A couple of days ago I signed the first rental lease I have signed in over 15 years. I was handed the keys to a small one bedroom apartment in the same complex where I had rented my first apartment 31 years before. It felt very circular, almost as if God was giving me an opportunity to try again.
This time I am on my own. Yes, I have my dogs, Athena and Ruger Bear (who turns a year old in just a few days!), but before now I had NEVER lived without other humans. When I first moved into this complex 31 years ago, I was a young working single mom with two preschoolers. My sons were only 2 and 4 years old when we moved into the larger two bedroom unit that I now look upon every time I come out of my stairwell.
My memories of this area and this complex are all good ones and I am very happy to be making more on my own now. I was drawn to this area, the same where I was born, because of many reasons. My only family who are members of the church I attend are in this area and I love to be able to share my Sundays with my granddaughters and Sister grandma. It is also centrally located with most of my close family being in this general area.
Seven years ago exactly, I made the decision NOT to confine myself to a rented room in a new friend’s home. This year I made a very different decision, I decided to go inside. I am tired. It’s been a long seven years. I have traveled across the country more times than I can count. I have loved, I have lost, I have met more people than I could have ever imagined. I have made friends across the country and around the world. I have been hurt, I have felt joy, I have seen and done more of life than I could have ever imagined in seven years. Now, it is time to write it all out. Having a place to be comfortable while I do that is crucial.
My physical health was made tremendously worse by my choice of living situations. Major mold exposures combined with allergies and asthma to cause me sinus and lung issues that are currently being further evaluated. In consideration of my mental health, I was finally able to find a therapist who takes my insurance and is close. Everything is coming together.
Now comes the writing of the books in earnest. Two have been outlined and started, with a couple of chapters being written while on the road. I appreciate greatly not only all the support and assistance that friends and my church have given, but especially the prayers. God knows my name. It is HE who I have to thank for all of these wonderful blessings that have been bestowed upon me by His human angels.
I hope everyone has the opportunity to feel this blessed once in their lives!!!
My father had always said we had ink in our veins. So many of us worked in publishing, on both sides of my father’s family. When I began to delve earnestly into my family history, I soon discovered that when your family works on the backside of the paper, they are more likely than likely going to have their stories printed on the front.
When I entered the family history center that stormy April afternoon, I had one thing on my mind; I had never seen a photo of my father’s father. I was 46 and I had never seen my grandfather’s face.
I typed his name into the search bar on the site, Newspapers.com, “George R. Slighte,” the results came back instantly.
Under a photo, I read the words exactly as I had just typed: “George R. Slighte,” then the caption continued: “31, Pacific war veteran, surrendered to police as a driver of a hit-run car. -Tribune photo.”
I continued to read the story below his photo. It first detailed his surrender by phone, after striking an unknown object the night before. He was arrested and held that Christmas Eve day.
As I sat in the sparsely populated Family History room of the Stake Center, the hum of the computers and microfiche reader behind me and the constant quiet conversation of the volunteers on the computers to the right of me seemed to fade away as I was drawn further into my grandfather’s story. The bits and pieces I had been told as a small child hadn’t included anything about an accident. As I studied his face on the screen searching for similarities in my own and my children’s, I longed to know more about George’s life.
My grandfather’s sad tale played out like a soap opera in clippings from the Oakland Daily Tribune where both his brothers, Tom and Ray, worked. His father and he were also printers, working together at a private print shop at the time he enlisted in the Army a few years before.
The printers at the Tribune knew the story behind George’s brave service to his country and possibly they included his tale to temper the words that were so difficult to tell about another holiday drunk driving tragedy.
My memories about my grandfather were scarce and very confusing to my child mind. My father, in loud angry, insulting words, would describe how my brother was not named after his father, George, because my mother didn’t think George was the type of man you named a child after. My mother debates that statement. I grew up knowing this to be true. No matter who had said it, my perception was that my family thought George was a bad man. As I continued to read the words about his service to our country, my attitude about the grandfather I never knew changed. My respect for the hero that had served our country began to grow.
Through the mouths of several generations, a phrase was highlighted in my memory, I knew that he was injured in World War II, “hit in the back of the head by a Jap rifle,” was always how it was told. I was never told where, although a recent trip to the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. found me on my knees at an impression of the words, “New Guinea” in the concrete. Here it was in black and white:
“Slighte, a printer, who enlisted in the Army five days after the Pearl Harbor attack, was partly paralyzed during the fighting on New Guinea in 1943 when he was struck on the back of the head by a Jap rifle butt.”
