Born at 11:30 AM in a Belleville, New Jersey hospital, on April 21, It began w a full on blood transfusion, as my Mother's body was rejecting me because of my blood type. I survived. I was 4 years and 4 months behind my older brother, and 10 months and 7 days ahead of my younger brother. Yes ... a Middle Child, and Congratulations! a Girl, "Welcome to the land of expectations!" (Jess Kent Song "Girl")
Jess Kent "Girl"
Welcome to the world, you're a girl
Living in the land of expectations
Welcome to the world
You're a girl, you're a girl
Are you in love?
They say that's the only way you'll be enough
Like I'm a drug
'Cause apparently I'm only here to get you up
I have always felt, and that feeling grows stronger every year, that I am supposed to tell and share my story so that others have hope, comfort and an expedited path to their own discovery and healing. However, I couldn’t get myself to sit down and put fingers to the keyboard much less pen to paper. I am working on “Living Life Lusciously,” (I thought), and have no interest or desire to bring and relive all the pain, grief, misery, humiliation, self-doubt, isolation, addiction, struggle etc. in my present. After all, it has taken me 40+ years of facing painful difficult truths, fighting hard, being strong, and being alone to get here. In writing my life story, I felt I would be back as "her", a "victim," scared, terrified, alone, and "surviving." I have no desire to relive that part of my life let alone to feel that way again.
With the above post, I have taken a relieved and new attitude that “frees” me up to tell my truth. I can share my story in the light of my wonderful journey to embracing sweet life and "Living Life Lusciously." Living as a strong, powerful, loving, confident, nurturing and successful empowered woman...not as a helpless, out of control, terrified, shut off, child and victim destined to repeat old patterns based on low self- worth, self-esteem, victimization, secrets, protecting others, and isolation.
"Here is my past so you can know my pain, but I'd much rather tell you my story from my present, and my Joy!
So, in truth, and now eagerly, and joyfully, ... I will share my past pain so that you can come to live with me, now, in my sheer joy, w gratitude, w an abundance of love, w daily celebration of me, my life, my loved ones, and opening our hearts to the many gifts the universe has to offer not only for me...but you too! Abundance from the Universe is there for all who ask for it!
I was a happy child, growing up in a conservative, German, Lutheran middle -class family. Mom was a stay at home Mom till we all were launched into middle school where she started working as the pastor's secretary or at the local college campus, while Dad always worked hard trying to climb the corporate ladder as a mechanical engineer in industry recognized companies. His career had us living in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pa.
We religiously attended Sunday Lutheran church and school, along w all the catechism required for confirmation. Very much of our life revolved around church and its social events. I love to this day, (and have my own fond memory of sewing) as Mom would sew us matching outfits for the annual church Mother and Daughter Banquet, as well as my Easter dress. Ironically, she just made my first aprons for my “Live Life Lusciously” artisan bakery which match my decorative pink boxes that display my beautiful cakes wrapped in a black striped or polka dot bow.
While my brothers were into football, baseball, drums or trombone, and go kart racing, I was involved in piano, flute, ballet and tap, and gymnastics. I was overwhelmed and missing friend time, so I dropped all but the flute and piano by 4th grade. Playing the piano, I ceased short of learning improvisation (one of my regrets), and the flute I played beautiful, accomplishing first chair ranking in high school (marching and concert band), and first year of college (concert band). We didn't have a bunch of stuff...like I remember I never had a barbie doll despite asking for one every Christmas but we had bicycles, adventurous “Chevy Chase” camping vacations, food on the table, a wonderful Heinz 57 puppy named Fritzy, and love. I was healthy, smart, active, happy, and was dancing through life with wonderful music constantly played through my heart, mind, and soul
So... when did the quarters stop running down the juke box...and the needle scratch the 45?
I don't necessarily recall the exact first incident...maybe because I was so young, maybe because I wanted to forget. It was the summer before I started fifth grade, and I was 10. I had already began my period towards the latter part of my fourth-grade year. A close friend of the family, who would babysit, began touching me in appropriately through that summer and through 5th grade. I remember the confusion, disbelief, hurt, panic and not knowing what to do as this was a person that our family dearly trusted. He threatened, “if I ever so much opened my mouth about what was going on, he would kill me.” I was terrified and felt like I could not tell my parents or brothers.
