Link to Ecwid

The topic: Abuse

The topic of abuse is one that I struggle with on a day-to-day basis. Let's be clear: not every person is abusive and not every person is abused. Some people have experienced abuse once or twice in their lifetime. But others live with it on a daily basis, every minute, every second. What may qualify as abuse to one person may not resonate with another. Beyond what most people call the obvious (physical scars, bruises, ect) is the 'unseen', 'unheard', 'unofficial' - emotional abuse.

What is Emotional Abuse?

Free of tangible weapons, emotional abuse easily uses words to assault its victim. Those who have been subjected to it often complain of name-calling, degrading insults, embarrassing public shouting. It whittles your self-esteem, challenging your own mental power. It robs you of trust, after all the one dishing the abuse is probably someone very close to you. You've invested time, energy and resources into this relationship. They know this. They play on your intimacies, your vulnerabilities until it seems there is nothing of YOU left that doesn't include them.

It is wise to mention here that often times we all say things, hurtful things to one another. But when it becomes automatic to lash out, insult, use harsh and cruel words - that's a destructive pattern. That is emotional abuse. You need help and more than likely the one you are harming needs help too.

The Role of Power in Emotional Abuse

Often the violator has Control Issues. They are insecure about some aspect of their life. If you are confident in the area they are lacking, they feel threatened and resort to belittling your endeavors. It's quite clever actually. You see, if they can make you second-guess your strength until it becomes a weakness or better yet a distant memory, they have succeeded. They now have the upper hand, the Power.

The purpose of exposing Emotional Abuse is simple: there are resources out there for both the violator and the victim. From the onset we have stated that we are NOT medical professionals. We do, however, have a good bit of life experience. I do a lot of research and I want to share some with you.

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: Tell us about a resource you've benefited from and that can help others in the comments below.

Why we do what we do

It was not too long ago that I woke up one morning and said to Robert, "Baby, I think I wanna start a blog". Still relishing his sweet slumber, Robert partially opened one eye and said, "Okay, baby". Of course, I had to share with him all my thoughts and why I came up with this brilliant plan and...wait, what am I gonna blog about?

That question lead to me grabbing pen and paper and brainstorming to figure out what I know best and what I could possibly blog about. Then it came to me: duh, Mental Illness. I am very familiar with this topic. I have many years of experience with it. But then I thought: wouldn't it be cool for us both to blog about this? After all, Robert and I are a team. #couplegoals

Like I normally do when I don't know how to do something, I research it... and by research I mean I called our Uncle Mark. He knows everything! We called and put him on speaker and my quick question turned into a 3-hour conversation packed with excitement and more questions and more answers. It was awesome! We were going to start our own business (again) and I would blog and make things and Robert would sell them and we would make enough money to pay all our bills and Robert would never have to work again!

Working hard on our website
Working Hard

"it was a lot of work"

That was towards the end of May, yes, five months ago. We did all the basics: setting up a website, domain name, email addresses, sales license. I was sewing and making things and we were promoting ourselves on social media. I was blogging and trying to figure out how much to share and what to keep private but still be a help to our readers. It was a lot of work. And then it happened...

Well, actually, nothing really happened. It seemed like we were non-existent. We met up with roadblock after roadblock. We got blocked and labeled spam. We were discouraged and felt like giving up. This is way too hard and we are too old to be doing all this stuff anyway. What are we doing??

And then one day we get a comment on our blog thanking us for sharing our story. I was shocked and giddy at the same time - we have a Reader! Then another day we got another comment. That Reader shared with us her story about her Mental Illness and how her husband is such a great support system for her. We were humbled that someone trusted us enough to open up to us. It was wonderful. One day in the local Walmart, a woman and her husband complimented me. She then opened up to me that she too has had Mental Illness. I gave her our business card and to my surprise, that brief encounter lead to her emailing me. She wanted to reach out to us to have another avenue of expression and to meet more people like her. Isn't that awesome?

Stopping to take time to help a friend
Taking time to help a friend

"focus. breathe. you're okay"

I've had friends call me while they were in the middle of an Anxiety/Panic attack. The fact that they chose to call me during this most difficult time just to hear a friendly calm voice is so special. Though miles and miles away, I can stay on the phone with them until they feel better or get to where they can receive medical attention. I can remind them that this moment is temporary and they are strong enough to deal with this. I can tell them that it's okay to feel scared or nervous or any other emotion they are feeling, just as long as they stay in the present. Focus. Breathe. You're okay, I'm here, you're not alone.

We've stated from the onset that we are NOT medical professionals. We simply blog about our experience living with mental Illness. If our experience can help someone else, even just one person, then we're good with that.

"they trust our brand"

So we may not be able to sell our products on social media, even though we would love to. We may be blocked and labeled as spam, even though we clearly are not. We may never be that popular on Instagram. And we may only have a handful of Readers. But, you know what? That's okay. We're patient and we value our handful of Readers because they trust our brand. They see that we are real and we care.

