Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A girl I used to know.

You may encounter many defeats, 

but you must not be defeated. 

In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, 

so you can know who you are, 

what you can rise from, 

how you can still come out of it. 

~ Maya Angelou ~

It had been an extra hot Summer in Seattle.  I was 19, living in the Bel Fiore apartments on Capitol Hill, working at The Cramp on Broadway and barely making ends meet. I was also 6 months pregnant with my daughter. We had a one bedroom apartment at the time, that we could barely afford, and my boyfriend and I had been on the rocks for a very long time. It was lack of money and options that was keeping us together at that point.  

I had started staying in the bedroom and he started staying in the living-room pretty much full time.  He had lost another job and would panhandle or steal money from me to buy his booze and drugs.  I started using a deadbolt on the bedroom door at night to keep him out, as he would get weird and loud when he was drunk and he was drunk pretty much all of the time then.  I was also trying hard to save money for the impending birth of my baby, so I had to hide that from him too. 
This is one of the only photos of me during that time.
I was at work in this photo. 
One extra hot evening, I had gone to bed early because I had worked a long shift and being pregnant was exhausting. It was super hot in the apartment, even with the windows opened, so I had decided to sleep naked in hopes to find a way to be mildly comfortable in the heat.  

Sometime in the middle of the night I heard his voice not far from my ear ranting about god and the devil and whatever drunken tortured goth ramblings he liked to go on about when he was so drunk he could not see straight.  As I started to wake up my first thought was, "Damn it! I forgot to lock the door before I fell asleep!" 

He continued to rant in my ear and drag me into consciousness. I was so exhausted, I did not want to speak, I remember I had waived my hand near my ear as if to shoo off a fly buzzing near your head in hopes that would signal him to leave me alone to sleep. 

The next thing I knew I felt impact and saw sparkles.  Then I felt it again and again. He had punched me three times, rapid fire, in the head, full force, right on my left ear/jaw joint to be exact.  It was weird, because it did not actually hurt at first.  It was more like a shock.  And I recall thinking in the moment, before I fully comprehended what was happening to me, how strange it was that I actually saw sparkles. I hopped to my feet really fast, probably too fast because I felt really dizzy and had trouble focusing or standing up at first.  

I was naked, so I knew I had to grab clothes and get out. That is what I was screaming in my head, "GRAB CLOTHES AND GET OUT RIGHT NOW! DO NOT LET HIM HURT THE BABY!" 

I ran to the closet, he started to approach me, I jumped into the closet and started talking fast.  It took me a minute to realize I was repeatedly apologizing.  The fight or flight instinct had taken over, and I knew that I needed to calm him down and get past him to get out the door.  Getting out that door was my one and only mission.  

I was saying to him in the smallest, girliest voice that I could muster, "I'm sorry. I'm so very sorry.  Whatever I did I'm so sorry. You are right, it is all my fault. I'm sorry."

He was yelling at me with words that did not make any sense. He was raging.  Making accusations at me, at my parents, calling me names.  Accusing me of taking a swing at him and he was only defending himself and that is why he had to do what he did. 

I just kept repeating, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. You are right. I'm sorry."

He was still between me and the exit.  

I was still naked but had managed to pull on underwear and my purple Doc Martin boots and I had a dress wadded up in my arms that I had grabbed from the closet. I felt something running down my neck.  That is when I reached up and realized there was blood coming out of my ear.  

It was still dark in the room, and he was still yelling at me, telling me I was, "Over-exaggerating like you always do".  Telling me I needed to "Stop fucking apologizing and calm down, I barely touched you!" 

He started to approach me again and I flipped on the light switch. What he saw made him freeze in his tracks. 

There I was, 19, pregnant with a small baby bump, in my purple boots and underwear and nothing else, with a stream of blood running from my ear all the way to my bellybutton.  I yelled, "LOOK AT WHAT YOU DID! LOOK AT WHAT YOU DID TO ME!  YOU DID THIS!!" 

He fell to his knees and started to cry.  He started to apologize and said he would call the police and tell them what he did.  I took this moment of weakness as a chance to get past him and get out the door.  

I ran for the door while he was still on his knees on the floor dramatically sobbing and begging for my forgiveness. I ran outside, onto Bellevue Ave, in only my boots and underwear, mostly naked, 19 and pregnant at 3AM with blood running out of my ear.  I pulled on my dress as I started walking to the house of a friend who lived on the other side of Capitol Hill. From there I went to the hospital.  I had x-rays, was told that the blood looked scary, but it was that he had created basically an impact cut in my ear canal when he hit me, they also said I may have a hairline fracture in my jaw that I should keep an eye on.  

I slept on my friend's couch and went to work the next day.  He showed up at my place of work at the end of my shift and met me outside with flowers. He was full of apologies and told me he had called the police on himself, but when they showed up and I was gone, so they said there wasn't anything they could do.  He said it was funny because they looked through all of the cupboards and stuff to make sure he did not have me hidden somewhere. 

"Hilarious." I thought. 

I remember the conversation was surreal.  We talked like it had happened in a movie we had seen, or it had happened years ago.  Like everything was normal.  A bruise had started forming on my jaw, and I was tired and sore but I did not have anywhere else to go and he was familiar  and seemed remorseful and I was young and stupid. So I walked home with him. 

Then I told him about my hospital visit and that the baby was OK, not that he had even asked.  That is when he told me the thing that made me decide I was going to leave and never look back.  

He looked me in the eye and said, "Michelle. There are 100 ways I could hit you and never hurt the baby."

I knew two things in that moment:  I knew I was going to leave, no matter what it took, and I knew that he would never know my daughter.  I had both of us to protect now. 

