Thursday, April 30, 2009

Footnote Part V

Here's the funny thing: Having my stepfather take me shopping for my clothing was the norm in my house.
And yet- I knew it was not normal at all for a father figure to take a daughter to Montgomery Wards (whoa- I'm old) to do her school shopping. Really. I knew.
And that's the damn thing about abuse. You get used to a normal which is not normal at all and your body tells you, even if your mind can't, that it's wrong.
But in my house, it was taken as a token of how much C. "loved" me that he would do this feminine chore.
You know what? A father shouldn't give a rat's ass what his kid wears. He should be perfectly ignorant of his daughter's wardrobe unless the mother is completely out of it and someone needs to tell the child that really, that's not appropriate.
Clothing was a big issue in my life. As I went into Jr. High, the style for girls was Villager skirts and white oxford cloth blouses and Villager shirt-waist dresses. And because my stepfather was so tight with a dollar, Villager was not going to happen. There was, in those pre-Walmart days, a store called J. M. Fields. It had everything. Clothing, groceries. And we shopped there. And I got J.M. Fields faux Villager dresses and although they had the tiny flower patterned material, the buttoned-down and belted style, they were not the same.
But that's what I wore.
I wanted to look like all my friends. I wanted to be the same. And really- my friends had maybe two or three of these dresses and skirts. What would that have cost?
Too much to spend on me.
J.M. Fields. Monkey Wards. That's where I got my clothing. Until I learned to sew, which girls did back in those days. We all sewed our own dresses and since there were only so many Simplicity patterns and the local fabric store sold only so much kettle cloth (that was the material of choice), our clothing became far more democratic as we moved through Jr. High and high school.
And I, I! had control of what I wore.
And that was one more step in taking my power back over C.
Any way that I could find to take that power, I grabbed.
If it involved pinning tissue patterns over cotton and sewing up simple dresses, I did it.
And as soon as I figured out that I didn't need to wear a bra at all, I did that.
Thank-you, feminists. Thank-you, hippies.
I could take control of what I wore or did not wear over my own breasts. And if he said anything about it?
Ah. Well. He could not, could he? Because then he could be accused of looking at my breasts.
Maybe I was hoping he would say something.
But I doubt it. Because I was still horribly afraid of him and my room still only had a lock on the outside of the door and I could still see the flickering light of the TV from my white-curtained room when it was late at night.
And I knew that somehow, some way, it was not normal for a girl to care if her daddy was still up and awake. I knew a normal girl would feel safe, knowing her daddy was there to protect her if she needed protecting.
I knew, in my bones, what was normal and what was not, no matter what I had been taught, no matter what happened in my house, and there you have the beginnings of not being able to trust your intuition, your heart, your mind.

My Story, Part V

So. There I was, a girl who had friends and who loved Girl Scouts and who got almost perfect grades, who adored her first babies- her little brothers, and who was coming into her own as a blossoming woman.
That was me on the surface.

I keep thinking about Kiwanis Pancake breakfasts. C. was a member of the Kiwanis Club and once a year they would have a pancake breakfast and he always volunteered to cook pancakes. I remember going down to the school where they had it and thinking that we looked like such a perfect family. The daddy in an apron, doing his bit for the community, my mother and brother and the two redheaded little toddlers, cute as bugs, darling boys, all of us eating pancakes with butter and syrup on them.

Yeah. We looked good on paper. Or in public.

But at home?
Different story. Different universe.

It was a dark universe and I keep using that word but dammit, it's the only one that will do. C.'s codeine addiction was getting worse and worse. The chair where he laid to watch TV was in the family room and the table where we ate was only about ten feet away. Mother and I would get the dinner ready, get the kids washed up and in their highchairs, we'd all sit down at the set table and C. would lay there, refusing to come to the table despite Mother's pleadings and we couldn't, of course, start without him.
Passive-aggressive behavior and we'd all wait, with Mother's entreaties to him growing more and more angry.
Finally he'd raise his dense bulk off that chair and come to the table where we always said grace before we ate. Of course C.'s chair was right next to mine. He would pile whatever Mother had made onto bread and his manners were at once overly-prissy and yet, at the same time, crude. I can't explain it. But just sitting there, watching him eat, made me feel nauseous. He would talk and he would ramble and he would mumble. This was during the Viet Nam war which was on our television every night and C. would go on and on and on about the "Veetnam war" and how we ought to bomb the heck out of them and how the protesters should be shot. He was a Nixon supporter, he loved the US of A. Meanwhile, the body bags were being shown on the TV, there were images of monks setting themselves on fire and villages being napalmed. Protesters were being shot, too, right here at home. And tear-gassed and arrested. All this was going on right in front of us in living color, every night while C. ate his casserole on white bread, his little fingers crimped, his mouth full of food as he railed against the world.

It was about this time that boys were starting to show interest in me. I couldn't figure that out. Despite the fact that I'd lost a lot of weight, I still thought of myself as definitely NOT CUTE. But they did. And I was told in no uncertain terms that there would be no dating until I was sixteen. No two ways about it.

I remember when I wanted to shave my legs and somehow, C. got involved in that discussion too. Why? Who knows? Another inappropriate little sliver of bullshit under the fingernail of my life in that house. Finally, after much debate, I was given permission and not only that, but was given C.'s old double-bladed razor from the freaking Army to use. Although I cut my anklebones to shreds with that thing, I was glad not to be the only girl in Jr. High with hairy legs and arm pits. But every time I used that razor I thought of him. And that was just how it was. Despite the fact that he was no longer visiting me at night, he somehow had control of intimate parts of me that a father should not have. I always felt watched. I never felt safe. I know I use that term too, over and over but again, there is no other way to put it.

I did feel safe when I was away from the house. That was one of the reasons I loved Girl Scouts. We were an active troop and camped a lot. I loved those trips, those nights in the tents, giggling with my friends, cooking over an open fire, singing songs around the campfire, making up skits, doing new things, swimming in springs. That felt so normal, so right. I was a good Girl Scout.

I feel like I'm leaving so much out here. There were people who were so important to me, who are responsible for whatever self-esteem I may have, who believed in me and who let me know it. There were people who cared and I probably wouldn't be here now if not for them.
And my story is jumping around in time and space and I apologize for that.

The summer between my eighth and ninth grades, my parents decided we needed to go on a family vacation. The two little boys were left in the care of a frankly unfit old, old, OLD woman named Pearl who could make a mean potato salad but whom I wouldn't have left in charge of my dog. No one else seemed concerned, though, so I never said a word.

The trip was taken in the family Vista Cruiser station wagon and we drove from Winter Haven all the way up to North Dakota and then to California and back. And it was hell.
C. liked to drive while taking Codeine and if he managed his dose correctly, it was semi-okay, although the drug messed up his stomach fiercely and he was constantly having to stop to...well, just the thought of that man's intestinal disorders leading to him having to remove his pants made me sick. And he liked to smoke cigars. With the window closed. And he loved country music. All the way across the country those were the factors involved.
There was also the styrofoam ice chest that squeaked like fingernails on a chalkboard right behind me every motherfucking mile of the journey. And then there was my brother who was in the "she touched me!" phase of childhood.
Good times.
Eight, nine hours a day in a car with that man. Breathing the same air he breathed, listening to the music he wanted to listen to, hating him every moment.

C. grew testier and more and more critical of my brother and me while Mother tried to smooth the waters. Finally, she grew tired of that role and was simply angry at him. We would ride for miles and miles with no one saying a word, vast endless vistas passing before us and all of us silent.

I had heard about hippies and seen them on TV but I had never seen one in the flesh until we got nearer to California. I was immediately entranced. It was almost as if everything before them was in black and white, and suddenly, it was all in psychedelic color. The rules didn't apply to hippies. They wore what they wanted and it was all beautiful, drapey, Indian print, gauzy, swirling, vintage and lovely. Beads, bells, hair down to here on men and women. They broke ALL the rules. They didn't work, they panhandled, they hung out and got stoned and they had sex with whomever they wanted to have sex with.
And best of all- they did not live with their parents.
And there they all were in San Franscisco and if I had been any older, any bolder, I would have darted away from my little group of a straight sight-seeing family and joined them. Oh. How I longed to! And how I wish I had, somehow. Even to this day.
But of course I didn't. I was too afraid. I was too young, but they triggered something in my soul that said, "You don't have to believe everything you've been taught. You don't have to follow their rules. The rules of the parents, the churches, the law. Look at Richard Nixon- why would you follow the same rules he follows?" And even if you were a kid in Winter Haven, Florida, the music gave you instructions on the hippie lifestyle.
The music. The music saved my life over and over and over again. From the Rolling Stones to Crosby, Stills and Nash, to Bob Dylan and The Mamas and The Papas. Donovan, John Sebastian, Jimi Hendrix, The Band, Sly and The Family Stone, Marvin Gaye, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors...The list never ended, the songs never ended and above them all were the Beatles. It was like there was a magical kingdom of young people and we all danced and sang the same songs whether we were in California or London or Winter Haven. My god, the music. It swept through the world like wildfire and it was what held us all together, what informed us and celebrated us. And when I say "us" I mean the young people.