And that's why we do what we do...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: Tell us about a time you were a support to someone in the comments below.

Rob's perspective - Conclusion

Enjoy a Protein Packed Salad anytime
Delicious Salads
Our first step was to focus on diet and exercise. Our Uncle Mark gave us information about reducing sulphates commonly found in certain foods and alcoholic beverages. Arlene did a lot of research and was lead to read a book entitled, "Eat Right 4 Your Type". This book worked for her. It helped her to understand how certain foods were not only bad for her body but also her blood type. She found out that gluten contributes to inflammation, pain and gastrointestinal issues as well as many other things. So she greatly reduced her gluten intake. We looked for gluten free products and incorporated more salads in our diet. I wasn't a big fan of salads, but Arlene's salads are so delicious and packed with protein that I became hooked on them.  

"low-impact exercises"

Rob and Arlene enjoy their biking routine
Biking Routine
We also increased our exercise routine. It's easy to say you're going to do something like "I'm gonna exercise EVERY day" however, it's better to choose something that you can continue to do. For us it is biking and walking. These low-impact exercises are easy on our joints especially because we're no spring chickens. 

"the benefits of essential oils"

Sample of Essential Oils from Young Living
Essential Oils sample
Arlene researched about the benefits of using Essential Oils. Lavender oil helps calm her anxiety and helps her insomnia. Mixed with Peppermint oil, this helps with her migraines. Grapefruit oil is a nice appetite suppressant. There are a host of other oils. Recently, we were sent a lovely sample packet through Young Living. You can click here to request your Free Sample!

From the onset and throughout the years, we have made many adjustments from medications to lifestyle improvements. While it's not easy, we carefully select our diet and have increased our exercise. There is definitely a difference if we slip up a bit. We try very hard to avoid stressful situations, or at least to deal with them in a positive way. We also strive to be very understanding and patient with one another. It requires a great deal of sacrifice again and again.

"she is not cured"

We take time to enjoy the hobbies that Arlene and I find relaxing, such as Sewing and Jewelry Making. Eventually, through implementing those lifestyle changes as well as adding vital Vitamin and Mineral Supplements, Arlene improved and our quality of life got better. The amount of medications reduced to an as-needed basis. She's not cured, but she is able to better manage her illnesses.

We even decided to move to the midwest since the kids were all grown and we wanted a quieter life. Here we enjoy the beautiful scenery of the sky touching the ground. It's so picturesque! A clear night sky gleams with brilliant twinkling stars, the sunsets that beckon your attention as you drive for miles on the long Kansas roads and the friendly people always wave a greeting and speak politely. What's not to like here?

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: Tell us what lifestyle improvements you've made in the comments below.

Rob's Perspective - Part III

The choice to seek professional help was a no-brainer and over time we received the help needed in order for us both to be able to cope. We both benefited. Arlene learned that the damage done to her in her previous marriage was not her fault. And I learned that she needs a lot of patience and tender loving care. We figured that would give us the best quality of life we were both determined to have.

"it was a trying time"

Arlene had to permanently quit working due to her illnesses. She couldn't drive for about one year. She couldn't be left alone for fear she would experience an anxiety and/or panic attack or she would have seizure-like events that were scary to look at. It broke my heart to see her having to go through such changes. It took many hard working Doctors, late night Emergency Room visits and misdiagnosis plus mounting medical expenses before one determined Doctor finally figured it out. Arlene was diagnosed with Conversion Disorder (we will discuss that more in a future blog). I had never heard of it. Honestly, I felt somewhat helpless, afraid and would panic sometimes. It was a great deal of stress on her, on me and on the girls. It was a trying time.

Migraine sufferer in immense pain
Seeing her like this broke my heart

We pulled in every source of support. The internet was our friend. We did a lot of research but at the time, there was very little information on the type of illness Arlene had. So we did the next best thing which was to enlist family and friends. They helped enlighten me on the after-effects one goes through due to being in an abusive relationship. We even created an emergency plan for when Arlene needed to be taken to the hospital and made sure everyone in close company had a copy.

"I worried about if she was okay"

Having a great support system helped ease the stress I was under when I was at work since I worried about if she was okay. I had to inform my employer of her health condition since sometimes I had to leave work to take care of her. They were very understanding. In fact, if Arlene called, she didn't even have to say anything, once they discerned it was her they would immediately inform me and I was able to leave and go to her. I really appreciated that! Without their cooperation I would not have been able to continue working.

"we didn't know where to begin"

Once she was diagnosed then we had to go through trial and error to find medications that would decrease her anxiety and reduce the amounts of migraines she was having. That was fine, but we soon realized it was what she was taking in her body that was a factor. We read that various things like dairy, gluten and sulfates were not good but we didn't know where to begin...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: Tell us what experiences you've faced in caring for a loved one in the comments below.

