Personal Musings

All posts in the Personal Musings category

Rethinking the Thinking

Published November 17, 2017 by administrator

So I tried to mothball this thing awhile back and if we’re perfectly honest, it didn’t work. I have too many thinks and logging into the website is too exhaustive a process. That means I’m just going to start talking here again.

I know…you missed me and you’re thrilled. Right?

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The End of an Era

Published January 31, 2017 by administrator

Hey, y’all…

So you know how sometimes people hit a wall? I’ve done that. For the last six years, I’ve been moonlighting as two different people, not that any of you weren’t already aware of that.

The problem with that, however, is that I’m splitting my attention too many different ways, and it’s not healthy, and I’m not getting anywhere. So that having been said… I’ve made a decision. I’m going to consolidate my efforts. Siobhan and I have come to an agreement that we can’t take away from each other anymore. We have to go back to being the same person before it kills us.

This will, at least for the time being, be the last post to this blog. Everything is migrating to my website at www.SHRoddey.com as we speak. This blog will remain, as there’s lots of good stuff here. It’s also being copied to the website so I can keep everything in one place.

Thank you all for being part of this experiment, and please drop in at the website from time to time.

 

On Death

Published May 4, 2016 by administrator

Lately it seems there’s death everywhere. Family, friends, friends and family of friends and family, pets, coworkers, coworkers’ families, celebrities… perhaps it’s just the age we’ve reached, but it feels like nobody is safe anymore. It’s also apropos that this would be the topic of my first real blog post on the heels of April, considering April is a hard month for me.

The first Saturday morning of April, Facebook chose to remind me that four years ago on April 2nd was the last time I heard my father’s voice. The last words I heard him speak were “I love you,” and I’d give anything to hear those words from him one more time. April 2nd was the day I began the three-week journey of watching my father die..

My first real encounter with death came at a very early age. My Aunt Bernice passed away when I was seven years old. I have two very clear memories of her. First, I remember going to her house as a small child with one of my other aunts. She was standing on the porch of her house wearing a blue dress, and I remember thinking she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. The only other memory I have of her is from her funeral not long after. She’d been sick and nobody knew it until she died. I went up for the viewing with another of my aunts, and I still remember the confusion, not truly understanding what it meant to look at her in the casket. I was small and it traumatized me.

Three years later, my Uncle Preston passed. His first wife, my Aunt Ida, had passed away some years earlier. I loved that little lady, but I couldn’t have been more than five at the time. Granted I wasn’t much older when he passed, but I was still old enough to understand that death was permanent. I didn’t go to his funeral, but I do remember climbing into my father’s lap and crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. I loved him, and I loved taking trips out to his farm.

The drawback of having a big family is that it means dealing with death a lot. Each of my parents was one of twelve. Most of my father’s family is gone now – aunts, uncles, cousins… and my mother’s family is beginning to dwindle in their twilight years. Not long after my father passed away, my step-daughter asked me to take her to the cemetery. It fascinated her to find that walking through that cemetery is roughly akin to a family reunion. I’m related to almost everyone in that cemetery in some way or another, and there are a lot of people I love there.

When I was sixteen, a friend and classmate was murdered. The official report said it was a self-inflicted gunshot from a game, but those of us who knew him knew better. None of us know the whole story, but we’ve pieced together enough over the years to know it wasn’t an accident. The one thing I do remember from the morning we were told about his death was that immediately after being told the news, Jewel’s “Foolish Games” debuted on MTV. As a teenager I slept with the TV on, and more often than not, MTV was the channel of choice…you know, when they still played music. [Coincidentally, I really miss Headbanger’s Ball.] I still to this day can’t listen to that song without thinking of him.

There have been countless deaths over the years, most of which those of people the world will never know save by the beautiful words written in their obituaries. My father, my grandmother, friends, family members, coworkers… the list is long.

A year and a half ago, one of my best friends in the world was murdered less than fifty feet from where I was standing. Her estranged husband showed up at our office and put four bullets in the back of her head because she said she wanted a divorce. [You can read Angie’s Story here.]

When David Bowie passed away in January, it ruined me. I felt like I’d been gutted over the death of a man I’d never met. My heart broke for the loss the world as a whole suffered. He’s one of my biggest influences and even now, four months later, I have a hard time processing the fact that another of my heroes has left this world. Then there was Merle Haggard – who, by the way, I actually sat down and cried over. And now Prince. Another legend gone. I’ve seen many a discussion in the recent months about why we so publicly mourn the passing of celebrities.

The passing of these celebrities in particular, have shaken the very foundation of music. These are the legends, the ones upon whose shoulders the contemporary styles are built. They’re the trailblazers, the gatekeepers of the magical and mystical. Our heroes. And in some ways, our friends. We know them through their voices and their lyrics. They become part of us. So when they die, we lose a part of ourselves. And we mourn them publicly because we know others are mourning alongside us, because talking about it eases the pain of loss and helps us heal. Because it’s once scenario where we know the other person means it when he says, “I know how you feel.” We mourn because we’re sad and because other people get it.

It doesn’t mean we don’t mourn the less famous. I still grieve for my father every single day, but I don’t talk about it because it’s personal. Because it’s not anyone else’s business. And because the rest of the world generally doesn’t care.

