A lot of people are talking about choices right now. Many people are angry. Others are upset about “rights,” who has them and who does not, or who is a human and therefore has rights and who is not.
I felt it was time to share the choices I have made.
As a young woman growing up in the early 1970s, I was exposed to a society yelling about my rights. Of course, I wanted rights! Yes, of course, I didn’t want anything to happen to my body that I did not have control over (let us ignore the fact that all throughout my childhood, I was experiencing exactly that since I was the victim of sexual abuse from a very early age). I agreed with all of the rhetoric that screamed about my right to choose what happens to my body.
Then I got pregnant at 16.
The woman who was supporting my father at the time demanded that I get an abortion. My father became offended, saying the pregnancy was “his grandchild,” and I was confused, yet thrilled that the doctors who had told me I would have difficulty conceiving after many medical issues (from the early abuse) were wrong.
After a tumultuous nine months that included changing my own custody to join my mother leaving my father alone, crawling back to the woman he left to “save his grandchild from abortion,” I gave birth to my first son. During the pregnancy I voluntarily underwent counseling for adoption. Then, when he was born, I took parenting classes with my baby.
When my first son was nine months old, he weaned himself from the breast. I believe that was the emotional inspiration for the conception of my second child. But at the tender age of 18, I did not think I was ready to cope with being the single parent of two children.
I made an appointment for abortion counseling which would be followed in two days by the surgery. I was approximately seven weeks along.
The day came. I took my infant son to daycare, just as if I was going to school. Then I got on the bus to go to the abortion office.
I hadn’t eaten at all that day. I couldn’t stop the nausea, it seemed even worse than normal. As I looked out the window down Harrison, I saw the building where I knew from the protest signs, held the office where I was going.
Suddenly, I felt something in my lower abdomen. A shutter? A shake? A “quickening.” I felt what I knew was my second child’s soul enter his body.
I stayed on the bus.
Then came the difficult part of admitting to my family that I had gotten pregnant once again. I was going to be a single mother of two at the age of nineteen. On February 14, 1986, my sweetheart of a second son was born.
While raising my children, in SPITE of the fact that I was completely upfront about the above story with my family, I also taught my children that it was a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. I continued to stand up for the legal rights of women to choose to abort their pregnancies.
Abortion and childbearing are very emotional topics. Sexually active women struggle with choices. No one responsible makes these choices without a lot of consideration and more often than not, a lot of tears.
Personally, I am thankful that I am no longer sexually active. I made a choice to be celibate until and except within marriage. I am also long past the age of unintended pregnancy. So, in that respect, my choices have already been made.
Do I want the world to go back to a paradigm of women dying by hangers in the alley? Of course not. I DO want my granddaughters to think carefully about all of the consequences of sexuality BEFORE they choose to make that very large leap. I DO want all people to understand that sex is far less casual than it is portrayed by the media. There are repercussions.
I also hope and pray that we, as a society, become more charitable with our feelings towards those who behave in opposition to our or even their own, beliefs. I pray that we as a society start FEEDING the HUNGRY and HOUSING the HOMELESS, especially the children. These are URGENT human rights concerns.
I am heartbroken by the tears of so many of our population right now. We have differing beliefs, we all come from different backgrounds that formed those opinions. We feel strongly about those beliefs and opinions. I only hope we can learn to respect one another and learn from each of our experiences.
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.
Contrary 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.
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.
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.
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.
Being 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.
Some of the ideas that have been shared already are intriguing. Mormon.org put out a video showing a special vending machine that the church had built to allow people to donate everything from chickens to towels to people in all areas of the world. All around the social media outlets, the #LightTheWorld hashtag is taking over the netwaves.
I am happy to be a part of this effort. I have never written blogs for every day of a 25 day stretch and writing extensively is not likely, but I am pleased to share the images I am creating with photos I have taken.
As the days progress, I am eager to observe the varied projects that people come up with to serve others. I think this is going to be a particularly enLightening December!
