Excerpt for It'll Feel Better when it Quits Hurting by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Copyright © 2015 by Lisa M. Orban

Second Edition published March 2019

Published by Indies United Publishing House LLC

All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be replicated, redistributed, or given away in any form without the prior written consent of the author/publisher or the terms relayed to you herein.

First Print Edition November 2015

First eBook Edition published September 2015

Cover art designed by Lisa M. Orban

Interior illustrations by Alexander Mann Copyright © 2015

All rights reserved worldwide. No artwork in this book may be copied, reproduced or redistributed in any form without prior written consent of the illustrator.

In other words, be nice to the book and to the people who spent so much time, energy, and sanity in its creation.

This book contains an excerpt from Wine Comes in Six-Packs by Lisa M. Orban, the second book in the Okay, Picture this... series.

ISBN: 978-1-64456-030-3

Indies United Publishing House, LLC

PO Box 3071

Quincy, Illinois 62305-3071






A cookbook for people who hate to cook









A tongue-in-cheek guide to saving our democracy


The Talking Book





Sorry Mom


A special thanks to Alexander Mann who is responsible for all of the artwork contained within this book.

Many thanks to Charles Wm. (Bill) Anderson who believed in my words enough to volunteer his time to do the final editing of my book.

To Squirrel Boy a.k.a. Cory Grigsby, without his ADHD style of attention to detail while reading endless rough drafts, and his ability to make me laugh, even when I wanted to cry, this book would not have been possible.

Handy Guide to Finding the Stories

Foreword by Charles Wm. (Bill) Anderson

Dear Reader

Prologue – And then it got bad...

I want to be the Madame of a House of Ill-Repute

Twiddling Thumbs & Peanut Butter Cookies

Earning Sainthood

Chapter One - I'm all the remains of my bizarre childhood

Sister for Sale

Illustration by Alexander Mann

Song to Soothe the Savage Beast

I could read the Mayo on the wall

Chapter Two - The Descent

A new daddy for Lisa

We don't clean, we move

Marcus O'Realious

How to get an Atari

Your Mother sent me to you

Illustration by Alexander Mann

What a Riot

Ante Up

Chapter Three - The Rebellion


Illustration by Alexander Mann

You can lead a horse to water

I do believe it's time for you to go

A Wet Rat

I didn't have any plans anyway

Illustration by Alexander Mann

Vaseline in a Police Station

Interlude One: Stuck in the System

Chapter Four: Life with Eula

A Life Resumed

An Extra Ticket

Lisa's a girl!

Meeting by Accident

Free Pizza

Illustration by Alexander Mann

A Living Canvas

Pick me! Pick me!

Another Sad Ending

Chapter Five: And now, for what's behind family #3

My Kingdom for a Story

Weekend at Laura's

Chapter Six: The Final Home

Ghost in the House

The Left Side of the Menu

Never say Never

Stuck on a Bridge


Chapter Seven: The Great Escape

Two Kittens and a Toyota Truck

Looking for a Living

My Guardian Angel

Sliding down a Mountain

Illustration by Alexander Mann

Drugs in the Oven

The Leaning Tent

The Boys are Back

Interlude Two: Here there be Monsters

Chapter Eight: Moving On

The Married Life

Look! I have boobs now!!!

An Inconvenient Baby

Locking Myself In

A Shot in the Ass

Right Name, Wrong Number

Selling Death over the Phone

The Second is Coming

Chapter Nine: Until Death do We Part… Sorta

A Broken Vase

The Event Horizon

Ten Boxes

Illustration by Alexander Mann

An Infomercial Changed my Life


You are Not Alone

*Author's Note about the Title

Excerpt from Wine Comes in Six-Packs

About the Author

Foreword by

Charles Wm. (Bill) Anderson

When I first learned of It'll Feel Better When It Quits Hurting, I thought, "No kidding. It always feels better after it quits hurting." Still, the title reminded me instantly of something my father always said.

So when the author contacted me seeking a review, I agreed to read this as a free borrow through my Kindle Unlimited account. Within 50 or so pages, though, I was so overtaken by the trials and travesties within this story, finding myself laughing at some of the author's statements and shenanigans, and in stunned disbelief at others enough to purchase her touching memoir. It is a hard book to put down and forget about.

