Fathers Day

 Today is the first time that I have gone to the store and picked out a Fathers day card to send to my dad.This year has been full of many firsts. Refresher: My mom skipped town when she was pregnant with me. I did not locate/ meet my dad until I was 31. Then disappeared for several years.I connected with my dad again sometime late last summer. I still only kind of understand why there was a long pause between our first meeting and where we are today. I am also afraid he will disappear again. The rejection was painful the first time and many close friends advised against taking that kind of risk again. I ultimately decided to dig deep into my strength and give it another shot. 

My dad first drove from Louisiana to Indiana for Thanksgiving and met my husband and 3 of my kids for the first time.  We cooked together, played board games, watched my daughter perform with the orchestra. Hung out and stayed up very late every night catching up and talking. We talked about everything, nothing was off limits.

 I took him on a tour of the university I graduated from and beamed with pride the whole time. At first, I thought it would it would be awkward and we would have trouble connecting but it wasn’t that way at all. Having him around was totally comfortable and natural.

 Then I got the best Christmas gift ever! Christmas morning with my dad!

He called and sang happy birthday on my birthday.

As I have shared my story and accepted media interviews my dad has supported me. 

When I decided to work more on my own business interests he asked how can help? 

Then in May while working on a TV show the producers asked me to ask my dad directly if he would have stopped my forced child marriage, his response ” heck ya”. Those two incredibly validating words that I didn’t even know I needed to hear. I have helped him with technology, we share recipes and cooking ideas, and my kids have an interested grandparent.We live far apart so I don’t get to see each other as often as we would like, but ultimately its really nice to have him be just a text away.  

Happy Fathers Day Dad and I swear I will get that card in the mail tomorrow!


Twelve years ago today My husband and I stood in the little chapel of the west in Las Vegas and swore to love and honor each other for the rest of our lives.

Have we loved and honored each other for the last twelve years? Sometimes and sometimes not. Its been a wild ride at times and we have been through several storms together. We both have done very damaging things to our relationship. Somewhere in the middle of it all we totally came undone and almost got divorced. We found our way back to each other and since then our marriage has been better and stronger than ever.

After I escaped my forced child marriage I married someone my own age. We then had two children. The first two years of our marriage were “ok”, probably because he was in the military and gone for most of it. Once he got out and was home all the time we fought constantly. This is not the part where I am going to place blame and bash my children’s father.  I will say this, we fought so much that I had nothing left to give my children. It was not an environment that I felt was good for the children to be in. After marriage counseling had failed, I packed up my children and left. I have never regretted this move and things continued to be very ugly for years after. I cannot control my ex-husband or make him be what I feel he should be to our children. I also at times can’t seem to control my response to him. What I can do is create the best environment possible in my home for my children and get them additional help when they need it. My husband Nick has helped me provide this for the last 12 years.

Nick has given me several “gifts” over the course of the last 12 years.

The first gift Nick gave me was a feeling of being safe. I still remember like it was yesterday looking at him and feeling like if I just stick with him somehow this man will keep me and my little ducks safe. My husband is quiet, kind, very fair and often very funny. But you don’t want to mess with his family he will put you in your place.

The second was for the first time in my life ” felt” loved. I have been the center of his world from day 1. Until this point, I never felt loved by anyone. I had people say they loved me and I would often match their actions and behavior to their words. I figured that I was too broken to ” feel” loved by anyone.

The third is how much he loves my children. I forget sometimes that he is not the biological father of 3 of them. No one can tell the difference.  He is “the dad” to all of them, end of story. Nick has filled in many of the gaps in parenting for me. Since I did not have a normal teenage experience of know first hand what being a high schooler is we lean on Nicks knowledge. sometimes when I am not sure if I should let the kids do something I let him have the final say in a ” go ask your dad”. If he thinks it’s safe and Ok, then I don’t worry about it. This has never gone bad.  This helps keep my abuse survivor paranoia in check.

Many people find Nick scary and intimidating. Good! He has been loving and tender to all of us and made us all feel safe and cared for I love him so much for this.

Both of us have a share of baggage and shit that we needed to work out. There have been times when I wanted to give up and he didn’t give up on me. There have been times when I drug him back up on his feet as well. We keep going, we keep trying.

I would like to say that we all came together and it was wonderful and easy from the start but that’s not true.

Some issues that I had to work through

  1.  My value. During the first few years of our marriage, I still felt like the only thing I had to offer in a relationship was what I could provide sexually. I also was very used to having someone else tell me how I felt about things how I should think, who I should be and all the ways I wasn’t good enough. Nick wasn’t like this at all, he was just like “do what makes you happy, let me know if you need my help”. What?? how do I figure out my own life? After a lifetime of yelling and chaos and striving to finally be good enough how do I just sit here all peaceful? I know this probably sounds crazy to you dear reader but this was how it was. I felt like I was emotionally drowning and he stood on the shore with one of those doughnut things and wouldn’t throw it to me. I would ask him, what do you want from me? And he was like. “I don’t know wanna watch a movie?” I knew he was unhappy with me and just waiting to point out all the ways I was failing as a human being. I would try to drag it out of him until he became so frustrated that he would point out that the only I was doing to upset him was accusing him of doing things he wasn’t doing. I would crawl into bed and ask him ” do you still love me?” He found this super annoying until I explained that my who life it has been my experience that everyone who “cared” about me had an expiration date attached to it. I needed to hear it over and over again until I believed it. So he answered my annoying question as much as I needed for years. Many trauma survivors fall into this self-sabotaging trap. It would take me 2 years of therapy and many more of practice to realize my value and to accept that I could trust that Nick loved me and will continue to do so.
  2. Thankfully he never brings any of this up, there is not one thing that I have done in our relationship that he has thrown back in my face EVER. I wish I was this kind of a person.
  3. My husband never gave up on me even when I gave up on myself. My husband has so much faith in me, much more so than I have in myself. I don’t know for sure at what point I found some self-esteem or if it’s just the mirror that my husband holds up for me.
  4. My husband has never made me feel damaged or too broken or ashamed or asked me not to talk about the unpleasant parts of my past. I can talk to him about anything and I feel totally safe in that space. I am accepted by him for who I am cracks and all. He listens to me, no matter how many times I need to talk about it. On the flip side of this, he rarely offers an unsolicited opinion. I always have to ask for his thoughts. And sometimes it’s like trying to pull the sword from the stone.
  5. His patience with me is unbelievable, Many sexual assault survivors struggle with intimacy for a time afterward and some struggle forever. I am not going into detail here but I will say that Nick has always been patient with me. I believe has helped me reach a place of comfort and healing that I would not have been able to get to otherwise. If I am ever triggered suddenly, he backs off no questions no repercussions. He has followed my lead and we have always been able to talk about what needs to be talked about. Nick gives the best hugs so that is helpful too. There have been seasons of constant nightmares where he has tried to soothe me. Long talks about things he probably never wanted to hear about helping me process my crap. When I feel like I have hit a wall I can’t climb he has picked me up and carried me to the other side.
  6. He feels my story needs to be shared too. Nick supports me telling my story 110%. He feels that people need to know about child marriage and how harmful it is. He finds my strength and ability to be open about what I’ve been through and how I got to where I am now inspiring. He feels that I should share and inspire others. He feels that I am brave and courageous and is very proud of me.

