What I Am Up To…

Well, this year hasn’t been the best. But it hasn’t been the worst either. I can honestly say I am looking forward to therapy on the 7th though. February was just my shit month which is why I haven’t posted.

The biggest thing was that my cat, Gizmosis, died. I was devastated. I am dealing with it okay, I think. I am not sobbing daily anymore. I just get a bit teary eyed now. Here is the last picture I have of him.

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Tattoos!

To start out the month, it was going okay. I have my new tattoo gun (actually two of them – one for lining and one for shading), needles, ink, transfer paper, and everything I need to start learning how to tattoo. I did my first tattoo just above my knee. for a first, it wasn’t horrible. I do have a long way to go though. I tattooed one person for practice. As soon as I have more needles, I will be able to practice more. 

Therapy and hurting myself (not like that!)

Then I went to therapy where I discussed a lot of my plans and I talked about stuff that bugged me. I showed off my stupidly long scarf. Then I mentioned walking home. I was thinking of calling my son to come get me because it rained and the ground was freezing. As I left, I changed my mind because I needed exercise.

I walked home because I thought maybe I would feel more invigorated and then I could blog! I needed to do that. I hadn’t posted anything. As I walked, the ground became less “a little icy” and more “a solid sheet of ice”. I walked slowly across the roads and then walked on the snow because it was crunchy and had texture and the ice would give way so I had a little bit of traction. This was going well until I was about half way home.

I was crossing the road and decided to walk in some truck tracks for more traction. That was kind of okay for about two steps, next thing I know, I am face down on the road. Oh. My. God. The pain didn’t quite hit right away. In fact, I didn’t really feel anything wrong until I tried to get up. That is when I knew I done fucked up. I had to slide myself over to a snow berm to crawl up so I could get up. Walking the rest of the way home was more like limping very slowly.

Since then, my shoulder is still really messed up. My knee healed but my shoulder is really messed up. I had an MRI yesterday and I’ll find out Monday how that is. But I am able to use it a very little. At least now I can type again without crying. That’s a plus!

Still Looking for Work

I am still looking for work but now I am thinking work at home is my only option. I have talked with a few people about moving but I want that to be my last resort. If I can make $800 a month, I can pay all my bills and survive. So right now, that is my goal… no matter how small it is.

I’m making myself available as a virtual assistant, working on illustrations for a children’s book (which I learned how to do!), and hopefully will have one done and ready to publish soon.

At first I was saying by the end of March but I don’t think that will happen. My plan for now is to have the draft ready by the end of March and to have a book ready to publish by mid-April. This is my very first illustration I attempted. I just grabbed the first picture I found and did it. I created two styles and I kind of like them both. Here are the samples. But first, the original picture.

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The Original Picture
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I like this style.
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My first illustration!

First lesson learned? I need to really brighten the pictures so they look better as the illustrations. But I do like the styles.

I also found a company that I can back that I will be selling products from. It’s a health and wellness business. And I am trying to find my Mark make-up seller information. I know I have it I just can’t find it.

Between all those, something has to give! 

And back to Blogging

Now that I can type again, I will be blogging more. Probably not daily but my goal is to write a little something every day and then post when it’s long enough. I’ll have a post about twice a week if I can keep it up and still be able to work on my other projects. 

YouTube?

I was asked if I am still going to do YouTube videos. I really want to! But that may just have to remain a hobby for now. Let me get the promising stuff done first, then I’ll think about YouTube.

Okay, now I need to get back to focusing on work. 

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Domestic Violence and Remembering Leslie

This has taken longer to write than I planned. I cried a lot during this. It’s been almost ten years and I still feel the pain of it. I haven’t really dealt with her death. I’m sorry this was late for posting but it was very difficult to write.

WARNING! The picture at the end of this long blog post is graphic.

This is also a 50 Questions post that I have tried to write but I always break down crying and can’t finish it. So I am doing it for Leslie! Question #6: This the hardest thing I have gone through. This may be long.

Background

I met Leslie when I was living in Tennessee. Our children went to the same school and I first saw her at a PTA meeting. She was across the cafeteria getting ready to sit down next to her husband while holding her youngest child at the time. I knew the moment I saw her that we were going to be close friends. I felt like I had known her before somehow. This is Leslie…

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Leslie Bradshaw. Daughter. Sister. Wife. Mother. Friend.

