It’s Not Just a Hair Thing . . .

As far back as the Dark Ages, I had this thing about hair. My dolls lived in fear, wondering which one would be next to get their hair chopped off. When I was fifteen, I started cutting my hair. But I always left enough to roll it in curlers.


Men, have you ever tried sleeping in these things? It’s like laying your head on a pile of rocks. I tried sleeping sitting up, hanging my head over the side of the bed, tossing and turning all night long trying to get comfortable. Finally, I came up with a solution.

The hair dryer from Mars. Worked like a charm. When my hair was dry, I took out the stupid curlers and went to sleep.

Then there was the brushing, the teasing and styling, and cans of hairspray.

And those frizzy, Bozo the Clown perms you couldn’t comb with a garden rake.



Then came Susan Powter. Remember her? The Susan Powter TV show back in the 90’s?  Well, I’ll never forget her. The moment she strutted her skinny self across the TV screen wearing stilettos and a skimpy bikini, I fell in love. She was spirited, she was funny, she was cocky and sassy. And she was BALD! 

In that wide-eyed shocking moment I saw liberation! I saw  no more curlers. No more perms. No more curling irons setting my hair on fire. No more hours of combing and teasing and spraying and worrying about the wind and the rain and the humidity messing my hair up. I’m gonna shave my head!

It was nuts. It was insane. It was absolutely scary. But running the clippers through my hair and watching it fall to the floor was the easy part. Dealing with the unconventional choice I made took some getting used to; the gawking stares, the pointing fingers and whispers. I found the whole thing rather amusing, even laughed out loud when strangers asked me if I was sick, and when children asked if I was a girl. But the funniest of all was when a woman, assuming that I had cancer and undergoing treatment sympathetically told me to keep up the good fight!

 

 

 

Enough!

I am happy to announce that Chicken Soup for the Soul has accepted this article that I submitted to them. The on-sale date is scheduled for May 5, 2015. The book title is Time to Thrive.

I was sitting at my dresser brushing my long red hair when suddenly Mom stormed through the door and started slapping me around, screaming and yelling, “I told you to stay away from those kids! They’re nothing but trouble! Then you have the nerve to bring them to the house!”

I liked the brother and sister. I had spent the entire day with them wondering what was so bad about them. They didn’t curse. They didn’t smoke. They didn’t pick-pocket the stores we went in; none of the things that I thought mom considered bad. I even invited them to go to Bible Study with me that night and they agreed.

So I brought them home with me.

Mom’s face said it all. It was like standing in front of a Judge, my mother scowling down at the three of us standing before her.

“They’re going with me to Bible Study,” I said hurriedly, hoping that would smooth her feathers and make her happy.

I thought a lot of things I did would make her happy. Going to church. Reading my Bible. Never hanging out with the wrong crowd. Obeying all her strict, religious rules. Living the squeaky-clean life of a Puritan. But in the end, I failed. She always raised the bar just a little higher, and like a fool, knowing I couldn’t jump over it, I’d try. And fail. And try again.

Of course I understood. She had a terrible, abusive childhood. Her mother, an immigrant from Germany, couldn’t raise her twelve children alone, so she surrendered the youngest two, my mother and her sister, to an orphanage.

From the time I can remember, I lived and relived her childhood horrors. Not only in the stories she told, but in the guilt and shame I felt for her sadness and pain. For her anger and rage. For not being enough to make her happy.

Trying to pay the debt I thought I owed cost me my life. I lost my identity, my thoughts, my hopes and dreams, my choices. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see my youthful, freckled face; I saw her wrinkled, angry scowl.

By the time I married and had a child, I believed that everything that went wrong was my fault. A slap in the face till my ears rung was my fault. Slamming me against the wall and being choked was my fault. Running out and leaving me all night was my fault. Ending the marriage in divorce was my fault.

When my son was five, I met and married a man who changed my life. He saw all the ugly inside me; all the hurt, anger and rage, and kept loving me. But it wasn’t enough to save me from myself.

Just five minutes with my mother set off a time bomb inside me. When I went home, I would blow up at my family. That’s when I sought counseling. That’s when all the bitterness and self-loathing, false guilt and shame began pouring out. That’s when, with God’s help, I began sorting through the rubble and found the little rag doll that was tossed and forgotten there. That’s when I picked her up, tattered and worthless as she was, and embraced her in my arms. That’s when my eyes began to see.

It was the hardest thing I had ever done; worse than going through my divorce. I walked out of my mother’s life. I said enough of her power and control! Enough of her self-pity! Enough of her dumping the weight of the world on my shoulders! Enough! Enough!

After two years of counseling, my therapist suggested I try talking to my mother. Immediately, my heart pounded in my chest, fearing that one moment spent with her would destroy every ounce of progress I had made. I told him I would consider it.

