Everything Has Changed

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“You often meet your fate on the road you take to avoid it.” – Goldie Hawn

 

I always wanted to be a writer. Laura Ingalls Wilder was my first hero. I felt that God had given me something special; I was sure I had a gift that was going to make me a great writer someday.

I thought it was Fate.

Meant to be.

Then I grew up and realized that Fate wasn’t going to pay my bills. I took a detour that became a bigger detour, and then an even bigger detour. I got married, started a career, had a family, and decided that writing was a pipe dream. A cute little hobby. Something I might do again someday when I retired.

I barely missed it.

But Fate can be a real Bitch sometimes.

In my blog, I refer to my husband as The Big Guy because he is a tall, broad-shouldered man with a big heart and a capacity for greatness. When he became a volunteer firefighter in our small community, we very quickly became a part of the fire department family. He rose up through the ranks by doing the job well, not by campaigning or maneuvering for promotions.

So he was blindsided when small-town politics forced him to step down. He was hurt, as he should have been; those men and women were his brothers and sisters, and he felt betrayed. And while he is good at many things, forgiveness is not something he has ever mastered.

It was a bad time for everyone. We lost our friends, our extended family. He lost his sense of purpose, and I didn’t know what to do or how to help him. And in a town this small, there are always going to be rumors and ugliness when something like that happens.

Which is why I believe it was Fate that my car accident happened when and where it happened. One more mile, and I would have been in the next township. One more mile, and my life would have been in the hands of strangers, not his former “brothers.”

From underneath the maple tree, I recognized the chief’s voice right away, despite my head injury and pain. Of course I knew his voice. He’d gone through training with my husband, and they had served together for over a decade. He sounded calm, efficient, professional. The perfect chief.

When I called him by name, he got a funny look on his face.   He didn’t recognize me.

That was my first clue that it was bad.

“It’s Amy,” I told him. “Ken’s wife.”

His face changed then. He closed his eyes and lowered his head and said a few choice words that I don’t think I was supposed to hear. The calm, efficient professional fire chief was gone for a split second, and our friend –our family member – fought for control.

That was my first clue that it was really bad.

I learned later that when he turned away from me after that, he gathered his men and told them, “Everything has changed. It’s family.”

Everything has changed.

They would have saved anyone as efficiently as they saved me that night. They did their job, and they did it well. But I was their family. I was one of them, and I could see it on their faces.

One of the other guys, a Paramedic, told me later that he had been on a leave from the department while he debated quitting, but something told him to respond that night. When he saw my van with the tree on it, his first thought was, “Nobody survived that.” Then he noticed my skin tone and thought, “She’s nearly gone.” Then he looked at my face and thought, “Okay, God, I get it. I won’t quit.”

Everything has changed.

In the months following the accident, I tried to hug and thank every one of the men that responded that night. It was harder than you might think; it was nearly impossible for me to find a balance between thanking them for saving me and remembering that they hurt my husband. I didn’t want to betray him by letting them off the hook when he still hadn’t. Couldn’t.

While I healed, I started writing again. I wanted to write about what I had gone through, exorcise some of the fear and pain and sadness by using my God-given writing skills, but I just couldn’t.  Everything sounded melodramatic and overwrought. I tried to go back to my original dream of writing a Young Adult mystery series. I ended up writing fanfictions in which I put my favorite TV characters in cars and dropped trees on them.   I wrote poetry. I joined an online critic’s group and tried to feel like a writer.

Everything has changed.

I began to write a romance novel. The first thing I did was drop a tree on my heroine’s head and break her neck.

I started blogging. At first, I told funny, superficial stories about living in the country. Then I shared some more personal bits about myself. I talked about my accident, and my kids, and about losing my parents; I shared advice I had gotten from my Aunt Marian, and I even found a way to work in the phrase “whippoorwill’s ass.” I made people laugh and cry, and somewhere along the line, I started having fun again.

In an ironic twist of Fate, the Big Guy and I were falling out of love while the characters in my book were falling into love. He asked me for a divorce exactly three days after I typed “the end.”

Everything has changed.

“Her House Divided” is a dream come true for me. It is the culmination of my life’s dream of becoming a writer.  I did it; I wrote a book. I am proud of everything I put into it.

I can say that I am a writer.

And until yesterday, I wasn’t sure what to write next.   So of course, Fate just had to step in again.

Yesterday, at a time and place when I least expected it, I ended up face-to-face with the one firefighter I had not yet thanked. I hugged him, and he hugged me, and he told me about the chief’s words to his men that night: Everything has changed.

You know what?

He’s right.

Everything has changed.

I’m still a single mother and scared to death that I’m going to screw it up. I am still sad that my marriage failed, and I miss my husband. I’m scared of maple trees and thunderstorms, and I sometimes wake up screaming because I’ve seen the tree falling again in a dream.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But there are a few things I do know: I am a survivor. I am loved. I am stronger than I ever realized.

I know what to write next.

I have a story to tell, and I know how to tell it.

