motherful daughter

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“Should I be doing something for you for Mother’s Day?”, he asked.

“No, we don’t have Lil, that’s something we do with her. I’m not YOUR Mom.” I chuckled back.

I reflected on this thoughtful exchange throughout the day yesterday, on Mother’s Day. Mostly, my feeling tone with it. Did I feel I needed that acknowledgment from him, or anyone else, on that day? The answer was a peaceful “no” deep inside. And a greater relief that that type of attachment did not land in me and nest. I was exposed to needs like that for a very long time as a child.

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Mother’s Day has always been a challenging one for me. Every single one of my remembered days, it was a challenge. I’m sure even the ones I don’t remember, from the age of four and back. My mother was very sick already by my fifth Mother’s Day and gone by my sixth. Then there were the years of awkwardness with a Grandma raising us, celebrating my father’s mother’s Mother’s Day. Better than nothing and ultimately better than what was to come.

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my mother Dot

Marjorie, our stepmother, who entered the family a few months before my tenth Mother’s Day, changed the whole deal when it came to everything Mother.  The first shift was the terminology. Our deceased mother was no longer our mother, or Mommy, as we always referred to her. We didn’t even get to keep Mommy at all. She was relegated to “First Mother” and Marjorie, our “Real Mother”. We had no choice in the matter, we were just given this instruction very early on in our relationship. I was slapped in the face repeatedly one day for not using the appropriate terminology for her in the appropriate tone. I just can’t even imagine what breeds that kind of thing.

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I don’t think any of us kids ever had any real warm feelings for Marjorie, much less a motherly connection. Not for lack of trying as we were desperate for a mother–in the sixties there were very few divorces at our age and even less motherless children by death.

With Marjorie, we were simply following the sets and layers of new rules and behavior managements she instilled into our family dynamic. But all of that is for another time. This, after all, is a Mother’s Day post. And even though Marjorie, our adoptive mother, demanded all of that structure, imposed her needs for identity on to us without our input or natural evolution, she was never my mother. Then, or now.

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She never proved that so succinctly and clearly than when she wrote my brother and I out of her Will. For no real identified reason. She willed all of her money to her nieces and nephews, making sure it was clear with the line “Kathy Monkman and John Monkman Jr. are to be specifically excluded from any proceeds”. No one ever told us, much less explained it. I stumbled across her estate documents accidentally months after she died. Marjorie, who worked so hard to claim us in life, left this world in full disconnect with us with no explanation.

Specifically excluded indeed. That line remains almost poetic to me in its description of the entire lifetime with her.

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I am in Lillian’s life for just over three years now and my biggest challenge is restraining myself from over-giving, not withholding. Living it now, makes so many things we lived through then, even further from my comprehension.

I have often said that Marjorie’s greatest gift to me was to teach me how not to be as a stepmother.

Yesterday though, those words got redefined. She did not teach me one thing about how not to be, because I simply do not have the beingness to do any of the things she did. I am relieved over and over again when I see the absence of those seeds inside myself. We sometimes don’t know where trauma roots itself, until it rears its ugly familiar head.

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It’s not in my makeup to demand anything from Lillian when it comes to me, how she feels about me, how she relates to me or identifies me.  She has taken lately to say things like “I have two moms and two dads”, which I’m ok with, and I’m ok with that changing. I’m ok with it all, because I truly love this child and am not attached to anything beyond us loving each other. I also hold deep reverence for her own mother and not confusing the issue for her. I know who her mother is and she should too, guilt-free, conflict-free. She simply should be free in this regard.

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(Some of these sentiments are why I avoid terms like “bonus Mom”. Who am I to decide I’m a “bonus”? If she calls me that, fine. It’s very important to me that she gets to determine who I am to her, and let that change and evolve and have its own trajectory throughout her entire life.)

Marjorie, for some reason I will never know, seemed to possess this wall or this emptiness or this inpenetrability when it came to love, at least with us. I never once, not in all the years she was in my life, felt the gratitude emerge from her that I feel every single day being in Lillian’s life. The gratitude of getting the chance to mother, I mean. The gratitude of that amazing gift is not something I take lightly–everything stems from that place–how lucky I got at age 55 when all seemed to be lost.

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You see, like Marjorie, I was childless when I met my husband. Not for want, and not for not trying, but for many things, not the least of which I was majorly messed up when it came to relationships. (Thank God I didn’t mate, or become impregnated, by the vast majority of men I traversed in my adult life.)

