An ode to Jacqui

WE’RE BAAAAAAAAAAAACK!

It may not be Tuesday, but Julia and I decided to pull a switch-a-roo so I could have the honour of writing a post to mark this day of our very own Jacqui’s birth.

JQ, my baby duck, happiest of birthdays to you. I hope you have the best day possible today, regardless of responsibility and have to’s required of you today.

I’ve got to say, getting to be your big sister has been pretty kick ass so far, as I am sure it will continue to be. Getting to watch you grow over these past 26 years has been a wild, rewarding ride.

I mean, I got to know you from this point:

Her pants are SO inflated with fart.

Her pants are SO inflated with fart.

And watch you grow into this:

BAM! (she's still 12!)

BAM! (she’s still 12!) [Photo credit: Photography by Heather ]

I can’t believe you’re 26 though. I mean, it really does seem like yesterday that we were much shorter, standing in our country home, getting into whatever shenanigan we could to entertain ourselves…

I love that this picture exists

I love that this picture exists

And now we’re all grown up, trying to navigate all of life’s crazy adventures as they come…I hope it goes without saying, but I’m really grateful I’ve got you by my side through all of them.

I have loved watching you grow into your own person and become even more ‘you’ these past few years. You’ve inspired the hell out of me with your strength in your battle with epilepsy and conquering a shit ton of obstacles to celebrate two years seizure free this week. (Seriously, you KICK ASS)

Last year's one year anniversary tattoo

Last year’s one year anniversary tattoo

I admire your heart, your incredible wit and humor – I seriously still vote ‘stand up comedian’ needs to be added to your resume – and your need for peace making. You’re brave, smart and gorgeous from your heart out.

I hope 26 is incredible for you in every way – with more laughter, love and magic than you can hold. I know you’re already off to the best possible start.

Sisters ♥

Sisters ♥

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, dear Jacqui! We LOVE you!

~ Toni

#CallThemOut

During our blogging hiatus the news about Josh Duggar and his history of sexual molestation broke. Following that, an onslaught of media and commentary and discussion ensued, covering everything from the religion that the Duggars belong to, to the names and identities of the victims, to the “counseling” that Josh completed, to the logistics surrounding the future of the Duggars’ popular “reality” show.

There was a lot of coverage. And a lot of information. And as someone who can’t consume scary or explicit news easily, it was tough navigating social media because this story struck a chord that even I couldn’t ignore or deny or shut down.

The story of a young man taking advantage of people in his innermost circle, his family, and then the family dealing with the fall-out. The story of victims who were forced to keep living a lie right beside the nightmare of a sexual experience no person should ever have to experience. The story of parents who tried to do their best but ultimately failed because in this scenario there are no winners. The story of a perfect-looking family, a close-knit community, and their underbelly of horrible secrets being revealed.

A story that looked, felt, and sounded all too familiar. Like my story.

I don’t have 18 siblings and we didn’t belong to an extreme Christian sect growing up. And I don’t have a reality show to put on a face for. But, I do have a story of childhood molestation that although happened at the fringes of my memory, still haunts me to this day. I am also a victim of a young man’s exploration/exploitation. And my molester also walked away with minimal consequences.

I was four, small and innocent as all four-year olds are/should be. I was being babysat. I always went to sleep with a soft, flannel receiving blanket, something cool to put against my cheek. That night, my parents were out and he was watching me. He couldn’t/wouldn’t find my blanket. Instead of looking for it, he offered me his penis, up against my face, my cheek, and said, “This will work.”

There was no rape. There was no penetration. There were no charges. There was no therapy for me or him. But, there was a lingering trauma that has coloured every sexual experience I’ve ever had since. There was a betrayal that extended beyond the babysitter and to the way things were handled afterwards. There will always be anxiety around him and what he did, around my parents and what they did, around my daughters and son and what they will do/have done to them. It will never go away. Ever.

I read this profound piece by a writer I only found after the Josh Duggar media storm hit. It’s by Kristen Mae who makes a case for calling out your molester, abuser, asshole who changed your life without your consent. She talks about the impossibility of dealing with a molester in your family or your closest circle, discussing the repercussions of having one child hurt another child or one family member hurt another family member in a disgusting, illegal way. She speaks about the fact that we need to entirely shift how we handle these impossible moments, how we handle protecting one child yet helping another. How we work at keeping our family together and safe at the same time. How do we do that?

