Uncategorized

To Go, Or Not To Go?

On September 1, 2018, I learned that my memoir, The Monster That Ate My Mommy, had received Honorable Mention from Reader’s Favorite International Book Awards. To be completely honest, my first reaction was not excitement. Initially, I felt like a failure. My book wasn’t good enough to receive a medal…I should have tried harder…my book wasn’t good…it was a pity award…the list of self-hating thoughts went on and on.

When I started telling people about it, they explained to me how exciting it really was. There is still that part in me that cannot see what everyone else can. Honorable Mention in an international book awards contest was a big deal. An award for my first book…this was something to feel proud of.

When I allowed this new train of thought to take place of the old, I started thinking about the award ceremony. It was going to be held in Miami, Florida, just five days before Thanksgiving. I would need a flight, and a hotel. The dollar signs began to pile up, and intimidated me. Was it really going to be worth the expense? Should I spend this much money just to attend?

Everything inside of me was doing its best to talk me out of going. It’s selfish. It’s a waste of money. The more I looked online about past award ceremonies, I knew I needed to go. My memoir was a lifelong dream. I waited my whole life, working hard each and everyday to survive, to be able to write my story. Going to the award ceremony was something I needed to do. I bared my soul to the world, just to try to help others understand what growing up in a toxic, abusive environment was like. I held nothing back, and exposed the darkest corners of my past. This was for me; and every other person who never feels worthy enough.

I searched for flights day and night, looking for the best deal. And there was the deal I had waited for. One hundred dollars less than any other flight I had seen. I bought the tickets, and booked my hotel room. I never saw the flight that price again. That told me I had to go. It was the sign I needed to know I was doing the right thing.

As the time got closer to the event, my nerves started taking over. What was I thinking? I shouldn’t have purchased the tickets. I didn’t want to go after all, but the tickets were non refundable. I had to go, or lose the money. There was no way out. I was going to Miami.

I watched the weather the weeks before the trip. No snow in sight. It looked like an uneventful forecast. It was mid-November in New Hampshire, but still nothing to worry about. Until three days before I was scheduled to fly out. A Nor’easter was on the way. Really?!? Out of nowhere, a snowstorm crept into the forecast. I started to think maybe, this was a sign too. Maybe I really shouldn’t go after all. But the non refundable tickets…I had to go.

I booked a hotel room just three miles from the airport I was to fly out of so I wouldn’t have to travel through the snowstorm early in the morning. The night before I was to go to the hotel, the news was reporting the snowfall had decreased, and should be nothing to worry about. Relief.

The next morning, it was back to a winter storm warning. Six to twelve inches of snow expected to fall in a short amount of time. The airport was delaying flights, even canceling some. My anxiety skyrocketed. I couldn’t let fear keep me away now. I kept thinking positive thoughts, trying hard not to bring the negativity into the equation. I envisioned myself at the award ceremony, felt the warmth of the Miami sun on my skin. I knew I was going to make it.

The morning of my flight I expected to see that it was delayed…it was not. On time. I held onto positivity that it would not change. Once on the first plane, we sat for an hour as they de-iced the plane. My connecting flight only had a forty-five minute layover. Even though we were getting a late start, I was confident I would make it.

When we landed, there was five minutes to make the connecting flight. It was clear across the large airport, down hallways…I would guess it was at least a half a mile to get there. There were about fifteen of us that had to make that plane, and we were told they would hold it for us if we ran. I gathered my belongings and walked as fast as I could.

Five gates away, they announced on the loud speaker that the plane to Miami was closed. I figured they would still hold it for us, and walked even faster to get to the gate. Once there, completely out of breath, I was told I would not be able to get on the flight. None of us were allowed on. They had given our seats away. When I asked what I should do, I was told to report to special services…about ten gates back down the hall.

Panic took over as I calculated the math. There were fifteen of us who needed that connecting flight. I had to try to beat them back to have any chance of reaching Miami in time for the events to begin. When I arrived at special services, there was already a line of five people, some had multiple people in their party. I had to make it.

When I reached the desk, I was told they could get me there on Sunday. The ceremony took place on Saturday. I was due home on Sunday. I began to shake and cry, and a piece of my father came out of my mouth.

“I have to make it to a funeral tonight.”

I wasn’t proud of my lie…but I was desperate.

The woman in front of me softened. “What time is the funeral honey?”

“Six.”

She clicked away at her computer, and put me on a flight to West Palm Beach, Florida. It was 65 miles away from the hotel. She let me call to see if they would send a shuttle…they would not, but told me there was a train right at the airport that would take me to the Miami airport, where I could take the shuttle. I agreed to the arrangements.

Guilt crept up as I thought about my lie. I don’t like being dishonest, and tried to find a way to justify the story I had made up. The airline had been dishonest with us, and sold our seats out from under us. They held us on the tarmac for an extra ten minutes to make sure we would not reach the plane in time, and then they were rude to us. The woman I told my story to was rude, until she heard about the”funeral.”

In the literal sense, there would be a death if I did not make it. The death of my dream. The death of my hope.

Once at West Palm Beach, I soon learned the train was not in fact at the airport. The anxiety began to rise again. I was pointed to a bus stop, where I would be taken to the train station. Nothing felt good about this, but I could not give up now. I sat on the bench and waited for the bus to come.