At the same time that the molestation was going on, I desperately sought control of the situation and an outlet for my fear and victimization. I began watching what I ate and asked Mom to pack 1/2 sandwiches for my lunch box. I started doing aerobics in my bedroom, after school, and obsessively would put myself on a schedule of leg lifts, sit ups, squats at nauseating repetition. I wouldn't go to bed till I finished my physical obligation. I read every magazine I could get my hands on regarding beauty, diet, exercise. I bought a calorie counter and memorized the amount of calories in any measured food item. If it wasn't listed, I would be able to calculate based on the ingredients. Since Mom was working, I voluntarily prepared the family dinners and would prepare lavish meals for everyone's enjoyment. I had always been baking as a young girl, but now I was conscious of creating indulgent desserts for the family, on a regular basis. (I was a fantastic chef, but rarely if at all would I taste my own creations... making excuses that I already ate or had a big meal earlier etc.) I was losing weight quickly. My parents noticed but thought maybe it was just me being more self-conscious of my appearance in heading to middle school.
I had always been a good student, and now in my fanatic state of grasping for control, I ensured I always had A's or A+ report cards. I was meticulous, and precise, on note taking and in my hand writing. I set high expectations for myself in everything that I did, expecting perfection. I rarely watched television w the family, after dinner, and found more comfort in retiring to my bedroom to study or do more leg lifts. I remember I was in such fear ad hurt by betrayal, that one I night I firmly declared to myself, while alone in my bedroom, that I did not need anyone in my life… that it was all up to me.
I can't recall what calorie count I put myself on over that year and 3 month period, but it was enough to take my 5' 9" frame from 130 lb. to 95 lbs. by the time I entered 6th grade (August of 1976). My beautiful waist long blonde/brownish hair was falling out in massive clumps (and continued to be cut shorter and shorter till it was a bob around my face); my face was so drawn and hallow my skin could barely cover my square jaw bone structure. I was cold all the time, my period had abruptly halted, and my body was covered with a soft downy hair (lanugo), everywhere. I was so weak from malnutrition and weight loss, that I had to grasp onto the stair railing w both hands to pull/drag maneuver myself up the stairs. Technically I should have been dead by now...but some mental determination and obsession kept me pushing on ….to what or for what?... I don’t know.
Along w the weight loss came a loss of social interaction. Partly because I was so thin, and a considered a "freak,” “a walking skeleton,” at school, and partly because my young mind was too obsessed and self-consumed with counting and recounting calories, deciding what to make for dinner, and how many sit-ups or leg lifts I had yet to do. I didn’t care; I was in my own, locked-out world. Besides, who would be able to understand or not judge? …and oh, I had to keep “the Secret” of my abuser! I was filled w shame, guilt, loneliness, and fear. It was maddening and a vicious unforgiving cycle.
My poor parents were at a loss as to what to do. Anorexia Nervosa was not a familiar diagnosis to the public, let alone our local family practitioner. They were coaxing me to eat, gave me pills to increase my appetite, and solicited prayers and blessings from our pastor and parish. They would beg, yell, cry, pray, eat w me, …anything. Nothing could break my stubborn, strong, will power, and determination. I’d rather die, than eat! I knew I was thin, a skeleton, but I couldn’t help it. I was possessed. Clothes hung on my shapeless form and it appeared that I could easily blow away w a strong gust of Pittsburgh wind.
