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Personal History for Vicky Durham

Dedication Chapter

Title of Your Autobiography

Life in the rear view mirror

About the Author:

I am 36 going on 20. I say that because I started a new life five years ago, and I feel like a kid again.

I have been blessed. I know God is watching me. He took care of me even when I forgot about Him. I turned on the wrong path. Years later I came back, and He still loved me.

I have been bad and have been good. I have experienced many sharp turns in the road of life. This story has just begun.

I am loving, kind, quirky and a bit silly. I am not strange. I am unusual. I can be moody and I am really impatient. I am honest and kind to a fault.

I cannot see myself having a job that has too many constraints. I enjoy what I am doing now because I am free to use my own judgement most of the time. I am free to make decisions and manage my own time as long as I get all my work done during my shift, no problem.

I have had many jobs, and the ones I enjoyed the most are the ones in where my input counted. Where I was able to take more responsibilities, and make more decisions. I detest working in fast food, there is no creativity in it.

I am now Military Police with the US Army. While deployed to Iraq, I worked at the Police Station at a military camp, sometimes I was on the road, and sometimes at the desk.

At home I used to be a substitute instructional assistant for the county. I worked with tiny babies, with preschool children, community schools, alternative education and correctional. So there was a variety to choose from every day.

The down side on working with the teenagers is that several times people confused me with the kids. They would ask what happened to the sub! I am not kidding. Fortunately for me that did not happen at Juvenile Hall. It happened in community schools, and alternative education.

While I have been accused of being too kind to others, I am politically incorrect, and sometimes I am very outspoken (to say it politely).

I have been told that I have an alligator mouth that will one day bite my behind. I was just being honest, but I need to learn to keep my mouth closed so I don't insert foot.

Sometimes I overcorrect my loud mouth and keep quiet about a lot of things that bother me. That is until I can't keep quiet anymore and they all come out. Fortunately it takes a lot before I sound ugly.

I cannot argue with someone once I get angry, if I try, I will get tongue tied and stop making sense.

I have a very hard time keeping secrets. I understand that sometimes there are things you should keep to yourself, but it is hard for me to keep them. I share all of them with my husband. The only ones I do keep is the ones that are important to my job now.

I love my husband most of all, and I do not allow myself to hate anyone. I love all animals, and used to have 3 cats and 2 dogs until I got deployed.

I don't have any parents, or children. What is left of my family lives in Mexico and they seldom write, if at all. You see, I ran away from home, so they did not speak to me for many years. The only brothers and sisters I have, are the ones the Army assigned me to.

I would love to have children, but God has not provided them to us yet. We are now considering adoption, even though it seems so difficult to do. I'll keep praying.

My husband's family is the family I have now. They are all great people. I will get to that later on. I had a hard time at first, because they made me feel more part of their family than I ever was part of mine.

Favorite things? Music. I love music, I have loved music since I was little. Since my mother bought me a record player. I often would spend the day in the living room with my records.

Today, I love most music. I don't particularly care for rap or rude music. I love country music because you can understand the words, and it usually has a message.

Rock and Roll is always good, the faster the beat the better. Lively and loud is very good.

I find Metallica very relaxing believe it or not. I was a teenager in the 80's so you know what type of music was popular then. I just can't relate to the new music young people listen to now.

Photography. I am not a professional, but I enjoy taking pictures. I had my first camera when I was 10, and started by taking pictures of flowers and dogs. Now I take pictures of almost anything. WHile in Iraq I took a couple of pretty good ones.

Ceramics. I started with a ceramics class in college, then the rest followed. I had to quit because I moved to Moreno Valley, and it is almost impossible to find a way to do this.

When I get back and we find a home, I want to save up and get my own equipment. The feel of the clay molding in your hands as the wheel turns is the most amazing feeling.

About my home. I am now living in Baghdad in an Army Camp, and hope to be home by Christmas (or when ever it may be). Home is here now, since my husband is also here.

We have no home back in California; we had a rental and returned it to our landlady before we deployed. We'll work on finding one when we get back.

So as you see, life has new chapters all the time. A new one is coming up for us soon. It's just around the corner.

Update (February 28, 2007):
We made it back from Iraq in the last part of October, 2006. We started buying a house through the internet while still in Iraq, and on the first week of November we moved into our home. I love it here; it is very bright and open. We live in a mobile home park, but eventually I want to move our home to our own piece of land.

Date of completion.

This is a work in progress.

Words of wisdom, favorite quote, or words to live by:

Not quotes, but my basic rules in life. Things my mother taught me:

1 - Do not hate people who do you wrong, pray for them. Loving your friends is easy. Loving your enemies not that easy. We can forgive, and we can pray for them. Hating and anger take too much energy to be worth it.

2 - Be kind to others, even when they are not kind to you. Be patient and understanding of them instead.

3 - Charity is not sharing your last piece of food with another. Charity is giving them your last piece of food even when no one is watching, and not expecting anything back.

4 - You reap what you sow.

5 - Do not steal cheat or lie. If you cheat, you're just cheating yourself. If you lie,it will catch up to you. If you steal, as you already know, "what comes around..."

6 - Treat others as you like to be treated.

I want to add some things that are good to keep in mind as well.

* Shortcuts don't get you there all that much faster.

Look what happened to me, during my life, I went around in circles and my shortcuts became detours. I almost lost sight of where I was going.

* Cheaper is not always better.

If you buy cheap toilet paper, you will run out faster (and you better have some soap handy too, just in case the paper disintegrates anyway). If you buy cheap clothes, they fall apart when you wash them. If you buy cheap food, you get fat... and so on.

* Nobody gets rich quick, most of us have to work hard and we don't all become rich fast or slow.

The only ones that become rich quick are the ones who took your money and promised you that you'd be rich soon. Making money is hard work.

Making money the wrong way, may make you more money faster, but makes you cheaper. If you make money the honest way, you can take pride in yourself.

* Money is not as exciting as you think. You can have lots of it, and buy lots of stuff. In the end, stuff is just stuff. I know it's fun to have more of it, but eventually you will be bored of it.

Money does not replace people or bring happiness. Of course you need it to live, you need shelter and food and clothes and all that. I am guilty of buying too much stuff, and it's all good. But nothing makes me happier than helping others, or giving to others.

When I was about 9 years old, my mom taught me one of the most important lessons in life.

She had me gather up all the toys I had that I did not use anymore, and the ones I could do without. It was hard to let go of some of them because you do get attached. But I realized I could not possibly play with all of them. I suppose I was spoiled, my mom bought me a lot of toys and books.

Well, once we had all the toys rounded up we loaded them into the car and we took them to a school. My mom told me that the children in this school don't have too much and their families can't afford to buy them nice toys. So I set up all my extra toys outside a classroom and the teacher had the children line up. They all chose one toy or book, they were a little shy. They were so excited, I was wondering how it was that only one of the toys could make someone so happy, and I had so many. I met children and saw them smile.

It was a little embarrassing; I thought they probably were wondering how come I, one girl, had all that wonderful stuff. There were enough for the whole classroom. They thanked me, but I did not need that thank you, I could see the smiles, and that is all I wanted.

It was the best feeling in the world, to make a child smile. Since then, I have been wanting to do it again; but now, there are so many rules and regulations. Many times I have wanted to collect "extra" toys from children after they got new toys on Christmas, and give them to children who don't have much. But I am not sure how to go about it.

* Don't lie to little kids,they remember more than you think. When I was little, my nanny told me that if I swallowed orange seeds, a little tree would start growing in my tummy. Now I know it's not true, but I am still afraid of seeds! And by the way, don't cook their pets and tell them it's chicken!! Just don't cook their pets at all.

If a child asks you something you don't know the answer to, tell them, and then find out the correct answer for them instead of making things up.

* Having a pet helps children learn much more than you think. They learn kindness and responsibility. I don't trust people that don't like animals; and I don't associate with people that are unkind to animals.

* When you are in a bar, never take your eyes off your drink, never.

* When out in public, never do anything that will make you loose track of what you are doing. You don't want to be one of those people who's picture is going around on the internet.

* If you are going to act like a fool, for heaven's sake do not video tape it!!! We don't want to see it. And if what you were doing is illegal, it shows how obtuse you are; so you might as well hand the video over to the police, or your friends will post it on the internet.

Remember those prison pictures the MPs took? They embarrassed the rest of us! Why do such a thing? And why in the world would you take pictures of it? Can you say

I also like the idea of "random acts of kindness". It doesn't matter how small, being kind to others is very rewarding, a smile is worth so much. A good friend of mine suggested we start a web site in which we would encourage people to perform these acts of kindness. I still don't know how it would work.

If you would like to be contacted by someone who reads your biography, please include a current e-mail address. Remember, it is entirely up to you if you would like to make your biography public and it is entirely up to you if you would like to include your e-mail address for others to contact you.

If you have something good to say, please feel free to contact me, I love to meet new people! I am not a professional writer, and my writing now reflects my personality. I can take advice, and constructive criticism; I don't need cruel comments. Thank you for reading my story.

My e-mail address is

Just The Facts

In a few pages, what is summary of your life story?

My life has taken many sharp turns, but I still believe that I am just where I am supposed to be.

I was told I was born in the mountains in Northern Mexico, and abandoned at the door step of a Hospital run by nuns.

I was told this story by my mother. She said she had adopted me. I have a hard time believing it because I look just like her. I've seen pictures of her when she was my age.

I was raised at the border of California and Mexico. I went to grade school in Imperial Beach, California. My mother thought it was best for me to attend this Catholic school to get a good education and learn English.

I had a hard time at first because of the language, but eventually, I settled in. Every day, we pledged allegiance to our flag, and we often sang patriotic songs in school. I decided then and there, that this was my flag, and this was my country.

My mother did not appreciate that, and tried to convince me otherwise. She tried to explain that Mexico was my country. I found that impossible to accept. (still do)

My mother had founded a private school in Tijuana, so she brought me there for 5th grade, so I would finish my grade school in Mexico. She thought it better that way, she said it was because it was best for me to go to high school in Mexico. I'm not sure of the real reasons, I know I would've been safe from the bad influences she was afraid of, if I continued in Catholic School.

I attended her school in Tijuana for 2 years. It did more damage than good. The teachers there gave me all good grades in spite of my not knowing how to study there. At the end of the that second year, my mother became very ill. She had high blood pressure, and the doctors were unable to control it. She went into a comma in May, 1981, when I was 11.

I was later told that her doctor left to attend to another patient in the US. My mother's nurse gave her valium to get her blood pressure down as instructed. As she could not get it down still, she gave her more, my mom had too much valium and went into a comma.

Her family came to Tijuana and took me away from everything I've known. I was to stay with somebody since my mom was ill. My mom was flown to Guadalajara, Mexico and put in a hospital there. She died in December that year.

I grew up between my godmother's house, my cousin's house and my aunt's house. I went to a Catholic high school there, and did not make many friends because of my life at home did not allow it. I spent my teenage years trying to figure out a way to get back to the United States, where I figured I belonged.

I had my first job when I was 16. I was a Kindergarten teacher. I had my second job when I was 17, that job was the most interesting I have ever had. I met a very good friend there, I will talk about all that later. As soon as I turned 18 I ran way from home. I actually made it back to the United States when I was 19.

I got married in 1991, for the wrong reasons. I was confused, I suppose I didn't know better. My ex husband was a very bright and kind person. He knew more about math than the professors at college, and could learn languages fairly easy. He was sensitive and respectful; He just had a hard time with the challenges in life.

I spent 10 years in that marriage, and all that time I struggled to get ahead in life.

My ex husband was ill, he was diagnosed with depression. He also had issues like many people do, the depression just aggravated them. He had a hard time with dealing with life in general; he kept trying to kill himself. Throughout the 13 years I knew him, he tried about 4 times that I can count.

He could not understand that things cannot always go the way you want them to go, sometimes you have to adapt and overcome. You need to make some compromises and work hard for what you want. He sometimes could not figure out what he wanted. Other times, if he could not get his way, he would have a crisis.

We ended up at the Mental Hospital many times, some of those times it was by appointment, and others as emergencies.

I just went from one bad situation to another. The life I wanted was always just beyond reach, but I never gave up reaching for it.

I kept believing that one day my ex husband would get well. That one day he may find what he wanted and be happy. That one day the medications he was taking would work for more than a couple of months at a time. That maybe one day, I could convince him to believe in God.

I kept hoping, trying, and working hard. I started going to college, and looking to make a change in my life. I was afraid to grow old and remain in the same bad situation.

I wondered, what would I answer if I died and God asked me: "What have you done with the life I gave you?"?

I wanted to show that I've done something good, that I had made a difference in somebody's life. That I had done something good for my country. So I signed up for the Army. This is how at 30 years old, I started a new life.

It was the most exciting time of my life, and the most stressful. I divorced my husband, which was not easy by any means; it broke my heart, but I had to.

My life was going nowhere, and I was no good to anyone. My husband was clinically depressed and also had personal issues. He constantly sinking, and he was dragging me down with him.

I did not expect big things in this new life, but I received much more than I ever dared to dream of.

I started going back to Church in basic training, and it changed my life around. I know you've heard of a million people saying the same thing, but it is true. I let God lead me, take me to where he wanted me, and here I am.

I met a wonderful man, who wants the same things I want in life. He is a very kind, sensitive, loving person. We are very close, we have similar tastes, and we get along very well.

We started going to Church after we got married, and we were baptized again in the summer of 2004. We looked forward to Sundays when we were home, and even went to Bible study on Wednesdays when we could.

Life has not been easy, but it is much better when shared. Now, I can say I feel blessed. We have God taking control of our lives, and we want it to stay that way.

We have been deployed to Iraq, and just a month before we got here, the Army decided to change the rules, and allowed us to live in the same room.

Every day I give thanks to God for everything He has given me. I have a loving husband, we have a roof over our head, a job that makes a difference, good food, and a warm bed.

We also have good friends at home, and my husband shares his wonderful family with me. His family makes me feel more at home than my own ever did!

Update: (February 28, 2007)
Now that we have returned, I still am so grateful. We have been watched over and taken care of while deployed. We have our own home, and everything we need, we are just praying for a job now, but we trust God will help us once again.

Please enter the date you began answering these questions.

I started answering these questions in March, 2006.

What is your name (first, middle, maiden name, last)? Do you like your name? If you could, would you choose another? What name would you choose? Who were you named for?

I was named after my mother, she was named after her grandmother. I do like my first name, my middle name is a bit long, but I guess it's OK

If I could choose, I would like to have my mother's middle name: Catherine.

I don't like my maiden name, because my uncle was not a nice person, and that last name just brings him to mind. My married last name is just fine.

I changed my name while writing this book for safety reasons, since it is open to the public to read.

Are you male or female?

Female, all the time, just not as feminine as I would like to be, I try.

I am not a "girly" kind of person though; I don't like talking on the phone, reading novels or watching soaps, except for Desperate Housewives. Is it a soap? Whatever it is is too much fun. A girl I met in Iraq got me into watching it, and I can't stop.

I have a hard time with magazines, I would like to read one, but I am not single and looking for a date, I am not a teen, and I am not a mom.

I don't like wearing dresses or sandals, and I'm working on the proper wear of bathing suits.

I watch CSI and I love baseball. I play darts and pool with my friends and I drink vodka, whiskey or anything containing alcohol (I don't get drunk though, at least not often).

I love food and enjoy cooking, although I am not good at it, but I keep trying.

I love plants, but I keep killing them, no matter how hard I try to keep the poor things alive.

I constantly try to convince myself I need to like myself the way I am, and stopped trying to be anyone else.

I would like to improve myself though; I want to be more feminine. (and loose some weight so I can look like it too.)

In what country, state, and city were you born? What hospital?

I have absolutely no clue whatsoever! This used to bother me, but now I figured, what difference would it make? It's not where you started out in life, it's where life takes you that matters.

It doesn't really matter who I was officially born to, What matters now is that I had a mother that loved me and raised me, and taught me the basics in life.

I was told different stories about my origin; I didn't know who to believe, so I gave up trying to find out.

How old are you today? How old do you feel?

I am now 36 years old. I feel young, but my body doesn't want to keep up. I feel like I'm 20 all over again, my husband is the primary culprit, he makes me feel young again. He is so loving and so playful, that I forget.

I realized that I don't heal as fast as I used to. I was with my husband at the American Legion one day, and there was fun music. It was the end of a karaoke night. I ran and jumped on him, he did not see me coming, so I knocked us over and I fell on my butt. At the time, it was extremely funny.

I didn't know why it hurt for months until I went to the doctor, he said I broke my tailbone. It took a long time to heal, and it is still sore when I need to do situps.

I also found out I have the beginning of arthritis in my knees, and now it's starting in my elbows too. I keep hearing that I am too young for this, but unfortunately, it's really there.

But since it feels like I started a new life, I feel like I am 20 all over again. I didn't have a chance before to do many things. After I was remarried, I discovered I can go to ballgames, go out drinking, go to Church, and even buy new clothes and dye my hair!

Do you speak any foreign languages?

Yes, I speak Spanish, and I took some French courses in college. I now wonder what on earth for. I also took some German, I like the language, and I would love to visit Germany some time. I did not learn much though. I will try again later.

What is your birth date?

I don't really know, I have people giving me different dates. My mother's family, and her friends have different stories. So I picked one out of the possible dates when I fixed my birth certificate in Mexico (I was 18). My birthdate is the 25th of September, 1969.

Are you right-handed or left-handed?

I am right handed, I do play pool with either hand just the same, which amazes even me.

What is your height, your weight, your eye color? Do you wear corrective lenses?

I am 5'3", and I weigh around 137lbs, which is my allowed weight by Army standards. The pounds creep up on me when I am not looking. So I go up and down, I was up to 152lbs. 2 years ago, and felt icky. I felt like the fat around me was going to suffocate me.

