Thursday, May 30, 2013

My HCI shoutout

Today I went for my werkly velcade injection and labs. Because the girls are officially out of school for the summer (yeah!) I took them with me. While we waited for my lab results, we went upstairs for lunch. I don't recommend ever going to a cancer hospital, if you must, i highly recommend this one.

Here is the view.

It's as happy a place as something like that can be. Classical pianists in the lobby. Marble staircases. I don't think I've ever waited more than five minutes to be called back. Waters and refreshments. Really good food. When I was in the hospital, I had a room service menu that rivaled many expensive restaurants I've visited. I don't remember much of my hospital stay because I was so sick and out of it but I do remember ordering liberally off the menu because I was bored, and why not? Salmon, fruit smoothies, deserts, grilled veggies, omelettes... That's kind of all I can remember. I had a blue-ray in my room and a huge flat screen TV but I didn't watch any movies, I don't think.

There was a guest bed for my dad so I never had to sleep there alone. There were showers and laundry facilities for the caregivers.

Ok, so I don't mean to brag about a cancer hospital but kudos the Huntsman family (the father being a three time cancer survivor) for their gift to all us warriors. They deserve more than medals-- they deserve a special place in heaven and halos and wings.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I shattered a $300 bong

Bob had two daughters from his first marriage. One, Nicole, was 17 years old when we got married and had a major marijuana habit (and God knows what else). She lived with Bob fulltime because her mom wasn't putting up with Nicole's doing drugs, not working, and generally not showing up for high school classes. It was far easier living with her dad who pretty much had no expectations and excelled at enabling.

I, the clueless dumb newcomer to the whole mess, felt so sorry for Nicole because I fell for Bob's lies about Nicole's mother (namely that she was a skanky lying whore who abandoned Nicole in favor of Kalie because Kalie represented more years of child support). Poor Nicole had never had a positive role model in her life, never had a mother who loved her, and, according to Bob, I would be the mother Nicole never had. Oh yes, I stepped right into the hornet's nest but, seriously, I was completely clueless. I was so ridiculously easy to manipulate, no doubt about that.

Over the next few years, drama wouldn't even begin to adequately describe my time with Nicole. I blame a lot of it on Bob because he should have taken care of Nicole (and Kalie) first, not himself as he pursued pleasure at everyone else's expense. He should have stopped drinking long enough to realize that his first priority was parenting his children, and finally getting treatment for the many years he spent as an alcoholic. But doing that would actually have taken work and that isn't fun so, well, forget that.

Bob and Nicole got in a huge fight about three months into our marriage. I wasn't there, though Bob blamed me for that fight, too (yawn, I get so tired saying this). By the time I got home, Nicole had already moved back in with her mother.

A few nights later, we were sitting in bed late at night talking with Kalie when we heard loud banging on the door. It was scary. None of us moved. Next thing you know, Nicole texted Bob that she was outside with the police and we'd better answer the door. Bob wouldn't move. "Go answer the door," he said. I was baffled-- despite all the hours I spent as a kid watching The Brady Bunch, they never confronted something like this so I wasn't sure what to do. I made a split decision and did what I was told.

Seconds later, I was opening the door. Who the hell did any of them think they were, attempting to "demand" entry without cause or search warrant? I knew my rights and I was not about to be intimidated. When none could present a valid warrant or reason to barge their way in, I simply slammed the door. And when I turned around, there was my cowardly husband standing behind me nearly giddy with excitement at what I had done. I was disgusted looking at his gleeful face. What kind of "man" stands there silent while his wife takes the heat? Bob the Great (Alcoholic), that's who. Bob slept like a baby that night (alcohol is a great sedative!) while I shook with anger, shock and horror. Unable to sleep, the next day at work was a very long one indeed.

Long story short, Nicole's stay with her mom didn't last long (to Bob's complete delight, which is a whole other story). Nicole then moved in with her boyfriend's mom. That didn't last either. One thing I quickly learned: Nicole excelled at burning bridges. Next thing I know, Bob says Nicole is a changed girl and wants to move back home but he said not until she talked to me, too. So Nicole, Bob and I sat in the front room while Nicole gave an Academy Award-winning performance that included a heart touching, tearful explanation about how she was different, how she learned so much while she was away, and how she'd never repeat past mistakes. All she wanted was a functioning family and she realized she had one right there in front of her with her dad and me (ok, this last part is really funny). My heart melted and we all cried and she moved home.

I actually loved Nicole and believed all the lies she fed me. She was good at manipulating, just like Bob. It's the pathology of addicts. Lie, manipulate, convince, shit on your head, repeat because until the victim is no longer gullible, they'll keep feeding you the same line of crap over and over and over again. And when you catch on and say no more, well then they just hate you. (By the way, I take any animosity addicts have against me-- and I only know two, thank goodness-- as a badge of honor.)

And so the cycle began and it was oh so tiring and predictable. It went like this: Bob and Nicole would get in a fight, Bob would kick her out of the house, I'd talk Bob off a cliff and beg him to allow poor Nicole to come back home, Nicole would move back, Bob and Nicole would get in another fight, Bob would break something of hers (like an iPod), she'd call me crying, I'd beg Bob to stop screaming at her. Repeat. A few times Bob and Nicole would scream at each other so loudly in the backyard that I was worried a neighbor would call the police. It as all so ghetto and lowlife and I was horrified. I had literally never seen anything like it outside of the movies and even then, this was extreme.

Nicole would call me often to tattle on her dad drinking at bars. Or she'd ask me for money. Or to borrow clothes. If I said no, those things would just come up missing, even though Bob put a lock on my closet door. When I noticed Nicole wasn't doing anything productive, I'd harp on Bob as her father to do something to help his daughter out-- demand she go to therapy, drug test her, stop giving her money so she'd get a job, something, anything. And Bob would say stuff like, "I don't know anything about parenting. I never had parents. My mom was always working and I raised myself and Kathy. I made us mac & cheese all the time because my mom never even fixed dinner. My dad was too busy with the drum corp. He didn't give a shit about us. Terri and I never parented. This is all new to me!" Blame blame blame.

While we were out of town, Nicole threw rocking parties at home. One involved high and drunk friends jumping into the pool from our roof (can we say "liability"?). Another had photos on Facebook with her friends smoking pot in the kitchen. Another, Terri showed up and told Kalie that Nicole's friends were all over and our home smelled of pot. Nice! And those are just the few we knew about. Every time these parties were brought to Bob's attention, he defended Nicole and screamed at me.

Finally, in desperation, we developed a contract with Nicole she signed. In order to stay living in our home for free, she had to: 1) attend school; 2) pass a weekly drug test; 3) be at home by curfew on school nights; 4) do a few chores; 5) and never, ever, never bring drugs into the house (if she did, she was told she would move out that very day). In exchange, we bought her a car (that was in my name), gave her a free place to stay, and even offered to pay her student loans when she graduated. Nicole enrolled at community college two different times. Except she stopped going and didn't tell us and failed all her classes. After two semesters, she had zero credits to show for it and we were out, after books and supplies, about $1,000. We gave Nicole one more try. She enrolled in massage college. Except she stopped going to class there, too, and (shocker) lied about it. I called her college teacher and found out that Nicole never showed up for her final exam. Bob, of course, told me Nicole finished her class and passed her final with flying colors. So I put the teacher on conference call with Bob so he could hear it straight from the teacher. When the call ended, Bob screamed at me for that one. Yes, being a dad when you have to deal with tough stuff isn't fun, so found it far easier to scream at me than mentor his daughter.

Of course, the drug testing of Nicole was particularly fun because after a few weeks, Bob stopped drug testing her at all. He was on work assignment that had him in Anaheim four days a week. He'd leave town and tell me to drug test her. Oh hell no, I was not about to start standing at an open bathroom door while Nicole peed. I drew a line in the sand there. You, Bob, get your ass home and do it, I said. Well, we know how that turned out-- Bob screamed at me some more and the drug testing stopped.

While Bob was out of town, Nicole never showed up at curfew time. One night I stayed up almost all night because Nicole didn't come home at all. I was worried sick. I called Bob the Great (Alcoholic) and told him. He called me back screaming at me that Nicole really came home but was a little late and left early in the morning. Nope, sorry, Bob, I was up almost all night and she didn't come home at all. Bob screamed at me some more. The next night, Nicole didn't show up again. It was 5:00 AM and I got out of bed, went into Nicole's room and started searching.

