A Bad Drug

When I returned to my home state of Washington in July 2017, my broken, disabled body was less able than it had been in years. My first order of business was to make appointments with both my primary care practitioner and my pulmonologist.  My asthma had been flaring, causing me to spend at least one day in an emergency room each month to seek breathing treatments.Prescription bottle for levofloxacin 10 days and tablets with prednisone tablets

The result of my July visits was a diagnosis of pansinusitis with a complete obfuscation of ALL of my frontal sinuses. My prescriptions for my inhalers were renewed and I received two new prescriptions, one for a steroid, prednisone, to lessen the inflammation inside my sinuses and an antibiotic, levofloxacin, (generic for Levaquin) to clear the infection.

I was staying with a friend to help her pack and clean the house she was vacating and set about taking my first round of tablets hoping for a quick recovery. That night as I scrubbed the driving callus on my right heel that looked worse than it felt, I felt pain in my heel and ankle felt fragile and odd, but I didn’t do anything except note it in my journal.

The next morning, I felt like a train had hit my body and brain.  My brain was confused and every muscle and joint in my body hurt. However, both of my physicians had made a point of telling me that the pansinusitis was “probably causing me considerable system-wide fatigue and pain.” So, I chalked up these symptoms to my body reacting to me stopping long enough to feel it.

preview-4.jpgAs my body seemed to weaken, I was embarrassed at the lack of work I was physically able to complete. It wasn’t like me. Yes, I need to take a lot of breaks, but I am a bit of a perfectionist where it comes to packing and cleaning, and it was taking me hours and hours longer than it should have. I apologized to my friend.

About a month later, I revisited my pulmonologist who saw no improvement in my infection and again prescribed the same combination. Again, I took and finished that ten-day course. But my sinuses were still completely full and now my joint pain was even worse. Then my pulmonologist referred me to an ear, nose and throat specialist who prescribed Prednisone and Levofloxacin for 21 more days.

I couldn’t understand how a longer course of the same antibiotics I had been on was going to do any good, but I acquiesced took the prescribed medication once again.

I will add, when I filled my prescriptions at the Walgreens’s pharmacy, the only thing that was said to me was “do you want me to throw away all these papers,” referring to the medication information in the bag of my prescriptions.

Two days before my 51st birthday, I traveled to my medical clinic for a follow-up appointment with my pulmonologist as well as an appointment with a new primary care provider. I expressed to both physicians that I was experiencing a HUGE amount of pain in my joints and fatigue that caused me to feel like I had been hit by a semi-truck from the moment I woke each and every day. Each of my steps that hit the ground was followed by knives shooting up my heel and the back of my leg, then into my knee and hips. After a few feet of walking, I wanted to cry. The pain and swelling in my hands, wrists, and arms made any household chore next to impossible.

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Braces made by my occupational therapist. I had to remove one brace to take the photo

 

Both mentioned they thought the tendinopathy I was describing and which my primary care provider had examined and verified in my hands, wrists, elbows, knees, and heels could be the reaction for which the Levofloxacin and its entire family of antibiotics was deigned to carry a “black box warning” from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). A “black box warning” denotes a serious reaction history and a limitation from the FDA in a medication’s usage. In relation to the class of drugs of which Levofloxacin was a member, the warning was issued almost one year to the date of my exposure. It read:
“Because the risk of these serious side effects generally outweighs the benefits for patients with acute bacterial sinusitis, acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis and uncomplicated urinary tract infections, the FDA has determined that fluoroquinolones should be reserved for use in patients with these conditions who have no alternative treatment options. For some serious bacterial infections, including anthrax, plague, and bacterial pneumonia among others, the benefits of fluoroquinolones outweigh the risks and it is appropriate for them to remain available as a therapeutic option.”preview-3.jpg

My pansinusitis was not anthrax or the plague…however, I have multiple antibiotic allergies and have reacted to many different medications. Due to this fact, my physicians rationalized it would be okay to risk my well-being because of an infection that was not fatal. In fact, I had that same active sinus infection for months before any treatment. However, after the prednisone and levofloxacin, I felt worse than I had EVER felt with the infection.