I heard about a co-worker taking a kind of diet shake, and was loosing weight, so I started taking them. I lost 20lbs in 1 and a half months, and average of 5lbs a week.
So I have been taking those shakes once a day to keep my weight in check.

It felt so good to fit in my clothes again!! So now when my weight worries me, I take 2 a day.
I weighed myself here in Iraq, and the scale must be lying to me, I seem to have stabilized at 127lbs. I haven't weighed that since I was 30 and went through basic training.

I'll find out if the scale is wrong when I go home next month and I see if I fit in my clothes.

My eyes are brown, I have been told I have "cow eyes", which my husband said was offensive, he said he likes my eyes, and I don't look like a cow.
I have been accused of having the "deer in the headlight" look once in a while, usually early in the mornings.
I find my eye color boring, but that's what I got, and I refuse to wear color contacts, I need to like myself the way I am.

I do admire my husband's eyes, they are so clear, they remind me of the ocean, they sparkle. I still wonder what I would look like if I had green eyes too. I don't know if I will ever decide to find out.

What is your mate's name?

He has asked for privacy, so I will respect his wishes, at least I will not mention his name.

What is your anniversary date? How many years have you been married or were you married?

We were married on New Year's Eve. I thought it would make a good anniversary date, and not easy to forget.

We will be maried 5 years this coming New Year's.
It is hard to believe it's been that long, time flies when you are having fun.

Are you overweight or underweight?

I already discussed my weight. I do feel overweight now, I hate exercise, but I should find a way to make it interesting.

I cannot diet, I love food, so I just try to eat smaller portions.

I hate girls that keep announcing to their friends that they are watching what they eat; so they eat a salad, or pick on their food when they go out to eat. It makes me hungry to watch, and it makes others around them feel like they are pigging out.

So if I go out to eat(usually with my husband), I eat what I like, and have a good time. This way nobody is miserable.

By the way, it bothers me to no end to see people waste food. There are people out there who are hungry and have no food. No, not only in Africa like my grandmother used to say; They are everywhere, you don't have to look hard.

How many children do you have? What are their names? How old are they?

Unfortunately, we do not have children yet. We pray we will some day. We do want a family, but so far, it has not been possible. With time, we came to the conclusion that maybe God doesn't think it's is our time yet.

What is your race? What is your religion? What is your political affiliation?

My race is human. I am a Christian, that is my faith.

Do you live in the suburbs, a city, a town, or in a rural area? What is the population? Do you live in an apartment, a house, a condominium, or a retirement home?

We live in a little city called Moreno Valley. We live here because this is where my husband's family is.

It is not exciting, it's kind of small but growing fast, which might not be a good thing. My husband says he misses the orange groves, and the nice people. Most people are too busy, and they drive in a very rude manner.

We live in a mobile home park, one of the better ones I guess. It was supposedly cleaned up a few years ago. But still I feel unsafe because of the incidents of our stuff being stolen. It appears that there is a big drug problem in this city, and it concentrates in some areas.

I love our home, and we try to just make the best of it. Hopefully soon we will have jobs and be able to save up to buy a little piece of land. This way we can move towards the outskirts, away form crowds.

I hate the way the keep building these large apartment complexes and home tracts. They cram people together, they live so close to the neighbors. You'd expect that in a mobile home park; but why would anyone buy a house that looks just like the next one. And these houses can be so close you could almost reach out and pass the sugar through the window.

The other problem is that they are so expensive, they are out of our price range. How can anyone make house payments on three or four hundred thousand dollar house in a town that does not have much to offer. I see so many people driving out of town to be able to have a job that will pay the bills. And still how many of these houses will be repossessed shortly after it was bought?

Are you allergic to anything? What is your blood type?

I am not allergic to anything that I know of. My blood type is O+. I used to donate blood before I was deployed, now even the Red Cross here won't take my blood because of all the shots the Army has given us.

Your Family and Ancestry

List the names and birthdates of your mother, father, maternal grandmother, paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, paternal grandfather and other great grandfathers and grandmothers. What did you call them?

My mother was born in Cd. Guzman, Jalisco, on November 17th, 1919. Her name was Ana Catalina. Her parents were Jose Joaqin , and her mother's name was Maria de Los Dolores .

My grandmother lived in a tiny town in the mountains of Jalisco called San Gabriel. I was taken there to see it when I was about 12 years old.

My grandmother's wedding was arranged; her husband was the town's only doctor, he was 45 and she was 20. It was seen as an intelligent choice, being that he was a mature gentleman of a good family with a prosperous business and a good future. He offered my grandmother a good home, a maid, a nanny, and a chauffeur. Needless to say, my grandmother did not know how to cook, or do chores around the house; she was always taken care of.

My mother was the eldest daughter, my uncle "Nacho" was the eldest son. This meant that as soon as my mother was old enough, she took care of the young ones. She was probably at 11 or 12 years old or younger when she started caring for them.

My mother did her first communion when she was only five. There was so much expected of her. Her family believed that girls growing up only need to learn how to make their husbands happy and how to raise a family. My mother wanted more, she wanted an education. She saw a way to obtain an education by becoming a nun; she did so as soon as she turned 17 or 18.

She felt guilty leaving her siblings behind, but she felt the need to go on. She joined the order of "Siervas del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus y de los Pobres". They were dedicated to helping the poor and the disadvantaged. I need to clarify that poor in Mexico meant they had little, if any to eat and maybe a makeshift roof over their heads.

People at this time did not believe in birth control, it was against their religion, so many children and no food, meant no school either. These nuns had many schools for them, and several orphanages and boarding schools in many cities around Mexico.

The nuns gave my mother an education; she became a teacher with a major in Psychology. She was an outstanding student. She was then sent to places all over Mexico. The Army equivalent of being stationed in a certain area for a period of time. She went to Leon, to Merida, all over. One of her stations was in Tijuana, she was there longer than any of the others.

She was a great teacher, she helped the nuns acquire a school, she got them out of debt, and they were going to own the building. Then it all went wrong, her secretary sabotaged the whole thing, the nuns lost the school, the secretary stole the money, and everyone lost. The name of the school was "Cinco de Mayo"; it was in the "Libertad" area of Tijuana, near the "Rio".

My mother did not let that get her down. She left the order, and went out on her own. Her ex-students from the "Cinco de Mayo" helped her out. Juanita was one of them; her name was Juanita Ramirez when I met her. She had her husband donate some money for the land to build a new school, and some of their friends got together and raised and donated money to be able to get the school going. I'm not sure who bought the buildings. It was called "Instituto America".

After all this was done, and she felt stable, she went on a trip to Europe with her friends, the ex-students, Juanita and Omi (Omilva).

When she got back, everything gets confusing for me. I hear that she suddenly decided she wanted a child, so she looked to adopt. I also heard that she might have had a child, because she had a round belly for a while and then disappeared for some time. I think it was just a bad rumor.

Anita Gama, who was a teacher and a good friend or hers, told me she had found me in Creel Chihuahua while visiting, and told my mother about it. She had told her that there was a beautiful "white baby" up in those mountains that had been abandoned, and she should go check it out. I have no idea what Anita was doing there; nobody seems to have known Father Verplancken before this.

Well, Father Verplancken, whom I met when I was 18, said he found me at the doorstep of his hospital, that I was left there, very ill. He kept me until I was better, and then adopted me out to my mother. This story does not make sense. My mother had six brothers and sisters; I will talk about them later on.

Tell about your aunts and uncles. Did they play an important part in your growing up? Do you remember any special aunts and uncles?

Like many people that have come into my life, my aunts and uncles have left footprints in my heart. There's always something we can learn from everyone, even bad people.
I had 5 aunts and 2 uncles that were my mother's brothers and sisters. I also had two aunts that wanted to be my aunts and didn't have to be.

I will start with my eldest uncle, his name was Nacho. He was a doctor, not the kind you may know, he was the kind to go see families in their homes, and help them without expecting payment. The only payment he really wanted was to see the people healed.

He was married to my aunt Bivi (Olivia) she came from one of the most prominent tequila families, "Orendain". They had many children, and loved each other so very much. Their children were grown up when I was small; they were a close family though.

I remember one of his sons had a ranch, a quite large one, with horses and all. He invited the family there for an outing one summer I was there with my mom visiting. Another, I remember, got married in an authentic "charro" outfit, with silver and gold embroidery, I just remember seeing them coming out of the Church, and I was amazed.

My uncle Nacho worked in a tiny town near Guadalajara called "Tepatitlan". People there needed him; he was the only doctor there.

I remember a story he once told us. He lived in an itty bitty home he used as an office. He ate baby food and slept there (didn't cook very well or did not have anything to cook in).

One day, he healed someone who was very grateful, but had no money. This gentleman apologized profusely for not being able to pay. My uncle told him to go home, and not worry about it. Later that month, the gentleman came by and told my uncle how grateful he was for being rid of his illness, and insisted in giving my uncle a live chicken as payment. My uncle tried to refuse, but could not do so without offending the gentleman.

He told us that now he had a live young rooster running amok in his office. After a while, they got used to each other, and the rooster made good company. He would never even consider killing it.

My uncle came to stay with his wife on the weekends, and visited my grandmother on Sundays after Church. So I learned from him, that some things in life are much more rewarding than money, and I am not talking about the chicken. I figure, if you can do something good for someone else, the reward is to see them better than they were before, seeing that you made a change and it was good. The chicken was just a bonus.

I will speak of one of my aunts now, the youngest of the family, she is my Godmother. This means that since my mother was Catholic, she baptized me when I was a baby. She picked my aunt Lucita to be my Godmother, which means she would take care of me if my mother died. Now, looking back sounds like insurance.

This aunt happens to be very sweet and patient. What I like the most about her is that she does not judge you. It was nice to be able to confide in her, and she would not tell the world your problems. She would give you advice, but you did not have to take it.

She had 5 boys and one girl. They are all grown up now, she now has several grandchildren. When she just got married, she and my uncle Carlos moved to Ixtlan, Nayarit. They had a rough beginning, my uncle was a rough, tough guy, and she was delicate and feminine. They did not have a lot, and he insisted in earning his money instead of asking his family for it. So she had to learn to stretch the little money they had.

She was very loving and very patient with her family. She always made sure her children were well clothed and very well fed. (And my did they eat!!) I went with her a few times to the government store (Social Security) for groceries. She would buy enough food for a small army, which would be consumed promptly when brought home. I remember she would place an order through the phone for the butcher, he would prepare a large meat package for her and we would go pick it up.

These were growing children, and they grew pretty good. She made sure they went to a good Catholic school, she somehow convinced the Priests to let the children go there, they gave her scholarships for them. Every year she would go to the school and plead with them to continue the scholarships one more year. She did not talk about this; I just noticed how she quietly and persistently worked around obstacles to obtain what was best for her family.

I know I said she was delicate and feminine, but I found that she was also strong, she went through rough times, and kept her composure. She lost my uncle a few years ago. I learned about this through e-mails. She had a very hard time with this, I wished I was closer to her so I could be there for her, but I was so far away, and there is no way I can afford to travel there.

She is also at this time having a problem because she has lost all her brothers and sisters, so she now is worried she will be next. I know she will be alright; she has taken good care of herself. She eats well, no junk food, no heavy drinking, no smoking. She has kept herself young in many ways. I know she will be alright, I still wish I could be closer by and be able to take one of those walks with her.

Well, the next aunt I want to think about now is my aunt Conchita. She was the next up in age from my aunt Lucita. She was similar in her physical appearance to her. They both had svelte, petite figures, and freckles, which I always loved.

She was also patient, but not as much. She decided to become a nun when she was young. That is the life she chose, and the life she lived.

The nuns moved her from one place to another; she lived in many different towns and cities across Mexico. Her order worked for the poor, they dedicated themselves to helping them receive a good education for their children and helped sometimes providing some food and clothes for them. These were not the poor you know, these are people that sometimes go without a scrap of food.

This aunt sent me on a trip one Easter vacation. I was not in a very happy environment living at my aunt Refus' home, so she figured I could use a mini-vacation. I think maybe she wanted me to learn something this Easter.
I went with a group of nuns in a minivan kind of car, we had a driver, I don't remember his name at the moment.

We went to one town, and arrived at a convent; we dropped off nuns there, and picked up different nuns. Everyone at the convents we visited during this trip was so polite and kind to us. We were always offered food and shelter. Sometimes we stayed the night, others, we went on to the next stop.

On one stop, I think it was in Leon, I met a large nun. I don't mean it in a bad way, she was very tall. She was so loving. She told me she knew my mom, when she had lived here long ago. She showed me the room that used to be my mom's, we stayed the night and I slept in that room with a girl named Monica, and a few young girls that lived there. This convent was very intimidating and it frightened me a bit.

It was also a boarding school, and for the girls left behind this Easter, also a home. (Orphanage?) The four girls left there talked to me when the youngest one could not hear. They said that their parents did not want them, and left them here, they would never come back for them, and this was home now. The youngest one thought her parents would come back for her one day; her sisters were the other three.

This place was huge, there were patios in the middle, and you needed to walk to the end of all of them to get to the showers. They were outside, and uncovered. It was so creepy at night to walk there.

I was shown some tiny cells down one of the corridors along the side of a patio. I was told that the nuns would go there to flog themselves for penance, or just be in solitary. I was told by the large nun that my mother went there too. That was a thought too strange to comprehend. I asked, "Why would anyone do that?" She said nuns had their reasons.

These nuns were growing some of their vegetables, chickens and pigs to take and sell to the market. That way it helped in the feeding of the nuns and the children. The children and the nuns would help with the care and cleaning of the animals, and the vegetable garden.

What really surprised me was a family we met along the way. We came to a small town and met this family. They collected cow hides; they showed us how they would cure the skins in their garage. The worst of it was in the morning, after we learned about the skins and all, they served us green Jell-O. As I started to eat it, I herd them explain that the Jell-O was made of the stuff they scrape off the back of the cow hides. I almost threw it all up. I was taught to be polite, so I tried to swallow it fast. I ate the rest without tasting it, I still don't know how. After this very gross discovery, I still had to keep smiling.

While visiting at this home, we were taken to a tiny hut in a field in the middle of nowhere. A very old man lived there; all he had in the hut was a chair and something that looked like a makeshift bed. His family requested we go and speak to him, convince him to eat. They said all he asked for was one bottle of coke in the mornings. His family would take him food, but he would not eat it. They were worried.

I was so shocked, he had nothing!! Nothing but a chair in his little hut. No money, no food, no clothes, nothing. I was wondering how someone could live like that. I was about 14, and I was worried about obtaining what at this age I thought I could not live without: mostly, music tapes, sneakers, hair ties and lip gloss, oh and a camera, who could live without a camera?

I have a bad memory, but I will never forget the man who had nothing.

Then on the way back to that family's home, the driver came to a screeching halt on a little 2 lane rural road. Two of the men ran off to the side of the road and shot at something. I was a bit worried; I did not know what was going on. They came back from the darkness with a little burlap bag containing something that squirmed inside.

They put it in the glove compartment and we continued to their home. When we got there, they put the thing in a big can in the garage. I looked into the can; it was something that looked like a weasel. They said they were going to kill it and cook it. I was very upset by this, it was cute little thing, I pleaded with him, at the risk of sounding like a spoiled brat. I asked that it would be set free, it was a cute little thing, leave it alone, how much meat could they even get from it anyway? I don't remember what happened to it, by morning it was gone.

Well, I visited the convent several times; I learned that not all children are loved and wanted, some are left behind by parents who cannot or will not take care of them, and that there are angels among us who pick up where those parents left off.

I also learned that some people have very strange customs.

At the time I was living at my aunt Refus' home, my aunt Conchita was dedicating her whole existence to taking care of my grandmother. My grandmother could not take care of herself anymore. She lived in my aunt Refus' home, and sat in a reclining chair all day. If she needed to go to the bathroom my aunt Conchita would help her walk there, otherwise she would fall. Sometimes I took over for my aunt on Friday nights when I didn't have school the next morning, that way she could go to her convent and be with the nuns. She would come back on Sunday morning.

At night we needed to help my grandmother use the potty. She had one next to her bed; we set it up at night. All we had to do is help her and watch her so she's O.K.

My aunt Conchita helped around the house also. The house was very large, she had to help clean because my aunt Refus had a bad hip and was always in pain. My uncle Paco decided to refuse to pay someone to help clean, even though he was the only one who could afford it. He also refused to let my grandmother take a vacation using her savings, but that is another story altogether.

In short, my aunt Conchita probably worked her behind off her whole life. She dedicated herself to helping others, never thinking of herself. She died a few years ago; I do not know the circumstances.

I feel bad, because last time I saw her was the night before I ran away from home, she was mad at me because she said I was selfish and ungrateful. She was seldom angry at anybody. I did not get to talk to her anymore, I never wrote a letter either.

My aunt Lolita was a very cool aunt. Her and my uncle Tato used to take me and my cousins (Lucita's youngest 3) for outings. She would take us to the park usually, and sometimes, we played tourist. We would dress up like tourists and take a towel and bathing suits. My mom and my aunt Lucita would pack lunches for us. We would go to a nice hotel and play in the pool, and sit in the sun. That was so much fun, sometimes we even got to wear sunglasses.

She would also collect the toys from the cereal boxes and give them to us. (She did not have children.) She always smelled good, and was so sweet to us. She told us fun stories about her trips. My aunt Lolita and my uncle Tato traveled everywhere; she would usually bring some kind of souvenir back. That is how I started collecting foreign coins.

She and my uncle would come on Sunday mornings to my aunt Refus' house to pick up my Grandmother and take her to Church. They used to have a very old Renault, looked like a World War II, army green little car, about 1950's.
They would take my grandma to the park after Church. My grandmother always looked forward to this outing and to the stories about her trips. She would come to visit my grandma often in the evenings during the week, and my uncle Tato would come to pick her up later.

My cousins avoided her because they didn't want to get caught in a long conversation with her. I loved her, and enjoyed her stories, so my cousins would make fun of me.