Rob's Perspective - Part II

Pennsylvania Ave in Washington D.C.
Washington, D.C.

For me living in an influential city like Washington D.C. was familiar and comfortable and I had everything I needed there. I had my family. I felt safe since it is the Nation's Capital. I knew the streets. I was good. My job was secure and I had good friends.

I never thought I would find myself in Baltimore until I met Arlene. She was an unexpected yet pleasant surprise. Early on while getting to know each other she told me that she suffered with depression. Even though I saw her in pain, with lack of energy and fighting mood swings, she seemed to be managing it to the best of her ability. Her depression has never deterred my love for her.

As we progressed to the point of engagement, we talked about where we would live. Arlene had her parents, two children and all their friends already established in Baltimore. I didn't want to disturb all of that. We talked about it and we decided it would be easier for me to leave D.C. My job wouldn't be an issue, I would just have a very long commute as I worked in Tysons, Va.

Moving to Baltimore took a little getting used to. From the streets to positioning of the street lights, even driving in Baltimore was different.  People in D.C. are busy getting to their destination. After they have warmed up to you, they are very nice. People in Baltimore greet you or "speak" immediately as they enter busses or buildings. I wasn't used to that but I liked it.

Downtown Inner Harbor, Baltimore, MD
Baltimore, MD

"another challenge...I didn't know what to do"

I had to adjust to moving to a new city and taking on a step-parent family. But I also had another challenge. We were enjoying our new life. But unfortunately Arlene started to suffer from past trauma from a previous relationship which resurfaced in our present marriage. She didn't know what was happening and neither did I. One moment she was happy and fine and the next moment she was absolutely not okay.

Things were happening so fast, it seemed like it was one thing after another. I didn't know what to do...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: Tell us what challenges you faced moving from one place to another in the comments below.

Rob's Perspective - Part I

By now you're probably wondering how my husband Robert is doing with all of this. After all, his whole life he has been a healthy person. So, what is it like from Robert's perspective, to live with someone who has mental illness? I will let Robert jump in and tell you his story:

[Enter Robert]
Hello Reader, my name is Robert, husband of Arlene. I am privileged to be be able to share with you what it's like from my perspective to live with someone you love who has mental illness. I'm not sure where to start, but it's probably best to tell you a little bit about myself.

"just the second boy"

I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. I have the greatest mother of all, Jessie Randolph. She single-handedly raised three children: my older brother James, myself and our younger sister Patricia. While growing up with two siblings had its fun and mischievous moments, at times being the middle child was a little lonely for me. The way I reasoned is I was too young to have the privileges of the older sibling and I wasn't the baby, who is also the only girl. So to me, I was just the second boy. Like I said, Ma was great and always fair. She never showed favoritism to either one of us. To her, we were all special in our own way.

Rob as a little boy in Washington, DC
Rob in Elementary School

"Ma did and amazing job!"

Ma was very serious about two things: making sure we had a roof over our heads and making sure we made it through school. From the time we were in elementary school she worked two jobs. To some she would seem like a ghost parent. Far from it! Yes, she had to work two jobs to provide for her family. But her first and most important job was always making sure we were raised well, always clean, always hard workers, always well-mannered. She did an amazing job!

My Ma, an Amazing Mother
My Beautiful and Amazing Mother

I love my mother and appreciate every sacrifice she has ever made for me. For over 30 years Ma worked hard to take care of her family. A lot of her life was spent working two jobs. She has good work ethics and everyone knew it. In fact, she was awarded recognition for outstanding performance when she worked in various United States Government buildings. Ma retired from the National Air and Space Museum shortly after I married Arlene. She continues to work hard taking care of her family including her mother and grandchildren.

I wasn't surprised when Ma and Arlene hit it off. They are both hard workers, loving and take great care of their children. To find a woman like Arlene with similar qualities like my mother is a blessing. Great qualities, good looking and her many talents like sewing, of course I had to marry her!

"a huge undertaking"

Marrying Arlene, living in Baltimore and dealing with her mental illness. I won't lie, it is a huge undertaking. I had a lot to think about. You already know my wife's version of the story but I have my own details to provide...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: Tell us where you were born and who you appreciate for raising you in the comments below.

Our Wedding Day

All the preparations were made and it was finally here, our wedding day. Nothing could top my imagination of what this day would bring except the reality. It was fantastic!

"the wedding should not outshine the marriage"

Robert and I were very keen on making sure we made the final decisions on what took place, who was there and what activities were scheduled. We had spent those few brief months dotting i's and crossing t's. We wanted a non-traditional approach with a classy feel. We put our own spin on the way our wedding would be. Nothing expensive, everything was very much affordable as we both believed the wedding should not outshine the marriage.

My wedding gown was exactly what I wanted: different yet glamorous. His attire fit in sync with our color scheme while remaining versatile. The bridal party was perfectly chosen to include our children and very close friends.

