Moments Which Begin to Define Us

As the child of a single mother in the 70’s, I spent a lot of time in my bedroom playing alone. During the summer months my mother couldn’t afford to pay a baby sitter, much less send us off to summer camp. My brothers were 5 and 7 years older than me so they didn’t really need a babysitter, they were the built-in babysitters. In retrospect, I am able to see that due to circumstances beyond our control they were in the position of having to care for their little sister. Teenage boys would much prefer to hang out and have fun with their friends. My brothers Constantine and Rinaldo were not any different.

Their friends who would spend a lot of time at our house while Mother was at work. Since I was the youngest and the only girl around, I was the designated sandwich maker and drink go-getter. Demanding boys! I remember how much time my brother’s had to spend with me because our Mom was working. I can’t imagine how much it bothered them to always have their little sister with them. I felt like a burden and I certainly didn’t always like getting dragged around to go visit girlfriends when we were not supposed to be leaving the house. However, Rinaldo’s theory on life was that if I did the same thing they did then I couldn’t tell Mother because I’d get in the same amount of trouble as them. I have to hand it to Rinaldo, the boy was a genius (and still is, literally. Super high IQ). I completely believed him and just went along with it.

Most of my brother’s friends were nicer to me than my brothers, but then again I wasn’t their little sister who tattled on them all of the time either. There was one boy who about a year older than Rinaldo who just scared me. Being around him was uncomfortable and I didn’t like to be left alone in a room with him. I remember him with a dark aura around him and he almost always had on a khaki military jacket. One time during the summer he was in the living room and had asked me to make him a sandwich. My brothers were not around and it was just the two of us in the living room. I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. After I was done making it, I brought him the sandwich and he ran one of his hands up the back of my left leg on the bare skin. I instantly became very aware that I was a little girl and he was a male much bigger than me. I already knew what that kind of touch meant and no way did I want that happening at my own home. No 2nd grader should have to feel that uncomfortable around her brother’s friends. I ran away from him and made sure I was never in the same room with him again. Nothing else happened with him. He just stopped coming over after a while and I was very grateful. (As an aside, before I wrote this post I googled his name and discovered he’s been arrested several times for crimes against women such as battery and stalking. I was very fortunate.)

I used to have some serious issues with claustrophobia. The kind where if you got up in my face, my fight or flight instinct would take over and I’d start swinging regardless of how much I liked you. Why did I have claustrophobia you ask? Well, let me tell you! Mother was very clear “no one in, no one out.” It was a standing rule when she wasn’t home, a rule which was frequently broken by Rinaldo and Constantine. This one specific day during the summer, my brothers and their friends wanted to get high and didn’t want the pest (aka me) around to witness it. I got locked in my bedroom closet and was told I wasn’t allowed to come out until they came to get me. PS, hours later I was still in the closet. Mother came home and I heard her ask “Where is Maria?” My brother Constantine came running to my room and opened my closet door. He told me I better not say a word and pretend like everything was normal or else. So like a good little girl, I obeyed and shut up.

It’s taken me 40 years to get over being claustrophobic. It’s taken me 40 years to deal with all of the moments where I had to “be a good little girl.” Think about what you say to the younger generation. You are forming the adults they will become. I used those moments as lessons to teach me to what I didn’t want to become as an adult, but not everyone makes that decision. Many times bad behavior is repeated.

The next time you see someone with OCD or with a phobia, before you criticize them verbally or even in your own head, think twice. Ask yourself, what happened to them during their lifetime to cause the issue. It’s much better to see the issue through their eyes rather than your own.

Who are you to judge?

I am just me.


Ask for Help – It’s not as easy as it sounds

This seems to be the new theme I’m being lead toward. You know when you’ve spent most of your life doing things yourself, asking for help is really very hard. My guides are basically smacking me upside the head with “GIRL, you better get a move on and ask for help.”

If I think back to the earlier stages of my life to when I was a little girl of about 7 years old, I can identify where this independent streak started. I have some very clear, scattered memories from earlier on my in life, however, the memories from age 7 going forward have the most impact.

I distinctly remember being in 2nd grade getting myself ready for school. Alone. My mother and father were divorced leaving my mother single with 3 children to raise alone: Rinaldo age 14, Constantine age 12 and me age 7. My father lived on the other side of town and worked either 2nd or 3rd shift so we never saw him for visitation. Mother had to work to support us, put a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. Yes, she got child support, but it didn’t cover everything and her salary was not as much as she would have liked. If memory serves me correctly, she was a secretary for the maintenance department in a local hospital. In 1976 the minimum wage was just that… minimum.

