Moose: I am bigger then you

(no subject)

There's something really terrible about words.

Words are okay, when I'm speaking in a clinical fashion. If I'm describing my diagnosis, or detailing out my experiences like I'm reading from a police blotter, 'rape' and 'physical/mental/emotional abuse' and 'ptsd' do not need to be justified. They are just words, just facts, like a recipe from Betty Crocker.

Even if I am in a safe environment with people who want to hear my words, meaning MY words that come from MY heart, not the rattling off of facts, it's difficult for me to force them out. It's difficult to show someone that I'm still in pain, that it still hurts, and that I'm not better. I understand that it's asking for help, but it feels just like admitting defeat.

After almost 24 hours of being completely out of control, to the point where I flatly told the people around me that the needed to make my choices for me, I received another response from him. 30 minutes later, another response.

I should back up and detail the last 2 and a half months of my life, and how I've had to interact with him and conversations about his pooping habits (which was met with my reply of, "I guess just because we're divorced doesn't mean I don't get status updates on your ass.) With ping ponging passive aggressive, sometimes just aggressive, comments that would fly through my text messages, through my email, with his irrational and overbearing demands on MY LIFE and MY DAUGHTER and MY FAMILY, all the while he's crying in his soup about how I'm the one who's unfair. Me, the one who 'made the choice to leave (don't forget that!)', who 'needed closure', who 'needed to move on' is the very same one in which he accuses of trying to withhold his child. The very same man who put his hands around my neck, cocked back a fist and told me he would kill me if I was a man. The very same man who chose crack cocaine over his wife (sorry, not wife, not lover, but best friend, don't forget that!) and child, who he loves 'so much'. The same man who not months after we had finally escaped from Michigan, beat his girlfriend so badly, with 2 broken ribs and busted teeth, while he stole and hid her credit cards and car keys and threatened her life....

that very same man.

Yes, I am attempting to protect my daughter from him, behind ever single legal shield I can find. I give her as much protection to cushion the inevitable blows that are coming to her heart, as keeping the blows from coming to her head. I am saving her, and saving myself.

But that's all old news.

If I could, I would repost the 3 page long 'response' that was sent to me, written in all caps. Apparently I am so beneath him that I am not even worth using a shift key for, that requires far too much energy. I would show you, scream at you, that he's delusional and abusive and combative and neurotic and terrifying. I would read every sentence, with affectation and vigor, just like he would sound if he was saying. Because I remember the sound of his voice as it sliced into my belly and left me open. I remember the pain of his words, hitting me in my chest like bullets.

"I DIDN'T LOSE MY WIFE, OR MY LOVER, BUT MY BEST FRIEND."

That's all I ever was.

"YOU CHOOSE TO FOCUS ON THE NEGATIVE AND CAN'T LET GO OF THE PAST."

That's all I ever was.

I was never anything more. I was a punching bag. I was something to kick when he needed to feel something other than the crack frying out his synapses. I was something to work out frustrations ON, not WITH. I was never more than those things.

It is difficult, even with as much progress as I have made, to see myself as anything more than that, to anyone. Especially when I read the words, "HONOR, YOU KNOW NOT. RESPECT, YOU HAVE NONE" and then I am told that I am making things up because those words are not abusive or combative.

As a friend put, I sent out my swan song to him. "If I thought you cared at all to know the swath of damage you left, I would tell you that I have been diagnosed with PTSD stemming from domestic abuse in the form of mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Yes, things were that bad. I live in a sea of triggers from the things you did and said to me. I have sworn letters from officers of the court in Jackson that your abusive behaviors only escalated with the women you've dated since. My genuine concern for them has legitimately been that they simply survive the ride, and maybe fare a little bit better than I did."

The fact is, he doesn't care. He will never care. These words are for my benefit only. They will do no damage to him. He will feel no shame, no remorse, not a care in the world. I do not affect his life, and I never did. I am only a fly in the ointment in his 'relationship' with his daughter. Nothing more. A nuisance. A bother. A gnat.

