Saturday, March 23, 2013

Everyone has a story . . .

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them they should have behaved better.” -Anne Lamott

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sea Urchins & Naked People

Prickly subjects.
Santa Barbara—the place I'm headed today. I mention it frequently in Everything's Hunky Dory, as it was the one place I could count on creating good, positive, comforting memories when I was a child. Including the time 'Daddy' took my brother and I down to the beach on a beautiful, sunny day for an adventurous tide pool excursion so he could point out the sea urchins, sea stars and such. The sea urchins were beautiful, colorful, and strange, but could only hold the attention of two curious children under the age of five for so long, before they noticed a nude couple sauntering past, holding hands. "Why do those people have so much hair on their pee-pees?" we asked loudly, pointing at them as kids tend to do.

Poor Daddy.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

*Drugs, from the perspective of a nine year old.

Mum’s drugs, to me, were comparable to that annoying relative everyone seems to have—the loud mouth that has no regard for what is going on around her. Let’s call her “Auntie High”. . .

Those friendly with “Auntie High” tend to become like her, careless and obnoxious. Those who avoid her tend to be the ones left to clean up the mess. Like a tornado, she vacuums everything and everyone up around her then drops them back down to the floor, shattering whatever propensity toward security and authenticity one might have had. Always creating a mess to clean up, physically or psychologically, the users sleep it off the next day in a darkened room, non-users expected to sort it all, whilst wondering “Where can I safely dispose of these razor blades?” and “How can I know for sure this is flour?”
I’d notice that the moment drugs entered the room, everything changed, everyone felt different. They were now what appeared to be programmed robots that looked like people you knew but were, in fact, not. When these hyper-cyborgs sat on our sofa, it was as if this warm place that just the night before was a source of comfort on which chocolate chip cookies and Charlie Brown’s Christmas were enjoyed, was transformed into a dark and lonely place where imposters laughed and didn’t listen to each other, though they talked an awful lot, rather loudly. Even if hidden in the quiet darkness of a bedroom closet, one could always tell when the drug was about.

Excerpt from chapter fifteen | changes. EVERYTHING'S HUNKY DORY: A MEMOIR

Monday, March 11, 2013

*Excerpt from Chapter Seventeen: The Sound of Silence

I wasn’t invited to her ceremony, I couldn’t say goodbye. From this day forward, no one discussed Nana’s passing other than announcing the culprit was a hideous ruptured brain aneurysm. Was it even true? How could I cry when I wasn’t sure? Where was the evidence?

I began to have episodes filled with rage, which I’d take out on hairbrushes, behind closed doors, alone in bathrooms. I’d smash the terribly unsuspecting, innocent objects against the counter until the handles shattered into tiny pieces, of which I’d then carefully pick up each and every speck so as not to be caught. I went through dozens of them, sneaking off almost daily to the local discount shop where I could find them for less than a dollar a piece. 

Shortly thereafter I began taking the anger out on myself, hitting myself as hard as I could, then regretting it, over and over. God forbid I should show emotion in front of the family, it was such an inconvenience after all.

Nana’s death was never spoken of again except for the few short outbursts of grief Mum would express when reaching for the phone to call her mother, a strange phenomenon I’d come to know intimately twenty-five years later.

Excerpt from chapter seventeen | the sound of silence | EVERYTHING'S HUNKY DORY: A MEMOIR

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hi Turd!

I often sign up for things online with a pseudonym. Not because I'm doing anything dodgy, but because I enjoy being addressed as "Turd Ferguson,” and revel at receiving the occasional "Hi Turd!" as a cheery email greeting.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Thoughts: International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day. I can't help but think of the many women in my life who have guided me and helped me be my best. One in particular is a writing teacher I had in the twelfth grade, Jeanne Goff.

I was failing miserably. Not that I didn't love writing, in fact, I had found I was falling in love with the process. However, many of our assignments were to be completed at home, an impossibility for me seeing as things at home were, let's just say, rather blatantly dysfunctional. 

Ms. Goff knew this. I could feel it when she looked at me. I'd avert my eyes, but I always felt she could somehow see into my soul. I wondered if she’d once been a girl in my situation. I felt terrible that I would be letting her down by failing her class. And worse, I might not graduate if I didn't turn things around, and quick. 

I approached her at the end of class, just two weeks before the grand graduation ceremony was to commence.

