Divorce or Death

Can’t he just die in a car accident on the drive home today? I sat rocking my baby in the glider and let the thought entertain in my mind and play out for a bit. I knew it would be so much easier than divorcing him. I was afraid to leave him and divorce him, his family had much more money than mine, I wasn’t sure I could afford a lawyer, and I knew I would need one. My husband and his father had expressed their comfort with the court system and suing family members for possible future disagreements. The words of my father in law from the first time I had left floated around in my mind almost constantly. I have worked for the county, and for the city, I know all the judges and all the judges dirty laundry, if you ever leave my son again you will not gain custody of yours. I knew that blood meant more to them than anything else, and they would fight for one of their own tooth and nail, and once I left my husband, I would no longer be a part of that family, though my son always would.

I remember when I was pregnant with my son, my husband’s family treated me more kindly and differently than they ever had, making sure my every need was met. When I was in labor, his family converged on me in the hospital, I only got to call my mom after my husband had left the room, and I begged his sister to give me the phone. After my son was born, when we were at family gatherings, my husband would control who got to hold my son and spend time with him, my turn only coming when he needed to be nursed, if my family were present, their turn never came.

And still, I loved my husband, and his family, all of them. I have a big heart, and can see the good and possibility that exists in all people. I did not want to lose his family either, as I knew I surely would when the divorce process began, lose them and have to fight against them. I knew if I divorced my husband, my son would have to go back and forth between two completely different homes, I knew I did not want that for my son. If my husband were to die in an accident, it would be different, I would be able to keep a relationship with his family and raise my son the way I chose. I even went so far as to think of what I would do with the life insurance money, paying for the funeral costs and paying off debts.

My mind flitted back to reality. Death was not an option, not physical death of my husband, and not emotional or spiritual death of myself. I knew I would have to face the court system. Divorce it was.

Sigh, the court process. There is so much that goes into the court process and it can be an exhausting and difficult road. I have come to learn along the way, things are what you make of it, if you expect to have a difficult and hard process though court, you will, if you expect to have it flow easily and seamlessly, it will, even if the exact same circumstances surround you going to court, you’re feelings of the matter, will make a significant difference.

My first contact with court came while I was staying in the shelter. It was such a relief to allow someone else to take me under their wing. I had to wait for the day after Christmas before anything could be done in court, my biggest concern of course being retaining custody of my son. There was a woman who’s entire purpose was to help me begin the court process. She had the paperwork to file for divorce and gain temporary custody of my son, I filled them out in the shelter with her direction, we left my son in the childcare there, and headed to the court house a few blocks away.

I remember the cold, dim, wintry gray day reflecting off every surface in that building. It was like the entire world was gray and cold. As we began filing the paperwork, we found my ex had already been there and filed paperwork for divorce that morning. The bonus? I didn’t have to pay the filing fee. We filed the temporary custody papers and left.

A few days later a police officer contacted me, he wanted to serve me with papers. I was terrified the officer would come, serve me the papers, and take my son away from me. Thankfully I was able to get back in contact with the woman who had helped me file my paperwork, I don’t even remember her name. I told her of my fears and worries. She calmed me, assured me, and agreed to meet the officer with me outside the shelter and created a plan. She would tell the officer I had agreed to meet them at the shelter, not admitting I was actually staying there, giving me peace in not admitting to my ex where I was yet. We met the officer outside the shelter as agreed, I had even left early in my car, to drive around for a bit, and then show up in the shelter parking lot to give the officer the impression I had come from where ever I was staying, my son buckled up in the backseat. The officer had me sign for the paperwork and handed it over, then left. It was simple and easy, my son still in my custody.

I opened up the packet to find my ex had filled a protective order on behalf of our sin against me, claiming I was abusive to our son, the only facts he had to rely on were the thoughts I had expressed to him when our son was first born.

