Sunday, April 28, 2013


Back in the spring of 1999 I was a student at Western Oregon University and was enrolled in the “Advanced Creative Writing” class.  We were tasked with writing a short story, and, during the term to submit one of our short stories for publication.  This was the first draft of my first short story which I submitted to Western Oregon’s literary magazine “Northwest Passage” and it was published in the Summer 1999 issue.  The version below is as published without the subsequent edits I inevitably made.  I’ve added an epilogue today.

                I wish I were dead.  I know everybody has these thoughts every once in awhile, but I really want to die.  The storm doesn’t help.  I’m wearing just a t-shit and it’s still so hot and muggy.  I can smell the musty air as the rain pelts the dusty ground.  Am I hot just because I’m so hugely pregnant or what?  I really hate this.  My legs are so clammy that they’re sticking together, but it’s too hot to even put a sheet between them.  Damn El Paso. Damn Army housing.  It’s two in the morning and 98 degrees out with thunder and lightning.  It’s a total contradiction of everything I love.
                I want to go back home.  Oregon can get hot, but not often, and not at two in the morning when I’m trying to sleep.  Damn El Paso and damn the military.  Who the hell builds streets with no drainage ditches so that when it rains everything floods?  And who the hell puts such flimsy power lines that they break every time it rains?  We’ve only lived here for three months and already the power has gone out six times!  I mean, hell people, get a brain!  The power has already been out for eight hours so far, and wouldn’t you know that it would go out just while I was making dinner.  I hate having to eat corn flakes for dinner when I have a perfectly good casserole in the over – uncooked!  I’m so tired; I want to sleep.  It also didn’t help when Mike came home tonight.
# # #
                “Don’t ever go in and talk to the First Sergeant again!  Thanks to you I got my butt chewed out at first formation,” Mike said.
                “What happened?” I asked.
                “First Sergeant told everybody that ‘if you’re gonna send your wives in bitchin you damn well better have the balls to go in with her!”
                “You’re kidding!  He told me that you wouldn’t get in trouble, that he’d just talk to you in private,” I said.
                “Well he didn’t.  He announced it in formation, and when he said it, everybody turned and looked at me.  Then he came right up to me and was like, ‘Understand?’”
                “What a jerk!”  I can’t believe it; he promised me.
                “Then this afternoon Sergeant Roscoe started getting on my ass; he told me that I better start controlling my wife, or I’ll get an article fifteen.  You know what that is don’t you?” he said.
                “Isn’t that where they take a hundred dollars out of your paycheck?”
                “Yeah, but they also put it in your record and it stays with you throughout your military career which means that I could miss a promotion, and you know that I really need a promotion.”
                “Can he do that?  Are they serious?” I asked.
                “Sergeant Roscoe says that it would be a ‘failure to control your spouse.’ I don’t know. I should look it up, but I also asked Sergeant Lennis, and he said it’s something like that.”
                “I’m sorry I got you into trouble.  I’m just so tired of all this,” I said.
                “I know.”
# # #
                When First Sergeant Little got to the unit, he told all of us that if we ever needed anything or just wanted to talk, we could come to him.  Well yesterday I went in to ask him for advice on how to be a successful military wife.  I figured that since he’s been in for twenty years and is married with a family, that he would be a good person to ask.  I told him that I loved my husband and I wanted to be a supportive wife, but lately Mike and I had been talking about getting divorced.  In our three years of marriage we were apart for a year and half and another five months of field training with him leaving all of the time.  Now, when Mike and I see each other, we can’t seem to talk.  I told First Sergeant that we were struggling to try and make it work and we were having a hard time of it.  I asked him:  What are activities that we can do to bring us closer?  What kinds of questions should I ask my husband?  And, as an army man, what does he need from me?  How can I support Mike?  First Sergeant told me to, “Hang in there” and to try and understand that my husband doesn’t have control over what he is ordered to do, so I should try and be understanding.  He went on to tell me, “I know your husband must be nervous about you coming in here, but tell him not to worry; this is just between us.  And don’t worry, he won’t get in trouble, I’ll just talk to him in private, okay?”
