#MeToo, Sexual abuse, Uncategorized

My Story: #MeToo

pexels-photo-622135.jpegEver since the #MeToo movement hit the news, I began to think about my story. My first memory linking me to this movement is from when I was four years old. Although, I had been told it began before I was one. A female babysitter experimented with me while I was in her care. She was young herself, and told my mom after just a few questions. Before my first birthday I joined an enormous group of women, men, and children, who have been victimized sexually at the hands of another.

I wasn’t even 365 days old yet. And that’s when it started. Started…just began. Oh, there’s more…more than I can probably remember. My #MeToo just became #MeTooManyToCount. I know I am not alone. I know there are many others who have been victimized and re-victimized, by one or several. The number of people who cannot add the #MeToo hashtag is so much smaller than the ones who can; they just are not all ready to share.

At four years old, an older boy, who has his own #MeToo story, again, used me to experiment with. We were naked. He tried to have sex with me….and he just might have, but I was four and didn’t know what sex was. I never told. I did not want him to get in trouble, because if I told, they probably would have killed him.

At five a neighbor boy, only a couple years older than me made me take my pants down while he tried to have sex with me. Two older boys were watching. They did not try to help. They watched, and later told me they would tell my mom on me for being a whore. I was five.

At six the sexual abuse by my mom’s then boyfriend began. My mom was present for almost all of the abuse. I was reprimanded for being a dirty girl and letting him touch me. When I threatened to tell, I was told that I would go to jail, so I kept the secret safe. This abuse lasted for about three years, although the constant innuendos and sexual remarks never stopped.

At twelve the sexual abuse from the same man started again when I began to develop breasts. Every time I walked past him, he would reach out and touch them, or pinch them with some sort of comment to follow. I hated every part of it, but it was the norm in the household. He would touch my breasts and I would try to hide my chest all while my mom was watching.

At fourteen I finally told someone about the sexual abuse that I had been experiencing. The secret that I held close for eight years was finally released and I was put in foster care. When my mom was able to talk to me again after being removed from the home, she asked me to “recant” my story and blame the abuse on my dead father–the only man that never touched me in those ways. She told me that if I did not lie, it would be my fault if my then seven-year old sister was taken away and put in foster care. I did it. After a lot of convincing, I did what she asked to try to protect my sister with the hope to be able to return home as well. She got to stay, but I had to remain in foster care.

While this was happening, the only thing in my life that made sense was English class. I put all of my feelings and emotions into words and wrote until I couldn’t write any more. I arrived to class early each day, because I looked forward to the praise I received from my teacher. He told me how proud he was of my effort, and how beautifully I wrote. Approval was the one thing I could not get enough of.

One morning as I took my seat in class, the student teacher was the only one in the room. I instantly felt uncomfortable and thought of ways I could leave until the others arrived. The desire to leave left me paralyzed in my seat. He walked over to my desk, his groin level with my desk and he pressed himself into my face. I shrank back into my seat as I waited for him to leave, but he didn’t. I was relieved when another student walked in and he scattered away from my desk. The power he held over me was not something I was unfamiliar with, and maybe what all of the above perpetrators had in common.

At fifteen I was raped by a twenty-one year old man who was renting a room in my mom’s house. The second night when he came back he told me my mom had put him up to it. She fed me to the horny wolves…again. He did not get charged with rape because I did not have another trial in me. I reluctantly told the police that it was consensual, and he was charged with statutory rape, and I was labeled a “whore” by my mother.

At nineteen, I began working in a machine shop full of men. My best friend and I were the only two women on the shop floor at that time. At first it felt nice to get the special attention, but that faded quickly when the unwanted touching and comments filled most days. The fun place to go turned into a place that I dreaded.

My smile and quite demeanor made me an easy target; if there is such a thing. The unwanted sexual contact made sex confusing. I began to think the only thing I was worth was sex. My image of myself was distorted. If I could not make guys look at me, or turn their heads when I walked by, I felt worthless. If I wasn’t getting attention I felt ugly, and if I was getting attention I wanted to feel ugly, so I would let my weight get out of control. It was a constant, confusing battle.

I wanted the attention, but I hated the attention. A swirl of ecstasy mixed with depression. The roller coaster of self-loathing became my ride of choice.

“You’re too ugly to make anyone love you.”

“Why are you such a whore?”

“He thinks you are pretty…I like how that feels.”

“He thinks you are pretty…make him stop looking at me.”

The battle of negative self-talk turned all my thoughts into hateful ones.

I hated myself. I hated how people treated me. I hated how I wasn’t strong enough to make them stop. I hated that I didn’t know what love was. I hated that I was labeled a whore, and later a victim. I despise the v word, because it makes me feel weak.