Shortly after bringing my son home from the hospital, I became hyper aware of all ways he could possibly get hurt. What if I dropped him down the wooden flight of stairs? What about the fireplace; all we had was a suddenly flimsy seeming fireplace screen. There were so many things that could harm my new baby and I thought I had already baby proofed our home. I shared those thoughts with my husband and those were the things he wrote about in the protective order.

In Utah when a protective order on behalf of a child is filled, the person filling out the paper work just has to go along the list of questions prompting for information and check anything they think applies. My husband had checked several options including me turning custody, the car seat, and diaper bag over to him, not harming or threatening to harm my son in any way, restraining me from owing a gun, and restraining me from drinking alcohol while I had my son. I could not believe the lengths he would go to to try to gain custody of our son, he knew I do not drink, and did not own any firearms. I felt he lied and marked anything he could to win. Thankfully the only piece the judge signed off on was me not harming or threatening to harm my son in any way. That was easy, nothing would change. And this began our long 3 1/3 year divorce process.

So what do you do? Where do you go? How do you begin? I suggest getting a lawyer if at all possible. It makes a big difference, I saw no way for me to afford a lawyer, and I knew it was the only way I would be guaranteed I would end up with custody of my son. I made it work, and I am so grateful I ended up with the lawyer I had, I truly believe God placed her in my life with divine intervention.

A great place to start looking for options is womenslaw.org Keep in mind: What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to lose? I walked away from my home, and most of my possessions. I could have fought him for those things, however the most important thing to me was custody of my son, because I knew I did not want my son growing up thinking the way his father treated me was the way my so. should treat women. I wanted my son to be safe. I wanted to give him a better life.


Safety Plan

Thinking of leaving your abusive partner?

Looking for a safety plan? Leaving is the most dangerous time for a person experiencing Domestic Violence, an abuser will do whatever they can to keep you from leaving.

Reasons leaving feels so scary:

  • You don’t want others to think badly of you.
  • You don’t want others to think badly of your spouse.
  • Packing up and taking kids makes you more vulnerable.
  • You’re afraid what will happen if your partner catches you.
  • You don’t know how he will react after you leave.
  • You don’t know what to expect from the legal system.
  • You don’t know where you will be safe.
  • You’re afraid of him getting the kids.
  • You don’t know where you will live.
  • You don’t know how you will support yourself and your kids.
  • You may not have a job.
  • You may not have transportation.
  • The unknown.
  • Your abuser may have ties to police, judges, or other authority figures and you don’t know if they will favor him.
  • You’re afraid for your life and the life of your kids.

Reach out! Get help. There are several resources available to make leaving easier. Here is a great place to get started!


First Flight

“I don’t know mom, sometimes I feel like I should go to St. Johns.” I breathed into the phone receiver of my land line. I had called my mom to wish her a Happy Birthday on the wintery February Utah morning, my two month old son rocking in his swing, sleeping snuggly. I was enjoying being home with my infant son, the gift of being furloughed from a government job.

“Then go.” Came her simple reply. Then go. Those two words hit me hard. Then go. They pounded in my heart and thrummed through my veins. Then go. My fingers began to tingle, my body, heart, brain and soul all coalescing. Then go. I had my answer. It was like I was just waiting to be given permission. The next hours passed quickly and in a blur. I must have told my mom I was leaving, though I do not remember anything more of that conversation.

Once things were set into motion, everything else fell into place. I began planning and packing. Valentine’s Day had come and gone and I still had decorations hanging through my house, the carpets needed vacuuming, the bathroom scrubbed, the kitchen swept and mopped, the dishes put away, the laundry done, and our fridge was nearly bare. I felt a strange urge to clean it all up, to leave my husband a clean house and frozen meals. I would need clothes and a few toys for my son and me. I had no cell phone, and no money coming in, my ex and I had separate accounts; I had no access to his money. My mom called my dad, and when he told his boss his daughter was leaving an abusive husband, she practically pushed him out the door. Out of the blue my best friend who I hadn’t talked to in weeks, called my house, I told her what I was doing, and she dropped everything to come to my house. As my human angels converged on my home, I packed and cleaned; blessedly my infant son slept on and needed little attention from me. As soon as everyone got there, my friend volunteered to go shopping for me while my parents helped me pack my car and prepare my house, I wrote a letter for my husband, explaining I was leaving with our son, and that we would be safe, I placed it on the coffee table.

