Homeschool to Public School

school

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s blog Becoming Worldly. It was originally published on December 23, 2012.

I figured since I am one of the rare former Quiverfull kids that was both homeschooled and public schooled, I’d talk about my experience. First off, though, I want to say that I find the debate about whether homeschool or public school is inherently better to be the educational equivalent of arguing whether Coke or orange soda is better. It’s utter foolishness when people act like their personal preference is the only one that counts. Overall I believe that human beings are resilient and adaptable creatures, capable of learning in many different environments if given the opportunity and some quality mentoring. If I was choosing how to educate my own kids, I’d want mixed methods, the best of both worlds.

I realize looking back that I have had two different kinds of homeschooling and two different kinds of public schooling, so figured I’d share my experience with each.

Neglectful Unschooling

The first kind of homeschooling I had was unschooling without the very necessary cultivation and introduction to resources aspect.

Basically it was educational neglect.

This is a pretty common problem in the unschooling world from what I understand. I also got intensive religious messages and was forced to submit to rigid and oppressive gender roles. The bits of educational instruction I got were often pretty abusive too because every now and then, when my Dad got it in his head to formally teach me something, the session would generally end with me getting a spanking, grounded, or having the papers thrown at me in disgust because I was “being stupid,” “obstinate” or “stubborn and difficult.” Unsurprisingly, all that did was leave me with a pretty decent math phobia and worries about my mental capabilities. My parents also often told my sister that she was just stubborn and didn’t want to learn to read.

Thing is, my Mom said she didn’t really teach me how to read. She just read me books out loud when I was small and soon I was reading them back to her. That pattern didn’t happen with my sister or any other siblings because it isn’t typical. Yet my parents expected it to work that same way somehow.

They had little understanding of how kids actually learn, or what motivates them, or that it simply isn’t the same for each kid.

I was a self-directed learner who ate up the few books that had been donated to us by other homeschoolers and the boxes full of classic literature that my Grandad sent me. I didn’t get to go to the library. I just read these books and sometimes when I got too absorbed and forgot to wash dishes or change diapers, my Dad came in, snatched my book from me, hit me with it, and yelled at me. My Mom went from claiming that my book reading was “constructive” to saying that it was “selfish.”

Classic Home Tutoring

After this first kind of homeschooling experience had been thoroughly put to shame by my grandparents and the Sylvan standardized testing they secretly got for me and my sister, I started the second kind of homeschooling. It generally involved sitting at a desk every day at the same time, working through problems, diagramming sentences, having problem sets to solve and a row of sharpened pencils, with regular interspersed “field trips.”

Now I had to answer to my tough, tattooed up old Grandad, a former Navy commander who’d never homeschooled anyone or previously had the desire to.

He had flown me out West to stay with them for a few months and to give an excellently intensive if sometimes harsh go of his brand of tutoring, motivated by his love and concern for me.

My Grandad and I drove each other crazy at times but ultimately bonded for life. He loved being a homeschooling grandfather. He would go on to do the same with my other school age siblings, and later told me that he found his role in his grandchildren’s education to be one of the most satisfying things he’d done in retirement.

He was not motivated by any sort of religious instruction goals, but rather valued and had respect for classical curriculums that connected history to current events, modern life, and a versatile skill set. He also said being cosmopolitan and well-rounded was the primary goal of education.

It wasn’t just about finding a job or about knowing stuff, but making yourself question and think, being a world citizen.

He introduced me to books on Native American history, and Greek and Roman mythology. He brought me outside at night to point out the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades among the stars and tell me the story, and recount what these constellations had meant to sailors of old. He and my Grammy took me to museums and national parks and to go try sushi, fried rattlesnake, and spanikopita. They brought me to see Phantom of the Opera. They got me once a week snow-skiing lessons with teens my age. I was encouraged to find pen pals among them and to practice penmanship, and so I did. I was told to keep a diary and a scrapbook where I wrote down my experiences and saved mementos from events.

I still have those things and they are some of my most valued belongings.

My Grandad continually said, “The world needs lerts, so be alert!”

At the end of our intensive tutoring sessions or a day walking in the redwoods, or a day learning about volcanic activity while swimming at Mammoth Lakes hot creek, my brain would feel tired in a satisfied sort of way. I knew without a doubt that I was learning and it made me much happier about life. I loved it.

