Marshmallows and milk

I really tried to do everything right, I went to college, got good grades, worked 2-3 jobs at a time, paid my bills, lived on my own, taught school, pinched pennies and lived simply.

I never stole anything, tried to be nice to everyone, worked hard to be a good daughter, sister, friend, Neice, girlfriend, etc.  I drove crap cars, worked long hours, and never ever broke even.

Relocating to be with my fiancé was not even a choice, it was a must.  My (now) husband would never have been happy in my home state, as his profession hardly even exists there anymore.  So I tried to “bloom where I was planted” and worked as a waitress, a babysitter, a substitute teacher in ghettos, a child counselor in the projects, while the parents smoked crack in their bedrooms.  I tried to be a good wife, mom, housekeeper, and as little of a burden as I could be on my husband.  All the while, aching with the knowledge that my graduate degree was holding me back.  I applied in over 50 districts throughout Ohio.  I never even got interviewed.  I was told it was because of my graduate degree(too expensive).

To say that the past 8 years living so far away from family and friends, raising two young children on one income has been a struggle is a joke.  It’s made me bitter and angry, and I’ve had a cloud over my head for much of a decade.

However, that cloud was finally lifted when I was finally able to start working toward a dream I’ve had for a long, long time, to open a drop-in daycare center.  I worked very hard, long hours, remodeling with friends I brought from NY.  I searched high and low for bargains, scavenged through thrift stores and discard piles to stock the center with great toys.  We kept struggling with one income for 6 months while I negotiated, worked hard, and finally got the doors open.

Opening a business is scary.  No, it’s downright terrifying.  Opening one when you have nothing – no assets, no nest egg, no retirement, no savings account, no job other than that which you hope to have created, seems foolish.  I took a leap.  I thought after all I’ve been through, all the sadness and defeat, that this was the answer, this was my destiny.

Last night, I had to buy groceries.  We had $20.  I took two jars of pennies and put them in the coinstar.  I thought I had enough.  However, when I got to the checkout, I didn’t.  Not only that, but there was one checkout, and a long line behind me.  I had to give things back – milk, marshmallows, corn, cereal, a pork roast, etc., people were staring at me like I was trash, an idiot, a fool.

Perhaps I am.  But I’d rather be a fool who worked terribly hard to try and make something out of nothing than a fool that just keeps eating the dirt kicked in my face for the past decade in Ohio.

So take my house, take my car, take everything.  My pride will remain.


Hearts from Heaven

Since the untimely passing of my father in July of 2014, I’ve had so many signs that he’s with me, that I have gone almost a whole two months without crying about missing him.

I am still very sad.  It’s weird because I KNOW he wouldn’t want me to be sad, and I know it probably makes him sad that I’m sad, so I try hard to not be.  Lol.

He used to be in my dreams a lot.  Then I was rebellious to him a couple times, and it’s been a long stretch where he hasn’t been in my dreams.  I figure it’s a message, because we got into an argument about the Bible.  I told him I’d read it, and I still haven’t sat down and done so.  I mean I’ve read Proverbs, and I open it now and again and read a line or two, but he clearly wants me to study it.

Anyway, daily, he sends me hearts. Sometimes very subtle ones that only last a second, in the sky, in the water, on the floor, on the window, on the carpet, on the driveway, etc. It always makes me smile.

Today was very interesting though, and how I wish I had my phone on me or my camera charged and ready so this could sound less crazy and weird, but alas, you will have to take my word for it.

Our geriatric dog has some issues, one is a hacking cough he gets when he drinks water too fast.  Sometimes he throws up a little, but not always.  Today he did that, and because he had done that both of my kids avoided walking that way in their bare feet.  I went to get a paper towel (also in bare feet) and dropped it on the puddle.  I then noticed a nasty looking shard of glass that was right next to the paper towel and could have easily ruined the day for everyone.  I picked it up and threw it away, and explained to Rory that it was probably Grandpa protecting us.  When I returned from the garbage I looked at the paper towel and the puddle had made an image that looked like a hand showing a peace sign.  Anyone that knows my Dad knew that was a favorite of his!  I stood there stunned for a few seconds as the image then grew larger and appeared to look exactly like a human heart, instead of the usual heart shapes I see.

That was my Dad.  I’m so glad he reassures me daily, that there is life after death, that he will always look out for me, and that love never, ever dies.