On September 20, 1976 I was rushed to the hospital for collapsing, in school, from physical exhaustion and malnutrition. My weight had reached an all-time low of 86 lbs. I wasn't going to make it. I remember my Dad being so angry, desperate, hurt, frustrated, helpless and confused because of his inability to help me. He literally looked me straight in my eyes, gently shook my frail body lying weak in the hospital bed, and desperately loud screamed: “You better wake up and start eating or your silhouette will be a poster on the hospital room wall; you are not going to make it alive out of this hospital if you don’t start eating!” Something triggered inside of me...not sure what, but from that moment on, I started eating. Granted still calorie counting, but I was eating enough to put on 5 lbs. and earn the right to leave the hospital and go home. I really don't remember the rest of 6th grade other than every day was a struggle. I was attending weekly psychiatric counseling, and my parents and brothers were brought in at various points, in addition to family sessions. Not much of anything was accomplished as I was still protecting the abuser, the dear family friend. Without the release of my secret, no real therapy could begin. One can only address the symptoms of anorexia, not the loss of my innocence through sexual abuse, and my feelings of shame, guilt, and victimization.
The summer before 9th grade, my Dad got a promotion and our family had to move from the lovely large suburb near Pittsburgh to a small town outside Cleveland Ohio. It was a sharp contrast: Pittsburgh was truly a mid-west large suburbia, while our town in Cleveland was more like a small picture preppy post card. I managed to make friends in high school, be selected for induction in the honor society, and participate as first chair flute and sectional leader (concert and marching band). I remained quite studious, plowing all of my fear, control, etc. into getting perfect grades and always expecting more from myself. By senior year, majority of my classes were advanced placement (or college level) classes. I dated here and there but by no means was I Ms. Popular or Homecoming Queen. I was too shy and small in my social standings.
In spite of my phenomenal scholastics, it was decided that I would attend Kent State University vs. an Ivy League School that I had my heart set on. Between my Mom’s employment there and my scholastic record, I was able to attend Kent State University Honor’s college, for free (including room and board). One of the best decisions I made was to stay on campus, and not commute from home which was only 20 minutes away. I lived in a quad honor’s dorm w three other girls, which was a nice start to my college life. I continued to be an over achiever on academics, a student orientation instructor for new students, and created my own senior year curriculum and internship.
But now, I was also a sharp contrast to my shy high-school self. I had set the goal for myself, going into college, to become more social, and to step out of my “shy” comfort zone, even if it meant my grades would drop. I joyfully achieved my goal (even retaining my academics). I was heavily involved in the Collegiate Marketing Association, both Junior and Senior year which generated wonderful girlfriends and even managed to make the homecoming court Senior year. I kind of chuckled that little ol me and a non-sorority gal was standing on the Kent State Football Field as part of the homecoming quart while Joe Walsh belted out the half time entertainment. On the outside, I was appearing to be "healthy" and "normal" and managed to create a “functioning” lifestyle around my issues. I still was conscious of my eating or not eating and ensuring I took an aerobics class several times a week and trekked across the mile and 1/2 campus to class from my dorm. College was a fun time of my life.
In the summer of my junior year, the secret of protecting our dear family friend, was joined by the secret of protecting my biology professor who attacked me while on a 8 week pre-med biological camping expedition, across the United States. I woke up one night, midway through our trip, with the pressure of his full body weight on top of me while he tried to tongue me and grope me. I quickly pushed him off and ran to a male friend on the trip, who separated and protected me the remainder of our trek. I did not tell my mother, who worked at the University, nor anyone else. I was afraid I wouldn't be believed, ...or worse yet that it was my fault.
December of Senior year, I met my first husband through a mutual friend. I met him at a college Christmas party that left us falling into a snow bush together. He appeared to be driven (w a career already lined up from a current internship), physically fit (gym rat), and local. We were engaged in November of 85 and married August 6 of 1988.
Looking back, there were signs in that great rear view mirror called, “hindsight.” Like the fact that I didn't really love him. That I guess if he picked me, I guess I loved him, That this was my only chance at love at 23? I remember my Dad commenting,” Love shouldn't be so hard!” …referring to the many long walks and discussions we had in order to feed and reassure his insecure self. I went through with it, w a pit in my stomach and feeling like it was too late to turn back.
