Featured in the IWWG Annual End of the Year Newsletter

 I am pleased and proud to be featured in the International Women's Writing Guild Annual End of the Year Newsletter for my response to a "Between the Lines" prompt. 

The New Me

by Marie Drake

This year has been strange, indeed. The Corona Virus upset many things. My husband faced unemployment for six months, waiting to see if his company would reopen. It did not. He’d transported people with disabilities, and those people were no longer able to travel, meet, or gather. The uncertainty led to a job search; finding work in his field that paid similar to what he’d previously earned proved a difficult task, but we didn’t want to wait until the unemployment benefits ran out to decide what we’d do. He gained employment with a different company that doesn’t involve the transportation of people but products. It involves travel, and so there is an adjustment I must make, we must make together.

My husband and I have a blended family; we each have two children, and the last one living with us happens to be my youngest son. He recently procured a job on a path to his career, a grown-up job with benefits. Hooray. However, the company is farther from home than he wants to commute, so he decided to rent an apartment near work. He’s ventured from home to live in college dorms, but there’s a finality to this move. It’s the end of something. I devoted most of my life to my children. Mom: That was my title, my badge of honor. Many mothers have tread these heart-breaking waters before me and more will struggle through those waves after I have steadied myself on the shore, I know. 

I’ve written several books, and there has always been a question in the back of my mind: If I had more time to devote to my writing, would I achieve more success? My quiet house beckons me to write something, anything. But, what if I write more now and I find no further accolades? Will the new me be enough? Will I enjoy writing if nobody notices? Will I need to search for fulfillment elsewhere? I must cast aside fear, anxiety, and self-doubt. I have to embrace the opportunity to concentrate on my writing. I should give myself as much encouragement as I’ve showered on my husband and my children. Be braver than I’ve previously been. Stand taller, accept recognition, don’t be afraid to state my accomplishments. I can be proud of myself. I must only be enough for me.

Here is the entire newsletter if you'd like to check out more fabulous content:


Domestic Violence and the Work Place

One in every four women and one in 10 men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Men and women who have suffered from domestic violence or any form of abuse are probably familiar with the fear their coworkers or superiors will find out what happens in their personal life. They also may worry that the abuser will reveal the true nature of their relationship, or their behaviors may flow over into the workplace affecting their productivity, their promise of promotion, or wage increases. The first time I remember this happening to me, I worked in a grocery store. My significant other showed up there, often interrupting my shift. I pleaded and placated him; visitors weren't allowed; I didn't want to lose my job. For some reason, he acted like I attended a party socializing with a group of guys rather than putting in an honest day's work to earn a paycheck. One day he brought flowers. The flowers were a symbol. First of all, he'd done something horrible the night before, and of course, he apologized and swore it would never happen again. Secondly, those flowers meant I had somebody, and I didn't need any other male employee's attention. He paraded through the store with the giant bouquet and made a show of giving them to me. The jealousy grew, the harassment increased, and finally, he'd been escorted off the property and not very gently. That only made the consequences I'd face from him more severe. Coworkers also started to ignore me. My boss reduced my hours. At the time, I felt like I couldn't blame the company. They didn't want to deal with it.

Another example: I became a business owner. Now, this is where it became trickier. By this point, my significant other thought it was an excellent idea for me to work from home. No reason to be jealous or controlling, right? Wrong. If a person has the mindset that they want to control and abuse you, there is no perfect situation where it will never happen again. My fear, my anxiety became tenfold. He knew how to use it against me. He knew I didn't want clients to find out how he treated me, what went on in my house behind closed doors. Walking a tight rope to accommodate all his wishes and run a business successfully, so I didn't lose clients was too much. The most important reason I got out of the abusive relationship will always be for my children's sake. But, I could never have been anything more than his wife and remain firmly under his thumb, and still, I'd have suffered the threat of physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. 

