Skeleton Stories: When I Was Ten

by holli on July 9, 2015

Ah, the power of the Internet. My Dad read this and we had a long talk. I have judiciously edited this for more accuracy. I have no intention of slander, but rather to highlight that abuse and dysfunction happen. When we keep these secrets, they perpetuation the problems for generations. 

We all have skeletons in our closet. Some of us have more than anyone would suspect. As my kids get older, each age they reach that I was when a traumatic event happened, triggers memories. It’s inappropriate to share them directly as they are both under 9-years-old. But, these are stories that shape who I am today. Someday, I will tell them in person.

My family growing up was divided by divorce. There are stories from both sides and family members who have shared their perspectives over the years. Overall the sentiment has been encouraging me to see both parents in the best light. What everyone forgets is that I have my own memories. Some of them are very foggy – from my earliest being in the bathtub feeling alone and frightened at seeing my Mom’s face bloody – to clear ones that  struck me with such intense emotion, no adult will ever take away with rationalization. Like when I was ten.

My Dad met the woman who became my Step-Mom just before my tenth birthday. I met her on my Birthday celebration time with my Dad. He sort of surprised me when introducing us and her two daughters when I arrived at his apartment. We all got along as well as any strangers would. Within less than 6 months, they moved in together and I got to know my step-sisters as strange girls who would rather lay around in the sun tanning than climb trees (they were 12 and 14 and acting like teens compared to my 10y/o playful self).

I remember how excited my Dad was to have me over for the weekend and feel like a family. He started to have parties with is friends on those weekend too. I knew by 10-years-old that he got sloppy and not so clear-headed when he was drunk. But, at ten, I started to see another side of him that got angry.

There is that one night I will never forget. I have to let this story run from the closet, and get it out into the sunlight. I want to encourage others to share their story. Because, it’s through stories that we see we are not alone.

. . .

My Step-Sister B was sitting on the counter. She started to whine and complain about something, and when my Dad tried to shut her up, she fought back with her words.

He yelled as he pulled her off of the counter, dragged her through the kitchen, down the hallway and threw her body into her bedroom. She yelled for him to stop, for her mom to help. Her mom only joined my dad in yelling at her for being a little bitch.

It was like seeing my Dad turn into The Hulk. Before I could see what else would happen, I bolted. I ran out the front door and hid behind one of the cars parked on the street. My heart pounded. I felt scared. I felt alone. I didn’t think I could call my Mom, because I didn’t want to make him angry at me too. I heard a lot of yelling.

I’m not sure how long I was out there, but I remember my older Step-Sister, C, coming out and finding me. She hugged me as I sat crying and told me everything would be okay. I could sleep in her room with her. And I did. I don’t know how I got to sleep that night, but I remember thinking my Dad was wrong. It wasn’t okay to hit, drag and throw my Step-Sister B. The next morning, I don’t remember anyone talking about what happened the night before.

And, I left with a fresh memory, finally realizing why I never felt completely safe with my Dad.

He has never hit me or abused me in any physical way.

But he has hurt other women.

And, he has been hurt by women. He is a man who lives with The Step-Mom who sporadically threatens his life, and never thinks to call the cops on her. He doesn’t seem capable of seeing the abuse they both heap onto each other, and he hasn’t sought help through counseling or therapy.

So. While I can’t say I have been a victim of domestic violence or child abuse, I have seen it up close. I have felt the fear and conflict of whether or not to tell anyone. I love both the abuser and the abused.

My Step-Sister C and I lost touch almost 5-years-ago. We haven’t seen each other since I managed to get everyone into a therapists office once: both Step-Sisters, Step-Mom and Dad and me. We only call when something bad happens, because until now, we were the only ones sharing this story. If we feared for our parent’s life, we have called one another to try and find out what’s really happening, to decipher the manic, strung-out calls we get from either parent.

I hate to say it, but every time her number shows up on my phone, my heart beat changes. I keep expecting the worst.

The last time I heard from her was last summer. My dad’s life was threatened multiple times, and instead of calling me for help, he called her. She told him to call the police. He would not.

Next week is her Birthday, and I am thinking about calling her to thank her for being the big-sister I needed sometimes. She made me feel safe in the chaos of our shared family time. She is strong and brave and I hope her life is kinder now.

p.s. Skeleton stories are what I’m going to call the stories I have of trauma growing up. I don’t want sympathy from sharing them. I want to start talking about how we are stronger than our stories.

p.s.s. If you or someone you know is living in abuse, please reach out to any number of anonymous hotlines. I personally know of 5 women in my circle of family, friends and who are victims of domestic abuse, and according to the statistics, that is low (1 in 4 women are abused). Here’s the national domestic abuse hotline: 1-800-799-7233

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A Hard Lesson From A Photo Of My Kids

by holli on June 28, 2015

It’s been 2 weeks since I found myself shaking from anger and shame.

A friend of mine posted to my Facebook wall about my kids’ photograph on an article through an advocacy news website, inquiring about my permission for it’s use. The article didn’t bother me – it was the use of a photograph I took of my kids.

I felt anger at myself for not taking precautions with photographs of my kids on the Internet. And shame for being so naive to think that this kind of thing wouldn’t happen to me.

Screen shot:Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 8.27.11 AM


To the credit of the website,, they quickly removed the photograph from the article and opened my eyes to the fact that this photo is being used “all over the internet” as they put it. I had a fast , hard lesson on doing a reverse image search through Google, and finding out that the photograph was on 15 websites between mine in Seattle to an Island off Italy to Taiwan.

Three of the 15 websites have removed the image since June 12th. The rest I’m still dealing with while educating myself about copyrights.

Honestly, the experience made me pause and wonder if I should remove all of the photographs I’ve ever posted of my kids on here. That alone seemed like a daunting task, and only made think longer and harder about whether or not to keep up this site. This is a lot of work to maintain and now I have to rework how I share any stories photographs – because the reality of the Internet is that anything can be stolen and reused.

I’m going to tip-toe forward, because I believe in the power of sharing our stories – from health to simple real life entertainment, we need each others stories to help us navigate life. There are a handful of blogs that have encouraged me to work through problems or feelings of overwhelm, and while my blog may not have the same influence, I think it’s worth sharing what lessons I can. The “mission” of this blog is encouragement through example, and I’m not going to let some ill-spirited people on the Internet shut me up.

Moving forward, I’ll take more time and care when sharing photographs of my kids, and all photos will have a frame added like this one – and if anyone crops and reuses, I know now how to send a “Take Down” DCMA letter. Because, frankly, I love photography, and photos of my kids are part of the stories I have to share.


Time to add a frame or watermark to all of my photographs!

And, I hope my hard-learned lesson will help anyone else out there who finds their personal photos on some other websites.




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What Bolivia Showed Me

May 8, 2015

I’ve been back from my trip to Bolivia for almost 2 weeks! While I wrote in my journal much of the way home, I have had a hard time figuring out how to share the deep shift in my perspective that Bolivia showed me. When I left, I wondered what would happen or how the […]

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The Danger Of Just Enough Information: MTHFR gaining attention

May 6, 2015

I finally feel like I’ve figured out my MTHFR gene mutation solution to avoid constant muscle spasms and great voids of energy.  And, the topic is finally hitting mainstream sites like The Stir’s “Why Some Moms Should Skip Prenatal Vitamins.” The article brings MTHFR to light, but is dangerously negligent in providing useful information and […]

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