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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Share with your kids that life can suck. It’s only fair to them.

This is stemming from a friend of mine on FB regarding a question about whether or not to tell their young children about the tragedy yesterday.  I wrote this fast and don’t want to edit…bc I’m tired. Just mosey on past any grammatical errors you might see. Gracias. 🙂

Here is my two cents:

I think that it all depends on whether you have always been forthcoming with the reality of the world or if you’ve tried to keep your children from knowing about certain tough topics; sheltering if you will.

Tom and I have always been pretty straightforward with the kids. We have discussed drugs, drinking and driving, gambling, smoking and day to day things we see that might need explaining. We don’t shield them from hearing the truth. A limited truth, of course, but as truthful as we feel necessary.

As for the horror from yesterday, how do you even begin to explain to your children what happened when you as a parent can’t quite wrap your brain around it?  I was among all of you, crying the moment I read about the details. It was horrifying to imagine what happened and how that town must be feeling. The shock and grief is unfathomable, but in deciding whether to tell my kids or not, I knew what I was going to do. If I didn’t tell them, they would hear some true, but probably a lot more false information from other kids at school.  I told both of them what happened and then we said a long prayer with more prayers today. They were sad, shocked and not fully understanding, nor do I expect them to be at these ages, but what I wanted them to feel from me telling them was compassion, sadness for the victims and their families and to understand that there are some bad people out there; strangers. To be aware and careful, always.
I got a few questions and answered to the point where I felt they might understand what I was saying, but didn’t give too many details. I did NOT mention the gunman killed himself. No really necessary information for this age.

Neither Tom or I had a cushy life growing up. Not that it wasn’t intended to be that way in the beginning, but life happened. And ups and downs occurred throughout our childhood, in to early adulthood and that uncertainty still seems to rear its ugly head in to our lives to this day. We weren’t sheltered and I guess that’s why we think it’s absolutely appropriate for us to gradually expose our children to the truths about the world in which we live in. Many adults who were sheltered from the truth tend to have a hard time when things don’t go wonderful in their lives. When little things pop up out of nowhere it tends to send them in to a tailspin of anxiety and they just can’t get a grip.

Little things happen so that it can prepare us for if/when something HUGE happens.

For instance, today something awful occurred after our super fun 5K that we ran together. As we were walking to our car, 3 police officers detained a homeless man right in front of us. We saw the casual talk between the officers and the man. He was extremely inebriated, but didn’t move. The female cop pushed the man in to the wall three times. He still didn’t move or resist arrest. Then a very large male officer came up from behind him, tripped him and the man fell headfirst in to the concrete, with the officers weight also falling down on him. With a loud thud (that keeps replaying in my head) we all watched in horror. It was awful. The other moms and I scurried away to shield the children from what was happening so fast in front of us. I wanted to go back, get their badge numbers, raise some hell…SOMETHING…but I had Carissa and I didn’t want her to see any more than what we had already witnessed. Once we crossed the street the firetruck and paramedics came. I am still sick over it and called in to find out what I can do to file a complaint on those officers. Apparently this is only something I can handle during business hours. I don’t know who they are, but I can identify them if I saw them.

When Carissa was asking why I was crying (about an hour later) I told her the truth. I didn’t say it was nothing. I didn’t tell her to give me a few minutes hoping that she would forget. I wanted her to know why I was crying, just like I want her to share with me if she ever feels sad. I told her that the man who was taken down by the cops hadn’t done anything wrong. They didn’t need to use that kind of force; he wasn’t fighting with them. In fact, he was so drunk they probably could have put handcuffs on him and made him their puppet, but instead they chose to hurt him…really badly. I also told her that I was going to do something about it, but just not sure what. I’m not going to say that the officers were just trying to protect us or that the homeless man was doing something wrong because he wasn’t!! I’m so appalled at their actions and don’t plan on letting this go….

My point, I was honest with her.

However, if you have always sheltered them from these things, then you should take your child’s ability to cope in to consideration. You know your own kids and know if they are easy to worry, have nightmares over little things, are anxious, tend to be fearful of the outside world.  These are all the reasons why I think it’s important to gradually give these explanations throughout their little lives. I don’t believe it ruins their innocence or keeps them from just being a child with a pure heart. Our world can suck. Life is hard. Shit happens. I want my kids to roll with the punches when they get sucker punched by life.

But also show a thousand times more that life can be good; VERY good.

Tom…Or is it Nostradamus?

Since we are in real estate, I think it’s important to give you a little insight on my husband, his history in the business and his moral character. All of you who know him know these things already, but I wanted to share with those of you who don’t. That way you’re aware of the kind of real estate partner I am blessed to have by my side.