Robert was able to acquire favors from clients and co-workers who gifted us the finest quality in linens and gobo lighting designed with our logo that we created. At the last minute the reception hall surprised us by upgrading our seating arrangement to match our color scheme. Friends pulled in and volunteered to help serve the food, run the kitchen and make sure all the guests were taken care of. Because of all the love shown to us during our courtship, engagement, wonderful wedding and reception, we treated all our guests to a Caribbean catered dinner.

Photo credit: PixelProz

"our wedding day was perfect"

Robert and I had one of the best photographers/videographers in Baltimore. They captured some of the most memorable pictures and to this day we are able to look back at our special day and smile. When I think about it I know for a certainty that September 5, 2010, our wedding day, was perfect!

Thankfully, for me the single-parent life is over.

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: Tell us briefly about your wedding day in the comments below.

The Engagement

I wish I could tell you that the next few months brought nothing but joyful bliss and great times, but I can't. While we were very much in love and enjoying thinking about and planning our wedding, for me it was also extremely draining. It's not fair. I wanted to be giddy with excitement everyday. Unlikely though. There were far too many days of limited energy, cold or flu-like symptoms, fatigue, and outright pain. Life with mental illness was slowing me down, but I am a fighter.

The next two months were filled with spending time together while with our children, family and friends. It was nice seeing Robert interact in different settings, with different people. Through it all he remained consistently true, what you see is what you get with him. There were no hidden agendas, no putting on airs. He was the real deal. I was happy, we were happy.

"patience, consideration, stability"

As mentioned in a previous blog post, Robert and I were both married before. Still, we both believe that a successful marriage doesn't just start at "I do". It begins with a duration of time spent getting to know the other person, making a thorough examination that would help us as a couple determine how well we were suited for each other. This courtship would serve as a primer, a time for Robert and I both to search our heart and know exactly what our emotional needs are and how best we would be able to fulfill them. Certain qualities needed to be ascertained: patience, consideration, and stability. We also took time to communicate freely about our values and goals, as well as the needs of our children.

Everything was moving along quite well. Robert and I were definitely compatible and were looking forward to spending eternity together. Hey, I wonder when he's gonna Pop the Question? To my surprise I received a phone call telling me that our rings were payed off and ready to be picked up. Wow, and Yay! Because Robert was at work in Virginia, I went to pick up our rings. Robert gave me specific instructions: "Baby, do not put the ring on your finger, that's my job". I picked up the rings, they were glistening so brilliantly, and headed home. Robert asked me to bring my mother to D.C. with me. So Mom and I headed down I-95 on my way to see Robert. It was a cloudy day. I normally don't do well when the sun isn't shining.

Beautiful lake side facing mountains

"it was PERFECT"

Robert and I went to a special park that he had picked out. We both enjoy serenity in nature. We trekked through a short woody path until we came to the water's edge. It was there that Robert proposed to me. The specific moment he asked me to marry him, the misty rain stopped and the thick clouds gave way for a small ray of sunlight to shine on us. I said "Yes". It was PERFECT.

Our love was finally sealed with a vow to wed and this beautiful ring. I couldn't wait to show it off to family and friends. There was so much to do. We had a wedding to arrange, dresses to pick out and would Robert wear a tuxedo or suit? Where would we get married? Who would we invite? Big or small wedding? Oh my, there were a lot of questions to answer and decisions to be made. Would all our friends still support us now, now that it was official?...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: Where was your engagement? Who was there with you? Let us know in the comments.

The ring of truth

I wasn't sure where to look for rings. We went to the more well-known places, the fancy mall stores. While their selection was beautiful, we wanted the memory of this occasion to be unique, to fit our style. This was an important event for us. For certain I wanted the ring and the entire experience to be special and meaningful. Robert wanted me to have a significant ring. He said he wanted people to look at my ring and immediately understand how much he loves me. I concur.

"there was something splendid about this place"

We drove straight to Baltimore Street right in the heart of downtown Baltimore. There we stumbled on Samuelson's Diamonds & Estate Buyers. I was apprehensive until Robert said, "Let's go, we may just go in there and find a ring". He was right. As soon as we walked in I knew there was something splendid about this little place. They had a wonderful selection. Beautiful displays and perfectly positioned lighting had every piece of jewelry sparkling. Where to begin? I've always loved baguette diamonds. The brilliance of princess cut diamonds mesmerize me. Only white gold for me. If I could just find that combination. Imagine my surprise when I walked over to the counter and my ring jumped out at me and onto my finger!

Samuelson's Diamonds in Baltimore, MD

It was a 3-tiered baguette diamond ring. Next, we took our time selecting a loose diamond to compliment the ring setting. We looked, compared cut, color, clarity and carat and talked amongst ourselves. Finally we were brought a diamond from in the back. It was a knockout punch, GIA certified fabulous rock. Perfect!

