Sunday, January 18, 2015

My Brother

Sorry for the delay. After writing day after day about my early years I needed a mental break. I had not realized just how exhausting it would be to tell my story!
Speaking of stories, we left off with the love I have for my siblings. My brother John and I have grown so close over the years. It didn't happen all at once. He was the scared little boy who when he realized the house was on fire, panicked and went up into the attic and curled into a ball. He was the last one out of the fire because they couldn't find him.

My mind goes back to the early days of living with our dad. I think I have shared my brother took the brunt of the physical and sexual abuse. There is a trickle down effect that happens in families where there is that kind of abuse. When I look back and think about all the violence it makes me amazed that all four of us aren't walking sideways! My sisters and I used to think our brother would land in jail. We weren't kidding.

When a little boy is robbed of his childhood he becomes angry, angry at the abuser, angry at anyone close to him, angry at the authorities and probably angry with God. He got in trouble all the time. When I look back all these years later I feel terrible that I wasn't able to stop the abuse. Recently John and I were having a conversation about my writings and he told me a story I had forgotten.

On one particular day our dad was on a rampage. It might have been one of the dreaded Saturday's. John had done something to enrage dad and he took a dinner plate and smashed it over his head. Well, he hit John with it so hard it broke. It didn't shatter, the entire bottom of the plate broke out of the ring. For some reason Johnny (as he was called) started laughing because of the sight of the plate and how it broke. My dad became even more furious and started to strangle him. He continued to strangle him till Johnny passed out cold on the floor. That is the kind of violence I am talking about. Many times our dad would take Johnny's head and smash it into the wall, over and over again. The things people do to their children are beyond me.

Johnny did not do well in school. He was always in trouble. He was an angry little boy who had been deprived of a mother and left with a very violent and evil man for a dad. John said recently he was much better off in the orphanage and wished he had stayed there. I understand where he is coming from.

The violence that my brother endured trickled down to my little sister. She bore the brunt of Johnny's anger. All of this was a domino effect. Is it any wonder that my older sister and I decided that if our family was ever going to stay together the two of us had to come to peace so that we could help keep our younger siblings safe?

All four of us had a role to play. My older sister was the chosen one. She could go behind closed doors and stay above the fray. I was the Cinderella. I did all the cooking, the laundry etc. and was the despised daughter. My brother was the scape goat for my dad's abuse and anger. My baby sister got the last kick of the can. What a mess we were back then.

I will tell you that my brother never did go to jail. I drug him to church with me and at some point he bowed his knee and became a son of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In fact, he ended up marrying a saint of a young lady 35 years ago who straightened him out! We have always joked that my sister in law gets in to heaven just on the merits of staying with our brother.

It took many years for my brother to heal from the abuse. There are natural consequences to living that kind of life. He and his wife never did have children. He was so afraid he would turn out like our dad that he never wanted another human being to suffer like he did. Years later he shared his regret that he had not trusted in God enough to make him the kind of dad he knew he wanted to be.

The irony now is that my bother works for a non-profit organization that helps find homes for troubled children. This organization also helps women get out of sex trafficking. In fact, when he interviewed for the job he was told because he had lived in an orphanage as a child he would understand what these children were going through and would be a great asset for the company.

I am so proud of my brother. I always tell him he is my favorite brother, of course he is my only brother but he is still my favorite! God did a mighty work in him, for that I am thankful. My brother is one of my best friends in the world. He is my hero. I am thankful beyond words that he walked through the fire and came out on the other side.

I am excited to announce both my brother and my little sister Robin are in the process of writing for this blog. I can't wait to read what they are putting down on paper. I am very blessed. Till tomorrow. May you find the strength to carry on when you feel all is lost.

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Boat in the Storm

The above picture reminds me of my siblings and my life when we lived with my dad. He was the storm and the rest of us were huddled at the bottom of the boat pleading for mercy. I will never forget the time my older sister and I came together.

She and I butted heads when we lived with my dad. She was at the time considered the chosen one. She got her own bedroom at the back of the apartment and she was allowed to be in there with the door closed. She didn't need to cook or clean. She was the oldest. She was kind and compassionate and would never dream of arguing with an adult. She had her own demons to wrestle with. Imagine being the rescuer of your family from a fire but not everyone got out. I think that is called survivors guilt. It was hard living with our dad and she was tucked away in that room safe and sound. To this day she has no clue why our dad picked her out to be free from abuse. I am so thankful she was spared.

