Life Comes At You Fast

 

value wellness

 

It’s been a few weeks since my last post, but I survived…literally!

A few weeks ago, and a few days after my last blog post, I found myself unexpectedly being wheeled into emergency surgery.  I had no idea what was happening to me and I was going in and out of consciousness as one doctor was frantically asking me questions that I had no way of answering on my own.   Everything was happening in slow motion, I had no clue how I had gotten to the point of being wheeled into surgery and it all felt surreal.  I turned my head and saw my fiance, Drew, answering for me; he looked stressed, confused, and scared and I wanted to tell him I would be okay, but I couldn’t say anything at all.  I was terrified and my last thoughts as I entered the operating room were of my two kids.  All I could think of was how awful it would be if I couldn’t continue to be the primary caregiver and role model in my children’s lives.  I wanted to wrap my arms around them again and see my son’s big blue eyes and my daughters beautiful, contagious smile.  They need me and I need them.  I wanted to cry, but in my state, I couldn’t even do that.

Hours earlier, my day started with a cup of coffee and a review of my notes for a nursing final I was about to take.  I felt fine throughout the final and finished with no issues.  As the day progressed, I began to get hot flashes and I felt lightheaded.  Since I had just completed another semester of nursing school, I assumed my body was telling me to rest. I dropped my kids off with their father for his parenting time and went to my fiance’s place to unwind with dinner and a movie.  As the night wore on, I felt cramps and random sharp pains throughout my stomach; within 3 hours the pain became unbearable.  I woke up Drew and told him I needed to get to the ER immediately. As we began to walk to the car, I went down to the ground and everything went dark. Once Drew got me into the car, I began to wake up.  I was terrified, I had no idea what was happening and I kept crying out to Drew that he needed to drive faster.  I knew something was terribly wrong as I felt myself deteriorating quickly.

Reflecting back on this, I now realize my blood pressure was dropping significantly every time I stood up causing me to pass out.  My dangerously low blood pressure levels along with my heart pounding out of my chest was an indicator I was going into shock.  Once I got to the ER, I was taken in immediately.  The physician and nurses tried to stabilize my vitals, gave me pain medication and ran tests. I was shivering uncontrollably as they tried to put me in a wheel chair for a CT scan and I passed out again.  When I awoke, I was on oxygen inside an ambulance that was taking me to another hospital for surgery.

I suffered from a ruptured hemorrhagic ovarian cyst that resulted in internal bleeding into my abdomen, also known as hematoperitoneum.  It was completely unexpected and I have never been through anything like it.  I lost a lot of blood at a rapid rate, which caused me to go into hypovolemic shock.  I cannot thank the nurses and Physicians at the Ohio Health ER in Lewis Center and Grady Memorial Hospital enough for taking action as quickly as they did and for taking such great care of me.  There is no way to prepare anyone for something so spontaneous and I don’t know what I would have done that night without Drew by my side.  He was there to answer for me and make choices when I was unable to comprehend or communicate with the medical staff.  He once again confirmed the many reasons why he is my safe haven, my rock and the love of my life.

 

 Drew working on his fantasy draft from the hospital. He never left my side. 

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I was discharged from the hospital with a few incisions on my abdomen and a very low hemoglobin count of 9.1.   I was not given a transfusion because of the risks involved, which left my body dependent on improving the low hemoglobin levels on it’s own. This has been the hardest part of my recovery.  It has left me feeling physically, emotionally and mentally drained as I’ve spent the past few weeks recovering at home.  I had no signs or symptoms until the day of the rupture and when I asked my doctor what I could have done to prevent it, he said absolutely nothing and it was just bad luck…go figure.

During my recovery, I’ve spent quite a bit of time reflecting on the gradual decline in my overall health the past few years.  This decline began with increased anxiety that continued to get worse once I came out publicly with my story.  According to experts, when you experience something anxiety-provoking, your stress response activates.  This is known as a state of “fight or flight,”  this state prepares your body to react with a release of cortisol and adrenaline.  It has been proven that the more trauma one is exposed to the more damage is done to their body over time as a result of living in a constant state of fight or flight. This eventually teaches the body to fight itself, causing autoimmune disorders, chronic illnesses or even cancer.

The day after my surgery, my ex-husband, my abuser, reported me to our Guardian Ad Litem because my son missed his flag football practice.  Although he knew I had just been released from the hospital, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to take a stab at me while I was down.  Dealing with health issues is not only exhausting, it’s expensive.  It should come as no surprise that abusers and their enablers enjoy seeing their victims struggle. They get a disgusting thrill off of knowing we are sick or in pain, while dealing with the stress of our everyday lives.  Situations like mine should motivate all survivors to make their health a priority.  We cannot take our power back and we cannot protect and care for our loved ones when we are in a state of physical decline.  I’m forever grateful for my fiance, my dad and my sister for stepping in these past few weeks when it was needed the most.

This past decade has been an overwhelming experience with trauma and stress as a result of my toxic and abusive marriage, a contentious divorce, and now an even more contentious parenting situation.  This explains the health issues I’ve been dealing with.  Most survivors of assault, domestic violence or any other trauma, likely, do not realize the collateral damage that is happening to our bodies as we are trying to survive and heal.  We all need to recognize the importance of making our health a priority and this begins by taking the necessary steps to recover rather than bury it all.   It’s much easier to bury our feelings and numb our emotions, but as I am learning, we eventually pay the price.

After I left my marriage, I chose to move forward as a single mom by keeping busy raising two kids, while balancing nursing school.  The endless hours of studying, class and clinicals made it much easier for me to bury my thoughts and focus on rebuilding my life.  Although I spent time working with a therapist, attended a few EMDR therapy sessions, journaled quite a bit and now I have this blog, I know I can do more.  I recently read a book, which I highly recommend, The Body Keeps the Score by Psychiatrist and author Bessel Van Der Kolk. This book dives into the different types of trauma and how it impacts the health of the survivor over time.  The author explores the various ways to recover from trauma that are proven to be most effective.  For those who don’t want to take the time to read the entire book, here is a summary that is worth a quick read:

Summary – The Body Keeps The Score

People often tell survivors of abuse to just leave and move on with their lives.  They assume everything will get better once the abuser is gone, but that is far from the truth.  Co-parenting with an abusive and controlling ex-spouse is re-traumatizing and consists of never-ending emotional and financial abuse. When survivors are shamed for telling their story or their experience is trivialized and discounted, they are once again being re-traumatized and experience even more collateral damage to their physical and mental health.  Victim shamers and blamers need to step back and realize that we don’t come forward for attention, we come forward because we are cornered, desperate for help after being failed by the system and in need of a way to lift the burden of living in silence.

As I continue getting back to a healthy state, I will likely cut back on blogging for a short time.  I realize that my first priority is my family and my health…everything else will have to take a back seat. I’m juggling quite a bit right now and there are things I’d like to delve into when the time is right, so this blog isn’t ending by any means.  I hope this post helps those of you that are also dealing with health issues during your recovery from trauma while also trying to survive the fight, please know that you are not alone!

Thanks for reading!

 

P.S. Yesterday, was the first time since my surgery that I had enough energy to go on a walk with the kids and our pup Charlie. I enjoyed listening to the kids tell me about their day and what they want to be for Halloween. It truly is the little things that matter the most.

 

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The Hermans Part III – Heavy is the Head…

As you can see, I have learned to document everything and be meticulous about it. When you have been the victim of domestic violence, you have no other option.  Even with everything I have saved, it still isn’t enough to convince people that my ex is violent and mentally unstable and needs to face consequences for his behavior. This makes me sad for all victims of domestic violence, assault, child abuse and harassment.

I’d like to point out that the Hermans have always known if I ever spoke out publicly, Zach was going to attack them directly.  That is what Zach does to everyone I care about.  He does this so people will walk away and I’ll be isolated.  The Hermans and I have had some disagreements along the way, but they have always been fair and reasonable with me.  For the past 4 years, they have always been in my corner, with nothing to gain from doing so.

I have nothing to give them, I have no connections, I have no money and I have no power.  The only things I have of value in my life are my children, my family, my education, and my voice.

 

March 2017 – Legal fees

By March 2017, I was crushed by legal debt from finalizing our divorce and being raked through the courts.  We were already divorced, but Zach kept using the courts to harass me because he wasn’t paying legal fees to his dometic attorney, who was a big Ohio State fan.  He filed frivolous contempt motions, such as trying to hold me in contempt for taking the kids to Disney World (even though I had permission) and he went as far as accusing me of kidnapping them.

Text message to my fiance, Zach also attempted to contacted my fiance’s employer and tell them my fiance was kidnapping our kids.  Zach text admitting he doesn’t pay his domestic attorney legal fees.  

 

Why is he always blowing kisses at other men when he is angry?

 

When I told the Hermans I was considering quitting school to go back to work full-time, they were really upset and adamant I stay in school.  I was financially strapped, exhausted from fighting Zach, trying to manage life with 2 kids and full-time nursing school, so they offered to help me by lending me money to pay off my legal debt. They believed, having a career that would allow me to stand on my own financially, was a way to get me further away from Zach.  This was a big deal to them because Tom was raised by a single mom and had an alcoholic father, who never paid a dime of child support, he is very open about this.  I’m livid Zach and his network tried to spin this into anything more than what it was; they wanted to help me out of a bad situation.

They also told me I could actually negotiate my legal fees down to a more reasonable level and they would help do it. It was time consuming, but it worked and I was thrilled!!!! Michelle also used her connections in Columbus to help me find a less expensive, but aggressive attorney.  I didn’t use her suggestion though; the attorney was an Ohio State graduate and I wanted nothing to do with Ohio State.

I have not yet paid the Hermans back the money they loaned me and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to.  They told me not to worry about it and IF I can pay the favor forward in another way, I should.  Later on, I am so excited to tell everyone what my plan is!

 

You can skip ahead and not read document below.  I posted this because I want people to realize how much the Hermans really did help me and how much my ex has lied about who they are.

Gmail New Attorney_Page_1

 

 

Fall 2017 – Wasted Coach (strange story I have to share)

Sometime during the 2017 football season, a very inebriated head coach contacted Tom in the late evening hours after a loss and started harassing him.  Spurred on by Zach, he threatened to “expose” Tom to a prominent national reporter.  I don’t know if this coach was on something or just completely smashed, because he got all up in his feelings about losing on his son’s birthday and blamed Tom for ruining it.  He was so drunk, he ended up telling Tom that Zach was the one who put him up to it.  Tom promptly informed him of the kind of person this coach was getting his information from.  Wasted head coach turned right around and called Zach to tell him about it.  Zach then texted Tom and lied about his part in it.  I’d like to say to all head coaches…never drunk dial or drunk text a rival, you never know who is saving your texts or recording your drunk tirades.

Isn’t it interesting how Zach accused Tom of leaking to Brett McMurphy, but almost a year before, Zach tried to leak “dirt” on Tom to a reporter?  Hypocrisy…thy name is Zach Smith.

KeEP mY NaME oUt OF yOur mOUtH

Zach and Tom text exchange
Tom Zach 1

Tom Zach 3

 

 

 

July 2018 – Coming out Publicly, Brett McMurphy

I made the choice to come out publicly with my story after Zach’s arrest for criminal trespass went public and Zach and his attorney, Brad Koffel, accused me of “setting him up” on Brad Koffel’s radio show.  I was in fear Zach would once again use his connections to get away with criminal trespass and continue to make my life a living hell.   For months, Zach harassed me and even hired a PI to stalk me and my boyfriend. The PI took pictures of me on my patio, and through the windows of my family room and my kitchen.  I have already posted audio recordings of Zach from mid-2017 onward.  Zach and his attorney were lying about everything and I had evidence to prove it.

 

criminal trespassing texts

 

When the criminal trespass story broke, I was being contacted by multiple reporters, including Brett McMurphy.  So much so, I had to change my number immediately.  People knew there was more to the story than just criminal trespassing; Zach’s problems were well-known across the coaching community and in Columbus.  One reporter even showed up to my house and left a business card on my door.

I contacted the Hermans to tell them about going public with my story and to get their thoughts on it.  They had major concerns and counseled me about it.  Ultimately, I decided it was what I had to do.  I did not share too much information with them about my plans though.  The Hermans were honest with me when they said they would have to contact their agent to tell him about it because it could possibly impact them.   They shared an agent with Urban and they could not promise what they shared with their agent would not get back to Urban.  However, I did ask their opinions about the different reporters that were contacting me. Michelle said she didn’t know any of them and Tom told her he didn’t know any of them well enough to be comfortable recommending them to me.

 

Reporter-Card-1.jpg

 

 

Zach Attack Begins

Ultimately, I chose to go with Bretty McMurphy because I believed he would be the most willing to fight for me.  After Brett posted the story about Zach’s Gainesville incident, Zach and his friends started using troll accounts on twitter to attack the Hermans, accusing the Hermans of leaking stuff to Brett McMurphy.

Zach’s Twitter TrollsHerman Twitter Trolls

 

They figured out right away it was coming from Zach, his family and his friends, big surprise!  Michelle had no issue confronting Zach head on (see below).  They told the truth about not leaking to Brett and have always stood by it.  Michelle had never met Brett McMurphy and didn’t know anything about him.  Tom knew him, but not well enough to know if he could be trusted with everything I had.

 

Text exchange between Tom, Zach and Michelle re: Brett McMurphy

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Zach_Tom_McMurphy 2

 

 

November 2018 – Twitter tirade

On November 11, 2018, Michelle received a call from a friend in Columbus who spent the day at Kinsale Country club.  He reported Zach was there getting hammered with his brother and father and they were ranting very loudly about Tom and Michelle.  They were saying Brett McMurphy was digging into another story about Zach (Trevon Grimes) and Zach was going to try to link it to Tom and he was going to “expose Tom” on twitter.  Nobody knows this, but Tom and Michelle were fully aware of what Zach was planning to do when he went on his twitter tirade a few hours later.

I’m not going to post the tirade because it would take up 3 pages here and I think after reading previous posts of mine, we all understand what his tirades look like.  I am going to post some of the replies that had us cracking up that night.

