Hey! Well I know a lot of questions came when we made our local news paper here in North Dakota. It is a huge milestone for me, and something I didn’t expect especially being the ‘new tog’ in town. Yes, I did move the business yet again from Florida to North Dakota, and yes I have one more move it will make, and that’s back to Arizona with my family here in several months. It’s really hard for me to write any of this, I don’t want to relive what I’ve gone through. I want to move on and not look back, but I am about to share my darkest hours.
I started Tiny Bear back in 2013 in Florida. It was something that I just dove into especially knowing what genre I wanted to focus on. Eventually it started to grow, and it became an outlet for me, something to take my mind off of my personal life. Focus on something positive.
I was a mother to 3 growing boys, and I wanted them to be proud of their mother. I also wanted to continue to watch them grow, by staying at home with them. As most mothers, I did all the school plays, parent teacher conferences, birthday’s, holidays, and ran the business in between. I had been married for 15 years, and the last seven years of it my husband was an over the road truck driver. Before that, the first 7 years he was never home. We were lucky if we saw him for an hour if that every few days.
I was alone for a majority of our marriage. Which is hard as it is to take in. After all most get married to spend their time with their partner. But it wasn’t like that for us, I figured that since he was 16 years older than I was- that he’d be stable. In the beginning I begged for his time, I never payed much attention to the bills back then, or took an interest in the money situation. We were evicted a lot, and we had the power or water shut off a lot. But he always told me he’d take care of it. Begging for his time was the one fight we always had. We had lived in Colorado, and it became so exhausting to keep asking him. I wanted date nights, I wanted movie nights on the couch. I wanted it back the way it was the first few months of marriage. So when I tried to leave, he took my children from me. See back then I didn’t put up with a whole lot from people. He did everything he could to hurt me for trying to leave. When he took the children, we went to court. He told the courts I threw my children in walls, never fed them, beat them. That day after court, we ran into each other in the court hall before leaving. His friends and him laughed at me. I lost everything that day.
People always ask why I went back, and I could say so many different reasons as to why, but like most our abusers have a hold on us. Things were fine when I went back, I was able to see my children. But I still had to deal with what was dished out to me. Over time I lost who I was, I went from sticking up for myself to just giving up and telling myself that this was the way marriage was.
We were evicted 138 times total in our marriage. The last seven years we’ve lived off Food Stamps, and he’s worked an unground job to avoid his child support from his first wife. His mother has been feeding him thousands of dollars the last seven years every three months. The lies he told to people, and to me was so often you couldn’t tell if it was really a lie or the truth, or bits and pieces of the truth mixed with lies. He had this addiction to underage adult movies (yes teen *orn). The bills would never get paid, things were always getting shut off, or repossessed. Each time I tried to leave, or asked for a divorce because I couldn’t deal with the chaos anymore I was threatened with my children.
After a while I became so numb to the threats. As the children got older, he stopped co-parenting with me. Suddenly all the chores or rules that we’d always have in place, were no longer a priority. The last three years the children saw me as a monster. It’s hard when two parents can’t co-parent. I was the bad cop and he was the good cop so to speak. A few times my teenage son punched a hole in the wall because I would get upset with him for not doing his homework, and he’d be on the computer playing all night. I tried taking away the internet, or the games and my husband would give them right back. It became four against one in the house. I would want them to eat healthy, not drinking soda or having fast food all the time. I was told I was mean, and a few times it was “I hate you mom”.
Even moving to a beautiful place relocating to a different part of Florida didn’t work. It still continued. I was so tired of trying, all I wanted to do was give up. I found couples that were happy, friends who were photographers that I was photographing with. They respected each other, and even co-parented. Sure, we tried two years of marriage counseling but things never changed.
So in these last years I gave up asking for his time, and I focused on stability and his lies. I became an investigator to our marriage. It was so exhausting, I didn’t realize how toxic we were to each other until the beginning of 2016 when I found more of his stash of *orn. It was clear that we were done, he wasn’t happy and neither was I. Honestly I don’t think we’ve been happy for many many years. I was always upset, or crying. And any opportunity I could get while he was home I would leave. That’s no way to live, and no way to teach the boys that this was marriage. Because it’s not.
