Why You Shouldn’t Miss the Moment

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Teresa G. D’vall

Uncle Wiggly is a board game introduced by Milton Bradley in 1916 and themed around a rabbit who does a lot of hopping through the forest for reasons I no longer recall. My mother played it with me as a child and I was thrilled to find an edition on Amazon as an adult. It’s also the only game she  played with her grandchildren, reluctantly, the last time she visited my home for Christmas, too many years ago.

My three toddlers couldn’t really follow or remember the rules and Mom was beginning to suffer from short term memory loss so neither could she. I was desperately trying to manage a house still floundering in a disarray of leftovers and strewn with gift wrap. When I saw her on the floor with them I stood still; mesmerized by the novelty of it all. Even though they didn’t play very long and no one reached Dr. Possum’s house; there was a lot of laughter that day. It would be the only memory I have of my mom with her youngest grandsons. They called her Uncle Wiggly instead of Grandma after that. There weren’t many things that made Mom smile; but that moment did.

On October 25, 2014, I said goodbye to my mother for the last time. I wouldn’t know it until almost exactly a month later, when she passed away unexpectedly at the age of 69, and was only able to pinpoint the date because I’d brought a sick child to the pediatrician that morning. Afterwards, I was about to drive past her neighborhood and knew I hadn’t taken the time to see her in awhile. Visits were always uneasy because she’d repeat herself often, without realizing it. As my mini van approached the steep, familiar hill with the sign at the base welcoming me to Pleasant Valley Country Club, a nagging feeling urged; even though I was busier than usual:

“Turn now, go see her.” 

Tumultuous would be a kind way to describe our relationship throughout most of my life but early senility had softened my mother. Forgetfulness made her less critical. Rarely, if ever, did she reminisce about mistakes made during my youth now. The downside was she couldn’t remember accomplishments either. When I earned my bachelor’s degree the year prior, I never told her. V.K. Ezzo was an author too, who also wrote under a pen name, yet I never revealed that I had published my first book. For some reason, I chose to tell her both that day. Although brief, the visit would have been memorable even if it hadn’t been our final one. My Mom did two things for the first and last time that day. She said she was proud of me; then she hugged me.

Glancing back at her in the front yard, I noticed how frail she seemed, and thought that if it was the last I ever saw her, it was the most meaningful time we spent together. She was smiling as I pulled away. There are only a few moments in life we remember with the kind of clarity that remains etched in our minds whether we want it to or not. As the one year anniversary of her passing approaches, I am reminded how important it is to savor each one.

Meetings, deadlines, unfinished projects, children and the school activities that accompany them tend to keep our focus on what needs to be accomplished instead of enjoying the moments we think there’s no time for. The future we’re planning shouldn’t impede the present; but it often does.

Laundry can wait; work will be there tomorrow. Our house is cluttered because we live in it. The urge to complain about vacuuming bits of uncooked spaghetti from everywhere because the kids think pasta is a toy wanes with thoughts of how clean it will be once they are grown. Why is there a rock in the refrigerator? Who cares.

I turn my head more often now when they say ‘Look!’,  whether I’m busy or not. They tell me about their score and I listen, even though video games ceased being important to me long ago. If they say “Mommy come here!”  I go. I feign attention if I don’t have time to pay it. 

I visit my dad for no reason whenever I can.

Other than the early basics, there are only a few things I remember my mother teaching me. When to use my high beams. How to look at the white line to guide me in the dark while I drive. At 43 years old; I wasn’t expecting any new lessons.

During an impromptu visit, because I turned up her hill at the last second; even though I didn’t have time to; my mother taught me for the last time.
The briefest moments can become a cherished memory. You never know which could the last one, or the only one, so don’t miss any of them.

 

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Why I Celebrate Independence Day on July 29th

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Teresa G. D’vall

https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=257238636

The co-founder of Youshareproject.com invited me to share my story “How I Almost Became A Convicted Felon ” recently and of course I obliged, even though it meant editing the piece by half to fit submission guidelines. It publishes today, by chance, on the 2 year anniversary of the day I escaped my abusive marriage. Although I welcome any chance to help others in an abusive relationship; reading through the piece to adapt it brought back a flood of memories, all of them bad.