She had a germ phobia, she would not touch anything. She used tissues to open doors, and touch the telephone if she had to. Usually she would ask me to call for her. I did not mind, but I suppose it was uncomfortable for other people.

I was wondering about how come she didn't have children, and does she suffer because of her fears? But she and my uncle Tato loved each other so much, they had each other, and that was what mattered.

They enjoyed life, and were kind to others, even though others were not as kind to her. They were very loving and very pleasant people, a joy to be around.

I was very sad when my aunt Lucita told me my aunt Lolita had suddenly died of a heart attack. My uncle Tato was in shock for a long time, he could not function anymore. He was, by what I understand almost in catatonic state, and his sisters were taking care of him because he could not cope.

That kind of love is amazing, that you would grow so close to each other, that you would live your life with your best friend, and lover, to share everything, and look for ways to make each other happy. To dedicate yourself to your spouse, even when they are ill, and need special attention like my aunt. It would be difficult for other people to live with someone who is constantly afraid of germs, but my uncle did not see it like that; he loved her so much, he did not see it. He went out of his way to accommodate my aunt, and made her very happy.

I don't know or intend to question God's reasons, but I find it very sad that my aunt had to go when she was still young. She must have been fifty something.

My aunt Refus was a strong lady. She had married a wonderful young man, and had seven beautiful children. When her youngest daughter Ely was five, the family was coming back from Church on a Sunday morning. When they got home, dad had Ely on his shoulders. He set her down and took out his house keys, he was going to open the door, when he had a sudden heart attack and died.

I cannot begin to imagine what my aunt had to go through. Her husband had a business, now she had to run it and raise seven children. She tried to keep the business afloat, and could not do so. The business did not make it; I don't know what happened to it. But she kept going, and never gave up. She raised her children well, and helped her mom when she could not take care of herself anymore.

My aunt Refus was in a car accident that broke her hip. I don't know when this happened, but I heard the story.

My aunt Refus, and some of her brothers and probably my grandma were driving somewhere for the weekend. The car somehow went off the road and flipped. This was when cars were made of steel, and therefore heavy. When everyone was out of the car, they saw that my aunt Refus was under it. My two uncles lifted the car to pull her out. I think it was a miracle that they were able to save her. She had many surgeries, and had her femur replaced. Unfortunately, this was before I was born so they did not have all the technology. Her femur was not the right size or something, it always hurt her.

When I lived in her home, she was knitting beautiful sweaters for people to make some money. I loved to see them when they were done. I have never seen anything like them anywhere else. I remember her constant knitting; her arms were sore, and her hip hurt all the time. She never gave up, she was a strong lady.

Last of all, my least favorite uncle. My uncle Paco. He married my aunt Marion when she was 16 or 17. She was visiting from Oregon with her family. The story said that they happened to be in the same place, at a pool. Marion was swimming, and when she dove off the diving board, she hit her head. She did not surface, so my uncle seeing this dove in to save her. He supposedly fell in love there and then. Before her family was to return to Oregon, he asked to marry her. My uncle was rude to her in my opinion.

She was so sweet and kind and he treated her as if she was a servant. There were times when we went to dinner to my uncle's house, and he would make rude comments. Once, he yelled at her at the table, telling her she was too stupid to make beans correctly. He said he had taught her and she could not learn to do it right. So she apologized to us and ran to the kitchen to fix the problem. He yelled at her again asking where she thought she was going. It was like that sometimes. I felt bad for her, but she kept saying she loved him so much.

My uncle Paco was greedy and I am not sure he made all of his money in an honest way. He dropped out of school when he was young after having too many problems with discipline. He started a business selling some kind of water pumps. He had a lot of money and a big beautiful house, but he wanted more. He had a vacation house at a lake near by and invited us there sometimes.

When my mother died, he was my guardian; he took my inheritance and put a lien on the house my mother left me. He took all I had and wanted more. I still can't have the papers to my house cleared. He also made me sign over to him my grandmother's inheritance, and told my aunt Lucita he had given it to me. Now she knows I did not get it, and she was upset because he lied to her about it.

I don't know of anything good he had done in his life. I don't remember him being kind to his wife or his children. Maybe there were times when he was good and I did not know. Maybe he helped out my aunt Refus with a little money so she would not go hungry.

Did you play with your cousins? Who are some of the cousins you know best?

I used to spend the summers with my Godmother. When my mom was still alive, we would meet her in Guadalajara, and stay at my grandmother's house. Later on, I would go to Queretaro, where she lived.

She had five boys and one girl. Her daughter was about 16 when I was 11, the first summer I went to Queretaro. Two more of the boys were a few years older than me. The three younger ones and I spent a lot of time together. We played a lot, and fought a lot. Their sister told me this is what it's like to have brothers.

We used to ride their bikes and play kickball. We would sometimes play word games or call the radio station and tell jokes. We won a prize once, a 45 record. We were also allowed to walk downtown and get icecream. It was a long walk but it was fun.

When we wanted to watch a movie, we could go to the mall. Usually the youngest would pick "Supergirl". We had to watch it several times. If we watched a different movie, my oldest cousin (their sister) or my godmother would come along. They would make us bring a jacket. If there were any inappropriate scenes, she would tell us, and we would pull the jacket over our heads until she said it was safe.
I peeked once, and all it was, was a kiss.

I used to stay up at night while their sister was doing her homework, (she was going to a university and when she was done, we would talk. While I waited, I would read her magazines. I was able to talk to her about boys; I was curious and my family was not to open with information.

A few years ago, when the Army called us up and put us on alert, I contacted my Godmother. I found out that the youngest boy became an artist, the middle one became a priest and live sin Africa, and the one that was my age is a doctor I think, he's married and has children. The older crowd, (the next three I used to call the teens) the youngest works with computers, the next one has a wife and children, they live in Canada for some reason.

The girl was married when I was 16, her husband beat her from the beginning. He beat her even when she was pregnant. Her brothers found out when she would not come to visit for weeks and they went to her house. They saw that she was all bruised up. Her family told her she could come back, but she wouldn't.

One thing that sticks out in my mind is when I went to visit her along with other cousins. She was showing us her house, and we saw something weird. She had a little ziplock kind of bag attached at the right side of the stove. When we asked, she said that her husband liked his eggs sunny side up. If she broke the yolk, he would get mad and throw the plate across the kitchen, and one time, out into the yard. He would say that her cooking was not even fit for a dog. So when she would make the eggs and the yolk broke, she would just slide it into the baggie and start over.

I could not believe she would take that kind of #@$* from him. She said he generally complained about her cooking. She said that sometimes her husband would come home from work, if he didn't like the food, he would throw the plate at the wall and yell at her. He would then tell her that, since her food was so horrible, he would have to go eat out and then he would walk out the door. She used to cook for my cousins and me when I was there in the summers. She was a great cook, we all loved her food; what was wrong with this guy?

I remember collecting recipes from her. I remember a roast she made in which she had me pour a coke on it before cooking it.

Well, she stayed for 7 long years, and finally got a divorce. I was happy for her. Now her children are grown, and she has remarried, her mom says he's is a good guy.

When I was living with my aunt Refus, I used to baby sit for one of her daughters that lived next door. She had two wonderful children, a boy and a girl. The boy was about 9 and the girl was about 6. I loved them so much, they were great kids. I would play with them and take them out for a walk to the store for gum.

As soon as I had a job, (when I was 16) I started taking them on outings when their dad was not looking. Their mom trusted me with them, but their dad did not want me to take them anywhere. I guess I should explain that they did not have much money. Their mom would stretch the little money they had. My aunt would give her some food to help her out. I don't remember new clothes, all they had were hand me downs. So they didn't have much of a chance to go many places.

I took them Ice skating once, we had fun. We also went to the mall and a car show. I taught the boy to ride his bike; even though he accused me of trying to kill him the first time he fell. I kind of remember that I tried to teach them to roller skate, I think they learned on my skates.

One time I took the little girl with me Christmas shopping downtown, she helped me out so much. It was hard to believe she was so young, we were good friends by this time, she must've been 7 or 8 and I was 16.

This is about the time their little brother was born, but he did not like anybody, so it was impossible for anyone but mom to take care of him.

I also baby sat 2 more children for another cousin, but I never got so close to any other children like I did with them. I remember when the little girl was about 4. I had to go to the store to get my aunt's milk and cigarettes. I would put the little girl on my shoulders, and she would giggle the whole way as I bounced around for her. Eventually she grew too big to put on my shoulders, we were a little sad.

I randomly remember baking a blue and pink cake with them, it was so ugly! We had some fun, we held some magic shows for family and read stories. The little girl used to love brushing my hair, one day she could not find my hair tie, so she used modeling clay. I did not know until she said she was done, my hair was now pretty. It was funny, until I tried to take it out. One day she used the whole bottle of hair conditioner on her hair. She had beautiful golden curls, and I had straight dark hair. She told me she just wanted to make her hair straight like mine.

She always smelled like candy, and she was just as sweet. Her brother was a good kid, he had very good sense since he was young. When he was in sixth grade, he found out some of the boys in his class were up to no good. So he talked to me about it and I sent him to talk to his mom. He never fell into any of those temptations. His mom taught him well, she was also very sweet and kind.

Unfortunately their dad was almost never home. Which was good for me because I could visit. He was an engineer or architect. I was highly suspicious of him. How is is that his wife and kids had next to nothing, even though they did not have to pay rent. What did he pay? He never bought anything for them. They barely had any food, and that's counting the food given to them. If he was working such long hours, where was the money?

Sometimes he would say he had to go out of town, to the beach to see the progress of a building or something like that. His son kept wanting to come along, and he would not let him because he would have to be alone in the hotel room while dad worked. Later on after asking time after time,he let his son come along. When his son came back and I asked how it went, he said dad's secretary was there, and they had fun. But officially, nothing happened.

Another time his dad was supposed to come pick the boy up from me to take him to boy scouts on a Saturday. When he didn't show, and it was getting late, they boy asked if I could call his dad's number. Dad had said he had to put in extra hours at work, and he would be alone in the office all day. I dialed the number and a girl answered, the boy asked for dad, and dad yelled at him. Dad said "How many times do I have to tell you not to call me at work?" and hung up. The boy was very upset because he had been forgotten. I was 15 or 16, I did not have a say in any of it, but I got yelled at to for dialing the number.

Well a few years ago I found my niece's e-mail from my godmother. I wrote to my niece, and she answered. Her life had continued to be difficult, but she got through it. She was trying to get her degree, majoring in art. She said she had been painting and she had a boyfriend. She said life at home was almost unbearable.

A few months ago I learned that she moved in with a boyfriend, and she was doing good. Her brother got married a few years ago, and has a nice family. I wish I could've been there for them as they grew up.

I always looked up to my cousin, Ely. She was a few years older than me and she was to me the equivalent of Kelly Bundy, except she was not blonde. She was always so cool, she was pretty and smart. She taught me games when I was little, like jacks. She introduced me to dolls, which I didn't really care for before this. When I was 15 and lived in her house, she would let me help her wash her car, and sometimes I would tag along to work with her in the evening.

She would have boyfriends, but had to have a chaperone to go out. She took me to the movies, and other places. Once she took me on a picnic and I rode with her boyfriend on a motorcycle. (I wasn't supposed to) Several times we went to weddings, and had fun.

Ely had her own bedroom, and she had a vanity full of fun stuff. She used to let me help her reorganize her room sometimes, and I would inherit anything she got tired of. I loved going through her stuff! I was just very curious on what such a cool girl would have in her room.

I appreciated this so much that I did the same with my little niece. I would let her reorganize my little locker, and I would always have a little something she could have.

Did your grandparents live nearby? How often did you visit their homes? Did their homes have a special cooking smell? Onions? Cookies? What did their couch feel like? How big was the kitchen? Describe their home as you remember it.

My grandfather died on the 10th of April, 12 years before before I was born. My grandmother used to live in a small house. It was like a story book house. It was made out of brick and concrete and from the front it looked like it was made out of stone. I remember the smell of gardenias and jazmine in her fromt yard. She had a tiny yard and a little patio in the back. Her house smelled a bit like mold, but I liked the smell.
When we came to visit, it was summer, and it rained a lot, I remember the thunder and lightning, the smell of the rain. I now love rolling thunder, it is so soothing. I just don't hear it much, it doesn't happen in Moreno Valley California or in San Diego.
My grandmother had a big wooden sleigh type bed, and a wooden dresser that smelled so good. She had ceramic tile floors, which felt good on a hot summer day.
My grandmother didn't cook well, she tried tomake eggs for breakfast for me, and they were sort of stiff. But I did like it when she gave me Corn Flakes with sliced bannanas or fresh strawberries. They were the best! She also made some good hot chocolate, not cocoa, real chocolate.
She did not bake cookies, or any grandma stuff like that, but she did have a toy box under her couch for us to play with. Later when she lived in my aunt's house she had a cookie tin full of cookies and candy for her grandchildren young and old.

The House of Your Growing Up

Do you have warm feelings about the childhood home that you remember the most?

I remember things by the way I smelled them. The smell of wood reminds me of feeling warm and safe at home. My house had a strong smell of wood. I also remember my home by the smell of honeysuckle.

I don't remember much about the times when I was so young, but my mom kept many picture albums to remind me of it later.

High School

What did you discover about yourself in high school? Did you learn a skill that you could take out in the world with you? Were you sad when it ended, or were you ready to leave it all behind?

I went to a Catholic High School in Mexico. In Mexico, there are only six grade in grade school and then you go to three grades of High School. So this means I went to first grade when I was 11, and graduated when I was 14.

Unfortunately I did not know how to study, as I explained earlier. I had bad grades and could not figure out what I was doing wrong. I had a very short attention span and was so menticulous that it would take me the whole evening to do my homework. Not to mention that in Mexico, you get a lot of homework.

I had a reallyhard time with math specifically, I was falling behind and as you know, falling behind in math is a killer.

The girls were all very sweet and kind, I had good friends. At first I was invited to other girl's houses, or to the mall or the movies, but since I was never allowed, they stopped asking.

I hate dmy life, I had lost my home, my mom and my dog. I was away from the Country I loved with no hope of coming back. I felt trapped in this foreign place and very alone.

I did manage to be allowed to go to two birthday parties at girls' houses during those three years. I did not know how to act around all these kids, it was funny.

I had to keep a log of everything I did every day. In the morning I got up, and had to write the time, I went to the bathroom, write the time, got dressed, and the time. This way my cousin sould know exactly what I was doing all the time. If I took too long doing one thing, she would punish me.

So in the morning I was to eat two cookies and one glass of chocolate milk. I went to school and had no lunch money, so I sometimes begged the girls for leftovers. I call it begged, when it was actually just asking, but it felt very embarassing. I was so hungry, I had to.

I would walk home after school at 13:45, and would water the lawn. After this, I would go to the store and get fresh tortillas for our mid day meal. When I got home, the meal would be ready, and my cousin's husband would come home to eat. While we ate I was to be very quiet. After the meal, I would wash the dishes and clean the kitchen. I had to dry the dishes with the appropriate towel and put them all away. At the end I swept and mopped. As I said, I had to write the times, and if I took longer than exsctly 30 minutes, I would be punished. I tried to fudge the times, but my cousin was upstairs and would know.

After the dishes, I had to go to the store to get milk for the day.

In the evening I would sometimes wash my clothes by hand and hang them up. There were also times that I would have clothes in a basket for ironing. I liked ironing, my cousin was never home in the evenings, so I would sneak into the TV room and iron there while watching a soap. By the way I was never allowed to watch TV.

After my chores, I had a pile of homework. Sometimes I hid some of it because I could not finish it and it would be very late.

I kept getting bad grades, and barely making it. I tried to get more invloved in school, whatever time I could spend away from home was good. I was a chearleader for the volleyball team. There were a few times I told my cousin I was at practice, and we chearleaders would play volleyball in the courtyard; we had fun. The girls knew that it was the only bit of time I had to get away, they were so cool, they tried to make the best of it.

When I was supposed to graduate, I failed math. In Mexico, they have a remedial course you can take in the summer to give you a chance to pass. My cousin decided I would have to repeat the grade in another school, and I was not allowed to go to my own graduation. I tried to sneak to the mass before graduation, and actually got to the luncheon when she came in and dragged my out by my arm.

Well as you see, my Highschool years were a little bit of a disaster. I tried to run away once, and I was caught. I was going to ride my bicycle back to San Diego.

I once tried to call my mom's friends and also got caught trying and never was able to ask them for help. There was no phone in the house, so I was trying to call collect from a public phone.

I got a nice break during the last grade. My cousin adopted a baby girl. She was the cutest thing you have ever seen. I got to watch her in the evenings when my cousin was out. I walked her with the stroller to the store to get the milk, I was not alone anymore. I played with her and helped her learn how to walk. I woke up at night and at 6 in the morning to get her milk. There was this big pot where you need to sanitize the bottles. When you heated up the milk, you needed to warm the bottle in a pot with water set to boil. I also had to wash the diapers and all, that was OK, she was so cool.

At the end of that year, I had to go live with my aunt Refus. The little family was growing and there was no room for me.

Once there, I had to repeat that third grade. I went to a shady school run by a very old lady with a bad attitude. The kids were out of hand. I saw the worst grades ever there, some kids had a 2 out of 10 on math tests. Many of them were ditching class, there were times when there were only 5 students out of 20 in the classroom.

I started ditching too. I saw no sense in staying, since I just thought I was wasting time. I would jump over the fence and go around the corner. There was this little patio bar with plants everywhere and a little waterfall. I would drink peach soda and talk to strangers.

I was buying candy at the outdoor market in bulk and selling them to the kids to make extra money for the sodas.

I got in trouble for bringing my pet mouse Cindy to school, and later on for selling baby mice to the kids. Some pervert gave me the tiny mice and asked if I wanted to make extra money, I was not the one to turn down money.