The Viet Nam war had set up the old against the young and that's all there was to it. Young men were being used as nothing more than cannon fodder in a war that had absolutely no meaning to any of us. After a lifetime of being told that the commies were out to get us one country at a time, we still hadn't seen any and we didn't believe them. Viet Nam was one more example of that. The people we were blowing up and being blown up by looked a lot more like old women and babies than they did Krutschev. And them young men who were being sent over there looked like our brothers, our boyfriends, our cousins. It was a mess and a hell of a time to be growing up.

And here I was, traveling the country in a Vista Cruiser with my mother, my younger brother, and a man I hated, being forced to listen to Hank Williams when I wanted to be listening to Mick Jagger.
Ah well. Movies have been made with the same theme. I was not the only one.

Another thing I saw on that trip for the first time was a Porsche. For some reason, I fell in love with that car, too, and when I found out how much they cost, I was astounded. Huh, I thought. Well, no wonder there aren't any in Winter Haven.

Eventually we made it back home and I was so grateful to get out of that car and be able to breathe again. My little brothers were fine and I was so happy to hold them again. I had missed them terribly.

And life went on. I went to high school and the fellows started sniffing around in earnest. We had little neighborhood parties and we would slow dance to Hey Jude (which lasts for about one hour and forty-five minutes, by the way) and those dances were about as sexual an experience as I've ever had, even to this day. Teenaged hormones.

And as my hormones raged and boys started this ancient dance of exploration with hopes of discovery, C. got crazier and crazier. The not-until-you're-sixteen-years-old rule was not to be broken. I was trusted to watch over my little brothers at the age of fifteen for two weeks alone and by myself while C. and Mother took off on another vacation, but I was not trusted to go out for three hours with a boy to see a movie. That's all there was to it.
And finally, I did turn sixteen and there were no more reasons why I was not allowed to date for C. to give me. A boy asked me out, I accepted, and that was that.
C. cried when he came to pick me up, this boy, which my mother thought was just incredibly sweet. "You see how much he loves you?" she asked.
Love like that was something I would have loved to live without.

Somewhere within this time frame, I wanted to get a two-piece bathing suit. C. disapproved but Mother took me shopping (which reminds me, C. always took me shopping for clothes. EVEN A BRA!) and bought me what she thought was completely appropriate. C. insisted that I "model" it for him. My mother and her friend, one of our neighbor's, was there and also Granny Matthews.
"No," C. said, as I came out into the living room, feeling exposed and naked and quite frankly raped by his eyes. "It's too revealing."
"No it's not, C.," my mother said.
"It's darling," our neighbor said.
And then Granny Matthews took C. into the kitchen and gave him a talking-to which resulted in me being allowed to wear the bathing suit. To this day, I think she knew what was going on.

As I grew, as I so obviously became more of a sexual being, as I started dating seriously, C. just lost his shit. It got worse and worse and then, one day, he did something completely and utterly out of character for him. He drove home in a new car.

A Porsche. A new 911-T, sparkling white Porsche.

And The Opera House Saves My Life Again

This week has been going by crazy-ass fast and it seems like every moment has been filled with something of grave importance or at least semi-importance although yesterday I hit a wall and went to bed in the middle of the afternoon for two entire hours and guess what? The universe continued to roll along as if nothing was missing and geez, louise, you'd think I wasn't even necessary or something, wouldn't you?

The play opens tomorrow night and I have to say that until last night's rehearsal I had very little hope that this was going to be anything but a fiasco and I was planning on personally making sure that everyone in the audience was liquored up to the full level in order for it to come off as any sort of success but last night, we found a groove (about fucking time, I'd say) and had some fun with it. The play's no good until the actors start having fun. There are some decent moments in it and mostly ones we've come up with ourselves. It's playing. So above you see a picture of Boris and Natasha, each holding a weapon. There are lots of weapons and Natasha carries most of them in a shiny black bag and one of our "moments" is when I pull them each out and hand them to Boris, all the while protesting my innocence in the matter of a murder.

There's the prop table. A bomb, dynamite, a hammer, two knives, a gun, poison, a large hypdodermic, wire cutters, and you can't see the sickle and the hacksaw. Oh yeah, the skull goes in the bag too. Messy business, murder.

It's been so fun work with my Boris. He's come down from Thomasville to play with us and he's been a joy. When he's working it onstage, all eyes are on him and there's no place I can go that he's not been right there adding bits and making it all work. And he's such a nice fellow!

All my cast mates are nice folks and it's been a joy to watch people warm up to their characters and let go of inhibitions and just fling themselves into seduction and silliness.

Would you look at those cuties? I didn't do any justice at all to Veronica's cleavage there. But if you come to the play, you'll see what I'm talking about. That girl- well- if Natasha needs a bag full of weapons to slay her victims, her half-sister Veronica needs nothing more than what fits into her bra. Uh-huh.

Still, I have my worries. I am known for freezing onstage and tomorrow night, our opening, is the night when my entire family is coming and it's my mother's and my baby daughter's birthday and they'll be right there, watching me make a complete fool of myself if I lose my shit.
No pressure.

I'll be getting back to my story when I can. Right now I'm got to take a walk, I've got things to pick up in two counties, my chicks need to go outside, and it's a gorgeous, gorgeous day here in Lloyd. The sun is shining, the birds are calling, the confederate jasmine is starting to bloom, the roses are crazy-in-bloom, the chicks are growing, Mr. Moon is home safe, and the pea vines are making peas. Pretty soon I'll be able to dig up a few new potatoes and I'll steam them and some snow peas and make a lovely white sauce to serve over them and well- life couldn't be much better.
For Mary, at least.

Natasha? We'll just have to see, won't we?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Just When You Think It Can't Get Any Weirder

If a few legislators in Tallahassee have their way, we'll now be able to purchase a Jesus license plate here in Florida. Nice, huh?
Poor Jesus. Not only does he have to eternally hang from a cross, he has to hang out there over the exhaust pipe on the ass end of a car.
This is the logical ending to the crazy number of specialized license plates in Florida.
And here's what I suggest:
Stop the madness.
Issue one Florida license plate. The standard plate. And if you want to support manatees (and who doesn't?) donate to the manatee fund. If you don't support abortions, don't get one. If you like to fish, then go fishing and donate to the Florida Wildlife fund. And so forth. And get a bumper sticker supporting your own special interest.
And if you love Jesus, go to church and worship him there. Don't put the poor man on a license plate. Hasn't he suffered enough?
Of course, the one good thing about that plate is that upon seeing one, I would know that a crazy person is driving the car it's adorning.
Because it makes so much sense to have a state license plate with Jesus on it. It's proving your devotion to our lord and savior. It's showing god himself what a loving and devout Christian you are. Go into a closet to pray? Oh please. That's so old Testament. Get right out there on the highway and pray in public like the Pharisees. Text message all your friends while driving to tell them about your devotion.
It's the 21st century, folks, and what would Jesus do?
Kick those legislators in the ass, is what I'm thinking. The legislators who are going to have to go into an overtime session because they have not finished attending to the business of the state they were elected to attend to. Schools are failing, roads are falling apart, people are losing their homes and jobs and health insurance and we're spending time on this bullshit.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Night After Long Day

Little bit of perspective here:
Two weeks ago, the chicks looked like this:

Tonight they look like this:

When they stretch their chickeny little necks up, they are taller than the waterer and feeder.

I did not expect them to grow so fast.

Today has been an entire day of things I did not expect. One thing after another happened and every one of them was an unexpected event. None of it was tragic but none of it was what you'd call a happy surprise, either.
But that's life.

And it's ending in an unexpected way, too. Mr. Moon, usually home on Tuesday night after a long, long day at auction and then a drive home from Orlando, had to stop and get a room because the car he's driving has four bad tires which MUST be replaced in Tallahassee and he was having to drive thirty-five miles an hour and ever Mr. Moon must stop and rest at some point.

And here I am, eleven o'clock at night and still wearing Natasha's make-up (there was a dress rehearsal tonight) and I need to go take a shower and get into my bed. I am so grateful to have little Zeke to sleep with. He provides just enough cuddling to make me happy. When I'm not at home, sleeping in a bed not my own, I stretch out in my sleep and my legs wonder where he is, which makes me wake up and answer the question. At home, is always the answer, and I am not, but tonight I am.