Do you feel like workplaces should have programs in place for victims of domestic abuse? Does yours have one? Perhaps, domestic violence policies could be put in place with the employer's acknowledgment that domestic violence happens; it may impact the workplace and that employers will do what they can to accommodate those experiencing it. Supervisors or HR could learn about domestic violence, how it affects the workplace, and where to refer people for the help they need if they admit they are victims: legal, health and medical, community outreach, and social services. Most companies these days have sexual harassment training, so why shouldn't a company include domestic violence awareness in their orientations? Maybe have a counselor on staff to specifically deal with domestic abuse victims as well as possible offenders. 

People don't want to suffer abuse from an intimate partner, and they don't want it to interfere with their career. The workplace could be the platform to get them the help they need to break free. 

After Effects

 Have you ever wondered how long the effects of an abusive relationship last? Are you one of those people who think, 'It's over, you're not suffering anymore, snap out of it," and believe a survivor's fears and trauma should remain in the past? I can tell you it doesn't work that way. Every mark left on an abused person, whether physical or emotional, scars them, and it's probably forever. A person who has their life back under their control, who goes to work, visits with friends, smiles, and laughs; they can still be suffering from the wounds inflicted by an abuser. One second, one sound, one smell, one thought can trigger an emotional avalanche that overwhelms the person and sends them to a place they have already left behind but feel they can't truly escape. 

 I decided to end my abusive relationship in 2001 when my life was threatened with violence and a screwdriver. However, it was a marital home, and when I packed all his stuff and put it outside, it did little to end the torment. I installed new locks, more locks, and pushed the sofa against the double-dead-bolted front door each night to go to"sleep" with a baseball bat in my hand. He tore the yard apart, ripped the phone lines from the house so I couldn't call for help, and banged on the outer walls and windows for hours screaming obscenities, insults, and threats while my two young children were sleeping. That scenario may sound mild, but it escalated to removing AC units and attempting to enter, prying the back door open to ransack the house, driving by twenty times a day, parking near the house at 2:30 AM, and watching us for hours, calling and leaving fifty "threatening" voicemails a day if the phone was connected, and finally holding my children hostage in an apartment. I've heard that immediately after a victim leaves their abuser is the most dangerous time for them. That's probably true. 

Eventually, I gave up the house, abandoned it. It was the only way to remove myself from his grip. When I rented a place of my own, I kept all the windows closed and locked on all floors. I checked and rechecked all the doors and windows several times each night before going to bed. I never went outside alone. I regularly lectured my kids to keep doors locked. 

After the court finalized our divorce, and long after I bought a house, the sparks still lingered, waiting to ignite. My oldest, a teenager at the time, left to go to work. I entered the bathroom. I was home alone in a quiet house. A suncatcher dangles on our storm door leading into the garage from the kitchen. Every time that door opens or closes, the suncatcher bounces off the glass, making a distinct noise. While I was in the bathroom, I heard that noise and called out, 'What did you forget?' No reply. I called his name. Nothing.

 Immediately, I broke into a sweat, my heart pounded. I didn't dare unlock the bathroom door. The window is much too small to climb out. Yes, I considered it- any way out besides opening the door and facing what may be on the other side. I scanned the bathroom. Nothing much for defense. A can of Lysol spray? A small pair of scissors? I pressed my ear against the door, desperately trying to hear any noise, and thought the floor creaked.

 I sprawled out, face pressed against the linoleum, struggling to view the floor outside that room searching for feet, afraid somebody would be looking back at me. Nothing- the absence of noise, feet, and eyes should have reassured me that I was okay; it was safe to open the door. Instead, it caused hyperventilating, and I huddled against the bathroom cabinet for an hour. What finally snapped me out of it? The time. My younger kids would get off the school bus within minutes, and I couldn't let them walk into the house and find me cowering in the bathroom. At that point, I still worried they'd walk in and find an intruder. It wasn't until I'd come out, searched the entire house, and checked all the locks that I believed it had been my imagination. Or maybe it hadn't. My teenager had left the door unlocked when he'd exited. Logic says I didn't hear anything to begin with, but logic doesn't stand a chance when you've been through the things I have.