Saturdays was the day we dreaded most for those years with our dad. He decided we would clean the house from the top to bottom. He would yell, he would scream, he would swear, he would punch, and shove if the work was not done perfectly. For some reason I ended up being the duster. He would take his finger and inspect everything. If he found a speck of dust out would come the abuse. It was on one of these Saturday's when my older sister and I went out into the backyard. It had been a very bad day. I can remember exactly where we were both standing and we made a pact that day. "If the family was going to stay together it would be up to her and I" I think we shook on it and never fought again. Even to this day we have never had words. Our family was at stake and we had to find a way to work together.

I have a hard time understanding when adult siblings fuss. I am so blessed. We could have blamed each other and imploded but thankfully something inside of us made us realize we had to work together.

Four of us came out of the fire. It is a great metaphor for our lives. The anchor holds in the storm. That is one of my favorite songs, the anchor holds. One by one we would each find God and make him Lord of our lives.

Tomorrow I went to tell you about my brother, I even have a picture. :) If you are struggling with your siblings, as much as it depends on you make peace. Life is way too short.

Many blessings

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Confrontation

I think I was a sophmore in high school at the time the confrontation occurred. My older sister was away at college. The abuse was getting worse and certainly more frequent. There was one man who became a constant companion of my dad's. They would come down in the morning and I could see hickeys on their necks. This particular man's name was Mr. Schwartz. He was a well to do Jewish man who was also a homosexual and pedophile. I will be honest, I hated the man. He would try and tell me what to do. I had one boss already and he was a monster. I fought him every way I could. I had zero respect for him or my dad. Their behavior was disgusting to me.

The physical abuse and sexual abuse got worse. My little sister was in tears most of the time and I had had enough. I called my sister at college and said something has to change. It seemed once my sister was out of the house my dad felt bolder. It was decided she would come home and surprise him on the next weekend. The plan was to sit him down and call a spade a spade.

Before we met with him, my sister and I had a meeting with the minister at the church I was going to. He helped us sort out what to say to him. Looking back it is interesting to evaluate the minister. As an adult he should have contacted the authorities, but in reality the authorities had also swept under the rug dozens of abuse victims earlier. He did the best he could at the time.

We told our dad that Saturday morning we wanted to have a family meeting. We told our little sister and brother to go upstairs. At this point in our lives I did not know about the sexual abuse my brother was suffering, just the physical abuse. So the time came Saturday afternoon to have the meeting.

My sister and I were so nervous but the well being of our little sister and brother were at stake so we set aside our fears and plowed in. My dad sat on the one piece of furniture that was salvaged from the fire, our mother's rocker. It was ironic to me. He held a piece of paper in his hand and started writing as we laid out what was going on in our family. Tears started running down his face. My initial thought was he was truly sorry for the damage he caused and all this was going to be fixed. I took the tears as a sign of a new beginning.

It wasn't until we were done presenting our case that he stopped the rocking chair and handed us the piece of paper. On it he had written a poem of how much he missed his wife and how much he loved his children. He said to us, "how could you think I would do such awful things and walked out of the room. My heart sank, he would continue with the lie. He made it seem like we were crazy. Which brings me to the next piece of the portrait of an abusive family.

1. The vicim is shamed, blamed and demeaned. In our case the poem my dad had written shared it was love that prompted him to rescue us from the orphanage. He sacrificed day and night to give us what we needed. He wasn't an abuser. All of those things were lies. He blamed my sister and I. We both walked out of there thinking we were crazy. I remember thinking afterwards, my sister must think I am the wacko. In reality, we had the courage to speak the truth in love but it was twisted, distorted and we were blamed for thinking such ridiculous thoughts.

I knew the truth. I knew that my dad appeared in public as a family man, kind, funny and attentive. In truth he was a power hungry abuser who hurt children. Years later we would find out just how devastating the toil was on not just our family but countless others that trusted him.

I will not be afraid, what about you?

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Portrait of an Abusive Family

I see no evil, I hear no evil and I speak no evil. This picture is a great metaphor of an abusive family. There is a book called Mending the Soul by Steven Tracy that is excellent. It is about understanding and healing abuse. These words are powerful and I really want to share them. It has helped me to understand why I have done some of the things I have done in my life.