First, under the bed: Wow, a huge ginormous bong! Thick, beautiful glass, enormous, expensive bong. She didn't have any money but, apparently, she had plenty to spend on this. I went outside, got out a huge rock. After many tries, I finally broke it and put just the tip back on Nicole's bed. The rest went into the trash.

Next, the dresser. Oh, my expensive belt that disappeared out of my closet was right there. Weird how that could happen. Next, oh, loads of pot. Next, the closet. More pot. Pipes. My expensive Stuart Weitzman shoes and my Michael Kors' Dorothy shoes. I never would've guessed. Oh, there's Morgan's phone that went missing.

My next stop was to her car. There was another pipe. Cigarette papers. Pot ashes. It smelled of cigarettes when she was specifically prohibited from smoking in the car.

Ok, the gloves were off. I was done being a mom to Bob's daughter while he refused to do a thing and when Nicole did nothing but lie, abuse, steal, and manipulate. As usual, Bob wanted me to do everything while he did little more than hit the bars, drink, fish, nap, watch movies, pretend to work really hard, and scream at me. While separating from Bob was more complicated, putting a stop to the abuse from Nicole was rather simple.

I got to work and called Bob. Guess what? I said. Nicole is moving out of the house today. I don't care where she's going but she better not be home by the time I get there or it's going to be ugly.

Bob said, "Can't this wait until Thursday when I get home?"

"No," I said. "And if you want to live with Nicole, I totally get it and support it. If that's the case, then either you move with her or I'll take the younger kids and move out. If Nicole stays, I sure hope she can help you make the mortgage payment."

"Where's she going to go?" Bob asked.

"I don't care. It's not my problem anymore. She's got a mom and dad. I'm neither. You and Terri figure it out."

"Can she take the car?"

"Hell no. The last thing I'm going to do is allow a druggie to take a car that I'm legally responsible for."

"How's she going to get to work or class?" Bob asked.

"Um, so Nicole doesn't work or go to school."

And so Peggy, Bob's mom, came to the house, and moved her into her home. Well, that didn't go so well either, but that's a story for part II. Stay tuned for that one!

One last funny comment from Bob the Great (Alcoholic)? After he told Nicole she was moving out, he called me back to tell me that the bong I had destroyed was really expensive. What can I say to that except WTF.

Am I a total bitch?
I often ask myself if I was a total unreasonable bitch? If I could do it all over again, what would I do differently?

My answers are:

1. I wasn't unreasonable at all. What I shouldn't have done was put up with it for so long at my expense, and at the younger children's expense. It was really cute when I realized that my 10 year old daughter knew what pot smelled like. Shame on me for allowing that exposure to happen in the home.
2. What would I do differently? The first time she screwed up, that would've been a warning; second time, it would have been Nicole or me who moved out of the house.

Lessons learned
I now know that life with an substance abuser will never be anything but chaos, manipulations, lies, abuse, excuses and blame. It really is that simple. It'll never happen to me again.

Monday, May 27, 2013

How far we've come in a year (I guess)

And so the school year for my girls ends on Thursday. One big huge "yeah!" I'm so done with the structure of school-- waking up early, making lunches, helping with homework, and the endless after school activities that I can't keep straight or keep up with. It's time for vacations, no structure, and true bonding time without running from one thing to the next.

This Memorial weekend was our preamble of good things to come this summer. Today, my friend took the girls and I to Park City. We adults hung out while the girls spent many hours zip lining, going down the alpine slide, and doing the rope obstacle course. The sun was out, it was a little breezy, and it was just perfect.


I've already seen Morgan's grades. She's made the Honor Society (again). Four A's, one B+, and one B. She's completed two successful seasons of competitive soccer, five dance classes per week (including competition hip hop when her team took first place in its category in St George, Utah-- that was a very fun trip, by the way), and Young Women's activities galore. She's a great kid. She loves her family, is incredibly helpful, and has a ginormous heart. I am so proud of her. She turned 13 years old last month. We had her birthday party at the bowling alley and it was one of the most fun Morgan parties in memory. A lot of girls that age simply don't like their parents so much anymore. I see it with Morgan's friends. Their moms in particular are just annoying and embarrassing. I am so touched that Morgan and I do not have that relationship. Morgan actually likes me. We are the best of friends and I know Morgan confides in me beyond what her friends tell their parents. That trust is priceless and I don't take it lightly.

Siena is the funniest child I have ever met. She loves crafts, is incredibly creative, and just can't get enough cuddles and hugs from anyone. She struggles in reading so we work on her reading skills every day. She'll get there. She is ahead of her grade in math. And her cognitive skills are off the charts. She has completed an incredibly busy year of two soccer seasons, children's choir where she performed all over Salt Lake/Utah counties, four dance classes, and art classes. She loves her tumbling class and does her own intricate hairstyles. She does a better job on her own hair than I do. She is witty beyond belief and is just plain adorable, what can I say. My favorite time of the evening is putting Siena to bed where we do cuddle time (she sits on my lap and we talk), read (we're reading Little House in the Big Woods now and just finished Matilda), and say prayer.

What I hope I teach them...
I hope that whatever they learn from me, that the following make the list: be good, kind and honest; stay away from substances like drugs and too much alcohol; be nice to others; read good books- in fact, just read, read, and read some more; be intellectually curious so you can hold an interesting conversation on just about any topic; know that there are moral absolutes-- sometimes you do something just because it's the right thing to do, period; love God and try to be Christlike every day; listen to good music; see as much of the world as you possibly can-- travel, travel, travel; experience and respect other cultures; love your family, they should always come first; trust others but know that trust is earned; save your money; never stop learning; stay away from tatoos; say sorry as often as you need to (and even more often than that); don't ever let anyone treat you poorly; don't feel entitled to anything; and get off your electronic devices and learn to talk and listen to those around you.

I am so incredibly lucky to have these girls in my life. Nothing- and I mean this literally - is more important to me than them and I can't imagine going through my health struggles without them with me. They cheer me up and give me a reason to fight harder than ever. 

And in the last year...
I look back on the last year and so much has happened. Last year at this time, let's see:
  • I had finished up two rounds of four-day "chemo in a bag" treatments
  • I was bald as a Q-tip
  • I was hospitalized for four days (I don't remember a lot of it, that's how anemic I was)
  • I made it through a pick line in my neck for almost a week
  • I had a port installed in my chest that ran up to my jugular vein
  • I went through a huge chemo treatment prior to my transplant
  • Had a successful stem cell retrieval in which my body produced almost 25 million stem cells for collection!
  • Endured about 20 days of neutropenia (when I had zero immune system at all)
  • Made it through three months on a Revlimid/Dex cycle
  • Made it through even more months of Dex/Thalidomyde cycles without too much neuropathy
  • And made it through my first of two stem cell transplants!
  • And even with all that chemo, treatments and medications, I managed to gain weight! Not too many people can say that. I didn't get sick at all on all the chemo. In fact, I got the munchies
  • I moved my personal belongings from San Diego and got them to Utah safely
And a year ago this time, I was organizing a trip on Amtrak for 17 days across the country. I had nearly three months off between my two stem cell transplants to allow my body to recover a bit. My doctor encouraged me to do something fun but not too strenuous. And I wasn't allowed to fly. Well, that was perfect for an Amtrak trip, something I've never done but always wanted to do. So we headed out from Salt Lake City to Chicago to Washington, DC to New York City. We stayed in each city for several days. I came back in one piece and without getting sick. I was so dang proud of my body.

A few weeks after getting home, we went on a road trip and visited Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon and Sedona. Granted, we went to Arizona so I could get a third opinion on Multiple Myeloma at Mayo Clinic, but we made a great trip of it nonetheless.

As I look out over the year ahead, I am positive and hopeful. I have met many new and amazing people. I've reconnected with many people. I have discovered that I have the ability to heal and love and, yes, trust. While sometimes I am scared (make that terrified!) of my illness, I know that with all the love and support I have, I'll get through it.

I know that everything happens for a reason. God has a plan for me. I'm still not sure what it is, but I trust Him, I lean on Him, I am in His care. He'll carry me through. Between God and my family and my many friends, somehow, some way, it'll be ok. And so will my precious, amazing daughters.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

A talk with a man I love

When I was in college, I got engaged to my boyfriend, Keith. I was madly in love with him. He was my first love. Long story short, we broke up just weeks before the wedding. He was kind of a bum back then, not working and not going to school. I had grand plans of seeing the world and starting a career. Keith, I got the feeling, was ready to start a family and fast and, well, we were just not meshing. I was devastated. I had another year left of college so I had to still be reminded all the time of Keith. I had to work with his roommates. And everywhere I went, I ran the risk of bumping into him, something I desperately wanted to avoid.