Twitter Gold

twitter gold

 

I’m not happy about the things he said about the Hermans and I don’t ever believe a word that comes out of Zach’s mouth.  However, I’m mostly pissed about what he said about my friendship with Michelle.  Michelle isn’t a crier, it’s just not how she is and it’s pretty obvious to most people, it wouldn’t take 6 years for a person like Michelle to figure out how to leave a marriage.  I spent days racking my brains trying to think of where he would have come up with that or why I would have ever said something like that, because it didn’t happen.  Michelle told me “Stop doing this to yourself, this is exactly what he wanted you to do.”  She was right, this is what Zach does to people, it’s gas lighting.

 

“Heavy is the Head That Wears the Crown”

I don’t believe Zach will ever leave the Hermans alone, or any other coach he deems the enemy of the week.  He is desperate to get the Hermans to acknowledge him or interact with him publicly and bring him attention.  I have no doubt, soon we’ll be hearing a story from Zach and his family’s mouthpiece, Jeff Snook.  Be ready for it Longhorn fans!

Zach is consumed, whether it’s sex addiction, substance abuse, or rage, he is always consumed by something.  The more success the Hermans have, the more consumed he will be and the more he will attack.   I will never be free of him either.  He is only quiet about me now because he has an upcoming trial next month for violating my CPO and our custody case is still not final.  Zach holds onto rage like Gollum does precious, when my CPO expires, I shudder to think what my life will be like again.

 

Gollum

 

Zach will have no shortage of accomplices to help him in his attacks.  This is the nature of college football and rival fan bases are vicious.  As you can see, other coaches are equally as vicious and back stabbing.  The college coaching profession is ruthless and it’s – eat or be eaten, trust no one.  Head Coaches are always an easy target, but that is why they get paid the big bucks; it doesn’t make it any easier on them or their families though.

I only have this to say to college football fans, think about who you are aligning yourself with.  If you find yourself hanging on to an abuser’s every word, eating it up and savoring the taste of it, what does that say about you? This is not over for Zach and I have more than enough evidence to back up all my claims. As more comes out, you are going to learn how truly sick and dangerous an individual he is and he should never have gone this long without being held accountable.

I want to end this post by thanking the Hermans publicly.  I’m sorry for what my ex-husband has put you through, your friendship means everything to me and I want the world to know how deeply grateful I am for what you have done for me and my children.

 

Ok, Cool. HookEm Image result for hookem emoji

The Hermans Part II

I would never want what has happened to the Hermans to keep anyone from intervening in a situation like mine.  What is happening to the Hermans is extreme, but that was Zach’s goal all along.

I am being honest, when I say I fear for Michelle’s safety as well as mine. My ex-husband and his entire family are psychotic and they all feed off each other. Starting with his mother, they are all violent and will want to hurt someone.  If things get worse for Zach, and they certainly can, rather than look inward, I have no doubt that they will have to find someone to direct their rage at.  They can’t get close to me (for now) or Tom, but they might be able to get to Michelle.

Colin Smith, Zach’s Brother

Colin Smith Tweets

 

Lynn Bruce, Zach’s mother arrest record

Lynn Bruce Assault Narrative II

The Aftermath

From January 2016 and onward, Zach continued his downward spiral.  The Hermans stayed in contact with me and were always encouraging me to move forward.  Zach’s threats didn’t scare them off, instead it made them feel for me even more.  What I was going through really struck a chord with them. As many people already know, Tom had a turbulent childhood; he grew up with a single mom and an alcoholic father, who was in and out of his life. His father never paid a dime of child support and eventually ended his days in a homeless shelter in Cincinnati.  There were other things about his childhood they shared with me and I wish they would be more open about, but I have to respect his family’s privacy.  Of all the people who supported me during that time, they were bothered the most by what was happening.  As hard as he tried and believe me he did, Zach could not manipulate or deceive them.

During that time, I was hearing that Zach was lying to Urban and telling him I was crazy and trying to frame him.  I was not happy about this.  I was also hearing disgusting things from sources inside the facility.  Things like Zach was telling everyone we were getting back together, *I* was getting “help” so *he* would take me back…completely untrue and absolutely absurd.  He was doing this to save face and his job.

 

Zach says we're fucking 2

 

 

There were so many things that happened during that year, it’s impossible to cover them all. The Hermans also had to intervene again, several times.  I imagine there are so many times the Hermans wish they had never met my ex-husband:

  • Zach contacted me from his office and threatened suicide.  Previously, an edict was sent down from the higher ups that everyone on that staff was to cut off contact with me, so I had no one to go to.  Once again I went to the Hermans for help.  I  asked them to contact people at Ohio State and report his threats of suicide, so Tom had to reach out to a couple of people on the OSU staff and asked them to put Zach on suicide watch.
  • May 2016 – Zach wasn’t showing up for recruiting visits and a staff member who was really close to Tom called him and told Tom he witnessed Zach watching a video Zach had taken of a married offensive coach at a strip club.  Tom was irate and called Ed Warriner and told him to block all coaches from socializing with Zach.  Ed and Marybeth Warriner also wanted Zach fired and tried to reason with Urban about it.  I never talked to Warriners about the abuse, but they knew Zach was a POS and Marybeth was always so sweet to me and would check in on me every so often.
  • After Urban found out Zach was skipping out on recruiting visits and partying instead, he had a meeting with Zach at his house.  Zach confessed everything to Urban.  Urban and Zach’s family decided they needed to send Zach to rehab because he had spun out of control and Urban would have to fire him if he didn’t go to rehab.  Zach skipped out on rehab and nobody every checked to see if he finished the program. I didn’t find out until I went public and everything blew up that he left rehab early. I do however, remember him calling me from a bar once he was home from Rehab….he was with his family. Who goes straight to a bar after rehab and chooses not to see his/her own kids? Better yet, who lies about completing rehab and also misses his/her daughters first dance recital?

Zach texting me from rehab

 

More Zach rehab stuff

 

Cincinatti, OH – UH vs. UC, 

When the University of Houston was playing the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Michelle invited me to meet her there and go to the game.  When Zach found out where I was going, Zach started raging again and started threatening the Hermans.  I’ve said this before, abusers will typically try to isolate victims from anyone who can help them.  They were the only people with any real influence in my life and because they didn’t care about his threats, it drove him to insane levels of rage.

Zach texts to me before the game

 

I went anyway.  I met Michelle at the team hotel, rode the bus with her to the game and we tailgated with all the UH wives and some boosters.  I had a really good time and of course they ended up winning.  Below is a picture taken when the TV screen panned to us hugging after a touchdown…we really had a lot of fun and were so happy they won.

 

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Phoenix, AZ –  Fiesta Bowl, December 2016

One of the really dumb decisions I made during our divorce was agreeing to provide back up care for any bowl game if my ex-husband could not find adequate or acceptable child care.  Zach reasoned with me that if I had my own room and the entire football staff, their families, all the players and their families were around, and we only saw each other when we exchanged the kids, what could go wrong?  The thought of my ex allowing one of his questionable female companions to watch over my kids while they went to a bowl game for a week or even worse, not having any one to supervise them at all, struck fear in my heart and he played on that.

Zach was 6 months out of rehab and was trying to “win me back” by proving to me that he had changed and that he was getting consistent counseling.  He was still so up and down and I was never going to be “won back,” but I was hoping for a friendly and civil relationship for our kids.  I freely admit I am sometimes very naive about life and thought that it would be possible.

The Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix was the first and last bowl game I attended after our divorce. It ended up being the scene of a nasty confrontation between the four of us. The Hermans were also attending because Tom had just been hired as the head coach for the University of Texas and they weren’t going to a bowl game that year.  Since they couldn’t recruit because of the dead period, they wanted to experience a bowl game as a spectator for the first time and they also wanted to spend some time with JT Barrett.

When I talked to Michelle about my concerns about going to the bowl game, she told me “don’t worry about it, you and the kids can just go to the game with us.  Besides, Zach isn’t going to try anything if were there with you.” Famous last words.

The night of the Fiesta Bowl, the Hermans rented a driver and took me and my kids to the game.  It was a blowout loss to Clemson and everyone was really tense.  I dropped off the kids with Zach in the locker room and left the stadium with Tom and Michelle. The Hermans reserved a table area at the hotel bar with bottle service and we had a small party with several of the Ohio State coaches and their wives. Of course, I was invited and we were all having a great time.  Zach had no idea I was with the Hermans and the rest of the staff that night and when he found out he was enraged and he was stalking us and texting pictures of us directly to me trying to scare me into leaving.  See below:

Phoenix_Redacted

 

Zach in a very inebriated state left the kids in his hotel room alone, stormed down to the hotel bar and confronted me in front of everyone.  It really freaked people out and upset Tom and Michelle to the point that one of the coaches had to grab Tom and pull him away from the bar.  Michelle got in between me and Zach and they exchanged some nasty words and he ran off before they called security.  The Hermans took me back to their room because they were too afraid to let me go back to mine, so I stayed the night there and Zach started sending us texts that night.

Below is what he sent me first.

 

Me apologize, wtf????  What would I apologize for?  Spending time with friends on New’s Years Eve? It was Zach’s parenting night and the kids were flying back with the team the next morning….  Those “awful people” were 3 Ohio State coaches and their wives and a prominent national reporter.  Two of the coaches are now sitting head coaches and one is a power 5 head coordinator…so awful.

He also sent Tom this the text below.  You can see how two-faced and ignorant Zach is. Did he not realize we were sharing our texts with each other?  You can also see that Zach felt way more towards Tom than Tom did towards Zach.  Zach was gutted by being cut off from Tom, but the sentiment was not exchanged.  Zach really loved Tom, but Tom didn’t feel anything about cutting off Zach.  He also doesn’t realize that I didn’t just tell the Hermans who Zach really was, I showed them.

Anyway, forgive the messed up screenshot.  This was almost 3 years ago and I cannot retrieve the version they gave me without the ringer in it.

 

Zach_Tom Phoenix threats 2_Redacted

 

 

Finishing up Part III…there is really just too much to cover in one post.  I hope I get the opportunity to finish it before I’m shut down!

 

 

 

 

The Hermans Part I – The Obsession Begins

 

Michelle Herman text to me – March 2017 after they loaned me money.
They were intent on me staying in nursing school.

Michelle Support Text

 

Given recent events surrounding my ex-husband and his obsession with Tom Herman, I thought it appropriate to release a post now about my friendship with the Hermans. Recently, my ex-husband has decided to sell “trash talk” t-shirts featuring Tom Herman and as he continues his crusade against Tom, his fixation has reached a level of absurdity and creepiness I could never have imagined.

I also think now would be the best time to skip ahead and write about them because I don’t want to cause them any distractions during their season. Realistically, I wouldn’t be able to tell my story truthfully if I left them out of it. By including them in this blog, I want to tell the truth about everything, but I also want to thank them for the many ways they have helped me during the most difficult time in my life. When I first told them I was going to write a blog and I wanted to include them in it, they were reluctant.  Ultimately, they acquiesced and agreed to support me as long as I whatever I wrote, I could waltz into a courtroom with evidence in hand and defend if ever need be.

For several years now, Zach has done everything he can to strain my friendship with the Hermans and to put it bluntly, through it all they have pretty much just given him the finger. In spite of his attacks, my friendship with the Hermans remains firmly intact. Sadly, they aren’t the only people in my life that my ex-husband has attacked or threatened, but if he thought his attacks were going to run them off and leave me even more isolated, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

 

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I’m certain people are wondering why I left the Hermans out of my interview with Brett McMurphy and there are a number of reasons, so I want to address those before I move on.  First, they weren’t at Ohio State in 2015 when everything blew up and they didn’t witness any physical abuse, nor did I tell them about it while we were on staff together.  Second, the information Michelle passed on would have ensnared other people and would have sent us down a rabbit hole that none of us wanted to go down. Fourth, they had been under attack from Zach since 2015 and I felt like they had done so much for me already, I wanted them to be able to focus on their lives.  Last, I didn’t want them to be pressured into taking part in the Ohio State investigation, which I did not feel would be good for them

Zach ended up accusing the Hermans of leaking information to Brett McMurphy about his issues all because of one recruit. His allegations went viral even though they weren’t true.  At that time, they could have hit back hard with everything they knew, but instead stood firm and allowed me to navigate the situation and focus on my custody trial; for that I’m so thankful.

I don’t think there is anything I can ever do or say that would free the Hermans of the albatross that is Zach Smith, but at the very least I can tell the real story of our friendship.  Zach does not get to dictate the narrative of how and why they have supported me all these years.  He doesn’t get to paint them in a false light, while I sit by and say nothing.  He can continue his fixation with Tom Herman, he can continue his hate-filled diatribes, but I’m going to say my piece and the people that care are going to know the truth about our friendship.  I can never repay them for standing up for me, for their guidance, and for their unwavering support, but on my end, I want to help close the door on this situation for them.  I hope this will be the last time I ever speak publicly about them.  This is far from over for me and I know they will always support me and be there for me as friends, but this isn’t their battle.  I doubt my ex-husband’s obsession with them will ever end, but they don’t deserve to keep being dragged into this situation.

After reading these 2 posts, if anyone is concerned for the Herman’s safety, you should be.  Not so much Tom’s safety, but definitely Michelle’s.  She has always stated she is not afraid of Zach, but I am, for myself and for her.  Fear isn’t going to silence me anymore though.  Silence is what allows abusers, criminals, monsters get away with everything they do. No more silence! I have told the Hermans to try to get a  restraining order against Zach, but they have declined believing it’s not worth the effort.  Recently, Zach tried to “friend” Michelle on Facebook and “liked” a comment of hers on a Facebook post of mine that was public.  It’s just another of his intimidation tactics.  He is not supposed to interact with me directly on social media, so it’s also another violation of my Civil Protection Order.  I admit, we have all laughed off most of his tirades against them, but this might very well be illegal now and I wish the authorities would get involved.

When Zach and Tom still had a friendship, Tom used to follow Zach on social media.  I know Tom does not manage his social media accounts and he has interns to handle it all.  This is understandable, since he is the Head Coach of a major power 5 program, but I have advised him to block Zach from his social media anyway…not sure if he has done that yet.

