Friday, June 27, 2014

Vacation Time

Where do people who live on the ocean go for a vacation?  To the mountains, of course.  I'm off for a week or so to the Great Smoky Mountains.  If I don't post while I'm gone, I'll do so when I next post will be something positive.  I'm tired of the negativity from my past.  Sometimes it makes me feel like I'm suffocating if I let myself get too caught up in it.  They say what doesn't kill us only makes us stronger and that's great if it's true but I don't want to have to be on oxygen just to tell some of my stories!  Time for a break!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Last Mile

When I walked away there was no turning back. I knew from that point on my life would never be the same. Yes, I longed for the familiar surroundings I called home, yet that house would always remain with me no matter where I went. Running away only made the things I loved no longer a physical part of my life.

Looking back on it, I know now that my decision to leave was totally wrong, yet at the time it seemed I was trapped and had no other choices. That few weeks I spent on the psych ward after my 1st overdose, made me realize I had very few real friends. Each night when Wayne's mother came on duty, I would sit with her at the nurse's station and talk until I could fall asleep. We never once discussed her son or why I was on her floor. I knew she had read my chart and was familiar with all the notes written in it. What was there to discuss? I know I should have been ashamed, but she never made me feel uncomfortable. She talked to me as if she cared and I always appreciated that. I acted horrible during the day...defiant and always questioning authority. I refused to participate in any group therapy and used any recreation time to create weird things to decorate my room. My pride and joy were the bats I had made from modeling clay. I had painted them black with red eyes and then hung them with thread from the pipe near the ceiling in my room. It seemed everything I did was aimed at getting a reaction.

I still remember the outrage I felt when my mother had brought me an electric razor so I could shave my legs and underarms and it was immediately taken away from me. I asked if they thought I was going to shave myself to death. Surely, they couldn't think I would try to hang myself with the wasn't long enough to cause any real damage and besides hanging just isn't my style. They never did give me a reason why they took it. They didn't have to give me a reason, so I went on being my usual obnoxious self. Why they didn't medicate me was a mystery, but in reality it probably had something to do with the fact that I would have enjoyed zoning out on some good psychiatric drugs. The law required any drug overdoses to be sent to the psych ward for 2 weeks of observation after surviving the ER and the ICU, but many people weren't that lucky. For most the only trip they took was to the morgue! The two weeks I was on C-4 was some of the hardest decision making time I have ever had. Due to impaired judgement and being so screwed up, I made all the wrong decisions!

So I was alive! The overdose had not been intentional...I simply was out of control and on a very self-destructive path. I loved getting high and staying high. I feared nothing...not even death itself. I slowly retreated into a silent, safe place where I no longer felt pain. Along with feeling no pain, I discovered I also felt no happiness, joy or love. Wayne had threatened to leave me if I didn't stop getting high. Now, he was gone and I was truly alone...except for my drugs. Somehow they had replaced everything that was good or right in my life. They dulled the pain and I learned how to live being comfortable numb.

Lynne, someone I had considered a friend at the time, offered me a way out and I took it.  I believed that nothing could be worse than what I had been experiencing. It wasn't until much later until I discovered that things always can get worse. It only took me a few days after being discharged from the hospital to realize going back to school and trying to straighten out my life was just not going to happen. The day I left home, I took one last look at Wayne's house before I walked down the street and towards the interstate with Lynne. That last mile was my point of no return.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
-Robert Frost-

Monday, March 10, 2014

Musical Monday #2

Growing up as a child of the 1960's something scared me more than the boogey man...more than a werewolf, Frankenstein, Count Dracula and invading aliens from outer space all rolled into one huge, very real threat.  The Cold War between United States and Russia had escalated to a fever pitch. I remember having air raid drills during school hours in case of a nuclear attack.  Since Bangor was home to Dow Air Force base we, Bangor residents were very aware that our small city would be just one of the many ground zero targets. Even as a small child I knew that there was no bomb shelter secure enough that could save me and those people I loved. What I saw in the faces of the adults around me was that we really were on the eve of destruction and our fate rested in the hands of our elected leaders. The whole world held its breath while the nuclear scenario played itself out.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Cry For Help

Each summer during my mother's vacation from work my family would go stay at my Aunt Leah's camp on Eddington Pond (what's the difference between a lake and a pond anyway? depth? size?) or at some other family member's camp. As I got older, my brothers stopped going to camp and opted to stay home so they could have legendary parties. While the cat's away the mice will play! The highlight of my days at camp as I got older were the boys who had a camp next door. As with any 13 almost 14 year old girl, I immediately developed a crush on one of the boys and I immediately learned how rejection felt. How humiliating it is to feel like the ugly duckling and the odd man out. I hated feeling not good enough. I hated being me.

