Friends: Reaching Out — Reaching In

Maggie and Vin

The bright sunlight through the burgundy bedroom curtains made the dark bedroom seem like a redlight district. I’d been living out of bed for over seven years as of 2009. Brief weekends out of bed were followed by weeks of recovery from the exertion. I curled up in a ball around a tiny screen where I would communicate with my friends on Facebook. My phone was anything but smart, and it cost a modest extra fee to be able to have web service on it. But the access to a society who would laugh at my ironic jokes and understand my pain when I couldn’t sleep at 2 am was something I deemed a justifiable expense.

Cell phone

My daughter had been accepted at the University of Washington in the Fall of 2008 and as part of giving their students a way to get to know their roommates, the school suggested new students start a Facebook account. When my daughter was home for winter break, we sat together on my bed as I signed up for my own account. I thought it would be a great way to keep in touch with the daughter I missed.

Some of my friends are quite witty. One of those friends had acquired friends from the online community, meaning “friends” he had never met in person. At first, I was very apprehensive about accepting “friend requests” from people I had never met. But soon conversations and jokes carried over from the friends I did know in person and

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Me & Maria Mills Greenfield (who passed 1-19-2017)

I felt like I knew people from places across the country and even the world. Places hundreds of miles from any I had visited.

While laying in bed in pain, I composed quick thoughts and shared them. It became a release. When people began to respond, I felt I had found friends in the darkness. I connected with other people who were isolated for different reasons. Many of us were dealing with pain. Chronic, neverending pain.

While certain members of the federal administration seem to do anything EXCEPT validate chronic intractable pain, that type of pain is exactly what isolates and literally cripples people, making them incapable of living their previous lives.

Many people responded to the dark comments my mind and thumbs combined to leave on other people’s posts. Quickly I accumulated a large list of friends.

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In October 2010, I decided I would rather take up my friend’s offers across the country to stay a day or a week, rather than rent a room in the gray dark winter of western Washington. I had only seen a few states of the country I lived in and a divorce after over 20 years of marriage was a great reason to explore. Many of my friends made plans to welcome me.

This last week, I lost another friend. It seems the death notices come more frequently now than they ever did. Many of the friends I met during my travels during the years from 2010 to 2017 are no longer around. Their absence in mortality does not lessen their effect on my life. In fact, the more friends who pass, the more grateful for all of them and the ways they changed my life and my attitudes.

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Vin Arnone (2014)

At some point, I will write a detailed memoir, introducing you all to each of them…those who are no longer here. For now, I will say, I would not be around if not for my friends. My friends on social media pulled me out of several seasons of depression. These same people called 911 in 2009 when I was suffering withdrawals after a doctor prescribing me Fentanyl and Percocet discharged me without notice. My friends have saved my life in many ways and on many occasions.

Because I have been the recipient of such generous attention, I know the power of social media. I know when you just need someone to talk to, usually, there is someone at the other end when you enter social media. But I also know electronic connections are not substitutes for in-person socializing. They can supplement it very well, but at some point, my brain needed to meet the people I was talking to on the other end of the data stream.

Being disabled, to be able to afford travel, I sacrificed having a home to come to when I was not traveling. For the most part of seven years, I lived without a permanent dwelling. This was an experience of its own. I am in the midst of writing a book about a part of that experience, The Car That Ran on Prayers.

Many of the people I met in person during my travels joined me online to watch how my journey continued. When I finally made the decision to come inside and begin the task of documenting it all, many of my friends and family nearly cheered with relief. It had been a long seven years for all of us.

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I reached out of my bed into a world I had no idea where or if I belonged in. Then, as I traveled, I began to reach into the people who reached into me when I was reaching out.

I have visited my friends, sat on their beds while they were curled up in pain. I love them all. I love those who have passed, and those who are still here. I love those who no longer consider themselves my friends. I love those who try harder every day, and I love those who just want a break and take it.

On the occasion of saying farewell to yet another friend, I can only reflect on all of my friends and the wonderful ways in which they have all expanded my world. I look forward to being reunited with them, and you, all when we are done on this side of the veil.