Interestingly, once I was in the safe sacred folds of marriage, my first husband's jealousy and insecurity grew worse and manifested into physical abuse and degradation. In his insecure disgust he would spit on me, hit me, push me, and even leave me deserted on the side of the road. At one point, during an argument he brought on, he picked me up by the neck and through me across the apartment until I hit the opposing wall and broke my right wrist. I was shocked and in tears of disbelief. Why was he doing this? What did I do wrong? I protected Allan, just like all of my past abusers, by making some clumsy excuse that I had fallen down the stairs carrying a bag of groceries. Funny, everyone easily and loyally believed me...despite me never having a broken bone in my life...I was mystified. Moving forward in an effort to “control” “prevent’ these outbreaks I began walking on eggshells in anticipation of his emotions in order to head off the next unpredictable eruption. They would materialize out of the tension of weeks gone by, at the slightest incident, word, or unidentifiable trigger, and defied any logic. I could see the light in his eyes change, analogous to an animal ready to attack; no pleading or rational could bring him back to reality. Why did these battering incident's start? What did I do wrong? Of course there would always be a “honeymoon” period that lasted a couple of days, but within a couple of weeks, the tension was in the air for no apparent reason, and an irrational trigger would set him off.
At the completion of my MBA, I was asked to take a promotion that required moving to Kansas City, MO to the headquarters of Marion Merrel Dow Pharmaceuticals. I communicated to him that he could come with me (and I would stave off a divorce) only on the condition that he secured psychological counseling. We bought a house w my income and settled in the Spring of 1993. and my husband failed to settle on counseling. By the end of the year, I had filed for a restraining order and for a divorce.
In '95 I landed a wonderful career working as a peripheral vascular medical device rep for Boston Scientific while watching a Kansas City Chiefs game at the local Tanners bar in Overland Park. It was a dream job in the essence that I always had wanted to be a doctor, and this was the perfect combination of business and medical wrapped up into a career. It literally was a crash course in getting a medical degree.
I had routinely been seeing a great psychiatrist, Dr. Phyllis, and had progressed a lot in my therapy w the use of hypnosis. I recall when in the Cath Lab of my biggest account, St Luke's Hospital, when a physician in the lab would ask me how I am doing, "I would frequently reply: I am surviving!' How telling. I truly was just surviving. On the outside I appeared to have it all going for me...good looks, a very successful, high paying career, intelligence, and owned my own home. But, I didn't feel "clean," or " truly joyful" like what I believed other people felt. I truly was “just surviving, living white knuckled.” I wanted to be truly happy from my head down to my toes. I wanted to feel "Free" and "Clean" as if a golden ray of God’s light could shine all the way through my body w out obstruction.
As a result of my desire to be free and clean of my past, She stated that the ultimate completion of therapy for sexual abuse was to confront my “abuser,” and reveal “my secret.” My desire to be "free" and "clean" was so strong, I was willing to risk whatever may happen by contacting him. I remember when I called him, he picked up the phone, and said: "I have been waiting for your call." When I hear that, part of me was so mad! I was mad that I had to be the strong one, that I had to be the one to confront him, that I had to be the one to do his dirty work to free both of us up! ...that he could not have been the one to call and make the first move to recovery!
Catharsis: Honesty. A Beginning of Healing
Over the next 6 months, beginning in the Spring of 1999, I invited my abuser, and every one of my family members, individually, to come to Kansas City, to have a session w Dr. Phyllis and myself, walking through what happened and revealing the secret that had kept me captive, isolated, and miserable for over 24 years.
I'll never forget that the next time I went to the Cath lab and a physician asked me how I was doing, " I said, “Awesome." He literally stopped in his tracks and looked at me and said," you look like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders...you appear different...happier!" I smiled, big smile, and I said, thank you, it has. My entire aura had changed! A magnificent step towards happiness and Living Life Lusciously!
Because I spent hours and days in the Cath lab at St. Lukes Hospital, it was only natural that I would eventually meet and date a cardiologist. He had moved into one of my top Cardiology practices and I had taken it upon myself to introduce him to the area. In 6 months, on Valentines Day of 2001, we were engaged. By mid April I had broken off the engagement. I was making the same mistake that I did with my first husband. I felt like I should be in love with him, and after all, if it he is a doctor, doesn’t that say I made a great choice? I didn’t feel in love, cherished and adored. I was doing all of the giving, with little giving back too. I was receiving a ration of crumbs. In self-reflection, I was starting to see a pattern in my relationships whereby I gave and gave and gave, and expected my partner to give back in return; they only gave crumbs, I would get tired, disappointed, and I would leave.
