June, 2012:

THE BIG BAD WOLF ISN’T A FAIRY TALE –Part 2– by Victoria Giraud

Why were my legs “on strike” and making me struggle to pick my feet up? I’d always been active—I loved to walk long distances; finding a close parking space was never an issue.

For years, I was on the move, physically and mentally. Growing up as an Army brat gave me a gypsy talent for adjusting and moving on, married or single. Later, as a journalist, I was interviewing people and being out among ‘em. Besides, I was also raising children. In other words, I had plenty going on to entertain and/or distract me. I was just fine, thank you very much!

Then I got divorced when I was 39 and my kids were 9 and 11. I had to deal with my self-esteem issues as I searched for meaningful work and good life choices. It’s easier to see false steps and leftover pain looking backward. I certainly didn’t see that I was dealing with leftover issues when I was in the midst of living a new life as a single mother and working woman.

I believe there’s a strong connection between mind, body and spirit. Things just don’t happen out of the blue: there are reasons. Not that we can decipher all the whys and wherefores, but it is wise to be introspective. If we don’t, we may be forced to do it, and not on our own terms.

Where did the self-esteem issues come from—childhood, of course. But those memories had been buried so long and so well I didn’t even know where to start. I had been sexually abused for several years and then emotionally/verbally abused for many years afterward because, I believe, of my stepfather’s guilt. For self-protection, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I had hidden the incidents deep in my mind. I remember being angry (photos show it because Dad was an amateur photographer), but I kept it buttoned up. He was the Army officer adult with all the power, and I hadn’t met him until I was four, shortly after my mother married him. I don’t recall being threatened regarding our nasty secret, but I was a good little girl. So good I kept it hidden for 20 years and then out of the blue told my husband, who had no idea how to deal with it.

A very sad 12-year-old with my sister and baby brother.

 

Abuses of every kind have been around, I’m sure, since humans first roamed the earth. For centuries, it was more accepted or hidden. In those so-called glorious 1950s, all sorts of important issues were hidden—from cancer and alcoholism to abuse of various sorts. People knew or gossiped but, for the most part, social workers or police didn’t deal with it—it was a private matter.

I didn’t even tell my mother about it and we had a close relationship. Did I sense by observing family dynamics, even at that age, that she didn’t have enough power to change things? Was I being brave? Perhaps hypnosis would ferret those aspects out of me or some other kind of therapy, but I’m used to handling my own challenges and reach out to books or sympathetic, intuitive friends. Being a woman with close friends is a real plus in life. Even so, it’s remained a subject buried deep until the last 20 years.

In the 1990s I confronted my stepfather about it by writing a letter (besides, he lived far away). I had to express myself in writing: I’m wary (scared?) of confrontation. That fear probably made me a better writer. I was too late in sending the letter; Alzheimer’s, the forgetting disease, had started to erase his memories. He couldn’t answer me directly; he wrote me how he had had therapy (which I knew) and the therapist had reinforced his belief that he had loved all his children deeply. Oh yeah, especially me.

My mother, who could no longer bear her conflicted marriage,  contracted kidney disease a few years before she died at age 52. Dad was distraught but he didn’t let it interfere with taking an important qualifying exam to be a certified investment counselor.  He passed. It didn’t take him long to court and marry a professional businesswoman who lived in his Texas neighborhood. Because she didn’t give up easily, despite her misgivings, the marriage lasted 8 years. Shortly before they divorced, she and I met for a very long lunch when she visited LA, and she told me she questioned her decision to marry him six weeks after the marriage.

Her suspicions about Dad’s undesirable traits were confirmed when he first started therapy and she called me. “Did your dad have an affair while he was married to your mother?” she asked. “Not exactly,” I answered. “He molested me when I was quite young.”

Part 3 – What If Mom Marries a Pedophile will be posted on Sunday.

 

 

 

WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH ME? By Victoria Giraud

In this fascinating journey called my life, I finally feel I’m on the road to easier mobility, especially if I continue a positive attitude and supportive affirmations. Inspired by the Jerry Sandusky trial’s results, I was ready to write about my own saga. Since my story is more complicated than one blog will reveal, I will tell it in several parts.