                “Yes, thank you, I really appreciate your listening and all of your help,” I said.  What a fool I was. I believe him when he acted like he cared and wanted to help; instead he chewed out my husband at work and didn’t talk in private.  Instead Mike got in trouble!
                I hate First Sergeant Little!  If it weren’t against the law I’d love to go beat the shit out of that son of a bitch!  Damn bastard.  He is such a two-faced… jerk!  I went to him for help and this is what I get.  I wish I could die, then I wouldn’t ever have to deal with any of this shit again.
                But if I died, I’d really miss little Jake.  He is such a sweetheart; I couldn’t have asked for a better son.  It was really hard when I found out I was pregnant with him.  I was so young – true I was twenty which is a lot older than some, but I was still young.  But he is my heart.  I love him so much.  I think that it will be hard to be without him, but he’ll be better off.  What child would be better off with a mom who is depressed all the time and wishes she were dead?  After all, I make life harder for Mike, and without me he could be a single father in the military – the poor widower who lost his wife and is raising their son and baby.  He could devote all his time to work without it bothering anyone, and he would be forced to spend more time with Jake.
                But is it really worth it to kill myself?  I can’t even imagine my life a year from now.  I used to dream about having a family and a husband.  The little girl dreams, of having it all:  a home, a husband, adorable kids, and a dog.  Heaven help me, I actually would’ve loved to be the Brady bunch!  I mean, I know that’s not reality, but I wanted a husband who could be my best friend who I could tell anything to, who would understand where I’m coming from, who would fight me when I was wrong, and who would love me just for being me.  I expected that when we fought it would be about politics or the little things that drive us nuts about each other, like how he always leaves his hangers in the middle of the floor and how when there’s a ball game on he can’t even answer a yes or no question.  I knew that would drive me nuts but I thought that would be the worst of it.  Instead, I don’t think my husband knows me at all; otherwise why would he tell me that I’m just being stupid and needy when I tell him that I miss him?  And why do I get so mad that I slam doors and make noise and just wish that he’d never come home.  And then he doesn’t come home and I miss him despite myself.  When he’s home I don’t feel like he like me, let alone loves me.  He comes home and tells me all about how bad his day was and then asks, “What’s for dinner?” and “How was your day?” as he snaps on the TV set.  I mean, he asks how I’m doing but he doesn’t listen to the answer, then when I ask him a question he just says, “huh?”  It gets to where I feel like I’m here to be his slave and his hooker.
                I mean, I’m really uncomfortable being seven and a half months pregnant and it’s hot and I’ve had a long day chasing around out sixteen month old and he comes home complaining, watches TV all night, ignoring me, and then he expects sex when he comes to bed.  And it’s like, do I just let him go for it?  Or tell him I’m not interested?  To which he either responds with a complaint about how we never make love anymore, or he asks, “What’s wrong now?” in that impatient tone of his.  If I dare respond we get into a huge name calling fight that end up with either:  me sleeping on the couch, or us fighting until three in the morning at which point we decide to drop it.  But it’s never actually resolved.  How do you resolve “I’m not happy with you?”  Neither of us is happy.  That’s why he’d be better off without me.  I’m tired of trying to make this relationship work and trying to hang in there for another day. Whenever we fight, things get better for a day or two:  he comes home trying to be cheerful, he offers to play with Jake, he helps with dinner, he flirts, and he hugs me.  Then a couple of days later it’s back to the old routine of watching TV, complaining, and fighting.  I just don’t want this anymore.  I’m tired of being called names, being told I’m stupid, or psycho, or a bitch.  I’m just tired of hoping that things will get better and then they don’t.  What good does it do to hope?  I just set myself up for a downfall whenever I do.  He’s right – I am stupid.