The kids are older now and are starting to leave the nest and have lives of there own. I am so grateful that we didn’t give up on each other. We have more time for each other and enjoy each others company. We have so much fun together. Heres to many more years, new experiences and growth.



Do you still talk to your mom? Where was your dad in all of this?

These are the two most common questions that I am asked when I give talks. Today I will answer them.

I will start with my dad

My biological father was 16 when my mother became friends with his mom and started hanging around his house. My mother was in her early 30s. Not long after, the two became romantically involved. My birth was the result of this filing. It’s after this that the story changes but basically my dad wasn’t in my life because my mom ran away.

My oldest daughter found my dad when I was 31, I called a number for him that I had found and was at first stonewalled by his wife. Eventually, I talked for a few months on the phone and I flew down to Louisiana over a long labor day weekend to meet him. His wife wasn’t really excited about my appearance in their life. There was a paternity test and some phone calls and then everyone stopped returning my calls or text about a year into the whole thing. I didn’t regret doing any of that, in fact, I walked away feeling like my identity was more solidified. I used to lay in my bed at night and think that my dad was out there searching for me. As soon as he found where I was, he would rescue me and we would live happily ever after. Maybe that would have been the case or maybe I would have ended up with more crazy people in my life.  Who knows but I walked away with a general feeling that everything was as it should be bad and the good. The past is the past and cannot be rewritten, my future lay ahead of me ready to be written. The rejection did sting and sometimes the self-pitying thoughts of why neither of my parents cared about me would occasionally creep in at first. With time I came to understand that their brokenness does not equal my value.

Last fall I reconnected with my dad, he is divorced and said he wanted to reach out sooner but was afraid I would be too angry with him. We talked on the phone and he came to my home for a long visit during Thanksgiving week. This was the first time that my dad had ever met my husband and my children and it was amazing. Both my dad and I had expected a level of awkwardness but it never arrived. He came up again over Christmas week and for the first time in my life I had a Christmas morning with my dad.

We played board games with the kids, included him in our holiday traditions and had many long conversations. I still have a super easy relationship with my dad and we call or text most days and he tells me how proud he is of me and the life I have built.

The last time I saw my mother was 5 years ago. The time before that was 7 years prior. I do not see her much and she lives several states away. For years I have had an on again off again relationship with her. For years I told myself that I kept in touch with her to make sure that she knew how well I was doing, that in spite of her attempts to break me she had not succeeded. I began the process of recovery in 2013 and didn’t really find a place of peace until later 2014. The further along in my recovery the more I felt like I didn’t want anything to do with her at all. I didn’t care if she knew how well I was doing. It doesn’t matter anyway because she is so sick and delusional she doesn’t see things how they really are anyway.

I  want to take a min here to talk about forcing people who have hurt you to see your pain and validate it. This is a self-mutilating action that NEVER ends well. For years I felt that if I could make my mother see the pain that she caused me and validate that pain for me that I could finally begin to heal. These were all lies I was telling myself. I didn’t need her to realize or admit to what she had done and how it had devastated me. To make matters worse my mother will go out of her way to gaslight me and invalidate my pain.  It took me years to realize that during almost every phone call she would try and pick open old wounds and still not accept her part in creating them. My mother during a call about making Christmas cookies: “Do you remember that tragic event that happened to you and gave you nightmares for 7 years”? : let me randomly bring that up and totally trigger you so that I can remind you that it’s not my fault and I seem to have some sick pleasure in torturing you about it”.  Then she will chuckle to herself and say oops I forgot you don’t like to talk about that. Her narrative tells a story of how I was such a rebellious unruly child that she ” let” me get married at 15 because she had no choice. It shifts back and forth between I never told her about all the abuse I endured to ” I lied so much”  that she couldn’t believe me. She also blames the traumatized mentally ill teenager she married and tried to pass off as a father figure. ” I couldn’t be a decent mother because I stayed with this person for over 20 years who was a seriously ill addict who terrorized my children and I never did anything about it other than scream at him. The theme is always the same, none of it was her fault and I am a sick unforgiving person who is responsible for my own problems.

Some things I learned:

  1. Trauma is not a life sentence but you have to move away from the fire or you will continue to burn.
  2. I do not love my mother and that is ok.
  3. I will never ” force her to see what she did”. By trying to do this I only hurt myself.
  4. I don’t care if she knows how well I am doing or not.
  5. She brings nothing of value to my life NOTHING, therefore, she has no place in it
  6. Forgiveness is for my inner peace. I feel that I reached a place of forgiveness and peace when I stopped thinking about my mother that often. Forgiveness is not erasing that slate of your Abuser and allowing them to keep abusing you.  For Example: My mother is still friends with the pedophile she married me to at 15. She sees nothing wrong with this.  A few years ago I saw him liking and commenting on pictures of my children that she had shared. The was the end I cut her off. A year after that she changed her setting so I can’t see who she is friends with and again he is still commenting on her post. Is this a person who is sorry? A person who has reflected on her past mistakes and changed? Absolutely not.
  7. My mother’s opinion of me and her point of view are of no consequence to my recovery or wellbeing.
  8. I am who I am through my own hard work and resilience. The book of my past has been written, there are good parts and bad parts. All of the parts make me who I am and no one part defines who I am. I have been celebrating recovery for almost 5 years. That’s 5 years of better, healthier choices that have moved my life forward, almost 3 years without nightmares, panic attacks and battles of depression. That’s almost half a decade of letting go of things that don’t serve me to make room for things that do. That’s hope that I will continue to grow and thrive another 5 years, then another 5 years. Overall I have a track record of almost 40 years of being able to handle anything. I’m ready for what’s next!

