My Nephew…the Graduate

I have known you every day of your life.  I have watched you blossom from a wish and a prayer before you were even born from within the womb of your Mother.  I witnessed you spring forth into this amazing world full of promise (with the biggest head we had all ever seen!) and I cherished the moments as you learned to navigate that same world full of wonder, intrigue and the smallest bit of spunk.  It was obvious you had gotten those traits from me – your favorite Aunt – but I digress.

Academically you have certainly found your way, rising to the occasion to meet each and every challenge placed before you.  You never left a stone unturned in your quest for knowledge, and your excellent performance throughout these last four years has solidified your place in an exceptional program in Clemson University, and I certainly could not be more proud.  You will go forth, you will be a mover and a shaker for the next generation, and I have less fear knowing that a young man of your caliber will lead those that come behind him to a vision seen early on and never once given up on.

Athletically, you left every single thing you had on the field, each and every time.  Whether it was baseball, soccer or football – you gave it everything you had and then 20% more for the team.  Your unfailing giftedness is a tremendous God-given talent, and I know you have appreciated this high school experience with these very friends – this ‘family’ to share this last year of lasts with – the ultimate prize being the Football Championship.  I will truly miss routing on “My #55” from afar each Friday night, but I will ready myself to route you on in different ways, in different endeavors, but still filled with the same love that has always been there.

Dalton, as I observe you as a person, a young man – I can only say how pleased I am at the choices you’ve had in your life, how grateful I am for the parenting nuggets you chose to retain and take to heart, at the courage of your convictions that drives your decision making process, and how you remain unphased by the world and its attempts to derail you and your goals.  Always stay true to yourself, and God will honor your decisions.

You have accomplished something incredible here, and in such a way that merits recognition.  You are a leader among your peers, a stand-up guy, and someone any of the lower classmen would be crazy not to emulate.  Accept this responsibility and use it to its fullest potential, in college, in life, in the working world – wherever!

In closing, you are an admirable man.  You are an honorable man.  You are the kind of man I want my son to aspire to be, and that I want my daughters to be drawn to.  You are loving and giving.  You are well-prepared for your future, and because of this you will go far.  God will continue to bless your obedience to Him as you continue to seek His face.  Your foundation is strong and your pathway is clearly marked.  I cannot wait for the next seasons to be revealed.

I love you, Dalton.  I love who you have grown to become.  I wish nothing but the best for you at Clemson, and if you find things get a bit too rough, I always have your back.

Love Always,

Aunt Melissa

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Big Bad Bullies

“Don’t you worry your pretty little mind;

People throw rocks at things that shine!!”

Our words are one of the most powerful things we are given by God.  With one fail swoop, we can completely destroy another person, leaving them in a heap on the ground reeling from the tongue-lashing we’ve just delivered for reasons probably unbeknownst to even ourselves.  Whether our intent is to defend or crush, we are accountable for each and every word that leaves our mouths, and rarely are we as careful as we need be about such an enormous responsibility.

Though I wasn’t fully aware at the time, throughout most of the last years of my marriage, I was the victim of bullying.  Being the fairly intelligent person I pride myself on being, I feel ashamed to admit this fact, but nonetheless, it is true.  There is basically no other way to describe the daily verbal and emotional assault that occurred within the walls of this home short of using that simple 5 letter word – bully.  I could go into why I believe he became this ugly person,  why I allowed it to happen for so long, why my self-worth had deteriorated so low, why I didn’t defend my children as I should have – but those are all points I’ve only come to realize in the two years since we’ve escaped.  Or have we…?

What I want to write about today is how this behavior has become a ‘family affair’ – how he’s enlisted his all-too-willing family to join ranks – the “D Team” – and how not a week goes by, and believe me, that’s being generous…it’s actually more like days at a clip, where I’m not being harassed via text, social media, crank phone calls, etc., as are the children with messages that relay this negative rhetoric – from every angle possible – all under the misguided guise of love.  The underlying message is always the same – I have done terrible wrongs to him, I am a liar to the courts, and he has been kept from his children when all he wants to do is love them.

Anyone who knows ANYTHING about me knows I do not lie, first and foremost.  I am a lot of things…but a liar, after my childhood…will never be one of them.  Second, I am not an idiot.  Everything I have professed in court, I can back with documentation.  Every text message, every 9-1-1 response, every threatening call, every single TRO violation – I have a brain, and I’m not afraid to use it.  In this technology age, everything you do is monitored in some way…everything.  I cannot help it if THEY cannot figure that out.

We have been apart for 2 years now.  I have moved on – my kids have moved on.  We are happy, we are living with our ‘new’ reality, and thriving.  What I do not understand with all of my being is why this family that never really let me in for 25 years, who range in age from 61 to 49, cannot seem to grow up and get a life.  I don’t hate any of them – it’s not in me to hate them, not even him.  I would love for him to let go of his anger and bitterness – to find someone that makes him happy.  But he’s so adamant about carrying around this load of hatred, I don’t think he’ll ever relent…and that truly breaks my heart…not just for him, but for our children, who witness his continued bad choices, hateful language regarding me, and general ugliness.  They are destined for disappointment until he makes a conscious decision to stop, plain and simple.

