Thursday, June 13, 2013

New Blog Address

Dear Blog Followers,

As this blog has been growing and devloping into something more of an educational piece than I originally thought it would be, I've made a decision to  move this blog to a new address with WordPress. 

I apologize  for the inconvenience, however, you can find the new blog address here.  It is still called, "Finding A Healing Place" and continues to address the very sensitive subject of child sex abuse and how to become educated enough that we can keep our children safe!

For more about this blog -- please be sure to visit the new blog address here, and be sure to enter your email address where it says "subscribe to blog via email" so that you can receive an email update every time I make a new post.

Thanks so very much!

Clara Hinton 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Married to a Pedophile: They Say Things Come in Threes -- and They Did!

If you have been visiting this blog, you already know that I'm telling my story -- my story of being married to a practicing pedophile for almost forty years, how I was groomed to be this man's enabler, and how I continued to unknowingly shelter him for many years thereby giving him thousands of opportunities to molest children.

If you are new to this blog,  please begin here.  I welcome you and hope that you will stay around and become educated on how crafty pedophiles are when it comes to grooming and victimizing.  They will stop at nothing!  Because of my personal experience with a life-long pedophile, I want to equip you with the education you need to stop them before they harm your child or a child you know!

Today is an especially hard day for me.  On Saturday, June 5, 1965 my sister Carmella died.  She was thirteen years old.  It has been 48 years -- 576 months to be exact -- since I last saw her alive.  And, the pain is still there.  She was not just my sister, but she was my best friend in all the world.  She suffered from asthma from the age of six, and a day after her thirteenth birthday, January 24, the doctors decided her young heart would not survive another major asthma attack. So, a decision was made to send Carmella away to the Betty Bacharach Home by the Sea -- a place along the beach in Atlantic City where children were sent to die.  Unlike today, we did not have hospice care.   

I don't remember much about the day she left other than helping her pack a small suitcase of clothes and a few things like paper and pen and stamps. We promised to write each other every day that she was gone -- and we did!  I cried an awful lot from that time forward because I missed her so!  By this time in my life my parents had divorced, my mother was drinking heavily every day, and my father was very absent in our lives. I didn't know that my sister went away to die.  God, I wish my parents had told me because I could have absorbed a bit of what was happening.  Instead, they told me she was going away to breathe in the ocean air and would get better and come home soon.  I believed them.  I was always the believer.  Always believing, never questioning.  She didn't make it six months. 

This is the last school picture taken of Mellie, as we called her.  She was little for her age because of the medications she was taking to help her breathe.  But, look at those big, brown eyes!  God, I really, really miss her!  She and I shared our souls and some day I will put into print the book I've written about her.  She was a special little girl!  She didn't cry when she left to go live at the Bacharach Home, but every week when we went to visit her she'd stand at that huge iron door like you'd see at a prison and wave good-bye.  She looked so little and so alone. I would sob the entire drive home and get so sick that I often vomited. 

I learned early on that life isn't fair.  Not at all!  I'll never understand why children have to suffer!

 I have very few pictures of me and Mellie together.  She was a cutie, wasn't she?  We were 2 1/2 years apart in age.  I always felt like I was so much bigger and older than her -- the protector.  Only, when she needed protected the most I wasn't there.  She died alone in the Atlantic City Hospital on the night of June 5.  I won't to into details here, but her enlarged heart couldn't take all of the strain from so many brutal asthma attacks and her little body finally wore out. She put up a fight, though, the nurses said.  She tried with all of her might to live but the air just couldn't get into her lungs!  

By the way, that's my mom and dad in this picture and sadly both of them are gone, too.  I do have one living sister who was born  seven years after Mellie.  

What's all of this have to do with marrying a pedophile you might ask?  Well, it has everything to do with why and how John chose me to be his wife.  

When Mellie died, I was a few days shy of sixteen.  People don't understand yet to this day how children suffer when one of their siblings die, but I can tell you that the day Mellie died I entered the gates of hell.  The separation from her was something I can't explain, and I'll never be able to put it into human terms so that you will be able to understand.  I lost myself.  I lost my identity.  I lost a lot of my life that day. I lost my sister.   And, those losses changed me. Part of me died and it would take a long, long time before healing would come.  It would take years to learn how to smile -- really smile again! 

I was afraid.  Death wasn't talked about like it is now.  There were no support groups.  There really were no books to read, and I can't think of any kind of help that was offered other than to read Psalm 23.  Death was death.  Back then you died inside but you didn't talk about it, and so for a long time I was only a shadow of a living person.

When I entered college I was quiet, and very focused on one thing -- finding a way to become happy again.  I thought (mistakenly) that if I just could marry a Christian man and begin a family with this person life would be wonderful again.  

Enter John Hinton. As mentioned before, I truly believed he was the answer to my prayers!    

Pedophiles prey on the lonely because they are so easy to victimize.  I'll repeat -- pedophiles prey on the lonely because they are so easy to victimize.  When I was in my second year of college, John and I had a family living class together, and in that class I wrote about the loss of my sister.  I bared my soul, and later on he asked me about it.  Since Mellie's death was so fresh yet, I had millions more tears to shed over her loss, and it was obvious to anyone that I was in a fragile state at that time. As is true with any broken, insecure person, I craved one thing -- love.   

John didn't "get it" about her death, but he did get it that I was weak and vulnerable.  I had no dad in the picture.  He was grieving his own losses -- the loss of his marriage, the loss of his farm, the loss of his daughter, and all of the other multiple accompanying losses.  My mother was an alcoholic, and I don't say that disrespectfully.  Her life was one broken mess after another! She was very ill, had gone through a painful divorce, lost our home, and now lost a daughter.  And, she had watched her daughter suffer for seven years a slow, painful death.  Watching a little child struggle for her every breath isn't easy to see!  Layers and layers of pain covered my family.  

Skillful abusers can easily provide the lonely victim with seemingly genuine attention, companionship, and love. I'll say it again, I was an easy target to become the enabler he needed.  I was vulnerable in every way you could think of craving only one thing -- a wee bit of love and attention.  That's all I needed.  Just a wee bit would do!  When you're already so broken, you have no clue when abuse is part of your life!  

Now, we can pick up where we left off last week.......John and I had been married, gone on our strangely different honeymoon, survived a tornado, and now we moved into a new apartment!  Okay, it wasn't a "new" apartment, but it was a teeny one bedroom apartment. We rented the top floor of a house where two little old sisters lived.  I was thrilled, to say the least, that we were setting up "home" -- my dream come true!

