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Friday, December 9, 2016

My childhood started off in.... Paterson/Totowa - Totowa/Paterson, WHATEVER!

I will be the first to tell you that the fundamentals of my childhood were not positive, but the times I spent with the neighborhood kids will remain as happy smiles on my heart forever.

In all honesty, these things that bring a smile to my face today are things I would never consider for my kids be horrified if my kids were doing.

Times were different back then. The world was different. 
We were different.
There wasn't so much electronic stimulation.  We didn't even have HBO.
We played OUTSIDE.

I grew up for the first thirteen years of my life in - technically Totowa, BUT because of where I lived in Totowa, all the Totowa kids said I lived in Paterson. All the Paterson kids said I lived in Totowa. For whatever reason the Quick Check seemed to be the unofficial dividing line.


I honestly didn't care. Until I transferred to Memorial School for one year, I went to school in Paterson - St Gerard's on Chamberlain Ave & West Broadway. Most of my friends lived in Paterson. I played in Paterson. I walked Union Boulevard all the way to Redwood Avenue and Chamberlain Avenue all the way to West Broadway, further if I could get away with it.  I went to E&V Pizza, Colonial Grill & all of the carnivals at St. Gerard's and remember the Brownstone before it was THE Brownstone.

To this day, I can navigate Paterson way better than Totowa & remember where each of my friends used to live from Chatham Ave to Totowa Road and from Shephard Lane to West Broadway.  That was my stomping ground until I moved to Clifton.

My main group of friends were a family of mostly boys who lived on Cumberland Ave, on the other side of the cemetery. Beside my cousin Michelle, there weren't any girls in the neighborhood for me.  No playing Barbie for me. It was Army, Ghost in the Graveyard - or sit in my house and watch everyone else play from the window. I chose army. Make no mistake....When you're the only girl and you need to play army with the boys - you're always the dead guy. Always.

We had fun.  The cemetery was across the street and the balloon factory, as we called it, was next door to me.  Back then, the cemetery was still pretty new & we'd play in the flower dump area.  King of the mountain, Ghost in the graveyard.

When the balloon factory closed for the day - we went dumpster diving.

I KNOW...  Believe me.... those words coming through my fingers were painful to type...but you have no idea how incredibly cool it was for a kid to grow up next to the "balloon factory".

Beyond the fact that this company made ginormous weather balloons, their property (as a kid) was HUGE.

The giant wall on the side of the building that was perfect for hitting tennis balls (that I conveniently pulled from their dumpster) against - until they went up on the roof and I had to ask the kid downstairs to climb up on the roof for me.

In the winter a part of the parking lot froze over and I had my own personal skating rink.  The back of the property had HUGE hills that all the neighborhood kids would sleigh ride down.

AND OMG the dumpster!!!
Ya know the stuff inside Stretch Armstrong???  Well I do!  It was right there in the dumpster alongside hundreds of failed Stretch's and tubes upon tubes of the gooey stuff that goes inside, which we happily brought home. Our parents were so pleased....NOT!

There were boxes of ladies shoes, tennis balls, rubber toys - anything that you could think of that was made of rubber / plastic - if it somehow failed in their factory, it was in the dumpster!
As far as we were concerned, they made EVERYTHING!!  That dumpster was our own private treasure trove!

Dumpster Diving became our favorite past time.  We were in our glory and couldn't wait to share our Dumpster Diving exploits and spoils with those who couldn't attend.

Even better, my downstairs neighbor and his friends (best known as "the Big Kids") would sneak into the factory and grab some of the balloons. At night after company closed for the evening, he'd get his mom's vacuum cleaner and blow up those balloons bigger than anything I'd ever seen!

On super hot days, we'd walk to Boonstra's for ice cream.  THAT was a huge treat, because regardless of how far I walked, I was never allowed to cross Union Boulevard.

My brothers and I used to ride our bikes to the park on Totowa Road and go visit the first submarine that used to be on display at JFK High School.

Even back then we appreciated having a small part of history on display for us.

I hate to admit that I don't know the specifics of the sub, we still thought it was very cool to just go there and to have things like the Great Falls so near to us.  

Speaking of the Great Falls - there also used to be what was called The Great Falls Festival every year, I remember funnel cakes, zeppole & the Flying Wallendas crossing the falls via tightrope.
It was just as spectacular then as it is now!

Those times may not have been a total piece of cake; I was forced to become tough at a young age, but life really was so much simpler - not so in your face.

I'm grateful for those days.  Even the bad days. They helped to build the person I am today.

Late 6th grade and all of 7th grade I did spend time in the Totowa Public School System. I guess I really was a Totowa kid after all. I was able to make more memories with a new group of friends until we swooped on over to Clifton for the next phase of my adolescence.

My Paterson friends will always remain in my heart. I often wonder about some of them and wonder if they get the same heart smiles as I do thinking of the old days.

Thank you for reading my blog!