The v word takes away my power, as did all the others before. I am not a victim. I am a survivor. A survivor of others’ actions and of my own negative self-talk. I know that I am not alone. I know there are countless others who know just how I felt. I know there are others who do not know who they are without the abuse. I know that I am not the only one who still feels like that scared little girl at times..

There is power in numbers. Together, we have the courage to tell our secrets and the strength to learn to love ourselves, to see ourselves as the truly beautiful women we are. From the inside out. You don’t have to suffer in silence. Our voices are changing the world. We will overcome, and we will rise above it all.




Depression, Hope, Uncategorized

Look For Your Flicker


Out with the old, in with the new. The hope we all have when the year changes. Last year was a great year, I was a little nervous to see it go. I wondered, “How could it get any better?” Only hours into 2018, and I knew my feelings of apprehension were with cause. A life taken too soon, a family left with a hole. Days later, a second loss, almost identical circumstances.

Death, illness, injury, misunderstandings, lies and coercion are what have made up the first month in 2018. Fighting negativity is my daily job. How do I fight something that lingers? That sticks so strongly to everything that I know? A swirl of darkness chases me as I take steps forward. The past haunts my thoughts when I allow it to; but this is not how I want to live. This is not who I want to be.

Depression is more than a word, and if you have ever experienced it you know. You know the hold it can have on you, and even after you feel that you have been freed from its grip, you know that it is still there. Alcohol to an alcoholic is like depression to the depressed. An effort to replace sadness with joy. A constant battle to look for the positive in each day. How do you accept happiness when gloom was all that came before? How do you even know what joy is? The swirling thoughts just take you deeper down the spiral of no return. As you fall, so do the stairs that help you climb back up.




Until you hit the bottom. The cold, lonely, dark bottom where you only have time to dwell in the misery. Like an addiction, when this is all you know, you crave it. You strive for the lousy feelings that depression brings. The hope of better days is elusive as you watch darkness take over the sun. You give in to these feelings, and you believe with everything that you have that it will never get better.


It is cold. It is lonely. It hurts to breathe. It hurts to think. It hurts your heart. It hurts your soul. It hurts everything. The pain is all you can focus on. It becomes who you are, and all that you know. Like a blanket, the pain starts to create comfort. Comfort in the uncomfortable, and you know without a doubt this is all life has to offer you.

If you are lucky, in this darkness, the little spark of light that has never left will flicker enough to get your attention.

Over here.

Your eyes notice the hint of light and something shifts in your brain. The overwhelming hold of depression loosens its grip, just a little. Just enough to help you remember life without it. The real life you wanted. The one you worked so hard for. You can do this. You have what it takes. You are strong. Don’t ever give up.

You brush the dust off and you start to rebuild the staircase that led you astray. Piece by piece, stair by stair, you reach the top. And you start over. Again. You never give up. Giving up is not an option, although you sometimes forget. Life is too short to give into the pain, to the depression. You only have one chance to live. To love yourself. To give yourself permission to heal from the pain of the past.

Although 2018 started off rocky, I will not let negativity win. I will not allow people or events to dictate my worth or happiness. I will allow the fall, but I will not remain there. I will feel what I need to feel and I will move on. I will not dwell in the negativity. I will not give up. I will carry on.


mental illness, Uncategorized

The Devil Inside

My sister came acrmirror-1662178__340oss a paper our mom wrote for college. The subject: Mental Illness. The topic: Me. I debated on whether or not to read it. I had an idea what it was going to say, and I wondered if she would be upset to know it was in my hands. I waited a few hours, and when I couldn’t wait any longer, I skimmed it and decided it was going to be too upsetting.

A while later the pieces that I did read kept playing over in my head and I knew I had to finish reading it. This was my mom’s perspective of her first born daughter. I wrote my perspective when I wrote The Monster That Ate My Mommy, and thought it was only fair to see the situation through her eyes. I have forgiven her, and this was the past, written seventeen years ago.

I sat next to George as I started to read, reading pieces out loud and stopping with a few gasps, “oh my Gods,” and “wows.” I read a sentence, stopped, and explained the truth. There was a hint of truth in a lot of it, but for every truth there was a twist to make it seem like we lived in different worlds. An example: “Jessica was born from a rape.” This was the story I was told as a little girl, maybe to make me understand what a gift my mom gave me when she fought the world and decided to have a baby under such circumstances. The truth came out years later, after the guilt of my conception was carried on my shoulders. My mom and dad went to a convention in Atlantic City, NJ, where they had a mini vacation and I was conceived…consensually. She only admitted to this when I found a letter she wrote my dad that had been used as a book mark in one of Gram’s books. I do not remember the exact words now, but it talked about that weekend, and it talked about how I was created out of love and how it would be best if they tried to work it out and have him in my life.

My whole belief on who I was shifted when I read that letter, and I gathered a little more evidence to store in my mental file, “Your own mother doesn’t love you.” When I confronted her with the letter, she looked like a deer caught in headlights. Surprisingly, she did not deny it. She was angry at me for “snooping.”