For now, I recommend calling a friend. Someone you know who gets lonely. Don’t worry, they will forgive you for not texting first. Too many of us are lonely in a world of friends.

Rest in Peace, Vin, Maria, Stephanie, Dana, Lisa, Bobby and so many more. I’ll see you on the other side. IMG_20170726_054126

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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

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.

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.

Standing Up to Live

When my physicians “discharged me without notice” flinging me headlong into massive withdrawals from some of the strongest narcotics on the market, I thought my life was over. My blood pressure reading when a paramedic was called by my Facebook friends echoed that assumption. 50/30 is not the blood pressure of someone who is doing well at living. Six months later, I was dancing with a Saint, celebrating a life I didn’t understand ahead of me. But I knew I was alive. That was something of a miracle.

In a pool of vomit and other detritus that any self-respecting adult would be embarrassed to be found in, in level 10 pain, I prayed. I prayed to a God I didn’t know if He knew who I was. I called out in tears, “PLEASE HELP ME!!!!”   He did.

look-into-my-eyes-what-do-you-see-001About 4 years prior to that breakdown, while I was still on Fentanyl, percocet, neurontin (gabapentin), and 16 other medications, a friend asked me if I had ever tried marijuana for my pain. I had used it as a teenager, then as a young adult when I wanted to drink and party with my friends, noticing it’s anti-emetic properties allowed me to drink when I was taking medications I should not have been drinking with (my bad!), but I had put my “stash” far away when I began having pain that completely ruined my life… overtaking every aspect, finally putting me in bed. It was in that bed that I lived. A life consisting of watching DVDs from the library (I could check out an entire season of a television program at a time) and Netflix. When I could focus.  When I said to my friend, “but won’t it make me unable to do anything?” She told me to look around at my life. That was a sobering experience.

Once I looked at the life that had been crumbling before and around me for the previous 3 years, I thought, “what can it hurt?” After all, the mind-numbing narcotics and antidepressants and antianxiety medications had made me nearly a drooling idiot, what more could marijuana do? Hey, maybe I could “get high” and stop thinking about the pain? Either way, it was worth a try. 11182775_1624731581136715_86556055208525763_o

I tried it, and it worked. This was in 2006, two years before my youngest graduated high school, four years after my physical disabilities had taken my permanent employment from me, 10 years before I was to learn about the emotional and mental disabilities that had been haunting me my entire life. Before 2006, I had been heard to say on several occasions that people were just using the “medical marijuana” excuse to get high. God proved me WRONG on that account. 

By 2008, while I was still using multiple opioid and other medications (19 of them, total), I found “breakthrough pain” relief in cannabis, marijuana. I talked to my urologist and internist (my primary care physician) and they both agreed that the changes they had seen since I had been using it were positive and they agreed with me using it, but neither of them sugar-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-awww-honey-honeywere ready to put their license on the line by recommending it (the marijuana alternative to “prescriptions” due to the federal illegality it can not be “prescribed”). So, they referred me to a specialist that JUST recommended marijuana.

I met her in a hotel conference center with my $200 and a large file full of my medical records. After completing a short exam and reviewing my records, I was given a paper that allowed me to have an “affirmative defense” if I was ever in legal trouble for my use of marijuana. At that time there were NO dispensaries and I was left to find my own supply of medicine from the streets.

In 2008, one ounce of fairly decent bud would range from $250-$300. I needed at least that for a month. But that was a lot of money to someone living on $900 in disability. I made it work, running out nearly every month towards the 25th of the month. But the difference in my abilities was ASTOUNDING!!! Not only could I get out of bed, but I learned to ride a bug-catchin-on-2002-low-rider-damn-fun-2009Harley Davidson (2002 Low Rider)! Riding on the wind was so much more freedom than I could have imagined. My disabilities still had me bed-bound 5/7th of the week, but for 2 days each week I felt like I was LIVING again!