A couple of days ago I signed the first rental lease I have signed in over 15 years. I was handed the keys to a small one bedroom apartment in the same complex where I had rented my first apartment 31 years before. It felt very circular, almost as if God was giving me an opportunity to try again.
This time I am on my own. Yes, I have my dogs, Athena and Ruger Bear (who turns a year old in just a few days!), but before now I had NEVER lived without other humans. When I first moved into this complex 31 years ago, I was a young working single mom with two preschoolers. My sons were only 2 and 4 years old when we moved into the larger two bedroom unit that I now look upon every time I come out of my stairwell.
My memories of this area and this complex are all good ones and I am very happy to be making more on my own now. I was drawn to this area, the same where I was born, because of many reasons. My only family who are members of the church I attend are in this area and I love to be able to share my Sundays with my granddaughters and Sister grandma. It is also centrally located with most of my close family being in this general area.
Seven years ago exactly, I made the decision NOT to confine myself to a rented room in a new friend’s home. This year I made a very different decision, I decided to go inside. I am tired. It’s been a long seven years. I have traveled across the country more times than I can count. I have loved, I have lost, I have met more people than I could have ever imagined. I have made friends across the country and around the world. I have been hurt, I have felt joy, I have seen and done more of life than I could have ever imagined in seven years. Now, it is time to write it all out. Having a place to be comfortable while I do that is crucial.
My physical health was made tremendously worse by my choice of living situations. Major mold exposures combined with allergies and asthma to cause me sinus and lung issues that are currently being further evaluated. In consideration of my mental health, I was finally able to find a therapist who takes my insurance and is close. Everything is coming together.
Now comes the writing of the books in earnest. Two have been outlined and started, with a couple of chapters being written while on the road. I appreciate greatly not only all the support and assistance that friends and my church have given, but especially the prayers. God knows my name. It is HE who I have to thank for all of these wonderful blessings that have been bestowed upon me by His human angels.
I hope everyone has the opportunity to feel this blessed once in their lives!!!
In North Carolina, I was met with the proof of a fact that I had no way of knowing when I began my journey towards graduating from Southern New Hampshire University. Having come from very intelligent parents and grandparents, yet knowing that none of them had attained what my daughter and I were obtaining in our educations; I had
never doubted that my family “had always” been literate. When I read the words, “his mark” surrounding the “x” that made Solomon Richardson’s mark, I was taken aback with the proof in front of me that my fourth great-grandfather, born in North Carolina in 1800, had been unable to read and write: He was illiterate.
My own education, in retrospect, would appear to those not intimately involved, to be a series of “fits and starts.” I remember when I became pregnant at the age of 16 (after being told due to female health problems that would be impossible) I was unsatisfied to take the GED tests, choosing rather to enroll in an alternative school that was based on the format of the local Evergreen State College and allowed me to set my own curriculum with the guidance of teachers and a counselor become friend. It was imperative to me that I actually graduate high school. I did so with one child on my lap and one on the way.
I continued my education immediately after high school, enrolling in South Puget Sound Community College’s medical assisting program. Looking back, I don’t think I would have had the guts to do so if it weren’t for my mom’s employment there. She was an integral and vibrant part of the college’s support system. Throughout my preteen and teen years, she had invited my brother and myself to the campus, introducing us to faculty members and support staff, making the school feel for us like a second home and its staff our extended family.
Having loved writing all of my life, I found myself drawn to the school’s newspaper. Although I was a very busy young woman with two very active toddlers, I would spend any free moment from my grueling curriculum in the Student Center. I learned the now archaic Apple computer with a manual on my lap and my hands on the keyboard in the room that doubled as the school’s newspaper office. I assisted with getting a paper we would call “Sounds” off the ground and was asked to step in as a Vice President of the Student Body of South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) when the student election had gone awry.
With more than six months to go in my program, financial aid not going far enough to cover my expenses and in the midst of a personal mental health crisis, I resigned my position with the student body. I left my writing gig at the student newspaper and got a job as a Medical Assistant/Back-Office Nurse when the need to support my tiny family overwhelmed my desire to actually finish my degree. This was 1988.