The results of George’s injuries, untreated, created a domino-effect of trauma that is still echoing four generations later. Although our family attempted to erase George’s death through disposing of his photos and forbidding to speak of him; that didn’t keep his own son, then a great-grandson from following in his footsteps in the manner of their deaths. Sitting in that Family History Center, I realized that my own post-traumatic stress disorder could be directly traced to my grandfather’s service.
“George and his wife have one child, Ronald, 1 ½, and expect another early next year.” The last sentence shuddered through me. The other they expected, would be my aunt Pegi; My father was Ronald. Adversity hit the little family at it’s core before my aunt was born. Tragedy was to be her life for her first few years. The only years she was to share on earth with her father.
The one memory that was shared with me from the time I was far too young to comprehend its relationship to my abuse, was the memory my father carried about his father’s death. I don’t remember how old I was the first time I heard the words from my dad, “he took off his watch [speaking about his father], gave it to me, then went in his office and closed the door. The next thing I heard was a gunshot.” My father was four years old at the time. His little sister was 2. The man who was to cause my own mental illness, experienced the trauma that would be the undoing of at least two more generation’s psychological health on that day.
For the first 46 years of my life, one thing I knew about my paternal grandfather was the method of his death. I had no idea why, or who he was before he died. I had never seen his face. The day I saw his face, I also found another article in the Oakland Tribune about George Ronald Slighte. This piece confirmed what I knew to be true as well. It ran twenty-one years to the day from his grandson’s, my brother Jason’s birth, on 6 June 1949. It was printed on page 7:
In the three years since discovering those clips about my grandfather, George Ronald Slighte, I have continued to search for more clues.
The newspaper clippings continued the tale backwards and forwards in time from 1932 to 1999. My grandfather’s and father’s tales and traumas wove through the press. The ink in our veins was in fact splashed upon the front pages.
A newspaper person, a journalist, printer, typesetter, editor and even the errand boy all know one thing: Everyone sees what is on top of the fold on the front page. It is the display copy in the newspaper boxes, it is what was shouted from the corner newsboys. In my children’s generation the term translates into the readable webpage upon loading. Above the fold lies the news. Everyone and no one wants to be there.
On Christmas Eve day, George’s face fell above the fold. On the front page of the local section, his story ran in all it’s glory. The word in the black and white print that made me gulp, when I thought of the service the article delineated so well below it, was “surrendered,” I only could imagine how my grandfather felt at the same word.
Surrender. After having his head literally bashed in by the butt of a rifle, then carried over a ragged mountain range for eight days by natives, I imagine “surrender” was the last word George would have ever wanted attributed to him. But there it was in black and white.
This 5’6” man, my grandfather, stood the same height as both my grandmother stood and now I stand. For a man that’s not too tall at all. But he stood those five feet six inches proudly. He stood up for what he thought was right. This time he knew he had done wrong and it was time to stand up and say that too.
In my immediate family, I have tried to teach my children the value of telling the truth. Sometimes that was difficult, withholding a punishment you thought well-deserved just because the child came forward. As difficult as it was, such actions proved to teach the lesson that my grandfather already understood: No matter what, it’s always best to tell the truth.
The Tribune went on to describe how his honesty was not rewarded. He was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter and the family sued for wrongful death. The legal results of those cases have since been lost to the annals of time, but the personal result was clear: George was a broken man.
What wasn’t delineated in neat black-and-white newsprint, was the toll George’s actions and injuries were to take on generations to come. Trauma is like that. One traumatic event in a person’s life can scar generations not yet conceived in ways never imagined.
“Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be caused by any trauma such as first-hand abuse, sexual abuse, witnessing any type of violence, car accidents, personal injury, or seeing death firsthand, not only in war. Although PTSD is commonly associated with veterans at war, this group in reality only accounts for 38.2% of all diagnosed PTSD cases. The other 61.8% is majorly made up of victims of abuse or violent crime” (Cole).
When my four-year-old father witnessed his father’s suicide, my grandfather effectively handed down the PTSD one generation. When my father acted out in his own trauma and abused myself and my brother, this non-genetic disorder of the brain was to affect yet another generation: My brother’s son passed in the same manner as his grandfather, down to the caliber of the gun.
It is not uncommon for a family to have a tendency towards PTSD. There has been recent research that indicates susceptibility to a PTSD response to trauma is possibly up to 40% genetic. In 2012 UCLA geneticists discovered two genes that appear to be linked to the development of PTSD (Schmidt, 2012).