So, I asked for the help. I gave him my parting words. He can fall into the ocean for all I care. I wish him no harm, but I do not wish him anything. I just wish he would leave me alone.
Moose: I am bigger then you

(no subject)

I have 2 photos which are currently threatening to get a high post count on Tumblr. I have been terrible at updating much of anything, because life has been one illness after another, one fire to put out after another, not to mention trying to navigate the treacherous waters of the ex and visitation (ugh.)

In the mean time, I offered up a session for Reagan's school silent auction. They requested some prints to 'show off my work'. I got this one done up in a metallic print, and oh my goodness. It's... I cannot believe that this is my picture. I cannot.



Look at that. That's National Geographic quality, right dere. Not to mention that the metallic print made the crispness in the nose even more defined, the blacks in the shadows are stunning and the white in the horses nose is just astonishing. It's a beautiful photo. I would like to get a bigger print of it and maybe try to sell it to magazines or something? I know they usually do these things in batches, so we will see.

While doing Saturday visits at the church up in Lincoln, our only option, I spent some time at the old Lincoln Gulch cemetery. I've been out there a handful of times, but never managed to get any usable photos. There's so much undergrowth as well as thick tree cover, that it poses a strange set of challenges. Add into that the mish mash set up of the plots, going from current residents to people who died around 1860, and angles are your worst enemy. Still, this was an impressive shot. I'm proud of it, even if it's creepy to me. Someone told me that it was touching and that I treated the subject with love and tenderness. I guess so? I try to be respectful taking photos, even if it's a still object. I guess. That sounds really trite.



I have more that I should probably post up. I've been a busy bee with the photographs, really trying to capture some quality images out of every day things. The children have been a delight to shoot lately, as Drake is coming into his own personality finally. Reagan tries really hard to look like a model, but I get some fun silly face shots out of her.
Moose: I am bigger then you

(no subject)

Last summer we got in on a family portrait deal through a local photographer. A few weeks later, I found myself in his class. It was a very informal affair, and most of the time it was just the two of us watching documentaries and discussing the finer points of things like religion and dating and taking pictures of naked girls.

Somewhere along in there, I managed to learn an awful lot about taking pictures. Some would say that the talent was there all along, and I just needed to find that secret spell to make it bloom into something fantastic. I can tell you that my teacher was very specific to never make me feel like I was something extra awesome special, but he acknowledged the talent in a very subtle way. This was excruciating, but incredibly helpful in the end. It really forced me to pay attention to what he was saying and transpose those lessons into my own work. I don't know if he even knew that's what he was doing. I think he's just that good at teaching.

He was also very clear on hammering home the point that confidence is key. If you don't think you're pictures are amazing, then people will pick up on that and you'll never go anywhere. It was difficult to hear, over and over, about how I needed to stop the self-deprecation and be positive, always. Have confidence in your work, because it doesn't suck and you don't suck and you aren't horrible and ugly and awful and you're going to go somewhere with this if you just keep your focus. That really has been an invaluable lesson.

In our last class, we discussed how I needed to get off the couch and finally get all this stuff rolling. That was sometime after Christmas. A couple weeks later, I took a workshop class with a couple models, knowing that I needed to have some solid pictures to start off that portfolio. During that class, I was pointedly told that I needed to go home and get started THAT NIGHT. Do not wait. Do not delay any longer. I also knew that taxes were in the mail and that a shiny new Sony a6000 was already in the budget. I walked away from that with renewed confidence and some fantastic shots of a beautiful woman to get things rolling.

A couple weeks ago I finally got the a6000 in my grimy hands. I had a romantic engagement style shoot with a local couple a few days later. I found myself still relying on the a230, because I wasn't comfortable with it. The pictures were good in composition and posing, but was obviously lacking in quality. Purchased the lens mount kit, started the website and blog, continually posted things to the fb page (I've been slacking, sorry) and started getting the word out through some family and friends.

I've managed to land 2 paid gigs for hs senior photos. One was last weekend, the other is tomorrow. I've been actively working on getting things figured out so that I can produce consistent high quality images. It's a whole lot more work than chasing your children around the house around with a camera and praying to get that perfect expression. I've found that it's really easy for me to make clients feel comfortable and get them to do what I want them to do in front of the camera. I feel like I'm still taking too many photos in a session and I need to fine tune things down to the sweet spot. None the less, it feels good to get paid for it, and have people love my work.