THEN, in August of 2009, I felt like I was dying. Around the 20th of the month was when I would make my monthly trip to Tacoma from Olympia, Washington to visit my urologist for the purposes of picking up the paper script for my Fentanyl patches and percocet. When I arrived at the doctor’s office, I was told that I had been “discharged;” I was no longer a patient of that clinic. They claimed to have sent me a letter, but it was never received.

I began to panic. The 3-day patch on my arm was my last and I was on the last day of it. Even the idea of withdrawals from an opioid 100x stronger than morphine scared the living daylights out of me. The reality sent me into a panic like none I had ever experienced before. Although my diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder wasn’t to come until 2015, my symptoms were in full swing, causing me to lose more time than I could remember during frantic panics and pain.

The next few weeks were physically and emotionally gruelling. My body and brain gave out completely: days and nights blended together as I lay on the carpeted floor of the bathroom not knowing what end should be towards the commode when both needed to be. I felt like I was in absolute hell. This continued for days until a Facebook friend heard my pleadings and worried about me, called 911.

3209497472117The paramedics arrived, taking my blood pressure both they and I were surprised I was conscious: 50/30 are numbers I won’t forget. After they loaded me up and took me into the hospital, my husband at the time demanded my release before I could be admitted to a rehab, he needed me at home was the excuse. The nurses looked at me like a junkie. They all looked at me as an addict, not as someone who was dependant on a medication prescribed by the doctor… I felt lower than dirt and went home with a prescription of clonidine (a blood pressure medication to LOWER my blood pressure from the impending pain) knowing I would likely be committing suicide to take it.

It was the 25th of August, 2009 and my monthly ounce of cannabis was long gone. One of my personalities hid my pocket knife from me… as my nightmares continued day to day. After the spasming in my legs and the pain in my body and brain evened out to a “normal” of about a 8-9 waking level on a scale of 1-10, I tried to do my best to get on with my life. I had lost about 40 pounds during the withdrawals, and looked emaciated to my family and friends. In March 2010 I met a man who taught me how to maximize my cannabis medication by infusing it into butter in addition to smoking it.

The first time I ate a cannabis-buttered piece of toast, the difference was unbelievable! green-grilled-cheeseMy pain was MUCH better, lowering to about a 6 or a 7 within a half hour… then I began LIVING!!! Out of bed, I started looking around me to see what I was missing. I was missing out on LIFE!

My last child had “flown the coop” in June of 2009, moving in with the man who would become her husband within a few years. I left my husband and the confusingly abusive relationship with him (and parts of my brain I wouldn’t begin to understand for 7 more years) in March 2010; by October 2010 I was finally recovered enough from the physical trials to start exploring. My Facebook friends who had saved my life the previous year by calling 911 continued to bolster me and invited me to visit them all across the country.

12027761_854199591361628_1229843056908513068_nSomehow, through the Grace of God, I was able to put my MASSIVE social anxiety aside and get on a train, then a bus and a plane, finally in my own vehicle to visit many of them. What I found was that all around the country there were people like me in pain physically and emotionally who needed a reason to live. A reason and a method to Stand Up To Live. That is why I travel to this day: To show it can be done.

As I travel and talk to people, learning more about humanity than even about the herb I have spent the last 7 years researching, I have found not only a following, but deep friendships that I could not live without. As I continue my goals to write my books and then develop the “Lightehouse Recovery Center Network” (a holistically-based wellness recovery center network for the disabled with a focus on hemp production and use), my focus is on helping others to “Stand Up to Live.”12004115_843631165751804_1709398889653203692_n

While reading a children’s book on writing, I came across the quote, “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” By Henry David Thoreau, A few weeks after I read it, I saw Mr. Thoreau’s name on a report by Relative Finder as my distant ancestral cousin.

I took both of those instances as a sign. The quote that so perfectly described the decision I made almost 7 years ago was destined to influence the title of my journey.

“Standing Up to Live” is the title of the book I am writing about this journey. I prayed to know what to do then I used that faith I had hiding in the back of my soul, followed the impressions I received from God, through the Holy Spirit: I stood up and I began to live; Now I share that life in my writing and photos. Thank you all for being with me on this journey, I could not have done it without you!!!