A Warning for the Wicked and Hope for Good Figs Who Lost a Lot While the Wicked Prospered

The following Darrell Scott sermon is dedicated to all of the hypocritical Christians I’ve encountered and a bad—ahem—fig who “went into increase by acquiring what [I] had to let go of.” More about that in an upcoming chapter.


*Note: I will be deleting this post, so please share from the Sermon Notes page, where you can find a handful of sermon transcriptions.

My “Unique Blogger Award” Nomination (and the Importance of Telling Your Own Story)

I’ve been broke and unable to shop for anything beyond necessities since October 2014, so I didn’t know tax-free weekend existed until I walked next door to Target during a break from my retail job a couple of weeks ago and saw a sign portending service workers’ impending doom on the sliding glass door. Friday, as customers poured into my store while rain pounded the roof hard enough to drown out our Muzak, I learned that people get pretty uppety over a mere 8 percent discount—especially when they neglect to read the rules that exclude most of what they piled in their cart. So imagine my joy when, after two hours of unpleasantness, I retreated to the breakroom, retrieved my phone from my locker, and discovered that fellow blogger Alphonso White nominated me for the Unique Blogger Award. As someone who’s nearly always prided herself on being different, I couldn’t ask for a nicer honor or surprise. And like Alphonso, who appreciates feedback, it was helpful to read, “Reading this blog gave me the extra inspiration that I needed to set a plan [for writing his own memoir] into motion. She has lived an extremely interesting life, never a dull read.”

Alphonso found my blog in February, and I followed him after reading his About Who? post. He’s funny and, like other bloggers I follow, unapologetically genuine.

Unique Blogger Award Rules

According to the rules he shared, Unique Blogger Award nominees are to:

  • link to the person who nominated them;
  • answer the three questions the blogger who nominated them asked;
  • nominate 8-13 other bloggers for the Unique Blogger Award; and
  • ask them three questions.

Alphonso’s Three Questions and My Answers

  1. Out of the blog posts that you have published, which one is your favorite and why?
    That’s a difficult question to answer because I’ve put so much of myself into my memoir chapters in an effort to be as candid as possible so people will learn from my (and my parents’) mistakes. Although they say you know you’re over something when you can write about it, a few things still brought tears to my eyes. Ultimately, I have to say Chapter 6: Revelations (How My Parents’ Abusive Marriage Ended) is my favorite because I wasn’t sure how I was going to transition from my battered mom talking to her attorney and the cop back to my conversation with her. Sometimes, you just need to stop thinking so much and let God work it out. (After all, he’s the one who gave you the ability to write.)
  2. What is a unique fact about yourself that you have not covered in your blog?
    I see hearts everywhere I go.
  3. What advice would you give to a new/future blogger?
    Write what happened to you and don’t worry about what people think or say about you. As Pastor Tony Evans said, people don’t hold the master key to your future anyway.

A Brief Darrell Scott Sermon About the Importance of Telling Your Story

Each man divorced [the woman at the well] because women were not allowed to divorce men at that time. As a result, this woman is emotionally scarred, she’s psychologically damaged, and she’s socially ruined. Every man she’s been with has disappointed her to the point that the institution of marriage has become useless to her. She said I’m not getting married again because I’m not going to set myself up to be treated, to be hurt, to be bruised, to be wounded, to be damaged like that again. Her self-respect is totally gone. She doesn’t care what anybody thinks about her anymore.

“They call me a tramp, I don’t care. They talk about the life I’m living, too bad. I’m the sum product of what I’ve been through. And what I’ve been through is because of what I thought about myself.”

She wanders from man to man, from relationship to relationship, allowing her body to be used and discarded while she plays out the string of her existence. She’s a slave to circumstances, in bondage to a past that she didn’t plan. She’s in bondage to a future she doesn’t desire because somewhere along the path of her life, somebody violated the trust that existed between her and them. They took advantage of her, they misused and abused her to the point that she’s spent the majority of her life looking for that perfect man …

The man she’s been waiting for all her life shows up at the well, and this man doesn’t care about her past. He doesn’t mind how many men she’s slept with. He doesn’t care about how many husbands she’s had. He doesn’t mind if she was abused as a child, if she’s a rape victim, or a victim of domestic violence. He didn’t mind what she used to be, nor did he mind what she currently was. He didn’t mind what she used to do, nor did he mind what she currently did. He was only interested in what she would allow God to do with her now. His only desire was for her to forget her past, look past her present, and look to her future.

He said I must go through Samaria to get this one woman because no matter what she did in the past, she’s instrumental to the plan of God, and she’s necessary for the work of God.

Let me tell you something: Don’t let anybody tell you or make you believe that because of your past, God can’t use you. God can erase your past. God can heal your memories. God can soothe your pain and fill every void in your life. That’s why the Bible says if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. All things are passed away, all things [have] become new, and all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself. The Bible says we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

This woman forsook her past in order to fulfill her destiny. She didn’t worry about what she used to be. She didn’t dwell on what she used to do. All she knew was that she found God, and she had to tell somebody else about it.

And despite her past, she started a revival.

Despite her past, she became an evangelist.

Despite her past, she became a walking testimony.

Despite her past, she became a witness.

And the people received from her because they knew what she had been, they saw what she had become, and they wanted what she had.

She then leaves her water pots because they symbolized her past. She left everything that reminded her of what she once was, and she became the first preacher to the Gentile nation.

Her preaching was so effective that it birthed a revival.

She rushed into the city and she told the men because she wasn’t on speaking terms with the women, and some of the men she had been involved with were wondering if Jesus really told her everything that she had done.

“I wonder if my name came up when he was talking to her.”

God accomplished a great work through a person with a shady past. He didn’t use the theologians. He didn’t use the well-to-do. He didn’t use the respected people. … When he wanted to reach Samaria, he used the one least likely to be used, and the reason it was so effective was because the people she went to saw a change in her, and they wanted what she had.

I said all that to say this: God has a plan for your life. Don’t let the devil keep you in the past. Don’t let people keep you there either. God desires to use you as a mighty witness. Let go of your past so you can fulfill your future. Let go of your failure, let go of your mistakes, let go of everything that people try to use to keep you back. Let it go and don’t look back. Turn around, get goin’, and don’t go back. Don’t go back into the mess, don’t go back into the junk, don’t go back into the issues, don’t go back into the drama. Let it go. You don’t need to hide it, just let it go. You need to let people know what you were. Let them see what you have become. It will cause them to desire what you have.