                Why hope?  What would my life be like a year from now anyway?  I try to picture Jake at two and a half years old with a baby who would almost be one, we’re living in this house, fighting everyday like we have for the past several months, and I spend everyday alone with just the two kids… God I want to die.  Hell, even the other military wives – Mrs. Baker, Mrs. Sampson, Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Arragar – they all told me to get used to it; this is as good as it gets.  The sooner I learn to live without my husband, the better.  Don’t ever count on your husband to be there for you because, remember, the military comes first.  They own him.  “Just learn to live life on your own, and when he’s around, it’s just a bonus,” they said.  Then why did I marry him?  I knew not to expect things to be perfect, but dammit, I thought that I’d be able to talk to him, to sleep next to him, to cry on his shoulder.  Is that too much to ask?  Apparently it is. Hell, even the doctor thinks I’m overreacting.
# # #
                “Hello, Mrs. Nelson.  How are you feeling today?” he asked.
                “Are you ready to have this baby soon?” he asked.
                “Oh yeah.”
                “When are you due?”
                “About two more months, on September fifteenth,” I replied.
                “Well here, lay back and let me measure you… you’re at 32 centimeters so you’re right where you’re supposed to be.  How’ve you been feeling otherwise?”
                “I’ve been feeling kind of nauseous, and I’m having a lot of headaches-“
                “-That’s normal,” he said.
                “I’m also having a really hard time getting any sleep, and I’ve been feeling kind of down and stressed out.”
                “That’s normal with pregnancy too.  Anything going on at home?” he asked.
                “Just typical military stuff where my husband is gone to the field for ten days and then home for five.  But when he’s home, he’s working until ten at night, and then he leaves again in the morning at five, and then goes to the field again,” I said.
                “How much longer will he be going?”
                “For about the next three months,” I said.
                “Well, that’s the military for you.  Anyway, come see me again in about two weeks, okay?”
                “Yeah. Thanks.”  Thanks for nothing.
# # #
                Even the doctor told me this is normal.  I better get used to it.  I feel so helpless.  No matter what I’ve just got to get used to this shit.  It sucks!  But how am I supposed to get used to sleeping for an hour at night, and then tossing and turning for eight hours, and then sleep for another hour until Jake wakes up and starts calling for Mom?  I am so tired of all of this.  I just want to crawl under my blanket and curl into a ball and just lay there.  Leave me alone from the rest of the world for a few months.  I envy this baby in its safe little womb protected from the world with nothing to worry about except growing and sleeping.  I wish it were me.  I just want a break, a vacation.  I can’t take another day of trying to clean the house and changing Jake’s diapers, and feeding him, and rocking him to sleep, and trying to keep him out of the cupboards and the garbage and EVERYTHING!  I just want a break.  And there’s no one to help – my family and friends are 1300 miles away and my husband is gone all the time.  Even when he’s home, he’s gone.  I just want a break. And I know that I won’t get one.  The only way I will sleep is if I die.  I can just imagine the darkness, the quiet, like closing my eyes and sleeping without ever waking up.
                But can I do it?  Could I cut my wrists?  That just sounds like it would really hurt.  Besides it would take too long to die, so by the time I pass out there would still be time to call 911 and save me.  Besides the lack of blood would hurt the baby.  I could overdose, but that wouldn’t be quick enough, and the drugs would hurt the baby too.  I could shoot myself, if I can get enough courage.  The shot would wake Mike so he could call 911, and the baby is old enough to survive outside the womb.  If he’s quick enough, the baby would be okay, but it would be too late to save me.  I could use the shot gun and place it under my chin – there’s no way I could pull the trigger and live.  But I haven’t ever used the shotgun, so I might not know how to use it.  I could use the .45 pistol:  it doesn’t have the advantage of the shotgun shooting several pellets into my body, but I think that if I aim the .45 under my chin towards the center of my brain, it would do enough damage to kill me or at least put me into a coma that I won’t wake from.
                I was taught in Catholic school that suicide is a sin, and that I could go to hell, but I can’t imagine that hell is much worse than this.  My relationship with Mike sucks, I’m a terrible, depressed mom for Jake, and the world in general could easily go on without me.  I feel so alone, tired, angry, helpless – just so tired of living.  If suicide is a sin then maybe God will forgive me.  Maybe I could go to heaven, or wherever the afterlife is, and see my grandmothers and cousin, I would love to see them again.  And if there’s no heaven or hell and it’s all over, then I will be able to sleep.  It will be over.  I will have escaped the pain.
