“Across the Street From Normal” Preview

The proof of my book has arrived! I am slipping out a sneak preview because I.cannot.keep.it.a.secret ūüôā 20140715-074238-27758244.jpg


Unflinching and Unveiled

Red Rock Refuge

Red Rock Refuge @GracieKHarold 2014

TRIGGER WORD WARNING: Explicit chronicle of abuse endured, expletives with ###, etc., disturbing abusive behavior, drug-induced abusive behavior, past threats of violence and acts of violence recounted.  May this ever be a stepping stone and NEVER a stumbling block. 

Haltingly, and a bit awkwardly, I want to explain the disclosure event of the week.  Please extend me grace as I discover how to best divulge this part of me that has been veiled emotionally (and even physically) for so long.  Reassure me, if you can, for I feel exposed yet empowered.

James asked me a very hard question this week. ¬†“Gracie, I don’t think that you have been completely honest with me about what really¬† happened when you were married to your ex-husband. ¬†Baby, I’m here. I’m¬†not¬†him. ¬†I love you. ¬†Will you please tell me everything?”

*CUE mild panic attack* ¬†My heart was racing, and I envisioned myself like Ginny in “Forrest Gump”¬ģ when she is throwing rocks at her old house but then she falls on the ground and claws the dirt in her bereavement. ¬†I realized that I was shaking my head vehemently, as I murmured, “No, no….baby, no.” ¬†I started crying. ¬†I gulped air, and asked if I could tell him later, just not out in the public eye (we were in a quiet parking lot). ¬†I explained that no one¬†knew the FULL STORY. ¬†He held me while I sobbed, and whispered that he was here whenever I was ready. ¬†We continued our walk, holding hands, with me shaking like a puppy.

Later on that night, after I had been gently reassured, caressed and held; we embraced under the veil of darkness.  I asked James if he was ready for my full story.  He drew me even closer.  I told him.  Everything.

This is the part of the writing process where I fight the urge to dry-heave, I remember that I.am.loved; and I will my feet to move forward as I divulge the truth in black and white. ” Dear God, this is all YOU. I got nothing. ¬†Push me over this precipice of faith. ¬†I will believe that you have me, that James loves me, and that I am securely accepted in YOU. ¬†Here goes, and please apologize to the coffee shop people as I begin to cry in the booth…”

There is no eloquence for the following, and I am incapable of delicate sugar-coated “Christian vulgarities”. ¬†Please, I pray, see my heart through my awkward, blunt words.

The following chronicles the abuse that I endured at the hands of my ex-husband, may it ever draw your eyes to see the HAND of God as He protected, redeemed, and brought us out of hell; may it never draw your eyes to glorify anyone or anything but Jesus, my REDEEMER:

On our honeymoon, we spent a few days with my in-laws in Arizona. ¬†One of the nights, my ex took off all my clothes and was kissing me. ¬†His sister-in-law was outside our room by the laundry area; and after she walked away from the guest wing of the house, he threw me off of him across the bed and onto the floor. ¬†He snarled, “You ugly B####! ¬†I hate you! I never should have married you!” ¬†I dry-heaved for hours, until his sister-in-law asked if I was okay. ¬†She was told that I reacted to something that I ate, and then he threatened me behind closed doors. ¬†I was 2,000 miles from home, in a gated community. ¬†Where could I have gone?

He used to head butt me; after putting drugs in my food.

I would wake up in the middle of the night to him blowing drugs over me, or rubbing them in my nose.

He would “practice” throwing things as close as possible to my head while I slept. ¬†Often I would wake up to things smashing into the walls, the headboard, or even into me.

I would wake up to find bruises on my abdomen, arms and legs; with no recollection of falling asleep the night before.

He would scream at me in a horrifying roar as he did a martial arts spin kick and would kick the door arch above my head.

He would threaten to hit the children unless I had sex with him.  Alternatingly, he would make me beg for things that I wanted.  I was made to get on my hands and knees and beg.