My Nominees for the Unique Blogger Award

As an Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris fan, I appreciate people who share their stories, including their shortcomings. I don’t believe in TMI. Everything is a teachable moment. With that in mind, here are my nominees for the Unique Blogger Award, complete with links to posts that compelled me to follow their blog, recent favorites since writers get better the more they write, or posts that appeared when I needed them or affected me in some way.

  1. Alphonso White: About Who? and Be a Gentleman
  2. Pure Glory: Pursue God’s Destiny for You and Let God Deal with Your Heart
  3. Matthew Winters (the Comeback Pastor): Delayed Disobedience and You’re Blaming Who?
  4. Peace Hacks (Mark Landry): Why Blaming Everyone Else for Your Crappy Life Is Killing You and Unforgiveness
  5. Pancho and the Mule: The One Where Seattle Is for Writers and Ryan’s Alaska Commons article A Quick Stroll in a Place Where Stalking Women Is the Norm
  6. Keith Haney (The Light Breaks Through): Fearfully Made, It Takes Two to Reconcile, and Two Ways to Overcome the Jonah Complex
  7. Storyshucker: Free Show and Watch for It
  8. Phoebe (PuppyDoc): Metamorphosis and the rest of her poetry. [Mind you, I don’t like poetry. In fact, poetry was my lowest grade (B-) in college. Phoebe’s is that good.]

Questions for My Nominees

  1. For those who post regularly: Do you set aside a certain day or time to write? For those who’ve disappeared from WordPress: What happened?
  2. Many of you have hundreds or even thousands of followers. How did you attract them? (Using social media? Adhering to marketing gurus’ advice re: the best day and time to post? Writing posts in which you invited bloggers to advertise their own blog?)
  3. It’s already August. What goal would you like to accomplish by the end of the year and what steps have you taken to achieve it?

Thank you for your time, your posts, and your answers, and here’s another big thank you to Alphonso for nominating me.

Happy Birthday to Me?

Saturday, July 15, which was my abusive father’s 64th birthday and the 10th anniversary of my mom’s suicide, I walked three miles home from a library and grocery store in mid-day heat and humidity to find two bracelets that an ex left hanging from my doorknob in a gift bag. Having discovered some upsetting-yet-not-surprising information about him less than 24 hours earlier, I was still seething as I planned how and when I was going to package and take them to a post office before I walked to work on Monday.

never love anybody who treats you like youre ordinary“I don’t wear junk,” I muttered as I looked for a manila envelope. “Nice to know that’s what he thinks of me though.” This is partly my fault for not setting him straight when he bought me a bracelet from the patchouli-scented shop that sits across the street from his employer the first month we dated, but he’s read my memoir chapter about being forced to wear Kmart clothes from fifth grade through high school, and he’s seen the Calvin Klein and Adrianna Papell dresses I wear now. He knows I pair them with sparkly Swarovski or one-of-a-kind, local artist-made jewelry that I’ve bought during my travels. To wit, I am the sum of my experiences both internally and externally.

favorite color is purpleBut much like Christmas, when I couldn’t afford food but saved enough money to buy him a mini fireplace because he’d expressed interest in buying one during our Thanksgiving retreat in Amish Country and a wall mural depicting Big Sur because he misses California and wants to return, and he, in turn, bought me “practical” baking pans and utensils that remain unopened seven months later, the words, “It’s the thought that counts,” kept surfacing, especially after I noticed one bracelet had purple (my favorite color) beads, and the other had aqua (my calming color) beads.

Any empathetic, he-meant-well thoughts dissolved like Kool-Aid crystals in water when I saw that both said, “Believe.”

“Believe what?” I scoffed. “Him? Won’t make that mistake again.”

steve harvey jump introAbout an hour later, manila envelope addressed and lying next to the chair that used to be his chair, I started reading “Jump,” a motivational Steve Harvey book I’d rented from the library. The word “believe” appeared twice (one appearance per bracelet, if you’re keeping score) in the second paragraph. One instance was even italicized in case I missed it.

The book title had caught my eye because on walks home from the retail job I’ve had since May and enjoy but resent having to work at this stage of my life, the devil often tells me to jump from an overpass I cross. Not aloud, of course. I’m not crazy or mentally ill. In fact, I’m not even depressed. I’ve been depressed. I know what depression feels like. I’m just, as I explained, the sum of my experiences—and DNA. According to Bishop Walter Thomas, your genes determine 50 percent of your happiness, your decisions account for 40 percent, and circumstances, such as a new car, new house, or new job, comprise 10 percent. I don’t know where he got those statistics, but they sound about right.

“It doesn’t look high enough,” I think, wondering if I could balance on top of the chain-link fence—even for just a second—to add distance to the fall.

“If you jump at just the right time, a semi would hit you,” the devil says.

Considering the fact I graduated from college as an English and communication double major in 2009, determined to become a magazine editor as the economy was tanking and magazines were folding, it’s fair to say timing isn’t my strong suit. Besides, I remind him, I told my father, who’d predicted that I would kill myself like Karen Carpenter when I was a kid, that I was never going to commit suicide like his sister and my maternal grandmother. Being the stubborn person I am, I still refuse to give him that satisfaction. I also refuse to ruin some unsuspecting truck driver’s life.

“Life is never going to get better for you,” the devil says. “It only got worse for your mother.”

This is true. After my father beat her so badly that he went to jail for a weekend in 1999, and she and my diabetic, epileptic, and mentally handicapped brother moved into a domestic abuse shelter for a month, the bowhunting redneck got the house and sold it for hundreds of thousands of dollars. (It later became a Target.) My mom and brother, on the other hand, moved in with my mom’s coworker who took advantage of my mom’s niceness and her predicament and forced her to do a lot of renovation work on the house and barn. Occasionally, the woman’s ex-husband visited, making my mom squeamish because, like her father, he’d done sexually inappropriate things to his daughters.