When I went back home to my parents, my Grandad gave me a self-study schedule written out on a yellow legal pad so I could hopefully somewhat replicate this rapid rate of absorption. I wish I could say I kept up with the books like he’d had me doing at his house, but I didn’t. No one was pushing me at home, so I only studied what I liked, and what I liked were novels that I could become totally absorbed in and ignore the stressful reality of a family situation I now loathed even more.

Cliquey Public School

Because my parents still weren’t teaching us and my Mom had pretty much given up, the next year we all got sent to public school.

I was both excited and scared. The local high school was known as the “bad school in the good district.” Over a third of the kids (including me) got free lunch because their parents were poor, and it was about half white, half “people of color” — mostly black and creole, a few Hispanic and Vietnamese. My school did really well in sports, less so in academics.

At registration nobody checked to see if I was up to grade level or oriented me to what public school would be like, instead simply assigning me to 9th grade based on my age.

The first week of classes were absolutely overwhelming.

I got laughed at on the bus for handing the driver the paperwork and saying, “My Mom said to give you this.” After being isolated so much, now I was constantly surrounded by people my own age, hundreds of conversations going on in the lunchroom at once, but nobody wanted to sit by me. They already had friends. I was an unwelcome stranger. Someone even threw my backpack on the floor and told me to go sit somewhere else. Finally I got invited to sit at a lunch table by a guy who had a lisp and I gratefully shared eating space with him, a “super-senior,” a pregnant girl, and a tall skinny gamer who wore his backpack on one shoulder and ran to lunch when the bell rang in order to be first in line. They were nice to me, the first friends I made, and I will be forever grateful. They reassured me and gave me hints after I got lost going to my home room class, received a detention for lateness, and got glared at often because I apparently unknowingly stared at people. I’m sure I did stare.

These teenagers were fascinating and I’d never seen anything like it.

Then there was the weirdness of learning how to do homework and study for tests and figure out when and how you are or aren’t supposed to ask questions in class while surrounded by people who’d done these things their whole lives. Everybody assumed I should just know this stuff and was from another planet when I didn’t.

By the end of the first week I was pretty much singled out as a weird kid, by both teachers and students.

One teacher thought I might have a learning disability and scheduled a parent-teacher conference. Classmates made fun of my Walmart shoes. Some boy asked me for a blow job and got people laughing when it was obvious I had no idea what that was. A group of girls walked by and one put gum in my hair. A boy hit me in gym class, I hit back, and we both got suspended for fighting under the “zero tolerance” rules. That’s how for a short time I became one of the “bad kids.”

I had to attend three nights of “PM school” with other suspended kids from around the district, some who’d thrown chairs at teachers, had sex in the bathrooms, set things on fire, or brought vodka to school hidden in Sprite bottles. We all sat around in a circle and talked about what we did wrong and what we should do better next time. Most of them were pretty disrespectful and said school was stupid and they couldn’t wait to drop out when they turned 16.

I really hit the culture shock head on right there.

Why didn’t they want an education? I’d had to fight so hard to get mine and I had no intention of letting anything take it away from me.

Around that time I discovered that high school was two-tiered. There were the regular and remedial classes and then the honors classes and advanced placement classes. The kinds of people who took either of the latter were treated better. Honors and AP classes also had people who were more invested and were given more in-depth information, but nobody else in that classroom seemed to feel as enthusiastic about learning as me. I was absorbing everything all at one time — the coursework was only part of it. How to walk, how to talk to people, what were appropriate topics of conversation, what to wear, what not to say seemed even more crucial.

Often it seemed there were more important things I was missing in my education than book learning, and I just made social mistake after social mistake. I was made fun of ruthlessly about them, remembering even one of the coaches laughing when some boys threw balls of paper at me in civics class.

I told my parents about the bullying once.

When my Dad’s response was, “Well, it’s ok with me if you drop out.” I never said another word about it.

I didn’t want them to have any excuse to pull me out. I just soldiered through. I made up my mind I would not be one of the dropout crowd. Here’s the thing about bullying though — it often just happens to new kids. Once your quirks and social status have been thoroughly made fun of, then you start to become accepted. The hazing (however wrong it is) is over. Girls start to give you tips about how to dress and talk and ask if you want a cigarette (no thanks), and guys start to flirt and ask to copy your homework (um, no. Well…maybe an exception for that cute one).