Several months after we broke up, my roommate, Loraine, came home and said, "I have to tell you something and I wanted you to hear it from me and not another way. Keith is getting married in a few weeks."

That news rocked my world. I was sick about it. I put on a brave face but I was completely heartbroken by the news. I couldn't wait to graduate and move from Utah and start over. And that's what I did. I took my last college class, packed up my car, and started driving to Washington, DC the next day. Keith and all the memories and sadness were left behind.

Except not really. I thought about Keith often over the years. I never really quite got over him, though I definitely moved on.

Then one day in 2005 I was at work and was looking up some information and I stumbled upon his brother's email address. Could that really be Keith's brother? I sent him an email and, sure enough, Aaron responded and he said Keith said hi.

A few years later, I was living in San Diego and I was looking up a local newsletter in St George, Utah and I almost fell out of my chair: Keith was featured. I couldn't resist. I emailed him. He responded. He was (is) still married, but we started a fantastic, amazing friendship. Over the past eight years, we've called each other, emailed, and texted (though we've not seen each other in some 23 years). He's been a huge rock to me, my confidante, and a support to me, even through the depths of ugliness and despair during my married years to Bob the Great (Alcoholic) and during my diagnosis.

Today we had an especially heart touching talk on a two hour phone call. The details aren't important and it wasn't anything inappropriate for a married man, but suffice it to say, there were so many things left unsaid and left unexplained for over two decades that aren't anymore. I don't think we were truly meant to be together, but the strong feelings and love between us back then was incredibly real. And it still exists. I love him. In a very pure, real, beautiful way.

I hung up after our phone call and the tears wouldn't stop.

Keith is one of my most important relationships ever and I am so incredibly blessed that he is still a huge and significant part of my life. He is a great person. I trust him completely. And, yes, I love him in the truest sense of the word. He is a great man, a great father, a great person. And if I could have an alternate life, maybe life with him could have worked out for us. I'll never know. But just knowing that men like Keith out there exist is one more way my faith in relationships is being slowly restored. And there is significant beauty and simplicity in that.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My very own stalker

This time around, I am being picky beyond belief when it comes to dating. With Bob the Great (Alcoholic), I just sort of "fell" into the relationship on accident. What started out as a companion and boyfriend accidentally spiraled out of control when we bought a house together. There was a song a few years ago that had words to the effect of: "You got caught in the moment and now you can't get out of it." Every time that song came on the radio, it sent shivers up and down my spine. That was my relationship with Bob in a nutshell. One big "oops!" And, once the "real" Bob reared its awful, abusive, alcoholic head, it was beyond a big "oops". It was a big fat "Oh my f'ing hell, what have I done?"

As I approach dating life, I'm making sure I don't pick up another woman's trash ever again. It's one of the reasons I hated Bob's ex wife, Terri. Every time she saw me, I knew that she knew the hell I was living in and the joke was on me. She had everything I wanted-- a nice fat savings account (at my expense, I might add, since I was paying off Bob's massive debt that he came into the relationship with), a quiet and peaceful home, the freedom to date others, and a Bob-free life. Yes, the joke was on me and Big Time. 

So I am picky beyond belief. One tiny little red flag and that's it. When I left Bob the Great (Alcoholic), I thought no one would ever want to date me again because I was sick and wasn't working. I was wrong! There are amazing, kind, good people out there and that is a relief to know. When I was married to Bob, it tainted my entire view of people. When I left Bob, I was so cynical because I thought that maybe every man out there was as evil and awful as he was. But, truly, it's nice to know that the Bob's of the world are their own category. They exist, but thank goodness they are the exception.

But I digress.

I met a guy named Jay. Jay fell hard and fast for me. Sort of like Bob. But unlike Bob, Jay is actually truly a really nice guy. Too much, though, and too fast. He tried too hard and it freaked me out. When I had no immune system after a particularly heavy round of chemo, I was craving lemon yogurt and happened to mention it to Jay. He showed up with bags and bags of food-- yogurts in every flavor, ice cream, pickles, breads, pizzas, soups... He showed up at one of my chemo sessions and brought me lunch and rubbed my feet. While it was nice, it started freaking me out. When I felt better, I decided to treat him to dinner at a nice restaurant. Beforehand, though, I told him I could only hug him, no kissing, because I was still so immune compromised. I told him I couldn't even kiss my own kids.

So we went to dinner, I hugged him, he told me he was falling in love with me, got teary eyed, and hugged me even harder. Oh my gosh, that was it. Go away already. So I stopped returning his calls or texts. And then it got bizarre. He once called me seven times in 30 minutes. He showed up at an apartment I was staying at in Salt Lake City and stood outside calling my name. I texted him that I wasn't feeling well but he wouldn't leave until I promised to come out to the balcony. I did. He threw up a beautiful silver bracelet he purchased for me.

A few weeks later, I took the kids to a family water park and I made the mistake of texting him that's where I would be. He showed up. I hid. He spent the next hour looking for me as I watched him out of the corner of my eye. I was wearing a shorter wig and it took him a really long time to recognize me. When he did, he sat next to me and asked if I wanted to talk.

"No, Jay, you're freaking me out. You have to leave," I said.

"We need to talk. You told me I was your angel. Did you mean that?" he asked.

True, I had initially told him that (note to self: be more careful with what you say!) but, really, I didn't mean it literally and it certainly didn't mean we were soul mates. Oh my gosh, the more he said stuff like this, the faster I wanted to run.

"Jay, whatever you thought we were or had, we don't. You have to leave or I'm calling security. You're starting to scare me," I said.

"I won't leave until you tell me that this is goodbye forever," he insisted.

"You're kidding me, right? Ok, here goes: Jay, I cannot do this. You're a nice guy. You've been kind and thoughtful and amazing to me. But that's it. We are going no further. Please leave," I said.

"No, you have to say goodbye," he insisted again.

"Ok, goodbye, Jay. Please leave," I said.

And then more bizarre emails and texts. When I was on Amtrak heading from New York to Chicago, I got another text about how we were supposed to be in a committed relationship but I wasn't acting like it. What the hell?

I texted him one last time: "Jay, you need help. We are not committed. We never were committed. You need to stop contacting me."

I stopped responding to all emails and texts and he finally went away. Until Christmas when he emailed me and texted me again. Some guys never learn.

Having a stalker is not flattering. It's scary actually. But meeting good and kind people helps erase the emotional damage that life with Bob the Great (Alcoholic) inflicted upon me for five solid years.

Note to other victims out there
Your world of insanity can end. There is a much better life away from that hell. Don't blame yourself for your abuser's behavior and actions. Stop making excuses for him/her. There are great people out there and you deserve far better. But once you leave, make sure you proceed with caution. Many of us victims end up with just another alcoholic and we have to be careful. Take your time. Get healthy. Make sure you never repeat your same mistakes. Once you date someone "normal" again, it's amazing. Because when you're living with an alcoholic, nothing is normal and we sometimes don't realize it. Abusers are incredibly good at blaming us (the victim) and everything else for their horrific behavior. Don't believe it. They are liars and manipulators. Repeat that again and again and again so that every time they try to convince you that their behavior is somehow your fault (or the fault of something else), you can know this: "liar, manipulator, liar, abuser, liar." It'll help keep you sane. Trust me, I know. I've lived it, I've survived it, and I'm healing from it. And so can you.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

A great dad abandons his kids

This is Bob with Siena in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Bob and I adopted Siena together. When Bob and I met, I was in the process of adopting another child. I had been granted permission to bring a child into the country and had completed my home study but that was it. When Bob and I decided to marry, we also decided together to adopt Siena.

For our honeymoon, we traveled to Yekaterinburg to meet Siena. It took two more trips after that one to bring her home.

This is Bob with Morgan. I adopted Morgan in 2002, also from Russia. One of the reasons I moved forward with a relationship with Bob was because he was so great with Morgan. Finally, I thought, Morgan can have a great dad.

Bob has abandoned Morgan and Siena. He told me a few times after I left him that he would "maybe" have a relationship with them when it wasn't so stressful for him. I begged him many times not to take the anger we had between each other and transfer that to the children. But he did anyway. I mean, hey, who cares about innocent kids who love you a lot when there's alcohol to be had, right?