After a couple of years, my mom and brother moved into a mobile home in a peaceful, fountain-flanked park that looked more like a Floridian retirement community than what you see on “Cops,” but it was infested with ants and bees that made crunching sounds between the interior and exterior walls. Worse, the two previous owners had died there. When my mom told me this while showing me the shed that one of the women had hung a creepy picture of Jesus in, I knew she would die there, too.

my brotherIn 2003, my brother tripped at his vocational workshop and broke his hip. While in the hospital, a nurse left him alone—after assuring my mom that she wouldn’t while my mom ran home to shower after days without one—and my brother fell in the bathroom, bending the rod in his leg, making that leg inches shorter than the other. People from a nearby church my mom had never attended built a wheelchair ramp, but getting my brother in and out of the house was the least of her worries considering she now had to sanitize his catheter on top of giving him insulin and anti-seizure medication at regular intervals.

Over time, my brother, who’d always been a happy, hyper, and somehow-oblivious-to-his-misery kid who not only cheered for game show contestants but seemed genuinely overjoyed when they won, lost the spark that made him him. When he and I were kids, my father had always told my mom that if she divorced him and he got visitation rights, my brother wouldn’t return to her in the same condition he left. From the notes, including blood sugar numbers, my mom wrote, he followed through on that threat by giving my brother unnecessary shots. In 2005, he went to the hospital and only left a few times between the day he went in and the day he died, attached to a trach tube, six weeks after my mom in 2007.

At his funeral, my father, who’d been taking theology classes for years and seemed chummy with the pastor officiating the event, stood before my brother’s casket and told everyone in attendance, “I feel fine,” at which point my then-boyfriend and an ex, who stood on either side of me, each grabbed a wrist, concerned that I might run to the front of the tent and tackle him.

i am doneLosing my mom and brother in rapid succession while dealing with the then-boyfriend, i.e., the most selfish man I’d ever dated, and his drama-queen daughters sapped me of the little passion I had left after a violent childhood, a nervous breakdown, back-to-back cervical cancer surgeries, a series of unhealthy relationships, a layoff, and everything else I’d dealt with by age 32. After I graduated from college, applied for magazine editing job after magazine editing job, and heard nothing in response, I gave up my goals, broke up with my nemesis, and moved 11 miles away from the apartment complex we shared, content to remain single for the rest of my life and travel. As he and his offspring continued to cause unnecessary drama, I developed lumps in my breasts, had another cervical cancer scare, woke up with a lump the size of a golf ball on my forehead, and lost two jobs while the wicked prospered in every way imaginable.

believe braceletsThe thought of jumping—whether it be the way the devil wants me to jump or the way God has been urging me to jump via T.D. Jakes and John Jenkins sermons—doesn’t appeal to me. Both are risky. But God gave me the ability to write—and, more importantly, to engage people on an emotional level—for a reason. So I will finish reading the Steve Harvey book I know he led me to, take notes, set the divinely delivered bracelets somewhere I can see them, and:

a) make sure that my mom didn’t endure 15 years of abuse to keep a roof over my head only for me to kill myself as she and her mom did; and

b) ensure that my latter days are greater than my former days.

After all, although the Bible doesn’t say, “God helps those who help themselves,” as people mistakenly think it does, T.D. Jakes has quoted Ecclesiastes 9:10 and said, “God does not anoint laziness. He blesses what you do.” There’s no reason for me to be poor, carless, hungry, and discouraged when God has given me the intelligence, creativity, tenacity, and Biblical principles to overcome the give-up spirit coursing through my veins courtesy of my genes. I just hope that the friends and former coworkers I see following in my footsteps, pouring themselves into one-sided relationships that aren’t worthy of their time, will recognize the error of their ways long before they reach my age.

That being said, happy birthday to me. Here’s to the next 42 years.

Chapter 11: How Domestic Violence and My Relationship with a Mama’s Boy Affected Me (Part V: An Outspoken Personality, Problems with Porn, and Trust Issues—or How I Became My Parents)

youre doing it wrongAccording to Psych Central, children of alcoholics typically suffer from low self-esteem, wind up in unhealthy relationships, and tolerate behaviors that other people find unacceptable—presumably because they’re used to them. It got two out of three right where I’m concerned. If you read my blog post about Facebook Live killer Steve Stephens or any of my memoir chapters about domestic violence, you no doubt noticed that I’m outspoken. Unless you’re the person who signs my paycheck, I’m more than happy to tell you how you’re adversely affecting your life, other people’s lives, my life, or the lives of animals. That comes from observing my father hurt everyone in his path, including my pets, but not being able to say anything. While growing up in a dictatorship where he threatened to “knock [me] into the middle of next week” for expressing opinions—i.e., having “a smart mouth”—I started binge eating to stifle feelings that came across as sarcastic remarks because I hated showing weakness. Once I was exiled and forced to move in with a mama’s boy, I stopped mincing words. People like journalist Kate Stone Lombardi are one reason why.

In the most nauseating, self-serving, and self-aggrandizing article I’ve ever read, the author of “The Mama’s Boy Myth: Why Keeping Our Sons Close Makes Them Stronger” told Time magazine readers that women who raise mama’s boys “are helping their sons reach their full human potential and setting up their boys for happier, more successful lives.”

sarcastic thank you

The first problem with that statement is Lombardi based the book on her relationship with her son. Considering he was only 23 when she published it, asserting that she’d helped him achieve his “full human potential” and positioned him for a “happier, more successful life” was pretty presumptuous. Not surprisingly, her article lacks corroborating evidence, such as accomplishments, testimonials from girlfriends, or photos of him smiling alongside a swimsuit model, mansion, or Maserati.

sarcastic tell me again how you
The overarching problem with her statement, not to mention her book title, is it disregards 3.6 million articles that women have written to warn other women about mama’s boys and their mothers.

Many end with a breakup. Some end with a divorce.

Lombardi’s La-La Land

Further illustrating her ignorance and self-centered purview, Lombardi told NPR and Westchester Magazine that the mother-son relationship is the only stigmatized parent-child relationship.

“Mothers and daughters, she says, have no problems,” NPR reported.

In fact, “[t]he mother/daughter relationship is celebrated—there’s practically an industry built around it with spa discounts, etcetera,” Lombardi told Westchester Magazine.

Likewise, father-son and father-daughter relationships are valued, she told NPR. “But mothers and sons—that relationship is always looked at with a little skepticism and a little fear.”

Well. Yeah.