The author’s life is much that of a character in a Stephen King masterpiece. She is almost Carrie in the flesh. Yet, despite failed parenting and failures by most of those caring for her in her years as a foster child, and despite the snafus within her school years, Lisa Orban, the author, grew up and bettered herself. From the opening chapter regarding her grandparents, with the overarching message from her narrative of her grandfather that it instilled in her a certain innocence and love that, deep down, permitted her to survive the grief that was to come. The author shows us her perspective on what it is like to live on the 'wrong side of the tracks,' if I can put it in a common vernacular.

Her authentic voice rings true to her inner fears and a life as a foster child being raised, occasionally, by both folks with little concern for her welfare and rights as a human being, and, at least once, by a woman of sincere empathy who exercised real, true, love and understanding. I believe, with all my heart, based on observations I have regarding the foster care system we have, and based on the transition of our society from one set of biases and prejudices and moral shortcomings, to that besetting current society, that this is a must-read book for all stakeholders in the foster care and education fields. There is a bit in this memoir that, while it is hilarious in the reading, it speaks volumes in terms of the prejudice and inherent profiling (racial and otherwise) that pervades our education system.

I appreciated this memoir perhaps more than I can satisfactorily express. Suffice it to say, I am convinced it will go a long way towards improving understanding and love for one another, free of excess prejudice or morality encumbrances. My opinion, as stated above, though, has pertinence to the appreciation of a rollicking good roller coaster ride through life by someone who has dared to open herself up to ridicule in order that we can enjoy the trip with her, or share the joys, heartbreaks and fears with her. This is a must-read story that should be compulsory to all foster-care homes and the entire educational system. There is a wealth of education between the covers of It’ll Feel Better When It Quits Hurting.

-Freelance writer, Journalist, member of the

Outdoor Writers Association of America

and Top 500 Amazon Reviewer

Dear Reader,

This book you are holding in your hands has been a labor of love, and sometimes insanity, started alone, but finished with the help of many others.

When I started this project in 2013 I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And so, completely naive to the task I was undertaking, computer open, I gathered my thoughts and began to write. Taking the book apart, again and again, dividing it up, and then massive rewrites after I completed my first round of word spillage. Printing up copy after copy as I X-ed out sometimes entire pages, trying to get the right feel for the story I was telling.

It was my intention to bring you the story of my life, not as someone looking back, but from my singular point of view, as it was happening. I tried very hard not to foreshadow upcoming events, nor did I want to interject the present into the past. I wanted you, dear reader, to experience my life as I did, unknowing of the future, learning as I went, growing and maturing in each story. I am not always the hero of my narrative, I did not always make sound judgment calls, and I have made some truly astounding mistakes. But life is like that for everyone, and it would not be an honest telling if I did not share the dark moments along with the light.

After two long years and many rewrites, and what was beginning to seem like forever lost in my own past, I had what I thought was a copy worth sharing. Gathering my courage (and postage stamps), I sent it off to friends and family, asking (begging) them to read, edit and make suggestions. At around the same time the book was sent off, I enlisted the help of a friend who designed the illustrations for the book, asking him please, please, pretty please, help me out. And he graciously agreed. Then, I sat back and waited (squirmed with impatience).

After months of input, I put together the first copy of the book and submitted it to Amazon. I was (and am) proud of what I had created. But, like many Indie books, no matter how hard my small group of dedicated helpers and I had tried, there were still many errors to be found in the pages of my book.

And that's when strangers who had read my book, stepped up and said, "I'll help." Each believing in what I'd written, they offered advice, editing and spelling corrections, and promotion/marketing pointers, each in their area of expertise. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to each and every one of them for all their help and encouragement to an unknown author, simply because they believed in my book as much as I did.

This is (I hope), the final re-edit of my work.

If there are any further editing errors, I am truly sorry. English is an unwieldy language, even for native speakers, only made worse by my dyslexia, and my fast & loose use of the language at the best of times. To paraphrase James Davis Nicoll, "English doesn't borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over, and rummages through their pockets for loose grammar." I hope in this incarnation, English is done having its way with me, and there won't be any more pilfering needed. But, if there are, please know I have put my heart, soul and every minute of spare time I had over the last several years into the creation of this book. It was not for lack of care that any mistakes remain in the book, and you will forgive me for them if there are any still lurking within these pages.