As days turned into weeks, then months, I started to cry when my feet hit the floor and it was not only not any better than the day before but felt like it had gotten worse. I was no stranger to chronic pain, having been through the gauntlet with chronic pelvic pain for decades and back pain for years. I had written REPORTS about chronic pain and cannabis. I KNEW the timeline of pain. I KNEW when pain becomes chronic, the brain changes. Although my body and brain had already gone through that process for a few injuries, I did NOT want that paradigm to repeat with BODY-WIDE pain!!

My nights were not restful at all. I would roll to one side and my elbow would feel like it was full of glass pieces and if I rolled onto it, they would only go deeper into my flesh… The other elbow was on fire. My wrists and hands swelled making typing insanely difficult as my Master of Arts program began in late November. Although I had some accommodations in place for my previously diagnosed limitations, I found myself utilizing the dictation software. It was frustrating and ineffective, to the point I reached out to an online group for my university and a wonderful undergrad student offered to type my dictation over the phone.

IMG_20150909_123512744For the pain, I was limited to cannabis. I will not use opioids after having been in recovery from them for the last 8 years and the other issues with the other medications prescribed for pain are what caused my physicians to initially recommend cannabis as my medication.

I’ve been working on recipes for topicals and bath bombs with this pain. A foot soak with a tablespoon of cannabis-infused coconut oil and Epsom salt is a good substitute when I don’t know if I can pull myself out of the tub.

I wanted to do something more to assist my own recovery, but I feared to damage my tendons more. I read about microcellular damage inside of my tendons and feared them tearing or worse. I requested physical therapy for my body and occupational therapy for my hands to get me started. My psychotherapist was also used to assist with the mental confusion caused by the medication interaction/injury.  Throughout this last December and January, I had therapy appointments three days a week! Still, every morning, as I put my feet out of bed and onto the floor, the pain would shoot up, and I would cry. Like the mercury in a thermometer that has been placed in boiling water, the pain shot up my heels. Yes, worse again.preview-1.jpg

I was in the middle of my finals week for that first term in my Master of Arts program when I woke up, put my feet on the floor, and …. It was about the same as the previous day. The next day, after my exercises and stretching, it almost felt better. I was reluctant to hope, but I had stopped crying. At this point, it had been over six months since the first prescriptions.

The occupational therapist confirmed the swelling in my forearm and wrist had lessened. Two days later, the physical therapist confirmed that my Achilles’ tendons had more movement. FINALLY!

I’m FINALLY on the road to recovery. I have never developed so much empathy, so quickly, for any group of people. I have many friends who have chronic illnesses that come complete with body-wide intense pain. I wish I didn’t have to know, but I do understand comprehensively at this point. I am looking forward to healing from this injury and spreading the word about this medication and its PAINFUL interaction with prednisone and some people’s chemistries! Levofloxacin is a BAD BAD DRUG!preview-2.jpg

 

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A Medical Marijuana Mormon

Although I have talked a bit about the fact that I never wanted to be a “medical marijuana Mormon” or how I didn’t want my Testimony “tainted” green, I have not talked much (except by video) about why I willingly took on the moniker, “Medical Marijuana Mormon” at least in the choice of URL. (You can also reach this site by typing in MedicalMarijuanaMormon.com)wp-1485625896850.jpg

When I made the decision to purchase MedicalMarijuanaMormon.com as well as MaggieSlighte.com last January, I was taking a social media marketing class for writers in my bachelor’s program. I learned many techniques and improved some that I had already been working on developing.

I have been a “medical marijuana Mormon” since the day I was Baptized a Mormon, but it wasn’t until my own trial about the herb when I decided research I had performed might be useful to many other members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when making the decisions about using cannabis as a medicine for themselves or a family member.

Two weeks to the day from the date I received my Endowments in the Seattle Washington Temple, I fell profoundly backwards 10 feet from the top of an attic ladder, incurring a compression fracture of my T-11, essentially “breaking my back.” What few people in the church knew about me at that time is that I was a medical marijuana patient. I had been even before I was Baptized.

Before I was even interested in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I knew medical cannabis patients who were Mormon. In fact, the seventh legal patient in Washington State was a Mormon and was a dear friend of mine. From him I first heard the words “The Church says it’s an herb, treat it as such,” meaning that smoking it is discouraged, but ultimately the route of administration is between the patient (member), their physician and God.