Bob was a fun dad. He doesn't parent (because that's not fun), but he does play hard with the kids. The girls truly love him. And they miss him. And it breaks my heart.

One day over the summer, Siena took my aunt Casi to her room and was showing her pictures. She pointed out a photo of Bob. "This is my dad. I think he's still alive," and she started crying.

This past Super Bowl Sunday was really hard for Morgan to get through. I knew it would be and tried to distract her by making sure we were at a really fun party. But she was sad and mopey. Afterwards, she sobbed about how much she missed her dad.

But who cares about children when there's booze to drink, right? Who cares about ever putting children first when it's just not "fun" anymore, right? Well, that's all true if you're Bob the Great, anyway.

Bob tells people that I took the kids away from him so, oh well. True, I needed to enter treatment and I wasn't about to leave the children behind-- especially with a "man" who puts alcohol first, doesn't parent, and takes them to a drug den and tells them to lie to me about it. However, cutting children out of one's life just because is sick. But I should expect nothing better from Bob the Great (Alcoholic).

It breaks my heart to open Morgan's phone and see that she has texted her dad only to see that he doesn't even bother to respond. That is painful.

I shouldn't be surprised, though...

This is a photo from our wedding day. Guess who's missing? Bob's younger daughter from his first marriage, Kalie. Before the wedding, Bob and Kalie got in a huge fight. Bob took Kalie's phone and dropped it in the pool. I wasn't there for that altercation (thank goodness) but after that fight, Bob uninvited Kalie from the wedding. And when Bob's sister, Kathy, came from Utah for the wedding, he prohibited Kathy from seeing Kalie. This broke Kalie's heart. She adores Kathy but Bob wouldn't allow them to have contact as a way of further punishing her.

Terri, Kalie's mom, was beside herself. She called Bob Sr (Bob's dad) begging for him to intervene. Bob Sr was livid but was powerless to stop his son from such outrageous demands.

Nicole was having severe problems in our home when she lived with us. But Bob did nothing to truly help redirect her. Instead, he left town 4 days a week on a work assignment and expected me to deal with it. That included discovering that she was stealing things from me, stealing from her employer, was bringing drugs into the house, was having drug parties while we were away, wasn't working, and wasn't showing up for classes that we paid for either. When I would call Bob to give him updates of Nicole not coming home, or bringing drugs in the house, he would scream at me like only Bob the Great (Alcoholic) can-- in that high falsetto screeching metso soprano tone that would rock the neighborhood.

I wish that Bob would re-enter the children's lives. I wish so many things when it comes to Bob. I pray that he'll be a better man. That he'll be a better father. That he'll get help. That he'll become honest and good.

It took me a long time to realize that Bob was not essentially a good guy who had a major alcohol problem. In reality, he is an evil, mean "man" who can pretend to be a good one when he must.

It's been a huge learning experience and I'm approaching all my future relationships with eyes wide open. I didn't know such evil existed in my world but I do now.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Things I love, am sick of, and miss

Park City, Utah is one of my favorite places on the planet.

Last week, my friend and I went to Park City for an overnighter. It was heavenly. Just the two of us, no kids, pure peace and relaxation. It was a spectacularly beautiful day. The resort hotel was at the foot of The Canyons. We laid out at the pool. I read a magazine. We got fresh vitamin D and mountain air. We saw The Great Gatsby, which is also one of my favorite novels. We ate great food. And I felt very fortunate to have the flexibility to do something like that-- just take off midweek for some adult time.

Fighting Multiple Myeloma is a really long, tough process. Carol, my coordinator at Huntsman (where I am treated), told me that treating MM isn't the most painful or invasive, but it is one of the most time intensive and time consuming. She said: "Your treatment is now your fulltime job. If you look at it that way, it won't seem as bad." True. And I'm so tired of it!

So today I'm pondering the few good things that have resulted from my disease, things I'm completely sick of, and things I miss the most. Here goes:

Good Things
  • Flexibility: I have flexibility to work around my treatments and the days I think I'll be feeling the crappiest, and schedule time for me. Once the girls are home from school, I'm incredibly busy, but when they're at school, I can call the shots. I've never been able to do that. I've always worked or gone to school and worked. The flexibility is nice.
  • Time: Time to really get to know my children and my parents without feeling rushed all the time. I get to live in the moment. Granted, I'm still incredibly busy, but it's a busy that's more focused on others and of my own choosing.
  • The girls: Ok, so I've completely overscheduled them but it's nice to sign them up for activities based on what they want to do, rather than what my job will enable me to do. This means that they're in all kinds of positive activities, like dance, tumbling, choir, soccer, art and so much more.
  • My health: I don't really have a choice here but I really am trying to focus on my whole health. This includes meditation time, yoga, power walks, massage, journaling, proper sleep and (mostly) good nutrition. I think about my health every waking moment. This actually gets exhausting but I'll still keep it in the "good things" column.
  • Me: I've just become a better person. I focus on being kind and honest and good. I treat people how I want to be treated. I am as helpful and thoughtful as I can be. I pray a lot and I know God is listening. I'm becoming more the person I want to be, rather than reactionary to my environment.
I am sick of...
  • Hearing the words Multiple Myeloma
  • Needles
  • Thalidomide
  • Velcade
  • Dexamethasone
  • "The fuzzies"
  • Rib/torso pain and/or tightness
  • Exhaustion/fatigue
  • Having to worry about Every.Little.Thing when it comes to my health. "Oh, I feel a pain in my back. Is that a tumor?" or "Uh oh, I have a 100-degree temp. Time to rush to the ER!" Nothing, even something incredibly minor, can be ignored and I am paranoid about everything.
  • Planning my days around when I think my velcade/dex side effects will kick in
  • Admitting my physical limitations. I see people running outside and I really miss it. I want to go for a run, to train for a race, but I can't. Then I remind myself that I run a marathon every day (figuratively). I am a physical rock star if you understand how hard treatment is. I work through it, I keep going, and somehow/somewhere, I find the strength to survive my illness every single day. That's pretty amazing. And it can be really super hard. 
Things I miss:
  • Feeling healthy and having no physical limitations
  • My hair
  • Feeling like a grownup. Living with my parents is humbling.
  • Independence. I can't do my life alone. I need help, I need support, I need caregivers. Admitting this and letting others help me has been incredibly humbling.
  • Working. Sort of. Ok, not really! I was always defined by my career. Not anymore!
  • Having my own home
  • My dogs. Bob the Great got rid of them after I left. If there's no wife to care for animals, well, he's not going to do it. I don't even know what he did with them. Sick.
  • My children not having a dad. I'll post a blog all about what a horrible "man" Bob has been to them. Inexcusable and pathetic but we'll talk about that another time
  • San Diego
  • Julie and Shane
  • Kalie - But we get to see her in July. Whoohoo!!
  • Peggy

Sunday, May 19, 2013

I can't even "enjoy" a summer cold!

Nothing is ever simple when you're immune compromised. And that's me. After my stem cell transplants, I was "given" a brand new immune system. It's like I have the immunity of a baby. So I caught a basic summer cold. You know, coughing and sneezing. I didn't even feel bad. Except three weeks later, I still couldn't shake it.

So one evening, I realize I'm running a fever, and fevers for someone like me are not good. I called the Huntsman BMT hospital and they tell me to pop a couple Tylenols and see if I can get my fever down. Nope, it didn't help, not even .01 degree. Dangit. All I wanted to do was sleep but, no, instead, I have to go to the emergency room. Noooooo!

At the ER, they run all kinds of tests. Urine, chest x-ray, chest CT scan, blood, blood cultures from my port and my veins, throat swab, nose swab... I think there are a few more that I can't remember. I was so tired and annoyed. Turns out I had a kidney infection and pneumonia. Antibiotics.

I have to say, I'm very tired of doctors and tests and needles and pills. The mental (and physical) fatigue is just... so tiring.

While I was recovering from my fever/illness incident, I was just exhausted. One morning after I dropped the children off at school, I came home and had to lie down. I turned on the TV and was so tired that I didn't have the energy to roll over to a more comfortable position. I just closed my eyes and... "fell asleep" isn't the right word for it. It was more like I just faded into a daze. Was this how death would be? Just a fading out?

