Today my youngest is home from school. I could send her, over the weekend she had a cheeseburger, fries, and a smoothie which we believe is to blame for her not feeling well, and maybe I'm one of those pushover parents, but she's conscientious and I'm reluctant to send a child with tummy trouble to school. Maybe it's just because I rarely got to stay home from school. For me school was a double edged sword. A lot of the time I liked it, but at school I was reminded of how my clothes was different, and that my lunch didn't have the cool wrapped treats that my friends ate so casually as we sat at our tables.

With the recent child and spousal abuse scandals in the NFL I've been seeing more talk about it on Twitter. It's encouraging to me to see so many people speaking out against it, I don't know enough about the politics of the NFL to call for anyone's head, but a lot of people have come out with their stories, and it helps to read what Robin Givens wrote about being in an abusive relationship. She lends perspective because you do feel like the person might change despite repeated evidence to the contrary and you want to believe that you didn't make a horrific mistake just because you're on the receiving end of a fist or flying object.

When I woke up I intended to write about a job I used to have. Although she gave me the job, there was something I didn't trust about our district manager. She wore too much makeup and her eyes were beady behind layers of powder that didn't quite disguise the quality of her skin. But I wanted out of where I was at so I accepted the part time position since the manager was a friend of mine who said she would make me her assistant as soon as she got rid of the guy who was currently in the position. That went the way we had planned, and little else did after I was promoted which meant a pay raise that I haven't collected yet since the company filed for bankruptcy and supposedly my increase in pay was lost in the shuffle.

I did eventually get paid more, but I knew I was owed back pay and that rankled. They sent my expense check out to another woman named Jessica Jensen. My manager fought for me and I got that money, not knowing at the time that the check in my hand was the last expense check I would ever see. But I was making more money and I would get health insurance, but not for six months after the date of my promotion which was another piece of information that they hadn't shared with me at the time I was hired. I liked my friend, but I soon found out what working for her was like. She was there for a lot of hours, but she knew what she had to do and what she could get away with not doing.

I've always had a strong sense of justice, if you tell me you're going to do something, then by God I need that to happen. Life isn't fair, I get that, but I can't stand it when I feel like people are jerking the rug out from beneath my feet. Working at a shoe store can be great, it can also be exhausting, demanding, and frustrating. Before I was hired I had purchased a pair of shoes since my feet were hurting from standing on tiled floors at the mall for an eight hour day. No one measured me, people asked what size I was, and when they brought that size out it seemed small so I got the next size up.

Soon I developed sore red spots on my feet. My sister asked if the shoes had done that and I went on a tirade about how great these particular shoes were because I couldn't admit to myself that I had been duped, if in fact I had been. Months later I learned that the shoes I had were two sizes too big for me and miraculously the sore puffy red spots on my feet went away after I quit wearing them. Inside I was raging over the pain, the lost money that I could ill afford to be throwing away on footwear that didn't fit, and something deeper than that was at the root of my despair. The fact that no one had given a damn about me and my feet which have bothered me for as long as I can remember.

When I was about ten I got my first pair of orthotics. I can't remember what the podiatrist said or why my parents took me in the first place, but I was grateful for him since my feet felt better despite me wearing shoes that didn't fit. Today I know that part of the reason my feet are the way that they are can be traced back to people not understanding how to buy shoes for feet like mine. I'm sure this is why I'm so passionate about footwear today, because I know what it's like to not have much money, to feel as if you're investing hard earned money into footwear and to have store employees sell you something that ends up doing more harm than good.

I had a chance to clean one evening when I was alone in the store that people told me produced more in sales than the first store I was at. Moving there was a terrible experience and then I saw how despite my friend's laziness, she had offered me a certain degree of protection from people like the women that I worked with in the new store. After a few days my manager called me in back to ask me what was wrong. I told him nothing, but he persisted so I reluctantly shared the fact that I felt like other people didn't like me. I worked so hard to do what I could to keep a decrepit store tidy and I didn't understand why people hated me.

When I was at work, people were not nice so I focused on my job and sales and was rewarded to see my numbers soar. That helped the store and my boss, but it made the women I worked with even angrier with me. They were used to being lazy and getting by with the minimum. Now I can see that the manager didn't know how to boost morale or talk to people in an assertive manner about what needed to be done. I really can't believe I survived that period of time. This is when I was going wheat free so I had a head to toe rash that was very small, but burned and itched ferociously.