Well eventually the year was over and I moved on. I went to a school that would prepare me to be an instructional assistant. I discovered I was not stupid like I was told so many times, I got very good grades. I finally saw a purpose to all the studying.

As soon as I graduated I had a job as a kindergarden teacher. I was sixteen and had a job!! I was excited until I found out the principle had her priorities messed up, but that's a whole other story.


If you went to college, where did you go? Why did you choose that school? How much was tuition? Was it difficult to afford? Did you receive financial assistance or a scholarship? A loan? Was your school large or small? What was it known for?

I started to be serious about college when I moved back form Texas to San Diego. I went to Southwestern college in Chula Vista. I had always wanted to work with the police in investigations. I took Administration of Justice courses, many of them. I had a 4.0 for a while, then a 3.8 GPA. (math was hard for me)

I loved the way the school worked. If I needed help they had help available. I had volunteer students help me by going over my papers, and a tutor for when I got stuck on math.

I started taking ceramics, and I was hooked. I took as many classes as I could so I could continue to use the lab.

I joined the Criminal Justice Club in school, and was invited to join an honor society for Psychology.

I had to work in a club so I could make enough money to support us and still go to school. There were times when I wrote the drafts for my papers in a bar.

It was not the best job in the world, if you can even call it a job. But it paid the bills and allowed me to get closer to my goal of actually obtaining a real job with Law Enforcement, a career. What a big word!

What was your living situation? Did you live in a dorm or a room off campus? Who was your roommate? Did you get along? How did you decorate your place? Were you comfortable there?

No dorm room for me. I lived with my now ex husband and our dogs. I did not see him too much though.

I would leave the house at about 6:30 in the morning to get to school. Then came back home at night around 8:30 pm, I would eat and go to bed watching TV. Mostly the X files or whatever was on. This is when I got started watching King of The Hill.

What was your major? Why did you pick it? Were you ever able to use anything you learned in college in real life? Did you change colleges or majors partway through? Why?

My major was Criminal Justice, which later changed to Administration of Justice.

I started applying for a job at the police stations near by and all, but an Army recruiter got me.

I approached him after watching a movie in where a lady joined the Army when her husband was disabled. She was not young, and she did it. I asked him if I was too old to join, since I was 30. He said no, and as the questions went on, he said I could become Military Police, he got me.

I left for basic right after the semester was over. I ended up in Petroleum supply for a while. In 2004 I transferred to a military Police unit, and was trained for it. I went to school in Fort Leonard Wood. Later on I was sent to Military Police Investigations School, I loved the classes there. I am now a Military Police Investigator. One step closer to that goal.

College taught me you can get far if you just put your mind to it.

Military Career

Name, rank, and serial number? Were you drafted or did you enlist? What was the first you saw of the service - the enlistment center? What did you see there that made you want to sign up? What was it like at the draft board?

I was having problems with my marriage. I was tired of trying to help R. (my husband at the time). Nothing I did changed our situation, we went from one desperate situation to another.

I was going to college, and working at a bar. I did not even see him that much, I left for school at 0630 and came back at 2030 if lucky.

I was taking Administration of Justice at Southwestern College and submitting applications with San Diego Police, Chula Vista Police and Border Patrol.

It was hard to look at my options because of R.'s refusal to do certain things, like move to where the job required. You see, the Border Patrol would relocate me to where they needed me, and I had to agree to this if I was hired. The Sheriff's department would send me to work in a prison of their choice for 2 years minimum, so if I tried to obtain a career instead of a job, we had to make compromises.

I watched a movie about this lady who had problems with her family, her husband couldn't work, so she signed up for the Army. I figured if she could do it, so could I, maybe I wasn't too old yet.

So I approached the recruiter at school. he was not pushy or anything, he was polite and just asked what I wanted, what my goals were. SFC Gallup was my recruiter, he told me I could be Military Police, that was too exciting to leave alone. So I signed up for Army Reserve.

I told R. I was doing this for us, that they would give me money for school and a VA loan for our home one day. R. thought that in order to have a family, we would need to have a home in a good area, and not have to pay rent. He told me he would not be as stressed out and sick if we had our own place.

I went through basic, but I could have not done it by myself. It was hard for me physically, but God must've given me a few quick shoves along the way.

My assigned battle buddy was Clifford. She was a moody one to say the least. One day she was sweet, and the next she would leave me behind, which was a bad thing; drill sergeants don't allow that. Your battle buddy was to be within arm's reach at all times,(except the latrine, buddy can wait outside the door).

As soon as we got to the barracks, we were told that we should always have a battle buddy. Well, a few days later, one of the other females lost her battle buddy to a muscle injury.

I noticed Guerrero since we got there, she was very frightened of drill sergeants because they gave her flashbacks of previous abuse she had suffered at home.

She was a very good soldier though. We paired up, and it worked a lot better this way, her name was Guerrero. We worked together well, especially since we were closer in age than the rest. I was 30, and most of the other soldiers were 18 or 20.

She and I made it through somehow, we helped each other along the way, I do believe that she helped me more than I helped her. I found out I was terrified of heights when we encountered the obstacle courses.

She was so patient with me, I didn't have a problem going up, but I would freeze once I got there. She once sang to me so I could have enough courage to go on the obstacle. She sang "Lean on me", and a few of the guys joined in, I will never forget that. I was actually holding onto the ground because I was getting dizzy and shaking. Yes I was also crying.

We got through basic, and we were shipped to Advanced Individual Training in Ft Lee, Va. It was like starting all over again, we met our drill sergeants, and figured; "All that we went through, just to start over?"

Reception was the hardest part, they "smoked us" pretty badly. We did many push ups and sit ups, and other exercises. They call it "motivational" not punishment. Either way it was not good. I ended up pulling a muscle and going to sick call for it.

Then we got to actual school. We were set up in barracks of 4 females in each room. We had 2 bunk beds on each side. Clifford for some reason ended up in my room again. We had a love-hate thing, we just loved to get mad at each other. My actual bunk buddy was Amanda Zook. I always wonder what happened to her. She was a sweet, sweet girl. Very down to earth, peaceful, kind and very pretty.

I really liked it at AIT. I did not have all the pressure and stress of home. I did not have to worry about Robert all the time, about the bills or anything. All I had to do is go to school in the mornings, and come back and just do what Drill Sergeant says. That meant room inspections, ironing uniforms, studying if we had time and fireguard.

We had time off on the weekends after Saturday afternoon. I did not go anywhere, I tried once, but id did not go well. So I just traded fireguard time from females that had it on Sundays and wanted to go out. So I would take their place on Sundays instead of waking up in the middle of the night during the week.

All you had to do is clean the lobby area, and keep a log of who goes in and out. And, of course stay at that desk the whole time. So I used that time to write letters.

The first time I got a pass to be able to go out on the weekend, it was not an overnight pass. My buddy Zook asked if I would accompany her to the club down the road where many of the soldiers were going to. She could not go by herself.

It did not go well, I am not that young anymore. I loved dancing, but the guys all wanted to grab at the girls and rub on them. I did not like watching this, and my buddy was having guys giving her drinks, and after a while I had to take them away. The guys were trying to take advantage of her since she is so nice.

So we went home back to the barracks after a while. I did not go out again for the duration of AIT. Only to the PX (store)

During Basic and AIT, my squad leader kept me updated on the activities of our unit. He wrote to me the whole time I was in Basic and AIT. I looked forward to his letters, he made me feel important, even though I was so isolated and I sometimes doubted my self in my ability to get through this and become a good soldier.

By now he had me looking forward to going to Okinawa for Annual training. He made sure my name was on the list to go. I felt I had to make it through the training, I could not let him down.

They were very professional letters, business only. He started doing this to all the soldiers in his squad that went to basic training. He wanted to make sure we were motivated the whole time.

I distinctly remember he sent me a ribbon taped to a letter in basic. He said this was the ribbon I would earn when I finish my training. I taped it to my wall locker as a reminder of what my goal was. My goal was to come back to my unit, to make my squad leader look good by doing my job right. So every time I doubted myself, I would look at the ribbon.

When I was in AIT, I eagerly ran upstairs when we had mail call. I would look for his letters, and he used to send me the unit Newsletter.

So I kept track of everything that was going on at the unit through him. And the thought that I was important enough to be put on such a list was so exciting.

I felt so special, I was the only one in my class who got any kind of correspondence from their unit. Hooton was there, he was in the same unit, so I shared my Newsletters with him.

He was the only one besides my ex to write to me in basic. And my ex only wrote one line, yes one sentence in the letters he wrote me. Just telling me he and the dogs were OK

When I returned from training I did not like my life at home. I was getting nowhere, and getting tired. I tried to talk to my then husband, and we went to the psychiatrist to try to patch things up. It did not help, the psychiatrist said I need a life. We agreed to disagree and got a divorce soon after.

It's been a while since I got the divorce and moved to Moreno Valley.

I am now happily married and in 2004 I transferred to a new Army unit. I was trained as Military Police Investigator and as you already saw, I was deployed to Iraq.

It is now 2007, we have been home for a few months, and I just today turned in my background packet for Sheriff's Service Officer here in town. We are praying this will go through.

Did you win any medals or citations? What for? Where do you keep that medal now - is it prominently displayed in your house, or is it stashed away in a drawer?

I got a couple from Iraq. I'm not sure what they are, everybody in my unit got the same thing. I am really not interested in medals. They are in my underwear drawer.

What entertainers did you see perform? Which of your buddies did you sit with when you saw the program? What songs do you remember hearing during the war? Which song most says "war years" to you?

I only saw one function. I really was not into these because I rather get some sleep before my next shift. But I could not miss Toby Keith, he was awesome. He volunteered to come, and he was very cool. I had to ask a tall soldier to take a picture, there was such a big crowd and I am short.

The songs I remember were some that I listened to on the radio. I think some of it was Green Day. I loved Anna Nalik, (2am). I also had my iPod hooked to an FM transmitter so I could listen to it while on patrol.

I did like listening to Weird Al on Sundays when I had a radio.

What did your uniform look like? Did wearing it change your attitude?

I was happy with the green camouflage uniforms. When we got deployed we got desert camis. I love them, they are so comfortable and look so good. Unfortunately we also were issued the new digital pattern ones. I hate those, they are hot and do not let your skin breathe. The shape of them makes me look like a little Japanese gold fish, the chubby one. It is just not shaped for women, makes us look like little tents.

But then again I am not there to look pretty. This new uniforms make me itch, and the Velcro on the sleeves stopped working. I like Velcro, just not on uniforms. Sometimes you can get stuck to other soldiers, literally. If you get too close, you will stick; it is funny I have to admit. I also have found other soldiers' patches that came off, they peel off easily.

My boots are just great though, they are just as comfortable as my sneakers, I love them.

What supplies and weaponry were you issued? How long did it take you to learn to use your weapon? What was the situation on the practice range? Were you a pretty good shot?

The first weapon I had was an M-16. I qualified and did well, but not excellent.
After a while I volunteered to carry an M-60. I took a class and qualified. It was heavy but it was so fun to fire it.
I had to give it up when I volunteered to be a team leader.

Later on I asked for a S.A.W. I had it for a while, then my supply sergeant took it away. He said females have no business carrying a S.A.W. I tried to complain, but no one had time for me.

When I cross trained to MP I qualified with a 9mm. Then at my unit, I was assigned an M-11, 9mm because I am MPI. During our deployment to Iraq, I was also assigned an M-4 which never worked anyway. I asked for it to be sent to get fixed, and it never got fixed.

Was military food as bad as it's rumored to be, or was it okay? What were some of your typical meals?

While on deployment we were fed too well. We had huge Dinning Facilities and plenty of food of all kinds.
The TCN (Third country nationals) were so good to us. They treated us like royalty. They kept trying to feed us well. One of them would always tell me I needed to eat more. I miss them, I never had employees anywhere treat people so nice.

What were your duties and assignments, in camp and on the field?

When deployed, I was assigned to a Military Police Company that conducted Law and Order operations.

We worked like a regular police station back here in the United States, except this was a military camp in Iraq.

We did all the normal stuff, even traffic tickets. We got all kinds of calls from shoplifting to traffic accidents.

Who were your best buddies? Are you still in touch with any of them?

I did not have any close buddies while deployed. Bur I have good friends from my old unit.

While deployed, SPC Dile was very good about teaching me what I needed to learn to take the front desk as Admin. He was fun, sweet and very cool. Some of the guys were not kind to him, they poked fun at him about his weight and other things.
Some of the other sergeants were cool too, unfortunately I did not get to work with some of them.

AT my old unit I had several close friends. Esther, Tammy, Brooks (both) Eoll, Cook, Sholty and Grey.

Everyone else in my old pipeline platoon, was not so close, but they became friends during the time there. I met several of them again on the way to Iraq. It was so good to see them.

Who did you write letters to? Who did you get letters from? What time did the mail come every day? What was that like?

I only got one letter from our friend Corky. All others were e-mails. I e-mailed with Esther, Sara, mom and dad, Brooks, and many others.

I also got mail from Children Inc. about a sponsored child. They kept sending me mail, it was nice.

I kept ordering stuff through internet. I got nice bath gels and lotions, hair color and more nice smelling stuff.

My friend Larry wrote too, how can I forget? He also sent me some stuff for my room. His friend Nikki sent me some string lights for my room, and he sent me some nice sheets and a wall mural. Just things for comfort. It's nice to know your friends think of you.

We had lockers full of care packages from soldiers' families, blue star moms and other organizations. We sorted out the extras and put them in two full size wall lockers. We had all kinds of stuff, from toothpaste, dental floss, and personal hygiene to granola bars and Gatorade powder, cocoa powder and even marshmallows.

When did you first see death? Did you lose any of your good friends?

I received a call for a traffic accident. I was told it was lights and sirens, so I hurried there. I could not find the accident, I kept circling the spot, and I found the medics, who were following me because they were also looking for it.

I finally saw it. It was in the back loading dock of a dinning facility. A big rig was backed up to the loading dock, and up on the loading dock was one of our soldiers trying to help the victim.

The medics ran up there as I directed them. Our soldier and the medics tried CPR and I could see the blood seeping out of this man. It seemed to be everywhere, just as if he was melting or something. As they did CPR you could see spurts of blood. I went up onto the dock and started to look for witnesses. I found one, but he did not speak English. Some people thought he had something to do with this.

I took this witness to another room and helped him calm down; he had been standing there watching this other man die. I found out it was all just an accident. The man was crushed by his own truck as it rolled back onto him. The witness had jumped into the truck and moved it off the crushed man.

It seems the driver forgot to pull the hand break before getting between the truck and the dock to check if the doors opened correctly.

So as I see it, it was not one of our soldiers or anyone shot in battle, but I still can't forget.

Where did you go for rest and relaxation? Was it a debauched time, or was it fairly good, clean fun? What did you see on one of these trips that you had never seen before?

After my shift, I just wanted to go back to my room and sleep.

For "leave", my husband and I came back to visit his family. I bought baseball tickets through the internet, so we went to a ball game with our friends Norm and Diana.
We went to the Wild animal Park for relaxation. Then we spent a couple of days at a casino for fun.
We had a lot of fun, and we even got to be at Church for Easter.

After Church, we went to mom and dad's house. Sara came by, and I think Ted and his family. Esther was able to come with her children. The I got interesting and invited Diana, who brought Sharon and Alisa with Caleb. We had a great time. I have not had so many friends and family together at one time.

What route did you take in your homecoming? Who was waiting to meet you?

We flew out of Iraq in a c-17. The pilot must have thought it funny and exaggerated the combat take off and landing. We went up, up, up, and then doooown. On the ups, you felt like you were squished down into your seat, and on the downs, you felt like floating. I am sure that if we didn't have our seat belts on we would have floated. Someone up front let go of a water bottle and it floated. I was scared at first, then it became fun.

We landed in Maine at first, it was a great feeling to be back in the US. We were welcomed by Veterans at the airport and volunteers, there were children in that line shaking our hands. It was very touching.

In the airport, we went outside for a cigarette, and I found grass, green grass. A female sergeant I did not know and I laid on the grass and just touched it and laid in it until someone said "stop that, come out of the grass". The air smelled so good, fresh and clean.

When we landed in Phoenix, the pilot asked people to let us soldiers of first, they all clapped and most of our soldiers got off the plane. We did not have family waiting for us, so we waited. Two of our soldiers have bought flowers for their wives, and had been carrying them since Maine. They were so sweet, so excited.

When we got off, we found a crowd and TV cameras. I was surprised. Then I saw officers in uniform shaking our hands. I tried to find the rank, ad saw 2 stars when I felt a coin being pressed into my hand. There were so many people and they were all saying thanks to us. It was kind of weird, and I felt a little uncomfortable. I felt like I did not deserve all this. All I did was go there and do my job. We were always inside the camp, we were never on the outside.

Was there a love waiting for you when you came back home, or were you unattached? Did the war make you ready to settle down, or did you come home in a more crazy, celebratory mood? Did you have dark days?

I was blessed to have my husband by my side as we came home. He was always there, and we came into that crowded airport together.

How difficult was the transition from the military back to civilian life?

A little hard. I still can't sleep right, and I keep waking up at midnight.

I can't figure out my place, and looking for work is exhausting.
I don't feel like drinking that much while out anymore, and I am easily irritated and always anxious.

It used to be worse, I kept waking up startled, I am doing this less now.

The doctor wanted to medicate me, but I don't want to be a zombie. I don't want to be numb, I don't need to be sedated to be happy.

Are you a member of a veterans' organization? Are you active in it? What does it add to your life?

I am member at The American Legion, I like it there. We are all like a big family. I used to be the Chaplain before I got deployed. We lost two dear friends while we were deployed. Darby, one of my husband's best friends was the Post Commander, when he got very sick and died.

Linda was one of our bartenders and a good friend, she suddenly had a heart attack on New Year's Day. She was still young.

We have many very good friends there, too many to name them all.

My husband signed me up at the VFW. We go there once in a while but not much.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your military career? Any advice you would like to give to someone considering a career in the military?

