Thursday, June 6, 2013

The best of times, the worst of times

At War With Myself: 
How I Conquered and Reigned Victorious by Enlisting an Army of Stay At Home Mothers

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
- A Tale Of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Never in my life have I found something to explain the defining moment of my life until I read this passage.

Long time readers may know that every six months or so I like to write a blog post that demonstrates where I am in my life in hopes to encourage others. Some may remember "Boozing and Whoring." And then my addendum to that. For those who don't care for my rants, I will do you the courtesy of telling you that you may stop reading now. Have a lovely day and thank you for stopping by. For anyone choosing to stay, I have for you today a story of family, love, betrayal and forgiveness.  

In college I studied English language and literature, writing and editing under the direction of the most educated professors and talented writers in the field. Among them was the science fiction writer, Orson Scott Card. And while I am of the personal opinion that any story worth telling deserves embellishment, I will be telling you this story in facts and truth in as far as I can remember them correctly.

I Made A Huge Mistake

I have been reflecting a lot recently on the success of my business and the good things we have accomplished through it. We hire mom's so that they can work from home while their children are at school or in bed for the night. We hope to keep mothers in the home with their children and keep them from having to leave the home to find work in this difficult economic time in our nation. We also have helped many families in need through our sponsor program. We hope to help many more in the years to come.

We are a solid business now, but the beginning had its ups and downs. I hired two members of my husband's family. They were struggling financially and needed help. As my business was growing I thought I could use the help. I started to take on more work and soon we were a business of three women and each had a full work load. I enjoyed my time working with them. We had a lot of fun together and, I believe, grew closer in that time as it was a difficult time in their lives. 

As the fall was approaching I began to look for a third seamstress. Our business is busiest around Thanksgiving and Christmas when people are preparing their homes to have visitors for the holidaysBecky joined our team and began the training process. During this time there was a tremendous misunderstanding between myself and my two original seamstresses. As they lacked the basic ability to deal and cope with others and conflict or misunderstandings and were incapable of problem resolution, they reverted to a basic instinct and, on my birthday, they quit and sent back all their unfinished orders. One even sent back fabric that wasn't even salvageable and I had to replace hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of fabric. I was left with a workload that was originally meant for three people. Being familiar with their financial situations, I paid them in advance. One said that she used her funds to pay for modeling school. I knew we'd never see those funds again in any way, shape or form, including modeling or any other like unto it. And the other said she had no intention of paying me back. Knowing the true desire of her heart and that she fully intended to keep funds which she did not earn (also known as embezzlement),  and as they were family, I felt obligated to forgive their debt. 

I was forced to work on both Thanksgiving and Christmas as we were going to be delinquent on our deadlines. It was my daughters second Christmas, but the first Christmas that she really knew what was going on. I can never have that back. I was beside myself with grief and broke down. I called Becky and asked for help. I informed her that they kept all their funds and so I had nothing with which to pay her. Becky, being the wonderful and upstanding person that she is, accepted their work and told me I could pay her whenever I got the money. 

It was the hardest time of my life. I didn't want to be anywhere near my husband knowing he was related to people who would steal and cheat especially from their own family. I couldn't look at my children because my children looked like their children. Being with my family only reminded me of their actions against me. I couldn't work because every time I went into my work room I was reminded of the incident and how they knowingly and punitively left me to pick up their slack and fulfill their commitments and obligations that they accepted and didn't follow through with.

For weeks I checked the mail hoping that they would demonstrate some kind of human decency that I held hope that they possessed. I waited for the day that they would accept responsibility for their poor decisions and actions against me. I waited and waited until my bitterness and hatred toward them consumed me. I was no kind of parent, wife, friend, sister, daughter. When you hate or hold grudges there is no room for anything else. I'm pretty sure when my children looked at me this is what they saw:

One day I had a nervous breakdown. My daughter told me she was hungry. I went into the kitchen and I didn't know what to do. I literally looked around and had no clue what to do. I started talking to myself, saying, "You are in the kitchen. This is where the food is. Just grab something and give it to her to eat." And I couldn't move. I felt paralyzed. I didn't know what to feed my child. I didn't know where to go. I didn't know what to do. I just stood there, still and quiet. Later, my jaw began to feel very heavy and I couldn't talk. My speech was slurred. I was hospitalized that evening for symptoms of a stroke. I went into the ER and they asked me questions and I couldn't understand what they were saying. They were asking me basic questions, I am sure, and I kept saying, "What did you just ask me?"  or "Say that again?" And I would carefully study their lips as they asked me the question a second time. Still no clue! It was very scary. I just started shaking my head, "No." at them.

