Saturday, July 9, 2016

Sacramento, California

Between our savings and the few grand my parents left me, we began to look into retirement communities sometime in late 2012, eventually settling in a luxury park the summer of 2013. We have a beautiful 2-bed, 2-bath 1983 home, though I’m astonished by the amount of traffic and daytime noise here, which mostly comes from landscaping sounds.

In January of 2014, we took the $7000 worth of travel credit I won back in Oregon and went on a weeklong vacation in Maui. It was easily the best week of my life. I did things I never dreamed I’d ever do. We both loved every minute of it. We snorkeled, went down in a submarine, and went catamaran sailing. All the while we attended a luau, enjoyed the ocean and the pool at the fancy resort we stayed at, along with dining, shopping and whale watching. The island of Maui and Lanai were so alive with color I’d never seen anywhere else. I hated to leave in the end and return to cold, boring NorCal.

Everything changed on July 9 of 2014 when I had a traumatic experience with my thyroid medication a few months after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s (and high cholesterol). My heart was booming in my chest and I thought I was having a heart attack. I have struggled with the medication on and off for the last three years and dealt with a kind of anxiety I’d never experienced before 2014 during my worst of times in life. It was, and probably always will be, the most terrifying moments of my life. So traumatizing was it that I switched medical groups and doctors, and began therapy rather quickly. I felt like my old team of doctors weren’t willing to be very helpful or informative. My new team of doctors acknowledged and explained what happened and I learned a lot more about the drug itself.

Quite unexpectedly, my therapist and I developed more of a bond than usual, but then she “thought it through,” so to speak. This left me with mixed emotions. I was hoping for at least a friendship, but I also totally understood that she was bound to ethics. I just felt it would have been nice had she not led me on to begin with.

She performed EMDR therapy on me and taught me a few techniques to help alleviate my anxiety, which has been very helpful. I don’t expect to ever go back to the person I was before the trauma began, but I do my best. I have found that PTSD has a way of both strengthening and weakening the spirit.

I also went into perimenopause around the same time and this helped to fuel my anxiety, along with my ADD and rapid HR.

And early 2016 I reunited with my sister for the first time in 25 years. It was quite an emotional reunion. I also got to see two of my nieces. We first went on a cruise to Mexico, which was mostly a shitty experience because I had a heat stroke. The land part of that vacation was definitely more enjoyable than the sea part of it.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Auburn, California

We started off in a series of hotels in the Sacramento area, some nicer than others, finally coming to settle in Northgate’s Extended Stay America hotel.

In the fall of that year would be when we experienced what I currently consider to be not my scariest moment in life, but I would say it ranks number three on the list from scary to scariest. I ended up reuniting with my parents after nearly a decade when they came to our rescue as our finances worsened to the point that it looked like we weren’t going to make it. I thought it ironic how they wouldn’t rescue me from the places I was in as a teenager, but 25 years later they would rescue me from the other side of the country. So you could say I had mixed emotions about them. Still do and probably always will.  Even so, I was tremendously grateful to them, but this didn’t undo the past.

Fortunately, the economy had yet to collapse and he found work just two weeks after our arrival. This was especially good since we were denied unemployment. His then low paying job didn’t come close to matching our high cost of living. We had to pawn some things, and if it wasn’t for me eventually winning $9000, who knows how long we would have been stuck in the hotel since it was sucking up every last dime we had. As soon as we could make the money it had to be spent, leaving the task of saving anything up an impossible dream.

But things got a lot worse before they got better and that was when I decided to take a chance and reach out to my parents. Because they didn’t accept collect calls and we had no way to call them directly, we had to go through my SIL. Of course, she and the rest of the family never cared enough to call back and see how we were doing later on after they put the call through to my parents. But they got a hold of them nonetheless and we explained our situation to them. They overnighted us some money and faxed in a few nights at the hotel after we spent 36 hours homeless and just driving around in our old ratty truck.

Our stuff was in storage and for a little while we didn’t think we would be able to come up with a lousy $100 to pay the next month’s rent, but one of my wins took care of that at the last minute.