I was dropped off in front of an old, pink building. The door to get in was not close, and it was unclear where to enter. When I found a door, I asked to purchase a ticket. “For the bus or the train?” I had found my way to the bus station…the train station was in the building across the tracks that could only be reached by going up the stairs in a sketchy building, or take the elevator with strange men, one of which appeared to be suffering from mental illness. The other man was a pilot, who was extremely unpleasant. I stood next to him, to make the appearance that we were traveling together while we were in the elevator. We were the only two white people there, so it was not that hard to pull off.

Once out of the elevator, and then tunnels, and down another elevator I found someone to point me in the direction to purchase a ticket. The tickets were sold in a vending machine type thing, and it was almost impossible to figure out what I was doing. Luckily, someone who worked there walked by at just the right time. She helped me purchase the ticket, and then told me where to stand to wait for the train.

When the train arrived, I found two open seats and took both to keep my bags close to me. There was even a place to charge my cell phone for the two hour trip. West Palm Beach was the first stop on the route, and Miami airport was the last. Two long hours of watching the clock, my arrival time was getting later and later. Initially I had expected to arrive in Miami at 2:00PM, and now I would most likely not arrive until 8:00PM. The nights events started at 7:00PM. I was so disappointed, but knew could not give up. I was going to make it to the event.

Once at Miami airport, there were still shuttles and long hallways to navigate through to get to the hotel shuttle. The long hallways of the airport were empty, only a few people here or there in too much of a hurry to point me in the right direction. I read the signs, but was not sure what I was looking for. Then, at the intersection of a hall, an employee of the airline that had created this mess in the first place arrived. He was going right where I needed to go, and told me what I needed to do to find my shuttle.

I waved down the driver, and arrived at the hotel in the middle of the meet and greet with other authors. I had a few minutes to spare before the presentation was to begin. I found my room, got changed and headed to the event. I had made it.

To be continued….

Grief and Loss, Hope, Love, mental illness, Uncategorized

Happy Birthday, Dad

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It has been so long since my dad died, that I do not remember ever celebrating his birthday. I do not remember sitting around the table eating a birthday meal, watching him open his gifts, or blowing out his candles. I do not remember much of anything about him.

I do not remember his smell, or his voice. I do not remember his touch –from love or abuse. I do not remember so many pieces of him.

I have one photo of him that was damaged in the house fire. I have nothing else left of him, or his. In his thirty-seven years, there is barely anything left behind to prove his existence.

Except for me, and now my children, who are his grandchildren.

The memories I do have of the short time I was able to spend with him are haunted by abuse, and regret. I witnessed him hurt my mom, and brother, and experienced his abuse first hand. I also have memories of his kindness and love toward others in need.

I remember how intelligent he was, and how he could always come out ahead. He had survival skills like no one I have ever seen before –I like to think that is where I learned to survive through the extremes of abuse I experienced. He was a pro at getting something for nothing.

He was someone you did not mess with, but also someone you went to for help. He had a kind heart, and a lot of love to give. What I remember most is how much he wanted to be loved, and accepted.

He had Paranoid Schizophrenia, and for the longest time I was confused as to who he was. I confused his illness with him, which led to fear. When I was able to separate the two, I was able to see him for who he was. I was able to see all the good he had to offer, and I was able to understand the why behind the bad.

I wish I had more time to get to know my dad. I wish that his life could have been easier for him, and I wish he could have found the true love he had been searching for. I know there was a reason he was my dad, and I am grateful for the lessons I was able to learn from him.

Loving him taught me that people are more than a diagnosis. There are reasons behind many of the things people do. He taught me tolerance, strength and perseverance.

In his memory, I ask that you find someone in need of some extra love, and love them. Talk to them. Learn from them. Give people the gift of your time.

Happy Birthday, Dad.

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Domestic Violence, healing, Hope, Uncategorized

The Well Read New Englander: The Monster That Ate My Mommy By Jessica Aiken-Hall

Source: The Well Read New Englander: The Monster That Ate My Mommy By Jessica Aiken-Hall 

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Review by Carla Charter

What I first noticed about this book was the main character, Jessica.  She struck me as a Phoenix. Despite the horrific physical, emotional, and sexual abuse she survived as a child, with each negative she still rose again, like the fabled bird determined to rise above her circumstances.

An important theme of the book which is highlighted again and again is the importance of having an anchor. A family member, a grandmother, a friend, who will stand up and say no more. Even if the abuse continues despite the pleas and the lies of survival, these anchors provided a respite of sanity, when the childhood world around was nothing but chaos for her.

The repercussions of Jessica’s childhood abuse can be seen clearly as she grows, feeling unloved and unwelcome, she enters her adult world looking for the love she never received, through whomever will give it. Thus her abusive childhood ripples and transforms into abusive relationships and eventually even affects her children.

Still despite it all, despite her mother’s drinking and depression, despite her horrific life of abuse and neglect she still finds her way to peace and a resolution with her mother and thus becoming a shining beacon to survival.   Her life while fractured by others, in the end Jessica herself builds into a beautiful mosaic of hope for the future.

The book is a must read for those looking to understand the complexities of abuse and the long-term effects abuse can have.

For anyone who may leaving or reporting abuse, the following agencies may be able to help

Domestic Violence Hotline

www.thehotline.org

1-800-799-7233

Child Abuse Hotline

1-800-4-A-CHILD

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

1-800-950-NAMI (6264)