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Monday, November 20, 2017

Roller Coaster Ride: I Never Thought About Fat Shaming Until I Came Near Death

I never thought much about fat shaming until I came near death.

I was a fairly skinny child that was raised to eat fresh vegetables. I wasn't allowed sugar except on special occasions, so I never thought about fat or fat people when I was young.

My mother was beautiful. But she was fat. Not gross. Usually between 30 to 50 pounds overweight. But I just saw mom and beauty--and didn't see fat.

She was shamed by my father for it. But it mostly went over my head when I heard a few comments because my mother looked like a chubby brunette Grace Kelly.

Then one summer, my father, away overseas in the military, came back and discovered I had a small potbelly. I was about 10 or 11. It was true, but it was so minor that none of my friends noticed. I had spent the summer hanging out with a friend whose mother baked a mean blackberry cobbler and made delicious home cooked dinners. There was none of that at my house, during that time, because my father was gone and my mother was involved in caring for her mother, that just had a stroke.

That brief fat shaming made only a little blip in my psyche. I went back to being totally thin after we moved away from that truly lovely neighbor.

Then my parents divorced. My mother married a mentally ill man with at least, anger issues, and at best, semi-homicidal tendencies.

I gained a few pounds, but if I posted pictures of that time, it would hardly make a ripple. Slightly chubby. Well, my new stepfather, decided I was a fat tub of lard. My mother, at this time, to snag that new husband was down to fighting weight and no longer chubby. She later, due to stress, gained a lot of weigh, but my stepfather said it didn't bother him.

He fat shamed me at the table. He told me I shouldn't really be eating. It turns out that unknown to me at the time, my father was not sending child support regularly, and  my stepfather resented every mouthful I took.

He spent most every dinner glaring at every forkful or spoonful that hit my mouth. He was usually silent, but one evening he stared with extra hatred and waited to pounce. I had no idea why he was extra angry. I don't remember exactly what we were having for dinner, but the main course was baked chicken. My mother usually cooked a balanced meal and we didn't have a lot of junk food.

I finally cut into my chicken and as I  lifted the first forkful to my mouth. He screamed,"Put that down! You can't have chicken with skin on it. Take the G-ddamn skin off!."

I was mortified. There is karma. Years later, when my mother finally divorced him, he had gained a lot of weight. He was very fat. It had to do with orange juice and buttermilk by the gallon, but that's another story.

Stepfather actually sent me to his family doctor for "my problem." The doctor (over 100 pounds overweight compared to my 30 or so pounds) didn't do one test. He was friends with my charismatic stepfather, who apparently told him to shame the fat off of me. The doctor told me to quit eating so much and acted VERY stern and disappointed.

I didn't eat that much.

It often puzzled me. Sure, when I went out to eat or at a special occasion, I'd pig out. But generally I ate moderately. But due to my stepfather's boot camp tactics, I rarely ate when he was home--and got in the habit of stuffing it down the brief times he wasn't at home. He worked construction, so was home shortly after I got home from school and had lots of time off.

Then my father, who I didn't see that often, made numerous comments about me being fat.

In my early twenties, he would call me on the phone and before saying, hi, would ask,"Are you still fat?"

I finally put my fat foot up his ass, so to speak. I told him that he was NEVER to call me again, UNTIL he could get a more balanced attitude. It took him about five years to call me back.

And that was quite difficult for me. It was a different era back then. And I certainly was not taught to stand up for my self-esteem.

I figured all that was behind me. I had married. My husband didn't care that I was a bit overweight. It's not like I was waddling or so overweight that anyone outside of family ever said anything.

So, basically my father tells me to stop eating. I had visited him at age 14. He had just remarried a woman, who was more in my generation. My father was apparently telling me I shouldn't eat this and that, etc. I don't remember, because I really didn't care. But my new stepmother stood up for me and laughed. "Don't let him tell you what to eat. Eat whatever you want!"

That was novel. Someone telling me to be my own person. But it set off a crap storm of yelling from my father, who felt it was wrong for anyone to tell me not to listen to him.

Then my stepfather tells me to stop eating. Then he sets an obese doctor on me, who told me to really cut down eating.

Actually I moved to a town where there was some kick-ass food, shortly after I married. Deep-fried burritos and some chocolate-peanut butter pie. I did gain weight and I officially became fat.

So, now my "role model" is my newish mother-in-law. She's a petite woman who was only about five or ten pounds overweight at any given time.

One day I was in her backyard visiting with her and I had a Big Gulp with me. It had Diet Coke in it, because I never did like sugary drinks to begin with.

Out of the blue she turned to me and snarled, "You are WAY too fat to be drinking a Coke, much less ANYTHING!!!"

Yes, she's mentally ill. But I didn't know it at the time. I was so stunned I just clammed up. I didn't even tell her it was a Diet Coke.

That's the only time she turned on me about me being a fat tub of lard. But she spent her time attacking everything else for decades, so I had almost forgotten about the last nail in the coffin of being told I was too gross to eat, or even drink much.

We moved from that state, nine years after our marriage. And miraculously I dropped 70 pounds without even trying. Hmmm.

When we returned to "home" for a visit, my mother-in-law couldn't ignore my stunning transformation. I actually didn't care if anyone noticed. But she hissed at me that it looked like I lost some weight, but she was glaring at me with such hatred.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I was still overweight though. Still am, a little.

And my husband never made any comments about it except one. I finally had enough of his mother's verbal attacks that continued either directly or indirectly by her telling other family members (who told me) what a creep I was.

I told my husband this had to stop. I guess it was the first time anyone told him his family dynamics were crazy. Mine were too--but I didn't allow the dysfunction into my home, or at least said something about it.

My husband replied,"Why are YOU fat then?" In other words, you aren't perfect, so you can't tell me my family isn't perfect.

Again, I was so stunned, I didn't say much.

But I got news for myself. I am as perfect as I can be, because I see my flaws and attempt to deal with them.

So, the message was clear: Don't eat fatty.

But I didn't know I was even listening to that message. I didn't know it when about two years ago I started getting desperately ill.

Over the years, I was always fairly low energy. I didn't go to doctors much. That's another whole story about how abusive the medical system can be.

My mother died a horrible death from being a NON-COMPLIANT diabetic. So I assumed I might have diabetes. I tested my blood sugar sometimes, but it was always normal.

Then I felt pretty decent for years with only a few bouts of lethargy.

Then about two years ago I was getting pale and often having to take to bed, even after eating a mostly protein breakfast. Actually I rarely ate breakfast. Remember:Don't eat!

I started having allergic attacks. That's another story. And they have miraculously lessened with NO meds after I started working on the real medical issue.

But when I went so pale and weak at work, and started scaring others, I finally went to a naturopathic doctor. I actually went when I was having one of these episodes, but didn't have an appointment, so was rather given the bum's rush.

That was another story--but I was given some pretty poor medical advice. The only good thing that came out of it, was I took another fasting blood test and was not diabetic, in fact rather normal. But when I sent my husband to this naturopathic doctor, she said my husband was diabetic. So he immediately went to get medical help.

It was actually my allergy doctor who after listening to me for just a few moments told me that high protein could be dangerous and that he suspected I had reactive hypoglycemia. I had never heard of reactive hypoglycemia.

This good doctor knew I was not one to go to doctors, so instead of talking me out of that, he suggested I go online and research if I didn't want to go to a specialist.

Well, in the three weeks between appointments, I had an amazing turn around. Just by EATING!!!!
Eating complex carbs like he suggested.

And eating. Eating. And EATING some more!

No, I haven't went to a specialist yet. I might. And I DO NOT recommend people do what I have done when it comes to medical help.

I still struggle a little, after eating even a healthy meal or snack, with lethargy. But there is no more turning so pale that people get frightened. And I've lost a few pounds without trying.

And it wasn't until just a FEW days ago--even after going through two debilitating years that semi-recently culminated in me almost accidentally killing myself--and having a good improvement recently-- did I realize I had done this to myself!

By not eating. By being told by SO many people NOT to eat, or to eat like a bird since I was SO fat.

Sure, I would eat. But I wouldn't eat all day many times--and then eat at night. Or if I ate during the day, it was like a bird No breakfast. A salad for lunch. A few nuts. And looking back on it--I'd be having hypoglycemic slumps for decades, on and off trying to eat like a bird and wondering why I had low energy and was fat when I rarely over ate. And now reactive hypoglycemia.

No, seek good medical advice, like I didn't.

Learn from me. Don't bury all the things your elders, parents or role models told you. EAT! EAT! EAT! Healthy,of course.

I believe there is a Bible verse that warns: Life and death is in the power of the tongue.

I'm not here to get religious. But I recognize truth when I read it--or see it in real life.

People, even unwittingly due to their own issues, will literally attempt to kill you (or at least diminish others) with their words.