XoXo- Gen


I do not believe that there are any parents who send their children off into the world and say to themselves, ” we really hit it out of the park, we did everything right”.

Parenting is hard, fun, frustrating, joyful, terrifying, rewarding, heartbreaking and so much more all at the same time. Sometimes all in the same day.

I have 4 children an 18-year-old daughter and a 16-year-old daughter, a 14-year-old son and the baby who is 11.

My first child has an iron will, my second was very sweet but sneaky. My son still keeps me on my toes and my youngest child is soo easy. Every child is different and unique in their own way and often requires adjustments to parenting.

One of my first fears before my first daughter was born was: “how can I possibly keep her safe from all the bad things that happened to me”? How do you provide love, nurturing and protection to your children when you were not raised that way? People ask me this all the time and I like most parents do not have a magic formula. I don’t really even know for sure if I am any good at it. Each child is different and each parent is different and just when you feel like your on a winning streak you hit some new phase of chaos. I will share some things that worked for me. I think that all of the kids are pretty cool individuals and as far as I know they feel very safe, loved and supported by both my husband and I. ( most of the time)

  1. Don’t scream at your children. I know easier said than done, I will fully admit that one of my children knows how to push my buttons until I morph into someone I don’t know. Thankfully this doesn’t happen too often. I do know that if you scream at your children all the time that it is harmful and also ineffective. They will simply tune you out and not hear what you are trying to communicate. My husband and I hardly ever raise our voices at the kids that when we do they pay attention. I have counted to 10 and then 20, 30… many times. I have frankly told my children that they need to go hang out in their rooms because I am going to lose my sh$t if they don’t. This is not showing weakness, this is showing your children that it is ok to walk away and calm yourself. We all get frustrated and angry, that doesn’t mean that it is ok to take it out on people.
  2. Don’t hit, shove, push or use any other physical punishment. This doesn’t accomplish anything other than demonstrating that big people can overpower little people.
  3. When disciplining make sure that you are not angry. If you need to send your child to their room while you go into yours and find your inner peace do it! I try to offer real consequences for whatever my children have done that require discipline.No matter how young my children were I always tried to explain what they had done wrong, why it was wrong and if possible what they should do differently next time.
  4. I think sometimes we tell our kids what not to do but fail to tell them what they should do. The goal of discipline is to learn something that hopefully will stick around so they don’t do it again. Discipline is not just for me to relieve my anger and frustration. This is also not as easy as it sounds, the more tired and stressed you are the harder it is. This is one of those things that if you dig deep in your momma supper power reserves it will pay of later.
  5. Limits, boundaries, and explanations. My children will all tell you that I sit them down for talks way more often then they would like. I have always tried to make sure that my kids know what the rules are and what happens if they break those rules. It is important to follow through, I never threaten my kids and don’t follow through. When the children were little I keep life a series of routines, traditions, and rituals. I believe this helps children feel safe. Children do better when they can predict what’s next and they fight you less too! As the kids got older and their world got bigger we had more ” talks”. We have sat down with the kids and gone over everything we can think of, sex, drugs, navigating relationships, work ethic, their dreams, our dreams for them. My oldest daughter used to think I was crazy for talking to her about ” adult things” until time and time again she found herself in those situations soon after and was grateful she knew how to handle them. This was something I struggled with as well. I wanted to protect my kid’s childhood and let them be innocent for as long as possible, but I didn’t want them to find themselves in situations and not know what to do. Just last night as my 16-year-old went to a party I reminded her that: she is not allowed to drink alcohol or be around others who are drinking, do not smoke or vape anything and if she feels unsafe or uncomfortable we will come to get her. In the end, you can’t protect your children from everything that can harm them and keep them in a bubble. You can, however, educate them and build them up to handle what comes their way. If they find themselves in a situation they can’t handle let them know that you have their back. I also tell my kids that everyone makes mistakes, I’ve been honest with them about mistakes I’ve made and how I worked through them. There is nothing that they can do that would make me stop loving them.
  6. Kitchen time, bring the kids into the kitchen with you, have them plan and make meals too! Its important that the whole family be part of meal prep and clean up.
  7. Don’t do anything for your children that they can do for themselves. let them get frustrated, watch YouTube to figure a thing out, let them fail and try again. Do my kids get ALL dust off the bookcases?? no, they don’t. Are they learning and figuring out that the whole family is responsible for the condition of our home we share? Maybe. If your unsure of what your kids should be doing by age, look it up there are all kinds of charts. Likewise, don’t load your children up with too much responsibility. This was another area I had to think about. Growing up my mother loaded all of the cooking, cleaning, laundry and much of the care or my younger sister. To figure out a good balance I looked up chore charts by age and also set limits for myself for chores and housework.
  8. Give them choices. My kids often went to school in outrageous outfits. They felt like the bee’s knees so whatever, off we went feeling fabulous and confident. I try to put two or more vegetables on the table, they must eat one of them. I am not strict on their rooms either, there is a limit of course but how they arrange their living space is up to them. You’re going to read a book, but you can choose which one. I didn’t put many restrictions on my kids. Maybe this was good and maybe not, time will tell. My oldest once told her younger teenage sister that if said no to her doing something it was probably because it was really bad. I’ve said no to tattoos, some piercings, some concerts,  SpongeBob, grand theft auto and some friends. My kids seem to listen to me when I advise against things and they also don’t ever accuse me of being unfair or out of touch. My oldest daughter once joked that the only thing they had to rebel with was to come home a Republican.
  9. Play a lot of board games. Playing games helps children, plan, problem solve and regulate their emotions. They also can help children talk about complex issues that they are trying to work through. For my oldest child, it’s Skipbo an easy game that you don’t have to think about much. My daughter will play Skipbo and after a few rounds, I am all caught up on what’s going on in her life. For my second daughter its chess. If she asked to play chess on the back porch alone, I knew she had some things on her mind that she was trying to process. My son who has a higher than average IQ and ADHD, board games are a great way to help him navigate impulse control, stay focused and keep his cool. Board games are often a fun family bonding experience and sometimes end in frustration and tears. Either way, they teach a lot more than just how to play the game.
  10. Have respect for yourself and others. My children are the most precious and valuable parts of my life. My husband and I have both tried to show them how amazing and valuable they are in hopes that they will feel that way about themselves most of the time. My thought was that if I treated my children well, they would expect other people to as well and speak up when they didn’t. Likewise, if I ever found out my kids called another child names, bullied them or made them feel bad about themselves I would have their butts. This has been hit or miss with two of my kids. ADHD makes this extra challenging but we keep trying. My kids all grew up in a home that valued and respected diversity and people who are different from us. Everyone has their story, has traveled their own road and we don’t know how difficult the road has been. Don’t judge, learn and ask respectful questions if you’re not sure.
  11. Listen. Listen to your children, really listen to them. Be patient as they try to articulate their thoughts. For years my oldest daughter would need to come home and “purge” everything about her day. Knowing when to just listen and not give advice can be hard to figure out, keep trying. Validate your children’s feelings, but also don’t let them talk to you like trash either. ” I can see that you are upset, but cannot have you say hurtful things to me”.
  12. Admit when your wrong and apologize. I mess up, I say things I shouldn’t have or screamed or whatever. Sometimes I’ve said things that I thought was funny, but the recipient found them to be hurtful. Sometimes I don’t feel like I did anything wrong and apologize for hurting their feelings. It’s not my job to say if what I did hurt them or not. Show your children that people make mistakes, they say things they don’t mean and hurt people they love sometimes. You can move past it, the love and respect are still there.
  13. Get your kids mental health help when they need it. Most of us would take our kids to a hospital if they broke a bone or have a high fever. Mental health is no different. One of my children hit their teenage years with rage. They snuck out, broke all the rules, raged against us the whole gamut. It was awful! I did not accept that ” we are just at this stage”. Turns out they had a traumatic experience that they were suffering from and was swallowed up by grief. A few months of therapy and my teenager was back on track. Do Not Ever Give Up On Your Child. If you need help, help is available.
  14. Time in. Children often ask for love and attention in the most unlovable ways.  They often operate on negative attention is better than no attention at all. I have found when my children are acting out its because they need mom time. Of course, none of my children feel like they get enough of me. One thing that we have been doing for a few years is ” forced family fun”. Everyone has to attend unless they are at work. Sometimes we all have a great time and laugh until our bellies hurt, sometimes someone picks at someone and makes them cry and then I have to step in and get annoyed. Don’t aim for perfection, just appreciate that everyone got together and no doubt some kind of memory was made and we all had an opportunity to connect. Remember no Phones!
  15. You are their parent, not their friend. If your children feel like you are their best friend great! But that’s, not the goal, your job is to love, protect, guide and set limits for them to learn and grow within. Sometimes your job is also to make tough and unpopular choices. I am required to feed my children, it doesn’t always have to be food they love. I have to cloth them, how much I spend on this depends on my budget. My children do expect privacy on their phones, internet or gaming activity. I will get to know the people they hang out with, talk to parents and keep tabs on them. I don’t care if this is embarrassing.