Maggots and Reese’s Cups

I had been gone for a couple of days, and when I opened the door to my garage, I smelled a horrific smell.  Being that the garbage can was directly in front of me, I assumed it was that.  Upon closer inspection, I discovered, much to my horror, that the garbage bag in there was MOVING.  It made me think of Poltergeist and the chicken leg incident.  There was a veritable metropolis in this bag of garbage.  So gross!

I weighed my options – I think bleach, blowtorch – then I decide I’d drown them because, and yes I actually said this out loud, “Best way to go.”  So I drag the can out to the hose, in the front yard, and I just put the hose into the can and left it on for awhile.  What began to happen was the writhing garbage bag was raising itself up to the top of the can.  I decided to “woman up” and grab that bag, shake it and put it on the ground.   One landed on my leg – I wanted to throw up but I kept it together.  

So now, I have a pile of garbage in my front yard in a tattered white bag, and a garbage can full of water and SWIMMING MAGGOTS.  Some had little Mai Tais and some were doing synchronized acts, some were spelling out, “WE WILL SURVIVE.”  I then decided, well, I was just going to let them stay in there and have Nate handle it when he got home 4 hours later.  

I (gag) picked up the garbage from my yard – who knew maggots liked cantaloupe so damn much?!? I then put it all in another (black) hefty bag.  Yes, there was still movement – I believe I had reduced their metropolis to a small town, but there’s only so much one reluctant maggot wrangler can do.  I had flies flying around me which I found to be interesting – who knew that flies cared about their nasty little larvae?  Mother flies were wringing their hands and buzzing encouragement to them, I imagine.  As I gazed at the 2ftx2ft round pancake of swimming maggots I swore off Rice A Roni, the San Francisco Treat, for life.

I then went about organizing and cleaning and rearranging the garage and the shed – the smell from the decomposition of the garbage lingered awhile, but I think I went nose blind to it.  About 4 hours later, Nate came home, and I went to get groceries.  I forgot to tell him about the maggots.  When I parked the car in the store parking lot, I sent him the following text:

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I got no response, which I thought was curious, because Nate is not big on gross stuff.  He gags a lot.  Maggots are especially gag inducing for him.  I figured I’d get at least a WTF? text or something. However, I did all my shopping and still didn’t hear from him.  I had a Reese’s cup waiting for me to want it, on top of the cookie jar, for 2 days, and apparently, Nate had found it, because he sent this text:

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Obviously, the Reese’s Cup was not safe in this situation – it is Nate’s favorite candy.  I haven’t been eating many sweets lately.  So I said:

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He had no idea what I was talking about.  He just wanted the Reese’s Cup.

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I finished checking out, and received a call from him.  This is what he said, “How did a situation like this come to pass?”  LOL, Nate, he’s so calm, cool and collected.  I described the horrific events leading to the maggot pool.  I asked if they were still alive, and he said that yes, they were all still alive, wriggling around in there, floating on the “chicken”.  I said, “WHAT CHICKEN?!”  Thinking perhaps the fly parents had somehow dropped chicken in there through a miraculous group effort.  Then I remembered that I had thrown some parasitic fungi in there – these gross mushroom type things – sticky and orange, they’re killing my marigolds.  So he went into detail about how they were going in and out of the “chicken” and having a grand old time.  I told him I didn’t want to bleach them because I didn’t want to poison the ground water, and he’d have to lug them around back to the woods or something, and although I could hear him beginning to gag, I wished him well and hung up.  

When I got home, he was a bit pale – he said he buried them in an Indian burial ground and did some ritual dances and chants.  I hope that was a good Reese’s cup!  LOL!

My Dad is a Cool Ghost

Grief is a process, a long one, a weird one, like an onion, with so many layers to it.  Some days are easier than others, and mainly because my Dad is a Cool Ghost.  I’m not saying he’s “haunting” anything or anyone.  He’s here though, most of the time, right next to me, and I know it for several reasons.

My father was SUPER protective of me.  He would defend me even if I was wrong, to the death.  When people were condescending to me in his presence he pretty much always spoke up.  When people tried to prove me wrong or make me feel any sort of negative emotion, he’d speak up.  Sometimes I’d be like, “I can fight my own battles, Dad,” but it was always nice, you know?

