September (Therapy-In-Progress)

 

Fall is at its peak here in North Dakota.  In fact, I think it may have actually skipped the autumnal season with temps only in the mid 40s with a snowflake here and there.  Harvest’s been in full swing since end of August. Farmers are currently working on potatoes and corn; next will be sugar beet. By the end of October, harvest season will close, and then we’ll settle in for the winter months.

Living in a farming community, there’s always activity going on all around you.  I love the open, rural countryside here as well with the seemingly endless dirt roads to walk and explore.  My house (a small farmstead of 14 acres) is literally surrounded by farming fields. This year, the east, south and west fields grew wheat; while the northeast/northwest fields had potatoes.  Farmers just completed harvesting the potatoes earlier this week which meant we could go hunting!

Not for animals, but for potatoes (left behind).

My son and I each grabbed a bucket and headed out to the northeast field and walked the many rows mining for undamaged potatoes.  We ended up filling those buckets. Potatoes will be our meal staple for the next several months.

September.  One of my favorite months of the year.

A local town have put up a huge corn maze at its recreational park which we plan to check out over the weekend.  While there, I might even pick up a few pumpkins to carve.

Football. I love football whether it’s high school, college or professional. Another reason to love September. My son plays the six-man style football at his school (he’s a sophomore), and has a game tomorrow afternoon.  And it’s Homecoming to boot.

All of these are therapy for the soul. Especially for mine.

Advertisements

The #Writing Life: Struggling To Stay Grounded

Pixabay

 

“Maybe, life is a kind of waking dream.
Maybe, it’s a double-dream with a false awakening.” -― David B. Lentz

 

For most of my life, I feel I’ve lived in a dream-like state; not truly experiencing things with all of my senses.  No, rather I’ve lived in imaginary worlds where I can be who or what I desire, or change circumstances more to my liking.

Or, needs.

These imaginary worlds have been my safe havens from the reality of life which had been fairly harsh and painful.  As a defensive mechanism to protect myself (emotional well-being), I would withdraw into them frequently.

Until one day, I had a scare.

I opened my eyes and couldn’t recognize which reality was truly my own.

For mere moments, I couldn’t recall my name or where I lived or remember that I was a wife and a mother.

When the correct reality finally set in, I had to sit down and calm my shaking legs.

I’ve never really known fear…not like this.

What drew me back to earth, my earth, was my family.

My husband. My son.

Being a writer, a creative, it is so easy to lose oneself in other realms of existence that you literally can forget to return to your own.

For the scientific and medical communities, these could resemble a number of mental and psychological disorders, and I can also see why some have even been committed to asylums.

I really don’t want to be one of them.

So, what keeps me grounded in this reality?

My family.

Thank god for them.

 

 

 

Author’s Note:  Life has taken me down a bumpy road lately and I’ve had to deal with some of it instead of being on this blog so forgive my absence.   The Friday Story Prompt Challenge’s schedule has changed because of this (again my apologies).  Look for one on Friday, October 5th though (this one will be different from the others).

Monday Memoir: The Loser

 

Those of us who have been in long-term relationships and/or marriages know well the ups and downs that occur.  Some are more challenging than others.  My marriage to Jay is no different.

Jay comes from a dysfunctional family.  His Dad, a Vietnam vet (served in the 101st Airborne) who came back a changed man, became an alcoholic and abuser of his Mom (of which he witnessed several times).  They divorced by the time he was six (his younger sister Marcy was a year old); but then became mired in vicious child snatching schemes (before it was ruled illegal) that went on for a few years.  His father remarried, and Jay and Marcy went to live with him in another state, and Jay wouldn’t see his mother again for many years.

Jay’s step-mother was a drug-addict (addicted to pain meds) who was physically abusive to his sister, and vindictive towards him (at times she tried to have him arrested for stealing his own stuff).  His half-brother, Walter, was born during this time.