And we did! We became very close friends and through her, I also met Penny. We would get together sometimes to hang out. I had my two children, Leslie had her five, and Penny had her four. We three would play cards while all 11 children played.

We would talk about life and family and food and anything, really. One time we talked about how we thought we would die. Leslie always said she was going to die on Friday the 13th. Mine will have to do with fresh soil. I can see it but there is no explaining it.

That is also how I met the man that doesn’t deserve to be named. He and Penny were married at the time. He was abusive, controlling, and a complete asshole, generally. I witnessed his abuse to Penny and saw how it was behind closed doors. I felt for Penny but really, we all felt a bit helpless as there wasn’t a lot out there for domestic violence victims.

Penny finally got the nerve to leave his sorry ass and took the kids with her. She decided to file for divorce also. He got the papers and it was time for her to take the kids to his house for a weekend visit with the monster.

Domestic Violence 

It was Friday the 13th, October 2006. It was a regular day for us but we had a looming fear following us that day. Leslie and I went to Wal-Mart and shopped and then I would babysit four of her five kids while she rode with Penny to drop off her kids with their dad in another county.

We got back to Leslie’s house from shopping and we talked about the trip to Polk county that was coming up. We heard that he had threatened Penny and we were both worried about Penny going there and never coming back. The police would not escort her to drop off the kids either. We felt a sense of being alone in this with little help or resources to get help.

Leslie’s Plan

Then Leslie had a stroke of genius. She said we should make a plan together just in case. The original plan was, if they didn’t get home by 8 pm, I would call the police. Then Leslie said something that would haunt my ears for years to come.

“No. Wait. Two hours is too long to be tortured.” She was in her kitchen when she said it. I remember the look on her face and the pain in her eyes when she said it. “Instead of that, I am going to call you every 30 minutes to hour and let you know how we are doing. If I don’t call, call 911 and send help. There is no cell service when we get off the highway so I will call you before we got off the highway and as soon as we get back to it.”

I agreed. Although I was worried, I ran through the plan in more details with her. Call no later than 8 pm, call if she didn’t call me, and we had a code for if she called but couldn’t say “send help”. If she said the statement, call 911. If I asked the code and she said yes, call 911.

I had the information of everyone going, the vehicle make/ model, license plate number, Leslie’s phone number, Penny’s phone number, the address where the monster lived, the kids names, birth dates… everything I needed to fully identify every one, the route they were taking there and back… I was set!

At one point I begged her not to go. She told me, “I have to go. It’s my destiny.” We both believed that you don’t mess with someone’s destiny. So, instead, I begged her to be careful and leave immediately if anything looked off. She agreed and stressed that she HAD to be there for Penny. She just knew she did!

We both were confident that this was the best plan. We didn’t know what else to do.

“… if I come home.”

That evening, Leslie left for Penny’s house. In hindsight, some of the things she said made it sound like she knew she wasn’t coming home. Like the destiny comment. At the first check in, we talked for a couple minutes. She told me where they were, how it was going, how far from the turn they were, etc. Then asked how the kids were doing.

I told her they were fine, I was about to get them ready for bed, but they were so cute playing. I told her I was playing with my new camera and took pics of the kids and I would show her when she got home. She got eerily quiet and so I changed the subject. I told her I forgot the package of toilet paper in the back of her van. She said not to worry that I would get it and I said, “Yea, I can get it when you get home. No biggy.”

Then she said, “… IF I come home.” I told her she WOULD come home. She wasn’t allowed to die and I would see her when she got back. she said, “Okay.” not like a “Okay, I believe you!” it was more of a “Sure. You keep thinking that.”

I figured out the time they would turn off the highway and made a note to check and make sure she called. We had discussed this all. I was ready.

Lost Contact

At 6:20 (I think – it was 10 years ago, It’s a little hazy), she tried to call but it didn’t connect. That was right when she should have called for going off the highway so I waited for her to call saying they were back on the highway.

The kids were in bed. Some had fallen asleep, the others were giggling and whispering to each other. I busied myself by tidying up and checking on the kids and obsessively checked my phone every couple of minutes.

I sat outside and smoked a cigarette watching the minutes roll past. I called a friend and said, “I really need to talk to someone.” I think the sound in my voice made it clear that this was serious.