Most people think of black eyes and broken bones when they hear the term domestic violence. Few understand the scars left behind that you can’t see. Abuse is a family affair that hurts everyone. Like most affairs; domestic violence has a secret. If you’re being hit, and you leave, your problems go away. Emotional abuse is physical abuse’s uglier sister; and more insidious because it leaves with you.

Since 7/29/13, no one has called me lazy. Or hag. Or Crazy. No one has forced me to have sex when I didn’t want to. I haven’t worried once that an angry person would barge through my bedroom door and yell loud enough to wake my sleeping children. Or call me a whore in front of them. Yet, last month, when a magazine in Baltimore invited me to review their site, which focused on women’s issues; I had to stop reading an article after one paragraph because the story reminded me of my own.

If you’re reading this and have no idea what I’m talking about; good for you. For those who do; take solace knowing you are not alone. Bruises on the inside take longer to heal, but eventually they don’t hurt anymore.

Today is my Independence Day, and extra special this year because it’s the first one I’m celebrating divorced. I’ll spend it enjoying my kids, and later, at a concert in the village with the person who understands as much as me why July 29th is the day I found freedom. Happy Independence Day to Me! If you stumble upon my story at youshareproject.com today and find the courage to leave; Happy Independence Day to you too.

(Thank you Mr. Colman; you were a dishonest ‘friend’, a bad broker and most of your emails are misspelled; but that last one was correct: The best thing I ever did in my life was move on from my marriage. You saved my family. For that; I will always be grateful.)

http://www.youshareproject.com/how-left-abusive-marriage/

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The Secret Life of Wyatt Colman: Realtor, Fish Whisperer, Liar

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Teresa G. D’vall

stephen king  agent email

 

 

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Stephen King once compared the short story to a kiss, brief, yet intimate and sometimes more memorable than reading a good novel, which he described as an affair. If you’re a Constant Reader, you know what Introduction he wrote that in, and may recognize the first name of the main character in this short story. I chose to borrow it because mine ends with a kiss.

Real Estate Brokers are essentially salespeople with a license to embellish and as you know, Merriam-Webster defines the word salesperson as ‘fabricator of truth.’ Not really, but I’m using my license, the poetic one, to illustrate the fact there is good and bad in all professions. Selling your house and a business concurrently is an emotional process that requires trusting your agent will never do anything wrong to you and certainly not steal your cookie jar, but Wyatt Colman did both. Anyone who’s been lied to understands that broken trust can take longer to heal than a broken heart so allowing an agent to be your friend is not something you should try. Of course, all real estate agents aren’t liars, just the unscrupulous ones, and those who routinely text you after midnight then deny it afterwards.

Entering into the covenant of friendship can be fun but placing your faith in another person, or Wyatt Colman, is risky. I suggest you safeguard yourself against the pitfalls of friendship and distrust everyone now. A failed friendship can leave a lasting impression on the soul and not the kind you want to remember.

Wyatt Colman was my Realtor for nearly a decade and a shameless prevaricator who claimed he could change a diaper in 9 seconds. He spoke fluent cat (sppsppspp), was prone to injury and that red spot you get in your eye from strain. Always a complainer, Wyatt falsely accused  his fish, Salmon, of being a bad hugger, poor dinner company and fond of red wine. Even though he was tall enough to change my light bulbs by raising his hand; bugs scared him. Wyatt Colman was also a race car driver, a bartender, enjoyed pot roast, watching Lost in Space on Sunday nights, and the company of a Tito’s Martini.

Hapless, yet well-intentioned, he spent over 7 years alternately trying to find me a new house, sell my old one, or my business but never succeeded. This is probably because I never saw one listing agreement or a signed purchase contract, even though he showed me over 100 properties and, presumably, wrote offers on at least a dozen. I simply took him at his word, which he later revealed wasn’t worth the paper my offers were never written on. Real Estate may have been his chosen profession, but he was much better at making me laugh when nothing about my day was funny than securing a place to live. His name wasn’t really Wyatt Colman either, but Wyatt has two t’s, which is only pertinent to me and Not Really Wyatt. Mostly me. Besides, I don’t want to embarrass the guy.