Fast forward eight weeks into the marriage, and guess what?  John still didn't have a job!!!   His words were, "It's impossible to land a decent paying job, so I've been going over to the church building doing some volunteer work with the kids while you're at work."

Not only was he doing volunteer work, but he had a big surprise waiting for me!  One evening I came home from work to find a stranger in our apartment with John.  I never met the guy before, and had no clue who he was.  John said all cheerily, "Meet Jim!  He's the youth minister.  Well, actually, he's the 'past' youth minister!  I've talked to the elders and they're letting me take over Jim's job!"  

Finally!  Finally, I thought there was some light at the end of this dark path!  This meant that John would finally get paid! My little secretary's income wasn't enough to keep us going much longer!  After Jim left that night (he stayed for dinner -- I cooked in the sweltering heat while those two sat in the living room and whispered and giggled like little school girls) I asked John how much the job was going to pay.

"What are you talking about?  I never said I was going to get paid!  I'm a volunteer.  The elders love me!  I've been letting Jim train me while you've been at work.  He's leaving next week and I'll slide right into the position as youth minister.  Do you know how great this is going to look on my resume when I graduate?" Do you see what I'm seeing?  As I look back, I can see how perfectly his plans were falling into place. 

 If you've done any reading on pedophiles and how they work, you've read over and over again that churches are playgrounds for pedophiles.  John had found his playground! 

I was sick.  Actually I was really sick in more ways than one.  You know how things usually come in threes?  Well, surprise number two was about to show up at our doorstep!

I don't know why.  I don't know what the circumstances were, but exactly eight weeks after we got married, my living sister Ruthie called crying hysterically.  She couldn't catch her breath!  "Clara, I have to talk to you.  Mom is in some kind of a hospital, and dad said he can't take care of me.  He bought me a plane ticket and said I have to come live with you!"  

No job for John.  Married eight weeks and barely even know each other.  And, now a sister coming to live with us.  You've got to be kidding!  I called my dad and he was blunt.  "Your sister is more than I can handle.  Your mother tried to kill herself.  So, I'm sending Ruth out to live with you."  And, that was that.

Living in Oklahoma -- a thousand miles away from what used to be home.  And, all of these changes in just a few brief weeks!

Oh, hold on because there's more!!!!  

I thought it was the stress of the first weeks of marriage.  Or, it could have been the stress of moving, hardly enough money to live off of, and trying to take in the idea of my sister arriving bag and baggage in a few days to come live with us, but....I was feeling really sick and nauseous in my stomach.  I was so tired I felt like I was going to die.  I was too shy to tell anyone (including John) that I missed my period the second month in a row.  But, I would soon get over my shyness and talk to one of the ladies at work.

Lucille, a lady in her fifties and my boss at the time, exclaimed, "Well, kid!  You're pregnant!"  

And, so I was.  Pregnant.  Very, very pregnant.  I felt like I was on a wild ride and didn't know where this ride was taking me! I had gotten pregnant on our honeymoon.   

Life was spinning out of control real fast!  But, the thing that blew me away was this -- John never flinched. He was perfectly fine with it all!  He loved the fact that my sister would be living with us!  Why not?  I needed company while he was all but living at the church building with the "youth" planning nightly outings such as swimming parties, picnics, and game nights.  By the way, I was told I was NOT invited to any of those events.  Why?  Because John said he had to concentrate on running the games and keeping everything organized!

Alert!!!!  Pay attention, please!  If your mate tells you "stay away" there is something wrong!  Any kind of healthy marriage will make time to be together.  Everyone should have hobbies and an occasional night out with the girls or guys, but to say, "no time for you" is a huge red flag!  John was in his glory!  He was gone literally seven nights a week!

Alert again!  It's not okay for somebody to just move in with a newly married couple.  I was the sister and I was terribly upset about this!  I wanted to be with my husband, not my sister!  I wanted our relationship to grow as husband and wife, not play mother to a troubled sister!  As much as I loved her, I felt she needed to be with my father or an aunt or my grandparents.  John welcomed her with open arms!  Why not?  She would occupy my time and that would get me off his back about a job!

Triple alert!!!!  I was terribly shy when it came to talking about intimacy.  I had seen nothing role-modeled in my home.  I did, however, ask John if we should see a doctor before we got married.  I wanted to talk about preventing pregnancy while he was still in college.  "We don't need to see a doctor.  Everything's under control.  Where's your faith?  If God wants us to get pregnant, we will.  If He doesn't want us to get pregnant, we won't."  And, so I never brought it up again. After all, John had things under control -- and he did!  Notice how he used my weak spot -- my faith -- as a means of twisting my thinking!  That would happen time and time again!

 I was beaten down by life at a very early age, and very much used by my father.  I could speak hours and hours about the guilt he made me feel for leaving to go to college.  He said it was my responsibility to stay home and take care of my sister. 

I had a mother who was grieving the loss of so many things and had fallen so deep into depression that she tried to kill herself.  And, now....a baby on the way and I didn't know a thing about what in the world I was going to do!

I was perfect -- absolutely perfect -- for John.  Remember that he had molested his first little girl when he was fourteen.  That was brought out in his investigation prior to his arrest.  He was deeply ingrained in pornography when he was in grade school.  He was experienced with sex, porn, and God knows what else!  I was as naive about sex, porn, manipulation, and molestation as he was smart! 

The plan for "pedophile heaven" was falling into place quicker and better than John could imagine.  Honestly, when I think back, I laid in bed night after night sobbing into my pillow as I heard him in the living room laughing and joking with his church buddies.  Life was awesome for him, and he didn't have a clue why I cried so much of the time.  

I was sick, confused, tired, worried, and felt so alone.  Is this how marriage is supposed to be?  Is this the answer to my prayers?  

Hang on....because the story thickens and sickens.  I would soon see strange behavior in John.  And, even though my sister was only twelve, she would see the same strange behavior.  Something wasn't adding up.  Nothing was adding up.  Everything seemed so out of control and mixed up so fast.  I prayed and prayed for happiness and a good marriage, but it sure didn't feel like answers to my prayers!

NOTE:  If you have been through a painful trauma in your life, you are vulnerable to people who are abusers and manipulators.  Seek help for yourself.  Get into counseling.  Talk with friends.  Go to a support group.  And, remember, if something doesn't feel right deep inside, then it probably isn't!