At my weekly injection appointment this past Friday, I was talking to my PA Abby. She said that considering I was starting month seven of my year of maintenance, I was doing extremely well. Blood work is all great. There is no sign of new disease. And at this point, many of my fellow Multiple Myeloma warriors need to be cajoled into continuing with their treatment plan. This is hard stuff, I'm telling you! Overall, I think I'm doing great but it just sucks. I have major chemo brain, I get this strange "fuzzy feeling" without warning, some days I'm exhausted, and other times I feel completely normal. It makes planning things "interesting."

I look forward to finishing up treatment. They say that a few months post treatment, you kind of find your "new normal." It could be 80% of what you used to feel like, or less, or more. Whatever it is, I just feel blessed to have good health insurance, a great support system, and a body that is fighting like hell.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

I'm out of (wig) prison!

One of the hardest aspects of chemo is losing all your hair. And I mean, at least for me, all of it.

This is me with real hair. I've always had long hair and I got Brazillian blowouts, colored every 10 days or so, and took good care of it. Losing my hair has been tough.

The first time I did my rounds of chemo pre transplant #1, I went to a salon about a week prior to when my nurses told me my hair would start falling out in clumps, and had it all shaved off. I decided that I would dictate when my hair would come out, not the chemo. It was oddly empowering in a way. My mom sobbed when the stylist shaved it all off. I was numb. I walked out wearing a wig that my friend and fellow cancer survivor, Linda, gave me. It wasn't too bad looking.

However, I did not let my children ever see me with my bald head. I either wore the wigs everywhere I went or, if I took it off, I wore a beany cap, even to sleep in. I was extremely self conscious about anyone seeing me without my wigs because then people would know I was doing chemo and very few people knew the true nature of my illness. I didn't want their pitty. I didn't want to see the look in their eyes. I wanted none of it. I was going to beat my disease and I didn't need anyone to rattle my resolve.

Wigs, wigs, wigs. All wigs. They became my personal prison. An entire year, almost to the date, I wore them Every.Single.Day. I purchased several and they're not cheap (nor is their upkeep). I had a short one, one with a headband, a short one with a headband, one with bangs, one without bangs, one that fastened to a baseball cap...

After transplant (and more chemo), not only did I have no hair on my head, but I lost my eyelashes and eyebrows, too. Now that sucked even worse than losing the hair on my head. There's a reason we have eyelashes. And without them, my eyes were irritated, things were always getting in my eyes, and I looked like a complete freak. I'd post a photo of it here but I didn't take any photos. It was definitely not something that I wanted to save for the memories. I wore huge enormous sunglasses everywhere I went. I purchased fake eyelashes that I wore in emergencies but they were so incredibly uncomfortable. They were heavy and made my eyes itch. I hated them. I bought fake eyebrows, too, but I ended up looking like Groucho Marx. So I drew them in with an eyebrow pencil but in the heat of the summer, they often melted off. Oh my gosh, I was miserable. Thankfully, my eyelashes and brows grew back quickly. Within six weeks or so, my eyelashes were longer and thicker than they've ever been in my entire life and my brows were back to normal.

Between transplants 1 and 2, my hair started growing back but then when I started more chemo for transplant #2, I would wake up with hair all over my pillows. It was gross. One night around 2:00 AM I woke up, went into the bathroom, and shaved it all off. I was back to being a baldy.

The worse part about the wigs was just the prison aspect of it. If someone stopped by the house unannounced, I had to run downstairs and put my wig on. And it got so old. At least I started not caring if my children saw me hairless. It was very weird for them (and me) at first. Talk about feeling naked! When Siena saw me without a cap or wig on the first time, it freaked her out. But everyone (me included) got used to it.

In January, my hair had grown back enough that it finally covered my scalp. And one day I went to yoga without a wig on. Guess what? No one gaped at me and I didn't care anyway. When the children and I went to Long Beach over MLK weekend, I went out with just a baseball cap on. Hey, this was huge progress for me-- getting comfortable in my own scalp.

When the children and I went to Denver over Spring break, I only wore my wig once and that was to church. The first time I felt the wind blow through my short hair, it felt really super cool. Who knew?

But there is just one problem: my hair grew back in super curly and I hate it. And when it's really curly like that, it sticks straight up and I look like Carol Burnett. I finally found my saving grace. There is a great beauty school near my house and Kelsey does my hair twice per week. For $10 she shampoos and straightens it. For $12 I get a full scalp massage to stimulate hair growth (oh my gosh it feels amazing!), shampoo, and style. So guess what? I pitched my wig! I am free and it feels fabulous!

I can't say I'm entirely comfortable with my new look but, hey, it feels good and that's worth something. When my hair grows another two inches (hopefully by late July), I'll have enough length to get hair extensions if I want them, and I can have long hair again! Granted, this comes at the cost of about $1,700 plus tip and another $800 or so every seven weeks for the upkeep. Or, who knows, mabye by then I won't even care about long hair anymore.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Rob says if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't even have a job!

Abusers tear down their victims. It's how they keep us stuck, trying to survive in their chaos and web of lies and deceit. One of the countless ways Rob the Great (Alcoholic) tore me down was trying to convince me that without him, I couldn't survive life. Somehow, I wouldn't be able to live on my own, I couldn't have survived the 18-hour San Diego blackout of 2011 (or, as it turned out, without his SCREAMING at me that night), and I couldn't even get a job on my own.

Let's start with a few facts: I have a college degree. I have years of experience in my field. I've worked for large companies and had a successful career. My job as AVP of Communications at one of the largest companies in the world was coming to an end as they were getting ready to close down the business unit I was working for. So I started looking for another job. I sent off resumes to two of San Diego's largest employers. Long story short, I got job offers from both-- nearly identical offers, with the same title. I had a choice. But somehow, all of this was... thanks to Bob?

Let's hear it straight from Bob the Great's mouth:

From: Rob the Great
To: Lizzy Smilez
Subject: Re: Your counseling Appt.

Oh, I'm reading this, I helped you get the Michelle job and through Jorge Dasilva, you got connected with a job with Sara that would pay you right.

----- Original Message -----
From: Lizzy Smilez
To: Rob the Great
Subject: Re: Your counseling Appt.

You don't want to go to counseling and we both know why. And I never expected you to show. As usual, I take your alcohol recovery far more seriously than you do. I went a year ago alone when you were a no-show and I will again.

I got both job offers on my own. Believe it when I tell you that my resume is very, very strong and I interview very well. Being unhappy in a job doesn't begin to address your alcoholism or our intolerable way of communicating. It was inexcusable for you to SCREAM at me when I asked you a very simple question while doing OUR budget- it takes me a long time and I HATE it. Yet you SCREAMED at me in a second. What the HELL was that about????

I love sober Rob. I guess. I haven't really known a Rob who was seriously trying to conquor a VERY SERIOUS disease.

And you are right: you have no ability to stop me from moving anywhere with the kids. I will make that very serious decision when I must. I am clearly at a crossroads and I will very soon decide which path to take.

So while we're emaling (since we can't talk or you refuse to go to therapy) let's discuss that you drank while I was away and you did some other things that were way out of line, there's plenty of blame to go around so take a long look in the mirror yourself. I am very much looking forward to my therapy appt more than you know and I will embrace the hour alone if you don't show up. Notice that I don't beg you to do anything anymore. I know I'm sitting on a ticking timebomb and life is highly unstable for me.

So my next email was to Michelle, my hiring manager. And the next email I send off will be to Jorge DaSilva. Something tells me I got my next job within the company all on my own!

Lizzy Smilez

Hi. I've got to ask: when you hired me at sempra, did anyone "encourage" you to hire me? I'm going thru old emails and bob says that I got the job thanks to him.

  • Michelle

    Lol. No. I liked you on my own. I had never even met bob before.

  • If you talk to Rob, you'd thing he was The Most Important guy at work. Seriously, without Rob the Great (Alcoholic) none of San Diego would have any power. Except no one believes that but Rob. During the blackouts, Rob was telling Nicole that he was busy at work solving the power crisis. Except that wasn't true (yes, Rob actually lies!). He actually left work early, beat me home, picked up Siena (drunk, of course), and by the time Morgan and I got home, he was ready to terrorize me-- and boy oh boy, terrorize me he did.

    Kalie called me that evening and we had a good laugh that Rob was telling lies aimed at convincing others how very, very important he was when, in reality, he was just home drunk. Rob's a legend (in his own mind anyway).

    Note to Victims: Believe NOTHING that comes out of the mouth of an alcoholic, especially when it has anything to do with putting you down. There's only ONE reason Rob the Great  (Alcoholic) took credit for my job offers: to make me feel worthless. That's an abuser for ya.