When I would carefully ask him to be kind to me, or do something for me, he would scream in my face and punch himself on the temple with his fists, saying, “Do you see what you make me do? I hate you, you F***ing B####! C***! ¬†You’re so demanding! ¬†Aren’t you the little “De-mandam?” ¬†Then he would break something of mine, and tell me to clean it up.

When I would muster up the slightest bit of courage to tell him that I was going to leave, he would threaten to kill me, the kids, my family, and my friends.

“If you leave, we’ll kill you and make it look like an accident…In fact, I should do that anyway, good-for-nothing B####!”

At the very end of the marriage, I was planning to leave with the kids. ¬†I acted like everything was fine; and made plans to escape. ¬†One of our mutual friends told my ex that “If you don’t change soon, you’ll lose your wife AND kids. ¬†She’s planning to leave.” ¬†18 hours before my plan was enacted, he summoned up tears and begged me to stay. ¬†He had been associating with a violent group of men, and I knew I had very few options.

I embodied every acting lesson that I had ever had, and kept repeating instructions that Dr. H. had given me, “A good actor never breaks character, Grace.” ¬†I never did. ¬†Not once. ¬†I played the role of the subservient housewife, eager to please her husband and I jumped at his every beck and call for the next three months.

It was the performance of my lifetime. ¬†My parents didn’t even know that I was planning our escape.

In the final days before we left, my ex confessed that he had tried to hire a friend to kill me and a friend of mine.

He confessed to trying to get a friend to tamper with the car so that I would die, but in a car accident.

One night, he and a friend forced me into a chair and proceeded to “interrogate” me for hours about being raped when I was in college. ¬†He barraged me with questions that were horrifying, questions about the sounds, the sensations..truly sick and inappropriate things that still make me cringe.

That fateful morning when I awoke from a flashback and watched him snort drugs off our coffee table, our baby was on the couch next to him.  After I went to the bathroom, I groggily retrieved the baby and put him in his crib.  I could hear my ex-husband cussing and throwing things around.  I grabbed his switchblade, and silently pocketed it. He had been threatening to kill me, and I knew that I was outnumbered.   Acting oblivious to the drugs, I timidly explained that I was uncomfortable having his friends over so late (it was 2 am) when I was struggling with flashbacks.  I gently and quietly requested that his friend leave, and I headed to bed.

When I was 10, I read a true story about a servant girl during the Revolutionary times.  She heard a noise as she slept on the couch, but she forced her breathing to stay even, and her eyes to unflinchingly stay closed as an intruder walked past her.  As he crept up the stairs, she picked up a heavy object and hit him on the back of the head.  Her master awoke, and they discovered in the morning that he had killed others just up the road from them.  He had every intention of killing those in her household.  From the time that I read that story, I practiced fake-sleeping every night in bed.

The morning of the drug discovery, I put all my years of practice to use. ¬†Laying on my side, I placed my right hand under the pillow as I clenched the switchblade. ¬†I focused on forcing my body to relax and evened out my breathing. ¬†I visualized the most peaceful memories that I had, and pictured God’s Hand overshadowing me.

When my ex-husband stormed into the room and threw things at me, I faked grogginess, and mumbled that I was tired and we could talk in the morning.  The feigned sleepiness and the mercy of God convinced him to be calm.  He eventually climbed into bed, and began a nerve-wracking cycle of almost falling asleep but then startling himself awake to scream at me, and cuss me out.  Each time, I played my role to perfection, first acting roused from sleep, then sleepily asking him to let me sleep again.  This repeated every 10-15 minutes for four hours until he finally dozed off at 6 am.  I stayed in bed, continuing my charade until 7:30 when the kids woke up.

I slipped into pants, pocketed the knife again, and tried to figure out how to modify my plan of escape.  Today was the day when I had originally decided to leave.  Now, however, I was unsure of how to proceed.

Part of my plan had involved going to the mall with a friend while the guys watched our kids, so that I could call the women’s shelter from her phone and find a way to whisk the kids out of the house. ¬†It was 9:30 when our friends called to see what time we were coming over. ¬†I gently tossed the phone onto the edge of the bed and said, “Phone call. It’s your friend. He wants to know what time you are thinking for today.” ¬†That’s when all hell broke loose.