First, living in an abusive family robs you of a voice. One of the biggest themes that has freed me from this burden is to realize that I do have a voice. See, when you are being abused by a family member you are robbed of having a voice. So lets look at the portrait of an abusive family.

1. The needs of Family Members are expendable. In fact, the needs of the most vulnerable are not met at all because there is no consideration for them.

2. The victim is made responsible. In abusive families, the victim is made responsible for solving needs, even evil deeds they didn't create and could never legitimately satisfy. In my own family my job was to take care of the needs of the rest of the family. My dad's needs always came first. One of his main needs was to be powerful and in control in every situation.

3. The family appearance is deceptive. In my story I have shared that if you had looked at our family from the outside you would find a devoted poor widower trying to raise four children on his own. The truth was far different. In reality you had an evil man who controlled by lies, manipulation and sheer brute force to get what he wanted. This particular theme has stayed with me all these years. When I look at families I am not impressed with the image on the outside. My experience has given me a keen sense for the truth behind the lies.

4. The truth is ignored. When faced with the truth everyone ignored it. It was easier to turn a blind's eye then deal with the real truth. No one would believe that behind closed doors evil was being practiced on innocent little children.

5. Family abusers use force. I had always looked at abuse as physical or sexual. There was sheer brute force used in my family. Smashing my brothers head against a wall, screaming, swearing at us, belittling us, made us all afraid. This fear would be my constant companion for many, many years. We were all petrified of our dad. We knew the power that he could swing so we tried everything to keep him happy.

6. There is no straightforward, healthy communication. We were never allowed to speak for ourselves. I was the stupid/brave one who would sometimes call a spade a spade. The price was high for speaking my mind so I typically kept my thoughts to myself. I will never forget one of my dads favorite lines. "If I tell you to jump, you ask how high"

7. The victims response is often futile. I have a much longer story about this one that I will save for tomorrow. My older sister and I confronted my dad once, and only once. You won't believe his response. That is for next time.

From the private responses I am getting I know I am speaking truth to people who have had their family secrets buried for many years. I will continue to speak the truth in hopes that it will empower some to break free from the chains that have held them in bondage for way too long.

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Climbing Slowly Down Into the Pit

I remember being told one day that our dad was coming to take us out of the orphanage. At that point I had all but forgotten about him during the four years in the home. I don't recall seeing him during those four years. I remember the phone call and him telling us he was coming to get him. My older sister had positive feelings about him and I so remember her telling me this was a good thing.

The day arrived for him to come and take us to live with him. I remember him coming to the orphanage and being in awe. Here was this handsome man in a cool car coming to get us out of there. Surely it had to be better then what we had just been through. We lived several states away from where he was taking us. It took several days in the car to drive. I remember him being funny, upbeat and handsome. He quizzed us over and over again on our new address and phone number. We arrived late at night to our new home, a three bedroom apartment in a big brownstone. There was a buzzer inside this small vestibule. I was impressed. It was summer time and he had arranged for us to be cared for by a teenage girl. I remember her taking us to a swimming pool with a cabana. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Quickly summer was over and it was time to go to school. The one problem was my little sister. She was too young to start kindergarten. So what does any kind and attentive daddy do? He tells her she is to sit on the couch till the rest of us got home. Just pause and think about that. She was four years old at the time. Her job was to sit on the couch and just wait. Back in those days we went home for lunch so she got to see us at lunch time. Even at the age of ten I knew this was not right. Poor thing would cry when we left. When I think back at what the message sent to my sister I shiver. Why would someone do that to a child?

In the apartment complex our dad introduced us to his "friends", two brothers, I believe were twins and they were deaf. They were the first of many men to come into our lives. It didn't take long for the honeymoon to be over.  The core of who the man was came to the surface. First there was the physical abuse. I remember one time my dad was beating my brother, both hands around his head, smashing it over and over again into the wall. He was yelling and screaming and swearing. At this point my older sister came out of her room and was crying and asked our dad to stop. It was horrible.

The sexual abuse started at about the same time. My brother suffered the most at my dad's hands. Years later we found out that he had been abusing boys for many many years. When he would get caught he would quietly move to another state in the same kind of job and start the abuse cycle all over again. I know that this is an unpleasant topic. I don't write to shock, trust me, this is a part of my history that I wish had never happened. But it did, and we as children reached out for help, those we so desperately needed to help us, turned a blinds eye to the abuse.