I had lost dramatic amounts of weight without really knowing why, it wasn't a good feeling though. Probably the worst part of having gone through that period of time is not remembering what was going on at home. I have bits and pieces of memories, but when I think back to how I would come home and either melt down or fall asleep, I'm ashamed that I wasn't a better mother. Over the weekend I apologized to each of the girls. I told them that I was sorry I hadn't been a better parent, and asked if they could forgive me. I didn't go into specifics, and I don't know if my oldest was patronizing me or telling me what I wanted to hear, but I told her that she didn't have to tell me she loved me if she didn't feel like it.

As things at work continued to deteriorate I went through each day in a weird auto pilot daze. I showed up, I did my job, I went home, and fretted about the money that didn't seem to be making a dent in our bills. I think I called in sick although I may have gone in and come back home, it doesn't matter now. At Urgent Care a doctor told me he had no idea why I was in so much pain. He pressed on my abdomen and I almost screamed when he asked if it was tender. I went back home with nothing more than his advice to come back in if the pain didn't resolve. I also got an X-ray on my ankle that came back negative.

The next time I went in I met a woman who was a much better doctor from my point of view. She went through some questions, ordered some lab work and was much gentler when she palpated my abdomen. She told me I needed more carbs in my diet and advised homemade chicken soup with rice. She wanted to do more, and I wasn't sure why she didn't, but I was shipped off to a primary care physician who ran more tests and gave me a prescription for something, I think allergy medicine, but it could have been something else. Finally I was getting somewhere.

My boss at work quit and a new woman came to take his place. She didn't know anything about shoes or how to sell them so we were supposed to train her, however we quickly learned that she wasn't interested in hearing what we had to share. She threatened to slap a coworker of mine and I could hardly believe that this was happening the first week she was there. There was a pair of sandals in the back that she wanted her niece to try on, I was in the front so I tried to offer my two cents. Later on she sat me down and gave me a lecture on interfering with another person's sale.

I think this is a case where both parties were wrong. She didn't know how to fit footwear, and I didn't know that the manager shouldn't be discredited on the sales floor. She left her keys in the lock one evening and my coworker had a plan to get back at her, but I was afraid of karma or being blamed for the missing keys so I called her up and met her at a McDonald's off the highway to drop them off for her. She seemed to open up that evening so I told her to watch her back and not believe things she had been told by former management members thinking that would help her, and me.

I had asked for the Fourth of July weekend off and didn't get it so I drove back up from the nodermeet in Chicago where two of the four customers I greeted were my mom and my sister. It was pointless to be at the mall and I was angry that my time off had been cut short. Anger and resentment grew within me, I felt like shit. I had kids at home that I was worried about. I needed money. They were holding me back. The store that was promised had been given to other women with worse sales numbers than me. They wanted me to go back to the store I had been at and I said no.

My manager pulled me aside and said that he didn't think he had ever heard our district manager so angry. I refused to go back to that store which was further away from home and less money in sales so I was given an ultimatum; return to the first store or hand in your two weeks notice. I refused and I was so proud of myself for standing up to the tyranny that I had endured for what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was about nine months. I told them they would have to fire me and I stood my ground when they changed tactics and tried to tell me that I had been hand picked to the assistant at that store.

In my mind I knew why I had been chosen. I worked hard and did shit no one else wanted to do. Every week we got yelled at for not making our sales goals. Our branch supposedly won a pizza party. We never saw that or the bonuses we had been promised or any of the money that our manager received to treat us to something special after we won a contest for selling a certain number of Ecco shoes. You wouldn't believe how shoe stores treat their customers and their employees at that chain and the sad part of this is that this place is still in business today. Before I quit the new manager sat down with me and a list of grievances.

I had never signed the paper that she showed me and there was a wound deep inside of me when I saw my name that wasn't my signature. I had come in special for that meeting and I sat there listening to her tell me that I was insubordinate, and a whole slew of other things. I burned with righteous anger that day, but I didn't know how to stand up for myself in front of the woman who had threatened to slap me in the back room. I should have gone to an attorney and asked what constituted a hostile work environment, but like women in an abusive relationship, you don't know your own power.

I went to Chicago again. That weekend will always be with me and the kindnesses I was showed were many. When I had been cleaning I had found a gift card with money on it. I took that card and bought my friend a pair of shoes. I bought myself some too. I never should have taken that card. I should have left that tainted money lay there, but I thought about the back pay I was owed, the promotions I wasn't a part of, the bonuses that the stores supposed got routinely that were never on my paycheck and the expense reports from the times I had driven to Madison and Bolingbrook and a part of me doesn't regret using that money to treat myself and a friend.

