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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)

Grief and Loss, Halloween, Love, Uncategorized

All Hallow’s Eve

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I have always felt connected to Halloween, but never really cared for dressing up. I felt connected to the Earth, to the Wind, to the Water, and to Fire more than any other time of the year. A spiritual kind

of thing.

As a child, I thought my love of Halloween was just for the candy, and never thought more of it. As I grew older, I realized there was much more to the day and night than that. For me, who has lost so many people I love, it is a day to remember them. It is a day to feel connected to them. It is a day to honor them.

As the air becomes crisp, memories start to fill my senses. A song, a smell, sometimes a touch will bring back a loved one, if only for a split second. Every year I look forward to this, and embrace the unity that is created between here and there.

From goosebumps, to dreams, to quick glances in the dark I appropriate their presence.

With much love, I honor all those who have passed before me.

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Honoring Albert, my dad, my grandmother, my uncle, Chris, my gram, my mom, friends, pets, and all of the people I have had the privileged of working with as they came to the end of their lives. Each one taught me something. Each one left an impression on my life. Each one has helped make me who I am today. Thank you for each and every piece you leave behind.

Domestic Violence, Uncategorized

My Hope for Domestic Violence Awareness Month

lrg_dsc00968There are only two days left in Domestic Violence Awareness Month. October has come and gone, like it does every year. Maybe the thirty-one days in the month helped people stop and think about what really goes on behind closed doors, or maybe it brought courage and freedom to a silent victim. Maybe it opened up a friend’s eyes, so questions started to be asked. Maybe it helped an abuser realize just what they had been doing.

My hope is that the last twenty-nine days brought at least a spark of change with them. I hope that at least one person now knows that they are not alone. I hope that a child living in the middle of the abuse knows they do not have to live like this forever. I hope that the stigma attached to domestic violence is a little less.

I hope schools allowed conversations about domestic violence, so teenagers know what a healthy relationship looks like, and what it doesn’t. I hope awareness and education continue, not just in October, but always.

I hope all of the lives lost to domestic violence were remembered. I hope all of the parents that lost children to domestic violence were able to mourn the life that was stolen. I hope all of the friends who keep living every day without their love and light are able to keep their memory alive. I hope all of the children who lost a mom, a dad, or both to domestic violence were hugged a little tighter, and know it was not their fault. It was never their fault.

I hope that each and every life lost to domestic violence, by the hands of another, or by suicide, are not lost in vain. I hope each one carries a lesson to the world that there is a problem, and we need to offer love, support, and understanding. Every small step we each take is multiplied, and ripples out as we go.

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Never stop speaking up. Never give up. Keep strong. And, always, remember: You Are Not Alone.

The Domestic Violence Hotline

www.thehotline.org

1-800-799-7233

Domestic Violence, Hope, Uncategorized

Why I Didn’t Leave

Why I didn’t leave. That is the question that haunts me, and increases the anxiety that was left behind. Why didn’t I just go? I didn’t even love him, so why would I stay? I wrestle with these thoughts, some days more than others. And, recently, I learned that it wasn’t my fault.  

I did try to leave on a couple of occasions, and each time ended with some of the worst physical violence that I had ever experienced. And my children witnessed it. As babies, and with eyes of innocence. They saw and heard as their mommy was beaten. They heard their daddy threaten to kill mommy, while he told me they didn’t love me. At two and four years old they had to defend me. They had to save me. lrg_dsc00994

When I replay those times in my mind, I wish I had the strength to call his bluff. I wish that I would have taken my babies, and saved them, instead of them saving me. I wish that I could have made their memories happy, and not be haunted with the thoughts that not even adults should have to carry.

Knowing what they went through and what they saw make it hard not to blame myself.  Those thoughts made me feel like a bad mother. They made it hard to see that I was not part of the problem. We were all surviving, and I truly believed that if I left, I would have been killed.