My advise is "Do it".
What better feeling than doing something good for your Country?
Besides the obvious, here are some good things you will find that you learn so much, and have so many experiences you won't find anywhere else.
You meet many people, some of which become like family.


What was your first real job? Did you start out in an after-school job that had any relation to what you ended up doing?

I got caught stealing candy when I was about 9. My mom asked why I did it, I told her I hated asking her for money. She explained that it was the wrong thing to do, so I asked if I could make my own money and she said yes.

I found an advertisement for a company that said I could sell greeting cards.

I went door to door around the neighborhood and I managed to sell boxes of greeting cards. I started making a little money.

After this my mom took me to the bank and I opened my first bank account. I had a whole eleven dollars saved up.
I also earned points that I used to get my first camera. I started taking pictures, and I got hooked.

On first regular job, I was a kindergarten teacher. I was sixteen, and had twelve 2 and 3 year olds.

What career would you have chosen If you didn't have to think about money or education (just assuming both were taken care of)?

The same career I am aiming for now; investigations.

Did you feel that you had a career, or just a job?

I had a lot of meantime jobs. Jobs where I said, I'll do this in the meantime, while I keep reaching for my goal.

At first I was just wanting to return to the United States. When I was 17 I worked for a lady who became a good friend. She had a Bed and Breakfast and a business that helped Americans relocate in Mexico, or were on vacation. We helped then find their way around. We found them doctors, lawyers, mechanics, etc. that spoke English. I had a lot of fun there, and it was hard to leave. When I did, it was not easy, But I made it back to San Diego when I was 19.

First I had to get my citizenship squared away, and then start looking for a job. I had planned to go to school, but I could not get around to it right away, it took a lot.

My first job in San Diego was at a groomer's. I used to wash and dry-fluff dogs. I worked there for about a month. The owner of the place was always stressing out and yelling at her employees. The animals felt the stress and tension in that place, I felt bad for them.

After this I worked in the mall, first Japanese food in the food court, then Pizza.

At least there, even thought I was a cashier, I got to learn to make pizza, that was fun. I also delivered pizzas later on.

I had many of these meantime jobs trying to get ahead, but felt trapped. I saw that I needed to go to school, but I had no time for it and I could not afford it.

When my ex husband and I ended up in Texas with his mom, I tried working for her again. It did not last long, my ex husband had a crisis and ended up in the mental hospital again. He had destroyed the walls in the house his mom let us live in. She had to evict us, she was afraid of the violent outbursts my ex had.

I was desperate to find a job and had no schooling. Someone told me that there was a bar at the end of town where there are girls walking around with money all around their panties. I laughed because I thought he was kidding, but he was serious. He said they wore bikini like outfits and made lots of money.

I went to the edge of town and found the place. It was a very nice place, clean and shiny. Inside where it was dark, the girls were in fact walking around with money in what clothes they were wearing.

I asked to speak to the manager and asked how all this worked. He showed me the girls on the stage, they looked so beautiful. Then another girl who was doing a dance for a guy, she was just standing in front of him swaying side to side and looking so pretty, she was wearing something resembling a bikini.

I asked what the requirements were. This is the first time in which I was just asked to take off my shirt and my bra in the dressing room. Girls were all over the place, and they were so nice. I took my clothes off, and I was told I could start work the next day. I could not believe it. A girl took me to the boutique in the club and helped me pick out an outfit, I was to buy it on credit. I could pay it off after my first night.

ON my first night I was so nervous. I always loved music and dancing, but I had only danced at home when I was by myself. I know I did not know how to dance, but the guys did not seem to care. I danced to Madonna, and probably looked ridiculous.

I was afraid I was not going to be able to make the money back for the outfit I bought. When I counted my money at the end of the night, I felt really bad and little scared. I had close to $400 dollars, so I counted again. I thought I must have taken too much money by mistake. I paid my fees and paid my outfit.

The next night I went to work I started giving people their money back. A guy gave me a 20, and I called him back and asked if he knew it wasn't a dollar bill. He said he knew, and he wanted me to have it. I talked to the girls and they said "They are called tips, if you don't take it, the next girl will. So take it."

That second night I was able to pay our rent, I was so relieved. My ex husband kept going in and out of the hospital and could not work.

The club had a "no touch" rule, which is the only reason why I was OK with it. Usually the guys were cool about it, and if they weren't our bouncer would take care of it.

I did not like to get too close to people on dances, so I did not make money like the other girls did.

I kept encountering guys that tried to grab at you and I kept trying to avoid that. One day one of them tried to touch me, so I pushed him off gently and told him to not try that again. He tried again and reached, so I reached out too, I slapped him so hard he fell on his behind.

The manager had told me that if anyone does anything that I don't like, I can raise my hand and the bouncer will make him leave. It was good to know they would back the girls up. But one day a guy touched a girl while she was dancing for his friend, she turned around and asked him to stop. (I was right next to them on a small stage.) As soon as she turned around and continued, he slapped her behind pretty hard. She turned around and slapped him. He got mad and came at her, so the bouncer kicked him out. About 10 minutes later he came back inside with the police, who arrester the girl for assault and battery. So they put a stop to us defending ourselves.

Well, I stayed there, and I got my GED. Then I took my college entrance exam and started with two classes. I really enjoyed them, and I wanted to continue. It was kind of hard because my classes were in the morning, which was the middle of my night. I had to come home and sleep for a few hours, wake up and go to class, then return and sleep again. It was hard, but I hung in there.

When we returned to San Diego I needed a job right away because we were flat broke. Except for the hundred dollar bill I was hanging onto for dear life. I knew that once in San Diego I could get a license and continue dancing. It was easy, and fast to find.

As soon as we got there I took a bus (car broke down to top it off)to a club and applied. They directed me to the police department where I got my license and was able to start work.

I did not make anything worth it, but I kept trying. I signed up for school after I had settled in a different club than where I started. This club was club was cleaner than the others, so I was comfortable there. I did not make a whole lot of money because I refused to break or bend the rules. I did not have a problem dancing, but I refused to touch customers or let them touch me, which was prohibited in the first place. I never promised anything, and never took advantage of anyone.

Most of my customers would come in and would want to talk. SO they gave me money and I stood in front of them and just swayed to the music while they told me how their day was. One of them actually asked me for advice on what to cook for Thanksgiving, another told me how he suffered when he had to fire employees.

I met some good people there, and when I was got hurt and was going through my divorce, a customer gave me boxes of food to help me out. You see, my husband had left, and I was alone.

Here is the famous story of the time I ran over myself while driving my own car.

My car had broken down, so two guys that stopped by to help and I, tried to push the car out of the way of traffic. It was a little uphill towards the end of where we were going. My left leg went into a drain grate that had a hole in it. My leg was caught and the guys let go of the car, so it rolled back on me. When they realized that, they got behind the car again so I could get out of the hole. My leg and my arm were hurt pretty badly, I was all kind of neon colors and swollen. I had no way of making money all messed up like that, so I called the customers that had offered help.

One of which gave me food to last me a week or two and others who gave me a little money to help out. I went to work a couple of days later. I had to cover up with tall boots and sleeves. I smelled of Tiger Balm and all but nobody complained. I only had about 2 more weeks before I quit and moved away. This is the time when I quit for good and gave away all my stuff. I just had to make it to the end of my last semester.

When I was going to school I was able to work and take a few courses. This way I was able to make enough money to pay for my ex's medications and doctor visits, which were not cheap.

I also had our doggies to take care of and a very stubborn cat. I was able to feed us all and pay our bills.

In school I was taking courses in Criminal Justice, and later on changed my major to administration of Justice. I enjoyed all my classes and had very good grades. I was amazed because after my family had made me think I was dumb and I was never going to amount to anything. Now I knew they were wrong.

I still had a problem with my attention span and all, but I was able to deal with it. Sometimes I could not put one sentence together, and other times I could write a whole paper in one sitting and not in much time.

So I planned, I would ask my teachers for assignments in advance and most of them were in our curriculum anyway. I would sometimes write papers in advance when I was feeling up and then I could afford to fall behind when I was down. I did just fine this way.

I did most if not all of my homework while I was at work when I was not busy, and still made enough to kind of scrape by.

I started applying for the job that would get me closer to investigations. I tested for several police stations. While I was in that process, I found the Army recruiter. I somehow saw him as my ticket out of the clubs.

The girls and I would talk while we were getting ready. We would push each other to improve ourselves. We agreed that nobody knows a retired exotic dancer. Some of them were happy there, and were saving up for buying a home others were creating stock portfolios. We all were looking ahead.

So when I joined the Army I was hoping to stop dancing and be able to use the skills the Army would give me so I could get the job I wanted.

Since then I have had more meantime jobs. This time because my Army unit kept putting us on alert. I kept thinking we were going to deploy. Now I finally was deployed and came back, so I am one step closer to my goal.

In 2005 I received my AA degree. Apparently I graduated in 2001 and did not know it.

My life turned all the way around (again) and now I am happy. Still reaching for that goal.

I was afraid to write about this because people are quick to judge others, but it was part of my life. This all lead me to where I am today. At least it had a happy ending. I am so glad my mom taught me right and I did not do anything illegal, that kept me safe.

Romance and Relationships

Do you remember your first kiss?

I remember my first real kiss. My husband D. has a way of kissing that gives you butterflies in your stomach.

What kind of dating did you do in high school? What is your favorite kind of date - even now?

I love to soak together in the bathtub. I have small candles for light and we have wine and bits of cheese while we have a nice conversations. Usually they are about nothing important, and I'm not sure I remember what about, but we have a great time.

I have discovered that the Native American music I have is very nice for background, very soothing. I don't like silence,sometimes it's disturbing.

There have been times when our little cats will come in and say hi. They are so curious, they peek over the edge, and one time Ruth got up on the edge and walked back and forth on it. We got nervous, if he fell in the water, we would be in pain; So now we don't let them in.

Were you always attracted to the same type of person? Did you like the strong, silent type, the bouncy blonde?

I have not been attracted to other people, only once have I looked at someone else, but he was not available, maybe that's what I liked. So I just looked.

Besides that, I was attracted to my husband because of his sense of humor. He liked a lot of the same things I did, and wanted the same things out of life.

I was attracted by his playfulness and his way of making me feel young again. I was be able to forget all things stressful and enjoy my time with him. Still do sometimes.

Of course his physical appearance was part of it too.

Was there anything unusual in your wedding vows? Were your knees knocking? Who performed the ceremony?

We got married at the wedding chapel here in town, and had the reception at the American Legion Post 574.

I was looking for the perfect dress. I had one in mind but could not find one. I also figured that it was ridiculous to spend as much on a dress that you wear for an hour as it takes to feed a family for a month. I bought a second hand dress I liked. I cut into it and made it the way I wanted it. Yes, by hand! I opened the front top part into a "V" and put a lace background there and laced up the front. Then I sewed pearl beads all over the flower pattern of the lace and I fixed the sleeves. It took a long time to sew the beads and all, but I liked it that way.

Our friends were at the chapel that New Year's Eve. There was still light outside. I got dressed and was trying to put my hair together when my friend Liedra came in and helped me, so did Cathy and later Diana. Diana lent me her veil, but we could not get it to cooperate. I was very nervous. I was so afraid I would trip on the dress and fall in front of everyone.

I asked Larry to walk me down the isle because he was the closest thing I've had to a father. He kept telling me to relax the whole time we walked, he said he would not let me fall, not to worry.

I saw that my sweetie's family was there, and I got more nervous; I don't know why.

When I got to the front and I saw him, I felt a little more at ease. I picked the music, a song from Shania Twain. When they played it, I almost cried.

When we said our vows, everybody clearly heard my new mother in law's voice, "it's about time!". She had this huge smile on her.

Jenny was my bridesmaid, and no I had no idea what to do about that.

Smokey was the best man. Unfortunately at this time we had no idea what he was up to.

At the reception, I had made the cake, which looked really funny. I was hoping people would have enough to drink and not notice.
I made some blue punch and my new mother in law brought food. My husband bought a keg, it was at the bar. Larry brought Cold Ducks, they looked so pretty on the tables. My husband also bought drinks and passed out tickets people could take to the bar.

Ted, my new brother in law did karaoke for us, and we had a lot of fun. Eggroll was there, Esther, Liedra, Cathy, a lot of our friends and even mom and dad were there.

There was a New Year's Eve party at the front of the Legion and our party in the Hall. We came back home after the place closed down, and were met by our Kahless. There was mud on the ground, it must've rained, I was grateful that I changed before coming home. We lived only a few blocks away, that was so nice.

The next morning, bright and early someone was at our gate knocking. It was one of the soldiers from our unit, Martinez. He was very excited and had a gift for us. I asked what he was doing here, he said he was here for the wedding. I told him it was last night, he got the date wrong. We laughed a lot, and he spent the day with us watching TV and just existing until we went to clean up our mess at the Legion.

What do/did you like best about your mate? (A physical attribute, his/her being, his/her laughter, his/her smile, his/her mind.) What term of endearment do/did you call your mate?

Everything!! I don't know where to start. He has the most wonderful smile. I love the way he is so playful sometimes and how he's so loving. I could go on and on on a long list of things I love about him, but this is what I like the most about him.

What were the hardest times of your relationship? Was there ever a time that you thought it might really be over?

Not really, I was afraid to get deployed separately. I thought if I got shipped out, and then he would, then by the time I would be back, he would be gone, and so on. I was so afraid to be separated from him like that.

Who were the biggest crushes in your life? Name your other heartthrobs through the years.

None really.

I had a type of guy in mind when I was a teenager. I wanted somebody that would be a good friend and had similar values. A guy that looked good but did not act like he knew it. Somebody who was down to earth. A guy who could be playfull, loving, kind. A guy that would be able to be serious and strong at times, someone I could count on.

I never expected to find that guy. I found him, or he found me a few years ago, we got married, and I'm still in love with him.

What song do you consider the most romantic?

I hate romantic songs, books or movies.

The song that most resembles that would be Rivendelle (Rush). It talks about a beautiful place, I can see myself there with my husband.

Green grass, wild flowers, fluffy clouds, singing water running down the stream; Peace.

Did you date much before your chose a partner?

No I never dated before I dated my husband, and I am not sure I would call it dating anyways.

We just watched movies together or went to the park or the beach, stuff like that. We really enjoyed talking and spending time together.

I didn't even date my ex.

Everybody has bad habits -- what drives you craziest about your mate?

I don't know that he has any bad habits, maybe smoking too much. He doesn't do that too often.

Oh, and leaving chips bags open; they go stale by morning sometimes.

One thing that bugs me is that when he finds things cluttering the living room or his office, he'll just throw them into a spare room. They all pile up there and then you can't make sense of it. When I went to an Army school, I came back and the house was all clean and pretty; I was impressed. After a week or so, I was looking for my stuff and could not find it. I found my stuff thrown into a spare room, all just in a pile.

He drives me crazy in many good ways. The things that bug me the most is when he sleeps, and when he's in uniform. He looks so good, and I can't go and put my arms around him.

If you had to do it all over again, what qualities would you choose in a mate now?

The same ones he has now. He has them all, I couldn't have dreamt up a better guy.

Have you gone ahead and chosen a mate just because they loved you first?

No, I fell in love.

Is there a fragrance/perfume/cologne that always brings to mind someone special (or not so special) when you smell it?

I am obsessed with smells. I keep some lotion bottles or perfume bottles that are almost empty. Later on when I open them and smell them, they bring back a snapshot in time reminding you of that time and place in which I used it.

My husband only uses Irish Spring, so I know that if smell it, it will remind me of him.

I also have seen perfumes and all in the stores. I remember what my grandma wore, and if I smell it, I will remember her. Same for the ones my mom used to wear, and I even found the kind of lotion I used to wear when I was 15. I love smelling things!!!

Are you a romantic? In words or deeds?

No, I even hate the word. I would not consider myself that.

When you are not in a relationship, are you happy to be alone?

The only time I have been alone in my adult life was right when I got divorced. It felt terrible. I was very unhappy. I cannot deal with lonelyness.

In your years of being together what have you learned about your mate that you didn't know when you met?

I keep learning more and more about him as life goes on. When I was surprised (pleasantly) about one of those times, his mom said that even after all these years, she still discovers new things about her husband. We concluded they are full of surprises.

Describe your search for love.

I did not search, it found me.


What is your favorite candy bar? Where do you usually buy it? Grocery? Drug store? Gas station? Airport?

I love all kinds of candy. When I was a child, I was not allowed candy whenever I wanted it. It was a special treat once in a while.

I think dark chocolate would be my favorite now. But I love them all!

My husband sometimes surprises me with candy, I get M&Ms from him and he also gets Hersheys minis or kisses for us to share. But he has been known to give me candy in my hand when he thinks I'm feeling low.

We also love gummies of different kinds. They are constantly coming out with new ones. I say "we", because we share many things, and candy is one of them, we have similar tastes.

I like cherry sours, Big Hunks, licorice, (black) candied ginger, oh! don't forget Pop Rocks!! I find those once in a while. Do the marshmallows in Lucky Charms count? I love all marshmallows.

I love discussing candy, and I have had thoughts about it lately. I realized that what we learn when we are young stays with us forever.

When I was a child, and something bad happened, like I get hurt or scared, my mom or Lore (my nanny) would give me a spoon full of sugar.

Now when I get upset, scared or stressed, I reach for candy. I see that is not normal, people usually have water when they get scared, or upset. I just lately realized this connection and where I get this habit from, and found it most amusing.

What is your favorite birthday cake? Do you buy it in a store or does some you love bake it? What ice cream do you like? Do you get it at an ice cream parlor or in the freezer section of a store?

I love all cake! I have not had the luxury of having someone bake one for me.

My husband D. got me a huge Birthday cake for my birthday a few years ago, it was so cool!