Off and on for years I have felt unbalanced and my legs have felt heavy. I would get better and then get worse again. Being an independent-minded woman, who did not always have health care, I learned to explore alternative health care in many forms ,and I got fairly good with self-diagnosis. I always suspected my physical symptoms had something to do with childhood emotional wounds from my stepfather’s abuse.

My friends and family were concerned when I began using a cane and then bought a walker.  I didn’t let my physical challenges inhibit me totally, but I sure needed to sit more often. There’s always a silver lining to all negatives—it encouraged me to write more and I started this blog.

I always knew that somehow, someday I would let go of whatever was holding me back, but I had no idea how long it might take me. Physical exercise, chiropractic, lots of swimming and never-ending positive thoughts/sayings  failed to produce a miracle but they did keep diseases away and my muscles strong. I always bounced back to some extent. Having a walker in a museum is a bonus; it’s like wheeling a chair around, an easy way to sit comfortably when needed, especially in front of a wonderful painting or special exhibit.

Recently, since I now have comprehensive health care, I decided to pursue the medical aspects of my infirmities. I saw a neurologist who tested all my muscles and movements and found them to be essentially sound. That was a relief! The next step was an MRI since she deduced that perhaps it was my lower back causing the walking difficulty. I wrote about the white “coffin” procedure in a blog.

The photo below: My stepfather’s fantasy — his photo of me in my mom’s outfit and jewelry. I was about 5 years old.

When I consulted with a neurosurgeon after the first MRI, he told me my back was in pretty good shape for my age—no pinched nerves, bad discs, etc. In this process of elimination, he recommended an MRI for the rest of my spine since the “controls” for walking are higher up on the spine. I was in the white coffin for 40 minutes or more this time.

When it was time for my results, I was assigned to the only female surgeon in the Neurosurgery department, and I looked forward to her diagnosis. She was a perky, no-nonsense person and paid close attention to the images before she gave me another set of physical tests of muscle power, pain, etc. I am sturdy and essentially quite healthy; I had arthritis in my spine, with the neck area the most vulnerable to eventual pain. When I asked, “Is there anybody who doesn’t get some arthritis when they get older?” she replied, “Now that’s the right question!”

Where do I go from here? I wondered as I pushed my walker back to the parking garage. I was already exercising and doing my best.  There was no magic pill. An older gentleman, probably in his 80s, joined me in the elevator. He was in sneakers and seemed quite fit. He looked at my walker and said, “Two years ago I had to use oxygen and a wheelchair, but I decided I wasn’t going to give up. Now I walk around Balboa Lake a couple of times every day. It’s about a mile and a half.”

I feel that lovely fellow had a special message for me. But it was only part of the answers I was seeking. Seems it was up to me, as I had always thought.  I also needed to do some research on childhood traumas, like what I’d hidden for 20 years before I told a soul. Stay tuned….

 

 

 

 

 

A MED CRUISE US NAVY STYLE by Victoria Giraud

Now that it’s summer again, I can reminisce about past vacations and adventures. Wandering back in memory gives a different perspective, a look through rose-colored glasses. In this case, I was on a cruise, with my mother and nine-year-old sister, on the US Navy ship General Maurice Rose, traveling  through the Mediterranean on our way to New York. It was a full ship with a contingent of about 160 passengers who had gotten on in Tripoli. Military personnel and military dependents would be embarking and debarking as we sailed to Athens, Istanbul, Izmir, Naples, Livorno and Gibralter before docking at Brooklyn Navy Yard a couple of weeks later.

It’s a different and insular world aboard ship. Getting one’s “sea legs” is important in case there are any storms. We had a tumultuous one off the coast of Italy about halfway into our trip and I managed to stay upright with all systems go. My family was lucky our cabin (narrow bunk beds and a private toilet, as I recall) was on boat deck and not subject to as much rocking and rolling as all the lower decks.  The smells aboard ship are definitely distinct: a pungent combination of oil, metal and seawater. There’s also the mysterious aroma, to me, of adventure: new vistas, new people, new places.

