A few months ago, a new friend of mine asked me to share with her my story, as much as I was willing to. I knew right then that it was time to "put pen to paper" and knock it out. You see, I have been wanting to write about my life story for a while now, I was just waiting for the right nudge. Thank you K.
I will try to keep your interest with pictures and a bit of my wicked sense of humor. If that doesn't work, happy napping.
In December of 1971, I was born in Bakersfield, CA to a 19-year old, unwed mother. I was born with a bi-lateral cleft lip and palate. For those of you that don't know what that means, I was basically born with a hole in my face, under what should have been the right side of my nose, where cute baby lips were supposed to be. The entire roof of my mouth never formed.
My biological mother and father both suffered from injuries to the brain which could have been something as simply as epilepsy to actual brain damage. It's hard to get a clear diagnosis when you're "in the middle of nowhere California" in the early 70's. They had both been institutionalized when bio dad forced bio mom into a situation that was not consensual and voila...9 months later, here comes baby Jenny. (Nope, you can't make this shit up).
At about 3 months of age, my bio mom could no longer, or possible was not allowed to, care for me in the manner that I needed. So I was sent off to a local chicken farm to be fostered by a "later in life" married couple. Lil ol' me on a chicken farm, drooling all over myself giggling up a storm each time the baby chicks would run by. I can just see what my future held if it weren't for The Hand of God.
About 100 miles south of "The Farm", the process of my adoption had already begun. My real Mom and Dad were seeking a little girl born with a "handicap" and anxiously awaited my arrival. By The Hand of God, in May of 1972, I came home to my forever family, complete with an older adopted brother who immediately took it upon himself to loathe my existence. It took a lot of years and some humility to see that he had every right to.
I grew up in an upper- middle class family, never wanting anything, never lacking in love, comfort or security. I had numerous surgeries that were required to repair my cleft along with loads of speech therapy. I might not have been the cutest little baby, but I was fat and happy!
A happy childhood with a few bumps in the road was really what I had. Looking back, it could have been so much worse if my Real Parents had not wanted me so badly. But through all that happiness, evil lurked, always hiding just beyond reach that left me feeling odd, strange, ugly, weird. My mother would later tell me stories that I would talk about how I would always tell her about the Dragon inside me wanting to get out. Creepy kids suck.
My parents sent me to a private school for the 6th grade. Never knew why but now I've starting to figure it out. I met my first real best friend there, Jenny Sciani. She hung out with me no matter what the others would say. She was pretty, funny and way cool. I was happier than a pig in slop to have someone that liked me for me. Unfortunately, after 6th grade, Jenny and I had gone back to our original schools and drifted apart. I still smile when I remember how good she was to me.
I had been a competitive ice skater since the age of 5 and loved nothing but being on the ice. Near 11 or so, my attitude had grown worse and worse. My coach ended up quitting me and it didn't take long until I turned my back on the rink, never to look back.
My first drunk occured somewhere in my early teens, maybe 13 or 14. My friend Sondra N. and I were left to our own devices (my brother was babysitting with his friends over). She and I took our 7-11 Slurpee cups and snuck into my parents wet bar, that was used solely for entertaining.
We poured all kinds of liquor into our cups and thought we were being so grown up. Sondra took a few sips of hers and called it quits. I, on the other hand, though hating the burn, the smell and the taste, loved the effect it had on me.
I continued to drink it all. I felt comfortable in my own skin for the first time. I felt cool, cute and accepted. Sondra and I ended up leaving the house, getting lost in the muddy reservior behind the park, which was behind our house.
We stumbled in later that afternoon, looking hideous and recking of alcohol. My brother and his friends were in the kitchen and I threw my arms around one of them professing the mad crush I had. My brother called me a waste - he wasn't too far off.
I didn't know it then but that was the first day I started turning my back on The Hand of God.
By the time high school rolled around, I was the homely, geeky, virgin girl without breasts that the mean girls didn't even bother with anymore. I was a straight A Honor student that went to summer school each year, played varsity soccer, volleyball and ran track. Total dork.
I never dated boys until Scott, a 21 year-old that had no business messing with me. I was 17 and much too niave for my own good. I kept him a dirty secret because I knew my parents wouldn't approve. I slowly learned what shame was all about.
The night I lost my virginity, Scott asked to perform something that I couldn't even pronounce. I said "I don't know how". He settled for taking away my "innocence" instead, against my will. None of that mattered to Scott; he had waiting long enough.
I managed to lose much more than my virginity during that year with him. I felt the shame of keeping secrets from my parents, the humility of being abused and the sense of worthlessness his instilled upon my soul. Or I should say the worthlessness I let him instill upon my soul. My parents did not raise their little girl to act so foolishly, to lie or to be a doormat. All that just came naturally to me, upbringing did not matter.
I remember one night I came sneaking back home, trying to hide my fat lip and the blood stains on my collar from where the earring posts went in my head. My Dad was outside waiting up for me. He listened to my "whooooaaa is me" sob story and he simply stated "You should never have been there." My breaking heart shattered right there, looking at my Dad looking at me under a moonless night sky.
I finished High School with an absurd 4.2 GPA, a new nose (a final surgery of many clefts) and a bright future. NAU, Flagstaff, Arizona here I come! God's country to some; cold ass winters and lots of parties to me. I was free, out on my own, away from the protective, loving care of my parents. Haa haaa...watch out world, here comes Jenny!
It only took 2 years before I was a regular at the local country bar on the other side of town, far from the NAU campus where I should have been. I had already dropped out of the sorority where I was a legacy - my Mom was in the same sorority during her college career at UCLA. Pulling a stunt like that was like social suicide on such a small college campus.