"see you soon"

Next we found matching baguette diamond wedding bands. Robert's ring was already sized and a perfect fit for him. I couldn't believe how incredibly easy and pleasant the entire experience was. After putting a downpayment on our rings, I said "see you soon" knowing the next time I saw those rings would be when Robert proposes to me and on our wedding day. Hey, when is he going to propose to me?...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: What was your experience and where did you go to pick out your engagement ring or wedding bands? Let us know in the comments.

Moving too fast?

I remember waking up each day and taking a moment to reflect on the fact that I was actually in a real, grown up relationship with a mature, wonderful man. I would smile and almost want to pinch myself. Is this real? And then I would grab my cell phone and look at our text messages or look at how long our phone conversations were. Then reality set in. I was in love. 

The look of love was in our eyes
The look of love

This was going to be a great day, and I knew it - I could feel it in my bones. Things were progressing quite well with Robert and I. We were very communicative and would take the time to consult with each other before making decisions. The way that we interacted, how Robert treated me while listening to my concerns and feelings made it easy for me to want to trust him. And I did. 

"the next level"

We also shared a mutual respect that continued to grow with each day. Our core values were the same. We both had strong faith, and believed in maintaining our integrity. So it was natural for us to want to see our courtship through to the next level.

Perhaps some may feel we were moving too fast. Well, this was not our first rodeo. Robert and I were both married before. We each knew what we wanted, we were open and honest in our relationship thus far and we planned to keep it that way. So for us it was an easy decision to proceed in this direction.

"where would we end up"

It was Saturday, March 6, 2010. Of course I would remember the day. It was an unusually sunny, warm Spring day in Baltimore. I picked up my friend Brittany (who would remain instrumental in our lives) and the girls and I met Robert. As he drove I was listening to the girls talking to Brittany and I drifted away. I wondered about what the next steps would be. I thought about how Robert and I were doing and where would we end up... 

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: What was it that made you know that you and your mate were headed to the next level? Let us know in the comments.

The mental complexity

I remember it was a Friday in March 2010. I got so used to seeing Robert everyday after work, that to not see him was torture. It had been 5 long days without seeing that smile. Since this beautiful love story began we were living on love, not eating properly and convinced our romance would sustain us through it all. When we weren't together it was awful. It drained me to where I was basically bedridden, completely exhausted. The worst part was that my mind would not shut off.

Puzzle with no picture and no instructions

"I wanted to forget all my health issues"

During this time period I really didn't take care of my depression like I should have. It was a guessing game, like a puzzle, but with no picture or diagram to direct you through. I literally felt like I was walking in the dark. There's that mental complexity of what you want to do versus what your body will allow you to do. Good stress, bad stress, it's all stress. That was disappointing to me, after all I was in love. I should be floating off euphoria, not pulling the covers over my head. My bed tried to replace Robert's warm and soothing ways. That was not good. That should not happen. I didn't know what to do since depression has no time frame. So I waited it out as usual. It eventually goes away and I can continue my life. But in the meantime, I wanted to forget all my health issues and just focus on Robert.

"it would prove to be the end of so many things" 

Those 5 long days felt like an eternity. But finally the wait was over. Robert came over for dinner and I was happy. When he came over that night, seeing I was exhausted, Robert helped me cook dinner. He's so sweet. We ate and he washed the dishes. I could get used to this. We decided to have the girls join us in putting a puzzle together and we ate ice cream afterwards. It was a lovely evening. I wish it didn't have to end. But all good things do, right? Well, no one could have prepared me for what was about to happen the next day. It would prove to be the end of so many things...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: What is your mental complexity and how does it affect you? Let us know in the comments.

He had a system

For a moment I forgot about everything else and just stood in the doorway watching Robert. I noticed that he had a system: He dug the shovel in the snow then swung the shovel backwards over his right shoulder. Then he dug the shovel in the snow and swung the shovel back over his shoulder. Over and over this continued. It was systematic and well thought out.

I thought to myself, 'he must know I'm watching, he won't be able to keep that momentum up'. Was I wrong! Robert was out there a good 35 mins and never broke his stride. I was impressed. That was the moment I said to myself, 'I'm gonna marry him'.


Dinner was great. Our kids hit it off and my parents got the opportunity to meet Robert. Little did I know someone else was watching. Apparently Dad was upstairs looking out their bedroom window and observed Robert outside. He came downstairs, found me in the doorway and said, "Man, do you see how that guy is shoveling that snow?" The biggest smile spread across my face. Robert just became Dad-approved. I was proud.

After that Robert and I truly spent every available time together talking and laughing, shopping and running errands.

Couple grocery shopping together

"everything was good...or so I thought"

Our kids gelled. Everything was good. I had a few days where I was completely exhausted, my depression sticks to me like glue. But I was in love and love conquers all. Besides, all I needed was a little rest and to see Robert's smile and I would be fine, or so I thought...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: What was it that impressed you about your mate? Let us know in the comments.