I’m ready to start the next chapter.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/prompt-que-sera-sera/

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Daily Prompt: Linger

We have a saying in my family that is repeated every time there is a death in the family:  “A Foote good-bye lasts longer than the visit.”

Technically, I am not a Foote; my grandmother was a Foote before marrying my grandfather.  I’m a little shaky on all of the details about how many siblings she had, or where she fell as far as birth order.  I wasn’t raised in a Foote-friendly environment, but I heard plenty of stories about them from my father and his four sisters.

With a few exceptions, we only saw the Footes at funerals and visitations.  And since they all live in the same small town, the visitations tend to be the kind that take place in those old, homey funeral parlors that used to be someone’s house.  None of those sleek, modern funeral homes with the coordinating décor and multiple viewing rooms for multi-funeral gatherings.  No, my family prefers the places with mismatched Victorian-looking chairs and over-stuffed sofas, with candy dishes and discreet tissue boxes on the coffee tables.

“They do such a nice job here,” someone will inevitably say.  “Remember Mom’s funeral?  What about so-and-so’s?”

When we go to the visitation for a Foote funeral, we all behave as expected.  We make polite chit-chat with relatives that we only vaguely recognize, move through the line to pay our respects to the deceased, shake hands or exchange hugs when it’s over, and then we head out to the parking lot, where the party begins.

Another saying among the Footes is that we should just plan on holding funeral visitations in the parking lot because that’s where we all end up anyway.  By the time we finally leave, we will have spent twice as long in the parking lot  saying good-bye than we spent inside the funeral home.

We cluster around the cars and talk, but not necessarily about the person we’ve gathered to mourn.  We play catch-up on those of us who are left.  “I’m Dean’s daughter,” I’ll say.  “I’m Lee’s son,” someone else offers.  Which segues into a discussion of the family tree and just how we are related to each other.  There are stories to be told, phone numbers and email addresses to be exchanged, promises to be made about staying in touch.

Promises that we know will not be kept.

We aren’t a close family.  My father’s generation was close; they all grew up with their cousins and aunts and uncles living near each other.  But by the time my sisters and I came along, it had already begun to fall apart to the point where we only saw the relatives at funerals, visitations, and the occasional holiday or family picnic.

When the older generation began to pass away, there was a Domino effect.  While we might have gone a year or two between funerals before that, it seemed to pick up pace as soon as we lost the first one.    And always, after each one, there was the gathering in the parking lot to reacquaint ourselves with each other.

I don’t miss most of the Footes, because I really didn’t know them.  But I miss that sense of belonging, of being a part of something.  A member of a family.  I miss the after-visitation conversations out in the funeral parlor parking lot, where I was more than just Amy; I was Dean’s daughter and Ethel’s granddaughter.  Esther’s great-niece.  Tony and Jenny’s cousin.    I looked like the people around me, and felt like the “Bee Girl” in the old Blind Melon video.

As strange as it may sound, I’m looking forward to the next Foote passing, just so I can have a chance to catch up one more time, standing around the parking lot with relatives I no longer know.

And when I die, I want my visitation held at one of those big, old-fashioned funeral parlors that used to be someone’s house.  I want Blind Melon’s “No Rain” playing in the background, and I want to make sure there is a great big parking lot, where my friends and relatives can stand around and swap stories and phone numbers to make sure that the good-byes always last longer than the visits.

 

http://wordpress.com/read/post/id/489937/70892/

If I Had a Pass

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The worst job I ever had was my position as a secretary for the Sales and Catering Division of the Radisson Plaza Hotel. The Radisson was a great employer, and the job itself should have been fun.  The work was fairly easy, the Radisson offered all kinds of perks for its employees, and I got to work with my old friend Dennis.   Unfortunately, the S&C office was top-heavy with managers who couldn’t agree on procedures or policies or who worked for whom, and every day was a power struggle that left me shaking with the stress of realizing that I was never, ever going to do anything right as long as I worked there.

I lasted less than six months.

During my sentence there, my immediate boss (on paper, anyway) was a smarmy little man whose main responsibility was booking hotel rooms for artists who came to town to perform at local venues, such as Wings Stadium or The StateTheater.  My main responsibility was keeping him informed as to which incoming phone calls were from his wife and which were from his mistress.

Hated that part of the job.

Working for Mr. Smarmy meant free concert tickets.  Lots of free concert tickets.  It meant running errands for some celebrities, meeting a few others, and it meant that I was trusted to be discreet with some highly confidential information.  That may not seem like a big deal, but I loved the fact that, at any given time, I knew things like room numbers and contact information for some pretty big names.

Loved that part of the job.

The only time I ever got backstage passes was when Peter, Paul and Mary came to town.  Now, I’m a child of the seventies.  I grew up on “Puff the Magic Dragon” and “Blowin’ in the Wind”.  I still remember every word to “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” and I used to sing “500 Miles” to my oldest son as a lullaby every night. And am I the only one who still gets choked up over “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (even when it’s sung by Michael Clarke Duncan)?

