The End of the Rainbow

Rainbow, Asturias, Spain

The pot of gold always out of reach

There is no sand on a warm beach;

Just a demonized leprechaun protecting the pot.

 ***

Brightly colored rainbows streak across the sky

Fading into black as the evil leprechaun screams for all dreams to die;

The gold always out of reach.

***

Fairies dance around begging for the dreams to survive

Just a chance for something to thrive;

The wicked leprechaun casts his spell denying life.

***

The gold continues to grow in the pot

Unimaginable wealth of dreams that cannot be bought;

The vindictive leprechaun protecting the gold.

Believing in Myself – 10 Things I am Really Good at; Another Challenge

smileI have been challenged by another reader to come up with 10 things I am good at, and then to take them to heart and believe in myself.  I have been staring at a blank screen for more than 20 minutes; it feels like being at a job interview, or as if I am writing a cover letter.

I do not want to come up with a list of sterile facts like “I’m good at the computer” or “I’m a loyal friend”…

My penmanship is horrible; I cannot read my own writing.

I am a terrible driver; once, my boyfriend at the time was driving behind me said, “You look like a drunk-driver from behind, what were you doing up there?”

I am reading several books and do not seem to have the ability to concentrate to finish any of them; even though I read East of Eden in three days.

I am a picky eater, I cannot stand for my food to touch on the plate, often requiring more than one plate for my meals; I even sometimes put ketchup on fish.

I am a horrible dancer, I have no rhythm.

Likewise, I am a horrible singer.

So, being good at something is entirely different from things that are good about me; I think I am stalling.

***

ONE

I am a good cook; I won a gourmet pizza contest once when I created a buffalo wing style pizza with blue cheese and buffalo wing sauce.  I think I was a quarterly finalist; I won a cappuccino maker and 104 pizza crusts.

TWO

I am a good homemaker; I can cook, clean, sew, and am more than happy to do the laundry, dishes and housework.  I have never been one to expect my other to come home and help if I am not working but they are.  However, if I need to work outside the home, I am fine with that as well; I can still come home and take care of the house.

THREE

While I have many shortcomings, I am willing to continually work on them to improve.  I can recognize what is wrong, and if not, am willing to listen to others; I progress and evolve through the years trying to become my better self.

FOUR

I am an excellent student.  I have always enjoyed learning; while I love school and the academic environment, I am a student of life and appreciate gaining knowledge through various means, reading, social connections, travel, or anywhere I can gain a little nugget of wisdom.

(This is getting to be quite a challenge…)

FIVE

I have an excellent memory; members of my family actually tease and make fun of me when we are together reminiscing about things.  The big joke is about how I will remember the event, but in particular how I will always remember what I was wearing on the day it happened.  Apparently some idiot savant quality.

SIX

My capacity to forgive is infinite; I have had more than one person comment about how angry they would be over this or that.  Yet, I truly do not hold grudges or feel anger about things that have happened in my past.  I feel hurt and sadness and I have deep scars as a result; but, mostly, I blame myself for things that have happened to me and I do not direct anything I feel onto anybody else.  I am not certain if that is forgiveness exactly, because I never actually blamed them in the first place…

SEVEN

I am intelligent; I feel cocky writing this on here, but I am.  Sometimes I make errors in my grammar and writing style, so you may not get the exact picture of my intelligence, but it is true.  There was a time I had wonderful potential to do many things; however, life happens.  I will just leave it there.

EIGHT

I suppose I am good at making others feel comfortable; I will give two examples.  When others tell me stories, and they tell the same story they have told me before, I have never said, “Oh, you mean the story of XYZ that you just told me the other day.”  When you say those words to somebody, it hurts, they feel as if you have burst their bubble to a degree, or you are impatient listening to them.  It just happened to me the other day; who among us has not repeated a story?

Apparently, I am a good listener and people feel as if they can say anything to me; when I worked, co-workers would talk to me about everything, their troubles at work, at home, and about their personal lives.  But, the best example I can think of is one evening I was out to dinner alone and then stopped off at the country club for a drink.  A man approached me and started talking to me; he sat at my table and we started to chat, when I asked him what he did for a living, he responded, “I sell pornography and sex toys.”

We continued talking for a while, and then he said, “I have never told anybody that; I usually just say I sell computer supplies, but you are so easy to talk to. I have no idea what it is about you.”  Later, I told my boyfriend about the experience and he reflected what many others have said about me, everybody seems to want to spill their secrets around me.  I would never tell another soul anything they say, it is safe with me, and I would never judge.

(Oh my gosh! Two more to go… You try it… not so easy.)