This melt-down occurred in 2016, fifteen years after I "ended" the abusive relationship. To this day, I suffer the effects of long-term abuse. No, it doesn't get lost in the past where you don't have to remember. As I did, you learn techniques to deal with it; you may need medication, therapy, and prayer to ease the symptoms, but the darkness lingers in the corners of your mind waiting for the unsuspecting moment it can wreak havoc on your system.

If I wake up with a nightmare or anxiety strikes, I repeat this phrase until I can go back to sleep or calm down:

"Lord, restore my soul and break the chains of anxiety and panic that bind me."

The most crucial action is to get help, to find a way out of the abusive situation. No matter how many bad moments you face after you leave, the consequences of staying could be deadly.

If you need help, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline today. 


For Forty-five Days, He Was My Little Man

For Forty-five Days, He Was My Little Man

Two children delivered to our door; she was one, and he was seven. His ruffled sun-blonde hair, huge smile, and immediate connection inspired hope. Her strawberry hair, wide blue eyes, and a shy smile had my heart from the get-go. Their dad was over twenty years their mom's senior and an alcoholic, often incarcerated or in rehabilitation facilities. Mom had an IQ slightly higher than the seven-year-old. The situation at home required their removal. He suffered from attachment disorder and several other problems; he took the prescribed medication and attended counseling. She was only a baby and still required evaluation. 

Once in our care, we learned they would have a sibling. Mom was pregnant again. We cared for the children the nine months of Mom's pregnancy; the caseworkers told us that when the baby came, he or she would immediately be removed and placed in our care. The department of social services felt it was in the best interest of the children to pursue termination of parental rights, and they broached the topic of adoption with my husband and me. One reason we'd entered the world of foster care was the possibility of adopting a child; we each had two children from our first marriages, but due to health problems, having another child was a danger to my life and possibly the baby's life as well. 

Mom gave birth to a boy. Boy 2 came to us straight from the hospital. Tiny, squalling bundle of love, his features strongly resembled his siblings, and he was adorable. We'd turned my office into a nursery. We bought a ton of baby clothes, blankets, pacifiers, bottles, diapers, and wipes. Assembled a crib, bassinet, changing table, baby swing, portable crib, stroller - you know - the endless list of things that people expecting babies buy. For the first few weeks, I kept the bassinet next to my bed. My youngest child was eleven-years-old; it had been a while since I'd had to get up for late-night feedings; I was a little anxious.  It turned out boy 2 was colicky and needed near-constant attention; we had to switch his formula three times, and it didn't help; I was awake all night long. He'd only sleep if I sat up and held him with his head on my shoulder. Sometimes, sitting him in his swing and letting it rock gently would help him sleep for an hour or two. Exhausted by the second week, I asked my husband to take Friday night or Saturday night shifts so I could rest, but Little Man wanted me. I'd lay there and listen to him cry and cry. When my husband couldn't get him to stop, I'd go and pick him up and settle him down. Our four children, plus baby's siblings and one other child in care at the time needed me during the day. I wouldn't have given up baby, though; my heartstrings were bound to that boy as though I'd given birth to him. 

By week number three, we'd received the bad news. There would be a hearing because Mom and Dad were fighting the removal of the baby and wanted him returned home. The department of social services contacted us and told us that they would battle against this happening. We continued to pray they would not return the baby to a situation that his older siblings couldn't face. How did it make any sense? Why would they send him home? It wouldn't happen. It couldn't happen. We loved this child, and our children had bonded with him, all the children had; they enjoyed holding him, helping feed him and bathe him, and pushing him in his stroller. They all loved him. 