I was carrying our baby when my feet were knocked out from under me by the phone being thrown at me. ¬†I held tightly to Rex, shielding him as I fell into the wall sideways. ¬†I cried in pain until I was screamed at and threatened to be killed if I didn’t “shut the f*#% up!” ¬†He called the older kids over to where I was, and yelled, “Look at your pathetic mom! ¬†Laugh at her right now or I will hit you!”

I stopped crying, and faked a smile. ¬†“Okay, kids…why don’t you go to the playroom and play? ¬†Mommy will even bring Rex in so he can swing while you play.” ¬†After they were safely behind the closed door, I returned back to where my ex was throwing things against the bedroom wall as he packed our suitcase. ¬†“I’m going to F###ing California! ¬†My connections will help me there! F### this S###! I hate you, B####! You F###ed up everything! ¬†If you touch any of the money in the bank account I will F###ing kill you! DO YOU UNDERSTAND? I WILL KILL THE KIDS AND THEN YOU! ¬†F### this! I need space! I can’t think with you F###ing in my face like this!”

“You’re right. ¬†Why don’t I take the kids outside to play so you can think?” ¬†I shoved shoes on my feet, whisked the kids out the back door, prayed desperately for safety, loaded them into the van, and took off on the road as I called 9-1-1. ¬†Officers escorted me back to get the kids’ medicines, diapers, formula, food, and an extra change of clothes. ¬†When we arrived, it was less than ten minutes later. ¬†His drug snorting friend was already there.

After leaving, a friend escorted us to a women’s shelter where I was told that the current county I was in was not safe enough for us. ¬†This is because my ex-husband’s family were highly involved in the county and federal legal system. ¬†Within 24 hours of finding an attorney and filing for my Personal Protection Order (PPO) and divorce; his family member was in the office of my attorney, explaining their expectation that I would keep things quiet “in an election year”.

To date, all these years later, Friend of the Court in that County flatly refuses to revoke my ex-husband’s visitation rights despite the facts that I was granted Full Physical and Full Legal Custody of our children, and he has failed to comply with court ordered visitation requirements for more than 5 years, and there is a PPO in place barring him from being within sight range of the children, and we have resided in another county for more than 5 years. ¬†Friend of the Court also refuses to transfer our case to the county that we reside in.

About a month after leaving my ex-husband, he called our insurance agent and tried to cancel my life insurance policy because, “You know, if she dies or anything happens to her, I don’t want it to look like I did it.” ¬†He had two visits with the children, both of which resulted in them all ingesting peanut butter despite their ALLERGIES. ¬†He allegedly told the children, “You are going to Heaven now, but don’t worry, Mommy will be there soon.”

When I reported these incidents, I was investigated for child abuse, and it was found that there was no preponderance of the evidence. ¬†In other words, I was found innocent. ¬†Charges have never been filed against my ex-husband. ¬†He was eventually caught red-handed after stealing an automobile and driving it hundreds of miles away. ¬†He served 10 months, and was released for “good behavior”.

He has terrorized my parents, ripping out their built-in grill and throwing it at their sliding door as he threatened to burn their house down. After a separate incident, he was arrested for arson, held for almost a year; and then released due to “mental incompetence”.

I refuse to cover his abuse with my silence anymore.

I will not veil his unacceptable behavior.

I will not be controlled and intimidated by his power-hungry, drug-crazed, rage.

I am no longer his. ¬†I have been redeemed, and brought out of his hell. ¬†I walk in the light of God’s unflinching and unveiled Love and Goodness.

I am in better hands now.

I am changed and empowered to walk unflinching and unveiled, unashamed and unafraid.

2 Corinthians 3:18, “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the LORD. ¬†And the LORD–who is the SPIRIT–makes us more and more like HIM as we are changed into His glorious image.” (New Living Translation)