Last month I wrote about a friend taking his own life. That post was my way of making sense of the nonsensical, and of making the point that when it comes to depression, death is not the only answer. It was met with a single comment (which has since been removed due to its inappropriate placement and condescending tone) which essentially scolded me and called me a bully for offering an alternative to death. I don’t like removing comments because I don’t like hindering discussion. However, from the tone of this comment, I quickly realized there would be no rational discussion, but rather a dogpile of attacks. Let me point out that yes, I do understand suicide. Yes, I do understand that suicide and depression are not the same thing. I never implied that they were. Having considered taking my own life at one point in the past, I understand all too well the difference. One is a potential outcome of the other. Death is permanent. It’s the endgame. One and done. You don’t get a second chance if you change your mind at the last minute. There are better ways of handling the hardships of life.

 

 

Death is not the only answer. There are alternatives, and as with any important decision, each person has the right to explore EVERY alternative before choosing one so final.  The reason may very well be selfish, too. I’m tired of grieving. I don’t want anyone else to die. I don’t want to lose another friend or family member or pet or person who makes my life better just by being in it. We’ve seen more than our fair share of tragedy these last few months, and I’m ready for a change.

Stay With Me

Published March 31, 2016 by administrator

[Note: I started this post over a week ago, but couldn’t quite find the right words until now. Sometimes it takes a tragedy to unlock thoughts. It’s a long, rambling miasma of thoughts, too, so hold on tight.]

Depression is real.

It, like so many things we don’t take seriously, is a disease. It’s a terrible, crippling disorder that, if left untreated, can destroy even the strongest person. When a person suffers from depression, there are two possible outcomes: get help, or die.

It’s treatable. It can be overcome. It can be beaten. Friends, family, doctors, and medicine can help. Doing nothing…well, we all know how that turns out.

The indie literary community is struggling this morning. We’re still reeling from the sudden and very much unexpected death of Logan Masterson Tuesday evening. One the surface, he’s just one more in a shockingly long list of creative types who have succumbed to this beast. To the world. he’s just a statistic now.

Fuck you, no he isn’t. He’s a person.

Upon learning of his passing, I had my own moment of weakness. We weren’t as good of friends as I’d have liked – we only met in person once – but I cried for him, for his struggle, and for his loved ones. He was a kind-hearted, gentle person with a beautiful smile and kind eyes. He was soft-spoken, but intelligent, and a damned fine writer. And he gave great hugs. A few of my coworkers questioned my emotion, and the first thing out of their mouths, each one of them, wasn’t a word of condolence, but a question:

How?

We’re so desensitized to violence that we don’t understand the gravity of death anymore. It doesn’t matter how he died. What matters is why.

He died because he was tormented by his own mind. He believed he was worthless. He couldn’t see himself as the gentle, beautiful soul he was. Because he cried out for help and none of us saw it for what it was. We, the outsiders, never believe a person is capable of the unspeakable until it happens. It’s human nature. Even when we ourselves struggle with the same pain, we don’t see that final cry as the one.

This is a problem. A big one. When you’re depressed, you can’t be strong. You can’t just suck it up and move on. You. Can’t. Forget picking yourself up off the floor; it takes all of your energy just to breathe.

Imagine, if you will, a constant, nagging voice just behind your left ear. You wake up with it. You go to bed with it. All day long it chants its horrible mantra: You suck. You can’t do anything right. Nobody loves you. You’re a terrible human being. You suck. Nobody cares about you. You destroy everything you touch. You’re wasting your time. Your life is a lie. You suck and you’ll never be good enough. No one will miss you when you die.

Most people would tell you to ignore it and go on. “Don’t worry about what others think,” they say. And it’s true…what others think shouldn’t be important. Other people’s opinions of you have no weight when it comes to who you are.

Now imagine that voice is your ownNo matter how hard you try not to, you’re always going to listen to yourself. Your own voice is inescapable, and with enough taunting, you’re eventually going to convince yourself there’s no point in trying anymore. Your voice will always win, and there is nothing you can do about it. And you have to suffer the torment alone. It’s hard to believe you can be totally alone in a crowd of people, but when your own psyche is working against you, it’s very much possible.

Which is why those of us who suffer from depression need help. We have to learn to manage it. It’s never going away, regardless of how much we do, but we can take control back from ourselves. We can get help.

I know the desperation and desolation that drove our friend to end his life. Desperation makes people reckless and irrational. It makes them do things against their nature. I’ve been there a time or two myself. As much as I hate to admit it, it’s true. I’ve listened to my own voice too much in the past, let myself get into my own head and screw myself up. It’s easy to fall into that trap because you’re supposed to be able to trust yourself, trust your instincts. But sometimes instincts lie. I got lucky when I figured that part out. I also have the benefit of having two small children who need me, and the last thing I’d ever want to do is let them down.

Many people over the last 24 hours have referred to Logan’s struggle as “losing the battle with the beast” or “losing the war”. Those are beautiful, poetic terms for the situation, and in light of how many of these situations we’ve faced in the last six months, I’m tired of the niceties. I don’t want pretty, flowery words because goddamn it, this situation IS NOT PRETTY. It’s harsh and it’s ugly and it’s cruel.

