My Choice

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.

Maggie as a small child, smiling

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.

18 and pregnant with my second

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.

I didn’t change that viewpoint when I was Baptized in 2013. I considered it. I prayed about it. Then, I read a story written by a woman who had survived her mother’s choice to abort her. She asked, “What about her choice?”

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 wouldn’t trade either of my boys or their children

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.

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A Woman’s Best Friends

Over seven years ago, I met a Staffordshire Terrier who changed my opinion about dogs. I had been afraid of large dogs (for no reason I can remember….but that isn’t new to me!) for as long as I knew. Barkley was different. A HUGE “pitbull” type breed, he was loyal to no end. Not only to his family, but when I stayed in the house he was protecting, he buddied up to me in a manner I had not experienced. I fell in love with him.

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Ruger Sr., Athena’s father

Then I met a pitbull named “Ruger.” A blue nosed beautiful blockhead, he and his mate Brandy (a chocolate lab) belonged to friends of mine and I rapidly fell for him too. Both Ruger and Brandy would sit on or near my feet when I was in pain, demanding me to pet them. When I would pet them for a little while, the pain got much less intense. Sometimes I even forgot about the pain. Since I could easily deal with daily pain that reached levels of 8-9 (on a scale of 1-10); the idea that a dog could lessen that pain was astounding! I had never heard of such a thing, but I wanted more!

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Brandy, Athena’s Mother

These dogs also showed me in person, what I later learned through reading: Canines have the capability to change a human’s mood as well as ability-level.

When I was crying my eyes out, both of them would lay next to me and encourage (quite forcibly) me to pet them and give them attention. As I was to learn, the very action of petting a dog releases the same hormone, oxytocin, as is released in nursing moms & babies. It is known as the “comforting hormone”. Better than any anti-anxiety drug I know!

God answered my prayers. I stayed with my friends Robin, David and Katie for a month in the spring. As I was getting ready to move on they realized that in spite of being separately kenneled, Brandy had gotten pregnant with Ruger’s litter.

On the first of April, 2011, I woke up to smells and sounds I had never before experienced. I went downstairs to learn that puppies were being born. Before my friends left for work and school, five puppies were born. When I went back downstairs after my shower, there was a sixth. She was later adopted by me and named “Athena Brooke” for the middle names of two of the strongest young ladies I have ever known.

 

Having never raised a dog from a puppy, I had a lot of learning to do. We hit the road before she was even 8 weeks old. Although I had been planning to re-start my cross country road trip with my new-to-me BMW 525, I hadn’t previously planned to have a brand-new puppy in tow! Fortunately, God had me covered; I had friends across the country whose pets and advice taught both me and Athena.

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

Together, Athena and I visited people from Idaho to Florida. She made friends with little and big dogs, kittens and even a few house bunnies. Athena was patient with me, and I learned to get my behind out of bed earlier in the morning or pay for my laziness by
having messes to clean up.

When Athena and I had been traveling and living together for less than a year, she made her true “job” or “service” apparent to me.

As a survivor of multiple traumas, I have certain symptoms that are quite distressing. One of them happens quite unexpectedly: I can lose most sensations below my waist suddenly, making it difficult to walk or stand. When Athena was only 9 months old, she sat at my feet and barked me into the chair behind me. We had not had the economical ability to procure formal service-dog training for her, so I was unsure as to her intent. When I sat down, she stopped, seeming pleased with herself. Within five minutes, sure enough, I lost all feeling in my legs.

wp-1491685091988.jpgAthena has made her place in my life with this skill on many occasions. She has
also calmed me, or separated me from a situation, when my PTSD acts up.
She has learned my triggers, and has learned to give notice to me when I am needing help.

Athena and I had many adventures in the past five years, but unfortunately we both eventually experienced some emotionally traumatic events together. She was left with a habit of barking, making it difficult to socialize her enough to use her as a formal service animal. My own PTSD about medical interventions would cause me to delay in having her “fixed.” Although I toyed with the idea of breeding her, I didn’t have the stability to consider that when Athena took matters into her own paws this last summer.

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

It seemed she really liked the full blooded Golden Labrador (who was so old he was silver) next to a house I was visiting, and the two of them conspired to get through the falling down fence more than once. She had tied with him and there were puppies on the way!

