Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Special Message to My Beautiful Friends

Considering I am now 54 years old I am from the generation many of you are or close to it.  In my life time I've seen technology take over the world.  I remember being a child and my best friend, Rene, was all excited because they got a "color" TV.  She talked about things being in color and got me so excited about it I couldn't wait to see it.  I remember asking my Mom if I could go to Rene's house to watch this new color TV and got the ok, so Rene and I were off, we walked up the street, talking about everything and nothing at the same time.  We were all of 5 years old.  I couldn't wait.  We sat down in her living room turned it on and there I sat with my eyes full of excitement, only to see a black and white show on the screen.  Rene started changing channels, but not matter which channel she went to, the show was black and white.  I remember thinking, surely something is wrong with their new TV.  Her Mom was there so I said, "Mrs. Taylor, how do you make the shows color, everything is still in black in white".  She kind of chuckled and said, "the show has to have been recorded in color in order for it to appear in color".   Well that didn't make any sense to me at all, and I thought this thing is just a big waste of money.  Having no patience at all as 5 year olds are, Rene and I were out the door to do something fun.  I had declared at that time, color TVs were a waste of money in my young mind.

I grew up looking at technology through those same eyes all of my life.  I remember my first class I took at work about "the internet".  The class was a bomb and nothing worked as it was supposed to.   I sat there at the age of 35 remembering my 5 year old experience and thinking "internet is stupid, it does't even work".

Now here I am at 54 and my husband is making a living using technology and the internet.  But the most shocking has to be the world I created on the internet.  The 5 year old who thought color TV was a bust, has made hundreds of beautiful, real friendships on the internet. Who would have thought!, certainly not me.

I've always been very open with my virtual social world.  I'm a trusting soul who has believed their entire life, my life's experiences were not only real, but maybe more common then others let on.  I've always thought sharing would help me fit in and people would realize I was more like them then it appeared.  I thought sharing might help someone else feel they were not the only one.   So, sharing like I always have on social areas of the internet was nothing new for me, I've always shared, the internet just gave me more platforms to do it and the ability to reach a lot more people.

Through sharing and being real I connected with so many of you.  I think the part that surprised me the most has been the stories many of you have shared about how my sharing had a positive effect in one way or another on your life.  That definitely makes me feel my life had a purpose as ugly as it was at times.  Knowing it had a purpose changes everything about how I feel about my past.  If it had a purpose, then it was all worth it and sharing was the best thing I could have ever done with those experiences.  It inspires me to continue sharing.

As Mike has told you, I've not been well.  I know you have all reached out in every way you can to help and be TRUE friends.  I think some of you would have come through the computer to help if you could.  I have been going through a bad time, and I know many of you have wondered what has happened and you've only been left with a lot of speculation.  After I received so many beautiful cards and messages from many of you, I knew I needed to end the speculation and share with you all in my words what has happened.

I don't recall the exact day, but the day Mike shared I had suddenly become ill and he was taking over, the YT and FB were gone and basically so was I, was a really scary morning.  I have always struggled with stress.  Have you ever noticed in life, whatever your best quality is, is also your worst?  For me that's very true, and my best quality is my ability to get a million things done, keep all my commitments, and not let anyone down.  It's also my worst quality.  So that I can do my best quality, I never let my mind or body rest.  I never say, "it can wait until tomorrow".   So I had this going on.

Then there was all the social areas on the internet I was involved in.  Some of that was getting very difficult for me.  I put my heart and soul into everything I share and lay it on the table basically.  On YT I had to turn my "thumbs up/down" off because I had haters who actually waited for my videos to pop up and they would thumbs down them immediately.  I would always have a couple thumbs down within minutes.  Only I could see them, but that was the point.  And because my videos were different, I frequently had people who would go to older videos and criticize how I spoke, the backgroud noise, the stories I told, etc.  They would be really mean, and despite what anyone would say to the contrary about ignoring them - words hurt, and they stay in my mind, because that's just who I am.   So, I had this factor going on.  