Before you begin this book, I'd like to share this with you as well. I almost stopped at my graduation. Those final chapters were taken out and put back in a dozen times before I finally decided I was ready to share those stories with the world. Many of them I had never confided to anyone, and now I was considering exposing them to the world. It left me with a painfully naked feeling even while writing them. But in the end, I knew they were stories worth telling. And so, after many agonizing weeks, I placed them back in the final copy, and there they stayed.

In the beginning, I wrote that I did not know if there was any wisdom nor inspiration in this telling, but with my choice to leave those final chapters in perhaps that is not entirely true, there may be a bit of both hidden within these pages. You'll have to judge for yourself if is true, and I leave it to you to decide.

But mostly, what this book is about is laughing at the absurdity that is life, feeling joy in the simple act of being, accepting even when life isn't perfect, it can be wonderful. It is simply, my life as I have lived it, and I hope along the way you will laugh with me, maybe roll your eyes, groan and shake your head, eager to turn the next page to see where the train wreck ends. And as you reach the end and close the book, you pause for just a moment and think, "Damn, that was a helluva ride!" And in that brief moment, you can imagine me standing before you, with a grin on my face, nodding in agreement.

Before I end this, I would like to thank every person who willingly read my first drafts. Alex for his wonderful illustrations. Cory for helping me laugh when I wanted to cry. To Best Kept Secret for allowing me to use their music in my promo videos. To Bill for his editing help, and also to Steve for his as well, and all their support along the way. To Amanda, my soul-sister I've never met, and all her help in getting the word out about my book. To my family, who at first reading, hated it, but later realized an honest account can't always be kind or flattering, and then decided to love it anyway. But most of all, I would like to thank you, dear Reader, for taking a chance on an Indie author. I know you have chosen to spend your hard-earned money, and precious time with me, and it is sincerely appreciated.

And now, without further ado....

It'll Feel Better when it Quits Hurting

I promise

When I was in high school, I attended an Alanon meeting that had a guest speaker from outside the local group. Nothing unusual in and of itself, but he made an impression that has stayed with me to this day. He was a recovering alcoholic, and as he shared his story from its beginning, at the end of each little story he would add, "And then it got bad." He had a gift for making people laugh with him as he recounted all of his bad choices and the ever-increasing disasters in his life. As things escalated, seemingly unable to become any worse, he would add, "and then it got bad".

Looking back at my life, it could be summed up much the same way.

Often, at the end of each of my stories, I am sometimes almost compelled to add, "and then it got bad". I am not an alcoholic nor am I a drug addict. This isn't a story of redemption through religion or even a morality tale of bad choices. Many of the circumstances I have found myself in were beyond my control.

I was simply trying to cope the best I could while maintaining a smile.

This book is a bit darker than I initially intended, but I hope that while reading this I can make you smile, on occasion laugh out loud, and maybe even roll your eyes at the ridiculousness of the situations I have found myself in over the years, and near the end, as you finish each section you might, in the back of your head, hear the echo of, and then it got bad. And that's okay because it did get bad, but in the end, I survived to tell the tale and I do not regret any of it. This is my life, and I wouldn't change a single line.

For better or worse, this is the mostly true, fairly accurate, and almost completely factual account of my life. Some liberties have been taken to protect the somewhat innocent and a few small embellishments were made for the sake of a good story.

When I was twelve my English teacher gave us an assignment to write about what we wanted to be when we grew up, as I’m sure many of you were given at some point in your schooling. But of all the papers I wrote as a child, this is the one that stands out in my memory. I’m an adult now, and a mother of five, I no longer have the paper I wrote from that far away time but I do remember the title and for one perfect moment in my life, I knew exactly what I wanted to be.

I didn't actually know per se, what a Madame was, or what it meant to live that kind of life, but I did know it involved pretty dresses, expensive houses, and gentleman callers. Not that I knew what a gentleman caller was either, other than someone who brought flowers and money. Since most of my knowledge of what a Madame was coming from the endless Spaghetti Westerns my father watched on TV, it’s easy to see how I may have gotten a somewhat skewed view of what it really meant.

It was the most glamorous career I could think of at the age of twelve when the world felt awkward and so did I. Boys were mean, we were no longer young enough for the playground, but not old enough to date, and we all lived in that horrible never-never land of not quite. To be a Madame was to be the pinnacle of adulthood with all the glamour, power, beauty, and grace that can only be sustained in the mind of a child. Why would anyone want to do anything else, if a career such as this existed? Now that I am older I can look back at that childish image and smile, but at one time this was what I wanted to be more than anything else.