Thanks for sticking with me as I tell my story.  I want to open your eyes up as to how abuse can occur so easily.  Adults can be groomed and victimized just as easily as the children if we don't have the education we need to recognize the abuse.  
Next week we will continue on this journey.  You will see how well everything fell into place and you will begin to see a pattern of abuse developing within the marriage.  This abuse continued to weaken me, and strengthen the abuser.  He felt powerful over me.  I felt lonely and depressed.  That combination makes a very viable atmosphere for pedophiles to continue merrily on their way!  

Please help me stop this cycle of abuse!  For the children, let's open our eyes and see the truth!  Let's make life incredibly difficult for child predators!  Let's protect our children!

 Your comments are always appreciated -- always!  Please help me to spread the word!  Pedophiles prey on the lonely.  They are smart and cunning and they are harming children right now.  It's time for this to stop!






Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Married to a Pedophile -- His Plan is in Place!

If you're just joining this blog, my name is Clara Hinton and I was unknowingly married to a child molester for almost forty years.  I loved this man.  I gave him the better part of my life only to find out that our life together as husband and wife had been a lie.  The man I thought I married didn't exist.  Please begin here and follow along as you see the deception, the planning, and the intense thought that went into the manipulation and grooming of not just children but of me.  I was, in fact, the perfect enabler

The day we returned from our honeymoon was a Sunday.  Let's face it, the honeymoon was far from relaxing.  I had one thing on my mind.  Let's get to the apartment, get the car unpacked, and get some food in the apartment.  I had to leave for work at 7:00 a.m, and John had to begin looking for a summer job. It was time to get down to the reality of life!   

Going to the apartment wasn't on John's agenda, though.  John insisted that we go to evening church because they were having a box dinner -- a fellowship meal provided by the church -- and he didn't want to miss that.  Really?  Are you kidding?  I'm a Christian.  I love God.  But, we had just spent a horrid week on the road and this was going to be a difficult week ahead.  We had already gone to church in the morning in Dallas, and now he wanted to drive to church just in time for the fellowship meal.  My argument was weak in his eyes, so off to church we went. 
We met up with friends of ours who lived in Oklahoma City at the time and they had gotten married the day before we did.  The other new groom was a friend of John's from Pennsylvania and they had attended church camp together for years so they had lots of reminiscing to do.  I nibbled on my sandwhich and kept wishing we'd get a move on it.  I had work to do and had a job to get to in the morning!  Little did I know that John was already laying the groundwork to do "volunteer work as a church youth minister"!  That tidbit of news would come to me a few days later.
We finally got home to our one room apartment.  It was only temporary, so we were fine with that.  Besides, we were newlyweds and I was actually looking forward to some alone time with my husband.  So, we unpacked, put food in the fridge, and finally fell into bed exhausted.  I know you're not going to believe this BUT you can research it for yourselves to check it out.  On our first evening back in Oklahoma City, a tornado touched down on our street!  That's right -- A TORNADO hit on the street where we lived!  It snapped trees, downed electrical wires, knocked out phone lines and blew out our windows!  We had a basement apartment, and this is one time I can say I am so thankful for that!  Other than some flying glass and a few fearful screams, we were unharmed!  I've often wondered if that tornado was an omen as to what our lives would be together in the years to come. 

I went to work the next morning, and was glad to see the sun shining after such a frightful night.  It would take the better part of two weeks to repair the damage that was done during that quick tornado touchdown, but other than that life was back to normal.  Or so I thought.

John was to be job hunting while I was working.  He had another year of college left which we weren't planning on.  In his senior year, he decided to change his major from business to bible.  An interesting choice, I thought, since the one thing he promised me he'd never do is to be a preacher!  I wanted nothing to do with being a preacher's wife because of the demands and scrutiny that comes to preachers' families.  He promised he'd NEVER be a preacher.  He didn't promise he'd never be a volunteer youth minister, though.  I was in for a few more surprises!

Job hunting wasn't going so well, John said.  BUT, who could get upset about that when you come home to a freshly cleaned apartment, a lovely ironed tablecloth on our card table, and a vase of roses?  Now, this is more like it!  This is more how a wife should be treated!  "Where'd you get the gorgeous bouquet of flowers?", I asked.  His answer was spoken with a sneery grin.  "If you only knew!"  Okay, that peaked my curiosity.  I wondered how much he paid for that huge vase of roses.  They were gorgeous!!! 

"I swiped them off of a gravesite at the cemetery on my way home." 

I'll be honest with you.  It's hard for me to write this and not cry and it is now forty-three years later.  The first flowers I received from my husband were stolen from somebody's gravesite -- and he saw absolutely nothing wrong with that!  In fact, he made me feel like a total fool for calling him out on that!

Listen to me, and listen good!  This is not normal behavior.  This is not kind behavior!  This is not the way a man should treat a woman under any circumstances!  He was a theif.  He was dishonest.  Do you see what was happening?  He was pushing me down into the ground just a little bit lower with each blow to the heart. Once again, I was being tested.  Would I throw the flowers at him?  Would I have a crying fit?  Would I stay upset and angry?  Not on your life.  He knew me all too well.  Instead, I thanked him for having the apartment looking so nice and for having flowers on the table.  How sad for me to say that I already thought so little of myself to accept this cruel treatment. 

Pedophiles are masters of deception.  John would later brag about how he had gotten me "fresh flowers" the first week we were married, and how he had the place all cleaned up for me, wedding gifts put away, etc., so that I could take it easy when I got home from work.  That sounds great to someone who didn't know the whole truth.  In fact, some of the young married women at church told me they wished their husbands could learn a thing or two from John about how to treat them.  They didn't see the thick mask of lies and deceit he was wearing and neither did I.  It's true -- love is blind, especially when you've been conditioned to stop thinking you have any worth or value and all you deserve in this life is crumbs -- or in my case stolen flowers from someone's gravesite.  I shudder with pain, shame, and embarrassment as I write these words!

 I went to work early every day and didn't get home until six.  John's only thing on the agenda for him was to find some kind of summer job.  Honestly, in a city as large as Oklahoma City jobs were to be found everywhere.  But, he said he drove miles and miles every day looking for a job, but there was "nothing."  So, he came up with a very bright idea.  "What would you think if I volunteered as a youth minister for a while?  You know -- spend time at the church, help plan youth activities, and get my feet wet since this is what I want to do after graduating?" 