Like I said, I am not saying I have all the answers or am the best parent ever. These are things that I’ve learned along the way and have found to work for our family. There are a lot of parenting and child development books out there. It can be daunting to sort through all the information available. The fact that you do try and educate yourself on how to raise your children earns you major momma points.

Lastly, I want to say, don’t compare yourself to other mommas. Also, don’t judge other mommas. We are all a tribe of women, birth moms, stepmoms, foster moms etc..we should help, encourage and build each other up. If you feel alone and lost in the thick of motherhood, hit me up I will chat with you 🙂




I never heard anything about personal boundaries growing up. There was an understanding that my well being was not something that mattered. I began to realize that I felt a need to self-preserve around the age of 13. I began to fight back and at least try and find my voice. I recall one day my mom, who was shorter than I told me to lie down to get beat by the belt. I laid down at first and then stood up and let her know that that part of my life was over.

After a life of abuse, how do you establish healthy boundaries for yourself and respect the boundaries of others without feeling slighted?

This would take me years, many failed attempts and end up being the most difficult part of my recovery. People who have been abused often land on one side of the fence or the other. They either build a fortress around themselves and do not let anyone close to them or they let everyone walk all over them or are victimized over and over. The goal is to be somewhere in the middle.  Healthy boundaries allow a person to be able to walk away from people and places that don’t help you. Healthy boundaries also help you to have the emotional flexibility to risk letting someone get close. You can get close to people and there is a good chance that they might hurt you at some point. With healthy boundaries established you know that you can walk away if you need to and have the tools to repair any damage done.

Boundaries are essential in intimate relationships, friendships, family relationships, and work relationships.  Boundaries are personal to everyone, the key is to figure out what you need to maintain your own emotional health.

Some examples of healthy boundaries include:

  1. Saying no to things that you don’t want to do or don’t have the resources to do. We all end up doing things we didn’t really want to do. But is this a situation you find yourself in so often that it has choked the joy out of your life and you’re exhausted? Examine your motives, are you volunteering for things because you are passionate about the cause or are you to try and win approval? As a mom, I often get asked to bake cupcakes or help with this or that. If I have the time I do it, I do. If I don’t have the time then I don’t.
  2. Speak up if you feel mistreated. Also, be ready for when some jerk tells you that how you feel is wrong. That is always an easy walk away situation for me. I have this person who has to be in my life on a limited basis. Whenever I tell them that they have crossed a line they always respond with either, ” I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry for arguing back even though you started it”. I also see this with people who are like ” OK I said sorry, now can we move on without me actually addressing your pain and my role in it.”#narcissists
  3. Don’t work harder on other peoples problems than do on your own problems. I have people in my life who do not accept that their choices have landed them where they are. We all screw up sometimes, it’s ok to get help and support when you need it. Stay away from people who make you feel like they are still in a bad place because you didn’t sacrifice enough of yourself.
  4. Know what you are responsible for and what you are not responsible for. I know this might be unpopular for some but, I don’t feel like I am responsible for anyone’s happiness. Likewise, I feel like it is up to me to keep myself happy and healthy. I often use the acronym ” HALT”. I try not to let myself get too Hungary, Angry, Tired or Lonely ( or make sure I am getting adequate time to myself). its totally on me if I am not meeting my own basic needs for nutrition, rest and addressing my own mental health.
  5. People can disagree, there can still be love there. It’s OK to disagree and move on. If someone disagrees with you often and are nasty about it, it might be time to move on.
  6. It’s not your job to anticipate the needs of others. I find it super annoying when people expect me to just ” know”. I realize that sometimes individuals can be in such a bad place that they can’t articulate or find the words for what they need. I’m talking about good old fashioned passive aggressive who get mad at you when you don’t anticipate their needs. I don’t spend time with people who get mad at me for not being able to read their minds or know what they want from me.
  7. Over-Sharing. I cringe when I hear parents in the waiting room of my office telling the rest of the waiting room why their child is being seen by a therapist. My mom does this to me. She would tell EVERYONE all my shameful secrets. She would detail the accounts of my abuse, trauma, struggle, and brokenness. As an adult, I know that I don’t owe anyone my story if I do not want to tell it. I have had my share of people who have judged and assumed things about me. I  could have, on many occasions have been like ” this happened to me and this is why I am like this”. I don’t feel like I owe anyone an explanation about my past. I also operate on the belief that ” its none of my business what people think of me”. I tell my own story, not my siblings, not my children.. only mine and on my terms. This is the main reason I don’t speak to my mother any more than I have too. She will always bring up some past trauma and then often attempt to invalidate my experience. I have talked with her about this, I have asked her to stop. It continues and she says ” oops I forgot.” Bull shit. It’s up to me to end the conversation when it moves in that direction. Arguing with her, calling her out and forcing her to see things my way will just result in the sacrifice of my peace and well being.
  8. Physical touch and personal space. It took me years to feel comfortable greeting friends and loved ones with a hug. I would at best, do a lame ” side hug”. Today I feel blessed that I have so many close friends and family that greet me with a warm embrace. Occasionally I will receive an unwelcomed touch and I have been able to ask them to not touch me. I had a coworker who would rub other employees shoulders. They learned real fast to not include me in their frequent caresses. For years when I was upset my husband’s response was to embrace me. That didn’t work for me for a long time. For the last few years if I have had a difficult day I make it a priority to get him to his arms as soon as I can. Physical touch can be a difficult boundary and your needs can change. If you have given someone the OK to touch you and something has changed you can revoke that! The bottom line is don’t let someone touch you in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. At the least speak up and remove yourself. No one has a right to your body. Also please talk to your children about this and don’t make them hug people they don’t want to.

I refer to myself as a survivor because I have survived and thrived. I feel empowered, at peace and excited for what’s next. I still have my boundaries violated occasionally and sometimes have set reevaluate and set new ones. Ultimately I keep moving forward in power, love, and joy.

Xo Xo- Gen



Tara Westover published her memoir “Educated” in 2018. The book describes her unconventional path to higher education and her unique and often traumatic upbringing. The book has been very successful and received many wonderful reviews from high profile people such as Bill Gates and former President Obama.

My friends who had read the book recommended that I read it stating the similarities to my life. I had added it to my list of books to read at some point. In March the book club that I sporadically participate in choose Tara’s book.

I recently finished reading the book, it is very moving, well written and at times hard to read due to the nature of the content. There are some strong parallels to my life in her book.

Y2K, my mom, and her husband also got sucked into the hysteria of Y2K. This is how they moved from southern CA to the mountains of Virginia. This is a book in and of its self.

Neglect, when I look back at my childhood I am amazed at how I lived to adulthood. I also experienced medical neglect. I was not taken for treatment from physical abuse. I do remember going to the ER because I had shoved something in my nose and once for a flea infestation that we all had. Routine medical and dental care were not part of my childhood after the age of 5. We had a family physician named Gary that my mother seemed to very be fond of. I remember that some of our friends saw him as well. I saw him for the last time at the age of 15 after I had been married for a few months. I found sex to be painful and my “husband” thought that there was something wrong with me. I cannot tell you how awkward that visit was and the struggle in that doctor’s voice as he explained that having sex when you don’t really want to and are not aroused can be painful. He didn’t call it rape, but I am sure that appointment was not an easy one for him. He also tested me for STDs which I didn’t really know much about either. I was immunized, though according to my mom I had dangerous reactions to them. My mother has also told me that she had German measles when she was pregnant with me and this resulted in not needing that vaccine. I didn’t have my shot record as an adult and had a blood test done when I was older and pregnant. It came back that I was missing antibodies. They gave me the MMR vaccine and I followed through for the series at 23 years old. This came up again for my senior internship at school, again since I didn’t have a viable shot record that made sense. I had a blood test and again it showed no antibodies for measles. After repeating this again in 2015 when I began working in a hospital, I did there series of vaccines, again and again, no antibodies. My body doesn’t convert the measles vaccine.

The main similarity of Tara’s book is the unconventional path to higher education. I believe I went to public school from Kindergarten to sometime in 1st grade. Then I returned to public school in the 4th grade. I did not receive any homeschooling in between. I possibly attended public school for some of the 5th grade in California. We moved to Ohio in May of either 1990 or 1991. I attended a private Christian school in Ohio for either 5th or 6th grade. This Christian school was the last school I attended. I was ” homeschooled” after leaving the Christian school. Again it was sporadic and traumatic. I remember my mother screaming at me and hitting me because of my poor handwriting. I spent long days doing the housework, cooking and caring for my younger sister. By the time it came to school work I was totally exhausted. My mother used ACE Christian home school curriculum. I had workbooks that I would try to work through, but if I couldn’t teach myself the material I would just remain stuck. My mom couldn’t afford to order the whole program so I got bits and pieces and often had an extended absence of school work. I would take yearly aptitude tests that showed that I was at grade level for everything.

I wasn’t in my mothers home for a period of time. I lived with a friend in a foster care situation. While I was there my mom moved from Ohio back to California. She refused to sign over legal guardianship to my foster parent and this prevented her from enrolling me in school. In the fall of 1994 at the age of 14, I got on a plane and returned to my mothers care in Southern CA with the promise that she would enroll me in school. She didn’t. She ordered more of the self-paced workbooks again at the 6th-grade level.

