As a child, I always wanted to grow up and be a veterinarian. Little did I know at the time, I would end up living in a horse pasture at age 17.

My life as a child is a blur of spending time with my grandparents on my dad’s side in Bremerton whom I loved and adored. My grandma’s chili on the stove always cooking and the vodka in the freezer. We always joked that that pot of chili was there forever with gma just adding things as the days and years passed.

My gpa, when I was young, would take my hand and we’d walk across the field, past the fire department where he knew everyone. We would walk on to the liquor store where I would wait outside while he made his purchase, then back to the house as the vodka went in the freezer. They always had the Mariners on the big giant box TV with no sound. They would be playing bridge at their round table and listening to the game by the narrator on the radio instead of the person on the TV as my gma smoked her Raleigh butt-less cigs.

I remember the day I came to visit, and they were listening to a tape cassette of my uncle Kip from his war site in Vietnam. My grandma was crying as my uncle was talking, then a rash of fire and explosions and bullets, then silence. He did come home years later and did not pass in the army. He was stationed at Fort Lewis and was a Captain by the end of his Career. He was one of my best friends and passed 4 years ago of liver cancer. He is buried 2 miles from my home at the National Cemetery.   

The earliest memory I have is being sick on my bathroom floor at our home in Lynnwood and being in the car racing through red lights with my mom in a panic trying to get me to the hospital. I remember laying in the backseat and watching the sky fly by. A few days prior, my mom had gone to the store and bought groceries, put them in the car with me, forgot something, ran back in to get it, leaving me in the car. I remember seeing a bottle in the bag that looked like candy so I ate it all. It ended up being children’s baby aspirin. This turned out to be a very bad thing to do. I was 3.

I ended up with diabetes and remember being in the hospital for a long time. My parents would visit and play, but I could not leave with them. I remember chasing them as they left crying.

I remember a nurse giving me baths in a huge room filled with pink tile, floor to ceiling, where you had to walk up stairs to get in the tub. It was so cool. I remember going home and learning to give my shots to myself by a home nurse. She taught me by first giving shots into an orange and then my thighs and my stomach. As I got older it was my arms and butt.

My dad, in addition to his work, played baseball, and I loved when we got to go to his tournaments. It was a family road trip and a blast – big playgrounds, my mom happy and laughing, and I loved the game. It was awesome. My job was to polish my dad’s trophies that lined our fireplace mantel. My uncle also played, and there were many times when their teams would play each other. That was really fun. My mom was so happy when all this was going on – lots of friends, kids, bbq’s, beer drinking. I just remember her being so happy in these places. 

 When I was in 6th grade, my dad was out of town at one of his tournaments that we did not attend and came home early to my brother telling him that mom was sleeping with one of his friends. My mom and dad split up. My mom never worked and ended up in an apartment with only one mattress on her floor and nothing else. Only I was allowed to see her and not my brothers or sister.

My dad ended up remarrying his brother’s ex, so my aunt became my stepmom, and she hated me. I was taking care of my dad after my mom left, and he would drink a lot. He would come home and sometimes pass out on the front porch, and I would have to try to drag him in our split-level and up the stairs. My dad and I became close and talked a lot about life and things. My daddy was my best friend. His wife did not like that and felt somehow threatened.  She also had two kids that used to be my cousins and were now my brother and sister. We went from three of us to five of us, me being the oldest. Her and my mom got in a fight one time in our driveway. My mom was beating her up so my dad came out, hit my mom, and broke her jaw all in front of us kids.

At that point, they moved us to Tri Cities and I hated it. I was finishing 6th grade, going into 7th grade, and losing all my friends. Plus, my step mom tried everything in her power to get me in trouble for everything under the sun, and my dad of course believed her. I found myself so depressed and not able to stop crying for days. My dad was so angry with me that he eventually sent me back to live with my mom. 

During this time, my mom had found a boyfriend who she loved dearly. He had four kids, and they did not like my mom. Eventually, after four years, that ended as well. He beat my mom over the head with a barstool one night and threw us out on the porch. A longtime friend of my mom came and picked us up, and we went to stay at his place for a bit until my mom could get another apartment. However, she and he ended up falling in love and getting married and we all move to Reno, Nevada.

I loved it there. I had friends and a job cleaning the neighbor’s apartment, and it was not too bad since he was single and very cute. He and I ended up seeing each other, even though I was in 7th grade and he was 21. I started having some serious issues with school, so my mom sent me back to my dad and my step mom.

