Some of the ideas that have been shared already are intriguing. Mormon.org put out a video showing a special vending machine that the church had built to allow people to donate everything from chickens to towels to people in all areas of the world. All around the social media outlets, the #LightTheWorld hashtag is taking over the netwaves.
I am happy to be a part of this effort. I have never written blogs for every day of a 25 day stretch and writing extensively is not likely, but I am pleased to share the images I am creating with photos I have taken.
As the days progress, I am eager to observe the varied projects that people come up with to serve others. I think this is going to be a particularly enLightening December!
In North Carolina, I was met with the proof of a fact that I had no way of knowing when I began my journey towards graduating from Southern New Hampshire University. Having come from very intelligent parents and grandparents, yet knowing that none of them had attained what my daughter and I were obtaining in our educations; I had
never doubted that my family “had always” been literate. When I read the words, “his mark” surrounding the “x” that made Solomon Richardson’s mark, I was taken aback with the proof in front of me that my fourth great-grandfather, born in North Carolina in 1800, had been unable to read and write: He was illiterate.
My own education, in retrospect, would appear to those not intimately involved, to be a series of “fits and starts.” I remember when I became pregnant at the age of 16 (after being told due to female health problems that would be impossible) I was unsatisfied to take the GED tests, choosing rather to enroll in an alternative school that was based on the format of the local Evergreen State College and allowed me to set my own curriculum with the guidance of teachers and a counselor become friend. It was imperative to me that I actually graduate high school. I did so with one child on my lap and one on the way.
I continued my education immediately after high school, enrolling in South Puget Sound Community College’s medical assisting program. Looking back, I don’t think I would have had the guts to do so if it weren’t for my mom’s employment there. She was an integral and vibrant part of the college’s support system. Throughout my preteen and teen years, she had invited my brother and myself to the campus, introducing us to faculty members and support staff, making the school feel for us like a second home and its staff our extended family.
Having loved writing all of my life, I found myself drawn to the school’s newspaper. Although I was a very busy young woman with two very active toddlers, I would spend any free moment from my grueling curriculum in the Student Center. I learned the now archaic Apple computer with a manual on my lap and my hands on the keyboard in the room that doubled as the school’s newspaper office. I assisted with getting a paper we would call “Sounds” off the ground and was asked to step in as a Vice President of the Student Body of South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) when the student election had gone awry.
With more than six months to go in my program, financial aid not going far enough to cover my expenses and in the midst of a personal mental health crisis, I resigned my position with the student body. I left my writing gig at the student newspaper and got a job as a Medical Assistant/Back-Office Nurse when the need to support my tiny family overwhelmed my desire to actually finish my degree. This was 1988.
In 1989, I married my husband Bruce after we used the idea of us being engaged to prank the student government we both worked for. He knew my mother before he met me, she was an integral part of the social sciences department where he had found a passion. The campus was still my family, our wedding reception was held in the Student Center where we met and became best friends.
Our daughter, Siobhan, was born in February 1990. She was the product of our college education, although neither of us finished any degree at SPSCC. Siobhan graduated with her Associates in Arts 18 years later. It was on the same campus where her parents had met the day before her high school graduation. She embodied the epitome of our desire for our children to take education seriously.
My own education continued when Siobhan was only three. I had returned to the campus I called home to retrain when the strain of the birth of my daughter caused my first disabling condition no longer allowing me to work in the medical profession.
With Siobhan in the daycare that I helped to build while I was Vice President of the student body, I retrained in the computer field. A year and a half after I began, I once again was forced to call my education to a halt before any degree was attained. My husband Bruce was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and his overwhelming symptoms made it difficult to maintain his employment. I quit my program and went to work for The State of Washington as a computer programmer to support our family. My dreams of finishing my education seemed to dim in the everyday chores of raising a family.
A couple of years before the blessed event of my daughter’s dual graduations, my body and brain conspired to make continuing to work at my position as a computer programmer impossible. Once again disabled, I conceded to draw a pension and concentrate on my health and the matters of domesticity. My daughter struggled through the stress of her parents losing their home and gradually losing their relationship with one another as the overwhelming stress of being disabled mentally and physically changed the shape of what she knew as “family.”
Her Grandma Joan was a beacon for Siobhan. The community college where her parents had met and celebrated their marriage became a home for her as well. She was welcomed in the position as a math tutor, just as one of her older brothers had been. Tutoring people twice and three times her age, they adored her amazing intelligence and beauty. When she graduated with honors, no one was one bit surprised, but we were all amazed.