All the newness was mixed in with old friends from high school at Wheelus Air Force Base who were also coming back to the States. We teenagers had our own teen club in the Aft Lounge, in the back of the ship, with rock and roll music and all sorts of social activities.  The ship had a small theater—a  room with a portable screen and folding chairs—and was stocked with movies: Missouri Traveler, Wild is the Wind, and The Careless Years, for instance. The only one I still remember, because I’ve seen it again, was Anna Magnani and Tony Franciosa starring in Wild is the Wind.

There were three seatings for meals in the formal dining room. As a reminder, a seaman would walk the ship’s corridors with a small xylophone, using his mallet to hit three or four notes.   We had the third seating and joined three American teachers traveling home.

The Rose passed out old-fashioned mimeographed copies of the Rose Report every day. It listed the movie being shown that day, a few tidbits of world news, something inspirational from the Chaplain, and even a little history. According to the Master’s Morning Report for 28-29 June, 1958, we had traveled 167 miles since the previous evening at an average speed of 12.9 knots.  This was Voyage 102 for the Rose.

The first day’s sail brought us from Tripoli to Piraeus, the port of Athens, and that evening we were offered a 3-hour tour on a large bus, modern for its day. After being on the continent of Africa for almost three years, it was a bit of an eye-opener to see people wearing Western clothing and to see stoplights for the first time. We walked around the rocks and the ruins of the Acropolis, but I’m sure the fifty years since have produced many changes, and I know a museum has been opened. With the current economic climate in Greece, I hope they can bolster their economy with lots of tourists to their lovely city of Athens.

An old view of the Acropolis in Athens circa 1958

 

 

Discovering the Victor in Victoria by Victoria Giraud

In honor of Father’s Day, I have a preview excerpt from my latest published Ebook story on Amazon and later this week on Barnes & Noble Ebooks for Nook. Discovering the Victor in Victoria is the true tale of my search for my birth father. I was only a toddler when he went off to fight WWII in Italy. My parents divorced a few years later and both remarried. My mother liked Army officers, hence I had two career military men as fathers. They’d both gone to military colleges: my father was a West Point graduate; my stepfather graduated from the Citadel in South Carolina. At the end of their careers, my stepfather was a full Colonel and my natural father was a Brigadier General. Their lives weren’t easy and full of joy, but it was never boring.

Baby Viki when her daddy went off to war.

To check out my books on Amazon, go to:              http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

I was 21 when I discovered my birth father was stationed at the Pentagon. On a trip to Northern Virginia right before my last semester of college, I decided to look him up. In those days access to the Pentagon was easy; finding your way around, however, was challenging.  (Book Cover created by Hans Giraud, my son)

Was this white-haired slender man truly my father, I wondered? Did I even resemble him? Wasn’t he too old? My step-dad was scarcely gray. But this man’s hair was thick and wavy, similar to mine, and his slightly pug nose looked like mine. He looked at me inquisitively as I stood by his desk, my heart racing in my chest.

“Col. Hobson, I’m Viki Williams,” I introduced myself as he stood up with a smile. I noted he was taller than my dad. He maintained his outward composure, though I could detect the astonishment in his eyes. He knew who I was immediately. Calmly and politely, he told the adjutant to leave and close the door behind him. He then directed me to sit in the chair in front of his desk.

“Now, what can I do for you?” he asked hesitantly, still smiling at me, the bomb who had dropped into his life.

What thoughts were rushing through his mind? I wondered as I kept my cool, though I was quaking underneath. Tension and unease hung in the air.  I quickly told him I was in my senior year of college and looking for careers, and I needed information for my CIA personnel form, such as where exactly was he born. As he gave me the information about his Alabama birth, we both relaxed a bit.

“I guess you think I’m about the worst man alive,” he offered with a hint of regret in his voice after we had finished the required questions.

“No, I don’t,” I replied evenly, too shy and uncertain to explain feelings I wasn’t even sure of. Even though Army officers weren’t known as “Disney” fathers, I had harbored no resentments through the years. I was simply curious and reaching out for clues to my origins.

“I’ve thought about you a great deal all these years,” he added softly. “You look very much like your mother, except taller.”