I wonder if Mr. Moon will wake up and wonder where Zeke is.
Where I am.

Will he turn over in the strange bed and will he wonder for a second where he is?

Not at home, is what he'll think.

But I am. Home where the dogs are and the chickens are and the air is cool tonight and the frogs are quiet and I am going to bed and I hope that everyone in the world is safe, even if they're not in their own beds, and that they all sleep well and safely and have dreams of home, which they love, and where they are traveling back to. Where we always travel back to because it is home and that is a fine place to be and one of the loveliest words in any language. And the roiling of the unexpected in our souls is calmed and soothed as we dream of traveling away and coming back and all is made right again.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Lighten Up!

So are we frightened out of our teeny-tiny minds over the swine/avian/human flu yet?
I'm not, but it is disturbing. NPR is all over it. This expert and that one all managing to sooth and frighten at the same time. And when you think about it, the idea of a pandemic flu does sort of strike the alarm bell.
But never fear! The other day in the grocery store I saw a product which guarantees to kill 99% of all flu viruses. It was...hold on to your hats...A TOILET BOWL CLEANER!
Now as far as I know you do not get flu up the butt. So unless you plan on drinking your toilet bowl water or licking the bowl itself, those flu-fighting ingredients are freakin' worthless.
But your dog? Oh, he's safe.
From a flu he cannot get.

It's things like this that make me wonder. I mean, really, do we need a toilet bowl cleaner that kills flu germs? Maybe. Maybe we do.

Here's another thing I've been wondering about:
That Burger King commercial where creepy Burger King guy is dancing around with women who have phone books in their pants. What's up with that? Is that supposed to make me crave a WHOPPER? If so, it's not working for me. Are we a butt-obsessed nation? I swear, I've seen that commercial twice and both times I thought it was some sort of fucked-up joke. Is it really a commercial for Burger King? They can't be serious. Whoever came up with creepy Burger King guy in the first place needs to be taken into extraordinary rendition. I am not a person who approves of torture to get secret information but in this case, I would approve its use as punishment.

On to the next thing.


Okay. One of the things hippies did was to question why a male baby's foreskin needed to be removed. And a lot of us decided that it didn't. One of my heroes, a local OB who has delivered something like ten thousand babies, spoke at a choices in childbirth seminar I attended once and he said something like this: "You ask me to dim the lights so your baby will be born into comforting darkness. You want to bathe the baby in warm water immediately after birth so that his passage into life will be calming. You want us to keep our voices quiet, our touch soft, you don't want to use any drugs in labor so that your baby will be born completely awake and aware. And ask me to cut off part of your baby's pee-pee."

Anyway, I was thinking about how God is God, right? And he is aware and cares about each sparrow and knows how many hairs each of us has on our head, BUT, in order for him to know that you're a Jewish Male, he needs to see a circumcised penis. Does this make any sense to you?
It makes no more sense to me than than saying that a circumcised penis is more esthetically pleasing than an uncircumcised one. To me, an uncircumcised penis says, "Unnecessary cruelty to an infant."
But that's just me.

And in the interest of not ending this post in a cynical, negative way, let me just tell you about a product I discovered which rocks my world. I found it in the Ace Hardware in Keystone Heights and I could write an epic poem about how great this Ace Hardware store is but I won't. All I need to say is that I found The Tick Key there.
The Tick Key, Ms. Moon? I hear you asking.
Yes. The Tick Key, I am answering. I have found two ticks on me in the last week and pulling them out was torture and one bled like a son-of-a-bitch. I was in a bathroom stall at the Council of Aging facility in St. Augustine when I found one of them and there was nothing to do but pull that tiny little bastard out and it was traumatic as hell. It hurt and it took all my finger strength to remove his firmly anchored-in body from my most private of parts.
But I steeled my strength, I girded my loins, and I did it.
Because I did not have a Tick Key.

But now I do. And when Mr. Moon discovered a tick on his body last night, I lent him my tick key and he used it and that little sucker came out smooth as silk. No pain, no trauma, no bleeding.

Best five bucks I ever spent.

There are so many things in our modern world to worry about, to fret over. But if you have one of those babies on your key ring, you won't have to worry about the pain and stress of tick removal.

Life is good.

My Story, Part IV

C. got a job teaching at Polk Community College and so after Mother's school semester ended in Gainesville, we returned to Roseland, packed up, and moved to Winter Haven, Florida.

This was a huge move for us. I had spent the last six years in a tiny village and although Winter Haven was hardly a metropolis, it was big compared to Roseland. The elementary school I was to attend for sixth grade had more students in it than in the entire elementary school I'd attended before.

To make things even more difficult, I had gotten a little bug called Ground Itch, or Creeping Eruption in one of my feet and it had not been treated properly and my left foot was an oozing mass of actual real worm tracks that itched to the point of insanity. The foot was wrapped in gauze and then I wore a cotton sock over that (which the pus did leak through by the end of the day) and I was on crutches.
Good look to have, entering a new school where I did not know a soul.

We moved into a rental house and my room was directly down a short hallway from my mother and C.'s room. The molestation continued and because I had my own room (which I had not in Roseland), I became easier prey for C. He would come in to tell me goodnight every night and spent what seemed like hours in my room. I can't figure out, for the life of me, where my mother was during those nighttime hours. I know she'd gotten pregnant again and was probably tired and by the time I was ready for bed, perhaps she was ready to lie down herself. Or was washing up the dishes or something. I don't know but I know that he would come into my room and sit on my bed and somehow, someway, he would manage to get his hands on me, all the while pretending that nothing out of the ordinary was going on at all.

I was, by this time, completely in fear of him. There was never a moment of the day or night when I was not. Sometime during this period of my life, my mother had to be in the hospital several times. To give birth, yes, but she also suffered from different ailments and knowing I was alone right down the hall from that man was terrifying. He never went past a certain level but I never knew if he would push it. I feared horribly he would. I think I am blocking a lot that happened in that house.

I remember there was a funky old bathroom that someone had built into the back of the garage there and I loved that bathroom. It was far away from the rest of the house and it had a hook and eye lock. I used to go in there to read. I would lock the door, sit on the cement floor with my back to the wooden wall and go far away into whatever book I had in my hands.

That was only place I felt relatively safe.

Mother had two babies within a year of each other. When the second one was born, the first baby was put into my room. His crib was in my room and I took care of him as if he were my own. I loved those babies with all my heart and soul. I learned to change and wash diapers. I carried them on my hips. I learned to sterilize bottles and make formula and mix Gerber rice cereal with bananas for them. I learned how to calm a crying baby and I learned to give them their baths. My role as the little mother was complete.

And at about this time I started my period and as I recall, the molestation stopped. I think.

Well. Wouldn't you just think I'd have been able to breathe a sigh of relief?

Of course I couldn't. Because although the physical manifestation of it had ended, the psychological component certainly had not. C.'s disposition changed even more. He became sneakier in all things. He seemed unhappy all the time. If he was glad to be the father of two fine redheaded baby boys, I don't remember him showing it. I doubt he ever changed a diaper. I can remember him looking at me as I was doing homework or reading or sewing and saying, "Get up and go help your mother," while he was lying on the couch, watching television.

And I never, ever went to bed without fearing that he would come into my room. And of course I wasn't allowed to have a lock on the door.

C. and Mother bought a house down the road. It was a lovely house, across the street from a lake, and I can remember overhearing a conversation between them and Granny Matthews who was visiting about which bedroom should be mine. C. wanted me to have the bedroom right next to his and Mother's while Mother and Granny M. held the opinion that I should get the room farthest away from theirs. It was obvious, from his argument that something fishy was going on. Finally, either Mother or Granny Matthews asked the question, "C.- why can't she have that room?" And he said, "She'll be entertaining boys in there. She'll let them in in the middle of the night and we won't know."
I was twelve. I had never even held hands with a boy. The thought was unimaginable. I spent all my time at home, helping with the babies, or at school or Girl Scouts.

"What in the world are you talking about?" Mother asked. Granny Matthews was equally appalled and voiced that in no uncertain terms.
"She's just a little girl. Why would you even think such a thing?" she asked.
And of course he had no answer. None that he could give, anyway.

And I got that room. But I never ever felt safe in it for a second. I did get a lock on my door, but it was a bolt lock that he put on the outside of it so that I could keep my little brothers out of my room when I was not in it because they were mischievous little boys who loved to get into my room and plunder. A lock on the outside of the door.

And the way the house was set up, my room had a window which I could see out of into the family room where C. had begun to stay up late into the night to watch TV. By now, I believe he was addicted to codeine which he had been prescribed for migraines. But he'd started taking it to prevent the migraine, or so he said, and he seemed out of it half the time. And while that light was on it meant he was awake and was at my end of the house while Mother was asleep in their room, upstairs across the house in a room they'd built over the garage.