It wasn’t that we didn’t have money, it was that we couldn’t access it. The fucking debit card company screwed up and sent our new card to our old address, so we had to wait for a new card before we could access the money. It was horribly frustrating, depressing and scary. I won’t even get into how pissed off I was.

Things slowly got better and in April 2008, after 8-9 months in hotels, we found a trailer out in the country in the small town of Auburn, which we would rent for five years. The landlord also lived on the land. He was an efficient landlord, but he sure could be a pest at times, dropping in on us unannounced. He had a loud motorcycle and would let his dogs bark their asses off when he was home. It was sad because he stole what was otherwise a very peaceful setting. The trailer was only 500-square-feet and nearly as old as I was, but at least it was something and it sure beat living in hotels.

During our half a decade there, Tom was forced to spend 2.5 years on unemployment, thus leading to the second scariest thing I ever went through. Our lovely government terminated his checks before he could find work. Yeah, we were one of the Tier 4 nightmares, and my inability to work didn’t help. But if ever there was an example of miraculous timing it was in the fall of 2011 because right in the nick of time as we were about to run out of money and seriously considering ending it all in preference of a quicker, painless way to go as opposed to slowly starving in the streets, he was given a job.

Our trailer years were a time of learning and reuniting for me. Although I would come to regret some of them, I reunited with Andy, Maliheh and my sister. I also made a lot of interesting cyber friends all over the world, some of which let me down in big ways. Perhaps it was naïve of me to think we would always be friends, but even if it was, I was still hurt and angry. I kind of crawled into a shell for a while, knowing that things aren’t always as they seem and that people you can’t see face-to-face aren’t always as sincere as they may seem online. I still hesitate to make friends both on and offline, though I’m not completely opposed to it. I just don’t actively seek them out. Besides, the best of friendships and relationships are never planned or sought out.

I began to get into online journaling in 2008, though I had been writing privately since 1987. Sharing both journals and stories is how I “met” a lot of people.

The discovery of free language learning sites was a wonderful thing too, and I more than doubled my languages, though I’m not fluent in all of them. I’m fairly fluent in ASL and Spanish, and I know enough Italian and German to get by. I can also read some Portuguese, French, Esperanto and Dutch.

The year 2012 brought a lot of death my way. My parents and brother all died that year. Dad of a heart attack, mom of a stroke, and my brother of liver cancer. It was the first time I was glad I wasn’t close to my family.

The same economy that nearly killed us would be our big break as far as becoming homeowners for the first time in nine years. He began working in late 2011. We were finally able to get some things we’d needed for a while, including some dental work that I was way overdue for. It was amazing how fast our lives took a turn for the better.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Klamath Falls, Oregon

We only spent five years in Maricopa. In 2003, he was unfairly discriminated against at work for not being religious and he lost his job. Then we lost our house a year later with no way to prove his case. At that point we decided to leave Arizona altogether. On top of all this, we feared it was only a matter of time before those who legally screwed me in the name of hate and spite might use their connections to come after me again. One of the perps may’ve been booted from the police force, but they still had connections, and we didn’t want to be their sitting ducks, waiting for them to take the opportunity to screw us even worse, or maybe even harm us.

The town was going to hell anyway with more and more homes popping up, land being split, and of course, the good old Mexican drug cartel. Shootings were becoming a regular thing. Had we been in the wrong place at the wrong time to witness something we shouldn’t have witnessed, that would have been our asses.

So the next question was what state we wanted to move to? Did we want to stay in Arizona and just move to another part of the state? Did we want to head to Colorado? Oregon?

Yeah, how about Oregon, we decided. Land was awfully cheap there. We should have figured there was a reason for that, but being the young adventurers we were, we crammed our tiny little RV with our most important belongings one sweltering June day in 2004. Then we headed north to the 2.5-acre parcel of land in the Oregon wilderness we’d “won” on eBay along with the RV. The land was located on Bly Mountain at an elevation of over 5000 feet and was definitely the most remote place I ever lived. Or thought I was going to live. The plan, since we no longer had house payments and utility bills, was to build a dome house.