Another example, and I think this might have been her favorite, “She said she heard voices and they were always telling her to do bad things….She never mentioned the voices again, until years later. They had never left.” It is true that when I was seven years old I did hear voices, but they were never talking to me and never told me to do anything. When I heard the voices they were two women fighting with each other. I remember telling Mom it sounded like a mother and daughter bickering. I only heard them in my bedroom at Bill’s house, never anywhere else, and they did not last long…I stopped hearing them, and they never came back.

Her eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas when I told her about the voices. “Ahha…she is crazy!” I went to her for comfort and support, but what I didn’t know then, and probably didn’t really realize until recently she was compiling her own mental file, “Reasons why I don’t have to love my daughter, and can prove to the world she is crazy so they won’t love her either.” It wasn’t good enough that she didn’t love me; she had to make others feel the same, to maybe help her ego a little. If others thought the things she did about me, she couldn’t possibly be a bad person. It was me who was the problem.

At seven when I heard the voices I was under an extreme amount of stress and had undergone more trauma than most adults ever face. By seven I had been continually physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. I had my life threatened more than once. I was caught between two mentally unstable adults who made sure I did not love the other while I was in the opposite’s presence. I also had a new baby sister, who was loved by everyone, even my mom, who had been unable to show me love.

The rest of the fourteen page document is much of the same. She took a tiny truth and shaped it to fit into her belief. There was not one part that I could read without feeling like I had to defend it. As I got to the end of the document it became clear, “I think Kate had a much better life because Jessica wasn’t in the home.” My eyes opened wider than I think they had ever before, and my final “wow,” spewed out of my mouth. There we have it folks…a lifetime of being made to feel crazy…and the grand prize…a better life for my sister, who has her own memoir to write.

This twisted view of who my mom saw me to be was how I was raised. The toxic, crazy making was real. I have it in black and white. I cried at the end of reading it and talked it over with George. This. This was my life. It was like what you watch on a Lifetime movie. This isn’t reality. How could anyone survive in this type of environment? But, it was reality. A tiny life came into the world to this unstable person, and she tried so hard to find defects in me, and when I wasn’t who she wanted me to be, when I was able to withstand her venom and hatred, and twisted reality I became a problem. I was not moldable. I was the flower that grows out of the mud. I was the ray of light shining through the dirty window lighting up the room. Sure, I have my flaws, but I will never be the person my mother wrote about in that paper. I never was.

It is even clearer why I needed years of healing. Why I still struggle with loving myself, and seeing the adversity I overcame. For most of my life the air I breathed in was full of poison. The belief system reminds me of a cult, and because I would not follow suit I was punished. I believe my mom thought the devil was inside of me. She tried to schedule an exorcism for me after I told about the sexual abuse by Bill. She had to get the devil out of me, so I could see the “truth.” I never caved. I never went to their world. There were times that I believed I had no worth, and I am working on fixing that still. After a lifetime of being shown an image of yourself, it is hard to see what is really in the mirror.

Positive self-talk is a struggle some days, but it is the only thing that will save me.

I thanked George for seeing me. The real me. The me that my mom tried to hide. And for helping me see myself with different eyes.

The sad reality is that in order to heal, my mom had to die. The spell she cast over me, to alter my reality could only be lifted upon her death. And, then my healing could fully begin.

Grief and Loss, healing, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

2017: The Year My Dreams Came Alive

5954D43C-D01F-4EE8-95F3-A9634268D394A couple of weeks before 2017 came to an end, I started to reflect on the last few months. They happened so fast, and were filled with so much joy, and heartbreak. As I thought back to what had happened, I could feel the energy swirl through my body. For the first time that I can remember, I felt clear of negativity. It was such an unknown feeling, I almost did not recognize it. I just knew that I felt lighter—and free.

Freedom is something that I have been chasing my whole life. Freedom from the abusers I encountered throughout my life, freedom from my own negative self-talk. Freedom from the darkness. Sure, the light had always been there, but the weight of it always lurked near by. Depression is like that. Waiting to pounce when life seems to be going too well.

The months from 2017 replayed in my head as I allowed this new feeling to linger. January tested me in a job that went against everything I believed in, and it was Tom Petty that helped me see what I needed to do in February. “Can’t sell your soul for piece of mind.” Tom was right, he is always right. I walked into my job without a plan and quit. The money was good, but it demanded I went against my own ethical code and left me angry. I did not want to waste another day being unhappy.

Quitting a job with no backup plan was not something I had ever done before. There was no time to have a plan in place, I just had to jump and pray that I landed. A week of feeling sorry for myself and letting anger fester inside of me, I picked up my manuscript that I had received from my editor, Alice Peck, in September 2016. I dusted it off and began to go through it. There was a lot of work to do, and the thought of it was overwhelming, but I brushed away the fear and developed a plan.