Not Really Wyatt  declared we were friends by text one afternoon while my hands were full of partially made meatloaf. I was trying to leave an abusive marriage then and didn’t really have time to respond  but did anyway because it’s not often you receive a text from your real estate agent’s pet. It read:

“Salmon says hello.”

An afternoon spent debating the merits of cats versus fish as affectionate companions generally does not involve real estate but Wyatt was funny and laughing wasn’t something I did much with a husband who worked tirelessly at scaring all of us.

Until his fish started texting me, I rarely gave Not Really Wyatt a second thought. Raising six kids on no budget at all leaves few spare moments for a stressed out Realtor who needed me to remind him what property we were seeing on any given day. He was persistent though, kept nagging me about moving out, locking my bedroom door at night and deleting his texts so my husband wouldn’t kick his ass. I didn’t need Not Really Wyatt to tell me I was in an abusive relationship. Any survivor of abuse can pinpoint, with clarity, the moment they were first threatened.

The decision to leave is made over time and not one you embark upon because your Realtor decides he wants to be your ‘friend’. Getting out is what I needed help with and Wyatt promised he’d do that, in between instructing me to ‘sleep well’ every time the clock struck 12:20 am. A creature of habit, Not Really Wyatt often stayed up later than me but always said good night before bed. Consequently, I had to sleep with my cell phone under a pillow the last few weeks of my marriage.

Wyatt Colman was the worst best friend I ever had; and a bad kisser. Although he did help me leave, he didn’t stick around for the aftermath, which was explosive. He abandoned me when I needed his support most and never offered an explanation. Instead, I fought all the battles he promised to fight with me, alone. Friendships don’t usually start with a text, or end with the words: ‘The last thing I need is to be seen leaving here with a bottle of Vodka!’ but ours did; mostly because Not Really Wyatt was not really a friend.

Friends don’t ask you to wear a hula hoop so they can watch, stare at your legs when they think you’re not paying attention or nickname you feral bobcat. They don’t leave voicemail about being in jail that only the two of you understand, text at 8:14 am to say good morning or late at night to confess they’ve accidentally thrown their air conditioner onto the streets of Warwick. A friend doesn’t suggest you go outside and admire the sunset because it’s particularly beautiful, then send you pictures of it. Buddies don’t drunk text after midnight to proclaim they like long hair and nails or that you’re funny. And pretty. Pals don’t spend two hours texting molly screw directions then disclaim them as being given while  ‘Tito’s upped’ and suggest you come by to be shown instead. Most of all, a friend doesn’t randomly acquire amnesia and forget he did all those things, then tell anyone who’ll listen you were just his client.

Sometimes Realtors hurt you and there is nothing you can do but feel bad until enough time passes that it doesn’t matter anymore. The last promise Wyatt Colman broke was the one in which he swore he’d text me the name of his plumber so I could get the heat working again because he couldn’t. Then he kissed my cheek, softly, as he always did when visiting to make household repairs or drop a door on his foot and said I’d see him again. I never did get that text.

I spent more nights wondering what exactly went on between us than I did anything else the last 22 months. Even after we stopped seeing each other as friends regularly, he continued to offer me advice and support but in sporadic intervals that were more confusing than helpful.

The last text Not Really Wyatt ever sent me read:

“I’m not mad, never was mad. I can’t put all this in writing now, but I will.”

I wasted a lot of time waiting for Wyatt Colman to put ‘all this’ in writing.

Self help articles about mending a broken heart abound but few writers pontificate on healing a broken promise.  Common sense dictates a cheating partner is not one worth holding onto but forgetting a promise breaking friend is more complicated, especially when you were more than amigos but less than lovers.

So how do you get over nothing?

Start reading Stephen King again, even if its been 25 years since you last tried. And follow the advice he gives you in the Introduction to Skeleton Crew because it’s true. Writing keeps you from feeling bad; it heals a broken soul.

