Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Letter Cycle

Last Christmas was difficult.  Actually, it was awful.  The events of Christmas 2013 have invaded my feelings towards Christmas in general.  I believe it was the last time Erin saw her dad before he went to prison in March 2013.  There may have been a brief meeting in a restaurant but I don't remember for certain.  It is weird how the timing of things gets confused over time.  We hear from Tom in the form of letters.  They arrive in separate envelopes addressed to each of us individually.

This year, I planned a trip to Niagara Falls after Christmas.  I thought it would be a nice change and it would be good to get away for a few days.   Then came the letters.  Erin knew I had letters for her from her father.  They were jumbled up in some paperwork from the house.   We had a great day on Monday.  We spent the day site seeing and enjoying Niagara Falls.  We got back to the hotel around nine and Erin wanted to work on some school work she brought along.  I forgot that I packed a pile of paperwork to review in her backpack.  

And there they were...the letters.

I gave Erin the letters and she initially set them aside for a while.   Then after a few minutes, she opened them.   I watched her reaction and tried to read her face.  She shrugged her shoulders, made a brief comment and went back to her homework. 

There is never a good time for the letters. I am sure she won't admit it to me but they upset her almost every time she gets one.  It is not an immediate reaction.  It is as if the letters need time to sink in before she reacts.  Erin does not talk to me about them but I really wish she did because...I get it.

I get it because I understand the letter cycle. 

I can only explain it from my perspective.  The letter arrives and I have an initial feeling of apprehension.  I don't open them right away because I don't want to read them.  I know how I am going to react.  The letters are a mixture of anger, bitterness and condemnation. That part is relatively easy to digest.  The hard part is woven in the letter.  There are these glimmers or glimpses of the person I used to know.  The letters are complex and have many layers.  They cause what I only can describe as a delayed sucker punch.   The sadness of what could have or should have been hits me later.  And then I become upset with myself for letting the letters get to me.

I look forward to starting a new year.  My goal is to have a more positive outlook in 2015.   I am going to try the 21-day challenge and write down three things that I am grateful for each day.  Today I am grateful for having a safe trip, revolving restaurants and ferris wheels.

I wish all the readers of this blog a happy and healthy New Year!


Monday, April 21, 2014

A PFA Is A Piece of Paper

Disclaimer:  This is a personal web log. The opinions expressed are my own. Please note that I am not dispensing advice. These are my personal experiences and reflections. 

I cannot tell you how often I was told to “Get a PFA”.  I heard it from family members, crisis hotline workers, attorneys and friends.  A protection from abuse order is a paper that is signed by a judge and tells the abuser to stop the abuse or face serious legal consequences.  It offers civil legal protection from domestic violence to both female and male victims.  An attorney described a PFA as a tool for police and lawyers.

Each time I was asked my answer was an immediate and emphatic “NO”.   I would then have to explain my belief that a PFA is a piece a paper.  The piece of paper would not have protected me from a person with unstable mental health and a proclivity for violence.  I believe that if I would have gotten a PFA…I would not be here writing this blog post today.   Could I be wrong in my assessment?  Sure.  However, it doesn’t matter because I believed it to be true.

In February, I was contacted by the police because they wanted to talk to me.   The detective told me I could come to him or he could come to me.   Not much of a choice.   It really sucks getting a phone call from the police…just saying.  We set an appointment and the waiting was much worse than the actual interview.   I went to the police station and sat with the detective.  The interview room looked nothing like I imagined it.   It was a big open classroom and not like the CSI, NCIS or SVU interview rooms.

At the end of the appointment, I asked the detective if I needed to get a PFA. This was the first and only time I considered filing for a PFA.  He shrugged and said “A PFA is a piece of paper.”  It was explained that I might get one but since there was no imminent threat I might not get one.  It was also explained that certain conversation are not protected especially since we had a child.  I pretty much got the feeling there was no point.  I left the appointment reassured in my past decisions to not file for a PFA.

Friday, April 18, 2014

“The Talk” No One Prepares You For

As a parent, you look forward to certain milestones in your child’s life.   There is joy in watching the first step or hearing the first word.   On the flip side, a parent has the responsibility of having “The Talks”.   We talk to our children about values, trust, safety, boundaries, puberty, alcohol/drugs, and sex.   Early on I established what I referred to as “The Mommy Rules”.    I sent my daughter out to face the world knowing the following simple rules.

I will always love you.

I am proud of you no matter what.

Be who you are.

A few weeks ago, I was faced with having a talk that I was not prepared to give.   I had to tell my teenage daughter that her father was in jail.  Even now as I write the words, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach.  I found out he was taken to jail when my brother called me and told me it was on the local news.  I knew I needed to tell her before she found out from someone else.   I left work early and picked her up from school.  I was waiting in the parking lot and it felt like she was the last person out of the building.  She knew there was something wrong when she saw me standing in front of the school.

Erin got in the car.
I told her.
She put in her favorite CD and
we drove….
and drove…
and drove.