February, March and April were spent reading, writing and rewriting some of the most painful parts of my story. Depression came crawling back as I sat alone in the living room remembering things I had spent a lifetime trying to forget. Each section of my story I became the age I was writing. I dropped myself back in time and relived each painful memory. Tears fell from my eyes as I typed. It was exhausting, but I was not going to let the pain keep me from my dreams of being a published author.

It had also been almost a year since I had the attunement for Reiki II, and I felt that I was ready for the Master training. I reached out to SaliCrow and asked if she was able to offer the training. She had a Reiki II class coming up at the end of the month, so it was perfect timing. I spent some time studying and making sure I was ready.

April came with the anniversaries of my gram’s and my mom’s death. Year eight for Gram and the first anniversary for Mom. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 40th Anniversary tour began on April 20th—the year anniversary of my mom’s death. I sat in my car listening to Tom Petty Radio talk about the beginning of the tour, and read comments from friends on Tom Petty Nation talk about the meet ups and the shows they were going to. Most of the friends that I had made in Tom Petty Nation were going to the show in Nashville, TN. I remembered how badly I had wanted to go the year before for the Mudcrutch tour so I could meet them.

A thought popped into my head, as though it was a message from my mom. You have to go. There was no way that could happen. The show in Nashville was five days away. I’d need a plane ticket, a hotel, transportation once I arrived, a ticket to the show, a place for the kids…these thoughts tried to talk me out of going. There was no way it would work, but the voice telling me I had to go was louder than the others.

When I got home I told George about it. A familiar phrase came from his lips, “You have to go.”

But how? How could I pull it off? It was now just four days before the show. I went onto an airline site—tickets were available. I stated looking for a place to stay…but I didn’t even have a ticket to the show. I searched for a ticket…the only ones available required me to buy two. Maybe this wasn’t going to work out after all. Discouraged, I went back on Tom Petty Nation and asked if anyone had one ticket they were looking to sell, and let the others know I was thinking about going. More people told me what George had said, “You have to go!”

Messages began coming in. An offer of a place to stay and a single floor ticket gave me hope. Maybe this could happen. I went back to the airline site…tickets still available. I let George know it really could happen. When I couldn’t get him to talk me out of it, I purchased the plane ticket and made plans to buy the concert ticket at the meet up and confirmed that I would have a place to stay.

With three days to spare, there really was no time to be nervous. When I drove myself to the airport I was only hours away from meeting a bunch of people I had been friends with for years online who love Tom as much as I have. Only my second time flying I was a little afraid of what might happen, but I had to do this. It might have been the reminder that life is short, or something else leading me there, but everything lined up just right to make it happen.

When I arrived at the arena I learned the floor ticket I had bought from another TPN member was seventh row…center. The show was magical, and like always, it felt like Tom was the only one in the room. With less than twenty-four hours in Nashville, there was not too much time to explore, but I was able to meet a bunch of amazing people who understood my love for Tom and my connection to the music.

After the show I went back to work on my manuscript and prepare for my Reiki Master training. On April 30th, I became a Reiki Master. Still unsure of myself, I felt something pushing me along. I was moving forward, and maybe not on my own. I felt that I was on the right path.

After completing the Reiki Master training I had more time to think between writing. While I was thinking, something told me to look for front row seats for one of the upcoming Philadelphia shows George and I were going to. I found a pair right away, but the price almost stopped me. I logged out of the site and went back to writing. It was a crazy idea. The mouse clicked on the ticket site again and I added them to my cart. I watched the time tick away before they were thrown back to be sold. I closed the screen again and went back to writing.

What if this is my only chance to ever meet Tom? What if I never get the chance to see him front row again? I’d spend the rest of my life regretting not doing it. I went back to the ticket site and added the tickets to my cart again and made the purchase. They were going to be a surprise birthday gift for George, but when he got home I could not keep the smile off my face. I needed to tell him the exciting news, but I wanted to surprise him. When I couldn’t stop smiling, I spilled the beans. “Guess what I did today.”

“What did you do?”

“It’s an early birthday gift to you and me…we are going to see Tom front row!”

He was as excited as I was, but the only problem was it was a two month wait. How could I wait that long? The excitement filled my every thought, but left just enough room to continue on with my rewrite. Tom’s music filled the quietness of the room as I wrote. His voice kept me grounded as I relived abuse and betrayal.

By June my rewrite was complete and it was sent off to a new editor. Now that the manuscript was out of my hands I had plenty of time to think about the upcoming shows. As I waited for the tickets to arrive I became increasingly anxious…what if they were not real? What if someone just took my money and I won’t even get the front row tickets? I held back the excitement enough to not be severely disappointed if it did not turn out as I hoped. No tickets in hand until two hours before the show. The excitement did not return until we were sitting in our seat. This was real. Tom Petty was going to be feet from me. An impossibility was becoming reality.

