Category Archives: Parenting

Midnight Madness – Part One

I am not sure what it is about me, but I somehow manage to attract crazies or people in crazy situations and last night was more of the same.

Night time is my time. Mornings are horrible for me. My Princess and the Pea Syndrome hits hard before noon.  Once I have taken my meds the creaking and groaning of my body commences and after a few hours I am able to partially function. I absolutely do not make any appointments before noon unless I am forced to. So I am usually up during the late night hours and frequently go to bed after 3 a.m.

Last night was more of the usual. Frosty was patrolling the back yard, this is a job he takes very seriously and there are some nights that I cannot get him to come back in. He hates 2 things with a passion. The first thing is sirens. He really hates those and will sometimes cry the most pathetic sound you can hear from a ginormous pup like him. The second thing is coyotes.

Frosty is a rescue. They told me that he had been found wandering around out in the desert and he weighed only (hey, he is a tall dog!) 75 lbs when I got him. He was very skinny for his height and was full of parasites. It cost me about $150 to remedy the parasite issue but I love him to death and he adores me and is very protective. VERY. I have a chain link fence around my entire back yard. There is not much behind me but desert brush and a few dirt roads over there is one house. It really is mostly open desert behind me and it is a well known coyote hunting path. I see them often at dusk and early in the morning and they drive Frosty absolutely nuts. My working theory is that he had some run ins with coyotes when he was wandering around in the desert. If he scents them he will start barking. If there are none in the area he will patrol the perimeter of the yard, come in to check on me, then go back out and patrol some more. Recently my next door neighbors acquired a bunch of chickens. Oh joy, not only do they have a weird idea of what morning is (they start crowing at about 3 a.m.) but they are like coyote magnets. The neighbors should be glad Frosty is here or I am pretty sure those coyotes would be having chicken dinner.

During the day he is a couch potato and will either be laying on his love seat or laying on my feet on the floor. He hardly ever barks during the day. He will get excited if people actually ring the doorbell but one look at him and solicitors run for the hills. He is a very intimidating presence to some people just due to his size. I kind of like it that way.

It isn’t that I don’t like people. I do, when I am out and about. I just don’t like them showing up at my door at midnight. Especially if I don’t know them, have never met them or been told about them or whatever. I really don’t know too many people that look at a midnight visitor as a welcome intrusion…..unless maybe a person of the opposite sex with a naughty visit planned….okay, that was my fantasy…sigh….now back to reality.

So I was reading up on some blogs I follow and considering what I was going to be working on next. Frosty was barking his fool head off and I was just about to go out and see if he had something in particular bugging him or if a coyote was just getting too close to the fence.

Knock, knock, knock. Somebody was pounding on my heavy duty screen door at the front of my house. I usually open up my house at night to let it cool down without running my air conditioner. I live i the desert but for those of you not familiar with the High Desert of California, we get some darn cold nights in the fall and winter. Once the sun goes down it goes from 90 to 65 pretty darn fast. It doesn’t usually take too long to cool the house down and I like it a little chilly when I go to sleep. But I am also a bit cautious and even though my front door is open I have one of those heavy duty barred screen doors meant to keep people out and dogs from destroying it.

There is never anything good that comes from a visitor past 10 p.m. in my experience. I found a strange woman standing there. It was pretty obvious that she was very upset and she was visibly shaking. She was also holding a cigarette. Bleh. I thought that maybe she was here to complain about Frosty barking. He was pretty agitated and after She started babbling out her story I realized he had probably been barking because of the turmoil this woman was going through and the fighting that had started a few desert blocks over.

Her story was not unfamiliar to me unfortunately. She began telling me that she lived a few streets over and had gotten into an altercation with her adult son. He is schizophrenic. THIS I understand. My step-son was diagnosed as schizophrenic when he was only 14 years old. I have lived with the heartache that comes when someone you love turns into someone you don’t know and suddenly terrifies you. She told me that he began tearing up her house demanding things that she didn’t understand and cut her phone lines and took her purse.  She said he urinated on her carpets and she was afraid for her life. There is something about night time and schizophrenia. It gets worse at night.