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Peter, Paul and Mary, man. If I ever get married again, someone will sing “The Wedding Song” at the ceremony.  Don’t care who, don’t care how much it costs.  Someone is singing that song at my wedding, if I ever have another one.

But I digress.

I took my roommate Lisa with me that night, and gave her my second backstage pass.  We tucked them safely into our purses and sat beside Dennis and his wife, who also had a pair of passes.

Sitting on the other side of us was a family with two very small girls, somewhere in the area of five or six years old.  Those girls knew every word to every song.  Every word.  Bear in mind that this was in the early 1990’s, when most little girls their age would have preferred to listen to Britney Spears or some other Pop Princess.  These little darlings didn’t care about modern Top 40 hits; they were harmonizing “If I Had a Hammer”  and “Hush-A-Bye” while we waited for the show to start.

The littlest one, seated next to me, forgot that I was a stranger.  When Mary Travers came out on the stage, the child clutched at my arm and burst in to tears.  “Mary is so beautiful!”  she sobbed.  She settled down after that, holding her sister’s hand and quietly singing along through the entire show.

When the show was over, my new little friend turned to her mother and asked, “Mommy, do you think we could go say ‘hi’ to Mary?”

“No, you need a backstage pass to do that,” the woman told her.

Lisa and I looked at each other.  She heaved a big sigh and handed me her backstage pass while I dug mine out of my purse.   We really had no other choice.

I tapped the mother on the shoulder and held out the passes.  At first, she thought I was just showing them to her.  It took a few minutes to convince her that no, we were giving them to her for her daughters.  After many tears and lots of squeals, the two little ones were escorted backstage by Dennis and his wife.

At work the next day, I asked Dennis if the little girls got Mary’s autograph.  He nodded.  “Autographs and hugs,” he told me.  “From Peter, Paul and Mary.”

A little bit later that day, he pulled me away from my desk and led me out into the lobby, where he introduced me to Mary Travers.  She was, as the little girl had said, beautiful.  Tall and elegant, probably somewhere in her early sixties at that time.  She was heavier than during the trio’s heyday, but she was one of those rare women who acquire a different kind of beauty with age.  She was stunning.

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She was gracious.  So kind.  She thanked me for giving the passes to those little girls.  She hugged me. Mary Travers hugged me.

Wow.

Even twenty-odd years later, I get misty-eyed remembering that day.  When she died in 2009, I almost felt like I had lost a friend.

Somewhere out there today, there are two young women who got a chance to meet Peter, Paul and Mary backstage at WMU’s Miller Auditorium.  I wonder if they still love the music, and if they still remember every word to every song.  Most of all, I wonder if they still remember the two strangers who handed over their backstage passes on that long-ago night.    

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/daily-prompt-kindness-2/

  1. http://zainabjavid.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/be-nice/
  2. http://jitterygt.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/to-serve-mankind/
  3. http://underthemonkeytree.com/2014/01/23/daily-prompt-nice-is-as-nice-does/
  4. http://criticaldispatches.com/2013/05/23/167/
  5. http://onesahmscrazylife.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/kids-get-to-me-faster-than-anyone/
  6. http://mylittleavalon.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/kindness/
  7. http://abozdar.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/host/
  8. http://unlockingtheinnercreative.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/is-it-false-to-be-nice/
  9. http://unlockingtheinnercreative.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/is-it-false-to-be-nice/
  10. http://alienorajt.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/violins-cars-and-stereos-daily-prompt/
  11. http://lnfpthoughts.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/daily-prompt-nice-is-as-nice-does/
  12. http://dragoneystory.wordpress.com/2014/01/23/daily-prompt-nice-as-nice-does/
  13. http://losjourneytoboston.com/2014/01/23/nice-is-as-nice-does-daily-prompt/

Mirror, Mirror

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Sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I don’t recognize the woman who looks back at me.

In my mind, I still look like someone in her late twenties/early thirties.   I never looked my age until recently.  People were always so surprised to find out my real age because I appeared to be so much younger than I really was.

I had good skin, ready access to hair color, and no need to lie when asked my age.   I knew I wasn’t a beautiful woman, but I also knew I had a good smile and a certain well-scrubbed, girl-next-door quality.  That’s the kind of corn-fed-maiden I still expect to see when I look in the mirror.

The woman who looks back at me instead is tired.  She’s got deep, dark circles under her eyes, which are red-rimmed as though she has cried recently.  She’s got my mom’s drooping right eyelid, which only lends to the overall look of exhaustion.  Her face is puffy; she has the appearance of someone who has gained a great deal of weight recently.  Rosacea gives her a constant flushed look, sort of like the red face that we used to call “Beer Cheeks” in college.

Her skin seems dry, especially around the eyes, where small wrinkles have begun to form.  She has acne scars on her chin that are dark enough to show through foundation and powder.    Her eyes are still her best feature.  They are somewhere between blue and green, almost aqua, and once in a while they still have the old sparkle.  It’s hard to see, but it’s there.