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After years of contemplating this fate, I finally came to the conclusion, that it was/is to be me to be the end of the road for the Monkman lineage–our specific family tree filled with only-children I mean–its branches are not that broad. As I will most likely outlive my brother, the line ends with me. I simply was not meant to breed. Yet, I surely wanted to mother. It was a terrible and tragic deep loss I had to incorporate in to my life, that hit me hardest when I turned 50.

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Yet, the stars aligned in midlife and I got my let-go wish in the form of this adorable three year old girl, who will likely not remember much of her life without me in it. We’ve now known each other longer than we’ve not known each other. It is one of the most natural, easiest relationships in my life.

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This mothering, I’ve decided, comes natural to me, not from my trauma and avoidance of certain ways of behaving, but from my own mother, Dorothy June Schlosser Monkman. I feel to the bottom of my soul, that my mother instilled so much good mothering in me, that no attempts to erase it, or her, were ever effective.

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We had a wonderful Mother’s Day yesterday, John and I reflecting on many things motherly throughout the day, while mothering each other with exercising together, making good food, hot tubbing, cuddling and long talks. We both have motherless pasts, so no explanations are needed. We just take care of each other now.

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At the end of the day, we Facetimed with Lillian as we always do. As soon as she saw me on the screen, her little six year old face lit up–a face my own mother never got to see in me–and she said “Happy Mother’s Day Kathy!”. It was like she was just waiting to tell me that. Those words penetrated as deep in to my heart as they could — my heart is still softening and opening and thankfully, we have a lifetime together for it all to deepen. I know this. It doesn’t happen immediately or automatically because you have adoption papers or a marriage certificate. This mother-love has a way of loving you at its own pace, healing you along the way.

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My mother’s love instilled in me, is what guides me. It’s what rises up. Not some “what not to do” manual that I lived for nearly thirty years, but what is in my heart, which, sadly, Marjorie never scratched the surface of. I was way too busy defending myself against her defensiveness. It is sad, for all of us, and for her.

I am filled with gratitude for my mother, for Lillian, for my husband and for all the people who have mothered me along the way. 

Because finally, in these later years of my life, to my awestruck surprise, I’m getting it all.

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Dear Marian

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Dear Marian,

Like you, I hesistate to address you on my blog, likely for different reasons that you hestitated addressing me. I’m sensing that you likely considered how inappropriate it would be for you to come to my “home” here, and say the things you did. My hesitation, though, is more about giving you more attention than what you are seeking for yourself. So, let me be clear. I am using you as an example. I am addressing you for the sole purpose of allowing my other readers to see what the aftermath of the death penalty is really about for families of victims. So,  your contribution is valuable.

For those who missed it, Marian made a comment on the blog here, related to a post I shared about the True Conviction show airing. In fact, on that particular post, I wrote specifically, about how the show was so healing for me to participate in, which it was. The very act of making me go through photographs and memories, opened some doors in my heart that I had been afraid of knocking on for some time. The way I was treated by the entire production team, including Anna Sigga Niccolazzi, was so respectful. And I guess on some level, after all this time, it just feels good to know people still care about Cindy. I don’t know if you even read the post you replied to Marian, but that makes your comment even more bizarre.

Here is Marian’s comment to me:

MARIAN VEENKER
Kathy, I am not sure if I should leave a reply here, but the case is near to my heart as I have been writing with Michael for 2 years now. I don’t know if he did the crime or not. All I know that he wholly believes in his innocence and that he has been treated very badly in the American prisons. Even Amnesty has made a report about it. He has been in solitariy confinement for over 25 years. If he was ever guilty he has had his punishment. Each person deserves forgiveness.
Of course I cannot or ever will be able to understand your pain and anger. All I know is that forgivess is the best healer. I wish you strength and courage and above all healing.
Marian

And this was my reply back to her, yesterday:

Marian, I do understand that there is a culture of people (usually women) who feel the need to write murderers in prison and feel sympathy for them. Some even marry sociopaths like Michael Apelt (one already did then divorced him as I understand). I do understand this phenomenon and like you cannot understand my pain, I certainly cannot understand your motivation for this attempt to save a murderer. Yet I would not ever take it upon myself to attempt to “school” you on how you, a stranger, chooses to live their life.