Sometime yesterday morning I was messing around with the camera at work, trying to figure out how to use a remote control sensor so that I could utilize a tripod for the next session. Turns out that I have an embedded sensor which works via my phone. You can imagine the shenanigans that were had, but I managed to come up with this image.

I still can't get over it. I cannot believe that is me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be doing this. Never did I think that I would take an picture of myself that was so striking that I felt like it could easily be an editorial of some sort. I never guessed that I would ever look that pretty.

So, this has been an adventure. I have a lot more to learn. I'll never know it all, and that's exciting. There's always something around the corner to surprise you. I'll probably never be rich and famous from taking photos, and that's okay, too. But bitch, I might be.

Moose: I am bigger then you

(no subject)

Someone posted some lyrics of an artist that I particularly despise, but then phrased the question, "How did you fall in love?"

It's really easy to forget these things, in the midst of teething and medication and endless doctors appointments and sleepless nights. It's amazing how you can go from head over feet in love with someone to snarling at every turn because you're just so damned tired. Becoming two ships barely passing in the night, as one goes this way to tend to this child, and this one stares and watches the paint peel in silence. This one sits up for 2 hours with the baby who is wide awake while that one gets a little bit of rest.

And then somewhere in that mess of life, you manage to occasionally connect with each other, and you are reminded of why you are doing this in the first place. It's really easy for me to get caught up in being a victim and woe-is-me doom and gloom. I'm always shocked when all it takes is some quiet alone time, just having him close to me.

We fight more than I ever expected us to these days. We almost always fight over intimacy, parenting tactics and distribution of household duties. This strikes me as a good thing, because these are easily resolved. We don't fight about money, which is great. I do not miss fighting about money one bit. Whenever we do fight, Shawn is quick to let go of anger, offer physical reassurances and apologies. This could not be a more perfect fit for me and my anger style. I also don't know how long his niceness can sustain itself, but he keeps on plodding through that. It keeps me, us, going down this path together.

But the question, how did you fall in love... how can I even begin to unravel that? I saw him walking in the door of the coffee shop and my breath stopped. I spent a good part of our first date gently touching his arm as often as I could. He knew he would marry me from the first second he laid eyes on me. There was never any question that we were in love from the first moment we were together. One of those predestined things, I don't know. There's a thousand love songs and poems written about how I loved you before I met you and all those simpering, dripping platitudes. But there's truth in that.

I remember the first few torrid weeks of our relationship, and him loudly throwing his hands in the air, "Why couldn't I have met you 5 years ago! Before my ex-wife! Before your ex-husband! Our lives would've been so much easier!" But the truth of that is, those trials of fire made both of us stronger because of it. I'm not saying I would encourage anyone to make the choices I did, but if I had the options to change it, I probably wouldn't. I wouldn't have Reagan. I wouldn't have Shawn. I wouldn't have Drake. My life would not be where it is.

I'm lucky to have Shawn. Even if it's out of character for me to make such sweeping professions of love and devotion, there is no one on the face of this planet I would rather lay down at night with. There is not a single other person who could take his place in our home, our family or my heart. And while I'm the absolute worst at showing it, I hope he knows that I'm forever grateful for him sauntering into my life. I wouldn't ask for it to be any other way.
Moose: I am bigger then you

To my children, hours before the Grand Jury will hand down it's verdict...

My sweet babies. Did you know that there was a time in my life when I did not want children of my own, under any circumstances? I thought, "there's already enough unloved babies who starve. The world is a horrible place. I'm in a horrible place. Everything is horrible, why would I bring another person into this horrible world."

And then you, Reagan, happened. In all your wonderful tenacity, your glowing rage and sweet kindness. You forced yourself into my life with such vigor that I could no longer picture it without you. I was still worried for you, but it was just us, just mama and Reagan, against the world. I learned things. I grew. I changed. I adapted to fit the mold for myself that I had been told was the wrong shape. We were a team (we still are a team) but then Dad happened. And then Drake happened.

And my darling boy, with the eternal smile and dimples that go on for days. You were my 2nd accident, but one that was wanted very much by Dad. Not that Dad doesn't love your sister, he does, but you... you're his boy. You're everything to him.