IMG_20120915_194030Contrary to many beliefs, there are many and varied reasons that a physician may direct a patient to inhale their medication. Although “vaping” or vaporizing is preferred to smoking or combusting cannabis in the administration of the medication, inhalation can be useful when attempting to bypass competing digestive liver enzymes. The simple fact is that when inhaled, the liver is not involved in the absorption and for many reasons this can be helpful. But I digress.  I will be including information about this in the book I am currently working on, Medical Marijuana for Mormons: Cannabis sans combustion. Topicals are a great option for patients needing to avoid the liver-involved administration as well! In fact, topicals are the least-used and most effective forms of cannabis medication!

When I broke my back, my cannabis use came “out of the closet” during an interview between myself, my husband and our Bishop. When the Bishop offered to help find a program to assist with the costs of my prescriptions, he soon realized that wouldn’t be possible. I had been in recovery, off the opioid medications Fentanyl, Percocet and Vicodin which I had been prescribed for over 7 years between 2002-2009, for five years. My physicians all agreed: I couldn’t take opioids even for the back pain. I was recommended a strong preparation of cannabis oil and given muscle relaxers as well.

My Bishop was new to this country and to the cannabis laws. My state had recently legalized “recreational cannabis” and that seemed to confuse things with the Bishops even more. He referred the matter to our Stake President. The Stake President in the Centralia area had been in place for over a decade. His politics were not liberal in the least. He had NO love for cannabis.

My Bishop was directed by the Stake President to take my Temple Recommend.

I was devastated.

As the Bishop took the Recommend from my hand, I saw the tears in my eyes echoed in his own. Neither of us felt The Spirit in the action, but we would both be obedient. He obediently took my Recommend, I obediently gave it.img_20151001_100743

An interjected third person in the equation was my non-Priesthood holding husband of the time. He was offended and he was loud about it. He made a point to tell anyone who would listen that we were forced to kill our plants and shop from the local dispensaries instead of growing our own which was a much more affordable option available to us legally in our state as patients.

It didn’t matter how patient I attempted to be while I healed from my back injury, the scenes that my husband made at church became embarrassing. His actions did NOT echo my feelings. I knew it would be resolved in God’s time. But the husband I was married to then didn’t believe in waiting for God for much of anything.

Late in August, after being without my Temple Recommend for about a month, Stake Conference was held in Centralia, Washington. I invited a good friend of mine who is “fifth-generation LDS,” and was thankful for his perceptions. Elder L. Tom Perry had celebrated his 92nd birthday that week. We didn’t know that would be his last birthday on this side of the veil.

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Elder L. Tom Perry from LDS.org

Elder Perry was a giant of a man standing at the podium I peeked in from the door at the side of the chapel. I stayed in the foyer contained within my steel cage of a back brace with the walker that I still depended upon. I was happy with my viewpoint as the Stake appeared to receive a rebuke. He gave us a lesson in who reports to whom in the Priesthood offices. He tested the Priesthood holders in their knowledge of their duties and charges. He taught us all with an abundance of love. Elder Perry taught us about obedience. Then he replaced the Stake President, informing us of Brother Smith’s call to the Stake Presidency. President Smith’s day job was an FBI agent. He worked for the Federal Government.

I can’t remember if it was the next Sunday or the Sunday thereafter when my Bishop called me to his office and joyfully handed me my Temple Recommend back. We had both survived the trial.

I learned a lot during that trial. I received a Priesthood blessing when I fell. That blessing, given by the Elders of the Centralia Ward in late May 2014 on my mother’s front lawn while I lay on a gurney ready to be loaded up into the ambulance that awaited, specified that I needed to follow my physician’s advice and I would be healed. I followed the advice of my doctors and I endured a trial of my faith, and I healed. I learned to walk again and I live to this day with about the same amount of “able-ness” as I had previous to breaking my back.IMG_20120927_205912

I was left with the feeling much of the research I have performed in my own health-information-gathering could be very useful to others. I was also left thinking about the number of children who are finding relief from severe epilepsy and violent forms of autism with cannabis medications. I decided at that point to write a book called Medical Marijuana for Mormons: Cannabis sans combustion, both to educate other Latter-Day Saints about the herbal medication but also to help those who were in the process of a trial or making the decision to move to an area where the herb is legal for medical use.