I saw myself changing, I’d go to the beach and be happy, I’d get invited out with other photographers and be happy. That’s when I knew I had to let go. I can’t tell you how bad it hurt, it was like this giant empty hole in your chest, leaves you breathless for days. I sat him down last June and asked for a divorce again. Yes I knew what I was facing, and my consequences by doing this, but I couldn’t live like this any more. After seeing how happy I could be and less stressed just by not being in the same house with him, I wanted to keep that happy. When I asked him for a divorce he started his threats.
The first thing he went after was the family vehicle. Said I wasn’t allowed to drive it anymore, that it was his. Then the house, said it’s his house. And finally the children. He said those were his too and he’d fight me tooth and nail for them, said he would tell the judge whatever he had to even if that meant planting drugs on me just to get the children. I knew he would do what it took to rip my heart apart, because this is what he did 13 years prior.
Fighting was something I’ve done with my husband for the last 15 years. I’ve watched him tell the most convincing lies to people, and I knew he was capable of hurting me. This is a man who has a degree in psychology, so he knows how to manipulate and lie. For two weeks I sat in the house and cried, I didn’t want to move. I knew this was it. It wasn’t that the marriage was over, because it had been for a very long time, but it was the fact that I’d never see my boys again. I asked him to move out of the house he refused, and then the bedroom and he refused. So it was all his. It’s just material things so I wasn’t going to fight over it.
A week before I left he was telling his daughters from his first marriage that I was abusive to the boys, left them home alone all the time and I was out courting men. He told them I was leaving him for another man. It was all in text messages off facebook. What’s sad about this, are the children who are in the middle. He begged my friend Angela to come get me that he was tired of me through text, and he told me to leave.
I packed my things after seeing those messages and quietly left without a fight. It’s now been 277 days since I’ve been allowed to speak to the boys. He’s put a stop to all communication. My youngest who is six years old now was calling every so often about a month after I left. I recorded each call, and he was monitored. Calls were given 5 minutes, and he was told on what to say. The last phone call I received from him he told me “Daddy says you don’t love me anymore”. I then stopped answering my phone. I couldn’t do this. My thirteen year old has been convinced that the chores I had for the boys was slavery and abuse, he has become so hateful. He said on social media he wishes I was dead and that he hates me. That I treated him like a slave and abused him. He was the one I tried to protect from his father for years, and from the world. I felt close to him. My oldest who is now almost 18 won’t talk to me. Now the life those three boys live, is showered with junk food, pizza with whipped cream on top, sodas, candy and whatever for breakfast or all day. They don’t have to go to school, or keep good grades. They were given new TV’s, games, computers, tablets, puppies, and no bed time. There’s no rules. Honestly if I was a teenager, that would be the dream. I can’t compete with that, I have rules and I don’t allow junk food. If that makes me an awful mother- then so be it.
I went to a former clients house for a few days after I left. All the things I was able to take with me sat in her hallway. God I was beyond grateful. Then my friend Angela from Texas drove over to pick me up, and Texas became my home for months.
There’s a family member up here in North Dakota that was able to help me and I came here.
Two weeks after I left, I found out my husband moved in his 19 year old girlfriend. So he moved on, which I was happy for. I moved on to.
Ironically up here I have someone in my life who I actually grew up with. We went to school together, and knew each other. Now here we are. Rick is a very patient man. He treats me so well, almost too good than what I feel I deserve. There’s no lies, there’s no hidden truths, there’s no secrets. It’s hard as hell sometimes for me to take this in, because I was so used to the negative for so long. It’s hard to get out of that, and look at the positive.
If it’s one thing I regret, it’s myself. I spent 15 years in a depression. I was unhappy. That’s all those boys knew of me. Those boys got the worst of me. They got the mom that cried, screamed, got frustrated, yelled, lock herself in her room, couldn’t get out of bed. They saw that side of me, I would even hide in my closet sometimes. No wonder why they saw me as a monster. For that I regret, and it was a mistake. Because I am so different now, the best sides of me are full of joy, spunk, laughter, and Rick gets to see that side. But my boys don’t.
