Tiny Spark Series: The 8th Time

The Tiny Spark Series is a community effort to share our varying dark days and what “spark” helped light the way for us again. It’s an understanding that good is always there even when we can’t see it. I’m excited to kick-off with some uplifting words from friend and writer <strong>Miranda Gargasz. Readers of Scattering Moments adore Miranda for her humor, take-no-prisoners observations on day-to-day life, and (as you’ll soon learn) her unwavering honesty. I hope you’ll find a moment scattered in her story that shines true for you.


“Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
Who knew a Chinese proverb I read in the newspaper could sound a bell in me so strong that it would  reverberate through my every memory?
I was rocketed back thirty  years to my four-year-old self, sitting on the sofa in feety pajamas,  staring back at my dad’s giant, sausage fingers, as they pounded his  point home via my chest. “You’ll. Never. Amount. To. Anything,” he said. I believed him then.
My dad told me I wasn’t smart enough to be a veterinarian. He said that the way I dressed and carried myself  solidified that “no decent boy” would want anything to do with me. In my house, any grade below a “B” earned you a beating with a belt. He’d  rear back and lash me as hard as he possibly could until his arm grew  tired.
It was no secret that my dad was a physically abusive  alcoholic. The saddest part was that I believed I was a bad kid and  deserved everything he dished out. My mom wasn’t much better. She never  came to my defense because he would beat her, too. Toward the end of  each week the beatings got worse because we were out of money and he was dying for a drink. I struggled through most of elementary school  knowing my dad was right and wondering if I could ever be enough.
I was thirteen years old when the fog began to clear for me, and I saw  the truth. I was sitting in study hall near the end of October worrying  because report cards were only a few days away. My study hall teacher,  who was also my history teacher and believed in his own demented form of humor, said he could name all the kids there that had straight A’s on  their report cards. I paid no attention to the names he called until he  included mine. The appropriate reaction would be happiness or disbelief, but all I could think was, “What a sick bastard! If only you knew how  unfunny you are right now.” When I saw my grade card and realized he was serious, my legs turned to Jell-O.
The bus ride home was filled  with bliss and daydreams. I had never earned grades like that before and began to wonder if someone had made a mistake. Regardless, I had a  get-out-of-a-beating card and I was going to cherish every moment of it. I raced through the door at home and showed my mom, who stared,  nonplussed, at the neat column of A’s. I nearly squealed with delight  and couldn’t wait to show my dad. Visions of him hugging me and pouring  accolades over me filled my head until he got home.
He swaggered  through the door and went straight into the shower. I showed him the  grade card just before he left to be with friends, as he did most  evenings, my cheeks aching from all the smiling I had been doing. He  scanned it and said, “What do you want me to do about it?” He tossed it  onto the coffee table with all the flair one affords a piece of trash  and left.
It was that very moment that I realized I wasn’t the  problem. It’s a memory that I cherish and the one most closely related  to the Chinese proverb I read. I made a conscious decision to stop being a punching bag. That’s the day I picked up my gloves and fought back.
Every report card from that day forward rarely deviated from the straight  column of A’s. I was the first person in my family to graduate high  school. I went to college and received my Bachelor’s Degree in  Education, and graduated magna cum laude.
My single greatest  achievement was in breaking the cycle of abuse. As a mother I make sure  to tell my children every day how much I love them. As we go through  life together I try to teach them about how special they are, and how  they should love others. I try to tell them that sometimes bad things  happen, but we have the power to learn and grow from them—to make  lemonade from all the lemons.
Our oldest son recently made his  first communion and he took his new bible and rosary to be blessed. My  husband and I tried to impress upon him that they were holy items and  therefore required special care and respect. Our youngest son must have  been paying rapt attention, because, as I tried to cut the proverb out  of the paper, he came up to me and climbed up on my lap.
“I’m important, Mama,” he said as he wrapped his arms around my neck. “Even more important than the holy stuff, huh?”
I smiled and said, “Have I ever told you how smart you are?”
My handsome boys, the sweetest lemonade known to man.
“You always say that, Mama.”
“Have I ever told you how handsome you are?”
He rolled his eyes at me, “Moooom.”
“Well, I know what I haven’t told you. You and your brother are holy stuff, too.”
He pulled away from me and said, “I’m blessed?”
I wrapped my arms around him and thought, So am I.
As he ran off to play it occurred to me how different my life could have  been if I had just given up. For the first time in my life I realized I  was important, if not to my parents or myself, then to my children and  husband. It dawned on me how far-reaching our words can be and that you  never know who is listening as you speak. I hope that each of my sons  keeps trying, keeps moving forward and never accepts what someone else  says is possible as the limit.
I hope their lives are filled with lemonade and holy stuff—they make life worth the living.
Have you broken free from a vicious cycle in your life?
How/When did you know to stand up that eighth time?
Upcoming Tiny Spark: Lisa Kramer
Friday, December 7th

34 thoughts on “Tiny Spark Series: The 8th Time

  1. Fantastic kick-off post! Good for you, Miranda, for breaking the cycle. As a grown-up child of a woman who also broke the cycle of abuse: you are doing the right thing for your boys. One day, when they are adults, they will understand what you have done, and they will marvel at you and appreciate your efforts more than there is vocabulary to express.

