Coming out on the other side of an abusive childhood followed by marital abuse, being able to talk about it, owning it, and then helping others is huge on the fearless meter. Please welcome Jodi Rath back to Discover... for Fearless Friday. I was in tears half-way through this post, but it has a happy ending.
Being in education for over twenty years, I’ve run into students who have fallen victim to their environments and circumstances. I hope to help them find something deep inside themselves that enables them to pull themselves out of that darkness and gives them the grit and determination to create their own future path. And that is the key–they must be the one to find it, not me or anyone else. Also, they must believe it. Many times, I’ve been able to help them, and sadly, other times, not so much.
One of the reasons I’ve found success in helping traumatized teens is due to my own harrowing past experiences. Growing up, I faced abuse from my biological father. What I didn’t realize was, many people deal with abuse in one form or another. I learned that others had had similar experiences as I grew older and got into a profession where I saw it firsthand. It doesn’t make it any less daunting for those of us that experience it—and any type of abuse is as bad as the next: physical, sexual, mental, psychological.
I’m an only child, so I didn’t have siblings to talk to as I worked through things. Somehow, I found strength in reading and writing from the young age of five. When I was in fifth grade, most of the abuse ended—although the psychological effects have lasted a lifetime. Knowing I would be writing this blog today, I had night terrors last night and thrashed my body into a cramped mess. I awoke at one in the morning and spent two hours taking deep breaths while counting to six, pressing my thumb into the palm of my hand—these are little tricks my previous therapist taught me to help me get through these overwhelmed feelings. Once I caught my breath, I read until five a.m., when I got up. When this happens, I can forget about sleep. As you can see, reading is still an escape!
My first marriage, unfortunately, was to someone like my biological father. He worked extra hard to never to have see me, and when he did, he took that time to tell me how worthless I was. I got out of that relationship at age twenty-nine, and I was fortunate. Fourteen years after we divorced, my first husband set his second estranged wife’s house on fire. He barricaded himself in his apartment when SWAT came, firing his gun at them, injuring one officer and killing another. He is in prison for life now.
My biological father and my first husband are two solid reasons why I could have ended up repeating this vicious cycle of abuse. One of the things I’ve tried to teach my students is that for every monster that appears in their lives, there is an angel present somewhere as well. The trick is understanding which is which.
My mom married my stepfather, whose name is Mike Miller, when I was in fifth grade. He was invested in being a father to me, although I had a difficult time accepting him at first. But he worked hard and made us a family. He wanted to adopt me, but my biological father refused to allow him to do it. When I was seventeen, my mom divorced my stepdad. She and I left the house that he had built for us as a family, where most of my happy memories were made. I was sure I would never see him again, but before we left, Mike took me for a drive to talk about it. He told me he understood what I went through with my biological father, and he understood that it is difficult for me to trust people, but he promised that he would prove to me that he was in my life for good.
He was right. I didn’t believe him. But, he proved me wrong. He called me every day, even though he was broken-hearted by the divorce. He drove me to and attended all my major life events: sporting events, graduation of high school, and graduation of college. In contrast, when I got my college degree, my bio father said to me, “I never thought you would ever get through high school, let alone college.” Mike also walked me down the aisle for my first marriage, even though my biological father was strongly opposed to it.
Mike died from prostate cancer when I was thirty-seven years old. I took time off work from teaching to be there for him during his last months. The last thing I said to him was, “I love you, dad.” Then he kissed me on the cheek. He is and always will be my dad. He’s one of the good ones.
My second husband’s name is Mike, too. I say my Mike’s are my angels. He and I have been together seventeen years, and he has bought me fresh flowers once a week all seventeen years. We have nine cats in our home—our fur babies. (I had to have a hysterectomy at age twenty-nine, right before I left my first husband.) We’ve had nineteen cats in seventeen years—my current family consisting of my husband, Mike, and our nine cats are my pride and joy.
I’ve wanted to be a full-time writer since I was five. Here I am, at age forty-six, having survived childhood abuse and domestic abuse–sporting psychological scars that I’ll never be rid of. But instead of passing on the pain, I channel it and have used it to help teens and adults through my teaching and writing. I now own my business, where I split my time between teaching Ohio teachers online, writing for educational publications, and writing The Cast Iron Skillet Mystery Series. My third book in the series came out November fifteenth.
Writing the series is so therapeutic for me. My protagonist deals with some of the things I’ve dealt with, as well as issues like youth homelessness, and also physical, emotional, and mental issues, including characters facing challenges like navigating life with MS. These topics are near and dear to my heart. I’ve paired up with True Colors United, an organization that helps homeless youth (and is run by Cyndi Lauper!) and the National MS Society to help raise awareness as well as sharing a percentage of my profits with both organizations.
“Fearless Friday” blogs are about life-changing events: I feel like my entire life has been life-changing for me, and I hope for many others too. My wish is to continue helping to educate and write and create a ripple effect of kindness.
One of my all-time favorite quotes is by Ralph Waldo Emerson: To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
I’ve shared this quotation with every student I’ve worked with in trying to help them understand that it is their choice to be who they want to be—the world may try to dictate other things for our lives—but we get to be the ones to make the final choices.
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Family bombshells, sibling rivalries, blackmail, and a trip that could be deadly...and the new year has only just begun! After a disastrous Thanksgiving, Jolie Tucker is beside herself and feeling the walls closing in around her. She feels like she needs to escape Leavensport before she loses her mind. She unexpectedly gets her wish when her best friend and co-owner of Cast Iron Creations, Ava Martinez, gets a terrifying email revealing that her papa, Thiago, is in danger in Santo Domingo. The girls are off on a dangerous adventure in new territory. Will they be able to save the day before danger finds them?
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