I am an adult now, and I didn't grow up to be a Madame of a House of Ill Repute. In my life, I most often resemble the ringleader in a madhouse of anarchy. But sometimes, I wistfully remember the longing for flowers, gentleman callers, and enchantment I think all of us have had at one time or another. Whatever your childhood ideal of adult life may have been. My life is not glamorous, no high society people come to call, and any dinner party I have ever had has ended in the verbal equivalent of a food fight. But, looking back on my life I realize by and large it has been a helluva ride that I wouldn't exchange for anything. So, this is my life, for better or for worse. I hope you enjoy the ride as much as I have enjoyed the roller coaster.

When I was young, and an only child, I spent many summers and school vacations with my great-grandparents. They lived in, what was to me, a magical house full of things to distract, entertain, and amuse. There was an attic full of boxes, each filled with a treasure waiting for me to discover. Exotic hats, dresses by the dozens, old dolls and even a wood burning kit not fit for anyone who didn't have heavy leather gloves and a full face mask that I loved to play with. It had a screened in porch, covered in ivy and a backyard full of climbable trees and wild rhubarb to dig up. At night, I went to sleep to the sounds of trains in the distance and awoke each morning to chirping birds when I slept upstairs in what my grandparents called a sleeping porch. My Grandmother taught me to knit, play cards and the wonders of Lawrence Welk, and my Grandfather taught me how to drive my Grandma crazy.

By the time I arrived on the scene of my grandparent’s life, my Grandfather was retired and mostly puttered around the house that was my Grandmother's domain and sometimes I would putter with him. We would poke around the basement for things to fix or rake the leaves in the backyard for me to jump into, but mostly we would sit side by side in my Grandfather’s favorite chair and twiddle our thumbs.

For anyone who doesn't know what this is, I’ll explain. Fold your hands together as if you were praying, fingers down and then rotate one thumb over the other in a circle, and nothing in this world could drive my Grandmother as crazy as twiddling our thumbs. Each time my Grandmother walked into the room and saw us doing it, she would immediately stop in her tracks, hands on hips, and with a tapping foot demand, “Arnold! Quit twiddling your thumbs!” and we would obligingly stop. But the minute she walked out of the room to continue her interrupted travels, he would calmly watch her retreating back, then smiling down at me, we would begin again. Sometimes, I think he did it just to drive her crazy, and he taught it to me so I could join the fun. If there had been an Olympic sport for synchronized thumb twiddling I do believe my Grandfather and I would have won gold medals for our performances.

My Grandfather indulged me in almost any activity a young child could dream of, we had tea parties where he would sit folded up in a chair, at a table made for midgets, and drink water from a cup while toasting me for being such a gracious hostess. He applauded whatever I played on the piano, and hung any number of drawings I gave him in his upstairs office, and occasionally, allowed me to lead him into trouble with my Grandmother.

On one such occasion, while Grandmother was out shopping, I announced I wanted to make peanut butter cookies. Now, you have to understand, I don’t believe my Grandfather had ever made so much as toast without my Grandmother’s blessing, but, all he asked was, “Do you know how?”

Well, of course, I did!

So my Grandfather, who hated all things sticky (he would get up at least once in every meal to wash his hands), agreed to help me. I decided the formal dining room was the perfect place for our experiment and brought in all the ingredients I believed you needed for cookies. I spread flour on the dining table, followed by peanut butter, a huge scoop of butter, and a generous coating of sugar over the whole thing and, plunging my hands into this sticky mess, said, “Help me mix it up, Grandpa!”

With an indescribable look of horror, my Grandfather put his hands into my concoction and tried to help. We smooched and smashed, kneaded and patted in an attempt to get what I considered the right consistency for cookie dough as it slowly worked its way up from fingertips to elbows, while he asked me over and over again, “Are you sure this is how you make cookies?” As our attempts to make the cookies spread up our arms and across the table my Grandmother walked in, stopping dead in her tracks in front of us, exclaimed, “Arnold! What are you doing???” Instantly turning, my Grandfather pointed at me and yelped, “She said we could make cookies!” As if somehow that would save him from my Grandmother's displeasure.

As my Grandmother continued to stare, with crossed arms and tapping toes, my poor Grandfather slunk away to the bathroom to clean up, partly to wash the gooey, sticky mess from his arms, but mostly I believe, to avoid any further dispute with the reigning ruler of the house.