I've always had self-destructive tendencies as far back as I can remember. Although I've only half-heartedly tried the big "S' a few times, I do wonder now what really was my goal when I downed a whole bottle of aspirin chased by a massive amount of straight whiskey. My mother had brought a whole gallon of Canadian Club whiskey along and now I wonder why she did that. My mother wasn't a drinker. Did she have plans of entertaining after the children were tucked snugly into bed in the loft overlooking the pond? Were my actions a cry for help or was I just looking for the attention I obviously wasn't getting? So many questions in hindsight, but never in foresight!

After going on a very animated teenage tirade that probably resembled the Tasmanian Devil going after Bugs Bunny and ingesting the only things available to me at the time, I remember continually vomiting until all I could do is dry heave and heave and heave. At that point the desire to die was more than just a fleeting impulse. I felt so bad, dying would have been a welcome relief. The next morning when asked about my "illness", I passed off what was wrong with me as being some type of intestinal ailment when in reality I probably should have been in the hospital. It always amazed me how strong my mother's sense of denial was. She was a nurse and never "saw" all the classic signs I exhibited of a teenager in crisis. All my stunts went unnoticed until I eventually overdosed on barbiturates at school a couple years later and was rushed to the ER. Since she worked at that hospital, it was out of the question for me to try to cover up that one. Oops! I got too high and forgot how many I had taken! Actually that was the truth. I ate pills like candy. If 3 were good, 6 were spectacular. Who knew how many drugs I had in my system at any given time? Like an alcoholic, one could never be too high unless unconscious or comatose. Oh, what a wonderful genepool from which I come!

My ears rang for the better part of a week and I felt like I had a severe case of the flu. I hurt all over and I couldn't keep anything in my stomach for several days. A friend who was with me during my dark period and who accompanied me to camp that summer, fretted over me and when I look back, I wonder how close she came to ratting me out. That must have been hard for her to watch me be in so much pain and self-destruct. (I'm sorry, Margie!) Now, I look back and wonder where my mother was during all this and why she had left my friend and I unattended that evening. The unattended theme carried through the next summer as well when I did have a boyfriend and that boyfriend was allowed to come stay at camp with me. Oh what a summer that was! Skinny-dipping, frolicking in the summer sun and lazy nights and early mornings spent listening to the loons while wrapped in each other's arms. For awhile, I got the attention I needed and wanted and then poof! It was gone and so was I. And to this day just the smell of whiskey makes me nauseous.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Musical Monday #1

Mildred Ratched's idea of Musical Monday is an excellent way for me to chronicle my younger years in Maine.  My first selection for Musical Monday is a song that has stuck with me since I wrote Where Have All The Flowers Gone.  Build Me Up Buttercup by The Foundations reminds me of the hours I spent with friends doing our own version of American Bandstand. Instead of rating the song, we'd rate each other dancing ability.  Now, that's a hoot because I cannot dance, but I thought I could then and I guess that's all that's important.  Of course, we all gave each other high marks for all those dance moves we had perfected.  We weren't shy or self conscious while shaking our tail feathers...I guess all those insecurities come later when a person finally gets out of their comfort zone and around strangers who might not give them the high marks their friends did.
My mother had bought me a portable record player when I was young and that thing got sacked around everywhere I went. Most of us had collections of 45's because they were cheaper than buying albums. Besides, albums in those days seemed to have only a few good songs on them at best.  My cousin, Debbie had a collection of 45's to die for.  I think I might have stolen a 45 or two from her (sorry about that Debbie) to supplement my own puny collection.  I believe that might have been the start of my days as being a light-fingered Louie (another story for another time). 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Is There An Artist In The House?

I've always prided myself in being an aware person, but some major things in life seemed to have escaped my keen observation early on in life.  Growing up I really did think school came easy to everyone.  I had no idea some kids struggled to learn.  I also thought everyone could draw and write.  It wasn't until I was much older that I discovered some people really can't draw a straight line even with the use of a ruler nor could they write a short story or poem if their life depended upon it. For some reason I kept everyone on a level playing field where no one had an advantage over another person. The only area I can say that I recognized some people "had it" and others didn't was in their athletic abilities.  I was awkward and uncoordinated when it came to sports and physical activities. My older brothers were the jocks in the family and I grew up paling in comparison to everything they could do and eventually did do.

Because I didn't step forth and shine in anything, I felt I didn't do anything well.  In fact, looking back on it, sports seemed to be such a focus in my household I knew I had no way of ever competing for that limelight due to my inability to be an athlete.  I've asked myself many times why I never realized people really aren't created equal in all areas and I've also asked myself why no one ever recognized that I showed promise in some area unrelated to sports.  Maybe I wasn't meant to become a famous artist or author, but who knows what could have happened with some early encouragement.  Every kid deserves to be made to feel special and to have guidance while seeking out their place in the spotlight.