By the time I first met him in college, his father and step-mother was in the midst of a nasty divorce.  He wanted to help and protect his little brother, Walter, but in the end would lose and never see the kid again for a number of years when the step-mother split with more than half of his father’s earnings.

Right from the start, Jay and I had a connection even though at that time I didn’t quite understand it.  He had a girlfriend, Heather and I was dating his best friend, Shaun.  But, he and I became close friends.  When Heather suddenly broadsided him with vicious lies when he refused to sleep with her, he became depressed and well, lost.  I tried to be there for him, but in the end, he left college at the close of our freshman year to join the Navy.

The year was 1990.

I returned for my Sophomore (and final) year at that college for the fall semester.  It was either late November or early December, Jay came to the campus to visit his friends.  He stopped at my dormitory and we visited for a few minutes.  He had on his Naval uniform under a dark gray long coat.  I can remember thinking how handsome he looked.  At this time, there were rumors circulating of a possible war in the Persian Gulf, and they were anticipating high casualty counts. Knowing this, Jay wanted to see as many people as he could before heading overseas.

I wouldn’t hear from him again for the next eight years.

The training he chose while in the Navy was in the Meteorology and Oceanography field, and he was placed on an aviation crew on board a battleship. Since he also had combat training (was in the Army Reserve prior), once he reached the Gulf, he was assigned to a Marine unit that headed to land (to participate in the land assault called Operation Desert Shield/Sabre) after a period of air assaults. To this day, Jay doesn’t talk in detail about what went on during these days.  All I know was that he was with the Marines on Highway 80 (aka Highway of Death), and was responsible for calling in airstrikes on the trapped Iraqis on that road.  I also know that he went with the Marines after the airstrikes on a reconnaissance mission, and saw first hand of the carnage he had a hand in creating.

He was only 19.  Still just a kid.

 

Not too long after the end of the Persian Gulf War, Jay was sent to a Naval base on the Philippine Islands. As “luck” would have it, he experienced the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991. He and along with others participated in the search and rescue efforts, and then in the recovery.  From there he went on to Guam, and then to Alaska.

In Alaska he found solace in the rugged landscape of the Aleutian Islands where the base was once located.  Now fully entrenched in his military career as a Meteorologist for the aviation crews, he felt he’d found his true calling.

In October 1993, all that changed when his sister, Marcy (at 17 years of age) was involved in a serious single car accident where she sustained major brain injury, and was in a coma near death.  For this reason, he left behind his blossoming military career and went home to help his family and to be there for his sister.

Between 1995 and 1999, he came close several times to re-enlisting in the military (Navy and Army), but certain life events always interceded.

In June of 1999, we reunited, and then in September, we were married.

I encouraged him to return to the military; but he felt that I would not be happy living a military life. So, he decided against it.

Marcy survived, but has permanent brain damage, and must live in a group home setting.

I’ve always regretted not pushing him to go back to the military as he has never truly re-acclimated to the civilian life. He was also a different man than I knew when we were freshmen in college.

More serious. Cautious

It’s no wonder though given what he’s gone through.

Also given his family background, he was always considered by certain family members (as well as old high school and college mates) as the “loser” who would never amount to anything.

Instead of allowing this and all the past dark experiences break him, he fought back.

One of the things he did was to go back to the same college where we first met, and finished what he began in 1989.  He graduated with double degrees in Psychology and Therapeutic Recreation with a GPA over 3.0 in December 1998.

He worked in the Therapeutic Rec field the first years we were married, but being a relatively young field that no one took seriously, he decided to get out of it.  After working odd jobs for a few years, he went in to the Banking industry which he hated (Corporation ideology).  From there, he was a middle school teacher teaching all things Science which he absolutely enjoyed in the beginning.  Then everything became so bureaucratic where the teachers ended up spending more time working paper works than actual teaching, plus the salary went no where, so he opted to get out.

Jay tried working at a credit union for over one year before being laid off due to the recession.