I feel sorry for the woman in the mirror.  I want to reach through and wrap my arms around her and give her the hug she so desperately needs.  I want to tell her it’s okay to cry until she’s done, until all of the sadness and regrets are totally exorcised.  I want to tell her I love her because she really looks like she needs to hear that from someone.

Then I want to give her a stern talking-to.  “Snap out of it,” I want to tell her.  “Get a haircut, touch up your roots, and put on some make-up and jewelry.  Take a little pride in your appearance.  And for God’s sake, smile once in a while. People used to tell you that your smile was beautiful, remember?  So smile, damn it!”

Appearances shouldn’t matter.  I should be able to look in the mirror and take pride in each wrinkle and scar and gray hair.  I have earned every one of them, after all.  Considering some of what I have survived, I am lucky that I don’t look worse.  I remember looking up at my sister in the ER after my car accident and whispering, “Is my face . . . okay?”  And then feeling a really twisted sense of relief when she assured me that all of that blood was from my head rather than any part of my face.

So, yeah, appearance matters to me.   I wish it didn’t.  I wish the woman in the mirror looked more like the woman I see in my mind.  But the one in the mirror has been through a lot.  She’s a survivor, and she looks like one.

Luckily, the one in my mind learned how to apply make-up in beauty school.  With some mascara, mineral powder, and a helluva lot of eyeliner — along with a healthy dose of anti-depressants — these two ladies may someday merge into a woman who doesn’t scare me when she smiles back at me.

 

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/daily-prompt-mirrored/

Facebook “Friends” and True Colors

I just spent two hours writing a blog post that I will never publish.  It was an angry post that ranged in tone from red-hot fury to frost-blue sarcasm.

It was called “Open Letter to An Idiot” and it was not nice.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  I used twenty-seven different synonyms for “idiot” and I droped the f-bomb thirteen times.

You see, I have just learned that some of my “friends” are annoyed by my behavior in recent years.   I put the quotation marks around the word friend because there are people involved who obviously have no idea what the word means.

I have talked too much about my car accident and about my lingering issues with pain.  I understand that now, and I wish I had been more stoic about it.  I am, after all, not the only person to undergo a traumatic event.  And let’s face it, there are a lot of people dealing with worse pain.  I’m embarrassed when I look back at some of my whining and I wonder that I haven’t lost more friends because of my constant complaining.

The night of my accident, I wasn’t thinking about getting sympathy or attention.  I was thinking that the sky had that funny green-yellow color that sometimes comes with tornado weather.  I was thinking that my children and I were going to die.  Later, when the storm was over and they were wheeling me around from ambulance to ambulance, I stared up at the violets, oranges and indigoes of the sunset sky and wondered if I would ever walk again.

Afterward, I guess I should have moved on better than I did.

My bad.

My angry and unpublishable blog post was prompted by a conversation that took place on Facebook yesterday between people that I had thought of as my friends.  They discussed my accident and my recovery at great lengths, and made quite a few jokes at my expense.  Apparently, these chums of mine decided to advance the theory that my accident never really took place.

I am lazy, they decided.  They called me an attention whore and speculated that I made up the whole thing as a way of getting sympathy and finding a way to get out of working for the rest of my life.  They voiced the opinion that I need to STFU.

Look, people are going to gossip.  I can accept that.  Hell, I’ve been caught gossiping a few times.  More than a few, if I’m going to be perfectly honest.  But I can’t even comprehend saying the kind of spiteful, vicious things these people said.  And right out there on Facebook, in a public forum for all the world to see!

In a conversation that showed up in my newsfeed.  On my page, where I could read every poisonous word they said.

I attacked them in my blog.  I lashed out at them . . . and I did the same thing I was accusing them of doing:  I mocked them in a public forum for all the world to see.

But I won’t publish that post because I want to be a better person than they are.

I know I’ve talked about my accident too much and I’m trying to stop.  Really, I am.  I realize that I can never heal as long as I keep dwelling on it.   It’s a hard lesson that I am constantly re-learning; for example, I recently shared a few details about it with a new friend, and regretted it almost immediately.  It’s part of my past, and it should have stayed there.  I dumped far too much on him when I should have kept it to myself, and I am afraid that I have done irreparable damage to a budding friendship.

I’ve whined a lot lately about pain because it’s aggravated by cold weather – and since Michigan is in the grip of something called a “polar vortex”, it’s really cold here.  I have had to go out into that frigid weather to shovel snow off the steps, and the combination of cold and overuse of shoulder/neck muscles has left me with a level of pain that is nearly blinding in its intensity.

Still, I should have been more considerate of others who are worse off.  I know that nobody wants to see a long string of negative, whiny, aww-poor-me status updates; I should have just put on the big girl panties and kept it to myself.

But to mock me?  To claim that I was never really hurt, to say that my accident never happened, to say that I am “milking” a disability claim because I am too lazy to go back to work?   That takes a special kind of person.  The kind of person I hope to never be.  The kind of person who cannot be my friend.  Not now, not ever.

