Lauara Kuehl, a local mom in Northeast Wisconsin, recently released her first book, You’ll Always Be Enough. This book is the first step in her dream to write a series of children’s books with a message of confidence and self-love.
As part of her dream, she will donate 10% of net profit to an organization working directly with children. In 2017, the youth services department of Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs will receive this donation.
NOTE: Trigger Warning: domestic violence, sexual assault, and addiction are discussed by the author when talking about inspiration for her book.
Meet Laura Kuehl
I have received countless questions about how and why I’ve gotten here, so I’d love to share my story and where my motivation came from.
Although it’s not comfortable to talk about, the lessons that can be learned from my struggles are invaluable. We’re all dealt a different hand of cards. It’s how we play them that matters. I like to believe at this stage in my life, people will see beyond where I’ve been and find a message of hope in where I’m going.
I grew up in a single-parent home where my mother didn’t engage with me much. I excelled in elementary school, mainly because I had nothing else beyond my studies. I had no friends, no opportunity for hobbies and no hope. I was “the smelly kid.” I’m sure you know what that means. Every school has the kid who’s unbathed, different, withdrawn. Of course, that left me open to a lot of ridicule. Kids are relentless. I was odd, and I was alone.
Toward the end of my elementary school age, I was molested by my teenage babysitter. She thought it would be entertaining to make me reenact scenes after watching pornographic films. I had no idea what sex was, but I knew what she was having us do felt dirty. I was dirty, and I needed to be cleansed.
My growing self-loathing was fueled by a genetic predisposition to mental illness. By early middle school, my depression peaked. I was fat. I was ugly. I was not worth loving. So, I stopped eating and started cutting myself. Then, I met a high school-age boy who was popular among “druggie” kids. He took to me and carried me under his wing. It was the first time I felt appreciated, so I gladly engaged in the drinking and drug use. It masked the pain I was feeling, and it felt right at the time.
My emotional pain was so deep that I physically could not bring myself to have sex. I felt like everyone else was doing it, but I couldn’t. The idea of people seeing my scarred and dirty flesh was so repulsive that I cringed at the idea. Of course, it pushed me further.
Before high school even came, I was so lost that I was sent to a group home. I’d been ignored past the point of safety, and the State intervened. I set records for how long I was there: two years.
I hated it, but there truly isn’t much to talk about from that time, because I was safe and I was loved. Oh, I tried, so hard, to get them to hate me, too, but they refused. I ignored nearly everything they said, but somehow it stuck. I believe it had a huge impact on my road to recovery, and ultimately, my road to who I am today. A few of the group home staff members and I reconnected a few years ago, giving me the opportunity to thank them for making a difference in my life. I’m looking forward to the day I can go visit and give them the giant hugs they deserve.
When I got home from the group home, my mom had met a man, and he was living in the house. Because her relationship was still relatively new, she put even more focus into that, which meant even less into me.
I was 16 when I met my “prince charming.” He was the answer to all my woes, the man who could truly see me and love me, or so I believed.
I dropped out of high school and moved in with him just after I turned 17. I was hours away from the only family I had, isolated. Things seemed to be going well until I learned I was pregnant with my first child. Maybe I struck a nerve; maybe he felt I was trapped. In either case, it got ugly, quick.
I was only 11 weeks pregnant the first time my abuser laid his hands on me. We were discussing what to do with the baby. He didn’t want to keep it if it was a girl. I, on the other hand, was unwilling to decide the fate of my child based on the gender. And so, during our first real fight, he grabbed me by the arms, shook me and dropped me down the stairs.
By God’s grace, a friend happened to be there at the time. He physically assaulted her as well, picking her up and throwing her to the ground repeatedly. She had strength I did not, and he was arrested. Had he not been arrested and charged with multiple felony domestic assaults, the framework for my freedom would not have been set, and I may not be where I am today.
Like most victims of domestic violence, I didn’t leave. I truly believed it was an accident, or somehow my fault. You see, in a dangerous relationship, your mind is quite literally brainwashed. It’s not as simple as walking away because your reality is all-consuming. What seems so obvious to everyone else is invisible to you, the victim.
I tend to draw the parallel to religion to help people understand. Whatever your spiritual beliefs, they are inherent in every fiber of your being. No one can sway you. Yours is the only real religion, and everyone else is wrong. The difference, of course, is that most religions are very safe and have a positive influence in your life. Domestic violence does not, so the parallel isn’t quite right, but it’s a starting point for understanding something you (hopefully) have not experienced.
The end came when he held me against a wall by my neck, and my infant child hit her head. I called social services and the police, making the decision to leave. I moved closer to home, where my mom was recovering from her alcoholism, and started life with no high school diploma, no driver’s license and no belief that I could, in fact, give my daughter the life she so greatly deserved.
A Critical Fresh Start
He followed, and I let him back into my life. Another several months of abuse occurred, and I couldn’t take it anymore. Somewhere inside of me, I longed for more. My maternal instincts were screaming that my child deserved more, so I made it happen. I filed, and was ultimately granted, a domestic violence restraining order. I moved into Harbor House in Appleton, and started again.
Harbor House’s grant writer, Maria Turner, helped me find a grant through Allstate that allowed me to get the necessary supplies to go to college through an online school. I can’t imagine how I would have found money for a computer and Internet, plus a down-payment for school without that grant. I was incredibly blessed.
Before I ultimately graduated with a bachelor’s degree with honors, I had re-established myself in an apartment with a stable daycare job. My daughter was thriving, and though exhausted, I was finding happiness for the first time. I came to terms with my past, and was devoted to changing the future for my child.
I met an incredible man, who I subsequently married. He accepted my daughter as his own and loved me in a true, healthy way. I cannot even begin to describe the appreciation I have for my supportive, tolerant, loving husband Chris. He is truly God’s partner for me, and I’m forever grateful he walked into my life.
As life settled again, I realized it was time for me to do more. And so, I began writing. I wish I could go back and tell young me that I was enough. I was, and am, beautiful. I was, and am, exactly as I was designed to be. Although I can’t go back and tell young me, I can tell every other child. I felt the best approach was to write books. I can’t knock on individual doors and hug every sad child. If I could, I would. I can, however, touch their lives in even the smallest way, by reminding them of how wonderful they are through a book. I can educate their parents through articles online. I can donate to charities helping children. I can, and will, do more.
You’ll Always Be Enough is the first of many books to come.
It’s a well-illustrated book, full of catchy rhymes, with a much-needed message of empowerment for every child. Childhood is difficult for everyone, even if we don’t fully remember the struggles.
I’ve been amazed and touched by the success of the book thus far—the positive reviews and the expressions of thanks. I’m honored to touch lives, in even the smallest way. Even just reading this post shows your support for the cause I’m so desperately trying to promote.
Want to connect?
And so, I sincerely thank you. I thank you for your support. I thank you for loving your children enough to hug them every night. I thank you for choosing not to judge, but to support, the journey of others who are struggling. Finally, I thank you for sharing this article if it has touched your heart, too.
If you’ve connected in any way to my story and want to continue to follow the journey as more books come about and I grow as an author, mother and woman, follow my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/bapplebooks). You can also find my book on Amazon, in case you’d like to learn more about it.
Now, as I conclude, can you consider one more thing?
Tonight, as your children get ready for bed, have them stand in front of the mirror and say it with you: “I am smart. I am tough. I am loved. I am enough.”
Because, they are, and so are you.