NINE

Each day, I feel like I am good at writing.  I know the difference between your and you’re, their, there, and they’re, our and are, and it’s and its.  It seems as if I can evoke responses by what I write and sometimes inspire people to think.

TEN

I do not procrastinate, and I finish the things I begin; such as this list.

Three Things I did Right as a Mother – the Challenge

imagesRecently, a reader posted a challenge to me to write about three things I did right as a mother; I honestly did not think it was going to be so difficult, however, I can think of two things fairly easily, but the third one is going to be a challenge.

As my children have fairly unique names and I would not want anybody to read this allowing it to get back to them, as they are already embarrassed by me enough, I will call them X and Y; X being 15 months older than Y.

***

One

When X and Y were around 2 and 3, I took a part-time job working two days a week for a manufacturing plant working in their company store.  The plant was extremely progressive boasting an on-site daycare or I never would have taken the position since it was mostly a wash on my salary.

Both of the girls hated going to the daycare; they were used to our days together of playing in the parks, water coloring, or going to the library or free museums.  I took advantage of anything free in our small community; as we lived on an incredibly tight budget.

A few months into my new work experience, the receptionist was terminated; the plant manager asked if I could step in while they looked for a replacement.  This would mean full-time daycare for X and Y, but it also meant a full-time paycheck; at least for a few weeks.  I had not worked since I had been a teenager, so I was excited but apprehensive; still, I accepted.

My two-week stint as the replacement receptionist turned into a full-time gig and I became the receptionist permanently.  The girls were miserable; frankly, we all were.  The extra money turned out not to be very much by the time daycare was taken out of my meager entry-level salary; and, I missed so much work because the girls were constantly sick from the daycare exposure.  I still had to pay all of those days, though.

I was exhausted, too; I worked all day and then still came home and prepared full meals from scratch every night for the three of us, and sometimes four if my husband was home.  I was still responsible for the cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping as well; not to mention the entertainment schedule for X and Y.

One day, while driving home from work, I was just too tired to make dinner; Y was a little older than three by then.  I decided to stop by McDonald’s and buy the girls the famed Chicken Nuggets; they had never eaten there.  Take-out was a luxury we couldn’t afford, but I decided we had a little extra money by then, so what the heck.

When we arrived home, I spread the food out on the table and tried to make it exciting for the girls with the tiny plastic toy that came with their meal.

Both girls just glared at me; however, it was Y who got up from the table and got a cookbook out and brought it to me begging, “Mommy, can’t you please just make a recipe?”

Their entire lives we rarely ate fast food; even years later when I remarried and we could clearly afford to.  I cooked for them every chance I could, trying to teach them it was better for them, and showing them I loved them with what I made.

Years later when X and Y were 19 and 20 and I lived thousands of miles away, Y called to tell me she was helping X move to a new apartment.  “Mom,” she spoke into the phone, “I just looked into X’s freezer.  She has all kinds of frozen meals in here.  Pizza, all kinds of junk.  Do you know she eats out at fast-food places all the time?”

I was stunned, I didn’t know what to say, “Y, I am thousands of miles away, and she is an adult, what do you want me to do?”

“I don’t know, Mom,” she replied, “Talk to her, we weren’t raised this way.  It’s wrong.  I make everything from scratch.  I could teach her if she needs me to.  She is just being lazy.”

I had no answers for her and she finally hung up the phone on me.

***

Two

When X graduated from high school, I took her on a trip to Minnesota to go to the Mall of America; everybody said, “Oh, you have to go, once in a lifetime shopping trip.”  Wrong.  Basically, it is a huge mall with several of the same stores over and over again.  Besides, I have no idea what I was thinking, as we are not really people who shop for no reason; I do not window shop, and I did not raise my children to aimlessly mill around if they were not purchasing something.

Still, we were there for five days; so we made the best of our time in the area.  We did go to the mall twice.  Once we were there for four hours and another time we went back for three hours.

The rest of our time in the area we went sight-seeing; we went to an old historic battleground, Fort Snelling something or other; we went to a castle; we went on a Mississippi River boat cruise; and we went to several museums.  Our days were filled exploring the city.

One of the best nights we had was going out to a fancy dinner where we delighted in paying $8 for a glass of tap water, and $10 to park our tiny rental car blocks away from the restaurant.  We enjoyed each other in a way we hadn’t in months.  She had been a pain since turning 18 and deciding she no longer had to follow the house rules; needless to say our home had been tension filled.

There was a lull during our trip when I turned to her and apologized for the trip not being as exciting as I had hoped; it seemed it was a little more boring than expected.  I was happily surprised by her response, “Mommy,” she has always called me Mommy, “You raised us to never be bored.  Only boring people can be boring, I am having a great time, thanks for bringing me.”