Because this happened.

Whew!  Luckily, it's a figment of my imagination.
Whew! Luckily, it’s a figment of my imagination.

That’s Todd, holding my head.  Rey taking the picture.  Dave in the yellow coat.  Not a clue who the arm or butt belong to –Mitch, Brian, JC? — but the fact remains that it happened, and they were there.  And so was I.

The “friends” who are mocking me and suggesting that it never happened?  They weren’t there.  Not at the scene, not in the aftermath, and certainly not now.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/daily-prompt-colors/

Daily Prompt: Close Calls

I had to laugh when I saw today’s Daily Prompt:  Share a time when you narrowly avoided disaster.

I’ve been pretty open in my blog about my accident in 2011, but I guess it’s a matter of interpretation as to whether I avoided the disaster or if the disaster hit me right on the head.   A tree hit me right on the head, actually.  A tree, for God’s sake.  Not a branch, not a limb, not a part of a tree.  The whole freakin’ tree.

You say "disaster".  I say "stupid tree."
You say “disaster”. I say “stupid tree.”

At first glance, it may not look like I avoided disaster, narrowly or otherwise.  But I’m alive.   Oh, it’s been two and a half years of hell.  Don’t get me wrong.  The pain, depression and loss of direction have been overwhelming, and I have had days when I wished that damn tree had been a little bit bigger or fallen a little bit harder.

But was it disastrous?

Meh.  Ask me again on one of my bad days.

I have always been a very lucky person.  Or unlucky, depending on how you look at it.  My family called it “Hyde Luck”.  We were The Lucky Seven, four aunts and three kids.  The Big Hyde Girls and The Little Hyde Girls.

That was a bit of a disaster, now that I think about it.  The Aunts were just . . . odd.  Four sisters who never married, never lived alone, never had a life away from their siblings.  My sisters and I grew up understanding that a life like theirs was not what we wanted.   I sometimes wonder if my disastrous marriage was a result of my fear of ending up like the aunts in all of their Spinster Glory.

Okay, the marriage wasn’t really a disaster.  Not all of it.  Just the parts where we hurt each other.

“Hyde Luck” was the term we came up with for the fact that we always seemed to just miss disastrous events.  An accident on Space Mountain an hour after we rode it.  A shark attack on Daytona Beach a week after we vacationed there.    A ten-car pileup on I-94 ten minutes after we decided to take US 131 instead.  A tornado that took out the building next door to the one that housed my aunt’s beauty salon.

 

Don’t ever stand behind me in line.  It’s just not safe back there.

I am, however, the safest person in the world to stand next to during a thunderstorm.  Logically speaking, what are the odds that another tree will ever fall on me?

Several years ago, my kids and I went to my aunts’ house on a Friday night.  We called Papa John’s to place our pizza order, but there was no answer.   “Of course they are open on a Friday night!” we scoffed.  “They are just too lazy to answer their phone.  Screw ‘em, we’ll get Little Caesar’s.”

I had to drive past Papa John’s on my way to Little Caesar’s.  The lights were on; there were cars in the parking lot.  I could see people walking around in there.  I actually pulled into the parking lot and started getting out of my car before I changed my mind.  No, I didn’t think it was a good idea to leave my very hungry kids alone with the aunts long enough for me to place my order in person and wait for it at Papa John’s.  I got back in the car and hurried along to Little Caesar’s, picked up some Hot –N-Readies, and forgot about Papa John’s.

Until I saw the news the following morning.  Apparently, Papa John’s was being robbed at gunpoint while I dithered in the parking lot.   Employees and customers were being bound and gagged in the back room.  I had been seconds away from walking in on an armed robbery in progress.

See what I mean?  Lucky for me, not so much for the folks at Papa John’s.

Hyde Luck.

A few months later, I stopped at a little convenience store on my way home from another Friday night with the Aunts.  I left my kids in the car while I ran into the local gas station/grocery store/bait shop for some milk.  As I came out, one of the clerks was going back inside after yelling at some teenagers for loitering in the parking lot.  I scolded her and told her to be more careful at night, and then stepped out of the way of the man who walked into the store behind her.

Turns out he had a gun.

His truck was parked beside my car.

My kids were in my car.

I missed another armed robbery by seconds.  Literally seconds.  He had those women at gunpoint before I was out of the parking lot.  I would have witnessed the entire thing if only I had glanced in my rearview mirror.

Hyde Luck.

Driving home on a lonely stretch of road at dusk a few years later, I saw a man lying on the side of the road.  He was sprawled out at a weird angle, his head almost in the drainage ditch.  There was just no way he was taking a nap.  I did a quick u-turn and hopped out of my car, running to him just as he started sitting up.

He told me he had been hit by a car, but begged me not to call 911.  He owed money to the hospital, he said, and didn’t want to go there.  Would I drive him to his friend’s house just up the road?