    Notice: The bullying is over

    It feels incredibly liberating that Bob's threats no longer hold any power at all over me. He did this for so long but no more. This blog is my story and no one gets to silence me. If it's difficult for "some" to read, well let me assure you-- it was a gajillion times more difficult to live. Every.Single.Word. in my blog is truth. And there is power and safety in truth. Bob ought to try it sometime.

    For far too long I lived in a world where I made excuses for Bob's behavior or I hid it. I presented a vision to outsiders that we were a happy couple and had a happy family. I helped perpetuate to others the falsehood that Bob was normal and kind and a good man. Victims such as myself are embarrassed and humiliated and we live in a world of lies and covering up for the offender. No more. I won't live that way ever again. I won't ever cover for Bob and I won't be silenced from sharing my story with others.

    I have heard from some of my readers that my story helps them not feel alone. It gives them hope that they, too, can somehow escape. Well that makes every single second I've spent writing my story and sharing it with others worth it a million times over. If I help just one single person out there, it's worth it. Plus, writing my story is helping me. It's helping me see and remember what I've been through. It helps me understand my own victim's mentality. And I know the more I understand it, the less likely I am to repeat it.

    No, I will not be silenced. I will not be threatened. I will not be bullied. And I will not lie. From here on out, I will live in truth as long as I live. No apologies, no exceptions.

    If you don't like it, then too bad.

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    Why am I blogging?

    Here's why I'm blogging:

    • It's incredibly cathartic. Instead of dredging up bad memories, writing about it is helping me sift through what happened, how I felt about it, and what I'd do differently if given the opportunity.
    • I have a story to tell and I need to document it. Since leaving Bob, he has told me many times that when I die and/or when he gets the chance, he will tell our two daughters that I was an awful mother and that it's my fault they could no longer live with their loving father. Nice guy that Bob is, eh? While the children lived with the horror of growing up with Bob as a dad and they know what he is like, they still love him very much. (Shame that he cut off all contact with them because of the "stress" but that's a blog post all its own. I can't say I should be surprised, as he did the same to his older daughters, too, for periods of time while we were married.) So this blog will be a critical story for the girls when they get older should they need to hear my side some day.
    • A monster in sheep's clothing needs to be called out. About a week prior to our wedding, Bob's ex wife, Terri, called me to warn me about Bob and I didn't listen. I wish to God I had. Granted, by the time she called to warn me, it was too late. We already purchased a home together and we were in the process of adopting our daughter, Siena, from Russia. So backing out wasn't really an option. To be honest, I wanted to back out of the wedding more than I wanted to breathe all on my own. But I was stuck. In the future, should anyone ever want a true character reference of Bob, here it is. One may not want to listen but I've done my part and my conscience is clear. I wish Terri had blogged prior to my purchasing a home with Bob. I can assure you that I would have run for the hills.
    • Defending my character. Bob has told many people horrible and awful lies about me and I will defend myself. There are two sides to every story and Bob is a pathological liar and loves to slander pretty much everyone he knows. As such, I feel an innate desire to defend myself. I shouldn't be surprised he would lie and badmouth me, though. He said horrible things about every member of his family including his brother Chris and his wife Joanie, his mother and his father, both of his older daughters, his ex wife (oh my gosh, she is Satan, according to Bob, and the worse mother to ever live), his employer and fellow employees, and friends. He never said bad things about our children together because if he had, I'm quite sure I would have chopped off his very tiny penis and fed it to our dogs.
    The fact is, I gave everything I had to this monster who prior to marriage came across as this kind, honest, soft spoken and caring family man who just happened to have been married to Satan's wife the first time around. When we met, he had $75,000 of debt, credit card debt of about $10,000 and had years of financial obligations to his ex wife for spousal and child support. On the other hand, I had no credit card debt, an almost new very nice car with no car payment, quite a lot of liquid cash, two homes, and no financial obligations to anyone. By the end of our marriage, I had nothing left-- no cash, no homes, no sanity, and my health was in shambles-- all at the hands of this mean alcoholic. I can honestly say I gave 150% in that marriage only to leave it fighting for my life while I got one threatening and evil text after the next. If writing my story helps me, my children, or others out there, then this is all worthwhile.

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013

    So what would Rob say about me?

    Rob purchased this T-shirt for our daughter, Siena, in Catalina. He thought it was really funny. Pray tell how I was a princess when I worked like a dog throughout our entire relationship while Bob drank, drank, worked, drank, drank, fished, napped, watched movies, threw temper tantrums, drank, screamed, and drank?
    A friend recently asked me what Bob would say about me when meeting a new woman. That was a good question and I think I can answer it quite accurately. Here goes what I'm quite sure he says and my rebuttal.

    Rob Says: You're a control freak!
    Lizzy Says: Absolutely and completely false.

    This accusation from the mouth of an alcoholic is so boring and expected. Pretty much every alcoholic says that their non offending partner (or children, parents, etc) is a control freak. How dare anyone have the audacity of saying their behavior is unacceptable, right?

    The reality is, I had no control. Every ounce of control was held by Rob the Great (Alcoholic). Every single thing I did was controlled by Rob's temper tantrums, expected temper tantrum, or a hope that I could somehow avoid a temper tantrum. By Rob's refusal to do almost anything around the house meant that I was worked to the bone, overstressed, overtaxed and, eventually, sick and fighting for my life.

    Even the household finances were controlled by Bob because when he came into the relationship, he owed his mother $75,000, had no short term savings whatsoever, an old car, and his 401k/pension from SDG&E. Our entire relationship was spent trying to pay off his debts and his financial obligations for spousal and child support.

    Control? The only thing I controlled was the cleanliness of the home. The more chaotic our alcoholic home became, the cleaner I tried to keep the house. To the point that it became an obsession.

    Rob Says: You have a hair-trigger temper!
    Lizzy Says: I deserve a medal for restraint

    When one is getting screamed at, belittled, and emotionally terrorized pretty much every day, I think I deserve a medal for keeping my mouth shut most times. True, after a couple days of silence, I would email or text Rob messages about how I really felt. Mostly that he was a lazy, pathetic, abusive drunk and I hated him.

    But I walked away from Rob ninety percent of the time I was terrorized. And for that, I am proud of my behavior. Of course, what I should have done was left his drunk ass as soon as I realized what a jerk he was. Terri, his ex wife, tried to warn me. Kalie, his younger daughter from his first marriage, tried to tell me. I should have listened.

    Rob Says: You beat me!
    Lizzy Says: No I didn't (and statement taken out of context)

    Let's just say this: Rob called the police on me a few times. They came to the home, interviewed us both, and never arrested me, threatened to arrest me, or charge me with a thing. One time they came out to the house, after interviewing the two of us, they waited until Rob packed up and left the home. In this day, police arrest anyone who even appears to be violent in the home. Enough said.

    Rob Says: You're a snob and you hate my friends!
    Liz Says: I didn't "hate" his friends.

    But didn't feel like hanging around people he drank with. Because Rob's a fun drunk when he's got an audience but when he gets home, he's a monster and I get to pick up the pieces.

    Rob Says: You were mean to my kids!
    Liz Says: See my Brady Bunch post.

    Rob Says: You hate my family
    Liz Says: Quite the opposite

    I actually loved Rob's family. Rob blamed me for being the reason we never went to visit them. Of course, he's a liar. Why we didn't go more often was squarely on Rob's shoulders. I will say that he hated Joanie. He has a complicated relationship with his brother. He's close to him and loves him, but he also believes that Chris tries to copy everything he does and that all Chris really wants to do is maximize his money/profits. In fact, Rob said that one of the main reasons Chris moved his mom and dad into his home was to lock up as much of their assets in Chris' home, thereby cutting out anyone else in the family. While Rob loves his family, he also badmouthed them. I couldn't make up these stories if I wanted to. They are true and I stand by them 100%.

    Rob Says: You're not "fun"! 
    Liz Says: True as charged

    It's pretty dang hard to be "fun" when "fun" means somehow being happy and ok with being terrorized by a drunk husband all too often. I lived in fear, dread, sadness and desperation. It's also pretty dang hard to be "fun" when the entire household responsibilities rested on my shoulders. I was so overwhelmed by everything I had to do, that my life and world were incredibly "un-fun".

    Rob Says: You're a terrible mother!
    Liz Says: I'm as great a mother as I know how to be.