Then there was the desperation we have for needing help in the store.  That's been something I never thought would be so hard.  First, I never thought the store would grow that large.  But it did, and help was and is necessary.  We tried local and long distance help, only to have it go south in every case.  I won't go into details but I will say in every case I made the mistake of taking what happened personally.  The problem for me is, if it happens again the future, I'm sure I will take it personally then too.  It's who I am.  So, there was this aspect of my life to deal with.

The store is an entity all it's own.  It's probably the most misunderstood I would imagine.  I can't tell you how many times I would hear, "I think your little store will be a success".  I won't get into numbers here, except for one.  The store grew very fast as many of you who have been there since the beginning know.  Mike was able to quit his job literally years before we ever expected, and we were able to live our dream by moving to the country years before we ever thought we would be able to.   The store is in the top 2% of all Shopify stores right now and from what we've learned is the size of a store that should have a staff of about 7-8 people running it.  It's doing well, so well Shopify also wants to run a feature story on the succes of it.   I always tried to make each and every customer feel they were the only one.  That was good, because I wanted people to feel as special as they really are to us, and it was bad because there were times people were asking for things they would never ask a bigger store to do, not realizing we had become a bigger store, and they would get angry with me if I explained to them we just were not staffed to meet their request (for example, I frequently had customers ask me to email them before ordering items from a company they liked, just to check if they needed anything, I would get asked to email customers when something they wanted would be coming in so they didn't have to watch for it on their own or watch the "what's in the store" videos.  People got angy with me when they would ask me to update their account information and I would instead explain they can do that on their own, or re-booting their computer because something wasn't working properly on their computer).  I was noticing more and more, that because I had been very responsive and one-on-one with each customer, if anything was a bit confusing, or they had the smallest amount of difficulty, rather then try to figure it out themselves first, they immediately emailed me.  With 1500+ customers it became impossible to please everyone.  It was very clear many people see the store as a small store with maybe 4-5 orders a day, and just hoping for more business.  When in reality the store does anywhere from  30-70 orders a day. Those that were not pleased did not hold back in letting me know they weren't.  When someone wants to be mean from the safety of behind a computer screen they can be very ugly.  We refuse to do business with those that behave this way, but again the words stick with you, and since I tried so hard to make sure everyone was taken care of the words stung. So this was going on.

I didn't just feel pulled in every direction, I was.  The store receives at least 60-100 emails a day alone. I also had people with a lot of unrealistic expectations giving me grief in misdirected ways and at abusive levels, clearly saying things they would never have been brave enough to say in person.  I had viewers on YT telling me what to make next, and HOW to make it.  They would see an older project I had done and ask me to do one like it, but in a specific theme they were requesting.  If I didn't craft for a few days because I was swammped in every other area of my life viewers would start writing saying "you need to craft more".  That would really anger Mike.  He saw how busy I was and couldn't believe the requests and demands people were making.  In every direction people were telling me all of "things I should be doing" to entertain them.  

The night before I became ill there was some challenges going on with someone who I had at one time thought was a good friend.  I was getting emails that had a threatening tone to them, and it was just the end for me.

I had not shared this with anyone, but I had begun having small panic attacks, they were manageable, but they had begun.  After that night with the unpleasant emails, it just all came together like a storm and I woke up about 7:00am unable to breath and had pain in my chest like I was having a heart attack.  Mike rushed me to the ER and fortunately it was not a heart attack, but it was by far the worst panic attack I have ever experienced.

That was it for Mike, and now I'm in the background.  I don't see any emails, the channel is gone, my world is now quiet and it feels really good.

The only thing I miss is blogging, because I do love to write.  I've never had any demands put on me here, no one has ever asked anything of me, or requested I do something else here for their entertainment, so I may continue this, I haven't decided for sure yet.  It's why I chose this format to share what's been going on, why things are as they are, and to say Thank you.

I want to Thank the many of you who have sincerely care about my well being.  Those that have taken the time to send me a card to share their concern, or to share a little story about what my sharing helped them get through something, or a time in their life.  All of this means more to me then you could ever image.  I want to thank those of you who have only cared if I got better.