We ended up at the Hershey Chocolate World that day.  We bought huge bags of chocolate chip cookies.  It was a sad day but the emotion which resonates most clearly is anger.  Tom was given so many opportunities to change his path but he didn’t.  It did not have to be this way.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How Did I Get Here?

“I am telling you this as a friend, as your sister, take care of yourself.”
The very sad truth is that I don’t remember how. 
But here is where I begin.

I guess I should start by explaining where I am.  It is difficult to talk about because I have grown accustomed to remaining silent.  I always felt it was not my tale to tell; not my place to discuss.   I was married to someone who was bipolar.  Mental illness does not usually come up in casual conversation.  Medical conditions are private.  I always thought that he would share his diagnosis with the people he chose. 

In October 2012, my daughter and I stood on my parent’s porch with the clothes on our backs and a handful of belongings packed in the car.  I can remember some of the items Erin packed:  her pillow, a favorite blanket, a stuffed elephant named Elly and a sentimental book The Land of Many Colors.   This was the direct result of a huge argument between my husband and me.  The discussion started in the bar area of the house.  I don’t remember specifics but it probably had to do with finances and his refusal to help me handle the problems.  The argument ended with me having a split lip that would not stop bleeding.

I would pinpoint this moment as the beginning of Tom’s latest downward spiral.  He was diagnosed as bipolar in 1994.  The self medication started in 1999 with prescription pain killers, Ambien and Xanax.  The medication reached its maximum with daily doses of Fentanyl,  Percocet, Ambien, Adderall and Xanax.   Eight to ten Ambien to sleep and four Adderall to wake up.  His parents and I were able to get him into a treatment program in December 2011.  Tom completed the 30 days but refused the recommended extended care.  Within a week, he was back at the doctor being prescribed the same medications.  His mental health continued to deteriorate.  He talked about suicide on a regular basis. 

Today, Erin and I are still living with my parents.  Tom is in jail pending further court action with $500,000.00 bail.  I have to deal with a house that has been left go beyond physical and financial repair.  Many of my important, sentimental possessions have been hidden somewhere within the confines of the property.  I am finding items hidden in attic crawl spaces and locked in a cold cellar.  I cannot find a large portion of my snowman collection.  He sold or pawned many items.   The paperwork piles are enormous.  There is trash everywhere.

I am exhausted but I need to tell my story.

It is time.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I Have A Blog?

Yes...yes I do.

Sometimes I forget.

Just a quick note to say "Hello!" to all the readers who still stumble upon this blog from time to time.  There is not much...ok I mean nothing...to report on karate.  This is my first prolonged absence from the dojo and training.  I miss my instructors.  I miss my friends. I miss my fellow karate blog friends. I miss training.

During the summer, I was at the IKKF Annual Training event.  I was hoping the event would catapult me back in to training.  I spoke to Hanshi Hayes during a break in the sessions.  I mentioned my lapse in training and he told me not to worry because "it was about the long term commitment".

So here I am....focusing on the the long term commitment.

I will be back.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Teaching Your Own Child Karate

My daughter turns 14 years old next week.  In a few weeks, she will graduate 8th grade.  In a few months, she will start high school.  In a few short years, she will head off to college. 

 Time flies like an arrow…

A few weeks ago, she mentioned in passing about learning karate.  (We have been down this road before).  She wants me to teach her and she wants to learn via private lessons.  I did not give this much thought at the time because I was in the process of driving her from one play practice to another.   The truth is…she simply did not have the time. (Historical society play, School play, Living Stations, Mathletes, Declamation Contest, Softball, homework).

Yesterday, Erin expressed interest in learning the tunfa.  I handed her my favorite set of Shureido tunfa and we went outside dressed in sweatpants and t-shirts.  There were no gi, no belts, no mirrors and we were barefoot on the grass.

It was a good training session. 


Do you teach your own child karate?

Private lessons or class environment?

What are your biggest challenges?  

At what age did your child start learning?

I am inclined to have her learn privately and in a class setting.  My main concern is she is so busy with other activities that she will not have the time to study karate. 

PS. Hello Readers!  It has been a few months since I posted.  I hope everyone is doing well.    

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Listen...to your body.

In mid December, my sister Kim had surgery on her foot to correct a Haglund's Deformity and Plantar Fasciitis.  After the surgery, she had a list of instructions such as no weight bearing (crutches) and elevation for four weeks.  Kim wore a surgical boot for six weeks. 

My sister is not the type of person who is content being at home.  She is on the go....all the time.   Two weeks into her recovery, she asked me to take her to a jewelry making class a few towns away.   Kim assured me it was O.K. with her doctor because she was able to elevate her foot during the class.  On the ride to the bead shop, she told me her calf was sore for about two days and was not getting any better.

My sister was convinced she had a blood clot. 

The ultrasound test in the ER the next morning confirmed her suspicion.  The ER doctor kept her for observation because if the blood clot would shift it would travel to her lung.  The blood clot was in her ankle and was a result of the surgery.  The doctor said her blood clot was diagnosed early.  Kim returned home after an overnight stay in the hospital, blood tests, injections and a regime of cumadin

I am glad my sister was listening....