Instead of school, I went to work with my stepfather who was a truck driver. My stepfather hauled cars. I would take those 6th-grade workbooks that I couldn’t advance beyond with me in his truck. I would try to work on them in the back of a moving truck in between helping him load and deliver cars. I began to hate these workbooks and felt like they were an obstacle to achieving real education. I spent long days fetching cars from auto auction lots and loading them onto the truck. I was covered in grease and grime every day when When I finally made it home late at night and would often just go to bed filthy.

That following spring I was forced to get married. I enrolled in the GED program in town and began working on my high school diploma. I would walk 2 miles each way to get to classes. There was a teacher there that worked with me and was excited to have a student that wanted to be there and learn. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be long before I had to abandon working on my high school diploma for full-time work to support myself.

As a side note: my “husband”  had to sign me up for the GED program and he also had to sign my work permit so that I could work at a local fast food restaurant at the age of 15.

At the age of 29 after the birth of my fourth child, I made a commitment to myself that I would get my GED so that I could obtain adequate employment and make enough money to support myself and my children. I contacted an agency in town that thankfully had GED classes and childcare. If they didn’t have free childcare I could not have been able to afford to go. I went for about a month to classes there and they paid for me to take the GED exam. The GED at this time had 5 parts to it, reading, math, an essay, social studies, and science. If you didn’t pass all sections at once you had a year to complete and pass the remaining sections. I did not expect to pass the math portion but ended up passing all of it. I didn’t stop at with my GED, over the course of the next 9 years, I would go all the way to a Masters degree.

If I had the opportunity to speak with the author Educated we would have many similarities that we could discuss! I hope that she has found peace and healing form her experiences and is surrounded, as I am by a loving family of choice.

XoXo- Gen

How to cope

How to Cope 

     Yesterday I wrote about some difficult memories and went to very dark places. I am often asked about how I can talk about these things and still function in my life. Today I will talk about what works for me.*

  • Know which era you are really in. One of the effects of PTSD is flashbacks, flashbacks can be triggered at random. Something as simple as a scent can take you back to a place you didn’t want to go. Try not to slip all the way back, focus on where you are now. There are different levels to this depending on how high your levels of anxiety are rising. I start by doing a quick mental inventory of where I am: What year is it? What day is it? What was I doing before I got triggered? How old am I now? What do I have on my person that will help keep me safe? ( cell phone, keys to a car I can get in and drive away). Once I am oriented to the right era I often run a mini gratitude list. ( grateful for Nick, healthy happy kids, a new book to read, scented candles flickering). Focusing on what my life is now and the comforts that I enjoy help keep me grounded. After I finished writing yesterday I felt for lack of a better term ” yucky”. First I got up and reminded myself about why I am doing this. Then I put on my tea kettle and fetched a beautiful teacup with morning glories on it that I love. While the water was boiling I texted my husband and was honest about how I was currently feeling: ” The house is a mess and feel like something bad is going to happen to me because of it, it’s making me very anxious”. My husband knows the history behind this and understands. His response “we all had a busy week and we will all clean up the house tomorrow together, no one is going to beat you because your room is messy”. It seems kind of silly, but these are real ways in which trauma can linger in your life. With yummy tea in hand, I went to the family room and sat with my youngest two children and did a round robin of gratitude. ” I’m grateful for cozy nights playing broad games with you guys by the fire”. ” I’m grateful for my relationships”. “I’m grateful for hot fries”.  I was able to transition from the past to the present and not have that cloud of darkness hanging over my afternoon family activities. I even went to bed with the house still a mess.
  • Gratitude List. This is probably the tool I use the most. As a little girl, I didn’t really have dreams or aspirations for myself. I was in survival mode and had no idea what was next. If someone had told me at 8 years old that this is what my life would be like I probably couldn’t have even pictured it. Focusing on what your blessings and things that bring you joy keep you moving forward to a healthy place. Shifting your thoughts will shift your mood and that will shift your actions which shows in your life. I list everything that makes me happy, interests me, brings me joy or peace.
  • Get some exercise. A walk while focusing on your blessings can do wonders for your mood. Yoga is great because it makes you focus on your breathing and the sensations in your body. Bikes rides, rollerblading. whatever brings you joy and will release all these free good for you happy chemical reactions in your brain. I find nature a very efficient healer and mood booster.
  • Be creative. Draw, color, paint, make something. I feel that kitchen time can fall into this category as well. I love to make yummy treats for my friends and family. I often have little helpers and as my children have grown its wonderful quality time with them. If I am alone I will often listen to an audiobook while I am creating something.
  • Write about it. Some times when you take the time to sit down and organize your thoughts it helps to process them. I have on occasion come across an old notebook that I wrote my thoughts in long ago. Often what they are is evidence of how far I have come. This fills me with hope to keep going and that things will continue to get better than I can even imagine.
  • Make plans. Check that you are still moving forward in your life. Is there a friend that you haven’t seen in a while? Make a plan to meet for coffee or a movie. Plan to go to a place that you have been meaning to go but haven’t been able to squeeze it in. For me, this reminds me that I have so many wonderful people that enrich my life when I spend time with them. It also reminds me that I have some control over my life. I say how I spend my time, who I spend it with and that I am actively creating a life I want. For survivors of abuse, it is often a struggle to feel like you have control over your body, mind, safety, life etc.
  • Accept the pain. Sometimes the pain is just too much, respect that and don’t push yourself. If you broke your foot, you wouldn’t just keep walking on it and get angry at your foot for staying broken. I am serval years into recovery so this happens less often. If I am triggered and feeling too much emotional pain I will cancel my day if possible and lay on the sofa and watch old episodes of bewitched. No Shame. If it goes on longer than a day I begin examining if I need outside help.

A note about seeking professional help: If you feel stuck, keep having nightmares and intrusive thoughts you probably need help processing. Start by talking with a trusted friend. Then move on to finding a therapist if you are still stuck. Therapy is not two years of laying on someone’s couch analyzing your life. There are many different types of therapy, music therapy, art therapy, play therapy ( when there are no words). Talk therapies such as CBT, DBT, Psychotherapy, EMDR and sometimes medication is necessary. There are also support groups with people going through similar issues that you are. I will go in depth about this more in a later post.