    That was an incredibly uplifting story! While I am horrified at the abuse, I am happy that Miranda took control–at the age of 13! That is incredible and impressive. Also, those boys are gorgeous! Their smiles tell it all. 🙂

    1. I was also really impressed with how brave and mature she could be at 13. It takes most people a long, long time to realize they aren’t to blame for (or really even the point of) the abuse.

  2. I’m proud to call Miranda my friend and sister–yes, we’ve adopted one another. I NEVER tire of her stories. Sista–you know how much I admire and believe in you. Gosh, this is a profound and powerful post! The spark you bring to my life is far from tiny–it ignites a fire that burns brightly, that changes lives. I love you, sweetie!

  3. Heart achingly beautiful. Thank you, Miranda for sharing your story. You are an incredible woman to break the cycle and add such loving light to the world through your words and your boys. Thank you, Tori, for this Tiny Spark series. Hearing the stories of others truly heals, and helps build a powerful community.

    Hugs to all.

  4. Wow. Even though reading this is hurty, it speaks loudly to your strength as a person, as a young girl…to be able to see what is true, to stop owning it, stop the madness.Beautiful words, beautiful heart, Miranda.

  5. It’s wonderful to hear that you found your way out of a bad situation, Miranda. And even better to hear that you are making sure your kids know how to feel appreciated. Very well done.
    My situation was depression, self-induced. And oddly enough, similar to your situation, it was someone expressing disrespect that got me off my butt. Compliments of the husband our “friends” we were living with, who spontaneously decided to move to Alaska and demanded my “free-loading” wife and I move out (my wife had been contributing to the household expenses, unlike HIM). At least it got me out from in front of a TV and involved in life again. Yes, nowhere NEAR as traumatic as your experience or dramatic as your turn-around. But hey, we can’t ALL be superheroes! 😉 😀
    Seriously, well done, Miranda, and well written to boot.

    1. Everybody’s bad days are different, right? That’s what I like about sharing these stories. The situation might be different but, like you said, you still found yourself breaking a cycle in your own life 🙂

  6. Thanks so much Tori for choosing this essay to include in your series. Thanks also to all of your readers for the sweet comments. I think those boys of mine are the cutest! And I refuse to think I might be biased. Well, okay, maybe just a little. 😉

  7. This is seriously inspiring. So glad to start out my day with this. I can’t even begin to imagine how awful it must have been to grow up under those circumstances. Kudos to Miranda for realizing her own self-worth and raising two beautiful children. This was a great piece to start out with!

    1. She’s Super Mom, for sure. Her blog is full of stories about parenting and I always, always think while reading “Now THAT is a good mom”. She recently wrote about what happened when a classmate picked on her son and it was my favorite thing I’ve read in a long, long time.

  8. This is so well written. Thanks for sharing this story. I’ve always been brought up being told I’m good, clever and pretty and took it for granted, but this hits home how lucky I am and how lucky your boys are 🙂

    Love this series tori 🙂 xx

    1. I was constantly praised as a kid, too. Made reading Miranda’s post that much more heartbreaking. It didn’t occur to me that parents ever don’t dote and praise and nurture. I hate that she wasn’t told how wonderfully “enough” she was as a child, but I love how she has made a point to never let her boys forget how valued they are.

  9. This is a touching story. I’m so glad you didn’t carry the blame with you through life. My heart fell when he tossed that report card down. (I kinda wanted to kick him in the shins.)

    1. Glad you stopped by, Marilyn. Miranda is a really talented lady and, as you can probably tell from her post, a rock star mom. Hope you’ll check out more of the Tiny Spark series. We’ll be talking about all kinds of unexpected good from bad.

  10. Gorgeous. I’m all choked up reading this, and it’s such a good reminder to me that I am blessed. I grew up enveloped in a blanket of love. Thank you to Miranda for the kick in the pants to never take this for granted. 🙂

    1. Your comment said it perfectly. I didn’t have a picket fence childhood, but I was constantly and fiercely loved and protected. Now I love my child the same way. When I read Miranda’s post I couldn’t quite fathom being a parent so harsh and hurtful to your own child. Breaks my heart that Miranda had to live that experience, but really proud of her for having the maturity even as a little girl to know it was not her fault.

  11. I also consider breaking that cycle my greatest success. It is so touching to read those words and the sweetness that follows.

    One of my girlfriends told me that the most amazing thing was that there was none of my dad in me or any of my siblings. I wasn’t sure at all until I held my baby in my arms; then I thought maybe she knew me better than I did.

    I’m grateful for the next generation, your boys and mine, who do not know home as a fearful place.

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