 

AN ARMY DAUGHTER’S TALE By Victoria Giraud

Since June is a time to commemorate fathers,   my next two blogs will focus on my fathers.  My mother married two men, both of them Army career officers. One of them, my birth father, went off to war in Italy when I was a toddler. He survived but never returned. Her second marriage, when I was four, lasted longer, but he was emotionally abusive to us all. Oh, Mom, sometimes I wonder what you were thinking! Well, nobody’s perfect! And, obviously, you weren’t thinking, you were in love and your cerebral cortex had nothing to do with it.

What’s a small town girl to do when she falls for a handsome man in a uniform and a West Point grad? Especially when it’s World War II and Pearl Harbor has made it absolutely necessary for the US to get into the war. When you’re in your 20s, the heart wants what the heart wants.

I survived both my fathers. After all, life experience is “fodder” for writers. I learned from them both and I loved them both, despite everything. My stepfather is the subject of the Amazon book on sale called Colonels Don’t Apologize. I’ve posted the cover on this blog and am sharing a teaser below. I used fictional names for my characters, including myself. It gave me a bit of detachment I felt I needed.

Excerpt:               http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

“He may be dying and probably won’t recognize me, but his power is still evident,” Beth confessed to Emily as they drove in her van toward the nursing home. “I’m sure that’s one of the reasons I got so violently sick. He can still affect me.”

 “Do you think he may have gotten Alzheimer’s from all the rotten things he did in his life?” Emily asked.

 “I believe we create our own reality and bring on the physical conditions we need for our soul’s growth,” Beth answered. “It’s interesting that Dad has lost his control over all the things he valued most in life – money, intelligence, his family, his own body.”

“Since we’re talking about theories,” Beth added, “I’ve got another thought concerning that World War II and Korean War generation of American men. I think those extreme situations seriously affected their views on life. They came home with hardened hearts, devious minds, and plenty of sarcasm. But they also knew how to be charming and get their own way. Their wives and children, who were easy targets, suffered the most. These guys didn’t seem to know how to say, ‘I love you,’ much less, ‘I’m sorry.’”

“I feel sorry for him. He’s been through a lot. Perhaps this disease evens up the score. But I hope none of us suffers the same fate.”

 “I don’t believe we will. We were on the receiving end of his brand of child raising, but none of us have chosen the same approach to life.”

 “His suffering kinda makes it easier to forgive him,” Emily added with a mischievous smile. “You know what else is odd? He loves to get hugs and he knows that saying I love you will get a warm response and maybe another hug. He could never say that to any of us when he was well and in possession of all his faculties.”

On Father’s Day, I will introduce my new book: Discovering the Victor in Victoria. That’s the story of finding my birth father 20 years after he left.

SPOOKY EXPERIENCES by Victoria Giraud

I’m not a ghost expert, but I know people who have done some research on the subject and had some fascinating spooky experiences. Rob and his wife Anne had so much contact with the spirit world that they decided to write books about ghostly encounters. They published A Guide to the Haunted Queen MaryHaunted Catalina and The Haunted Alamo, among others. I knew them both and did some proofreading for one of the books.

I interviewed them some years ago for my Daily News column and the story was too good not to share again. They are very convivial people, and we enjoyed many glasses of champagne and tasty Mexican meals together over the years. Perhaps some of their ghostly friends joined in the laughter without us knowing?!

“I was aware of the spirit realm as a young child,” Rob told me. “When I was 8 or 9, I had a weird experience at our house — a presence that emanated from the closet. It walked toward me and vanished. I knew it wasn’t my imagination.” Rob said the ghost, which was a benign presence, is probably still “residing” in that closet.

Anne told me she grew up hearing ghost stories, and her grandparents always claimed they had a ghost closet.

Rob and Anne shared a ghostly experience on an archeological dig in Oxnard, CA, some years ago. When a developer’s construction worker hit a skull with his backhoe, Rob was called in as an archeological expert to examine the remains. It turned out to be a 500 year-old Indian gravesite with 21 bodies, which were positioned in certain designated ways.  Chumash Indian officials were also contacted, and they decided to perform a ritual cleansing ceremony when  the bodies were once again buried.

