Labor Of Love

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Sometimes I forget about the beauty in humanity, we are fed negativity, everywhere we look. I can get pulled into that deep dark place, where all I see is the ugliness people are capable of. It can be daunting, wondering, never knowing who to trust. Betrayal is a constant. Keeping my guard up is so exhausting, and there is nothing more comforting than finding true friends.

Last week two of my friends, Aimee and Alexis, took it upon themselves to give me a break. They knew I am emotionally run down, that I have too much on my plate and more responsibility than ever before. I was under the impression that our life would slow down, and the stress ease after the wedding was finally over. Well, it didn’t. We were thrown into the new responsibilities of school and homework (seriously, homework is a 3 hour event, that often involves tears, frustration and tantrums). So they decided to take me out to lunch (sushi, duh). Unfortunately Alexis was having “one of THOSE days”, her baby is teething, and they had no sleep, nap time just wasn’t happening and she has a home business, is a breast feeding mama, and needed to get some work done. Aimee and I were already at the restaurant when we found out that Alexis was not going to be able to make it. So we ordered her a golf pro hand roll, and took it back to the house, poured her (and us) a glass of wine, and Aimee immediately called dibs on the baby, so I was able to sit down with Alexis and help her get some work done. As we sat their chatting, I was blown away by the love and support friends so willingly give to each other. The simplicity, and and really the perfect circle this made, I needed time off from my stresses, my kiddos, and all of the baggage that I have adopted for my loved ones. (I have an inability to look at a friends difficulties and not somehow own some of it. I am empathetic to a fault, and I need to work on it). Aimee is also a fixer, and she had seen my frustrations, (and I think she also missed me, we used to see each other 3+ times a week!) and, let’s be honest, she LOVES BABIES! So Aimee was able to get her cuddly baby fix. Alexis needed a break, and to not feel so overwhelmed by everything she needed to do. It really was the perfect, almost therapeutic situation. And to top it off, I was able to be a part of Alexis’ dream job. I feel like it is something that every woman can relate to, whether you are a mother, pregnant, or simply have friends that may need a little encouragement. I was so inspired as I sat there and really grasped the beauty of her work, and felt compelled to share it.

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This is directly from her website http://www.laboroflovebeads.com/

“My name is Alexis Baxley and I am a new mom and creative jewelry maker located by the beaches in Oxnard, CA. I believe that childbirth is a rite of passage and that each birth is a unique experience for each mother…the path to motherhood is a highly personal journey. As I started to go to more and more friends’ baby showers, I realized that there was something missing. The baby gifts and games were fun but I always left wishing I could leave the mom-to-be with something to remind her of the love and support that her friends and family want to ‘shower’ her with. As much as the parties are about baby gifts, I feel that they should also be about connection and support.

When the time came for my own baby shower, I wanted to have a ‘blessingway’, something special to empower me for my labor. So I went to a few craft stores and put together my own bracelet making kit. It took some doing and quite a lot of measuring and testing to ensure that everyone would have enough beads, any skill level could participate, and each could be done in under 15 minutes or so. This is when it dawned on me that I was meant to produce a ready-made kit for others who want to create an empowering experience for their labor and the birth of their baby!

What better way to show support of a mom’s journey than by coming together to create a personalized gift through beading. When Mom wears her bracelets, she is reminded of those who created them and their loving support.

I had 16 bracelets from 16 different friends that I wore during my labor. After over 40 hours of hard work, I needed all of the strength that I could find. When I was slumped over my couch during contractions thinking “this is so hard! I don’t think I can do it”, I looked down at my wrists and saw my bracelets. That reminder of support that “I can do this” was what I needed to keep going. My baby girl, Harper Reese was born soon after and is to this day the greatest gift I have ever received! We believe in the power of giving back. Ten percent of each purchase is donated to the Bumi Sehat Foundation, a non-profit, village-based organization that runs two by-donation community health centers in Bali and Aceh, Indonesia. ”

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While I sat with these two amazing women, we each made one for ourselves, and as I type I keep glancing at this beautiful bracelet made of blessings. It is MY constant reminder that not only is there good out there, but I have the honor of knowing some of the most beautiful, women, with even more beautiful hearts. Women who make an effort for each other for no other reason than, we may not understand exactly what the others are going through, but we can ease the burden.

Having had a particularly difficult few weeks, I can’t help but think of my loved ones who need such a simple, yet powerful reminder, that they are not alone.

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*All of these photos are directly from www.laboroflovebeads.com*

**Feel free to check out Alexis on facebook https://www.facebook.com/LaborOfLoveBeads

and her amazing website http://www.laboroflovebeads.com/ **

Reliving a Nightmare

About 6 years ago I was viciously attacked by 2 men… I never imagined I would be compelled to write this blog, yet here I sit on the verge of tears trying to work through my pain and fear.

Six years is a long time, so long in fact that I thought I was over “it”. I remember a time that not a day would go by that I didn’t think about them, what they had done to me, and what they might do if they ever saw me again. I would freeze if I saw a car even remotely similar to one they drove and I refused to go anywhere they might be. I would shake if I even thought I saw one of them. I left a shopping cart full of groceries and ran out of the store one day after turning a corner and seeing one of them in the freezer section.

I moved to Las Vegas a few years after, and I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I was long gone. I only lasted a year in Vegas, but it was a therapeutic year. It was the first time in a long time that I was not in fear. I had not even realized the terror I had felt daily. It was so freeing to not worry or think of them. When I moved back to beautiful California, I didn’t worry. I thought I was not afraid anymore, actually, to be honest, I didn’t “think” about “it”, it didn’t occur to me that I had been scared. That darkness seemed to be gone. Now I know it was just hidden, unused for so long.