When I was about seven I learned from my great-aunt how to make scrambled eggs. With this new found knowledge, I decided one morning I wanted to treat my grandparents to breakfast in bed. I made eggs and toast, I sliced a grapefruit and gave each half and even made fresh squeezed orange juice. Since I had been helping my Grandmother make breakfast all summer, I knew how to do each of these things, except for one. How to make coffee.

They owned a silver percolating coffee pot that I had never been taught how to use. But my Grandfather always had coffee with his breakfast, no exceptions, every morning. As I tried to figure it out, a commercial I had recently seen came to mind for Folgers Instant Coffee, where all you have to do is add water to a scoop of coffee. Smiling with my own resourcefulness, I began making a cup of coffee. But with only one scoop it didn't look dark enough no matter how I stirred it, so I kept adding coffee to the cup until it had achieved what I considered to be the right color. I then took breakfast up to them on a tray filled with the eggs, toast, grapefruit, orange juice, and my Grandfather’s coffee. I even added a small vase with flowers I picked earlier in the morning to make it all look nice.

As I presented all of this to my Grandparents, they both expressed how happy and pleased they were with all I had done for them. Serving them breakfast, my Grandmother commented she was surprised about the coffee, when had I learned to use the coffee pot? I, of course, told them of the problem and of my solution to it, and bless that man; he choked down every bit of his coffee with a smile on his face and with nothing but praise for what I had done. Although, he did refuse a second cup when it was offered.

If ever there was someone who met the criteria for sainthood, I do believe my Grandfather’s ability to drink that cup of coffee and make me believe it was perfect, without a single grimace or sign of distress, should have qualified him instantly.

But, what I love my Grandfather for most of all is not what I knew then about his love for me, but what I only began to realize as I grew older. His endless patience, his grace under difficult circumstances, and his boundless love for me that he never failed to show, no matter how tired, sick or hurt.

And this is where we will leave my Grandparents. A few years later, my Grandfather became ill and eventually had to be put in a nursing home, and my Grandmother followed shortly thereafter. But I prefer for you to remember them like this, as I do, when Grandma ruled and Grandpa puttered, and they lived in a magical house full of treasures just waiting to be found. As with all roller coaster rides, there’s always a staging area, it’s a quiet place as you move slowly forward, but it’s also full of excitement and hope for the ride ahead, and maybe with just a little fear of the unknown as well. Now that we've reached the head of the line, we’ll wave goodbye to them as they smile and urge us onward, knowing while it may be scary at times, it’s going to be a great ride.

When I was very young, maybe three or four, I saw a movie about a small voodoo doll that came to life. With an equally small spear, the doll ran around a house, spending most of the movie hiding under furniture, where it would launch sneak attacks at the main character's feet. The heroine of this god-awful movie eventually tossed the small terror into the oven, baking it to death. As silly as it sounds, this horrible horror movie affected me until my late teens. For years I couldn't put my feet down on the floor after dark without fear or reach for anything under the bed without a flashlight.

Even now as an adult, I sometimes feel a remote twinge putting my feet down on the ground in the dark. I know rationally my fear comes from the leftovers of childhood imagination, there is no basis for it in reality, but it doesn't stop the small hesitation I still have. Somewhere deep inside my mind, a little voice is still convinced one of these days something scary is going to come out from wherever it's been hiding all these years and get me.

We're all afraid like that sometimes, of things big and small, real or imagined. Sitting paralyzed in the dark, with the fear of the unknown, of change, of the thousands of what-if's that inhibit us from taking our first step up off the safety and familiarity of the known, and putting our feet firmly on the ground. It's a leap of faith against the small voice that says, "I know you're probably right, but... what if you're wrong? What if the monster is real?"

Shortly before my 6th birthday, I began to notice Mother was getting fat and the closer we got to my birthday the fatter she got. She began having troubles seeing her feet, waddled like a duck when she walked, and was often sick or tired during the day. I was told sometime around my birthday I was going to receive the greatest birthday present I could ever hope for, and as my mother got bigger, my excitement grew. Along with the changes to my mother, there came changes to the house as well. New furniture arrived and was set up in my old room because my parent had moved my bedroom to make room for the soon to be arriving present. The house smelled of new paint and cleaning supplies, and as all these things were going on around me I became more and more excited. They must be right, with all that was going on there had to be something wonderful waiting for me at the end of it.