I did a quick run down of the plan and then told her about the check in and the call that was one the right time but I had a feeling… I felt like something was very wrong. It wasn’t time to call yet but I felt like something was seriously wrong. Then I had a moment of something I can not explain.

I was sitting there talking to my friend and explaining and suddenly, everything was black, then all I could see was gravel and I was looking under a car. I could hear muffled crying and a breath. Then everything started looking red at the edges and the red slowly covered everything and it was all black again. I’ve only told a few people this. But I know in my heart that I was seeing from Leslie’s eyes.

It was only a few seconds but it was terrifying and I suddenly knew that I had to call! I heard my friend on the other end of the phone say, “What is your heart telling you?” and I answered honestly and numbly, “I need to call the cops.” She said to call back when I was done calling them.

Calling for help

I first called the Sheriff’s office in our county and explained the entire thing. They gave me a number to Polk county Sheriff’s office and I called them too. I explained to the lady everything that is in this post and more. She said she would have someone go check on them and I said thank you.

I remember after I hung up I tried to call Leslie’s phone, then Penny’s phone. I left a message to call me and asked the code question in the message. Then I waited a minute. Then I called my friend again.

I also remember talking to my heart sister and talking to one of my brothers. It’s all a bit blurry. I can’t remember all that was said… or most of it.

Most of the night went like this: Call Leslie’s phone, Call Penny’s phone, Call dispatch and tell them I still can’t get a hold of them. (She tried too and couldn’t get a hold of them.) Then call someone else or wait ten minutes. Repeat.

Leslie’s husband got home and we both paced and called their phones. We waited and waited. It was the hardest thing to wait through. I began to wonder if I should have called earlier and then I would flop to the idea that I called early just not when I first felt anxiety.

I called dispatch every 15 minutes (I remember looking at my phone log and having a realization that I harassed the shit out of the Sheriff’s dispatch. I wasn’t giving up though! Those were my friends, it was one in the morning, and they weren’t back yet!

Officers Are At The Scene

It was a little after one a.m. when I contacted the dispatch lady for the last time. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and said, “Just tell me SOMETHING! Are we bailing someone out of jail? Looking for them at a hospital? Do we need to contact a morgue? Tell me something!” At that point, I was slowly losing my cool. I wanted to know what happened to my friends!

The dispatch lady told me, “We can’t tell you anything” as she had said in previous calls, “But listen to me carefully. Are you listening?” At this point I thought -okay, she is going to hint… and I suck at hints! but told her to go ahead.

She said, “There are officers at the scene now and someone will be by to talk to you shortly.” I couldn’t talk for a second. She didn’t need to hint. I understood it clearly. My throat felt like it was closing and I started feeling a bit numb. She asked if I understood and I said yes in almost a whisper.

I stood on the porch waiting for “someone” to come talk to me. And then I saw them… The Sheriff’s officer from our county followed by a car from the TBI (TN Bureau of Investigation). My heart sank.

Sheriff and TBI

I immediately ran inside and yelled for her husband that they were there. We both ran back outside and greeted them – half knowing what was coming but hoping for something else.

I remember his face. I remember his eyes. I remember the sadness as he told us, “There was an incident tonight and we’re sorry to inform you but, Ms Bradshaw has passed away.”

Her husband sobbed, I ran around to the back yard and sobbed. I have no idea why I ran there. I came back around and asked the Sheriff, “What about Penny and the kids? What happened to Penny and the kids?”

He said he didn’t have any information on them and I could tell by the worried look on his face that he really didn’t have any information yet. I cried some more saying, “Oh my god! He killed them too. I just know it.”

Her husband wasn’t handling the news well (who would?) and the Sheriff and TBI stayed with us for a little bit. I went inside and asked if I should call her sister and he said yes to please do so.

Just before that, Leslie’s daughter peeked her head out of the hallway door, I looked at her and she asked, “Dotchi, Where’s my mom?” I wanted to tell her and say something and hug her and hold her and tell her it was okay to cry… but I opened my mouth and what came out was, “Go back to bed for now, honey. Okay?” She said okay, closed the door… and I felt like I wasn’t actually the one that said that. I was weirded out by the experience and I felt horrible because I felt like she knew.