It was decorated so pretty, and he put an Army coin on it for me. I took a picture of it. It was his dad's Birthday also, so I had the right side, and dad had the left side. His side was Air Force and mine was Army.

That was the best Birthday cake ever.

What's your favorite dessert? Can you prepare it yourself?

I'd have to say cake and icecream.

Where is your favorite beach? How far did you have to drive or bicycle to get there?

I love all the beaches I've been too, the ocean is always beautiful.

The beach near where I used to live is great to look at and walk on the sand, but the water is so cold, and mostly contaminated. That would be the beach in San Diego "La Jolla Shores".

The beaches in Mexico are so warm and nice, the water is so clear and the sand white. There are tropical fish swimming even in the shallow areas, they will swim around you and tickle.

When I was about 11, my cousin Chelo took me to one called "Barra de Navidad". The shores have jungle covering them; bright emerald green colors polka-dotted with colorful flowers.

There were parrots and Macaws flying around, you could hear the excitement in the trees; they were loud.

I went into the water, and it was up to my knees when I felt a tickle. I screamed and ran out to the shore, to the safety of dry land. My cousin asked what was wrong, I said "there are animals in the water!" She laughed, I guess she could not help it. She explained that of course there were; they were fish, and they live there.

I felt a little stupid. I explained that in San Diego, where I grew up, there were no little fish around your legs in the water. The water is too cold for them, I did not realize they could swim into the shallow areas where people play.

After that, I borrowed a visor, so I could look underwater at the colorful fish, the were so beautiful. There were so many of them when I went to an area where there were no people, at the end of the beach strip.

I also loved the beaches of Okinawa, the sand is also very white, and there were places with bright green jungles again at the shores. The water was so blue! The only problem with it was that there were so many tiny coral pieces in the sand, that if you take your shoes off, you get cut. I will never forget how beautiful those beaches were.

What is your favorite cartoon character or comic strip? Which comics do you remember reading when you were growing up?

I used to love Mickey Mouse, and I watched the Mickey Mouse club. I also liked the Pink Panther, and Looney Toons, the original ones.

When I was a teenager, I loved to go to a Pizza place that had Mickey Mouse in Black and white, the old cartoons.
I did not get to go too much, I just made it there by tagging along with my cousins about one a year.

Also as a teenager, when I went to visit my godmother in the summers, I got to watch "Candy" and "Heidi", I think they were japaneese cartoons, they were like a soap opera because they continued one story. My cousins liked Speed Racer, we used to fight over the channel.

I know they are not cartoons, but I also enjoyed the Little Rascals and Shirley Temple.

What is your favorite perfume or cologne? What fragrance gives you the nicest childhood memories and which one gives you the best adult memories?

I'm too cheap to buy actual perfume. I like body sprays and lotions, I love fruit smells and some sweet flower smells.

I have very pleasant memories from the smell of jazmin and gardenias. My grandmother used to have them in her small yard. I also love the smell of orange blossoms, it is so fresh.

I found Gardenia scented lotion and shower gel at Bath and Body works, I am using it every day.

I also found an orange blossom body spray at a store in El Paso when we went on leave before being deployed. It reminds me of the days Dwight and I spent away from everyone, at a little hotel in El Paso. It was so pleasant there, and so peaceful.

I took long showers with a green tea body scrub that smelled so fresh, and used the orange blossom body spray.

You see, we had been training in Dona Ana for a few weeks, and every day, we were dirty and sweaty. It was so good to smell fresh and clean. So good to not have to wear clothes, (I love to lounge around in just a T-shirt) and just strech out on the bed and watch TV or play games on the computer.

The smell of honesuckle used to float into my bedroom window when I was a child, it was so fresh and comforting on a spring morning, I have not found only one kind of spray that smelled of honesuckle and peaches by Victoria's Secret, but they discontinued it. I kept the almost empty bottle for my "smell collection".(see below)

Also, I think it's Liz Claiborne that has a green tea spray, somebody (Dave with the glasses, the accountant. He brought gifts for all us girls at work, N.L.) gave me a tiny bottle for Christmas in 1999. I still have it, it's in storage; I used it once in a while, I'm afraid to finish it. Sometimes I just like to sniff the bottles.

I used to have a perfume bottle collection in the bathroom, on shelves. (tiny ones, samples and almost empties) I had it right in front of the toilet, this way, you can sit there and sniff each bottle. Gives you some "potty time" entretainment.

The actual perfume I have, is one that Dwight gave me for Christmas, he got me Vanilla Fields. I love it in the winter, it has a warm feeling to it.

And I just got some CK One summer 2 months ago. I saw it in a magazine, and got it so I could smell pretty when I was on leave. It smells sort of fancy, I feel high maintenance-girl-like. Very cool. Since I already came back from leave, and I still have it, I wear it on and off.

Name your favorite books.

I don't have one favorite book.
I love reading Anne Rice and John Saul. But I have a very short attention span, I don't read very well.

I read a book that really made an impression on me when I was about 15, actually two.

One was "The Greatest Salesman in the World", and the other was "Corazon, diario de un Nino". Which means "Heart, diary of a child".

The second book left some important lessons in life in me, I carry them with me even though I don't remember what it was exactly I read; but I know that it taught me how to be humble, how to love others and forgive. How to share and help others. Compassion, understanding, patience and faith.

I never have been able to find this book again. I don't know where it came from or where it went after I read it. I have been looking for one ever since. The story was abut a boy growing up in Europe I believe, maybe Italy.

That book is worth it's weight in gold, especially if you get a child to read it. It will follow them forever.

What's your favorite beverage?

Coffee is always good. I especially like to put hot cocoa powder, "Swiss Miss", caramel flavored hot cocoa in my coffee. That's a special treat.

I am trying to drink less soda, but I like sodas, just without sugar. Since I was little, I did not care much for sugary drinks,I liked TAB believe it or not. My mom never let me drink sodas with a meal, it was always water, plain water. Sodas were a treat on the weekends sometimes.

I am not going to bring up the alcoholic drinks too much, there are so many great drinks. I just lost the urge to drink alcohol in large quantities. I don't see the purpose for that. Now I just want a couple so I can relax a bit.

I loved to drink some wine with Dwight when we were home. We would reach a point that Anne Rice calls "The golden moment". The moments when you can have some very interesting conversations for hours that seem minutes.

I cherish those moments with Dwight, we had some long conversations; all of a sudden realize it's almost morning, and we are still in the living room talking.

There was one Saturday evening we spent drinking a glass of wine, and talking, we had Cops on TV in the background when we started. When we looked at the time, it was almost sunrise, we pointed at the large, chubby bottle of red wine on the coffee table; It was suspiciously empty. We were wondering who drank the whole thing while we were talking. We had a good laugh!


What's the best snack? What's the best dinner? What do you usually have for lunch?

Not sure about a snack, I'll eat just about anything. Sometimes I like corn chips and salsa, and other times I prefer veggies and dip. The best dip I've tasted was in Missouri, they had horseradish in dip at the commissary. Cheese dip is my preference now.

The best dinner is the one my husband would cook, I prefer his cooking to mine. He makes the best chilli I've tasted, and spaghetti. I also love the "carne asada" and burgers me makes on the grill when we barbecue.

For lunch, well, lately here at the chow hall I like to have the curry vegetables with rice, especially when they are spicy. And cake for dessert.

I have times when I go through phases, I eat junk food for a while, then I get tired of it and eat healthy.

I don't miss meat, I usually try to avoid it, it makes me feel bad to think a very cool looking animal died unnecessarily for us to eat it. But my husband's cooking destroyed my willpower, and I enjoy what he cooks so much, I cannot pass it up. I know we won't die without meat, because I didn't eat meat for a few years while I was going to college. I was O.K., even a little overweight.

Describe some of the picnics you've been on. Family? Romantic? Do you eat seafood? Have you ever eaten it at the shore?

First of all, I don't like eating at the beach; you end up with sand in your food. I love family gatherings at my husband's mom and dad's house. We have good food, and great company. It is so refreshing to watch the children play, and the best thing is everybody gets along and everybody enjoys themselves, you can hear the laughs intermingled with conversation. We usually pitch in and help set up munchies on the table. Dinner is usually informal, we take our plate, serve our own food, and relocate to a good spot (usually outside).

Moments From Your Adult Life

Did you and your mate often go dancing? Where? What music did you dance to? Did you and your mate have "our song"? Which dances were popular?

Not on purpose. We go to the American Legion parties, and since my husband does not dance, I just borrow a partner there, we are all like family. My favorite dance partner is Brian. He is a very nice guy, and his wife is so sweet. I like to borrow him because he dances really fast and gives me a good workout that way. Our friend Darby was also good at fast songs.

When you and your friends got together, what did you do? Whose home did you go to most often? Did your children become friends with your friends' children? How did you meet the friends you are most comfortable with now?

I did not have many friends until my divorce. Now that I am more free to be myself, I have many friends.

I have several friends I met in the Army, I try to keep in touch with them, but I don't see them often. We do talk on the phone sometimes, or write. We mostly e-mail each other, since one of them is in Korea and another is in Utah.

Esther is the one who lives the closest, she visits sometimes. She has 4 wonderful children who are growing too quickly. I met her in 1999 at the 329th, and we've friends ever since. Lately we e-mail often, we started doing this when I was in Iraq. She kept track of us the whole time and prayed for us. She has had a hard life, but she has been very strong and has been able to raise her children right in spite of it all.

The friend I have had the longest was my boss when I was 17. We had a lot of fun together, she is in Texas, so we e-mail each other.

The most interesting friend I have is Larry, he is like a dad to me. I met him 10 years ago. We don't see each other as often as we would like to, because he lives 2 hours away from my home. We write, and keep in touch constantly. Sometimes Larry, my husband and I go out to lunch together when Larry comes to visit.

Larry is a Vietnam vet, he was in the Navy at that time. He has told me so many stories about his life. I have to nag him first, he doesn't like to talk about the war.

He is a very kind person, but he insists he is not the marrying type, so he lives by himself. I think he deserves a nice wife, I hate to think of him living alone. But he has friends, and he says he is happy this way.

I gave him one of my cats, this particular cat does not do anything, she thinks she is part of the furniture. But with Larry, she is more active, and apparently more loving. I guess they are good company for each other.

I have friends at the American Legion, most of us that visit often are like family. We help each other out and we are there for support, company and fun of course.

We sometimes play darts or pool. During the summer I have been to Diana's house to hang out at the pool, chit chat and get some sun. We also went out with Diana and Norm to a ball game and to Sea world. Diana also likes to Karaoke when Brian does it at the Legion or VFW.

Our friend Judy has helped me out since we got back from Iraq. She taught me how to make gift baskets for sale so I can make a little extra money while I find a job. I visit her sometimes, and sometimes I visit her pets. Her son is very cool too.

I have a friend I met when I was 2. She helped my mom around the house and took care of me while my mom was at work. She lived with us until I was 9. When I came back to the U.S. I looked for her. I was able to find her and we were happy to see each other again. She is like my big sister, now she has grown children of her own.

What kind of movies do you find yourself drawn to....adventure, epic, violent, comedy? Do you go to movies now as much as you used to? Why or why not?

I love horror movies! The excitement is what gets you going. I think the scariest ones were, "The sixth sense" (for reasons I will discuss in another chapter), and the best movie was "The Shinning" with Jack Nicholson.

I also enjoy comedies, I prefer movies with Steve Martin, or Adam Sandler. I have watched most of them. I also like Forrest Gump a lot, it makes you think about life, but it makes you laugh too.

There are movies that are good, but serious, "Sisterhood of the Traveling pants" is like a carnival ride,it is a great movie.

Dwight and I used to go to the movies once in a while when we were home. After a while, there wasn't anything good to go watch, but I love the feeling of a movie theater. There's nothing like the feeling of being there, the popcorn and all that unhealthy candy while you watch!

The first movie we went to together Dwight and I, was "Bedazzled". It was hilarious, we had a lot of fun. I still want to get it on video.

At home, I have movies I watch over and over, some of these are: "used cars", American Pie", "Super Troopers", and lately, "The Anchorman". These are some of my favorite comedies.

I also like a few musicals: "Cabaret", "Gigi", and of course, "The Sound of Music".

I know it was coincidence, but when I went to watch "Interview with the Vampire" I felt the cool breeze at the beginning, I felt like I was there.

The movie that you definitely must watch is "The Passion". No it was not fun, and it makes you feel terrible, but it's something everyone should see. It will make you feel so much - - the pain, the love, the compassion. It is everything we were taught since we were children, but now, it was so real.

It is beyond comprehension how humans can be so cruel, and how Jesus loved us so much. I think I can now see how he wanted us to forgive, to love, to have compassion, to be peaceful.

It's a movie that will break your heart. I did not want to watch it, I thought it would make me feel bad. Then I thought I was being so selfish; look what Jesus did for us, and I don't want to watch because it makes me uncomfortable.

What books do you like to read? Novels, biographies, romance, science fiction? Do you have a specific part of the house for books? What is the last book you read? Why did you choose that one? Where were you sitting when you read it?

I like horror, as I do with movies. I used to read Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe.

The best stories were written by H.P. Lovecraft, it's been a while since I read his stories.

I am a very bad book person, I don't have the patience or the attention span required.

The books I like reading are written by Anne Rice and my other favorite author is John Saul. I cannot stop reading them once I start. I have read many of their books.

I have a problem though, I have a short memory, so when I read a book again, I forgot what happened the first time I read it, so it's all new to me.

I plan to read every book by Anne Rice, and John Saul. I'm doing good. I just don't remember which ones I've read, so I will keep a list now.

I especially enjoyed the book about the Mayfair witches from Anne Rice, took me almost a month that summer of 2000.

Is there anything you need that you don't have?

I need to win the lottery so I can build an orphanage.
Just a dream, a very big one.

I have been blessed, I have a wonderful loving husband, a home, food, clothes, family, friends. I don't need anything now. God's in charge, I am sure He will take care of my needs.

I meant what I said though, I would love to build an orphanage, but it may be impossible.

I believe that children without parents would be better off living in one place, instead of being sent from foster home to foster home. They need stability and safety, they need to feel like they belong, and not like a burden.

A place like the nuns had in Mexico could provide a good learning environment, they could learn ethics, team work, values,things they need. They would have structure, and discipline and nurturing. They would be part of a large family and grow up healthier in many ways.

But as I said, it's just a dream. This would probably not work in the U.S. People would object to the children doing chores, and learning about God.

Then there's all kinds of regulations, licenses, and wages to deal with. The nuns were not on salary.

That is what I would want if I could ask for anything.

Do you take a little respite for yourself everyday? For example, a drink before dinner, a walk before dark, or a quiet moment in a spot where you're all alone to collect your thoughts?

I personally hate being alone at any time. I spend the best of my time with Dwight. We do things like this together. Our favorite unwind spot is the Wild Animal Park. It is so soothing and peaceful, just walking among the animals and the beautiful foliage.

We also enjoy some quiet evenings at home now. I can make a nice simple dinner, and we have a little wine. We like to watch CSI and soak in the tub later, it's soothing.

What are your hobbies?

I don't have one. Who has time for them anymore?

I have been knitting to reduce my anxiety and stress, but I am still learning, I can only knit scarves so far.

I want to learn to play the Navajo flute I got.

I love plants, so I like to keep a nice vegetable garden. I'm not good at it.

I love to cook, I just get tired of my own cooking. I like learning how to cook new things. I have just learned to bake bread from scratch.

Have you ever had a time when you had to concentrate on getting back on your feet? If so, how did you wait out your time? At times did this challenge seem too great?

Yes, it seems that way. We got back in the last part of October, and I am a mess. I still cannot get some kind of order in my life. I want to do so many things and can't get around to them. I can't get myself to do the things I need to do either.

I have been getting too absorbed with the TV. I cook often because it keeps me occupied and it is kind of rewarding.

I started my veggie garden and have some flower seeds in starter pots.

I was knitting, but I haven't done that in a couple of weeks.

We are currently waiting for our background with the Sheriff's department to clear. When it does, we should have another interview. I hope we get hired, and I hope it happens soon. I worry.

I know what I should do, (exercise, and get stuff from storage, re-organize our home, etc) but I just don't feel ready.

What has been the worst time in your life?

It had to be the time when I was a child, and I lost everything. First my mom was taken into the hospital, then I was taken to her friends' home, so I did not have my home.

These two things, the safety of my home, and the security of my mom were the most important things I had. I felt so lost and so vulnerable.

All I had left was my dog, and that did not last long either; When I went to live with my cousin, she gave him away as punishment for lying.

That had to be the worst time in my life, only I think it got worse. It extended for the next three years.

Those three years I spent in Mexico, I was going to high school. It was hard because I did not know how to do schoolwork there, it was all new to me. I had very bad grades. I tried, but the circumstances were not favorable. I'll discuss them in the chapter about high school.

Did you ever have to help a family member, mate or friend through a difficult medical time?

I married my first husband when I was still too young and confused. I wanted to help him, I cared for him very much, but I was not in love. I didn't know what that was like.

We had just come back to San Diego, and I was not a citizen. This meant I could not work, and we did not have a place to live long term. R. did not start looking for a job, he just stayed in bed feeling sorry for himself wondering how we were going to make it.

I told him I was going to help us, so we can get back on our feet, but he did not feel that it was a good thing. To make a long story short, he tried to kill himself again. He aimed a gun at his head, and I had to wrestle it out of his hands. After hiding the gun, I ran next door, and used a friend's phone to call for help. The police said I needed to wait until he actually did something, and said I should call the Mental Hospital.

He attempted suicide with pills once before, and several times in the years to come.
After one of those times, he said he did it because of

to be continued...

we got married so I could be able to work and help us out. This way it would take some of the pressure off him.

I took him to the county mental health to get help. A doctor saw him and medicated him, he was diagnosed as manic depressive at first.

We went from bad to worse, and finally, we got kicked out of the place we were living at, because the homeowner was R.'s friend and could not deal with R. trying to kill himself in his house. We ended up in Mexico because we couldn't afford rent in San Diego with only one income.