A week before my birthday Mother disappeared, other family came to stay with me and excitement was everywhere around me. There were presents stacked in the corner, full of ribbons and pretty pastel colors, and in the room that had once been mine, began to overflow with all sorts of things both bright and mundane. I was informed by everyone my present was about to arrive! A few days later, my parents came home to the fanfare of family and I was presented to my present, a new baby sister. She was small, she was sleeping, and she was to be the greatest gift I would ever receive, and she was all of those things. For 24 hours.

The first day she was home, Mother sat rocking my sister in her arms as I stood by and watched the small, sleeping wonder. People came and went, and my parents beamed and talked about how quiet she was, what a good baby she was. I followed them upstairs that night as they put her to bed and stared down at her as she slept in her crib, and thought to myself, yes, this was a good gift. Not only did I have a new sister, but Mother no longer waddled as she walked and could see her toes again. I began to believe my life would go back to how it had been before, but with the added happiness of someone else to share it with.

The following day, the gift began to cry, and cry, and cry, and it wouldn't stop. She cried from dawn to dawn with only short breaks as she napped, but never long enough for anyone else to get any real sleep. We rocked her, sang to her, put her in cars and in the swing, we patted her back and rubbed her belly and tried everything but put a cork in her mouth. Which I thought would be a great idea, but it was not a well-received suggestion by my parents. My parents wore ruts in the carpet from walking her back and forth in a vain attempt to make her stop; trading her back and forth like some bizarre game of Hot Potato, so one of them could take a break from her never-ending wailing. I thought to myself, no, this would not do.

This was not right. This was my present and I no longer liked it. I wanted to take it back, right now, and get something else. But I was told this was not the kind of gift you could return or exchange, she was staying and there was nothing that could be done about it. As the days turned into weeks, and the crying continued, my parents' attention was focused solely on the new baby with no time for play. I began to think about how this could be fixed; there had to be a way.

One late summer day, when my sister was about a month old, she fell asleep in her pumpkin seat and my mother fell asleep immediately afterward. I stared at her for the longest time, and then slowly, quietly, not to disturb either her or Mother; I carried her out to my wagon in the front yard. If I could not exchange her and I could not return her, then I would sell her! I loaded her into my wagon and set off down the street to the corner, where I had to stop because I wasn't allowed to leave the block, and began hawking to oncoming cars, “Sister for Sale! Sister for Sale!” until a neighbor noticed me.

Out of the house and down to the corner she ran towards me and the sister. Stopping before me, she looked down at my sleeping sister and inquired what on earth I thought I was doing? "Selling her,” I responded, looking longingly back at the passing traffic, hoping one of them would stop to take this problem away. Shaking her head, I was informed once again, I could not exchange her, nor return her and I definitely could not sell her.

I slowly followed the neighbor lady home, the sister in her arms, a small parade of three with my wagon trailing behind me. I came to the sad realization the sister was here, to stay, forever, and nothing could be done about it.

Life with the sister was definitely different. No longer were there quiet moments to share, relaxing outings with my parents or unbroken sleep during the night. Music played and vacuums ran continually, loads of laundry were washed, partly because the sister leaked at both ends, but also so she could be sat on the dryer in another vain attempt to quiet her. The center of my parent's universe had shifted to circle around the baby. All activities were done to placate her, and nothing was ever done without first considering how it would affect her because there was no other consideration in the world but whether or not it would make her cry.

When Christmas came, we all loaded into my parent’s car to spend the holidays with my mother's family out of town. When we arrived, the house was decorated for the season and everyone was waiting for us with happy smiles and welcoming embraces. There were cookies and cocoa, big meals taken in the formal dining room, cousins and aunts everywhere. There was laughter and large, pretty bows, and even the sister was, mostly, quiet. We sat by the Christmas tree with the snow blowing outside and a fire going in the evenings while I dozed on the floor by its warmth and listened to the calm normalcy of adult conversations around me as the sister slept in another room. This was peace, this was Christmas, and this was wonderful.

And all was good and right in the world until we climbed into the car to return home. It was cold, the radio was broken, and the sister began to cry. As the miles passed, the crying turned into screaming and the screaming became howling. As we rolled down the road, my mother's grip on the steering wheel became tighter, her face more drawn and her foot became heavier by the mile, while the sister cried on, oblivious to the rising tide of frustration growing around her.