It was a very sad time because while we were both ready to leave Arizona, I knew I would miss the house and some aspects of desert living. But now we were about to delve into the scary unknown and to be reminded once again that life isn’t usually what we plan it to be.

The first night we spent in Quartzite at a truck stop in the damn near unbearable heat. Even the rats were feeling it.

“How’s it feel to be jobless and homeless?” Tom asked me when we stopped to eat.

“Weird,” I said. “How about you?”

“It’s exciting,” he answered.

Let’s just say that over the years our opinion has changed a bit, LOL. Being that way by choice and having a place to hole up in is one thing. But when you’re forced to be that way it’s anything but exciting.

So, after additional stops in Barstow, Merced and someplace near Redding, we officially entered the Pacific Northwest. The land was lovely and very serene with its wildflowers and butterflies flitting about the junipers and Ponderosa pines, but damn was it cold! Especially at night. I knew that if it could be that way in the summer that the winters would be virtually unbearable. On top of that was the risk of being attacked by bears and big cats, and not being able to get the police out for the better part of an hour in an emergency, not that I trusted them very much after the corruption I witnessed and was a victim of in Arizona.

We also found there was no way to dig a septic, for even with an ice pick we simply could not cut through the volcanic rock that lay below. The expense of hauling water for showers and gas for the generator was mounting faster than we could earn the money to pay for.

By August we knew we would have to abandon the land, the RV and all our grand plans, and head into the city. The tiny town of Klamath Falls was over 4000 feet in elevation. Unlike in Phoenix or even Maricopa, running into people you knew was common there. It was a very depressing time for me because we not only struggled horribly in the beginning financially, but I hated being forced to once again rent, and I feared we would never own our own place again.

We stayed in a couple of family-owned motels, one of them by a really nice Indian family. By Halloween we were able to rent a duplex. We were there for 10 months. Next to us during the first part of our time there was a disabled woman who was quiet except for when her grandkids visited. Then another disabled woman moved in that was never quiet unless she was asleep. She was a rude bitch all the way. She allowed her service dog to bark in the shared yard, blasted her TV, and had obnoxious company of all kinds.

Although it was a tiny tilted old dump at just $450 a month, we were thrilled to finally be unattached from others and to rent a house from the summer of 2005 to the summer of 2007. He’d gotten a huge promotion at work right after we moved in, and I began entering sweepstakes and winning things like crazy. Even big prizes like a Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas, Puerto Rico in the Grand Turks & Caicos.

While I still hated the cold and the snow, our luck had really turned around. We spent money like crazy and we know we should have saved some of it, but we had fun nonetheless. The only real annoyances were some barking dogs and loud car stereos. During this time we didn’t license and use the old truck. Everything we needed was within walking distance.

Like many little girls and boys that grow up in New England, I’d always dreamed of living in California. In July 2007, it was time to once again pull up stakes for what we hoped would be even more opportunities and make that California dream a reality… even if most of the first five years would be a living nightmare.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Maricopa, Arizona

We bought a large 4-bedroom manufactured home and had it placed on a 10-acre parcel of land we bought as well. While I loved not having neighbors a stone’s throw away, the land was a bit dumpy in some sections. It could get very windy outside the valley, and people's trash, which they usually burned since there was no trash collection in the area along with mail delivery, often blew onto our land. Also, someone had apparently gutted a trailer at some point.

The land had sage and mesquite trees for the most part with a few barrel cacti. There were no saguaros on our property, Joshua trees or ocotillos. There were a few washes running through it, but for the most part, the land was barren and boring and mostly consisted of dirt and sand. It was, after all, the desert. We tried to plant a few different things there, but the soaring temperatures, which often reached the 120s, fried anything we tried to plant.

The monsoon storms were pretty powerful and could sometimes get scary, knocking out the power from time to time. The thunder was like gunshots and the lightning flashed like a strobe light. Rain came down in heavy sheets, causing a run-off and occasional flash flooding.

