The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Brenden Foster, my hero
I wish there were more people like you in the world.

posted by Melanie O. at 12:50 PM - 0 comments
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Where in the world is Peter Knoeller?
I have few unresolved issues in my life. I don't like going through life with any regrets. When I get to the end of the line, I don't want to leave this earth thinking that I've left anything undone. But I may have to, and that concerns the whereabouts of my first husband, Peter Knoeller.

Peter was my first real love. It was one of those "you and me against the world, Romeo and Juliet" kinds of romances. The harder life got, the harder we tried.

But, it turned out that Peter had mental health issues. Except that I didn't know he did. I just thought he'd had a rough childhood, although his older sister K. and younger brother T. didn't seem to have the same issues that Peter had. Maybe it was because Peter was the middle child - sometimes forgotten - who lived with his mother, while the other two kids lived with their father. I know that he desperately wanted his father's love. Peter's younger brother was his father's favorite son, and his father didn't seem to be aware of how he hurt Peter by giving T. things that Peter had always wanted, like a mini van with a custom paint design and a bar installed in the back. We used to call them "party vans" back then.

Peter and I were married for about four years. We had children together - one right after another. For most of our marriage, we moved from place to place. First to Orlando, where my oldest son was born. We bummed around Europe for several months. Then we were off to Denver, then to Las Vegas, where he began an affair with a married woman, who promised him, of all things, a party van.

Peter left me for the married woman who promised him the party van. How could I compete with that? She was at least 12 years older than he was, with a good job. On the other hand, I was a drug-free practical woman who worked every day at raising kids and trying to be a good wife. I'm not sure what happend to our Romeo and Juliet relationship. I saw my marriage, my health, and my husband deteriorate.

She left her husband. Peter left me, and they got married. The whole thing took just a couple of months. He jumped right from our relationship, to this new one with its promise of party vans, pot, and booze. Their marriage lasted less than a year. He was given the van in the divorce settlement. It was all that he asked for.

After that, he disappeared. He had always talked about going back to the Phillippines, where he'd been stationed when he was in the Navy. Twenty years later, his family was still looking for him. I hired a private detective to try to help me find him. His sons were struggling with the usual issues of teenagerhood. They felt abandoned by their father for the whole of their lives - the same way that Peter had felt abandoned by his father. I had my mother run a check on his social security number - in case he had a credit history. He came up a total blank. The PI located his sister, who was teaching at a college in Florida. I wrote to her to give her an update on Peter's sons. I never heard back. I think he must be dead to them, if not literally, at least, figuratively.

I can only surmise that Peter is dead or has been living in another country with a new identity. He was suffering a mental health crisis and confessed to me that he thought he was going crazy. He insisted "I want a divorce, or I'm going to kill you." I thought it was a threat at the time. Now I know he was trying to protect me. Years after he disappeared, my mother had a chance meeting with Peter's mother. Not even his own mother knew where he was.

I would like to know why Peter did to his sons what his father did to him, when he knew first hand the grief being abandoned caused. I want closure - not for me, but for his sons. But I have a sneaking suspicion that I am not going to get my wish. And maybe I don't really want to get it. Maybe sometimes there is just too much water under the bridge and too many gaps to close, to expect a good result.

(Photo is of Peter with our son Andy, in 1979, who ironically also suffers from mental illness and who has also cut off contact with family.)
posted by Melanie O. at 8:10 PM - 21 comments
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Being thankful
There are many things I miss about living in the States. Besides my family, I miss the North American holiday season. From October through to February, even March, there is one holiday after another, and the one holiday that will forever be quintessentially American in my mind, is Thanksgiving.

I suppose I don't really need a special day for remembering all of the things that I am thankful for year 'round, but it's nice to have that day, a historical memento of what our forefathers celebrated, to set aside time to be with family and friends. I miss having a long weekend, time to cook a huge turkey, and using all of the chairs around my dining room table, which, these days, sees use of only two most of the time.

I miss the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, that, to me, heralds the Christmas season. I miss the crisp autumn air, real apple cider, and pumpkin pie. This year, I had to buy canned pumpkin for pies from the David Jones International Deli, at $9 a can!