She asked me to call for help. I did. I took a chance on her and let her in the house. Normally I wouldn’t do that but obviously this was not a normal situation in any way. I had 911 on the phone before I opened the door and let her in. I also shut my front door and locked it in case the schizophrenic son had followed her. I brought Frosty in and locked the back door as well and we hunkered down waiting for the police. I had a bit of a dejavu feeling and thought of my step-son. He was all I could think of even as she babbled her story over my iPhone to the police.

Mental illness is so hard for friends and family to understand and sometimes the people that need the help just don’t  get it. The person that is suffering from schizophrenia is frequently unable to function well enough on their own to get themselves help. It is heartbreaking and it is more common than a lot of people know. It can also be hereditary. This I knew from personal experience. My husband’s ex was also schizophrenic and I had experienced some of the horrible results back when we were originally dating. She would show up at my house in the middle of the night screaming and yelling and was totally irrational. She was and still is, a scary person. In her case she was also a meth addict and had been diagnosed as schizophrenic when she was a teen from what I understand. I’m not sure why she was never hospitalized and given help or maybe she was and I just never heard the details.

My step-son was a sweet kid when I met him at the age of 9 and we were buddies. When I started noticing the unusual behavior he had just turned 14. It is not unusual for puberty to trigger schizophrenia. In his case the worst started showing up when he was at school. He got suspended for stabbing sharpened pencils into the seats of the school bus he rode on when we lived in Las Vegas. It was the odd outbursts and the strange hand motions and things he said that had me insisting that he be evaluated by a doctor. My husband fought me every step of the way. He did not want to admit that there was anything wrong with his son.

At first he was very open with the doctors. He told them that he could read minds and that he heard the thoughts of everybody around him. He thought he had super powers. This was back when the Sci Fi show Roswell was on television. The show centered around a group of alien teens that had landed in Roswell and somehow the show managed to get into my step-son. In the show the alien teens had different taste buds and frequently poured massive amounts of hot sauce on their food. He started eating everything with Tabasco on it. He told the psychiatrist that he thought he was an alien and we were hiding his real heritage from him.

The problems at the school increased. He would suddenly strike out at fellow students thinking that he heard them saying stuff about him. My husband continued to be in denial and I fought as hard as I could to get him help. My husband accused me of “picking” on him and kept saying that he could beat this problem if he put his mind to it. He didn’t “believe in”  psychiatrists, psychologists and medications for mental illness. I continued to fight him on his son’s behalf. It took its tole on our marriage.

The older he got, the worse the schizophrenia became. While we lived in Las Vegas I was also fighting for my own life and battling breast cancer. My nights were spent working in a casino and my days were spent grabbing sleep here and there and getting to my doctors and chemo treatments, then radiation and trying to get help for my step-son as well. During this period my own son was beaten with a belt by his biological father and I found myself involved in a court fight when I refused to let him see him without getting counseling himself. He also suffered from mental illness that I believe was brought on by drugs he did way back in the 1970’s. When my son’s biological father showed up for the meeting with the counselor….well they ended up calling 911 on him back then. It is everywhere. So many damaged people from so many things.

I know there were a lot of things that should have been handled differently. I felt like I was battling alone. I loved my step-kids. They were my kids from the time they were 3, 6 and 9. Their mother had nothing to do with them from 1993 on. Our years in Vegas were hard ones for me. There were some good memories from the first few years but once the cancer hit I was trying my best to just keep my head above water. My husband had an alcoholic father that would get drunk and hit him as a child to correct him. He was determined to be the exact opposite of his own father and took the position that anything the kids did was on them because it was their lives and they would learn from their own mistakes. My position was that we were the parents and it was up to us to guide them and correct them. It was a constant battle. I was trying to fight for their well being and yet I was always the bad guy. They thought I was being mean, I was trying to be a good mom and employee and stay alive.