Enough was enough, he said.  He decided to go back to college, and earned another double degree in Bio-pharmaceutical and Environmental Science Technology, and graduated with high honors in 2014.

This guy never ceased to amaze me.

Everything he tried, he’d master it, and then excel.  It doesn’t matter how much he struggled, he just never gave up.  He’d had this “prove them all wrong” mentality that blows me away.  I so admired his spirit, and tenacity, and secretly wished I could be the same way.

I mean, this guy basically came from nothing, and became a someone.

He’s my inspiration to never giving up on myself.  The reason why I decided to keep trying no matter what obstacle stands in my way.

So, here we are, living up in North Dakota, on a small farmstead in a rural community full of great people.  Jay now working in the USDA, but is getting ready to make a major move to an entirely new direction that excites the heck out of me, in a direction that pulls all his past life, work, college and military experiences together in to one package.

Life works in mysterious ways.  Never count yourself out.

 

 

 

Monday Memoir: Marriage and Family Challenges

 

 

After Jay and I married, we moved to a small town near Buffalo.  There I worked in retail (cashier at a local grocery store) which was  just a short walking distance from our apartment.  I didn’t care for the job; however, I liked the fact that I could still get myself to and from work.  A year later, we moved back to the Ithaca area (in a hamlet just outside the town); the apartment we lived in was located on a bus route into Ithaca.  Handy for me 🙂   Jay worked for a short time at Cornell University, and I got a job in the banking industry (I felt I needed to get out of retail into something more “professional”).  I could have went back into the fitness/sports area, but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t minimum wage or part-time.  I continued to run/bike when I could; but eventually gave up on them.  Jay kept fretting over me going out on my own and  insisted that he come and watch as I work out.  I became more and more limited to where I could go and such, so I just gave up altogether.

A few months later, Jay was laid off and couldn’t find work so he headed down to the Raleigh NC area to look for work.  I wasn’t too keen on the idea of moving out-of-state, and so far from my family; but if we couldn’t afford to make it then we needed to go to a place where we could.

The move enabled us to buy a home and some land (something we wouldn’t be able to do back in New York with taxes being so ridiculously high).  Those years here have been challenging to say the least.  I stayed in the banking industry; but Jay moved from one job to another (it seemed like he changed jobs once every three to four years).  I’ve wanted to make the move back to the fitness/sports industry, but the opportunity never came for me, or the transportation logistic was impossible for it to be feasible.  Our house was also far enough away from everything which made it not possible for me to come and go as I needed or wanted.  If I need to grocery shop, or anything, I relied on someone to get me there.  Even though I had my home, if anything were to happen to Jay, I’d be home-bound as a shut-in who’d be completely dependent on others.

I’m so fiercely independent, the mere thought of relying on others in order to meet my needs frustrated and scared me.  It seemed to grow worse the older I got.  This was a daily battle for me.  I’ve been left alone once when my first husband died.  A few years after we first moved down south, I nearly lost Jay.

 

 

Two months after we moved to our house, we learned I was expecting.  The pregnancy went without any issues…until the last two months.  I was almost 8-month pregnant when Jay began to have difficulty breathing.  He dropped me off at work one morning, and then went to see his doctor, Dr. Salerno.   It was mid-morning when I received a call from Dr. Salerno who calmly told me that Jay had been admitted to one of the local hospitals.   X-rays shown that there was fluid building up  around his heart-Pericarditis.  They couldn’t determine if it was bacterial or viral (if viral, he may fully recover; bacterial, he may need a heart transplant).  The immediate danger was that there was so much fluid around the heart, it had enlarged to at least twice its normal size.  They were in the process of prepping him for an emergency surgery to drain some of the fluid from the heart.  Before we hung up, she strongly recommended that I do not come to the ER until after the surgery because of the added stress since I was so far along with the pregnancy.  She would call me once Jay was out of surgery.  I said, okay.