I was living in the middle of 37 undeveloped acres of land in a 5th wheel trailer with my new husband of 18 months in October 2015 when I felt impressed by God to ask Siobhan about this University where she and her husband had chosen to finish their degrees. She had left the University of Washington’s engineering program after being the first in our family to ever be admitted to a four-year college when her dad and I had finally divorced. The event had not only put me without a home but had shattered her very idea of stability. She went on to find that stability with her new husband and they rapidly went about supporting each other in the pursuit of their dreams, making and achieving goal after goal together. In this same spirit, they had researched online education extensively and had chosen Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) to be the best college to meet their needs with programs and credentials that they found exemplary. When Siobhan posted online about a place called “the writing center,” I replied that sounded like a dreamy place. She encouraged me to apply and see if SNHU could do anything with my 130 community college credits. I made the call.
Although I had no practical way of living to most people, the lack of basics such as electricity, water or even a place to use the toilet did not deter me from what it seemed that God was calling me to do. Where there is a will, there is a way? Perhaps, but it seemed that God was guiding me to start school where many would only find impossibility. My first term back was highlighted by a blown head gasket in our truck which would strand me 5 miles away from a paved road with a partially collapsed lung. The installation of the satellite internet that student loans helped to pay for was delayed by the company so long that although I tried to complete my classes on the disposable phone from Walmart that my husband and I shared; I failed my first term back at school.
I wept. I felt utterly dejected and discouraged. My Visiting Teacher, Amy, through the local Branch of my church, was encouraging. She was a retired lawyer choosing to create her dream of a farm in the middle of nowhere. We shared a commonality in our mental
illnesses. In spite of an increasingly abusive marriage, I found a friend and support in Amy that would enable me to continue. I was faced with overwhelming adversity, but a glimmer of hope each week in Amy’s and my weekly visits to the Snowflake Temple made the impossible to most, seem achievable to me.
This year when my second divorce was finally finished, I headed to the east: My daughter was to be graduating summa cum laude from SNHU in Mathematics on Mother’s Day. Every mechanic that looked at the little Volvo which was my only return from my second marriage of three years deemed it impossible. Every time I prayed, and every Priesthood Blessing I received said it could be done. I persevered in the face of impending doom and followed every impression on the journey. Just days before Easter, I arrived in New Hampshire and toured the “brick and mortar” campus of SNHU: It was real. I made it.
Through the intense assistance of my first-year adviser, Lauren, and then her follow-up, my “senior adviser,” Liz, I recovered from that disastrous first term. When my credits began accumulating quickly, we realized I may also be eligible to graduate this May. I was frustrated when life and the college schedule extended my classes out through August but was thrilled when the university stated that I could walk with the class of 2017 in spite of the fact I was finishing up in the summer. My daughter and I would be walking for graduation the same weekend.
This Mother’s Day weekend was fabulous. Dreams that I never thought I could dream have come true. By pursuing her education, Siobhan became the first in her father’s family and my family to achieve her Bachelor’s degree after also being the first in both our families to earn her Associate’s. She has made me so proud and she has now made education more possible and inviting for generations of our family yet to come.
We both have learned to “make our mark,” after coming from those who could do no
more than to sign with an “x.” I know that our ancestors worked hard and traveled to distances trying to make a better life for their children. The pioneers of our families did all they could while imagining more significant opportunities for future generations. As I traveled across the country to receive the honor of my degree and watch my daughter receive hers, I realized that we are the product of those hopes and dreams. I thank God for relatives that reached across the veil to help me to understand that.
I LOVE my salad creations. I admit, at times, they have been full of more bacon than lettuce, but over the months I have come up with a recipe that I just absolutely LOVE. I love them so much that I tend to have them at LEAST once per day.
When I have the room to do so, you may find me heating up pre-cooked uncured (‘hippie bacon”) bacon with a torch (yes! it can work!) or if I have the ability to pull out my little butane stove and frying pan I may even be conventional about it. However, I recently found pre-cooked uncured applewood smoked bacon pieces in a POUCH in the salad dressing aisle. These come in VERY handy for that bacon taste without raising eyebrows nearby by taking the torch out of the trunk!
Here is my favorite recipe for “on the go” salads:
Caesar Salad to GO!
2 Large Romaine leaves
1 Large handful of mixed greens or spinach
1 handful or 1/4-1/3 cup hulled hemp seeds
1 handful of chopped sliced mushrooms
3-4 Tablespoons uncured bacon crumbles
3 Tablespoons dried cranberries
2-3 Tablespoons dried blueberries (CRITICAL ingredient!) 1 Tablespoon of chopped sundried tomatoes 2-3 Tablespoons parmesan cheese (shredded) 1 Handful caesar salad croutons Black Pepper to taste Mrs. Dash Garlic to taste Newman’s Own Caesar Salad dressing to taste (I often add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and 1 tsp of raw organic garlic to the dressing before adding to the salad)
Combine all ingredients… and I like to eat it with CHOPSTICKS!