And of course, I had acquired the perfect older boyfriend who never needed college. He was an over-the-road truck driver, handsome (yes, there are some handsome ones out there), built, tall, and an Army veteran. Nothing like those college boys that never glanced my way. Oh and this Jeff guy wasn't quite divorced yet either - bonus! No matter, he liked me, he thought I was pretty so it was a done deal.
"What Jeff? You want me to drop out of college and go over the road with you?? Ok, just pull over at the next rest stop so I can call my Mom and Dad."
Not only had I turned my back on The Hand of God, I was now entering into even more dangerous territory - breaking the hearts, love and trust my parents so freely gave to me and spitting in their faces.
The next 10 months of my life I learned how to drive an 18-wheeler, traveled all over the US of A, took an Medivac helicopter ride to Reno when we flipped the son-of-a-bitch on the 395N, and was personally introduced to the Devil, more commonly known as meth.
At the end of those 10 long months, Jeff abandoned me in a motel room in Virginia with nothing but some bus fair and a phone number of a friend's wife that was willing to let me sleep on their couch. The part that broke my heart the most wasn't waking up to being left behind or finding myself clear across the country without a soul that knew me, it was the fact that later that day, long after I hopped on the bus, I realized I had left my Pete's Dragon stuffed animal "Elliot" in the motel room. Insanity.
Next thing I knew, I was in Franklin, North Carolina - the real God's country. Lightning bugs, countless trees, down home cooking, good ole' boys that waved as you passed by, vegetable gardens and front porch swings. If it wasn't for the fear of being left alone 3,000 miles away from everything I knew and my drug withdrawls, I would have fallen in love with the place instantly.
I remember calling my parents seeking a hand out, some pity, anything. They were glad I was ok but would not lend me one penny. I took what was left of my savings and went back to college. There was absolutely nothing left to do. I couldn't go home and couldn't stay on that couch in Franklin forever. Starting over was just what I needed. Goodbye trucker life, hello college, again. This time I would do it right!!
WCU, Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina became my home for the next 3 years. I purchased a 1969 Chevy Camaro and named her "Scarlett" after the great Scarlett O'Hara because this car was gorgeous with an attitude to boot. I was the envy of every high school hill billy boy in that hick town.
I became a proud mommy to an obnoxious bunny rabbit I called "Bailey", named after the bar I was in when she was handed over to me. Let me share that story with you...
My new college buddies and I were drinking and dancing at Bailey's Irish Pub in Cullowhee, NC (now a mechanic's shop) when at intermission, some lame magician was putting on a show. No one paid him any mind until he pulled some half-scared baby rabbit out of his hat and I hollered, and went up on stage with my longneck in tow, claiming animal abuse or some shit like that. He shoved the bunny to my still flat chest and said "Fine, then take it!" We all had to leave immediately so I could find some food and take home my "new baby". Stupid rabbit.
I'll never forget when I called my mom early one morning a while later, in yet another drug induced panic attack and impending withdrawls. That call was my lifeline to the one person that knew me best and loved me anyway. At the pinnacle of our talk, the line went dead. I looked down and saw that Bailey had chewed threw the cord that lay atop her cage. The only thing that saved that bunny's life that morning was I immediately took off to the gas station pay phone 3 miles down the dirt road to call back. By the time I arrived back home, I couldn't remember my own name much less that I had a bunny to boil.
I did manage to go to my college courses, well, enough of them to earn me a Bachelor's Degree in Geography (no, I don't know the U.S. capitals or where Tahiti is). But first, I met my dearest and bestest friend ever, my Robin.
The Hand of God knew I needed to be pushed into this young lady's direction and so after a few weeks of ignoring each other in our small study group, we agreed to go to lunch together and were instant pals. Thank you Taco Bell.
May 1996 found me the owner of a fancy piece of paper that I have in a fancy frame, yet still a scared little girl and still oblivious to the love that I had surrounding me. I sold my then wrecked Scarlett, gave away my Bailey, said "no" to the man who wanted me to stay and marry him, kissed my Robin goodbye and headed back to California ready to start over again and take on the world.
The next 8 years were just a mess. I looked up and weaseled my way back into the life of my one and only love, Ed. He was just a man, as sick as I was that wanted a simple life. With me around, that wasn't possible. After about a year of dating, he ended up almost killing me. I left one night to never look back, except in my dreams.
On August 28, 1996, my father died on the ER operating table at a little hospital in Brea, California. I blogged about my last night with him in a prior post titled August 27, 1996. All I can say in this post is that I think I have finally, almost 14 years later, made my peace with him. Your Treasure is ok now, Daddy.
My world as I knew it, fell apart. I was incapable to being there for my mother. Thankfully my brother was able to play the role of loving, supporting child. God knows I couldn't do jack shit except feel sorry for myself and run from the pain with more drugs and alcohol.
Through my fog, I could not see that I wasn't the only one that lost someone dear. My brother also lost a father, my mother lost her best friend of 30+ years, my grandparents lost their son-in-law, co-workers lost their boss, friends lost a dear, sweet soul, the community lost a wonderful blessing.
I went through about 5 or 6 jobs during those 8 years back in California. I think I lived in 7 or 8 different places and met countless faces, never remembering their names though at the time they "meant everything to me".
Fast forward to January 2004...
I was back living with my mother, who had now moved to a beachside town into a great little home just her size. I had a job as an assistant to the President of a small company in Santa Ana. All seemed ok, about as ok as I could ever get things to be. It didn't last long.
All it took was some guy (let's call him "Al") where I worked to leave a sexy, sweet acoustic rendition of Tommy Tutone's "Jenny, I Got Your Number" on my office voicemail to change the course of my life. I'm glad I couldn't see what I was in for because I don't think that I would have signed up for what was coming. The Hand of God was back in my life. I just didn't know it yet.