But not until the mother in question fakes sweetness and innocence a la Lombardi’s book jacket head tilt:

kate-stone-lombardi book jacket head tilt


Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

sometimes you can judge a book by its cover

Manipulative pose aside, Lombardi’s been so wrapped up in her son’s life that she’s apparently never heard of daddy issues, watched “Postcards from the Edge,” or read Psychology Today’s “8 Toxic Patterns in Mother-Daughter Relationships,” which leads me to the No. 1 reason women should run if they see her book on their potential mother-in-law’s coffee table: Her generalization that “[n]urturing mothers can help their sons develop emotional intelligence” assumes mothers are emotionally intelligent.

My Mama’s Boy Experience: Lies, Secrecy, Porn, and the Wrong Fight-or-Flight Instincts

According to CNN, Lombardi’s book says mama’s boys are “less inclined to argue and more inclined to ‘work it out,'” but a month after I moved in with the martial artist I trusted to protect me if my father hunted me down, I learned that he couldn’t even handle confrontation from a 5-foot-8 anorexic. As I questioned him about a Playboy I’d found tucked inside a kung fu magazine in his sock drawer—

barbies“My drawer,” I said. “Mine. You’re hiding porn in the dresser I used to keep my Barbies in? It’s like a fucking magic act. Presto chango—plastic turned into silicone.”

—he dumped the clean laundry I’d left in the basket post-discovery, filled the basket with pit-stained T-shirts, and fled to his parents’ house, where I’m sure he told his mommy that I’d been mean to him and set the toaster oven on fire while cooking tacos.

When he returned two days later with tinfoil-covered leftovers in hand and, unbeknownst to me at the time, the phone number of a blonde his mom wanted to hook him up with in his pocket, he moved the magazine to his side of the closet like location had been the crux of my tirade.

Despite the dormant self-esteem issues its presence roused, I tried to get over it.

Before the self-help book explosion, the internet, and the “Dr. Phil” show, women turned to fashion magazines, friends, and shrinks for relationship advice. Since I couldn’t afford a psychologist on my $6.20 per hour salary at Macy’s, and my only remaining girlfriend after my relationship with an alcoholic was a feminist who would’ve echoed what I was already thinking, I consulted Marie Claire, which instructed me to list his positive and negative qualities.

woman-writingWeighing pros and cons is no way to make a major decision like continuing to live with a man as boyfriend or demoting him to roommate, but it sounded good at age 21. And on paper, he looked great compared to my ex. Whereas the alcoholic chain-smoked, gave up on his dream of becoming a writer, had zero desire to travel beyond Ohio’s borders, and bought me Eeyore figurines and Lenox collectibles like I was a 12-year-old girl or his mother, Jason:

  • ate a healthy diet and inadvertently aided my anorexia by teaching me to drink a glass of water when I felt hungry because I was probably just thirsty;
  • did “Buns of Steel” with me one evening and genuinely complained to his tang soo do instructor who called halfway through the tape that it was the hardest leg workout he’d ever done;
  • attempted to learn PEARL and C++ in spite of his dyslexia;
  • road-tripped to Toronto with me to camp out at a three-day concert; and
  • bought me cute outfits and complimented the fact that “clothes hang well” on me because I have “great square shoulders and long legs.”

He also painted a Christmas card for me and exchanged stick figure-filled notes with me like the morning I’d informed him the water heater was broken by drawing a picture of him in the shower with his frozen, detached penis lying near the drain.

“And before we moved in together, he went dancing with me,” I wrote.

Still, I couldn’t stop crying over the only con that came to mind.

To shut me up, he said he “got rid of” the magazine. Intuition or suspicion told me that was Mac-geek speak for “I hid it,” so the next time he left the apartment, I ransacked the computer magazines he kept in a cardboard box beneath his desk and found the Playboy and a newcomer (pun intended): an inch-thick review of the recent adult video awards, complete with red carpet pics of one woman suckling another.

angry woman throwing magazineLivid, I winged them at his head when he walked in the door.

“Lying and being sneaky just makes me wonder what-the-fuck-else you’re hiding,” I yelled.

Soon, I got my answer.

One Devastating Discovery After Another

Negating two important pros I’d listed, cohabitation first revealed that he devoured Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups by the case when he got stressed—i.e., he was a binge eater like me, which didn’t bode well for me overcoming the eating disorder—and that he was actually playing “Quake” instead of coding and furthering his career.

Then I learned I couldn’t leave him alone for five minutes.

The first time Jason called off sick from his job as a parts runner and IT guy for an asphalt paving company, I stopped at a convenience store across the street from the apartment to buy him ginger ale and saltine crackers before I went to work. When I took them home, he was masturbating to my Cindy Crawford workout video.

After my convertible broke down and his employer’s mechanics volunteered to fix it, I realized our difference was irreconcilable because he spent 40 hours a week in an office that was wallpapered, ceiling to floor, with pages from porn magazines. It also played Howard Stern over the PA system and sat mere steps from strip clubs that offered lunch specials.

While he slept at his parents’ house that night, a Lenny and Squiggy-esque coworker poked around Jason’s Mac, opened a folder labeled “Stuff,” and said, “Here it is,” with trumpets in his voice. As he scrolled through thousands of photos with me peering over his shoulder, I remembered all the times Jason’s dial-up modem had woken me up in the middle of the night. Then I remembered working two jobs for months so I could afford to buy him Christmas presents.

“Can you show me when he saved these?” I asked.

Happy to oblige because he thought I’d break up with Jason and marry him out of gratitude, my wannabe poacher sorted them by date, and I became Al Capone.

To retaliate, I went on a date with a security guard who followed me around Macy’s more than thieves. When I invited him upstairs after “Mission Impossible,” and Jason grabbed his magazine from the bedroom and announced, “Takin’ a bath!” I sent George home and debated tossing an electrical appliance in the tub.


depressedDue to Jason’s daily bathtub betrayals, my self-esteem issues, and the constant worry that my father was going to kill my mom, I became so depressed that when a manager at Macy’s got me a managerial position at another chain in another mall without me even interviewing for it, and the women in charge of training me treated me like the classmates who’d ridiculed me from fourth grade through high school, I clocked out for lunch, drove home, curled up in a ball, and never went back. My brain was so fogged that it didn’t even occur to me that the $22,000/year salary I was abandoning could solve two-thirds of my problems by enabling me to get a place of my own. Until I overheard Jason’s mother ask, “Has Miranda found a job yet?” I was content to lie in bed, stare at the frozen lake through the plastic we’d sealed the sliding glass doors with, and test the imperviousness of our cement walls by blaring The Cure.

love and sex venn diagramContrary to Kate Stone Lombardi’s claim that close mother-son relationships teach men to respect women and a Harvard psychology professor she cited who said mama’s boys “make strong, empathetic spouses and partners,” Jason’s porn hobby became such a problem that I can count the number of times we had sex in two and a half years on two hands. Lest you think that’s because we fought all the time, he spooned me most nights of the week and sat on the floor between my knees every Sunday as we watched “The X-Files” over Angelo’s Pizza. Every episode ended with him giving me a foot massage and pedicure. I would’ve preferred an orgasm. But as author Naomi Wolf wrote, “[P]orn doesn’t whet men’s appetites—it turns them off the real thing.” And tears elicited zero sympathy. In fact, he told me my eyes were prettier when I cried.