It’s actually quite fascinating to me all of the things he has predicted in this crazy industry over the years.  Since Tom eats, sleeps and breathes real estate and the economy, he was prepared for the crash and had called it at the end of 2006. And I’m DEAD SERIOUS about this!! All of our friends and family got a talking to from him about it and no one believed him. I would even say, “Babe, you’re wasting your breath. No one is listening to you.” He just wanted everyone he cared about to start selling their homes if they purchased at the end of 2004 on, to stop buying investment properties and to sell off the ones they had already purchased. How many listened to him? NOT ONE, until it was too late and they needed his help and advice on the decision to short sell or foreclose.

We sold off all of our investment properties (4 at the time) by the end of 2006 and our primary home in December of 2007. Two of them with another investor that he had to convince of what was about to come. I should state that he knew something devastating was going to happen to the real estate market, but he never imagined it was going to be THIS bad; but enough for him to want OUT. He even said it would not recover until 2013, when those who had foreclosed (and/or filed bankruptcy) in 2007-2008 would be ready to buy again once their credit was built back up. He trusted in his research and knowledge and thank God he insisted on selling those two properties he co-invested in because that would have crushed us.

Another thing he would tell people until he was blue in the face was that in order for the market to recovery that interest rates would have to come down to the low 3%. Where are they at now? 3.39% on a fixed 30 year mortgage. I hope that those he spoke with back in the day will chime in and give him credit for these statements he was absolutely positive on. Some told him he was out of his mind if he thought interest rates would come down that low.

In the blog he wrote that I’m sharing later, he explains what you need to know about how lenders make their money and things you need to be aware of during the real estate process (since Tom was in the mortgage business for several years, he knows a thing or two about a thing or two.) and it made me want to share more about this honest man I am blessed to be married to.

He was one of the VERY few mortgage guys that steered clear of the dishonest ways of the business and we would stay up late at night talking about these crazy loans (option ARMs) that people were doing and how he couldn’t do them for people knowing that they might be losing their home in 2 years when the rates adjusted and they could no longer afford the mortgage. I loved that about him then and love it about him now. He is just a REALLY great person and once said to me during those talks, “I got in to this business to help people with such a big decision in their lives, not ruin them.” That always stuck with me because boy was he right since it ended up being devastating to so many families. There was one night he was telling me about the receptionist in his office who went through another loan officer in the office to get a loan on a $500,000 home. He felt bad for her knowing she would not be able to afford that mortgage when the rates adjusted and would eventually have to foreclose and have her credit ruined. But this was the greed that so many were driven by. We heard that some practically added zeros to stated incomes just to get that person in “the home of their dreams!” Yes, it was bad decision making on both sides of the deal, but the risk was something the loan officers should have explained in detail to their clients, which he always did.  We pondered what to do about some of the shady stuff happening, but had no idea what…then the market crashed and karma happened with many facing lawsuits and even jail time.

Now if someone insisted on this kind of loan, he would explain the risk factor involved and only if they STILL insisted on doing it would he continue. He would lose a lot of business that way and who knows if they just went to someone else to get it done, but in the end Tom felt better about himself and what he was doing.

Yes, we could have made three times as much money like everyone else, but to do so he would have needed to be shady and that just never fit him. I sure as heck wasn’t the type to encourage him to do whatever it took so we could live the lavish life and keep up with the Joneses. So we stayed honest and morally just…and could sleep at night. Well, not so much for him since he suffers from insomnia, but you catch my drift.

When the real estate crash happened his business was crushed. He was then lumped with all of the shady and dishonest loan officers and when we moved to Albuquerque to be near my family, he was almost blacklisted when applying for jobs out there. Some of the job descriptions even stated, “Do not apply if you were a loan officer.” It was embarrassing for him to be categorized in with those other loan officers when he knew he wasn’t anything like them. He ended up getting in to real estate in Albuquerque because of his passion for the business and worked really hard to make this happen. However, in a suffering market, new city and a stressful family situation we ended up coming back to Las Vegas where he knew more people and could get a salaried job with benefits that could provide for our family. And that’s what he did.

After being back in Las Vegas for two years, Tom was itching to get back in the business, but since he puts 100% of his efforts in to his place of employment now, the only way to do it was if I got in the business as well. He has already taught me so much and is being an amazing mentor while I handle the leads thus far.