Her suggestion: let’s name them. Let’s take away the power of the hidden crime, the unspoken secret, the family life built on lies. Let’s remove the pretense that because it happened so closely, so intimately, that it must not be dealt with as if it were a stranger because we can’t ruin one life to save another. Let’s redefine what it means to parent an abuser, parent an abused, and horrifically, to do it at the same time. Let’s not sweep it under the rug, but figure out how to make it work for both parties, both broken people, the abuser and the abused. Let’s not just weep until we hope it goes away or hide behind shame until it’s acceptable to come out again. Let’s make a difference. Let’s change the conversation.

She asks that we first call them out. Call them by name. Say their names and their power goes away because they are no longer shrouded or shipped off to a Christian counseling camp. Let’s speak out loud what we have been forced to hide.

Truth.

Truth.

My molester, my abuser, the boy-man who affected me forever was Peter. He no longer has power over me because I don’t let him. I don’t know where he is or what he is doing or when I will see him next, because inevitably I will. He is, after all, my uncle. But, I refuse to be alone with him, touch him, or have him go near my babies or my sisters. Ever.

If my parents had better tools, if my grandparents were less worried about their precious son and more worried about their family as a whole, if we had better rules around how to handle your worst nightmare, when the loved abuses the loved, then maybe we’d have fewer abusers and abused, more real help and counseling and rehabilitation, and more healing that actually sticks because it’s not the band aid solution to cover up the gunshot wound.

And if you want to see strength in its purest form, read the comments of the other survivors on Kristen’s post. Calling them out is not for the faint of heart. It’s for the survivors, warriors, wounded who pick themselves back up and refuse to be a victim any more. And for those who can’t #CallThemOut yet or ever, you too are numbered in the list of warriors and survivors. I promise.

~ Julia

1997

Julia’s mother-in-law and the Sisterhood’s second mother, Dianne, joins us again as a guest blogger. We are in awe of her strength in surviving her abusive marriage and we are inspired by her bravery in sharing her story out loud. 

Story will inspire

This is a story that has lived within me for several years, actually for almost two decades. This is a story that few have ever told, but if you know it, the story must be told. It’s a true story, one meant to inspire others, not one meant to elicit pity. Pity is not what I needed; strength and inspiration – that’s what I was looking for.

It started a long time ago, when I was a young girl. I met my sweetheart. We were very young, 14 or 15. Circumstances would lead us to marry others, but circumstances would also bring us back together. It’s at that point that the real tale begins.

I believed, like so many young women, that the man I would marry would hold me dear in his heart. He would cherish me, guard me, and protect me. Never would he harm me. I believed that whatever faults I saw, things would be okay because of the underlying truth: he loved me. This was at a time when I believed that people would change for the better, or I could help them change.

My childhood sweetheart was raised in a Christian home, believing in God. His parents were blue-collar hard-workers. I remember his dad in particular. He worked shift work at the tire factory in Kitchener. He landed his job during a time when an education was not necessary to maintain a steady paycheque. At the end of a long day, he would come home to deal with a busy household comprising of five children and a sickly wife. His reward was a cigarette and a beer.

My husband grew up and followed in his dad’s footsteps. He was uneducated. Times had changed and as a result, my husband had difficulty holding down a job. As it turned out, the love of my life was plagued by demons. He believed that he was not worthy of any of life’s treasurers, certainly not love. Because of this, one beer became two, became six. Soon the motto was: “24 beers, 24 hours in a day, not a coincidence.”

I was a master at justifying anything. “He drinks because he worked hard, he drinks because life is so busy, he drinks because…” There were a thousand good reasons to drink, and there were no good reasons to drink. He drank copious amounts, but beer was his drink of choice. I discovered that if he drank spirits, he was more difficult to handle once he was drunk.

Now when I say, “more difficult to handle,” what I really mean is he became violent, physically abusive. As it turned out, he was more violent with spirits, but that didn’t stop his temper when he was drinking just beer. Remember, I was good at justifying anything. I would say things like, “He only drinks on the weekend “(lie), or, “If he drinks beer, he doesn’t get too violent” (another lie). I would console myself by saying, “He doesn’t hit the children,” something that eventually became another lie. I even tried telling myself that others didn’t know. Others knew. They knew and didn’t know what to do.