I’m not stupid.  I knew better than to let him get into my car.  So I offered to let him use my cell phone to call his buddy to come get him.

He didn’t grab the phone I held out.  He grabbed my arm instead.  In all honesty, I have to admit that I still didn’t see the danger of my situation.  I didn’t think about the self-defense classes I took in the 90’s.  He let go of me when another car drove by, and I promptly drove away without him, calling 9-1-1 as I went.

I later talked to a friend who responded to that call.  I wanted to make sure the man wasn’t badly hurt after being hit by a car.

Only to find out that he hadn’t been hit by anything.  He was wanted.  There was a warrant out for his arrest.

For rape.

For carjacking.

Hyde Luck.

Well, not exactly, because no one was hurt after my lucky break.  But still.

This is why I laughed when asked to share a time when I narrowly avoided disaster.  Seriously?  My entire life has been a series of narrowly avoided disasters!

Someday, my luck is going to run out.    But until that day, you really don’t want to be in line behind me.  It’s just not safe back there.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/prompt-skin/

Well, That Happened

I woke up this morning determined to write something happy for a change.  After a long series of depressing, soul-baring posts, I vowed to blog about something a bit cheerier before my followers all end up in need of anti-depressants.  Today, I promised, I would write in response to the Daily Prompt, no matter what it was.

So here’s todays’s Daily Prompt:

Unexpectedly, you lose your job (or a loved one, or something or someone important to you).  What do you do next?

Really?!

Seriously, come on, guys.

How in the hell am I supposed to put an upbeat twist on that?  I can talk about loss.  Sometimes I feel like all I ever talk about is losing people and things.  In less than three years, I have lost my job, my career, my mobility, my marriage, my home, my self-esteem and at times, my will to live.

Okay, so, what do I do next?  Survive, apparently.  I’m going to play with today’s topic a little bit and turn it into “What did you do next?”

  1.  I got mad.  In each case, with each loss, I got really pissed off.  At the Van Buren County Road Commission, at my husband, at life, at God.
  2. I cried.  A lot.
  3. I talked about it.  And talked.  And wrote.  And talked and wrote some more.  I talked about writing about it.  I wrote about talking about it.  I watched people’s eyes glaze over and still talked about it some more.
  4. I ate a lot.
  5. I cried some more.
  6. I threw up a lot.
  7. I laughed.  At some really inappropriate things during some very awkward moments.  I made stupid, tasteless jokes about my situation, and I laughed until I cried.  Then I laughed at myself for crying, and I thanked God for the sense of humor that is my source of strength.
  8. I made plans, and I swallowed my pride long enough to call on my friends for help with those plans.  Like my mom used to say, there comes a time when one must “shit or get off the pot”.
  9. I took the high road whenever possible.  Hurt like hell sometimes, but I did it.
  10. I repeated 1-9, in no particular order.  Over and over and over.

I had all kinds of quotes I wanted to use here.  Brainy stuff.  Deep, philosophical stuff.  Goethe, Frost, Tennyson.  I even had a great one from Dolly Parton.  But the best thing anyone has ever said about dealing with loss comes from Dr. Seuss:

Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.

Yup.  I’d say that sums it all up pretty well.  Smiles, everyone. Smiles.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/daily-prompt-unexpected/

Treading Water

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I don’t know how to do this.

For nearly eighteen years, I’ve been part of a team. We bought a house together, paid our bills together, made three babies together.  We shared holidays and we carpooled when the roads were bad.  We held hands and dried each other’s tears at funerals; we leaned on each other in tough times and laughed together in good times.

It’s time for both of us to sink or swim on our own.

It would be easier if I could hate him.  I want to hate him. I want to rage and shriek with fury.  I want to be Anne Bancroft in “How to Make an American Quilt”, hurling porcelain dolls at him and turning the broken shards into a lasting work of art so I can revisit my anger for years.

But I can’t hate him.  We never stopped loving each other.  We stopped liking each other.  We stopped talking.  We stopped being a couple.  We stopped telling the truth, and we stopped being in love.

I am making plans for a future without him:  I am trying to buy my own home, and I have a job interview next week.  We are being cordial—friendly, actually – and making decisions about who gets which car and how we’re going to share custody of the kids.  But in the end, I’m going to be alone.

I’m going to be a single mom.

I can’t call my mom for advice.   She’s been gone for almost thirty years.  I can read books on coping with divorce, and I can ask others for advice, but when it comes right down to it, I am going to be alone.    Sinking or swimming, all by myself.

It’s going to be all right.  I never sink, no matter how choppy the water gets.

In the past month, I have cried a lot.  Talked a lot.  Thought a lot.  Haven’t slept much.  Thrown up more than I care to admit.  But I’ve also talked to my husband – really talked, actually communicated on a level we haven’t reached in years.  I’ve seen a spark of the man I married, a hint of his old smile, and I remember why I fell in love with him.

And I’ve seen the old me, too.