So that’s my husband of nearly 11 years! Yes, Tom, on January 7th will be 11. Now you don’t have any excuses since I alerted you a month in advance. 😉

My Cycle of Abuse as a Teen

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(Here is my account of only a few of the incidents that happened during my one and a half year relationship with an abuser. I have a REALLY clear recollection of this time in my life due to running these events in my mind over and over when they occurred and even years later.  I don’t think much about it anymore so in writing this I was blown away that I, Serena, could have allowed this relationship to continue for so long. I’ve grown so much since then and know I would never have put up with him if I were me, now. Does that make sense? This is another one of those moments I wish I could go back in time and slap some sense in to my young self.)

At the tender age of 17 (almost 18), I met a boy. A 21 year old tall, tanned and hazel eyed hottie. I was hostessing at Outback Steakhouse in San Antonio and he was a patron. After stealing glances at each other, he came up to me and asked me for my number. He was a charmer and I fell hard for this him immediately. Little did I know that this would be the start of a very toxic relationship filled with addiction and abuse.

He took me out to a nice restaurant on our first date and divulged information to me that should have made me run the other direction, but I stayed because 1. I was young and naively intrigued. 2. I felt like in some way this guy needed my help. That happens to be my strength and weakness; if you need me, I’m yours for life.

It was only after a couple of weeks of seeing each other every day and coming to my house, meeting my mom and sweeping me off my feet that he lost his temper for the first time. It was my birthday. We had never discussed how old I was; he never asked and I never shared with him. He asked me how old I was turning and I said 18. He threw my hand away from his and got up. I got up behind him and he turned around, push me with both hands on to the couch and slammed the door behind him. I ran after him and in the front of our place he caused a scene. Yelling at me and telling me what a liar I was to make him believe I was already 18. I felt horrible when he drove off making me feel that yes, it was my fault that he got so mad. I SHOULD have mentioned my age. I cried that whole day and called him multiple times apologizing. He came over the next day and said he forgave me and that now we could move forward. I was thrilled and so appreciative for that forgiveness. We never discussed HIS reaction. This was the start of the master manipulating that would take a year and a half for me to realize that HE was the problem, not I.

The first time I met his parents was a huge red flag. His step-dad was the nicest human being on the planet and a prominent lawyer in town. His mom was a tiny little thing and overly loved her son to where he could do no wrong when it came to others. He was upset with her about something small and started an argument in front of me right after we were introduce. Although she enabled him, she was a firecracker and they yelled it out, calling each other names until his mom left furious and in tears. Afterwards he told me about a few things from his past and because of my young age I felt sorry for him. His dad had died when he was very young and to my recollection it had to do with drugs. To me, THAT explained a lot of his behavior and that I could be the one to change him and make him have a happy life with me. He would bat his extremely long and full lashes to me and say he loved me. I was in too deep with him and allowed most of his antics to roll off my back.

Throughout our relationship, he cut off a lot of my friends. Any time I would want to hang out with them I got this type of response, “Oh. So you would rather spend time with them than me? I see how it is…and you say you love me?” He went so far as to follow me places and one time he waited for me to get home after I went to hang out with my girlfriends. When we arrived I saw him pacing outside of my place I shared with my mom and he was furious because I told him I would be home by a certain time and it was a few minutes after. He again caused a scene in front of them. They waited in the parking lot to make sure I was fine. I was mortified watching their horror as he called me every name in the book saying that if I loved him that I wouldn’t need to go out whoring around town with my friends. I was then ordered to no longer talk to them at all. So I didn’t.

After only a couple of months, he took me to a nightclub with all of my coworkers from Outback. I had a fake i.d, but had already learned that he loved to drink so I would need to stay away from alcohol in order to drive us home. When my coworkers arrived I had pointed to each one from afar and said, “That is so and so,” and did that for every one of them. Well the one that upset him the most was when I pointed and told him the name of a guy who happened to be attractive.  He asked me if I liked him and that he could tell by the way I looked at him. He was insane. I said so and walked away once his voice started getting louder. He had had too much to drink and I started to walk out of the club. He followed behind me screaming at me to stop and when I didn’t, he yanked my hair back like a rag-doll and then pushed me out of the club door. I ran to the security and told them what happened. He then proceeded to tell them I was underage and gave them my fake i.d. The security officers did nothing, probably seeing this on a nightly basis. It was up to me to go back in and ask one of my friends for a ride home, but out of pure shame I let him drive me, with him yelling at me the whole way.