As I sit here trying to write this post, I feel overwhelmed by everything that has happened over the years. I realize the best way to tell this story is to move through it chronologically, starting from when we first met.  As you weave your way through these 2 posts, I think your going to see that rather than “keeping it real” or telling the truth about the Hermans, as my ex-husband has claimed, he is pretty much behaving like a psycho ex-girlfriend.  Given everything we’ve discovered about Zach, there might be more to his fixation on Tom than we all realized.  Remember the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley?  There are definitely some parallels there…rejection is never easy on the soul.

 

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Zach does not handle rejection well.  The slightest sign of rejection, disapproval, or opposition, even from his own flesh and blood, and he will explode.

 

Zach random threats_target

 

More Zach Attacks

Zach family attacks

 

 

Background – Our Time at Ohio State

I first met the Hermans when we moved to Columbus in 2012 and joined Urban Meyer’s original staff at Ohio State, prior to that, I knew nothing about them.  During our time at Ohio State, I wouldn’t say that Zach and I were exceptionally close to the Hermans, being almost a decade older than we are, and Tom being Zach’s superior, it wasn’t necessarily a natural friendship. When I moved to Columbus, my situation was a little bit different than most other coaches wives.  I had close relationships with the friends I made during our time in Gainesville and they had also followed Urban to Ohio State.  I also had family, high school friends and college friends in Columbus, so I was never short on people to spend time with.  Although we didn’t really spend a lot of time with Tom and Michelle outside of anything football related, we were definitely friends.  The staff had a really good chemistry and we were all friendly with each other.  Michelle and I would tailgate with the other wives and would travel together to away games and sometimes a few of us would meet up for lunch in town or have dinner together.

 

 

During our time there, Zach and Tom sometimes recruited together, but not to the extent people have played it up…I can only ever recall 2 overnight trips and several day trips.  One trip in particular took place in Florida, which was the scene of the infamous strip club visit.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that when Zach returned from this visit and I questioned him about it, he tried to blame Tom Herman for blowing all of our money and “forcing him” to go to the club.  Even though his claims didn’t add up – Tom spent his own money, it was Zach’s recruiting territory and his high school coaches, Michelle knew where Tom was, Tom got on a flight early the next morning, Zach stayed behind and blew through even more money – I foolishly believed him and reported the trip to Shelley Meyer.  When I post about Urban and Shelley, I will get into more detail about what happened after the trip and the many lies Zach told me and everyone else.

 

Although Zach and Tom were friends, Tom was one of a number of coaches Zach would use to try and deflect from the things he was doing.  During our marriage, Zach would often make comments to me about other coaches like “this coach or that coach is such a bad husband he drinks all the time and cheats on his wife etc. etc” all while he was living a double life.  He did this to so many coaches, I’ve lost count; he did this to coaches he barely knew…to him it was a matter of survival. I called this technique deflect and project. As long as he could distract me and make me believe he was being honest by revealing “secrets” about other coaches, then I wouldn’t have any reason to doubt his credibility.  As you can see, deflect and project is a technique that he still employs to this day, but now on a wider scale. Narcissists – Deflection and Projection

That’s a funny thing about Zach, it’s not just his lack of self-awareness, delusion and hypocrisy, it’s also his own disloyalty.  He expected undying loyalty from his friends and everyone around him, while he thought nothing of throwing other people under the bus and did things like record his buddies without their consent, lied about them and did everything he could to dig up dirt on them.  Now, I’m no expert on the stipulations of “bro code,” but I believe doing all these things to “friends” is a major violation of that code.

Moving on – we spent 3 years on that staff and I feel bad for the coaches that had to put up with Zach’s laziness, immaturity, disloyalty, entitlement and his issues in his personal life for so long.  Although I never talked to anyone about the abuse during that time, our marital problems were no secret.  Even before our divorce, Zach was struggling to keep up with the workload and was frequently late and other coaches were having to cover for him.  I didn’t realize until the night I left him, carrying on a double life coupled with his inherent laziness, was the primary reason he was a crappy coach.

Looking back, I still remember the last night the Hermans, Zach and I would all ever be in the same room together.  Ohio State had just won the national championship and nobody thought they had a chance, when we returned to the hotel there was nothing to drink except one bottle of champagne all the coaches passed around.   We decided to raid the mini bars in the hotel rooms and it was then that we ended up in our room in the early morning hours and the Hermans hung around and we all talked about the future.  They gave us advice about dealing with agents and about us possibly moving on – getting away from Columbus and starting fresh somewhere else.  Even though it was obvious Tom didn’t see Zach as responsible or mature enough to take on being a coordinator or to hire on his own staff at Houston, I really believed they wanted us to be happy and wanted what was best for us.

Maybe it was coincidental, but it seemed like everything started to fall apart once the Hermans exited the staff and moved on to a head coaching job.  Zach and Ed Warriner never got on well, there was a lot of friction and it felt like there was a void left by their departure.

 

June 2015

Not long after they moved away from Columbus, things really started to go downhill for me and Zach.  June 5, 2015, was a night I will never forget; it was the night I found my ex-husband’s google drive on his work phone and the night I finally walked out on him for good.  No one can prepare you for having the wind knocked out of you when you first realize your husband is a monster, deviant and certifiable.  I wouldn’t say I was completely blind to my ex-husband’s faults, our marriage had already been turbulent for many years.  He was abusive, drank too much and had a substance abuse problem.  I long suspected him of cheating on on me and even once found him sexting with other women.  However, in the darkest reaches of my mind, I could never have imagined what I would find when I opened up the google drive.  I uncovered things like hundreds of disturbing and graphic pictures and videos, many of which it was clearly visible they were taken at the football facility and some where the Ohio State logo was present.  The google drive was a visual representation of the dark, seedy life my ex had been living and the amount of time he invested in deceiving everyone around him, it was part trophy case, part blackmail extravaganza.

A few days later, I found another drive, this time a hard drive that belonged to both of us, but in it were hidden files that were equally as disgusting as the files I found in the google drive. The White House pics and amazon purchases didn’t scratch the surface of everything Zach was doing.  All of it happened right under my nose…I was so in denial. There were so many files, it started to make sense to me why the other coaches were always complaining about Zach not finishing his work and falling asleep in meetings.

It was then I started reaching out to other people to inform them of the things I found.  Two of those people were Tom and Michelle.  When I first reached out to them, I didn’t tell them everything I found and I also didn’t discuss anything about the physical abuse.  It was never my intent to talk to anyone about the abuse.  Since I was finally leaving my marriage, I incorrectly assumed that Zach would never touch me again, so I saw no point in telling anyone about it.  What I did tell them though, was enough for Tom to end his friendship with Zach.  They decided Zach could not be trusted, and that he was a sociopath.  There was never a “falling out” per se, it was as simple as “you are a psycho and need to get help and we don’t want anything to do with you until you do.”  They were not the only people I spoke to or the only people that distanced themselves from Zach, but he seemed to be bothered the most by being cut off from Tom.  It incensed Zach to the point that he would become irrationally angry if he knew I had any contact with them.  What was Tom supposed to do? I don’t think Michelle or Tom were being judgmental, they were just really freaked out. Most other people would have had the same reaction.

the kid mero wtf GIF by Desus & Mero

 

In those first few months, I did not ask the Hermans or anyone else to intervene with Urban and Shelley, I wanted everyone to let me handle the situation.  I wanted to try and piece it all together and figure out a plan for dealing with Zach.  He made promises to me that he was getting counseling to deal with his issues and I wanted to give him time to get the help he needed.  I knew at some point, I would have to talk to Urban and Shelley about everything, but I just didn’t know when or how I would do it.

 

October 2015

In the months after I left Zach, I struggled moving on with my life and untangling myself from our marriage.  That time was a blur; I was busy trying to manage our two kids, trying to keep my head on straight, trying to recover from the emotional wreckage and trying to figure out what I would do with my life going forward.  The Hermans would check in on me every so often, but with a new life in Houston and the added responsibility of a their first head coaching job, we didn’t talk much.  Zach and I maintained an uneasy relationship.  He was a ticking time bomb and I felt as if I was constantly walking on eggshells around him.  I wanted us to co-parent our children and to have a positive relationship with each other.  I sometimes let him spend a few hours with the kids at my condo once or twice a week after he finished working.  It was during one of those visits that Zach would put his hands on me for the last time.  He was in my apartment that night and when I asked him to leave, he snapped and grabbed my by the throat and pushed me into a wall with my 4 year old daughter clinging to my leg.  He took my son and fled the scene while I called the police.

The next day, when I showed up at the Powell Police station, I turned over everything I had.  I turned over the contents of the google drive, the hard drive, my phone, my laptop and my mother (now estranged) turned over her iPad.  I had enough of being physically, verbally and emotionally abused. I was certain that some of the stuff I found in the google and hard drives was illegal and I wanted them to investigate Zach for it, specifically for indecent exposure.  They declined to investigate those things citing jurisdiction and told me that the people involved in the incidents would have to file complaints.  Instead they focused on the domestic violence and Zach’s hacking of my wifi.

(You can read more about my estranged mother, her interview with the police and how she changed her story and lied about me in this post My Mother, My Enemy)

A few days after I reported the abuse to the Powell Police, I contacted Shelley Meyer and told her what was going on, I talked to her about the abuse and some of the stuff I found in the google drive.  A few days after that, I reached out to Michelle and on that night I sobbed over the phone.  I poured my heart out and told her everything I had been through with Zach and she patiently listened to me for what felt like hours.  She was obviously upset, but given all his other issues, she told me she wasn’t surprised that he was violent with me.  She said they believed me and would do whatever they could to help.  She asked if they should talk to Urban and Shelley about the situation, I told her to hold off.  I had already spoken with Shelley, so I didn’t believe there was anything more anyone could do.

During those few months, Michelle checked on me about once a week and I kept her updated on the investigation and everything that was happening in my life.  I didn’t ask them for anything, other than advice on occasion; it was enough for me to know that I wasn’t being completely cast aside and that they were willing to step in if I needed it. They were always really positive and encouraged me to find a career where I could support myself and the kids in case Zach kept imploding.  Tom was raised by a single mother and he felt very strongly, if it was possible, I should not rely on Zach’s child support.  If I could support myself and the kids on my own, whatever Zach gave me would be “gravy” as he always called it.

Message from Michelle tagged to my old twitter account.
It’s still on her timeline.

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Michelle wasn’t the only person to check on me or show me support, Shelley would also text me every so often and there were a couple of other coaches wives that would send me messages of encouragement.

Shelley Meyer messages to meShelley_Court-texts-1.jpg

 

January 2016 – Intervening with the Meyers

As the investigation dragged on, I became increasingly frustrated with being kept in the dark about what was happening.  I had no access to the investigation files and I was receiving mixed information from the investigators.  Initially, the investigators told me they had enough to charge him with domestic violence, but in reality the investigation was going nowhere.  Zach was becoming more erratic by the day and I was hearing from people inside the facility that he was a mess at work.  I’ve mentioned previously that a female working for another university was in a relationship with Zach after our divorce and it was when she reached out to me in late December 2015 to tell me about an incident they had at the hotel during the 2015 Fiesta Bowl, I felt the need to reach out to the Hermans for help.

 

Texts from female who dated Zach after our divorce

 

The Hermans were having an amazing season at Houston and they were on their way back from the Peach bowl in Atlanta when I called them.  I told them the story of what happened with this female and talked to them about my frustration with the investigation, Zach was out of control and someone had to reason with Urban and Shelley, so I asked if they could intervene.  They had a good relationship with the Meyers and were very loyal to them, so they felt compelled to say something anyway.  It was only a year since they left and they still had close relationships to the other coaches and quite a few players.  In hindsight, it probably wasn’t fair to lay all that on them, but I didn’t know who else to turn to.  Once I asked for help, Michelle believed they didn’t really have any other choice but to talk to Urban and Shelley.  She was concerned about their own responsibility and liability if they chose not to speak up and the situation escalated to the point someone else was assaulted.  Michelle agreed that it would be better if she reached out to Shelley, and Shelley should discuss everything with Urban.  So, on January 3, 2016, that is what she did.

I don’t know all the details of what they discussed, I know that there was a lot of back and forth between them.  Some of what I do know, I’d rather not mention…maybe someday I will.  With my permission, Michelle asked Shelley to reach out to me again, so I could share the rest of everything I found with her.  Shelley never did.   I also know the agreement between Michelle and Shelley, was that whatever was shared between them was to be confidential/anonymous.  When all of this was happening and over the past few years, the Hermans and I exchanged screenshots with each other, however, I’ve never been allowed to use their conversations with other people.  However, I promised this blog would be evidenced based and I’m not going to leave room for anyone to accuse me of making this all up, so I’m going to share the least controversial of the screenshots below.  As far as the Herman interaction with the Meyers, I know they would rather I let it go, but alternately they still support my right to tell my story.  If anyone is wondering what the situation was with the DM vs. text, if I remember correctly, something was wrong with Michelle’s iphone/icloud.

 

Michelle Herman to Shelley Meyer

Shelley Text_RedactedShelley Text 3_Redacted

 

I don’t know what happened to the confidentiality we agreed to, I’ve heard rumors, but I know Michelle, Tom and I kept our promise.  Somehow, Zach found out that Michelle reached out to Shelley and she did so with Tom’s permission.  I’d like to point out that Shelley requested Michelle send her the pictures of the abuse from the investigation files, I know this for a fact because Michelle contacted me and asked my permission to release them to her and I gave her permission.

Now, not only had Zach been cut off from the Hermans, but they were also showing support for me and Michelle intervened on my behalf.  Zach. Was. Enraged.  The threats started right away.  He wanted them to pay for what he perceived as disloyalty and even though he still had his job, he blamed them and several other people for “ruining his life,” he always blamed other people for the problems he caused himself.  He would not take responsibility for his own actions, it’s how he lives his life to this very day.

 

Zach-blaming-texts-3.jpg

 

The Aftermath

We all know how things turned out in the long run, we’re talking about 4 years of our lives though.  In part II of this post, I discuss the aftermath of the Hermans intervening, everything they did to help me, their confrontations with Zach, more texts and emails…it gets worse.  Right now,  I want to share the complete text message my ex-husband sent to Tom Herman that day in November when Zach went ballistic on twitter.