Shortly after Margie, my childhood best friend and I had reconnected after an 30 plus year hiatus, she showed me a picture she had kept that I had drawn when I was around 11 years old.  It appeared to be the head of a Barbie doll.  After I got over the shock of her having kept my picture all those years, I slipped once again into wondering why no one ever encouraged me to draw or to do anything creative when I was a kid.  Sure, I doodled and dabbled whenever the spirit moved me, but I was never encouraged to continue drawing and I never tried to take it to the next level until June 2012 when I announced to my mother one day that I was going to paint a picture. 

I figured how hard could it be especially since I had been able to draw my entire life.  My mother just smiled at me and said, "okay!"  I'm sure she was expecting my first attempt to be nothing short of a hot mess.  To be honest I'm not sure if she even ever noticed I liked to doodle when I was a kid or that her only daughter could draw a straight line without the use of a ruler.  I'm sure I was noticed in many ways, but to be honest, I never felt that way.  I never had the spotlight except for all the negative things I did. 

This one of my latest paintings
During my mother's middle aged years she become an accomplished local artist and spent many years being the star of the family.  She enjoyed her stardom until she gave up painting after a bout of cancer and the rapid succession of several other harrowing tribulations. As I  left to go plunder her studio for art supplies that had been sitting there unused for about 5 years, I told her it was my turn to shine. She laughed at me until she saw the finished product.  Her comment then was, "I think you have something there, kiddo!"

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

It amazes me that as a child I paid such close attention to my surroundings.  What amazes me even more than that is that every once in awhile did as I was told.  Because I paid such close attention to my surroundings, I have memories with vivid details. Its almost like being there again. 

My exposure to horticulture started early on and the neighborhood flora seemed to have played a pretty large role in my formative years and on some of the memories I still cherish.  When I remember the plants around my house it always makes me smile even though the plants themselves weren't anything uber special or so I thought.  At the corner of my house sat a lilac bush that bloomed every May.  If I close my eyes I can still smell its sweet fragrance.  Nameless, naughty children would eat the blossoms. Why?  Just because they could! In fact they did many things just because they could. Along the front and street side of the house grew irises and day lilies.  The purples and oranges were stunning when they were in bloom and were safe from the nameless, naughty children's wrath and veracious appetite.   

Early on there were two bridal wreath bushes that framed the front entrance of my house.  The lovely white fluffiness never lasted very long and the bushes were removed at some point in time.  I wasn't consulted on their removal so I don't have a clue as to why they were selected for elimination.  That one I'll have to run by my mother and see if she remembers why they were dug up.  In the back between my house and the neighbors grew a few burdock bushes.  Burdocks are no more than an invasive weed, but for nameless, naughty children they were a plethora of trouble.  Many a burdock from those bushes found their way into neighborhood children's hair.  They would stick and tangle and cause quite a little to do.  Dandelions are also considered weeds, but they were so beautiful blooming against the deep green color of the soft, velvety grass. I never understood how something so lovely could be called a weed.  As mentioned in a previous blog post,  nameless, naughty children found mischievous uses for those lovely weeds by staining white porches with them.  My grandmother used to dig up the greens from her yard in the country and cook them...OMG! They used to make me gag. Now, fiddleheads on the other hand are a great treat to eat. 

In the neighborhood, I remember blue hydrangeas (no one ever seemed to add any chemicals to turn them bright pink). Chinese lanterns had a firm orange ball inside that always fascinated me. Buttercups (why don't you build me buttercup...sorry, I couldn't help myself from singing that song and now damn it, it's stuck in my head) were used by nameless, naughty children to make predictions. If a yellow glow could be seen when holding the flower under someone's chin then that meant crazy things were going to happen. If I remember correctly, the predictions were as naughty as the children were. The neighborhood maple trees turned brilliant shades in the fall and when the leaves started to drop, we raked them up into the huge piles to jump in and cherry trees a few houses up from where I lived had gnarly diseased branches that nameless, naughty children used to chase other children around with claiming it was dog poop on the branches.  Those nameless, naughty children seemed to be like the hoards of "walkers" from The Walking Dead...what a menace!  I wonder what naughty things they do now!

While I was looking at pictures of various plants that are indigenous to Maine, I discovered one of the weeds/plants from my childhood days that grew everywhere.  I remember being told it was poisonous and luckily none of the nameless, naughty children ever tried to do anything with it other than pick it and throw the ripe juicy berries at one another.  The bittersweet nightshade plant is in the tomato family.  Wow!  I'm almost in a state of shock that I never pushed the envelope and tried eating one or that my brothers didn't hold me down and stuff a few in my mouth to chew... the possibilities really make me cringe!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Handprints In The Attic

Yes, there were actual handprints attic.  They were put there to imprint my legacy on the house I grew up calling home.  When I was young, my attic always had an air of mystique.  Often times a strong draft would make the door creek open and shut causing the appearance of it being haunted.  Who am I to say it wasn't haunted?  I only lived there! But the fear I had of the attic when I younger soon dissipated when I discovered its true value.  It was a great place to skip school when I had no other place to go. My friend, Linda and I spent many a day tucked away in the attic discussing boys, very quietly listening to all the best songs on the radio and practicing the latest dance moves.  