The learning curve that first year and a half was quite steep and I was stuck between different educational worlds where I had to know very different things to get by. I failed my first algebra class (what on earth were those letters doing in the math problems?!) and so sophomore year I took remedial math and honors English and history. I got invited to work on the school newspaper and the literary publication due to my work in honors English, and I got suspended again for getting in another fight (in the middle of class, no less) in remedial Algebra. This time I knew what these school fights required, so when the girl called me out and threw a punch, I grabbed her by the hair and hit her in the head a bunch of times until some guys pulled us apart. Now I figured people would get the message and nobody was going to threaten or try to fight me again.

I was also going to make her pay for ruining my perfect attendance record.

After serving my suspension, I apologized profusely to my poor math teacher (she was this nice Pentecostal lady who patiently tutored me during free time in math class and at lunch), and about six months later I made peace with the girl I’d fought.

I’d listened to the principal talk to her Mom and realized her home life was harder than mine.

Still, what would have once seemed counterintuitive to me — fight harshly to avoid more fights — had worked. Nobody tried fighting me again and the bullying subsided.

College-Bound Academic Track

By the time junior year came around I pretty much had the high school thing down. I was now one of the “smart kids” due to being in honors and AP classes. I rarely got detentions and never got suspended again. I found myself being nice to new people and often befriending exchange students, giving them the same tips I’d needed myself. I made a number of good friends, had lots of acquaintances, got good grades, passed notes in class, had a couple short-term boyfriends, and went to a number of high school dances.

I was passing for normal, working at the local grocery store, and feeling like my life was headed in the right direction.

Except for how awful it often was at home.

Quiverfull Values vs. Public School Values

My parents were still ideologically attached to the Quiverfull stuff even though their marriage was disintegrating and it was plain to see that actively living it was no longer doable. I had thoroughly rebelled against all of it and my younger siblings were now oriented in a similar direction. According to my Mom I was a bad example — disrespectful, a negative influence, and I had a poor attitude.

When I was given a Good Attitude Award at school for all my Key Club volunteer work, I waved it at her as vindication.

It was ignored though. Her criteria were different. I faced one perspective at school and another at home. At home I had to help care for a bunch of younger siblings in addition to homework, and was still hit by my Dad as “punishment,” (even though I fought back) right up until I moved out at age 17. After that I tried to throw all of it in the past, start college, and successfully “pass as normal.”

So do I think homeschooling can be great?

Yes.

Do I think public school can be great?

Yes.

Can they each be mediocre and uninspiring? Yes.

Can they both be awful and hurtful and soul sucking and practically the worst thing ever? Yes.

Can you work to overcome the bad stuff? Yes.

It’s all about implementation and setting goals and neither can be successfully done in a vacuum, ignoring what else is going on around you.

When people just look at the labels and decide whether it’s good or bad based on only that, they are being incredibly shortsighted. Education has so much more to do with mentorship, respect, and access to a challenging and inspiring curriculum.

I loved the type of homeschooling my Grandad did, and I loved my AP high school classes and the friends I made (some of whom I am still close to).

But most of all I loved going to college. It was like the best of the homeschooling and public school worlds combined. I could choose my classes, topics, and schedule, yet I had people guiding and supervising my work, helping me improve it.

I value my education and expect to always be committed to lifelong learning, no matter the setting.

What Happened When I Called the Cops on Dad

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Heather Doney’s blog Becoming Worldly. It was originally published on April 26, 2013.

I’ve been reading these stories of homeschool kids who were so scared of CPS. They were told that CPS were evil, would find any excuse to take them away, and that they would wind up in foster care situations where they would be horribly abused, physically and sexually, and where people hated them because they believed in God. They were told that the worst thing the foster care people would try to do was force you to reject Jesus and if you did, you would go to hell with them when you died.

Sadly, that fearmongering anti-CPS indoctrination was my story too. I was told the same thing. I was also not allowed to go outside in the yard on weekdays until we saw the Catholic schoolgirls through the window, walking down the sidewalk in their matching skirts, signifying that “school hours” were over. My parents were careful to keep us hidden from truancy police even if they weren’t careful to have us do any actual schoolwork.

Given all these years of instilled fear and propaganda, and how much I honestly believed a lot of it back then, I ended up doing something surprising as a teen, something that is still to this day the bravest thing I’ve ever done, and I figured I’d share it here.