In 1989, I married my husband Bruce after we used the idea of us being engaged to prank the student government we both worked for. He knew my mother before he met me, she was an integral part of the social sciences department where he had found a passion. The campus was still my family, our wedding reception was held in the Student Center where we met and became best friends.
Our daughter, Siobhan, was born in February 1990. She was the product of our college education, although neither of us finished any degree at SPSCC. Siobhan graduated with her Associates in Arts 18 years later. It was on the same campus where her parents had met the day before her high school graduation. She embodied the epitome of our desire for our children to take education seriously.
My own education continued when Siobhan was only three. I had returned to the campus I called home to retrain when the strain of the birth of my daughter caused my first disabling condition no longer allowing me to work in the medical profession.
With Siobhan in the daycare that I helped to build while I was Vice President of the student body, I retrained in the computer field. A year and a half after I began, I once again was forced to call my education to a halt before any degree was attained. My husband Bruce was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and his overwhelming symptoms made it difficult to maintain his employment. I quit my program and went to work for The State of Washington as a computer programmer to support our family. My dreams of finishing my education seemed to dim in the everyday chores of raising a family.
A couple of years before the blessed event of my daughter’s dual graduations, my body and brain conspired to make continuing to work at my position as a computer programmer impossible. Once again disabled, I conceded to draw a pension and concentrate on my health and the matters of domesticity. My daughter struggled through the stress of her parents losing their home and gradually losing their relationship with one another as the overwhelming stress of being disabled mentally and physically changed the shape of what she knew as “family.”
Her Grandma Joan was a beacon for Siobhan. The community college where her parents had met and celebrated their marriage became a home for her as well. She was welcomed in the position as a math tutor, just as one of her older brothers had been. Tutoring people twice and three times her age, they adored her amazing intelligence and beauty. When she graduated with honors, no one was one bit surprised, but we were all amazed.
I was living in the middle of 37 undeveloped acres of land in a 5th wheel trailer with my new husband of 18 months in October 2015 when I felt impressed by God to ask Siobhan about this University where she and her husband had chosen to finish their degrees. She had left the University of Washington’s engineering program after being the first in our family to ever be admitted to a four-year college when her dad and I had finally divorced. The event had not only put me without a home but had shattered her very idea of stability. She went on to find that stability with her new husband and they rapidly went about supporting each other in the pursuit of their dreams, making and achieving goal after goal together. In this same spirit, they had researched online education extensively and had chosen Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) to be the best college to meet their needs with programs and credentials that they found exemplary. When Siobhan posted online about a place called “the writing center,” I replied that sounded like a dreamy place. She encouraged me to apply and see if SNHU could do anything with my 130 community college credits. I made the call.
Although I had no practical way of living to most people, the lack of basics such as electricity, water or even a place to use the toilet did not deter me from what it seemed that God was calling me to do. Where there is a will, there is a way? Perhaps, but it seemed that God was guiding me to start school where many would only find impossibility. My first term back was highlighted by a blown head gasket in our truck which would strand me 5 miles away from a paved road with a partially collapsed lung. The installation of the satellite internet that student loans helped to pay for was delayed by the company so long that although I tried to complete my classes on the disposable phone from Walmart that my husband and I shared; I failed my first term back at school.
I wept. I felt utterly dejected and discouraged. My Visiting Teacher, Amy, through the local Branch of my church, was encouraging. She was a retired lawyer choosing to create her dream of a farm in the middle of nowhere. We shared a commonality in our mental
illnesses. In spite of an increasingly abusive marriage, I found a friend and support in Amy that would enable me to continue. I was faced with overwhelming adversity, but a glimmer of hope each week in Amy’s and my weekly visits to the Snowflake Temple made the impossible to most, seem achievable to me.