We stood outside in the cold winter air, my son buckled into the back of the running car, I gave hugs to my parents and friend, my parents gave me my dad’s cell phone and their debit card and the cash they had been able to quickly scramble together. It was around 2 o’clock in the afternoon by this point, my husband would be getting off work around five and driving home through the rush hour commute after that. I needed to get on the road.

The car I was driving was a 9 year old, white 97’ Ford Escort, it had manual roll up windows, a moon roof that leaked, side view mirrors that had been wired on, and mechanical problems on and off during the last few years. I was running off faith it would make the 595 mile drive. I hardly remember the beginning of that drive, it wasn’t until I had been driving for about an hour, and driven past my husband’s place of work that I finally let loose and began to cry. I was overcome with emotion; my thick, hot tears blurring my vision, a prayer in my heart as I faced the most frightening experience in my life to that point. I was frightened the instant my ex came home and saw the letter, he would know exactly where I was headed, and he and his father would come after me. I literally had visions of him dragging me back home by my hair.

I kept driving. Normally a very active boy who wanted to be held and cuddled often, my son slept on, only waking to be fed, I, still a nursing mother with no formula or pumped milk on hand, found places to pull over and nurse him for twenty minutes at a time, in a church parking lot, on the side of the road in the middle of a canyon, anywhere I could find, keenly aware it was all precious driving time I could have been using to get further away. I sat in the back seat, and fed my son silently and quickly and got back in the drivers seat. I kept driving. My dad had called ahead and arranged a hotel room for me in Moab, the half-way point, and temporary destination. When the time I expected my husband to be home rolled around, I could feel the anxiety rising up my body. I kept driving.

I pulled into Moab around 8:30 pm the skies were dark, and the buildings along main street lit up. I was hungry, I went through the Wendy’s drive-though, then continued driving until I saw the pre-chosen hotel. I pulled in and checked in as quickly as possible. They gave me my key, and I found my room and let my son and myself in. I was so tired. Emotionally, and physically exhausted from the drive and events of the morning. I remember turning American Idol on the TV, anything to drum out the thoughts and fears threatening to overtake my head. I changed my son and laid him out on the bed, I’m sure it felt so good to him to stretch and not be in that car seat anymore. I fed him once more and then took the time to feed myself. I called my parents to find out what had transpired since my leaving and let them know we were safe and in the hotel. What I found out surprised me.

Upon coming home and finding my note, my husband first called my parents. They told him they knew where I was, and that I was safe, but they would give him no more information than that. Shortly after, officers showed up at my parents door. My husband was trying to file a missing persons report. My parents explained to the officers why I had left, they asked my parents if they knew where I was, they said they did and that I was safe. “Have a good day.” Was the response the officers gave. Next, my husband tried to get an Amber Alert activated, saying I had kidnapped our son. That did not go through either. I also called my best friend to find out my husband had called her to try and get information from her as well. I am so grateful my family and friends were strong enough to stand up to my husband where I was terrified of him. While none of these tactics worked out the way my husband had intended, what they did do was scare me, that he was willing enough to do those things shot fear into my heart, what would he try next?