My daughter can be very snotty.  She’s so bright and such a sponge, and yes, I can be snotty too, and she often dishes out attitude worthy of a 16 year old EMO kid.  There are times when I have to count to 10, walk away, take deep breaths, mutter silently, rather than go head to head with her.  When she’s REALLY wrong though, when she’s absolutely unreasonable and nasty to me, Dad steps in.  You skeptics may roll your eyes, but it has happened more times than I can count.  You could call it karma – like for example, she’s screaming at the top of her lungs that she doesn’t want to do something I’ve asked her to do or making snide comments and something (little) happens to stop her in her tracks – a noise, she drops something, a stink bug flies by her head, she trips (but doesn’t fall), a drop of water falls on her head, and it changes her demeanor just long enough for us to recover.  I know it’s him.

When I’m driving in my car, 2 times out of 3, the song “Sweet Child of Mine” will play on the radio.  My Dad and I went to a Guns and Roses concert together (our first concert of several) and Aerosmith played after them.  He really hadn’t heard any of the GNR songs until that day and he was really taken with Sweet Child.  He said the part, “Where do we go?  Where do we go now, where do we go?” spoke to him because of the fact that he and I were always going places and I was getting older and he decided it was “our song.”  It used to make me cry, but now it makes me smile.  It’s not always the same station either – I’m a surfer – I constantly have the radio on scan, but it will often happen when I settle on a station for a bit.

In my dreams, he is himself.  Like last night, I was at some banquet or something, I think I had written a book or whatnot, and he came in the door and started greeting people, and I’m WAITING AND WAITING for him to make it over to me but he’s delving into these long conversations with the people he’s greeting.  He looks over at me a few times while he’s talking, with his hands, like he used to, and gives me the look like, “I’ll be over in a minute, after I make this point I’m trying to make.”  Rory said she had this “awesome” (her word) dream where she was sliding down a slide and he came down after her and they hugged and my Dad was a big hugger.  There was one dream where I was giving a speech and no one was listening except him in the audience.

On my birthday, right after I opened my eyes, I heard (albeit, in my head) clear as day, “Happy Birthday, Honey.”  I said, “Thanks, Dad.”  He said, “The Big 4-0, huh?”  I said, “Yeah, hard to believe.”  Yes, this was all in my head, but it was also VERY clear, as if it was out loud.  First time that’s ever happened and it hasn’t happened since.

There are several times when Gage will be dancing or saying/doing something cute and I get this warm feeling, like Dad’s right there laughing or smiling with me at him.  Then there’s the wind chime.  When there’s no wind at all, the wind chime will play – often it is just in the morning when I’m getting Rory ready for the bus.  It is a very stressful time of day and Dad was well aware of my morning struggles.  I feel like it’s his way of calming me.

I go round and round with feelings of guilt and sadness regarding Dad – I should have called more, I should’ve been there more, but it doesn’t last long anymore – I’ve promised him and myself that I’m going to stop ruminating – it isn’t healthy – and I’ll often see a low flying hawk or turkey vulture that will glide around above me and I almost think it is a reminder that he’s free now.

I feel like my senses are heightened – especially regarding the children, vehicles, my temper, etc.  I often hear “Be nice,” in my head.  He is and always will be one of the coolest people I ever knew.

Diarrhea In My Hair

Back in Daycare, back in poop and booger land…My kids and I have been sick, I’ve been sick for over a week, I’m coming around now, but I’ve had a very rough time.  My son has been neck and neck with me with this virus, but he pulled out ahead last night.  After he went to the bathroom, I had to call my husband to come and look at the color of his feces, as it was chartreuse.  We then debated about chartreuse being an actual color, and then he wanted to know what language it originated from and so on…but that aside, we had to call in sick yesterday (my son and I) because of fevers for both of us (and he “frowed up”), and today was a hard, hard day.

When we arrived (7 minutes late), my son looked like he’d been on a 42 hour long hike in the Alps.  His eyes were crimson, he had a fever of 100, he wouldn’t eat and was wearing the clothes he had worn the day before.  I wasn’t far behind, minus the fever, and wearing my uniform.  Once the day got going though, his fever broke and he was a contender – running, jumping, kicking the ball, commanding people to do what he said (they don’t but he tries), etc.  I had ZERO patience with the kids, it wasn’t my best performance, but I made it to the moment I will now describe without throwing up or passing out (though I came close to doing both several times).

