them all the beauty and wonder this world has to offer.  I want to teach them the joy of service and the happiness the gospel brings.  I do not require them to call me mom or mother.  (That is an honor I would never take away from their mother.)  I’m ok with them calling me Rachel.  They don’t ever have to love me back for that is their choice.  I just hope and pray that they look back on this time and think of me fondly and know assuredly that I loved them and looked upon them as my own.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Walk a Mile With Me

There is an American Indian Proverb that states “Never criticize a man until you’re walked a mile in his moccasins.”  In this day and age we are so quick to make snap judgments about people before we get to know them.  We hear gossip or we see something on their Facebook page and we think that we know who they are and what they are about.  The Book of Mormon tells us “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged” (3 Nephi 14: 1).
The difficulty, however, lies in our willingness to “walk a mile.”  Sometimes we find ourselves not wanting to take the time to get know someone.  We are just too busy to care.  Sometimes we don’t want to put ourselves out there for people to get to know.  We are afraid of rejection.
I, myself, have a very hard time letting people in.  I have a natural shyness that can repel people from trying to get to know me.  I’ve also lived in a situation that taught me to hide my true self and to use my emotions to block people and keep them out.  It was a survival technique, a defense mechanism that I used to keep the pain and hurt and fear at a minimum.  Unfortunately, I’ve hidden so well that it’s taking a long time to come out of my shell.  This may be seen to some as snobbery or nastiness but it’s only a fa├žade used for protection.
I have a story to tell, we all do.  If we would take the time to listen to each other’s stories, to follow the admonition of Martin Luther King Jr and “judge people by the content of their character” and not by their Facebook page, our world would be more like Heaven, peaceful and filled with love.
I am shy but I am also fiercely loyal, nurturing and kind.  I would do anything to help anyone in need and try to give service where I can.  I am a survivor.  I love life and all the beautiful things of this world.  Please listen to my story and “walk a mile” with me.  I think you would like what you’d see if you only took the time.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Defining Moment

What is your defining moment?  We all have one.  A pivotal moment that set us on the path that we are now on.  A moment that, above all else, defines why we are, where we are, and who we are.
I’ve thought a lot about my moment.  I thought it was another but I’ve come to realize my true defining moment.  It is a moment that very few know about.  It is a painful moment, a secret moment, that I’ve kept hidden away but, if it were not for that moment, I would not be where I am today.  Since I can’t afford therapy, I’ve decided to open myself up and share with all of you my defining moment. 
***WARNING: Anyone who views the other party favorably might want to quit reading now because this won’t shed him in a good light.  I don’t mean to demonize him but it was his actions that brought me to that moment.***
One expects safety and security from those they love.  It can turn their world upside down when they receive neither.
My marriage was a difficult one but I was determined not to let it fail.  Daily I struggled and daily I prayed “Anything but divorce.”  Some days were better than others.  Some days it took all my strength to pull myself out of bed and face the day.  My children were a big motivation during hard days.  I wanted my children to grow up in a home with both parents.  I wanted my children to have a “normal” life.  And I didn’t want to be single.  I believed that if I held on during those dark days there would be light at the end of the tunnel.  I hoped and prayed for that light.
One Christmas we were given a .22 pistol.  Not really the kind of exciting gift one expects at Christmas time but I believe in the 2nd Amendment and always wanted one so, all in all, it wasn’t a bad present.
At the end of the day, we were in our bedroom examining the gun.  He kept loading and unloading it.  He wanted to see how fast he could get the clip inserted.  I was at the foot of our bed watching.  Next thing I knew the loaded gun was pointed at my head. 
“What would you do if I pulled the trigger right now?” he asked.  Trying to keep the panic out of my voice, I laughed, “Hahaha very funny.”  “No,” he said, “I’m serious.  What would you do?” 
Past experiences taught me that he could very easily be serious or be joking.  There was no sure ground with him and no way of knowing what he would really do.  I honestly didn’t know if he was playing or if he really wanted to pull the trigger.  All I knew is that I was staring at the barrel of a gun held by the man that was supposed to be my eternal companion.
I don’t know how long we stood there.  Time had stopped for me.  That moment split into 3 sections.  Part of me rationalized that he was joking, that the safety was on and that he wouldn’t risk my life like that.  Another part of me started to panic.  I cried out to him for mercy and to quit because he was scaring me.  I begged and pleaded for him to put the gun away.  The last part of me hoped that he would pull the trigger, hoped that he would finally put an end to it all.  If he killed me my hell would be over and I would finally be at peace.
He then turned the loaded gun on himself, sticking it in his mouth.  I again was torn.  I thought he had to be joking but out loud I pleaded for him to stop, to think about what he was doing.  I cried and fell to my knees but was powerless to stop him
He laughed.  The gun was pulled from his mouth, the clip was pulled out and everything was put away.  He continued to laugh.  He wanted to know how I could be so stupid as to think he would really pull the trigger.  It was obviously a joke he said but I was too stupid to see it.  He asked why I didn’t have faith and trust in him, why I could believe he would do something like that.  He mocked my crying and my pleading.  He laughed and laughed while I kept crying.
Something broke that night, something that was never able to be fixed again.  Even if life became perfect, any bond we had was gone.  Gone forever.  After that moment, I quit trying to keep our marriage together.  I quit praying for, “Anything but divorce.”  I couldn’t guarantee that it would never happen again.   In fact it wasn’t the first time and most likely it wouldn’t be last.  I knew that it was time to walk away.  I had to go.  I had to leave while I still had breath in my lungs.  I knew that my only sure hope at life was divorce.