But children, know this. This is not the world I want for you. I do not want a world where "people get killed because they aren't pink enough", to quote you, Reagan. I don't want a world where I have to worry about you, Reagan, and you being put into harms way because you're having an off day and something triggers you. I don't want you dead because of your mental health. That's just not fair, and you're as pink as they come.

I don't want a world where you, Drake, have to watch every single step because the men before you ruined your chances at being a stand-up dude. I want you to be empathetic and kind, respectful and sweet. I want you to be strong, and stand firm on your principles like your Dad. I hope we can teach you how to be a good, solid man, in whatever your endeavors are.

And Reagan, my sweet girl. I never expected you to face the struggles you do, and will continue to. It's a gift and a curse. You see things differently than the rest of us, but it comes with such a price. I fear for your safety and your health, every day. And I know that I mess things up more than I do things right. I hope that I can teach you to be bigger than your disabilities, bigger than everything you could possibly imagine. You've got everything you need in your grasp. I hope we can teach you how to use it.

Your Dad and I love you both so much. We want the world to be a better place for you. Sadly, it doesn't seem like the rest of the world is up to the task. But let me tell you a secret: change comes from within. If we, as a family, can bind ourselves together and try our best to be bigger than the ills that surround us, we can pass that on and on and on. If we continue to act in the most charitable, kind ways we can, to each and every person we meet... well. That's the most revolutionary ideal you could ever hold onto.

Remember this: no one is better than you, and you are no better than anyone else. You deserve a better place. I hope we can instill in both of you the desire to go out and create it.
Moose: I am bigger then you

#WhyIStayed

There's another growing hashtag movement on the internet these days. I was particularly struck with the #yesallwomen, as it brought attention to a much needed subject. Now, it's "WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft. Both hit nerves.

Why did I stay? Because I was told repeatedly that no one would ever love me, that I was crazy, that I was worthless, that I was stupid and fat and ugly.

I didn't go back to school when I had the chance because I was told that I was setting myself up for failure because I'm too stupid to go to classes and be responsible for my work. I still think that. When I consider going back to school, my guts churn and my heart races, because I hear it all over again in my head. I can actually feel myself back in that time: sitting at the computer desk in the red dining room, him at his oversized chair in front of the tv, me discussing how I'd like to go back for creative writing. His response, "Creative writing? Is that like the 'singing' thing? Did some man who just wants to fuck you tell you that you could write? You're such a gullible fool, Traci."

I fell back into drug addiction with him after 5 years of sobriety. It was easier to join him in the misery and drown it all out than it was to live on the outskirts of his lies and anger. It was easier to be down in that hole with him, and at least I didn't have to feel anything and anger felt justified.

And I loved him. I thought I loved him. I believed he loved me. Maybe he did. In retrospect, it was never love, but unadulterated co-dependency. What would he do without me? Who would wash his clothes? Who would book his hotel rooms? Who would cover for him after a binge? Who would juggle the bills and balance the money after he withdrew every single dime from the bank accounts? Who would make sure the dogs were fed? Who would take of him, and more over, who would take care of me?

He threatened to kill me countless times. They may not have been direct threats, that only happened occasionally, but I was certainly afraid that he might 'accidentally' do it. It was often his habit, for the last couple years, that when we would fight and I would yell, he would shove me onto something (the floor, a bed, the large ottoman), lay on top of me and cover my mouth so that the neighbors wouldn't hear. I would be terrified, and I couldn't breathe because he wouldn't get off top of me. I remember one time scratching and hitting and screaming that I couldn't get any air in and that he was going to kill me. He said, "You're goddamned right I will!" He denies this ever happened.

The very last time, as has been detailed here for legal purposes, was when we were having a fight over not having any money. He blamed me, even if it was all his fault. He put his hand around my throat and cocked back his fist, "If you were a man I'd fucking kill you right now." I still can't remember if I was holding Reagan or if she was at my feet, but she was there.

Even then, the finally tipping point was never my safety, but that of my daughter. It was the legal aid counselor telling me, "If you keep her there, they could take her away from you because you're in a known drug house. Remember that." I see now that those words were spoken to get me to leave. They likely would've never taken her from me, but the situation was so dire, I think the woman on the other end of the phone was grasping for something, anything, to get me to make up my mind once and for all.