I know how the media portrays homosexuality. Two men or two women holding hands on the beach kind of stuff. I will tell you that in reality it is the farthest thing from the truth. I watched first hand, it is ugly, it is nasty and it is not God's plan. I learned as a young teenager what beastiality was and I was sickened. That should never happen.

I remember the time when the Catholic church was found to be guilty of hiding sexual abuse at the hands of some priests. Those little boys were raped both physically and emotionally. Try being surrounded by all the abuse from the one person you are supposed to trust, and come out of it walking upright.

Abuse in any form is wrong. It is evil and it is not God honoring. It robs children of their childhood. Abuse tells children they are helpless. There is no way out. I can't tell you how many children were robbed by this one man. I personally know of at least one young man who took his own life because of the abuse he suffered at the hands of my dad. Research says that a sexual abuser doesn't get caught till he has abused around 100 children. That is a tragedy.

How do I turn this around and leave you with hope? I can tell you that it took many years to work through these issues. Tomorrow I will write about the aftermath. I can tell you one thing, God did not cause the abuse we suffered as children. It is the absence of God that is how evil comes to play. God worked a miracle in each of my siblings and myself lives. He restored what was robbed of us. What Satan and my dad meant for evil God took it and turned it for good.

There is great hope. Till tomorrow
In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Lasting Memories

There are a few memories that have always stayed with me concerning the "HOME". The first is Christmas. Christmas morning was held in the small building to the right of this picture. It held the commercial washer and dryers plus long tables to fold all the clothes on. That was used Christmas morning for presents. I will never forget this one Christmas. We each lined up in the dorm room to go down and out into the laundry building. Once there we were assigned a place to stand at the folding tables. This particular Christmas there were 3 gifts. The one that stands out is a camera. Now back in the mid 60's a pocket camera was a really big deal. It came with two batteries and the roll of film. I was so stinking excited, I got a camera! The only problem was, once the 12 pictures were taken there wasn't anything else. No way to get the roll developed, no way to get any new rolls of film. I never did get it developed. I was so sad that I would never see the pictures. That has always stayed with me. We typically adopt a family secretly for Christmas and I can tell you that memory has helped me more than once in choosing a gift. I don't buy gifts that have to have anything done with them to ensure the happiness of the child.

Another memory took place out at the "pond" One day I was told to sit there and wait for someone to get me. A young couple came out and introduced themselves to me. They told me they wanted to spend the day with me. Apparently they were looking to adopt a little girl. So out we went for the day. They took me to a toy store. The place was awesome. They told me I could get anything I wanted. I picked three different things. I chose a doll, a slinky and a bouncing ball. I had so much fun that day. I felt like a kid having a great day. When the day was over I was taken back to the orphanage. Whatever "Aunt" there was at the time was furious with me. She told me that I was a greedy little girl, making that couple spend money on three items instead of one. The gifts were taken away and told they would not be adopting me because I was so greedy.

So, lets stop for a minute and think about the message that send that little girl all those years ago. First, no one would want to adopt you. You are not worthy. No one will want to make you part of their family. Then the greedy part. I'm not sure what you think a child would do who has nothing but underwear to her name being taken into a toy store. I came to realize that is why I have such a hard time when I hear that there are children out there needing a home. I was always quick to raise my hand because I didn't want another child to get the message they were not worthy.

What I learned from that experience is I AM WORTHY!  My worth doesn't come from anyone. Not my children, not my friends, and not my family. I am worthy because I have a perfect heavenly father who loves me more than I can imagine. He loves me so much that he was willing to give up his one and only Son to give me freedom.

It doesn't matter what tapes are playing in your head from your childhood. If they are negative tapes they don't have to define who you are. Let me say that again. Those negative tapes do not have to define you. Years ago, I chose to throw those old tapes away and add new one. I am worthy, not because you or anyone else says I am but because the ONE that really matters says that I am a daughter of the King. My worth comes from him and him alone.

Do you struggle with who you are? Do you have tapes that haunt you from your past? You can chose to lay those tapes aside, in fact you have the power to destroy those tapes and not let them rule your life. You my friend have great worth. DOn't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Tomorrow we leave the orphanage and start a chapter that I thought would be good. In truth, we were safer in the orphanage than where we landed next. Till tomorrow.