I have completed the outline and a few of the chapters. Research for the book is ongoing due to the fact that new studies are coming to light daily about the botanical medication.

IMG_20120915_213049Being a “Medical Marijuana Mormon” doesn’t mean my testimony of Jesus Christ, Heavenly Father and the Holy Spirit is any less. My testimony is strong. I know my Heavenly Father knows and loves me and created me exactly the way He wanted me. He is the reason I want to share what I have learned about this herb He created. I know His love is in the compassion that people who are in pain feel from this plant. I know it is a gift from Him. It is my job to do my utmost to educate myself and others through publishing this book.

Thank you for your interest and your time. I will continue to post progress notes on the Facebook page Medical Marijuana for Mormons: Cannabis sans combustion as well as on this site!
 

 

 

A Veterans Day Thank You

I want to talk about the many brave men and their families who make up the Veteran heritage that I have discovered during my genealogical inquiries.

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Pvt. George R. Slighte

My grandfather, George Ronald Slighte, was the first soldier in his family. Coming from a Canadian family full of sailors, his family moved from Port Hope, Ontario to Oakland, California while he was still a babe in arms. When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, he only took a few days to get his effects in order with his bride, Margaret, before heading out under General MaCarthur in the Pacific theater.

George’s bride’s father, Orville Foley, had served in the Navy in the previous World War. My great-grandfather Foley was a known in our family as a bit of a scoundrel. His death records confirmed the family rumors weren’t entirely based on fiction. The extracurricular activities that Sailor Foley had engaged in during the war had left him with syphilis. He died of complications of that disease many decades later in California. My great-grandmother Hazel who had married Orville as a teen and given her heart to the boy become sailer, had her heart broken when her young husband came back with the disease and divorced him. My grandmother never knew her father and was raised by her mother and her family, the Brees.

John Bree
John Bree

My great-grandmother’s family the Brees were members of a different type of Army. Their service was in the Salvation Army. After having converted to the religion Yorkshire, England,, they helped to spread the assistance organization far and wide across the United States of America in the dawn of the 1900s. Lt. Col. George Bree and his bride Clara would eventually retire in the Los Angeles area.  The Brees assisted men and women who were in trouble understand that they were still children of God who deserved another chance.

My Mother’s Side

As I began to research my mother’s side of the family years ago, I was disappointed that I hadn’t been more curious when I was younger. Both my maternal grandparents passed away before my interest in genealogy was sparked.

My mother’s father’s family came originally from the Gros-Réderching, Moselle area of Lorraine, France in the border region currently between Germany and France.  Giggles were not restrained when I was looking it up and found that the area my family comes from is the intercommunality CC du Pays de Bitche.

When I looked back through my Rebman grandfathers, the first clue of active service to the United States was found in the 1930 census. George Warren Rebman, my mother’s father’s father, recorded that he was a Veteran of the Spanish-American war.  George Rebman also registered for the draft in 1918 at the age of 42.

I have to admit I remembered very little about the Spanish-American War from history class. When I looked it up, I was surprised that my great-grandfather had fought in this 3 month war in 1898.  He was 22 at the time and that was to begin a bit of an exploratory time of his life. He was briefly married and divorce in Cripple Creek, Colorado before Great-Grandpa Rebman was to land in Washington state and settle down with Great-Grandma Essie Maude. My grandfather, John Edward Rebman, was the third of their six children.

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Ancestry.com

George Warren Rebman’s father was Andrew Rebman. My second great-grandfather Andrew Rebman was a Private in the Civil War who served in the 120th Illinois Infantry.  Andrew was the first of my Rebman line born in America. He enlisted six weeks before his thirtieth birthday.

On my mother’s mother’s side, my FIFTH great-grandfather, Alexander Huston was born in Pennsylvania in 1745. He served Pennsylvania and the colonies in the Revolutionary War that was to see the birth of our great nation. He died in February 1814 in Montgomery Ohio at the age of 69 and was buried there with his family.