To this day, I cannot bear to be able to see light when I go to bed. I want things completely dark. Darkness means safety. Light means someone may be awake, may be watching, may be thinking things that I don't want to know about and can't bear to ponder. I know the reason I need for it to be dark but it doesn't make the need go away. Sometimes I even get up in the night and throw a towel over one of the LED lights that every device in the world has now. A fan, a phone charger. When Mr. Moon is out of town, I sometimes cover up his clock which has a large and very bright digital face.

And then I can sleep. But I still have nightmares. To this day I have nightmares about that man.


As you can see, the baby chicks are now teenagers. At least that's what I'd call them.
They have strong wings and big feet and they aren't the cute little peeps they were two weeks ago.
Things change and they grow.
Sometimes faster and in ways you did not expect.

I woke up this morning with that old feeling of too-much-to-do and everything-seems-overwhelming. I hate that. It's all normal stuff. We have a dress rehearsal tonight and Natasha's costume needs some buttons and some different foundation garments and I must attend to that and I have library books overdue and Mr. Moon is going to need a snack bag for his trip to auction tonight and I have to go to Publix to get stuff for that.
Meanwhile, the garden needs attention and I have beds all over this yard that need weeding. The trash needs taking and so does the recycle.
Big deal.
But at eight in the morning, all of these things loom huge in my mind and I have to keep reminding myself that really, it's all little stuff but isn't it always the little stuff that adds up and becomes the insurmountable?

I think part of the problem is is that I need to continue on with my story and how and when? It takes a certain amount of time to set aside and go to that place where I can write about it. It's not a throw-off thing that just flows from the fingers. I have to get in that dark closet and ramble around. Take down this box and drag it to the light and open it and look in and say, "Hmmm. Is this something I need to think about? What part of the story is this?" And then another. And another.
But that's what writing is all about. Doing it properly takes time and if you're like me, you always feel like that's the last thing you should give your time to.

The chickens are in there peeping and chirping, they raise their heads up when I walk into the room. They're ready to go out, Mother. I have yoga this morning. When will I take a walk? When will I attend to myself? Natasha is important, the chickens are important, helping Mr. Moon get on the road is important, the yard is important.

And I think, somehow, that I am important, too, but not as important as everything else.
Which is stupid because if I'm not taking care of myself then nothing else gets done, or if it does, not properly and I'm not good for anyone else.

Well. I need to get moving. Those chickens aren't going to fly out to their box by themselves, although I think they could. They could stretch those growing wings and take flight and fit themselves into their daytime quarters where they wallow in the dirt and find bugs and peck at greenery. They're growing up. I wonder if chickens have growing pains the way children do when they're growing so fast that the ligaments and tendons can't keep up with the bone growth. Probably not. Their bodies are constructed in such a way that it all works the way it should.

Now if only our minds were like that. Our busy, silly minds that chatter and peep and send us all sorts of the-sky-is-falling messages when really, it's just one of last year's pecans, finally dropping from the tree, one of those boxes from the dark closet, falling from its place on the shelf, spilling its contents and demanding attention.

And so it goes and go it will and everything will be made tidy or maybe not, because life, as the commercial says, is messy.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Coming Home, Catching Up

I am back from the magical land of Gator Bone and back in the magical land of Lloyd where Mr. Moon and our neighbor are working on the Coop Mahal. The chicks are halfway grown and looking fine and all seems well with the world here.

I had the most marvelous of weekends. Lis and I spent some time in her garden, which is pictured above. We'd gone into town and bought a few plants and Lon put them in for her. They are the sweetest couple, married almost thirty years and they've been loving and living and making music together for all that time and they garden and they eat the food they grow and they can make you feel more welcome and loved than anyone I've ever met. It is always such an honor to be with them in their home.
It's always a joy to arrive and a sorrow to leave.

We listened to some of the tracks of the CD they're working on of Lis's songs and this, this, THIS is going to be an amazing CD. I went with them on Friday night to a little benefit gig they did, playing for a volunteer dinner for the Council on Aging in St. Augustine and I heard one fellow say, "Her voice!" I said, "Yes, doesn't she sing like an angel?" And he agreed that she did. And besides that, her songs are amazing. Just trust me on this one.

So we sat in the garden and we went to town and we ate the best meals you can imagine and we did indeed have a few martinis and, well, it was all a dream. The best part for me was that I could truly and fully feel the whole experience. I didn't have any anxiety, I didn't worry about stuff, I simply loved every minute of my time there and I slept so well in their guest room where Lis had put flowers beside the bed and dragonfly lights around the room and put new sheets on the bed. I felt like a queen.
Lon even let me go online on his giant new beautiful Mac where he keeps all his recording programs and the three of us had so much fun last night, using it to take pictures of us and then I posted two of them and put that recipe for sweet potato cake up. I think it's a new favorite. The recipe may not be perfect- I made it up and I don't really measure and it's all a close approximation but if you use that recipe and don't like the results, I'll give you your money back. I promise.

So here I am and all is well and I have rehearsal this afternoon. There was a phone message to bring the high heels I'm going to be wearing because they need to make sure I can get up the stairs of the new set safely and I am sure there was much discussion that went something like this: "Mary is such a klutz. I don't know about this..."
And so forth.
Well, we shall see.
Can you imagine me in those shoes? No, you cannot and no one else can either. But guess what? I'm doing a lot of things I never thought I'd do and it's turning out that it's okay. No. It's not just okay, it's liberating as hell and I feel damn good.

I'll get back to my story, I suppose, tomorrow. There's a lot more to tell. I'll try not to carry it on into the next century.
And maybe when it's done, I'll put on those high heels and do a little witchy dance all over the grave of my old, scared self.
Yeah. I think I will.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Birthdays, Gatorbone Style

Here we are at Gator Bone. Lon, Lis, and I. We have had the very best day. Lis says she has been well-cared for. 


2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, tightly packed
2 eggs
2 tsps. vanilla
3 sweet potatoes, baked and peeled and mashed
2 tsps. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. grated orange rindRemove Formatting from selection
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 tsps baking soda
2 cups flour
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 chopped pecans
1/2 buttermilk

Mix up as you would any cake. Bake in two large layers at 350 degrees until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frost with a caramel icing. 


Melt a stick of better, add 3/4 cup brown sugar. Cook, stirring frequently until sugar is melted. Add 1/2 cup of milk and 2 tsp. vanilla. Let cool. Beat in enough confectioner's sugar to make of frosting consistency. Add 1/2 cup pecans and mix well.
Frost cake.

Decorate however your heart desires.
Add candles. Sing Happy Birthday. 

Eat on the back deck with the frogs croaking around you and the lightening bugs flickering above you.

Celebrate the day you were born.

Friday, April 24, 2009

And Her Heart Opened Like A Magnolia Blossom

I am fixin' to, as we say around here, go over to Gatorbone for the weekend. Tomorrow is Lis's birthday. We've spent a lot of her birthdays together and a few of mine, too. She and Lon have a gig tonight so I'll go into St. Augustine with them but the rest of the weekend may just be spent on the back deck of the little house on the little lake of Gator Bone, dangling our shoes on our toes and eating birthday cake.
And giggling.
And that sounds perfect to me.

Now I have to tell you that usually when I'm fixin' to go somewhere, I am one anxious little woman. Even something as simple as a three-hour drive over to see my darling Lis can twist me into knots. But today? I feel nothing but excitement. Last night was the same. I came home from play practice and ate some supper and washed the dishes and moved all my stuff out of the Mini Cooper into a different car which I will now be driving (I think it's a Honda of some sort) and I was excited then.
"What's this?" I thought. "Where's my anxiety, my gut-knotted insides? The insurmountability of all that I have to do before I go, my fear of getting lost, stranded on the highway, taking wrong turns, breaking down on the way? Where's my fear that Mr. Moon, after one weekend without me will decide he doesn't love me?"
And I didn't have an answer.
And I still feel that way this morning.
I do have a lot to do before I leave. I haven't wrapped up Lis's presents, I haven't packed. I haven't put the chicks outside. I haven't....
Oh well. It'll get done. So what?
It's like some little switch has been flipped in my psyche.
Is it because I'm telling this story outloud? Is it because in doing so I'm doing something I've needed to do for a long time? Is this one more layer of the onion being peeled away?"
Who knows? Not me.
All I know is that I feel freer than I have felt in so long. Maybe, actually, forever.
The Magnolia Grandifloras are beginning to bloom and two days ago Mr. Moon picked me one and I put it in vase in the hallway where it opened up and gave me a heady jolt of perfume every time I walked by it.
It was closed one day, open the next.
I feel that way.
Now. I must go. I have so much to do and I am so excited to get on the road in this silver car and drive over to Gator Bone where Lon and Lis will greet me and their dogs Buck and Daisy will snuffle me and where Lis and I will dangle our shoes on our toes and giggle and eat cake.
See you soon.
Love....Ms. Moon

Thursday, April 23, 2009

My Story, Part III

I need to talk here a little about my stepfather's background. He was the only son of parents who owned and worked a citrus grove which was very near where Walt Disney World is now but used to be the very middle of nowhere. And they were profoundly poor. C. ate almost everything between two slices of white bread because that's how he had been raised. White bread, especially day-old white bread, had been cheap and the family used that as a filler. I remember C. forcing me to put crunched up crackers in my chili, even though I insisted I didn't want any more food than the bowl of chili before me. He wouldn't let us have more than half a stick of gum at a time. He was afraid of being poor again, I am sure, although actually he himself did quite well, financially. He loved going to the grocery store. I'm sure it made him feel rich to be able to buy whatever food he wanted to buy but he always bought strangely junky food. Store-bought cakes and canned pig brains. Generic cans of vegetables with their black and white labels. As with the food-on-bread thing, I believe he took comfort not in a food's quality, but just in having a great amount of it on hand.