SgtMaj. Casey D. Cole, USMC (ret) feels that the plague of PTSD-related suicides has to stop. So much so that he testified in front of a Senate committee on Veteran Suicide in 2011 about a simple programming addition that could be made into the Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ (VA) automated answering prompts that would immediately connect a veteran who is calling for help to a person who can do so. That has currently been implemented. Since this happened, the number of veteran suicides has fallen from the infamous “Twenty22Many” to twenty every day. While we all agree that is still far too many, it is less. I was thankful to have the opportunity to thank SgtMaj. Cole for not only his service to his country, but also for his service to generations of families yet to be conceived.
As I learned about my grandfather’s service, and his life before both the accident and then his tragic death, I learned to respect the man that he was. Upon realizing that our family probably carries at least one of the genes that make us all more susceptible to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder reactions to traumatic events, I realized that we have opportunities ahead of us as a family to help future generations by becoming more informed about this disorder.
Cole, SgtMaj. Casey D, USMC (ret). Personal Interview. 12-13 Oct 2016.
Department of Health Services, State of California. “Certificate of Death: George Ronald Slighte.” State file 49-042891 1 and 2 of 2. Certificate issued on APR 30, 2002.
Certificate barcode number 001380964.
Frissa, Souci, et al. “Challenges In The Retrospective Assessment Of Trauma: Comparing A Checklist Approach To A Single Item Trauma Experience Screening Question.” BMC Psychiatry 16.(2016): PsycINFO. Web. 12 Oct. 2016.
King, John Charles. Personal Interview. 18 September 2016.
National Archives and Records Administration. “U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946: George Ronald Slighte.” Ancestry.com Operations Inc. 2005. Provo, UT, USA.
Oakland Tribune. “Accident Death Results in Suit.” Oakland, California. 12 Jan 1947. Page 13. Print.
Thirty-one years ago I went to college. As I have previously written, I did not finish either that time or the time after that. When I had my community college transcript analysed to see if I had enough credits to continue on with my Bachelor’s without ever finishing an Associates Degree, I was informed that although I had never finished an Associates Degree, I HAD finished enough classes to start finishing my Bachelor’s Degree!
This week I finally finished my Bachelor of Arts degree with a focus in nonfiction writing! Thirty-one years after starting college, I FINISHED my undergraduate education! This may not seem important or “big” to other people, but for a person who doesn’t seem to finish much of what she has started in her life (I hear it is an “ADHD thing”), to actually FINISH my Bachelor’s, even though I walked for graduation in May, is a very big thing to me.
I almost disappointed myself again, having a breakdown in the middle of one of my least-favorite classes in my entire college career: International Relations. However, I mustered through with a “C” then came back strong with an “A” out of my “Advanced Nonfiction Workshopping” class for my final term at Southern New Hampshire University to end Cum Laude.
What’s next? I purposefully gave myself a couple of months to become a bit more stable and find a place to settle down before my Master’s program begins in late November. I am actually also working on a resume as well as writing my first book.
I hope your summer has been AMAZING! I can personally say that this was one of the best years of my life so far! I hope the rest of your year is full of Love and Lighte!
For the last six months I struggled with the decision whether to continue into a graduate program or to be satisfied with the Bachelor of Arts that I will be finishing at the beginning of September 2017. Although I LOVE writing, without a best-seller (sometimes even WITH), it is difficult to support oneself writing books let alone to have the funds to support my dreams of helping others. In the middle of the night a few days ago, I felt a light and an idea: Master of Arts: Health Communications.
After that late-night epiphany, many things came together quickly. I applied, submitted my writing sample (an edited version of “Making Our Mark” without the run-on sentences) and statement of purpose…and waited.
For years my physical and mental disabilities combined with my lack of higher education have stagnated my growth. I resigned myself to collecting a disability pension even though the lack of being able to help others was frustrating to no end.
As long as I can remember, I have wanted to help people improve their health. As a child I was more focused on their pets and livestock, being enthralled with James Harriott and his novels. As I grew, I dreamed of being a surgeon for humans. However, difficult choices after foolish ones when I became a parent at 17 caused me to rethink that path.
I first trained as a medical assistant and worked in that profession to support my young family. When my first disabling injury made me unable to work in the medical field, I was devastated.
Even after I left healthcare as a profession, as a mother, wife and disabled person, I found myself constantly performing research into medical subjects. My writing talents have enabled me to share the information gathered with others on my blogs as an attempt to assist them in their own struggles.