These last few days, I began to retrace my steps. It has been two weeks since I had reached my destination. On the Sunday after I had reached New Hampshire, “The Car that Ran on Prayers”, stopped. It stopped starting. I had a bad feeling about what seemed to be a “minor” fuel-flow issue. The Bishop in the area who I called when it initially stopped on Saturday (I was able to keep it running after the sun went down, by “double peddling it” and got it to church the next day). After finding out that the spark plug wires were ORIGINAL from 1983, I had a feeling that the fuel filter might also be original. He had agreed and purchased a filter for me, but didn’t find himself with the time to replace it once it’s location was discovered. It was soon towed to a shop, where it has remained for over a week while they have been doing anything and everything they can to figure out what is the problem, while the problems seem to multiply.
Today is my third Sunday in this area, Testimony Sunday. Boy, do I have a testimony. But can I put it into words? That small, still voice telling me to just go the shortest way to New Hampshire. Don’t take the freeway, keep it under 60 mph. That small still voice that guided me and comforted me when the job I thought I had, didn’t pay. And I was left to shoulder the expenses of the trip on my own. The God that I, and so many friends prayed to on my and the car’s behalf. It was not only the car that ran on prayers, but my mind and body as well. Jesus was, indeed, my co-pilot. He guided me wherever I traveled. He told me, through the Spirit, which way to turn. On those occasions when I took the wrong turn, He would force my steering wheel. One of those times was in Kernersville, North
Carolina, when the car would not go past a certain milepost, no matter how many times I tried.
That was where a tune-up and a few other minor repairs were performed, and I met a Bishop who called himself “Charlie.” Bishop Charlie is a man who is young enough to be my son, but as I poured out my tales of woe to him, he listened with the ears of a father. He used the Priesthood in a caring manner to comfort me with a blessing. Bishop Charlie also gave me the gift of meeting a woman who was serving our Heavenly Father in the midst of her own struggles. The wonderful Relief Society President of their ward had been stricken with that awful “c word.” An orange bracelet on my arm still reminds me to keep that Sister in my prayers.
It was in Kernersville where I followed many impressions, including one to go into the chapel early. I routinely like to be at the church that I am attending, early, but I tend to “hang out” in the foyer for a time. This time I was in the chapel when a wonderful Sister who had baked the Sacrament bread offered me one of the 3 extras that she baked for friends in the Ward. Later that day, I broke my fast with the same bread that I took at Sacrament, and I can only echo the little boy who sat with his parents on the bench in front of me in church, “YUMMY bread!!!!”
When I left Kernersville, I took a different route out of town. The car continued, purring like a kitten through the rest of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York, Vermont and then New Hampshire before it began acting up again.
Before Kernersville, I spent a lot of time in South Carolina hunting up a bit of genealogical history. During a middle of the night perusal of my family tree on FamilySearch.org, I discovered that one of my “brick walls” was born in South Carolina. Married in Rowan County, North Carolina, Rebecca Wassin reported that she had been born in South Carolina. I searched the history rooms at libraries and I scoured microfiche in the state archives, but it was to no avail. I could not find any record of her family. What I did find was a personal awakening about our nation’s history in the early 1800s before the Civil War.
While in South Carolina, I was invited to stay with a wonderful Sister named Leanna after the Women’s Session of General Conference. She had two dogs also and our dogs became friendly as we also developed a friendship. I stayed a few days before a personal situation caused me to need to be in an environment I could control due to my mental illness. But I remain incredibly thankful for her generosity.
Before leaving Florida, after Jacob left heading back to Washington, I was having issues with the publisher of the magazine I started this trip writing for, when Sunday came along. Being left without the funds promised, I felt quite discouraged. I was in a city called Palm Bay. That was where I met a Sister named Nikki and her family. I had been more open about the fact that I was living in my car, than I had been in most of my church visits. I don’t know why, I just felt compelled to be a bit more open on that particular Sunday.
Nikki invited me to dinner, then her daughter gave up her bedroom for the night and the dogs and I were invited to stay over. It was a blessing that was so appreciated. The night before the dogs and I were attacked by mosquitoes that were quite gigantic in the Volvo where it was too warm to put the windows up. I was covered in bites and so were the dogs. The next day, Nikki and her children took me to Walmart and purchased a cart full of fresh fruits and other necessities that were quite needed. I was completely humbled. Not as humbled, however, as the fact that weeks later during text conversations with Nikki, she shared with me that her children still keep me in their prayers. Specifically praying that someone will pay me for my writing. These are the things that hit me right in the “feels” as the kids say nowadays.
After we left Palm Bay, a bit more set for our travels, we continued north in Florida. I was in DeLand when I was contacted by a Sister from “across the pond” who had read my story about being “Transient in Trump’s America.” She had a bit of “extra cash” as she put it and really wanted to help me out. I was torn. As much as I have received from others, I HATE asking for help. I REALLY long to be on the OTHER side of providing for others, I dislike the situation I am in currently not being able to completely provide for myself or have anything extra to give to others. She persuaded me over a couple of days and I finally accepted her help. Jean had made a point of explaining that she had been in my situation and she wanted to pay forward the help that she had received.