Don't let them do it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Roller Coaster Ride: Claire & Brad, recently engaged, dealing with bi-polar family and suicide attempt

Disclaimer: The stories posted here are true--but slight details have been changed to protect privacy. These are simply stories that either I, my friends, family, acquaintances, or people who email me--have experienced. Nothing here is meant as a substitute for medical or psychological treatments or assessments from professionals. And NOTHING posted here is ever meant to suggest that all people suffering mental illness are destructive or dangerous. These are simply OUR experiences, coming from people who are struggling with people with these issues.

Recently I decided to start posting my long journey of dealing with family members that I was hurt, perplexed and confused by. I've come to the conclusion, the reason it was so painful and confusing at times, that I was not just dealing with difficult people--but people with a variety of disorders that range from attachment disorders to bipolar and challenges in between. I thought it might help others see that sometimes, even though NO ONE is perfect, often: It Really Is YOU--Not Me!

I just got an email from someone in my personal life, who had no idea I was posting on mental illnesses--or that I even blog. I asked if I could change names and post what they are going through. I was told, yes, but to do it anonymously.

I'll call the woman I received the email from Claire--and her fiance--Brad. It's not clear from the email what their backstory is--so I'll just give a little, so the account makes more sense. Claire and Brad are both widowed, with grown children and grandchildren. They met semi-recently, fell in love and are planning to marry. Claire was welcomed with open arms by Brad's family at first. They were happy their father had found a loving companion. But Brad's daughter started having issues with the new woman in her father's life.

I've likened my experiences with dealing with people in my family who suffer from mental disorders and illnesses as a roller coaster ride. And NOT a fun ride. I'm fairly certain Claire and Brad, like me, want to get off this roller coaster ride.

Here's the story, from Claire's email, unedited by me except to change names and towns.

LOTS been going on here - Brad's daughter, you may recall, is bi-polar and uses it to the max to get what she wants - which she finally told Brad is his house and ALL of his possessions, which she thought she was inheriting from her mother – NOT. It is Brad’s house by right of “survivor ship” according to the Deed; and the things in the house were bought with his money.

So, on September 30 (during a nasty verbal attack on me with Brad in the middle), when she found out she is not entitled to any of it, she flipped out again! This time, for the 6th to 12th time (according to her sons & brother) she "pretended" to commit suicide, this time by taking an overdose of “sleeping” pills. He said he knew of one time before and she’d taken “diet” pills; and before, every time she’s been at someone’s house where they would “save” her. We found out she’s been doing this since she was 15, when a boyfriend broke up with her, and she’s been doing it every time things don’t go her way. Her two younger boys said she’d done it at least once a year for the 10 years she’d been living (married) in ----- and her husband finally kicked her out 2 years ago after it happened again. That’s when she went to live with Brad. Her daughter-in-law (-----) said she’s always looking for a man to take care of her and Brad was the luck guy this time; and because he is SO nice he never demanded that she move out…..until that morning!

His unhappiness with her being there kept building, long before I came into his life. She intentionally broke his house rules and did whatever she wanted (examples: moving things in his kitchen and not putting them back when he asked; not training the dog he bought her, when she said she would; not picking up after the dog; letting him in the house ALL the time; and the last couple of days she even began letting him sit on the couch while she ate dinner, etc.) and speaking to him like he is one of HER employees. But when she turned on me, like she had done to his wife , that was the last straw. He told her sons back in July she had to go and they had to help her….but they did nothing.

In August, after we got back from ------ (for his great-granddaughter's birthday), I told Brad I would not got back to his house, because I didn’t want to be treated the way she had been treating me (cold shoulder; rude comments, etc.). So I stayed away for almost 5 weeks. Then one day Brad pointed out that she was “winning” - she was getting exactly what she wanted: me gone! So I went back to his house with him, suitcase in hand, planning to stay to help him work on his taxes.

I’d only been there about four days before this blow up happened. I thought it was going to be a good thing – let her tell me why she was mad at me and clear the air. WONG!!! I found out later that you can NOT have a reasonable conversation with a bi-polar person; it’s like trying to argue with a drunk. Only she’s worse than that, because she’s controlling, manipulative, calculating and very foul mouthed. Later, Brad said he was proud of me to “holding my own” when I am not an argumentative person, not quick on my feet and had NO idea what I was up against. Each time I proved that what she was saying was a lie, she’d stop for a couple of seconds and then start on another rant about another subject – most of them made up in her mind. For example: Brad told her towards the beginning of our relationship how different I was from his late wife. She twisted that around and had ME saying, I hated his wife!!!!! I have NEVER said that or anything derogatory about his late wife.

Anyway, after trying three times to get her to stop and her refusing, he told her we were leaving and headed to his apartment to work on it, as originally planned for that day. We worked there stopping for lunch and dinner, after which we were heading back to Brad’s when he said, “I think we should go to your house.” I simply told him I thought we should go back to his house, because I didn’t want her to “drive us off - again”. A few minutes later, he said it again. I told him I was prepared for her to verbally attack me again, and repeated that we couldn’t let her run us off again. He told me recently, he almost drove right past the turn to his house, but out of respect for my judgment, he made that turn.

As it turned out, if I hadn't convinced him to go back to his house that night, she'd be dead! When we got to his house, he went into her room, as the door was wide open (she usually has it closed – she wanted to be found). She had posed herself sitting in bed, with two pill bottles in her lap, so they’d know what she’d taken. (When the paramedics asked me to “put all of the pill bottles in a bag” for them to take, the grocery bag was FULL!!! So she made sure they would know exactly what it was she had taken, so they (paramedics) could “save” her again. If we hadn’t gone back that night…..

Anyway, Brad called her oldest son, -----, and then called 911. He was instructed to “keep her awake” until the paramedics arrived. So for 15 minutes that’s what we did. Brad told ---- (a close friend of Brad and Claire's) later, “If it wasn’t for Claire I wouldn't have known what to do. She’s the one that kept pouring ice water on her and making her wake up, while I held her up in a sitting position on the side of the bed.” So if we hadn’t kept her awake……..

I'll continue in PART 2 with what Claire and Brad are experiencing...  

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Scary? Rancho Tehama Reserve Tehama County Northern California Shooting

Imagine my shock a few hours ago when I read about the mass shooting at Rancho Tehama Reserve in Tehama County.

I was very familiar with that community in the 1980s when I lived in one of the closest towns to that place. I lived in Tehama County for 15 years and covered news for a small newspaper for six of those years.

And Rancho Tehama Reserve was on our radars. But we didn't feel like getting our asses shot off.

Don't get me wrong. I am ALL for responsible gun rights. Yes, Tehama County was and is a conservative place. That's NOT my bone to pick with the place.

Unless you dropped by Rancho Tehama and/or visited with some of their residents--you don't know this part of northern California. I always called Tehama County the OTHER California.

I was considered part of the honest media back then. Still would be, I suppose. People from all sides would drop me notes thanking me for covering their stories just the way they happened. For that reason I was invited in places most "media" might not. Of course, I was rather a shy and average looking female with a kindly face and no agenda.

But we did not publish a lot of what I covered. Because we were dishonest? No. It was just too risky.

I am only recounting what I experienced in the 1980s. Perhaps the place is different now.

First I was invited to a house meeting by a group of patriots. I was up for that, since I always considered myself a patriot. In a room adjoining our large meeting table, there was a collection of assault rifles and other weapons. I had never seen that many guns in one place.

I was the only female at the meeting. They laid out their plans. Some of it I agreed with personally. Some I did not. But I wasn't there to agree or disagree. But it turns out they had a reason for having me there. They wanted me to start a patriot newspaper. They did not believe in paying ANY taxes. Even though I have some very conservative Libertarian views--I enjoy paying taxes and driving on roads and having law enforcement show up when I need them.

Some of these men were from Rancho Tehama and some lived in the neighboring town. When I say neighboring, that's a stretch. Rancho Tehama is in the boondocks.

We parted ways pleasantly and I never got a story out of it. Why was I going to write a story about a group of men with an arsenal that, in my opinion, were attempting to start a militia or shadow government-type organization in Tehama County?

Surprisingly most of the men were fairly well educated and well versed in philosophy and spiritual concepts. I was very young at the time and didn't quite understand the whole thing, but I knew enough to know I wouldn't be real comfy working with folks who used assault rifles as wall decorations.

Again, I am not against guns. I was raised in a military family.

The newspaper's next brush with someone from Rancho Tehama came from an odd gentleman who came down from the hills to introduce himself. He had formed a militia up there. But he had another name for it. I can't recall the name, but it had something to do with a volunteer force of people that carried guns and would come down to the other towns and protect people and do search and rescues.

I dutifully took his picture and wrote a brief story about his venture. He wore a gun belt. Open carry. Not even sure about the gun laws back then.

I was in my early 20s at the time and too ignorant to be overly alarmed. But my interim news editor, a man in his 40s who had been around the block a few times, told me he was frightened. "This guy just comes strolling into town like it's the wild West with his gun. I pity the day he walks into one of the banks. He looks like the type who would and wouldn't understand why anyone would be alarmed."