We went on to talk about what life was like when she was little; how I often times had to do so much with so little, making everything from scratch.  We laughed about how I would buy sheets from the thrift store for $0.50 and make matching outfits for her and Y.   We talked about how I made Barbie Doll clothes one year for them for Christmas, and how challenging it was to sew them because they are so tiny.

She seemed really appreciative, until our flight was cancelled; then she flipped out and became hostile at the airport, but that is an entirely different story.

***

Three

On December 31, 1994, X and Y’s dad came to me and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.  I don’t want to be a dad or a husband.”  With that, he took two boxes of his things and drove away.  I later found out he had a 17 year-old girlfriend who was pregnant with his baby; he was 27 and we had been married for 7 years.

I moved in with my parent’s two states away; I immediately got a job and applied for college.  Other than my brief foray as a receptionist, I had not worked since I was a teenager; but I did not have a choice now.  My future ex-husband never sent a dime to support X and Y from the moment he walked out the door.

A few months after he left, he called and wanted to reconcile; we had gone back and forth as teenagers, but I was done playing games, I just couldn’t do that now that X and Y were in the picture.  As soon as I declined, he started to get nasty; the police showed up at my parent’s with a warrant for my arrest for kidnapping my children, and I had to get an attorney to defend myself.

As the months wore on, the fight got uglier, but I continued working and going to school; all the while, trying to maintain as much normalcy for X and Y as I could.  When their father would call, he would start to curse and tell them ugly things about me, so I would gently take the phone and hang up; leaving them in tears.  They were still very young, Y was just turning 5 and X had turned 6 by the time our divorce was finalized.

By the time everything was over with him, he never voluntarily paid anything for their support.  As soon as the child support order went into effect, he quit his job; so his unemployment was garnished and the kids did get something until it ran out.  After that, they would get checks for $2 to $0.32 for the next few years; then three years after the divorce, he finally terminated his parental rights.

My second husband adopted the girls and their biological father rarely saw them afterwards.   He simply was not a very good father; he did not provide financially, and when he saw them or spoke to them, he was high and belligerent.

However, during all those years, I never spoke one demeaning word about him.  I always believed the girls had a right to determine who he was on their own, that it was not my place to run him down.  I felt if I had issues with him because he was not right for me, I did not have to burden them with my bad feelings; that would serve no purpose for them.

I think that is something I did right.

Why Aren’t I Afraid of Guns?

imagesI have had a gun held to my head twice, and I feel as if should be a traumatic event.  There should be something defining about somebody holding a loaded weapon to your head and you facing your own mortality.  However, somewhere there is disconnected wiring in the innermost mechanism in her mind that did not bond; she came through these two experiences unscathed.

When I was 17 years-old, my second job was at a Payless Shoe Source at a mall; it was one of the stores with the doors on the outside of the building, so to access the store you didn’t have to go inside.  The store had a total of 4 full-time employees and there were usually only two of us there at a time.

Our manager had told us there had been news of a man robbing Payless Shoe stores in the local area for the past few weeks; he had a pattern of robbing them every Monday night.  On a Monday night, I was working with my co-worker Rich; it was around 8:30 when I started talking with a customer as I was putting away shoes.  “Do you like it here,” he asked me, pimp hat pulled down over his eyes.

“Oh, sure,” I answered happily, picking up the scattered shoes customers had strewn across the floor, “I love shoes and I get a discount.”

“The customers sure make a mess,” he opined as he watched me pick up the shoes.

“Yep,” I replied, “But, that’s just job security.”  We both laughed.

I walked away from him and took some shoes to the stockroom; when I returned, Rich was bent over the safe and the customer I had been talking to was leaning over the counter.

I asked Rich a question and he didn’t respond; I asked him again.  Nothing.  Finally, the customer stood up and pulled his arm out of his jacket, pointing his gun directly at me, “He’s busy,” he said, “Go lock the front door, then lay down at the back of the store.”

Just as I got to the front of the store, a group of shoppers came in; I tried to ask them to leave, “No, no, we just shop for shoes,” they responded to my pleas.  They did not understand English.  I turned to the robber, shrugging my shoulders.

“Get them to the back of the store and tell them to lie down,” he demanded pointing the gun at me.  I could see Rich as nervous and still struggling with the combination on the safe.

“Ma’am,” I said, turning to the woman as she walked down the aisle with her children, “We’re being robbed; I need you to come to the back of the store and lay down.”

“No, no, we just look at shoes,” she said in her thick accent.