The wildlife consisted of prairie dogs, tarantulas, Gila monsters, iguanas, roadrunners, vultures, quails, various snakes including rattlesnakes, cottontails and jackrabbits. The air stunk a lot because of all the dairy farms in the area.

Despite having a rough time making ends meet, I slowly expanded my doll collection. I started getting more serious about creative writing and improving my skills with that. We thought of various ways to add to our income, but as is usually the case, it just wasn't that simple. If it was, no one would struggle.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Phoenix, Arizona

Before leaving this apartment complex I started working as an exotic dancer for several months, then eventually moved to a 2-bedroom apartment at the Crystal Creek complex. The guy who lived a couple doors down was a customer of mine that told me about it. This "friendship" soon ended when he proved to be quite a liar and just not who he said he was.

Right next to me was my future husband, Tom. Shortly after I moved in, he helped me move to the back of the complex in an identical apartment, away from the busy main road. At this time, he bought his brother's house. His new wife had a nicer home to move into.

The more Tom and I fell for each other over the summer, and the sicker I got of living attached to others, I decided to take a chance and move in with him in September 1993. It was a corner 2-bedroom house just a few feet from the neighbors, and as I would be quite dismayed to learn, people in houses aren't always quieter. In a culture that often forbade dogs as household pets but more like something you stored outside and brought food and water to, the neighborhood was filled with tons of barking.

When I first moved in with him there was a family next door with a couple of dogs, but they moved a month or two later. Next came a large Mormon family, followed by black welfare bums, followed by Mexican welfare bums. Each drove me progressively crazier. The last two did some horrible things to me and my family, but I'll skip that... for now. Anyone who's that curious can still ask me about it.

While we lived in Phoenix, I had surgery done to create an ear canal on my left side. I was born with it fused shut. I got a little bit of hearing, but not much. The main purpose of this surgery was to make sure I didn't have any tumors or anything nasty growing on the inside since I was having more and more sensitivity. The problem turned out to be the frame and that was dismantled.

In the late 90s, I ceased all contact with my family. He lost his father to lung cancer around this time as well. We would then be horribly used without much compensation by others in his family until we finally put our foot down, needing to hang onto our money and live our lives for ourselves.

For pets, we switched from having guinea pigs, mice, hamsters and gerbils to rats once we learned how intelligent and sociable they are. They're the cutest of the rodents too, in my opinion.

After about 18 years of smoking, I quit the ciggies in 1997.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Norwich, Connecticut

I moved to the Norwich Housing Authority for low-income people in February 1992. I absolutely hated it. The apartment was small, old and dumpy, and the dividing walls were paper-thin. A large family lived next to me and the kids drove me crazy. There was always tons of kids and other commotion outside as well.

My financial struggles continued, I could barely get any sleep, and the stress took its toll on my asthma. While it was nice to be close to my sister and nieces, it was a move I would quickly come to regret. Just four months later I was in the hospital with a breakdown. My father, who had since moved to Florida, drove up and helped ship me out west with Andy.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

South Deerfield, Massachusetts

There isn't much to say about the tiny town of South Deerfield, Massachusetts because I didn't even live there for a year. One of my asthma attacks caused me to have to go to the ER one night where I met a friendly nurse named Kim. We hit it off right away and became friends, and found that we have several things in common. She told me about South Deerfield and how much cleaner and safer it was than Springfield. She lived in one of two apartments on the third floor of a business that supplied lumber for homes with her husband. He was a police officer in a neighboring town.

In the spring of 1991, I moved into the apartment next to her and her husband. She was busy a lot and Andy had moved to Arizona. Most of my time in South Deerfield was depressing and lonely. I even got in trouble for prank calling a woman named Maliheh that I met in a gay bar and that I felt led me on and was very rude to me in the end.

While the apartment I had was spacious, unique, modern and totally gorgeous, I definitely didn't have much of a life to go with it. I struggled financially and felt very alone much of the time.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Springfield, Massachusetts

A few days before my 19th birthday I moved out on my own in Springfield, Massachusetts. This was in the mid-80s. I started in a 1-bedroom apartment on the ground floor. I moved to another 1-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor in the same building but around the corner. After two years, I left the building and headed to another section of town where I had a 1-bedroom apartment on the second floor of a subsidized building for low-income people since I was then put on disability. After another two years in this building, I returned to my fourth-floor apartment, the building now under new management. This was in 1989.