Just to give you the background, I was 14 years old, my grandparents had recently forced my parents to put all of us in public school (I went into 9th grade), and my Dad still regularly did things like hit us with belts; slap, kick, and body slam us; yank our hair; drag us out of bed or out of the shower; and repeatedly slap us in the face. Often it looked and sounded a lot like this. As we got older and he increasingly lost control of us, as we started to question and oppose things more, the abuse just seemed to escalate. It was bad enough that today I have a “bum knee” and a pinched nerve in my upper back, both developed in my mid teens and neither attributable to any other cause than getting physically abused by my Dad, as I did not play sports.

The worst part of it all was seeing my siblings get hit (I either “tuned out” or fought back when I got hit) and I was concerned that one of them might get maimed or killed, particularly my younger brother, the eldest son, who always got it the worst. At public school I had recently learned that most people figured you were supposed to call 911 if something real bad was happening. I decided to give it a shot.

“I’m gonna call the police!” I said, but nobody seemed to notice. Dad was too busy hitting and shoving my brother and calling him names, and my brother was too busy curled up on the livingroom floor, trying to make himself as small and unhittable as is possible for a nine year old to do. I don’t know where anyone else was. It was a small old house with all the rooms pretty much connected to all the other rooms, but people still seemed to find ways to quickly disappear at times like this, except for me. I never seemed able to pull off the escaping thing very well, and by now I was thoroughly sick of it. I had also been told I was responsible for my siblings often enough that I believed it. I had decided I was going to do something radical and crazy. Even if foster care got us it couldn’t be worse than this, right?

I shouted about calling the cops again and again no one paid me any attention. I went into my parents’ bedroom and picked up the phone. I pushed the 911 buttons quickly so I wouldn’t lose my nerve. I could barely hear the sound of the operator’s voice over my own heartbeat. I told her “my Dad’s hitting my brother and won’t stop.” She calmly asked for the address and said “ok, we’re sending someone out there right away.” She asked me if I wanted to stay on the phone until they got there and I said no and then thanked her. It seemed I only had a moment to wait and then suddenly there were sirens. The police arrived and then two young men in blue were standing in the living room. I came out and sat on the old gold-colored couch in the living room in my ratty nightgown, stifling sobs. I suddenly felt embarrassed as I hadn’t brushed my teeth or washed my hair since waking up, and my face was red and stained with tears. I felt ugly and by the looks on their faces they seemed to think I was ugly too. They looked at my brother, standing there, bug-eyed, and then let him go in the other room, which he was in a hurry to do. Dad turned on the charm and told them a story of how he was disciplining his son, who had misbehaved and that I had just lost it and interfered. He told them I was wayward, and willful, and disrespectful and had cursed at him.

One cop took my Dad outside to hear more of this yarn, and the other one stayed to look at me sternly and lecture me on how I needed to be respectful to my father, accept punishment for bad behavior, and not curse at adults. I sat there, seething, saying nothing. You just don’t talk back to a cop, especially when you’re a 14 year old girl and he’s obviously taken sides and ignored all evidence that didn’t fit with what he wanted the situation to be. They didn’t even check my brother for bruises or marks (which he had). The cop looked only a few years older than me, not much taller. He apparently knew nothing about this type of situation and obviously didn’t want to learn more.

Mom was standing there in her nightgown, nervous and sinewy, arms folded tightly, with purple lips and a crazy, almost baffled expression. Her usual look when fights happened. The policeman tried to include her in the conversation about what I should and shouldn’t do. I glared at her and said “you know what was going on, and you never do anything.” Now it was time for her to play the victim. She looked at the cop with big child eyes and said that she believed children should be disciplined in a Godly manner and her husband was the head of the household, blah blah blah, but that she didn’t like it when he slapped the kids in the face and when he would get mad she just didn’t know what to do.

The cop then directed all of his attention at Mom, trying to ask her questions, probe deeper into this. He quickly discovered what everybody else already knew, that asking Mom any kind of yes or no question and expecting any kind of direct or conclusive answer was an exercise in futility. She gave him a few long, indirect run-on sentences about nothing. He became bored and joined the other cop outside with Dad. I looked out the window and saw them talking on the gravel driveway, just along the fence line. Dad was standing inside the gate and they were standing outside. His body language showed that he probably wanted to kick them off the property altogether but instead was being submissive and deferential and thinking he might be in trouble. I looked at my brother, who’d come back in the living room, still bug-eyed, to look out the window with me. He said “you shouldn’t have done that, Heather.” I turned away from him as my heart sank and I sobbed. I’d done this for him. I didn’t want him to get killed. I looked back out the window.