    I sincerely do my best every single day to be a good mom. It is my top priority. Shame Rob can't say the same (his top priority is the pursuit of fun, which is pretty much drinking, diving, fishing, watching movies, naps and going on vacation). I work so hard and sincerely don't know how to do better or more. Whatever, Rob said the same things about Terri. Really, his ridiculous insults are just stupid and tiring (and incredibly inaccurate). Truth is, Rob is just simply a liar and will say anything to inflict pain on anyone who dare get in the way of his pursuit of pleasure.

    Rob says: You want me to live like a Mormon!
    Liz Says: Big Fat Lie

    Every single one of my boyfriends have been non Mormon and they've all been drinkers. But there is a Big.Huge.Flippin'.Ginormous difference between drinking and being an alcoholic. Huge difference. I thought it quite normal that my husband enjoyed a beer here and there. To me, that was normal. I had absolutely no problems with it. Until I realize it was never a "few beers", that Rob the Great (Alcoholic) drank more than he ever let on, that he became abusive when he drank or wanted a drink (unless there was an audience or we were on vacation). And that is a horrible, awful, indescribably unhealthy environment in which to live. We victims live in a special hell made just for us by the abuser (in my case, Rob the Great).

    I fled Rob for these reasons:
    • To fight for my health
    • For the emotional health of the younger children (it got increasingly difficult to tell the girls that they should never allow any man to treat them the way Daddy treated me)
    • For the health of Rob. I truly hoped and prayed that he would find himself in a place where he would finally fight to get well of his alcoholism. Two families destroyed by his illness would, I thought, be enough for him to finally try to get well. Nope, not Rob. Counseling and AA meetings are, simply put, not "fun."
    Here's a typical email exchange where Rob apologizes for his disgusting drunk behavior and I say how sick of it I am. Yes, I was in a dark, desperate place because of his behavior for basically our entire marriage. I'm telling you, reader, it is a horrible way to live. If you're in a relationship with a "Rob", get the HELL OUT. It won't ever get better but you'll make yourself (the victim/s) worse.

    (Warning: My emails to Rob are pretty raw and angry. Ninety percent of the time I saved my vitriol for email or text because, in person or on the phone, I refused to try to talk it out with Rob because it was impossible, There is no way I could get in a word when Rob was using his Big Huge LOUD shrill voice. And, besides, arguing with a drunk or someone who wants to get drunk is just an exercise in futility.)

    From: lizzy smilez                      
    To: Rob
    Subject: Re:                     

    Wow- u have finally pushed me over the edge. Strangely it feels FANTASTIC to pull off the gloves. I am gonna have fun with this one. You Fucking touch me, you will regret ever knowing my name. Got it you worthless lazy liar drunk dumb fucking stupid pathetic lowlife fucking asshole????? I fucking hate you
    Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

    From: Rob
    To: lizzy smilez
    Subject: RE:
    I will not stop by the Brew Co, nor bring influence in the house to you nor the kids in the future.

    From: lizzy smilez
    To: Stolberg, Robert
    Subject: Re:                        
    No. You have said this shit of "what have you done for me lately" or "what do you do all day" several times over the last few months. You place Brewco as priority #1 besides work. I am at war with you. If you come home, I promise to make life an absolute HELL for you. You make me sick and I do not love you. You are a selfish, lazy piece of shit sonofabitch and, trust me, home will not be fun for you if you insist on coming home.                         
    Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

    From: Rob
    To: lizzy smilez
    Subject: Re:
    I hit a hard nerve that I have not in a long time ans was wrong. I was an asshole. I will come home in peace. I am located in San Diego the next 3 weeks and will not travel. I will be home tomorrow night.

    From: lizzy smilez                        
    To: Rob
    Subject: Re:
    You don't get it, do you??? NO MORE APOLOGIES. They are all lies. I want a divorce. I do NOT want to live with you ANYMORE. This is HELL
    Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

    From: Rob
    To: lizzy smilez
    Subject: RE:
    I will not get that way with you ever again. I will be home Tuesday night for 3 weeks. Please do not move forward with Divorce.
    I push things to the extreme before making changes. I am sorry.

    From: lizzy smilez
    To: Bob
    Subject: Re:
    No. No more apologies and I do NOT want you home unless you are there to pack up. I want a divorce
    Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

    From: Bob Stolberg
    To: Lizzy Smilez
    Subject: RE:

    I will be home tomorrow night, sober so I can assure you that I will not engage in any conflict. I will be home for the next 3 weeks working from Plaza and will take over walking the dogs, and chores. I am sorry for the escalation last night, it got way out of control. Please accept my apology.

    The Brady Bunch taught me everything I knew about blended families

    The Brady Bunch is one of my favorite TV shows ever. That's where I learned everything I thought I needed to know about blending families. After all, I am not the product of divorce and neither were  most of my friends.

    So when I met Rob and we decided to get married, I thought everyone should be happy. Morgan was getting a dad, so she was thrilled. And Kalie and Nicole were getting a nicer and bigger house with a pool. No problems, right?

    WRONG! Seriously, I had no idea the trauma and turmoil that was still going on. I had no idea that their mother had just moved out of the home they shared because Rob the Great lied to me about the timing. I had no concept of the hurt and pain those children were grappling with. I should have known but I just didn't. (I do now.)

    However, Rob the Great should have known. He should have had a good understanding that his children were in pain. They were confused and hurt and not at all "settled" with anything when Bob disrupted their lives even more by finding a new girlfriend, selling their childhood home, introducing a new wife and child (and an adopted child on the horizon), and basically throwing it all (with glee) in their mother's face. However, in all honesty, Bob simply doesn't care. His pleasure comes first. Period.

    So, unbeknownst to me, I walked into a hornet's nest. So I deserve a lot of blame for: 1) being completely ignorant and clueless; 2) believing Rob; and 3) playing along with it.

    Here's one example: Rob owed Terri $75,000 as an equalization payment from their divorce. He borrowed that money from his mother (and I paid her back, by the way; Rob still owes me that money) and cut a check to Terri. We were on our way to a movie and Rob needed to drop the check off to Terri at her house. As we were pulling up to her home, Rob said: "I don't want any confrontations with Terri so can you take this to her?" Sure, no problem. I walked up to the door and knocked. Terri answered it. We had never met, though Terri knew of me.

    "Hi, this is for you," I said and handed her the check.

    Terri looked completely confused and Kalie walked up to the door. I said hi to Kalie and Terri said, "I'm sorry, who are you?"

    "Oh, hi, I'm Liz," and I shook her hand.

    Terri was incredulous. "Rob had you bring the check to me? Where is he?"

    "In the car," I said.

    Terri was speechless and walked out to the car and started yelling at Rob on the sidewalk. I was speechless as the two of them got in a screaming match right there on the sidewalk with all the neighbors in earshot. After they screamed at each other, Rob said, "Liz, get in the car. Let's go."

    So I did and we left. In retrospect, what the hell was I thinking? That was so rude and horrible and awful. But Rob did know exactly what he was doing and he did it to get under Terri's skin. I was a pawn.

    Throughout our relationship, Rob spent quite a lot of time fighting with Kalie, Nicole and Terri. I often was culpable because I was part of the story (see example above). Shame on me. And then, of course, when Rob was an angry drunk (mostly all the time unless we were on vacation or there was an audience), he would blame me for all the problems with his kids.

    Finally, I fought back. "You are, or at least should be, your children's advocate, not me. I don't know them like you do. If there is something you want to do differently with your kids, then do it! Do not blame me anymore for your problems with them. You're a grown man, you're their father, so act like it."

    From then on, when he blamed me for these problems, it just went in one ear and right out the other.

    When I left Rob, he sent me one text that just cut straight through my heart. He said, "Kalie and Nicole are so much better now that you're gone" That stung and hurt to my very core. Because if Rob was a horrible father, it wasn't my fault. He was just simply a horrible father. If he didn't have the relationship he wanted with his children, well, that was his fault, too. Still, ouch, that was hard to hear.

    So I contacted Terri. I apologized. I said that whatever blame was mine for Kalie and Nicole's struggles, I was deeply and sincerely sorry. Terri responded by saying that Kalie and Nicole were the same people they were when I was in their life versus when I wasn't and not to let Rob blame me for anything. God bless that woman. Terri is a better person than I am.