*if you are currently still being abused and not in recovery these tools are not going to help much. Help is available, you can heal, you can have a life beyond what you imagine. But first, you have to start the healing process.

My ultimate list of things that help me the most: Wrap my husband around me, snuggle up with my kids and just marvel at how amazing they are, Bake yummy treats, play board games with the family, watch a feel-good movie or my childhood cartoons( or bewitched!), look at pictures with my family and reflect on all the love and happiness in the life we have built, make a gratitude list, help someone else get to a place of peace and healing, make plans to meet a friend, go out with Nick, hike, work in my garden, take a moment to really reflect on how loved and blessed I am! I lived I survived and I have broken the cycle.



Shame and identity

A few years ago I realized how much shame I had been carrying on my shoulders for as long as I could remember.  I had been carrying this weight for so long that at some point it became so comfortable and familiar that I didn’t even realize it was there anymore.

I struggle to pinpoint exactly when it started and I can only recall poignant moments in my life when it peaked and could not be ignored. The shame of having a mentally ill mother, the shame religion heaves on you, the shame of being a victim of sexual abuse, the shame of child marriage and of course the shame of my own poor choices.

Shame plays a large role in many factors of our lives, but today I want to focus on the shame victims of abuse feel and how that manifests for beyond the acts of abuse themselves.

Three years ago I didn’t give much thought to shame, perhaps on purpose. Feeling ashamed and of lying to cover up things about myself I didn’t want people to judge me for was so ingrained in my life that I didn’t even realize it.

Here are a few excerpts from the book I am working on.

My mother had this narrative that I supposed started it. Her narrative was about the poor single mother struggling to get by and often relying on the kindness of the church to help us. From my perspective my mother was most ashamed of two things; Her weight and her financial situation.  Neither of these things bothered me growing up I felt and still do that she had much more things she should feel ashamed about.

I felt ashamed when she married a boy on his 18th birthday two days before my 6th birthday. I would just stand and stare drowning in shame when people would ask me about her ” boy toy” husband.

I felt ashamed when I would be playing in my room and hear the sounds of their constant sex coming from behind the bedroom door of my mother’s bedroom. When I had a friend over and they heard the sex noises and asked me questions about what was going on.

Seeing this ” man” walk around in my mother’s underwear and stalkings. Having them come in a ” tuck me in” ( this is not something my mother ever did). I am still puzzled to this day about why they came into my room one evening after fucking for a while to ” say goodnight”. my mother tenderly kissed me goodnight on my forehead and her boy husband was naked except for a pillow he was holding over his private area. He had this bizarre look on his face of utter delight. Many years later I learned in college that these behaviors are referred to as covert sexual abuse. My six-year-old self could not process what was going on.

The shame I felt at being sexually abused.

I was sexually abused for the first time at the age of 2 by an older child. I don’t remember this act of course because I was too young. My mother felt that I not only needed to know that this had happened to me but also explained how I was now damaged from it. I can’t recall the exact words that she used to describe what happened or exactly how it had damaged me. But I knew from that point on that I was damaged, shameful and had a feeling that I was worthless and would never be ok.

If this had happened to one of my children I would have sought help for them. My mother chose to just make sure I knew I was damaged goods and watch my life play out. You might be thinking that maybe she didn’t know that assistance such as psychotherapy was available? I can’t confidently say that she knew about options for help, but I do know for sure that she had a masters degree in psychology by the time I was 5.

I was abused again by the neighbor next door starting around the age of 7. This man also abused his children and his sons would grow up to sexually abuse more children. All the children in the house except I believe the oldest had sex with each other and I was often thrown into the mix. Sometimes the older brother ran the show sometimes the dad was involved. They had a devoutly religious mother that my mother would often talk about like she was a saint. I cannot say for certain that she knew of the abuse, but I can’t see how she could not have known. When adults act like everything is normal and Ok so do the children. I don’t think to this day I can completely sort through the confusion of this situation. I lived next door to this family from the age of 2 until I was 11 or 12 years old.  Some days I would go over there and play with the girl who was 2 or 3 years older than me. Sometimes we would play with her brother who was my age. We would play with her easy bake oven or sing along to Debbie Gibson. Some days I would go over to play and no one would be home but the dad and he would tell me that everyone would be back soon and I could wait. While I waited he would put his hand down my pants and touch me. I would try to go numb and wait for it to end. This was my cross to bare being this dirty, damaged worthless slut. To this day I remember the prayer cards sitting on the plastic table cloth on the dining room table in a little bread loaf that said ” our daily bread”. This sat under the picture on the wall of Jesus at the last supper.

Somehow the abuse was reported to someone who came to investigate. No one was ever arrested or charge or put in jail. It went on until I moved out of state. Years later I would return to that town to discover that the daughter had a child at 16 which all the neighbors found shocking and scandalous and the two oldest boys had died in a car accidents. ” That poor good Christian mother didn’t deserve that kind of suffering” they would all say.

It is not clear how the shift happened but after the investigation that resulted in nothing happening, my mother was often angry at me for accusing her husband of sexual abuse. I don’t remember ever accusing him of sexual abuse. He never touched me in a sexual way. He beat me up often, shoving me, pushing me down, spanking me until I had his handprints on my bottom, hips, and thighs and couldn’t sit down on the hard chairs at school. His favorite was to kick me as hard as he could in my butt causing my small body to fly across a room. I heard the moans and screams from the bedroom. Often saw him come out naked to get a drink of water. Heard him and my mother discuss sex, Dr. Ruth and other things I had no business hearing.  I was shown books such as ” The Joy of Sex” with illustrations. Often walked in on him jerking off to porn in a room with the door unlocked or cracked open. Looking back at it now, all of these are forms of sexual abuse. But no, I never told anyone that he sexually abused me. After all, he never ” touched” me. By the time I was 7 I knew more and saw more about sex than most 40-year-olds and I felt totally normal.