Friends and family would watch in horror as I sported new bruises. There were so many battles fought over the course of 12 years. So many times I wondered what I had gotten into, how could I change things, could I ever learn the rules of living with him? I knew this was a dangerous situation, ready to go off at any minute. If I said the wrong thing, said something with the wrong tone, served something for supper that wasn’t up to his liking, there would be hell to pay.

After one particularity disastrous birthday and Father’s Day, I went to church with bruises on my face, neck, arms and upper torso. Not cleverly-disguised bruises – these were big, purple, angry bruises. The next day at work, someone asked me what happened. I told them I ran into a door. Looking at me, you knew I would have to run into the door repeatedly to get these bruises. Bravely, I told the lie.

I remember this weekend clearly – it’s the weekend my babies watched as I was choked and beaten. All I could think of was getting away with my babies. I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t have money; I just needed to get away. It was also the weekend I made up my mind that things would change.

I started dreaming of schemes, trying to figure out how we could leave the home without bringing on another beating. I didn’t care about the things in the house, they were just things and I could earn money to get more things. I envisioned so many scenarios. Maybe he would go away for the weekend and come home to an empty house. Maybe he would be involved in an accident and I could become a grieving widow…problem solved.

One thing I wanted to keep sacred was my relationships – they were few and far between. I didn’t want other people burdened with the mess I had gotten myself into. I wouldn’t ask for help. I had been virtually cut off from family, so I couldn’t ask them. This is very typical of an abusive relationship, isolate the victim.

It was almost two years to the day before I finally had enough. With no plan in mind, with little cash resources, we left. We left and made a stand…NO MORE! I didn’t care if he kept everything in the house, he would never touch any of us again. Never again would we live in fear. There would be no more angry voices in my home.

It was the scariest day of my life…EVER. But, it was like being born, a new day with new hope. It was refreshing to get up in the morning and know that I was in control of all that was before me. If something went wrong, I would be responsible for making it right. I also knew that I wouldn’t depend on someone else; there would be no more disappointments.

If you are a victim, you will know when you’ve had enough. It takes a lot of courage to leave; it takes a lot of courage to stay. Make plans, but be prepared to move at a moment’s notice.

Your friends are watching you, they want to help but don’t know how. They can’t believe that you would stay where you are, but don’t know what it’s like to walk in your shoes.

If you know a victim, be their support. Don’t judge someone for remaining, you never know what you would do yourself. Be an ear. Protect the children; give them a reprieve in the chaos. Have a moving truck and plenty of strong, young men on standby.

Remember to protect yourself. Once you are free, never look back. You will second-guess yourself for a long time. Your memory will play tricks on you. You will think, “Was it really all that bad?” I have a crack in my jaw that hurts sometimes; this reminds me that yes, it was that bad.

The bible doesn’t say “reconcile and forget,” it simply says “forgive and forget.” Forgiveness does not mean the renewal of the relationship; it is the power to let go. Reconciliation is forgiveness with the expectation of a continued relationship. Don’t kid yourself – there is no expectation of a continued relationship.

Your ex-partner will be angry. They will plead. They will promise to never hurt you again. They will try to convince you that it never happened. Stay strong. Find your friends again. Cry, laugh and cry again. Forgive them. Forgive yourself. Be reborn. Rejoice in the day.

I’ve survived. My children have survived. It was 1997, so long ago, but only yesterday. Scars will heal. We will be okay.

~ Dianne

If you are someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is hope and there is help. You are stronger than your story, braver than you know, and a survivor through and through.

In Ontario, call 1-866-863-0511 24/7.

In Ontario, call 1-866-863-0511 24/7.

Call 1-800-799-7233 in the US 24/7.

Call 1-800-799-7233 in the US 24/7.

If you’d like to write a guest post and join in the Weather Vane Sisterhood fun, email us at weathervanesisterhood at gmail dot com. We’d love to have you!

Happy Birthday, Julia!

If you’ve been following along, you should know by now that the sisterhood is a big ball of mush when it comes to the people in our lives that mean the most to us, so it should come as no surprise as you read on.

My dear, Julia.