This was a small newspaper and we didn't have a lot of man or woman power. But what we did have was quite a few interested citizens who were either retired or self-employed minimally and had some time on their hands.

It wouldn't have been considered that safe for me to go into Rancho Tehama to see who really lived there and what was going on. So I asked an older gentleman to check into who this militia really was and who these people were.

I'll call the guy, Mark, who I asked to gather information. Mark was a nosy guy and relished the task. He came back after several weeks and said some of my questions about them did lead to white supremacist groups and KKK.

Let's just say that Mark and the news editor decided to let sleeping dogs lie. When someone drops into your office to say hi and always pats their gun, that just seems wise.

Now, if someone looks into the history of Rancho Tehama as already covered by media that had more resources--in more recent years--one will see the place has quite the history with violence and guns, considering the small population of the place.

If someone looks into the entire history of Tehama County over semi-recent years... Eye opening.

When I was covering crime in the 1980s there, it was appalling. At that time, the county had a total of 17 homicides in one year--and a population of just about 40,000.

Not that many years ago, Tehama County had a crime rate (per capita) higher than the bigger metro areas.

Am I slamming this county that I spent 15 years in? No. There were and still are great people there. I have family and friends there.

But, totally unrelated to Rancho Tehama, I witnessed a lot of crime there. Not only covering it. Living it--or rather attempting to escape it.

One of my best friends, a lady with three children, was murdered in Tehama County by a pedophile, who had been the best man at her wedding.

I was almost murdered, as a teenager.

I was actually planning to go into law enforcement before I accidentally got into the news business and spent time as an Explorer with the Tehama County Sheriff's Office. Some great people there, who were great mentors. Imagine my shock, shortly after leaving the program (on good terms) to see the media break wide open the corruption in that office, and mentioning names of officers I was friendly with. Sexual things. Theft, etc.

Yes, Tehama County had and probably has a huge drug problem. I know it for a fact and got caught up in it--not from doing drugs. It was just fairly impossible not to live there and not somehow have it touch your life.

And today I mourn the lives lost in the Rancho Tehama Reserve. And I applaud the efforts of law enforcement. I don't let the past color how I feel about law enforcement.

I don't have the answers about gun control. I just feel fortunate to have escaped this county with both good and bad memories.

But to me it was all about a mindset--and perhaps that mindset bordered on mental illness. It's taken me decades to process sitting across the table from those patriot-militia folks and process their mindsets.

Please, I love patriots. I am a patriot. I am just using the terms they used for themselves. Their mindsets were different. They way they thought about the government and women and children, etc.

Now, remember, back then I wasn't a well-formed conservative, etc. But I always had conservative and traditional views. So when someone approaches you and speaks the language of liberty, freedom, patriotism--you listen. And they had some good ideas. But if you REALLY listen (which was my job and my innate nature) I could see the difference in mindsets. The paranoia.

If I got one thing out of sitting with the guys over many meetings and informal chats, was the content of people's characters. You can preach some of the things I believe in--but if you treat your family like crap, I don't care about your ideals, even if I agree with some of them.

The leader of this particular group had a verbally beaten down wife. I could tell, but had no proof, until one day I dropped by at his request and he just blurted out that his wife was unhappy with some of his activities and attitudes." I told her she shouldn't let the screen door hit her in the ass as she was leaving if she didn't like it," he told me.

Hmmm, you can't publish stuff like that--unless you want your ass shot off.

So, I came out of this microcosm of crazy and came to the conclusion that this isn't necessarily a right or left problem. It's a mindset problem. I had to chuckle sometimes, when I'd have healthy disagreements with these guys, attempting to see if I even WANTED to start a newspaper for them--and they'd get rather nasty with me.

It's a mental health problem. If folks were trying to get me on their side, they couldn't even put their guns and rude verbal assaults aside long enough to convince me. Overall they treated me well enough until they found out I didn't want to do it. But there was always the underlying attitude that even though they considered I had "skills" that would serve them--I was an ignorant woman that should not disagree with them.

You see, I don't have a lot of formal training as a news writer or general writer--even though I did it for years on and off. But one journalism teacher taught me that no matter how YOU feel about the people or subjects you are covering--no one should be able to tell that in your NEWS writing. In an editorial, sure.

And I gave the militia, shadow government guys their due by listening respectfully. Just as I would anyone.

And that's my mindset. Both sides have good ideals. But I really can't listen to ideals IF the mindset is full of rage and doing something at all costs.

And that is what I learned in my years in Tehama County. Fun times.

Roller Coaster Ride: Attachment Disorders, Nice Sociopath, Charming Narcissists PART 3

When surrounded by adults with attachment disorders, narcissism, socioapthy and various other challenges, one has to either run--or at least sort out the source of the madness.

I was always of the opinion that decent behavior is just that--and even if your own blood family is on a wild roller coaster ride in hell, there is no use defending their behavior.

In 1969 California finally had no-fault divorce. My mother jumped on that and divorced my dad. It wasn't without much literal grinding of teeth and tears. After all she was Catholic and a person who didn't believe in divorce.

To her credit, she did not attempt to downgrade my father. I could see what was going on though. There was something about a Korean prostitute (while he was overseas) and that was the final nail in that dead marriage. As much as my mom attempted to keep secrets (just her personality) and in her decency not downgrade my father--he was the one who waved the picture of the Korean prostitute under my nose.

If mom wanted to keep a secret--dad usually wanted to tell it.

My dad basically left all his worldly goods and money behind and took $500 and went to a town a few hundred miles away to make a new start. He made a few attempts to get my mother back, but she was done with all the drama.

Right before the divorce both of them came to me and asked if it was alright with me if they divorced. How very progressive! I said yes, that individually they were nice--but together, they were horrible. I was sick of the arguing. The screaming. And the hole punched in the sheet rock by my dad's fist.

I thought that was the right answer. I was too young to know the right answer. And years later I suffered guilt--not because I thought they should ever reconcile, but when my mother got into a second marriage that was even worse, I played the what-if-game? What if, I begged them to stay together?

My mother married again, within six months of the divorce being finalized.

She barely knew the man.

Despite all the drama in my family, I'd say we lived a middle class lifestyle that at times bordered on upper class. We read a lot. Went to lots of museums, etc.

My father was an officer in the military.

Husband number two had an eighth grade education. I highlight that, NOT due to snobbery. But it was culture shock. He only had four teeth in his head--even though he was in this 30s, because he didn't like brushing his teeth. Most of his upper body was covered in tattoos, and some of the tats were not appropriate for children, mixed company or anyone who had an artistic bone in their body.

  He had four children. The one living with him was a heroin addict.

I didn't even know what heroin was. Still don't want to know.

Husband number, two, I'll call him, John, was a case study in the opposite of attachment disorder. He was very needy. He was very angry that his mother abandoned him. He hated anyone that had a goal of education beyond high school. Almost daily he would say that educated people were stupid.

True enough. I've been around stupid educated people. And stupid uneducated people.

John hated children. His own. Me.

He was a heavy equipment operator that actually made more money than most college educated people. He told me within a few weeks of the marriage that he couldn't wait to get rid of me because he wanted to go  work in Saudi Arabia and make big bucks and retire sooner. I just nodded my head. I couldn't speed up getting through high school that fast.

John turned on my mother within a few months. The main source of contention, besides these horrible children in his house, was granny. You know, mafia granny. They hated each other.

So one day John decided we'd ditch the bitch. By this time granny had had a stroke and was partially disabled, even though she would go on to live another 25 years, never wear glasses except to read and died at age 90. The tough old bird smoked, drank and ate whatever she wanted.

John moved us to a small town, from a huge one to get away from granny and to isolate us.

One of his other kids, also a drug addict, came to live with us. That child started the county's largest heroin dealing and burglary ring out of our garage--but we were all too ignorant to notice until the cops showed up.

Despite the fact I was quiet, got decent grades and didn't do drugs or deal drugs or run burglary rings--John decided I needed to be brought down a notch.

He threatened to kill my dog with a gun right at the dining room table because my dog sat there quietly hoping for a crumb to fall.

One day John decided my mother and I should no longer talk to each other when he was at home. Apparently we were talking about subjects that he didn't like. School, spiritual concepts, life in general. John didn't really like to hear anyone speak--except himself. He had a rule that NO ONE spoke in the evenings except during commercials. Evenings were TV time, period.

But he decided that even before the TV went on, I was under a speaking ban. I was shocked, but asked him if that included when we were in the kitchen preparing dinner (while he was in the living room waiting for his grub). He went nuts.

I really had meant it as an honest question. My mom talked a bit every evening in the kitchen--not about general things, but about how and what to cook. I was being taught to cook, can, clean, etc.

He literally had a meltdown and ran to a kitchen cabinet. He seemed so agitated, I wondered if he was attempting to find a weapon to kill me.