I argued that we needed the money he could make if he had a job.  I wasn't making enough for both of us on a secretary's salary.  He argued that we didn't need extra money.  He reminded me that we had saved our honeymoon money.  Ahhh......the plan!  How ingenious of him!  He already knew he wasn't going to get a paid job!  That's why he wouldn't let loose of that money.  Great planning on his part, wouldn't you say?

Pay attention again!  Pedophiles spend hours and hours and hours planning out the smallest of details.  They will not leave one stone unturned.  I had no clue what was going on, but the foundation for a lifetime of molesting children with a wife by his side was being laid.  *Note:  By John's admission, he molested the first child when he was fourteen years of age.  His preference was young girls, although his molestation did include older girls. 

Our church had a wonderful program where adults could mentor children who came from a very poor part of the city.  These children grew up in extreme poverty, they lacked loving parents, alcohol ran rampant among the adults and teenagers, and the kids had no way of getting out and having fun except through this volunteer program. 

And, so we became mentors to a little girl.  Every Sunday afternoon John would drive an hour one way to pick up this little girl and an hour back to deliver her home.  Together we would feed her a great meal -- anything she wanted.  We played games with her or let her watch TV which was a big treat for her.  And, we also took her to church with us in the evening. 

Two strange things were happening, though.  In fact, strange enough that I actually was jealous of the attention John was giving this little girl.  He got giddy with her.  It was like he turned into a different person.  Around me he was quiet -- very quiet, in fact.  It was torture trying to get him to speak in whole sentences to me.  But when Susan was around -- there was a totally different side of John that I saw!  He cracked jokes.  He did tricks.  He made funny faces.  He gave horse back rides.  (RED FLAG!!!!)  And, he always insisted on two things:  1)  He wanted some money when taking Susan home so that he could buy her a snack or small toy and 2) He insisted that I stay home and rest up for work rather than go on the drive to take Susan home.

I'm sick as I write this for fear of what happened to Susan on those long rides home alone with John.  She was already beaten down as a child.  She was living in horrible conditions.  Was she ever going to say "no" to getting away from that in exchange for a great meal, a fun afternoon away, and a special treat each week?  Not on your life!  John has never admitted to doing anything to her.  And, quite frankly, I've never asked.  In fact, I haven't spoken to him since his imprisonment.  But, I think about Susan and all of the other little Susans out there who have been in the hands of a child molester and my heart weeps.  Deep, painful weeping.  It's so, so wrong!  It's all so very wrong!

 John did tons of pastoral youth volunteer work that summer.  More about that next week.  He read faithfully from the bible.  He could quote Scriptures far better than I ever could.  He never raised his voice at me.  I never heard him swear.  He was articulate in keeping himself neat and clean.  He loved to sing hymns and could really belt out the base in church.  But, he didn't pay attention to the words of God in Matthew 18:6.  Somehow he overlooked that verse.  Somehow, those words didn't matter.  Somehow, those holy words were not holy to him.  He was spic-and-span clean on the outside.  He wore a lovely mask.  But inside things were terribly, terribly wrong.  I sensed something wasn't right, but I had no clue what was going on!  Back then, NOBODY talked about molesting children.  In fact, I'm ashamed to say that until John was arrested I didn't know what pedophila was!  Education is so very important!  We must -- we absolutely must -- arm ourselves and our children with good, solid education about child molesters! 

Again, pay attention, please!  If your mate is spending more time with children than with you, something is wrong!  If your mate can converse easier with children than with you and other adults something is wrong!  If you know an adult who volunteers his time with children when he/she should or could be working a job and the family needs the money something is wrong!  These are all big red flags!!  Please read and re-read this over and over again until it sinks in! 

Some of you might be asking yourselves why I didn't question John more if something felt so wrong?  Why did I stay home when he drove that little girl home?  Why didn't I put my foot down and make him get a job that summer?  Why did I allow him to change his major from business to bible? 

Why?  I'll tell you why!  He was masterful at knowing just how to manipulate me.  Every child molester will tell you the biggest thrill is not the sex or the horrible actions with the children that give them the biggest thrill. It's the fact that they're getting away with it -- often right in front of a trusting adult's eyes!  It's the control.  There is a rush -- a bloody rush -- that a pedophile gets when they are in control!  And, I fell perfectly into place.  I wanted nothing more than to avoid fighting.  My parents fought like cats and dogs.  They were horrible together and I would do anything to avoid a home life like that! 

I was the pefect mate for a pedophile!  I asked no questions.  I trusted.  And, I covered up the half-truths.  I didin't want others to see the "off side" of my husband.  After all, a good Christian wife didn't air her dirty laundry, right?  Oh, how wrong one can be while thinking we are so right!

 I will close with one final thought today.  Somewhere we have gotten the idea that child molesters are creepy people who hide in dark alleys, have nasty beards, dress shabby, and are serial rapists who have escaped from prison.  That is a huge misconception and needs to be corrected!

Most often, child molesters are trusted members of the church, the family, and the community. 

Please read that above statement over a thousands times if you must.  The molesters will tell you that they planned, they worked hard to "groom", they manipulated, and they got away with it!  And, the biggest thrill of all was knowing that they were respected and loved by the very families of the children they molested.

Stick with me on this.....follow this story and learn from me.  I didn't know what signs to look for.  I had no idea what was going on.  I was not equipped with the proper education, and sadly this is true for most people.  We have a huge responsibility.  We have children to protect -- innocent, beautiful children!

Together, we can do it!  Help me stop the predators in their tracks!

If you have questions you'd like addressed, please post them and I'll try my best to answer.  It is my hope and prayer that my pain with become your strength!  I pray that together we will be educated and empowered and that we will have the courage and strength to act on our knowledge.

Next week I will share with you how rapidly things happend that would fling the door wide open and pave the way for a lifetime of child molesting with me right by the molester's side. 

Thank you for reading.  Thank you for being brave enough to educate yourself.  Thank you for sharing this information -- for the children! 


Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Day I said "I Do" To a Child Molester!

If you are new to this blog, a good beginning point for you is here.  I'm going to pick up where I left off last week with the story of how I came to be married to a pedophile for almost forty years without knowing it.

For the continuation of this series, I will use the name "John" because that is the name of the man I married.

John and I met at Philadelphia International Airport just three days before our wedding.  He had been living the past semester overseas in Israel with his parents doing overseas studies as part of his senior year at Oklahoma University.  When we saw each other at the airport, a shaky sensation overtook me.  Not the kind that makes you want to jump into the arms of the man you love and are about to marry, but the kind of shaky that sends shivers up your spine and makes you step back and say to yourself, "What am I doing?  I don't know this person.  I have no idea who I am marrying!" 