                Do I need to write a suicide letter?  No, what is there to say?  Everybody knows that I love them, that’s enough.  Mom and Dad will be sad, but eventually they’ll move on, so will the rest of the family – they have their own lives and families, and they’ll feel sad and guilty, but eventually they will move on.  As for my friends, I’ve already moved away and left their lives, so they’ll miss me but only for awhile.  Mike will be better off and so will Jake and the baby.
                It’s still so dark and Mike is snoring in bed beside me.  Hey, if I kill myself, he won’t have to go to the field tomorrow.  It’s 4:22 in the morning – it will be dawn soon.  I’d rather die in the dark so that I don’t have to see the gun in my hand, so I can close my eyes and escape without a witness.  I get up.  There’s the gun on the top shelf of Mike’s side of the closet – I need to be very, very quiet.
                What the hell?!?!  Fine time for the power to come back on, after being off for nearly eleven hours!  All the lights are on throughout the house including in here and the TV is blarking.  Mike wakes up, “What are you doing?”
                I stand there motionless, please just leave me alone. “Nothing.”  But he can see the tears on my face, and my hand is on the gun case.
                “What are you doing?” he yells.
                This shakes me.  “I want to die,” I say out loud for the first time.
                “What are you --- stupid?” he says.
                “Please –“
                “Get out of here! Don’t be stupid!  I’m sick of this shit!  Quit acting so psycho!” he yells.
                I run to the bathroom for safety and solitude, locking the door behind me.  I really want to die.  I sit sobbing and rocking on the bathroom floor.  I hate this.  Why do I feel like this?  There is no way he will let me near the gun tonight, maybe if I stay in here he’ll fall back to sleep and leave me alone and not give me one of his lectures about how stupid I am.  I am so tired.  I just want to sleep.  He hasn’t come after me.  This is good.  Maybe he’ll leave me alone.  Why do I feel like this?
                Why do I feel like this?  I don’t know.  I need somebody to talk to, someone who will understand.  Mike sounds like he is asleep, maybe I can get the phone and call someone.  Be very quiet, now gently pick up the phone and grab the phone book.  Shhhh.  Okay, now I can take to back to the bathroom.  There, lock the door again.  Who should I call?  My parents?  No.   A friend?  I don’t want to talk to anyone who knows me, I don’t want to hear their disappointment in me.  I don’t want to hear them tell me how stupid I’m being.  One of those suicide hot lines? I’ll call the suicide hotline, they don’t know me.
                “Hello, suicide hotline, how can I help you?” a voice asks me.
                I need help.  “I want to kill myself,” I say.
                “Where are you?” they ask.
                “I’m at home, locked in the bathroom”
                “Is anyone home with you?” they ask.
                “Yes, my husband and my son, they are asleep,” I say.
                “Do you know how you want to kill yourself?” they ask.
                “Yes,” I say, I don’t want to admit my plan because then they might try to stop me.
                “How do you plan to kill yourself?” they ask.
                “I don’t want to say,” I reply.
                “Will you talk to me?  Why do you want to kill yourself?”
                “I’m tired. I just want to leave everyone alone and not bother them anymore,” I say.
                “Why do you think you’re bothering them?” they ask.
                “Because my husband and I fight all the time and I cause him problems at work, and I’m always crying or yelling at my son.  I’m just so tired, I don’t want to do this anymore.”
                “Have you ever felt like this before?” they ask.
                “No --- well, yes.  When I first started college I was at a party and everyone was drunk but I was feeling pretty down.  I ended up in the corner of the bedroom rocking back and forth and sobbing.  I was so cold, so sad.  My friends eventually got me out of that corner and put me to sleep.  The next day the doctors told me that I felt this way because of a change in my birth control pills.  He changed my prescription and by the end of the week I felt fine,” I said.
                “Would you be willing to make a doctors appointment first thing tomorrow to see if maybe this is something similar?” they ask.
                “I don’t –“
                “How about, could I set up an appointment for you?  Can you promise me you won’t kill yourself tonight?