The hearing came and went, and we received a phone call from the caseworker. It happened. Of all the idiotic decisions that a judge had ever made, this particular judge ordered the baby returned to his parents. The basis for her decision? The well-thought-out, logical reason for her judgment? "Just because they abused their first two children, doesn't mean they'll abuse their third one." Can you wrap your mind around this? But don't worry, they set 'safeguards' in place. Mom and Dad were mandated to parenting and anger management classes. They would begin visits with the baby for the next three weeks until finally, the baby would return home permanently after they met their requirements.

Baby went to Mom and Dad two afternoons a week for visits. Two afternoons tore from my soul every week welcoming baby home with strip checks and examining every inch of him for problems. The day came closer and closer, the day they'd take him permanently. I cried every night as he fussed and cried. What would they do when he couldn't sleep at night? Would they know how to comfort him? Would they leave him crying? Would it make them angry? What would it do to him when he cried, and I wasn't there - when it wasn't me who picked him up and rubbed my cheek against his and stroked his back while I rocked him? It was killing me slowly; I couldn't sleep, even if he did; I just wanted to hold him. 

Then the day arrived, 45 days after I first held him. I'd gotten him up early that morning; I fed him, bathed him, and dressed him. He fell asleep in my arms, and I breathed the smell of his hair, stared at his face and memorized how peaceful he looked. The doorbell rang, and I buckled him into his car seat. All my children were in school, and my husband was at work; the younger kids in care were all at appointments; I'd purposely scheduled the pick up during that time. Our transport worker was an incredibly nice woman who'd we'd worked with for a long time; she and I couldn't make eye contact. I held the car seat; she took the handle and firmly rested her hand on my shoulder for a moment. She buckled baby into the backseat of her car, and she drove away. Slumped on the landing in my garage, I wailed; my heart would never recover.

In An Instant

Has anyone watched this new American documentary television series, In An Instant, that airs on the ABC channel? I watched this riveting program over the weekend. It premiered on March 6th, but I hadn't seen any previews for the new series and had missed any prior episodes. Ordinary people recall dramatic life-changing moments. "It can happen to anyone, anywhere, and at any time—in an instant, a person's life can be forever altered, and that moment will eventually define who you are."

The specific show I watched was about a woman who married, and soon her fairy tale evaporated to reveal the monster that was her husband. It gave the story directly from her and also contained dramatizations reenacting the whole thing. The woman gained the courage to leave her husband after her children were born, and he warned her she would regret it, sooner or later. She tried to fight him through the courts, but he still gained joint custody of their daughters. He continued to be abusive, even after they divorced, and she remarried. Acrimonious and sometimes violent scenes would play out in front of their girls when they exchanged custody of them for their father's visitation periods. Some years later, she made the mistake of letting her guard down, which cost her dearly. She entered his house when picking up her kids. He struck her, bound her hands, covered her head with duct tape, beat her in the head nearly to death with a baseball bat, stuffed her half-naked in a trash can, filled the can with snow, and then left her in a storage locker, dead .... or so he thought.

My husband watched this show with me, and he said, "Nobody expected her to be alive. Can you imagine going through something like that?"
Sadly, and disturbingly, yes - I can, and I have. It lurks in the back of my mind still, even after being remarried for eight years. I slept on my living room sofa, which I pushed up against my locked front door, chained and secured by two deadbolts. I did that for over a year. My sons were seven and two at that time. Their father showed up at two or three in the morning and banged on outer walls and rattled the windows. He destroyed property and screamed obscenities at the top of his lungs, and he hit the front door over and over like a battering ram. He was arrested twice. He even went as far the last time as ripping the phone wires from the outside of the house so I couldn't call for help - forcing me to buy one of those disposable cell phones for the first time in case of emergencies. 