So, this year, to compensate for not having a holiday, I'm going to list all of the things I'm thankful for (and I encourage anyone reading this, to share their list in the comments section):

I am thankful

1) that all of my sons made it to adulthood without too many mishaps. At least, not ones that they couldn't recover from.
2) that I am relatively healthy. Besides the aches and pains of early arthritis, I really don't have a lot to complain about. I still have a good figure and few lines and wrinkles in my face.
3) that I've got a job doing what I love for an organisation that I believe in.
4) that my mother is still around and we've had a chance to build a good relationship despite those rocky teen years.
5) that I can afford to shop on eBay for those kitschy mid-century modern items that I love, like my starburst clock and my Franciscan Starburst dishes. Latest purchase, a 1957 Shirley Temple doll in great condition.
6) that I'm married to a good man. Never thought that would happen!
7) that I've been able to travel and see the world and be exposed to other cultures and ways of thinking.
8) that I have friends from all over the world who mean so much to me. I only wish that we could get together more often.
9) that I have value to other people.
10) that I have a mortgage. Yeah, yeah... mortgages can be a pain in the butt, but if you have to pay for a place to live anyway, may as well own it at the end of the day. At least the house has character and is in the country (and comes complete with a ghost, if you believe in such things.)
11) that my son Andy has a fairly stable place to live, even though he never writes any more.
12) for a good sense of humor, without which I would not have survived to this point.

There's a lot more, but this is a start. Can't wait to bake those expensive pumpkin pies!
posted by Melanie O. at 6:30 PM - 1 comments
Monday, November 10, 2008
Losing it
Ever have one of those days when you just feel like you've got so much on your plate, that you can no longer keep track of anything?

On any given day, I forget
  • My ATM card PIN number
  • The name of an actor or actress that starred in a movie that I just watched
  • Where I left my keys
  • What I was supposed to get at the grocery store
  • My home phone number
  • The password to any number of online accounts
  • Where I put the latest release of the software that I wanted to install today.
I used to worry that maybe it was the onset of early senile dementia, until I finally came to the conclusion that the number of PIN numbers, names, and places that I have to keep mental track of has exploded exponentially since I was in my 20's. Back then, I had to remember my address, phone number, bank account number, and social security number. If pressed, I had to remember my children's names when I was yelling for one of them:

"Chris! I mean Andy!! I mean, Stephen! Get in here and clean up this mess!" (I've never been good at names. It's a good thing I didn't try to name my kids anything other than "common" names.)

Now, between having to remember at least two dozen log in names with accompanying passwords, my Australian tax file number (which I still don't have memorized,) in addition to my Social Security number, the names of sons plus their partners and their partners' parents names, three ATM PIN card numbers, secret codes and passwords which now no longer can contain just letters, but must have a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols - my brain is ready to collapse on itself.

I think my brain needs a vacation, although some people may argue that it's already on one. Truly, though - it's not that my brain is on vacation - it's that life's become too complicated. I'd treat myself to a Blackberry in order to keep all this information organized, if it wasn't such a security risk. At least, stored in my mind, there's no security risk involved. Especially since I forget most of it, most of the time.
posted by Melanie O. at 1:40 PM - 3 comments
Saturday, November 08, 2008
The Silly Season
Australians typically call the period from about the middle of November until after New Year's Day, the Silly Season. This usually means weekend after weekend of non-stop parties (which includes drinking and debauchery) and mayhem. People still go to work, but no one really expects to get much done.

Not so where I work. When you work for a Christian charity that eschews alcohol, there's little opportunity for things to go wrong. This does not mean that things don't get silly, however.

We hold our company Christmas party at one of the camps that we run. The camps are part retreat, part Outward Bound activities, and party attendees have the choice of dancing the night away at an alcohol-free disco, or doing such things as rappelling and riding the Flying Fox. I think it may be the only Christmas party in the world, where you're expected to show up in khakis and hiking shoes and to bring a bathing suit.

Not that this is a bad thing. The hard part about my company Christmas party will be - do I wear the knee-length khakis or the long chinos? And how do I look festive when I look like I'm going for a hike in the woods? And will Dan want to go swimming in the heated pool? That last one scares me. I have bleached blonde hair. Women I know with bleached blonde hair wind up with green hair after swimming in a chlorinated pool

I guess, if I wear a red bathing suit and my hair turns green - I'll look festive enough. Bring on the silliness!
posted by Melanie O. at 10:51 AM - 0 comments

About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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