I felt quite thankful to be working as it kept my mind from wandering too much to certain negative implications of Jay’s sudden illness.  I wasn’t completely alone in the city, thankfully, as I had my brother and his family nearby.  They picked me up after work (and once I received the “green light” from Dr. Salerno) and took me to the hospital.  Jay was in the recovery room, just coming out of being under anesthesia.  I was told that they managed to drain as much fluid as they could, but twice his heart stopped and they had to resuscitate him.  There was a hole left in his chest just under the sternum where a tube had been placed to continue to drain the fluid from the heart.  The doctors planned to aggressively treat him with various antibiotics in case the pericarditis was bacterial in hope to limit the damage to the heart while they ran multiple tests to determine whether this was truly bacterial or viral.

For the next week, we waited on the final result.  In the end, it was determined that Jay had the viral kind.  Thank goodness.

Jay remained in the hospital for a total of two weeks.  I spent some of the nights at the hospital (just so I could be near him), and other nights with my brother.  I worked every day throughout this ordeal just to keep myself from completely stressing out.  Finally, both he and I were able to go home.  Jay was quite weak so I had to help him dress, eat, and shower.  I was just thankful to have him back with me.

It wasn’t too long after he came home that I noticed my feet and hands were swollen.  The doctor kept tab of my blood pressure which stayed below the dangerous level; until my water broke two days past the due date.

After I was admitted to the hospital’s birthing center, the doctor quickly realized that I was showing signs of pre-eclampsia. My blood pressure was all over the place (soaring high then crashing and then soaring high again).  My contractions weren’t consistent as well.  They gave me an IV to control the blood pressure as well as to force the contractions.  I was not a happy camper.  Seventeen hours in, it was time to push.  I pushed for three hours but the baby couldn’t get beyond my pelvic area.  The doctor tried both the suction cup and clamps to no avail.  Then I began to hemorrhage.  By this point, I was so exhausted and barely lucid.  I remember the doctor pushing the baby back into the birthing canal, and then they literally ran me to the ER.  After that, everything went blank.

Karl was born over twenty hours after my water broke.  A beautiful, healthy boy.  Jay was there to hear him howl as they pulled him from my belly.  He told me it was the most precious sound he’d ever heard.  I woke up two hours later and then wheeled into a recovery room where I held my son for the first time.  I’d suffered severe blood loss, but they decided not to give me a blood transfusion.  My vision for the next few days were out of sync because of the blood loss.  When I looked at anything, in one eye it looked normal while in the other eye it was grossly enlarged and distorted.   By the time I was released (four days later), my vision improved.

For the next few months, Karl had two parents recovering from their hospital experiences.  Before my maternity leave ended though I learned that I lost my job with a particular bank.   During this time, I struggled as a mother and as a wife.  I grew more and more emotional (weepy), and uncontrollable anxiety seized me.  I literally felt like I was losing it.  Jay made me go to the doctor, and I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. Jay’s mother came and spent a few months with us to help me with taking care of Karl-bless her heart.  My condition slowly improved; it was even better when I was re-hired back to the same bank that previously laid me off.  I gladly accepted the offer as by this time I was quite ready to get out of the house!

To say that I was happy to see that year come to a close was a gross understatement!

 

 

 

 

Monday Memoir: Letting Go…

I never thought I’d use my Physical Education degree, but I did. I enjoyed being a fitness trainer at the YMCA. I worked there for about a year, but it became increasingly difficult to maneuver around the equipments and exercising bodies as my peripheral vision decreased. The bouts with depression increased, and I began to call in sick.

The problem was I still refused to accept the fact that I was going blind, and my waning vision angered me. I was afraid to ask for help as this would mean I had to acknowledge the fact that I had a disability, and I didn’t want people to think me as a liability. I wanted to be an asset. Not a burden.

It grew more difficult to make ends meet, so in come a room-mate…my brother. At first, it was great; but, he had his own demons to battle. Being an adopted child, he’d always sought to be accepted. He’d always felt like an outsider, I believe. While he stayed with me, I noticed he hung around with several less than favorable individuals. When they started to hang around at our apartment, I got fed up and threw them out. I told my brother, no more. Soon after, he moved out and began to date an older lady from Louisiana.