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How I Almost Became A Convicted Felon

By Teresa G. D’vall

Few women would be brave enough to leave an abusive marriage with six children and no source of income, but I did. There were some days that my husband was not a mean bully, but not many. I spent 15 years living with an enemy who threatened to take my children, have me arrested, ruin my credit, break my neck, set me on fire and, when I was pregnant, gut me like a fish. Once, when we were driving down a highway, he shut the car off in a fit of rage, leaving our children screaming in terror. When I finally managed to get away, he made good on most of the threats within a week; and the legal system seemed to be helping him instead of me.

The day my husband was removed from our home by police was a surreal one. I remember waking in the middle of the night and realizing for the first time that no one would call me lazy for leaving dishes in the sink or demand sex if I went downstairs for a drink of water. I actually skipped through the kitchen that night on my way to the fridge for an uninterrupted glass of juice. Still, things like the sound of the garage door opening gave me chills, even though I knew it was my oldest son and not him coming home in yet another bad mood. I longed for things others took for granted, like a full night’s sleep without being awakened at 3 a.m. and asked why someone left an empty yogurt container on the counter. Even so, I looked forward to getting out of bed the next day for the first time in 15 years.

Respite was replaced with angst when I answered my door the next morning and was greeted by a man from children’s protective services. My husband had reported me for being an unfit mother. A disgruntled looking man half my age told me to wait in another room while he interviewed my five oldest children one by one. My hands were shaking so badly I could barely dial the friend who’d been helping me through my long ordeal. I wanted to tell him what was happening, but I opened my mouth to speak and could only gasp. I tried to form words choked by tears and wasn’t even able to leave a voicemail. I hung up and sat on the floor crying as I waited for my turn to be questioned.

The social worker asked me to open my fridge and prove there was food in it. Next he inspected all of my children’s bedrooms. I had to deny I was an alcoholic who drank a 750 milliliter bottle of wine every night. I didn’t even know what a 750 ml bottle of wine looked like. I was 42 years old, and I’d never even had a beer. It was humiliating, insulting, and terrifying all at the same time. My greatest fear was unfolding, and I was paralyzed with dread. Years of abuse flashed through my mind as if I were watching a movie on Lifetime television: 

The night he called me a whore at the dinner table in front of the kids. The mornings he threw toys at them for waking him up as he slept on the couch in the family room. The day he threw a mattress at my 8-year-old daughter and I jumped in between to block her, even though I was six months pregnant.

It all came flooding back. Ny husband always said that if they knew what was going on I’d be in trouble too for not leaving sooner. It was impossible to leave when I was pregnant or caring for a newborn, which was every couple of years. Now the day of reckoning was upon me—
and nothing happened.

No one took my children, no one thought I was unfit. I felt like I had just been paroled. I was free. Thanks feeling was short-lived.

We were enjoying a peaceful dinner filled with laughter when I received a call from the police department. The officer asked if I would come down and talk to them about some charges my husband filed. I assumed it was some kind of retaliation for the restraining order but never expected what happened next. I made my way to the station after the kids were asleep. The sergeant sat me down in a small office and began the conversation by saying;

“I just want you to know that you have the right to remain silent…”

I stopped him right there and said, “It sounds like you’re reading me my rights?! Am I under arrest?”

The walls seemed to close in around me as I thought of all the times my husband threatened to have me “thrown in jail”:

If I took the minivan out, because it was in his name.

If I used the credit card, also in his name.

My mind raced as I tried to think of what I could’ve done to find myself being asked for ‘pictures’ (mug shots!) with pork chop still on my shirt from dinner and my waist-length hair piled in a greasy bun full of coconut oil conditioner atop my head.

I was being booked for grand larceny and forgery. I could have had my husband arrested dozens of times, yet I was the one placed in a cell, fingerprinted, and read my rights. I had been signing his name to household checks for 10 years, but now that I had the restraining order, he remembered he never gave me permission to do so.