I had those thoughts a thousand times over, and I even expressed them to John several times during the three days prior to the wedding.  But, he kept comforting me and told me I just had the pre-wedding jitters. "This is normal for every bride to feel this way."  I kept feeling strange around him, but the wedding was planned and the show would go on!  And, so April 18, 1970 arrived...............

There had been a terrible thunder storm the evening before our wedding which worried me so much because we planned on having an outdoor wedding in Villanova, Pennsylvania at the college where we met.  But, when the morning of the 18th came, my fears left.  The sky was beautiful and John called to say that campus was alive with flowers and blooming trees and blue skies!  A perfect day for a wedding!

John and his groomsmen set up all of the chairs and all I had to do was to get dressed in the dorm room upstairs and be ready to walk down the aisle with my father as the college chorus began singing some of our favorite hymns.  *Note:  I'm leaving out tons of details which will be included in a book, should I decide to write one.  For now, I'm just giving you the details that pertain to the behavior of a pedophile.

I honestly don't remember much at all about the wedding ceremony.  I was very preoccupied with thoughts of doubt.  God, how much I didn't want to get married on that day!!!  Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- felt right.  I've asked myself a million times over why I was such a coward.  Why did I go against my will?  Nobody was holding a gun to my head.  I made the choice to get married.  I did make the choice -- but in many ways I didn't.  The choice had already been made for me by almost two years of priming me, grooming me, manipulating me, doing my thinking for me, and creating an atmosphere where I felt totally dependent on this man named John. 

And, so on April 18, 1970, I said the words that sealed our relationship forever.  I said, "I do" before both man and God. 

We had a very low-key reception -- cake, punch,  and light finger foods  on campus.  There was no big fanfare.  No dancing.  No music. No toast to the bride and groom.  Nothing that would make this seem like a celebration.  John had promised to plan this part of the wedding if I took care of all of the other details such as the flowers, the photographer, lining up the preacher, the rehearsal, the invitations, the tuxedo rental, the bridesmaid's dresses, the food........and a thousand other things that had to be done long distance from Oklahoma where I was living while he was in Israel.

I kept asking him how we were getting back to Oklahoma.  Did he have plane tickets for us?  Where were we going for our honeymoon?  I must admit I was excited about this part!  I had "saved myself" for my wedding day, and I had packed some beautiful lingerie and pretty outfits for a week-long honeymoon.

  John kept telling me to stop asking questions and just relax because I was in for a big surprise! 

 By 5:00 in the afternoon, I was beginning to get a bit anxious about the honeymoon part.  I thought, "This must be big!  I'll bet we're flying into Florida and staying on the beach.  He knows I love the beach more than anything in the world!"  My father had given us some money for a nice honeymoon. John grabbed hold of that money right away!  His parents also gave some money towards our honeymoon due to the fact that they remained in Israel and did not fly home for the wedding. 

This is what took place. Pay close attention because this has a lot to do with the way a pedophile works.  He took my hand and walked me to the side of the room and said, "I have something to tell you.  I forgot to take care of the honeymoon.  I don't even know how we're getting back to Oklahoma, but I came up with a plan a few minutes ago.  My sister is here and my parents gave her the family car to use while they're in Israel.  I'm going to talk her into letting us take the car."

I will repeat what I just said.  John told me he forgot to make plans for the honeymoon.

How in God's name does a man who loves a woman who is about to become his wife "forget" to plan the honeymoon?  HOW?  HOW?  HOW does this happen? 

This happens if you are selfish.  It happens if you are a controlling person.  It happens if you are a liar.  It happens if you are a master manipulator.  It happens if you are a pedophile and have other things on your mind!

I was being put to the test again!  How would I react?  What would I do?  Cry?  Get mad?  Throw a fit?  Not on your life.  I quietly said, "Okay" just like he knew I would.

That man went to his sister and within less than one hour he had the keys to the car handed over to him!!!!!  His sister had to find a ride home from the wedding AND she had to figure out what to tell her parents about the family car!

At this point, I was feeling rather sick in my stomach.  I pretty much knew there would be no fancy honeymoon surprises.  Instead, we went to the home of his best man's family, ate Campbell's soup for our supper while John and the best man spent another hour outside whispering. 

One again I was told a big surprise was in store for me!  The car was packed with our wedding gifts, and we headed out for "the surpise" around 8:30 in the evening.  My head was pounding and I just wanted to get to a hotel to get a hot shower and call it a day.

Nope!  We had a three hour drive ahead of us!  Three hours in the pouring down rain along winding, country roads.  He kept telling me to stop crying.  It was going to be a wonderful surprise.  I wanted to believe him -- I really did, but my heart told me otherwise.

Finally, at 11:30 that night, we pulled onto a muddy, wooded road and I was told to close my eyes.  The surprise was waiting!

John had once again worked his manipulative magic!  He talked his best friend's parents into giving us the use of their hunting cabin for the next three days as our "honeymoon suite."  While we were eating soup and talking small talk, his friend drove all the way to that horrid cabin to bring sheets for the bed, and to put a few groceries in the cupboards.  There was no heat.  No dry firewood.  The temperature dropped down into the low 30's that night.  It was pouring rain and sleeting.  And, I was afraid.  I really and truly didn't know this person I had just married.  Somehow I wanted to believe so much that he really did have a secret surprise all prepared for me, but this was it.  A far cry from a warm, lovely hotel room with a hot shower, running water, and a swimming pool. 

And, so the honeymoon began.

There was no need for fancy lingerie.  There was no intimate, candlelight meal.  There was no warm shower. Nothing that I had dreamed about was even remotely in this plan.  Instead, we were in a hunting cabin in the middle of some woods without heat, without hot water, and with no TV, and very little food.  For the next three days this was "my honeymoon surprise."  I was sick.  I wanted out of this marriage already!  We were not off to a great start! 

Do you see the red flags?  Do you see the control and abuse?  Do you see what was happening?  Do you see how many people this man used on our wedding day?  Do you see his fast talking and manipulation?  Do you see how easily he got people to do what he wanted? And, this was only the beginning!