Anne remembered the spooky aftermath and the chills she felt as she and Rob observed the ceremony. “Roosters were crowing, dogs from neighboring homes were howling, and a devil duster wind kicked up out of nowhere.”

There was another aftereffect from the incident, Rob related. The workers who had accidentally uncovered the grave all had a minor car accidents the week following.

The Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA

 

After taking a “ghost” tour of the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, Anne was intrigued and went looking for a book in the gift shop about the various ghosts. The owner told her there was no book, but one was needed. The Queen Mary, a Cunard Line ship in service from 1936-1967 became a tourist attraction in Long Beach in 1971.  Shortly after, the couple set to work by calling the Queen Mary’s archivist to establish a correlation between actual deaths that had occurred on the ship and the ghosts haunting it.

They found plenty of ghost stories and several concerned the deaths of John Pedder and William Stark, for instance. Pedder, an 18 year-old crewman, was accidentally crushed to death by watertight door #13. Stark, a ship’s officer, died in his quarters when he accidentally drank poison thinking it was gin. Since their deaths there have been repeated sightings of ghosts believed to be Pedder and Stark. People have also reported seeing a woman in a 1930s style bathing suit. Apparently there was a woman murdered in the first class changing room and her spirit haunts the first class pool.

The US Navy battleship Iowa, the largest ever built, is now docked in San Pedro and is scheduled to open as a museum in a few weeks. Considering its wartime service and other tragedies, I’ll bet it has lots of ghosts.

Recently, when a switch on a cherished lamp needed fixing, I substituted a touch lamp on my desk. That touch lamp has turned on in the middle of the night over the years (that’s another story!) and I was relating something about it one afternoon to a visiting friend. Just as I finished the story, the  lamp turned itself on. Later that day, I was wondering what kind of motor noise I suddenly heard. It was my window air conditioner: only a year old and 8 feet away from where I was sitting at my desk. It had turned itself on. Believe it or not…

 

An Army Brat in Libya By Victoria Giraud

Note: for the first time in 2 years of writing my blog, I wasn’t able to post on my regular posting day (Wednesday). My server was doing maintenance–something to do with security, I believe. Modern times–modern experiences…maintenance was usually done in the old days by appointment when a human showed up at your door. Now, all these machinations are done unseen in cyberspace!

In the middle 1950s Tripoli was a bustling, cosmopolitan city inhabited by   Libyans, Italians, British, Americans and an assortment of other European and Middle Eastern nationalities. Both the British and the Americans had military bases, and international oil companies were drilling for the oil that would eventually make the country rich beginning in 1959. Libya, for the first half of the twentieth century under Italian rule, had only gained its independence in 1951, and that auspicious occasion had been marked by the renaming of a main thoroughfare, to be forever after known as 24 December Street.

Like many major events in the life of an Army brat, I wasn’t sure I wanted to uproot from the States and travel to such a strange land. I was shocked when my father received orders in 1955 to report to North Africa. We were stationed at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, at the time, and Africa couldn’t have been more distant from civilization as far as my twelve-year-old mind was concerned. Morocco was our first assigned destination, specifically the peculiarly named Nouasseur. Orders were changed when Morocco had violent political problems and a few Americans were killed. My dad was reassigned to Wheelus Air Force Base just outside Tripoli.

My Army Corps of Engineers father, a lieutenant colonel, would command a military group that had something to do with maintaining the strategic airfield, the closest large American location to Russia, an important fact in those Cold War years. He would also be traveling to mysterious places such as Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Saudi Arabia.

 

 

To check on or download this Kindle book featured on my Amazon Author page, go to:   http://amazon.com/author/victoriagiraud

 

Our little family, which included Darby, my two-year-old brother and  Tupper, my six-year-old sister, boarded a military prop plane at Maguire Air Force Base in New Jersey the week before Thanksgiving, 1955. We left a snowy landscape and headed southeast over the Atlantic, our circuitous flight path leading us first to the tiny Azores Islands. Propeller-driven planes, not as efficient as jets, required refueling stops. We landed on the islands about 3 a.m. Azores time, were roused from sleep, and dependents and military personnel were herded off the plane onto waiting buses for a trip up a windy mountain road for breakfast in a non-commissioned officers club. A couple of hours later we were jammed back aboard, but mechanical difficulties kept us on the ground several more hours. When the plane was deemed airworthy, we were flown to Nouasseur Air Force Base in Morocco for another stop and finally on to Tripoli. Military planes, whether carrying troops or dependents, weren’t on fixed schedules. You landed when you landed.