Once again, I turned to the man directing the gun at me; clearly I was not going to get these shoppers to comply.  He must have been an empathetic robber, “Just forget them, go lay down in the back.”

As I lay down on the carpet, the shoppers obliviously looked for shoes; Rich finally joined me and started counting to 100 per the robber’s instructions.  The second the man left, Rich and I stood up and rushed the customers to the door; the whole time they were saying, “No, no, we just look at shoes,” as we closed and locked the door behind them.

***

The second time I had a gun held to my head was just a few months later; I had just turned 18 years-old.  I was in Nye, Montana, with my younger brother and sister for the summer where my father was working in a mine.  He had been up there all year, but since my mother had long since tired of moving, we had all stayed back in Nevada.

My father still drank a lot during his time in Montana; and, with my mother not there, he turned his abusive tendencies towards me.  I spent the summer either hanging out and partying with him at the local bars, or back at the single wide trailer with my brother and sister avoiding my dad’s physical and emotional jabs.

One weekend, he was on a particularly abusive kick; I cannot recall what his rant was about, but it has no bearing on the outcome of the event.

Dad came home from the bar one Sunday afternoon; he was drunk and in a total rage.  He began picking on my little brother for riding his four-wheeler in the neighbor’s pasture while it was still wet, something he had been told not to do.  The criticism escalated until my brother was in tears; things got out of control to the point of no return.

Soon, my dad had a gun and was threatening to kill himself for being such an awful father, a terrible husband, and a wretched drunk.  My 13 year-old brother, 8 year-old sister and I spent hours that afternoon talking him out of shooting himself.  He was waving the gun around wildly and talking about all of the horrible things he had done as a father and husband.  We did our best to refute his claims, though; it was difficult to come up with arguments to the contrary.

By the evening, his anger and rage turned towards me; he had hit me and eventually pinned me up against the dryer, holding the gun directly on my temple threatening to kill me.  My brother wanted to call 911, but earlier in the day my dad had already ripped the phone and wires out of the wall.  I spent hours begging and pleading for my life; one hand curled tightly around my neck, the other on the gun, his finger on the trigger, I finally demanded my brother and sister go outside.

Around 10 that night, he had to leave for work, he finally let me go and left for work.  My brother and sister came back in the house and we cleaned up the mess that had been made during the mêlée.

***

I don’t know why I am not more affected by gun violence.

Who Am I?

imagesI have never fully allowed anybody to know me; I always hold part of myself back.  No matter my relationship with somebody, wife, lover, friend, mother, daughter, co-worker, or patient, there is a piece of me that they will never know.  It is never the same piece, though.

I pick who is permitted to know what about me; maybe if they all got together one day, they would have a complete picture of who I am.  Most likely, though; if people started to compare notes, they would think they were talking about different people.

Even when I have been a psychiatric patient, at times seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist; I would tell one certain elements about my life and the other different things.  Never lies, I always told the truth, but there were always omissions.  Sometimes, in therapy, I was afraid if I told them absolutely everything, I might be locked up because I would be found “crazy”.

However, in my personal relationships, especially in my marriages, I held back not wanting to give too much of myself.  I would be one way at home in my relationship, then I would go to work and have a friend and a different personality.  It was exhausting.

There was a terrible movie in the 80’s called Stepfather I believe; it was about a man who had a family that he was disappointed with.  He secretly quit his job and took one about an hour or so away; he married another woman with children.  Then, I believe he killed his first family and simply picked up his life with the second family.

One day, he started to tire of them as well, as they were not perfect; which is what he was looking for, perfection.  He was on the phone planning his escape to yet another life when one of the stepchildren overheard him on the phone talking; he used a name that was not his at the time, he had slipped up.  The teenager overheard him; striking the kid across the head, bloodying him, he says, “Oh, wait, who am I today?”

I never screw up, though; I juggle my personalities like balls in the air.  They stay up as long as I need them to, and if one starts to descend, I catch it, and throw it right back up again.  I hold my secrets locked tightly away, never sharing them with anybody; the loneliness of my reality suffocating me at times.

There are days I want to open my heart and say, “Look at me, don’t turn away.  Here I am, these are all of my secrets… if I share them, would you still know me?”  However, the thought of even saying it, after all of these years makes me tremble.

Each day, a new personality… or a recycled old one, often, the flat one.

Goodbye My Lover

imagesLast summer I went to my ex-husband’s parent’s house to visit; his grandparents had just moved in after his grandfather had a stroke.  His grandmother had always been kind to me even though her grandson and I had long since ended our relationship; we had even exchanged Christmas cards for years, me sending them from the past four states I had lived in during five years.