This year when my second divorce was finally finished, I headed to the east: My daughter was to be graduating summa cum laude from SNHU in Mathematics on Mother’s Day. Every mechanic that looked at the little Volvo which was my only return from my second marriage of three years deemed it impossible. Every time I prayed, and every Priesthood Blessing I received said it could be done. I persevered in the face of impending doom and followed every impression on the journey. Just days before Easter, I arrived in New Hampshire and toured the “brick and mortar” campus of SNHU: It was real. I made it.
Through the intense assistance of my first-year adviser, Lauren, and then her follow-up, my “senior adviser,” Liz, I recovered from that disastrous first term. When my credits began accumulating quickly, we realized I may also be eligible to graduate this May. I was frustrated when life and the college schedule extended my classes out through August but was thrilled when the university stated that I could walk with the class of 2017 in spite of the fact I was finishing up in the summer. My daughter and I would be walking for graduation the same weekend.
This Mother’s Day weekend was fabulous. Dreams that I never thought I could dream have come true. By pursuing her education, Siobhan became the first in her father’s family and my family to achieve her Bachelor’s degree after also being the first in both our families to earn her Associate’s. She has made me so proud and she has now made education more possible and inviting for generations of our family yet to come.
We both have learned to “make our mark,” after coming from those who could do no
more than to sign with an “x.” I know that our ancestors worked hard and traveled to distances trying to make a better life for their children. The pioneers of our families did all they could while imagining more significant opportunities for future generations. As I traveled across the country to receive the honor of my degree and watch my daughter receive hers, I realized that we are the product of those hopes and dreams. I thank God for relatives that reached across the veil to help me to understand that.
These last few days, I began to retrace my steps. It has been two weeks since I had reached my destination. On the Sunday after I had reached New Hampshire, “The Car that Ran on Prayers”, stopped. It stopped starting. I had a bad feeling about what seemed to be a “minor” fuel-flow issue. The Bishop in the area who I called when it initially stopped on Saturday (I was able to keep it running after the sun went down, by “double peddling it” and got it to church the next day). After finding out that the spark plug wires were ORIGINAL from 1983, I had a feeling that the fuel filter might also be original. He had agreed and purchased a filter for me, but didn’t find himself with the time to replace it once it’s location was discovered. It was soon towed to a shop, where it has remained for over a week while they have been doing anything and everything they can to figure out what is the problem, while the problems seem to multiply.
Today is my third Sunday in this area, Testimony Sunday. Boy, do I have a testimony. But can I put it into words? That small, still voice telling me to just go the shortest way to New Hampshire. Don’t take the freeway, keep it under 60 mph. That small still voice that guided me and comforted me when the job I thought I had, didn’t pay. And I was left to shoulder the expenses of the trip on my own. The God that I, and so many friends prayed to on my and the car’s behalf. It was not only the car that ran on prayers, but my mind and body as well. Jesus was, indeed, my co-pilot. He guided me wherever I traveled. He told me, through the Spirit, which way to turn. On those occasions when I took the wrong turn, He would force my steering wheel. One of those times was in Kernersville, North
Carolina, when the car would not go past a certain milepost, no matter how many times I tried.
That was where a tune-up and a few other minor repairs were performed, and I met a Bishop who called himself “Charlie.” Bishop Charlie is a man who is young enough to be my son, but as I poured out my tales of woe to him, he listened with the ears of a father. He used the Priesthood in a caring manner to comfort me with a blessing. Bishop Charlie also gave me the gift of meeting a woman who was serving our Heavenly Father in the midst of her own struggles. The wonderful Relief Society President of their ward had been stricken with that awful “c word.” An orange bracelet on my arm still reminds me to keep that Sister in my prayers.
It was in Kernersville where I followed many impressions, including one to go into the chapel early. I routinely like to be at the church that I am attending, early, but I tend to “hang out” in the foyer for a time. This time I was in the chapel when a wonderful Sister who had baked the Sacrament bread offered me one of the 3 extras that she baked for friends in the Ward. Later that day, I broke my fast with the same bread that I took at Sacrament, and I can only echo the little boy who sat with his parents on the bench in front of me in church, “YUMMY bread!!!!”
