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Wow.  So now, according to my husband, my leaving this church against his will makes me like my mother.

My mother:

Who was so controlling and mentally/emotionally abusive that I never realized I could be my own person and not just an extension of her until I was in my 30’s.
Who never said a good word about sex, and then turned out to be quite promiscuous, a sex-a-holic, if you will.
Who attempted to destroy my marriage and my two brother’s marriages.
Who never told me I was pretty, smart or valuable until after I had graduated high school because she “didn’t want me to get a big head”.
Who accused 10 different men of sexually abusing either her, her children or grandchildren.
Who played no small part in the implosion of a small church she attended towards the end of her life.
Who left my 10-year-old sister alone with a man who raped and molested her while Mom was off playing  in Alaska as a traveling nurse for almost a year.

A very low blow.

He just wants me to “accept his authority” and go back to church with him.

I can’t do that.

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Well… not really.  But Dawn is the name my mother wanted to name me and my dad said no.

I hadn’t thought about that in years – I was so young when my mom told me that I had almost forgotten it completely.  Or more like it slipped through the cracks and landed on the “Miscellaneous Trivia” pile in the back of my brain that I shuffle through from time to time, for example, the other day when I was telling my own children what their names would have been if they were a boy… and the girl’s name I wanted to use but their father told me no with both of them.

What I do remember is I was young enough that when Mom told me she wanted to name me Dawn I thought “Why would you want to give me a boy’s name?”   That was so unlike her, she was very “boys should be boys and do boy things and girls should be little ladies and do girl things” so thinking she wanted to name me “Don” really puzzled me.  It also made me wonder if she had wanted me to be a boy instead of a girl – or maybe I really was a boy but something went wrong…  I’m pretty sure this is proof that I over-think things and always have. <sigh>

It “dawns” on me that this may be one of the few things that Dad said no to that Mom actually obeyed him on… hmm…  Different blog topic there…

At any rate, I started to wonder why Mom picked the name Dawn.

No matter where you try to look it up “Dawn” means “daylight, daybreak and sunrise” pretty much everywhere.  It’s a very literal word, not a lot of hidden meanings or secret messages found there.  For symbolism it represents things like starting over, a new day, hope, end of darkness and 99.9% of the time “dawn” is associated with good things.  Just hearing the word “dawn” usually brings positive feelings, right?  Unless you’re a night owl like me and someone says “We’re leaving at dawn”.  Then I just wanna cry and it’s not because the sunrise is so beautiful…

As her first-born maybe Mom was looking at my birth as the beginning of a new chapter in her life, the start of a different way of living, change, fresh hope, something good finally coming her way…

It would seem that she most likely thought of me as her new beginning, which is both eye-opening and sobering.  I wonder if my not meeting her expectations and failing to be the perfect child led her to withdraw herself from me, making me feel unloved by her and never good enough for most of my life.  Because that’s exactly what I’ve done with my own children.  My poor girls, they probably would have been better off if I had given them up for adoption at birth, God forgive me for being such a selfish mother!

Each time I became pregnant I expected to give birth to someone who would love me unconditionally.  I thought the mother-child bond was automatic because kids love their mothers, right?  I wasn’t being loved unconditionally by my own family so I guess it was rather unreasonable to expect it from my own children.  When I finally acknowledged that my children didn’t love me the way I wanted them to and it seemed that they barely even liked me, well, I just shut down and stopped pursuing a relationship with them entirely until just about a year ago.  Now they’re both in high school and I’m trying to stop being their mother and just be their friend so that we have some sort of teeny-tiny foundational relationship to keep us in touch after they leave home.

Looking back I see that is precisely what my mother did with me.  I shouldn’t be so hard on her, she did try her best.  I never wanted to be like her but look at me now, wow…

I’m afraid it’s too late – I’m afraid that my daughters will graduate, go to college and come home for the obligatory Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners with no phone calls or emails in between.  That’s a horribly depressing thought…

I need a Dawn of my own, a new beginning, a fresh start, a clean slate, light breaking into dark places and making them bright and free.   I am Saved but what I need is a revival, a fresh awakening, a re-filling.  I need dawn to come and break the darkness in my heart.

