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Mother's Wish List requests motivated by desire for a better life

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Ariel Bainter spent last Christmas dealing with the physical pain and mental anguish of domestic violence.

After a Christmas Eve marred by a shocking outburst of violence, the father of Bainter's child and her partner of seven years spent the next day in jail. There was no Christmas, no joy of exchanging gifts. Bainter's life was changing in ways she never anticipated.

She and her 2-year-old daughter, Natalie, live alone now. As another Christmas nears, terrible memories return. But Bainter, 29, is determined to finish her degree in elementary education and give Natalie what she calls "a good life."

She has been nominated for the Quad-City Times Wish List for new tires for her car, a toddler girl's snow suit, a ladder and gas gift cards.

Skip-A-Long Community Services Home Child Care Network Director Malia Owens made the nomination.

"The assault was the first time he ever did anything like that," Bainter said of her ex. "The thing I remember is feeling horrible, because of what happened, and because he was sitting in a jail cell while he should have been with his daughter on Christmas Day."

Bainter watched as Natalie played with Cacao, the family's 9-year-old Calico cat.

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"Not too much later, my grandmother died," she said. "There was a lot of trauma and, honestly, I'm still adjusting. I was a stay-at-home mom. We weren't married, but we had been together a long time, and Natalie was planned. I thought most of my life was planned."

She now has a new plan. She studies early elementary education through online classes, has started substitute teaching, and will begin a stint as a student teacher in January. She wants to build a better life with her daughter.

"Finances are the biggest challenge right now," Bainter said. "We've been floating along on my maxed-out student loans, but that is coming to an end. I worry about being able to provide for my daughter. That's why I was happy to learn about the Wish List.

"It's hard to ask for help. It's hard to need help."

Bainter said she still is learning about herself as she raises Natalie and finishes her studies.

"After what happened, I've learned that I'm not the same person. I'm still figuring out who I am," she said. "And I've learned you have to find a whole lot of strength you didn't know you had."

That strength, Bainter said, helps her understand the times when she feels alone.

"There are times when I get lonely," she said. "But I've really learned that it's not necessarily a bad lonely. I've learned that the loneliness is my healing time.

"I need the time to figure out how to get better, to heal from what we've been through. And Christmas this year; it's a little scary to think about what happened. But it's also a time to make this Christmas about me and Natalie."

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