I went to court, terrified and alone. My family lives in different states; all moved away before my second son was born. The judge that day got on quite well with my now ex-husband. He was cleaned up and sober and made pleas for me to reconcile for the sake of the children. He just wanted to keep his family together; he told the court. He also insinuated I only wanted him out of the house in favor of another man; his jealousy made him do these things, and he regretted his actions. He and the judge discussed his profession. He was a glassblower, producing quartz semi-conductors and huge tubes for different types of computers and machines. The judge went so far as to joke with him about how much beer one of these giant tubes could hold. Haha. He's an alcoholic, I thought. Great joke.

I wanted a restraining order, a permanent one. I'd only been granted a temporary one. I thought it would be a simple matter, given the police-reports. I was wrong. The judge turned his eyes upon me like I was the villain in the situation. I was so overwhelmed, I couldn't even speak. I could only shake my head when he opened his mouth and told me, "You need to stop the nonsense. File for a divorce if that's what you want." Then he dropped the restraining order. I continued to shake my head. "What is it? DO you have something to say?" he finally asked.

"You have no idea; you just have no clue what you are doing," I answered. I suppose I was lucky not to have landed myself in trouble.

It wasn't long before the police arrested him again. He threatened to kill me with a screwdriver in front of my boys. This time, he was also charged with endangering the welfare of the children. He called and begged me to drop the charges. I told him the truth; I couldn't. Even his attorney contacted me and said alcohol abuse made him threaten me, but he would get help, and he couldn't support the children from a jail cell. He wanted me to "put in a good word," so to speak. I didn't.

Well, guess what - he didn't support his children. He didn't spend much time in jail that stint. He paid fines, entered some programs, and promised to be good. However, his behavior deteriorated as time passed, the quality of his work did as well, and he lost his job. He was arrested again for driving while intoxicated, resisted arrest, and fought with officers. He also told them he would kill his wife because he knew she'd reported his driving drunk (I didn't have any idea;) it was all her fault he'd landed in jail again. The officers brought a copy of this report to me, and I added it to the pile. I ended up having to leave the only home my children had known and start over. The police told me that as long as he had never lived at the address, he had fewer rights than he did where a 'marital home' was concerned. I was sad, a little relieved, but still scared enough that I always kept doors and windows locked and couldn't go to bed at night until I checked them all twice.

When I went into court for the divorce - which was signed by the same judge who dropped the restraining order: I bet he felt like a schmuck - I used these reports. He ended up with no visitation for a while and had limited supervised visitation for some time later when he had fulfilled another series of alcohol and attitude rehabilitation programs. That didn't last either. He ended up abandoning any interest in his children, remarrying another woman, and starting a new family. He moved to a different state, but I was still terrified of him. Once he started a new job, and after several years of not paying any child support, the child support enforcement agency tracked him down. They wanted him to provide health insurance for my children if available to him since I was self-employed and couldn't provide them with it. They also wanted to investigate his ability to pay child support.

The nightmare started again. I received phone calls all hours of the day and night, telling me to drop the child support case. He earned sixty-five thousand dollars a year, and I was making twenty-five thousand dollars a year, supporting the two kids myself. My children deserved to have financial support from him, if nothing else. I blocked his phone numbers and reported the calls to the police. It turned out that he revealed his true self to wife #2 and she also divorced him. He lost another job and fell off the map.

I only glossed over my situation. I won't go into the physical, emotional, and verbal attacks I endured over the years. I still keep doors and windows locked. I am always looking over my shoulder, and I am ever vigilant. It doesn't go away. When watching that show, I thought, Why? Why? Why would you go inside that man's house alone when you were so afraid of him? Why would you expose yourself to that kind of danger? If you are in a similar situation, please arrange for a neutral drop off and pick up point at a public place, maybe even ask for a friend or relative to do the exchange for you. If you suffer abuse, don't wait to report it thinking it will get better or that it's not that bad. It can escalate gradually -or in an instant.

In An Instant: I liked it, and I am now planning to watch online those episodes I missed. First, a grizzly bear attack when a father and daughter are hiking through a national park. I saw the bear roaring with his giant teeth showing. Thrills of anticipation; terrifying, I bet.