“I – I’ll try,” I say.
“Do you still plan on killing yourself tonight?”
                “No,” I don’t tell them that I don’t have access to the gun anymore. 
“Can you promise me you won’t kill yourself tonight, and that you’ll go see a doctor tomorrow?” they ask.
“I –“
“Should I send an ambulance to your house?  Are you in danger?”
                “No.  I’ll be okay,” I say.
“Will you promise me you won’t kill yourself tonight?”
“Yes,” I will wait until tomorrow.
“Will you go to the doctor’s tomorrow?” they ask.
“Yes,” I say.
“Is that a promise?”
“Yes,” I say.
# # #
I will wait until tomorrow.  Who knows, maybe it is a problem with my hormones. I owe it to Jake to see if I can get better.  Maybe it can get better.  Maybe I could get some sleep.  Maybe.  I could go to the doctor tomorrow and ask for help.  Then I don’t have to leave Jake because I won’t be a bad, depressed mom, and then I won’t be such a tired, depressed wife.  Maybe I won’t feel so bad.  And if there’s nothing the doctor can do, I can die tomorrow.  I will give myself until tomorrow.

There is more to this story… Maybe it starts with the fact that this story was for my “Advanced Creative Writing” class which I signed up for without realizing I didn’t have the prerequisites.  My teacher asked me to submit a short story to him at the beginning of the term and I submitted a “great essay” but the teacher told me I couldn’t write a short story and should just drop the class.  I told him that I just needed to learn the structure of a short story and I wanted to give it a shot.  The teacher continued to urge me to drop but I was stubborn.  As I said, the story above is my first draft of my first short story ever….
                … And it’s semi-autobiographical.  I wrote it as a catharsis … to let it all out… to make it real… and to try to forgive myself.  My classmates reviewed the story and had said that the main character was pretty naïve… yes, yes I was.  I was a 20 year-old woman who met my husband fall term of my freshman year of college.  He was my first and we married young.  I had never lived on my own (I’d worked full time and attended community college while living with my parents) and my husband had been a sweet, funny, intelligent young man who was my everything. I was naïve and immature…. And I wrote this at the age of 23; approximately two years after the suicide “attempt.”
                More to the story?  I found out the article was published from my dad (I was a daddy’s girl) and he had attended a summer conference at Western Oregon and had picked up the magazine one day just to glance through it…. He said he stumbled across my story, read it, and cried. … I can’t describe my feelings about that… it’s just… a lot.
                More about the story?  The doctor diagnosed me with clinical depression triggered by my hormones (since I got pregnant with my second child when the first was nine months old), severe situational stress, and lack of sleep…. For four months I had only had two hours of sleep a night…. The doctor put me on antidepressants and I had minimal counseling for about six months when they weaned me off the drugs… but I had to resume them about three months later for another six months.
                More to the story?  I was a Psychology major at the time I wrote this story and we talked about self-talk (the things my inner voice tells myself) and how it plays a role in mood… and we talked about nature vs. nurture; I had a grandmother who died of “a broken heart” and numerous female family members treated for depression…. And I grew up hearing “I wish I were dead…”  All were food for thought when I wrote this story… When I wrote it to forgive myself and to make it real… and to maybe help someone else who might be going through something similar.  Some people can’t understand how on earth someone could commit suicide… I can.
                And now?  Now it’s more than fifteen years since that night (I believe God saved me that night because why on earth would the power have come on at that precise moment?)… I’m still with my husband.  It took a VERY long time for things to get better; five years ago I gave him the ultimatum of divorce, separation, or counseling… he chose counseling (and help for PTSD).  It’s been five years since I’ve felt the fear of holes in the walls and the name calling awful fights.  And I’m feeling safe… and I have precious kids that mean the world to me!  And I’m falling in love with my husband again -- You know, the one that I loved when we were dating and who I chose to marry … And I want to share this with my friends who see my husband and I as having a really great relationship and to let them know that I understand the hard times too… And I want to put this “out there” in case there is someone else going through this who might stumble across it at just the right time and that it will help.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