I was blessed to be staying with understanding friends who had a lot of experience with dogs when she came to term. The litter of six had to be delivered by emergency c-section due to their huge sizes, but they were all alive and well. Athena woke up to puppies and being a new mom, was not too impressed with them suckling on her near her incision. It took a while of cajoling and treating her to get her to nurse them. Once she did, she rose well to the challenge of motherhood.

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Baby Ruger Bear (abt 3 weeks)

The only puppy in the litter with Athena’s father’s markings was a little black boy with tiny white toes and a splash of white on his chest. I wanted a male from her, and I named him after his grandfather and the name he appeared to favor with his lab looks, he was a “Ruger Bear.”

The rest of the litter was given to friends. I was fortunate to be able to place 2 of the litter to be trained for service dogs for two veterans suffering from PTSD. One has been accepted into a formal training program. It makes me happy to know we were able to help others with this “mistake.”

The only chocolate male of the litter, named “Kiko” by my grandson on his birthday when he came to see the newborns, was given to David, a member of the family that the original Ruger and Brandy belonged to. They have become inseparable. Brandy and Ruger have been gone for a while, and Kiko found a place where he was needed.

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Ruger Bear, about a month old

All of Athena’s puppies found their places. Athena gained experience that seems to help her be more attentive (and rolls her eyes at the puppy’s behavior with me). She is even better at her job of being my companion with Ruger Bear as an additional companion to train. Perhaps I will actually work on training them both formally when we get settled later this year. I hope so. They deserve it and so do I.  For now, Athena is an excellent member of the family and she is truly my very best friend.

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Ruger Bear is already bigger than mama at 6 months

 

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

 

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

Being A Transient in Trump’s America

I am a transient. For all that means, as much as it pains me to admit, I AM a transient.

I became homeless, officially, only weeks before the election. 20161108_132912_hdrWhile the church members who attended the Branch where I am a member cast votes overwhelmingly and loudly for now President Trump, I was living in a camper shell on a friend’s land. My husband moved in with another woman and got a restraining order prohibiting me from returning to the fifth wheel “home” he had given to me for my 49th birthday.  On my 50th birthday, I became a transient once again.

The first time had been partially by choice: Having left my first husband after all of my disability settlement was spent, I had a choice (due to my small disability pension) to rent a small room from a friend or not to. When I contemplated the reality of my seasonal depression and a small space shared with a near-stranger, I thought it best to find my way on my own…homeless.

163113_1531448921952_1630415_nInvited by social media friends across the country to visit, I employed trains, buses, planes, then my own car to visit them. Some for an afternoon, others for a night, some longer. Friends would share their homes and meals and much more with me, but it was always time to leave before too long, leaving me searching for another place to keep dry and warm, or cool. Never a place to call my own. With my mental illness getting worse with my circumstances, I wore out my welcome faster than my friends could anticipate.

When I met my second ex-husband, Keith, he was living in a friends’ RV on the same friend’s property…but he was also officially homeless. I spent 3 years travelling with him, both of our mother’s providing additional assistance when we needed it even though we were both adults ourselves and our mothers were both in their seventies. It didn’t seem to matter to him that we were taking advantage of them, but it hurt my heart. I love my Mom and knew she didn’t have much to give, but I appreciated the support.img_20140130_114920_285

When our mental and physical disabilities overcame the lusts that led to our marriage, it was time for another divorce. Once again, I was left with nothing to call my own. In spite of his claims at the time, Keith had put the 5th wheel that he said was my birthday present into his mother’s name and I was left with a broken-down 1983 Volvo as my only claim from the community property. All of what I had been told was community actually belonged to his mother. Another betrayal. I was alone again.

I DID have my freedom. As frightening as it may seem to some, for me the freedom of being able to travel from place to place means much more than “having a place to call my own.” Don’t get me wrong, I DESPERATELY want something to call my own as well, but I can not depend on someone else to provide it. That is on me.

1476242421824Back in 2010, when I became homeless the first time, I didn’t understand the reality of my mental illness. This time as I sought therapy and cognitive behavioral training via Recovery International groups, I have been able to keep my head a bit more about me and use the skills I have learned over the past 7 years. I attend church where ever I am led to and I have visited several Temples across the country since my baptism in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 2013. I also have a service animal who understands living on the road. She protects me as well as assisting me with my physical and emotional challenges.