I have no idea how (the GI bill, probably) but he managed to go to college at Florida Southern in Lakeland and then got a masters at University of Florida, which is where he met my mother. He was, as I have said, very intelligent. I don't even know what his degree was in but he even got his PhD eventually, through the Nova Program.

I never knew his father but I knew his mother and she was, without a doubt, insane. She had that pack-rat illness, for one thing. Her house was a poorly kept-up shack filled to the very brim with old newspapers, rotting food, old magazines, dishes, every thing in the world that no one would keep. There was only a slim pathway from the front door to a single bed in the living room and from there to the kitchen which had no room to cook in. Everything else was stacks and bags and god only knows what. She kept the other doors of the house closed. By the time she had to be moved to a nursing home there was hardly any room on the bed for her to lie down on. It too, had been covered with detritus.

I remember the smell of that house. It smelled of rot and decay and nastiness. The woman smelled like her house. I doubt she ever bathed. She wore strange hats and her fingers were oddly pointed and she creeped me out. She was not only eccentric, she was ill and she stunk.
I feel certain that either she or C.'s father (or both) had abused him as a child. That's how these things go. This is not, to me, any sort of justification. I'll talk more about this later, but for now, let me say that I'm sure C.'s childhood was a horror of poverty, hunger, and insanity. And hard work.

It is something of a miracle that he rose from that and went on to attend school and get advanced degrees and says a lot about his determination and desire to succeed.

C. had another mother. One he loved and one I grew to love. We called her Granny Matthews and she had an old small home in Lakeland and C. had rented a room from her when he attended college there. She had taken him under her wing and given him what I am certain, was the first real home of his life. She had two sons of her own but it was no secret that she loved C. as much, if not more, than those two sons. She was a squat little woman and she loved to wear negligees while at home. The silky nylon ones. This makes her sound like she was perverse, but if she was, I never felt it. She just liked the way those negligees felt. Black ones, pink ones, green ones, red ones. The gowns and the robes. Maybe they made her feel like a queen and they certainly felt good when I hugged her.

And here's a funny (not ha-ha funny) thing- she had a granddaughter about my age, perhaps a little older, whom everyone agreed just loved C. They talked about how she sat on his lap, how much she loved being around him. I look back on that and I think he probably abused her, too, before C. met us.
I wonder, if she were asked now, how much she had loved him what her answer would be.

So that's an overview of this man and his upbringing. He'd never been married before but had been in several long-term relationships, I think. He was a quite-possibly brilliant man with a lot of ambition. He had never had children, but as I said, he seemed to love them.

In fact, when he met and courted my mother, he courted me as well. I was really learning to cook during that time and I remember making him chocolate chip cookies which he praised as being better than any he'd ever eaten. I learned to make chocolate pies because they were his favorite. He treated me like a little girlfriend. In fact, after he and Mother were married, he used to take me out on a yearly "date" for my birthday. (Oh Jesus. Did I just figure out why birthdays are so traumatic for me?) I would dress up and he'd take me to a fancy restaurant, just the two of us and he frequently gave me jewelry. Silver pins, I remember silver pins. He wrote me silly poems. I hated those birthday "dates." He would have "that look" about him the entire time and it felt so weird and wrong to be on a "date" with a supposed father. I was afraid of him by that time. I had no desire at all to be in his presence alone.

But again- what could I do? How could I explain to my mother why I didn't want to go out for my birthday. It made her so happy to see him dote on me and she thought it was wonderful and really, what mother wouldn't love to see the man she loves falling in love with her daughter? There was never any part of her, I'm sure, which found this disconcerting or weird. Having never been abused herself, she couldn't imagine it happening. She had worshipped and adored her father and he had doted on her. It was the way things were supposed to be.

And yet, things were not even close to the way things were supposed to be. Not one thing. Not one thing was right.

What a lot of people don't understand about sexual abuse is the emotional component of the abuse. Some people are NEVER touched, never raped, never anything at all physical but are, as they say, emotionally incested. The father treats the daughter as a little wife. And as we all know our Freud, little girls are quite apt to be in love with their fathers. I remember one of my daughters, when she was about two, actually standing between her daddy and me as we kissed and with one hand on each of our groin areas, pushed us apart. It was funny but it was telling.
And in healthy families, the child is loved but the the main relationship in the house is without a doubt the strong bond between the parents.

But it was not that way in our house where things were only getting stranger and stranger.

We moved to Gainesville that summer where Mother, still profoundly depressed, worked on her master's degree. My brother and I attended the P.K. Younge developmental research school. That was fine but the thing I loved was that there was a library and I almost fainted from the sheer number of books it held. It should have been a good summer but of course it was not. C. still found ways to get me alone and one day when I got home from school he wanted to show me something. He had that look about him and he showed me a magazine with pictures of naked women in it. "I just want you to see these things because I know that other kids are going to show them to you and I don't want you to be shocked," was his rationalization.
Even at the age of eleven, I knew this was bogus. I got out of the room as quickly as I could.

I remember one morning while Mother and my brother and I were having breakfast, he appeared in the doorway of the kitchen dressed in nothing but a pair of Mother's sheer bikini underwear. He had a sick, sheepish grin on his face and she exploded.
"C! What in the world are you doing?"
He mumbled something and went back to the bedroom to change and we all sat there in shock and then resumed eating our cereal as if nothing had happened.

A few years ago, I reminded my mother of this incident. And she said, "Oh, Mary. That never happened." My brother, too, has no memory of it.
And all I can say is- I do have a good imagination but not nearly good enough to come up with that scenerio.

All part of the pattern. Perhaps the preditor knows that what he's doing is wrong and almost hopes to be stopped. And the non-protecting parent ignores the signs, out of fear of change or disbelief or whatever. I don't know. I don't know what my mother was going through that summer after she'd lost that baby. How she managed to go to class, study and try to take care of us is beyond me.

But she did. Well, she managed to go to class and study. The taking-care part? Not so much.
And I continued to learn to cook, to take on chores to free her up for her studying and to be molested by her husband.

It was a lousy summer, even with that library.

Footnote 2

I have said that I'm not brave to write this story and yet, I am starting to think I was crazy. Why am I doing this? I keep second-guessing myself. I keep thinking this is not anyone's business.
And then I get e-mails thanking me. And then I get comments thanking me. And then I think of how I would felt, twenty, thirty years ago, reading this and realizing there was hope, there was a reason I felt so crazy sometimes and for the feelings of despair and distrust and guilt for no reason.

But I have to tell you- it's not so easy. As many times as I have told my story, as many times as I have "worked through it", as many times as I have thought I put "paid" to that account, I realize the layers of the onion are indeed never-ending and there is still pain.

BUT, it is a pain I can deal with. I know where it comes from. It's not my pain NOW. It's the lingering aftereffects sort of pain and I can work through it.
And my heart is not all that heavy.
It's okay.

And please know that if you want to e-mail me, you can. My e-mail address is on my page. I'm going out of town this weekend but should be able to check things.

Thank-you for all the things you've said so far. You make me think I'm not quite crazy and that maybe I am serving a purpose and isn't that what we all want? To serve a purpose.

I sure hope that's what I'm doing. Otherwise, I'm just crazy.

My Story, Part II.

My mother and C. went on a honeymoon and although I don't remember, I feel certain that my brother and I were once again taken care of by my grandparents. Mother and C. drove across the country and I believe they were gone for a couple of weeks.

I was either just about ten or actually ten. I cannot, for the life of me, remember the date of their anniversary. Not surprising, really.