The week I was supposed to be married, June 2001, I decided to go to LA for the first time. My lab friends at St. Joseph Medical Center encouraged me to connect w an ex husband’s friend, who now was a prominent real estate Executive in Orange County. At first I declined, emphatically, saying I just got out of a relationship. With much prodding and insistence by the entire Cath lab, I agreed to share my phone number. "This Friend" called me right away and at first, asked to take me out midweek during my visit. And eventually I agreed for him to pick me up at LAX.
When we look like life is progressing and we are doing ok, really the patterns of sabotage still exist.
Our first meeting led to my second marriage. The first ten months of our relationship were blissful. Commuting back and forth from Kansas City to spend time with him in sunny Southern California; a wonderful vacation to Italy in September (sadly during 9/11), and a exciting holiday and New Year’s Eve. I was madly in love…looking forward to a wonderful partnership, having children, and living in So Cal.
On my birthday, April 21, 2002; this new man in my life, proposed to me in beautiful Napa. He presented my engagement ring on the yellow spadix of a calla lily. Through joyful overflowing tears, I said, “Yes!” One would think that we would remain cuddled in the booth of our restaurant, toasting and basking in the moment of our love, and cherishing our nuptial future. Instead, I found him in the bar devouring the attention of the crowd of unknowns regarding his next architectural project, while I find myself crying in the bathroom with a huge sense of loneliness, emptiness, and doubt. Something didn't feel right. I felt deeply sad, alone. and confused.
We planned for a September 28, 2002 wedding. The next 5 months were a whirl wind as I begin planning a wedding from a far, and the next stage of my life. The plan was to have me quit my Boston Scientific Medical Device Job in July and move to California on August 2.
I sold my beautiful home on 128th street in Overland Park, Ks in July and rented it back till I was to leave on August 2. On Saturday July 20, I ended up having an impromptu packing party inviting neighbors, friends, and even my brother drove in from Colorado, because the packers never showed up to pack up my house. We finally finished at midnight and had a candle light vigil in my front yard saying good bye to my home, life, and friends in KC, Mo. Sunday, Allied Van Lines arrived and loaded all my belongings.
Two days later, at approximately at 5 pm, CST, Allied Van Lines calls to inform me that the moving van had burned up on I-70. Because I had backdated my insurance policy to when the house was sold, I technically had no coverage according to State Farm. I was in disbelief! Is this a prank, a Joke??? To add to my pain, and overwhelming feeling of grief, one of my cardiology fellow friends, passed away, unexpectedly. By the time I landed on the California doorstep on August 2, I was truly emotional drained, and overwhelmed. My future husband did not have the emotional IQ, empathy, or patience to comfort me.
The next 57 days were consumed w wedding planning, fighting State Farm for my home owner’s policy reimbursement, and the addition of a pre-nup. I had agreed to a prenup and thought it was fair, given his financial success. I wasn’t marrying him for his money. Unfortunately, this process showcased a different side of my future husband. The document literally was signed the day before our Saturday wedding. It was one of the most horrible times of my life and the tension between the two of us was hideous. What should have been fairly and respectfully consummated side by side in the attorney's office holding hands was completed at opposing ends of the table.
So why didn’t I back out? Hindsight is always a great mirror. I was scared, I had given up my previous life, and I still believed in my dream. …that the guy I fell in love with the first ten months of our relationship, was going to show up again…”if I just hang in there!, After all he has never been married before, at 50, and this is difficult for him.” I am strong, and can be patient…just need to get to the other side.
We move forward w the wedding which was simply beautiful and elegant. (Of course, I planned every detail 😊). It was held outside, by the pond at the Pacific Club in Irvine, CA. I thought now, everything will fall into place and we will be happy. I rented a cream colored rolls Royce to whisk us away to the reception but was dumbfounded my newlywed husband had his nephew ride in between us in our “wedding carriage.” And, a day later, he canceled the honeymoon. What?! Disappointment again and feeling a lack of love and adoration.