The Project

I learned a lot while researching this. Some of the research had been performed in the last few years by myself and others, but other pieces I actually was forced to seek out and verify today. This was a fun project, I recommend that everyone go through their family tree and find the heroes this Remembrance Day weekend.

For those who are interested in such a project, I personally used both Ancestry as well as Family Search in my research. My investigation was assisted greatly by the US 1910 and 1930 censuses both of which requested  information about military service.

Good luck and I hope many happy treasures are uncovered for your family!

 

 

 

 

 

Awareness

The day after my 51st birthday at 6:19 pm, I was sitting at my dining room table contemplating what I should make for dinner. I nearly jumped out of my skin when the antique telephone ringer that signifies someone is calling my cellphone broke the silence of the small apartment. I looked at the number, it wasn’t saved in my contacts and it was from an area code a few miles north… probably a telemarketer or bill collector I surmised and decided to answer it just to make sure I knew which before saving and blocking the number. wp-1509142348363..jpg

“Hello?”
“Hello, is this Margaret …?”
“Yes, who is this?”
“Hi Margaret, this is the Mammography center at Virginia Mason in Federal Way. I’m calling to …”

Her words faded into the ether as my mind raced. I had my mammogram like always just before my birthday. It was an easy way to remember. Now, only two days later, they were calling me about something?!

The sweet young lady from the radiologist office was impervious to my reaction on the other end of the line. She proceeded to inform me that I didn’t have anything to be concerned about, they just needed a few more images and an ultrasound to clear up an area on my mammogram. It was scheduled for 7:30 am on the next Thursday.

I would have almost a week to think about it.

The days went by at a snails-pace while thoughts flooded my mind. I didn’t tell many people for a few days. I didn’t want the people who loved me to have the same racing thoughts that I was having; I didn’t want anyone to worry.

wp-1509142651561.jpgThoughts about the cancers that run so rampant throughout my mother’s family.  Thoughts about my mother’s cousin who just fought breast cancer last year… and not to be forgotten, thoughts of my dear friend Maria Mills Greenfield who lost her fight with metastatic breast cancer on January 19th of this year.

I sought relief of my racing thoughts. I needed comfort. I prayed to my Heavenly Father and He filled me with peace. Divine peace. I knew at that point that all was okay; it was just a scare.

Once I received that comfort from the Holy Spirit, I shared the information with a few people that I would be having a “re-mammo.” A few days later, right before my appointment… I decided to share some of my activities at my reaction through twitter:

I was finally ready to talk about what I was going through.

My friends responded on the post that was echoed on my Facebook account, concerned. I tried to reassure those I could by telling them I felt it would be okay. But I just wanted the re-mammo to be over.wp-1509142645891..jpg

Thursday finally arrived and I awoke at 4:14 in the morning, six minutes before my alarm. My dogs were surprised when I turned on the light in the bedroom and began getting ready.

We were loaded into the van before 6. I nervously adjusted the radio to a station that would include a traffic report about the highly congested area of Joint Base Lewis McChord that I would have to travel through to get to my Federal Way radiologist.  Singing along to the country song they were playing, I pulled out and headed into the darkness of the morning.

Thanks to an absence of collisions, we got to Federal Way about a half hour early. I poured some water for the dogs in their van-dish and assured them I would be ‘right back’ and headed into the clinic.

There was no line at the radiology check in counter and the receptionist told me to have a seat, they would be “right with me.”

I scrolled through Facebook and read email for the longest half hour wait I had in a long time. Finally, at 7:34 am, I was called back to the exam area.

IMG_20171026_075356643.jpgThe young lady who was in charge of taking the extra views of the mammogram was very soft spoken and gentle. I wondered to myself how many times she has to do extra views and if it is difficult on her when there is more obvious issues. She left the room as I undressed from the waist up and put on the gown open in the front.

I could see from the displayed previous image of my mammogram displayed on the monitor that they were focusing on a tiny area that just looked like a blur to me. The young lady was gentle as she manipulated my right breast into the correct position for each image.wp-1509069172642..jpg

After changing out the supports a few times and taking several additional images, she asked me to wait while she delivered the images to the radiologist for her to look over. Another long wait, so I took a few photos around the room.