As Tom and the band walked on stage I felt warmth radiate throughout my body. A smile so big that my cheeks hurt. I couldn’t jump and shout…I was too much in awe of who was in front of me, and who was beside me. Tom made eye contact with me a few times, maybe my smile got his attention. I knew he could feel my gratitude. I sang along with him and continued to smile. At song number seven he walked over to where we were standing and finished playing “Free Fallin’” right in front of us. At the end of the song, he looked right at me and tossed his pick to me. George was taking pictures and did not see this happen. I started to cry. Tom saw me, and he knew. He knew that he mattered to me, and that was as good as meeting him.

It was like a dream. I couldn’t even talk about it right away. It was unreal. Stuff like this didn’t happen to me. As we looked through the pictures when we arrived home we saw it. George had captured the pick being tossed to me. A spilt second caught on camera to cherish the moment forever. There was no denying what had happened now. My heart was full.

The month of July was filled with three more concerts. The first night in Boston a TPN member told me Ron Blair was in the hall talking with people. I quickly walked out…and there he was. I went up to him and shook his hand and walked away. What just happened? I found George and told him…he followed me back out to where Ron had been and another TPN member, Brien was there standing next to Ron. George convinced me to ask Ron to take a picture with me and he and Brien took some pictures for me.

The next night we had not planned on going, but after the night before I looked for tickets and found front row tickets marked way down. We were both exhausted, but George told me we had to go. Less than twenty-four hours later and we were back in Boston. Dana Petty came out to dance while Peter Wolf played, but it didn’t look like she was able to see. When she came closer I offered for her to stand in front of me so she could enjoy the show. She smiled and thanked me but continued dancing where she was. Then one of her favorite songs came on and she came over next to me and danced. It was so great to see her enjoying the show, and be able to be a real fan without a bunch of people bothering her. At the end of the night she came up to me, thanked me, gave me two picks and hugged me. What was happening?

The next show was back in Philadelphia, this time third row. I was a little sad this was going to be our last show of the tour, but so grateful for what had already happened. I was also a little nervous that this might be my last time seeing Tom live in concert. After all, they had said this was their last big tour. I left that night with a little sadness in my heart. Something deep inside me told me we were driving away from the last show. I tried to brush it off. What a great time we had, and I wanted to keep that euphoria alive.

In August I was offered a job after spending a few weeks looking for a good fit. At the interview everything just felt right. The people were nice, it was a job I had done before and I knew how to do, and best of all, the stress level was nonexistent. Things continued to fall into place.

September came and I had my manuscript back from my editor and it was ready for me to go through one last time. My cover had been designed and everything was almost ready for my book to be published in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. On September 8th, The Monster That Ate My Mommy went live. I panicked as I realized what happened, and had no time to prepare for my story to be live in the world, but felt there was a reason.

Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe’s book, The First Signs of April  had been published on September 5th, and because of the closeness of their publication we were able to have a couple of co-author events. M-E helped push me on the path to healing, and beginning this journey with her was serendipitous. The first event was planned for October 20th, to honor Tom Petty’s Birthday, as well as the anniversary of my protection order.

I spent the next few weeks preparing for the event. I picked three pieces to read, one about child abuse, one about domestic violence, and the last, a happy one, about my first time seeing Tom Petty in concert. The chapter about Tom was the saving grace; the only piece that held any happiness. Until October 2nd. That awful day that the world learned of his death. The pain of this loss was devastating. How could losing someone I didn’t even know hurt so bad? That’s where I was wrong. I knew him, I had known him for years. He was a dependable friend. My only source of constant joy for the past twenty-two years. His words had gotten me through so many tough situations. Healed so many broken hearts. Gave me joy, and hope, and happiness.

I tried to practice the chapter, and as soon as I saw his name on the page I could not see past the tears. I was ready to give up, to quit this dream, but I knew I couldn’t. His songs gave me the strength I needed and pushed me forward, just as they always had. Tom was gone, but he left such a beautiful legacy behind, and I wanted to do the same.

Just a week after my book went live, I started the End of Life Doula program at UVM. I completed the online course in November and received my certification. All the pieces I had been missing were coming together. The picture to the puzzle was beginning to become clear. I need to use my skills to help others, to heal others.

The rest of the year found my book seventy-one reviews on Amazon, most all 5-star, and the others 4-star. Readers were saying incredible things about my book; about me. I was getting messages from people who read my story and thanked me for sharing so honestly, and helping them see things differently. That life of darkness I thought I had lived was now a bright light, helping others see the way.