Calling her sister

I called her sister at 2:16 in the morning. I don’t know why I remember that time so clearly but I do. I didn’t know what to say when she answered. She sounded like I had just woke her and was a bit confused as to why I was calling at that hour. I finally took a deep breath and just spit it out. “Leslie went with Penny to drop of Penny’s kids with [asshole] and he killed Leslie and I don’t know where Penny and the kids are!”

I stopped because I couldn’t breathe for a second. It’s like my lungs just didn’t work. I couldn’t inhale as I heard her sad voice cry back into the phone at me, “Not my sister!” And I lost it and cried some more.

She said she would come get the kids for Leslie’s husband. She showed up and talked to TBI and the Sheriff (I think…) and then we packed bags of clothes for the kids and we cried in the laundry room together.

She told me, “You don’t know how much you mean to her.” and then I told her, “You have no idea how much she looked up to you.” And then we cried some more. She loaded the kids into her car and I cried as she drove away with them.

I got my kids up and told them to get in the van and I would explain what was going on when we got home.

Not My Leslie

When we got home, we all went into my room and sat on the bed. I told them that Leslie had died. The one who doesn’t deserve to be named killed her. We all sobbed in a pile of hugs and tears. I remember one of them bawling, “NOT MY LESLIE!” and then one of them asked, “Where is Penny and her kids?”

I told him I didn’t know. They didn’t have information on them but to be honest, we should hope they are alive but not get our hopes up yet. And then we cried some more until we fell asleep.

The next morning

Technically, it was the same morning. Saturday, I stood on the porch and cried some more. I went back in and hugged my kids when they cried and then went back outside on my porch and sobbed my heart out. I felt like the whole plan was in vain and the longer it was, the more I was convinced he killed them all.

Finally, my phone rang. It was Penny’s sister, Lisa. She asked me if I had heard. I told her what I knew and snot slobbered and bawled into the phone that I didn’t know what happened to Penny and the kids. She told me that Penny was in ICU in Chattanooga and the kids were in protective custody.

I found out the visiting times and for the first time that day, I wasn’t crying. I packed my kids into my car and sped to Nana’s house. We ran in and I told her I was leaving the boys with her, Penny was in ICU, and that I would be back. Just before that, she had seen the news on what was happening.

Seeing Penny and Realization

She said okay… and to this day, I still feel bad because I didn’t ask her to watch them, I TOLD her to watch them. I think I called her on the way. I don’t remember. But I felt so bad because that is not like me. But this was an emergency.

At the hospital, I got to see Penny. I cried when I saw her. I just knew she wasn’t going to make it. She woke up long enough to say that Leslie tried to call me. I knew she did.

Weeks later when Penny was moved to a room, I got to see her kids too. And that was when it hit me, what I did, I saved lives. That was Leslie’s whole goal. To make sure the asshole didn’t hurt her friend or her kids.

It was weird. That day I came to see Penny there were a lot of people there. Everyone kept asking, “Is that her?” and then hugging me and thanking me for calling the police. It was a bitter sweet moment because I lost my best friend but I saved five people too… No… Leslie saved five people with my help.

When I went into Penny’s room, it was full of people and her children were there. I hugged Penny and then sat in a chair while her kids talked to her. Someone mentioned me and I am not sure how it came up again but it was mentioned that Penny and the kids were alive because of me.

Penny’s oldest daughter turned to me and asked, “You’re the one who called?” I nodded and then she and her siblings came up to me all hugged me and thanked me. Her oldest daughter looked up at me with such gratitude and said, “You’re my hero!”

Oh my. My heart hurt so bad. No child should have to witness what they did or go through what they did. But here they were, alive and hugging me and calling me a hero. All I could do was cry and hug them. I was grateful Leslie’s plan worked and they were safe but it tore me apart inside because I lost my best friend too.

I got to see Leslie’s kids again. I still keep in touch with the older two. Penny’s children are growing up because of Leslie. Penny became a huge advocate for Domestic Violence Awareness. I helped a few other ladies escape dangerous relationships also.

Domestic violence shook my world. I never really dealt with Leslie’s death. I still cry for losing her. But I feel like it is time for me to share her story.

Because sometimes domestic violence looks like this

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Penny Waldroup in the ambulance after the incidence.

But sometimes, it also looks like this.

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Leslie’s headstone.

 

We are Purple for Domestic Violence

For the entire month of October, Crazy Woman’s Journal is going purple for Domestic Violence Awareness. You can read the story here.