“The red makes them more green,” he said.

My Temporary Metamorphosis from a Moral Person to My Parents

Eventually, Jason’s preoccupation with porn, callous neglect of my needs, and refusal to talk turned me into my father. Not only did I obsess over what he was undoubtedly doing while I worked during his employer’s winter shutdown, I called him stupid when resentment took over my tongue because the word was so embedded in my brain from my upbringing that it became my default insult. Unfortunately, his dad had called him stupid for being dyslexic, so the word sent him running home to his mother’s open arms every time. And since my father’s tirades were never complete until the entire neighborhood heard them, once Jason and I moved from our eighth-floor apartment on the lake to a quaduplex in the city, our one-sided arguments typically ended with me chasing Jason’s Honda down the driveway in a T-shirt and panties to tell him and the rest of Ridgewood Avenue that his mother didn’t raise him right.

cuyahoga river copyIn hindsight, mine hadn’t done me any favors by instructing me to look elsewhere for the attention she could no longer give me after the birth of my brain-damaged, diabetic, and epileptic brother. I didn’t seek it, but I didn’t turn it down either. Consequently, I spent my 22nd birthday doing shots with an attorney I’d caught “admiring [my] assets” while I knelt on his conference room floor and loaded court reporting equipment into an attaché case. Seated at a table on the bank of the Cuyahoga River, I told him about my miserable relationship, he told me about his miserable marriage, and we clinked glasses to “two lone wolves.”

Although my eyes kept flicking toward his wedding ring, I enjoyed his gravelly voice, courtroom stories, and he’s-gotta-be-crazy-to-jack-off-to-porn-when-he-has-you compliments so I went drinking with him two more times. Then he gave me a pager. We’d never even held hands, but the first time it went off, I felt like a hooker and ignored it. Pissed, he waited for me outside the court reporting firm’s gated parking lot the next day, followed me for a mile, and then yelled at me to pull into an abandoned gas station, where he cornered me against a wall, demanded the pager, and left without another word.

passed_out_in_barBack to drinking again like my mom, I started going out with coworkers for happy hour. After downing three Long Islands one Friday, I played “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” on the jukebox, drank a fourth, and passed out. I’d played it because my friend Kathy told me to pick a song to round out the roll of quarters she’d fed the machine, and it was the only classic rock option I liked. Apparently, I should’ve explained that to our table because the firm’s alcoholic videographer, who always smelled like garlic and had creepy eyes that reminded me of Ron Silver in “Blue Steel,” took it as a cue, carried me to his car, unbuttoned my dress, and lacquered my breasts and stomach with whiskey-scented saliva while I asked him to call Jason to pick me up. Realizing he wasn’t going to stop, I pretended to pass out like a human playing dead in front of a bear, so he drove me to his place, where, thank God, he slept on the couch while I clasped my hands over my chest and stared at the ceiling above his bed.

grenadeJason never asked where I spent the night. He just assumed that I’d finally cheated on him to get back at him. I wanted to tell him what happened, but I wouldn’t have believed him if the situation had been reversed so I figured it was pointless. Besides, while he jacked off to my Victoria’s Secret catalog, knowing I’d walk in on him as I got ready for work, stared so hard at a black mini skirt that I yelled, “GREEN LIGHT,” startling him into stomping on the gas pedal while the light was still red, and acted out in other ways, I was busy panicking because the coworker who’d taken advantage of my drunkenness was a WWII memorabilia collector who didn’t handle rejection well. After I told him I still loved Jason regardless of anything I’d said when I was wasted, he brought in a grenade and set it on top of his monitor, showed a coworker a pair of Japanese swords he kept in the trunk of his car, and silenced the lunchroom every time he walked in.

Later, he earned my second restraining order by sitting in a parked car facing my new employer’s front door.

A Last-Ditch Effort to Fix My Relationship

The married attorney and psycho ex-coworker made me appreciate Jason more so I tried to fix our relationship. As the earlier mentioned Psych Central article said, when adult children of alcoholics are unable to confront an addict, “they will try to control the other person’s problem, perhaps even thinking they will be able to cure that person’s problems. Almost always, these efforts are destructive, and simply allow the problem to grow stronger, resulting in disaster.”

Not being privy to this information, I thought getting Jason away from his employer’s whore decor would help cure the addiction he denied having so I got him an interview with the IT consultants at my law firm. After they hired him, he started buying new clothes, wearing contacts he hadn’t worn since before we moved in together, and telling me about women he’d helped. The job increased his confidence—and his courage. So instead of running straight to mommy the night I screamed at him for jacking off seven feet away from me as I lay in our bed crying about the fact my mom had just confessed to cheating on my father after lying about it for 15 years and was preparing to be killed, he shoved me so hard that I nearly went backward through our closed kitchen window and onto the pavement 20 feet below.

Two days later, I came home from work to find all of his things were gone. And in case that didn’t teach me that some things need to end badly in order for them to end, my mom and brother fled to a domestic violence shelter shortly thereafter.

By the time Jason showed up on the doorstep of my new apartment with tears making his eyes more blue to apologize, admit that he was addicted to porn, and beg me to take him back, I was blond, dating an attorney I worked for, having sex every night, and—for the first time since I was a little girl on roller skates—smiling from ear to ear.

Intermission: Let’s Play a Little Game of Never Have I Ever

If you’ve been following my blog, you know my father beat my mom for 15 years until she and my mentally handicapped, diabetic, epileptic, and autistic brother fled to a domestic violence shelter.