I miss the sweet and funny guy that I married.  I miss the strong, independent person I used to be.  I miss our naiveté, and I am mourning the loss of everything that could have been.  Should have been, if only we had learned to communicate like this a long, long time ago.   As much as it hurts to admit, we can never be at our best as long as we are together.

The thing I miss the most is sleeping with him. I don’t mean having sex; I mean sleeping.  On our left side, a pair of spoons. His arm around my waist, our fingers twined together, his breath in my hair.  Even after all those years, even after the worst fights, we always slept like that.  Close together, drawing warmth from each other.  He was my cocoon. My security blanket.  My protector.

He took care of me when I broke my neck.  He cried with me when I lost my father.  And he held me in his arms the night we broke each other’s hearts and spoke the word aloud for the first time.

Divorce.

I don’t hate him.  But we are sinking together, and we both need to swim.

On our own.

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/prompt-sink-swim/

In The Woods

I don’t talk about my husband in my blog very often, other than the occasional mention of him as just a part of a story or commentary.  He is a very private individual who is uncomfortable with some of the things that I talk about here, so I respect his wishes and try not to shine the spotlight on him.  Besides, most of the times that I really want to talk about him are times when I really shouldn’t say the things I am thinking.  Especially not in writing.

However, we had an experience yesterday that I really feel the need to share because it shows a side of the man that people don’t usually see.

It started with a Trail Cam. This is a motion-activated camera that he got for Christmas a few years ago, ostensibly for use in identifying the best hunting spots on our forty wooded acres.  In theory, he is supposed to hang it in different places on our property for several days at a time so that he can get pictures of deer traffic, day or night.

I say “in theory” because he has used it for so much more.  He set it up to find out what kind of animal was messing with our bird feeders (raccoons) and put it near the mailbox to see who was disturbing our mail.  He has also had far too much fun hiding it in random spots around the house and then showing me pictures of myself in all kinds of unflattering nose-picking or butt-scratching shots.

Yeah, think about that for a moment.  Think about the things you do when you’re alone in your house, and let your mind wander about what kinds of pictures a hidden Trail Cam might get of you.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Creepy, right?

Yesterday, he sent me an interesting email from work.  Apparently, he took the camera’s memory card into work with him and was looking at the pictures on his lunch hour, and he found some pictures that he thought I should see.

I brought my trail cam card to work to look at pictures. There are some crazy things that go on in our woods at night.

Picture one made me go, “well, all right.”  Nice to know there’s at least one nice-looking buck out there.

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Then I looked at picture two.

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You know those little tiny hairs on the back of the neck?  Mine stood straight on end. Goosebumps started popping up all over the place.

Then I looked at picture three and immediately felt a very strong urge to pee my pants.

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That poor baby! Was my first thought.  Was she still out there?  There had been a news story the previous night about a missing two year-old child in Grand Rapids; I wondered if she had somehow been transported to our area.

Then I looked at the date and time on the pictures:  August 22, 4:02 a.m.

My goose bumps gave birth to goose bumps.  My lungs went on strike and utterly refused to take in one more breath.  My eyes started watering.  My teeth chattered.

There is absolutely no way a little girl like that was roaming free in our woods at four in the morning two months ago.  We live in the middle of nowhere and there are coyotes and other wild animals out there that would not have left her unharmed.

Our nearest neighbor is close to a half-mile away.  They are weekend neighbors from Chicago, what the locals refer to as FIPs, and most FIPs are generally too busy looking down their noses at the locals to actually mingle with us.  It is highly doubtful that people of their elevated social status and self-importance would ever allow a child to wander in our dirty woods, day or night.

That left one other option, and my mind absolutely refused to wrap itself around it.

You see, we have a ghost in our house.  This house belonged to her aunt and uncle, and she spent a great deal of time here when she was growing up. Her brief and troubled life was torn apart by drug use and bad relationships, and local rumor says that she had four children taken away from her by Protective Services shortly before she died of an overdose.

I have seen the ghost several times, usually during my pregnancies or when one of my kids has been sick.  She stands over my husband’s side of the bed and gives me a sad smile before she vanishes.  Sometimes, she randomly turns on lights or the TV or some other such mischief.  She never does any harm.  She is just very, very sad and I think she stays at our house because she was happy here during her lifetime.

Looking at the pictures of that tiny girl in our woods, I just knew it was a childhood incarnation of our ghost.  Or perhaps it was one of her children that is no longer among the living, doomed to forever search our woods at night, looking for her mommy.

I was terrified.  Mind-numbing, pants-pissing, teeth-chattering terrified.  There it was, visual confirmation that we have more than one ghost.  After all, the times when I have seen the ghost in our bedroom have been times when I was just waking up, just coming out of a deep sleep; there is always a tiny possibility that those sightings are just very realistic dreams.  But an actual digital photograph of a ghostly little girl was just too much to comprehend.

I sent the pictures to my big sister and to one of my best friends.  And I started feeling less fear and more sadness for that poor baby.  That poor, tiny, lost soul, wandering our woods. I found myself wiping away a few tears as I thought about her.