Several months later, I opened my eyes to a beautiful Saturday morning and knew this was the day. I jumped out of bed, and before changing my mind, I asked my husband if he would take me to see my mother. I needed every drop of his love and support.

We pulled up to the curb as mom and her new husband were walking to their apartment.

Rolling down the car window, I said, “Mom, can we talk?”

Like walking the Green Mile, I shuffled down the long, narrow corridor to her apartment. We sat down at the small kitchen table, and taking a deep breath, I poured out my battered heart.

And without a tear in her eye she said, “Sandi, if I have done anything wrong, I’m sorry. I just don’t know why we can’t let bygones be bygones and start over.”

The same old story. Let’s not get to the cause of our constant battles. No sense in delving into the truth. Let’s just cover it up and pretend it never happened.

“Mom, why can’t you see that you’re not the only one hurting? You’ve been so consumed in your own pain that you can’t see how you’ve hurt me. Right now, I don’t know if I love you or hate you. That’s why I have to stay away; to try and figure it out. I’m sorry mom. All I’ve ever wanted to do is make you happy. But I can’t. Nobody can.”

It would be six long years before I came close to trying again. Six long years of sorting through the guilt and shame of abandoning my mother. Six long years of facing it without the support and understanding of my siblings. Six long years of facing mom’s friends, seeing the shame-on-you glare in their eyes.

And during those six long years I learned that I am not responsible for my mother’s abusive childhood and the physical and emotional pain she suffered. I learned that I’m not God and that He never expected me to take on the tremendous task of fixing my mother. He told me so. Loud and clear. And the heavy burden lifted.

Finally, feeling emotionally strong enough to allow her back into my life, we gradually built a relationship. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it wasn’t. And although my mother never changed, I did. I grew stronger than I ever thought possible.

I still wish I had known a mother’s unconditional love. I still wish I had seen just a glimmer of approval in her eyes before she died. But I’ve learned that I can live without it.

The relationship I had with my mother taught me that no matter how hard we try we cannot fix people’s broken lives. We cannot try saving them without losing ourselves in the process.

It was tough. It was painful. It was fearful and confusing. But I’m glad I did it. I’ve reintroduced myself to myself. Like a flower in the dessert, I’ve come back.

Sandi Staton

Hope in the Darkness

Hope in the Darkness

It was the early sixties, long before computers and cell phones, Facebook and Twitter. We relied on party lines and CB radios to keep in touch with the outside world. Many of our circles of friends had CB’s in their homes and vehicles. That’s how I met Rich.

As he usually did on Friday nights, Rich picked me up at the door, the overwhelming smell of Old Spice reeking from every pore of his body. After three months of dating, he never learned the rule, “less is better.”

We went to McDonald’s for a bite to eat, and while Rich went in to order our food, I sat listening to the CB radio mounted on the dashboard. No sooner did he get in the car with our food when his dad’s frantic voice blared over the CB, “Kenny’s been hit by a car and rushed to the Wilmington, Delaware hospital!”

Suddenly, our pleasant evening turned into a night of horrors.

As Rich raced me home, my thoughts raced back to Kenny before he went out the door that night.

He was six-teen going on thirty. No driver’s license. No car. So he walked everywhere he went. And, from head to toe, black was always his chosen attire. I have to admit that it did flatter his tall, slender frame, and his blonde hair and blue eyes. All he needed to complete the look was a bandito mask and cape.

“I don’t think it’s safe for you to go out looking like Zorro tonight, Kenny,” I pleaded. “It’s foggy and misting rain. No one will see you walking in this mess! You might get hit by a car!”

“I’ll be fine,” he grinned, his baby-blues dancing with confidence. And into the darkness, he fled.

Rich sped into the driveway and before coming to a complete stop, I jumped out and ran up the steps crying hysterically.

Mom and daddy had just gotten back from the hospital and I pleaded with them to take me there. I wanted to see for myself that he was okay.

“No one can see him tonight,” mom said tearfully. “We can see him in the morning.”

“What happened?” I cried. But I already knew the answer.

Her face paler than usual she tearfully explained, “He tried to avoid stepping in the mud along the construction site, so he walked on the road and got hit. The driver didn’t see him.”

She went on to tell me that Kenny had suffered a concussion, and a deep gash in the back of his leg that required several stitches. But the doctor’s main concern was for Kenny’s enlarged heart.

“He may not make it,” she sobbed.

Those fatal words sliced my heart in two.

I went to his bedroom where his bloody clothes lay in a heap on the floor. Burning tears streamed as I sobbed uncontrollably.

Kenny was sickly all his life. Because of a severe case of Rheumatic Fever, his heart was so enlarged that he wasn’t given a life span much beyond his mid twenties. He missed so much school that he was held back and couldn’t seem to get caught up. Playing sports was out of the question. A minor cold was followed by high fevers and excruciating earaches. And a trip to the dentist always meant a shot of penicillin. Eventually, it was notched up to bicillin, which Kenny jokingly accused the dentist of injecting with a square needle.