Before my first child was even born, he told me he would take my baby from me, and never allow me to see him. I believed him. He told me his family had money, and they would take me to court to prove I was unfit. I believed him. I did not have family to turn to. I did not have money to hire a lawyer. I believed him. I believed him when he said he was going to kill me. I believed him when he said no one would miss me. I believed him when he said I was worthless. I believed he would kill me, and my children would be left in his care.

It was all part of the power and control that abusers use. I didn’t know it was all a part of his plan, to make me so weak that I couldn’t fight back. I didn’t know that with every hateful, hurtful word, he was crushing my spirit. I didn’t know how much power the fear held over me. It was just life. It was all I knew, in turn, becoming all my children knew.

I apologized to my children for not leaving sooner. They told me it wasn’t my fault. Each one of them, at different times. I didn’t want them to save me any longer. I didn’t want them to take the guilt away.  They told me, each in their own way, that it wasn’t my fault. That they didn’t blame me for what happened, or for staying longer than we should have. They blame him.

“Mom, he was the one that hurt us.”

“Mommy, he was the one that was so mean.”

“He hurt you. And us. He was bigger, and stronger.”

“Mom, you got us out. You are the reason we are safe now.”

“You are my protector.”

“Thank you for never leaving us.”

“Thank you for loving us.”

Their words bring me comfort. Hearing how they are able to process the past, and learn from the fear, and pain lets me see I am doing something right. I am a good mom. They love me, and trust me. And, I am their protector. I will have their backs no matter what. Day by day, we each heal a little more. The broken parts become smoothed over, and we are stronger for it.

lrg_dsc00983 The next time you say, “Why won’t she just leave?” Please remember you don’t know the whole story. You do not know all of the details. If she leaves, he might kill her. If she leaves, he may hurt her children, or pets, or family. If she leaves, she may not have anywhere to go. If she leaves him, she may not have any money for the things she or the children need. If she leaves him, she still may not be safe. You cannot judge a person when you have not been in their situation.

Please remember, she is doing her best. She is trying harder than most, just to survive. Every. Single. Day.

Be patient.

Be kind.

She is stronger than she knows.

 

 

Love, Tom Petty, Uncategorized

Dear Tom Petty

29790939_2116556518361810_3824043330497413120_nDear Tom Petty,

A year ago today, you took your last breath. My mind hasn’t been able to process the pain yet. I can’t bring myself to believe it. Thankfully, your music is here for us all, to help lessen the pain.

I don’t know why you were taken so young, when you still had so much to give…to your family, and your fans. The magic of your words saved so many people, and they will continue to save so many more. The right words at the right time, there is nothing one of your songs cannot cure.

Thank you for the hope your words bring me. Thank you for the love you shared. Thank you for always being a friend, especially during the times when I felt like there was no one else. Thank you for keeping me alive…for the song, and for the actual act of giving me a reason to continue on through some of the toughest days. Thank you for helping me believe that something good is coming. Thank you for giving me the strength to not back down. Thank you for everything.

With So Much Love,

Jessica

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Tom Petty has been my religion…for lack of a better word. When I felt like I was let down by God I found Tom. His music brings me peace, to spiritual places. When I hurt I listen to his music, when I am sad, or angry or happy I turn to his words.  I leave my gratitude for the man who saved my life so many times. With Tom I was never alone.

❤️I am grateful I found his music when I was 14.
❤️I am grateful his music was there when I felt like no one else was.
❤️I am grateful I was able to see him live in 2012, and for the healing that show alone gave me.
❤️I am grateful I was able to see him live in 2013 and in 2014 at Fenway park.
❤️I am grateful that I was able to see Mudcrutch in 2016.
❤️I am grateful I got to see him 5 times his final tour, twice in the front row.
❤️I am grateful for the moments of eye contact and the smile and the pick from the first Philly show.
❤️I am grateful for all of the friends I have made through TPN. Music brings people together.
❤️I am grateful Tom found true love after so much heartache and I am grateful I was able to see the love shared between him and Dana.
❤️I am grateful he has so many people who love him.
❤️I am grateful we have his music to lean on.❤️

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