When I left Kernersville, I took a different route out of town. The car continued, purring like a kitten through the rest of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New York, Vermont and then New Hampshire before it began acting up again.
Before Kernersville, I spent a lot of time in South Carolina hunting up a bit of genealogical history. During a middle of the night perusal of my family tree on FamilySearch.org, I discovered that one of my “brick walls” was born in South Carolina. Married in Rowan County, North Carolina, Rebecca Wassin reported that she had been born in South Carolina. I searched the history rooms at libraries and I scoured microfiche in the state archives, but it was to no avail. I could not find any record of her family. What I did find was a personal awakening about our nation’s history in the early 1800s before the Civil War.
While in South Carolina, I was invited to stay with a wonderful Sister named Leanna after the Women’s Session of General Conference. She had two dogs also and our dogs became friendly as we also developed a friendship. I stayed a few days before a personal situation caused me to need to be in an environment I could control due to my mental illness. But I remain incredibly thankful for her generosity.
Before leaving Florida, after Jacob left heading back to Washington, I was having issues with the publisher of the magazine I started this trip writing for, when Sunday came along. Being left without the funds promised, I felt quite discouraged. I was in a city called Palm Bay. That was where I met a Sister named Nikki and her family. I had been more open about the fact that I was living in my car, than I had been in most of my church visits. I don’t know why, I just felt compelled to be a bit more open on that particular Sunday.
Nikki invited me to dinner, then her daughter gave up her bedroom for the night and the dogs and I were invited to stay over. It was a blessing that was so appreciated. The night before the dogs and I were attacked by mosquitoes that were quite gigantic in the Volvo where it was too warm to put the windows up. I was covered in bites and so were the dogs. The next day, Nikki and her children took me to Walmart and purchased a cart full of fresh fruits and other necessities that were quite needed. I was completely humbled. Not as humbled, however, as the fact that weeks later during text conversations with Nikki, she shared with me that her children still keep me in their prayers. Specifically praying that someone will pay me for my writing. These are the things that hit me right in the “feels” as the kids say nowadays.
After we left Palm Bay, a bit more set for our travels, we continued north in Florida. I was in DeLand when I was contacted by a Sister from “across the pond” who had read my story about being “Transient in Trump’s America.” She had a bit of “extra cash” as she put it and really wanted to help me out. I was torn. As much as I have received from others, I HATE asking for help. I REALLY long to be on the OTHER side of providing for others, I dislike the situation I am in currently not being able to completely provide for myself or have anything extra to give to others. She persuaded me over a couple of days and I finally accepted her help. Jean had made a point of explaining that she had been in my situation and she wanted to pay forward the help that she had received.
After that explanation, I finally consented to accepting her help. It was a major blessing. With Jean’s help, I was able to finance a week at a campground, taking a much needed time-out from traveling that coincided with a week break from my classes. It also ended up giving me an opportunity for some major self-care as I fought off some of the worst allergies and chest cold that I had experienced in my travels that far.
There have been friends that I have met on Facebook and on other trips that I have been able to visit along the way. Those visits have been, for the most part, limited to a few hours. That isn’t what this trip has been about. This trip was about making it to New Hampshire to watch the first person in my family graduate from a University.
I will be walking the day before my daughter, but won’t finish my classes until August. My daughter, my youngest child, remains the first person in our family to graduate from college. It will be the best Mother’s Day present in history to watch her walk across that stage and be presented with her Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics. All of the blessings that I have received on the way here have all lead to that. The goal when I left Arizona where my second divorce was finalized and I was left with nothing to my name except the Volvo and my dogs was to get to New Hampshire before Mother’s Day. I have made it to New Hampshire. I was only able to do so with an incredible amount of help from God and all his angels on this earth. I am more than blessed and I appreciate each and every one of them.
In my previous post, Transient in Trump’s America, I briefly gave you a glimpse into a few of my choices and my current circumstance. The feedback I received was generally positive except for some highly charged opinions about my choice of title. Apparently it is okay to write about being a transient as long as you don’t mention the current president’s name. My choice to use the “keyword” to “trend-jack” was a marketing decision made in conjunction with learning that technique in class. I was making reference to times and places, since I had listened to the radio news talk about the President’s (he who shall not be named?!) visit to the same county I was currently homeless in. It was included purely for perspective, not as a political statement.