As I went through the year’s accomplishments with George, I told him how grateful I was for all that had happened. I told him how, for the first time ever, I felt at peace, as though I am right where I should be. Calm. Peaceful. Right. All unknown feelings, but the freeness of them felt so in sync. He told me, “The year is not over yet.”

Hours into December 24th George asked me to marry him. Knowing I get to spend the rest of my life with someone who treats me with love and respect, and who builds me up and encourages me to follow my dreams is what I have been searching for my whole life. Until I met him I did not believe such people existed. I thought all the movies lied to us and set us up for disappointment. George showed me love is real, and love is true, and best of all, love is returned. For the first time ever, life is as it should be. The freedom from negativity is overwhelmingly present.

As I think about all that happened in 2017, all that I accomplished, all that I lost, all that I gained there is no room for sadness. No room for sorrow. The sun is shining, even on the darkest of days. There is hope in each day. Maybe there always has been, but my blinders are lifted and I can see. I can feel. Only goodness to come.

Tom was right (he always is), “Something Good Coming.”

Spring 2016 855In Memory Tom Petty and my second father that were lost in 2017. May you Rest In Peace, play a little music, cause a little trouble and feel all the love we send your way. Thank you both for your part in rescuing me.


Chasing Traditions


With the amount of turmoil in my life as a child it seems obvious that there were never any real traditions that stuck; how could they stick when life was forever changing? The first three years of my life were spent living at my gram’s house, where the only memory that sticks out is sitting around the Christmas tree in my gram’s living room in my diaper opening gifts with Peter’s dad. The gift I remember opening was a teddy bear in a jogging suit, who soon became “Albert the Bear.” I am not certain these memories come from deep within myself, or if they come from photos and stories, but it is something that I can feel deep in my heart.

The next set of memories come from the years living in the trailer with Mom and Ralph. What I remember most about this time is waiting for my gram and grandmother to arrive. Christmas could not start until they were present. I remember pacing back and forth in front of the tree waiting to see Gram drive into the yard, often with my grandmother as her passenger.

After Mom and Ralph split up Christmas got confusing. I would spend the days before Christmas with Ralph and my grandmother. I remember sitting on my knees on the floor in the living room in front of the Christmas tree opening gifts with my dad and grandmother. I was the center of attention, the main focus. I was on my best behavior, an occasional “thank you,” and a constant smile on my face as I waited to be delivered home. I didn’t know it then, but I cherish those moments with my dad and grandmother. I did not realize how few moments like those that we would have together.

Later Ralph would drop me off at Bill’s house, where I would get ready for Christmas with Peter, and later, Kate. I remember not being able to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, as I listened to each and every sound. I would tip-toe into Peter’s room and poke him until he woke up…”Peter….Peter…did you hear that?”

He swatted me away. “Go back to bed Jessie.”

“But Peter…Santa came! Come look at our stockings…please….pretty please Peter.”

After a few minutes of begging, he would get up with me and we would quietly creep to the stairs to sneak a peek at what Santa left behind. Sometimes Mom would catch us and yell at us to go back to bed, other times we made it down to get a good look. I can still feel the magic that filled my body as I saw the stockings and presents around the tree…not because of the gifts, but the feeling that filled the house.




Christmas morning we sat together as Peter, Kate, and I opened our stockings while Mom and Bill drank coffee. Mom let us each pick one gift to open before we went to Bill’s parent’s house for their family Christmas, where we awkwardly sat on the floor around a tree with all of Bill’s family. The time passed so slowly as I thought about what was waiting at home for us. When it was finally time to leave we went home where Mom started Christmas dinner while we waited for Gram to arrive. “Where is Grammy?” I asked as I looked out the window and waited for her car.

“Be patient Jessie.”

The magic returned when Gram walked through the door, because now it was Christmas. Gram greeted us with hugs and took us to the living room so we could show her our stockings and we sat together as we waited for Mom to come in.

A few years later, that all stopped. When I was in foster care I spent my first Christmas away from home. My very first Christmas spent without Gram. It would have been devastating if I had not spent it with Hannah and her family. Everything as I knew it was different. Hannah’s family made my Christmas as special as possible, and treated me like their second daughter.

The next few years were spent as a quiet Christmas with just Gram and I. Gram filled my stocking, and I filled hers. We didn’t always wait for Christmas morning to open our gifts, we made our own rules and just had fun together. The magic returned.

As I became a mother I wanted more than anything to “make” new traditions. I wanted Christmas to be perfect for my kids, still not understanding that traditions cannot be forced. I wanted things to be just right, so my kids could have traditions they could share with their kids. As life would have it, a few years into a “tradition,” and something would change. An obstacle would come our way, and things would have to change.

Fast forward to Christmas 2008. It was Ruby’s first Christmas, and Gram’s last. It was only years later, looking at pictures of that day that it hit me. A first and last on the same day. The excitement of children at Christmas and the sorrow of losing my Christmas magic now took over the season.