Instead he got a peanut in a shell out of a bag and put it on the linoleum floor.

"Get down on your hands and knees and push that G-D DAMNED peanut across the floor with your nose!" he screeched.

I almost went into shock, but managed to ask him why. Politely.

I was 16 by now and didn't know all the names of the disorders and mental illnesses I was dealing with coming from so many people. But that was the wrong thing to ask.

I didn't know that I should have grabbed my purse and my car keys and ran for a safe place to stay.

He screamed at me that I had a huge problem listening to what he said and he basically had to BREAK me.

I was considering doing it, but was in such shock. I simply looked at my mother with a questioning look. I didn't say a word to her because I was banned from talking to her.

She looked agonized and told me that I did not have to do that. John immediately took his psychic fangs out of me and turned to his next prey--my mother.

Needless to say, next thing I knew I knew I was living in a rat hole of an apartment with a slimy room mate with her even more questionable friends--and attempting to work my way through high school in an economically depressed town miles from any real jobs. And what 16-year-old girl in the 1970s is qualified for a real job?

In a way it was a relief. John had put a ban on me watching TV or using electricity in my bedroom. I was not allowed to have decent clothes to attend school in. My pants were so worn that my mother used purple stretch knees socks to patch some holes in some green pants. Of course one kid made fun of me. But thankfully the high school was populated mainly with nice kids.

John wasn't cheap by any means--with himself. But in order to get control, he used money. He was unhappy with his son for some minor infraction--and refused to buy the kid underwear for back to school. He was also a mechanic, but made sure my mother's car was unsafe to leave town so she couldn't drive to visit her mother. He was depriving me of everything except food. I had to admire his tenacity when it came to him enforcing his rules and principles on using money and goods to get his point across.

I was working on a school biology project. You know, the type where you have to collect a slew of bugs and pin them to Styrofoam. I had every bug on the list collected except a common fly. They had been eluding me. So I was standing outside and saw one. There was a can of bug spray on the porch, so I reached for it to squirt the fly. My hand was just on the bug spray when John screamed,"Put that G-D DAMNED can of bug spray down! G-D DAMMIT it's not yours!"

Of course the fly had flown away by this time. I replied politely,"I wasn't trying to steal your bug spray. It's for a biology project and we have to kill bugs. I can't smash them. I need the spray, please."

He told me, tough sh-t, that bug spray costs money--and since I didn't have any money, no bug spray for me. Not even one squirt.

My father wasn't sending child support, so John told my mother I only got food and no clothes or extra electricity. My father never checked with me to see how I was doing.

I'd remember all that, even when living in rat holes got tiring. Going back "home" meant more of the same. John had a manta: People don't change. I won't change.

Once my mom gently insisted that something was horribly wrong and that John needed counseling, since he couldn't seem to get along with one teen aged girl, who was not particularly mouthy, rebellious, wasn't having sex or doing drugs. Why John agreed to counseling, I don't know. He made it to the counselor one time and told the counselor he had no plans of ever changing a thing about himself. My mother continued alone at counseling for a short time, but the counselor said it was fairly useless if someone had no intentions of working on anything.

My mother pleaded with John to let me move back in once again. I'm not sure that was doing me any favors. He relented, but that only lasted a few weeks and a friend got me a job running a rest home on the weekends in exchange for room/board and a stipend. But the owners of the rest home turned out to be mentally ill also. The man who owned the nursing home attempted to rape me one evening. Thankfully he was drunk enough that I was able to fight him off. I never reported him. It was shut up or starve.

At some point my mother called my father and asked him and his new wife (who wasn't much older than me) to let me live with them. I agreed and went to visit. But the neighborhood where I would be attending school was scary to me--in a high high-crime city. But the real reason I didn't move in with my dad and stepmother was that my mother called me in a high hysteria one day and guilted me into returning. I did. She made it sound like she would get the worst mother of the year award if I didn't get my butt back "home."

"Home" ended up being with a girlfriend from high school who had an even worse family. She knew a legally blind lady and her teenage daughter and baby that would let us stay with them.

The blind lady often left town to visit relatives and that's when the daughter would have the wild parties. The whole house would be jammed with people who looked like they just got out of prison. One night one of them grabbed a meat cleaver and attempted to hack someone to pieces on the front lawn.

I just tried to hide most of the time. The parties would often go on most of the night and I became friendly with one of the regular party goers. He started talking to me--and I was wary. I was too ignorant to know these people were on drugs. I thought they were just drunk and crazed.

My new "friend" told me he finally figured out (after watching me for weeks) that I had NO idea what was going on. He told me he was a narc and to get the hell out of this house--because something was going down soon. I didn't know what a narc was, but after it was explained to me, I didn't know if I believed him. Why would a narc blow his cover?

I did take his advice and get out. I went to live in another rat hole apartment with a friend of a friend. And sure enough, I had been living in a drug house--and it was busted. I later found out that my "friend" actually was narc, because he was stabbed later in his line of work and it made the newspaper.

A total trash town. Even decades later, the town (so I understand from the Internet) is still a trash town.

I was almost killed in the street by a car attempting to run me down. I never knew if it was because I saw something I shouldn't have. I don't know if it was a hit. If only they knew, even if I saw things, I didn't know what I was seeing.

There was another rape attempt,from a friend of my heroin-dealing stepbrother, but I escaped.

I never told my mother all the things that were happening. I was very vague. She was too emotionally fragile anyway.

But high school was going decently besides being distracted with not having enough money and fending off a murder attempt, rapes and drugs.

At one point I was so sick of the poverty, trying to maintain my grades and dealing with all the freaks that I called my father. The guilt of my mother, be damned! She called me back and then cut me loose again. So I called my father, not to tell him all that was going on, just to ask if I could please stay with him and my stepmom until I could get out of high school. They lived in a major town with lots of jobs. But when my stepmother answered the phone and I asked to talk to my father she started crying. She told me he had left the country to fight as a mercenary--in a country in Africa.

What the hell! She mentioned a country I had never heard of, which in more recent years now has another name. My first thought besides, "thanks a lot Dad for not even calling me and saying a cheerful good-bye before you leave the country as a paid mercenary" was now is NOT the time to unload my problems on my stepmother. She was basically hysterical on on the phone. Apparently she didn't agree with the idea of him taking off. You see, I didn't know it back then, but in recent years even casual acquaintances have told me I am an Empath. I had to look that term up on the Internet. It doesn't matter what you are called. But I do know that even though I was in deep crap, my compassion for my stepmother overtook my need to blurt out all that I had been going through.

I listened to her and never again brought up that I had called that day, out of desperation. I stuck it out in some more horrible living conditions with a room mate that always was bringing strange men over. And some of the made it pretty clear they were pretty interested in me. All that actually strengthened my resolve NOT to get a boyfriend or a one-night stand during high school.

My mother finally got fed up with my stepfather--and all my rat hole living arrangements. She moved us into a small apartment and things went well for a few months. I didn't realize at the time that my mother suffered from depression She was often a vivacious and loving mother. She was always up for an adventure and was always attempting to teach me to be kind and grateful.

But she lay in the apartment and rarely got out of bed. One day she told me that in a few weeks I'd be turning 18 and she couldn't be on welfare anymore. Basically--tough luck, good luck and she had to go back to John because she was out of money.

Off to another rat hole apartment. This time with no crazy room mates. I was applying for college. But with an old, falling-apart car and the closest junior college over 30 miles away, the choices were limited.

My dad had legally (and verbally) agreed to pay my college. He did not. He paid some of the child support, but never really caught up. I started to apply for financial aid and scholarships. But since I was legally on my mother and John's taxes as a dependent, I had to get him to disclose his financials to apply. He refused. I was unable to get on my father's taxes partially due to him being out of the country--and partially due to chaotic things. I managed to get my two-year degree. I was accepted into a university and only made it one quarter because I ran out of money and no one would sign any papers for anything. I had graduated from high school early, in order to accelerate getting an education. So between that and the way my birthday fell, I was barely 17 when I started college--and was unable to sign any real paperwork myself.

And there were no jobs others than housecleaning, restaurant work or working in the fields as a migrant worker. All of which I did.

John sometimes left town for work and took my mother with him. I often had no money to eat, even though I worked. I went hungry for days at a time. A friend's mother found out and asked why I did not tell her. I was embarrassed.

John also ripped me off for the little resources I did have. We lived in a rural area with a paddock and I had a part-Arabian horse that I had purchased with money I saved from gifts from my paternal grandparents, over the years. Obviously when he kicked me out, I had no time to sell the horse. My mother assured me she would take care of it. I kept asking her for the money, since the horse was gone. I was desperate. Hungry and barely getting through school, since I barely had money for basic supplies. My mother LIED to me and told me the horse had been stolen. I was crushed, not only because of the money, but because I did love the horse.