He came by my place the following morning, looking horribly sad. He said he felt awful and said he needed help with his drinking. I told him I would find some AA places for him and that I would attend them with him. Mind you, I am still 18. I never told my mom because I didn’t know what to say to her. My boyfriend is a raging lunatic who treats me like crap, yet I still keep him close because he manipulates me in to thinking it’s always my fault or the booze? I was too young to see things objectively, therefore I let him lead our relationship in to one I had to mature way too fast.

I went with him a couple of times a week to these meetings. I felt like a loyal, loving girlfriend sitting next to him. I just KNEW I could help him.

A few weeks in to the meetings, we went out again. We went to a club that was 18 and over with him getting a wristband that said he was 21 or older. He said he would only have beer and that beer didn’t make him go crazy. I thought that sounded like a great compromise. After I could tell he was getting a bit drunk, I offered to drive us home. He refused and said he was fine to drive. I insisted, but he gave me the psycho look so I got in the passenger side door not wanting to get him riled up. He was enraged with me and said I was embarrassing him and called me stupid and countless other things. When he pulled over I was so scared not knowing what he was going to do in the middle of a dark street. Little by little he started to instill such fear in me and as I look back I realize this was another way to get me to stay put, besides deflating my self esteem. He just looked over at me and punched his windshield a couple of times, causing a crack. As he started screaming in pain, he was telling me what a horrible human being he was and how effed up his life was. He drove me home and so the cycle continued. He acted crazy. He apologized.  I took him back. Things would be wonderful. Over and over we would do this.  This type of relationship wasn’t one I grew up witnessing. My dad didn’t treat my mom this way. It was all new to me and I didn’t know what to do and had already started feeling ashamed that I kept going back, so I didn’t tell anyone.

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My sister came in to town with her husband and young son. We walked around the Riverwalk and had a great time. That night he asked me to go home with him to hang out. I didn’t want to leave my sister who was only visiting for a couple of days, but he said something (I don’t remember) that made me go. He had been drinking beer all day and so he was in his “mood”. As we sat on the curb he said something horrible about my sister and her husband so I got up and said that he had crossed a line and that I was going home. I drove off in the car and he ran up alongside it, screaming for me to stop. For fear of running him over, I obliged. He banged his fists in to my windshield and broke it. As I drove off further, he fell in the street and screamed in searing pain. I thought I run over his foot or something so I got out of the car, ran to get his parents who were inside and as they came out I saw that some of my things had fallen out of my car when I had abruptly got out. I was hunched over picking up my things when he stood up, ran over to me and kicked me like a football right in the stomach. His mom screamed, picked me up and carried me down the street. I stayed there as she ran back home. She picked me up in her car and took me to the catholic church down the street. I cried in the pew and wondered where my life had taken me….I’m not sure how I got home and the rest of the night. I was devastated and in pain.

We broke up.

After a few days, he called me telling me his sweet grandmother was sick. He used her as a way to get back in my life because he knew I had grown very fond of her. I went with him to see her….that day we got back together. I can’t answer why I got back. Until you experience the daily manipulation and deterioration of your self-esteem, you will never understand the weakness one feels in a relationship like this. It’s not always as easy as, “Just leave him.”

New Year’s Eve (dating 6 months at this point) was the worst he had ever gotten. He “surprised” me with a huge jug of Carlo Rossi white zinfandel. What a big spender. That wasn’t all he surprised me with. He shared that he had gotten some pornography that he had wanted me to watch with him. No thanks. So after we rang in the new year with him having finished all but the one glass I had had of the “wine”, he wanted to watch the video. I was not having any of that stuff, plus he was sloshed and I found him to be repulsive. He had started to disgust me. I said I was tired and he responded that I was crazy, no fun and proceeded to verbally abuse me. I was so angry with him for all that he had done to me thus far so I hit him on the back with a closed fist. And he beat me in to a corner, went and grabbed a knife and paced in front of me for what felt like hours as he contemplated what he was going to do next. I escaped mentally. I don’t remember when he left, but he didn’t hit me any more and I crawled in to my bed and cried myself to sleep.

He came by my house the next day and begged for forgiveness. He said he didn’t think he could live if I didn’t get back with him. That there was no telling what he would do. It was frightening to say the least. I didn’t want him to do something to himself! How could I live with myself if he did?!? We moved past and continued.

It was already so shameful that someone I loved treated me like this so often. His verbal abuse and manipulation was so frequent that I kept apples in the freezer to place on my eyes in the morning before I went to my college classes because chances are, the night before he would do something that would make me cry so much my eyes would swell. I didn’t want anyone to see my sad eyes.  He encouraged me to quit college several times because it took too much time away from him; all of the studying was ridiculous to him. If he only knew half of the study groups that I had to hide from him because he was so obsessed with where my time went when I was not with him. He had me quit the steakhouse and had his mom get me a job working at a day care. He needed control and being around peers and and environment like Outback was causing him to question my faithfulness to him constantly and he got afraid I would divulge this secret to someone.  It was just easier to find another place to work rather than deal with the endless 20 questions after my shift every night.