What is it like to be a “Transient In Trump’s America?” I was pondering that question as I was listening to a local radio show inform me that the new President was spending yet another weekend not too far from where my travels had led me. The expenses of the local law enforcement were going up astronomically to accommodate for President Trump’s “Southern White House,” a mansion in Florida previously owned by the Post family. I contemplated my own humble circumstance as I looked in my change purse on the way to use the bathroom in the local grocery store: No milk for us today, only 24 cents. 

To be honest, I don’t blame anyone for the situation I find myself in. I am currently on the way to bettering myself: I started back to school via an online program over a year ago and I will graduate with my Bachelor’s in General Studies with a concentration in creative nonfiction writing in July 2017. It is my goal to “work my way out of retirement” in a profession that I can continue in spite of the mental and physical disabilities that prevent me from holding down a day-to-day 9 to 5 job.  In the meantime, I have resources such as a small disability pension I payed money into while I was able to hold down traditional jobs. That helps me to buy gas and essentials like dog food for my service dog as well as groceries.img_20120903_163711_5

I freely admit there are days, weeks and even months where I would not have made it without the help of friends. If a dear friend and her mother had not taken me in this last summer, providing food, shelter and medicine with the value of thousands of dollars, I would not have made it out alive when a jaw infection completely overwhelmed me. Another friend allowed me to stay on her property until the weather turned dangerous. Then again in December when I needed to be in the northwest, my friend and her mom allowed me to stay once again. My friends have been angels.

I couldn’t continue to live off of my friends. It hurt my heart when I couldn’t give back for all they had given. I started traveling again, hoping to find a place where it was warm so I didn’t have to spend the few dollars I had on shelter. Florida had been an area where I visited back in 2010-2011 and I had loved the sunrises at the Atlantic Ocean. I used the cash I had for gas and headed to see friends and to live where it wasn’t too cold to live in my car.

I spend my days alternating in libraries working on my school work and blogs and books with time spent at dog parks and other areas where my canine partners and I can get physical exercise. At night I usually tend to park in lots that DO have surveillance as that tends to keep the trouble-makers away from us. I don’t care if I am watched, just safe.

Over the years, I have incurred vicious attacks from others including the words “homeless (insert expletive here)” directed at me. I feel the shame when I admit I have no home. Even some who have called me their friend have stated that I couldn’t be homeless because, “homeless people don’t dress that way” or because I keep myself clean. I spend a lot of time crying in my car/home wishing people would understand the utter and complete humiliation it is to be unhoused in America.

The public knows “homeless” as those people living in the streets. They are only the VERY FEW of us who have stopped trying to hide. The rest of us cower in our vehicles or corners and try to pretend we have a home waiting for us when we get out of church or when the library closes. We don’t.

While staying in Key West, Florida recently, where I observed a homeless population bursting at the seams, I happened to notice a young father changing the diaper on what looked to be a newborn baby. When he finished, he handed the babe to his partner and closed up the doors on the red minivan that was in the grocery store parking lot for the night. Their license plates were from Michigan. My first thoughts were that baby didn’t choose to be homeless!!! But those thoughts rapidly turned to the nasty weather I saw my Michigan friends complaining about on social media. My prayers then went towards the little family’s safety and security while they stayed in their van.  The parking lot where we all spent the night was full of signs telling us we couldn’t be there. There were no cops that night called to sweep. It was a relief.

my-street-in-key-west-floridaThroughout southern Florida the “bursting at the seams” hospital emergency rooms to the constant, “NO TRESPASSING” and “NO LOITERING” signs directed to those who need desperately to just find a place to lay down for an hour or two are indicative of the increase in population when the rest of the United States of America is covered in snow and frost. Even the President wants to come where it’s warm, and he has SEVERAL homes!

I don’t have the answers. I want to be out of this particular population as much as the next transient. That word HURTS. When I first had to seek the assistance from a “Transient Bishop,” just the realization that label fit who I was, made me turn and start crying. I had to wash up before I could face the Bishop.

I prefer the word “un-housed” while my home is currently a car that runs on prayers. I continue to try to hide my life circumstance from those who would judge, or worse yet, attack me. That is what I fear most.  My faith is still in God and it is stronger than ever as I do what I can as I can to leave the transient life behind. But my thoughts are back with that baby in that red minivan; what is to become of her?

See & hear me here.