A short time later, I received an unexpected call from someone I knew from college.

Jay and I met as freshmen in college; several years before I met and married my late husband. He had a girlfriend, and I dated his best friend. After our first year in college, he needed to leave the area for a while. He came from a very broken and dysfunctional family life, and felt the need to start a new one for himself. By this time, we’re both single. He enlisted in the Navy. After boot camp, he paid me a visit. It was a brief one as he was getting ready to go over seas to Kuwait to fight in the imminent war in the gulf there. He wanted to see me one more time as they were predicting that the rate of casualties were going to be high. I remember thinking how handsome he was in the military uniform.

He survived the first Gulf War. I saw him twice afterwards before we eventually lost contact with one another. I figured he’d gone on with his life, and I met and married my husband.

Eight years later, he was calling me to ask if he could come and see me. He’d found out that I was a widow, and wanted to check up on how I was doing. Sure, I replied. I’d loved to see him again.

Then, I started to think back to that day he paid me a visit before he headed overseas. Did he like me more than just a friend?

We reunited in a mall, and ate lunch at a local restaurant. That was in early June. I can’t explain it, but things just clicked between the two of us, and the next thing I knew we were dating, and then engaged. That September, we were married.

Before the wedding, he gave me a gift. A journal. A beautiful book full of blank pages. By this time, I hadn’t written in years. Somehow, he knew I needed this. I took the journal, and started to put words in it. The more I wrote, the better I felt. I poured out all the anger and resentment on to those pages. Writing in that journal became therapeutic as it began to sooth the pain and emptiness that I’ve held on for so long.

Writing enabled me to start letting them go.

Story Sunday: The Final Sunset

 

She watches as the sun slowly lowered in the purple-hued sky.  Another day is done, and she is alone.

Not really by choice.  Not directly, anyway.

She blames the booze.  She also blames her mother who introduced it to her before she was even in high school.  And because of them both, she never saw graduation.  Just endless days and months in rehab centers.

All for what?

To end up alone and penniless?

Today she buried her mother.  Rather, a woman who gave birth to her.  She never really cared for her.  Not as much as she cared for those colored bottles that forever littered their home.

Mother died a drunk.  That is what she’ll always be known for. Not as a woman who tried to raise a daughter by herself.  Not as a woman who nursed sick and premature babies back to health.  And certainly not as a woman who became the town’s first female mayor.

No, her life has and will always be linked to the bottle.

For years, she defied her mother.  She never wanted to end up like her.

She stood over the wooden casket, deep in the hallowed earth, and allowed the tears to flow.  Not for her mother.  She was happy that the woman, the thorn in her side, was gone. No, she cried for herself.  For her unborn child.

What kind of future will her baby have if her or his mother was a drunk?

A nobody?

Her eyes turn up to the darkening sky. Stars glittering among the dark purple clouds.  A soft breeze sweeps over her like a whisper. Closing her eyes, she tilts her head to one side to listen to this whisper as if it has some great secret to share.

With her eyes still closed, she smiles.

She still has something that her mother no longer has…

A tomorrow.

Another chance of a new beginning.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Memoir: Searching For Happiness

 

After Aaron’s death, I pretty much became a hermit, retreating to my tiny, one-bedroom apartment for the next three years. I slowly withdrew from his family as their daily pain in losing a son and a brother was too painful to witness. The only thing I accomplished during this period was graduate with a B.S. in Physical Education which, as I’ve said earlier, I had no intentions of using.

 

I spent my days watching romance-comedy movies, and cried.  I didn’t give up on my running or biking though.  I bought a mountain bike and rode that all around the town.  Other times I’d ride eight miles to the nearby walking/running trail and ran three miles, and then bike back home.  Exercise was pretty much my only outlet.

At least, it was something.