A few months ago I was picking up an item for my wedding, and I saw one of them in the same parking lot as the bridal store. I didn’t even think… I ducked. My husband, fiance at the time, looked at me in utter confusion. My heart was pounding, my hands were shaking, and I knew I was not over “it”. I was brought back to a time before kids, before love, a time where I was reckless and irresponsible. My best friend and I were dating brothers, and it was so convenient at first. We were able to spend time together… I guess this was our excuse. I was never sure about the situation, but she had fallen quickly. They were alcoholic, felons, on probation for a violent crime who were raised by a woman hating, old fashioned “wanna be” Italian who had changed his name when he moved to America for his safety. There were rumors that he was a mercenary in Europe. He taught his boys that women were gold diggers, and deserved punishment for “misbehavior”. The boys treated women, us, like were were possessions. Not valuable ones, more like child’s toys, they were free to mistreat us, but we were theirs to mistreat. The only exception to this rule was each other. They didn’t bat an eye when one would hit the other’s girl friend. I don’t think my boyfriend at they time ever hit my friend, or me, for that matter. Thinking back, this is why I stayed so long. He may not have hit me, but he laughed when one of his brothers hit me in the head with a carton of orange juice. He hit me so hard I saw stars, but they just laughed. He didn’t defend me when his other brother slapped me across the face for no reason. He wasn’t there the night his brother took a book out of my hand, ripped it in pieces and then choked me against the refrigerator, and the roommate had to pull him off of me.

Those were just a few of the countless times these men physically hurt me. They also called me names, threw things at me and did the same to my friend. They fought all of the time, every holiday someone ended up in the hospital for stitches. And somehow all of this was normal to them. I knew it was fucked up, but I let myself get sucked in. I didn’t get along with the brothers from the beginning, they hated me for being opinionated and outspoken. They initially liked my friend better because she cooked and cleaned and responded to “Bitch where’s my beer?” whereas I responded, “Fuck you, get your own.”

I tried to leave once, my ex begged me to stay, when I refused he came with me. I think a part of him didn’t want to live that way anymore, but within weeks one of his brother’s followed, and a few months later we were all living on the same street. Welcome to my personal Hell. I was so done with him and his family, but I did not see a way out. My family and I were not close at the time, and I didn’t have a friend I could stay with. I fell into a depression, and in those days I remember the only time I actually enjoyed myself was at work. At home I avoided them. I stayed in my bed and read books while they got drunk every night with the neighbors. One night my ex convinced me to go with him to the neighbors to be “social”. I went reluctantly, only to be cornered in the house by the neighbor, he said he had seen what an ass the brothers were and that I didn’t deserve to be treated that way, then the idiot kissed me. I pulled away and went to the bathroom (where I was headed in the first place) and thanked my lucky stars no one had seen… they would have killed him, and me. I excused myself, saying I was not feeling well and went home alone. The neighbor had gotten my phone number and began calling and texting me. I honestly had no interest in him, and I was afraid at what the brothers might do if they ever knew. It didn’t take long for my ex to snoop through my phone and find out that the neighbor had called me, he and the brothers confronted the neighbor, had him on his knees swearing nothing had happened. They never believed him. So one day while my boyfriend was asleep, they came over and started talking shit to me, calling me a whore, and one brother started touching me, saying that “I wanted it”. I pushed him off over and over and finally my fist swung, I hit him as hard as could in the face. His eyes rolled back in his head, he shook it off and hit me so hard I flew off the stool into a wall, hitting my head on both the wall and the stove. That’s when everything went really fast, my ex woke up and stepped in between his brother and myself, only for his other brother to attack me. The two of them traded off, as my ex could only keep one away from me at a time. This is when one of their wives came in, she cheered for her husband as he threw me into another wall, she took over and kicked me repeatedly. This is when my ex broke away and grabbed a phone and dialed 911. His 2 brothers and sister in law ran out the door…

Writing it out almost seems to trivialize it. Rereading this words I am so far away reliving it, blow by blow. I thought they were going to kill me, I thought they would never stop. I begged and cried and wished someone would hear me scream. If my ex hadn’t been there, I can’t imagine what else they would have done to me.

I suppose it’s no surprise that I hid that day in the parking lot of the bridal store. Did I think he would attack me right there? No… but I didn’t think they would attack me that day, either.

I left after what they had done, my friend stayed. And is now going through a custody battle with the very same brother who hit me first. I read her declaration, as she asked me to testify if needed. I don’t want to. I don’t want to think about them, I certainly don’t want to be in the same room as them. My entire life has turned around, I have 3 amazing kids, a fantastic husband who has shown me true love, a job I adore and a life I couldn’t have dreamed up in a million years. The girl who lived on Ventura Avenue in a ghetto studio apartment that used to be a carport, who smoked a pack a day and never stood up for herself doesn’t exist anymore. My ex threatened that if I pressed charges they would come after me, and judging from the stories they used to scare us with, I was not willing to take that chance, so now I’m afraid again, and torn. And then I think about them, and how they got away with all of it, for 6 years now, they have not had to take responsibility for what they did to me, or what they have done to her. Maybe I should speak up. Maybe this can be a lesson for someone who is being treated badly, it’s never too early to leave, but it can be too late.