That first year of the big C, my daughter was pregnant and having difficulties with her pregnancy. She and her husband lived in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas. We consulted each other frequently and tried to support each other through our mutual doctor appointments. I had kids at home and my step-son’s issues and I was pretty sure I was going to lose my mind as well. I regret not being more open with all of my kids and step-kids about the pain and agony I was going through at the time. All they knew was that I snapped at them over things like getting their chores done and school work and would be cross over that they didn’t understand. At first when we were trying to deal with the schizophrenia the rest of my kids and step-kids thought it was kind of funny. They would tease him and go along with his delusions of his super powers. Even my husband would poke fun at him when he would start telling them that he knew what they were thinking and when he would spend 3 hours in the bathroom….in the dark….in the bathtub…because he thought he was creating fireballs in his hands.

My husband seldom participated in any of the counseling that my step-son went to. He didn’t take him to appointments, I did. Then came the big fight. I don’t know what started it, but we had been having a lot of problems with aggression from my step-son. This is pretty common. Imagine if you had voices in your head constantly telling you that everyone around you was out to get you. He would thrust his chest out and bunch up his fists and push you. When he took his meds things would calm down. But just getting the meds into him was a war with my husband. I had to leave it to him to get his son to take the meds because I was heading to work late at night when he needed to take his meds at bed time.

All I knew later was that my step-son had started getting aggressive and supposedly swung his skateboard at my husband. There was a knock down drag out fight and my step-son ended up with a black eye and was thrown out of the house. He was 17 by then. He moved in with his girlfriend and her mother and out of our house. I was horrified by the whole thing but had no control over any of it.

I had multiple conversations with the girlfriend’s mother who herself believed that he shouldn’t be on meds, he needed a good church. This was along the lines of what my husband believed. He was Catholic and thought that maybe a priest could exorcise the demons that were tormenting his son. I cried a lot during that time.. We were in the process of a job transfer to Northern Utah for my husband and I was still trying to recover from all of the medical treatments and get my health back. So we left Las Vegas and moved to Northern Utah, leaving my step-son behind.

 

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Love and Pepper Spray

Sometimes love is shown with flowery hearts and large boxes of expensive chocolates. Other times it is in the words printed and embellished on heavy card stock and given to you on Valentine’s Day or other holidays.

For me LOVE  was shown with a late night gift of a pink canister of pepper spray. IMG_0266 (2)

First let me say that I am very grateful to even have a roof over my head. My income of $1013 per month (after they take my payment for my Medicare out of my disability payments) is right at what is considered the Poverty Level cutoff in the U.S. The fact that I am able to purchase my home is due to the fact that my mother and step-father happened to own a rental house that had recently become vacant. No bank would be crazy enough to loan $60,000 to me with that kind of income.

I love my house. 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms a yard that is fenced in with chain link fencing in the back. That keeps the coyotes that wander through the open lots behind my house, away from my yard. For me it is the perfect size to allow me to have friends and family come visit should they so desire.

HOWEVER…..this is a big however here, the area has slid downhill in the years since my step-father started buying houses to fix up and rent out. Years ago there were grand plans for California City, or Cal City as it is known to the locals. At one time the area was booming with Aerospace being a big draw for young families to come and live and work in the area. We are fairly close to Edwards Air Force Base and both military families and civilian support staff as well as employees for the big aerospace companies flocked to the area looking for affordable housing and a shorter commute to work. My step-father worked for JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) yeah he was an actual honest to goodness rocket scientist!