After that explanation, I finally consented to accepting her help. It was a major blessing. With Jean’s help, I was able to finance a week at a campground, taking a much needed time-out from traveling that coincided with a week break from my classes. It also ended up giving me an opportunity for some major self-care as I fought off some of the worst allergies and chest cold that I had experienced in my travels that far.
There have been friends that I have met on Facebook and on other trips that I have been able to visit along the way. Those visits have been, for the most part, limited to a few hours. That isn’t what this trip has been about. This trip was about making it to New Hampshire to watch the first person in my family graduate from a University.
I will be walking the day before my daughter, but won’t finish my classes until August. My daughter, my youngest child, remains the first person in our family to graduate from college. It will be the best Mother’s Day present in history to watch her walk across that stage and be presented with her Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics. All of the blessings that I have received on the way here have all lead to that. The goal when I left Arizona where my second divorce was finalized and I was left with nothing to my name except the Volvo and my dogs was to get to New Hampshire before Mother’s Day. I have made it to New Hampshire. I was only able to do so with an incredible amount of help from God and all his angels on this earth. I am more than blessed and I appreciate each and every one of them.
As I set about performing the tasks required to finish my first books, one that is deeply personal, I am thrown back into pondering about my life. I have lived many lives. And that is not just in relation to the mental illness that has woven my life into many different names and points of time, stopped. I have been a child, a child who was a parent, a street kid, a college student (many times over), a Vice-President of the Student Body (at my community college), a young married adult, a mom, a wife (x2), a dancer, a computer programmer, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a cake decorating teacher, the host of pre-internet nodes, a gardener, an artist, a poet and a survivor. I have held many other roles, some of them frozen in time when my mind forgets who I am now and switches to another point in time. But how to convey the information about MY life without defaming others, especially those who victimized me in their roles in my life?
That seems to be my main stumbling block. How do I tell the story of those things I have overcome without hurting those people that I love? My children, two of which have already ceased communicating with me because of family drama, the other who I have, on several occasions hurt with my disclosures. She has called me a “liar,” not wanting to admit to the trauma that she sustained. I want to respect that, I don’t desire to put her or my other children through any further trauma. I do not wish to hurt my mother. I also do not wish to hurt my brother who sustained a large amount of trauma at the hands of those who victimized me.
But I have a story that needs to be told. I know there are people out there who could be given strength from what I have survived. I want to help them. I want to tell my story for me also. I need to. They say writers don’t write because they want to, but because there is a story that is burning to get out. That they would explode if they don’t tell it. That is how I feel about mine.
The challenges are not insurmountable, but require me to be sensitive not only to my feelings about the past, but also to my family that remains and my future family. I do not want my grandchildren or further generations hurting or repeating the trauma that I experienced.
As I progress in the writing and publication of “Standing UP to LIVE” I will have to keep all of this in mind. I look to God in prayer to help me with this task. He is the only one who really understands what I am going through. Above and beyond all of my roles in this life, I am eternally HIS child. I am a Child of God with a future as bright as His love.
A few lines from a poem I penned a year ago today caused me to reflect upon the process of the election and it’s effect on us all, “Is the desire, the need for change so great,
That we condemn our children to a new world of hate?!”
In retrospect, I don’t feel that it is one election that does that. That poem was part of a knee-jerk reaction that has been common in almost ALL Americans, no matter what color, red or blue, that your state or your voting was tinted. I say this because I have been the online target of a few reactions as well. When I chose to use the name of the president of my country in a title of a blog piece, using a technique we were learning in my college class, I endured judgement and ridicule from people who didn’t even bother to read the article I wrote.
This morning when I went into the local library in Savannah, Georgia, my arms and hands loaded to my limits with my computer bag and backpack, my journals in my arms; a woman smiled and greeted me as she came into the elevator. Her smile was beautiful, her greeting cheered me up. I knew I was going to write about the anger and hate and bullying that is prevalent right now online, and it was her mood that influenced mine for the better. How? She smiled at me. She said, “Hello, how are you this morning?” I answered back in kind. It was nice. But why is any of this important??
I see and feel the online community becoming more and more quick to judge. When I used the alliteration technique I was practicing for school to title a blog post, I was removed from a Mormon group on Facebook (1 Million Mormons on Facebook.) The ONLY reason for my being banned from the group is that one of the moderators had read “Trump” (the name of the current president of my country) in the title of a blog piece I shared and had unequivocally decided that my blog piece was of a political nature while failing to even read it.