“I’m having trouble writing at home, but I really love your class—it’s my favorite—but I’m failing and scared I might not graduate because of it. Is there anything I can do?”
She took out a slip of paper, jotted down some notes, and handed it to me.
Woody Guthrie
Mr. Hill (Sid)
“Do you know Mr. Hill?” she asked.
“Not well, but I know who he is.”
“Good. Go to him and tell him I sent you. I want you to write a paper on Woody Guthrie. Do you know who he is?”
“No. Never heard of him.”
“Good. Mr. Hill knows a lot about him. He can be a good resource. Also, if you can, tell your parents you’re doing a project that requires making use of the library so you’ll be needing to spend more time at school before, at lunch, and after.”
“OK. Will do.”
The next day, Mr. Hill kindly handed me two cassette tapes of ancient sounding snap-crackle-pop recordings of Mr. Guthrie’s work. This was not the East Coast Rap or Hip-Hop music I was accustomed to listening to. This was old, twangy music, beyond anything I grew up hearing. Harmonica, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and passion. Loads of gutsy passion.
With titles such as “All You Facists Bound To Lose” I was certainly in for a treat.

I became absolutely captivated by this man. Apparently I wasn’t the only one, as I’d read he was a major influence on Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and John Mellencamp as well as many other beyond-talented musicians. I read books, listened to his music, laughed, smiled, completely lost track of time, and began to really embrace our required reading assignment, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, internally. Much of his music covered his personal experiences in the Dust Bowl era, traveling from Oklahoma to California.

Ms. Goff made a giant out of me. I passed the class. I wanted to hug her but knew that would be uncomfortable as I wasn’t much of a hugger anyhow and wasn’t there a law that teachers and students shouldn’t touch? And I had this newfound passion that seemed to trump any fear or stress or dysfunction going on around me. Writing. Research. Knowledge. 
I began listening, really listening to lyrics, and relating them to my own thoughts and feelings. I began dissecting Dylan’s songs and my mind opened.

She likely has no idea of the impact she had on my life, by showing just a little kindness, a little compassion, and a willing heart. Ms. Goff, my twelfth grade writing teacher successfully made a writer out of me.

Happy International Women’s Day! Be kind, change lives!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

*Excerpt from Chapter Twenty: Hold Your Head Up

(A fourteen-year-old's perspective: finding Mum had become a mistress.)

“How long could a sexual act take?” I'd wondered aloud. It’d been hours. I’d hoped he hadn’t killed her. He was a pretty heavy guy. Rather fat, in fact.

I would often concern myself with the thought of how the buttons remained on Jim’s business shirts. I imagined his stomach to contain the kind of force shared only by a can of tightly packed Pillsbury biscuit dough, so was tempted to cover my face when in front of him for fear they’d pop off and “take an eye out”, as my grandmother would have said. I believe my interest in physics began when I pondered the mystery of how his tiny black belt was able to support his baggy dress pants whilst having two negative factors working against it--a wide, flat rear-end and gigantic protruding belly. Six inches up in back, six inches down in front. Inanimate objects have often brought on deep compassion from me, and his desperately thin belt was no exception (although I was assured the poor thing was well relieved when his mistress was around as it was finally able to take a holiday well deserved).

Excerpt from chapter twenty | hold your head up | EVERYTHING'S HUNKY DORY: A MEMOIR

Sunday, March 3, 2013

*Excerpt from Chapter Two: Tiny Dancer

In true sixties fashion, she spent many of her evenings and weekends (while her parents were away) drinking their alcohol, having parties, dropping acid and teaching little sister Chris to do the same, and “Don’t you dare tell,” she’d demand (although she has claimed the acid dropping abruptly ceased once she noticed little sister Chris sprouting the most peculiar set of bunny ears).

Donna was rebelling against the too-tight reins of her manic mother. Lou’s reaction to said rebellion was to dump Donna’s prized Beatles and Monkeys albums in the trash and restrict her further, telling her she couldn’t go out, listen to music, or do anything outside of school until she was eighteen years old. So Donna, ever the innovator, decided to fix that little problem by moving out and marrying a sailor. Ed, her doting father who believed in her and her brilliant creativity, begged her to hang in and he’d pay for her to go to art school. “Just wait one more year,” he’d beg.

Lou’s extreme ups and downs, constant belittling, and control campaign took its toll. Instant gratification won and freedom proved more important to a young, insecure seventeen-year-old girl. Though Mum never admitted to it, my siblings and I would later be convinced she must have regretted that decision for the rest of her life. 

Excerpt from chapter two | tiny dancer | EVERYTHING'S HUNKY DORY: A MEMOIR