I tried to sleep, I kept waking throughout the night, sleep eluding me as my brain was hyper active with the possibility that my husband and his father would know intuitively exactly where I headed and were on their way to take us back. St. Johns is the small Arizona town where my mom had grown up, much of her family still living there. My uncle, who had married my mom’s sister, was FBI trained and the chief of Police, I would be staying with them. I knew I could stay there and be safe. Around 4 am when sleep would no longer come, and my adrenaline began pumping through my veins with anticipation of my husband showing up any minute, flight kicked in, and I quickly packed, when I went to go check out of the hotel, the lobby doors were closed, I slipped my hotel key though the crack, and figured that the credit card my parents had used to reserve the room would cover the cost. I began driving again on the cold, dark winter morning. It felt good to be in motion again, I knew I wouldn’t feel safe or be able to relax until I arrived at my aunt and uncles home.

The sun began to rise as the miles ticked away, I waited for a decent time to call my aunt and tell her I was only a few hours away. It still seemed so far, I had to talk the panic down that tired to rise up in my body. When I finally arrived in St. Johns city limits, I began to relax. I love St. Johns, I have so many memories visiting there, and living there for three years in my middle school days. My mom’s family is so fun to visit and I feel loved and accepted by them. I was looking forward to seeing my Grammy, and visiting my Papa’s grave who had passed away a few years previously.

I rarely fully look back at this day, and as I do now I can see the angels who were there along my way and the miracles that happened. I believe there were nanny angels with my infant son as I drove my car, lulling him to sleep and keeping him entertained so he rarely cried. I believe there were mechanic angels who kept my car running and made sure I arrived to my destination without complication. I believe there were guardian angels who surrounded us and protected us, who guided me and inspired me so we were safe. I believe my Papa was there with me, by my side the entire time, whispering words of strength and encouragement, watching over me, and just being there so I would not be alone. I believe the reason my ex did not automatically think I had driven down to Arizona was a miracle, granted by God, taking that idea and option from his mind. I believe the authorities who were contacted as my ex tried to track me down were comforted and prompted to know there was nothing to worry about and no reason to get involved.

I arrived at my aunt’s house uneventfully, it felt good to be safe and warm and out of my car. She greeted us, and got the chance to meet my son for the first time. She helped me unpack my car and got me settled in her son’s room. I found myself in a room with a queen bed and Dallas Cowboy decorations on the walls. My aunt had things to do, kids to take care of, errands to run. Life did not stop for me, life went on and so did I.

Growing Pains

I recently celebrated my 30th Birthday. As I sit in my bed listening to music while typing this on my iPhone, my mind can’t help but to wander over the last 30 years to all the culminating moments that have brought me here, to who, what, and where I am today.

I used to think that my life should be nearly perfect, with little to no mistakes. Being Christian and taught about the atonement of Christ growing up, I remember thinking as a teenager the fewer mistakes I make in my life, the less Christ would have had to suffer for my sins those 2000 years ago in Gethsemane. It took me a while to realize that’s not what the atonement is about. And whether you believe in Christ or God or a Higher Power or not, I think we can all mostly agree that we will make mistakes while living this life, things we realize after or maybe even knew before we shouldn’t do, and those mistakes are sometimes the best learning experiences in this life, we learn and grow from those mistakes and experiences more than we would in any other way, and so, suffering through the consequences of our choices and actions, can actually be a blessing and a gift, if we look for the silver lining, learning experiences, and tender mercies that I do believe exist in every circumstance.

I grew up moving across the country from state to state to state. By the time I was 12 years old, I had lived in Arizona, Colorado, Virginia, Tennessee, and Utah, raised the oldest of four siblings and each of us born in a different state, we averaged moving every three years.

The downside of moving a lot? Always being the new kid. It was a challenge to find my way into new school’s social infrastructure, the smaller the town, the harder the task. I remember being teased mercilessly in elementary and middle school.

I started kindergarten at age four rather than five in Virginia because my mom thought I was ready, and I passed some test. I got accustomed to being a year younger than my class mates, though later on in life it caused me some frustration and anger.

In seventh grade our English teacher gave us an assignment to make a commercial, she assigned us to groups. The group I was assigned to was all girls, who I barely knew, and who were higher in the social food chain than I.