    Rob the Great is good at blame because if he doesn't blame, he will have to come to some hard truths: 1) That he destroyed two families; 2) That he was a horrible father. Sure, he's a fun dad. But as far as parenting, guiding and mentoring his children, he's pathetically horrible; 3) That he made his second wife sick; 4) That his drinking problem had severely damaged the lives of many people around him; 5) Well, he is just not a good, kind or honest man. Contrary to his claims that he's a really great guy, he's not a good man.

    Here are a few examples of the glee Bob took in undermining his children and the mother of his children:

    --- "Stolberg, Robert" <>

    If at semester, Nicole is looking like she will not graduate, we will go to court and introduce all the evidence we have of Terri enabling Nicole to fail.  In addition, all the information on Nicole's poor performance in school to get CS dropped for Nicole.

    Or, instead of fighting, we stay low until March, send Nicole and Terri a letter stating that all will be cancelled in June and in June, it's gone.

    And here's a letter he sent Terri (I put some of my comments in pink next to it):
    You have no idea how much I wish your words were true... That, yes, in fact, you were and had always remained neutral and/or positive in what you've told our daughters. However, that is simply not true. In fact, the more I research and think, the more I am absolutely convinced that you are one of the primary reasons for the alienation of Kalie and I. I believe that your actions, some of which have been on purpose and some you may not even realize, have become emotionally abusive to Kalie and severely damaged our relationship. (The alienation suffered by Rob and Kalie was Rob's fault, and no one else's. He's great at blaming everyone else, though. It's his MO.)
    Of course, I am the first to admit that I am no psychological professional so only someone with that training can make a final determination. And that is why I feel it is a critical necessity that Kalie, and Kalie alone and with me present, should get into counseling as quickly as possible so that a licensed therapist can begin a reunification plan. (As if Rob the Great would ever follow through with counseling.)
    Encouraging at worst and remaining neutral at best is not a good course of action for Kalie. You can do the research yourself, but suffice it to say that not having a strong male father figure in Kalie's life is of enormous detriment to her wellbeing. (Except Rob is no "strong" male figure. Actually, it's quite beneficial for a child of an alcoholic parent to have distance.) And, as much as you'd like to try and deny it, I've been a very good father to my children and I have tried my damndest to do everything right by them. (Oh.My.Gosh. Really? Like drinking, lying, screaming...) Am I perfect? Of course not. But Kalie is hard pressed to come up with concrete reasons or examples for why she is verbally agressive towards me and harbors ill feelings towards me. (How clueless was he? Well, I suppose when all you care about is drinking, fishing, vacations, movies and naps, who cares about your children, right?)
    The reasons for Kalie's desire to cut of all contact are complex, to be sure. But one of the primary reasons is the many negative things that she's been told by you. I could list them all here but I'll give just a few examples:
    1. "Your dad can't love all those children."
    2. "Your dad's life is unraveling and his life is out of control." (So true)
    3. "Your dad ended the marriage." (So true. When you pick alcohol over your family, well, you've made the marriage impossible to sustain. That is Rob's fault.)
    4. "Your dad cannot and will not be paying for your college. He has a new family to take care of now." (That turned out to be true.)
    5. "Your dad is not going to buy you a car." (True)
    6. "Your dad is an alcoholic." (while leaving out the fact that you've had three DUIs, attended AA for nine years yet started drinking again four years ago) (And during those nine years that Terri didn't drink, Rob still was an aggressive asshole. Nothing any wife can do will change the fact that Bob is an aggressive and mean alcoholic. And, well, her statement that Rob was an alcoholic is true.)
    7. "Your dad is too negative to talk to." (True. Terri cut off all contact with Bob for years. I have done the same. Not only his he negative, but he is a bully. Prior to me cutting off all contact with Rob, I used to see texts or emails from him and I would literally start shaking before I opened them.)
    Kalie also, during better days, made such statements to me that include "Mom hates me being with you and Liz"; and "I feel so sorry for Mom. You have a wife and family and great job and big house and Mom is all alone." To her cousin Casey, she stated that "Mom says I'm not allowed to talk to my dad." (These quotes make me want to cry. True, Rob's new family and relationship must have been a source of tremendous pain for Kalie, Nicole and Terri. He should have taken time after his marriage ended to get therapy, become a good man, enter alcohol treatment, and help his daughters assimilate to their new reality. But Rob's interests come before anyone else's and Rob can't be without a woman. To be without a woman may force him to confront himself, and that image is truly ugly.)
    You have also allowed Kalie to read court documents.
    And you cut off my ability to call or text her phone for several weeks until I sent a letter to your attorney. Kalie could not have done this on her own as the account is yours. You did this, and that is not a neutral action as you claim in your letter. (Something tells me that Kalie probably didn't want to hear from her dad for a period of time. I can't blame her.)
    Additionally, you have encouraged Kalie's aggressive behavior on numerous occassions. Most recently, you brought Kalie to the San Diego Brewing Company just a few weeks ago. This after you had aggressively come into the restaurant to confront me on a check, which I paid you immediately. I will have you know that Kalie walked in visibly shaken, highly uncomfortable and then nearly ran out of the restaurant. When Liz tried to walk out with her, she ran outside, jumped in your car and you two sped away. There was no reason for that and does not show neutrality in any way. (The BrewCo was a HUGE problem in Terri and Rob's relationship and home, just as it was in Rob and my relationship. Terri and Kalie wanted to call Rob's attention that they knew he was still doing things that were damaging to Rob's families, yet he simply didn't care. Rob's wants trump anyone else. That's too bad and morally inexcusable.)
    I might also remind you that when we were in mediation, the mediator stated explicitly and in no uncertain terms that you were a primary cause of the rift between Kalie and I, and that your actions were undermining our relationship. That is not 'neutral' as you state. The simple reason she recommended the custody arrangement was purely on Kalie's wishes.
    The reality is that it would benefit Kalie enormously to grow up with frequent contact with me. (Except, Rob forgets to mention that the BrewCo will come before her or anyone else.) She should have the benefit of seeing a functioning family (This is pathetic. Rob can't have a functioning family because he cannot be a partner), and a functioning husband-wife relationship (Yes, because Rob and I functioned so well. Alcoholics make great partners, after all! And our husband-wife relationship was a nightmare and made me sick). Kalie has never seen that, as we did not get along for most of her life. (How sad. But alcohol comes first!) She should know that marriage and families and homes can be happy, that love and affection can exist between a married couple, and that siblilngs can have enormously positive relationships. (Yes, Kalie should know and see that! Too bad her dad cannot ever demonstrate that for her because he's a horrible husband.) She should see cohesive parenting in action. This would help her function in her future relationships. Believe it or not, Liz and Kalie have enjoyed a great relationship until recently when, for no apparent reason, all contact was stopped. I know that you and Liz are not on the best of terms, however, that should never involve Kalie-- that is between adults and should have always remained that way.
    Whether we brought out the best or worst in each other is irrelevant. Whether our relationship was toxic is equally irrelevant. What is important, vitally important, now is that Kalie begins healing inside of her. Kalie's aggression towards me needs to be addressed and curtailed. She is still a child and needs to be coached into having parent-child relationships, not parent-peer relations as she has now. Kalie needs her father and you, as her primary custodian, need to be supportive and encouraging of that. (This paragraph makes my stomach hurt. Wow, Rob the Great, try seeking help yourself. Try stopping drinking. Try being a kind and loving dad who will actually parent your child and put your child's interests first. If Kalie has aggression, it's because she learned that communication skill from you. If she hates you, that poor girl has been hurt by you! Oh my gosh, the things I've learned since meeting Rob.)
    To that end, I am going to begin exercising my visitation as stipulated just weeks ago. As if Kalie were to announce that she no longer wants to attend school, you would use all resources to make sure she attended regardless of those wishes. The same should be afforded to ensuring Kalie makes every one of our visits.
    For starters, I will begin expecting her to attend therapy. I ask that you make those appointments and let me know when and where they will take place. If I don't hear from you, I will make appointments. I will pick her up at the time or you may take her. Let me know which you prefer. (By the way, Rob attended one therapy session with Kalie and it didn't go well. Of course, Bob never followed up with more therapy appointments. After all, therapy or the BrewCo? Well, there wasn't time for both and Rob the Great picked the BrewCo!)
    I sincerely hope that we can avoid attorneys and costs in asking for Kalie to begin therapy by court order. I truly believe that we can work on this together to ensure that Kalie receives the support she needs to repair a relationship that is of critical importance to her, that of having a father who loves her unconditionally in her life now and forever.
    I look forward to hearing from you soon.