Hubby and I continued to exchange emails as the day went on.  We exchanged theories about her identity and tried to find ways to explain who she could be and how she could have ended up in the woods, but we always came back to the fact that she just couldn’t have been a real flesh-and-blood little girl.

Near the end of the work day, I asked

You think the FIPs and their kids wander the woods at night, or do you really think it’s a ghost?

His answer?

I think those were tampered with pictures and I am messing with you.  LOL.

I don’t usually like being scared.  I have enough fear in my life, fear of really, really stupid things.  I hate slasher flicks and gore.  Even though the movies are about fictional people, I end up feeling so sad about the lives ending so suddenly at the hands of Freddy or Jason or whoever.

But I have a secret:  I love a good supernatural scare.    I adore movies that make me jump and scream.  I don’t want to watch “The Conjuring” or “Amityville Horror”, but sit down at a Ouija Board with me and just watch me shiver.  I’m talking about that delicious kind of shiver that starts at my gray roots and picks up speed on its way to my toes, only to meet itself coming back up.

I love the kind of scare that can truly be described as the “heebie-jeebies” because I am unable to utter anything other than noises that sound like “heebie” and “jeebie”.

You know, the kind of noises I made yesterday while looking at those pictures and pissing myself.

The best/worst part of this is knowing that my husband got me.  He pranked me good, and I fell for it.  Beneath the flannel and Carrharts, buried deeply under the aw-shucks country boy exterior and let’s-take-care-of-business attitude toward work, there lurks the heart of the world’s best prankster.

He reigns undefeated.

I want revenge.  I want to get back at him.  But really, let’s be honest here. I can’t top this one.  He wins.

Again.

Damn it.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/daily-prompt-frightening/

Daily Prompt: All Right

Daily Prompt:  Tell us about a time when everything seemed to be going wrong – and then, suddenly, you knew it would be all right.

I thought my world was ending the night of my car accident.  After a stranger hauled my kids out of the wreck, I couldn’t see or hear them anywhere.  I kept begging the EMS workers to tell me where my kids were, but all they would tell me was “they’re fine.”  But where are they? “They’re fine.”  Are you lying to me?  “They’re fine.”

The guys wouldn’t look me in the eye.  Now I understand that it was because I had no idea just how bad the situation was, and that most of them thought I wouldn’t survive the night.  But at the time, I assumed they were covering up some dire information about my babies.

The youngest was okay; he’d been home with his father at the time of the accident.  My daughter was shaken up but unharmed.  But my oldest son had some minor injuries – lots of glass in his left shin and hand, and a small gash on his right shoulder that needed a few stitches.  I never got to see him at the hospital, and I just couldn’t get rid of the nagging suspicion that they were lying to me about him.  I couldn’t convince myself that he was okay.

Then the doctor came back in with the results of my CT scan and dropped the bomb:  My neck was broken.  It was bad.  He couldn’t help me at our very small hospital.  “I have never seen an injury like this on someone who was still alive,” he told us.

They had to send me to a bigger hospital, but my son was already being treated at the local one.  They had to separate us, and there was just no way for my husband to be with both of us.

My boy was twelve years old.   He needed his father more than I needed my husband at that moment, and I had to go alone.

I was afraid to be alone.  Afraid to leave my kids.  Afraid of dying.  Afraid of being paralyzed.

When they wheeled me into that tiny room at Bronson Hospital and I couldn’t see anything other than the ceiling above me, I felt like I was hanging on by my fingertips.  I wanted to be unconscious.  If I hadn’t been strapped down and restrained at every extremity, I would have leaped from that bed and run screaming through the halls.

They kept asking, “Is anyone coming to be with you?  Is there anyone I can call?”  and I would tell them no.  Husband couldn’t be there.  There was no one else.  I’d tell them it was okay, not to worry.  But it wasn’t okay.

Then I heard my sister’s voice.

Now, I have to digress here for a moment. My oldest sister is only four years older than I am, and she has set the rule that I am not to refer to her as big sister, older sister, oldest sister, or any variation of those terms.  Once I hit thirty, she made it very clear that we are all three the same age from here on out.  We are all three adults, and she will not tolerate any comments that make reference to the fact that she is older than I am.

I don’t usually think of her in terms of age.  We are equals, and she has become one of my best friends.  But when I heard her voice in the hospital room that night, she wasn’t my equal.  She was my Big Sister, and everything was going to be okay.

I could break it down and point out all the reasons why her presence made everything better.   But it came down to one important fact:  She is my Big Sister.

And I knew everything was going to be okay.

There were so many people who stepped in; I couldn’t have gotten through all of it without my Mother-in-Law, Brother-in-Law and his wife, the neighbors and friends  who brought food and helped carpool the kids around, etc.  But that one single moment that turned it all around, that let me know things were going to get better, was the moment when my big sister showed up to take care of me.

Now, if only she’ll forgive me for telling the world which one of us is older.

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/daily-prompt-safety/