Zach text message to Tom
Zach_Tom text1Zach_Tom text2

 

I want to dissect this text before moving on with the rest of this story in part II.  Before anyone believes Zach’ bullshit, I want to say that the Hermans have never sent anyone, not even an attorney, to talk to Zach about anything.  They will never negotiate with a terrorist.  Zach is trying to use a mutual friend of both Tom and Zach, because he has no regard for any friendships, to achieve an illusion of the Hermans trying to silence Zach.  If they were so concerned about him “exposing” them, they could have walked away from me years ago or tried to at least work things out with Zach, but they know Zach is a sociopath and they want nothing to do with him.  When the media frenzy was in full effect, they could have hit back hard with what they knew, but they didn’t care enough to.  They have been content to sit back and let Zach reveal himself with his every psychotic move.

Zach is also claiming to have pictures of all the shit Tom did, but they only spent 3 years on staff together and they never spent time alone and only had 1 recruiting trip where they went to a strip club together.  Tom never spent time with Zach again once he left Columbus. So, if Zach took pictures of Tom then he would have taken them when they were friends.  Let’s get this straight, the same man that is calling Tom Herman “a disloyal coward” is the same man that is also claiming to have taken pictures of Tom when they were friends?  For the record, I never found any pictures or recordings of Tom in any of Zach’s files.  I did find stuff that belonged to other people though.  That is the kind of shitty stuff Zach did to people and when I confronted Zach about it, he confessed to taking pictures and recording of his friends for blackmail.  That was one piece of information I shared with the Hermans.

As I read the text exchange, I can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of my ex-husband.  Zach Smith, aka speedfleetzs (more on this later)…rehab dropout, Mr. Dickflash.com, calling Tom Herman the biggest bitch alive.  How is that?  You mean bigger than a bitch who hits women?  Bigger than a bitch who blackmails and throws his own buddies under the bus? Bigger than a bitch who refuses to pay child support, but spends thousands on more amazon toys and a country club membership?  Bigger than a bitch who constantly calls women cunts, bitches, whores, sluts?  Bigger than a bitch who blackmails and threatens women…even one who was pregnant? Bigger than a bitch who dresses up in ball lifters, man thongs and other paraphernalia? I could go on and on, but I think everyone gets the point by now.

Finishing up part II…I hope to have it done by Saturday or Sunday!

 

 

 

 

 

No More Silence

 

I’d like to take the time to address the “haters” and my thoughts on why it’s important for victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse and child abuse to speak up.

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I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told to stop talking because of my children. For a decade, I’ve heard and felt these same things “for the kids”. Everything I have done in my life has been for my beautiful children. I fight for them every single day in so many ways. They have seen things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. They have heard my cries, our fighting, they have witnessed me being abused and harassed, they have witnessed my ex-husband threaten me and harass my now fiance. They also witnessed my ex-husband getting arrested at their elementary school when he showed up (in violation of a CPO and our shared parenting plan) and tried to take them.  For years, he made life hell for all of us and for years I was silent about it for my kids.  At this point though, I am completely honest about my experiences with my kids.  They see a counselor and I try my best to teach them that abuse in all forms is wrong and I teach them to stand up for themselves.  I don’t know where my ex-husband’s path will lead him, I have seen him at his worst and his best.  I have been on that roller-coaster for a decade now and I don’t believe that my children and I will ever be free of his issues.  Someday my children will be adults and they will have to learn to cope with their father and his choices and they will in turn have to make their own choices. Impact of Domestic Violence on Children

Below you can listen to my estranged mother discuss what my children witnessed during my marriage to my ex-husband and listen to the way my ex-husband would treat me and my now fiance.

Estranged mother Tina tells detective she fears Zach will take a gun to us and take down the whole family.

Tina talks about how Zach would degrade me in front of other people:

Tina discusses my children witnessing Zach’s abusive behavior:

Zach angry I’m in a relationship with someone who is close to my kids. I tell Zach the kids are scared to death of him.

Zach wants to brainwash kids

Zach threatening legal action for me having a relationship. Dennis Horvath is Zach’s attorney.

Link: More audios from Zach and Estranged mother, Tina

 

I’m here to say this though, staying silent for the kids isn’t the best choice and it’s not okay to use their well being as leverage to silence woman from talking about the pain they suffered at the hands of their fathers. Silence only allows men to escape accountability for the things they’ve done and teaches children to endure abuse, not speak up about it and never stand up for themselves. Everyday I have to deal with people who constantly use my children’s well being against me.

After my interview with Brett McMurphy aired, because of fear, I went silent again.  I didn’t want to defend myself from the lies being told about me, I didn’t want to talk about what was going on in my life and I wanted to focus on gaining full custody of my children.  In that year, I sat back and watched my ex-husband and his network trash me and lie about me, my family and friends.  Publicly, he called me horrible names and said terrible things about me as a parent, all while I was working my way through nursing school and shouldering the responsibility of caring for our two children.  While he continued on his roller coaster life and indulging in his vices, I was home studying, taking care of my kids and quietly spending time with my fiance and family.  Unlike me though, my ex-husband has never had any fear of anyone. His position at Ohio State acted like a shield for him, he thought he was invincible and most likely still does.  So much so, that he had no fear of calling up the authorities and mouthing off to them like in the recorded calls below:

Zach’s calls to Powell PD during criminal trespassing incident.  PPD previously issued a trespass warning to Zach that he could not go on my property after he showed up to my townhome in Dec 2017 intoxicated at 1am. He looked through my windows then trashed my x-mas decor. In this call he’s being a smart ass to the officer and doesn’t realize he is being recorded and appears to be saying he’s going to fight an officer (part 2 @ 2:26 mark).  Local roots is a restaurant in Powell.

 

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Zach Bullying texts_Page_3

 

Frankly, I have also reached a point where I am fed up with getting bullied for speaking up, being lied about and getting blamed for my ex-husband’s mistakes.  He blamed me for the abuse, he blamed me for getting arrested for Criminal Trespass, he blamed me for getting arrested for violating the CPO and he even went as far as blaming me for getting a DUI in 2013.  My ex-husband has a long history of blaming everyone else, especially me, for his issues.  The people who continue to make excuses for him are equally bothersome, it’s mind boggling and it appears that in their minds, my ex-husband was born coated in Teflon. If people take issue with me speaking up, so be it, I’m doing it anyway.  Maybe it’s strange for me to feel this way, but I also feel safer in the public eye.  I know I’m always being watched and for whatever reason people watch me, I believe that with the CPO, smart phones and being in the public eye, my ex won’t try to come after me again.

 

My ex-husband’s texts blaming addiction, chemicals and other people

Zach blaming texts 2

 

 

Every time I put myself out there to talk about what I went through or stand up for myself, I have to deal with people who call me a liar, cunt, drunk, whore, slut, crazy, bat-shit crazy, sex fiend, bitch.  I’ve been told to “get fucked”  and women like @PJBuckeyefan with her MAGA profile, inflated ego and backwoods grammar –  who might very well be the female version of Zach Smith – pander to the misogynist horde, thump their chests all simian like and attempt to bully me with cheap, trashy words and threats of “coming after” me on social media.

I’ve seen and heard people in my community constantly make excuses for my ex-husband’s inexcusable actions, while at the same time bash me relentlessly for feeling the need to open up publicly about what I’ve been through.  As far as intelligence goes, I don’t consider myself up there with the likes of Stephen Hawking, but when people constantly accuse me of lying about the abuse, I can’t help but be taken back by their logic.  Is it really that difficult for people like @PJbuckeyefan or @cgorange to imagine that a man (and his network of enablers) who would lie about a DUI, a man who would lie to his boss for years, a man who would skip out on rehab and then lie about it, a man who carried on a double-life, a man who would brazenly, publicly lie about having a “mutual CPO” and having “charges dropped” wouldn’t lie about abusing his wife? Why is there is no doubt in my mind that if I did all the things my ex-husband did, that I would lose custody of my kids or at the very least be considered the worst human being on the planet?  Why am I being held to a different standard for speaking up, when I have done none of the things he’s done?

The bullying, harassment, double standards and assaults against women have been happening for generations, it’s an epidemic and feels impossible to change.  Being silent about it, even for the kids doesn’t help.

The Power of Speaking Up
Speaking out about domestic violence
Being your own advocate

There is also this prevailing thought that a woman should stay quiet so as not to risk losing child support or alimony.  So basically, stay quiet for “the bag.”  The decision to stay in a toxic or violent marriage is a personal one for every woman and I will never cast judgement on the choices victims make.  I will say though, this thought process is very dangerous and speaking from experience, staying quiet for money only creates a trap that feels impossible to climb out of.  I tried it for many years during my marriage and after the divorce, I didn’t speak up right away so my ex didn’t lose his job. I don’t know the right time to leave a marriage, but I know the right time to start a plan for yourself, so that you can leave if necessary, is right away.

 

losing child support

 

The first time they lay hands on you, start your plan.  If that plan is relying on family for support or squirreling away money “just in case” or getting a job, don’t hesitate. There is almost no chance the abuse won’t happen again.  I’ve heard from a lot of women who have told me their own stories of abuse, but not once have I read or heard from someone who says their spouse stopped being physical with them or that they moved on with their lives and behaved rationally once they divorced.  Those unicorns don’t exist, if you find one, tie it up and bring it to me because I need CSI levels of evidence to believe the “reformed abuser” exists, until then it’s fantasy.

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep repeating it, abusers do not just wake up one day and stop being abusers. Speaking from experience, abuse doesn’t happen in a vacuum and there are so many ways an abuser can inflict pain on their victims. In my “I’m Not Alone” post, I’m going to talk about the women my ex-husband manipulated, lied to and subsequently threatened. I no longer harbor any ill-will towards the women he had affairs with and I don’t see them as my enemies, I see them as victims.  Rest easy ladies, I’m not going to publicly identify any of these women because it’s embarrassing, petty and unnecessary, but I’ll still talk about what some of them went through.

 

A few emails from one of the women I made contact with

 

In the past 3 years, I have made contact with several of the women and some of their husbands too.  People who had experienced harassment and threats from my ex-husband would track me down and talk to me about what was happening.  They would talk about his threats and their fear of him.  This is one of the many reasons I’m so angry about everything that has gone down.  I’m not just angry for myself, but angry for other people.  I wish more people would come forward and talk about what he put them through, I wish they would stand up for themselves and if they did, I would back them every step of the way.  I understand their reasons for being silent and wanting to move on with their lives, but I won’t ever stop believing that in some way, my ex-husband should pay for the things he did to me and others.  After I finally walked out the door, I spent most of that first year trying to piece together everything that happened and I concluded that it was all connected.  The double-life, the substance abuse, the physical abuse and his other addictions.  The deeper he got into his toxic lifestyle, the more volatile he became.   Yet, through all of his destructiveness and his harassment of me and others, I remained silent.

 

Text between me and a female my ex had a relationship with

I get why people are afraid to come forward, why victims remain silent.  I get why people are afraid to talk about these issues, even now I still fear talking about it.  Even as I type this, I’m still afraid.  Sometimes I type something up, panic and then hit the back button to delete.  Fear is paralyzing and I know this because I’ve felt it for years.  It’s fear that made me second guess myself for calling the police that night in October 2015.  Instead of letting the police come straight to my house that night, I told them I would see them in the morning, thinking I might change my mind about reporting it…all because of fear.  Had they shown up to my apartment that night, they would have seen the marks on me and my inconsolable 4 -year old daughter.  They might have tracked down my ex, who fled the scene with my son, and arrested him.  Instead, I lay in bed all night, in fear, second guessing my phone call to the police.  Thoughts of “will he lose his job and if he does how will I support the kids on my own” raced through my head.  Until I woke up the next day and said “to hell with this crap, I’ve had enough of being silent” and still filled with fear showed up at the Powell Police Station.

 

A page of the Powell Police report from the October 2015 incident

Columbus DV report_Redacted

 

It was also fear (and a few other people) that caused me to drop the charges in June 2009, when I was 11 weeks pregnant and my husband lifted me by my shirt and threw me into a wall.  Why did he do that? Because gosh darn, I had the audacity to be angry and very vocal about him coming home drunk with his arms around the young, attractive and also drunk 23-yr old office assistant. He kept calling her baby and expected me to let her stay the night at our home on our 1st anniversary.  Maybe I did “push his buttons” by pulling off the blankets and yelling at his stank, drunk-ass to get out of our bed.  Maybe I did push his buttons when he lifted me up by my shirt and I hit his arm to break free from him, but where was his regard for our unborn child?   Maybe I should be directing my questions to @PJbuckeyefan or Kyle Lamb, they seem to know everything about domestic abuse.  By the way, I don’t recall anyone ever thanking me for putting aside my anger at 3am and driving the boozy 23-yr old assistant home, but you’re welcome anyway!

 

A page of the Gainesville Police report in June 2009

Gainesville report

 

In spite of my fear, I guess I should have realized back then that what he did that night,  years ago, was indicative of the kind of emotional and physical abuse he would inflict on me for years.  In hindsight, had I accepted proper counseling and been more open to talking about what I went through and how I felt, maybe I would have chosen differently.  Abusers thrive on power and control, they have no boundaries and they feed off fear from others and let me repeat this, because I cannot emphasize it enough – abusers don’t just wake up one day and stop abusing.  Too often we read about situations where abuse escalates to the point of murder.  We read about authorities who overlook child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and we read about the victims who lived in silence about it for years until it was too late.

 

No more silence.

 

Read: An Epidemic of Disbelief

 

 

 

 

Ohio State Document Dump

This past Friday, Ohio State did a document dump of emails and text messages from their investigation of Urban Meyer and my ex-husband.  I have spent much of the weekend sifting through documents and trying to sort everything out.  As one can imagine, for years I’ve had so many questions I’ve been unable to find answers to.  Even as I sift through these documents, I still don’t have the answers I’m looking for and now even more questions have surfaced.  To be frank, I am beside myself going through these documents and rightfully so!  I have never seen these communications and I cannot believe some of the things that were said. Not only did it take a year for these messages to be released, but they are heavily redacted to a level that is unacceptable.