Rinaldo was in 9th grade and Constantine was in 7th grade when I was in the 2nd grade. It was Constantine’s first year in the junior high and Rinaldo’s first year at the high school. They had different start times than I did for school. Constantine used to walk me to and from school every day making sure I was safe when we were in the same school. He wouldn’t hold my hand because that wasn’t cool, but he walked next to me or put me on the handlebars of his bike and let me ride so I didn’t have to walk. Constantine was truly my protector in my early years.

I remember being scared to be alone in the morning and my mom would tell me “You’re a big girl, Maria. You can do this and you don’t need help.” I would get up, make myself breakfast (two bowls of cereal because no one was there to tell me no), pack my lunch (an extra Twinkie if I found it. Who would know?), get dressed and walk to school. My mom could have made my lunch and left it out for me, but I honestly don’t remember that part. I remember being happy I could eat what I wanted without hearing about how fat I was (that’s a whole different post).

My mom did what she had to do, I understand this. I also know the words she spoke to me repeatedly “You’re a big girl, Maria. You can do this and you don’t need help.” These have played like a stuck record in my head for years (A record is this little black thing we used to listen to on a record player and if the needle got stuck the song would skip. It’s kind of like a song on repeat on your MP3 player). She also told me women have a hard time making it in the workplace and if I wanted to make something of myself, I’d have to prove I could do it without the help of a man. “Men only respect a woman who isn’t helpless.” Again, I understand she meant well and that last piece of advice has served me well in the business industry. I am not angry with her for teaching me these things. It just left me believing I could not ask for help. For anything.

This advice hasn’t worked out so well in my personal life. I’ve been married 4 times. I am not ashamed of this, although I am tremendously sorry for the pain I caused my previous husbands. (BTW, If any of you are reading this, I truly am sorry. You had no idea what you were getting into, but if you keep reading, you’ll understand it now. And there are a few select ex-boyfriends I send that apology out to as well. Contacting you directly would likely drudge up too much shit, but hey if you’re reading, I’m taking the opportunity.) Why have I been married 4 times you ask? GREAT QUESTION. Here’s the answer, I was emotionally hosed and had an attitude of “I don’t need you, I can do this without you.” How does one learn to form a good foundation of a relationship with a spouse if you don’t allow them to help? If you yourself have no idea how to communicate or how to actually love your partner in a healthy way, how do you form healthy attachments? You don’t.

Today, at the age of 48 I am finally learning to ask for help. My husband Tyler has been my rock through this entire learning process. He does more for me than I feel I deserve sometimes. However, when  I start to feel that way, I will ask him. “Why do you do so much for me now?” His answer is plain and simple. “You allow me to.” No hesitation in the answer.  The implied explanation is “If you had allowed me to do this for you years ago, I would have. However you were stubborn and insisted on doing it yourself.” He loves being able to help me and truly gets pleasure from helping others. By my not allowing him to help me which is the very basis of his nature, I stopped him from being himself and it affected him tremendously. I didn’t even realize it.

If you’re anything like me, please start to ask for help. The universe loves us enough to put the right people in our path when we need it. Reach out. Ask. If I can do it, so can you.

(I am searching for a catchy phrase as a parting before my name…I will find one eventually, but until then…)


Be the Duck

Some days are better than others. When I’m having a bad day, I remember something I was taught by a previous co-worker of mine named Jim. He was in human resources at the time and I was taking some classes from him on how to handle stress in the workplace.

Be the Duck.

Simple phrase, huge impact. When you look at a duck floating along the water, all you see from the outside is how graceful and beautiful they look as they leave simple ripples in the water behind them. However, if you were able to view under the water and see their tiny feet, you’d see feet moving quickly to get the duck to its end destination.

Graceful on the outside, frantic and crazy on the inside.

Not everyone needs to see every emotion you are feeling in the moment. Sometimes things we are feeling are private and should stay that way. With social media being so “out there” these days, it’s easy to post something about how pissed off we are at your co-worker (I just did this), your sibling, your friend, you get the idea. However, once it’s there… it’s been seen. People don’t often forget the words we hurl into the three dimensional space where they live. If your Facebook page isn’t private, it’s a public post for anyone to see. If the person you’re talking about is your Facebook friend, then they’ve seen it and while you didn’t care in the moment, 2 minutes or 2 days later you may regret it. If you’re applying for a job and you’ve posted a photo of yourself in a not-so-nice manner, it may be visible to the prospective employer. Be conscious of how you present yourself.

The flip side of this coin is that for hundreds of years there have been families who live by the creed “We don’t talk about that this in family.” Pain and anguish get swept under a rug because no one wants to deal with the reality of what’s happened. There are productive and non-productive ways of dealing with such trauma. For we as survivors to be heard and understood, it’s better if we come at these situations in a more productive manner. And by productive, I just mean we don’t need to get drunk or high and start throwing a bunch of angry, accusatory statements around because we’re finally brave enough to do so. That’s more on the non-productive side and boy howdy it might feel damn good at the time, 24 hours later, not-so-much. Not that I have any experience with this or anything, I’m just sayin’. When that happens regularly, our audience starts looking at us like the little boy who cried wolf. Eventually, no one pays attention.