By the end of the three years, I decided that I had enough of being alone.  I felt ready to return to the “world.”  I’d been living in an apartment complex for the elderly where they accepted me because of my disabilities, charging me only a small percentage of what I received in my monthly social security benefits.  But at the age of 27, I felt that I still had enough of my vision remaining to go back to work, and not rely solely on them.

So, I took a big leap of faith and moved out, and into a regular apartment in the nearby city of Ithaca.  I got two part-time jobs; one as a clerk at a video rental store, and the other as a fitness trainer at the local YMCA.  I struggled financially, but the bills still got paid and I had some food in the pantries.  I slowly weaned myself off of social security.  I regained my independence as I now was in a place where I could either take a bus or walk to pretty much anyplace I needed.

For the first time in a long time,  I felt content.  Happiness still eluded me though.  I still had the gaping hole in my heart, and my chest would ache so, especially at nights as I lied in my bed.  I couldn’t escape the loneliness.  I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was missing something.

Monday Memoir : The Darkness Continues…

 

Okay, I was partially deaf and going blind.  I’d given up on my athletic dreams.  I hadn’t written in years so why start now.  Life dealt me the bad deal.  How could it get worse than this?

The worse was yet to come.

I was declared “legally blind” by Social Security and began to receive disability benefits.  I did continue to work towards my P.E. degree even though I really had no intentions of using it.

Then, I met Aaron and fell in love.  We were married within a year after our first meeting (through a church’s function).  We had so many things in common.  We loved rock n’ roll especially the 80’s rock and early 90’s alternative music.  We both loved sports.  He was a soccer fanatic.  He not only played in various local leagues, he also coached boys’ soccer teams in the town we’d lived.   His dreams were to not only coach kids, he also wanted to be a teacher.  He began college to pursue both.

I like to say I was the good wife.  I can’t.

I was manipulative.  Verbally abusive to him.  Why?

Jealous because he was able to play soccer?  Resentful because he took me away from my family to live with his own?  Bitter because he knew exactly what he wanted to do, and was able to do them?   Envious because he made friends wherever he went and I couldn’t?

Name it, and I felt it.  Then, I punished him.

I became the psycho-bitch that mothers would warn theirs sons against.  And I hated myself for being that way.

I wanted to change.  For him.

But, it was too late.

One cold day in March, Aaron was killed in a car accident.   He was on his way to pick up our pastor to take to the hospital because he didn’t want to take the ambulance.  I decided not to go at the last-minute.  Aaron was going too fast when he lost control of the car, and crashed into a dumpster truck.   The truck struck the passenger door, and because he wasn’t wearing a seat belt…well, you get the idea.

The heartache I felt that day was unlike I had ever felt before.  It was unbearable.  And the guilt…

That night I attempted to take my life by overdosing on certain pills, but something stopped me.

How could I be this selfish?  To take my life after what Aaron’s and my family have just gone through with his sudden death?   I hated myself for the way I’d treated Aaron, but I could not do this to them.

So, I decided to live with the pain and the guilt.

Monday Memoir: The Matriarch

 

ONE FINAL GIFT

Scatter me not to the restless winds
Nor toss my ashes to the sea.
Remember now those years gone by
When loving gifts I gave to thee.
Remember now the happy times
The family ties are shared.
Don’t leave my resting place unmarked
As though you never cared.
Deny me not one final gift
For all who came to see.
A simple lasting proof that says
I loved and you loved me.

(by D.H.Cramer)

 

 

Not many days pass that I don’t think of my grandmother. I’ve always considered her a kind of matriarch for the maternal side of my family.  Geraldine Anna May Hart Furnia was a slight woman, but her size was quite deceiving because underneath that smallish frame was tremendous strength and courage.