It took decades for me to find out the truth. It seems to me that in all the secrecy my mother shrouded us in--that someone was always looking out for me. I had a friend in high school that knew a little of what was going on. A little. I wasn't the type to tell even trusted friends. Decades later that friend looked me up (even though I moved out of state) and told me that her parents recognized my horse close to their property. John had stolen the horse, left it in even a more rural area, sold it and kept the money. I was stunned. I asked if my mother knew. She said, yes. That her parents had seen my mother with John a few times, visiting the "stolen" horse. Her parents agonized over whether to tell their daughter then, who would tell me. They decided not to get involved. One reason, apparently, John was a little scary.

And my mother knew. And she lied. I never did confront my mother. By the time I found out, my mother was divorced from John and going through mental breakdowns--and all my time was consumed with working and trying to help my mother, even though I didn't understand her mental problems.

I imagine there were people in my family that could have helped, if they would have been made aware of what was going on. But my mother wasn't about to tell anyone. Apparently her depression and attachment issues were wreaking havoc.

Years later, my father told me he knew my mother was suffering depression. And he said he felt guilty for not getting her any help. He never mentioned that he probably never sought help for his mental issues.

My mother once told me that in New York, when I was a toddler, that she went so long without washing her hair that the water would turn black when she finally did. As a teenager, being told that story did not equal depression. I had never really heard the term.

This was right at the cusp of general magazines and talk shows starting to discuss depression and other mental illnesses.

During my short time with John, I knew he was not normal. But I didn't really care what his particular problem was. Actually I did not hate the man--even though he hated me. Despite his violence and ignorance--he was such a pathetic character under all the tats and cursing, that I felt sorry for him.

When my stepsister went to a mental institution and lost her children, I still didn't get it. When I heard a story that my stepbrother scratched her eye out when they were fighting over a crack rock, I still didn't get it. My mother and I would just shudder in revulsion and I'd say," Culture shock, once again."

I always believed my mother became depressed because she was under the thumbs of two horrible husbands and was always under the thumb of granny. Who wouldn't be depressed, I'd rationalize?

But it didn't occur to me that by virtue of just being around these people, I had a real reason to be depressed and turn to drugs, etc. I did turn to overeating to a small extent and smoking.

When I was very young, the TV show, The Muensters, was popular. I didn't love the show, but watched it because my parents did. I related to the character, Marilyn--the only one who not "a monster." I never told my parents that. I kept it to myself.

At age six, I was walking by my father, who was sitting and screaming over something and I thought to myself," I wish you would just hit me instead. It would have to be better than all the words." I knew then he was not normal. But I kept it to myself.

I thought my mother was normal. Or close to it. She was always trying to make sure we had a facade of normal. Great food. Beautifully decorated apartments. Civilized discourses. No matter what amount of screaming and poor behavior was exploding around us--she always attempted to remain a lady. If she would have just screamed and reacted to what was going on--maybe it would have been different. But to her credit, as I got older and told her that her mother and the rest of them had serious problems, she rarely attempted to guilt me out of talking bad about my own flesh and blood.

The only time she ever pulled the guilt card was when I made a rather polite, but critical comment about John (when he wasn't around) and she wailed, "But he's MY husband!"

I should have said, "Well, I am your daughter and thanks to you letting this yo-yo in our lives--I've been in poverty, almost killed and almost raped a few times."

When one is going through all these hell roller coaster rides, especially as a child and teenager, you know in your gut something is wrong. You just don't know or the names for it or the reason behind it.

John glared at me every time I walked or talked. He did everything he could to derail me from going to college. He attempted to hook me up with a boyfriend at age 14, so I could go have sex and be out of the house, so he could run around nude.

Oh, I didn't mention he was a nudist? A nudist who was too cheap to go to a retreat or colony and liked to do it all the time in the house and suburban backyards?

When we moved to the trashy, isolated town--we had a very small backyard and neighbors that were too close, so he couldn't run around naked in the backyard.

One time he was explaining to me that another reason he hated kids was that he couldn't be nude all the time. He showed me some nudist magazine and tried to explain, since I was only 13 or 14 and didn't know what he was talking about. I said,"Oh, I get it. People like to feel the sunshine and breeze so they like to be naked."

He started yelling at me and countered," It's NUDE! Don't ever use the word naked around me again!"

Oh, joy.

So, instead he got a teeny, tiny pair of swim trunks. He would parade outside our house all the time. Our neighbors, with four children, all about my age, got any eyeful. I was friends with the two girls--age 12 and 13 at the time.

Problem was that his trunks were so tight and tiny that we could always see a generous fringe of his pubic hair.

As the parents of my girlfriends said to their kids," Even us adults, much less you young girls, shouldn't have to see that."

The neighbor lady saw what was going on and attempted to let her husband agree to have me move next door with them. But the husband (a narcissist as his daughter told me decades later) said they shouldn't have to clean up someone else's mess.

My stepfather made it clear I was repulsive to him. Or was I?

He had given up drinking years ago, but one night went out with my mother (who never drank) on New Year's Eve. He came home drunk. He sat at the dining room table and told me to sit on his lap.

I cringed. This was a man who never gave me a fatherly pat on the shoulder or even a hug during the holidays.

He was so loud and sloppy, I sat on his lap just to shut him up. Remember, if I didn't do what he said--I got kicked out with just the clothes on my back to fend for myself.

He then proceeded to give me a sloppy kiss on the lips. My mother stood there and looked like she was ready to vomit.

I never thought about that one incident until years later when a friend, who HAD been molested by her stepfather, told me it was so obvious that this man WANTED to molest me from the beginning and was so enraged when he discovered I was not a druggie, mentally ill or dumb--and probably would run, scream or tell.

I was astounded. It hadn't even occurred to me. I barely knew what sex was back then. And when his own daughter told me she started having sex way before her first period, I was so mortified, it didn't occur to me to ask how she would even know about sex then or want to do it.

I'll never be sure of what his intentions were. But no matter what they were--as the neighbor lady who wanted to take me in, told my mother years later, "You sure jumped out of the fire of one marriage into the frying pan of another."

The neighbors were not fooled by John. No one who knew him well was fooled. His own son used to call him, Little Hitler. But on the surface, friends and acquaintances thought John was very charming and helpful. A charming narcissist. A nice sociopath.

You see, my mother was raised to believe that only a man could support you. It was partially the era. Partially her mother's brainwashing. And partially the depression that made her unable or unwilling to work except for a few part time jobs. It was difficult in the military for her to work since we moved so much. And John, well he didn't believe the missus should work. Nice sentiment, if you aren't trying to get control and power over the little woman.

I didn't know it at the time, but my mother decided during both of her marriages, that men couldn't be relied on. True. At least not mentally challenged ones.

So, she attempted to make me stand in the gap.

**Have you experienced being in close contact with people with untreated mental illnesses or similar challenges? If so, your comments are welcomed and appreciated. If you have a story you want to share--maybe we'll put it on the blog.

Monday, November 13, 2017

My Roller Coast Ride With People With Attachment Disorders PART 2

Granny refused to talk to me. I never really knew why. She never gave me any gifts. There were no cards for birthdays or Christmas. I was her only grandchild for my first 10 years, but she acted like I had never been born,

That's my great-grandfather. He died before I was born. I suspect he was either a child molester--or at least my granny was exposed to a child molester at some point. That's granny at about age 35 and mother (a Shirley Temple look-alike at about age 2). Granny got married late in life and never wanted children.

Her husband (of the hated Irish persuasion) told granny he was sterile. They both apparently were horrified when my mother came long and three years later when my uncle arrived.

I suspect my Irish grandfather had attachment disorder. We can't blame the family dysfunction on living in a rough neighborhood at being in the mafia.

I'll call him Irish. Irish abandoned the family when my mother was 10. I never met Irish, because even though he was alive up until I was about age 11, he was kept secret. But I have ways of digging up secrets, because I deserve to know at least a little about these people I came from.

I was told he ditched the family. And that's not the reason I believe he suffered from attachment disorder.

My mother only has a vague memory of him. They were riding on the Staten Island Ferry together. And the whole trip, my mother could feel his distance. Hardly a word was spoken then or ever.

Beyond that, I asked my mother about his family. Apparently his parents were so dysfunctional they would go months without speaking to each other. And Irish, as a young boy was told to sit on the front lawn on a blanket and not move. Not to come in the house. Not to play. Not to move.

Now I know why my Irish great-grandparents had no gravestones. I went and checked when I discovered I was the recipient of New York cemetery plots they had left granny. Not even a simple marker on their graves. I donated the remaining plots to families who had infant deaths and quickly left the cemetery saddened that their son would not buy them headstones.

Irish didn't actually abandon the family at first. He always told them he would be coming back soon and when he did, he'd be driving a Cadillac. He never returned.

My uncle slipped and once I heard him tell my mother,"What was SO damned hard about it! All our father had to do was go to Las Vegas and put the money down and buy the land and everything would have been fine."