We ended up moving to a whole other state, R.'s mother was going to help us. It was alright, she gave us a place to live, and it would've worked out. She gave me part of her business, so I could work, and I was excited, I saw some hope.

I suppose I should've moved our stuff to storage, but R. wanted all our stuff there, crowding us in our little home. Then he got mad because he didn't want to work, and I had a job. He wanted me to go to school instead. He was being unrealistic and uncooperative.

More problems, he threw a fit because he didn't get his way, so he trashed the house we were living in. So we ended up in the mental hospital again. This time, they took better care of him, and medicated him properly for the first time. He was diagnosed again, this time as depressive.

The Mental health people helped us find a new place and kept him busy. We ended up getting kicked out again because R. decided to be ungrateful to his mom and threatened her life. the Salvation Army helped us with the rent for the first month, and we had food stamps.

I finally got a new job, not the best in the world, but we got off food stamps and I paid rent. R. spent his days at the mental health day center and later on, they got him a job cleaning toilets. At least he was not spending his days in bed as was his preference.

Several times he had temper problems and we ended up at the hospital for medication evaluation.

There was a time in which I could not have anything breakable or sharp or rope like in our home.

He had thrown the TV, almost hit my doggie; I caught it. He threw the microwave and broke it, he smashed our phones often so I couldn't call for help, or tore them off the wall. He also smashed my printer, the fax/answering machine, the headlights in my car, and more stuff I can't remember. (Not all at once)

When we were able to come back to California, I figured things would get better. I had a place to live in Mexico, just across the border, so we wouldn't have to pay rent anymore.

Things did not get better, as soon as we got there, I looked and found a recommended doctor for him. R. had taken to the bed again, he would not get up, just laying there. I learned that if I tried to get him up it would not work, and if I aggravated him, he would get up and destroy something again. I convinced the doctor to give me the prescription, and I had to go ask for money from a friend to go buy the medications.

He got back on his feet a little, long enough for me to take him to the doctor. This doctor was amazing, he was the best I've seen after that out-of-state trip. We went to him for several years, every month.

The doctor visits and the long list of medications worked one in a while. Then, R. would go back to bed, and not get up for days. Then I knew it was time to review medications with the doctor, and examine alternatives.

It seemed the medications would work only for a while, months if we were lucky. Then, they would stop working, and we would consult with the doctor, he would find a different kind of medication, and try that. Most of the time the new medications would work, at least for a few months before another change. We went through most antidepressants.

I researched medications on the internet, and all matters concerning depression, so later on, I would bring my notes to the doctor, we would review them, and if appropriate, he would ask R. if he was OK with my solutions, and then he would write out his medication schedule and prescriptions once again.

We were changing often, and R. was taking about 7 pills 3 times a day. We got to a point where the only option left was shock therapy. I was so afraid for R. It sounded so horrible, but options now were limited, so we went back to through the medication rotation.

I still believe that some of R.'s illness is in his personality, things that happened to him when he was growing up. I still firmly believe that if circumstances in his life were different when he was young, he would've been alright with a minimum of medication.

The problem, as I see it is still his attitude. He did not believe in God, and his outlook on life because of this was very negative. He said he thought that when we die, we just go into a hole in the ground. That by itself would depress anyone.

The thought of not having any repercussions on your actions, good or bad, leaves you in chaos. The belief that life has no purpose, no meaning, leaves you empty.

Now, it is no wonder that he wanted to end his life. Why live? Why go through all the trouble if it does not make a difference at all, if we are just little specs on a planet that will disappear into dust one day.

That is why I came to this conclusion: if R. changed his attitude, if he gave God a chance, he would be much better now.

After we came back to San Diego, R. did not want to look for a job. He said nobody would ever hire him because he had no schooling, no experience, and was ill.

His brother tried to help and offered him a job. He would help around the office at his brother's business. It was good for a while, then he started complaining again.

I though he was jealous of his brother. He kept saying that he should've gone to school when he was young, but it was his parent's fault that he dropped out.

He was doing good at work, even though every day he complained about how much he hated to go to work.
There were times when he would not shower for days, even weeks. Some times I would see him wear the same dirty clothes for several days. I could not make him wear clean clothes, and later on, I gave up. He just wanted people to feel sorry for him.

There were times when he did well, he worked well with his brother, and got along with him very well. After a while, he would take another nose dive. I admire his brother for putting up with his games. There were times when he would just refuse to get out of bed, and he knew his brother would be counting on him. I would try talking to him, but it never worked, and in the later years I would not even waste my energy.

I don't understand how someone could feel so sorry for himself, and still think the world should revolve around his needs. He had to have what he wanted, or he would play games with people who cared about him. And still at other times, he sabotaged himself.

On of the examples on this was when we were out of state. I was working nights, and we only had one car working, I could not afford to fix the other one. I went to work, and for some reason, I was feeling anxious, so I called R. at home. He would not answer, so I panicked. I thought he had maybe hurt himself again, so I ran home.

When I go there, he was sitting outside the front door of our tiny apartment. I asked why he didn't answer the phone, he said he didn't feel like it. I told him I was worried, and asked if he was OK I was calm because I knew if I got agitated and yelled at him things would get ugly. He said yes, he was OK Then, all of a sudden, he got up and went inside. he came out with a sledge hammer, and smashed the headlights on my car.

I was shocked, I asked what on earth he did that for. He said he just felt like it. I explained that that was the only means of transportation I had, and I need to go to work at night to pay our bills. How was I going to do this without headlights?

Now, who in their right mind would destroy our only means of support? And now I ask myself, Who in their right mind would stay married to such a person?

Well, after going through 4 attempted suicides and countless mood swings, I decided I wanted to have a life.
The doctor actually asked me what I wanted in my life. That scared me, what did I want? I forgot! He said I was in a codependent relationship. That meant my life depended on what R. wants, and my day would be as good as R. wants it to be.

I realized that since I wanted a family, and he was obviously not going to be ready for one. As the doctor put it, you said you want a child? Don't you mean another child? You cannot possibly think this is a good idea, not until R. changes and decides to grow up and take care of himself.

So we talked at the doctor's office when I came back from Basic training. R. said that he did not want children, and he never will. He also said that if I wanted children I should look for somebody who wanted them as well.

That sounded impossible that day, but after a while, It became a possibility. I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I remembered our marriage vows, but then again, I have done so many things for R. and jumped through hoops trying to make him happy. I got tired, I gave all I had, I had no more to give.

So one December, I spoke to the doctor, and then to R. I wanted a divorce. I asked the doctor if it was safe. I was afraid of another "incident". But the doctor tried to put me at ease. He said if he's going to do it, make sure you can deal with it; "But you can be sure that if you don't get away and find yourself, he will drag you down with him into his depression".

When I told the doctor I had made a decision, he said "It's about time!" and congratulated me. We talked, and he said he would be taking good care of R. He also said that I could come back and talk if I needed to.

The whole thing was so hard on me, but I had to do it. It was like taking my arm off. But the doctor also said, "If you had gangrene in your arm, would you not cut it off? It would hurt, but now that arm will not cause your death".

So I did come back to the doctor when R. had moved out; I was having problems. I had never been on my own, never lived by myself. I discovered many things about me, I started making decisions based on only me. It was strange, but very amusing. The problem was I was feeling lost, and it felt like the guilt would swallow me up.

The doctor talked to me, and prescribed Prozac for temporary relief. He tried to reassure me that I was doing the right thing.

I also went to the school counselor, who gave me advice, and helped me out. He did say that writing was the best way to deal with things, because it's like looking in the mirror.

I was not alone, I had Dwight. As far away as he was, I could call him every day, and I did. I needed to talk about good things, about the possibilities of having a life. Usually I just liked to hear his voice, and have him tell me about work.

After a few months, Dwight was talking about marriage, about children, a nice cozy home, all the good things in life. He made me cry, I could not believe what I was hearing. I thought he just wanted to impress me, saying things a girl wants to hear. But he had a name picked out for his first daughter! And he was very excited also about our new life.

When the school year was over, we moved into a little house. It was like coming out of a stormy night and walking into a sun drenched field of wild flowers!
I cried often, because I could not contain all the happiness I felt in my heart. After a few months or so, I settled in and accepted that this was alright, it was going to work.

work in progress...

What magazines do you subscribe to? Which do you pick up every once and awhile?

I've gotten to looking through Better Homes and Gardens, Oprah is also interesting. I just don't have an attention span, so I usually don't get through reading the whole thing.

I can't figure out magazines. They are usually geared towards single women, teens, or moms. I am not in any of those categories.

I especially hate the ones where most of it is all advertising.

Your House Now

Some people prefer to describe the home in which they lived most of their years rather than the home in which they are living now. What is the address of the home you would like to describe in the following series of questions? What are the dates you lived there?

I want to insert something I wrote while in Iraq about our living quarters.

"My home now is only one room. Dwight and I live in Iraq, and we are allowed to live in one room. We are very fortunate, because the Army decided to allow married couples that are deployed to stay together instead of having a roommate. We like our new home, we do not have a choice. We try to keep it clean, but the mud gets tracked in despite our efforts to keep the mud outside.

I feel so blessed to have him, and to be able to share this experience with him. Never in my life did I even remotely imagine that I would find myself with the man of my dreams, in the middle of a combat zone. It is the weirdest feeling, it's like having everything you've wanted, and nothing at the same time. Your priorities become very clear. Money is not important, love, life, faith, and peace are. Dwight is my piece of Heaven.

I work at as Military Police at the Provost Marshal's Office here at the base. I will not mention the name of it until I'm back home, for safety reasons.
Graves is not too exciting, but keeps us busy sometimes.
I usually go out on patrol with a partner. We go around the base and do our security checks. After those are done, we just go around checking for traffic violations: people speeding, or running stop signs. Sometimes we get calls for t I especially like to work at the desk because I get to read most cases as I review and check for errors. It is interesting to me to find out what kind of trouble people can get into without trying.

We've been here for several months, time has gone fast for me. Christmas came and went so fast, I didn't even see it go by. Now we are looking forward to leave time. We are planning to go visit Dwight's parents. I already bought tickets to the Angel's game on the 12th, that would be nice. We just have to decide to invite Diana and Norm.
We are also planning to go to the Wild Animal Park.

Every day living here is now normal to us. I work midnight to 0800, and when I get home Dwight is still sleeping.

He is so sweet! sometimes I find chocolates on my bed, or a card from him. The cards he gives me are so thoughtful, so loving. The things he writes in them are so touching, it's like he puts his heart into it. I have put them up on the wall and on the side of my wall locker so I can see them all the time.

I also have pictures of family and pets on the wall, and a drawing Nathan sent me of Iraq. It's so good to see how simple life is when you are a child, you see things so clearly. His drawing shows the sky, the sun, the grass, the good things, and he put sparkling glitter on it, so my view of Iraq sparkles in my room. We should listen more closely to children, and be more like them, uncomplicated and straight forward.

As we walk through the mud, we need to look up at the sky, at beautiful sunrises, at the birds, at the stars as well as down at the mud.

When I get to our room in the mornings, I usually watch movies for a while so to not disturb Dwight while he sleeps. I also may take a shower or go drop off my laundry at KBR. Sometimes I go down the street to take the bus to the big PX, but I am trying to avoid it now because when I go there I end up buying more junk.

Dwight was drawing, and decided he might want to try painting, so I got him oil paints through the internet, and art supplies. He starter paining scenes of space, even when his brushes hadn't arrived yet. He is really good, I enjoy his paintings. He paints at night when he comes back from work, so I see the progress when I get back in the mornings. It's good to see he's doing something he enjoys.

I find we have had some free time here we didn't have at home, since we only have the small room instead of the whole house to take care of. I have been feeling a bit low, for no reason, so I am trying to entertain myself. I bought a book on pyrography, and a flute. The plan is to work on woodburning and learn to play the flute. These activities seem to be pleasant and relaxing. I hope I can learn. It's just hard to do things that require the lights on or anything that causes noise because Dwight will be sleeping. I wanted to go outside, but it is cold now.

I've been watching Law and Order today, they have some very good episodes, I wish they based them on real cases.
Dwight introduced me to Northern Exposure a while ago. We watched all the episodes now. I really loved that show, it was so pleasant, and so relaxing. It was like escaping on a mini vacation to that small town in Alaska and watching life go by.

Dwight and I used to go to the big PX on our day off, but now they switched our days off so they don't coincide. I liked going out with him and sitting in the sun for a while, just having a pleasant conversation, with no hurries. We would sit and wait for the bus to come, and talk for a while, nothing serious. I don't remember the exact conversations, but we had some good ones, and some laughs.

Now, I have Midnight Wednesday off, and he has evening Friday off. So on Wednesday he stays up until about 4 am with me. We talk and watch a movie or something like that. Just spending time together is good. Then on Friday, two weeks ago we still went out. But usually, I get tired and try to sleep in the evening, while he's there. He is so funny, we had come back from the PX that day, and I wen to sleep in the afternoon. I woke up to see him very up close, with the DVD stripe-stickers on his forehead. It was so funny!! He's so sweet, he'going to be a great dad one day, I can only imagine.

This last week he woke me up again, making funny faces at me while I slept. He doesn't make a sound, I just wake up when I feel him staring, it's hilarious."

Now we have our own home back in Moreno Valley, and I love it.

Why do you like your home? What do you dislike about your home? Do you have an attic? If so, what is in it?

I love our new home because it is so open. It has high ceilings so you don't feel boxed in. The kitchen is so big, feels so good to have space! I have not had such a big kitchen before.

The master bathroom is so cool; it has a shower on one end and a roman tub catty corner. It has his and hers sinks on different sides, so I have a lot of space for girl stuff and Dwight has his space too.

The bedroom is so open and we have walk in closets, one for each of us. The bed doesn't take up the whole bedroom like it used to before.

The living room is so comfy, and it has a fireplace. We even have a dinning room.

There are also two more bedrooms, one is large like ours, the other is a bit smaller.

The extra bathroom is cute, and has a sky light, so it's bright.

The house smells like home now; sweet. I added an oil plug in and extra regular plug ins in the bathroom for a little more sweet smell, but the bedroom smells clean and sweet without all that. When you walk into it you feel welcome.

We are in a mobile home park now, but we plan to get a little piece of land one day so we can move our hose there. Dwight likes space around us, he hates being so close to neighbors.

Our neighbors don't come outside, they are not very open and friendly. I suppose we will just mind our own business and leave them alone. I met one of them, a nice lady, we talked before Christmas and she was cool. After that, I have only seen her once.

About a week after we moved in, someone go into our shed and stole everything. I had some boxes of our stuff we brought from mom and dad's. The groundskeeper brought back some of the stuff and told me about it.

About a week after that someone got into my car and stole everything from it. I don't know why they took my Bible and my knitting too. They also took my glasses and some catalogs I used to sell gifts from and our pool stick.

It was about a month before I could sleep without running to the windows at all hours of the night. I was afraid because they started with the shed, moved to the car, which is right outside our back door. What's's next? The house? They stole our stuff while we were home at night, so they are not skiddish. I was afraid they would break into the house while we were sleeping. We slept with the gun on the night stand and I locked our bedroom door at night.

Every time the doggie in the house behind us would bark, I would run and look outside. Our neighbor offered to aim her motion sensor lights into out side. She also gave us another motion sensor light kit, but I don't know how to put it up.

I went out and got an alarm system from Radio Shack and a motion sensor for the driveway. I also got us a video surveillance camera. It's sad to say we feel safer in Iraq than here. I did not get a security system from a company because we don;t have jobs to pay the monthly fees and we don;t have a land line.

I still love our home, and I am now planting our vegetable garden and starting little plants form seeds. We will have tomatoes, strawberries, green peppers, hot peppers and some flowers. (I hope)

I miss my dog!!!! And we desperately need a fence.

What is the most comfortable room in your home? What is your favorite chair? Favorite place to read? Where do you usually sit to talk on the phone? Where do you usually do your computer work?

We spend most of our time in the living room. We got a good couch, it has one recliner at each end and the middle pulls down and becomes a little tray.

I don;t believe in spending more money than necessary on furniture, so we got all of it at thrift stores. They look like new, and they did not break us with the prices.

We were able to get the dinning room set, the living room and the bedroom. If we would have gone for new stuff, we would have been in debt for a long time.

We like simple stuff, easy to take care of and I do hate large bulky furniture; it makes your house feel like it shrunk.

Everyday Life

What's your daily routine?

Jan, 2006
I feel so blessed to have him, and to be able to share this experience with him. Never in my life did I even remotely imagine that I would find myself with the man of my dreams, in the middle of a combat zone. It is the weirdest feeling, it's like having everything you've wanted, and nothing at the same time. Your priorities become very clear. Money is not important, love, life, faith, and peace are. Dwight is my piece of Heaven.

I work at as Military Police at the Provost Marshal's Office here at the base. I will not mention the name of it until I'm back home, for safety reasons.
Graves is not too exciting, but keeps us busy sometimes.
I usually go out on patrol with a partner. We go around the base and do our security checks. After those are done, we just go around checking for traffic violations: people speeding, or running stop signs. Sometimes we get calls for t I especially like to work at the desk because I get to read most cases as I review and check for errors. It is interesting to me to find out what kind of trouble people can get into without trying.

We've been here for several months, time has gone fast for me. Christmas came and went so fast, I didn't even see it go by. Now we are looking forward to leave time. We are planning to go visit Dwight's parents. I already bought tickets to the Angel's game on the 12th, that would be nice. We just have to decide to invite Diana and Norm.
We are also planning to go to the Wild Animal Park.

Every day living here is now normal to us. I work midnight to 0800, and when I get home Dwight is still sleeping.