I think maybe I failed my mother by not being her Dawn.  I wish she were still alive, I think I’m finally brave enough to talk to her about these sorts of things now.

My dawn, my sunrise is here – Jesus is my new beginning.  All I have to do is Trust and Obey, Just Keep Swimming, stop living in the past and accept the gift of still having a future.

Memories are glimpses in the mirror of what is past. My memory feels fractured – I only have bits and pieces that I don’t think about much anymore, some parts of my life I can’t remember at all.  Call it what you will – old age, self-protection or just having an unimpressive childhood but it may be helpful to write them down so here goes:

“I’m at a party, it’s my party – a birthday party!  There were lots of kids there and we played games. But I’m sad because all of the other children got a present..and I didn’t.”  I’ve been told that this party was for my 2nd birthday so that should make it my oldest memory.  I was also told that I received all kinds of presents at that party and the other kids were given some sort of treat bag as they left with a box of crayons inside and probably some candy.  Fascinating what the mind latches on to – I wonder what Freud would make of that memory?

Speaking of parties, my mother used to make fun cakes for my birthday parties – the cake I remember the most was a Raggedy Ann cake, she cut the cake into the shape of a Raggedy Ann doll and then frosted it with the most wonderful frosting and then decorated it with candy to look like the clothing.  I want to say that it was around my 7th birthday that she made that cake – somewhere I may even have a picture of it, but I’ll have to look.

As an early grade-schooler I adored Native Americans, although back then we just called them Indians and nothing disrespectful was meant by it.  I grew up in Montana and I thought their darker skin and black hair made them the most beautiful people I’d ever seen.  We operated a family business and went to Pow Wow’s, selling our wares, and I was able to see the dances and hear the drums beat late into the night, those were some of my favorite times.  In spite of being a tow-head I desperately wanted to be an Indian.  I learned how to walk softly and with the exception of a short period of high school where I wore heels all the time, I really dislike shoes that make a lot of noise with every step.  I checked out books from the library and learned that Indians in California ground up acorns and ate them…so I did too!  They didn’t taste very good though, even after I put salt on the mash.  I learned about beading and traditional clothing, how to make moccasins from deer skin, hunting with a bow and arrow, how to make a fire, tanning hides, how to set up a teepee and as many other things that traditional Indians did as I possibly could.  I refused to have my hair cut more than just a trim and I frequently wore either two long braids hanging over my shoulders or one long braid down my back.  When my two brothers and I would play outside we were constantly playing Cowboys and Indians and I was always the Indian.  We moved to another state before I completed grade school and for years I keenly missed the rustic Montana atmosphere and seeing Indians everywhere.

One Christmas I woke up extra early and went to gaze at the tree with it’s lights glowing softly in the dark living room.  Back then the lights didn’t twinkle or change colors, they just were on or off but I loved to sneak out of my room in the night and sit and stare at the tree…  Anyway, back to my story, I woke up extra early and in my tree-gazing I noticed a piece of paper on the tree.  What?  Why is there paper on the tree?  “It probably needs to be thrown away”, was my first thought so I took it off the tree ad noticed there was writing on it.  It was a note telling me to go look in the silverware drawer…  Very, very quietly I followed all of the notes until they led me to a bicycle under the basement stairs – I was so (quietly) excited!  And then I realized, oh crap, I’ve totally ruined the surprise.  I put as many of the notes back as I could find, I lost one or two somewhere along the way, and snuck back into bed until it was a more decent hour to get up and open Christmas presents.  Then I had to do it all over again, find this note and then that note, go here and go there, and where on earth were all the notes hidden?  I couldn’t remember so I looked in several cupboards and drawers hoping my parents wouldn’t remember where they hid all the slips.  Finally I made it back down to the basement and “found” the bike, yay!  I did not fool my mother, however.  She could tell that I wasn’t as happy or surprised as I should have been and she asked me later if I had found the bicycle before they got up.  I had to tell her yes, because that was the truth, and she was not very pleased.

In that same house we had one of those weight-loss gimmicks, some sort of vibrator belt.  You stood next to the machine and put a thick, canvas-type belt around your waist and backed up enough so that the belt was taut and then you turned it on…and jiggled all over.  My brothers and I thought it was great fun to talk, sing, laugh and what not while we had the bet turned on because it made our voices all funny.  I think we mostly told jokes while we were on the belt.