The economy in the area has been circling the drain for quite awhile now. Jobs out here are practically non-existent. The local paper’s job section is rarely more than one column and most of that is space fillers. As I was writing this I checked online with the local paper, The Mojave Desert News and found zero jobs and no classified ads at all. That tells you a lot. The local news includes details as to why Sex Offender Laws are being repealed because the city is afraid they will be sued by sex offenders. Really? The actual law that they repealed? One concerning Halloween…..The law prevented sex offenders from decorating their houses in a way that would attract children to them and prevented the sex offenders from leaving their porch lights on (the signal in the U.S. at least, that the home has candy to distribute on Halloween) and from answering their doors to small children as they Trick or Treat on Halloween night.  They are more concerned about what  sex offenders MIGHT do, than they are about protecting the children of the law abiding citizens of the city. Mind you there are no sex offenders protesting the laws, nobody suing the city. They are repealing the law over something that MIGHT happen.

As a parent and a grandparent of small children I am HORRIFIED by this.

But all of this is just another indication of how the area has declined since my mom and step-father left the area and retired to Missouri where my step-father’s family is from. When I visited them here years ago the town was a quaint little desert town with one street light and one main road in and out of town. There were tiny little shops here and there and one small market with the basic necessities. You had to drive 15 miles to get to a decent sized grocery store and that is still the way it is. They did get a Dollar General Market recently but that still has very limited groceries and to get any decent food items you still have to go to Mojave.

There are other more serious indication of decline if you know where to look for them. Now there are graffiti covered stop signs and abandoned, boarded up buildings. If you look up you will see pairs of shoes tied together with the laces and tossed up to hang from telephone lines. I had learned during the years we lived in Las Vegas that this is a gang thing. Yes, gangs have now made their way to small town America all over the map and they have made their way here.

Los Angeles is a mere 108 miles from here and slowly the poverty stricken masses are moving away from the city centers and out to places like Cal City. Section 8 (low income housing subsidy program) residences are common out here and welfare recipients go where the Section 8 housing is.

When I visited here years ago the streets were quiet, people nodded at you in the stores and everything had a clean albeit windswept look to it. Now half of the stores are vacant and trash is blown up against empty store fronts. Where you used to see people riding about in their personal golf carts you now see young punks walking holding their baggy ill fitting jeans and empty shopping carts scattered about empty lots. A visit to the local gas station and liquor store takes longer now as the lines contain many men, young and old alike, purchasing their daily malt liquor.

The gas station on the corner closest to my house has rolling papers and hookahs prominently displayed along with large signs posted everywhere regarding shop lifting.

My son took one look around the town and began asking about the safety here. It was when we stopped to pick up pizza that he finally had confirmation of his suspicions. The chatty cashier at the pizza place confirmed that there had been a drive by shooting as recently as 2 weeks ago. Oh boy, goody. She confirmed all of my son’s worst fears.

And so it was that on this late Friday night, my son and I drove to Rite-Aid on the corner of our only 4 way light and after telling me to lock my doors, he ran in and bought dear old Mom her first can of pepper spray.

Never have I felt so loved.

Halloween, Teens and Party Time

I love this time of the year, Halloween, then Thanksgiving and as the topper, Christmas!

For years our house was the go to place for Halloween in the small town we lived in up in Utah. Flyers were printed, decorations hung in the trees out front, complete with flying witches, ghosts and pirates. We built on to the decoration list each year and each year I called the Domino’s pizza in town and ordered several hundred dollars worth of pizzas. Did I mention the part where the flyers were distributed to the ENTIRE high school? Oh, and there was only one high school in the entire county? My son was a bit of a social animal and always managed to line up a band of some sort. My step-son kinda just went along for the ride, he wasn’t anywhere near as social but he loved the party too. My step-daughter was there for the first party but had moved out and was starting her own family by the time the others rolled around. My other step-son, well we will talk about him some other time because my heart aches to talk about him.

I made little mummy fingers from Vienna sausages, strips of tortillas and ketchup. There were witches hats made from Keebler cookies and Hershey’s kisses. Spiders made from little peanut butter filled crackers with pretzels poked into the sides for legs. There was Jello filled with gummy worms and chocolate pudding and crumbled Oreo’s (graveyard “dirt”) with marshmallows and candy corn. Yeah it was a junk food heaven. (if anybody wants recipes let me know) What more could a teenager want?