Everyday I wake up free, happy. I can breathe. I smile so often and laugh so hard. I taught myself to cook by throwing myself literally in the kitchen forcing myself to do it. Now I cook the most amazing dinners from eggplant Parmesan, to parmesan chicken, lasagna of all kinds, garlic parmesan pasta.. you name it I can try to cook it! I wake up early each morning, make breakfast and watch the sun rise with my coffee at hand. I work, I photograph, and I study.
A divorce hasn’t been filed at this point between either of us. It’s going to cost me nearly $15,000 to start, and because he left me in a lot of debt, it’s going to take a while before I can afford that. I am wife number three, and he’s lost custody of all the other children in the previous marriages. It’s not going to be cut and dry. It’s going to be full of hate, basically a nightmare. I’ve noticed that what he’s doing to me is a pattern.
His parents, who did the same battle with each other when he was two. His father was abusive to his mother. Unfortunately my mother in law thinks I am a monster too because of his lies. But she went through more of an abuse cycle than I did. His children from his first marriage, same battle. His first wife took everything he had, including the children. The children were told things that weren’t true for many years. And they say when you’ve been told something so much, you believe it. To prevent himself from going through the battle again, he’s doing what was done to him and what he’s seen, to me.
I miss my children, I look at their pictures all the time. I watch the videos that I have of them riding their first bike, or fishing for the first time. When they were little, they loved me. They held my hand, and I held theirs as tight as I could. I’ve framed their cards from all the years, and the pictures or drawings they’d make me. It hurts, and I do have those days where it’s so impossible to stop crying because I miss them. Being a mother was rewarding, and amazing. It’s hard to stop being one overnight. Every time there’s a parade, or a function, or school activity, and one of my back home friends posts pictures of her family on the beach… I look for them. I look for that single glimpse I can of my three boys. Sadly he’s told the entire town that I just up and left, left the kids. Which isn’t true, people will only see and hear what they want. The real fact is, I had no where to go in Navarre, no family and we just moved there. He refused to leave, and it was either stay in the nightmare with him, or me leave. I wasn’t given a choice to be with my children, that was taken from me. There are two sides to every story, and it’s unfortunate that no one has even asked me what truly happened behind closed doors. A mother of 16 years, doesn’t just walk away. There’s a reason, I had no choice. His first ex wife tried to warn me when we first married, and I didn’t listen. But eventually I experienced first hand the true person he was in our marriage. Which has led to his wrath.
I currently am friends with his second wife, and when he and I first met he told me she also abandoned their 2 week old son because he was ‘different’. That was a lie. Her parents caught him with prostitutes which came up in court a year later (about the time he and I started talking), as they were trying to get full custody of Kyle (their son). Which they did end up doing as they proved him an unfit father. I believed him then though, I believed the lies he told me about his second wife. I used to think gosh what mother could just leave her child. I get it now, because that was the choice I was given as well.
My mother isn’t even able to have any communication. He’s cut it all off. We’ve guessed that it’s because she knows the truth, and has been there each and every single step of the way since the marriage and issues started. She saw what he did to me. She tried to protect me but back then I didn’t listen.
Parental Alienation is real unfortunately. And it’s something I see so many people do to one another who have children with each other. In a few support groups I am in, I see women who have the children and the father doesn’t want to come around because she makes it difficult, and vise versa. With my husband taking my children from me, and me having to go through him, the way he scares me and threatens me it’s like I am living the same life I have been for 15 years with the control. People see children as leverage, when all it’s doing is hurting the other parent, and hurting the child.
There’s the whole process, and why we kept relocating. I do want to thank Edna for such an amazing interview. It was a shock that we were asked for an interview, it’s a small business literally in the middle of a small tiny town. Like I said we have one more move to make, and that’s back to Arizona with my family. I haven’t seen my mom in over 10 years. My past life kept us apart. So I am finally going back and I can’t wait to see them!
I’ve tried to not allow the business and my personal life mix, but I’ve been asked a lot on what happened and where I am at. I’m tired, I am. Emotionally I am drained, but I also know that I need to keep going. This business has helped me keep sane, and focused. Which I am truly thankful for. I love what I do, I love seeing other couples happy, and seeing their littles. I love families.