My daughters had not visited their grandparents in a while, and it had been even longer since they had seen their great-grandparents; so my youngest made a cake and we made the five minute car trip to visit.  My ex-father-in-law had been providing hospice care for his father in the home where he runs his business while his 80 something year-old mother did her best to help.

When we arrived, I was immediately affected by the scene; W, the great-grandmother, with her hair and makeup completely done, was standing by J’s hospital bed holding his hand.  The bed had been brought into the area between the table in the kitchen and the family room so he could be a part of everything; he looked so small and frail, not the healthy robust man I remembered.

W stood beside him as we all gathered around the table talking and visiting; everyone oohing and ahhing over my grandson’s bright red hair, and discussing my youngest daughter’s upcoming wedding.  Every now and then, W would turn to J and say, “J look at your two great-granddaughters, didn’t they turn out to be beautiful young ladies? And here, meet their families.”  J would stare off vacantly, but W would talk to him as if he were completely present.

I watched her with him, trying to hold back my tears the entire evening; she never left his side.  When we cut the cake, her son tried to get her to come to the table to have a piece, “Mom, come and sit down, Dad will be okay for a minute,” he pleaded with her.

“Oh, no,” she replied, “I can’t leave him, he’ll know.”  She did not even want to let him go for a second; finally, somebody brought her some cake and a chair to eat next to the hospital bed.

When we left that evening and said our goodbyes, it was the last time we would ever see J again; he died a few weeks later.  He and W had been married over 50 years; probably closer to 60.  I saw W at my daughter’s wedding a few weeks later; she seemed utterly lost without him.

When I think of the way she looked that night, sitting with him, holding his hand, and refusing to leave his side; I cry.  I don’t mean in the way that my eyes well up with a few tears, I mean to say that I have cried so hard I feel like I cannot stop.  I do not just cry for them, but I cry for me.

As we drove away from the house that night, I realized something; I want what they have.  I want somebody to love me so deeply, so profoundly, that they could love me for 50 years.

However, nobody ever will.

If I live to be over 50, my parents will not love me for 50 years; my father is dead, and my mother has gone years without speaking to me, so she clearly will not love me for 50 years.

If I am still alive when my children are in their 50’s, they will not have loved me for 50 years; they do not speak to me now, so they clearly will not.

I will not have had a love for 50 years; I have already been divorced twice, not even close to 50 years…

I have not even had a friend for 5 years, let alone 50.

I started to think about the people who have come and gone from my life; friends, lovers, spouses…

I have given so much of myself at times; some say too much, others say not enough.  Regardless of how you look at it, I failed at something, at everything; at love.

Scarred and Scared

The Rain Room Is Unveiled At The Curve Inside The Barbican CentreI have scars; so many scars I am self-conscious of them.  I had 15 surgeries in three years; 11 just on my feet.  My feet were not the most attractive to look at in the first place, but who has pretty, anyway, right?  I used to like to look at them with one eye closed and then the other, and in just the right light I would pretend they were Fred Flintstone’s hands.

Before my surgeries I could pick up a pencil with my toes, I was quite a talent.  I would wear the highest of heels at least five days a week; now, I am relegated to ugly flat shoes, and for the life of me I cannot figure out how to “dress up” in a pair of flats.  They just are not sexy.  I have three scars on my right foot and two scars on my left one; some look worse than others because I experimented with Vitamin K and I think it must have worked.

Painting my toenails only draws further attention to the ugliness because I had to have surgery to remove my big toenails, so I have to paint the skin, and it just does not look “right”; at least to my critical eye.

I have other scars; I have a small one on my right forearm where my donkey, Cinnamon, bit me once when I inadvertently threw her hay on the ground outside of her stall and reached in to open her pen.  I should have let her out first, and then retrieved her breakfast; lesson learned.  My wrist is scarred from an ill-fated suicide attempt, but when I see it, I know how far I have progressed in my life.

My list goes on, as I am 44 years-old, and have not merely sat on the couch as life has passed me by; at times, but not every day.

However, the physical scars are not the marks that scare me the most; they are not the ones I run from or think others will run from when they notice; at least not people who matter to me.  If somebody notices the scars on my feet, wrist, or any other perceived imperfections, I can imagine they are somebody I do not have time to waste on them anymore.  I think I am too old for such a selfish attitude.

The other scars I carry, the ones deep in my soul, the wounds affecting my heart, my mind, and my spirit, they scare me.  They have caused me to build walls, to close myself off to relationships, to walk away from people without looking back, and to be lonely.

I am flat on the outside, but I am bursting at the seams, trying to get out.