In a single act of desperation – a way of making the pain and the voices stop – our friend took his life. He committed suicide. No matter what words you use, it amounts to the same thing: he’s dead and he isn’t coming back.

Sugar coating it makes it seem like it’s an okay option, that there’s a beauty in that swan song, but it isn’t. This was avoidable.  This was treatable. This was a complete waste of a beautiful life. Could any of us out here in Internetland saved him? Who knows. Maybe. Maybe what he needed was that one person to call and say “hey, tell me what’s wrong. I’m coming over.” Or maybe not. Maybe he was too far gone to see reason anymore. Maybe there were other circumstances behind his actions that we don’t know. We can sit here and speculate all day long on the what if and the why. But it won’t change the fact that it is.

And it happens all day long, every day. A person dies by their own hand roughly every 13 minutes. That’s more than 110 people per day. That’s over 40,000 people per year. Granted, not all of these people suffer from Depression. Many of them have other reasons for doing the things they do. But do you know why so many take their own lives? It’s because most people don’t want to seek treatment. There’s a social stigma against people on mood stabilizers and psychotropics. There’s a belief by the general, “healthy” contingent that people who needs those drugs are all nuts and deserve whatever they get.

Bullshit.

The people who need those drugs are you and me. Normal, everyday people who can’t battle their demons alone. We need to put this stigma to rest. We need to embrace our friends, neighbors, and strangers. Those of us who can need to help even if we don’t understand why our friends are struggling. It’s up to us to save their lives because they don’t always know that they can save themselves.

I’ve been battling depression for the last four years. Losing my father nearly destroyed me, and I’m still learning how to be me again. My battle has been nowhere near as severe as Logan’s was. By no means am I comparing my fight to his. But I do understand the pain, the sense of hopelessness, the guilt for breathing air best suited for someone else. The difference is I know what I’m facing because I’ve overcome it before and I learned how to control that negative voice in my head. I got help. I know how to focus my anxiety into something constructive and work through it. Not everyone is as lucky as I am. Not everyone can do that.

It doesn’t help that there’s inevitably some asshat waiting in the digital wings to pile on and abuse us because doing so makes them feel big. Those people are the true monsters. Those bullying sadists are the reason for so many deaths. Those people are the reason our friends are suffering in silence until they make the decision to stop the pain.

So to all the bullies, the internet trolls, the liars, the users, the abusers…I say this: the next time you open your big mouth to destroy someone for daring to have a thought or opinion, just remember that person’s death may be on you. It might be your fault that the trans girl you just ripped apart overdoses on sleeping pills. It might be on your conscience when the depressed young man who just lost his mother puts a pistol in his mouth because you were the insensitive asshole who told him to “buck up and don’t be a pussy”. YOU are the one who needs to sit down and shut the hell up. I’m tired of you and your ilk, thinking you can run the world from the anonymity of your computer chair without suffering the goddamned consequences of your actions. When you hurt someone, you become responsible for that person. You need to leave.

To everyone else… pay attention. Please. If you see someone struggling, reach out and say hi. Offer a hug and a friendly ear. It may be the one thing that saves your friend’s life. Let them know they aren’t alone, even when it feels like it. But know this – you won’t always know until it’s too late. Some people don’t show signs and symptoms. Some don’t reach out. Some just do it.

And finally to those suffering… you are not alone. You may be wandering in the darkness, but all you have to do is reach out. Someone will be there. I’ll be there. I’ll be your friend. Your shoulder to cry on. Your sounding board and your whipping post. Tell me your troubles, and we’ll work through it together. If you don’t talk to me, just talk to someone. Please. Get help, then use your story to help others.

Logan’s family needs help with his final expenses. If you can, please donate to their GoFundMe.

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Here’s to a New Year 1/4 Done.

Published March 11, 2016 by administrator

I don’t make resolutions.

It’s a personal thing. I know me well enough to know that resolutions only put undue pressure on me; to make resolutions is to set myself up for failure. So I just don’t do it. Resolutions are by their very nature promises we aren’t intended to keep. Lose weight, quit smoking, stop drinking… Promises which remove our crutches and vices and require us to obsess over the largely unimportant simply to distract ourselves from the task at hand. Torture devices, if you ask me.

There’s a reason for this rant, ladies and germs. I intended to write this blog post in January. As you can see, things don’t always work out the way I plan. The good news about this is there’s been time for reflection in Camp Roddey. Unfortunately I can’t say I really like everything I see.

2015 wasn’t necessarily a bad year for me, just unproductive. I spent the majority of it pregnant and sick so I accomplished very little. I also spent a large portion of the year concerned over my employment status and what the managerial transitions at the day job would bring. Queue skyrocketing stress levels on all sides. But all in all I came out of it okay. I’m still gainfully employed and my children are all happy and healthy. I’m a little sad at the state of affairs in this world, and disappointed in the shitstorm my children and their generation will inherit, but there’s still time for me to change the world. I just have to find people who will listen and use common sense.