There was no asking me what I wanted to do for the remainder of our week together before I had to get back to work.  Instead, he said, "I want to go to Lipscomb University.  We can stay in the dorms there.  An 'old flame' of mine is there and I want to see her."  Really?  You want to sleep in separate dorms on our honeymoon on a college campus so you can visit with a girl you had a crush on in church camp?  I tried -- I really tried -- to get him to change plans but he got his way.  Off to Nashville we went.

Then on to Dallas!  Yep!  We were visiting another one of his sisters who lived in Dallas.  We went to church with her and had chili for lunch.  Isn't it odd how you can remember certain things?  We ended up getting a flat tire on the freeway in Dallas in the blistering heat and crazy traffic! 

This really was the honeymoon from hell!  I didn't need anything extravagant, but this was ridiculous! 

Not once did we eat in a nice restaurant.  Not once did we have a wonderful, carefree afternoon together.  Instead, we were on the road driving well over a thousand miles to get from point A to point B and finally to our $95 a month basement apartment in Oklahoma. 

As we pulled into the carport of this one-room basement apartment, my heart felt heavy.  It had been a rough week.  I don't remember laughing one time.  I remember taking Tylenol for headaches.  I remember long hours of silence driving in that old station wagon.  I remember asking if we could please stop to get just one nice meal and being told, "No.  We don't have time."  I remember crying.  I remember feeling alone and so lost. 

But, the truth is that I had said, "I do ..... 'til death do us part."  Maybe things would get better.  Maybe this was just hard for him coming off of being out of the country for four months.  Maybe he had a surprise waiting for me at the apartment!!!!  I remained hopeful, but the next week proved to open my eyes even more as to the heart of this man I had married.

Now, I can imagine some of you are thinking how stupid I was.  You're no doubt thinking that I should have raised cain and should have thrown a fit about this week together.  We had the money to have steak dinners for breakfast, lunch, and supper! 

Remember when he said he had studied me?  He knew me better than I knew me!  I don't like to argue.  I don't like fighting or controversy at all.  I would much rather "give in" than to pick a fight.  He knew this.  And, so we visited his ex-girlfriend on our honeymoon.  I stayed in the dorm and cried while he walked all around campus with her.  I cried into my pillow when he ignored me at the end of the day saying "I'm too tired.  I've been driving all day."  I didn't understand at all what was happening, but I went along with it.  Why?  Because it was so ingrained in me that Christian wives are to be submissive.  They don't talk back.  They don't question.  They are there for their husbands no matter what.

And, I was determined to be a wonderful Christian wife!  I had waited a long time for this!  Maybe I didn't understand, but somehow I would make it work.

Listen to me, and listen to me good.  If you are in a relationship like this -- GET OUT!!!  I'm not an advocate of divorce, but I certainly do advocate separation and counseling in order to try to repair the marriage!  If your gut is telling you something is wrong, then most likely it is!  Learn to listen to the voice of God whispering to you, calling you, trying to help you!  For the sake of your sanity, learn to speak up and don't allow anybody to manipulate and use you!!!  Ever!

Pedophiles are liars -- masterful liars.  They "groom" adults as well as children.  I was being groomed for what was to come --and a lot would happen the very next week in my life.  Stay tuned.....things took a sudden, unexpected turn and I was perfectly groomed to accept it.

If you have questions or comments, please send them my way.  Post your question, and I'll answer to the very best of my ability.  I feel compelled to tell my story in order to save others from the trickery and manipulation of sex offenders such as John.  Through education and awareness we can make it very, very difficult for this grooming process which is the first step leading to child sexual molestation.  Please stick with me and get educated!  Share your experiences, too, so that we might learn and grow stronger together!  For the sake of the children, let's make it incredibly difficult for a pedophile to get away with his actions! 

A predator will choose the parent as much as they choose the child!!!  Remember that ALWAYS!!!


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chosen to be a Child Molester's Enabler: The Beginning of My Story

Part of my mission, my purpose in life, is to educate others about child predators.  I'm not here to stir up some kind of crazy hype, but to present the facts and to give you a bit of insight as to what happened in my own life.  How was I so blinded to the fact that for forty years I was living with a practicing pedophile?  How did I not see the signs?  How did I not pick up on something being very wrong with the man I married?  
The truth is that I sensed something was wrong even before we got married, but I didn't listen to my inner being.  I didn't pay attention to those nudgings that something was wrong.  Why?  Because as a Christian it had been taught to me from little up that people who went to church were good, honest, moral people.  I was taught to trust people who said they believed in God and followed His teachings.  And, I did just that.  I was, unfortunately, one of the most trusting women who ever walked the face of the earth!

Pay attention to this, please!  Just because a person tells you that they walk by the teachings of God does not mean it's true.  In fact, the word of God warns us against "wolves in sheep's clothing", and I learned first-hand just what that meant.  But, it would be years before my eyes were totally opened to this fact. 

As a bit of background information, I came from a broken home.  My parents divorced when I was fourteen, a sister of mine died when she was thirteen, my mother was an alcoholic, and my father was by today's terms a "dead beat dad."  Needless to say, I longed for a different life, and I prayed constantly that God would send a good, righteous, faithful Christian into my life so that I could build a home on godly principles and a firm foundation. 

I worked hard all through high school so that I could go to college.  But, I didn't want to go to just any college.  It had to be a Christian college because I sincerely believed that was the only place I would ever meet a Christian man to marry.  Because I worked so hard all through high school, I earned a four-year scholarship to a four-year state school.  BUT, you guessed it!  The idea of finding and marrying a Christian man was so ingrained in my heart and mind by now that I passed up the scholarship and instead went to a very small, two-year Christian College.  Little did I know that this one decision would lead to so much heartache for me and for those who are most special in my life -- my children.  While it's true that we can't see around every bend in the road, there are signs and signals along the way.  I didn't pay attention to anyone who tried to talk to me.  One thing was on my mind -- finding a Christian mate!

Every person wants to feel special, and longs to be told that they stand out among all of the rest.  During the summer between my first and second year of college I met a young man who was articulate, bright, funny, witty, and who also told me that I stood out.  He was spending the summer at college and so was I.  A friendship developed, and even though I was engaged to marry someone else, this young man worked very hard every day to convince me that I was with the wrong person.  He pointed out all of the flaws of the man whose ring I was wearing until he finally convinced me to break off the engagement.  That's a story in and of itself -- maybe I'll share that with you another day. 