Our first date

Knocking on the door

Talk about intimidating! Like I said, of course I was grown and could decide who I wanted to be in a relationship with. But still, telling my parents this bit of news was a little uncomfortable. Would they be supportive? Would they like him? I hope so. It would be nice to have their approval.

As usual, Dad was taking care of Mom. There was no time for small talk, really. It basically went like this:

Hey Dad, ... so I'm about to go cook dinner and will be having a few people over.

Ok, sound good, no problem. Don't worry about us.

Well, I will need you to come down so I can introduce you to someone. His name is Robert. He's on his way with his 2 kids and should be here in about an hour and ...

(To my surprise): Oh, that's the person you been talking to all hours of the night. Every time I wake up to use the bathroom I hear you laughing and talking on the phone.

Well, alrighty then. Now the race began: What was I gonna cook? What are the girls gonna wear? I had to do my hair. What was I gonna wear? He's actually coming! Our first date!

"the important thing was to show him who I am,
who he was in a relationship with" 

I took a step back and thought about it. The important thing was to show him who I am, who he was in a relationship with. No frills, just me. I did a simple hairstyle, dressed comfortably and started dinner. Since four teenagers were involved dinner needed to be simple yet tasty. I planned to cook a huge pan of pasta with meat sauce, corn with broccoli, and biscuits.

"I wondered if he really knew how much work he was in for"

The doorbell rang and I froze for a second. Robert got here faster than I planned. Dinner wasn't ready, Oh no! I opened the door and there they were. His smile immediately calmed me. I could not believe he came. Our kids entertained themselves in the basement while I finished cooking. Robert immediately got the shovel and went back outside. I stood behind the screen door and watched him. I wondered if he really knew how much work he was in for...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: Where was your first date? Let us know in the comments.

Snowmageddon 2010 Part 2

The parents are relaxing, the girls are watching their movies, and I am on the phone with Robert. So far this has been a wonderful snow event. White fluffs falling on a quiet city is so calming that even the dogs and birds are silent. There are minimal sirens responding to emergencies. It's just a perfect winter storm.

"I...didn't give it another thought"

In conversation I casually mentioned to Robert that my car was completely buried under snow. Only a thin antenna identified the white mound as an automobile. I figured once the snow subsides the girls and I would take our time and eventually unveil my Camry. Before I could say that, Robert said he would come to shovel out my car. That is so sweet for him to offer. Honestly, I didn't believe he would actually drive all the way from Washington, D.C. just to shovel thick heavy snow off my car. So I told him, "well, if you come I will cook you a nice dinner". We hung up the phone and I went to bed and didn't give it another thought.

Sweet Potato Starch Noodles in Vegetables and Meat Sauce

It was Friday, February 12, 2010, and people were starting to clean off their porches and sidewalks. Main roads and highways were clearing nicely.  Road crews were working hard to clear side streets. Somewhere around 3pm Robert calls and tells me that he and his kids were on I-95 and should be to my house in about one and a half hours depending on the road conditions. I was giddy with excitement and then asked, "why?". He said, "I'm coming to shovel the snow from your car". My eyes opened so big. What? He's really coming. Oh, no. I gotta cook and tidy up. Instant minor panic attack ensued but I managed to compose myself. This won't be as difficult as I think. After all, I love to cook and entertain.

"so I knocked on my parent's door"

It's not just the cooking and tidying up, I failed to mention one small minute detail: I had not told my parents that I was seeing someone. Of course, I was grown, but out of respect for them and their home I felt this was the proper thing to do. So I knocked on my parent's door...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: What's your go-to menu item? Let us know in the comments.

Snowmageddon 2010 Part 1

"Snowmageddon 2010"

While we may not always get the record-breaking temperatures or significant snowfall like other states, winters in Baltimore can bring their own challenges. In the city there is the issue of public transportation delays, treacherous roadways and sidewalks, and limited on-street parking. Add on a weather report of impending snow and those challenges can create a pretty interesting chain of events.

February 2010 came with warnings of a series of potentially strong storm systems. That caused government offices, schools and airport closings. For most locals, that meant everyone needed to go to the grocery store and stock up on bread, milk and toilet paper. I did that. I even got movies for the girls. We love show, we were ready!

Snowmageddon came with 25" of snow, accompanied by Snowpocalypse and produced over 38" of snow during February 5-10, 2010. Top winds whipped up to 56 mph. Those intense winds caused blowing snow that formed the most picturesque vision and something we had never seen before: snow dunes. The blizzard-like conditions were impressive. Not to be outdone, was another new phenomenon, at least to us: Thundersnow. Our first experience with that was puzzling yet awesome.