I stayed because I thought I had to. I stayed because I felt like I had a religious and moral reason to be there. I married him, I committed myself to him, I deserved everything that he did to me. Even now, I find it easier to slip back into that victim mode, rather than stand up for myself. It's hard to stand your ground, especially against a man, and especially as a survivor. Even if you know that man unequivocally, unceasingly, with no reservations, loves you until the ends of the earth. It's just so hard so remain strong all the time, and it's easier to be a victim.

And maybe that's part of it too. Being a 'victim' carries a sense of blamelessness. It means I didn't do anything to deserve it, and surely there was times where I had. And that's the great conundrum, isn't it? I had done things to precipitate the abuse and the violence, but I certainly didn't deserve it, nor could I be blamed for it. I didn't deserve to be raped by my husband. I didn't deserve to feel like I was living in a cage. I didn't deserve to lose any sense of who I was. I didn't deserve to have my own autonomy and rights over my own body and mind stripped from me. I didn't deserve any of that.

edit: I left this unfinished, and it's now January, 2015. I can't find the words to tie this all up, but it's very profound. I feel like someone else was writing my story here. These words feel strong and sure, and I can't possibly own them.
Moose: I am bigger then you

(no subject)

There's been a series of words floating around in my head lately. They've been disjointed and awkward, mostly because I'm tired and I can't think straight these days. I am short with my family, I don't recognize the good things in my life, and I can't see the security and love that I have.

This can only mean one thing, I have a new born infant in my home.

Only, he's not a new born anymore. He's 4 months old. He smiles and laughs and bounces and giggles and cries and screams and gets frustrated at his inability move the way he wants. He drools and eats and sleeps and wakes and interacts so wonderfully with his sister.

And I have a pre-schooler. Who's wild, and crazy, and whip crack smart. Hot as a pistol, firing on all cylinders every waking moment. The pre-schooler who presents more problems at every corner, and with each problem, more blessings. Who has celiac, who has SPD, who has some other unknown mental disorder that doesn't really matter, because it makes her who she is. Her problems define her wonderful personality, who am I to shame her of that?

And I have a disabled husband. He loves me to the ends of the earth and back, and I lose sight of that so often. He lives his life every day is mostly uncontrollable pain, but that comes second to his children and wife. He's given my daughter something she may not have had otherwise, a father. He is not a perfect husband or father, but he's just what we need in our lives. We would not be the successful team without his being there.

But really, I'm tired. I do so much. I chase after Reagan and I nurse Drake, and I play with them as best I can. I try to find time to be a wife and a friend to my husband. I try to pick up the slack when his pain prevents him from doing as much as he would like to. I try not to yell, and I fail a lot there. I try to be a friend and a mother to Reagan, but mostly I try to help her understand her talents are not dependent on her problems. I try to create a safe, secure place for Drake to grow and learn.

But I'm increasingly moved lately to realize that my children and my husband are undeniable gifts in my life. Both of my children were not meant to happen.

this got really long, sorry.Collapse )
Moose: I am bigger then you

Because sometimes, I need to be reminded of this too...

Yesterday, all out chaos started when someone posted a link to that horrible article on Fox News about the 'War on Men' (which is ridiculous, and INCREDIBLY STUPID.) I made a comment on the article, and then was called out, BY NAME, and given the 'compliment' of 'spoken like a true feminist!' I know this man meant that to be an insult, but really, if that's what a feminist sounds like, then by God, so be it.

But what really, really made my blood boil, my guts churn, my vision become blurry, my brain to be on fire, was this (emphasis, mine):

all apologies to those who are really, really sick of hearing me go on about this.Collapse )

So, yes. I guess I do sound like a feminst. I will wear that insult proudly.
Moose: I am bigger then you

(no subject)

After reading this, I find myself at my desk, shaking, trembling, fighting back the tears.

I feel, all too often, like people are sick of hearing me complain, sick of having the illogical reactions, that I should probably just keep my mouth shut, because I should be over it by now and really, was it all that bad?

But I read these articles and I see these images and my throat gets tight and feels like it's collapsing and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. My eyes sting and my jaw clenches tight and it's hard to swallow. No, I didn't get beat on a daily basis. No, I never had any visible bruises or cuts or anything. None of that ever happened.