December 9, 2016

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The long term effects of suicide on those left behind

These are my actual, real life experiences.
I am always appreciative when my posts are shared and I'm always hopeful that these posts will help another person. The one thing I ask, please, out of respect to me and my personal experiences - please do not take this blog piece and re-post it as your own.  We are all in this together.  Thank you ~Jenn

This post has been in writing for more than a month. It is very difficult for me to get through because these are my truths.

I ask for a pardon for any grammatical or punctuation errors - this is totally unedited due to the nature of the post & where I had to go within myself to put this out there.

As always, I hope this helps even one person struggling with depression and / or suicidal thoughts.

March 28, 1984 - The day my father left this planet at his own hand.

That date is one I will never, ever, ever forget. Really, how could I?
That is the date that most important man in my life, at the time, left me - without warning, without saying goodbye, without an explanation.

I was 18.

For YEARS I had the exact same re-occurring nightmares of my father's suicide. Not the actual suicide, per se.  Luckily my dad did not die in our house, nor I did not find him or see him in that state. I, instead, dreamed of the article of his death written in the local newspaper.

The article that laid it all right out for me and created a mental picture I didn't recover from for years.

Hawthorne Man, 42, found dead.  Self inflicted gun shot wound to the head. Victim found slumped over steering wheel of his 1982 AMC International Scout.

That's not the article verbatim - but that was what formed the template of the nightmares that ensued for more than 20 years of my life.

The same dream, every night, of walking up to my dad's truck and seeing him slumped over the steering wheel, lifeless, bleeding from the wound to his head. Feeling scared, helpless, distraught, out of control, traumatized.

I don't have enough words to describe every single awful emotion I experienced. I always woke in a pool of sweat, crying, shaking, terrified.

I had that nightmare almost every night for more than 20 years, until I had a procedure called EMDR to make the nightmares stop.  (If you are unaware of what EMDR is, you may click on the link above to give you an explanation. Please note:  This link is not meant as an endorsement to any particular agency and is meant for informational purposes only.)

That treatment DID stop that particular dream, but it did not stop all dreams related to my dad's suicide.

More than 30 years later, I still miss my dad every single day.

Yes, I know - people miss people who've passed all the time.
I've lost others close to me in my life, either naturally or due to sickness or tragic accidents. Some were old, some were young. I think of them and I miss them. I'm not minimizing any loss.

Loss by suicide is different.

If I could express one thing - any thing to someone who is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts and thinks that if they just die they will stop being a burden, you are so wrong.

I've said so many times - if you are a person struggling and just want the pain to go away - please KNOW the pain is NOT going away. All it is doing is magnifying and moving on to those you love, who are left behind to try to make sense of it. Your family, your friends will carry this forever. They will never make sense of it.

Trust me.
There is NO CLOSING that gaping hole that is left behind by the suicide of someone you love. It is NOT the same as someone dying because they're sick, or because they've been in an awful accident, or it was just their time. It's awful. It's traumatic. It's life altering. It's a permanent hole that never quite heals.

It's been a long time since I've had one of those nightmares that I did the EMDR treatment to stop -  but I do still have those types of dreams. I think I always will.

"It happens as usual, I'm lying in my bed asleep, when I realize that my dad isn't home.  I get up out of my bed and I wander around my house looking for him.  In my confusion, I realize that nothing looks the same.  I hear the television in the other room, it's my husband watching television - but it's almost like I look through him.  I'm confused wondering where I am, where my dad's room is.  Why does everything look different.  I go lay back in bed thinking, wait - why am I sleeping in my dad's bed?  I need to go to my own bed.  I continue to process the confusion - then I realize, it's not my dad's bed.  It's my bed.  I'm in my house, not the house I lived in when my dad died - and that my dad is gone.  Then the pain hits.  He's gone.  I cry myself back to sleep."

It's been more than 30 years since my dad passed. I still dream of him, both happy and sad dreams. I still miss him. I still feel the pain and trauma of the loss.  It never goes away.

The feelings of confusion and fear have not completely left me.
In my awake state, today, I can remember all I felt during my dream last night. I can remember wondering where my dad was. Why didn't he come home? Where is he? Where am I? Why did he leave me alone here?  Fear.

You see, the pain of this loss - it never leaves.

...and it has a way of permeating a family.

My brother, Eric, took his own life - the same way as my dad - in 2007.

Suicide hurts everyone.

Neither my dad or brother said goodbye.
-A good bye would not have been better.

Neither my dad or my brother left a note.
-An explanation would not have been better.

Even if they did, it would not change the fact that someone I love left this place at his own hand, and I was powerless to stop it.

Please, I ask you - I beg you, if you are someone who is struggling with the pain of depression and/or suicidal thoughts - PLEASE reach out to someone.