My brothers didn’t like playing Barbie with me so I usually wound up playing whatever boy game they wanted to play…but sometimes they would play Barbies with me.

I was maybe 10ish and mad at my parents so I thought I would run away, but I didn’t have any money.  My next oldest brother had $10 and I tried to get him to run away with me so we would have that $10, which I thought would be plenty of money get by on, but he wouldn’t do it… he wouldn’t go with me and he wouldn’t loan me the money… so I didn’t run away.

There was an Italian Plum tree in the yard and once they had ripened our mother would tell us to go eat plums if we complained we were hungry and wanted a snack.

Several years in a row I went and spent a whole month each summer with a couple at church who were old enough to be my grandparents.  They had a granddaughter from California that would come spend the summers with them and they brought me over as a playmate.  I don’t remember her name anymore but I remember all the fun we had, going to the creek, reading books, playing games and sleeping outside in mummy bags next to a fire.  Those times hold a very special place in my heart.

Well, that was easier than I thought it would be, and I still have more memories to share!  Enough for tonight, I need to go get my beauty sleep…  Sweet dreams to all and to all a good night!

In my  quest to “find myself” I realize I must acknowledge my upbringing – I was raised by a very proud woman and I see how sometimes I still walk in her footsteps despite my best efforts to be someone else. Perhaps it was the same for her as well. Caught in her mother’s shadow, unable to break free.

My mother was the oldest of 8 siblings, 6 girls and 2 boys (in the middle, of course). Raised in the back country of a lush land with heavy winters she had all the usual stories of walking up hill, barefoot in the snow both ways to school, never enough to eat or wear and making do, doing over or doing without. My mother also told scary stories about her childhood:

Her dad had sex with the babysitter.
Her mom killed a lover for being unfaithful to her (still being a married woman herself…)
Her dad was going to kill her for being a Christian but her mother stepped in and took the beating.
Her teacher snuck her extra food from the cafeteria for years which she took home and fed her family with until somebody found out and put an end to it.
Her pastor sexually abused her.
Her father sexually abused her.
Lots of men sexually abused her.
Her mother crippled, maimed and killed much loved pets to hurt her and her siblings.
Her mother was a practicing witch.
Her youngest sister has a different father than the other 5 siblings.
After they moved out of her childhood home everything living that was placed in her mother’s bedroom by the new owners died – birds, plants, everything.

And the list goes on…

Do I believe all of it? I used to but I don’t know what to believe anymore. After my mother’s death I went through her papers and found letter after letter to people she was or had been close to filled with criticism and poisonous words against them.  No wonder so few people attended her funeral…

What I do know is that I grew up never knowing the majority of my extended family and to this day most of them don’t know me. I know that whenever her mother was in town my mother kept me and my siblings indoors for fear that Grandma would drive by and harm us – in the days before drive-by shootings were popular. I know that my mother asked me, when I was in junior high school, if anyone was sexually abusing me because I was acting like a victim. I told her I didn’t think so but it planted a seed in my head and I tried very hard to think of some time I could have possibly been abused because if my mother said it, it must be true, eh? Pleasing my mother was so strongly ingrained into my head that I tried to find a way that I could have been a victim because that seemed to be the answer she was looking for.  I know now how twisted that is.  I know that my mother accused not less than 10 men throughout her life of sexually abusing either herself, my sister or my children. I know there was something wrong with my mother’s mental processes. My current guess is that she was maybe bi-polar. Essentially I was raised in an extremely dysfunctional, mentally and emotionally abusive family but because there was no sexual or physical abuse, nothing that would really grab the attention of teachers or doctors so I just grew up thinking it was “normal”.

My mother married my father while they were both in Bible College. Being the oldest of a hoard of youngsters my mother, like her mother, was a strong and dominating woman, making quick decisions and expecting to be obeyed. My father was the second youngest of 10 siblings and, from what I’ve been told (by my mother…), also had a very strong and dominating woman for a mother. When my father married my mother he just traded one boss for another and I doubt his life was pleasant.