My group met together without me and created a commercial, then brought their creation to me. We would be advertising a perfume that would make the wearer look more beautiful rather than smell better.

My job? To be the ugly nerd before the transformation. The girls explained all I had to do was dress really dorky and tape my glasses. With the cameras rolling, I was to walk out of class into the dead end hall with our lockers, brag about my A+ on my math test, then a small group of kids would come out and make fun of me while I was at my locker.After they left I would spray the perfume on and then the girls would do my hair and make-up, and dress me in cute clothes to make sure I looked beautiful for the transformation, the transformation being the only reason I agreed to my nerdy part.

This did not go according to plan. I did my part, and after walking out of the classroom and saying my line, the “small group” of kids was actually dozens and dozens of kids who had all showed up to make fun of me, when I saw the mob heading for me, with their hungry eyes and angry expressions, I began to back into the corner. I was terrified. What were they going to do to me?

There was no exit open for me to take, the hallway dead ended into a giant brick wall, the mob blocking the doorways to all the classrooms and the only exit out of the hall. Fear began rising up in my throat, my eyes were darting from the faces of the kids, to the walls, to the doors, hoping and praying a teacher or someone would come out and stop the madness. I saw no out, I continued to back up toward the solid brick wall, my brain betraying me and rather than finding a way
to stop the mob, envisioned my seventh grade peers physically attacking me. I felt my back press up against the wall, and I pushed my body hard against it, as though I could disappear into the giant white painted bricks.

This was not the first time I remember feeling so backed and cornered, in my life. I was very familiar with this feeling. My mom has a temper, and, growing up, if things did not go according to her plan, then she would make sure we heard it. She would yell and yell and yell at us, over and over and over again, about the same thing, using the very same words. Out of necessity, I learned the trick of finding anything that would dissipate the anger and wrath of my mother and doing what it took; anything and everything I was capable of to make sure she was happy and content in order to avoid the pain and anger she could and would inflict on me and/or my siblings. A trait which I gained while growing up that transferred over to my marriage, and which, I believe, lead me to end up in such a marriage in the first place. And a trait that I battle still, nearly every day in an effort to have healthy relationships in my present and my future and to become stronger through continued effort and practice.

When I found my seventh grade self, huddling against that middle school hall, I will never forget what happened next, my male cousin who I always looked up to, despite being in the same grade with him, walked in to the middle of the crowd. He and I rarely talked in school, he in the popular crowd, and I not, I did not know what to expect, the very group of students he was standing in the midst of being his friends. I can only imagine he had been invited to be part of the mob. He never spoke a word to me, he simply told everyone to get out and leave me alone. I will forever be grateful to him for being brave enough to at least stand up to them and tell them to stop.

The kicker? Those girls never really intended I get the makeover. They made up some excuse, and instead filmed a gorgeous, short, petite, Hispanic girl with flowing ebony curls, shinning white teeth, and a striking smile, this was a huge contrast to my tall, medium frame, pale skin, frizzy,dirty dishwater blonde, self, and part of what I used as evidence to begin to believe I was not pretty. And such is life, we allow in what we choose to allow in and discard what we choose to discard, and realizing this and reprogramming the brain, while difficult, is possible through work and perseverance.

The bonus of moving a lot? I got near constant do overs. You know all those highly embarrassing learning moments we have as kids? Those moments we feel will live in infamy and we will never be able to live down? The kids I graduated high school with don’t know about the time I pooped my pants in kindergarten, or crashed on my tricycle at a school assembly in front of the entire school in fifth grade. I truly got to leave some of those painful memories behind. Who knows if the kids I did go to school with at the time remember those things or not, and it doesn’t matter, it wouldn’t matter if they did. They are and forever will be in my past. And while I understand it is important to own up to our own mistakes and do our best to make things right, I also feel that it is important after we have done what we can do to rectify our mistakes, we move forward in life, we forget them, and live as though everyone else around us does not even know it ever happened. I feel that’s what the atonement really is about.