If his sickness and limitations ever bothered him, he kept it hidden behind his dry wit and devil-may-care attitude.

So many memories flashed before me as I sobbed. Like the times Kenny chased the hens until one finally squatted down, allowing him to pick her up. He was so happy with his prize, hugging and petting her as if she were a cuddly puppy. Victory was short-lived, though, when suddenly, the old rooster jumped on his back, clawing and pecking his head and shoulders. I didn’t know which was funnier, mom storming out the door with a broom, or Kenny crawling on all fours squealing like a pig.

Then, there was the time he stuck his finger in a hole in the ground and a mole bit it. And the times he followed our older sister everywhere she went, even to the outhouse, and waited patiently till she came back out. And the hours we spent together exploring the woods, searching for turtles and lizards, walking along the creek, and picking wildflowers to take home to mom.

We were always together; playing, arguing, competing against who was the sickest when we both got sick. I couldn’t imagine my life without him.

Hysterically, I paced the floor. Mom tried consoling me, but a river of consoling could not have soothed my shattered heart that dark, lonesome night.

The only thing left for me to do was go to my place of refuge. The moment I stepped into my tiny bedroom, I felt more at peace. On the dresser lay my Bible, my source of strength in times like these. Clutching it to my breast, I collapsed on the edge of the bed, pleading, hoping and praying that God would give me the slightest sign that Kenny will be okay.

With all the faith I could muster, I opened my Bible, allowing the pages to fall where they may. Glancing down, like a pilot guiding a ship, my eyes were navigated to Psalms 91. Each verse was filled with promise and hope, a healing balm for my shattered heart. But the sixteenth passage was the rainbow, the peace that passes all understanding, the assurance that my brother will not die for a very long time: “With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Immediately, I stopped crying. The darkness lifted. My heart was filled with hope. I knew God had answered my prayer. Whispering a prayer of thanks, I calmly went to mom and said, “Kenny’s going to be alright.

Before his release from the hospital, Kenny went through a battery of tests. To the their amazement, other than a slight heart murmur, the doctor’s found no heart enlargement, not even a trace of scar tissue. He was released with a huge knot on his head, a bandage on his leg, and a brand new heart.

Since that day, Kenny joined the Air Force, married, has a son and grand-daughter. He gave up his bandito attire, drives instead of walks, and is still going strong at the ripe old age of sixty-five.

I asked for hope in the darkness. God gave me a miracle.

Beware

Straight from the Heart

Beware

Beware

When darkness falls and shadows lurk

beneath the moonlit sky

When gusty winds turn icy cold

and bats begin to fly

When trees like monsters twist and bend

and hover overhead

When moans and howls pierce your soul

and all the earth seems dead

When your pounding heart nearly bursts

within your heaving chest

And your blood curdling screams and frightful shrills

are choking you to death

BEWARE

Sandi Staton

 

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The Haunted House

Straight from the Heart

Haunted House

Admit it. There’s something in the core of our being that is drawn to abandoned houses, dilapidated mills, and old barns. At least it was for my brothers and me. As kids, we’d ride our bikes through narrow, wooded country roads searching for a deserted house. One sunny afternoon, we hit the jackpot! Even now I can see it sitting far off the road, Its sagging roof nearly hidden by trees, vines, and tall weeds. Even in the sunlight, the house appeared dark and sinister, its broken windows, like hollow eyes, glaring intently. In spite of the overwhelming feeling that we shouldn’t be here, the sound of stones hitting the house, and a radio playing upstairs, we climbed the rotting steps and slowly opened the creaky door. Suddenly, crows cawed overhead, as if warning us to turn around and run for our lives. Of course, that was all part of…

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Market Street

Market Street
Market Street

 

Market Street

Wilmington, Delaware

Spending time with my grandmother was like Christmas. Although I enjoyed the peace and quiet of the outskirts of Newark, Delaware, I looked forward to the hustle and bustle of automobiles, buses, and smells of the city in Wilmington. That’s where I learned to roller-skate, jump rope, and play hopscotch with my city friends. That’s where I’d skip ten blocks to the Dairy Queen, or hop next door to the bakery. That’s where my grandmother would cook my favorite stuff, like apple dumplings, fluffy egg omelets, and fried tomatoes and gravy.

I always stood in awe of the old, two-story Victorian boarding house where my grandmother lived, with its huge parlor, quaint little kitchen, and lovely glassed in front porch. The few elderly people who lived there were always warm and friendly and a joy to talk to.

But my most favorite things were hopping the city bus with my grandmother, sitting on my favorite seat, and spending the day on Market Street. I never knew where to feast my eyes first; on the farmers in their overalls and straw hats, the candy and toy shops, or the cute little bunnies for sale.