You also know I started dating an alcoholic before I even moved out and that I unwittingly moved in with a porn addict at age 21. At age 23, I fell in love with a player, and then I got involved with a man who had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. November 17, 2001 – a day I will never forget – he stopped taking all nine (nine) meds, including lithium. By 5 p.m., he told me my face was melting, and he could see bone.

In 2002, after being diagnosed with HPV and being told I needed surgery as soon as possible to remove cervical cancer cells, I suffered a nervous breakdown as I left my gynecologist’s office. After a 36-hour stay in a psych ward and two surgeries, I started taking an antidepressant and became easy prey for a man who date raped me.

Since then, I’ve had breast lumps, a cervical cancer recurrence, a forehead tumor, and leaky gut syndrome, which caused a ridiculous number of food allergies and forced me to give up every food I ever loved.

In 2007, my mom committed suicide, and I buried her two days after my 32nd birthday. My brother died six weeks later, leaving me familyless.

Little did I know that all of this was just practice for the drama a man and his millennial daughters would provide.

I became a Christian in early 2014 because televangelists kept saying my life would get better.

“God wants you to live life abundantly,” they said. “He wants to give you beauty for ashes.”

They left out the part about God wanting to burn everything to the ground first. Here’s just a sampling of what has happened to me since I said the sinner’s prayer:

  • I lost my job my first day of vacation on Kauai (October 2014).
  • My cat Titus died unexpectedly and painfully (NYE 2014).
  • My excellent credit rating dropped to “poor,” and my debt increased as I worked a $9/hour job because I couldn’t find anything else when I came home from Kauai in November.
  • I lost my ability to go to my gym (i.e., my happy place).
  • I lost my ability to get my roots done for months (thank God Jared Leto and one of the Kardashians made that awful ombre look popular).
  • I lost my ability to travel (which is the only thing aside from my gym that makes me happy).
  • I had to give up having a car when my lease expired.
  • I had to walk 2.7 miles to a library and 2.7 miles home — during winter — in Cleveland – to use Wi-Fi to freelance.
  • The library had to call an ambulance for me in December 2015, and after nine hours on a morphine drip, I learned I have a kidney condition that could cause kidney failure or death.
  • I developed osteoarthritis in my hip, which feels like rusty jaws of life clamping down on my entire leg (not fun when you have to walk three miles to the closest grocery store – in the snow).
  • A few times, I’ve gone up to five days without food (the Bible says we’re worth more than sparrows and that, like birds, we are not to worry about what we’ll eat because God will supply it, but God’s idea of giving us what we need and our idea of giving us what we need are two different things).
  • I had to move from a high-rise condo on the lake to a slumlord-owned condo that’s more of a trailer park/halfway house because the guy beneath me is an alcoholic, country music-blaring redneck who was wearing an ankle bracelet when I moved in and went back to jail for a week in December, the woman across from me is an alcoholic, and the woman next to her is a recovering alcoholic. The owner also neglected to clean, paint, or fix anything before I moved in, and I have mushrooms (technically, domicile cup fungus) growing along one bedroom wall.

And as if all of that weren’t bad enough, I went back to school at age 28, double majored in English and communication, graduated summa cum laude, and even though the creative writing program director (who graduated from Princeton) said I was “one of five or six of the most naturally talented writers [he’d] met in 20 years of teaching,” I still can’t find a magazine editing job eight years later.

But NEVER HAVE I EVER considered killing someone because of my troubles. What happened in Cleveland on Easter sickened and saddened me.

For those who haven’t heard or read the news, 37-year-old Steve Stephens pulled up alongside 74-year-old Robert Godwin Sr., told someone on the phone, “Found me somebody I’m going to kill. This guy right here, this old dude,” exited his car, and shot the father of 10 in the head for a video he uploaded to Facebook. He blamed the murder on his girlfriend and mother.

I will respect the Godwin family’s wishes by not sharing the video, but I think it needs to be shared. This is a teachable moment. People in this world have ZERO respect for life, much less death. (I won’t get into the fact that people were debating death and dignity on the weekend of the crucifixion, but it merits a mention.)

Since this video has gotten people talking, #sorrynotsorry, the following subjects need to be discussed.

First, people have sought out “Faces of Death”-type websites for years. This is what happens when people become desensitized.

Second, although thousands of people lambasted CNN for posting a story about first-person shooter games last night, they’re a problem, like it or not, play them or not. Some people are mentally incapable of handling certain things. That’s why some employers make applicants undergo rigorous screening.

And that leads me to the shooter: “Stevie Steve,” as he called himself on Facebook. According to heavy.com, he was a children’s behavioral health agency case manager.

Kinda makes you wonder who’s teaching, mentoring, or allegedly counseling your child, doesn’t it?

I don’t care what anyone says, this guy clearly has a mental illness himself. Everyone is born with a conscience. If you pull up alongside an elderly man, instruct him to say your girlfriend’s name, say, “She’s the reason this is about to happen to you,” and shoot him, something is wrong with you – and it isn’t physical. So let’s stop talking about the “stigma” of mental illness, and let’s start talking about the things mentally ill people are doing and how prescribing pills and sending them on their way isn’t helping.

My heart goes out to Mr. Godwin’s family.

Mr Godwin RIP



Chapter 10: How Domestic Violence Affected Me (Part IV: Debt and Codependent Relationships)

memory-lossBreaking up with a blackout drunk in favor of a guy who’d practiced tang soo do for years wasn’t a difficult decision. Whereas the latter would protect me if my father tried to kill me as he’d threatened a number of times since he started beating my mom in 1984, the former would wake up next to my dead body and wonder what happened. Moving in and continuing to live with the guy who’d practiced tang soo do for years, on the other hand, were beyond my control.

Cohabitation Under Duress

scared_eavesdroppingOne summer night in 1996, I made the mistake of coming home a couple of minutes before curfew. After walking into my bedroom and biting into the blueberry muffin I’d brought home from the movie theater, I heard my mom whimper. Since I’d only heard her make that sound when my father grabbed her by the throat, I froze, stared at my closet, which adjoined my parents’ closet, and strained to hear what was going on while I debated whether to call the police.

Just as I pulled my flip phone from my purse, my father grunted as he ejaculated, and my parents’ bedsprings squeaked as he rolled off of my mom.

The next day, after he backed his F-150 out of our long, gravel driveway, I went downstairs to yell at her.