 

If you feel like I’m ignoring you, well… I probably am. I don’t say that to be mean. I say that because I ignore most of the internet right now. I’m frightened by the state of our political system (as I’ve said before) and tired of the bullshit rhetoric. I don’t want to lose respect for anyone else over their choice of candidate, so I choose to remove myself from the fray. And no, this statement does not give you the right to preach at me about the forty reason why YOU think I should vote for Donald Trump. I refuse to discuss politics in public because I have serious problems with most of the candidates. I will, however, say this: I refuse to believe the bigoted bullshit spewed forth by Herr Trump is what everyone else in this country is thinking, but if it is I’ll likely be moving to Canada come November. We have a lot to gain this year, but we also have a whole lot more to lose.

But enough of that.

I’m also ignoring the internet because the internet, with it’s anonymity, breeds assholes. Entitled douchebags who spend all of their time looking for reasons to be butthurt and start flame wars. Again with the largely unimportant… There are real problems in this world and the candyasses on the internet are out there painting whole social groups with single brushstrokes of stupidity and bitching about who’s allowed to get married and which god everyone should believe in. In this age of hurt feelings and bullshit triggers, I often wonder what the point in continuing on this path is. (By the way, making EVERYTHING a trigger which requires a warning kind of defeats the purpose of triggers… And life. Just sayin’. I know real PTSD victims, and they’re not nearly as touchy as the internet world have us believe. Beating on someone in public is a trigger, not posting a photo of a dead deer on its way to the processor. Seriously.)

The writing market sucks. It’s over-saturated, people don’t care about the products they release on their quest for “look at me, look at me!”, and it’s too easy for the pirates to steal things. Publishers are going down in flames left and right. More and more people are turning to Amazon to get famous in the wrong way. I get so frustrated by the state of affairs. Then I remember that even when I second-guess myself over my writing, I’m still doing what I love. If I can change the world for even one person, then I’ve accomplished something. Maybe if I keep taking, someone will eventually listen.

So back to those resolutions… I don’t make them, but I can give myself a few targets so I know what direction I’m aiming. I’m not going to require myself to write so many words or finish so many things. I’m not going to promise to lose weight or stop using swear words. I won’t demand those things of myself because I will fail. Going forward, I intend to be a little less chaotic neutral, a little friendlier to the world in general, and a lot less tolerant of bullshit. I have to learn to speak freely and be completely honest regardless of who might be offended, and to stop allowing this pedantic behavior to continue in my presence. Let’s face it, folks…The only way we’re going to be able to speak freely is to just do it and show the whiners that nobody cares. We have to take opinions back.

I will continue to love everyone equally regardless of race or creed, to speak up when someone is in trouble, and to remind everyone that the world is only as good a place as we make it. I’m not going to talk about politics with anyone. I will not acknowledge those who preach at me about bullshit topics such as how two men shouldn’t love each other (seriously, love who you want) or how all Muslims are monsters (again with the broad brush of stupid…they’re just people, people!), or who gets to use what bathroom (seriously…I go to the bathroom to pee, not to look at everyone else’s junk and I really can’t be bothered to care about who’s in the stall beside me). I will not tolerate social injustice for anyone. Everyone gets to be equal in my space. Nobody gets to be more equal than anyone else, and nobody gets a second chance. There have been too many second chances already. It’s time to grow up, now.

I just hope the remaining 3/4 of this year gets a little better than this first bit. What I’ve seen so far isn’t pretty, and I don’t like not pretty. I, however, will be doing my small part to make it a little lighter for those around me.

The King is Dead. Long Live the King

Published January 11, 2016 by administrator

At 3:30 this morning, I dared to go on the internet for the first time in a week, and I cried.

I cried for the loss of a man I’d never met, yet feel like I’ve known my whole life. I’ve never in my life cried over the death of a celebrity, but this morning I couldn’t stop myself. When I saw the news of David Bowie’s passing, I immediately took to the Google, praying it was yet another horrid hoax. I wanted to believe it was, then more and more news sites began reporting it and I knew it was real. And my heart shattered.

Like many of my friends, the man had a huge impact on my life. From my first coherent experience with Bowie as the Goblin King all the way through to Blackstar, the man has been one of the few constants in my musical and emotional education. His voice, antics, and showmanship have been a beacon, not only to me but to all the other weirdos like me. Ziggy Stardust made it okay to be different. His songs gave us permission to push the envelope.

In short, without him, I wouldn’t be me because I very likely wouldn’t know I was allowed to.

It appears nobody knew of his illness…and I suspect that was by design. God knows if it were me, I wouldn’t want the entire world on death watch. While it came as a great shock, I suppose it was for the best. This morning is the first time in years (literally years) where my Facebook feed has been nothing but an outpouring of love and support. It’s the first time in a long time I wasn’t inundated by hatred and bigotry. That fact did little to ease the pain my chest.

On July 28, 2002, a carload of us headed up to Manassas, VA for the Area2 festival with the sole purpose of witnessing the spectacle that was David Bowie. It’s the closest thing to a religious experience I’ve ever had… it was magical, the culmination of so many years of searching and questioning. Watching him made all the pieces fall into place, and it happened with some of my best friends by my side.