She came back and informed me she needed more views and changed the supports again on the mammogram machine. After she was done, I waited once more. Finally she returned and asked me to follow her into another room where she passed me off to another young lady for the ultrasound.

I was quietly thankful that everyone I was dealing with were female. Apparently the radiologist was female as well. At least that fact was reassuring. I lay down on the table and put my right arm over my head as she squeezed the cold gel onto my right breast and began the exam.

The ultrasound tech explained that she would be taking a few images and measurements, then she would be going out to get the radiologist who wanted to take a look herself.  The exam didn’t take long at all. Before I knew it, the tech stepped out and almost immediately back in with the young radiologist with long dark hair. Her words were also quiet and kind, making me think that she had to tell much harder news to other women often.

PicsArt_10-26-06.56.48.jpgThe radiologists words were reassuring as she informed me the spot they needed more information about was just a tiny little tangle of blood vessels that wasn’t very clear in the mammogram. She reminded me that I have fibrous breasts and told me it would be a good idea for me to continue getting the 3D mammograms, my next being needed in a year.

As I was leaving, I saw a sign reminding me it is breast cancer awareness month in October. This October I am feeling VERY aware. Very aware and very thankful that breast cancer is not currently one of my challenges. My heart and prayers are with all of those who do have and have had breast cancer. I am also much more empathetic now about the scares that many of us go through.wp-1509142437346..jpg

A Home of My Own

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.IMG_20170922_150821

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.

20170920_131758_HDRSeven 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.

I have learned that I can tip Maslow’s pyramid on it’s head and I can still graduate from college Cum Laude. I have also learned I am not as physically able as I would love to be. Yes, I still cope with chronic and continuous pain and physically disabling conditions as well as psychological issues that have not benefited from the lifestyle I have lived these past years.20170920_131758_HDR

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.

IMG_20170907_020151_101I hope everyone has the opportunity to feel this blessed once in their lives!!!

Want to see it? Click HERE to see a tour of my new digs right after I got the keys!

No Longer Unfinished

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.

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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!

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 obtaining 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 school feel for us like a second home and its staff our extended family.

Having loved writing all of my life, I found myself drawn to the school’s newspaper. Although I was a very busy young woman with two very active toddlers, I would spend any free moment from my grueling curriculum in the Student Center. I learned the now archaic Apple computer with a manual on my lap and my hands on the keyboard in the room that doubled as the school’s newspaper office. I assisted with getting a paper we would call “Sounds” off the ground and was asked to step in as a Vice President of the Student Body of South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) when the student election had gone awry.

With more than six months to go in my program, financial aid not going far enough to cover my expenses and in the midst of a personal mental health crisis, I resigned my position with the student body. I left my writing gig at the student newspaper and got a job as a Medical Assistant/Back-Office Nurse when the need to support my tiny family overwhelmed my desire to actually finish my degree. This was 1988.

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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 living to most people, the lack of basics such as electricity, water or even a place to use the toilet did not deter me from what it seemed that God was calling me to do. Where there is a will, there is a way? Perhaps, but it seemed that God was guiding me to start school where many would only find impossibility. My first term back was highlighted by a blown head gasket in our truck which would strand me 5 miles away from a paved road with a partially collapsed lung. The installation of the satellite internet that student loans helped to pay for was delayed by the company so long that although I tried to complete my classes on the disposable phone from Walmart that my husband and I shared; I failed my first term back at school.

I wept. I felt utterly dejected and discouraged. My Visiting Teacher, Amy, through the local Branch of my church, was encouraging. She was a retired lawyer choosing to create her dream of a farm in the middle of nowhere.  We shared a commonality in our mental

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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 fabulous. Dreams that I never thought I could dream have come true. By pursuing her education, Siobhan became the first in her father’s family and my family to achieve her Bachelor’s degree after also being the first in both our families to earn her Associate’s. She has made me so proud and she has now made education more possible and inviting for generations of our family yet to come.

We both have learned to “make our mark,” after coming from those who could do no

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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 more significant opportunities for future generations. As I traveled across the country to receive the honor of my degree and watch my daughter receive hers, I realized that we are the product of those hopes and dreams. I thank God for relatives that reached across the veil to help me to understand that.

Watch: A video from backstage at the SNHU Arena