My mother didn’t want children at first but said that before she became pregnant with me she changed her mind and then did want children.  She was so shocked when, in late high school, I told her how unloved and wanted I felt for my entire life.  My mother never told me I was pretty or that I did a good job at anything. Later in life she explained that she didn’t want me to get a big head so she would even stop other people from complimenting me as a little girl. The words she did say were mostly pointing out the negatives of what was done incorrectly by myself or anyone else, consequently, I grew up believing that I was ugly and never good enough and by the time she began to change her speech pattern (when I was in late high school) to include compliments toward me I couldn’t believe her, I was only suspicious of her.  I was in junior high the one and only time I told her I was sucida.  She verbally lashed out at me with anger in her voice and told me how selfish suicide was and therefore how selfish I was for considering it.  No empathy, no love, no “How can I help?” or “Do you need someone to talk to?”, just anger.

If my memory serves me correctly, my mother left my father when I was in 5th grade, they tried getting back together when I was in 6th grade and then officially divorced when I was in 7th grade.  My mother met my step-father when I was in 8th grade, married him when I was in 9th grade and had my sister when I was in 10th grade.

My step-father was only 12 older than me and I think he was 15 years younger than my mother – and he had four children from a previous marriage. I’ve always looked older than I really am so at first glance people often assumed that my sister was mine and his and that my mother was the baby’s grandma who lived with us. Awkward! My step-father was/is a mechanical genius but had a very quick temper and frequently threatened us with physical violence, not against the disobedient child but against a sibling.  If we didn’t ask how high when he said jump he would most often threaten to punch my littlest brother in the face. To be fair though, I don’t actually remember that he ever followed through with his threats but I know I shed lots of tears in private and I suspect my brothers did too. I could have handled violence done to myself but when he threatened my little brothers there was nothing else to do but obey. And before you get carried away thinking he was a monster, none of his demands were terrible, they were things like clean up the living room, do your dishes, don’t wear those clothes or that makeup… When my mother finally divorced him a lifetime later (2 ½ years) none of us, including my sister, his daughter, didn’t see him again for over 20 years. Today we are beginning to be friends and he has no idea that his behavior towards us was abusive, for him it was normal. I think the thing that actually shocked me the most when I met him again was that he views even me and my brothers (ex-step-children) as his own children that our mother took away from him when they divorced.

Their separation and later divorce seemed quite violent at the time but now that I am older I realize it was actually pretty tame, just very emotionally charged. My step-father was angry about something (when wasn’t he?) and he went searching through the house for his gun. My mother, who somehow had the foresight to dismantle the gun and hide the pieces and bullets in separate locations throughout the house, wound up being shoved through a wall and had a broken collarbone before he finally left.  Just that by itself probably qualifies me as a Post-Trauamatic Stress victim but that diagnosis was still pretty new and undiscovered territory back then so my brothers and I were left to cope with it alone, as best we could.

I was 16 and a junior in high school when I was thrust into the position of being a second mother to my 18 month old sister because of the divorce. I drove her to daycare, went to high school, came back and worked at the daycare until closing and drove her home. For years she would mix-up my name with “Mom” just like a mother runs through all her children’s names before finding the right one, “Jerry, I mean Tom”… (Now she is old enough that we can be really good friends and enjoy hanging out together.)

All my life my mother would say “When you turn 18 I’ll buy you a set of suitcases and help you pack.” At about age 17 she started saying stuff like “You know you don’t have to leave the house when you turn 18, right?” Ummm… no, I didn’t know that and yes, I was definitely moving out. (I have been very careful not to say this phrase to my own girls.)  Looking back I truly wonder if my mother was bi-polar.

Once again, I am out of time.  I could probably write a book about my upbringing but you get the jist of it.  Lots of negativity, not very much affection or visible love.  It’s a wonder I’m still sane – or am I?  lol.  Unfortunately, because I never saw a “functioning” family growing up and don’t really know what that looks like, I’ve brought my mother’s parenting skills into my own parenthood and I feel so sorry for my children.  I did the best I could, although she probably did too, and all I can do right now is pray that they make a sucessful transition to adulthood without needing too much counseling as they grow older.  God save us all!