What was a bit strange to me was that the man I would soon marry had a quiet control over me like nobody ever had before.  Even though I had low self-esteem I was used to making my own decisions and being very independent.  For the first time in my life I found I was reporting my every move to this quiet, shy young man. He told me I was special.  He said out of all the girls on campus I was the only one that he thought was pretty and was a true Christian.  He told me just what I wanted to hear.  It was the word "Christian" that nailed me!  I knew he was the one I had been praying about since my youth!

One of the greatest stories my now ex-husband loved to tell was how he spotted me from across campus and said to his roommate, "See that girl?  I'm going to marry her."  This was totally absurd because at the time he said that we had not even met!  He later told me he would hide and watch me -- study me -- and he knew my schedule, when I was going to eat, when I'd walk back to campus, when I would go to work.  He said, "I knew everything about you.  I knew where you were from morning until night. I knew I would marry you." 

Instead of being freaked out and thinking this guy was some kind of stalker psycho, I was flattered.  "He chose me."  Out of all of the girls around, he chose me and that again was more evidence of answered prayers.  Deep inside, though, was a gnawing feeling that something wasn't right.  He didn't talk much.  And, for a man who said he loved God, he made fun of people in a mean way.  He mocked people's insecurities.  Yes, you guessed it!  He mocked me on several occasions and I felt like a piece of dirt he had stepped on.  He made fun of the size of my nose.  He made fun of my feet calling them "hammer head toes."  He made fun of the space I have between my teeth.  I cried myself to sleep many, many nights, but still........he was a Christian man, and he was so nice when we were together in public.  He opened the car door for me (it was my car, by the way).  He paid the bill when we went out to eat and left a nice tip.  (It was my money that he used.)  He talked me into giving him my car (which I had since I was 16) and I found myself asking him for permission to use my own car.  This was really weird! 

Why did I put up with it?  Why does anybody put up with abuse?  Because they've been so used to being beaten down that they think this is the norm. Please, please -- if you're in a situation like this run for your life!!!  This is NOT the way a good relationship works!  And, it's a red flag indicator of many other problems -- in my case, it was a big red flag that I was being masterfully manipulated.  Groomed to be the wife of a pedophile who was already deeply involved in porn and child sexual molestation!  

 Learn to listen for "clues" that a decision you're making might not be right.  I had BIG clues that I passed off as "odd", "not making much sense", "silly", or "not that big of a deal."

Clue 1:  For the last four months we dated, my fiance was in Israel doing overseas study.  We corresponded by letter only.  We were to get married less than one week after he arrived back in the states.  In his letters he would write to tell me how he would hide behind the grasses on the beach and watch girls changing out of their clothes and swimming nude.  He said he'd skip class and stay there all day.  In other words, he was openly telling me he was a "peeping Tom."  This was a test of how far he could manipulate me and I passed with flying colors! I never questioned him about it.  Oh, I cried lots, but I never questioned him!

Clue 2:  He told me while we were dating that he and one of his cousins spent the summers together and they would steal cartons of cigarettes from stores and sneak out of the house at night and smoke the cigarettes and look at "porn" all night long.  Another test!  I looked at him quietly but never questioned him.  If you want to know the truth -- I didn't even know what porn was!!!!!  I had to ask my college roommates.  Again, I was being tested.  Could he get away with doing things right under my nose?  Sure he could. I'd never question a man of God!

Clue 3:  He was almost 21 and his favorite job was to "babysit all the little kids at church for free because he loved to give them baths and powder their little butts."  I'm totally sick now as I write these words.  Why in heaven's name didn't I run from this man? There were so many clues that something was wrong, and I passed them off as being a little odd.  Nothing more -- just a little bit odd. In fact, I actually thought this was kind of nice.  I never saw my father get involved in parenting like that, and I thought, "Wow!  This man will make a wonderful father!"    

Porn.  Lying.  Peeping Tom.  A young man who loves bathing and powdering little kids.  Masterfully manipulating.  Gaining the trust of adults. (Church people loved him babysitting their kids!)

I was another one of his victims.  I was being set up. I was being groomed  I would be the perfect alibi for his continued evil behavior.  He was calculating.  He studied me.  He used me.  He used my faith as a means to get what he wanted.  He knew what he was doing! His actions were no mistake.  He worked very hard to plan every detail.   

Listen up everyone!  Please don't do as I did!  If your gut is telling you something is wrong, it probably is!!! Pay attention to the little details and the little voice that is whispering something is wrong!!! 

This is just the beginning of my story.  I will share more in the weeks to come in hopes that others will not be blinded to the facts as I was.   We must get educated about child sexual molesters so that we can protect life's most precious blessings -- our children!

Why am I sharing the ugly, sad parts of my life?  That's simple.  Because children are beautiful.  Children are precious.  Children deserve to be protected.  Statistics (according to information found here ) tell us that 1 in every 3 girls and 1 in every 6 boys are molested by the age of 18.  Please help me to stop this!  Let's get educated!  Let's do all we can to make it incredibly difficult for the molester!  Let's be vigilant on behalf of our children -- at all times!!! 

Every child should have the ability to grow up feeling safe and loved and whole and pure! 

It isn't easy or comfortable for me to write about this, but I must.  I must take this terribleness and do something positive with it.  I must work for the safety of our children. 

Thanks so much for stopping by and for taking the time to read this.  Thanks even more for making yourself more aware of what is going on right under our noses -- in our schools, our churches, our camps, our homes.  Let's do all we can to work together to make this a safe place for our children!  



Friday, May 10, 2013

So, How Does a Mom of Seventeen Really See Mother's Day?

The cat is out of the bag.  For those of you who don't know -- yes, it's true. To set the record straight, I have been pregnant seventeen times, and I had the most awesome experience of giving birth to eleven living children!  Six of my children left my womb much too early to survive outside of me, and one more baby could have survived outside of me, but his little heart stopped beating too soon.  He was born still.  I've had both ends of the spectrum as a mom -- giving birth to wailing, flailing babies, and having to say good-bye before having the opportunity to see and hear all of the wonders of delivering a live baby.

So, what does Mother's Day mean to this mom of so many?  How do I feel -- really?  Was it all worth it?  Would I do it all over again?  Well, here it is straight from the heart.

Motherhood is the hardest thing on face of this earth!  Your body is stretched every which way, you gain 40 or 50 pounds and stay sick day and night for four months or more, you go through bouts of indigestion, throwing up, leg pains, cramping, and being kicked constantly from the inside out -- and that's all before the baby is born!  