Michael Apelt, wearing the same European -made, size 15 Reebok tennis shoe (you do know he’s 6 foot 7 , so has an unusually large foot), stood on my sister’s face while she was still alive, leaving his foot print behind as a bruise. I guess you might think there would be another man, who purchased a unique European Reebok tennis shoe with this exact same print, who would have had a motive to kill her and lie like Michael did about “ever wearing tennis shoes because they made his feet stink”, who committed this murder. Guess that didn’t work out too well, when a photograph was discovered still in my sister’s camera, of him posing wearing those exact European made Reebok tennis shoes, of the same large size. Maybe you saw this photo on True Conviction. It was real. The jury who convicted him saw it blown up as poster sized in the courtroom. Of course he disposed of the bloody shoes, as he did his clothing, according to his other accomplice Anke Dorn.

Or a man who commandeered the car Michael was known to be driving out there in the desert that night, destroy the tires, then have those destroyed tires recovered which matched the tire tracks at the scene. I could go on and on but perhaps you would like to purchase and read the book I’m writing on the case when it comes out.

In the meantime, maybe you’d like to contact his appellate lawyers who have already admitted he committed the murder (and conspiracy) yet claim he was “mentally retarded” at the time.
Or you could choose to believe this con artist, because it seems you get something out of it.
But surely, we can both agree, that I’m not going to join you in your confusion. Keep reading, hopefully, you will learn something.

Now, this morning, I realized I have a few more things to say.

Marian, you are not the first person to barge in to my life with this kind of inappropriate and disrespectful intrusion. Several years ago, during the lengthy, expensive (ten million plus AMERICAN TAX PAYER dollars) appeal hearing to determine whether your boyfriend is mentally retarded or not, I got a knock on my door in early December. It was unusually cold for an Arizona day, so I looked at the shivering, friendly faced female standing on my doorstep holding an official looking lawyerly business card, asking about our case and invited her in. Surely, she had shown up on my doorstep uninvited and unannounced (just like you did Marian), with some kind of need to talk to me about my involvement in our case, from our side.

Shortly after this woman took a seat in my living room–my living room strewn with boxes of Christmas decorations I had just pulled out in my yearly agonizing set of decisions of whether to decorate for Christmas or not (you do remember Michael Apelt slaughtered my sister in the desert two days before Christmas, I’m sure)–I realized something was amiss. She was talking to me about sympathy for this man who had conned and destroyed the most important person in my life. Sympathy. Right around the anniversary of her murder. Kind of like you Marian. But you decided to confront me like that during another vulnerable time–right at the time the show aired displaying my grief for the world to see. Even to people like you, all the way across the globe. You saw my agony and grief and chose that to be your moment to strike, didn’t you? Just like that woman who showed up in my home. Your strategic timing, like hers, speaks volumes.

Once I figured out her motive–to try and glean my assistance for this ridiculous mental retardation hearing, I kicked her out of my home. Not before she was reduced to tears though. Maybe she had a brief moment of clarity when she saw a true victim.

Now Marian, unlike you, she was not questioning his guilt. She realized that he did commit the murder. That he did take my sister Cindy out to the desert that cold, dark night with promises of a new home “surprise” he was showing her. Instead, his brother laid in wait with a knife. That woman knew he did it, unlike you. But she thought he might be “mentally retarded”, so should be given leniency.

Let me ask you this. You think Michael Apelt has been treated poorly in our system. What do you think of the millions of dollars in legal assistance he has received at American taxpayer expense? Let me say it again: MILLIONS OF AMERICAN DOLLARS to defend him. I’m not talking about housing and food and medical care — I’m strictly talking about defense. Do you find that unfair?

Now, let me do a small amount of education for you about the man you seem so interested in believing, in terms of his “belief” in his own innocence.

Maybe you’d like to do some more digging in to his past and his lengthy rap sheet from Germany. The one that includes burglary, theft, insurance fraud, and prostitution. There is more but you get the drift. Let’s not forget, he was 25 when he slaughtered my sister in the desert, so his German crimes were committed from his teens to his early 20’s.

Do you know that, oh, about 7 other women came forward who he was conning and stealing from at the same time he married and was plotting to murder my sister? He stole money and checks from their purses and in one scheme, convinced one of them that he was dead so his brother could get money from her for his funeral. Yeah, he even sent a telegram to his brother, from the grave. I think they got a couple thousand from that lady. Then there were the Rolex dealers, all of the luxury car dealers in Phoenix and a custom home builder who came to court telling tales of these tall German brothers who had convinced them they were anything from professional athletes to pilots. Everyone believed them, they were that good. They were pre-spending the life insurance on Cindy, while she was alive and making the money they were stealing.