I'm getting better, but it's a slow process.  I've been drained to complete emptiness and it will take a long time for me to recoup from that.  I need time to take care of myself. I don't trust even opening an email for fear of what it might say because I have no energy to deal with anything right now.  It will take a long time to come back from this place I'm currently in. It's not a good place, but it's my place right now and as dark as it is I know being out of the reach of demands is necessary.

As I mentioned I miss writing.  I don't think I'm up to writing often, and not sure if I'm up to sharing my past, but as I do get there, I will have Mike let you know in an email through the store.

Thank you again for supporting him in his efforts to run the store on his own.  He's done fabulous and and I'm so proud of him.  He's also been a protective and wonderful husband.  He's my rock right now that's for sure.

You all have a wonderful week. We are leaving tomorrow morning for our much needed vacation.  Mike loaded the store with all the product coming in this week and he told me he has a giveaway planned for his return.  So enjoy the store as well while we are gone.

Again, thank you for the cards, you just don't know how special they are to me.  My eyes about pop out of my head every time Mike brings them home from the Post office because there are so many!!!  My being gone doesn't mean I love any of you less, I need to be gone so I can love you all more in the future!


Sunday, September 13, 2015

It should be "If you Thought it was [Stressful] Before, Just Wait"

Note: I'm keeping this real, so this segment will include some mild profanity.  If this is offensive to you, you might want to skip this segment.

As I mentioned, I had listened to the phone call my Dad made to my Mom, and he was more then decent, I heard with my own ears!  I knew and still know what was said that night.

I got in the back seat of the car and felt like a trapped rat.  It was a 2 door so once they were both in, I was stuck.  I really don't know why they showed up like they did.  As soon as the doors were shut my Mom spun around in her seat, pointed her finger in my face and said, "I want to know what you told your Dad because he made me out to be a Bitch on the phone last night"?  My immediate response was "I told him what's been going on"... but what I wanted to say and didn't feel I could was, "I was listening to the phone call and that's a lie".   I didn't feel I could say that though because I was still a kid and I wasn't supposed to be easedropping on the call, it was all so twisted.  I wanted to speak my mind, I was in a difficult situation, but had been taught to respect your parents. Yet I was dealing with a juvinille parent that did not deserve any respect... but at my age how to you explain all that to your parent?  How do you say, "you need to grow up and act like a parent"?  So, there I sat, trying to figure out the right things to say to avoid getting my face slapped off, literally!  I didn't succeed, I took one good blow to the face by my Mom.  There just was no right words, at least none that were coming to me.  Finally after I don't know how long she said to Butch, "Coming here was a waste of my time, get her out of this car so we can get the hell out of here".  So, released I was to go back inside.

I was nervous and shaken by this to no end.  Betty knew nothing good could come of what was going on outside and had already called my Dad.  I guess ot avoid an even worse scene he had kept himself at bay, which was probably a good decision. I ended up taking a walk to the Station and just hanging out there for a while to relax and be in a safe place.  Heck just standing there filling the soda machine felt good and gave me a chance to unwind. My Dad was pretty good about not asking too much.  I had always been "drilled" by my Mom, which was horrible, so he just kind of made himself available.

I'm going to digress a bit and share just one example of how many of the things that happened changed people forever.  At one point the daught my Dad and Betty had together got married and had a baby.  Betty babysat this new baby often, while their daughter worked.  I noticed if the baby cried my Dad would jump up and go right to her.  I observed this one day and when he came back to sit down he said, "I just can't stand hearing a baby cry".  I said, "really, why is that".  He said, "when you were a baby, and you cried, if I went to get up to see what you needed your Mom would yell - don't you dare go in there, let her cry, she'll eventually stop if no one comes in and she'll cry herself to sleep, he continued - it used to just kill me to hear you crying and not be able to do anything about it".  The obvious question here is "why didn't he just do what he wanted and tell her to take a hike basically"...  To understand the answer to that question you would have had to walk in the shoes my Dad and I walked in.  It just wasn't that easy and the price was very high.  And, of course their marriage ended not long after this, so he eventually decided to take necessary steps.
There were many things that happened in the past that changed the behavior of my Dad and myself for the future.  This is just one example.