A house fire, divorce, and death changed everything again. A fresh start over, and over and over again. Still, clinging to the idea of tradition, the feel that fills me this time of year is a hollow kind of love. Warm on the edges and cold in the center. A façade. Faking it. All the right motions. And yet, dead inside. To the depths of my core, the coldness encases my heart as I long for what I always wanted.

But the magic. The magic never left. The magic is what warms the frigid pieces of my soul. The warmth of the magic kept me from freezing, kept me from dying.

Throughout the years one thing remained the same. Love. Maybe it didn’t look like other people’s love. Maybe it was hidden under layers, but it was there. It was always there. My magic was Gram. And the magic my children will have is my love. My love is the tradition I hope they remember. My love is what I hope gets them through their holidays for years to come. Without love there is no magic. Without love there is nothing left.

Remember in the crazy, busy pursuit for the perfect Christmas, the perfect day, it is within you.

Merry Christmas, Happy Yule, and Blessed Be.


Comfort in Death

Since I lost my dad when I was ten years old I have been fascinated, and a little scared of death. Death has always been something that I thought about, either with fear or wonder. I was afraid to lose the person I loved, but I always wondered what happened after. What is it like for them on their next journey? Who will they see? What will it feel like?

The fear of my life being different without them is what stopped me from fully being at peace with death. Change in how life as I know it caused me to worry about losing people I love. Never being able to hear their voice or feel their skin filled my being with panic. Never being able to have a two-sided conversation again or feel the squeeze of the hand took the breath right out of me.

As I ran from the fear of death, there was always something pushing me toward my fear. As the fear swam around in my head, the questions I had bobbed to the surface. Each time I attempted to push death under and out of my thoughts, it came straight to the surface. My mind was full of either thoughts about dying and death, or thoughts of trying not to think about it all.

Fear of losing my Gram consumed my early thoughts, and followed me straight to her death, and held on tight for seven years after. The pain and longing to see her, to hear her, to touch her was all I could concentrate on. Every waking thought included my desire to have her back in my life again. The longing to have her back stole parts of me, and weighed me down so much so that there were days I did not think I would survive the pain.

Misery overshadowed me. The one constant through this period, was my continued interactions with death. The one career path I vowed to never take was the one that won my heart. Something inside me was stronger than I knew and pushed me to the path I was meant to travel.

No other population called to me like this one. The aging and disabled were who I knew how to help. With aging and disabilities, also came death. Outside my comfort zone, I slowly lost more and more clients. The first few years, the pain was almost too much. I felt like I was failing them; how was I helping them when they were dying? How did my time with them make a difference?

As family members grieved, I did not know what to do, or what to say. I could not hold the tears in. The feelings of gratitude and love seeped out my eyes. This could not be where I was meant to be. Could it? I felt their pain, and could not offer their loved one back to them. I could not give them anything. Or could I?

When I stopped feeling like I was letting them down, I looked at what I was doing. I was holding their hand and talking about the hard things no one else wanted to talk about. I sat at their bedside as they talked about how the life they had lived had went wrong and how it went right. I listened to their regrets and their joys. I developed a relationship with them as they packed up their things and headed to the door.

Death was not stealing people from me, it was sending people to me. Together, we were learning from each other. I was receiving so much when I pushed through the fear. I saw people in their most vulnerable state. Their strength transferred to me. Their love and ability to give in to what is filled my heart. The empty spaces that death had created for me was being filled in. With each interaction the pull towards death tugged me closer. This. This was what I was meant to do.

These lessons helped teach me that time is precious. The time that we do have should be spent living. My fear and sorrow changed. Something inside me shifted, and the weight lifted. The transformation from fear to healing made me realize I had to peruse this gift that was given to me. Death is not going away, and I can help those who need it. I can share the gifts that I had been given.

Having the majority of the people in my life on the other side now, I know there is more than here. I know that just because the body is gone, the person is not. I believe with everything I have that there is more. More time to love and learn. With these beliefs, as I am with a person that is dying I am overcome with peace. I know that what comes next for them is something of beauty. Death is not something to fear. Death is not the end.

I feel connected to the dead because I know they cannot hurt me. I know that all of the evilness of their worldly body is gone, and the spirit remains. They are free to be who they are, without the toxins of their surroundings. Death no longer brings fear, but comfort.

Last week I completed an eight-week certification program to become a death doula. I am now certified to help people find comfort in their death. Life experience led me to this path. Something that most people run from is now what I am running to.

I want to offer peace and love to those who are afraid. I want to help people leave something behind for the people they love. I want to listen to their fears and their dreams. I want to be a pillar of strength when they feel like crumbling. This is my reason for existing. This is why I was given so much pain; to get ready to help others through theirs. I have lost so much in my lifetime, now I am ready to give back.