I was pretty young when I overheard that and knew better than to ask what land. Irish took off to Las Vegas right before the mafia bought up the land that would become the Last Vegas Strip. I never found out what he did with the money and why he later went into hiding from the family. But apparently he was a card dealer there and in Reno later, but never sent a penny back home.

My family hated him. But granny had only married him for his money. He had some high-ranking job in government, but lost it during the Depression. So I never could figure out who was worst. The person who married a man for his money or the person who left his family in the lurch when he failed at getting the land he was sent to purchase.

Granny never remarried. She fell into poverty. By this time her father was dead. According to my mother, granny had a man who wanted to marry her. He was the milkman and by my mother's recollections, a reliable and kind person.

The reason granny gave  that she would not marry because she didn't want my mother molested, even though the suitor showed no signs of being a predator. That was my first clue that granny had possibly been molested.

My second was one day when my father came home from a brief military trip and at age 8 or so, I did what any normal child would do. I went racing towards my father for a  hug. My granny, who followed us around and lived with us a lot, started screaming at the top of her lungs," Look at what he is doing to THAT child! Look at the way he is touching her!"

I was too young to know what she was screaming about. But I will never forget her hysteria and how everyone in the room went silent. My dad was (and is) many things, but not a child molester or a person who would ever touch any child inappropriately.

Granny, as a single mother, decided her children would become her world. Her sustenance. Her substitute husband. Her whole life.

She decided she need to marry my mother off to a man who could make a good living. But she didn't want her having children, because it would be too much competition. She did not want my uncle to ever marry and would berate every woman he ever brought home, except one. And the one she liked was a very submissive woman who agreed with everything anyone said.

My mother told me that when I was a few months old I spit up some of my food on my mother. Granny screamed," See! I told you she was evil. She's half her father, so she has to be evil!"

For a family that kept secrets, they didn't keep secrets too well about me. I was also told by my mother that my father wanted a boy--and so did she. My attitude was: Tough!

All this started to come out later in my life. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, both my mother and uncle died relatively young. As their respective diseases progressed, I got treated to how everyone REALLY felt. Nothing like a few pre-death bed confessions to lighten troubled souls.

My uncle was the only one in the family I felt was half-way normal. I didn't think in terms of mental disorders or attachment disorder. But he was the only one who seemed to be able to attach to people in a semi-normal way.

But it turns out that he did have problems with that. As he got closer to his death, he admitted it, even though it was not obvious by his caring and charismatic personality. He was really a father to me the first 10 years of my life. He treated me very well.

But my mother told me that he always felt sorry for me, considering the father I had. And he tried to make up for it. At least for 10 years. When I was nearly homeless as a teenager and plunged into poverty--my mother, father and uncle and granny were rarely or never to be heard from.

And I always wondered why. Now I know. If people have attachment disorders as adults, they often disappear when someone genuinely needs help--or even just needs someone to check on them.

Granny raised her children to be her minions. She had my mother steal for her. And one of her forms of punishment was to turn up the gas burners on the stove and hold my mother's hands over them and make threats.

The children were to  have few friends or activities outside of their mother.

My uncle told me that my mother received the brunt of the psychological torture. Obviously my mother was a girl, who came of age in the 1950s when women had a harder time making any type of stand.

Uncle told me that his escape and salvation was breaking free by playing basketball with neighbor fathers and their sons. Remember, my uncle was fatherless from about age 7 on. According to my uncle my grandmother forbade him from leaving the house to play basketball. He defied her and said that break from her and being around people having fun, broke some of the hold his mother had on him.

But did it really?

My uncle was a brilliant man. He was a navigator in the military. He had a degree in international finance.

But his mother, my illustrious granny, followed him all around the country. Even in college, he apparently hid from her by switching colleges and sleeping in corn fields until he straightened himself out. Of course I was told this by my father. Not by my mother or uncle.

Enter my aunt by marriage. All the events in my roller coaster ride are true, but I've either been vague or changed a few details. My cousins are still alive--and on the off chance they (unlikely) stumble across this blog, I wouldn't want them finding out how the family was BEFORE they were born. Or perhaps I don't mind if they know--I just don't want them to be identified, since one cousin was involved with a celebrity and would be recognizable. And actually my uncle went on to receive notoriety in his profession. I understand the prime minister of the country he lived in an worked in at the time attended his funeral. For that reason, all the family photos posted are of people long dead. I see no reason to make people like my uncle or at least one cousin easily identifiable by mentioning specific branches or military or mentioning the country.

Remember, the pact was that my uncle NEVER marry. My mother got married off . But a man could make a living and needn't marry. For those of a younger generation--sadly people really processed things like woman's roles like this in the 1940s, 50s and beyond. My mother was also brilliant. But she was a woman and had to marry. I too was also told that I had to marry a doctor or some professional to make it in life. How my mother and uncle turned out brilliant (but very stupid emotionally) is still a mystery. My granny truly was not an intelligent person. My mother even told me she was shocked how unintelligent her own mother was.

My uncle made the fatal mistake of marrying a strong woman of high intelligence, who was an accomplished professional musician. I'll call her Aunt Linda. Linda came from another country. English speaking country.

I immediately liked Aunt Linda. She attempted to teach me piano. No luck. And she turned me onto Anne of Green Gables. But what I really liked about her was that she didn't take crap off anyone. I never gave her any crap, so she never turned her schoolmarm-type glare on me.

First she took on my father. I was about 10 when she had the misfortune to marry into the family.

My dad dropped by to visit and immediately after that visit she banned him from EVER coming to their house again. I had never heard of such a thing! I was rather appalled and delighted, all at the same time, that someone had the power to make sure who and what they let into their lives.

I wasn't banned. My mother wasn't banned.

Why was my father banned?

Ah, here's one of the attachment disorder fiascoes to beat all.

My father. I really didn't know who he was until I was about four. He was gone in the military. I didn't know it at the time, but my mother chose to stay behind in New York and not go with him. He semi-recently told me it was a battle to finally get my mother (with me) to leave New York. Oh yes, granny was part of the battle. Remember, men are just good for money to finance what the women want to do. But there was another part of the battle. As I got older, I could see why my mother would not want to join him. She never told me about the battle. But when my father did, I saw why.

My first memory of my father was when I was standing in the kitchen with a boiling pot of pasta. The steam was so hot that it was making reflections on the cracked walls. We lived in a tenement type place due to rent control. I thought we were poor since we lived in a slum.

The water kept boiling. I was too young to do anything about it. My mother was crying and ignoring the pot. This man kept screaming at her. So violently. I kept my eyes on the wavy impressions on the wall to shut out the yelling. I had never seen this man before. I was scared. It came out in the conversation and yelling that he was my father. That upset me deeply.

My next memory of him was when we did join him in another state. My mother had a nice set of china. He stood many feet from the sink and threw a plate, like a Frisbee, and flung it at the sink. Crash!

My mother was screaming and crying and begging him to stop. He smiled and did not stop until every piece in the set was shattered.

When I was about six or seven it was solidified in my head that this man was my father. He was very distant. He was always talking to my mother, but rarely talked to me. One day I asked him what I should call him. Dad? Father? Pops? He never gave me an answer. It's as if it hadn't solidified in his head that he was indeed a father.

He did spend a little time with me. The state we lived in was in the plains, but there was a road that was like a roller coaster, if you hit high speeds. And hit high speeds he did. It would always be dark and there would be little traffic late at night. I enjoyed those rides. But I didn't enjoy the rides in the mountainous parts of that state.

He would drive right to the edge of mountain drop off and almost hang the front wheels over the cliff. One time he was laughing manically and I started begging for my life and asking him not to kill me.
He stopped playing chicken with the car and the cliff and turned to me seriously and said,"Oh for goodness sake! Quit being silly! If I killed you, I'd be killing myself--so why the F would I do that?"

He didn't play these dangerous car games with my mother in the car.

One time he pointed a deer rifle at me in our living room in front of my mother and a military buddy who was attempting to bond with my dad and get him interested in hunting. The buddy and my mother started screaming.

My dad looked at them with contempt and sneered. "What's the big deal! It's not loaded!"

That buddy never showed up to the house again.

A single lady, a social worker, used to be a neighbor of ours. She'd come over fairly often to enjoy conversation, my mother's gourmet cooking and a few glasses of alcohol. My mother never drank. My father did a little. The social worker lady drank, but not to excess.

They were gabbing away and my father was slipping me alcohol. I was six or seven. When the social worker and my mother realized what was happening they started screaming. Again, he acted like they were crazy.

These were the days when child protective services were almost non-existent.

My mother told me, shortly before she died, that she was petrified that I would turn out warped because of these "midnight" drives my father would talk me on. "I knew that had to be exciting for a kid to spontaneously be told they were going on a fun ride. But I thought it was too stimulating and would mess you up."

Why she didn't say no is beyond me.