“I thought he was killing you! I don’t need to hear that shit,” I said, swearing at her for the first time in my 21 years on the planet. “You know when curfew is! Do that shit when I don’t have to hear it!”

kissing_santa_clausMy mom, who’d given up sobriety to appease my father by this point in time, laughed at me like I was a little girl scolding her for kissing Santa Claus.

“It’s not fucking funny!” I said. “I’m traumatized enough as it is.”

Releasing the back of the breakfast bar stool I’d been gripping to retreat to my room and binge eat Banana Twins, I remembered her telling my father about a bad report card senior year, so he’d get off her case for a while. He’d yelled at me to come downstairs, ordered me to sit on the middle stool, asked me why I was so stupid, and when I’d glared at him instead of crying, he’d volleyed my face between his hands, hitting me left-right-left-right-left-right, as my mom bawled and begged him to stop.

“You’d better not tell him I said anything,” I warned. But apparently her wine cooler-addled brain translated this to: “Make sure you tell him about my tirade the second he comes home,” because I barely had time to curse at her under my breath, sit up on my daybed, and bring my knees to my chest before my father slammed my door into my dresser, rocking my 13-inch TV.

“Your mother told me what you said,” he said. “This is MY house. I’ll do whatever the hell I want whenever the hell I want. Do you understand me?”

“Okay,” I said meekly. I hated the fear in my voice, but it pacified him, so he went back downstairs after flipping me off.

He wasn’t done though. Just as he’d parked my car at the end of our yard and taped a “for sale” sign to the windshield the day after he’d slapped me repeatedly, he sat at the kitchen counter the next morning while I ironed a $79 silk skirt for work and told me to start paying rent or get out.

debt_behind_the_8ballDespite promising myself I would never cry in front of him again, I burst into tears for two reasons. First, because I was sure he’d kill my mom after I moved. Second, because I’d spent every cent I’d earned at Macy’s on clothes, shoes, and car payments. I also owed The Limited $1,500.

If I’d paid attention all the times my father had ranted about being in debt and realized he was partly to blame because he’d bought brass faucets and accessories for the remodeled bathroom, traded his truck and my mom’s car for brand-new models every two years, and spent thousands of dollars on his bowhunting hobby and archery tournaments, I might’ve saved money for a security deposit and rent. But I doubt it. My sole goal was to keep my mom from being killed, and that required my presence. And since my father had always threatened our lives, it never occurred to me to plan for a future. Instead, once I started working, I tried to make each day as livable as possible with pretty things the same way he’d tried to stave off his own unhappiness with stuff and filled my diabetic and epileptic brother’s bedroom with every toy he asked for after doctors predicted he would die by age 17.

my convertibleRather than teach me about budgets, interest, and negative equity, he’d cosigned for a convertible when I was 19, turning my $186-per-month car payment into a $310-per-month car payment. To decrease my expenses, I tried to trade it for something cheaper. When he found out I’d gone “behind his back” by asking our neighbor, who was a mechanic and his best friend, to look under the hood of an Escort I was considering, he stopped speaking to the guy, stuffed everything I owned into Hefty bags while I was at work, threw them in the spare bedroom, and forced me to sleep on the floor beside them until a coworker helped my boyfriend and me move a month later.

My Codependent Protector

Intentionally or intuitively, domestic violence survivors and children of alcoholics often wind up dating alcoholics, addicts, gamblers, and people who are mentally ill, immature, or irresponsible because codependent relationships make them feel needed, in control, or superior to their partner.

lots-of-alcoholI started dating Jason because it was nice to be with someone who took care of me for a change. After binge eating for years, I’d become a binge drinker to tolerate my alcoholic ex-boyfriend’s antics, and I continued to chug four or five Long Islands per night when Jason and I went to the Flats during its Mardi Gras-like heydey. Once my head hit the table, he gave me orgasmic scalp massages that melted every muscle I’d put knots in the past 12 years as I listened to my father beat and yell at my mom.

The night my enabler in shining armor charged into Trilogy’s ladies’ room, scooped me off the floor of a stall, and rushed me through the VIP room, down a flight of stairs, across the crowded dance floor, down another set of stairs, outside, and up the club’s concrete fire escape, where I rolled toward the edge and hurled, I felt like Whitney Houston in “The Bodyguard.”

Cohabitation killed this sort of romance and heroism because we couldn’t afford to go out anymore. And technically, I learned, Jason never could. He’d somehow sunk $10,000 of credit card debt into his computer, and it skyrocketed to $30,000 when he neglected to pay his bills on time, so his mom—i.e., one of Macy’s breakroom biddies who’d gossiped about me for years and now resented me for stealing her 25-year-old baby of eight children—paid them from their joint checking account.

In other words, I’d unknowingly locked myself into a year-long lease with a mama’s boy whose codependent mother had zero incentive to pay his half of the utilities because if the heat got shut off, he’d have to come home. Consequently, our new pastime became fighting about his 17-mile-long umbilical cord—and the Library of Congress-sized folder full of porn on his desktop.

Chapter 9: How Domestic Violence Affected Me (Part III: Unhealthy Relationships)

Girl_crush_on_boyIn high school, I envied girls who had boyfriends and developed crushes on football players and nerds who sat beside or in front of me and talked to me as they used my desk to do tricep dips or passed me papers. The year my mom said short stories I’d written to make her proud were “warped,” I fell for a skater boy who read them instead of his “Grapes of Wrath” homework and urged me to write more. I didn’t care what guys looked like or what they wanted to do with their life after they graduated. I would’ve followed them to the edge of the Earth—or their vert ramp—simply because they acknowledged my existence. This lack of selectivity—i.e., desperation for affection—and the fact that domestic violence survivors and children of alcoholics tend to:

set me up for a series of unhealthy relationships with “wildly inappropriate people,” to quote a Carrie Bradshaw spiel from “Sex and the City.”

Frankly, after growing up in my own private Guantanamo with a father who beat my mom and a mentally handicapped brother who made as much noise as possible and delighted in getting me yelled at by repeating, “Good morning,” until I got sick of saying it back and snarled, I don’t like people who make life harder than it has to be. Unfortunately, that’s who I attract.

semper fi do or die memeThe trend began with a Marine I met while working in Macy’s young men’s department at age 18. He bought jeans, complimented my smile, and asked for my phone number. After calling a couple of times from his Virginia Beach base, he sent me jewelry with cheap pink stones and a mixed tape with Silk’s song “Freak Me.” Since my father was recording all incoming and outgoing calls to catch my mom cheating on him, and he’d dragged me to his Baptist church for months after finding a Guns N’ Roses tape in my dresser, I shipped everything back with a note telling the Marine not to contact me anymore.