Continuing my education with a Masters in Communication focusing on healthcare communication will add authority and legitimacy to this passion I have for helping others. It will enable me to assist more people to take charge of their own health and heal.
My first book, currently in the works, is titled “Medical Marijuana for Mormons” and it addresses cannabis treatment in a population consisting of many who would not normally pick up a book on this subject. As more members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are searching for alternative healthcare answers, my book will be there to help guide them.
My dream is to open disability/addiction recovery centers across the nation focusing on a holistic approach to chronic pain and disability that assists patients in recovering from the destructive influence opioid medication has had on their lives. The focus will be on re-educating patients in every aspect of daily life. Teaching them how to grow their own food and herbal medicine and helping bring them out of their sick beds and back into a life they want to live. An advanced communications degree focusing on healthcare will assist me in making my dream come true.
I have enjoyed immensely the Southern New Hampshire University community and the support I have received during my undergraduate program and would not feel nearly as “at home” in any other school. I am excited to continue in my education with SNHU and look forward to being able to help many people with the knowledge I will obtain there.
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 due to obtain 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 campus 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 even 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 absolutely 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 amazing. 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 greater 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.
This last week and a half I have found myself in a wonderful hotel room that is more like an apartment, complete with a full kitchen. Even so, I have realized that I miss my “road food,” most of the components of which remain in my car which has been in the shop for that same amount of time. Since I put together the ingredients and two separate “kits” over the course of several months, I do not wish to replace them when they will be returned to me shortly (I hope) with the Volvo.
I do want to take this time to share a couple of recipes that have not only sustained me in my travels, but also enabled me to lose a little weight and maintain energy to do those things that I need to.
I hate fast food. I really and truly dislike fast food to the point of hating it. It is full of fats and chemicals that I really have no desire to put into my body. Only on rare occasions have I submitted to the fast food menus for my sustenance, and those times usually involved me receiving gift cards from those establishments.
I’ll begin with my prefered breakfast meal: Smoothies. I LOVE smoothies. But HOW do you make a smoothie without a blender?
About a year ago I first began seeing organic blended fruit with vegetables in the baby food isle. They were priced at over a dollar a pouch. The pouches were on average about 3-4 ounces. That was quite expensive in my mind. However, in the past few months, blended applesauce with other fruits and vegetables in pouches have appeared in the canned fruit isle. The sale prices average about $.50 per pouch. That was a price I could see paying for a component of my smoothies.
Then came the challenge of finding shelf-stable yogurt. Those also appeared on the same isle of the grocery stores, right next to the applesauce. Having originated in France, I also worried less about GMOs. When I use the shelf-stable yogurts, I do sacrifice the benefits of “live cultures” present in fresh yogurt. So, when I am able to have an ice chest full of ice, I sometimes treat myself to a boost of “live cultures” to help my gut.
Here is my recipe, in the numbers…
1 – 20 ounce empty bottle(I use Vitamin Water bottles) (However, some Vitamin Water bottle are NOT 20 ounces, and I have had “overflows” from using too small of containers!) 2 – 3-4 ounce pouches of yogurt (or small “shot” of live active cultured yogurt) 3 – Tablespoons of Hemp Protein Powder (the “magic” ingredient) 4 – 3-4 ounce pouches of blended fruit & vegis of choice 5 – Ice cubes
Add the yogurt, fruit and hemp powder to the empty bottle and shake well until the hemp powder has dissolved. Then add the ice cubes and shake until they are melted completely. Your smoothie should be cold and the right consistency to stick a straw into and enjoy!
In my next post I will share my secrets to my fabulous caesar salads that I eat for dinner or even lunch sometimes!
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.
Over seven years ago, I met a Staffordshire Terrier who changed my opinion about dogs. I had been afraid of large dogs (for no reason I can remember….but that isn’t new to me!) for as long as I knew. Barkley was different. A HUGE “pitbull” type breed, he was loyal to no end. Not only to his family, but when I stayed in the house he was protecting, he buddied up to me in a manner I had not experienced. I fell in love with him.
Then I met a pitbull named “Ruger.” A blue nosed beautiful blockhead, he and his mate Brandy (a chocolate lab) belonged to friends of mine and I rapidly fell for him too. Both Ruger and Brandy would sit on or near my feet when I was in pain, demanding me to pet them. When I would pet them for a little while, the pain got much less intense. Sometimes I even forgot about the pain. Since I could easily deal with daily pain that reached levels of 8-9 (on a scale of 1-10); the idea that a dog could lessen that pain was astounding! I had never heard of such a thing, but I wanted more!