She later told me that my father once said he thought there was something wrong with him and that might be manic depressive. It's called bi-polar now. Why she didn't get him help or ask the military to intervene is beyond me, but it was a different era. And besides my mother liked to keep secrets and pretend everything was OK.

My father never hinted to me that there was something wrong with him until I was in my 30s or so. On the phone he said,"I know I've been distant and stayed away from you. I always knew I was poison and didn't want to poison you."

But I imagine if I reminded him on that brief admission now, he would say he didn't remember.

My father did start talking to me a little when I was about eight. I was doing my homework one evening in the living room. Writing a paper. He read it over my shoulder and said,"How the hell does an eight-year-old know what a semi-colon is!? He read some more and then questioned me to see if I knew what I was writing. I didn't understand at the time why I was getting all this attention when he rarely said a word to me. Next thing I know it's late at night and he's forcing me to write something. A book report, review or paper--I can't remember. It was like boot camp writing. Finally around midnight my mother put her foot down and screamed,"Please don't do this to her!!! Let her go to bed!!"

But my mother would go on to do a very similar thing in later years--just in a different way. And it was the mother of all writing block-inducing tortures.

So, when Aunt Linda, after only ONE visit banned my father from my house--my reaction (inwardly) was: Hell yeah!

My father of course was appalled, shocked and pissed off. "The nerve of the uptight bitch, who can't take a joke!" One of my father's favorite sayings is: "If they don't have a sense of humor--F 'em!"

But there was nothing funny about a man who used curse words in every sentence and seemed to have no awareness that pointing guns at a child, giving them alcohol or taking them on high-speed rides was wrong.

Time to do a body count here. We have granny who is so detached, except to her kids, who was married to a detached man. Then we have my father, who has trouble attaching.

What about my mother? Did she suffer, or should I say inflict, attachment disorder on me and the world. Oh, yes. But it would take years to raise its ugly head--and would leave me in the path of near homelessness and being thrown into situations like living in a drug house and nearly getting raped several times.

**HAVE YOU ever lived with, been raised by, dated or had a friend with what appears to be an attachment disorder? If so, feel free to leave a comment. Your comments are welcomed and appreciated. And if you have a longer story--let me know. Maybe I'll put it on the blog.

My Roller Coaster Ride With People With Attachment Disorders

I've never wanted to tell my story. First, you have to know what the story is. Second, the world is full of agonies and sorrows and who wants to add to the sound and fury?

And third, who wants to bore people? And fourth, I tried once. I got as far as 26 pages and became so overwhelmed and angry--I stopped. And that was in the privacy of my quiet home. With no blog. And no one reading over my shoulder. I destroyed my story. Erased it from my computer. I didn't really know what the story was. What the sense of it was. I still don't totally.

But I rarely know what I will write until it comes out--and it often makes sense when it emerges in black and white. It was that way even way back when--when people would occasionally pay me to write.

My story probably begins with writing, and oddly enough ends with writing.

I learned to write before I could read. But I'll get to that later. For now, that experience resulted in the mother of all writing blocks.

And another reason I never wrote my story? I always thought everything was my fault. People would either tell me that outright or imply it. How can one lift one's head and hands to write, if you are not worthy? Not worthy of anything.

Before I start, there is a disclaimer. This is my story. My experiences. It is not a treatise on mental challenges and illnesses. It is not to be used as a substitute for getting professional medical help, therapy or psychological testing. I am not a mental health expert. And I do realize that my experiences are mine alone. And in no way is my story to be misinterpreted as suggesting that all people with mental challenges are destructive, dangerous or unworthy.

My story is not about children with attachment disorders. There are many wonderful organizations and groups that specialize in that. My story is about being raised around and then marrying into a family rife with attachment disorders.

I've never told anyone my whole story. But when I have told slivers to various people, comments have ranged to: Why don't you go on TV and talk about it? Or, how did you turn out normal after all that?

I am an introvert. I was invited, many years, to go on a national TV show and talk with and about my mother-in-law. I had written some anonymous stories on a website and the website owner told me a TV producer was amazed at some of the stories and wanted to know who I was, so they could book me.

I was petrified. This was many, many years ago. But the first thing that struck me was the mother-in-law would not even understand what was happening. Even though she was (and still is destructive to all she encounters) I was aware that she would not understand.

No, TV or the public spotlight is not my forte.

And, as for normal? Perhaps compared to some.

I've always rather been ashamed of my story. I don't like drama and conflict and convoluted thinking. And just living it--I often confused that with me somehow creating that crazy world.

It always starts with the parents. And even though I've never been a parent (except to dogs) I always take exception to blaming everything on one's parents. I believe parents can be loving and set us up for success in making our own healthy choices. I believe misguided (or wounded) parents can abuse and make it more difficult to make good choices. But inevitably, we make our own choices, despite our parents' good or bad inputs.

My first memory actually is of my mother's mother. I didn't realize it until recently--but she was the first in a long line of people with serious attachment disorders (and probably other mental challenges) that I would be influenced by--or have the crap scared out of me by.

Now granny influenced me a lot. To be as little like her as I possibly could.

Granny hated me. She hated everyone.

I used to ask my mother WHY granny hated so much. I got very vague and lame answers.

Have you ever decided to go on a forensic journey of sorts and see WHY your family acted the way they did? Ask questions? Even go on and see if the ethnic background, neighborhood and history they lived through would explain any of the seemingly bizarre  behavior?

Granny was born in 1900, so that gives us a clue that people of that era, were not usually that forthcoming with talking about themselves or their families.

Bitter and angry and controlling doesn't begin to describe my grandmother. And joy of joys--I was an only child, so I had no one to compare notes with on what normal behavior was. And yes, I do have four cousins--but through some more flukes and disjointed family history, Granny never met her other four grandchildren. And that's probably best.

My mother was always close-mouthed about the family history. The only thing she would tell me was that it was sad that we were torn from New York and the family (by my father going into the military) and that I was robbed of a huge, loud Italian family. She would reminisce of the big Italian family gatherings, which I only had the vaguest of memories and a photo or two of me in a party dress to solidify these epic gatherings.

This is my grandmother. She looks to be two or three.

The woman rarely spoke to me, because she hated me. But I see the face of innocence in this picture.

I was never told how her family came to America from Sicily. This photo was not given to me by my mother or grandmother. It was given to me in recent years by a cousin of my mother's.

There were no stories of the immigrant hardships or Ellis Island.

And one day I went back to New York to visit my mother's cousin--years after my grandmother and mother died. We went to Ellis Island and could find no record of the family coming through Ellis Island.

We were puzzled, since we all assumed that's how they got here.

Searching through I discovered granny's father came to America alone as a teenager. His mother died when he was 12 and his father died when my great-grandfather was 16.

Stereotypes. It never occurred to me my family was in the mafia.

My mother or grandmother never mentioned it. But I lived in a family that was secretive. I had it pounded into my head since birth, that, "loose lips sink ships." But I never was told what I was keeping secret.

There were the slimmest of clues. And they came from my father. He had been dating my mother for years and was told all of those years that the reason he never met his father-in-law to be, was that he was a traveling salesman, always out of town. Not true. Just one lie from a family that wasn't big on telling the truth.

That's what I mean about blaming parents and choices. I was raised in a family of liars. And for some reason I chose the other way.

My father once told me my granny was a bag lady for the mafia. But she was bad at it. Apparently my uncle told my father that story. And granny was better, apparently at running booze for the mafia during Prohibition from Canada.

Granny made a trip to Cuba during those Prohibition years. We had the pictures to prove it. But whether it was a vacation or mafia business, who knows?

One day I emailed my mother's cousin and asked if the family was in the mafia. I came to the conclusion they might have been, since mafia people didn't often come through Ellis Island.

My uncle (slight purveyor of mafia stories to my Irish father) was dead, so I couldn't ask him. I was told a matriarch of the family had just died and on her death bed got it off her chest, that the family fruit and grocery store in Brooklyn was a mafia front. I was told most everyone was appalled, had no idea, and we were to never speak of it again.

That was years ago, before I went on and discovered the family resided in a heavily mafia-populated area. Not too far from where Al Capone lived as a youngster. Capone was about the same age as granny.

If they were childhood buddies, I would never have been told. What I do know is that both my mother and my uncle hated Al Capone. They were manipulated from a young age by my granny's favorite guilt-inducing mantra," Even Al Capone LOVED his mother. Why can't you two?"

Indeed. Why couldn't they? It's hard to snuggle up to someone who acts like a rattlesnake and suffered from what I now know had to be one of the worst cases of attachment disorder known to man or woman.

When I was old enough, I questioned the sanity of granny (in private to my mother) who insisted granny was a good mother.

But was she? Or was it the family code and Catholic guilt that insisted she was a good mother?

I'd say that the day my mother nearly crashed the vehicle she and I were driving in, when I told her she really hated her mother, was my first clue this family fable was falling apart....