The two policemen looked comfortable, chatting with Dad easily. One of them came back up to the door to tell Mom that they’d spoken to him and told him that corporal punishment was ok, but that slapping your kids in the face is not included or allowed. They said they’d also told him that if they had to be called back out here, he’d be arrested. They were leaving now. That cop didn’t even look at me again, still sitting on the couch. I didn’t matter. I felt so alone, terrified. I figured I was probably going to end up dead. Dad would kill me and I would be buried in the ground somewhere and no one would ever find me! They were leaving and he was coming back inside and I knew he was furious, and…suddenly I wasn’t scared anymore. I was a ghost, floating up above my left side, looking down at the ugly gold couch with the ugly teen girl on it, saying “hmmm, I wonder what’s gonna happen to that girl, Heather?”

Dad walked into the house and I stopped dissociating. I wasn’t a ghost anymore. I was me and all I could hear was my heartbeat. I wasn’t afraid. I would meet death straight on and show no emotion. I would look expressionless. He would not get any begging for anything from me. He stepped into the kitchen and instead of showing anger, he looked over at me with the saddest betrayed eyes I had ever seen him look at me with. He seemed like a little child that someone had punched. He slowly looked at me again and then averted his eyes, seeming to not bear to even see me anymore. He spoke to Mom in a sad voice and said “I can’t believe you didn’t support me. I don’t even have a good Christian wife that supports me.” He brushed off her attempts at conversation and sadly shuffled into the bedroom to lay down. Mom tried to go in and talk to him but he said “just leave me alone,” in the same sad resentful voice, and she ended up coming out and cleaning the kitchen table instead. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t smacked or yelled at or killed! I was still on the couch and nothing had happened to me.

The next day at school I felt exhausted and mentioned to the boy I liked in computer science class that I’d called the cops on my Dad. He looked at me, shocked, and said “Wow, that’s terrible!” He didn’t ask any questions and kept playing Doom, so I kept playing Oregon Trail, feeling worse than usual every time my pioneer family drowned in a creek or starved to death. I felt guilty. Maybe it was terribly wrong to call the police on a parent. It sure felt wrong, but so did a lot of things. Was it more wrong to treat your own kids like that? Was it wrong to be a cop that’s stupid and doesn’t pay attention when it’s your job? What was I supposed to do? Accept that it was corporal punishment and it was ok, we deserved it? I just couldn’t. Getting hit had just always felt wrong, disrespectful. I decided I wouldn’t say anything else to people at school though. Apparently that just wasn’t a good idea. Still, the more I thought about what happened when I called the cops, the more I felt angry. I was still afraid and on guard the next few days, thinking there was a chance I might still have it coming from Dad.

All that week he didn’t speak to me or interact with me, except once to tell me “Grammy wants to talk to you,” and hand me the phone. I picked it up and she started yelling on the other end. She was attempting to tell me what a terrible child I was for calling the police on Dad. I tried to explain to her what was going on, because she’d listened and tried to help when I’d told her stuff before, but she just couldn’t hear me over all of her own yelling. I finally told her I knew I did the right thing and she just didn’t know. She got me to promise her that next time there was a problem, I’d call her, not the police. It was an easy promise to make because after what had happened and how those cops were, I didn’t plan on ever calling them again anyway.

After that everybody stopped mentioning that I’d called the cops on Dad. The only reminder was that he seemed to try and show more self control. He stopped getting the belt or the red stick, even if he still threatened to use them. If we did something he didn’t like, he would put us “on restriction,” his term for grounded, in back-to-back two week increments (which would usually end up being extended for months on end), and when he did lose it, he was more likely to only corner or intimidate us, and if he did hit us, only leave bruises where clothes or hair would cover them up. Also, now he had to be careful because every time he lost it on somebody, Mom would scream “I’m gonna call the police! I’m gonna call the police!” She never did call on him though.

The abuse ended for me when I moved out at age 17 after Dad knocked me over in a chair, chipping my front tooth. The abuse ended for my siblings two years later when Dad moved out and my parents divorced.