The charges were eventually dismissed, but only after months of enduring the emotional and financial strain of retaining a criminal attorney and facing the possibility of a grand jury indictment. His message was clear; it was the same one I always heard: If you leave, I’ll make your life a living hell.

My husband was very persuasive. For years he had me convinced I was a lazy housewife, bad mother, and a person of little worth. He spent all his time at our restaurant, even though we were barely breaking even most years. I spent my entire marriage alone; we never even slept in the same bed. He was always angry and constantly reminding me how incompetent I was in every aspect. Over time, I learned that feeling nothing was better than feeling bad about myself every day, and as the years ticked away I shut down.

In 2010, the economic downturn began to affect business, and our $3,200-a-month mortgage was crippling us financially. We listed the house with the same realtor who’d been trying to sell our restaurant. Kevin first started showing us properties in 2007. As the years went by, he became more of a friend than a real estate agent. After nearly 38 months of languishing in real estate purgatory, it became clear we couldn’t sell our house for what we owed, despite having put over $200,000 down when we purchased it.

During 2011, I was able to convince my husband that completing my degree might help our finances. By the time I returned to school, the house was deep into the foreclosure process. Shortly after, I discovered I was pregnant with my sixth child. Still, I managed to graduate in 18 months, after returning with just 49 credits, mostly out of sheer determination because my husband said I’d never do it.

It was April of 2013. I had been looking at properties with Kevin almost weekly for over three years, and the pressure to move was mounting. I saw houses with him nearly every day at this point, and we were talking more as time passed.

By father’s day I still hadn’t told my husband I was leaving, so he insisted on seeing the house I was meeting Kevin at. I really liked this particular house, and it was Kevin’s job to convince the owner I was a good buyer. We were standing in the driveway about to leave and I said, 

“Please help me get me this house.” He leaned over, grabbed my elbow, promised to do his best, and kissed my temple.

My husband stared incredulously and asked,

“Did you just kiss my wife?” 

He insisted Kevin and I were having an affair after that. Neither of us took him seriously, but we would find out that he actually believed something more than friendship was going on between us.

About two weeks after “the kiss,” I had a particularly horrible argument with my husband and announced I was leaving. Hours later I found my daughter upstairs packing. I looked around, astonished; her whole room was in boxes. I realized then that I wasn’t the only one anxious to go.

I discovered that he had been bothering her on nights when I went to bed early to avoid him. I’d hear the garage and escape to my room, hoping he wouldn’t touch my chest and feel my racing heart. My daughter would rush to shut off her lamp, then hope he wouldn’t touch it and feel it was warm. When he wasn’t criticizing me, he was doing it to her. She was eventually diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, and her father was cited as the precipitating factor. It would take six months of counseling, but she eventually recovered. 

Once I realized how my children were being affected by my husband’s constant bouts of anger, I was more determined than ever to get away.

My husband was becoming increasingly jealous of the time I spent with Kevin, and his paranoia reached a boiling point on July 29, 2013. Kevin was carrying the baby as we left a house. Suddenly, he asked me what kind of car my husband drove, but before I could answer it came screeching down the driveway at both of us. He sprang from the car screaming,

“You’re dead bitch; I caught you! I want you out of my house.”

Kevin and I scrambled to my car, while my enraged husband took pictures of us, citing it as “proof” of our illicit affair. When he finally left, a cold chill came over me as I remembered the threat I’d heard most from him during our tumultuous marriage:

 “If I ever think you’re having an affair, I’ll kill you and the guy.”

I went straight to the police and told them my fears. I had been there many times before, and they had been to our house as well over the years, but this time was different. I had a witness.

Women who are emotionally abused are often overlooked, because their scars are not visible. I often wished he’d hit me, because it would be easier to prove and then leave. Broken bones and bruises heal, I still cringe when someone raises their voice.

If you are reading this and looking over your shoulder or worrying about how you’ll delete it from your browsing history, it may be time to do what I did: run for your life and never look back. There is always a way around an impossible situation. For instance, my laptop is broken so I wrote this entire 2,000 word story on my iPhone using a stylus. I leave you with the words I have recited to each of my six children for the last 22 years: If you try; you can do anything.