Sometimes pain can bring joy. I know my suffering was for something.

To my next journey.



With Gratitude. And Love.

As I wrote The Monster That Ate My Mommy, I never thought past the end of the last page. I had dreamed of holding my book since before I could even spell my name. The excitement of finally being finished with the pain that filled the pages was all that I could think about. A final product that I could hold in my hands. A book. My book, would have pages for me to turn. I made it happen; I did the impossible. The excitement of my accomplishment filled me with pride.

I wanted my book released in October, for Domestic Violence Awareness month, but someone, something wanted it released earlier. September 8, 2017, The Monster That Ate My Mommy went live. There was no time to mentally prepare for the thoughts that followed. My story was now available to anyone. There were no more secrets. No more hiding.

Now what? What do authors do next? I thought authors just wrote books, told stories. I was shocked to learn what is involved with the title of author. Self-promoting. I am just learning to like myself, how am I going to self-promote? “I wrote a book…about my life…” How do you promote that?

I joined groups on Facebook and researched the next steps. As I entered the indie author groups, anxiety flooded me when I read about book launch parties, readings and signings.

I had never thought that I would have to face the world after bearing my soul. I shared my deepest, darkest secrets…but not in whispers…in print…to be immortalized. Immortalized. When the thoughts began to swirl around in my head, sweat beaded on my forehead, and I struggled to swallow the panic. The room started to spin, and slowly turned dark. What had I done?

After a few days of sadness, people who read my story sent me messages with stories of how my book helped them. I was receiving reviews from readers, some from people I had never spoken to before, thanking me for sharing my story. My demons I spent so much energy protecting for so long were now free, and they were helping others. The pain they had caused me was for something, and I remembered why I wanted to write my memoir in the first place.

After the initial fear of speaking in front of people, I began to plan. The first venue I wanted to use was a place of great meaning to me, but I was turned down because I am self-published. I contacted another place and was welcomed with gracious, open arms. Catamount Arts was available on October 20th, a date close to my heart; Tom Petty’s birthday and the anniversary of my protection order. I also wanted to share the event with someone, who came into my life at the right time, and helped me see that I deserved to be happy and safe. Mary-Elizabeth Briscoe had just published her memoir, The First Signs of April three days before mine “self-published.” She was available, and things were aligning perfectly.

I chose passages to read for the event. I read and reread them to myself and out loud. I read them so much, I didn’t want to hear those words again. Two emotionally charged pieces, and a lighter, hopeful one, with Tom Petty as the star. On October 2nd, that happy, hopeful piece brought me to tears after the news of Tom Petty’s passing. I put the book away and grieved the loss of my idol. After some time, I picked it back up and tried again. Tears fell as soon as I saw his name on the page. How was I ever going to get through this now?

The days were running out, just a week before the event, Amy Ash Nixon of the Caledonian-Record connected with me for an interview for Domestic Violence Awareness month. The title of the article; “I Won’t Back Down: A Domestic Violence Survivor Finds Courage.” The title reminded me that I had to continue on, even if it hurt, I had to keep going. The event went on as planned.

I stood in front of thirty people as my body trembled, and every spec of moisture left my mouth. I took a deep breath and grounded myself with Reiki as I began. I honored and remembered three women who lost their lives to domestic violence just this past summer and I started to read. My voice echoed my story throughout the room as I swallowed the tears that rose to the surface.

In the middle of my second reading, I noticed a man enter the room. From the corner of my eye I saw my high school English teacher and I continued to read. When I finished that piece I looked up to focus in on the new guest. Not my former teacher, but instead, my former step-father. Bill. I tried to block his presence and continued on. He was not stealing this from me, he would never again be allowed to steal anything from me. As I read my last section, about Tom Petty and finding my strength and courage, I looked up at him, and saw that he smiled and nodded at me.

Bill had not come to cause me harm, he had come to take pride in my accomplishment. He was taking credit for who I had become. In that moment I saw him for the sick individual he is. He lives in an alternate reality, where the abuse he caused is forgotten, and the years of my life he stole from me are erased. I do not live in his world, and I am relieved that my fear of him is replaced with sadness. A part of me felt sorry for him. As with all the others who have hurt me, I forgive him. I let go of the pain he caused me to be free from his grip. I forgive, but I will never forget.

Bill was asked to leave before he had a chance to speak to me. He was not given the chance to celebrate with me, or for me. He is not part of my circle, my circle is now filled with people who love me, and continue to build me up, and replace the pieces stolen from me from people like Bill.

Thank you to all who were able to attend, who sent messages of encouragement and support, and for the people who held me close in thought for the night. Sharing personal details of my life is scary at times, but I know it is helping people. The messages and reviews I receive help me know I did the right thing. I will never again hide behind fear. Together we can help fight the evils of the world.

With gratitude and love.

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