There were comments from many other people who I have come to call “Trumpeteers” because of their quick to comment and berate attitude when I used the name of the president. I know there are many people who are arguing that he ISN’T THEIR president, but the fact remains, he is currently in that office. Why don’t I have every right to use his name? I am an American. I never saw this type of “blind reactions” when Obama came into office. But then again, I didn’t write him into my blog titles either. I hadn’t learned the techniques that I learned last term in my college classes to get more views, yet.
The increased visibility of my writing is WHY I feel that I have gained a larger amount of negativity. I had come from a place where my writing only reached a personal audience, but the more I share it into the online world at large, the more of all types of reactions I have received.
I have known and still KNOW I have my “personal haters”… a group that has been following me and increasing with every failed relationship. Apparently I have had a “type” for the last few years: I seem to have liked men who were loud online and failed to have any redeeming quality in person. All bark, no bite. They both had MANY followers in social media. A group of them have been attacking my posts and me by email. I guess they fail to understand that their “hits” on my page count just as well as any who enjoy what I write. As it has been said, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” Or is there?
Although I have GENERALLY noticed an increasing amount of bullying and hate online, I can NOT say that it is coming entirely from one faction or another. It is as if people have forgotten that on the other side of that computer screen is a PERSON, regardless of their political stance! Did we, as Americans (I AM noticing that this contentious behavior is MOSTLY from people in my own country!!!) get so damaged and affected by the propaganda involved in the electoral process in these last years that we have FORGOTTEN how to treat one another?? Have we forgotten that “Golden Rule,” that is differently worded, but included in EACH and EVERY religious and spiritual practice, “Do unto others as YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO TO YOU???” Where are our MANNERS? Where is our tact? Where is our compassion? Are we just out to attack when we see something that comes close to almost offending us? Have we, as a country, been reduced to being “keyboard warriors?”
In a series of tweets and posts over a 8 hour period of time prefacing the writing of this article, I made the following statements:
“I’m thankful that the real world has not yet become as angry and hateful as the online world. I fear the day when it does.”
“Digital world vs #bootsontheground, what is reality and what is a carefully orchestrated PR scheme? #TrumpsAmerica #social”
“I fear the day when we are as thoughtless and mean in person as we, as a people, can be online #depersonalization #bullying #BeNice #love”
The comments that I received made me overwhelmingly sad. Over and over again it was stated that the “real world” is as nasty to live in as a world filled with keyboard warriors ready to pounce on our every word or statement. But I have not experienced that. Those were comments from others that I had not found true in my travels in the past 4 months through Washington state, Oregon, California, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida or now, Georgia. Not one bit.
It could be argued that I haven’t experienced discrimination or nasty people being mean in person because I am not of a certain group or another. I beg to differ. I am a mentally and physically disabled older woman who is currently without a roof to call her own. I am in the public CONSTANTLY: gas stations, public libraries, stores and dog parks. Yet, I am a member of one of the most feared and hated groups in the country: The mentally ill homeless. Oh, I am also of a VERY fair complexion. So fair, in fact, that the wonderful woman who said “hi” to me this morning and I were at the OPPOSITE range of tints in our skin tones. Did that make what she did any more or less important? Probably not. I felt it nice to have someone reach out to me. I have noticed in the past when I travelled in the south it was very discouraged for me to speak first to someone who wasn’t my race. I got stared at in Obama’s America for initiating conversations with other races in the South. In Trump’s America, that hasn’t happened, yet. Interesting change … or was it the time that passed between my trips… or was it simply different people in different areas?
If you doubt that I have had the OPPORTUNITY to experience discrimination in my travels, let me add that throughout the states of Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, TEXAS, ALABAMA, LOUISIANA and Florida, I was travelling with a VERY openly OUT Gay young man. Jacob was acting as my friend, companion, assistant and photographer, we were travelling in close proximity to one another. I remember him remarking how Texas was not at all what he would thought it would be. Then there was the service he offered at the Houston LDS Temple to a couple of Patrons after he took a few photos for me. Not one time, not in ALL of the south, did either of us experience ANY hate words or worse. NOT ONCE.
My friends from the northwest are relaying stories from travellers heading north that the northwest, once known for it’s welcoming nature, has become angry and gloomy as a society. If that is true, it saddens me greatly.
It is my PERSONAL belief that what we give comes back to us, sometimes many times over. I have yet to experience leading with a smile or a friendly comment that hasn’t been returned. Not once. I have had a couple of incidents where I have even been involved with law enforcement in these 2800 miles. All were in Florida where the homeless population bursts at the seams with northerners so poor that the gas to go south was cheaper than heating whatever shelter they had or didn’t have for the winter. I can say unequivocally that even THOSE experiences were not unpleasant. Just officers doing their jobs. They gave me information that I didn’t have and they were as pleasant as they could be in carrying out their duties.