These dogs also showed me in person, what I later learned through reading: Canines have the capability to change a human’s mood as well as ability-level.
When I was crying my eyes out, both of them would lay next to me and encourage (quite forcibly) me to pet them and give them attention. As I was to learn, the very action of petting a dog releases the same hormone, oxytocin, as is released in nursing moms & babies. It is known as the “comforting hormone”. Better than any anti-anxiety drug I know!
God answered my prayers. I stayed with my friends Robin, David and Katie for a month in the spring. As I was getting ready to move on they realized that in spite of being separately kenneled, Brandy had gotten pregnant with Ruger’s litter.
On the first of April, 2011, I woke up to smells and sounds I had never before experienced. I went downstairs to learn that puppies were being born. Before my friends left for work and school, five puppies were born. When I went back downstairs after my shower, there was a sixth. She was later adopted by me and named “Athena Brooke” for the middle names of two of the strongest young ladies I have ever known.
Athena at 1 week
Having never raised a dog from a puppy, I had a lot of learning to do. We hit the road before she was even 8 weeks old. Although I had been planning to re-start my cross country road trip with my new-to-me BMW 525, I hadn’t previously planned to have a brand-new puppy in tow! Fortunately, God had me covered; I had friends across the country whose pets and advice taught both me and Athena.
Together, Athena and I visited people from Idaho to Florida. She made friends with little and big dogs, kittens and even a few house bunnies. Athena was patient with me, and I learned to get my behind out of bed earlier in the morning or pay for my laziness by
having messes to clean up.
When Athena and I had been traveling and living together for less than a year, she made her true “job” or “service” apparent to me.
As a survivor of multiple traumas, I have certain symptoms that are quite distressing. One of them happens quite unexpectedly: I can lose most sensations below my waist suddenly, making it difficult to walk or stand. When Athena was only 9 months old, she sat at my feet and barked me into the chair behind me. We had not had the economical ability to procure formal service-dog training for her, so I was unsure as to her intent. When I sat down, she stopped, seeming pleased with herself. Within five minutes, sure enough, I lost all feeling in my legs.
Athena has made her place in my life with this skill on many occasions. She has
also calmed me, or separated me from a situation, when my PTSD acts up.
She has learned my triggers, and has learned to give notice to me when I am needing help.
Athena and I had many adventures in the past five years, but unfortunately we both eventually experienced some emotionally traumatic events together. She was left with a habit of barking, making it difficult to socialize her enough to use her as a formal service animal. My own PTSD about medical interventions would cause me to delay in having her “fixed.” Although I toyed with the idea of breeding her, I didn’t have the stability to consider that when Athena took matters into her own paws this last summer.
It seemed she really liked the full blooded Golden Labrador (who was so old he was silver) next to a house I was visiting, and the two of them conspired to get through the falling down fence more than once. She had tied with him and there were puppies on the way!
I was blessed to be staying with understanding friends who had a lot of experience with dogs when she came to term. The litter of six had to be delivered by emergency c-section due to their huge sizes, but they were all alive and well. Athena woke up to puppies and being a new mom, was not too impressed with them suckling on her near her incision. It took a while of cajoling and treating her to get her to nurse them. Once she did, she rose well to the challenge of motherhood.
The only puppy in the litter with Athena’s father’s markings was a little black boy with tiny white toes and a splash of white on his chest. I wanted a male from her, and I named him after his grandfather and the name he appeared to favor with his lab looks, he was a “Ruger Bear.”
The rest of the litter was given to friends. I was fortunate to be able to place 2 of the litter to be trained for service dogs for two veterans suffering from PTSD. One has been accepted into a formal training program. It makes me happy to know we were able to help others with this “mistake.”
The only chocolate male of the litter, named “Kiko” by my grandson on his birthday when he came to see the newborns, was given to David, a member of the family that the original Ruger and Brandy belonged to. They have become inseparable. Brandy and Ruger have been gone for a while, and Kiko found a place where he was needed.
All of Athena’s puppies found their places. Athena gained experience that seems to help her be more attentive (and rolls her eyes at the puppy’s behavior with me). She is even better at her job of being my companion with Ruger Bear as an additional companion to train. Perhaps I will actually work on training them both formally when we get settled later this year. I hope so. They deserve it and so do I. For now, Athena is an excellent member of the family and she is truly my very best friend.