Getting back to that day in the driveway - well it was the first day of a very long war.  You see, it was not very cut and dry or very simple to just switch homes.  My Dad had no custody of me whatsoever.  Back in the 60's as many of you know, it was most common for the Mom to just be granted custody, and the fathers just accepted it as normal, it wasn't challenged so much back then.  My Dad also was still obligated to pay child support per the Divorce decree.  It got more complicated too, because if you recall, I was still not in school and the new season had begun a few days prior. And then there were things to deal with such as - all my belongings, I barely had more then the clothes on my back. Everything I owned was at my Mom's condo.  Despite all of this and more, as you can image, it was more then clear I was staying with my Dad.

The first step was getting me in schoool.  I now lived 30-40 minutes from my old school, so figuring out a way to keep me in that school wasn't an option.  My Dad went to the school district we lived in to enroll me and found out - wasn't happening!  He just saw himself as my legal father, it didn't dawn on him since he had no custody he couldn't enroll me.  So he came home that night to share that news and my stress level went off the chart... as a kid you can't see any possible solution.  What would happen here...  the only option was to get my Mom to grant my Dad temporary custody and the school would allow me to be enrolled.  I feared she would never agree.  My Dad did manage to get her to agree to it, and I'm guessing she only did because she was really fed up with me and knew in the end I had to be in school.  So, by the end of the week I was in school.  One thing accomplished.

But there was so much more.  My poor Dad was paying her each week still!  Because she was the legal parent, despite whether I lived there or not, he was obligated to pay child support.  It didn't take him long to secure an attorney to help sort things out and get legal documents changed and updated.

In the mean time I needed my clothes. That's a night I'll never forget... we scheduled a time to go out there, when we arrived I was really happy to find my Mom and Michelle gone.  Thank goodness they were smart enough to get her out of there.  But oh boy was it uncomfortable..  we took big trash bags and as fast as we could fill them we were just grabbing drawers full of clothes and throwing them in bags.  I remember my Dad looking at me and saying, "don't worry, we'll straighten them all out when we get back home".  I could tell he felt really bad for me. He knew no kid should ever have to do something like this, but it had to be done.  We were in and out of there in about 15 minutes flat.   When we got home my Dad did stand there at a table with me and together we folded my clothes nicely again. I had no furniture quite yet so I used a table.  My Dad was trying to get my life back to some kind of normal as fast as he could, but it obviously was going to take more then a week to do.

Things were crazy for a while.  I started getting mail from my Mom.  Not mail like you would think... she started sending "to me", unpaid medical bills, she closed my little passbook savings account and I guess kept the month.  I just got the little passbook we had as kids where we entered our birthday and christmas money in to learn how to be good savers... we'll I got the passbook with the word "Closed" written inside and underlined about 3 times. I was upset over getting this stuff and my Dad was furious.  The one thing he did I appreciate now was - rather then just handle this himself, he encouraged me to have my own voice. To explain I need to digress again for a moment...

About a year before this all happened my Dad called one day all excited he had found a car for me.   With owning the Station he ran across all kinds of cars and deals.  Anyway, I had just turned 14 and to him that was almost 16 so he wanted to be ready with a car for me... he was like that.  He had come across a 1970 Challenger.  It was the old "Slime Lime" bright green color and it was a cool old hot rod.  He was telling me all about it on the phone and of course I was excited...."rule #1, never get excited or be happy".  I was busted.  My Mom saw I was happy.. she grabbed that phone so fast and chewed his ass from here to next week.  She told him "how dare he suggest a car like that, that's not a car for a new driver, etc, etc. and how dare he not run it by her first!!!  End of story, I wasn't getting THAT car".   Down the road she got a new car and decided her old car was suitable for me and gave it to me.  It was not necessarily a cool car back then, but a desireable car these days.  It was a '67 Impala.  We had parked the car in my Grandmother's garage.  This was the Grandmother on my Dad's side.  Something worth noting..the car was in a garage with no garage door. So there the car sat waiting for me to turn 16.