I am hopeful that somehow as a nation we can heal. Perhaps even as a world. But that may be just a dream. I am a dreamer though, and I will gladly keep dreaming that particular fantasy. I will continue to spread love and light with my smile and my words whenever I possibly can! I will LOVE my neighbor. I will be the most positive that my broken brain can manage on any given day. I WILL be part of the change we NEED.
I had a wonderful opportunity, last week, to take some time off and recuperate from the marriage and divorce and other irritating distractions of my life. I was blessed by God and a few of His angels that coordinated to give me a fantastic self-care week out. As someone who was beginning to feel the wear of the road with my allergies and a chest cold coming on, it was HIGHLY needed and MUCH appreciated. My gratitude is endless to all who participated in that!
While I was being quiet and praying and pondering and writing only in my journal, it finally came to me: I have a trip and a book about it to finish!!! I have taken FAR TOO MUCH time away from my original goal!!!
Back in 2010, on October 10th at 10:10, I CHOSE to leave EVERYTHING I knew behind. Some friends were quick to say that I was “looking for something” or perhaps I was “running from something/someone” but I knew that I was just needing to see my country. Several people from around the country had “friended” me on Facebook, and then invited me to meet them! So, first by train, then car, bus, plane and finally by “car that runs on prayer” I set out to do just that: meet my friends.
There were more than a few hiccups and delays… I even had one Facebook friend who began messaging me in 2011 saying that “I was meant to be his wife!” Well, even though I ignored that idea for 3 years, unfortunately I went to Arizona to meet him in 2013 and he did NOT allow me to leave without him. In fact, in spite of boasting to me on several occasions about his mechanical prowess, he made sure that I had no transportation and could NOT leave the 37 acres that he stranded me on until I just lost it. I finally gave up trying in the marriage when it ended in his attempted rape of me. NO means NO. Simple.
So, the Facebook Friend’s Tour even included an ill-fated marriage to a proud man who couldn’t understand that I didn’t want him. As you can probably tell, my co dependency that began as a child with my father was not quite worked out at the time my now second ex husband asked me to marry him. Thankfully the divorce was final days before the third anniversary was to be marked on the calendar.
Now that (and he) is out of the way, I can resume my travels. I never did get a chance to see the New England area. That is where several of my ancestors lived, having migrated west throughout the generations. I long to see their records and homes that still stand. I am looking forward to continuing the journey I set out on.
I look forward to meeting those patient New England friends of mine… If you would like to be added to that list, please send me a message. I may just be rolling through your town, visiting a library or two and most likely a dog park near YOU!
I hope everyone’s week is full of Love and Lighte!!!
In my previous post, Transient in Trump’s America, I briefly gave you a glimpse into a few of my choices and my current circumstance. The feedback I received was generally positive except for some highly charged opinions about my choice of title. Apparently it is okay to write about being a transient as long as you don’t mention the current president’s name. My choice to use the “keyword” to “trend-jack” was a marketing decision made in conjunction with learning that technique in class. I was making reference to times and places, since I had listened to the radio news talk about the President’s (he who shall not be named?!) visit to the same county I was currently homeless in. It was included purely for perspective, not as a political statement.
Perceptions vs Reality
What does it mean to be looked at by others as homeless? Add physically AND mentally disabled, and what image does that conjure up in your mind?
Do you automatically think of someone or a place? Many people think of homeless camps or transients on the street. In Orlando, Florida, it appears to be commonplace for panhandlers to carry signs walking through 8 lanes of stopped traffic at each major intersection. When there is an accident ahead, they have a captive audience for their begging. But just because someone is panhandling doesn’t mean that they are homeless.
When you are homeless, others who have residences feel that it is their job to judge you. For example, many people have had much to say about my choice of medicine. The fact that it alone replaced 20 different medications doesn’t seem to faze the people who would call it a “drug” and say that if I wasn’t on “pot” maybe I would have a home. Considering the facts, that is not only painful to hear but frustrating to reiterate my justifications for my choices. Every choice I make is seemingly up for public scrutiny purely based on my un-housed status. The fact is, before I was using cannabis I didn’t have the energy or strength to get out of bed, let alone travel the country. It was the use of the herb that allowed me my freedom: Once I had conquered the need for physical comfort my options regarding my living circumstances opened up. Until I left that disability bed zoned out on narcotics, I had not travelled hardly at all. Making the choice to travel, to be homeless, allowed me to get out of my home state of Washington and visit the country from one end to the other!
I remember when I was travelling on a train for the first time in Florida. My Amtrak train incurred a “trespasser strike” right outside of Orlando, in Winter Park. When I heard the term “trespasser strike” I automatically thought there were pickets on the train track. Unfortunately that was a HUGE misperception. The train that I was on, which just picked up a load of children and their families from the Disney World area, had hit a person. He was killed. The only way he was ever identified in the news reports was as “a transient in his 40s.” Eventually the press added the descriptive, “hispanic,” but he was never identified publicly.
