It is starting to make sense now #KellisHaven #WhenIBecameFree

Six months ago I thought I was losing my mind. I was extremely unhappy, not feeling fulfilled, angry I was working so many hours with hardly anything to show for it - I wasn't feeling well and haunting my thoughts was the project sitting on the backburner, the #WhenIBecameFree project.

It was not where I wanted to be in life, especially after all those years of struggling to survive. I years old, my boys are a 10-hour drive from me - I didn't have the money to visit them when I wanted, I definitely didn't have the vehicle to make the trek and I was exhausted. My days were spent waking up working, going to bed working and all with the pressure of keeping alive a paper with less than a skeleton crew without proper equipment and support. I was quickly heading towards nose-diving off a cliff.

The one thing I had was a paycheck. However, it was not that pretty of one, especially considering my title as editor and the decade-plus of working for the company, but it was a paycheck.  Let's put it this way, cashiers working full-time at the local Kwik Trip made more than me when you factor in their benefits - something I didn't have. Plus there was a background story to it all having to deal with a dear friend and how crappy she was treated when she was diagnosed with cancer - she wasn't just my friend, she was also the editor a few years back...that is, until that cancer took hold and she battled it. That was the reason I became the editor.  I promised her I would do my best after the hit she took for her co-workers. 

Can you tell I was not a happy camper?

I knew I needed a change and soon.

Moving to Memphis to be with my family, that was and still is, at the top of the list for change. Somehow I am going to do it, even if I just walk away from this house, get in that car and start driving until it breaks down. Don't put that past me. It is not like I'd be walking away from much in regard to the house. I'm not THAT desperate yet, but soon might be.

You see, I am at a point in my life where I need to make some serious decisions. My health sucks. Autoimmune disorders wreak havoc. About 8 years ago when all of it started invading my world, I was told I should think about getting on disability. If you know me, then you know what my response was- and it was something that I probably shouldn't put in writing for the public eye to witness.  Plus, it is not like you can just get on disability- you have to prove you're unable to work and to do that you can't work. I was a single mom, that was not an option. I worked. The one thing about my job was if I needed to be in bed, I could work from home. So I stuck it out, more than likely, too long.

And still, there was #WhenIBecameFree haunting me. It has been since the day I started it.

Back in May, I decided the only way to get a change was to create it and in doing so, I jumped off another cliff hoping the parachute would open. I resigned from my position, decided I would work for myself and focus on that project of mine all while trying to sell a house, all by myself. Yes, I tend to think big.

Thus far,  I am still, kinda, a float.

I have delved into the project, and I have been collecting stories from survivors. It has been going so well on that end, that I am close to starting to put chapters together and editing the film. Yes, it is quite the undertaking.

As I listen to all those stories my heart sinks every time I hear, over and over, how there was no safety net to catch these people before things got out of control.  No resources here in rural Wisconsin for them to access, or if there was, something went wrong when they tried to get help. Every single one of the stories, REAL LIFE stories, has more than one incident where in your head all you can think is, "It shouldn't be like that. It is not supposed to be like that."  However, having lived it myself, I know too well, it is like that.

Needless to say, all of that is now nagging at me. The frustration of knowing change is needed but unsure how to go about it when there is so much that needs to be tackled. Not to mention the politics that inevitably would be involved.  I have a lot of patience but not when it comes to political shenanigans, that's usually when my mouth and sarcasm gets me in trouble. Also, remember what is at the top of my list? Moving to be with my sons, my family I miss so very much. How can I bring about change to my community when I am planning (Please, Lord) to move, and soon? Yet another question that has been haunting me.

Then it happened. That IT was an Everything Happens for a Reason moment, yet again. The survivors I've been interviewing are strong. They want change and some are willing to take leadership roles, that is obvious. Then this happened,  a couple of days ago Kelli asked me to share her story. It was a story I shared a few years ago in a video she allowed me to film, but this time, she went into greater detail and wrote it out, herself.  That post and her story ignited many of the survivors. Kelli's experience highlighted just about every form of abuse a person can have thrown at them, and all while she was a child. A child who tried over and over again to find a safe place to run.

Once you read it you will not get it out of your mind. You will think about your own story if you're a survivor or you will think about all the people you know who may have said they were abused. You will look at your community through knowing eyes and wonder what you can do to make sure no other child, no other person, ever experiences abuse, again. You will get mad, you will cry and you will want to take action.

I know Kelli's story. I knew about it and I verified it years ago when I wrote about for my project and also for the paper. I needed that reminder of what she went through. The day she messaged me I was struggling with what I was going to do - how were changes going to be made. How could I do it and still plan on leaving...moving (Lord, Please) to be down by my sons.

So, here we are - Strong and Empowered Survivors knowing we need a change in our community. We have more than a few willing to take leadership roles and Kelli's story highlights just about every aspect of what change is needed, especially that, here in rural Juneau County, Wisconsin,  victims trying to be survivors, need a safe place to run to. Our community needs to be educated and aware on just what exactly domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault all entail. All of us need to become advocates of change.

How best to get there? Well, that emerged after some online conversations on my Facebook page -that and listening to the people, the survivors I have interviewed. So many have said, "I wish there was somewhere local I could have gone for help." During my summer, I cannot remember who, but at certain points, a few people suggested that maybe a business could be a safe place.

Can you see it? Yes, now it has all come together - the project -  #WhenIBecameFree, the survivors feeling more empowered than ever before, and an awareness in our community....Kelli's Haven is about to be organized and carried out.

Kelli's Haven will create safe refuges throughout our county. Businesses, churches, and organizations will sign on to participate. By doing so, they will be a go-to location for victims of abuse. Once there, a person in need can find a private spot to call and wait for police and/or an advocate to come and help them. There will be resource material available for anyone with a need and the owners and/or workers will go through a training on how to help someone in crisis. Rule #1 - no judgments, just support and ALWAYS, confidentiality.

This will allow those in an abusive situation to always be moments away from a safe refuge in our county, even when not in a crisis. It could be the next day, a week later, whenever they can get away long enough to find refuge, support, and help.

Yes, it is starting to make sense now. Everything that has happened has led to this point - this change.

There's no going back! It will happen!

The #WhenIBecameFree Survivors will see to that.



Support the #WhenIBecameFree project by wearing awareness! For every shirt sold, $10 will go to support the project - getting it completed, published and distributed.  Shirts may be purchased here. If you're local to Juneau County, just email me and I will send you an invoice w/o a shipping charge.

Any and all donations are welcome!

Any way you choose to support this effort is greatly appreciated! Even if it is just sharing my blog, the website, or liking and sharing the Facebook page.  

Thank you to Wisconsin River Meats for being an official sponsor of #WhenIBecameFree. Give a like to their Facebook page and let them know how appreciative we all are that they are supporting survivors finding their voices!


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