But I know I'd finished the fourth grade and they got married in the summer (I think) and my birthday is in July, so I was, for all intents and purposes, ten years old. My brother was seven. I was still a fat little worried girl, my period was several years away from arriving, but I already knew what sex was. At least the basics. Growing up in Roseland, I was exposed to all sorts of kids but most of them were from what we would kindly call underprivileged. There was a boy in my grade who seemed to come from the worst of the worst of the local families and I'm certain that he and his siblings were exposed not only to violence in their home, but also a lot of fairly overt sexual behavior and he took great delight in sharing what he knew with the rest of us. He even brought in condoms one day and showed them around to all of us. He got sent to the principal's office for that one where he received a paddling from the principal which was the worst punishment the school had to offer. The principal was a former coach and could wield that carved wooden board with more authority than any of the women teachers. And did. These days those children would have been taking into the care of DCF but in those days, they were merely beaten by authority figures. Thank god those days are gone.

Anyway, so I knew what sex was and I knew that people on their honeymoons had it. And I also knew that I had feelings in my body which were somehow related to sex although the idea of ever actually having sex seemed vastly impossible. But I think that children are far more capable of sexual awareness than adults give them credit for.
Most adults.
Sexual preditors know this and it's one more tool in their toolbox.

It's natural for children to have sexual feelings. And I say "sexual" for lack of a better word. The response of the human body to touch and thoughts is natural and is present from birth. Anyone who's ever had a little boy is quite aware of this. We're human. We respond.

And when Mother and C. came back from their honeymoon, my brother and I did what we always did on Sunday mornings which was to pile into bed with our mother for a few minutes before we all got up and got ready for church. C. was surprised, Mother thought it was funny and my brother and I simply were delighted that there were two adults in the bed to cuddle with. I believe it was quite soon after the honeymoon that on these mornings, Mother would get up to go fix breakfast and leave my brother and me in the bed with C. (and this is so hard to write about) and before long, C. would center his attentions on me. It was all so subtle and it was all touching. He touched me. At least that's all I remember. I've had events in my life which triggered such severe reactions that I'm not sure I remember everything, but touching is what I remember. On the physical level, at least.

That's it.
And I could, quite naturally, feel a response.
I knew it was wrong. It FELT very wrong. But I loved this man. He was my new daddy. My brother and I called him Daddy. He had made our family whole. And I craved the attention he gave me in such profound ways that I allowed him (how could I have not?) to touch me like this.
I knew somehow that this was a BIG SECRET. Not to tell. How do predators get this idea across to children without words? Sometimes they use words. Most times, I think, they don't have to. They prey on children who have had to keep secrets already. Who are good at keeping secrets. Secrets about violent fathers, about alcoholism. About mothers who lock themselves in their rooms and weep. Secrets and secrets and secrets and here's just one more.

I knew I couldn't tell my mother. It had always been my job to protect HER. She loved this man. He made her happy. seemed to me that she wasn't as happy even a few weeks after the honeymoon as she had been. C. began to change somewhat. He grew angry with my brother and me for little things that before the marriage, he wouldn't have said a word about. I forgot and opened the freezer during a power outage and he yelled at me. He began to berate my brother and me for not eating everything on our plates, even things we hated. He made me eat cabbage once, which I despised, and I vomited.
He began to tease my mother in a way which seemed cruel. He used his big intelligence to make her feel small. He talked about psychology as if he knew all about it and therefore, he could bend people's will with his own.
Little things, but the feeling in the house changed dramatically. Again, there was tenseness and the light which had been replacing the darkness was chased away again.

My mother discovered she was pregnant. She was elated. I suppose C. was happy too. I was more than excited to think about a new baby in our house. And then, on an Easter Sunday as she sang in the choir, the baby inside of her moved violently and then stopped and she later found out he was dead. A cord accident. This was a tragedy of vast proportions. She had to be induced to go into labor to deliver a baby she knew was dead. Her depression returned. She went through her days in a fog of sadness and disbelief. My new daddy's touching of me continued. Wrongness piled up on top of wrongness and somehow, instead of our home being a happier place, a more normal place, it became a place of sickness and sorrow.

I don't remember much from this time. I went into the fifth grade and I can't remember a thing about being in class except for looking at the clock, waiting for the time for me to go down to the school cafeteria where I worked. In those days children were allowed to work in the school cafeteria. I have no idea why. But looking back, I realize that this work for me was a saving grace. The cafeteria lady was also the bus driver. We called her Aunt Flonny and she was a large, black-haired woman with a huge bosom and she was a Cherokee Indian, I believe. Her husband, also a Cherokee, was known as Uncle Henry and sometimes he drove the bus. My work in the cafeteria was to sweep the floor, to scrape the plates of what was left on them, to help the load the dishwasher. Sometimes I swept the bus, too. I loved that sweeping. I loved being alone and the way the broom found the sand under the seats and I herded it down the center aisle and out the back emergency exit. I loved swinging the chairs up on the cleaned tables after lunch was over so that the floor could be swept and mopped. I didn't love scraping plates but I learned that yuckiness can be washed off the hands quite easily with a little tincture of green soap and water. No one wore gloves in those days in food service. Sometimes Aunt Flonny let us help with kneading the dough she made into her delicious rolls.
In that kitchen, where Aunt Flonny ruled as a benevelent despot, I felt safe.
In the classroom, I did not. I had a sort of nemisis there. A girl who was as smart as I was, but who was the sister of the bad boy. They weren't twins. He'd been held back a year and so was in the same class. I'm sure she hated me because I had more than one dress, I had books of my own (our school was so poor there was no library and there were never enough books to read) and because my mother was a teacher.
It was in the fifth grade that I learned I could look at something and not see it. I could allow my focus to blur and although it would look as if I was staring at something, I was not. I was far away in my mind. This girl who hated me noticed me doing this and it was one more thing she teased me about. "Teasing" is such a mild word for what children do to each other.
It was cruelty and just another part of the unhappiness and stress of my world.

So that was my tenth year. The beginnings of the actual abuse. The loss of my unborn brother or sister. The depression of my mother. My fear I carried with me all the time. Fear of the children in my class. Fear of my mother's sorrrow. Fear of my stepfather whom I had begun to avoid being alone with. I remember we all went to the beach one day and I asked him where I could change into my bathing suit. He told me that since we were a family now, it would be okay to change in front of him.
I declined and changed in the car. I knew by now that he would get "a look" and that was when I had to defend myself in whatever way I could. Ineffectual ways, for the most part. I was a ten-year old girl. What did I have to defend myself with?

Not much. Not much at all.
I escaped into reading. I read Little Women over and over again and I lived in that family where Marmee looked after her children with constant loving concern, where the father, although distant, was kind and moral. Where little girls grew up and had families of their own. That book changed my life in that it gave me hope that there were other sorts of families. Families not like mine in the least.

I still loved my new daddy but by now, I think I loved the idea of him, not the actual man, living in our midst. That man I was starting to hate.

Early Morning Chicken Post

Yesterday Harley and his mama, Petit Fleur, came over to look at the chickens. I asked Harley if he wanted to hold one and let me take his picture. He said he did but I think maybe he changed his mind midway through the photo session. You can tell from the expression on his face that this might be one of those it seemed like a good idea at the time situations.
Right after I took this picture, Maynard flapped his wings and Harley let him drop, which was the sensible thing to do. No harm done. I scooped up the chicken, put him back in the box and all was well.
I am not going to even bother thinking that Maynard may be a hen. I got up this morning to find him on top of the waterer, watching his flock with his little beady eyes.

Maynard- you the man!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Childhood Sexual Abuse. My Story. Footnote #1

Okay. If we're going to go for this ride, I just want to say one thing out front- I am not being brave by writing about this. Not at all.
There are things I could write about that would be so much braver. We all keep things close to our chests and this isn't one of them for me.
As I said, being sexually abused was not my fault.
No shame on me.
So why should it be brave of me to write about it?
I want to make people KNOW that it's not their fault. That we carry around baggage for years that is not our baggage. That we carry around GARBAGE that is not our garbage.
So. Don't call me brave. I'm brave for doing some things but not for doing this.
And I just want to make that perfectly clear.

And why blogger kicked the post about sexual abuse, Part I below the chicken post is way beyond me.
And I added the "adult content" message because- well, I'm not sure. But I did it. I may take it off. We'll see. I'm stumbling down this path and figuring out where I'm going as I go.

Is that a bug?
Gotta go. It's suppertime.


Well. There. Can you see that wing?

Two days ago, I walked into the room where the chicks are living at night to find Mabel/Maynard on the floor, walking around in confusion.

Where's my food?
Where's my friends?

And so forth.