During my time in Springfield, I would have a handful of boyfriends and girlfriends, most of which weren't very serious. The two that stand out in my mind the most are Brenda and Kacey.

I also had a handful of friends and acquaintances there. My friendship with Jenny ended (along with my relationship with my brother who basically abandoned the whole family), but another childhood friend, Jessie, was a friend while I was there.

I was also friends with an older woman for a while named Emily, a young troubled woman named Paula, and a couple of losers named Fran and Kevin (Nervous).

My most prominent friend was a gay guy named Andy. Our parents had been friends in the 70s.

My most memorable neighbors were an old couple named Eddy and Josephine (Jo), Nancy, Jai, Steve, Hank, Nelly, and two old sisters named Anna and Julia.

Being young, single, and more sociable back in those days, there are too many people to list.

Before I was put on disability I did a few menial jobs... worked at a concession stand, McDonald's, housekeeping in a hotel as well as houses, and waitressing.

My most memorable coworkers were Paula (the one I ended up being friends with for nearly 30 years), Michelle (who briefly lived with me and had an affair with my brother along with a million others), Linda and Norah. Norah was a bitch from England who was one of the hotel supervisors, but I still had a crush on her despite her snobbery.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Childhood & Family

Born in 1965, I grew up in the small town of Longmeadow, Massachusetts. I lived with my parents, brother and sister in a 4-bedroom house next to my maternal grandparents' 2-bedroom house. We had a summer cottage in Old Lyme, Connecticut.

I was born healthy with the exception of a deformed/deaf left ear which should have been left alone yet plastic surgery was done on it in a botched attempt to make it look "normal." I kind of get that my parents might have thought they were doing me a favor, but I think they were doing themselves more of a favor than they were me.

My only other health issues were asthma and allergies.

Dad was an easy-going guy with a good sense of humor. His only fault was letting his wife abuse their children as she did. She was a very negative, domineering woman.

My brother Larry was 12 years older than me, and my sister Tammy was 8 years older. Because they left home while I was still fairly young, it was almost as if I were an only child.

In 2012 my parents and brother all died for different reasons. My father had a heart attack, my mother had a stroke, and my brother had liver cancer. It was the first time in my life I was actually glad we weren't close.

I never knew my paternal grandfather. My paternal grandmother, who came to live with us about 5 years before her death, died at age 75 in 1985. Both my maternal grandparents also died in 1985 at the same age.

I had 2 uncles and 2 aunts, none of which I was ever very fond of or that I've heard from in years. Same goes for my 5 first cousins. I'm not in touch with any of my extended family except for a cousin who is now in her 80s.

My parents always had poodles for pets and sometimes birds as well. For us kids it was usually guinea pigs or gerbils.

I loved music, singing, playing with dolls, swinging on swings, playing pretend, coloring, and doing most of what children like to do. I was a creative child with a vivid and wild imagination. Too wild for my mother who was quick to critique and put me down every chance she got, greatly harming my self-esteem, my confidence, and sometimes my will to go on. When she finally gave up on me after a 5-month stint in the Brattleboro Retreat in Vermont for failing to "grow up" and be "normal," I ended up in two foster homes, one in which I had wonderful Italian foster parents, and another a neglectful black woman for a foster mother.

The last stop was to be placed in a residential school for girls called Valleyhead for two long years. It was a horrible place to be because it was so structured and some of the staff were abusive, and I even attempted suicide. Eventually the FBI shut the place down for its treatment of students.

My brother eventually went on to have 3 kids that I know of, and my sister had 3 daughters.

My wonderful husband of 23 years and I have no kids. He is a native of Arizona and not in touch with any of his family for reasons I'm not going to get into. Tom is 8 years older than me, has a good job, and is in good health. He is a very passive, intelligent man. I can't imagine life without him.