After the fourth man began grooming me, I told my mom that I was confused about his relationship with me and just felt like I needed to tell what was going on. I think the only reason I said anything was the fact that mom had told me before I ever met this person that she was sure he had molested someone else in the family decades prior and told me to stay away from him. Later she gave him unrestricted access to me and rented a house from him. Not only were my concerns dismissed but I was told that ” I had the spirit of a prostitute” and “I looked older than I was” and “because of my prior sexual abuse, I was the seductive one”. I was bad, dirty, perverted and I was the only person who should be punished and feel ashamed.

I told someone outside of the family about my 37-year-old boyfriend and they called the police. There was an investigation. I was interviewed by a caseworker who told me that whatever I said would stay with her and that she wouldn’t tell my mom. I told her that I had been through this shit several times before and already at the age of 12 knew they wouldn’t do anything to protect me. I don’t remember telling them anything.  I had to have a physical done by a physician.  I remember laying there on the cold table in the cold room in the flimsy open-backed gown. Some male doctor I had never met before asked me to open my legs and inserted some cold painful object into space I tried to ignore existed. I just laid there and let the tears roll down my checks. After that my mother took me to an appointment with a psychologist. I don’t know if the department of children’s services made her take me there or the pressure from outside family made her take me. I only went once, that was the ” help” I got.

As the investigation continued I tried to go back to being a child. I was told that the person who had been arrested for sexually abusing me could not have access to me and that I was safe. Of course, I knew that was bull shit. No one ever protected me and I didn’t even know what safe felt like. When my mother got the call that he had been arrested she called to me from downstairs in the house we rented from him. She said, ” its all over, come here your in trouble now”. I remember crying myself to sleep that night and praying to God I wouldn’t be in too much ” trouble”. Looking back now I have no idea what kind of trouble I imagined I would be in?

A week or so later after I had enjoyed an afternoon of swimming at my grandmother’s apartment complex ( my mother’s mother). I walked into her apartment from the swimming pool. Soaking wet in my bathing suit with a small towel. I walked into the apartment and my grandmother looked like someone had died and said that she needed to talk to me about something. Even though I was wet, I walked over and sat on the sofa. The air conditioning was on and I began to shiver from the cold. She opened the apartment door and let in her friend of over 30 years walk in. This friend was the ” friend” that my mom was renting a house from, the person who my mother suspected of molesting another family member years ago. The friend my mother had let prey on me and who I was supposed to be protected from. There I sat frozen, literally. I sat on my grandmother’s sofa almost naked in a soaking wet bathing suite freezing, ashamed, confused and afraid. The goal of this little meeting became clear right away, they were there to explain to me how this whole situation was my fault. I was a disgusting, dirty and a little whore who had lured this wonderful Christian man into sin. I don’t think I said anything I just sat there and shivered. Then my grandmother told me how to fix it.

I felt ashamed and confused as to why I didn’t go to school. At one point in my life, I thought it was because I was too dumb to be in school. When I was in school I was ashamed because I could not focus and do what I needed to do. Often I was hungry or had been up all night the night before class from abuse or insanity going on in my house. It was challenging Intermittently going to school and having to navigate huge gaps in learning. I would sometimes attend school and then be pulled out and not be tough anything for months or years. I would then be plopped back in like nothing happened.

I remember sitting in my seat in fourth grade trying to follow along about the principals of multiplication. I don’t know how much my 4th-grade teacher knew about my questionable education but he knew I was totally lost. I had never heard of ” times” or multiplication. He asked me to answer; ” what is zero times zero”. I froze, my cheeks burned and I felt a tightness in my chest. I didn’t know the answer and wanted the ground to swallow me. The whole class was staring at me and once they began to realized I didn’t know this simple thing a boy from across the room pointed it out and laughed at me. This memory resurfaced years later in my first English class at community college. When I enrolled in community college after taking my GED exam I took an aptitude test to see where I would start. Amazingly I didn’t have to complete any remedial classes and was placed in the advanced level English class. On the first day of class, I was excited to get started on the education that had been denied to me for so many years. The instructor went over the first assignment and then we went to the computers to get started. Part of the assignment was to write the paper in 12 point Times New Roman Font and have it be double spaced. I didn’t know what any of that meant so I grit my teeth and asked the teacher. The teacher responded that it would be the same format that I used for my high school papers. I nodded and didn’t tell her that I never set foot in high school. I never told anyone I didn’t have to tell, I was too ashamed. Some kind, young, recent high school graduate came over and helped me format my paper. Later I would come across many an older student who didn’t grow up with computers and the internet struggling to navigate college today with the technology they didn’t understand. They would often be embarrassed when they had to ask for help. Once I learned my way around technology and Microsoft office I was always happy to help, judgment-free.



More on this later..

Catching​ up


I know that it has been some time since I have written anything.

So what have I been up to? Well…. I started and have almost finished grad school!

I should be wrapped up by Christmas. I have also rebuilt a mental health practice. Every day I am able to support a staff who help children, adolescents and their families recover from and thrive after trauma. It is very rewarding. I have also learned so much more about trauma. PTSD and recovery that I cannot wait to share.

I don’t know that I will do much over the holidays but look for exciting things in the new year.

As always thank you all for your outpouring of support, it is such a blessing to connect with all of you and to hear about how you have been inspired by my story.

Enjoy your holidays, be kind, be resilient and love one another.

  • Genevieve


Earliest Memory

Fresh paint, new carpet, the sun shining through giant new windows.

My maternal grandfather took my mother and I to visit our new home. The house was just being finished and everything was new. My mother was able to pick the colors of the house. It was white and pea green with light green stucco outside and a green rock roof. The house was nestled in the hot California dessert. My mothers favorite colors are green and pink. The inside walls were all white and the carpet was a light pea green.

I remember being in the house, it wasn’t real hot so It must have not been summer. The sun was shining in through the large windows. I love bright sunny homes & big windows.

I walked into what I was told would be my room, white walls and light green carpet. I walked over to the window and I remember the shiny white windowsill with its fresh paint. I grabbed onto it and tried to pull myself up to see out of the window. I was about two years old. I think we visited the building site once before the house had walls. This time the house had walls, fresh paint and new carpet. I would spend eight or nine years or most of my childhood in this home.

I loved in this green home with my mother, my older brother and my grandfather ( moms dad) was often there with us. Later my brother would move out, my grandfather would pass away. My mother would marry and have another daughter.