I’ve waited a very long time to start telling my story because my family is absolutely the “we don’t talk about that” kind of family. I’ve been so worried about who would stop talking to me or who I would hurt. I’m sure at some point some of them will likely read this blog. Guess what? They all fight anyway over just about anything. In my 48 years not once have I seen my family all get along. Someone is always mad at someone else. When does it ever stop? Maybe if they pay attention to what I’m writing, they’ll stop bitching at each other. For now, it’s time for me to heal me and help myself.

I am not the only female in my family to be molested by a male family member. Someone before me was far more brave than I and got her information out there. She is my role model and “biologically” my aunt. I use the quotes because she and her best friend are more like mothers to me and deserve the title. I love them more than words could ever express. I admire my aunt’s bravery for being the first person in our family to put it out there. Incest exists. The lasting pain from such an experience will kill you if you do not find a way to deal with the pain. Committing suicide was an option more than once for me. By the grace of God there go I.

Now is the time. My soul’s purpose for being on this planet in this lifetime to provide support and help for others who have walked down the same road I walked. I thought I was alone. I was not. I thought no one else had ever been through this. They had. I didn’t know. Why didn’t I know? No one talked about it.

If you have been molested as a child please hear me loud and clear when I say this:
1. It was NOT your fault.
2. You did nothing wrong.
3. You are lovable. I love you. No, I may not have a clue as to who you are, but I love you and your soul.
4. You are worthy.

Peace is yours, it’s time to reach out and grab it and hold onto it like I hold onto a piece of cake. I am using a productive way to talk about it. Writing it. I am discovering more about myself the more I write. Please follow my blog and keep in touch with me on my progress to finding more about me and perhaps you’ll learn something about yourself as well.

(I am searching for a catchy phrase as a parting before my name…I will find one eventually, but until then…)


I have Bi-Polar II Disorder… I am not BiPolar.

Honesty is important to me. I want to be as honest with all of you as possible. To hide any part of me would not be honest with myself either. I can handle anything, but don’t lie to me. Trust should be the foundation of every relationship. In my life, I’ve had many people who I thought were close friends and family take that thing called trust and not only did they stomp on it, they spit on that bitch, threw it in the garbage and lit the garbage on fire. (Did you see the visual there?) I mean seriously, I’m an intelligent person and if you’re going to lie to me, at least make it something I won’t be able to figure out. If I do find out… all you’ve done is really piss me off to a point you’ve left me with no choice but to confront you with the lie. I’m sure you’re all familiar with this scenario. It doesn’t end well for anyone involved. Hurt feelings, pants on fire, blah blah blah. Who needs it? Besides, it takes too damn much brain power to remember the lies.  Who the hell has that much brain power? Not me. And if you do have the brain power, for Goddess’s sake, use it for good reasons. If you can’t remember the lies, just give it up. There’s nothing to remember if you just tell the truth.

I have bipolar II disorder, but let me state this as loud and clear as possible: IT DOES NOT DEFINE WHO I AM. *I* define who I am. Bipolar II is a condition I have, it doesn’t have me. This is a very serious condition which can cause a living, breathing, valuable human being to be suicidal or to actually commit suicide. It completely wreaks havoc on your daily thought process and changes how you view the world. There are days you wish you hadn’t been born because you’re just so damn tired of feeling <insert any negative word you want here because I usually did>. Using the word bipolar as an adjective for the weather or for your boss you don’t like is insulting to those of us who struggle minute by minute or day by day with this condition. Rather than mocking it, why don’t you try to educate yourself. And don’t give me this “Oh you’re just one of those politically correct people.” Wrong. Words are not just words. They are a manifestation of what you really think and feel. Intention is everything.

For many years I was on a high dose of Seroquel. It helped me to maintain a sense of being on an even keel. I didn’t want to haul off and knock someone’s head off because I was in a fit of rage and I also was no longer suicidal. That was the good news. The bad news is that my creativity was G O N E. I was just a blur of who I knew I should be. MANY of us diagnosed with bipolar II disorder are highly creative and taking the very foundation of who we are away from us changes how we see ourselves. It’s one of the biggest reasons we absolutely do not like to take meds. My poor husband… he watched me like a hawk for months even a few years after being diagnosed. He had to walk on egg shells with me and I don’t know how he did it, but he did. He was careful in how he asked me if I was taking my meds. I mean looking back at it, it was pretty obvious. If I told you to go fuck yourself when you asked me how my day was, that was a pretty good sign I hadn’t been taking my meds.