Now, for the first time in a long time, I don’t know how to process what I’m feeling. Grief, certainly. But this deeply profound sense of loss… I thought this was meant to be saved for family and close friends. But then again, he’s about the closest friend I’ve ever had even though we never met. He brought me friends, was by my side as I lost others, and has always had just the right words for whatever situations I faced.

This makes no sense, I know. Grief and loss don’t make sense. They aren’t supposed to.

The words aren’t there, but my love is.

Angie’s Story

Published November 6, 2015 by administrator

No woman should live in fear. No woman should be subjected to unnecessary torture, be it from a parent, sibling, spouse, or even a stranger. She is human, and she has the right to be free, to be happy, and most importantly, to live.

To Live.

But those rights are stripped from countless women every day. They are isolated, threatened, abused, and murdered by the ones they should be able to trust. A marriage is only a marriage if both parties are willing. Otherwise, it becomes a prison sentence, and one that often ends too soon and much too tragically.

Crimes of Passion, they’re called.

But there is no passion. When one person kills another in a heated moment of lovers’ turmoil, it’s still murder. It’s a solitary act of desperation. There is no love; only selfishness. It is not a mercy, but theft. And those left in the wake of the tragedy are without direction, without answers. They first suffer the immediate effects of the trauma, but then are left to question and to grieve. Only on occasion is the entire story known.

I know this story. The one I’m about to tell ended a year ago today. It took me a long time to get this down, to work through the anger and the anguish and get to a point where I could tell this story. I had to. Someone needed to do it, because it needs to be heard. A year later my heart is still broken, and probably will be for the rest of my life.

stop domestic violence


AngieOn November 6, 2014, I lost one of the best friends I’ve ever had. She was a co-worker, a confidant, a friend. A sister. Angie was an angel come to Earth, with a big heart and a gentle soul. It never mattered how bad things were in her life or how sick she was; if someone needed her, she was there. Unconditionally. When I lost my father, she was there. When I lost my baby the week of her birthday, she was by my side the entire time. When anyone needed a helping hand or a friendly ear, they went to Angie. She was a ray of sunshine in our lives, and she made us better people for her presence.

But at 3:15 pm on a cold Thursday, she was ripped away from us in a selfish moment of stupidity. As the newspapers reported, yes, her estranged husband did shoot her in the back of the head then take his own life. But that’s the end of the story.

It started three years ago, when I met Angie the first time.

On November 7, 2011, Angie came to work for us as the new bookkeeper. She was the first hire in a long reorganization, and we were friends from the minute she walked in the door. We just clicked. I was seven months pregnant, and it gave us a starting point. From there, we learned everything there was to learn about each other.

After my daughter was born, she was there to help. She reassured me that I wasn’t going to irreparably damage my child, and provided relief in the form of lightheartedness and comedy. She was an understanding shoulder to cry on when I lost my father since she’d been through the same thing only a few years prior. A former hairstylist, she did my step-daughter’s hair for prom. Twice. There was a point where we were going to eat Japanese food for lunch every day and staying up late into the night texting about nonsense.

It was during one of these lunch sessions that she began to confide in me about the real status of her home life. Angie told me her husband had changed since her father passed away, and not for the better. She was estranged from her family since her father’s passing, and her husband had become cold and vindictive. He’d isolated her from her friends and family. He called a dozen times a day and texted even more. He constantly checked up on her and demanded she be where he wanted at all times. He’d begun to call her names and accuse her of being selfish. I started to learn about the violence and the psychological abuse, not just of her but of their children as well. When I asked her why she didn’t go to the police, she gave me a good reason.

Both of her husband’s brothers and one of his nephews are active police officers in the town where they lived. She knew any attempt at protection would immediately be reported back and his rage would be so much worse for it. Her husband’s family knew the situation; she’d gone to their houses and had countless conversations with them about the things he’d said and done.

We were sitting at lunch one day, discussing options for her leaving when she stopped and just stared at me. After a long silence, she said, “you know he’ll try to kill me if I leave, right?” I knew she was serious, and I believed her. I’d yet to meet the man at this point, but from the descriptions of the things he’d done to her and her two teenage sons, I knew we were dealing with an unstable man capable of unspeakable horrors.

Coincidentally, I absolutely hate myself for being so right about that.

About a month after that conversation took place, I met him for the first time. He showed up at our office on his motorcycle as we were leaving. I didn’t know at the time (and neither did she) that he’d just been put on suspension from work; we just thought he was there for a visit. Or to check up on her. His first and only statement to me in person was, “Hi, how are ya. We should all get together sometime for a three-way.”

I wish I was joking about that. I was immediately disgusted, and I know I hurt his feelings by laughing in his face, but I couldn’t help it. It was either that or tell him the truth about himself. For one, no. I’m a happily married woman with a family. Second, no. I’m not into any sort of alternate sexual preferences (sorry to burst any imagination bubbles with that one, but it’s just not me, kids). Third, what the hell was that dead animal doing on his face? He was bald as a cue ball, but had a goatee which, were it brushed, would have been about eight inches long at the time. Because he’d been on a motorcycle it was blown back in all sorts of directions and looked like it might have been alive at one time in the distant past.