This boy who is usually busy making poor choices in life and ignoring all codes of conduct, was hiding under the table during snack time.  This being so odd, I had to find out what was up, and when I got close, I realized what was up – he had had an accident and it smelled pretty rank.  I took him to the bathroom and was changing him and as I was cleaning his legs, the toilet, the floor, his feet, etc, somehow a large plop of diarrhea landed in my hair.  I felt it hit, and I thought, with utter horror, “GOOD GOD, NO.”  I looked in the mirror, and yes indeed, where a nice barrette might sit, or perhaps a daisy in the summertime at a festival, was a big round splat of diarrhea.  I cleaned it with a wipe and dry heaved, continued to clean and dress the child, and continued to work for the next 2 and a half hours.

I can’t help but question my choices in life on days like this.  I can’t help but think I should’ve been a lawyer or something, I should have taken that Dairy Queen Manager position in Texas, I should have skipped college and graduate school all together, I’d probably be sporting a feces free hair do, living on a ranch, making bank right now.  No, I’m making $10.50 an hour to wear poop as an accessory with a Master’s Degree.  It’s comical, really.

And until the state of Ohio thaws to something other than a glacier, I will continue to hate life here, with much gusto.  Hopefully without diarrhea in my hair, though.

Waitressing Nightmares

I awoke this morning in a cold sweat – I had been reliving my version of Hell in dreamland again.  I arrive at a restaurant, someone hands me an apron and an order book, and sends me into the dining room – which, of course is full to capacity with customers who are angry, impatient and waiting for service.

I don’t know anything about the menu, what drinks are available, even if the place carries Coke or Pepsi.  I have no section, and no coworkers, I’m alone and I need to do all the jobs – the serving, the bartending, the cooking, the dishes…

Sometimes, I can’t move – like my feet are cemented to the floor.  The customers start yelling at me, some walk out, everyone is angry.  Last night, a new twist in the awful saga, it was a circular restaurant, and I would make it all the way around, taking drink orders, and by the time I’d get back to the tables with their drinks or whatever, they’ve walked out and there are new people at the tables.  It was awful.  I wish my dream self could shirk my “responsibilities” and just walk out of that mythical restaurant from Hell, but I never can!!!!

I’ve been reading a lot about what happens when we die.  I’ve also been watching an addicting show called American Horror Story, and a common theme showed up at the end of the season, that Hell is what your brain cooks up – well, in that case, if I’m to do penance for whatever transgressions I may or may not remember, I’ll be a waitress on the other side, and a bad one at that.

I’m curious to know if any of my server friends (past and present servers) have these terrible dreams.  Let me know if you do, and what variations there are.

Bench Plea for Dad

Please accept my application to place a memorial bench in the park for my father. Some of you may not have known him (although you think you did), so please allow me to introduce you to my late father, Mr. Raymond B. Hughes.

Born in the summer of 1947 to Claude F. (U.S. Navy) and Marion F. Hughes on Reservoir Hill, the family struggled to make ends meet for most of his young life. He had an older sister, Jan (Wagner), and an older brother, Claude B. Hughes. There was never an abundance of food except during and after hunting season, and I’ve been told that if one of the kids was late for dinner, they didn’t eat. His grandmother was half Native American, and he always not only resembled that race, but cherished the Earth and studied the findings of Native Americans in terms of uses for herbs, natural cures, etc.

His parents loved every one of their children, and worked hard to make it work up there on the farm. My father was always sensitive and peaceful, when his older siblings would fight, he’d go and hide, one time causing his parents to believe he’d been abducted until they found him sleeping in a cabinet. Dedra and Durinda’s births ousted my Dad from his “baby of the family” status, which I think was a little hard for him.

My grandfather was a hard working man, who knew how to do many things, including cook, hunt, fish, write eloquently and raise livestock. Grandpa had trouble being kind at times, and my father was very sensitive. He took everything said to him to heart. My grandfather was the Superintendent of Roads for years for the town, a position from which he retired. My grandmother worked at Mercury all of her working life.

My father, as he grew, took on the “Black Sheep” of the family role, and was danger-proned and impulsive, I believe, because he had a low self-esteem. He believed that men should be taken care of by women, and he refused to clean his own room (his whole life). His mother, then his sister, and then my mother and his two other wives kept things clean for him, and I did in the divorced years. The reason I say this is because many of you saw my Dad in his work clothes, some of you may have seen his house or barn and figured he was just dirty or didn’t care about hygiene and that was not true. He suffered from depression much of his life, and refused to seek help for it. He believed in natural cures, and had a deep distrust of pharmaceutical companies.

