Caricatures . . . More Inner People

img393 A martian with green hair and antennas would have fit into society better than I did growing up. Having red hair and freckles didn’t help much either. I was targeted for torment and ridicule throughout school, even by the teachers. I didn’t understand such blatant cruelty. I just knew how ugly and stupid I felt.

Makeup covered my freckles but it couldn’t cover the ugly scars etched deeply in my heart. I was wounded for life . . . till many years later I looked deep inside and decided to love myself . . . warts and all

Art and music help me communicate my feelings that I can’t always express with words. That’s why I enjoy creating caricatures so much. I can be who I’ve always wanted to be but was too afraid.

So here’s to my “coming out” party . . .

Caricature Sandi 8AThe first time I saw this photo I wanted to burn it. But I decide to create a caricature from it instead . . .

Next Halloween I’m gonna set Maggie on a broom and turn her loose.

Caricature Sandi 7Bert is my emotional body guard. She’s rough and tough and doesn’t take hurt and abuse from anyone any more.

Ginger wanted to be a hairstylist so she went to Beauty School. However, between working a full-time job and raising a family, she decided that all she really wanted was to be a stay-at-home mom. So she quit both job and Beauty School and never looked back.

Matty is an introvert. She likes playing the piano and spending hours at the computer. Like her dad, she doesn’t care for social gatherings, hates drama, and would rather have a tooth pulled without an anesthetic than be in a crowded room.

Alexandria is an artist. She sees beauty in everything, even a frog with warts.

Karen is an idealist. She believes that everyone should work as a team, follow the rules, and never harm a living thing.

Sondra carries her heart on her sleeve. When she was a child and someone looked at her cross-eyed she’d cry, and cry, and cry . . . .

Finally, Dee-Dee, as her grandchildren call her, is the one I’ve come to love. She’s soft and gentle, fun and playful, honest and true. She’s been through Hell and back trying to figure out who the heck she is. Now that she knows she’s living the rest of her life happy and content just being herself.

Well that’s it for now. Best wishes from me and all my people.

Below are the photos that I used to create my caricatures. Thanks for stopping by. All likes and comments are appreciated.

Daddy’s Little Girl

Shrouded in mystery he lives in a world of solitude

His crypt-like silence frightens her

Confuses her

Intimidates her

From the shadows she studies him

Ever wondering

Ever searching for a glimmer of love in his eyes

But like a corpse he never looks her way

He doesn’t even know that she’s there

She feels invisible

Worthless

Like a discarded rag doll

But forever lost in a solitary place

He doesn’t see her tears

He doesn’t hear her heart breaking in two

 Shivering against the freezing cold of isolation

She builds a fortress of anger around her heart

She no longer wants to sit on his lap

To feel his strong arms wrapped around her

To hear him call her daddy’s little girl

She wants to fight him

Hurt him

Make him pay

And she does only to hurt herself in the process

It will be years before she learns this though

Years of striking against the phantom of her own soul

Years of chasing the wind for answers that didn’t exist

She is old now and like an unfinished novel

The mystery shrouding her dad remains unsolved

But in her wisdom she embraces the harsh reality of life

Her heart is no longer enslaved to knowing the answers

Or wishing her dad had been the dad she wanted him to be

She learns to forgive

To love and accept him as he was

And in her own heart of solitude and mystery

she is and always will be daddy’s little girl

~Sandi

Christmas

Christmas Poem
Christmas Poem
What Christmas Means to Me

Regardless of the constant financial struggle throughout the year, mom and daddy always provided a magical, White House Christmas. Maybe they robbed a bank, or made some kind of deal with Santa, I don’t know. I just know that we had a tree, stockings bursting at the seams, presents piled under the tree, and a feast fit for a king.

At the time I didn’t know and appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that went into filling our long Christmas lists. I didn’t know why mom worked three jobs, why she took in ironing, or why she hunched over the sewing machine half the night. I didn’t know why daddy worked in his cabinet shop into the wee hours of the morning. I only knew the joy of Christmas spinning its magical web around my tender, trusting heart.

When we became teens however, Christmas lost its magic. Like a ruthless, winter storm, coldness swept though our house, freezing the warmth and joy that once lived there.

It would be years of confusion, unanswered questions, and searching for the joy and wonder I had lost. Years of longing and waiting for the Spirit of Christmas to ignite once again in my heart.

Today I am happy to say that, not only has the Spirit of Christmas finally ignited, it’s a blazing bonfire. And it’s called family. It’s called joy and happiness of being our silly, crazy, imperfect selves together. And it’s called wonderful.

To further express what Christmas means to me, I have put together some photos taken over the years and created a few digital designs that I hope you will enjoy.

There’s mom and daddy, my grandmother, and my two brothers and me.

Robbie is my one and only child. Due to many complications and surgeries after childbirth, I could not have more children. But that’s okay, my son gave me four awesome grandchildren!

And there’s my two oldest grand kids, Brandon and Brittany. As you can see, Brandon is the cut-up and Brittany is the charmer.

There’s Brandon, the Pied Piper, leading Joshua and Jacob in a guitar game. It must be fun, I don’t know. I just know it doesn’t take much to make them happy.

I’m glad God didn’t send me on a search party to find my son a wife, because he did a fantastic job finding her himself. She is perfect for him. When I grow up, I want to be just like her.

And there’s Brandon and Nicci and their son, Gideon who was born August 28, 2013. Not only is this Gideon’s first Christmas, but Brandon and Nicci just moved back to Winston-Salem, North Carolina from Virginia where Brandon attended Regent University for a year and a half. We are blessed having them back home. Now we all get to spoil the baby!

And there’s hubby and me.

In June, 2005, my husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent surgery. He is now cancer free. In December, 2011, when this picture was taken, I had eye surgery. Then in January, 2012 I underwent colon cancer surgery.

A million concerns slap you in the face at once when you think you’re going to die soon. I didn’t know whether to start making funeral arrangements or plans for a long, overdue vacation. And the thoughts of chemo ravaging my body was as scary as the cancer. I watched that monster slowly destroy my sister before she lost the battle to breast cancer.

Finally, the results were in. The cancer was stage one, meaning the cancer was contained and had not effected any of the lymph nodes. Wow! No chemo on the menu; just seeing an oncologist for five years. My life wasn’t over, it was just beginning. I felt like kissing a frog on the lips!

So what does Christmas mean to me? It means God, family and friends. It means celebrating life. It means a warm house, food on the table, and people to share it with. It means love, peace and harmony. It means being married to the same man for forty-three years and loving every minute of it. Yeah. That’s what Christmas means to me!

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.