Mother begged me to do something, do anything, to make her stop, by the love of God, make it stop. I turned around in my seat and tried playing peek-a-boo; she just stared at me and continued to howl. I tried rubbing her belly and I tried to give her a pacifier, I tried "get the nose" with a toy and I tried "this little piggy", and still she continued with the never-ending wail that seemed to resonate up from the base of the spine until it ended in a spike in the center of your head. Out of desperation, I began to sing to her the only song I knew all the way through, Jesus Loves Me. The cry turned into a whimper, and so I sang it again and the whimper wound down to a sniffle and then to golden, blessed silence. Happy she stopped crying, I turned back around and sat down in my seat, when the silence was once again shattered by her crying.

Back up and back around I turned and sang to her again, and again she quieted, but only for as long as I would continue to sing. Throughout the two hour ride back to our home I sang. I sang until my throat was raw, but sing on I did, continuing an endless cycle of Jesus Loves Me until we pulled up to the house.

By the end of the ride, I honestly don’t know if my mother had been driven crazier by my sister’s crying or the non-stop song loop, monotonously sung by a 6-year-old. But I do believe that may have been the longest car ride in the history of car rides, ever.

One fine day Mother took me shopping with her, just the two of us. We picked out groceries, and I helped her find items on the shopping list, and on the way home, we discussed what we were going to make for dinner. Walking in the door, we heard Father in the kitchen. While we were gone, he decided to be nice to my mother and make dinner for us, and the stove was busily bubbling with his efforts. I’m not sure if any of you are familiar with this type of food, but in the days before TV dinners or microwaves, there were “boil-a-bag” foods. Mostly things like mashed potatoes and some kind of meat, often with gravy, sealed in bags and then boiled to cook them.

As Father turned and grinned at us, I thought Mother was going to have a stroke as she stood there turning red, staring at the dinner Father had made. To this day, I’m not sure why Mother was so mad or why this upset her so, but take my word for it, she was livid.

My father’s grin faltered as he stood there before the steaming, pot covered stove and announced, “I've made dinner for us.” As if somehow Mother had not gotten the memo, and he was trying hard to deliver the good news.

For an awkward moment, we both stood in the doorway in silence, and then I was told to take my place at the table for dinner. We had a short, oblong table where Father sat at one end, Mother on the other, and I sat in the between the two of them. It was a very quiet, tense meal, where I ate in silence watching my parents glare at each other across the table. Until the moment, Father asked Mother to pass the mayo.

She stared at him for a few seconds, and then with calm deliberation picked up the glass mayo jar and launched it at him. That jar sailed across the table with a gentle tumble at the midway mark, straight to where my father’s head had been the moment before he ducked. As the jar exploded behind my father, he popped back up and grabbed the first available item on the table and returned fire. And so began the Great Food Fight of 1976. Mashed potatoes, peas, and chipped beef flew with equal ease back and forth across the playing field of our kitchen table.

As the ammunition began to dwindle and the volleys became more sporadic, an uneasy truce settled over the kitchen as each of my parents stared at one another and the mess they had made. Even as young as I was, I needed no help reading the mayo on the wall to know that this was the beginning of the end of my parents' marriage. And nothing in this life would be the same again.

My parents' marriage limped along for a few years after that. Until one day, I was sat down by both of them and informed they were getting a divorce. Did I know what that meant? Taking turns, my parents told me they could no longer live together, for various adult reasons I wasn't old enough to understand yet, and they would be moving into separate places. Apparently, their imminent separation was much more of a surprise for them than it was for me, and they were very concerned I understood what was happening.

Oh, I got it all right. No more tense dinners or hissed comments, no more glaring stares or uneasy silence pervading the house, no more biting conversations or barely submerged hostility. Yeah, I got it, and “Thank God” was all I could think. It may have been, quite literally, the happiest day of my young life, where we could all quit pretending everything was great and we could all just get on with our lives.

The end of my mother's second marriage began the first long climb of my roller coaster. Where we were all strapped in, and like it or not, committed to the ride. Now begins the descent…

Whenever my mother was between marriages, she developed a passion for packing boxes. No move was too far, and no apartment left unexplored during these times. As my mother relentlessly searched for the perfect place to live, she was also searching for the next perfect husband to make her life complete. New daddy #3 came along less than two years after old daddy #2 was left by the wayside.

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