The attic had 3 rooms.  One room was sealed off from the rest of the attic.  It was dark and foreboding.  I never explored it nor did I ever shine a flashlight into the window size opening that was on the top of right side of the stairway.  As silly as it sounds, I was always afraid of what I might see.  The other two rooms were on the left side of the stairway.  The room directly at the top of the stairs had exposed rafters, but had finished walls and a wide plank wooden floor.  It had a large closet partitioned along the back wall.  That made a great place to stash pillows and blankets for when it was cold and we used that space as a pseudo bedroom because it was so cozy and secluded from everything else.  The other room had two windows in it that looked out to the street that ran past my house.  That room was completely finished and had a crawlspace the length of the room along the  left side.  Upon exploring it, I found old papers and other things stashed in it, but none of it seemed of any value to me.   

Slowly the attic became transformed into a semi-furnished place to hang out. The transformation began as soon as I started hauling discarded furniture up there.  Soon the attic had 2 old sofas, several chairs, a table, a radio, lamps and other various items I collected and hauled up there.  What I remember most about the attic is its musty smell.  I thought of many ways to eliminate that musty smell and tried things like burning incense and spraying air freshener, but what helped most was when I decide to paint the walls and floors of the 2 useable rooms. 

The transformation hit high gear when I organized  a painting party.  Each person who planned to attend brought whatever remnants of old paint they could find.  My contribution was tangerine colored paint that was used to paint an old sea captain's trunk (I always thought my mother was crazy for painting that trunk any color), lemon colored paint from my bedroom and lavender colored paint from one of the bathrooms.  The wide plank floor was painted in stripes.  Each plank was a different color.  Then the room took on a whole new life of its own when we all used the rest of the paint in a much more creative way.  We put multi-colored handprints all over the walls.  The final result looked like something out of a lunatic's mind or perhaps a scene from a Dr. Seuss poem. 

One hand
Two hands
Red hand
Blue hand
Black hand

Blue hand
Old hand
New hand
Some are red and some are blue.

Some are old and some are new.
Some are sad and some are glad.

And some are very, very bad.
Why are they sad and glad and bad?

I don't know. Go ask your dad.

Some are thin and some are fat.
The fat one has a yellow hat.
From there to here, from here to there,

Funny things everywhere.
Here are some who like to run.

They run for fun in the hot, hot sun
Oh me! Oh my!
Oh me! Oh my!
What a lot of funny things go by.
Some have two hands and some have four.
Some have six hands and some have more.
Where do they come from?
I cant say.
But I bet they have come a long, long way.
We see them come.
We see them go.
Some are fast.
And some are slow.
Some are high.
And some are low
Not one of them is like another.
Don't as us why.
Go ask your mother.

(adapted from "Red Fish Blue Fish" by Dr. Seuss)

Many years later the plot thickened into a sort of silly jiggly jello kind of mess.  My home was sold and converted into 3 apartments.  My cousin, Debbie still lived next door and the new owner asked her if she knew who used to live there.  I think she must have been a little hesitant to commit to answering that question until she was asked if she knew that someone had painted handprints all over the attic.  With that she laughed and nodded her head.  It was that crazy Mary Jane Doe who joyfully left her imprint on that very old, very bold yellow brick house.  

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Revere Ware Blues

This photo of my daughter and I makes me remember my dislike for Revere Ware pots and pans.  The pot on the stove is one I still have now 38 years later.  Copper pots might be great to use for cooking, but I discovered at a very young age they're a real pain in the ass to keep polished.

When I was a child my mother started collecting Revere Ware.  My brothers and I hated keeping them polished because it was an endless task.  But my mother insisted on keeping her copper cookware shiny and new looking.  Thus it became our responsibility to wash and polish the Revere Ware.

Unlike most people who toss all there pots and pans in a kitchen cabinet out of sight, my mother had a large pegboard in back of the stove to hang all the pots and pans. They might have looked great while they were polished, but the finish only lasted a few days at the most.  Over time the air caused the copper to tarnish without even using them.  Thus polishing those damn pots and pans was a thankless, never-ending, highly hated chore. 

My brothers and I made it crystal clear when we were young that none of us wanted any of the Revere Ware left to us, but I have to admit the older I get, the fonder I get of those old pots and pans.  They may only get polished every once in awhile now, but they hold a certain sentimental spot in my heart.  In fact, while writing this I discovered I developed the overwhelming urge to go polish each one of them...