After I left a member of the loss prevention department called me. I shouldn't have called him back, but I did. I was afraid. I thought that if I came clean about what I had taken that things would be made right. I explained that I hadn't been paid what I was owed. He said he would look into that and the expense checks. I believed him. I was stupid. They came back with a report that I had stolen more than a thousand dollars of merchandise and I had to make payments to a third party agency until my debt was paid in full. There was no mention of my back pay or checks. Justice had been served.

So for a while I made my payments. This was my inflated punishment for helping myself to a gift card that didn't belong to me. My manager accused me of taking the sandals that her niece had tried on that were my size. I hadn't taken them, but I couldn't prove that I hadn't. I want to rage at my stupidity and naivete back then. Two wrongs don't make a right. Things on my report of insubordination included not playing the radio loud enough and turning off the broken air conditioner. It was blasting, or it was off, there was no in between. I hated that place. I gave and gave and didn't get and get. Still, it could have been worse.

I'm sure that there are people who would tell me not to post something like this. But it can't hurt me now. I made a mistake. It doesn't matter what they did. I knew better than to take a gift card. I was greedy and saw an opportunity to try and compensate myself when they wouldn't. It was a life lesson. I'm over it now. I've learned from my mistakes. The company said that disgruntled employees who feel cheated often steal things to try and tip the scales in their favor. He was empathetic, he was understanding, he preyed on my guilt. But the debt consumed me, and it rankled when I felt that my punishment did not fit my crime.

One day I decided that I was done paying these people. They had threatened to take me to court, I told them that they could. I was not flying out to California to try and fight them. They had won. They had gotten more money out of me than I felt that they were entitled to, and I had reached my breaking point. You have a hard time collecting money from people who don't have it. The debt was pitifully small, and I figured it wouldn't be worth them paying an attorney to try and collect what would be less than his fee. It didn't make economic sense and by now I had a great idea of the internal workings of the company.

On several occasions I called for a copy of the paper that I had signed where I had listed what I bought with the gift card. They never sent it to me although they said that they would. The man I had spoken with initially would not return my calls. A friend had given me some good advice, and when I had told another friend what I had done he was gentle with me. He said that I was a good person when I knew I was not, but that had cured me because from then on I was careful not to take so much as a paperclip or sticky note home with me. That company screwed me too. They told me they would give me quarterly bonuses, and I didn't get a single one.

I had to quit to get a commission check. Our company had been bought out on March 31, during April I had several diagnostic tests and when the bills came in I knew there was no way I would ever be able to pay down that amount of money. Today those bills are gone. Today I am free from the people who were bad managers. Today I've taken the lessons that I've learned and become a very effective and efficient respresentative of how not to get screwed when you walk into a shoe store or order things online. Today I am educating people so they can take what I've been through and protect themselves from their superiors.

When I first met my chiropractor and my acupuncture practitioner they said similar things. They wanted me to start training for a marathon, that was the concept, it didn't have to be a real marathon, but I should do something by myself and it should be hard core. A friend of mine that I just love told me I was strong. Another friend told me that I was brave. Still another friend told me that being open helped more people than I would ever know. Maybe that's true. I don't know. I just keep writing and going over these things, repitition is part of the healing process. I need to hear my own story to move forward and I may have to tell it over and over and over again. But that's okay.

Last night I made a brown rice and veggie dish. I've been taking iron and my circulation seems to be improving. I can admit that I have made mistakes. I would tell people about this in a job interview if I was asked. I have nothing to hide anymore. I was lost without a moral compass. When you do what's right, nothing can touch you. Not court or threats of being fired, I wish they would have fired me. I should have walked away from that job as soon as I had evidence that they weren't going to do what they said they were going to. I felt like I had no recourse and I needed money. That was the lie I told myself. It's never about the money. Not for me.

It wasn't as hard to write this as I thought it would be. Buried deep in my scratch pads are versions of this. In the past I've tried to varish things so I came off looking better. This is bad writing and reveals weakness of character. I did that. I am sorry for it. I won't do it again. People change daily, for better or for worse. Today I have cash and I can buy what I need. I can take care of myself. I can address inequities calmly without attacking others. I am setting a good example for my children in many ways. They will have their own lessons to learn. I'm sorry that I wasn't there for them and jeopardized my sanity for a few dollars that in no way compensated me for my brilliance under fire.

Someday we will all be crude oil and diamonds. Until then, keep shining.