Then, finally, you might be interested in the copycat murder plot Michael Apelt cooked up in the jail before he was convicted. Yeah, that other inmate brought notes Michael had made, including maps, detailing how he should murder his own wife and make it look identical to how he had killed my sister, so it could throw off the trial thinking there was a copycat serial killer out there. I’ve seen those notes he wrote. He wanted another woman to be viciously taken from her loved ones to help free him–he promised his brother in another note I’ve seen that they would be out of jail soon because of his plot. He still thought he would be receiving that $400K of life insurance from Cindy and would pay this man from that.

Those are just a very few details that will be covered in the book I”m writing. You see, unlike you, I’ve read every single word about our case from police reports (including old ones from Germany), interviews (including with your boyfriend), testimony (including Michael’s which I sat through) and autopsy reports. I have all of the information which I will be sharing, including my sister’s own diary so you can understand better how she was conned by this man you so want to champion.

So, thank you for allowing me to educate people further on the aftermath of the death penalty for families. There are people, like you, laying in wait to torture us with your own twisted agendas, even nearly 30 years after the fact. 

I will end with a few pictures of my sister for you. The one your penpal stepped on the face of while his brother cut her throat. This is who she was in life. She was my everything, and the only victim here. Don’t get it twisted.

The facts

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If you are so inclined to familiarize yourself with the facts of my sister Cindy’s murder, before viewing the True Conviction show about it on Tuesday 2/13, this link lays out the sequence of facts pretty succinctly. It is from the 9th circuit’s decision that denied Michael Apelt’s ineffective counsel appeal that was getting him a new trial (denied Dec. 2017).

When you read this and the details of these sophisticated con men, remember that over 10 million tax payer dollars went to try and prove they are both “mentally retarded”. That appeal was successful for one of them. That is you and my tax payer dollars going to these Germans who never paid a dime to US taxes, and who murdered an American citizen who did.

The details start on page 5 of this link under “Facts”.

http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/12/28/15-99013.pdf

True Conviction trailer

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Well, the episode of True Conviction on Cindy’s case is coming up next week. They are now airing the trailer for it throughout the day on Investigation Discovery. I’m really glad Cathy Hughes’ voice and face are included because, as far as I’m concerned, this show is a long overdue honoring of her (as well as the Detectives).

I just recorded this with my phone, so please excuse the poor quality. Now let’s see if i can get it to post.

Remember, it airs next Tuesday, Feb 13 at 10pm EST on Investigation Discovery.

True Conviction — Investigation Discovery

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Investigation Discovery Network is premiering a new show this month called True Conviction. The host is a former Brooklyn prosecutor named Anna Sigga Nicolazzi who had a 100% conviction rate. Her emphasis is going around the country, finding prosecutors’ most challenging cases and detailing all involved in obtaining a successful conviction.

My sister, Cindy’s case, is one they are highlighting in this six part series. They are doing a full one hour show on it. I was contacted out of the blue last Fall by a producer, who had stumbled upon our case in some Newspaper site. Kind of impeccable timing as I’ve been diving back in to it for the last three years, working on my book about it. I had so much information that they needed at my fingertips–records, photos, etc.

Yet, rummaging through all my stuff, allowed me to find more photos and even an audiotape from Cindy that I had not seen in decades. It was a bittersweet, but mostly healing  journey for me, and I’m glad I did it. The producers, show runner, crew and Anna Sigga herself treated me with such delicate respect. They also flew my husband John, out to AZ to be with me the entire time (and boy did I need him, even just for logistical things but mainly the moral support).

I was filmed in my car with Go-pro’s all installed and on top of a mountain in an outdoor set they created just for my interview. There were hugs and tears throughout the small crowd.

I also got to reconnect with some of the Detectives involved. The timing of that was perfect as well, because they got to see the end of the story with me--finally having found love and a stable, healthy marriage after all this time. It was so heartwarming all the way around.

Cindy’s killers, while on Death Row, have received so much attention (and financial support) all of these years. The spotlight definitely turned on to them as “victims”, vs. my sister. It’s been a nauseating and frustrating process to have to be involved with, say the least. How refreshing to be involved in a show that is 100% focused on the prosecution, giving them zero platform. And, most importantly, our amazing, never to be forgotten, prosecutor, Cathy Hughes who is the HERO of this entire story. It really is about her, a story long overdue. I cannot ever, EVER say enough good things about Cathy Hughes, one of the best, most amazing humans I have ever known.