Then, you go through hormonal rages and changes and waves of ups and downs that send your emotions off the charts.  Not to mention the brutal pulling apart of your body to get that little stinker that took 9 months to grow OUTSIDE of your body so that you can begin to take off the 40 or 50 pounds you put on and reverse this whole process again to get back to "normal" -- which by the way there is never "normal" following the birth of a child.  Normal flies out the window the minute you are pregnant!  Never is a woman the same!  

Here are two of my daughters touting their full size bellies in all of their glory!  Blame it on the genes -- we like this thing called motherhood! 

For the first year following the birth of each of my children I was in a trance-like state simply studying their little faces.  Watching their every movement.  Feeling their heart beat with mine.  Worrying through fevers and colds and unknown viruses.  Sleepless nights with babies that got their days and nights mixed up.  Changing thousands of diapers.  And, breast feeding.  Yes, this old body of mine was determined to breast feed every single one of the eleven, and that I did!  Baby and I were attached in more ways than one!

As my kids grew older, I grew older, too.  I thought about more things than just feeding and diapering.  Were my kids happy?  Was I giving them enough attention?  Were they developing as they should?  Did I read them enough books?  (Let's just say, they had enough books to fill a college-sized library!)  Was there enough of "me" to go around for them?  Kids don't get it -- they don't get this part of motherhood until they are parents themselves.  And, you learn early on this is a pretty thankless job until much, much later in life.  Okay, I promised to be truthful, right?   

All days with kids are not easy days, nor are they all fun!  When the crying hits a pitch so high your ears are going to break and you've cleaned up so much throw up that you begin to throw up, and you know you still have 20 hours left before a new day, often my only option was to sit down on the floor and cry right with them.  And, cry we did!  My kids and I have shared many wailing moments together.  Hmmm...I wonder what they thought when they learned I could cry just as loud and just as long as them? 

But, then you get back up and brush yourself off, look at those smiles, get smothered in those slobbery kisses and it's all worth while.  For a while -- it's all worthwhile. 

Before you know it, they're very mobile and into everything.  And, this was the beginning of the most difficult stage of motherhood for me.  My kids were inquisitive.  I guess that's a nice way of putting it.  There were broken bones, stitches to the eyes, head, chin, knees, legs and various other places.  Scrapes, falls, knots on heads, bloody noses and.....well, there was a lot!  I have very little remembrance of a lot of these "moments in motherhood" because it's just too terrifying to remember.  They outnumbered me, and to stay I couldn't keep up with them is an understatement.  It was during this stage of motherhood that I began to ask the question, "What in the world have you gotten yourself into, girl?  This stuff is real!  And, there seems to be no end in sight!"

The old adage is true, "They grow up way too fast."  After about the hundredth prom, school dance, basketball game, baseball came, dance recital, band concert, chorus concert and who remembers what else, there comes this pause in life when you know that something is shifting in your role as a mother.  As you watch your children pack up their belongings and head off to college, to their jobs, to get married, to live on their own, your heart stops beating the same way. 

My heat stopped beating the same way when my first child spread her wings and began her own life, and my heart almost stopped beating completely when the last of my children walked out the door with her final bit of clothes, and said, "Bye, mom.  I'll be in touch."

Sure, you go through days, months, and even years of all kinds of things with your kids.  Some good, some not-so-good, but you're never prepared for those words, "Bye, mom.  I'll give you a call sometime in the next few weeks." 

NEVER is a mother prepared -- at least this mother was not prepared. 
My kids are all out of the house now, and I have the quiet I longed for so much back in the days when I heard nothing by crying, fighting, screaming kids.  The door very rarely opens except when I open it to come home after a long day of work.  No more is the kitchen door swinging back and forth with friends coming and going yelling, "Hi, mom!", and me looking twice to see if that was my kid or a friend of my kids who decided to stay for a week. 

The quiet is nice, but sometimes I find it's strangely quiet.  I listen for sounds and smile as I remember how I'd lay awake at night (pretending to be asleep) waiting to hear the last footsteps of the kids as they finally settled down to sleep.  That was when I could breathe a bit easier and say, "Thank you, God.  They're all tucked in for another night." 

What will I do this Mother's Day?  Oh, I don't know.  Probably eat with some of the kids.  They live all over the place and most of them have families of their own, so now I'm more "gram" than I am "mom", but that's okay.  I'm growing into my new role, but it's going to take some time.  I'll look at pictures a lot and think, "Wow!  That was crazy having so many kids! It was like a nut house at times.  It was like cooking for an army! The washing machine was always going!" I'm sure I'll do a lot of reminiscing on Mother's Day -- and it will be good!  It will be happy! 

It's funny how the bad days fade into a far away distant thought, but I can tell you so many GREAT moments spent with the kids.  I remember special moments spent with each of the eleven, and that's what I'll focus on this Mother's Day.

Would I go through all of this craziness again?  Would I put myself on hold for all of those years?  In my case, having so many kids, I really did have to put my needs far away on the back burner.  It took a lot of work and planning and sacrifices to make sure there was food on the table and clothes to wear! Some day I'll talk about planning the meals for each day.  I got to be very innovative learning how to make food stretch.  It's part of a mother's many talents!

So, how do I view Mother's Day?  I think it's totally wonderful that there has been a day set aside to honor mothers for all that they have done, and all that they continue to do every day of their lives.  A mother isn't just a mother until her kids turn eighteen.  A mother is a mother all the days of her life!  And, I love it when my kids acknowledge me with respect and honor on Mother's Day!  It makes me feel like the most special person on face of this earth! 

Would I do it all over again -- have so many kids?  Are you kidding me?  In a heart beat!  I can't imagine my life without them!!!  A mother gives so much, but she really and truly does get back more!  At the end of a day, I can sit and smile and say, "It is well.  It really is well with my soul."

PS  This little piece of computer art work was given to me one Mother's Day by Alex, my youngest.  We had been going through a rough time at home, and I had to take on a full-time job in order to keep the mortgage going.  Needless to say, there was a big change in home life from that day forward.  Alex sent this little message to me, and it served as my screen saver for YEARS!  This flower and sunshine speaks volumes to me -- that's the essence of motherhood.  Flowers and sunshine -- gifts from above.

Kids, I love you each and every one -- Michelle, Mike, Joe, Tim, Chris, Jimmy, Cherie, Mandy, Marc, Steph, and Alex!  You have blessed my life in millions of different ways, and I thank my God every single day for giving me the honor and privilege of being called your mother!