First of all, thank you to all the people who have emailed me to comment on my Art Story! The response has been wonderful! Now, for all of you on the edge of your seat waiting for the rest of the story.....
While I was finally free from my husband, little did I know the troubles to come.
I lived with my mom and stepdad for a month and a half all the while with my stepdad shadowing my every move. At first, I didn't mind because I was afraid to be alone. Even though I had a restraining order against my ex, he continued to show up at the bar across the street from my shop and tried to call me on a regular basis. After a month or so, it became evident that my stepdad wanted to be more than just protection from the ex. But I will come back to that part of the story in a bit.
About a week or two after I left my husband, I was contacted by a couple in Arizona who claimed that the ex had taken $2,000 from them for a order of prints from another artist. They were threatening legal action against both of us! Apparently, he had taken the money from them not even a week before I left him.
At the time, my stepdad and I were making trips out on the road to visit some of the shops that sold my prints. I wanted to make sure everyone knew that my ex was no longer my sales rep. So on one of our trips we made a stop to visit the people who had contacted me. I let them know that I had no knowledge of their order or for that matter, had nothing to do with the other artist my ex was now representing. They were very nice people and seemed to understand my situation and with my promise to help in any way I could, they said they would drop the charges against me.
While on the road, I came across several other business owners who said the ex owed them money and/or artwork. It seems that as soon as I told my ex I wanted to leave him the year before, he began sabotaging my business by taking orders for my prints and never delivering the orders. In addition to this he had started selling the prints of another artist in place of my prints. After a couple of trips on the road it became very clear that I no longer had a business! I made little to no sales on those trips and soon realized I would have to get a job to support my boys.
My stepdad had been pouring money into my business and helping me get set up with a place to live. He spent close to $20,000 and told me not to worry about paying him back until I got back on my feet. Stupid me, I believed him! When he purchased a mobile home and set it up down the street from his house for me and the boys to live in, I thought he was being kind and generous. That is, until he started giving me "rules" to live by. He hired a nanny to stay with the boys during the day and would pick me up every morning to take me to work. His construction company shop was in the back of the building where my shop was at the time. So, this arrangement seemed convenient enough.
The most important rule was that I was not to date or have a boyfriend. He said it was because I needed time to be alone and figure out what I wanted for my kids and myself. At first, this made a lot of sense, because I had absolutely no intention of rushing into another relationship. In fact, I said many, many times that I would NEVER marry again.(Lesson learned: Never say never!) After a trip or two on the road alone with my stepdad, I was getting a little nervous about all the time he was spending with me while my boys and mom stayed home. Then one day I got a call from my stepsister "warning" me to watch out for her dad because he had sexually molested her as a teenager! She told me not to tell anyone what I had told her. I asked my mom about it to see if it were true and she said "yes, but that's the past and it's over."
Now I was really getting nervous! I started to think about how "supportive, loving and touchy" my stepdad had been towards me since the divorce. He was always there when he thought I could use a hug, etc. The next trip we made, I decided to take my oldest son with us.
Around the time I moved out of my mom and stepdad's house and into my trailer, my brother invited me to go with him, his girlfriend and another mutual friend to El Paso for one of his band's gigs. This mutual friend was none other than Aaron Lewis, a former employee of mine and eventually my second husband! That night after the gig, we went to Denny's and sat and talked for hours. Neither my brother nor Aaron had been told the whole story of my divorce and so that night I told them everything that had happened. Aaron had actually allowed my ex to move in with him after I left him, because he had no other place to go. At that time, I had told Aaron that he had made his choice and I didn't want to talk to him again.
By the time we made the trip to El Paso with my brother, Aaron had kicked my ex out of his home and told him he didn't want anything to do with him. So, at this point, Aaron understood why I had been so angry with him for taking in my ex. Aaron and I began to hang out together on a regular basis after that night. He says it was because my house and shop was the only place he could get away from my ex. We had been friends for many years at this point, as Aaron and my brother were good friends and bandmates in high school. He even worked for me in my business for the last year of my marriage, so he was witness to several of our fights.
For a couple months we were "just friends", we spent a lot of time together, spending time with my kids and going on outings, hiking, and even a camping trip with another friend. Looking back now, we were in total denial! We were best friends and neither of us thought anything else about each other. That is until some friends asked why we were "fighting" our feelings and why didn't we just "do it and get it over with"!! At that point we started to discuss having a deeper relationship and it was still many weeks before it moved past that point.
Meanwhile, my stepdad was reading something more than mere friendship into our relationship. He told me one day at work that I had better cut it off with Aaron or he was going to cut me off from his help. I just shrugged it off and said, whatever! At that point there was still nothing more than friendship going on.
A couple of weeks later, once Aaron and I were "officially" an item, I decided that I would go out to look for a job since my art business was basically dead in the water at that point. I went over to my mom's house that morning to type my resume for my job search. My stepdad came into the house and asked me what I was doing. I told him I was going to look for a job so I could start paying him back for his help.
That was when he totally lost it and started yelling at me to "get the f*** out of his house". I was so blown away, I just stood there. He then proceeded to literally pick me up by the back of my pants and carried me to the door. He literally threw me out! I was in shock and very upset, understandably! Not knowing what to do next, I jumped into the car (I had borrowed Aaron's car that morning) and drove over to my brother's house to tell him what had happened. Unfortunately, I woke him up and so he was less than sympathetic to what was going on. So, I left there and headed to my shop so I could get some of my things out before the stepdad got there. Of course, by the time I got there, he was already there, changing the locks on the door. I pushed my way in and was able to get out with a box of prints before he kicked me out there as well. My next stop was at the University to pick up Aaron before I headed back to the trailer to get the boys(they were there with the nanny).
As expected, by the time I got to the trailer with Aaron, my stepdad was already there changing locks again. I was able to pack some clothes for myself and the boys before he got into it with Aaron and wouldn't let me get any more of my things.
So, there I was, homeless with three young boys, with nowhere to go. At first, I went to the home of a close friend and she said I could stay with her. That didn't last long as she had just found out she was pregnant and there were already four people living in their two bedroom apartment. After a couple of days with her, Aaron was the biggest sweetheart and offered us a place to stay with him. Even then, our relationship was very young and we weren't planning on moving in together.
It was a couple of days before my stepdad showed up with all of my personal belongings and dumped them in the middle of the street in front of Aaron's house. He left clothes, furniture, household items, but nowhere to be found was my art work! He hung onto everything I had in my shop. I guess he thought he could sell everything to make his money back. It would be two long years before I saw any of my art; prints, originals, equipment and supplies.
For many months I was very depressed about losing my business. I had worked years to build it and now it was gone. I had absolutely nothing to show for all my years of hard work! Not only that, but when I tried to talk with my mom about the whole situation, she stuck up for my stepdad and absolutely refused to believe that his ultimate goal was to get me into bed with him. This began a two year period when I didn't speak with my mom and thought she had completely abandoned me.
The good news is this is where the bad part of my story ends. October 21, 1995 was a huge turning point in my life, personally and artistically.
Next up; Love can turn things around and make you happy again! 1996!
Read the other parts of the story:
1995; The first half