If you need help or know someone who does, you can visit this link, 0r call 1-800-799-SAFE(7233)

What it’s Like to Witness Death

I am doing laundry today and decided to take a mini-break and watch a YouTube video. I usually look for something fun and upbeat so I don’t know why I clicked on the Buzzfeed video “What It’s Like to Witness Death“. It got me thinking about all the times I witnessed death.

Watching this, I felt so bad for the girl who saw her friend’s brother die by being crushed by a log. Her reactions as she told the story just broke my heart.

What It’s Like To Witness Death   YouTube
I just want to hug her!

The first time was when my son died at five days old in my arms. Other times were as a Nurse Assistant in nursing homes. I think that working there, while it was a great experience, really messed with my head. I witnessed so much death that it became a sobering reminder of how cruel this world can be.

The worst one I can think of.

The one that haunts me to this day was a lady. We’ll call her Myrtle (because I suck at picking random names.)

I always had this philosophy about caring for people who were mean. Every day was a new day. So greet them like you would a friend because maybe they were just having a bad day the last time. And always treat them kindly, no matter what. Myrtle tested me on this every time.

Myrtle was a crotchety old bat. She was mean, verbally and physically abusive, and wheelchair bound. Every time I had her, I had to get help because she just hated me. There were days she took her mean streak to evil levels. I never hated any of my residents… but I was getting close to it with her.

Then she took a turn for the worse. She lingered for a couple of weeks and we thought she would die any day. Every time we took care of her, changed her, or anything else, she would throw weak punches and cuss us out in a whisper and then pass out from the effort.

Toward the end of her life, I actually felt so bad for her and grew to feel for her. I went home each night and cried a little because it was so taxing to watch.

The last day, I went in to check on her because it was obvious she wasn’t making it much longer. She looked me dead in the eyes with a panic look on her face and said, “I need a preacher before I die.”

I am a reverend  and I told her that I am. I was worried she wouldn’t want to talk to a female reverend but she motioned me over. I was expecting her knuckles to crack my jaws or something, but no. She asked me to hold her so she could confess her sins so she could get into heaven.

I immediately sat down next to her and took her into my arms and then asked her to tell me why she thought she wouldn’t get into heaven. The things she said in the next 15 minutes… holy shit. I was blown away. I can’t put them here (confidential) but it was bad.

In 15 minutes she went from a crotchety old bat to someone who had a shittier life than I could imagine. Suddenly her hatred for everyone and everything made so much sense. I genuinely felt pain for her.

She started crying and said she was so sorry for being so mean to me all those times. She did like me but didn’t want me to like her because she didn’t want to get close to anyone. I told her I forgave her. How could I not?!

As she told all this, it seemed like some of her strength had come back. Not a lot but enough to move easier. It was like she was lifting a burden off herself.

Then we prayed together holding hands and asking for forgiveness. I even asked for forgiveness for her for anything she may have forgotten to mention and anything in her past.

She looked up at me when we were done and asked, “Do you really think I can go to heaven?”

I tasked her, “Do you feel like you have repented? Do you feel like you have God’s forgiveness.”

Her eyes welled with tears and she nodded saying, “I really do.”

I told her that I felt she would go to heaven then. She said thank you, smiled the only sincere smile I ever saw her smile, and wrapped her arms around my neck for a big hug. She gave me a big squeeze of a hug and muttered, “Thank you.” into my neck… then she died.

I had a moment of panic, checked her vitals, got the nurse (who confirmed she had passed), freaked out a little because she died on my shoulder (and really, the whole experience of it), and then went outside to calm down… nurses orders.

What I Remember Now

To this day, I still remember her. But I don’t remember her for the mean, abusive lady she was. I remember that smile. I remember the moment she looked like she had the weight of the world lifted off her shoulders. I remember that hug.

I remember the scared little lady who thought she was going to burn in hell. I remember the kindness in her eyes. I remember the warmth of her voice as she told me everything she regretted and felt bad about.

But mostly, I remember her kind smile and the relief that I forgave her for being mean to me. That totally reshaped how I saw people, especially mean people. It changed the way I forgave people.

That whole experience changed me into who I am today and I think it made me a better person.

So, thank you, “Myrtle”. I hope you found your heaven and it was all you dreamed it would be.