Being a bit of a sensitive person, I felt the energy. I felt the fear and confusion and frustration of all of the children around me. I felt the aggravation from their parents; they wanted to move on down the road, and the mandatory 3-hour investigation was delaying that from occurring. I also felt a kinship. “transient in his 40s” was too close to home for me. After all, the only difference in that description from him and me at the time was the pronoun.
The thought that I could be killed while travelling and it be described as “just another homeless person dead” was horrifying. Had I become a “non-person” just because I chose not to pay for a residence and travel?
Is “homeless” a dirty word? Perhaps not, but it seems to strike fear into the most compassionate. I suppose that it is the fear of knowing that every time they are late on their mortgage or rent payment, they are one step closer to being one of them. As I listened to the reactions to my first story “coming out as homeless” I observed many knee-jerk reactions telling me I should seek help at a homeless shelter without respecting my choice of having my dog with me and living in my car. I also found it interesting that others reacted with admiration. Why would anyone admire me?
I have HOPE. I live with faith. I know that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and watches over me. Using that hope and faith, I am working on bettering myself. When I realized that strangers would actually be interested in reading what I write, I took it upon myself to start a program at a college with an online presence, Southern New Hampshire University, to finish my Bachelor’s degree with a focus on nonfiction writing. It was time to learn how to use this gift God gave me.
My books, Standing Up to Live and Medical Marijuana for Mormons are well in the works. I fought for quite some time about “coming out” as homeless; I didn’t want to be known as homeless or transient. Then I prayed about it and the Holy Spirit witnessed to me that Jesus Christ Himself had been without a place to lay His head. Perhaps it was time to make others aware that being homeless does not mean we are scary or bad people. It means nothing except the fact we currently do not have a domicile to call our own. The person inside is still the same as if we did. That is why we can “hide” in plain sight.
The next time you see someone leaving church or a grocery store, don’t assume they are going to a home, the statistics are staggering: Over a half MILLION people in the United States are homeless. If it doesn’t include a family member or a close friend, perhaps that person you saw use the bathroom at McDonald’s was going out to sleep in their car. You don’t know because we don’t want you to. We, the homeless, hide from your judgements and your fears. Those fears used to be ours, now we not only live them, we are learning to conquer them.
I go to church at a Ward or Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whereever I am staying at the time. I have been blessed with Relief Society (women of LDS) Sisters offering me hot meals and even an overnight inside. The generosity has at times overwhelmed but humbled me. I long to be the one giving, I am so tired of needing to receive. I look forward to a time when I will be able to give. A time when I have achieved my goals of “working myself out of retirement.” My dreams are many, but they have one theme: To help my fellow person. If I can share my hope and faith with anyone that will be a start!
I am a transient. For all that means, as much as it pains me to admit, I AM a transient.
I became homeless, officially, only weeks before the election. While the church members who attended the Branch where I am a member cast votes overwhelmingly and loudly for now President Trump, I was living in a camper shell on a friend’s land. My husband moved in with another woman and got a restraining order prohibiting me from returning to the fifth wheel “home” he had given to me for my 49th birthday. On my 50th birthday, I became a transient once again.
The first time had been partially by choice: Having left my first husband after all of my disability settlement was spent, I had a choice (due to my small disability pension) to rent a small room from a friend or not to. When I contemplated the reality of my seasonal depression and a small space shared with a near-stranger, I thought it best to find my way on my own…homeless.
Invited by social media friends across the country to visit, I employed trains, buses, planes, then my own car to visit them. Some for an afternoon, others for a night, some longer. Friends would share their homes and meals and much more with me, but it was always time to leave before too long, leaving me searching for another place to keep dry and warm, or cool. Never a place to call my own. With my mental illness getting worse with my circumstances, I wore out my welcome faster than my friends could anticipate.
When I met my second ex-husband, Keith, he was living in a friends’ RV on the same friend’s property…but he was also officially homeless. I spent 3 years travelling with him, both of our mother’s providing additional assistance when we needed it even though we were both adults ourselves and our mothers were both in their seventies. It didn’t seem to matter to him that we were taking advantage of them, but it hurt my heart. I love my Mom and knew she didn’t have much to give, but I appreciated the support.
When our mental and physical disabilities overcame the lusts that led to our marriage, it was time for another divorce. Once again, I was left with nothing to call my own. In spite of his claims at the time, Keith had put the 5th wheel that he said was my birthday present into his mother’s name and I was left with a broken-down 1983 Volvo as my only claim from the community property. All of what I had been told was community actually belonged to his mother. Another betrayal. I was alone again.