Then, my mom had decided to move us back to Albuquerque to be near my sisters once I finished my freshman year. I was excited to think this was the clean break I needed.

I had finally told my mom that he had a bad temper. I did not share any details, just that I was hoping to break up with him. She was happy since she wasn’t his biggest fan anyway and knew that he had made me cry on more than one occasion and had followed us to the mall one day when we were going to see a movie. I think that was a red flag that he was controlling, but she probably trusted that I would share if there was more to it.

Closer to the time we were to move, it was another “honeymoon” phase.  He had said something about wanting me to be the mother of his kids and how great it would be to have babies together. I thought that was sweet, but knew I wasn’t ready for that any time soon. He was on his best behavior and treated me so nice. He said he was making changes and would be the best man and treat me the way I needed to be treated. Then he proposed. I was still only 18 and he was now 22. I was thrilled to know that he loved me THAT much and accepted. I know, I was a brainwashed fool.

He said he would move with me to Albuquerque and things would be wonderful for us. And that’s what we did. My mom was devastated. We moved in to our own one bedroom apartment, he quit drinking, at least around me, and I continued my schooling at UNM. Things started off great until he met a neighbor friend who became his daily pot smoking buddy. I was once again totally grossed out with his inability to just be clean. With my family around I started to feel a little bit stronger. He didn’t allow me to talk to them on the phone for longer than 5 minutes at a time, but I found times when he was at work to talk with them or visit them. I started to visit my sister, Natalie, every day on my way home since she lived right by me. I started to share a few things with her and told her I didn’t love him anymore, but how I felt guilty that he uprooted his whole life for me. I felt stuck.

He started going out with coworkers to have drinks or go to strip clubs and my thinking was, “PLEASE JUST LEAVE ME! Find someone else. Cheat on me!” Because if he did that, it would make the decision so much easier. But he didn’t. At least not that I ever knew about.

His parents came out to visit us one week and the whole time I had to hear from his mom how I wasn’t giving her son the attention he required. I spent too much time on school and going out with friends. Apparently she was getting misinformation. She called me a bitch on her last day in town because I moved my schoolwork from the kitchen to the bedroom so I could have some quiet as I studied. I was over it all and slowly feeling empowered with confidence because I was doing well in school.

One evening after work, we went to help my friend move out of her apartment she was sharing with her boyfriend, who became her ex. My boyfriend had picked me up from work totally stoned out of his mind and I was again, disgusted. I didn’t talk to him the whole ride and when we were meeting my friend for something to eat, he yelled at me in the parking lot. He called me every name in the book, yet again. My friend was appalled since she had no idea he was this way. She looked at me in pity, grabbed my arm and said for me to come home with her. In the car she said I could live on her couch until I found a place. I never looked back. I moved my bags worth of stuff in with her and lived on her couch for about 2 months. Then I got my own studio apartment. He tried to make an appearance at my work, but I told him he should go back to San Antonio and that we weren’t good for each other. He told me he had a box for me with all of my yearbooks and memorabilia that I needed to pick up. When I went to get it the next day, he had moved and left a note that said the box was now at the dump. I was devastated over those yearbooks and to this day resent him for doing that.

I moved on.
I met another boy who was nice, getting ready to enter medical school, came from a great family, Christian and would never raise his voice or a hand to me. He was what I needed to see that I deserved better. After a year and a half together, we broke up but on somewhat decent terms. I had fallen in love with someone I met in Las Vegas during our “We Turned 21” girls’ trip. This man would be the man I would soon marry. Someone who has always been respectful, kind and the most wonderful husband/father to our kids. We are now going on 11 years of marital bliss and I have to thank my ex for showing me what I NEVER wanted in a relationship again.
Since our break-up 16 years ago, he found me on Facebook and wrote me a long letter of apology. It might have been a step towards finally making right with his past. I had already forgiven and forgotten. From our brief Facebook friendship I knew he was married, had a new baby boy and had started a thriving business. It makes me very happy for him that his life wasn’t going to be wasted by anger. I hope he made the necessary changes to be able to hold a non-toxic, loving relationship with someone.

Life takes you through some pretty difficult challenges, but in the end, it all tends to work out as long as you realize your own worth.