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For the punch we had rainbow sherbet mixed with Mt Dew for a cool greenish tinged and quite frankly really gross looking but delicious drink. To give it a little extra pizzazz I dropped a chunk of dry ice down in the bottom for a bubbling smoky looking brew. The kids loved it and I loved seeing the looks on their faces when the fog bubbled up from the bottom of the punch bowl. After the first year I made sure I had extra Mt Dew and sherbet because it went faster than I ever would have dreamed.

Now you might think I was crazy to take all of this on and maybe I was. My ex wasn’t much help when it came to doing….well anything, involved with this party. But I wanted this to be filled with good memories for the kids down the road when they were adults and looked back on their high school years. I did all of this for them.

I am also a realist. These were teenagers and this was a party. The bottom of the flyers had our contact info for the parents of the kids and a brief statement that anybody caught drinking or smoking pot or whatever would be immediately ejected from the party. The flyers also invited the parents to stop by anytime should they wish to. Against my ex’s wishes I also called the Sheriff’s Department that covered our area and invited them to the party as well. Every year. This was clearly stated on the flyer. I know to a lot of people that probably makes me sound like a total party pooper. Well I really don’t care what anybody thinks about that because I took my job as a parent very seriously. My ex….well he had different views. We lived in a very tight knit community where the majority of the residents were Mormon. We were not, but we had relatively good relations with all of our neighbors. I was never really sure what all of the adults thought of the parties but the kids raved about their memories to me on more than one occasion so I was satisfied.

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I have some bittersweet memories of these parties. My sons (yes I looked upon my step-sons as mine as well) had a lot of friends that were frequent visitors in our house and called me “Mom” as they walked in and out of our house on a regular basis. I spent many hours preparing for the parties with my sons and my pseudo sons. The decorations were elaborate as well with the animatronic 6 ft. tall Butler at the door and the motion activated ghosts, witches and pirate tied to the trees, upstairs balcony railing and front porch. There was a fog machine, strobe lights and black lights. By the time that our “guests” started arriving I was usually so exhausted and in so much pain that I personally was unable to really enjoy them.

I was forced into the position of being the party Nazi, walking through all parts of the house, yard and even the street to check the parking situation and make sure nobody was out there drinking or smoking pot. My ex was supposed to share this duty but wasn’t really much help. To this day my heart becomes filled with pain as I recall catching him coming out of our bedroom smelling of pot himself. Parents are supposed to guide their children and show them by example and this was a constant war between us. For the record, at the time of the parties ( I really don’t know the laws now) possession or being under the influence of marijuana was a felony. Utah is harsher than most states.

Our driveway in front of the detached garage became the stage and concert venue and we had strict rules about the noise and the cut off time. I made sure ahead of time that the neighbors knew what to expect. My ex was supposed to be keeping an eye on the bonfire that was in the backyard. This was a popular part of the Halloween party since this was Northern Utah in October and was pretty darn cold most years. My pseudo sons were always very helpful and I loved them more than they will ever know. I thanked them for their help every year but I never told anybody about the physical pain I was in due to my fibromyalgia and my blown disks. I kept soldiering on.

Looking back at the parties I really can’t think of anything I would have done differently except maybe to express my thanks again and again to the kids that helped me set stuff up. I don’t know if I should have told them of my physical pain or not. There was nothing anybody could do.  A couple of years ago when I went to retrieve all of my belongings from the house my ex and his girlfriend now live in, I took all of the Halloween stuff. He said he would never use any of it and so I took everything. He made the nasty remark that he could afford to buy new stuff and I couldn’t. Yeah, real nice.

When I decorate now I have memories of putting up these same items with all of those boys that helped and when I see the looks on the faces of the little kids that come to my door I am happy. I won’t be here at my home this year, I will be on another grand adventure in Georgia, but I am looking forward to decorating again next year.