I DID have my freedom. As frightening as it may seem to some, for me the freedom of being able to travel from place to place means much more than “having a place to call my own.” Don’t get me wrong, I DESPERATELY want something to call my own as well, but I can not depend on someone else to provide it. That is on me.
Back in 2010, when I became homeless the first time, I didn’t understand the reality of my mental illness. This time as I sought therapy and cognitive behavioral training via Recovery International groups, I have been able to keep my head a bit more about me and use the skills I have learned over the past 7 years. I attend church where ever I am led to and I have visited several Temples across the country since my baptism in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 2013. I also have a service animal who understands living on the road. She protects me as well as assisting me with my physical and emotional challenges.
What is it like to be a “Transient In Trump’s America?” I was pondering that question as I was listening to a local radio show inform me that the new President was spending yet another weekend not too far from where my travels had led me. The expenses of the local law enforcement were going up astronomically to accommodate for President Trump’s “Southern White House,” a mansion in Florida previously owned by the Post family. I contemplated my own humble circumstance as I looked in my change purse on the way to use the bathroom in the local grocery store: No milk for us today, only 24 cents.
To be honest, I don’t blame anyone for the situation I find myself in. I am currently on the way to bettering myself: I started back to school via an online program over a year ago and I will graduate with my Bachelor’s in General Studies with a concentration in creative nonfiction writing in July 2017. It is my goal to “work my way out of retirement” in a profession that I can continue in spite of the mental and physical disabilities that prevent me from holding down a day-to-day 9 to 5 job. In the meantime, I have resources such as a small disability pension I payed money into while I was able to hold down traditional jobs. That helps me to buy gas and essentials like dog food for my service dog as well as groceries.
I freely admit there are days, weeks and even months where I would not have made it without the help of friends. If a dear friend and her mother had not taken me in this last summer, providing food, shelter and medicine with the value of thousands of dollars, I would not have made it out alive when a jaw infection completely overwhelmed me. Another friend allowed me to stay on her property until the weather turned dangerous. Then again in December when I needed to be in the northwest, my friend and her mom allowed me to stay once again. My friends have been angels.
I couldn’t continue to live off of my friends. It hurt my heart when I couldn’t give back for all they had given. I started traveling again, hoping to find a place where it was warm so I didn’t have to spend the few dollars I had on shelter. Florida had been an area where I visited back in 2010-2011 and I had loved the sunrises at the Atlantic Ocean. I used the cash I had for gas and headed to see friends and to live where it wasn’t too cold to live in my car.
I spend my days alternating in libraries working on my school work and blogs and books with time spent at dog parks and other areas where my canine partners and I can get physical exercise. At night I usually tend to park in lots that DO have surveillance as that tends to keep the trouble-makers away from us. I don’t care if I am watched, just safe.
Over the years, I have incurred vicious attacks from others including the words “homeless (insert expletive here)” directed at me. I feel the shame when I admit I have no home. Even some who have called me their friend have stated that I couldn’t be homeless because, “homeless people don’t dress that way” or because I keep myself clean. I spend a lot of time crying in my car/home wishing people would understand the utter and complete humiliation it is to be unhoused in America.
The public knows “homeless” as those people living in the streets. They are only the VERY FEW of us who have stopped trying to hide. The rest of us cower in our vehicles or corners and try to pretend we have a home waiting for us when we get out of church or when the library closes. We don’t.
While staying in Key West, Florida recently, where I observed a homeless population bursting at the seams, I happened to notice a young father changing the diaper on what looked to be a newborn baby. When he finished, he handed the babe to his partner and closed up the doors on the red minivan that was in the grocery store parking lot for the night. Their license plates were from Michigan. My first thoughts were that baby didn’t choose to be homeless!!! But those thoughts rapidly turned to the nasty weather I saw my Michigan friends complaining about on social media. My prayers then went towards the little family’s safety and security while they stayed in their van. The parking lot where we all spent the night was full of signs telling us we couldn’t be there. There were no cops that night called to sweep. It was a relief.
Throughout southern Florida the “bursting at the seams” hospital emergency rooms to the constant, “NO TRESPASSING” and “NO LOITERING” signs directed to those who need desperately to just find a place to lay down for an hour or two are indicative of the increase in population when the rest of the United States of America is covered in snow and frost. Even the President wants to come where it’s warm, and he has SEVERAL homes!
I don’t have the answers. I want to be out of this particular population as much as the next transient. That word HURTS. When I first had to seek the assistance from a “Transient Bishop,” just the realization that label fit who I was, made me turn and start crying. I had to wash up before I could face the Bishop.
I prefer the word “un-housed” while my home is currently a car that runs on prayers. I continue to try to hide my life circumstance from those who would judge, or worse yet, attack me. That is what I fear most. My faith is still in God and it is stronger than ever as I do what I can as I can to leave the transient life behind. But my thoughts are back with that baby in that red minivan; what is to become of her?