It became a running joke between Angie and me. She went to him the next evening and told him I’d consider his proposition if he’d shave his goatee. He immediately refused, which only made it funnier to us. Plus it reinforced to me exactly what was wrong with him. I’d never seen such a case of egocentricity in my life.

His misbehavior escalated, and in early 2013, Angie developed a problem with migraines. I’ve never seen a person function with a migraine as severe as the ones she faced on a daily basis. We considered every option as she went for doctor’s visit after doctor’s visit. Her husband spent his time calling her a hypochondriac and a liar, even as she ended up in the emergency room week after week. When her doctor referred her to a neurologist, we began to worry. Angie was convinced it was a rapidly growing brain tumor and she was going to die. I tried to reassure her, but I wasn’t exactly convinced myself.

The tests all came back clear. There was nothing physiologically wrong with her. Three specialists, five different drug combinations, and a year later, she started to see a little relief. Between the drug regimen and the dietary restrictions, she finally started to see some change.

More than once as she worked up the courage to leave, she came to me and told me sometimes she thought it would be easier to die than to live the way she did. I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that this wouldn’t end well the day she stood at my desk and told me she almost wished he’d just go ahead and kill her so the struggle would end. I did my best to talk her down, to reassure her he wouldn’t do such a thing even though I very well knew he was capable of it.

Three weeks prior to Angie’s death, she finally walked out. On the evening of October 15th, she came to me and told me she wasn’t going to be at work the next day because she was leaving. I offered my services and a truck, as I’d done a hundred times before, but as always she refused. She said she was going to get only what she needed and get out, then she’d go back and get the rest of her things later after he cooled down. At lunchtime on October 16th, she called me and said it was done. Then she started to cry. Angie had convinced herself her children would believe she was abandoning them, that he would put the idea in their heads and without a stable place to take them, his bullshit would stick. It took a good bit of convincing, but I finally got her to understand that the boys would understand when they saw her happy.

She left two letters – one for her husband detailing why she’d left and that their relationship was, in fact, over, and the other for her boys to explain that she’d left their father, not them. She told her boys she loved them, and she was only a phone call away if they needed her for anything. I know what was in the letters because she read them to me. Yes, word for word. She was walking out the door to go stay with a friend her husband didn’t know about as she did so, and at that point I was one of four people who knew exactly where she was. I always knew where she was.

Her biggest fear in all of this remained that her boys would hate her for it. She loved those kids more than anything else in this world, and she dreaded the day either of them came to her and told her they didn’t need her anymore. It didn’t matter that she’d taken physical and emotional abuse for years… those boys were what kept her in that unhealthy relationship because she couldn’t bear the thought of being separated from them.

That Friday, October 17th was her 41st birthday. She was free and happy, happier than I’d ever seen her, and I regret not getting to make her goodies for her birthday (as I’d done the previous two years) since I was both physically and emotionally sick in the aftermath of a miscarriage. The important part was that she was free. Of course the husband had started blowing up her phone the previous evening with calls and texts and couldn’t understand why she would leave. His mood would shift between inconsolable hysteria and blind rage. He loved her and hated her in the same breath.

On October 18th, my husband and I were up in Gastonia doing some shopping to try and clear my head, and she called me at about 1:30. I could hear in her voice something was wrong. She told me her husband had just called and their house was on fire. In the background I heard the engine in her car rev and I knew she was on the way back to that house. I was ready to drop everything and go to her, but she said no, that she’d call me back when she got there and found out more.

I spoke to her three more times that evening in between the hundred or so texts. Her husband was the only one home. The house was a total loss, and the asshole couldn’t even be bothered to get her cat out before the fire got her. The most disturbing part of the entire scenario was what she told me after she’d gotten home that night; that he’d turned to her as the house was blazing and said, “there, I’ve lost everything. Aren’t you going to come home now?”

But there was nothing to come home to. After nearly a week of investigation, telephone calls, and various other irritating nonsense, we discovered the fire had been intentionally started in her youngest son’s room. It was intended, we think, to look like the dryer vent started it, which is what he told her to get her there. Turns out the washer and dryer, on the other side of the wall, weren’t as damaged as they should have been for that to be the case. The flashpoint was on the floor behind the dresser outside the closet where the vent was located.

More than once I went into our front office and told the girls that if he showed up looking for her, don’t engage him. Don’t let him in. Just hit the panic button and get out. I told them so many times because I knew something was going to happen.

In the following weeks, the anger and cruelty escalated. He laid out of work, claiming he was too distraught to focus. He laid around his father’s house and spent money he didn’t have, sent threatening text messages, stalked her on Facebook to the point where she shut her account down to avoid him.

On Halloween, she received two dozen red roses from him. This was the second round. He’d already sent one set right after she left.

On November 2nd, I got a text message from Angie that made me simultaneously want to laugh and cry. She’d gone to dinner and the movies with a friend of hers from her oldest son’s band days. It was the first time she’d been out with someone that wasn’t either me or our mutual friend Erin in…well, ever. He knew she was out. He’d called more than once wanting to know where she was so they could meet. He resorted to threats. Then about 10:00 he sent her a text message to the effect that he’d gotten a Facebook message telling him she was out with another man. Her retelling of the conversation Monday morning was hilarious because he completely mispronounced the name. He claimed the message came from “Siobhan Kinkade.”