Yes, I know you feel no one wants to hear it or is tired of hearing it.
Talk to someone else.
Yes, I know you feel no one will understand how you feel.
Someone may not completely understand, but they will try.
Yes, I know you feel that you would be burdening someone with your problems.
Someone will gladly want to help.
Yes, I know that sometimes you don't care about anything at all.
Care anyway.

Don't drown. Ask for help. Reach for a life line.

Please know;
Someone DOES love you.
Someone WILL miss you.
Someone WILL suffer every single day of the rest of their life if you leave.

Please stay.

Please reach out.

Someone WILL reach back.

It does get better.

You are loved.

Thank you for reading my blog.

My Daily Jenn-ism ~ March 2016

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  1 (800) 273-8255

In loving memory of the very first man I ever loved - my daddy and my younger brother, Eric.
Missing you both forever <3

Related Posts:

How Suicide has Affected Me - My Real Life Story

Let's Talk Taboo

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Things I wish someone had said to me at 16 years old

I'm not sure how much I've shared on here about me... ya know, besides everything.

For the past 9 years until this past November, my husband and I were foster parents.

We've had the opportunity to have many children of different ages and backgrounds pass through our home. Each one more heart breaking than the next.  Some great outcomes, some unknown.

It was in fostering & volunteering with teens that I got to take a really good look at the life of sixteen year old girl from another angle besides the one I lived.  I can see so clearly now the things I wished that someone had told me.

At sixteen, everything seems so desperate and serious.  Love, life, everything.  They need it all to happen RIGHT NOW.

The one thing in common is that all they wanted was to feel loved, whatever that means.

True, some sixteen year old girls are very well adjusted or more well adjusted than others. Many of the girls we've helped lived lives that were far worse than anything I could relate to at that age.  I wanted to save them all - but I couldn't.  I could only say the things that had been said to me, or that I wish had been said to me.

If I could be the person speaking to myself, I'd speak the same words as I've spoken to these girls and let them know that it really is, and really will be OK.  They are loved.  They are deserving of love and they WILL have the right, special someone to love them forever - ONE DAY.

No bueno
I'm not a prude at all - so keep that in consideration when I say that modesty is OK. You don't have to dress like a nun - but cover it up.  You don't need to show it all off to get the attention of a boy you like.  Dressing inappropriately will attract attention all right - all the wrong attention!  If a boy likes you, you'll get his attention without all of that - don't you worry.

Hormones are flying all over the place - yours and theirs.  It's like a hormonal airport & everyone wants to come in for a landing....

Screeeeeeech..... slam on the breaks, girl.  You've got plenty of time for all of that.  Really.

Not everyone is ready, at the tender age of sixteen, to jump on into a sexual relationship, and it is OK to say so.

If a boy really likes you, he will respect that.  Really.  Yeah, he may be pissed - but he'll get over it.

On that angle, it's important to know the things my daddy (and my step dad) drilled into my head constantly - "Boys will tell you whatever you want to hear to get into your pants."  Honestly, hearing that over and over again really messed me up, but they were right.  Remember those words.

That doesn't mean that you're not lovable or deserving of love.  EVERYONE is worthy of love.  Not everyone is ready to love you the way you want to be loved.  That's learned through maturity.

If you find yourself in a bad situation - FIND AN ADULT YOU CAN TRUST!  Not every sixteen year old is close with or comfortable talking to their parent.  There is always an adult you can talk to - not all of us "adult" people suck.  We've all lived through what you're going through right now and as long as you're not a danger to yourself or others, we can pretty much keep our mouth shut if necessary. Do not try to handle things on your own.

Back to the boy thing....  Know this.... if a boy forces himself on you or takes advantage of you without your consent - he does NOT care about you.  If a boy truly likes / loves you, he will protect you.  He will respect you.  Even in this day and age of punk ass little teen age boys - this will always be a fact.  No one gets to hurt you.  No one gets to disrespect you.  No one gets to take what you're not prepared to give.  Know that - live it.

You many not be a full fledged adult yet, but you are human and deserving of basic human kindness and respect.  That you need to believe.

You are allowed, as your own person, to set boundaries on what you will and will not accept.  Not everyone will like that.  Too bad.  Not everyone matters.  People who genuinely care for you will respect your boundaries.  You deserve respect!

I know that it is absolutely, positively heart wrenching when the boy that you really like does not like you.  Even worse, pretends to like you and then treats you badly.  I promise you, there IS someone out there who will be absolutely, positively in love with every single breath you take.
That person is out there and that person is worth waiting for.

You deserve respect.  You deserve love.  You deserve compassion.  You deserve kindness.

All of this is temporary.  YES, all of it!  In 20 years, this will all be a mere blip in your memory bank. The good stuff will stand out and make you smile.  The bad stuff will still hurt your heart, but you will NOT remember it all.  It will all pass.

In the mean time, 
Be happy!  Be smart!  Be sixteen!

This time only rolls around once - live well without regrets.

You deserve that!

Thank you for reading my blog!!


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