Lonely water fountain covered by massive Snowmageddon 2010
Water fountain in Leakin Park, Baltimore, MD [Photo credit: Richard Harris @rix_view]

While power outages were widespread, our electricity stayed in tact. So we had our music, TV shows and most important, the Internet. Since schools were closed and no one could get to work, Robert and I had the perfect environment to talk on the phone and send pictures of the snow coverage.

Druid Lake park benches after Snowmageddon 2010
Druid Lake, Baltimore, MD [Photo credit: Richard Harris @rix_view]

It was one of the worst snowstorms on record for Baltimore, Maryland. News outlets reported round-the-clock. Every night we stayed up late, turned off the lights and stared outside watching the beautiful white puffy flakes. It's so quiet in the city when the snow falls. It was one of the most peaceful and beautiful events I can remember.

"Robert did the unexpected"

The girls and I woke up every morning to quickly gaze out of our bedroom widows to see how many more inches of snow fell. We would plan our breakfast and lazy-day activity. It was a choice between movies on the couch or in bed. Then I would call Robert and we would talk on the phone about the snow and how relaxing these days were. I didn't think it could get any better until Robert did the unexpected...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: What's your snowstorm experience? Let us know in the comments.

The introduction

The day started with deep anticipation: would I see Robert today? Would he be equally anxious to see me? Or was this just a brief encounter at a gathering and nothing more?

After a typical Sunday of attending religious services, fixing lunch and running a few errands, it was finally time to get ready for the Skate Party. The girls were excited. It was always a fun time. Spending time with our friends and skating to good music was worth looking forward to.

My girls and I know that the fun time begins in the car en route to wherever we are going. That means one of them sits up front and is the D.D.J. (Designated Disk Jockey). We have a system: naturally I have first choice of the songs we listen to because I am the mom and the driver. Next in line of selection would the older child and third is the younger child. Inevitably, the younger finds a way to monopolize the songs we listen to. It's hilarious because she loves music like I do and when we hear our song, nothing else matters. Truthfully, this was a great distraction for me. All I had to do was drive and jam to my music.

"I was done"

A cool 25-minute-drive later we arrived at the Pasedena Roller Skating Center in Pasedena, MD. I paid the entrance fees and the girls took off to find their friends and enjoy a good time. I, however, proceeded a bit more cautiously ever aware of never wanting to appear desperate. And then it happened. Of all the people that were there, his was the first face I saw. I tried to play it cool but he smiled at me. I was done.

One of the first things Robert did was introduce me to his kids and I introduced him to mine. For him to do that right off the bat impressed me. Little did he know how important that one thing was. I wanted truth. Consistently Robert was truthful about his intentions and obligations. There was full reciprocation. His honesty allowed me to open up to him. While the kids were enjoying their Skate Party, Robert and I talked. When it was time to go home we both just lingered, savoring the moment until the final second when we had to leave.

Getting to know each other in a public setting

"would he want to stick around or run away"

As the days passed we talked on the phone. Robert was easy to listen to, easy to talk to. He made me feel comfortable. Soon we would need to have a very meaningful conversation. I needed him to know the things about me no one else knew, things that might affect or perhaps shatter his image of me. It was important for me to give him the choice to opt-out. I would want him to do the same. Those conversations were not brief. We needed to take our time with this. And that is what we did. It seemed like everyday when I came home from work after making sure the girls and parents were taken care of, I was back on the phone and we talked some more. I was enjoying getting to know Robert. But my fears consumed me at times. Would my mental illnesses and all of my responsibilities overshadow his feelings for me? I wondered would he want to stick around or run away...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: What quality first impressed you about your mate? Let us know in the comments.

When we first met

When we first met it was at a gathering with mutual friends. Outside, it was a cold, snowy Friday night in January 2010. Inside, the music was right. It was clean fun and a good time hanging out with friends we love. With all that I was dealing with, I needed to let off some steam and dancing was the key. Song after song infused in me with more energy than I could imagine. It was therapeutic for me.

The Most Engaging Smile that make my heart melt
The Most Engaging Smile

"something special was happening"

Everyone was dancing, including Robert. What got me is that smile. Oh, he has the most engaging smile that makes my heart melt! There is a warmth behind his smile. I was intrigued by him. I admired his entire presence. He is dignified, the perfect gentleman. How is it possible that I felt safe just standing near him, someone I didn't know? We both felt it even though there were no words spoken. Something special was happening right before our eyes. That gathering was memorable. Then just as quickly as this mysterious meet occured, we parted and went separate ways.

"would he be able to deal with my health issues, my depression?" 

Passing the torch of responsibility to a loved one takes courage
Passing the torch

I wish I could explain how many thoughts and questions I had as I left that night: Who is he? Will we see each other again? Would he be able to deal with my health issues, my depression? Would I be able to pass the torch of responsibility to him? I'm clearly not being reasonable right now, that poor man, if he only knew what I was thinking he would run for the hills! I wish I could delete the what-ifs out of my mind. But I couldn't.