She was born on December 20, 1920.  Her young life was hard as I’ve been told.  She married my grandfather, Paul Furnia who was six years older, when she was sixteen. She married young so she could get out of an abusive family situation.  I never learned what went on though.   Life with my grandfather wasn’t much better,  but she loved him and the family they made together.   Early in the marriage they had four children; then World War II began and he enlisted in the Army and spent part of the war up in Alaska (Kodiak Island). She was left to care for the four children in a home that wasn’t much more than a shack. After the war, three more children were born; one of them my mother.  Grandfather became a logger which he worked till his retirement at the age 67.

They bought a house on Grove Rd next to the Ausable River.  For many years, they grew their own food and didn’t have plumbing until my mother was a girl.  They still lived in the same house while I grew up.

I spent much of my childhood with my grandmother.  I often considered her my surrogate mother as my own worked full-time.  They didn’t have daycare centers during the seventies so family members or friends were often the ones called upon to help watch me (and eventually my brother and sister).

Most of my fondest memories as a girl involved my grandmother.

She was a great storyteller and a self-taught musician.  I literally spent countless hours listening to tales of the past or to the tunes of the banjo or accordion.

She was a devout Catholic and would take me to the Saturday mass each week.

She loved spending time outdoors tending to her large garden, or filling buckets of juicy blueberries.

Most of all, she loved having her house full of family members.  No matter how scattered her children or grandchildren were, we always found our way back to her house a few times a year for huge gatherings.   Storytelling, music and games were the highlights, and each time she was the center of them all.

She was the magnet that kept drawing us back, the glue that bonded us close together, and the heart that continued to beat in all of us while we were apart.

It was heartbreaking to see her pass away on February 22, 1988.   She was only sixty-seven.  Her body gave out long before her spirit wanted to let go.  Emphysema may have claimed her life, but the memories of her will always live on.  Even though we don’t gather together as often as a family, we will always be linked no matter where we are because her heart still beats within us.

Monday Memoir: An Eccentric Outsider

 

I was almost six years old when I was diagnosed with nerve deafness.  I received my first behind-the-ear hearing aid shortly after the initial visit with Ms. Audrey.   The device helped as I was finally able to hear the sounds around me more clearly.  I could finally hear myself talk as well as whoever was trying to talk to me.

I was now able to understand and learn in school.

It certainly was not a “cure-all” as I was still very much a loner.  An outsider.

I spent the next two or three years attending speech therapy at a distant school.  About twice a week, a transportation vehicle would come and pick me up at the tiny private school I attended, and took me fifteen miles away to a moderate size elementary public school where I met with my speech therapist for our one-hour sessions.   Then I would board a public school bus with kids I didn’t know which took me home.

The speech therapy sessions helped, but I still spoke funny.

My accent was odd.  Out-of-place.

People, kids looked at me with strange expressions.

I felt very much alone most of the time.

Imaginary friends helped me through this period, as they would throughout my life.  Even as an adult, I still have imaginary friends.

Does that make me strange?

An outsider who’s not quite all there?

Hmm…yeah, I guess so.

And you know the funny part about all this?

I’m fine with it.  Totally and completely.

Why?

Because I have an excuse to be strange and odd, and what’s that word that a coworker once used to describe me?

Eccentric.

However, by the time I was eleven I’d developed a slight problem with having imaginary friends.   I started to act out some of the things they wanted me to do or where they wanted me to go.

Adventures in other lands.  Or, more like misadventures.

Like this one time when I was playing with my various superhero friends when one of them convinced me that I was Wonder Woman and could leap over a line of six chairs.   I almost cleared them all.  I ended up straddling a rocking chair and spent that evening in the ER.

When I was eleven my best friend was Melanie.  She was a red-head with a fiery temper.  I can’t remember what sparked the idea but she put out a challenge to see who could write the best short story.  I took the challenge and wrote a story about a haunted house where a girl went in to explore and found a decapitated head in the fridge.  Pretty morbid, but this particular challenge altered my life forever.

That day I learned there were other ways of participating in adventures with my imaginary friends; not to mention, much safer.

I didn’t know it at the time, but the writer within me was born.