What seemed like days but was more than likely some thirty hours later, we reached our new home. It was 9 p.m. in Tripoli, but after so many hours and so many time zones, who could tell? No snow on the ground here: the weather was temperate and probably no colder than 55 degrees. Only after a good night’s sleep would we regain our land legs and clarity of hearing – the noise and vibration of prop planes had a habit of disorienting the body, which included sight and hearing, for hours.

BEING SINGLE IS NOT ALL FUN & GAMES By Victoria Giraud

 

US Navy Blue Angels in formation

So-called local “watering holes” can hold many surprises; who knows whom you will meet and there are many bittersweet stories among the patrons. Since I was always interested in people’s personal stories,  I discovered some truths about various “regulars” of the male gender, and a few became friends. I have a friend who told me many times that I like to interview people. It’s an old habit from my newspaper days, besides, how else do you get to know someone?

One such person was Bill, a former Navy fighter pilot, who’d been part of the highly skilled Blue Angels, and flown in the Viet Nam War. He was up to having fun of all sorts, even if it made him look foolish. During Happy Hour at Ottavio’s, a classy bar restaurant one night, a girlfriend of mine challenged Bill on his offer to do something crazy. She dared him to take off his trousers and boxer shorts (he was wearing a suit and tie) in front of everybody. He managed to slip them off without causing too much of a stir: his shirt had a long tail, which kept him modest. He handed her his boxer shorts and stood there grinning while people stared. Since only his bare legs showed and not his naked fanny, no one protested.

Does it look better than it tastes?

So far, I’ve never seen Bill’s stunt repeated, but a male friend told me he once rode a horse naked (a la Lady Godiva) to a local Western bar for Halloween.

During a time when I was having financial challenges, Bill, who had bought a brand new Porsche and was feeling generous, lent me his older Porsche for about a month. As I got to know him better, I discovered Bill’s charm and enthusiastic boyishness varied during periods of highs and lows, as did his life. He suffered from bipolar disorder, which soon became evident. During manic times he’d take several showers a day (enough to begin peeling off his apartment’s bathroom wallpaper) or pop in for a visit to my apartment and then head for my wine with a large plastic “to-go” cup  (he ignored any rules about drinking and driving — he drank while he drove). I often wonder what happened to this essentially sweet man.

Before Match.com and all the Internet dating sites, Los Angeles had the Singles Register newspaper, which was readily available and crammed with hundreds of ads from all over LA. The ads were somewhat similar to the more modern ads of today, but without the bells and whistles of graphics, photos, tapes, and computer services, etc. A man or woman with an imagination and willingness to create an enticing ad could have a field day exploring Love or Lust. Things weren’t as threatening in the days before AIDS sprang into full life.

In my personal ads I mentioned I enjoyed walks on the beach, candlelight dinners, great conversations, good movies, and the like when those descriptions were a bit fresher. This type of ad is totally passé at this point, but then so are newspapers. The method of contact was also old-fashioned. The respondent was required to send a letter (the kind that uses stamps and is now called snail mail) and encouraged to send a photo. Those letters could be flowery and clever or very simple. Analyzing the handwriting, if you knew how, gave a clue about personality. Photos, then, were as unreliable as they are today.

I’ve always appreciated creativity and good writing, but I soon learned that the “buyer” must beware; not everything or every person was as advertised. Someone could be 20 years older or 20 years younger than you might have expected.  Oddly heartening, however, was the fact that these advertisers often genuinely believed what they wrote about themselves. Optimistic advertisers actually did see themselves as looking younger, having all their hair and a great body. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, even if it’s just your own eyes.

Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button Youtube button