Perceptions vs Reality
What does it mean to be looked at by others as homeless? Add physically AND mentally disabled, and what image does that conjure up in your mind?
Do you automatically think of someone or a place? Many people think of homeless camps or transients on the street. In Orlando, Florida, it appears to be commonplace for panhandlers to carry signs walking through 8 lanes of stopped traffic at each major intersection. When there is an accident ahead, they have a captive audience for their begging. But just because someone is panhandling doesn’t mean that they are homeless.
When you are homeless, others who have residences feel that it is their job to judge you. For example, many people have had much to say about my choice of medicine. The fact that it alone replaced 20 different medications doesn’t seem to faze the people who would call it a “drug” and say that if I wasn’t on “pot” maybe I would have a home. Considering the facts, that is not only painful to hear but frustrating to reiterate my justifications for my choices. Every choice I make is seemingly up for public scrutiny purely based on my un-housed status. The fact is, before I was using cannabis I didn’t have the energy or strength to get out of bed, let alone travel the country. It was the use of the herb that allowed me my freedom: Once I had conquered the need for physical comfort my options regarding my living circumstances opened up. Until I left that disability bed zoned out on narcotics, I had not travelled hardly at all. Making the choice to travel, to be homeless, allowed me to get out of my home state of Washington and visit the country from one end to the other!
I remember when I was travelling on a train for the first time in Florida. My Amtrak train incurred a “trespasser strike” right outside of Orlando, in Winter Park. When I heard the term “trespasser strike” I automatically thought there were pickets on the train track. Unfortunately that was a HUGE misperception. The train that I was on, which just picked up a load of children and their families from the Disney World area, had hit a person. He was killed. The only way he was ever identified in the news reports was as “a transient in his 40s.” Eventually the press added the descriptive, “hispanic,” but he was never identified publicly.
Being a bit of a sensitive person, I felt the energy. I felt the fear and confusion and frustration of all of the children around me. I felt the aggravation from their parents; they wanted to move on down the road, and the mandatory 3-hour investigation was delaying that from occurring. I also felt a kinship. “transient in his 40s” was too close to home for me. After all, the only difference in that description from him and me at the time was the pronoun.
The thought that I could be killed while travelling and it be described as “just another homeless person dead” was horrifying. Had I become a “non-person” just because I chose not to pay for a residence and travel?
Is “homeless” a dirty word? Perhaps not, but it seems to strike fear into the most compassionate. I suppose that it is the fear of knowing that every time they are late on their mortgage or rent payment, they are one step closer to being one of them. As I listened to the reactions to my first story “coming out as homeless” I observed many knee-jerk reactions telling me I should seek help at a homeless shelter without respecting my choice of having my dog with me and living in my car. I also found it interesting that others reacted with admiration. Why would anyone admire me?
I have HOPE. I live with faith. I know that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me and watches over me. Using that hope and faith, I am working on bettering myself. When I realized that strangers would actually be interested in reading what I write, I took it upon myself to start a program at a college with an online presence, Southern New Hampshire University, to finish my Bachelor’s degree with a focus on nonfiction writing. It was time to learn how to use this gift God gave me.
My books, Standing Up to Live and Medical Marijuana for Mormons are well in the works. I fought for quite some time about “coming out” as homeless; I didn’t want to be known as homeless or transient. Then I prayed about it and the Holy Spirit witnessed to me that Jesus Christ Himself had been without a place to lay His head. Perhaps it was time to make others aware that being homeless does not mean we are scary or bad people. It means nothing except the fact we currently do not have a domicile to call our own. The person inside is still the same as if we did. That is why we can “hide” in plain sight.