I’ve always known that my ex-husband was a master liar and manipulator, who used his skills to hone in on those around him that were the most powerful.  Urban and other members of the athletic staff were so convinced everything was a “non issue,” I was just a “crazy” ex-wife and it was all he said/she said stuff.  So much so, they brushed off every incident he was involved in, took him at his word, and were confident all charges would be dropped.  There is an obvious display of arrogance and ignorance throughout the text messages.  It is even more obvious, people who originally claimed to know nothing about his issues, particularly about the domestic violence that occurred, were not truthful.  It is appalling that not only did Urban and his OSU advisers know about Zach’s legal troubles, they used their power to protect and enable, not just an abusive man, but an incompetent and unscrupulous employee and they did so at a level I cannot comprehend. 

In this post, I’m going to delve into what I have discovered from the documents and discuss my situation as it relates to the information that was released.

 

Alabama

The one really big story that went viral this past weekend was, Alabama wanted to hire Zach.  I don’t know why this story went viral when there were so many other more important things to focus on in those texts.  I suppose it’s a perfect example of people caring more about recruiting battles and pettiness between rival schools, than real issues like domestic abuse and assault.  However, since the story went viral I’m going to address it very briefly first.

UM texts Alabama

Zach alabama 1

 

I tweeted over the weekend, Zach did interview for a job at Alabama and initially, Coach Saban was interested in him, which was true.  Over the weekend, Coach Saban stated in an interview, after a “background check” they decided not to hire him, which is also true.  A background check in the college profession, is essentially informally asking other people about a coach’s work ethic, personal life, and coaching acumen.  One person Coach Saban spoke with, was a female who worked full-time in the football offices at Alabama.  She had a brief relationship with my ex-husband in 2015 that ended badly.  I know this because she tracked me down through a friend to talk to me about the situation.  She was really kind to me and expressed concern for me and my kids and was fearful of Zach…rightfully so.

I don’t want to say too much about it because I don’t want to hurt her and I imagine, neither does Coach Saban.  Below, I will share one text message between us.  I also want to point out, she is not the only person I spoke with who had a bad experience with my ex-husband.  I’m writing a post titled, I’m Not Alone, and I’m going to talk about my dealings with people who felt compelled to reach out to talk to me about their experience with Zach.  I will repeat over and over in this blog – abusers don’t just wake up one day and stop being abusive.  Abusive people don’t know how to deal with situations or people in a way that is reasonable and functional, and when one target is unreachable, they move on to another.

 

I also want to point out something that no one seems to be picking up on – if Urban wanted my ex-husband gone and wanted him to take the Alabama job, why did my ex think he had the option of turning it down?  Why did he say that he was going to sleep on it before “deciding” if he would take the job?  My ex-husband had a way of twisting things with Urban, manipulating him and taking advantage of how he, like many other head coaches, was much too busy with running a major college football program to be bothered with insignificant details.  Enough about Alabama though, it’s a stupid, trivial story and for once I agree with my ex, let’s all move on to more important things.

Lastly, Urban writes “we got you through the shit,” I’d like really to know about all the shit they got him through.

 

Urban and Shelley Texts

Below is the redacted text exchange between Shelley and Urban.  This exchange was actually released after the investigation was complete last Fall and I’m surprised people are just now aware of it and expressing shock over it?  To me it is the biggest thing that stood out and the one exchange I believe should have gotten the most attention.

Shelley Meyer text exchange

 

Reading her comments about Zach actually leaves me feeling both angry and hurt. I don’t understand how Shelley could come out publicly during the media frenzy and say she “doubted the veracity of my claims” and then turn around and privately text to Urban about my ex, “It’s obvious he has anger/rage issues,”  When I first spoke with her about the domestic abuse I was dealing with, she only ever expressed concern for me.  During the Powell PD investigation, she never once told me or anyone else she doubted me. What was her experience with Zach’s rage/anger issues?  Why would she feel that way about him?  I think their exchange is really reflective of the divide between Urban and Shelley when it came to Zach.  From what I was told during that time, Shelley wanted Zach fired and for a period, it created friction between her and Urban.  I don’t know if she felt pressured to say that about me because she wanted to save Urban’s job and truthfully, I can’t even blame her for that, or if she was angry with me for coming out publicly and how it affected her family.  I am just extremely hurt that she would publicly cut into my credibility when she knew and believed Zach had issues with substance abuse, alcohol and anger/rage.

Shelley also writes “U should call Mikki after and tell her to check on him? Not Lynn.” This also really stands out to me because Lynn Bruce is Zach’s mother and Mikki is Lynn’s sister, Zach’s aunt.  Urban and Shelley have long been connected to his family and Urban has called Earle Bruce, Zach’s deceased grandfather, his mentor.  When I did my interview, Lynn fired back by doing an interview with Jeff Snook, another longtime family friend, along with my estranged mother (post about estranged mother w/audio interview from PPD).  In the interview, Lynn boldly claimed I was unstable and had a drinking problem.  She provided no evidence for it and their claims have become the rallying cry for the Zach Smith Apologists club.  It was well known among the football staff and in the community, Zach came from a very entitled family; they all basked in the attention and privilege his position and being the family of the late coach, Earle Bruce, brought to them.  To this day, they brush aside Zach’s missteps, make excuses for his behavior, straight up lie for him and participate in some of the destructive things he still does.  However, they publicly claim I have issues with alcohol and violence, but have failed to mention Zach’s issues with alcohol and substance abuse and their own history of violent behavior and alcohol problems.  You’ll find a few of their police reports below. (note their attorney, Chris Cicero, does anyone remember him?)

If anyone is interested, I welcome them to do a background check on me, I welcome anyone to provide evidence for the allegations that have been made against me – DUI’s, calling 911 66 times, trying to run my ex over with a car, showing up to practices drunk and threatening to bomb people, etc.  It’s laughable and I know that many want these claims about me to be true, but sorry to say, if anyone is looking for anything on me, they will be very disappointed.  One of the many reasons I started this blog, is to help educate others on what it feels like to be the “scapegoat.”  A scapegoat is a person who is blamed for the mistakes, faults or wrongdoings of others.

Smith/Bruce Family Arrest Records

 

 

Full Arrest Reports:
2011 Lynn Bruce Assault Full Report
CHRISTOPHER T. CICERO Attorney for Lynn BRUCE
Colin Smith Full Arrest Report
Carter Smith DUI Docket
Timothy Smith DUI Docket

 

Tim Kight

Included in the document dump were messages between Urban and Tim Kight discussing my marriage to Zach.  Tim Kight owns a company called Focus 3 and was considered one of Urban’s biggest advisers, he worked with the players/coaches and was very involved in high level decisions that affected the way Urban managed the football program. I don’t know Tim Kight on a personal level and I can’t think of a single conversation I’ve ever had with this man.  However, not only was he involved in “counseling” my ex-husband, he was also advising Urban on what to say to the media about our relationship.  The first exchange I’m referring to is the one below, where he advises Urban to say “It appears both of them contributed to the problems in their relationship.”  

tim kight texts 4

 

Really Tim?  Can you please explain to me how I contributed to the failings in our relationship?  I’d really like to hear this because I can’t think of a single time I’ve ever spoken to Tim Kight about anything in my life.  Here is the problem with people like Tim Kight and Urban – at every turn they always took Zach at his word.  It didn’t matter the lie or excuse he would tell them, they would never take the time to verify anything he said.  I knew through multiple sources inside the athletic offices, that post-divorce, Zach would tell anyone and everyone I was crazy, lying, trying to frame him, trying to ruin his life, etc., when in reality I just wanted him to let me live my life.  He always knew he could get away with anything he did as long as he played the victim and came up with a good enough excuse and guess what? This method he uses to manipulate and con people, is still effective to this day.

When I line up the dates of Tim’s text messages, it was obvious to me he was counseling Zach during some very critical times.  Such as the time in Jan 2018, when I took my kids to Disney World for vacation and Zach tried to have me and my boyfriend (now fiance) arrested for kidnapping, even though according to our parenting plan it was permissible. Before we left, Zach agreed to the vacation and suddenly, changed his mind and expected us to change our vacation plans. Strangely, unlike my ex-husband the Powell PD declined to even investigate this “kidnapping” and have never once had reason to charge me with anything.

Text message Zach sent to my boyfriend

zach texts drews phone threatening to contact his work

 

The other exchange was in May 2018, shortly after Zach was arrested for Criminal trespassing, after he violated a trespass warning issued by the Powell Police.  It’s strange for me to read this, given they all claimed to know nothing about that arrest.   The last exchange I took note of was Urban’s text to Tim, “So I will have to answer why we released him.  We know the answer.  Yet I won’t share all the other issues.”  What other issues could Urban be referring to?

Tim Kight texts

tim kight texts 2

tim kight texts 3

 

Urban and Dr. Andy Thomas

The last exchange that really struck me was the exchange between Dr. Andy Thomas and Urban.  If memory serves, Dr. Thomas and Dr. Borchers were involved in admitting Zach to rehab in late May 2016.  The bill for his stint in rehab was shared between Ohio State and my ex-husband’s family and it was quite costly.  Zach never completed his stay in rehab and no one from Ohio State ever checked with the facility to verify he was able to leave.  He simply disappeared for a few days and returned to work as if nothing ever happened.

 

In this redacted text exchange dated May 30, 2018, Dr. Thomas sends a text to Urban, “Sounds like we need to talk about Zach.  Are you free?”  I don’t know what was going on during that period of Zach’s life, we did not speak very often, however, since he had a history of issues with alcohol, substance abuse and mental health struggles, it’s quite possible that he was bottoming out again. This was a year after he was sent to rehab and a couple of weeks after he was arrested for criminal trespass on May 12, 2018.

Andy Thomas p1

 

It’s apparent to me from text exchanges dating as far back as December 5, 2017, Urban and the other staff members were struggling to keep Zach on track for many months.  In one exchange, Urban is telling Mark Pantoni “just checking on Zach Smith. Make sure he is working” as if it was expected the other staff members would take no issue with babysitting a grown man.  In another exchange, Urban and Mark Pantoni are discussing Zach possibly lying about missing his flight.  Given his past behavior while on the road recruiting, it’s quite possible he either got drunk at a bar or got caught up with a female and missed his flight.

It’s leaves me in a state of immense confusion, when I think of all the times my ex-husband shirked his responsibilities and everyone on the staff at Ohio State just accepted it.  Do they have any understanding of how acting as a shield for Zach impacted the lives of me and my children?

pantoni 1

pantoni 2

 

The 8–10 months before he was arrested for criminal trespass were especially difficult for me and my children.  I had really started to rebuild my life by going to nursing school full-time and I also met an amazing partner and role model for my children, who is now my fiance, but Zach was not supportive of this, so he made life hell for us.  He contacted any man I ever dated and tried to end it as soon as he could, but with my new boyfriend it was different and he knew it. This lead my ex-husband to become extremely volatile and controlling. He was having difficulty watching me and my children forge a happier and healthier path for ourselves.  I now wonder if he was in fact dealing with substance abuse again.  Things had gotten so bad between us, I started recording his calls to me; you can listen to excerpts below:

 

Things finally reached a head on the day he was arrested for criminal trespass.  I had enough of his constant harassment of me, my fiance and his children, and his defiance of the Powell Police.  When his arrest ended up in the media, he and his attorney came out publicly and accused me of setting him up. This was 100% false and all the text messages between us were submitted to Powell Police as proof.  He was so defiant of the PPD that he thought nothing of calling them up and essentially taunting them.  His calls are below and I have also attached our text exchange from that day.  Below are a couple of pages from the police report where I tell the officer,  Zach had gotten really bad lately to the point that I had to block him from my phone.  Full access to the report is here Zach Smith Criminal Trespass Report.

 

Powell Police report

 

Text exchange from that day

criminal trespassing texts

Lastly, I wanted to include this hilarious image of a flowchart of emails between my ex-husband and a staff member that someone posted online.  It is perfect representation of what life is like dealing with someone like my ex-husband.

 

flowchart (3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nursing Life

I want to take a moment to steer away from all the dark things that have happened in my life and talk about the amazing, wonderful experiences I’m having now.  The first thing I wanted to write about is my journey through nursing school.  I’m currently enrolled in a wonderful nursing program and it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself thus far.  Nursing school has been my pathway to pursuing a future that I’m passionate about and has helped me create a successful, productive life as a single mom.

Love Notes_Redacted

 

When I decided to apply to nursing school back in 2016, I was a stay at home mom trying to finalize a divorce and my children were 4 and 6 years old. My ex-husband was so unstable that I knew I would have to find a stable, steady and flexible job to support me and my kids if his life continued to fall apart.  My monthly alimony from my divorce would continue until October of 2020, giving me a deadline to go through the application process, be accepted into a program, finish school, pass the NCLEX and find a full time nursing position.

I did some research and realized the importance of obtaining a 4 year bachelor’s degree in nursing compared to a 2 year associates degree.  I also needed to find a program that would allow me to go to school full time, yet continue my role as a mother and would help me avoid the cost of full time daycare. Once I found a program that best fit my needs, I had to make sure I met all the requirements in order to get accepted.  This included obtaining a passing score on the HESI A2 – an entrance exam for nursing schools that consists of a multiple choice test over 5 different subjects, such as math, chemistry, etc. and a personality assessment.

When I started the processs, it had been 9 years since I graduated from The University of Kentucky with a BS in Integrated Strategic Communications.  Right away, the first of many rounds of anxiety set in.  At the age of 30 and out of school and the workforce for 6 years, how would I remember anything about College Algebra or Chemistry?  How would I balance life with two young, very active children and studying time, with very few people around me that could help me manage it all?  I buckled down and bought a HESI exam study guide from Barnes & Noble and began to crank away.  Thankfully, I passed and was accepted into a great nursing program and that is how my journey in nursing school began.