I recently got a confirmation on the date the show will be aired: Tues. February 13 at 10pm EST. Investigation Discovery channel. Again, the name is True Conviction.

Here is a blurb I found:

https://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwtv/article/Investigation-Discovery-Presents-Sneak-Peek-at-New-Series-TRUE-CONVICTION-11-20171229

“Deception in the Desert” premieres Tuesday, February 13 at 10/9c
An unidentified young woman is found murdered in the Arizona desert on Christmas Eve, 1988. Detectives soon learned her name, Cindy Monkman Apelt, who was reported missing by her husband the night prior. As investigators painstakingly piece together an account of Cindy’s final hours, they move closer and closer to revealing her killer. Prosecutor Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi revisits the shocking crime with the detectives and state attorney who solved the case and ultimately won justice for Cindy’s family

I plan on doing some kind of Live Facebook Q & A after the show sometime. Not immediately after, but maybe the next day. I know there will be many unanswered questions, so I will do that in that format if you want to participate. I’ll let you know more details closer to the time.

Thanks for the support guys.

gold watch me

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When you retire from twenty six years of loyal and dedicated service to your employer, and when your employer is you, there are many things you don’t get.
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You don’t get the big tribute dinner, where your coworkers, friends and bosses celebrate your work history with you, while telling poignant and funny anecdotes from a podium, over a mediocre meal. You don’t get flowers or balloons at your desk on your last day, with random cute notes poking fun of your quirky habits like “the break room will miss the aroma of your mud-thick coffee” or “sorry I hid in the next stall and listened to your conversations with your boyfriend over the last year–haha!” (making you wonder if that’s true or not). You don’t get the plaque engraved for some special wall in your home (or random drawer), with your name, date of retirement and a big “26” right in the middle. You don’t get the gold watch. You don’t even get a pen. You might not even get one person saying to your face, on your last day, the words “thank you for all you’ve done”.

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What you do get, however, is something no one else can give you, or tell you.
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You get the deep vein of gold at the core of your being, carefully cultivated over years of pressure, waiting for this day to be mined. By you. You get the knowledge that you once had a dream and didn’t stop to talk yourself out of it, but stepped right in to it fearlessly. All by yourself. You get the self-respect that you made it all happen, on your own terms for over a quarter century, the bulk of your adult working life. You get the flexibility that allows you to reach with both arms and pat yourself on your back on both sides, knowing that you gave yourself utter freedom in your life, by making the sacrifices you did. You paid that price for no paid time off by paying it forward yourself, and crafting the work/play life you wanted with no one else’s permission but your own. You gave yourself the gift of looking back with your own, deeper voice, telling you “JOB WELL DONE” remembering that when the going got tough, you just got creative.
When 9/11 hit, and you went from a booked practice over a month out, to every single phone call in a three week period being people canceling but not rescheduling–to a good week being three clients in the whole week vs the six a day you had become used to. When your bills increased but your income dropped by 2/3 that year; you never gave up. You stayed the course. And you sent out that tri-fold stapled flyer on the cloud paper, offering a steep discount for your clients to come back. But more importantly, you crafted that flyer with two words opposite the address side, blazing in bold, 50 point font visible to every postman and every recipient: HAVE FAITH. Of course you knew, those hundreds of mantras sent out in to the world were for yourself. And you did have faith, and they did come back.
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That deep vein of gold is something that will never be tucked away for your kids to find later tucked away in that drawer and not know what to do with. It’s not something that will run out of ink or ever stop working. In fact, it is something that has, and will, continue to make you stronger.
The stories others may have told at a podium are written in your heart and engraved in to your soul. Because you wrote them yourself, year by year.

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I walk out of my Heart Space tomorrow, for the last time as its owner and creator. My baby is being handed in to capable and grateful hands and I couldn’t be more pleased.
I won’t be carrying a bouquet of flowers or a handful of “enjoy retirement!”cards. I won’t be feeling the weight and tangible gratitude of a time keeper on my wrist to reflect on.
I have become my own gold watch. And world, I’m still ticking.
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(as an addendum, I wrote this piece before I realized that my husband and I had purchased FIRST CLASS round trip tickets to return from this trip, the day after my last day of work, before we knew this transition was going to take place. The person I’m selling the practice to, bumped up the date to months before I anticipated. The reason we purchased FIRST CLASS tickets for this specific trip was because we both wanted to achieve….drumroll….GOLD status on American Airlines before the end of the year. Divine choreography indeed)