A few days later, I received a scrawly suicidal letter asking, “Why did you lead me so far?”

When I didn’t reply, he mailed a letter that said I should be the one who died, not him, and he’d be home for Thanksgiving.

This scared me into filing my first restraining order. It also caused me to start dating coworkers because spending 40 hours a week with them enabled me to inspect their fingernails for traces of blood or gun powder residue and ferret out personality defects in a public place. Or so I thought.

Mr. Tall, Dark, and Damaged

A week before Thanksgiving, I saw “Carlito’s Way” with a coworker my friend Angie had introduced me to during the summer with an ear-to-ear smile, sensing she’d made a love connection. He was 6-foot-5 and had the cute “Hardcastle and McCormick” actor’s curls and smile, so I’d told her I doubted this highly as we’d giggled our way back to our departments from the breakroom. But for the rest of that afternoon, every time I’d felt someone staring at me and glanced toward men’s furnishings, he’d looked away and pretended to be straightening the belt rack.


By the time I picked him up for the movie, we’d gone on several breaks together, and he’d told me about a teacher who’d molested him and made him question his sexuality, but I had no idea the 27 year old lived with his parents—or that he’d wave me in to meet them on our first date.

After sitting stick-straight in the theater with at least three inches of space between our body parts at all times, the night ended with an awkward handshake and a nagging suspicion that my four-month-long nervousness around him wasn’t butterflies.

The Alcoholic

beware_the_guy_who_likes_80s_musicMark McCormick and I went Christmas shopping in December, took occasional breaks together the following year, and talked about ’80s music as we worked, but I continued to feel shy around him, and he remained stilted around me, so when a coworker in the mattress department dialed my extension to invite me to a manager’s Halloween party, I said yes.

Of course, Mark McCormick attended the party, too, making me feel terrible every time I caught him watching my date, who’d dressed in red horns, and me. But faced with the decision of dating someone who made me anxious, dying alone, or pursuing a relationship with the devil, I chose to keep going out with the 27-year-old mattress salesman I’d conversed with during his stint in the young men’s department. At the time, with his thus-far-useless journalism degree, disheveled hair, partly untucked dress shirt, rolled-to-the-elbows sleeves, Camel habit, and dark sense of humor, he’d seemed like the tortured-artist type.

He turned out to be an alcoholic.

For a while, dating him was fun because I was underage and never got carded at bars he’d frequented before we met. Then, he started passing out in restaurants and stumbling into the store drunk during my evening shifts because he’d seen me chatting with Mark McCormick earlier in the day. The fun officially ended when he began romanticizing the movie “Leaving Las Vegas,” and the caretaker part of my personality donned a cape and decided to save him from drinking himself to death a la Nicolas Cage’s character.

Once nagging him to stop drinking backfired because he ordered O’Doul’s and made so many faces and sarcastic remarks that I told him to get a real damn beer and shut up, I tried to distract him from liquor cravings by making out with him in darkened parking lots of hospitals, doctor’s offices, and parks, where every police officer in Lorain County saw me in various states of undress because I still lived with my parents, my boyfriend lived with his widowed mother, and neither of us could afford a hotel room until New Year’s Eve, when he sprang for a Radisson reservation to take my virginity.

ESFJLike the you-could-do-a-lot-better episode of “Seinfeld,” my interest in saving him waned after one cop knocked on my window with his flashlight and asked, “Do you wanna be with this guy?” It was his way of asking if I was being raped, but I started to ask myself the same question. The alcoholic’s erections were an instant return on investment of time and effort since I wasn’t attracted to two-thirds of his face, including the semicircular nicotine stain shading the bottom of his two front teeth like a child’s drawing of sunset, but even for a people-pleasing, self-sacrificing ESFJ, it’s hard to rescue someone you resent.

Throughout our relationship, he’d continued to drink, embarrass me in public, and call me by his sole ex-girlfriend’s name. He also complimented my intelligence and encouraged me to go to college but turned every conversation into a game of chess that segued into an argument. Coworkers constantly asked, “Are you two fighting again?”

Worse, I knew I’d never be able to pursue a writing career as long as we were together because although he likened his writing to Hunter S. Thompson’s, he’d failed as a reporter at “The Morning Journal” he called “The Urinal.”

I accepted his spontaneous proposal as I drove us around downtown Cleveland beneath fireworks our second New Year’s Eve together because I was 20 and naïve enough to think he would change, because I knew I’d need to move out soon and wouldn’t be able to afford rent on my $6.20 per hour salary, and because it would’ve been an even longer drive back to Amherst if I hadn’t.

I demoted him from fiance to boyfriend in title only after he saw me talking to Mark McCormick at a coworker’s Super Bowl party, got drunk, stormed out, and tossed the leather jacket I’d bought him out his car window on his way home. The look on his face—and potential drama at Macy’s, where I now wrapped gifts, prepared the bank deposit, and enjoyed my job—prevented me from severing ties because previous attempts had provoked slurred, suicidal-sounding phone calls. I had enough to worry about with violence escalating at home, so it was just easier to endure an occasional date even though the baritone voice that initially attracted me to him had turned into a mosquito-esque drone.

red_hair_breakup_hairTo cope during particularly exasperating evenings, I took a cue from him and drank to the verge of alcohol poisoning. This provided an escape hatch once my head hit the table, but after he deliberately scalded my scalp beneath his mother’s bathtub faucet before rinsing Long Island iced tea vomit from my hair, I cut the waist-length locks he loved up to my ears, buzzed the back, dyed the new ‘do red, and began dating the former coworker who’d tagged along on dates for months to carry him to the car and drive us home.

I hoped that since Boyfriend A was so smart, he’d catch on to Boyfriend B and bow out. I never imagined it would take eight months of refusing to hold his hand and a move to a one-bedroom apartment with the new beau. Then again, I didn’t realize I was exchanging one set of problems for another, that I would do so time and time again for the next 20 years, or that an eventual relationship with Mark McCormick would precipitate a 36-hour stay in a psych ward.