I could hardly wait for my grandmother to finish squeezing tomatoes and melons, and asking for a pound of this and a pound of that so I could go to the Five-and Ten-Cent store. That’s where I always picked out a car or truck to take home to my brothers.

Without skipping a beat, we’d visit the candy shops and cookie shops, clothing stores and shoe stores. From one end of Market Street to the next we’d shop. By the end of the day I was hot and tired, my knee-highs were around my ankles, and my long, flowing red hair was damp and plastered to my head. But my ninety-pound, seventy-five-year-old grandmother showed no signs of wilting. Not a hair out-of-place; not a wrinkle in her dress; not a sweat drop on her face.

My adolescent mind concluded if you want to stay young and fit. . . shop on Market Street!

 

 

 

My Guardian Angel

Digi Picture Angel

It was the end of an abusive marriage and the beginning of a new adventure for me and my twenty-two month old son, Robbie. Since I had a few family and friends living in North Carolina, I decided to sell my skimpy possessions, pack my bags and move there.

I bought a one way ticket, and the day of take off, mom and daddy drove me to the bus terminal. After hours of waiting for my bus to arrive, it was announced that it had broken down and a substitute was on its way; a local that would prove to be the longest, most mysterious ride ever from Delaware to North Carolina.

Several hours later, the bus still hadn’t arrived, so mom and daddy called it a night. We hugged and kissed, said our farewells, and I watched as they disappeared down the dim, busy corridor.  And there I stood, feeling as if I had been dumped and forsaken on another planet.

I no sooner turned around to grab my bags, when a tall, handsome young man picked them up and found us a place to sit. Then he bought me something to eat and talked to me as if he had known me all my life. I felt comfortable with him. I felt safe and secure, feelings I was not accustomed to.

Finally our bus arrived and the stranger snatched my bags, escorted me to the bus, found us a seat, put my bags on the rack, and plopped down beside me. He smiled and said he was on his way to a wedding in Virginia.

A wedding, I thought. How wonderful. I was nineteen when I got married, twenty when my baby was born, and now, at the ripe old age of twenty-two, I’m getting divorced. Marriage is not what it’s cracked up to be, I sighed. Life before marriage wasn’t a piece of cake either. Home was a war zone of yelling and screaming, drug and alcohol abuse, lies and distrust. I never saw so many angry faces, glaring eyes, and heart wrenching tears. Eventually my thinking became distorted and my soul felt as if someone had poked holes in it.

I wanted out. So I married a man whose home life was as brutal as mine. Because of our brokenness and immaturity, we were not equipped to honor the vows “till death do us part” unless we killed each other.

And just when I had given up on humanity, this handsome young man appears. This man who doesn’t seem like a man at all, but a guardian of some sort. How could he possibly have known my dire situation? How could he have known how frightened and lonely I was to venture into the unknown with a baby to raise? How could he have known how desperately I needed his help?

Into the wee hours of the morning, Robbie became fussy and restless. Immediately, the stranger took him in his arms, played with him, then rocked him sound to sleep. Then, unable to keep my head from nodding, I laid it on his shoulder and he placed his arm around me. I never felt so safe and protected.

I wished this moment in time would never end. I wished for love and understanding that seemed to permeate from this stranger beside me. But all the wishing in the world couldn’t stop him form stepping off the bus and vanishing as quickly as he had appeared.

Now, forty-five years later the memory is just as vivid, the mystery just as enchanting as it was that night. But the more I’ve thought about the whole encounter the more I believe that the mystery man was a special delivery sent from God . . . my guardian angel.

The Haunted House

Haunted House

Admit it. There’s something in the core of our being that is drawn to abandoned houses, dilapidated mills, and old barns. At least it was for my brothers and me. As kids, we’d ride our bikes through narrow, wooded country roads searching for a deserted house. One sunny afternoon, we hit the jackpot!

Even now I can see it sitting far off the road, Its sagging roof nearly hidden by trees, vines, and tall weeds. Even in the sunlight, the house appeared dark and sinister, its broken windows, like hollow eyes, glaring intently. In spite of the overwhelming feeling that we shouldn’t be here, the sound of stones hitting the house, and a radio playing upstairs, we climbed the rotting steps and slowly opened the creaky door. Suddenly, crows cawed overhead, as if warning us to turn around and run for our lives. Of course, that was all part of the thrill, our minds seeing and hearing things that weren’t really there . . . or were they?

 

Beware

Beware

Beware

When darkness falls and shadows lurk

Beneath the moonlit sky

When gusty winds turn icy cold

And bats begin to fly

When trees like monsters twist and bend

And hover overhead

When moans and howls pierce your soul

And all the earth seems dead

When your pounding heart nearly bursts

Within your heaving chest

And your blood curdling screams and frightful shrills

Are choking you to death

BEWARE

Sandi Staton