The next time you see someone leaving church or a grocery store, don’t assume they are going to a home, the statistics are staggering: Over a half MILLION people in the United States are homeless. If it doesn’t include a family member or a close friend, perhaps that person you saw use the bathroom at McDonald’s was going out to sleep in their car. You don’t know because we don’t want you to. We, the homeless, hide from your judgements and your fears. Those fears used to be ours, now we not only live them, we are learning to conquer them.
I go to church at a Ward or Branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whereever I am staying at the time. I have been blessed with Relief Society (women of LDS) Sisters offering me hot meals and even an overnight inside. The generosity has at times overwhelmed but humbled me. I long to be the one giving, I am so tired of needing to receive. I look forward to a time when I will be able to give. A time when I have achieved my goals of “working myself out of retirement.” My dreams are many, but they have one theme: To help my fellow person. If I can share my hope and faith with anyone that will be a start!
Where did I begin? What Changed? Why did I leave everything behind? What was I looking for? What did I find? These questions and more are what I am answering in the book in progress: Standing Up to Live. I enjoy writing about God, Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in a blog I have been keeping since before my Baptism: Slightely Mormon.
Until I started taking a class in Southern New Hampshire University towards my degree, called “New Media,” I had vehemently resisted the branding of myself as a or “the” “medical marijuana Mormon.” I separated my cannabis-oriented blogs (420-Friendly Recovery and Gma Maggic 420) from my religious blog and even shared them on separate Facebook accounts. It was easy to assume that I was attempting to hide one group of friends and fans from the other. Or worse yet, to believe I was attempting to keep my behaviors as a medical marijuana patient and journalist private from my family and those I went to church with. Nothing could be further from the truth about my intentions.
The class I am taking is based upon the principle of “branding yourself” to assist your readers and the demographics who’s interest you draw as a writer find you. After compiling a list of my current and former blogs it became apparent it was time for some integration. Since I am also working on integrating my brain and healing from the trauma that inspired over 25 personalities to be created, it seemed appropriate that I finally integrate my “brand” for the purposes of selling my upcoming books: Medical Marijuana for Mormons and Standing Up To Live.
In the past I kept parts of my life very segregated. When I humbled myself on my knees and asked God how to become closer to Christ, I wasn’t ready to share with my marijuana activist friends how I felt about my Testimony. I wanted to have a separate place to share my Testimony with any who wanted to read it. But the audience that had followed my writing about cannabis was not it.
I had initially created a separate Facebook account for my family and close friends who were not interested in being pummeled by my cannabis activist posts constantly. This grew into the account I friended my church friends with. Before long, I could see how people might think I didn’t WANT them to know I had another account. That wasn’t and isn’t the case at all. In my attempts to keep my friends and family from being offended, I have created the illusion I feel I am offensive: I don’t.
This summer when I landed a position as a Feature Writer for a new medical marijuana magazine, Everything Medical Marijuana, I was proud of my achievements. I gave one of the first “promo” copies to my Branch President. My closest friends, also church members, received signed copies as well. I may have shocked a few of them who might not have known I was a patient until that time!
My beliefs are as strong as they ever were, perhaps even stronger. I am writing Medical Marijuana for Mormons to attempt to explain what cannabis IS and to attempt to give some guidance to those who are embarking on this difficult journey. A journey where people on the outside, and in our church WILL judge them. A journey that will test their faith, but perhaps not as far as their faith has already been tested with whatever malady has driven them to search for an alternative answer. That is all cannabis is: One alternative in a sea of alternative medical choices.
This page, Maggie Slighte is ALSO Medical Marijuana Mormon. When I made the decision to purchase both URLs in preparation for my books to be published, I finally owned that label. It doesn’t change my feelings, but it does allow me to be a bit more direct. It also allows me to have a more direct connection to the market for my writing.
In 2011 I took on the cause of medical marijuana and was called an activist. In 2013 I chose to be an activist of a different sort: I desired to be an activist for God. Cannabis is ONE plant that was created by God. It is my medicine, but my passion is in my savior, Jesus Christ. I am not JUST a “medical marijuana Mormon” but I am a medical marijuana patient and I am a Mormon. I am a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.