What has changed, however, is my response.  No longer am I that scared, unworthy little woman who thought I didn’t deserve better.  No longer am I just standing by and letting them gang up on me, demanding whatever they want, and me jumping in fear.  I have finally figured out my worth, found my spine again, and most importantly…and quite possibly for the first time ever…I AM HAPPY.  I don’t know if I ever could have said that before…in my life.  I am happy.  I am happy.  I AM HAPPY.

So to my bullies – the whole lot of you – I say, sorry…I can’t participate today.  I’m busy living my life, with my children. Your threats, your intimidation, your scare tactics – they’re not valid here anymore.   We’ve moved on, and we’re not going to let you bring us down anymore.    We wish you well, but you’re going to have to find another hobby, because we’re all done.

Happiness

Hearts of Gold

“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold.  They believe when somethings suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful.”

I love this quote.  If I were to look into my own chest right now, I can image my heart, intertwined with ribbons of gold, holding all the tattered pieces of brokenness together, creating a beautiful masterpiece.

As these last few days have passed, I’ve had some time to reflect on the events of last Tuesday – court – and all that transpired in that actuality of such a short timespan but what at the time seemed like an endless tailspin of voices, emotions and impossible decisions.  I can say with the most candor that from the outset, I was in complete anguish over what occurred.  In my wildest imagination, never once had I envisioned leaving that courtroom convicted of a crime, assigned a suspended sentence and probation.  I fully believed that with the truth on my side, the mistakes would be revealed, wrongs would be righted, and this extended nightmare would finally be over.  This obviously did not happen.

I have decided for the privacy of my children to not write about the specifics of what my case was about.  Too many lies have already been printed by the press, and those are bells I cannot unring.  My children have finally begun to heal from the miscarriage of justice that the various media outlets let loose on our street, neighbors and town 2 years ago.  I am fully aware of the issue surrounding freedom of press, but what these monsters did was nothing less than a witch hunt, manufacturing lies when people refused to speak with them, running erroneous stories again and again to fill time prior to each court appearance and costing my family more than anyone will ever truly understand.

What I have learned in the days since my sentence is that I am deeply and richly blessed.  I have an incredible circle of friends that have been held to the fire time and again, refined in ways I don’t deserve, and still they support me when I am so low I don’t even know where to begin to raise up once again.  As I returned home Tuesday and words failed me, I merely texted those close remaining few.  I was instantly flooded with an outpouring of love and support – it touched me to my core – and though doubt remained that I had made the right decision, their love helped to wipe that away…each one more and more still.

I have also been affirmed that my character, which has been under attack from all directions by the enemy – who takes on many forms as of late – is worthy of admiration and example.  I try to live as Jesus would, and I fail miserably each and every day – but to hear the words from my child, my friends – that I am respected for who I am, especially at a time like this…it speaks volumes to me.  I am humbled, and so thankful that I have a Savior who forgives me for my shortcomings and allows me to return to Him every time I fail Him.  I won’t change who I know I am – not for this world, not for anyone.

Lastly, I have shared that I have been working with an incredible therapist for these past 2 years, without whom I would never have made it through this crisis or been able to recognize the me who was trapped inside this body ready to break free and take charge.  I am so thrilled with the work I’ve done – reclaiming my voice, embracing who I am, learning new strategies for old issues, growing relationships with my children, finding happiness – it’s been a lot of work, but I would not have given any of it a second thought.  In meeting this week and sharing Tuesday’s events, she listened intently and I awaited her response to all I’d shared.

She asked first why I’d taken the deal, and it caught me off-guard.  I shared that there was a list of people prepared by the Prosecution to call to testify…my children were at the top, neighbors, friends, my Pastor, police officers, DCF workers, teachers, on and on and on.  Too many people stood to get hurt – and when I weighed my children on the stand and that deal, the risk wasn’t worth it anymore.  And then she said two of the most powerful things I’d heard all week:  two years ago I was so stuck on why this happened and what were we going to do about it and how were we going to fix it, that I could barely see straight.  Now I had just sacrificed myself so that my children did not get hurt – look at the progress I’d made.  Secondly, I had maintained that the Justice System never really cared about the truth, they just wanted their pound of flesh.  But she said that my truth, my version of what happened, is still true – whether they heard me or not.  It doesn’t negate what I know is true.  There are interpretations of the truth, and I will always know what happened – this plea doesn’t change that.

I’m finding that helpful in being able to stop calling myself a ‘convict,’ which I’ve been doing all week, and to stop comparing myself to others who were in court that day.  They don’t walk my walk, nor do I walk theirs.  I’m giving myself permission to feel whatever I need to right now – and that’s something entirely new for me.  I’m not going to linger too long, and then I’m going to process what God has next for me, because there’s always a plan.  It’s been a long 2 years to get to this point, and there’s a lot of hurt and healing to process.  But I am absolutely in the best place of my life to deal with those feelings, which lets me know I’m right where I’m supposed to be, with exactly who I need beside me.

Love her…?

“You didn’t love her.  You just didn’t want to be alone.  Or maybe she was just good for your ego.  Or maybe she made you feel better about your miserable life, but you didn’t love her.  Because you don’t destroy people you love.”