Meanwhile, I had a thriving business. Orders were coming in by the dozens. I couldn't bear to go in my workroom because the feelings of betrayal and the hateful actions committed against me would overwhelm me and paralyze me. So, I hired a handful of other seamstresses.

In Which I Stooped Lower Than A Human Being Should Be Able

I am a faithful and praying woman. I pondered often and prayed to be guided to women who might be able to take advantage of such an opportunity as I had for employment. I was lead to some of the greatest women I have every met. When I couldn't work I had a team of wonderful women on my side whom I have formed life long friendships with. They got me through the worst time in my life and because of them it was the best time for my business. We have now employed 13 women! And what a wonderful blessing it is to know that we helped those moms be able to stay at home with their young children.

Meanwhile, I was drowning in my own hatred and bitterness. I couldn't stand to be with my family because I was constantly reminded of those terrible feelings. Having been taught in the way of writing, and that good writing invokes feeling, I decided to compose a letter whose sole purpose was to hurt. I informed one seamstress that she had better shape up or I was going to offer myself as a character witness to her stellar mothering skills in a custody battle in her divorce. I had succumbed to their low, low level of humanity where decency, let alone kindness, does not exist. All that exists there is selfishness and self-centered-ness. I went to the other seamstresses personal "crafting" blog, found out what blogs she was reading. I bought ad space on each and every single one. I wanted her to see my name every day and be reminded of what they did to me.

As I couldn't look my husband in the eye anymore, I started to go to therapy. I had hoped this therapist would help me separate my husband from these family members. When those sessions didn't help me I decided to go to my bishop at church. In our first meeting he asked me to provide him with this seamstresses name and address so that he could call her bishop as he felt she was not worthy of performing some of the worship practices we do in our church. It was that moment when I finally began to heal.

Forgiveness Is For You, Not The One Who Wronged You

After my bishop said that I sat and thought for a minute. I realized that in their minds and in their selfish world that they thought keeping money they did not earn and punishing me was justified by my poor actions and, therefore, not wrong. I told my bishop this would do no good as they truly believe in their minds that because I did wrong and they did wrong that it's okay because they just cancel each other out. 

I finally realized that I had to forgive and move on and stop waiting for their acknowledgment of what they did because it would never come. They were not capable of accepting nor understanding what they did and the significant damage it did to my family and my business. So how could I hold them responsible for it?

The only thing I can hold them responsible for is their actions against me, the $1, 400+ dollars they kept from me, the hundreds in replacement fabric and that is it. I can't hold them responsible for the emotionally unavailable mother that I was during this time, the terrible wife that I was and so on. And if I wanted to continue with my business I had to stop holding them responsible for the embezzlement and the Edward Scissorhand-ed unusable fabric!

I started reading a lot of church books and articles. I read that to truly forgive them I had to go on with my life with them as it was before the wrong was committed. Now every time I need to email them or feel like I need to start repairing that burned bridge all those old feelings come up. I just think to myself, "What would I say in this email 5 years ago before this happened?" And then I write. And those hurt feelings subside.

I am definitely a work in progress and am making improvements everyday. The quote I started with felt to me like it described this instance perfectly. I can't imagine a more painful feeling than betrayal next to losing a child. Betrayal hurts physically, emotionally, mentally. Betrayal is the grossest act of hatred and everyone suffers. It has now been nearly two years since this incident and I am finally recovering from wounds inflicted by their hateful actions. Again, back to the quote, my emotions were polar opposites during this time. I felt love and hatred. I felt anger and remorse. Light and Darkness. I came to a cross roads in my life where I could have chose Heaven or the other way. Like I said previously, when you feel hate for someone there is no room for any other feelings. In the end, I chose my family. I chose Heaven.

What The Forgiveness Means

In choosing my family and choosing to forgive I learned that forgiving them does not mean I accept what they did to me nor do I think it's okay. What it means is that I accept that they are human beings who make bad decisions in a tough spot. That I am a human being who makes poor choices when betrayed. What it means is that I chose my family instead of choosing hate.

Now, I still struggle with the "forget" part of forgiveness. I can forget it in the sense that now when I write or talk to them I am able to do so without being overcome by the feelings associated with the event. But I don't want to forget as I use the incident as an example to my children of what it means to accept responsibility for something or to make a commitment to someone and then follow through with it even if they yell at you or hurt your feelings in some way. I use it as an example of poor quality of character. One day they will know the details of this event and learn how I was able to love these people again after what they did to me and they will learn to understand forgiveness and how important it is to Love One Another.