My romance pen name.

A name who does not have a Facebook account. Even my personal profile wasn’t friends with him. When she called him on it, he backtracked and announced that it was my husband who sent him the message. That frightened both of us. She’d never told him my husband’s name, which meant he’d begun to stalk me on Facebook looking for information.

On Tuesday he went to see a therapist. The therapist called Angie to get some information and immediately told her to stay away from him, that he was unstable and dangerous. The doctor told her not to be alone with him for any reason.

On Wednesday, she played back a voicemail she’d gotten from him. He was still swearing he loved her but he knew she was cheating on him. He cried and pleaded, then made threats in the same breath. He threatened to kill himself. He accused her of lying to him, that this was only supposed to be temporary and she was torturing him. On Wednesday afternoon, I went back into the front office and told the girls not to let him in if he came to the building.

Thursday morning she came in happier than I’d ever seen her. She’d just gotten her hair done (got it did, as we say in these parts) the night before. She looked fantastic, she felt good, and she was excited because she had big plans for the weekend.

She was late going to lunch that day because of all manner of work-related nonsense. When she came back from lunch at 2:30, she was beyond angry. She relayed the conversation from her lunch break. He’d been laid off because he’d missed too much work in the introductory period and his supervisors felt he had too many personal issues to be reliable. He’d immediately called and cried, looking for her sympathy.

Angie told him she wanted a divorce.

He’d flown into another rage and she hung up on him. When he called back, he left the most vicious, scathing message I’ve ever heard. My blood ran cold and I could see the fear in her eyes behind the angry bravado.

At 2:45, she was back at my desk and the expression on her face reminded me more than a little of The Joker from the old Batman movies. She’d taken the vase of roses out back and thrown it into the dumpster so hard it shattered and sent crushed roses flying out of the top of the bin. She’d finally accepted that she wasn’t going back and made her wishes known. She passed by my desk one more time and made the statement that when she got off work, she was going to get a restraining order.

That was the last thing she said to me.

Then at 3:15, time stopped. I remember every single second of that afternoon with startling clarity.

I was standing in the conference room with a coworker discussing board games and being generally nerdy when an unusual sound filled the air. We looked at each other and at the same time asked “what was that?”

At first I thought one of the filing racks in the billing office had come down and one of our cashiers might have fallen (she was a bit accident prone). But in the space of a breath, the time it took me to get from the conference room to the hallway, that office became pandemonium. It wasn’t a filing cabinet. That…that was the sound of five gunshots.

One of the cashiers came down the hall screaming “Someone call 911! He shot her! Oh my god he shot her!” I grabbed her by the shoulders as she got to me.

“Who?” I asked. It took her a beat to focus, to realize I’d asked her a question.

Then she said, “Angie.”

A breath later my finance manager came barreling through the doorway screaming that the office was on lockdown and to get to the break room. While he went into the front office, I immediately went around the other side of the building to clear people out, to make sure everyone else was okay. The windows were open and I could see him lying on the ground, his hands and feet still twitching. I couldn’t see her. In retrospect, I’m glad of that, because that’s an image I don’t think I could stand to live with.

I grabbed everyone I could and got them toward the back, then as I came around toward my desk, my Engineer was coming out of the front with one of the cashiers, who was not only hysterical, but had hurt herself in the evacuation process. And taking care of her is exactly how I made it through.

Within five minutes, Alexandra Christian called me. She works down the street from me and they heard the gunshots at the courthouse. I told her I was fine. I didn’t know what was going on. It was Angie. I didn’t know if she was alive or not.

I bandaged wounds and spoke to police. I ran interference with telephone lines, talked to our attorney, reassured people that this would be okay even though I didn’t believe it myself. I was numb.

I was doing HR at the time since our HR Manager was out on medical leave, so I was the one to pull her personnel file for the coroner. I was the one to give the statement on how this crazy murder/suicide had come to pass. I was the one who knew the whole story.

In the end, he put four bullets in the back of her head, a cruelly ironic end for someone who suffered so severely from migraines, then put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. The one saving grace is that for Angie, it was fast. She was gone before she hit the ground, never knowing what happened.

He didn’t die instantly, and some small, twisted part of my psyche still wishes he’d lingered longer, that he’d felt that pain without the ability to do a thing about it. Every now and then the anger flares; that uncontrollable urge to just hurt him.

I know there’s a special place in hell for people like him. I know he’s suffering. But I also know he ruined the lives of two wonderful young men, made them orphans in a matter of seconds. His selfish egotism took him from abuser to murderer.

He could have been stopped had someone with real power listened to her cries for help. She would still be here if she’d been given a chance to tell her story herself.

This story needs to be told. Not just for Angie, but for every abuse victim. For every person who lives under oppression by the one person they should be able to trust the most. If her death can save even one life, then maybe, just maybe, she didn’t die in vain.