She'd flown up out of the box which is in a cage and then squeezed through the bars between the box and the cage and gotten out. That bird! This morning I threw a roach in the box (now reinforced by Mr. Moon to prevent escapage) and that same bird attacked and ate it with swift and lethal force. I have a feeling we're going to keep that chicken. He's obviously an advanced chicken and if she's a hen, will figure out how to eat more and thus, lay more eggs and if he's a rooster, will be smart and able enough to defend the flock.
Darwin wins again.

Anyway, I didn't really come here to talk about chickens. I'm working on what will probably be a series of posts but this morning's duties call me and I can't spend the time on the writing it deserves right now but will try to figure out the time as the day goes by.

Until then, because I am obsessed, I wanted to give you this picture and chicken update and tell you that it's a beautiful day here, I couldn't be much more content, and I'll give you more in a while.

My story is having to find its wings, I suppose you would say, and that takes a little time, for chickens and for me.

Childhood Sexual Abuse. My Story, Part I. The Ground is Prepared

Several of the blogs I read have dealt with sexual abuse lately and I feel the pain of the writers of these posts. I'm not saying that in a Bill Clinton type of way. I'm saying it in a I know exactly how you feel way. Because I was sexually abused as a child too.

It's not hard for me to say the words, "I was sexually abused as a child." It used to be, a long, long time ago. But when my oldest child turned the age I had been when my abuse started, I freaked and found myself desperate for help and I went to a sexual abuse survivor's group mostly to find out who the best therapist in town was to go to for that help and between the group and the therapist I learned one thing above all others: the abuse had not been my fault and therefore, there was no shame in talking about it. No shame for me, anyway.

And I think the time has come now to talk about it here. To shed some light on some of the reasons I am the way I am. Not so that I may be known better but because I know there are so many people who were sexually abused as children who go through life trying to deal with their own pain and they feel so alone. And many of the people who were abused, even though they get help, may not be in a place yet where they can see that there is a future which won't be so scarred by that abuse that it sometimes seems as if there is no reason to keep on trying to get better when the healing comes with so much pain. Because we all, no matter what form our abuse came in, whether our abuser was one or many, a male or a female, whether we remember every detail or merely the blurriest outlines, deal with the same issues.

And I want to shed some light on the darkness of this subject. I want to discuss it from the perspective of my experience and my life because that is the perspective I have. The lens through which I view it, as I say. I have heard enough of other survivors' stories, though, to know that we all have the same story when you get down to the bottom of it. And so mine is as valid as any and now I'm going to write about it.

I think this is going to take several posts. I am going to use the male pronoun when I discuss abusers in general although some of the people who sexually abuse children are women. My abuser was male and the majority are, so it will make it easier for me to say "he" and "his" but the facts do not change if an abuser was female.
I may go back and edit as I write more because another thing I have discovered is that there is no end to the layers of the foul onion of sexual abuse and the effect it has on a child. No end at all.

In fact, there can be no definitive beginning, either. Because there has to be fertile ground for a sexual predator to be able to plant his evil. A perfectly healthy child in a perfectly healthy family is far less at risk (although never is there a time or place when a sexual predator cannot figure out a way to get what he or she wants) than a child in a situation where, almost like fate, a series of events have made the way smooth for abuse. Events that may have occurred long before he came into the picture, and so it was with me.

My father was a very seriously practicing alcoholic. That, of course, is an entire other story and this is not the time I will be telling it. But he's part of the abuse because the way he drank and the way he became when he was drunk caused my mother to have to leave him when I was five. And she took me and my little brother, who was just-turned-three to Roseland, Florida where my grandparents lived because she had no other place to go.
And with the help of our grandparents who first took us into their home and then built us a house of our own, we started a new life in that tiny village. And although we were far away and safe at last from my father's rages and violence, his drunkeness and his gun, I, as a little girl, missed my daddy. Like a dog who always comes back to the owner who beats him, I missed my daddy, plain and simple. He had been the only daddy I ever had and I loved him. I knew he wasn't right, I knew there were secrets in our house when we lived in a suburb of Chattanooga that even as a tiny child I had to protect. But still. The fact remains, I missed him horribly and with a soul-wrenching sorrow that was my companion every moment of every day and night.

And no one talked about him in my presence. In those days, that's the way it was. It was as if he had never existed. And I somehow knew not to bring him up to my mother (perhaps the fact that she burned her wedding gown gave me some instruction in this matter) but I went around with a huge hole inside of me where a father should have been. In the early sixties, divorce was still uncommon and every little girl had a daddy but me. Or so it seemed. Even the poor fishermen's kids had a daddy. He might get drunk and chase their mama around the kitchen table with a knife on Friday night, but he was there on Friday night, in the kitchen, in their lives. Not saying I wanted a daddy like that, I'm just saying that divorce was uncommon and fatherless children were definitely in the minority. I felt somehow shamed by the fact that I had no father. It was only one of the many things which made me feel different from everyone else, but it was a big thing.

Okay. I'm skipping about ten thousand of the layers of this onion because this is a blog, not a book. But I'm trying to hit the highpoints, not get bogged down into the the details of the thises nd thatses. But yes, I missed my daddy. I wanted a man in our lives who would be like a daddy. I had my grandfather, but as I have said, he was far from affectionate. I knew he loved me, but he was cold. He was distant. He was easily critical. He was not that man whom you knew would love you forever and ever, the one who would look at you and see only the best of you. He was, in short, not a daddy.

My mother got a job teaching school, she found friends, she took care of my brother and me. And for awhile, things seemed if not perfect, at least okay. I had a rough time in school, though. My mother was a teacher there and not a popular one. I loved reading. I was fat. I was weird. I was teacher's pet. I wore glasses. But I had a few friends and I loved Roseland with its river and woods and trees to climb and dirt roads to play marbles in.

My mother went back to school in the summers in Gainesville to work on a degree in education and my grandparents took care of my brother and me. Having already suffered the abandonment of my father, my mother being gone for eight weeks in the summers was, for lack of a better word, torture. She was my safety, my heart and my home. I feared her leaving us more than anything in the world and although I knew she would come back, her time away seemed endless. I began to eat more than ever, seeking comfort from food. I began sleepwalking. I developed a cough which lingered for months. In short, I was not an emotionally healthy child. I was lonely, I feared abandoment, and I was scared a lot of the time.

And then my mother met a man in Gainesville at the university. She came home, talking about him, and I don't remember when I met him first, but I know I fell in love with him when I did. She'd dated other men, but I hadn't especially liked any of them. This man, though, was different. He was gentle-voiced and he was handsome. He was shy and yet funny. He'd never been married but he seemed to really like children. He was smart and he made my mother happy. I had been trying, ever since she left my father, to make her happy because if she was happy, things were better at our house, she was more loving, less tense. She was prone to depression. I know this now. But when she met C., she began to bloom and when he was around, she was funny and attentive and we all breathed easier and their relationship developed. He would come and visit and he treated my brother and me so well. He took us on boat rides, we all went to the beach, like a family would, and things normal. So right. I was so happy to set the table for dinner with four place mats instead of only three. The balance was made proper when he was there. A Mommy Woman, A Father Man, A little girl, a little boy.

He and my mother continued to spend time with each other. He lived several hours away, but would come visit almost every weekend. And then Christmas rolled around, he came and showered us with gifts, and then he disappeared.
My mother, when it became all-too apparent that he wasn't going to show up again, grew depressed with a more persistent and darker suffering than I had ever seen in her and darkness enclosed us all. She would lock herself into her room after school and weep and scream and threaten to kill herself and I would hold my brother outside her door and we had no idea what to do.

(And as a sidenote- I just spoke to this brother today and he declared again, as he always has, that he has no memory of this and that our mother was NOT depressed although the fact that he has been married to a woman who has suffered from suicidal depression for many years he attributes to his loyalty and love for her and thinks it has nothing to do with our mother or his childhood.)

I learned to cook a little, to be able to make our suppers because my mother had no hunger for food and no inclination to cook it. I became, in fact, the little mother, the little caretaker and while other girls were playing with their Easy Bake ovens, I was learning to make actual meals.

I'm skipping so much here. It was just the darkest time. I was probably eight by then and to make matters worse, I was actually in my mother's third grade class. The school in our area was so small that there was no other option but for me to be in her classroom. So I was with her all the time. She managed to get to work every day but she was not, to put it bluntly, a good teacher then. She was so angry. She paddled the "bad" students and this was common in those days but I don't recall any of my other teachers using the paddle nearly as frequently as she did. And it doesn't seem quite right to write about my mother in this way, even now, forty-five or so years later. But I am speaking the truth as I know it and I also know that she was suffering from the disease of depression and in that light, I do not judge her harshly. And in her defense, I will say that the boy she paddled most often is one she actually had a very deep affection for. When his own mother kicked him out of the house at the tender age of nine because he'd been skunk-sprayed, my mother made sure he had access to soap and water, had food and clothing.