"would he be there?"

The kids had a Skate Party two days later. Robert has kids so would he be there?...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: Are there any what-if thoughts you struggle with? Let us know in the comments.

I was exhausted

I was dealing with a lot working full time as a single mom and a caretaker. My alarm clock seemed to ring earlier and earlier every morning. Sometimes the physical and mental fatigue was overwhelming. Moving my body took great effort only to feel like I was dragging heavy bricks with each step.

Every step takes great effort like bricks weighing you down
Dragging with each step

I kept thinking it would get easier. There were days when I was grasping for whatever motivation I could find. Having a mental or emotional illness greatly affected my natural ability to be productive and successful. Thankfully, there were rewards. After a grueling day I would come home around 5pm to be greeted with wonderful kisses and talks of the kid's day. My girls were so sweet and they took their academics seriously. But there was still homework that needed monitoring, chores that needed to be done, and errands to run. My life was busy.

"the stability they deserved"

I was a proactive mom, always on top of what my girls were doing. I wanted them to have the best foundation possible. Ours wasn't a life of luxury, but we were blessed with good morals and standards that we treasured. Spending quality time together was a pleasure regardless of how tired I was. Sometimes while the girls talked about their day we would all just laugh about whatever little incidents occurred in school or on my job. The three of us could be so silly together. I would joke with them that I was the best mother they ever had. Knowing I was there for them and that they were loved was the stability they deserved to have. No matter what mode of depression I was going through, those precious moments always made me feel better.

A single Mom surrounded by her two teenage daughters all happy and smiling
Tired Mom pushing through for her girls

After making sure the girls were fine, I'd proceed to check on the parents. Most of the time Dad was in full control taking care of Mom. Simply inquiring of their day and seeing if I needed to pick up prescriptions or make doctor's appointments was sufficient. I was on it. However, at some point in a parent-child relationship the roles shift a little. Responsibilities of taking care of them increase. That is a part of life. They're my parents and I love them. So I took a keen interest in making sure medications were being taken correctly, I asked pertinent questions at Doctor appointments, and I was always an advocate for their care. My goal was to make sure they felt respected and dignified. After all, I would want my girls to do the same for me.

My good friend once wrote an article asking, "What Kind of Person?". In it he says, "The big question was regarding people who go through life completely selfless, always at the ready to render support, understanding and loyalty while always taking the brunt and the blows during the lows and lofting and enjoying the highs. What kind of person does that? I only hope that when life turns full circle and I stand there having to peer into my deepest core, I will find at least a small piece of that person in me".

"things were about to change significantly"

Caretaking and parenting, while very fulfilling, was taking its toll. There wasn't a day that went by without my name or "Mommy" being called constantly. I struggled with depression that ranged from mild to severe. I truly felt that I could not keep doing this on my own. I really needed someone in my life who could jump in and help me maneuver through the difficult times. I had no idea that things were about to change significantly, for all of us...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: Are you an exhausted parent? What struggles do you have to deal with to keep going for your child(ren)? Let us know in the comments.

Single-parent life

"I am truly grateful"

It wasn't the way I expected my life to be. I was a 34-year-old single mom living with my parents and working full time. Dad, while silently dealing with his health and aging, was constantly taking care of Mom who more often than not was confined to her bed due to debilitating illnesses. I had two beautiful teenage girls. They were well-behaved, sweet girls. I love my babies, but some days it was difficult juggling responsibilities of being a single parent and adult daughter. Plus, I struggled with depression. While I like to think I was helping Dad and Mom, the truth is they were helping us. They provided guidance and balance. For that I am truly grateful.

Happy single mom with her two teenage daughters leaning on her as they smile for the camera
Me & the Girls
My parents instilled in me a love for creativity. As far as I can remember there was always some sort of project going on at home. Mom and Dad were sewing and consulting on best practice to complete each garment to perfection. Maybe Dad was in the basement woodworking, or even better, in the kitchen cooking a traditional Trinidadian meal. No one could bake bread like Dad. When they both got together to make Roti, curry chicken and potatoes, oh boy! Delicious every time. Sometimes Dad enjoyed tinkering with his computer or other electronic devices. So it was natural for me to be good at sewing, art, jewelry making, natural hairstyling, and cooking.

"I could not plan for what was ahead"

These things were not just enjoyable but also therapeutic for me. They helped me unwind physically and mentally especially on days when I was exhausted from work. I held a Class B CDL with P and S endorsements. I was not afraid to drive big vehicles. It was the waking up at 6 am that I dreaded. I bussed anywhere from 8 to 20 kids to and from school five days a week. Between my am and pm shifts I did have a break, which was great. That's when I would plan my next creative project. But some days I could not plan for what was ahead...

⇒Hello Reader, we're curious: Are you a single-parent? What is you support system like? Let us know in the comments.

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