Things where fine pretty much just growing up from eighth to ninth grade. The only bad things were that I could no longer see my mom. Come to find out later, she would write letters that we never would get (birthday cards, etc). She would try to call and the message would be erased. It was all my step mom. I asked her one day what I could ever do for her to like me. She said, and I quote, “Nothing. You’re your mother’s daughter.” Right to my face. So from then on, I did not even try. I knew I was always going to get the brunt, and ah well, so be it. 

My dad and she worked, so I helped watch the kids and cook dinner, chores etc… In the midst of 9th grade, I met the man who would end up being my children’s father and my parents hated him, to put it mildly. He was a rebel, skipped school, smoked, long hair, wore combat boots and drank Ten High out of a plastic 2-liter bottle. I fell head over heels. All the girls wanted him, and he wanted me. I would sneak out of the house almost every night and walk across the school grounds to meet him. We would hang out in the woods or sneak back to his house and he would sneak me into his room.

His dad had been killed in front of him and his mom by two hoodlums, and so she was single with him as an only child. She was big into the church and spent all her time there doing things for the church families. She was very strict, and Scott did not like it at all. They fought all the time. He was so very mean to her; however, after a year, she loved me very much and knew I was not going anywhere. She said I was a good influence on him and maybe, just maybe, she and I could turn him around. She passed of stomach cancer when I was 22 and married to her son with two beautiful granddaughters at her side.

I would get in so much trouble and grounded a lot as I was late coming home from sneaking out. My dad caught us making out one night on the hood of his car and lost his mind. At that point, they told me I had to move out or stop seeing him or they were going to send me back to my mom’s in Nevada. 

Therefore, I packed some clothes and my insulin and needles in a backpack, and off I went. He and I lived in the woods, and at times, in a van of one of his friends named Tex. As I look back now, I am lucky to be alive as that person was arrested for rape and murder. I considered my dad someone I didn’t want to be around. Nothing I did was right, and his wife always had the upper hand. All my dad would say in the mornings when we passed each other – me coming in and he going out – was, “Make sure you shower and get to school before she wakes up.” So really, I had nothing left. My dad was not my dad anymore, and my mom was states away. However, I had Scott.

So, we lived in a tent on the Cedar River for an entire winter. We would steal food from the store and cook it outside. We would wait for our friend’s mom to go to work so we could come in, get warm, shower, and wash what little clothes we had. We would dry our sleeping bags, as they would be wet each morning.

I also kept getting sick from my diabetes being out of whack and ended up with a novel from Valley Medical on my history of visits and stays. This is also how I would get my medicine when I was running out. I ended up getting on welfare and food stamps due to my diabetes and being homeless, which allowed us to also get HUD housing. After two years, we moved into a low-income place. I got in contact with my dad again a few months later, only to find out he had been looking for me since I had left. Funny, as I was always no further than a couple miles away. 

I asked my step mom if I could go by the house and get some food until my food stamps came, and she agreed on what I could take. Later that night she and my dad came to our place and kicked the door open. They started going through the entire house and my purse, and threw things all over. She was screaming, “See! I told you she came and broke in the house and took our food!!!!” I was like, “WHAT!!! You told me I could have this,” And … she called me a liar. I ran outside crying and my dad came out, picked me up, and threw me on the hood of his car, pounding my head and saying that as far as he’s concerned, I’m not his daughter any more. They took all the food and off they went. I was stunned and in shock and could not stop shaking and crying. I got alcohol poisoning that night off Ever-clear and was at Valley for three days. 

Scott and I decided after that we were moving to Nevada to be with my mom. I wanted nothing to do with him or her anymore; he had ripped my heart out and stomped all over it. I so missed my brothers and sisters, we were all very close and I was their protectors always – from mom and dad, neighbor kids, and school bullies. However, I had to do what I had to do.

At this point, I was 17. 

My mom and step dad were by this time in Sparks, Nevada, and they had a rental trailer in Reno that they let us move into. I got a job at McDonald’s, and Scott was doing construction. He started not coming home, and when he was there we fought all the time. He started hitting me bad, bruised my ribs, and broke my noise. He was seeing many other girls, too – ones that were older than him and in college. He even started bringing them home when I was there. He stopped working, so I was the only one with a job. I hated my life and did not know what to do. I could no longer afford to pay my mom so she kicked us out, as she had to pay her bills and she disliked Scott just as much as my dad did. So at this point, we were back on the streets.