All I Want for Christmas...

So, for all of you out there with little ones who are all grown up, this may take you back... It's the kids' Christmas wish lists:

Faith's wish list (phonetic list above):
Nintendo DS and DS game
Barbie & the 3 Musketeers movie
Hanna Montana the Movie
Aqua Sand
Moon Sand
The Cupcake maker
a horse toy
record player
a hat
a cat
a clock
a fishing rod
a fox toy

Elijah's wish list (above):
LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure continues
[pretty easy shopping list!]

Isaac's wish list (above):
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit traeks for the Nintendo DS
[too cute: his list was originally longer but he tore it up and only gave us the piece above... when questioned, he finally admitted that the longer list included guns and knives... Ahh, to be a nearly-14-year-old boy!]

and finally....
Faith's sweet letter to Santa... So sweet! ("Toy snow man, pony, guitar, santa toy, new gloves, cat, new bear, the best Christmas!")


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween Good Times....

This year for Halloween we went up to Salem to see our good friends Carrie & Geoff who were gracious enough to host a Halloween Party. Tons of fun, lots of Rock Band, and we even spent the night after staying up until about 2 AM partying hard! We really appreciated the hospitality and fun :-)

Halloween at PeaceHealth

Isn't this awesome?!? :-)

Nilda and Rachelle

Happy Halloween!!

Family Fun at the Pumpkin Patch

You've got to love the PumPkin Patch especially when the trek includes:

- tons of fun in the fall leaves
- time with my honey
- fresh hot apple cider
- caramel apples
- kettle corn
- 96 lbs of pumpkins
- 3 silly kids who fought over getting pushed in the wheel barrow
- a beautiful, crisp, sunny shiny day in the fall in Oregon!!

Praise the Lord!

Happy Birthday Baby Doll .... Joel's 32nd Birthday

Joel's birthday was a couple of weeks ago and as a special surprise Joel's mom flew in from Arizona to surprise him for his birthday. We hadn't seen her for about 4.5 years and so it was especially nice for the kids to get to know their Grandma Donna :-)

Alas, the only "downer" was that I had a doozy of a head cold and so we weren't able to do all the fabulous things that I'd hoped (e.g. beach, pumpkin patch, etc.) ... instead we spent the weekend cuddling on the couch, watching movies, and Grandma let Faithy have a hey-day playing games with her Facebook account (Happy Aquarium and the Cafe were her favorites).

It was GREAT to see her and have that special time (thank you Donna!) !


Faithy's Field Trip to Thistledown Farms

I got to volunteer to go on a field trip with Faith's class to Thistledown Farms here in Eugene... we had a lot of fun, can you tell? :-)

First graders

For the field trip, each of the adult chaperones were responsible for keeping track of three kids... much easier said than done when you have three independent kids all wanting to explore a farm!


1.) Cuddling with Faith on the bus ride
2.) Hayride to the field
3.) Feeding the goats (the kids were grabbing leaves to feed the goats)
4.) Going through the corn maze with the kids (granted, it was tricky when they each wanted to take a different path in the maze!)
5.) Beautiful scenery - the farm was great!
6.) Special time together.....

They had to explore every inch of the field in search of the best "tiny" little pumpkins.... the rule was that they could pick a pumpkin no bigger than their head. One of the girls was in search of the smallest, cutest pumpkin she could find; she ended up with a pumpkin roughly the size of a small orange. The second little girl was kinda quiet and just ran along -- she was the last to pick her pumpkin. Faith was undecided and switched pumpkins a few times. All in all, lots of fun!

So many choices!!!

A Happy Day :-)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Baby!

Faith's birthday: 7 years old!! Can you believe it?!? Wow. (Right now she's big into watching re-runs of "America's Next Top Model" and posing away... growing up too fast!) We started with the family birthday party...

And ended the birthday parties marathon ("crazies") this past weekend with Faith's very first birthday party with friends: pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs, pinata, chocolate cake, and presents. What could be better?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Faith!! I love you! :-)