In forgiving them I have a clear mind. I can function again. I so happy in my family and love them so much. My business continues to thrive and I can work again! 

Forgiving Myself

I have always been a very loving person. I wear my heart on my sleeve and am very sensitive to what others around me are feeling and experiencing. But with that comes exposure and the ability to be hurt. I was always a good and reliable friend. I was a very strong person and thought I could handle ANYTHING that came my way. But I was not prepared to handle betrayal. I became unrecognizable. I was filled with anger all the time. Instead of friends calling me to chat or hang out they would call to ask if they could bring a meal to my family, I assume because they thought perhaps I wasn't taking care of them the way I should. Instead of being the strong and reliable friend I had prided myself on being, I became the one that needed the strength and reliability of others. If you had told me three years ago that I would be a weak shell of a human being I wouldn't have believed you.
In my weakness and despair I called on someone that I knew was a source of strength in my life. Someone I knew could be counted on and would be reliable. I knew that she would not accept an order I gave her and then dump it back on me later if she didn't like something I said or did. She was a beacon of light in my dark
life at the time. When I had no strength she picked up my slack. I truly believe if I could not have delegated the work that was agreed to and committed to by my other seamstresses and then went unfinished the business could have been bankrupted by all the refunds I would have had to offer. Especially after all the fabric I had to replace.

Becky saved me and saved my business! And likewise, Janeen, Sara, Shannon, Krista, Trena, Heather, Cyndie and everyone else who has come into this along the way has saved my business from myself!!! If I had wallowed in my hatred and bitterness any longer than I did I could have ruined the business I worked so hard to create, make successful and then use to help in my community. These women saved my business from ruin :)
Long story short (TOO LATE! I know, I know. I am notoriously long winded), I thought I could handle anything. I had no clue what I was in for. I was so fortunate to have someone that was strong in my life that I could call on. 

Warning: Mr. Rogers Moment:

You can never know how you will respond to a situation that you have never been in before. Surround yourself with good and strong people that you can rely on and that will come through for you on their commitments. When you're in the best of times, be the source of strength to someone in need. And when you are in the worst of times, you will have a source of strength to turn to to save you from yourself and to help carry you through until you can move on. I was able to conquer my mind, my thoughts and feelings toward them. I was able to control my own feelings toward them to the point where I feel love for them as family members again. I conquered myself, and so, I won! 

Now I don't fight the fight of demanding acknowledgment or apologies. I fight the good fight. The fight for my family. The fight to feel love for them. And while I still am working on it, I can feel again. And I do love my family. All of them. No matter what happened or will happen.

I truly believe my business would not have survived my former seamstresses betrayal without Becky's help. And because of that I am determined to help Becky in any way that I can. She is one of my hardest working seamstresses and helped me with no thought for herself in my worst of times. (P.S. in all the time she has worked for us she has not had one single complaint)! And I can't forget her husband, Bryan, who made our website. He, too, is one of the hardest working people I know. When making our website I'd see his name lit up in green on google chat in the wee hours of the morning. And I knew he was working on our site. Becky and Bryan have entered a home exterior remodel contest. Please watch their video and underneath the video box click the button that says, "Vote For This Video." They deserve this. I'm not the only person they have been a source of strength and inspiration to. They are genuine good people. They are steadfast and you can always count on them to be reliable as they constantly demonstrate good quality of character. I just think they are the greatest people!! Please vote. Click here to watch their video and vote! We wouldn't be here without them! Truly.

And go out today and be the bigger person. Forgive. Love. Choose to love instead of to hate. Share your experiences of forgiveness with me. I'll give you a . . . .  high five. Okay, okay, I'll give you a coupon for free labor on a window treatment :)


  1. Wow Melissa. I am in awe of your story. It is amazing to me what some people will do to "family" that they wouldn't do to their friends. I am inspired by your path to forgiveness and know that through Christ you can feel true love for them again.

    You have a true friend there in Becky! What a wonderful thing.

  2. Melissa, I did not realize the extent of your trials during that time. I'm glad that you pulled through and that Bryan and I could help in some small way. I was not expecting the turn that the blog post took, and it took my breath away.

    Here's to having a great team!

    [Thanks for the shout-out for the video! Voting ends on June 18th!]

  3. Stunning story. It is sad how in our face-paced life something as simple as forgiveness is lost on a daily basis. Thank your sharing your story. Your grace truly shines.

  4. This is a great story. Did you get your windows in Victoria BC by chance. They have the nicest windows.

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