But what DID happen was very, very real. I think that maybe I could've handled physical abuse better then the mental and emotional abuse. At least bruises go away, and you just learn to protect yourself physically. But, we all know both go hand in hand: you don't have on without the other, and really, it was only a matter of time before it escalated to physical, very physical, as is evident by the actions he's shown since I left.

It's hard sometimes, because I have these instinctive gut reactions and I have to check myself before I say something completely off the wall. My husband is often, most times, very kind and understanding, but I imagine it gets difficult for him to try and navigate these very, very treacherous waters. He knows my flight instinct is strong and willful, and wants to help me, but there's still some things that just aren't that easy to change.

I'll never stop with the negative self-image. It's been ingrained in me for many, many years, only to be completely solidified by the ex. No matter how many times my husband tells me that I'm beautiful, or attractive, or sexy, or kind, or sweet, or nice, or whatever loving descriptor you want to add on there, I'll probably never believe it, at least not 100%. Because everything, even a compliment, comes with a price. Even a sweet touch, a brush on the small of the back, a sweet kiss on the shoulder, a loving glance across the couch, IT ALL HAS A COST.

Is this illogical? Yes. Of course, I know it is. My head knows this, my heart knows this. But that reptilian complex, that Basal ganglia, it cannot be stopped so simply. It just goes where it will, emotions and love be damned. And it's so, so incredibly frustrating, because something as simple as a photo, or a compliment, will send me shooting to the moon.

And even beyond issues that erupt in my personal relationships... it even spills over into my work. I was told not long ago that it's possible part of the reason I wasn't getting hired was because I was being so forthright with my past abuse, that I was being TOO honest and telling TOO much, even if it was still a watered down truth: "Hey, I know you're going to check my credit, and I have no credit, and here is why, so please still consider me." Even a simple explanation was still hindering me. He was still, 2 years later, with the power to stifle and command me. You cannot imagine how that felt, to know that he was still ruling my life with his awful terror.

I don't wish him dead anymore. I know, somewhere, somehow, his actions will come back to him. I've made my place here, and my daughter is safe, sound, secure, and far, far away from any pain he can cause. Will he still get to her? Likely. Can I shield her from a large portion? Yes. Have I taken the necessary steps to protect her? Absolutely. But nothing is for certain, and that sniggering doubt... that's what haunts me.

But it is up, and out, and beyond, and the world is my oyster and blah blah blah, whatever. I am working incredibly hard, at a too-late-to-be-doing-this 37 years old, to completely rebuild my life, who I am, and what my family will be. I am trying to make what I can from the scraps of a life I was left with, and turn it into something better then I could've imagined before. I've accepted that my life will likely, probably, always be a struggle, because that seem so to be the lot I was handed. I'm fine with that, as long as I can make sure that it's on my terms from now on.

I just wish he wouldn't get to me. I wish that it didn't make me angry and fear for every single woman and child in the world, because if you think it can't happen to you, you're absolutely wrong. Statistically, it WILL happen to you. Or to your daughter. Or your mother, or grandmother, or cousin, or next door neighbor, or lady sitting in the pew next to you, or librarian, or grocery check out lady, or barista, or your children's school teacher... it will, undoubtedly, touch your life in one way or another. Probably multiple times, all without any knowledge that something is happening that we could stop.

I ignore the trigger warnings, because I am not sure I want to let the anger go, not yet. I still need it to fuel me, to keep me moving and alert. I need it there to remind me that I can't go soft and relax, not completely, not til the mission is complete (which will be never.) Not that I will remain hard and impenetrable, that is already starting to go by the way side, but I want to make sure it's there within my reach so I can drag it all back up around me and my daughter when I need to. I need to remember what the gripping halt of emotions feels like, I need to remember so I can help my darling girl circumnavigate those bridges when she gets there. I need to remember so that I can be strong for my friends who go through the same challenges. I need to remember so that I never let that happen to my family again.
Moose: I am bigger then you

(no subject)

Honestly, out of all the photos I took last year that weren't of Reagan (and, admittedly, that was not many) this is one of my favorites:

DSC04766

I don't know why.