**HAVE YOU ever lived with, been raised by, dated or had a friend with what appears to be an attachment disorder? If so, feel free to leave a comment. Your comments are welcomed and appreciated. And if you have a longer story--let me know. Maybe I'll put it on the blog.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Florence, Colorado:Mountain Of Vintage Linens For $1 Each

I heard a rumor that there is a mountain of vintage linens and intricate crocheted items for sale at The Loralie Antique Mall at 109 W. Main St. in Florence--the antiques capital of Colorado. That in itself isn't that remarkable.

What's semi-remarkable is that it's only $1 each.

Embroidered linens too. Just $1 each. Looks like someone was a tad too tired to price each item. Their loss is your bargain gain!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Florence, Colorado: Paint The Town With Plenty Of Air

Most everyone knows about the Florence Arts Council, Paint The Town event.

It's also called the Plein Air Art Festival. And some of the most talented artists roam the streets of Florence and surrounding areas and paint under pressure with plenty of aire, as I like to say.

But what you might not know is that I heard a rumor today from one of the town's painters that he was coming back tomorrow to paint our front window at the antiques mall.

I wondered why. We always try to do an interesting window that either gives people a chuckle or a happy feeling. Why you ask? Because we can. And because we are naughty minxes that like to entertain ourselves.

The artist said he would paint from outside and not sit in the window to paint. Actually I would have enjoyed seeing that. We could act all French (like plein aire) and pretend the artist in the window was like one of those cool animated department store windows I saw when I was in Paris.

I still couldn't figure out why anyone would want to paint our front window. Then I remembered, with horror and shame, that I had slipped a sign in the window that I found in one of our dealer's booths.

Pictured below. Don't hate me. But come on, admit it, you'll want to go to the Bell Tower Cultural Center and see the artist's rendering of this little naughty minx travesty I committed so long ago that I forgot about it.

Why People Need Small-town America & How To Promote It For Almost Free

In the last two blog posts, I recounted  the ways I've seen two small towns NOT promote their jewels of towns to the best advantage. So, now onto the silver lining. Why do people want to come to small-town America?

Since only about 20 percent of Americans live in rural areas and small towns, how do these towns with scant economic bases even let people know they are there?

First, why would people want to leave their larger hometowns and come to smaller towns? I can only go by what hundreds of people have told me and what I've overheard them say as they stroll the streets.

My favorite was hearing a man in his 20s say to his wife as they were pushing a stroller with their baby. "See, this is exactly what I needed. Exactly what I was talking about. Quiet streets. Peaceful."

Funny since men are sometimes not well known for  thinking it's always fun to stroll quiet streets lined with boutique shops, antique stores and quaint eateries.

My favorite thing about small-town America is all the apple orchards, pumpkin patches and you-pick berry fields and corn mazes. And being able to see baby goats and llamas and horses and even cows when running an errand. In the bigger cities those things are there, just harder to find. And the meadows and wide open spaces. Less crime. More time to talk to people in shops and restaurants because it's less crowded.

Heck, yeah! It's about joy. And apparently jumping the pumpkin. If I tried doing the splits over a pumpkin patch, I'm sure I'd slip my disco.

We need small-town America. And it's fun to talk to the people who grow the apples, pumpkins and other goodies. It's satisfying to talk to the people who harvested the honey you are buying or created the artwork or handcraft you are purchasing.

It's all about the story and connection. Sure, that happens in big cities, just in a different way and atmosphere. And the people I talk to want to hear the story behind what they are buying or seeing and meet the people behind it.

I've watched the tale of two small cities struggle with how to promote themselves on little to no budgets with personal issues in the mix.

And hundreds of people have told me they are a bit miffed they did not know about the second small city sooner and stumbled across it by accident.

People are always looking for a different experience and perspective even if they love the town they live it. It's almost a travesty that treasures often remain mostly hidden in small towns all across the country and wonderful businesses struggle.

One business owner told me that they have never made a profit in all the years they've been in business, because the people just don't know about the town. That it's not on the way to anywhere major and it's not a total tourist destination.

I say--enough of that.

There are people in tiny towns all across America who finally realized they just needed to keep doing what they were doing for decades, band together and tell the world about it. There are towns that were market towns for over a century and then someone came up with a twist and started an open air market or flea market that draws hundreds of thousands of people a year.

Build it and they will come. If they know about.

Here's some of the problems I've witnessed or heard about in my two small towns. No budget. People don't want change.  People can't agree on what to do.Egos. Power struggles. Not enough money for a full-time Chamber of Commerce or  visitor center person. Not enough money for advertising, signage, etc.

And here's some of the solutions I've either witnessed, heard people come up with or have come up with myself.

*People don't have to all agree on what the town will do--just a core group of people that don't let personality issues, egos or religious or political disagreements stop them from doing good on behalf of a whole town's health. Don't grow the town in size necessarily--grow it in events, festivals and showcasing of what is already there.

*Money should never be an issue. If there are not enough people to man the phones for a Chamber or visitor's center--tap into the high school or local college. Arrange for students to volunteer their time and talents for either credit at school or to bolster their future resumes. Tapping the Senior Centers and civic groups leads to reaping decades of wisdom and business acumen.

*Also tap into students to send out press releases and free calendar events to newspapers and magazines. Many students would jump at the chance to benefit their town if it would lead to increased business and help their families, or help them stay in town after graduation.

*Make your event or services your shops, businesses and eateries offer so compelling that the media comes to you. If you donate even a small portion to charity or a non-profit, media outlets are more inclined to do a story about the event or business.

*Think big in a small town. All someone can say is no. If you have something interesting happening--there is no reason not to contact travel magazines and lifestyle editors across the country. Their readers are often looking for some experiences that sometimes only a small town can offer.

*Find the right people in the town for the job. Pick someone (generally just one or two people) that are confident and come across well on camera. Local news station are often looking for a lively filler story on a slow news day about an event told by the spokesperson that speaks professionally and has a sense of humor. Then pick one person to field the print media--and have that person equipped with the correct information for the media, such as who to interview on each specific story. Have those people always be the contact people for the media, so they can build a relationship with the media and each side can call on the other when they either need a story or want to tell a story. If the contact people change, inform the media of that and introduce the new person in a brief email or phone call. It's all about relationships, even in bigger cities and the media.

*Come up with that fundraiser that will get the media's attention. People like feel-good stories to counteract all the serious news. Create a calendar or other salable item that promotes the event or cause that is humorous, heartwarming or interesting.

*The people that get publicity are usually the ones that ask for it. Either by asking directly or creating an event or item that draws positive attention. It's really that simple.

*There are many little-known ways to get free TV commercials that broadcast to many households by nominating businesses. The production people will come to you, for free. Others will charge, but keep playing the videos for free after the initial charge--and there are ways to get those videos shot economically and then promote them on social media and websites. And most high schools and colleges have video equipment and talented students looking for an opportunity to promote their town and own abilities.

*There are many lesser-known TV travel shows that are always accepting ideas for their crews to come film in off-the-beaten track locations.

*It's appropriate to present the positive things about one's town and/or event as a travel destination. But don't be alarmed if someone in the media asks about the negative things in the town's history or present. There needs to be a counterbalance in most every story. Those negative things (such as past injustices, power struggles, crime, corruption, economic downturns, water issues, crumbling infrastructure, etc.) can be used to show how a town righted wrongs or overcame challenges in a positive way.

*The core of many small towns is its agriculture. Farm to table and agri-tourism are the trendy words now. But it's what many small towns were founded on--and they don't need to change a thing, except getting cohesive on how they present. Have maps and brochures that list every winery,corn maze, alpaca farm, apiary, organic vegetable garden, etc. that are open to the public. Get those maps to every business, appropriate venue and visitors center, airport, train station, etc. across the state. Again tap into high school, college students and seniors and have them attend marketing seminars, symposiums and other related events with the maps and the STORY of their town.

It's all about the story. It's so simple. What story will small-town America tell about itself? Will it tell the story of whining about flower baskets--or will it tell the story of it's rich history, ethnic backgrounds, agriculture, festivals and fiercely independent small businesses? And will it use the diversity of its town--including seniors and students--to tell that story in such a compelling way that people can't help but notice.

Will the story, as old as America, be told of small towns pulling them up by their bootstraps--or descending into a maelstrom of pity and negativity?

You know which story I am rooting for that is told about small-town America!

p.s. AND get your town on social media! I have few followers, but within minutes of Tweeting these posts I had retweets and marketing and agriculture people following me on Twitter. When I asked one business owner, who was the one who initially asked for help, why most local business owners did not tweet, blog or Facebook much--I was told they were too busy running their business. Then get someone else to volunteer to do it.

AND in my opinion, every small town should have a community blog where people are invited to tell their STORIES about their businesses, events and what's special about their town and what it is like to live in rural America. I don't promote my blog (or myself) except with an occasional tweet and people still find it--the counter at the top left shows we are closing in on 100,000 hits. I've proven it. It's all about the story. Just tell it!