A nursing degree is known to be one of the most difficult undergraduate degrees to obtain and no one can ever really prepare you for how hard it is to make it through a nursing program, especially as a single mom.  Not only is it hard on students, but it also impacts the lives of everyone around them.  I had to develop better time management skills and my kids and I had to adapt to a new routine.  My two children had become accustomed to me being home and available for them all the time.  Once I started school, they had to get used to hearing phrases like “I can’t, mommy has to study” and “I know this isn’t easy for you either, but I promise it will be worth it someday.”  My family quickly learned that I wouldn’t make it to every family event and they got used to my frequent calls asking for help with the kids when I needed to be in class or clinical.  I cannot thank them enough!  When the kids were with their father during his visitation, I would try to sneak in a rare girl’s night out to catch up on my friend’s lives, but my free time diminished drastically and dating wasn’t much of an option.  With so little free time, it’s amazing that I met my fiance!  Our story is pretty awesome and I can’t wait to share in another post 🙂

 

Dropping my daughter off on her first day of school and spending time with my son.

 

Nursing students have to juggle:

  • Overwhelming amount of content/lengthy reading assignments
  • Med calculus exams
  • Skills check off
  • Pharmacology
  • Care plans
  • Course exams and end of course proficiency exams that must be passed in order to move onto the next level nursing course
  • 12 hour clinical shifts/ clinical paperwork
  • Simulation labs
  • Learning how to master the dreaded select all that apply nursing school exams and multiple choice questions where all the answers are correct, but you have to select the most correct answer
  • Costs- Tuition/Books/scrubs/stethocscope etc. is expensive. Financial aid, money out of pocket, loans, DEBT!
  • Taking multiple classes at a time
  • Anything below a 76% is failing. The grading scale in nursing school is different and more intense.
  • Knowing that working in the healthcare field, people lives are at stake, so there is no room for error.
  • Keeping up with vaccines, Tb tests, health insurance, etc. to stay compliant

Added stressors as a single mom include:

  • Cost of a sitter for kids while in class or at a 12 hour clinical rotation
  • Fighting downtown traffic and a 30 minute commute, fretting about not being late to an exam and making it on time to get my kids off the bus.
  • Keeping up with my duties as a single parent- doctor/dental appointments, meal planning, laundry, cleaning, quality time with my kids, kid’s projects/homework, kid’s sports and activities, packing lunches, getting them ready for school each morning, etc.

 

IMG-1482 (1)

While in school, I had to develop study habits that worked for me, but were different from what I used while at UK.  Due to the overwhelming difficulty and amount of content I have to absorb, my extra large flashcards go with me everywhere!  To help me pass Organic Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology classes, I used Khan Academy on YouTube.  Currently, I spend a lot of time watching the YouTube channel, LevelUp RN, which I’ve found to be extremely helpful for passing my proficiency exams.  I finish papers and assignments after I put the kids to bed, then I wake up early around 5am to study before my kids are up for school. I’ve discovered that I retain information better if I study in the morning, as opposed to studying late at night.  Once you find study skills and a schedule that what works for you, stick with it.  Don’t try to change it up as life becomes chaotic and things around you start to change.  I tried changing up my study routine/habits at one point and my grades suffered, so I went back to what worked and what I started with.

Me after passing critical care!

Courtney nursing

 

One of the things I’ve touched on previously, is my hearing disability.  I am bilaterally deaf since the age of 5.  Non-congenital hearing loss during childhood isn’t very common and to this day, I don’t have answers as to why I developed hearing loss at that age.  Eventually, I’d like to dig into my background and medical records, but right now, I have more important matters to concern myself with.  As it relates to nursing school, before I started my nursing program, I felt very anxious about it.  I had enough worries on my plate and concerns about the effect my hearing loss would have on my studies and clinical shifts, were definitely contributing to the stress I felt back then.  In the past, my disability would have presented a greater obstacle for me. However, with advances in hearing assisted devices and stethoscope technology, I haven’t experienced any major issues, but it’s always something I have to be extra conscious of. Link: Stethoscope I use

Until you’re in a nursing program, there really is no way to accurately convey why nursing students have to study so much.  As I’m getting closer to graduation, I look back on all the times I felt overwhelmed and exhausted; there were so many days when I didn’t think I would make it this far.  These past few years, with all the insane personal stuff going on in my life, I’ve had quite a few setbacks.  I’m proud to say though, I’ve persevered through all of them and I’m more determined than I have ever been in my life to finish what I started.  Even as other people tear me down and refuse to recognize how hard I worked to get this far, I’m still filled with pride.  During one of the darkest times in my life, accomplishing smaller, meaningful goals in my nursing program, lifted my self-esteem and gave me a greater purpose.

 

Nursing_Redacted.jpg

I’ve had to deal with a lot of negative attention for my choice to come out publicly with my domestic abuse story.  Considering how hard I’ve worked these past few years, it boggles my mind when I hear what some people have to say about my work ethic and life choices.  Because I’ve been through so much already though, I’m usually able to push the negative aside.  I was so fearful when I first left my husband, I had no idea what the future had in store for me and my children.  Now, I’m so proud of all the obstacles I’ve overcome and everything I’ve accomplished, all while pushing my way through nursing school.

These are some of the issues I’ve had to face and some of the wonderful things that have happened to me these past few years:

-Finalizing an extremely contentious divorce.
-Living with constant harassment from my ex-husband.
-Losing financial support (alimony & child support) after my ex-husband lost his job.
-Obtaining a Civil Protection Order to protect myself from my ex-husband.
-Moved locally 3 times in 3 years
-Suffered from severe anxiety and multiple panic attacks, which landed me in the ER.
-Suffered a TIA (transient ischemic attack- a mini stroke). I have a family history of TIA’s but I was far too young and was told that it was caused by the stress of school and craziness going on around me.
-Continued to raise two amazing children that excel in their academics and sports (I taught them both how to swim & ride their bikes without training wheels…proud mom moments).
-Added a puppy to our family of 3….Charlie our adorable Goldendoodle
-Met the love of my life and my amazing two soon to be step children
-Still fighting an enduring, exhaustive 13 month custody battle (trials, attorney meetings, court hearings, etc.).
-Living through a smear campaign orchestrated by my ex husband, his family, his network and even my estranged mother. (link to post about estranged mother)
-Reconnected with my first non-bio father, who raised me the first half of my life, and his family.
-Best of all…got engaged to the love of my life!!!!

 

I’m also really grateful for the friendships I’ve made during my time in nursing school.  I grew up in Columbus and when I was a coach’s wife I was fortunate to be able to move back.  Because Columbus is my hometown, I already had family and a solid group of friends here.  When I finally divorced, the transition from coach’s wife to single mom to nursing student didn’t always go smoothly.  It was hard letting go of the relationships I built with other coaches wives.  Even though many of the friends I made in the coaching profession were supportive of me, we couldn’t really relate to each other anymore.  They were still immersed in the coaching world and I was off on my own.  My childhood and college friends were also very supportive, but were busy with their own families and jobs.  When I started my nursing program, I met other single moms who could relate to the struggles I was facing.  I started to forge a diverse group of friends and they were all pretty incredible to me during really difficult times.  I could lean on them for help and advice and they were always there to keep pushing me forward (you all know who you are…your support to this day has kept me going, THANK YOU). Since I’ve had a few setbacks in nursing school, some of my friends have graduated before me, but it’s been so great to hear and learn from them about life in the “real world.”

 

Friends helping me move and Celebrating our last day of Adult Health Clinical!

Today, I’ve completed 96% of my nursing program and I only have 3 nursing courses left to finish up my degree plan.  As I weave my way through this custody battle, I haven’t been able to write about some of the exciting things happening in my life. However, I can see the light at the end of this really dark tunnel and when I get to the other side, I hope I’m able to open up more about my personal life.

 

court smiling_Redacted

Thank you for reading and have a blessed day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dedicated to Kyle Lamb

Flying Monkeys and Narcissists explained

Today I’m dedicating this special section of this post to Kyle Lamb, Lt. Flying Monkey aka Johnny Neutral, not only because he dedicated about 30 minutes of his podcast to me (I’m honored), but also because as Kyle said on his podcast “I asked her to answer questions and she hasn’t answered them yet.”  In my opinion, Kyle is the perfect representation of the utter delusion, hypocrisy, passive-aggressiveness, misogyny and blind homerism that is emblematic of overly-invested football fans.  Yes Kyle, you are so special you get your own post, pat yourself on the back!  For those wondering, Kyle Lamb is the rosy-cheeked overlord of BuckeyeGrove.com, a Rivals.com website, and he also has a podcast called Unscripted Ohio.  I recently had a “feud” with this man on twitter, which he called “very public”…because once again he is that special; he then went on to talk about me and our feud on his Podcast.  Now, I can’t tag him on twitter again because Kyle, the non-misogynist, blocked me from his twitter for calling him out and then defending myself by standing up to him, so I’ll just respond here on my attention-seeking blog that Buckeye fans claim no one reads.

And before I go any further, Kyle, I don’t have a subscription to your website, but I have many friends who do and they like to send me screenshots of yours (and Nevadabuck’s) posts about me.  This might come as a surprise to you, but they also think you’re a smug, passive-aggressive, know-it-all.  If there is one valuable lesson I have learned from this experience, it’s – save, record, and document everything!

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Here we go and once again let me remind, Kyle, you asked for it:

To start with, our very public feud started on twitter when Kyle first accused Brenda Tracy of trying to be “judge and jury”  in a tweet which I posted above.  I took exception to his tweet because just 10 weeks earlier, after my ex-husband was arrested for violating my CPO, Kyle ran straight to his website and accused me of  “ambushing my ex-husband” and then on twitter of “manipulating a protection order.  He also previously defended my ex-husband on twitter for “raising his voice” the day he was arrested. Kyle then claimed he stands by what he says and it’s a fact that I ambushed him and manipulated my CPO, yet he wasn’t there when it happened, didn’t witness anything, hasn’t taken witness statements, hasn’t been to the trial and knows nothing of that day other than what little bit was reported in the media and likely what he was told by my ex-husband and his attorney.  Not sure how he can state something as a “fact” when he has no evidence to back it up.

 

Later during our very public feud on twitter, he went on to claim that he never talks about me or my ex-husband and is “neutral.”  I don’t know what Kyle’s experience with protection orders is, unless of course someone has one against him, and it’s obvious to me that he doesn’t understand what a fact is or the definition of neutral, but my ex-husband’s trial for the violation of my CPO is on August 6th. It is open to the public and he is welcome to attend, not as “judge and jury” obviously!

Side note – I’m going to give Kyle a crash course on CPOs and how they work. Here is a link to my non-mutual CPO (My Civil Protection Order).  So, Johnny Neutral, if my ex were to show up to a place unexpectedly and I was there, he would not be arrested unless he refused to leave, which he did refuse at the elementary school.  If I were to show up at any place, except for a school activity (pickup/drop off is not considered a school activity) and Zach was at that place, he would have to leave within a reasonable amount of time.  If he refused to leave he would be arrested.  Now you see Kyle, up until that point we have not had any issues with our path’s crossing and it triggering a CPO violation because I don’t spend my days following him around town trying to “manipulate” my protection order.

Moving on though – should Kyle decide to show up at his trial for whatever reason, he might come to learn that my ex-husband was in contempt of an invaluable order that was put into place for the safety of our children.  His issues are not just a matter of safety for my children, but a matter of public safety. The court order I’m referring to was put under seal to protect my ex-husband from embarrassment…he has a way of getting a lot of his stuff sealed. This is all well and good, however, it was because of this order that he was not allowed to see our children.

Because my ex-husband has a history of disregard for authority and bad case of raging entitlement, not getting our children on demand incensed him to the point that he thought he could violate both the sealed order and the order for parenting time by showing up to the school and grabbing our kids.  Kyle might also come to find out at the trial that my ex was also in violation of our current court-approved parenting plan and CPO, which requires all pick up and drop off to occur at the Powell Police station and that my ex-husband was not allowed to have our children until 6:45pm that day. However, he wouldn’t have gotten them anyway because he was still in violation of the sealed court order.

If Kyle stays a little longer at the trial, he might find out that on that day, I received a call from the Principal at the school notifying me that Zach contacted them and told them he was going to the school to pick up our children…in violation of the court orders.  Now, I’m assuming Kyle with his fancy schmancy education knows schools are required to comply with all court orders…this includes our parenting plan and CPO.  The school contacted me and asked me if I wanted to do parent pick up that day and I agreed to it.

When we arrived, my ex-husband in all his raging entitlement, demanded the school hand over our children, he berated the school staff and refused to leave, prompting both the principal and me to call the Delaware County Sheriff’s office and Powell Police. I guess Johnny Neutral takes no issue with “raising voices” at overworked school employees and in front of other children and their parents. I take issue with it though, school employees who don’t deserve to be treated like crap for doing their jobs take issue with it, parents of school children take issue with it – especially the ones who try to teach our children to respect teachers and school staff.

 

Enough of the trial talk, in Kyle’s Podcast he also claimed that I’m jealous of my ex-husband’s success with his podcast. Not sure what he defines as success, but if it’s enough to pay his back child support and medical insurance expenses, I’m more than happy to let him keep doing what he is doing.  What I take issue with, is that he launched his podcast under the premise of a “revenge tour” and on the backs of me and other people still in the coaching profession. He lured people into his podcast with his shock value and his first 4 to 5 episodes and in his Behind the Scenes series, he made sure to spend time trashing me, my family, my friends and other people in the coaching profession. I mean, he even announced my engagement before I had the chance to!  I suppose I should appreciate his fake support of my engagement. However, he’s been trashing me and my family this entire year while I stayed silent.

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Now, has my ex-husband been quiet for the last few weeks? Sure. Probably because he doesn’t want anyone to know about this blog, probably because he didn’t think I would ever find the courage to stand up to him again and probably because he didn’t think I would ever be brave enough to talk about the rest of the awful things he did. I mean why wouldn’t he think that, I put up with it for all those years, didn’t I?  However, I know my ex-husband well enough to know that it’s unlikely he will stay quiet for long or that his rages will end, because as Shelley Meyer once said “he has anger/rage issues” and as a Psych nurse she would know better than anyone, that people with his issues don’t recover without intervention, counseling, intensive therapy and possibly medication.