My innocent, kind, sweet, brave, overachieving, magic making, Julia.

Happy, happy birthday!

I am not sure there will ever be just the right word in the English language to describe the immense amount of gratitude I have for being granted the privilege to bear witness to the beautiful, crazy, meaningful and wonderfully messy life that you are creating.

Gratitude for the amount of helping to – let’s be honest – rear me, as livestock terms are much more suited for my younger years. Gratitude for the friendship we have been so blessed with the opportunity for, and the brains to know it’s worth it. Gratitude for you.

Between birthing three of my life’s greatest blessings, to being a beacon for all those who are struggling by bravely telling your story of triumph so others will feel a little less alone in their own heads, to reminding me that we have fought to grow into women that have the strength to do so – and as you do, once again providing the most incredible example a girl could ask for in a big sis.

As Lillian would say, “you’re a rockstar” and I hope you truly feel that way today as we continue to celebrate another year of you on this your day of birth.

<3

This love.

We love you an incredible amount!

~ Toni

 

Three years and countless battles

Three years ago, I was 41 weeks and 1 day pregnant with a stubborn, stubborn baby who refused to come out. And if you think for one moment that that 1 day is insignificant, you have never been pregnant.

Her name is Lillian. And three years ago on this day she was born.

She was high up in my rib cage, far away from any exit strategy, and had made zero progress or move to come out. She was happy in there. Coming out was not her idea. And therefore, she would not participate or help in any way. This should have been a sign of things to come.

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Lillian has always forged her own way, doing things in her time on her schedule according to her plan. Always.

The doctor who performed the C-section to get her out of my belly said she had never seen a baby who was so overdue that high up before. She literally had to reach up into me to pull her out. After hanging out with Lillian for three years, I’m not surprised in the least that was the case.

She had a striking white patch in her black, black hair, just like her daddy. We knew this meant she had been born with the same genetic disorder Ben has. It was the talk of the nurses in the delivery room, our family, and anyone who met her. All I knew was all that hair was the cause for all of my heartburn during my pregnancy with her.

DSCF0111

She needed hearing aids and got them when she was just four months old. We were so new at the whole baby-with-hearing-aids thing that we had to be told by the audiologists that we shouldn’t let her have them in while we were driving because she’d probably eat them. They were right. She did.

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She also took them off and threw them, hid them, chewed them, lost them, delivered them to us, and generally gave us countless panic attacks around them (you try putting thousands of dollars of equipment in a baby’s ears and you tell me how calm you are).

She also rocked them. They were pink and she was and still is a rock star at every appointment, sitting still while molds are formed, while tests are run, while tubes are cut and while adjustments are made.

And she used them as an act of defiance when she was mad at us, looking us straight in the eyes while pulling them out and throwing them. Luckily they were attached by a cord and for a while tucked under a cap that made her look like she was a 1920’s bather or an old-school pilot, but still no one could lose her ‘ears’ like Lillian could.

Lillian was a candidate for a cochlear implant, giving her the potential to have near perfect hearing. Since she was completely deaf in her right ear and had a mild loss of hearing in her left ear, this was miraculous. It has since proved to be just that.

During the operation she was amazing, even collecting a Dr. Seuss as her anesthesiologist (at a children’s hospital! Seriously!). But afterwards she was true to form, pulling out three different IVs. And while I would have milked that operation for all it was worth, she was up and bouncing around like her normal self in no time afterwards.

Lillian has always been her own person, quiet and reserved in a new place, loud and rambunctious where she feels safe. Roaring like a tiger or ARGHing like a pirate at the top of her lungs. Lauding every fart or burp that comes out of her little body or anyone else’s for that matter. Reveling in chaos yet thriving in comfortable situations. Refusing to smile for posed pictures but cackling for anyone’s phone camera.

She is the buttliest of butts and I mean that in the nicest, kindest, most loving way possible. She has taught me the art of negotiation, the art of patience, the art of snuggling on the couch until she can’t sit still anymore. She has taught me that bravery often comes in the smallest of packages and that even though she was handed an extraordinary set of circumstances she is a completely normal kid.

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Today is her day and I’m so glad she is mine. Ours. In our family and in our lives.

Happy happy birthday, Lillian!

Love, Mama (a.k.a. Julia)