23 years have passed since that happened, and I will never forget what I learned that day. I did everything to protect my daughter from ever being exposed to him or men like him and she never was.  

The one thing he ever did for us that I was always grateful for was that he left us alone.  I made a deal with him that I would never go after him for child support as long as he promised to leave us alone.  He only wanted to see what she looked like after she was born.  He said I did not have to say who he was, he said he could "Be a clown in the background for all he cared" he was just curious to know if she looked like him at all.  We both kept our word for the most part.  
I did not share this story with my daughter until recently.  I did not want her growing up with my opinion of the man she shared genes with.  I made the decision that I would not talk about him unless she asked. The crazy thing is, she never really asked.  She did not even know his first name until she was 8, and then only asked for small details every now and then.  She knew she had siblings because of him, and I was close her sisters mom, so the girls grew up knowing they were sisters.  She eventually formed the opinion that she never wanted to know him or about him because as far as she was concerned, I gave her enough and she never felt like she was missing anything.  

The entire time she grew up, I always had a plan B in the back of my mind of how we would disappear if he ever showed up.  I always knew how/where we would escape to.  I lived the first part of her life without roots and ready to run if I ever needed to.  

I always knew where he was too.  Even when I was in Alaska and the internet was not a thing, I always found a way to keep tabs on his movements so that we could protect ourselves if he ever found his way back to where we were.  The possibility of him showing up one day was always in the back of my mind. 

He met my daughter only one time when she was a newborn.  I was in Seattle getting a tattoo.  I got word to him that I was in town, he had been staying with his sister so I thought he might be clean.  He came to the tattoo parlor while I was getting my tattoo and sat with us.  He seemed more rough around the edges than I had ever seen him before, had visible drug scars, and did not seem super interested beyond a curiosity if he could see any of himself in her newborn face.  In letting him meet her the one time, I was simply fulfilling my end of the deal that meant he would then leave us alone forever.  

The only time I heard from him after that was when my daughter was less than a year old. I got a voicemail from him.  He was hoping to borrow some money as he had lost his place and was needing a place to stay.  He had started using hard drugs and was living on the street at that time.  I did not pick up and never heard from him again.

The only other time I've seen him since I left him that day in Seattle, was when my daughter was 15.  I had relaxed more, I had stopped worrying about him ever showing up one day as so much time had passed.  I had stopped looking for him in every panhandlers face.  I felt confident he was keeping up his end of the bargain we had made and leaving us alone.  

I remember I was on Broadway shopping for school clothes with my daughter.  I had stepped out of the door of the shop, onto the street, literally running into a crusty punk looking homeless man wearing a giant back pack with a bed roll and who was looking behind him, over his shoulder, asking a passerby for spare change.  

I said, "Oh, I'm so sorry!" and he turned to look at me.  

It was him.  

He and I stood there for what was likely less than a few seconds but felt like minutes staring at each other.  He was older, wrinkled, dirty, and had the wind worn and sun toasted look of someone who had been sleeping outside for a very long time. 

Without thinking, with my leg I pushed the door shut behind me so my daughter would not walk out. Basically, shutting the door in her face.  

I saw the spark of recognition in his eye when our eyes met, but he wasn't able to place me at first.  But then I saw the moment he realized who I was, it was the exact moment I was involuntarily saying his name out loud.  

To my shock, he turned immediately and did a thing that still makes me giggle to this day... he started running away from me!  Leaving his travel companion standing in front of me looking wildly confused and then running after him.  

My daughter came out and asked me what that was all about.  I told her, "That homeless guy was your biological father." 

She looked down the street at the man in a backpack, running away from us in fear, shrugged and said, "Oh, that's super weird." 

And that was that.  

Sunday, March 12, 2017


One of the beauties of buying your forever home is that you can take creative license with the design.  I joke about putting slides where there would be stairs, and painting whatever I want on the walls.  I'm lucky to have a husband and children who appreciate my art and were all for letting me do what I want in the "art on the walls" department.  (We are still in negotiation about these slides instead of stairs.)

All three of my kids can agree on one thing, they all love Hayao Miyazaki films.  When we first decorated the house, I had painted a giant robot on my son's door.  The 10 year old has been asking me to do some kind of mural on her wall or door as well.  It took me a while to figure out what would be just the perfect thing, when it hit me, TOTORO!!

So, when she was visiting her other house, I took to painting her door.  Needless to say, she was stoked.

This lead to my son asking me to paint something on his door.  I did not want to just paint any old trend of the moment.  I wanted it to be something that I knew we would all appreciate.  In the process of trying to decide what to paint in his room, I came across an image from Kiki's Delivery Service of JiJi on a broom and decided I wanted to paint that in the house.  My son liked it but not for his door.  I decided it would be perfect for the door of the kids bathroom in the basement.  We are eventually going to re-decorate that bathroom, but it is a ways off, so I thought a fun painting on the door would be a way to make it ours without too much work or expense for now.  So I did this:

As soon as I finished JiJi I made a joke that I was going to put No-Face from Spirited Away in a creepy unfinished corner of the storage room.  We all joked that would be both awesome and terrifying, so I went with it, and before I knew it, we had No-Face lurking in the basement:
Lurking in the shadows

No-Face with lights on for detail

And, since I was on a creative bender, I decided to add one more Miyazaki character.  We have a second fireplace in the playroom downstairs.  Given the fact it is the playroom, for safety, I did not want to use it for fire. Instead I put a mirror in the back and added battery operated candles.  I pulled out the mirror and painted a little  Calcifer from Howls Moving Castle:

I'm pretty sure Ponyo is next.  Just trying to figure out the perfect image and placement. Stay tuned!

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