Anyway, the depression continued and I had nowhere to turn to for help. I thought about talking to someone but who? My grandfather? Unthinkable. And besides, surely he noticed and yet did nothing. Her friends? I was eight years old. I look back and when I think of myself in those days, I think of a small, worried child who had the problems of a grown-up with no resources at all. The person who was supposed to be there to help me was the person whose troubles were the cause of my pain.

And then school ended for the year and she went back to Gainesville and there she got back with C. and it seemed that everything would be well. Suddenly, the whole relationship was back on again he was there every weekend to visit. He never stayed at our house (how strange- it was perfectly acceptable to beat children in school but definitely not okay to let your boyfriend spend the night- take it from me- some things HAVE changed for the better) but would stay in a motel in Sebastian. My little brother and I would actually walk about half a mile down the road to meet him when we knew it was time for him to show up on Sunday mornings. We loved this man. He seemed like the answer to our dreams. He acted like a father and he was handsome and tall and funny and he treated us so nicely. And above all, again I have to say- he made our mother happy.

I think my mother had to push him to the altar, but push him she did. They got married in our tiny Roseland Gardens Community church with no one there but the minister, his wife (a good friend of my mother's and the best teacher I ever had in my life), my brother and me. That was it. I don't remember much of the wedding itself but I do remember that C. showed up late for the service and I'm sure Mother was afraid he was going to take another run for it. I don't have a good feeling when I think about that wedding. I don't know why. It was what I wanted more than anything in the world. I wanted this man to be my father. I wanted that with all my heart.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I'm A Wife, Here's My Life

I need to wash the dogs
I need to plant the squash
I need to find a costume
I need to do the wash
I need to visit the grocery
I need to feed the chicks
I need to put a bra on
And get out of the sticks
I need to do the dishes
I need to take a walk.
I need to check the dewberries
They're ripening on their stalk
I need to do a million things
And yet, right here I sit
Making silly rhymes
That don't add up to shit.

I have rhyme disease today. I left a comment on XBox's blog and it was all in rhyme and then I settled down to make my daily tracks in the sand and it, too, came out in rhyme. Lousy, third-grade, tenth-rate rhyme.

Well, what can I say? Some days the muse delivers profound musings on the mysteries of the universe and some days all she's got for me is a crappy rhyming list of stuff I need to do.

Some days you I see ethereal light shining through the trees and some days a sprig of the bolted mustard blossom in a blue vase is all I've got.

Some days I'm infected with the fever of inspiration and some days....
Just a little case of the rhyme disease.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Rejection and Dejection

A little bit ago I got an e-mail from the acquisitions editor of the small, local press I'd submitted my novel to months and months ago.
This is what it said:

Dear Mary,
After much consideration, we've decided this ms. is not right for us. However, we wish you the best of luck in placing it elsewhere.

Well. Ah-yah. And so forth. I've been rejected by far bigger publishing houses than this one! Yeah! I will survive! Oh yes I will!
And yes, and so forth once again.

It's funny though, that this rejection struck me hard. It really did. I mean, I sincerely had no hope. They only publish like one novel a year. But still. It did. It hit and it hurt.

But here's the funny thing- I suddenly feel just like I did last summer. Anxious as hell. As if I'd been informed of a diagnosis of a dread disease in a loved one. I'll be going about my business, transferring chicks, planting seeds, taking a shower, getting ready for rehearsal and I'll realize I have this nagging oh-my-god-something's-very-wrong feeling inside.

Which I find very interesting and informative and I need to think about that and learn from it what I can.

I do acknowledge that to me, this book is a sure-fired, born-from-my-own-loins baby of my own. It may not be any damn good at all, but it's a child of mine, and took years of labor and delivery.
And this e-mail is not unlike a doctor saying, "Well, maybe someone can save your kid but it's not going to be me."

Now don't get me wrong. I KNOW the difference between flesh and blood and pen and paper. As it were. But still, you do somehow give birth to a book. It's true.

So. I'm going to be proactive with this. I'm going to figure out how to do something with it. Maybe I'll put it up on a blog, ten pages at a time and put a Pay-Pal button up too. If people like it and want to give me a buck every chapter or so- great! If not, read it for free. Or, just don't read it if you don't like it. No risk involved.

Except once again, I'll be risking something. Not expense. Just my ego. My small and very-slowly developing sense of self-worth as a writer.

Lots to think about here.

Any thoughts? I'm asking you because you're the people who read me. Who take the time to click on my blog and read it and maybe even comment, maybe even e-mail me. So if you have any ideas or thoughts, please, I'm begging you- send them along in the comments or in an e-mail.

In the meantime, I'm trying to remember why I'm feeling anxious and let it go. This is not the end of the world. Someone very wise said to me the other day, "The only thing that's the end of the world is the end of the world."

And as far as I can tell, the world is still turning.

And I am churning. A bit.


It's Monday. Here's Your Brown Paper Bag.

Oh man, why do I feel compelled to post every day? What is wrong with me? I'll tell you what's wrong with me: I'm an addictive personality and when I find out that I like something I just keep going with it. I'm that rat in the cage who hits the lever to get the dose of crack or candy over and over and over again.

I probably wouldn't even be up yet although I like to get up early, but the phone rang at seven a.m. and the caller ID offered up the name of an old lady who calls here quite frequently, confusing me with her neighbor. I know this because she called once at one a.m. to say that she'd seen my light on and wondered if one of the children was sick. I was not that neighbor and she apologized and I've noticed that she's been calling more often and she's always embarrassed and so I think it's nicer and more polite just to let the machine pick up so that she can suffer her embarrassment alone and hope that I didn't hear the phone in the first place.
No big deal and I'll be that confused old lady before you know it.

It was a good weekend for the most part although I have one spot of poison ivy on my leg and whether it stays that way or blooms into a mass of weeping eruption that spreads over my leg like a map of the country showing where the Walmarts are, we'll just have to see. I hope not. It's almost pleasant to have one tiny spot of poison ivy because if there is anything in the world as physically pleasing as scratching an itch, I do not know what it is. There is a sort of ecstasy to it, that relief of the itch with the nails of the hand. We know we should not do it but there is no power on earth which can prevent the scratching of an itch short of amputation of the hands and even then, I would use my feet if possible.
I am quite flexible.
Speaking of which I have yoga in an hour.

We went to supper at our neighbors' house last night. We'd never eaten at their house and quite frankly, we hardly ever eat at anyone's house. I'm always the one to do the cooking so this was quite the treat, especially since they served the best beef, without a doubt, I've ever eaten. It was from a cow they'd raised themselves and I suspect her name had been Cream Puff. It was that tender. And get this: they not only had an ash magnolia in their yard, but two other types of magnolias I've never even heard of for goodness sake! with leaves like the ash, but different types of blossoms! And there you go- you learn something every day of your life. Now I have magnolia envy.
They showed us their chicken houses and their little flock of Rhode Island Reds and I didn't envy those so much. Although very tidy and thoughtfully laid out, I like the chicken coop Mr. Moon is building much better. It fits our little acres here and is not unlike a dream-house to me with its clever nesting boxes and the way Mr. Moon has fit in a place to store the chicken feed, its salvaged tin roof and antique pecky cypress door. Besides, our neighbors (the boys, as we call them) have built their chicken condos too far away from the house for my taste. They will not be able to sit on their back porch (or deck, in their case) and listen to their hens. We will. I even suggested that Mr. Moon build a bench, right outside their run so we can sit and watch them. Better than the Sports Channel, if you ask me.

I just checked on the chicks and they are napping after a night of obvious chick-mash gorging. Their feeder is practically empty and it was half full last night when I went to bed. I am afraid to put them out into their box this morning as the sky looks iffy. I would hate to drown my babies before they get a chance to lay some eggs.

And anyway, here it is Monday morning and the week stretches out busily before me. I have a lot to do and Goodwills to visit and play practices to attend and dinners to cook and chicks to tend and company to get ready for and who knows what all? Poison ivy to treat? Oh. I rather hope not.
But I am relatively young and unlike poor old Mrs. J with her no-doubt long-suffering real neighbor, I still have some of my wits about me and I am honestly looking forward to what this week brings.

A friend who was traveling in Turkey sent me a charm against the evil eye which is hanging above my front door. I do what I can to keep things as they are because honestly, there is not much I would change about my life here in Lloyd. I took a picture of it the other day when a lizard was crawling up beside it on the window above the door and it occurred to me that the charm keeps out the evil and the lizard keeps out the mosquitoes and there you go- magic and nature all working together to do what they can.

Sort of sums it up for me.

See you tomorrow. I'll be cranking that lever again to see which falls out- candy or crack.

Either way, I always feel rewarded.