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Continuing My Education

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.

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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.

 

Today I received the news: I have been accepted to Southern New Hampshire University’s Master of Arts Communication – Health Communication program!!!!

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.

IMG_20170623_133610I 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.IMG_20170623_133224

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.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life!!!

Making Our Mark

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

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Solomon Richardson’s mark when he took a marriage bond to marry my 4th great-grandmother in 1822

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.

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At our reception

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.”

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Me, Siobhan and my mom, her grandma Joan

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.

IMG_20151021_093242703Although 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

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Amy at Snowflake Temple

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.

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My first year adviser, Lauren with me

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

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Siobhan and me Mother’s Day weekend 2017

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.

Watch: A video from backstage at the SNHU Arena

 

Road Food Part 2: Caesar Salad

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.

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Sometimes I get carried away with the bacon

 

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)

20170309_171512_HDRCombine all ingredients… and I like to eat it with CHOPSTICKS! 
Enjoy!

The End of the Journey

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 pIMG_20170421_153144_070lug 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

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Sunrise in Kernersville, North Carolina

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 tooIMG_20170501_015133k 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.

IMG_20170501_014619While 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 beenIMG_20170501_014131 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.

IMG_20170501_013831After 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.IMG_20170501_015048

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.

(Also posted on SlightelyMormon.org)

 

Road Food Part 1: Smoothies

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. IMG_20170501_014856

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.

 

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If you don’t use a 20 ounce bottle, make sure to have an extra cup handy!

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…

Portable Smoothies

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 choiceIMG_20170501_012640
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!

A Woman’s Best Friends

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.

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Ruger Sr., Athena’s father

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!

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Brandy, Athena’s Mother

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.

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.

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There was a time she fit in the “Peace Bag”

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.

wp-1491685091988.jpgAthena 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.

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Athena spent a lot of time hiding from the litter. Especially right after her c-section

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.

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Baby Ruger Bear (abt 3 weeks)

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.

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Ruger Bear, about a month old

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.

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Ruger Bear is already bigger than mama at 6 months

 

Click here to watch Athena and Ruger Bear run and play!

 

(This post was edited from a previous post on SlightelyMaggie authored by myself)

Fighting the Permanent Solution

Every day is a fight. A fight for me against an urge to find a permanent solution for temporary problems. I am NOT alone in this fight. The number of people who struggle with crippling anxiety and depression that leaves you suicidal is STAGGERING.  Today when I woke up with more frustrating situations around me, I was also troubled by the news that Amy Bleuel, Founder of Project Semicolon, had left this earth at the tender age of 31. Method: suicide.

The young woman who had fought, herself, so hard NOT to do it, that she inspired people WORLDWIDE to get the semicolon tattoo representing that they would “go on,” had no longer found the strength within herself to do just that. My heart was broken.

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On the New Book shelf

Today sucked for me. I tried to get some help on a large car repair bill and was denied. Then my puppy ate my denture. My only way to smile. The ONLY thing keeping me from looking like someone people don’t want to talk to: CHEWED. I was despondent. Coming two days after the news that the $900+ check I was expecting was NOT on it’s way and would never be, due to a recalculation in my student benefits.  Suicidal? Perhaps… definitely more than ready to be violent to a certain male dog who’s time with his male parts has expired. But I kept in physical control, choosing the method of “sitting still,” and not acting where I could have done something I would later regret.

I have attempted suicide more times than I can count. It would happen every single year as a teenager and young adult. My suicidal ideations affected my children and my friends. I wasn’t a happy person to be around, and most antidepressants made it worse. I finally found a medication solution when I started using cannabis as my medicine in an eaten form. But my struggles with the moods and the trials continue. I have used methods I have learned from Dr. Low and Recovery International to help manage them.

I’m not the first person in my family to struggle. The Post Traumatic Stress that my grandfather experienced in the war along with a major head injury, lead him to finish himself off when my father was only four. My father, having experienced Post Traumatic Stress from his father’s suicide as a young boy, struggled until he also killed himself on my birthday weekend in 1999. My nephew was the latest, and the youngest, having only reached 18 in 2012 when he succeeded with ending his life. It runs in my family.

I have reached out to friends near and far, my poor daughter more times than I want to admit, and now I reach to God. I find comfort in a quote from Ezra Taft Benson, “There are times when you simply have to righteously hang on and outlast the devil until his depressive spirit leaves you.” I think that is true. Another truth is that I have not been actively suicidal since I understood I am a daughter of God. Somehow, killing something that has eternal consequence seems different, worse. I am able to hang on and stay still when I would have previously done something I would regret.

wp-1490992833080.jpgMy thoughts and prayers right now are with Ms. Bleuel’s family and friends, and ALL of those who looked up to her. It’s okay to keep hanging on. Just because she couldn’t, doesn’t mean you can’t. Stay strong, we are ALL children of a Heavenly Father who loves us. Help is around the corner, just ask.

Get Thine A$$ Outta BED!

I have written many Facebook posts that started with the quote, “To Stand UP to LIVE you must first get thine ASS outta BED!” or something similar. Today felt exactly the same way.

On days when starting is like pushing through a bog of mud …this time in my face… I am compelled to wonder if that is why I don’t currently have a bed. I spent nearly seven years in bed. Added a few months here and there over the last three years, and you could say that I wasted nearly a decade in bed. So, now I have lost the privilege to have one, or so it seems on mornings like these.

I know I am not the only person to hide from the world in bed.  The smaller and more advanced technology gets, the easier it it to take to bed with us.  Then those of us introverts who would rather complain about the people around us than to interact with them, hide.  It isn’t just “hiding from the world” that is done in bed…it is also the fact that sometimes a person with chronic pain (like myself) only finds a “comfortable position” in bed. But is life about “comfort?”

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The puppy cuddles me

There are many days that I don’t think I can continue, when everything seems too difficult. This morning, the half-mile drive from the Wal-Mart parking lot where I stayed the night, to the library where I needed to spend today working on my schoolwork and writing, seemed to involve much more cognitive power than I felt I could muster. The dogs were restless, so I walked them. But even the energy to feed them seemed to be escaping my grasp.

So, I prayed. Then I spent some time with Christ in the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s words have been a comfort lately. While being bullied online, the words, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” from Matthew 5:44 (KJV) were EXACTLY what I needed.

I found the strength in those words, and a comfort that enveloped my soul, to continue. I may not be the person I once thought I was, but I am much better than I ever imagined I could be. Every day, every hour, out of my bed is an accomplishment. Every time I turn in one more assignment towards completing my goal of finishing my Bachelor’s degree, I am closer to becoming the person I want to be.

Sometimes, I’m thankful to be without a bed.

 

 

Have we become a Country of Bullies?

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.20161108_132912_hdr

In spite of my poem from last year when I expressed my frustration and personal dislike of the lows that the republican debate had reached, the ENTIRE political process was frustrating and disgusting me all through the election. I feel much the same about it now: Disgusted.

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??

wp-1485625896850.jpgI 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.1585624636311

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.

img_20170225_141418.jpgIt 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.

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Jacob in New Orleans

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.