It was a rushed morning. I had volunteered for an early shift at the pharmacy where I worked part-time. I had rushed to get 5 children and myself ready, pack backpacks and diaper  bags, and get my 3 oldest kids to school. I loaded my youngest 2 into my van and headed for Paula’s , she was babysitting for me that day.

I turned onto the beltway and into a horrible traffic jam. I vaguely remember hearing of a car accident somewhere up ahead. “Perfect,” I thought, my stress level climbing even higher. A local radio station was playing tapes of outlandish 911 calls. My mood brightened as I laughed along. I remember noticing for the first time how beautiful it was outside, and thinking that I would take the kids for a walk after work.

The DJ came on, his voice no longer jovial. He had just received word that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center. “It had to have been an accident” I remember thinking. “Why were they flying so low?”

I finally reached Paula’s house. She met me at the door in tears. I looked at her television and together we watched the second tower get hit. Standing in her living room, I saw for the first time what would be burned forever into my memory. We couldn’t fully process exactly what we were seeing then, but I remember thinking what I was looking at was hell on earth. Eventually, I stopped watching and left for work.

By the time I got there, the owner had already decided to close for the day. I recieved a call to pick up my children from school, as they were closing as well.  I retraced my steps from just a few hours earlier, in a world that was forever changed.

Over the next few days, I heard the stories. I heard about the firemen, walking resolutely up the stairs to save people, the look in their eyes telling that they knew they were walking to their death. I heard about people jumping out of windows, knowing they would die, but chosing to die on their own terms. I read about hundreds of people who lost loved ones to hatred on that horrible day, and I prayed. I prayed for them, and for us all, then and now. May God bless America.

Why Do They Stay

Last week, a conversation filled the newsfeed of my Facebook page that I haven’t been able to get out of my head since. It was between several women I went to high school with. These women all still live in the same area in New Jersey where we grew up, in a very upper-middle class neighborhood. The topic of this conversation? Domestic violence. They were discussing why women don’t leave when they find themselves in this situation. Their answers angered me, and have haunted me ever since.

“They don’t want to downsize.”

“They are afraid to start over with less, or they aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to get out.”

“I believe there is always a way out, but it just may not be as glamorous as people would like. So they trade in their happiness for wealth or financial security.”

In a rare display of restraint, I didn’t add my opinion to the conversation. Honestly, I am intimindated by these onetime friends and classmates. They went to college, got degrees, married men with degrees, and live lives much like the one I once lived. My story is much different, but on this topic, I have a lot to add.

The man I married is a blue collar man. He is also an abusive alcoholic. I wasnt prepared for living with very little money. I was even less prepared for dealing with drunken outbursts and violence. I learned over the years to hide bruises and feelings, learned how to flash a smile and say “I’m great, thanks” with conviction. I learned to cover up, defend, and above all to protect my abuser.

I have wanted to leave for as long as I can remember. Be assured, I was never once afraid that life on my own would be “less glamorous” There has never been anything glamorous about life with my husband. No electricity, not enough food, and the constant threat of eviction were my reality.

So why stay? So many reasons. Most abusers isolate their partners. I have never been permitted to have friends. I live 2 states away from my nearest realitive. I have done everything I can think of to save money, only to have it discovered and stolen. I have called the police, and they have done nothing. Shelters close their doors at 10 pm, and I work at night. Less glamorous? I would welcome it.

I suppose you could say I stayed for the sake of my children. Not because I think they benefit from living in a home where their mother is abused, but because I refuse to force my children into homelessness. I stay, simply because any shelter is better than no shelter for them. If it were just me, I would choose homelessness.

I know the “why women stay” question has been asked for years, on talk shows and in magazines, and yes, even on Facebook. I really believe, however, if we change the question to “how can we as a society help women leave” we could make this world safer, if not glamorous.

Elephant Girl: A Review

I became aware of Jane Devin when someone on Twitter posted a link to her blog. From that first blog post, Jane had me held captive. She challenges me, with her raw honesty, and her remarkable courage. When she began talking about her upcoming book, I knew I had to read it.

I received my copy of “Elephant Girl” on Wednesday night, after a long night at work. My plan had been to read a chapter of it before bed, and read more on my day off. By the end of the first chapter, I was in tears, and  I knew that I would not be sleeping anytime soon.

Jane has this remarkable way with words, her voice is at once raw and eloquent, and always brutally honest. This is not an easy book to read. This is hard, and painful, at times even gut wrenching. I lost faith in mankind in this book, and then it was restored.

Jane’s story and mine are vastly different, yet frighteningly similar. I found so many commonalities between her and me, that at one point I considered sending her a tweet and asking if she would please get out of my head. Things I never told another human being on this planet, things I thought only I ever thought or did, were in this book.

Jane makes no excuses for her life. She fearlessly admits to bad decisions, and moves forward. That is one of my favorite things about this story, even at her weakest, lowest points, she moves forward. That inspires me, and gives me hope for my own life. For that, I owe Jane a debt of gratitude.

I think everyone can benefit from reading this book. You will be challenged, you will be humbled. You will bear witness to another human beings soul, laid out for all to see, and just maybe, you will find pieces of yourself.