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Click link for Shelley Meyer Full Texts

Back to the Kyle’s podcast, he also claimed that 4 years ago I legally changed my last name from Smith to Carano, which is another falsehood Lt. Flying Monkey is peddling and here is a picture of my license to prove it Driver’s License Redacted.  I have no special affinity for the name Smith, other than my two children have the same last name and it’s common for single mothers to keep their married last name for the sake of the children. It is my legal name, it is easier to recognize me by that name and yes, it is easier for people to connect my story from last year with my blog by using my full legal and identifiable name, Courtney Carano Smith.  However, I currently use Courtney Leigh on my private Facebook account filled with all my friends who couldn’t care less what name I use.  Enough of me carrying on with the details, I’m sure Kyle will be thrilled (and happy for me) to know that I’m getting remarried soon and I will legally change my last name.

Moving forward – on Kyle’s podcast he went on to say that I’m writing my blog “for attention.”  Really Kyle?????? You think I want people to pay attention to the things I’m writing?  How in the world did you figure that out?  Must be that “fancy schmancy” education of yours!  I suppose in theory, it would be more useful to spend all my time writing a blog that I don’t want anyone to read or know about. Again I ask, where was all this talk of “attention-seeking” from Johnny Neutral when my ex-husband was going on twitter tirades, trashing people publicly and promoting his podcast every way possible? Oh yeah, here it is:

 

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Even though Kyle has said he “never talks about me,” on his website he also once discussed a video of me that my ex-husband posted on twitter months ago.  So, I’m going to take a second to discuss Kyle’s post and that video.  First, Flying Monkey – that video isn’t the “real” me and his brother’s account of me isn’t “accurate.” I think you should know, the night my ex-husband started recording my outburst at him, prior to that I caught him cheating on me once again. Instead of admitting to what he was doing, he took a golf club to my car, punched a wall and smashed a picture on the wall.  You can listen to my estranged mother, Tina, talk about that night.

Tina tells detective about the night Zach smashed my car with a golf club when I found him cheating on me:

You see, I used to catch him recording me in different situations, like when I would cry about our problems or when I would vent about his vices. Towards the end of our marriage, I figured out what he was doing hence the reason I said “stop taking false videos” and tried to snatch the phone out of his hand, to which he responded “OMG, she hit me”…very clever of him wouldn’t you say?  And yes, I will be addressing his recordings and videos in another post, because you see, he had a bizarre habit of setting people up and collecting blackmail on me and his “friends” and other people, one of which was an Ohio State player.  Now, I’m not educated in these things, but if this ever came our publicly, I think it could possibly trigger a Title VI and NCAA investigation, considering why it happened and what I found.  However, I really don’t want to talk about this, so I’ll just do my best to keep that little file tucked away…mmmkay?

How do I know all this? Because I am the one that found it all in his google and hard drive the night I left him for good. I suppose someone who was getting involved in the stuff he was involved in would need all that blackmail to keep people quiet. And yeah it would suck for people if he started leaking his “blackmail,” but then at least people will finally know what his idea of friendship is, people will finally know what kind of man they’re dealing with – the kind of man who has no boundaries, no loyalty and no conscience. Oh, and should he decide to leak his blackmail…turnabout is always fair play, right?

 

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Is it just me or does it seem that Kyle delights in the idea of my ex-husband “exposing” people or getting “people’s jobs in jeopardy,” as if that will somehow make Kyle more right about him?  That is exactly the kind of delusion that would make a narcissist like my ex-husband believe that  “all his skeletons” have been exposed.  Delusions that make him overlook the fact that I found dozens of his files (hundreds of pictures, recordings, emails and text messages) and that I took a lot of time and effort investigating his disturbing hobbies.  So to this I say, wanna bet????

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Kyle and his sidekicks then went on to take another jab at me and my education on twitter and on his podcast by claiming that I have a ghostwriter for my blog; as if my BS from the University of Kentucky in Integrated Strategic Communications and my second BS in nursing from Chamberlain isn’t  “fancy schmancy” enough to qualify me to author a blog. I suppose I should be flattered that he thinks my writing is so good I have a ghostwriter, but Kyle, please look up what a degree in Integrated Strategic Communications  is and understand I have been journaling and writing about my experience with domestic abuse for years now and this blog is the first public reveal of my journals.  Let me repeat this for all the people with non-fancy schmancy educations that have trouble with comprehension –  this is my blog and these are my writings.  Then on his podcast, Kyle and his sidekicks also hint that my ghostwriter might be a “notable” friend and then in a way that would put the Riddler to shame, they hint that my notable friend is associated with “Hookem.”

So, I took my dunce cap off and sat at my computer with my non-fancy schmancy education and racked my brains over and over trying to figure out who he is referring to.  Finally, it dawned on me that he must be referring to my good friend, Michelle Herman.  Now to connect the dots for all you people with non-fancy schmancy educations, Michelle Herman is the wife of University of Texas head coach, Tom Herman, and the motto for the Texas Longhorns is Hookem…get it??? I guess we should all believe that Michelle’s Accounting/Finance degree is somehow more fancy schmancy than my own and makes her way more qualified to author a blog.  Feel free to chime in here anytime you want though Michelle, mi casa es su casa!  By the way, I then used my newly acquired super-sleuth skills to also deduce that the go-to diversion tactic for my ex-husband and the Ohio State crowd is – when all else fails, blame the Hermans.

Kyle also mocked my belief that the Powell PD wanted the investigation files suppressed. Again, I plan on addressing that in another post and anyone who is interested in hearing my thoughts on it will just have to wait until then.  Whether or not Kyle is my ex-husband’s mouthpiece, is supportive of him and is “neutral,” I’ll let everyone else be the judge and jury on that.  However, Kyle, let’s you and I end the charade of you not having a direct line to my ex-husband, his family and probably his attorney. I know my education probably isn’t up to your standard of fancy schmancy, but I think we’re both smarter than this.

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Thanks and have blessed day!

My Mother, My Enemy

I’d like to dedicate this post to Jeff Snook, President of the Zach Smith Apologist Club, Leader of the Flying Monkeys, Indomitable Mouthpiece for the Smith/Bruce Family and Author of some book about Earle Bruce that most people have never heard of. (Flying Monkeys and Narcissists explained)

 

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This was a Facebook post that my estranged mother, Tina Clay Carano, posted to her Facebook account in December 2015, after I filed official divorce papers. From this point forward, I will refer to her simply as “Tina” because she is unworthy of the sacred and beautiful designation, mother. As I have said in previous posts, during the 2015 domestic violence investigation, both my parents defended me and were aware of the abuse Zach inflicted upon me. In the investigation conducted by the Powell Police Department, both my father and Tina interviewed with the Powell PD on my behalf. Tina detailed what she witnessed during my marriage and she also turned over her iPad and phone to the police so they could download and authenticate the text messages between her and Zach. Text messages where she admitted to seeing bruises on me and confronted Zach about it (Link: Tina and Zach texts). Her text messages were used by Brett McMurphy in his story; however, her interview was not available at the time of my interview because the Powell PD attempted to suppress all the investigation files and no one had access to any interviews at that time. (Columbus Dispatch Lawsuit)

I have cutup the audio for easy listening, here are short excerpts from her interview, you can listen to the full 30 minute interview here (Tina Carano Recordings) The Powell PD has redacted mine and Zach’s names.

Tina talks about how Zach would degrade me in front of other people:

“Let’s talk about the neck” Tina and detective discuss seeing marks on me from Zach:

Tina tells detective that Zach would admit the abuse to her and apologize:

Tina tells detective Zach would admit to abuse in text messages and offers her phone to the detective:

Tina tells detective about the night Zach smashed my car with a golf club when I found him cheating on me:

Tina tells detective she fears Zach will take a gun to me. Detective talks about his concern Zach will do something to me:

Tina loans Zach money so he can get help, but he lies to her:

Tina discusses my children witnessing Zach’s abusive behavior:

 

In May of 2018, she changed her story after a major falling out between us. In a tactic used by many Narcissists – they will recruit people to help them in their abuse and these people are called “flying monkeys” or “apaths” (about flying monkeys).  Zach used this tactic on Tina and got her to not only change her story, but to also do an interview with Jeff Snook, a man who is close friends with the Smith/Bruce Family and is also their media mouthpiece. Her interview has become the rallying cry of the Zach Smith Apologists Club.  I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard/read “even her own mother doesn’t believe her” as if an estranged parent turning against their own flesh and blood is totally implausible. Below are the interviews that Tina and Zach’s mother Lynn Bruce, did in August 2018 when I first went public with my story.

Tina Carano Says Zach Smith hit Courtney in Self Defense

Zach Smith’s Mom Says Courtney Wanted to Take Urban Down.

Zach’s Mother and Tina Carano interview

I admit that I was very shocked that Tina went as far as she did and that I’m still hurt that she could go so far, but for years we had ongoing issues that were simmering just below the surface.  During those years, not only had she started spending less and less time with me and my sister, she was becoming extremely volatile to the point that she was arrested in June 2016 for stalking and harassing her then boyfriend. I have posted the full report of her arrest below.  In the report filed by her ex-boyfriend, he discusses all their issues and also included the dozens of emails sent by Tina.  In those emails, there are references to me and my sister, but more importantly there are references to Zach and his problems.  Keep in mind, these emails were written by the same women who accused me of being a drunk, a liar and being abusive. You can read the full report here: Tina Carano Full Stalking_Domestic Violence Report

Timeline submitted by Tina’s ex-boyfriend to Naples Police where he discusses her stalking, harassment and issues she had with me and my sister. (click images for larger view)

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Emails where she references Zach’s many issues, p. 80 and 172 of police report.

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On a side note – I am also posting Zach’s mother’s (Lynn Bruce) arrest record, both these women, Lynn and Tina, have publicly accused me of being a drunk, violent and unstable, without a shred of evidence to back it up. In the report, you can see that she was arrested at football game for drunk and disorderly conduct and assault.  She struck an usher then told an officer “You can’t do this to me.  Do you know who I am?  My dad is Earle Bruce and my son is a coach” Entitled much? You can read the full arrest report here Lynn Bruce Full Assault Report

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Background

Before I get into all the details of why Tina changed her story 3 years after the investigation, you first have to understand her background. Before I go any further, believe me, the whole Jerry Springer feel to all this has not escaped me. It’s tragic, embarrassing and disgusting, but it is what it is and I cannot change it. All I can do now is tell the truth about it and hope that if other women see themselves in my story, they take action to change their circumstances. (Advice – Why it’s ok to cut toxic family out of your life)

To say that my relationship with Tina is complicated is an understatement. Growing up, I have been through so many ups and downs with her that I can honestly say, I am relieved to be off the TinaCoaster, even if it had to happen as it did.  She was an abusive mother, who was unstable and unpredictable and would often hit me and my sister with objects like brushes, hair dryers, TV remotes and even her own fists. She would call us names like moron, crazy, little bitches, ugly, disgraces, ridiculous, stupid, and worst of all “mistakes.” At the age of 15, she once she pulled over and parked her car so she could turn towards me in the backseat and punch me repeatedly with closed fists.  Her reason for why she hit me – because “I was talking back to her.”  Many mornings, Tina would wait in the kitchen for me to come downstairs as I would be on my way to school. If the outfit I was wearing wasn’t one of her choices or if my hair wasn’t styled the way she wanted it, she would send me back upstairs to fix it according to her standards. It was exhausting, took it’s toll on my self-esteem and from a very a young age I was filled with anxiety that persists to this day, but guess what?  I still loved her because she was my mother, the only mother I had.

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In high school, I was cheer captain, on the national honor society, made homecoming court, had many friends and I graduated with honors…it was never enough. I went to college at The University of Kentucky and there I was accepted by my first choice sorority, made many friends and graduated with a 3.7 GPA and a degree in Interpersonal Communications; I then landed an incredible sales job after graduation. Looking back, I had everything going for me in order to be successful on my own. Yet, Tina felt it was best for me to marry young because she was concerned my disability (bilaterally deaf) would leave me vulnerable and I would need a husband to watch over me.  I was 23 years old when my now ex-husband proposed to me and although I believe I loved him then, I felt immense pressure to marry very young.

I now realize that she is one of the reasons I stayed with Zach and tolerated the abuse for so long.  Having an abusive and unstable mother, I was conditioned to that kind of treatment, it’s all I ever knew. She also constantly gave me mixed messages about my marriage to Zach.  First she would tell me to leave him and not put up with the abuse and then alternately tell me I should stay with Zach and get him help ‘for my kids sake’ and to keep our family together. Read more about how child abuse can lead to victims being in future abusive relationships – Trauma Survivors Risk Future Abusive Relationships.

Going further into our background, from infancy and for the first 10 years of my life, I was not raised by Tina. I was raised by a man I believed was my biological father, her first husband Richard. Tina gave birth to me at 20 years old and was in and out of my life.  She was young, uneducated, immature, unstable, abusive and spent most of her days partying and sleeping around. She lied to Richard and convinced him that he was my biological father. He accepted me with no questions asked. He also dropped out of school, Muskingum College, where he played football and wrestled, to raise me and re-enrolled at Franklin University School of Business.  Richard had full custody of me and raised me while working his way through school, eventually graduating with a business degree.  He worked full time as a single dad and gave me the best life he possibly could in spite of the circumstances.

 

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When I turned 7 years old, Tina married a man name Lyndon, who I don’t remember very much about, the reason being – she married Lyndon so he could get a visa to the United States.  They divorced 2 years later. As you can see, Tina wasn’t known for making the best decisions in life, especially as a mother.

It wasn’t until I was 10 years old when I underwent a paternity test, that it was discovered Richard was not my biological father. Tina finally wanted custody of me and started filling my head with lies about Richard and his new wife.  I was confused, angry, and feeling lost.  I was very young and impressionable and I bought into everything Tina told me. There was so much drama during that time in my life, that I regretfully took my anger and hurt out on Richard and my step mom. At 12 years old, I decided that I no longer wanted to live with Richard and eventually I stopped communicating with him altogether.

Although, Tina hadn’t been much of a mother the first 10 years of my life, she seemed like she finally had her shit together.  Like most young girls on the cusp of becoming a teenager, I desperately wanted a mother figure in my life.  I chose to move in with her and my new stepdad Michael, the man who would later adopt me.  Tina now had a new husband, a stable home and a few years later gave birth to a baby girl, my sweet sister.  For the most part, even with all the drama and confusion, I was happy and thriving, which I credit to developing an extremely close bond with my adoptive father. He set a great example for me and my sister by always putting us first.  In every way possible, he took care of all of us and even paid for my college education at the University of Kentucky. I also credit my father for helping Tina get her life together and pushing her to be a present mother during my middle and high school years.