Back again to the mail I was receiving.... I said to my Dad, "I just want to mail her the keys to that car and tell her what I think, I'm really sick of being treated this way and I don't want anything she gave me".  He said, "then that's what you should do.  I'll make sure you have a car, you don't have to keep that one, and it's okay for you to tell her how you feel in a respectful way".   That was the best thing he could have ever done.  I sat down with a piece of paper and the keys to that car and I wrote her a note telling her how I didn't want anything she had ever given me and she should stop what she was doing, that it was not right.  My letter wasn't that great, but it taught me I had a voice, was entitled to speak it if done properly, and I didn't have to rely on someone to speak for me. I never looked back from that lesson.  From that point on in life when something wasn't right, I never looked for someone to take care of me, I knew I had my own voice and could take care of myself.

About a week later my Dad drove me by my Grandma's house and the car was gone.

Life started shaping up.  My Dad had a room built for me in the finished basement they had already.  He had a closet made and there was already a full bath down there, so it became my safe haven.  I loved it.  I got furniture, school was going ok, and my Dad had found me a 67 Charger, which proudly sat in the driveway waiting for me to turn 16 which was just over a year away at this point.  The wheels of the legal system turn slowly so we were still riding on the temporary custody letter and waiting for things to happen to finally make the custody change legal.   In the mean time Michelle was not doing real well and my Mom decided I should come visit them - she decided she should have visitation!  So she presents this idea to my Dad, who in turn talked to me about it.  Once again, I had a voice, as he left the decision up to me.  He is the eternal optimist, as so am I, which I clearly get from him.  He always held out hope my Mom would change and be the Mom he hoped she would be.  I decided to go visit, but as you all know it was not for her or Butch, it was only for Michelle.  I missed her an unimaginable amount, so a chance to see her, despite my Mom sounded really good.

We planned which weekend would be the first that I would go visit.  My Dad drove me out there and dropped me off.  I was nervous and excited all at once.  I was so happy to see Michelle.  We were just inseprable.  We hung out Friday night, then Saturday morning my Mom and Butch went somewhere and I was there with Michelle, having a great time doing nothing, when there was a knock at the door.  I answered it and a man said, "does Patricia xxxx live here"?  I said, "yes, she does".  He handed me some papers and said, "give these to her and tell her she's been served".  And before I knew it I was holding papers telling her she had to go to court.  My heart was racing a million miles and hour.  I had to get out of there and I had to do it fast, but my Dad was 30-40 minutes away.  I called him in a panic, "Dad, Mom was just served with the legal papers and she's not here, and they'll be back soon, and I need out of here".  He knew I needed out of there too and said, "I'm on my way".  There I sat with Michelle, who was only 7, so I couldnt' leave her, my Dad was on the way, and I didn't know when my Mom and Butch would get back......

Ok, more next week!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

If She Thought She Had it Bad Before, Just Wait....

That weekend was spent in Theodosia, Missouri.  A small town near Table Rock Lake in the Southwest Missouri Ozark area.  It's peaceful there and Betty had extended family in that area.  We went there a few times a year to visit a couple relatives she was very fond of.  I don't really remember some of these people, but I do remember the warmth they extended to me.  I remember the house I was in that weekend, it was owned by older relatives of Betty's, so to me it felt like a "grandma" house. I was all of 14 so, who knows how old they really were.  I do know I was up all night, every night pacing around, sitting in different rooms, thinking, crying, thinking..... I did not know what to do most of that weekend.

No one spoke of the sitution on the 4 hour drive back to St. Louis (Webster Groves to be exact), the car was quiet for the most part, except Beth, my Dad and Betty's daughter who was now 4 and very annoying. We came home that Monday and overall, except for the turmoil in my head, everything was uneventful.

Tuesday I was supposed to be in school...somewhere, but I wasn't yet.  No one knew exactly what was happening yet.  My Dad had no heard from my Mom, he had not called her, so nothing was figured out.  It had been made very clear by Betty and my Dad that I was welcome to stay, and I'll never forget what else was said, to this day I'm sure this was Betty's idea to throw in the conversation, but as they told me I was welcome, they also said, "but you can't play us back and forth, in other words, you can't decide you don't like the rules here so you want to go back to your Mom's, then when you don't like it there, you want to come back".  I remember thinking...are either of you nuts, do you know what I'm coming from... I looked at my Dad like "really"...   I never really responded to that and my Dad said no more.