Every single day I miss her. I still love her, and I always will.


there is a way out

SC S.T.O.P. Domestic Abuse Program

Rock Hill Area Safe Passage

Safe Harbor Domestic Abuse Center

When Does This Party Start Already? (or, Hooray, I’m Not Pregnant Anymore!)

Published October 31, 2015 by administrator

It’s 4:00 AM on Halloween, and the husband and I have already started the party. We’re in our costumes…have been for nearly 48 hours now. I don’t know about his, but mine is pretty gruesome. It comes with bags under the eyes, several ratty hospital bands, ugly socks, and localized yet still distracting numbness. The crowning jewel of my costume happens to be that really itchy incision in the worst possible place. Or maybe it’s that incessant need to pee every fifteen minutes.

We’re going as new parents for Halloween.

Granted this party consists of three people in one tiny hospital room and not much else. At least the food is decent. Right now he’s on the couch (or what passes for one, though I have to say it’s much more comfortable than this meat tray I’m on) passed out and half snoring while holding a very opinionated (and mostly fussy but thankfully sleeping) infant.

I’m the one on the internet. It turns out the after-effects of being pregnant this time around aren’t that much different than the symptoms. I still can’t walk, I still can’t sleep, I still spend most of my life in the bathroom, and the little one insists on keeping me awake as much as humanly possible.

For those not in the know (which is pretty much the entire world not connected to my Facebook feed), my second daughter was born at 8:05 AM yesterday morning by scheduled cesarean section. At 9 pounds, 6 ounces, it was certainly warranted, even if I wasn’t happy about it. See, the doctor didn’t give me a choice when I went in for my last checkup on Tuesday. They threatened macrosomia (in other words…hey y’all, she gon’ be big!) due to this fictional case of gestational diabetes (long story…don’t ask unless you ply me with alcohol first) and told me to show up at the hospital 5:30 Thursday morning (ugh.).

They tell you every pregnancy is different, and I will now be the first one to tell you that statement could not possibly be truer. With my first daughter, it was easy. I slept like a rock, aced every test, got to be all the right people in all the right places, and had that general glow of a new, expectant mother. I went into labor on my own and didn’t really have any major pain. There were no complications and she was born perfectly happy and healthy. And really, really, REALLY tiny. 6-15 was her initial weigh-in. She’s almost four now and all set for world domination once she learns to read. Smart as a whip, that one, and it scares the hell out of me.

This time? Hell no. I couldn’t sleep even though I wanted to, got pegged as a gestational diabetic, apparently did everything wrong, and ended up with a rather large baby and eighteen stitches across my pelvis. We won’t even talk about the panic attack on the operating table or the two days of angry grumbling prior to it. We aren’t going to discuss the shaving and the bleeding and the gas pain and the general feeling of ohfortheloveofgodsomeonejustkillmenow that has been present up until the last 10 hours. And while yes, I’ll concede that in a lot of ways a c-section is a much easier process, it isn’t particularly pleasant. I can admit now that I was terrified of the whole concept. I didn’t want to go through with it because it was major surgery, because my recovery time will be longer, and if we’re completely honest (and why not be in the wee hours of the morning?), because the last time I was present for a major surgical procedure, I lost my father. Granted that wasn’t due to the surgery, but his own long-standing stubborn refusal to take better care of himself. I’m still mad at him for that, by the way. But more than anything, I was absolutely terrified of the spinal block. I don’t like the concept of someone messing around back there, and I don’t like being out of control. And both happened in rapid succession. They shoved that needle into the space between vertebrae and set me on fire. Then they pumped me full of anesthetic that created the most bizarre sensations of my life (ever been acutely aware of the presence of your feet yet have no control over them?). Then I had a full-blown panic attack that resulted in a pretty heavy-duty sedative being added to my IV while the lower half of my body was split open and jerked from pillar to post. I write horror and I have a pretty strong stomach, but the meaty, squishing sound as the doctor shoved his hand inside me and pulled Miss L. free is way up there with Most Disgusting Things Ever. And DUDE… THAT SHIT CAME FROM ME!

But I’m fine. She’s fine. We’re all fine here. She’s healthy and happy and has excellent lung capacity. The two of us in costume are exhausted little zombies, but hey… this ain’t our first rodeo and we’re going to be okay. Now, I say she’s large, but she’s exactly the same length the first one was. Both of them were 21.5” long at birth. Miss L. here isn’t large…she’s just solid. You don’t expect her to weigh as much as she does until you take off her blankets and look at her squishy arms and chunky legs. She’s mostly long enough to accommodate them, though. Poor thing looks like me, right down to inheriting the monkey-like feet of my father’s people. We all have these really long toes and this inhuman gap between the first two on each foot. It’s sort of like having an extra set of thumbs, really. Regardless of the self-deprecating humor, she’s a perfectly healthy, beautiful little bundle of joy and I couldn’t be happier she’s here.

We go home Sunday. Maybe then I can start getting things done again. In the last two weeks I’ve had two anthologies go live to which I was a contributor. I have about 10 blog posts written which need to be scheduled announcing these things and more, but the constant back-and-forth to the doctor, the aches and pains, and the panic attacks have sufficiently kept me from being human. With any luck, that’s going to change really soon.

But first, Miss L. is hungry. Looks like she’s singing my song.