In Christ Alone,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".

Monday, January 5, 2015

So, What is it Like to Live in an Orphanage

Before I go any farther I would like to explain one thing. I am not telling the story now because I need to heal. I am telling the story because I have healed and am now free to tell the story. You see, I have learned some really valuable lessons through the years. I want to be able to share those lessons, but if you have no clue where I am coming from you might not understand. I feel so blessed to have learned these lessons. This might be therapeutic for me but that's not the reason. I want to empower others to be free.

The picture above is an artist rendering of the "HOME" My sibs and I just received this recently. So, what is it like to live in an orphanage? Good question. It was an institution not a home. Each floor was run by an "Aunt" In the four years I was there we had multiple "Aunts". It was her job to make things run smoothly. Next to each bed was a tiny nightstand where we had our underpants and undershirts. Everything else was out of the dorm room and down the hall. Picture a very large closet with racks on three of the walls. The shoes were lined up on the floor all around the closet. You picked out a dress and a pair of shoes. SO the only thing that was yours was your underpants and undershirts. You didn't even have your own shoes! The clothes came from people donating used clothes.

So let me stop for a moment and climb up on my soap box. I was the kid who wore those yucky old hand me downs. We all looked like orphans. When we walked to school (yes we walked on the side of the road) we looked like a bunch of orphans. When hubby and I decided to do foster care I turned down all requests for used clothes. I know that there are lovely used clothes but what we got was not lovely. To top it off, we were sent to school with very large black metal lunch boxes, the kind construction workers used to carry. When you give to people less fortunate please don't give them crummy clothes! Rant over

 Each dorm had a bathroom. The bathroom was quite large. Right smack in the middle of the room was a contraption that might be hard to explain. Picture a huge ceramic bowl up high with a very large round, metal tube coming up from the floor to above the bowl. At the top of the  tube there is a shower head of sorts. It is round and pretty big in diameter. Five or six of us at a time would climb up into the bowl and sit. Someone would hold down a round rubber ring by the floor and water would sprinkle out of the top of the tube. Hope that makes sense. So that is how you got clean, with other girls sitting in a huge bowl with water sprinkling out of a head. There were three stalls with toilets and 2 or three showers with a curtain.

I'm telling you that because there is an incident that has always stayed with me. Obviously sitting in that "tub' there was zero privacy. One of the older girls who had just started puberty and mentally slow decided one day that she was not getting in the tub with us. She said she wanted to take a shower alone. She said she was too old to be sitting in that thing naked. The "Aunt" took a broom handle and started chasing her around the tub with us in it. She was yelling for her to get in and she was screaming no she wouldn't.  This went on for quite a while. To tell you the truth I have no recollection who won that battle.

Speaking of battles, food was a battle. You had to eat everything on your plate, period. We had canned peas a lot. I can't handle the smell let alone the taste of canned peas. In fact my children grew up without experiencing canned peas. Since we had to eat everything I would drop one onto my lap at a time and then flick them in all directions under the table, trying hard not to be caught. On top of that the "Aunt" felt it was necessary to give us these huge horse pills that to this day I can still smell them if I remember them. I could not swallow pills as a child. I would gag and throw up. They had zero tolerance for any of my monkey shines. We would all stand in a line by the water fountain. We would be given the pill and take a drink and then open our mouths to show we had swallowed it. I got pretty stinking good at cheeking them. I would promptly go into the bathroom and go into the stall and spit it out. They also believed everyone needed an enema when you had any kind of illness. The indignity of it all. I can chuckle about it now but not so much then.

In reality, these "Aunts" weren't bad people, they just had no clue how to care for a boat load of children who were broken. Out of all the Aunts we had, one stood out. One night we were in the middle of a severe thunderstorm. I was scared to death. She was an unmarried young woman. Her room was at the very front of the dorm room. I thought it was time to go down to the dining hall to set the table but it was still the middle of the night. I must have woken her up. She let me crawl in bed with her and she sang me the books of the Bible song. That was the one kindness I saw. Unfortunately she didn't stay long.

Several more stories tomorrow and then I will tell the story of how my siblings and I left the orphanage.

Many blessings to you all.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".