I am not embarrassed or ashamed to have this condition. It is a fact about me. Here are some other facts: my name is Maria, I prefer to be called Shelley. I have gray hair, a kick ass personality and bipolar II disorder. See? Just a fact.  I am learning to embrace every single facet of my being, including what I used to see as weaknesses.

I am far from weak. I am a survivor and so are you. If you are reading this you have survived life thus far and I’m proud of you. If no one else has told you that today, I will. I am proud of you. If you found this blog, it wasn’t by accident. Something led you here and that means you’ve survived some shit, too. We can do this thing called life.

(I am searching for a catchy phrase as a parting before my name…I will find one eventually, but until then…)


Sh!t or Get Off the Pot

I’ve been postponing for the longest time actually writing a blog. You know that whole facing your fears, bucking it up and pulling on big girl panties thing? Yeah that’s where I’m at with this, but there’s no better time than the present. I am not the only person in this world with a not-so-perfect past, but I damn sure have a bright future.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Shelley Leggett. I lie… my real name is Maria Michelle Leggett. I’ve just discovered I identify “Maria” as the person who suffered all of the serious pain and trauma. In order to avoid dealing with it, I’ve just chosen to go by my nickname of Shelley for most of my life. I didn’t come to this realization until about 2 days go believe it or not. I always thought I just liked the name Shelley better. The truth is that nothing overly traumatizing didn’t happen to me as “Shelley.” And by that I mean I wasn’t powerless over what happened. It’s now time for my two halves to come together because I am WHOLE. I am me. Call me Shelley or Maria, matters not. I am both!

I turned 48 this month and I am damn proud of it. WOOHOO! I’ve always believed that my birthday should be a national damn holiday. Everyone should celebrate the day I was born. No? Seriously? Hmmmm, ok maybe it’s just ME that feels this way. I will convince you later 🙂 I am a wife, mother and Mimi. If you’re not familiar with what a Mimi is, let me educate you on behalf of my grandchildren. Mimi is the name my 1st born grandchild decided to call me. I tried to teach her to call me Grammy. She wasn’t having it. One day she just looked at me and said “Mimi.” I didn’t know what she meant and finally it hit me. She named me. I wear that name proudly because she chose it. I am not allowed to call myself a grandmother because she will (at almost age 4) correct me and say “You’re not a grandmother. You’re a Mimi. You’re my Mimi.” She’s absolutely right, I am her Mimi and proud of it too. She’s truly the reason her mother survived her teenage years. If there was no payout on the other end, I may have thought twice about raising girls! JUST KIDDING. My kids are my life, but we have a strange relationship. We all goof around and call each other names. We talk smack about each other, but we would never, ever allow anyone else to use our words. Period.

I truly live to be a Mimi more so than anything else. I have two grandchildren, one girl and one boy. Their moms are my oldest girls. The boy, sadly, lives so far away I only get to see him a few times a year. It breaks my heart. When I do see him I don’t want to overload him with hugs and kisses from a stranger. I can’t wait until he’s a little older so he knows who I am. He’s almost 3! I get to see my granddaughter regularly because she only lives 5 minutes away. I learned the hard way to NEVER drive by her house and beep the horn while I have hot Chinese takeout in the car. That winds up with a phone call on the cell with a crying child on the other end who doesn’t understand why you didn’t stop to say hello. PopPop and I immediately turned around to go see her and needless to say we ate cold Chinese food for dinner that night. Totally worth it.

I have 4 children ages 27 (girl), 25 (girl), 21(boy and will be 22 in 11 more days) and 14 (girl). What were we thinking, right? We were thinking at the time the house was already full, we didn’t have enough hands so what’s one more. The 14 yr old was NOT surprise because she was adopted. She was planned.  I can also say for a fact that had our oldest girls been full-blown teenagers when we adopted the youngest one, I would have specifically requested a boy. Just sayin’. Now that we have 3 kids in their 20’s we are now wondering “What the hell were we thinking?” but never for long. She’s a great kid who has taught us a lot.

I’ve been married to my last husband for 19 years. I say last because I am NEVER doing this again. I did it a few times before him, but they just didn’t take. I kept the kids and moved on. This one sticks around and sometimes I wonder why, but we are very fortunate. We love each other far more than we did the day we got married. He is my best friend, my everything. I don’t need him, but I sure want him in my life every day. We’ve already fought the cancer battle with him once and I do not want to do that again. The universe was kind enough to allow me to keep him and it showed me just how much I truly do love him. Not that I didn’t know before, but now I think twice before calling him an asshat. Ok not really, but it sounds good right?

I could write for days… but this is enough for now. My hope is to one day have people follow my story to understand how an abuse survivor isn’t just a survivor. I thrive. I am happy. I am loved. Life is beautiful.

Namaste and Aho

**In the coming days I will start writing using names. I have to figure out a bunch of fictional names first because my wish is to protect the anonymity of those I love as best I can while still telling my story.