Dad was very smart. I don’t have his IQ score to prove it, but I know one of his younger sisters tested very high, in the 140 range. He didn’t always apply himself in school because he was good looking, funny, and popular, having fun was more important to him than good grades. He went to college at SUNY Cobleskill, interested in farming, and not too long into his career there, he was in a terrible accident that crippled him for life. He was a passenger in the car that hit a tree head on. He told me many times that he had a near death experience, that he was given the choice to leave or stay and he chose to stay. He almost lost a leg in the days that followed, but my grandpa arranged for a specialist to be flown in to rearrange tendons to keep the leg on. He was in pain from that day on – 50 years of pain. He then had many other accidents, like falling off a roof (in front of me – age 3), crashing cars, black ice crashes, many falls, many injuries, and didn’t dare wear shorts because his leg was so marred people would pick on him. But he kept smiling, he kept working, and he kept going.

He began his career as a viticulturist in the 1980s. He was a natural, and through his father’s teachings and his father-in-law’s (Whitney “Jake” Bailey) he knew a bit going in. He worked for Dr. Frank planting many of the vineyards there that now flourish. He worked for McGregor’s, planting many of the vineyards there that now flourish, and he worked for Keuka Lake Vineyards after retirement and until the day of his death. He traveled to Europe more than once, to learn about their grape growing methods (and for leisure as well). He served as a consultant on several vineyards throughout the 90s and 00s – his opinion was highly valued, and he wrote a book that I have to put some finishing touches on and publish that will be a valuable resource to anyone wanting to have a vineyard in the Finger Lakes. He worked on Seneca Lake at Chateau Lafayette Reneau Vineyards for a bit as well. Many of the wines he grew the grapes for have won medals, are highly sought after, and fetch a handsome price. The plants he planted on the hills surrounding Keuka Lake and Seneca Lake (and beyond) continue to produce high quality fruit, leading to high quality wine, leading to a never-ending stream of tourists from May-November every year in and around Hammondsport.

He had one child. He helped to raise me to be a respectful and contributing member of society, to have love and respect for the Earth, my elders and myself. He helped me through my travels, college and graduate school. He loved me very much and was very involved in my life, maintaining a strong life-long friendship with my mother. I hold a Master’s Degree in Education, and am working toward a 2nd Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology. My father always wanted me to “help people” as he did. Every job I’ve held has been helping people in some capacity. I am now raising his two grandchildren in much the same way he helped to raise me. They are five and three, and he thought they hung the moon. They adored him too.

What I’d also like for you folks to know, is that he saved the lives of many of my generation in various ways. He would go pick anyone up who called him, if they couldn’t drive because they’d been drinking. He’d give anyone a job, or a hand if they needed it. He’d stay up all night counseling those with emotional instability. He shared everything he knew with my friends and was our protector, often serving as a surrogate father to those whose fathers were less emotionally available. Several men from that area and around that area credit my father with teaching them values, and instilling a work ethic in them.

My father never wanted to “marry a car.” In other words, he refused to be a slave to a dealership. He bought cars others would scrap, and he tinkered with them, often successfully, and kept them running longer than anyone would have imagined. It was his hobby. So he never drove a nice car, he didn’t dress nicely most of the time, and he’d tell you exactly what he thought of you if you deserved to hear it. However, that man had a heart of gold, was as sensitive and thoughtful as anyone I’ve ever met, and loved Hammondsport dearly. He had offers to move so many different places, Florida, France, the Carolinas, Ohio, California, but he stayed, and the area is better for it.

My father never really received the respect he deserved. He died lonely and sad, suffering from COPD and heart failure. To protect himself from the meanness of others he became a hermit, and therefore although he died on Independence Day, was not discovered until July 6th. He was so dear to me, and dear to the other folks in that town that knew him well, including the Mayor, Trustees, Bankers, Teachers, Business Owners and others. He could have gone anywhere and done anything, but he chose to help make that area what it is today. Please grant my request to place a bench in Pulteney Park in his memory.

Thank you,


Heather (Hughes) Sensabaugh