The next 16 months were difficult. The anxiety and stress of our relationship, and lack of attention left me walking on egg shells, constantly unsure of myself, and literally “starving for affection.” (He had once said, he was glad that my first husband was abusive, as that would make him look like a hero). Even though I was eating, my anxiety was so high; I had lost so much weight, I could not even fit in a size O. (I would cry in the dressing rooms trying to find something that would fit me). I knew I was too skinny, but I couldn’t help myself. It was not a blissful life, My husband kept me in a constant state of yearning for his time, affection, attention and love. I was getting infrequent crumbs. He would be in first class while I sat in coach. Who treats their wife that way? (The one thing that kept me from falling apart was my weekly classes toward my PHD in psychology at Pepperdine University).
In December of 2003, the Universe coaxed me into taking a LandMark Forum class. I came out of that weekend a changed person with the conviction and strength to leave my second marriage. One January 2004 weekend, while my husband was out of town, I moved out. Thankfully, since everything I had owned had burnt up in the Allied Van Lines Moving Van fire, I had little to move… just me and my beloved dog, Shannae.
And what about that wonderful prenup?!...I hired a phenomenal divorce attorney who felt he could challenge and win against the prenup. I didn’t care and I knew that If I did challenge it, I would spend the next X years of my life fighting against a man who hates to lose…I just wanted out. The day we signed, my now second ex husband, sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers to my apartment with a card that read, “Tank you for not suing me!” I sobbed.
The worse part about my second marriage, was the realization that I still had not “fixed” myself! After all of the years of counseling, the facing and "un-protecting" my abuser, the reveal to my family, the umpteen number of self-help books, the periodic hypnosis, the retraining the voice in my head, etc., I still was a victim and attracting unhealthy relationships because of the way I valued myself. Ugh! I was devastated! How much longer does my past have to plague me? How much more work do I have to do?
I wasn’t planning on staying in California; I was just too emotionally distraught, un-centered, and exhausted to make another big change, like moving. Thankfully, the Universe opened opportunities, and I was able to get back on my feet and blossom into a wonderful life in beautiful Southern California.
Now, nearly 15 years later, I realize, that “Life is a book of constant character building exercises! I blog and encourage women to face their past, create and live in self-love, and to pursue their desires and dreams. I can’t say I have figured it all out, but I can share with you what I have learned:
- My over giving was a symptom of my lack of receiving (As a victim, I didn’t believe I deserved, or was worthy of someone to love, cherish and adore me). By attracting abusive, narcissistic men, I kept myself in a state of never receiving, always giving, and low self-worth. I have spent the last two years focusing on “being, not doing for love,” and of receiving from men, others, and the Universe. I proudly have to say, “ I now attract giving loving men, friends, and people in my life. “ It is rewarding.
- I believe that eating disorders manifest because of an incident of periodic sexual abuse and that the anorexic or bulimic, knows they are too thin. However, the need for power and control over their own body and weight, prevails as they are fighting the harsh control of someone else.
- Victimization breeds / attracts victimization. It is imperative that one change their mindset from victim to self-love, from crumbs to deserving abundance in order to truly receive the life, joy, and happiness they deserve.
- We cannot receive the gifts of others, if we do not first love ourselves and give to ourselves. We only have the capacity to give and receive love based on the capacity we love ourselves.
So, in addition to be given the opportunity to follow my sweet passion of creating artisan Italian cheesecakes and desserts with “Live, Life, Lusciously,” …putting my love on your table, I also look to truly, “Live, Life, Lusciously,” absent of fear, and self-doubt, abundantly full of love, joy, peace, health, and prosperity.
My goal in sharing my story with you is that you may reach out for guidance, support, and an expedited path through my Life Coaching to “eating your cake, and living it too”…to “Indulging your soul and Living your Bliss” and to “Choosing Happiness and truly Living Life Lusciously!” After all, investing in your happiness is the best life investment you can make.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for your free 30 minute consultation to your path of choosing happiness. Visit Life Coaching on this website to determine the best fit for "Living Your Life Lusciously! "