I got a new job as a host at Circus Circus, and Scott got a job in the kitchen. We lived in a horse pasture for the summer. We would have to walk down this long residential road to the end of the street to get to the pasture. I remember to this day, the feeling of him and I walking hand in hand down that street in the evening looking at all the perfect homes with the families we could see from the road, either at the table eating or in their living rooms watching TV. I told him, I do not care how or how long it takes but I am going to have that one day. 

To this day, I think about that, and I try to stay humble remembering where I have been and who I am. That feeling is still there in the pit of my stomach each time I think about it. Then I smile and give thanks. 

While working, Scott met a friend looking for roommates, so we moved in with him. It was a two-bedroom apartment. I started getting sick to the point where I was in bed throwing up and not able to do anything for over three weeks. I lost my job and could not hardly get out of bed. Finally, the night of my 18th birthday, I was taken to the hospital where they told me I was three months pregnant. I called my dad. 

They nourished me, put me on meds, got my diabetes under control as much as they could and released me after a couple days. Back at the apartment, Scott was going out drinking and staying out all hours once again. He came home one night at about 1:00AM drunker than ever and started screaming about me being a bitch. He drug me out of bed, threw me into the closet and closed the doors. He bashed my head into the bathroom mirror and broke it. He broke my ribs and threw me down a flight of cement stairs. I landed at the bottom only to have my neighbor grab me, wrap me in a robe, bring me into his place, and call the police. 

It just so happened that my mom’s neighbor was a police officer and heard the call with my name, and let her know what happened. Scott had run from the place and was running down the road. My mom saw him and offered him a ride. When he got in, he was all bloody from me. My mom locked the doors and took him to the police station. 

My dad flew me back to his place the next day. 

I moved in with my dad and step mom for a bit. I remember wanting to kill myself and left my dad’s, wandering the streets. It was pouring down rain, and I was pregnant with no coat. I found a church and wanted to go inside and get comfort or some compassion. I heard that church doors where always open. To my surprise they were not. I laid on the steps for hours and cried, deciding what to do. Do I live for me and my child or do I die?

I chose life for us both. 

Scott ended up also moving back and he and I ended up getting an apartment together in low income housing. When I had my daughter I was in labor for 24 hours, and Scott never once came to UW where I had her. I was there for 3 weeks. Leslie was born a preemie at 3lbs. She was born with a cleft lip and pallet and one side of her face smaller than the other. My step mom told me to give her up and that I’d never be able to raise her. I proved her wrong.

When I got out of the hospital. I moved back with my dad and step mom. I got on DSHS and put myself through school. And yes, moved back in with her dad, Scott.

We lived okay on low income housing. Again he was never around, nor did he work. Leslie went through 13 surgeries by age 12. She’s a survivor.

I ended up pregnant again with her sister, Courtney. By this time, Scott was into cocaine and other drugs and had people in and out all the time. His friends would use my diabetic needles to shoot up without my knowledge. When I found out, I left him for good, got my own low income housing, and lived with the girls. Due to my schooling, I got a part time job and worked as I could as a receptionist in Seattle.

By this time, I ended up dating again and met a man named Jeff through my sister. I dated him for a year, and we were married. After three years I found out he was sexually assaulting my daughter Leslie. He had been doing this for one year before I found out. He told her that if she said anything, I would think he loved her more than me and that would hurt me. She was eight at the time. I found out the night before Thanksgiving. I told him we needed things at the store, and he left. I then packed up the girls and went to my boss’s house where I called the police.

They arrested him, but he was let out the next day and came to our apartment and broke through the front door. I called 911 and they got there before he hurt any of us, but they did not catch him. Two days later he came back in the middle of the night and broke through my bedroom window. I put the girls in the bathtub and ran out. He followed, and I had dialed 911 again. This time he was caught. I went to court and he served nine years in Clallam Bay prison.

I moved once again from Lynnwood to Kent, and two years later met my husband who is still with me now. We have been together for 26 years, and he is the man of our dreams. He took us in, and we are his life. Everything he does, he does for us.

Seven years ago my grandson from Courtney was diagnosed with a terminal illness called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Courtney is also now on chem from a disease in her kidneys. We are family; we stick together and support each other. We will live life to it’s fullest and enjoy it. We have each other. That is all we need.

Leslie is doing very well and is independent. She went through years of counseling after trying to take her own life, as well as after the rape. She is a strong women. She is gay and does not like men at this point, and who can blame her. We support anything that makes her happy and well. She lives on her own with her pup and works at UPS.

Well, that is it in a long nutshell. There were many other items in between; however, this is the gist of what we have been through. God Bless and stay strong ladies. Only you can make the choices on where your life goes. Make good choices.