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Life was good for a little while, Tina being Tina though, she continued being abusive mentally and physically to me and my sister and she started once again living a life that wasn’t conducive to a family.  To be fair to my father, he did intervene in situations where Tina was being abusive, however, he is a very soft-spoken and gentle man who is totally over-powered by Tina’s domineering personality.  He is the “peace-keeper” type and I appreciate that about him, he deserves credit for balancing the very strong women in his life.  When I turned 23 years old, her marriage started to fall apart and my parents ended up officially divorced by the time I turned 29. Being the honorable, kind and wonderful man he is, my dad stuck by both his daughters and continued his role as our father. My mother, however, returned to her old ways and gave up custody of my teenage sister and moved to Florida leaving me and my dad to raise her. Throughout that time, we did our best to maintain a relationship with Tina. She kept a condo in Powell and would visit from Florida, mostly during the football season as she was a huge Buckeye fan. She took immense pride in her daughter being married to an Ohio State football coach and enjoyed all the perks that went with it…she really loved those perks!

 

After the divorce and during the investigation, Tina was by my side defending me all the way, but Zach being the emotional vampire that he is, saw the weaknesses in her and started forging a relationship with her, much of which took place behind my back. He continued to give her perks such as football tickets, concert tickets, sideline passes, and would visit her in Florida without my knowledge. Because Zach was so jealous of my new boyfriend, he preyed on her ignorance and began feeding her false information about my boyfriend (now fiance).  When I discovered what was going on, I was irate, disgusted and felt completely betrayed. Knowing everything he had done to me and knowing the conflict and havoc he was still creating in my life, yet still choosing to take anything and everything she could from him, was more than I could handle.

I couldn’t believe that she would continue to have a relationship with a man that was so abusive to me and would also frequently insult her, my father and even my teenage sister. She would also receive information from people in the community about Zach’s disturbing behavior, yet it still wasn’t enough to keep her away from him. This all coincided with Zach’s arrest for Criminal Trespass in May 2018.  During that time, I felt under attack from all sides and it was obvious to me that Zach, facing an arrest, was desperate for allies and he found an easy one in Tina.  Why after having left that toxic and abusive man 3 years earlier was he still so enmeshed in my life?  I finally drew a line in the sand and told her that I would not tolerate her continued relationship with him.  Our fallout wasn’t pretty, we both said hurtful things to each other and as everyone knows, the end result was she chose Zach over me and my teenage sister.

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Where we are now

I don’t believe there exists a family in this world that is without it’s dysfunction.  However, when dysfunction develops into abuse, it’s ok to end relationships for the purpose of self preservation, even with family members, even with parents.  No one should ever have to live with abuse regardless of genetics.  The two most influential people in my life, my first non-bio father, Richard and my adoptive father, Michael have been my world during different phases in my life.  They are the ones that have shown me that a person, a man, even with all his faults can grow and be enough.  I can’t say that Tina hasn’t done some good things for me in my life, but the good does not outweigh all the bad and it isn’t enough to look back and hold on to that relationship.

To this very day, I do not know who my biological father is, but fortunately after 21 years, I have reconnected with Richard, my step mom and their now grown children. This re-connection has answered many life long questions, filled a void within me and has made me realize just how much damage one person can do to an entire family.  I realize Richard was not a perfect man, but I do believe he did the best he could and I never should have allowed myself to be manipulated by Tina to the point of cutting off contact with him.

I haven’t spoken to Tina in over a year and I never will again.  My younger sister has no relationship with her either, it’s unlikely they will ever speak again either.  My sister’s thought’s are “if she’ll do it to you, she’ll do it to me.” She wasn’t invited to my sister’s high school graduation, she won’t be welcome at my upcoming wedding, if my sister eventually gets married, she won’t be welcome there either and if she ever has children, she won’t be in their lives as well. I still struggle to understand what possessed her to do what she did, even with all her faults, it’s hard to imagine a mother doing that to her children.  I often wonder if she has the mental capacity to understand what she has done to me, my sister, and my father.  I have no idea how Zach got her to change her story and I don’t know if other people were involved in it or if she received payment for it, but I have my suspicions.  Whatever she got out of it, I hope it was worth it and will carry her until the end of her life.

Best wishes to you, Tina!

 

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Lessons Learned

As cliche as it sounds, hindsight truly is 20/20.  I could spend a good part of everyday  imparting wisdom on other victims of domestic abuse, but for now I’d like to write about some of the lessons I learned from my experience and my advice to other victims.

Never let your spouse control your finances: Financial abuse is another form of domestic abuse (about financial abuse) I was never great managing money and I allowed Zach to completely control our finances.  I take full responsibility for my own ignorance and my mistake. I trusted him and during our marriage never thought he would take money from our family and throw it away on his affairs and deviant behavior.  It wasn’t until 6 years into our marriage when we were trying to build a house that I wised up and started looking into our finances. I was stunned!  He had thrown away thousands on strip clubs and on other women to the point that he had squandered our down payment on a new home. If you are one of those women who brushes off the financial responsibility deeming it too much trouble, you’re too busy or because you feel you’re not great with money, please take the time to educate yourself!  You will need these skills at some point in your life and there is no time better than the present.  There are so many resources on the internet that can teach you to manage money and budgets.

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Run your credit: Everyone should run their credit anyway, but it is essential for women living with domestic abuse to know where they stand financially. link to free credit reports As I’ve already explained, financial abuse in these situations is very common and there are many ways an abuser can hide money and ruin your credit. Run a credit report on both you and your spouse.   I did not learn until after 6 years that Zach was running up two credit cards in my name, missed car payments past 30 days and opened bank accounts I knew nothing about.  He destroyed my credit and he attempted to ruin my father’s credit. He did this by borrowing one of his credit cards to use during recruiting and was supposed to reimburse the card once he received reimbursements from the university.  Instead, he ran the card up to $14,000 by making minimum payments and taking the reimbursement money to spend on himself.  He made sure all bills were emailed to him and that all bill payments were done online. Always make sure you have access to all credit card statements and online bill payment passwords.

Do your research: The internet is filled with resources to educate yourself on the different types of abuse and the various personality disorders associated with abusive partners.  My ex husband would often claimed he was a sex addict, a drug addict and suffered from “chemical imbalances” and he would use these labels to excuse himself from any responsibility for his behavior.  He made promises of marriage counseling, therapy and addiction treatment. He was extremely manipulative and would appeal to my empathetic side by making statements such as “a good wife doesn’t give up on her husband just because he has addictions.” Looking back, I wish I would have done more research on his narcissistic behavior and my empath traits. Narcissist thrive on empaths because they know we truly want to believe the best in everyone and we want to do everything we can to help. (more on narcissists and empaths).

Zach Sickness Texts


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Powell PD investigation file #52

Keep a hidden cell phone, car key and stash of money: Abusers will always try to find ways to isolate their victims and being exposed is the last thing an abusive person wants to happen.  They will manipulate everyone around them and try to drive wedges between you and family members or anyone who can offer assistance. When things would get really volatile and I would threaten to leave or call the police, my ex would often take my cell phone, iPad and my car keys with him to work or wherever he was staying for the night leaving me trapped at home and unable to contact anyone. He also insisted on managing all of our finances and was very controlling with money. While he was throwing away money on himself, I would have to report all of my expenditures to him. (more on isolating victims)

Do not leave the workforce: Not working or having your own financial security creates an imbalance of power in a marriage.  Too often women sacrifice their own careers for the benefit of their families.  In an abusive situation, this sacrifice is too great. The first time I filed for divorce was actually in May of 2014.  I found a temp job with a large company in Columbus as part of my plan to finally leave my ex husband. Once again though, my ex said he would get counseling, he was profusely apologetic and told me things would be different “this time.” The temp job didn’t turn into a full time position and I opted not to keep looking for another job. He never stuck to his promise to get counseling and I regret not pursuing a full-time job. Being employed full-time would have helped me to stand on my own and save my own money.

Trust your instincts: There were so many times I questioned my own instincts and would believe whatever my ex husband told me even when it didn’t make sense. There were always red flags that I overlooked and my ex was a habitual liar. He would quickly come up with a million excuses and I would believe him not because it made any sense, but because I was scared of the truth.

See a therapist, counselor or any other mental health provider: The emotional and mental toll that domestic abuse and a toxic marriage takes on a person is often difficult to overcome and the effects can haunt you for years. There is no shame in caring for your mental health and if you suffer or have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, please seek proper care and follow your providers instructions to a tee.  As for me, I have been falsely accused by my ex husband’s family and his “followers” of being mentally unstable, crazy and even Bi-polar all of this without a shred of evidence to support these claims. These accusations have come from a man who went to rehab, suffered from depression to the point of being suicidal, and has been diagnosed with some very disturbing issues, which at this time, I am not legally allowed to discuss. The sole purpose of these accusations are to damage my reputation and credibility, further making my life difficult and stigmatizing people who have real issues with mental health.  This is a common tactic used by abusers and goes hand in hand with gaslighting. (more about gaslighting )

Aside from anxiety and PTSD brought on from years of walking on eggshells, trauma and abuse, I have never been diagnosed with any other mental health disorder. In spite of living a nightmare for many years, I have never had any drug or alcohol addictions. Again there is no shame in living with these conditions, but I’m being unfairly accused by Zach’s “network” of having issues that I have never had to deal with (see images below).  I have no DUIs and have never been pulled over for suspicion of driving drunk.  I have also never shown up anywhere “drunk and threatening people” and I did not call 911 66 times, there would be a public record of this if it were true. I’m still stunned at the lengths that people went through to discredit me and that prominent fan sites would perpetuate these false accusations without investigating their veracity.  Considering the circumstances I’ve had to deal with while trying to push myself through nursing school as a single mom, I’ve learned to be mentally strong in ways I never imagined possible. I’m not ashamed to admit that I lean on therapy, self-help books and Ted Talks as I continue to push forward. Find what works for you and stick with it!

There is not a shred of truth to the accusations below, but these are excellent examples of victim-blaming and slander being passed on by Zach’s network. These false accusations have been shared across multiple platforms:

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Separate yourself completely: Even before you make the brave decision to leave an abusive situation, you should open up your own bank accounts and credit cards. Once you leave, you should sign your own leases and do not rely on your ex for any assistance other than what is awarded by the courts. If you do not have the credit to sign a lease on your own please find another family member or friend to co-sign instead of your soon to be ex spouse! The shame and embarrassment felt having to ask friends or family members for help is very real for victims, but it’s crucial to protect yourself and your children.  My ex husband co-signed my first lease when I moved out. I thought at the time it was nothing more than a rare, but kind gesture and of course I was wrong. He held it over my head and abused his privilege being around my condo.

Garnish his wages for child support:  Do this without any hesitation!  Contact an attorney and the child support enforcement agency to start the process of having child support garnished directly from your ex’s wages. My ex’s wages were not garnished right away with our temporary child support orders and it took many months to have this done.  Prior to being garnished, I had to rely on my ex to pay my monthly child support and alimony.  It should surprise no one that he would often delay or skip payments and would sometimes adjust his payments as he saw fit. My ex husband lost the ability to control me with his money once his wages were garnished. However, once he was fired from his job, the child support enforcement agency could not directly garnish his wages, even though he had/has savings and earns money from his various business ventures and investments. He has not paid child support in almost one year.  He is manipulating and exploiting a very slow moving family court system and governmental agency.

Work with a domestic violence advocate – An advocate is a huge asset to any person dealing with domestic violence. An advocate can provide you with resources such as counseling services and legal advice. (Ohio Domestic Violence Network) Instead, I relied on the detectives to advise me of my rights as well as an advocate that worked for the county prosecutor.  It’s crucial to find another advocate even if one has been appointed to you through a county prosecutor. This is nothing personal towards them but it allows you to get proper resources and legal advice outside of a potential biased courtroom and assist in the enforcement of CPO’s.  I failed to reach out to an advocate that worked specifically for a domestic violence organization until it was too late and the statute of limitations had expired in order to charge my ex husband with a misdemeanor.  Initially, he was investigated for felony domestic violence and the prosecutor did not believe they had enough evidence to charge him with a felony.  However, the Powell Police could have charged him with a misdemeanor instead or at least given me the opportunity to do so.  For whatever reason, they failed to do this and never advised me of this option. (Why wasn’t Zach Smith Charged)

Hire your own criminal attorney: If you have the financial resources to hire your own attorney, their advice is invaluable.  If you cannot afford one, it’s worth trying to qualify for free legal services available to victims of domestic violence (link to legal aid resources).  At the very least, talk to an advocate.  Not hiring a criminal attorney for myself during the 2015 domestic violence investigation is one of my biggest regrets. An attorney could have advised me of my victim’s rights and helped me navigate the investigation.  An attorney could have ensured that the investigation was being conducted properly.  The investigation was kept open for 3 years and as long as an investigation remains open, the evidence, files and any documents related to the investigation are not available to the public.  This is how the investigation was kept out of the media for so long.  I was not aware of this tactic and I tried to obtain the files, but for 3 years I could only access a few of the investigation records.  The Powell PD attempted to suppress the investigation to point that the Columbus Dispatch had to sue in order to get access to the files.   There were politics involved and too many people interfering in the investigation. I was naive, unprepared, and put my trust in the wrong hands. (Columbus Dispatch Lawsuit)

Fight the sealing of divorce records:  Public figures and people in positions of power will often attempt to have divorce records sealed in order to prevent potential embarrassment. This is not something that happens often and once the records are sealed it gives the potential abuser or the non-injured party in the divorce leverage. Many people have claimed that I requested to have our divorce documents that described the abuse I suffered sealed. This is completely false; I tried to fight the sealing of our records.  The records were sealed “ex parte” and without my permission. I was also not given a chance to appeal the motion that was filed by my ex husbands attorney and granted by the judge in our case.  My ex’s reason for wanting the divorce sealed was that he knew the records in the divorce filing were enough to cause him to lose his job. (Eleven Warriors Article – sealing records)

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