Later that day I had decided my decision was going to be... to go back to watch out for Michelle.  My heart could not find peace with any other decision.  I knew it would be Hell, but I also knew it would be Hell for her because she would get the brunt of everything, there would be no diversion.  Plus how would she ever understand at her young ag why I didn't come back.  So, I went upstairs (I had been staying in the finished basement), and told Betty I had decided to go back because of Michelle.  I remember how she looked shen I told her.  She actually looked surprised and very concerned.  It was almost as if it had finally sunk in on her how bad my life had been, and now I was coming to her with this decision.  My Dad was at the "Station" as we called it.  He owned a Shell Service Station 1.5 blocks away.  Betty said, "don't call your Mom yet, let me tell your Dad what your decision is, and let him call out there to talk to her for you before you do anything".  I agreed and went back downstairs.  For the first time in many days I felt relieved.  I knew this was the right thing to do even though I knew it would be bad.  I actually started feeling a bit happy because I really missed Michelle and I had worried about her to no end.  I couldn't wait to see her.  She was like my own child.

I guess Betty called my Dad when I was downstairs.  Later I came up and she told me she had talked to him and he was going to call my Mom.  I didn't give it a lot of thought.  I figured this was just sort of a formality and I would be getting a ride from someone to go back at some point, besides I also needed to get into school.  I had missed the first day already.

That evening my Dad came home around 6:00pm as always, he sat down on the back stairs and started to take off his workboots.  I went outside to see him as I typically did.  He looked pained in his face.  He would always say "hi kiddo, how are you doing?" in a cheerful "happy to see you voice", but this time even though he said the same words, they were not in the same tone.  I didn't really answer, I just said, "did you call Mom".  He said, "Yes, I did".  And then he was a bit quiet, as if searching for his next words.  I look back on this time and although he was my Dad, and I didn't realize it at the time, because he was older, he was only 33 handling this mess as well.  He was running his own business, owned two homes, had two children, he had a lot going on.  I anxiously said, "what did she say"...  I remembered he looked down at the stairs for a very long minute, and then he looked up and said, "you won't be going back".  I remember that feeling like it was just a few seconds ago.  My heart sank, I couldn't believe it, what would happen to Michelle, who would take care of her. So many thoughts were racing through my mind and my heart.  I asked "why, what did she say".  I wanted to know what she said.  He looked at me as if he wanted to hug me, but he wasn't the huggy type, but there was so much saddness in his eyes, and said, "she told me if you thought you had it bad before, just wait until you come back, you don't know what bad is".  He apparently had had enough, he had watched me go through the weekend, he knew how bad she could be so he apparently had finally spoke his mind.  He continued, "I told her I wouldn't send my damn dog out there with you".  And that was it.  My decision was over and Michelle's fate was sealed.  The wind had left my sails and I just sat on the edge of the stairs and stared at the brick on the house.... now what.

Now what turned out to be an understatement.... that night my Dad called my Mom to finalize the fact I was staying.  I tip toed down the hallway and was listening to the phone call and I'll never forget how nice my Dad was when he really didn't have to be.  He said things like "maybe she just wants to see how her Dad lives", and "let's face it Pat, in 3 or 4 years she probably won't be living with either of us, and this is a chance for her to live here for a bit before that time comes"...  He never yelled, he never said anything disrespectful.  In fact he never said anything bad about her to me, he only showed understanding when I spoke to him about her behavior.

The end...hardly.. the next day Butch was at the door unannounced and she was sitting in the car in the driveway.  Of course looking back, they strategically showed up during the day when my Dad was at the Station.  Betty answered the door and he apparently told her my Mom wanted to talk to me.  She called me upstairs and I could tell she didn't know how to handle the situation.  She didn't know what to do, so she just asked me if I wanted to go out there.  I thought I had to.  I thought since it was a parent wanted to speak to me, I couldn't say "No".  So, outside I went and I got in the car...  what a mistake this was...

Ok guys.. more next week... thanks for reading!