Two years ago my brother, now 25, and I finally talked about the time I called the police, our first time ever discussing it since it had happened. He said he was sorry for telling me I shouldn’t have called back then, that he had thought what was happening to him was just routine, normal, and that what I did was what was out of line, extreme. He said looking back he was glad that I called, that he felt it was a “wake up call” to Dad and while things still weren’t ok after that, they got better. I cried when he said that.

There was certainly no need for him to say sorry for anything he’d said as a little boy, but his words now, as a grown man affirming that I’d done the right thing, meant so much to me. Nobody had ever told me that. Back then everyone had acted like I was very much in the wrong, a person who betrayed my family.

I look back and feel so very thankful that I somehow had the guts to fight that fight, that my siblings and I all survived it, and that the younger ones can just be kids and don’t have to go through any such stuff.

Crosspost: The Strongest Woman I Know

Crosspost: The Strongest Woman I Know

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap It was originally published on May 7, 2013.

I had intended to spend the day painting my dragon (Archangel) for my Horde army that I need to pick up the rest of on Thursday. But while in the shower, thinking about the meaning of life (as you do, and then quickly do that thing we call “washing” 2 minutes before the water turns cold) I realized that a large reason that I’m not bat-shit crazy, and the reason I attribute to my marriage being awesome and not abusive, is because my grandmother on my dad’s side was my rock.

I struggle and have always struggled with feeling worthless, like I’m nothing more than a broom with a brain and octopus arms for doing my mother’s bidding (or now, cleaning my apartment like there’s no tomorrow). I wonder, sometimes, why I’m not with some asshole of a guy, someone who is manipulative and mean, I wonder why my story is different. Why am I with this guy who’s been nothing but a catalyst of/for freedom and acceptance of me in all my nuances and idiosyncrasies. Who loves me for my intelligence and heart (as well as my boobs)?

I think, it’s because of her. My parents did a lot of lip service to self-worth and not settling for people who don’t treat you right, but they proceeded to treat me horribly. My Gramme?

She is the strongest person I’ve ever known. She was the second-youngest in a huge family, and the “all bad” child in the eyes of her mother (even though, like me, she spent her life slaving away for her family), she was neglected and abused and the most loving, accepting person I’ve ever met. She was brave and unafraid of anything, she was my original escape plan. She was the one, who, by her unconditional love and acceptance instilled in me this sense of I-deserve-to-be-treated-well-by-my-friends (family I was kinda screwed with, but my circle, I deserved to create to feel safe in).

She was the type of person who wouldn’t sit quiet if her kids were wrong, if her grandkids were hurt she would fight for them. She was my defender. I knew that if things got bad enough, I could run to her and trust her to protect me (not that I would have, but she was that kind of safe place).

When she died I was devastated. I’ve grown up around death – my first funeral was at 6 months old. My great-grandparents have passed, my uncle, two siblings, friends…my Gramme is the only one that still affects me. I still cry and get choked up when I talk and think about her (so I usually try not too, because there’s a huge gaping hole where she should be). Sometimes, 5 years later, I still do a double-take on the street because I see her dopple-ganger. If I were spiritual, I’d take it as a sign that she’s looking at me (instead of just some random elderly lady with the same haircut).

When I think about how she’d feel about me, I feel so so secure in that she’d still love me – that I could still tell her anything and she’d keep it between us, that she’d be supportive, that she’d be proud, she’d tell me I’m brave, and she would understand.

My gramme is the reason that I am so strong. She’s where I got my stubbornness from, she’s where I got my I-will-protect-the-shit-out-of-the-people-I-love-screw-you-if-you-hurt-them impulse, she is why I value acceptance and completely unconditional love.

She is why I am so lucky. Because without her just loving me? I would have been so different. She taught me, without either of us realizing it, that I am worth loving because I am me – that people who don’t accept me for me are not worth my time. And that’s why my marriage looks the way it does, that’s why I’m lucky, that’s why I built a circle of friends who genuinely cared about me, a circle that my family couldn’t penetrate.

I am lucky because as a child, I had a tether – and when all hell broke loose, when the shit hit the fan, when the abuse left crushing and devastating imprints on my soul – I knew that someone loved me unconditionally and that was right.

That’s why my story is different. That’s why my marriage is actually healthy – the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had.