He is so sweet! sometimes I find chocolates on my bed, or a card from him. The cards he gives me are so thoughtful, so loving. The things he writes in them are so touching, it's like he puts his heart into it. I have put them up on the wall and on the side of my wall locker so I can see them all the time. I also have pictures of
family and pets on the wall, and a drawing Nathan sent me of Iraq. It's so good to see how simple life is when you are a child, you see things so clearly. His drawing shows the sky, the sun, the grass, the good things, and he put sparkling glitter on it, so my view of Iraq sparkles in my room. We should listen more closely to children, and be more like them, uncomplicated and straight forward.
As we walk through the mud, we need to look up at the sky, at beautiful sunrises, at the birds, at the stars as well as down at the mud.

When I get to our room in the mornings, I usually watch movies for a while so to not disturb Dwight while he sleeps. I also may take a shower or go drop off my laundry at KBR. Sometimes I go down the street to take the bus to the big PX, but I am trying to avoid it now because when I go there I end up buying more junk.

Dwight was drawing, and decided he might want to try painting, so I got him oil paints through the internet, and art supplies. He starter paining scenes of space, even when his brushes hadn't arrived yet. He is really good, I enjoy his paintings. He paints at night when he comes back from work, so I see the progress when I get back in the mornings. It's good to see he's doing something he enjoys.

I find we have had some free time here we didn't have at home, since we only have the small room instead of the whole house to take care of. I have been feeling a bit low, for no reason, so I am trying to entertain myself. I bought a book on pyrography, and a flute. The plan is to work on woodburning and learn to play the flute. These activities seem to be pleasant and relaxing. I hope I can learn. It's just hard to do things that require the lights on or anything that causes noise because Dwight will be sleeping. I wanted to go outside, but it is cold now.

I've been watching Law and Order today, they have some very good episodes, I wish they based them on real cases.
Dwight introduced me to Northern Exposure a while ago. We watched all the episodes now. I really loved that show, it was so pleasant, and so relaxing. It was like escaping on a mini vacation to that small town in Alaska and watching life go by.

Dwight and I used to go to the big Px on our day off, but now they switched our days off so they don't coincide. I liked going out with him and sitting in the sun for a while, just having a pleasant conversation, with no hurries. We would sit and wait for the bus to come, and talk for a while, nothing serious. I don't remember the exact conversations, but we had some good ones, and some laughs.

Now, I have Midnight Wednesday off, and he has evening Friday off. So on Wednesday he stays up until about 4 am with me. We talk and watch a movie or something like that. Just spending time together is good. Then on Friday, two weeks ago we still went out. But usually, I get tired and try to sleep in the evening, while he's there. He is so funny, we had come back from the PX that day, and I wen to sleep in the afternoon. I woke up to see him very up close, with the DVD stripe-stickers on his forehead. It was so funny!! He's so sweet, he'going to be a great dad one day, I can only imagine.

This last week he woke me up again, making funny faces at me while I slept. He doesn't make a sound, I just wake up when I feel him staring, it's hilarious.

Mar, 2006

Are shifts have changed. Now I work mornings and Dwight works nights. I work at the desk area as desk sergeant now because the desk sergeant is on leave.

When work is through and I get back to my room, sometimes Dwight is awake, and we talk for a while, maybe eat something, and watch movie or something on TV. They have had wrestling sometimes. Other times, the Jay Lenno person is on, he's funny.

At around 1730, Dwight goes back to sleep, and I wait until after 2000, then I go to sleep. I wake up at 2230 and wake him up, then I get back to sleep and wake up at 0430, snooze and get up at 5.

I watch TV for a while, they sometimes have Oprah, or Dr Phil. I've also watched parts of ER and some new show. I just have it on for company while I get up.

Life here is now normal to us. What would have been strange at one time becomes usual. I am referring to the things that we see and hear around us.

A few nights ago there were more explosions, we have gotten used to them, so we just jump at the sudden sound, and then just go back to sleep.

Sometimes I wonder about how our priorities change. All of a sudden we see what is really important in life. It is funny how we are all so different.

I am still a bit disturbed about one particular thing. We were at guard mount one morning a week ago, and our sergeant explained several important points discussed in the meeting he attended.

Among those things, one of them stood out. The issue at hand was the gravel that was deposited in our living areas in large mounds. We received an apology because the gravel was not spread out yet so we could walk on it. We were told that the reason for this was because the TCNs (Third Country Nationals) that work around the base could not come into the base at this time, and that as soon as they could, they would come in and spread the gravel for us. I thought this was outrageous!

Does anyone understand that these TCNs are living Baghdad, a place that at the moment is being blown to bits? Does anyone understand how they are afraid for their families, and for themselves? Their need to work so they can feed their family is probably is causing them great distress. There are more important things in life than our need for gravel to walk on.

Is there someone you talk with everyday?

Yes, I talk to many people every day. And, when I get a chance, (sometimes every day) I e-mail Sara, or Larry mostly. I keep in touch with friends that way.
Then of course, I have Dwight, which is very good to talk to, only sometimes he says I talk too much.
He is very good company, and he's fun. I get so happy just looking forward to seeing him at the end of my day.

Talk about getting older. Do you ever feel slowed by age? When did you start feeling this?

I believe I have noticed the arthritis in my knees, and my elbows remind me of my age often.

How did you spend your time outdoors? How do you spend time outdoors now?

I used to love watering the yard in the middle of the day at Day St. I loved the honey tint in the warm sunshine about the afternoon time.
It was so good to be out in the warm sun, and feel the grass, when it actually was green (it took lot to get it green).
I liked mowing the grass because Kahless would romp around in the fresh cut grass.

The best time I had out in the yard was when we had just moved into the house on Day St.

Dwight was working on building our vegetable garden, and I was mowing the lawn.
I had to stop and look around, because I could not believe I could have so much peace and happiness in my life and I had to take a moment to take it all in.

I could not believe that I was now going to have a normal life, a life with love and laughter. Sometimes it's the simple things in life that matter, and who you share them with.

Do you keep old photos and take many pictures? Who was always the photographer in your family? What kind of camera/s do you have? How do you feel about the new digital photography?

Yes, I love to take pictures. I started when I was about 10. My mom took pictures of us throughout the years, she had an album for each year. She loved to take pictures, mostly of me.

When I was 10, I started trying to make my own money. I got this thing through the mail where I was to sell greeting cards. I made some money and open my first bank account. I earned a camera as my first incentive for selling. That is when I started taking pictures.

I started taking pictures of all the dogs in the neighborhood, then I moved to roses. After I felt more comfortable, I took a picture of my mom. That was the last picture she had taken. She was standing in our front yard, complaining that she did not look proper for a picture. I told her I thought she looked just fine. I don't know where that picture is now.

I have taken many pictures, but most of them I have stored away so I won't loose them, now I can't find them.

I got my first good camera when I went to Okinawa on annual training. Larry got it for me, it was a camera that has panoramic view, it is still a great camera.
I took some great pictures from Okinawa.

Now I have a digital camera also. I used to take many pictures, but now, I have not taken many lately.
I just don't feel comfortable taking pictures here. I am not a tourist! I feel akward, and I also think I have to be careful of what I take a picture of. I could put someone in danger.

I love to take pictures though, when I was home I would take many. I actually got one of my pictures printed in a book. It won some kind of contest. It was a picture of the moon at dawn.

The best pictures are snapshots, not the ones where people pose. I hate pictures of myself, I think I look fat. I still take some, for Dwight to see.

When we go to the Wild Animal Park we take some really nice ones there.


Are you usually late or early?

I try to be always early. I have never been late for work or duty. I was late to my doctor's appointment once because of traffic.

Are you more comfortable speaking or writing? Do you enjoy talking on the phone more than writing letters?

I love writing because you have more time to think over what you will say.
Now with computers, you can even change your mind and re-write your thoughts.

When I speak, I talk too fast, and I have been known to insert foot in mouth at times. Just ask my husband!

I hate the phone, I need to see people while I speak to them. I use it if there is no other option.

E-mails are great, I just wish you could recall them sometimes. There have been times I notice I spelled something wrong or did not mean to write something.

Do you have any superstitions?

I have tried to stop being superstitious. I used to be afraid of some things.

I am still afraid when I wake up at 3 am. I keep thinking spirits are closer to our world at this time. I am afraid of bad ones.

Do you sing in the shower?

No, I don't like to spend too much time in the shower.
I also sing very badly.

I go in and wash, then come out. I don't know how some people stay in there so long. When I was in MPI school, my roommate used to take 40 minute showers twice a day. There's only so many body parts you have that you can wash!!

I wish I could find out how to take a bath, I hear it's very relaxing, I just don't know what to do once I am in there.

Do you garden? Vegetable, flower, herbs?

I love to have plants, but I keep killing them. Not on purpose, it just happens that they don't like me.

In a previous home, I had planted an orange, a peach, a pear and a dwarf apple tree. The orange tree died, the lemon did grow but not upward; It gave huge lemons though. The peach tree gave many peaches each year. I also had a blueberry bush in a bucket. It gave many blueberries, and changed colors in the winter. The birds ate most of them. I also had 2 grapevines, but the birds beat me to those too; They also ate the strawberries.

When I went to basic training, my ex-husband let them all die. He refused to keep up the garden.

When I moved to the Day St house with my now husband, he planted vegetables and the first year, they were beautiful and huge. The years that followed, I tried to keep it up, but I am not good at it. I really don't think plants like me.

Dwight had also bought me plants, he gave me a miniature rose, it lived for months, I don't know why it died. He also got me a tiny violet, it also died after a few months.
I tried fertilizer, and even put them in larger pots with good soil. And contrary to popular belief, I did water them regularly!

Dwight also got me some real rose bushes, I planted them outside, but Kahless got to them.

When we get back from deployment, we are hoping to get a home of our own, then, maybe we can have a yard that we can divide and have Kahless away from the plants. Maybe it would be a good idea to keep me away also!

Update (February 2007):

It's the last of the cold season, and Iwe now have our home. I planted our first tomato plants and have seeds growing inside for carnations, peppers, marigolds, sweet peas and morning glory in red white and blue. I also planted 2 rose bushes. I guess I am persistent. I am hoping they make it.

Have you ever been addicted to anything?

Coffee!!! Oh, and chocolate

Do you have a habit you'd like to break?

Yes, I have a habit that buggs my husband. I did not notice I was doing this until he mentioned it when I asked if there was anything I do that bugs him.
I can have 3 different drinks next to me, and be drinking out of all of them. The problem is that I leave soda cans or cups that are still half full in all different places.
In August, I caught myself in this habit when we were in barracks in Dona Ana, (Ft Bliss, TX). I had 4 bottles of Gatorade, all half full, and 2 bottles of water that were also open.
I hope one day I stop, it is starting to bother me
Right now I had an open can of some power drink, some cofee in a cup, and a bottle of Crystal Light under the desk. I have been taking a drink out of all three throuhghout the day.
By the way, I do finish all of them eventually.

Have you ever smoked cigarettes?

Yes, I tried them when I was about 15, and I did not like them.

Before we deployed, I tried them again, and still did not like them.

Are you a list maker?

I love to write lists of things so I won't forget them, and then, I loose the list.
I have found old lists, and have no idea how they got there.
I have 3 different day planners, if I remember to write anything in them, I forget to look at them later.
I am very bad at this, but I cannot help but write more lists.

Do you read the Bible or a daily devotion / meditation book?

No but I should.


Describe what you look like now. Have you been happy with the way you look? What did you look like as a teenager? As a young child? If you had to name a famous person whom you looked like, who would it be? Who would you most like to look like?

I look funny, I don't like the way I look. I am short and a little heavy. I hate my face sometimes because I look like a chipmunk, especially now that I have my hair up all the time.

When I was a teenager I was skinny as a rail. If I turned sideways I would disappear. I ate normal amounts of food, but I was a stick figure. My cousins would poke fun at me and tease me. The called me "flies" as in "flies away in strong winds". I was afraid to wear anything that showed my skinny legs.

It was especially embarrassing when I was 18 and cut my hair. I looked like a little boy, and people were quick to tell me about it, they thought it was funny.

I gained a lot of weight when I was 23. I was average size then,but the weight kept creeping on. By the time I was 30, I was a bit overweight, but still could hide it.

Then, when I got married in 2001, I gained a lot and started to be really self conscious.

At one time, I was told I looked like Betty Paige. I finally found a picture of her and I don't agree, she was so thin, I could see her ribs. But she was beautiful. I did see a slight resemblance, except for her blue eyes. My eyes are brown. Maybe it was the long evening gown I was wearing or the lighting or something. I don't think I look that pretty. Maybe the people who told me this need glasses.

Has your appearance played an important part in your getting along in the world? Do you think it's been detrimental or beneficial?

I have had both. I was teased when I was a teenager for my appearance.

I was also a little sensitive about the comments my ex husband made about my being fat. I hate being accused of getting fatter when I am trying to eat.

I also was uncomfortable still for a long time because I look so young. I never have thought that I look like a woman still now. I still get people that tell me I look like a kid. I hate that sometimes. I don't want to look old either, I want to look normal.

When I was in my 20's, about 25 or so, I was followed around by a store employee in a drug store. He followed me for a while, then approached me and asked if I had any money to pay for that(I was looking at something, can't remember what it was). I asked what made him ask me that, then he asked where my parents were. I was mad by then, I told him I did not have any, and that my husband was in the next isle if he wanted to talk to him. He apologized and left. I was mad, and left the store.

I had another incident like that 2 years ago. I went to an electronics store (that I will not go back to). I had my half of the tax refund money and was ready to buy a digital camera. I waited in the electronics section and walked around the cameras for a while. I had questions about them so I tried asking an employee, who said it was not his department.

I saw another employee walking near the cameras, so I asked him for help with choosing a camera, he asked me to wait one moment because he had a meeting now. He went around the corner and had his meeting. Then he started chatting with another coworker.

Half an hour later, I tried again, and was told "I thought I told you to wait".
Several employees walked by me and ignored me completely. I felt that they thought I was a kid and had no money to spend there.

I went across the street to another store where somebody greeted me, pointed me to the section I wanted, and an employee at the camera section helped me out. It took us 15 minutes for me to have my questions answered and I was ready at the register.

It was extremely funny though when I was in college. I was already 29 and 30, and had these 18, 20 year olds trying to hit on me. I politely explained to at least 2 of them that I was almost old enough to be their mother.

I am now in Iraq, and had 2 guys try to get cute and impress me. They were about 22 at the most, and I am now 36, that is hilarious!

The down side of it is that I have never been able to get a real job. As soon as I show up to the interviews, I get turned down. They tell me I look like I have had no experience, mostly, I look to innocent, too shelthered.
I have been told that directly.

This is why I ended up where I did... Keep reading.

This is what happens when you don't look your age.

What is your best feature? Your worst? Do you have any birthmarks or scars that differentiate your looks absolutely from anyone else?

Yes!! I have two tatoos, and I find them very exciting.

I just had to take a picture a few days ago of one because it's on my back and I could not see it. Now I can see it, and I am very happy with it.

Have you ever considered plastic surgery? If so, did you end up doing it? If not, why not? In all truth, are you vain?

Of course, who hasn't? But I keep trying to convince myself that I need to like myself as I am.

Otherwise, would it not be offensive to God? He made me and I am being a brat by not appreciating it. I have all my body parts, and I can see, hear, smell and touch. I am just fine.

The parts I thought about changing was my nose, it's too small and round. And not plastic surgery, but I would like to have dark blue eyes. Still, same concept, i think it would be wrong for me to change. Or so I keep telling myself.

What would you change about your appearance? Do you wish you were taller or shorter?

Yes I would like to loose a few pounds (inches on the sides), I am now working on it. I would like to be an inch taller, but that's what high heels are for. Then again I would only want one or two inches. I wouldn't want to be taller than my husband.

So, can we take a few inches off my sides and put them on me vertically so I'm taller?

Do you remember getting your first suit and tie? Your first pair of nylons and heels?

I hate nylons!!! Why do they even exist? They should be banned.

I love high heels, I was allowed to wear my first when I turned 15, and only in church.

Then, when I was 18 I started wearing them once in a while.

I wore them for 7 years at work, and I loved them.

The doctors say they are the probable cause of the arthritis in my knees. This means I should give them up for good.

Is there something you remember particularly well that you wore in high school or college?

I particularly loved my High school uniform. I went to Catholic school, so I had a green plaid skirt with the funny top thingy and a white shirt.

I loved it because it fit right and I was very comfortable. I still love the skirts, they are so easy to wear, except I'm getting too old for that I think.

For women, what color lipstick do you use, eye shadow, nail polish? For men, do you like wearing ties? Have you ever worn hats? For both, what jewelry do you regularly wear? What type of shoes are you partial to? Have you ever had to wear a uniform? Have you ever had piercings or a tattoo? Where?

I have a hard time with makeup, I like liquid eyeliner, but when it comes to lipstick I get stuck. I like shades that are light and natural.

I can;t grow my nails back for some reason, but I used to like pink and other light shades.

Do you tan or burn?

Neither, I turn brown.

Add Questions and Family Documents

Add a question and answer or family text here.

I have to write a section on life in general; things that caught my attention.
About a week ago something happened. I wrote a letter to my friend Larry, I thought I needed to share it with more people because it's something more people should think about. It is a delicate matter, no names, no details.

Larry wrote:
next monday huh!!! got yourself all packed up? I keep telling snowy that her momma is coming home soon.
She just looks at me like I'm crazy.

I am only working two days a week now with one night a week on call. Carl, my supervisor is on his way to Iraq. he leaves next week for Washington. and a couple weeks of training then on to Iraq. So Shawn has replaced him at work. so I told Shawn that I would let him know if I couldn't work. so just let me know when you'll be here at least one day in advance. ok?

I have to do my brakes on my car this week. either tomorrow or the next day. when I put two new tires on the front the guy said that they need to be done. I'm looking forward to seeing ya.
Take care, love Larry

Hi Larry, we are supposed to leave here on Monday the 3rd. I don't know how long it will take to get there.

We planed a karaoke party at the Legion on Saturday (I think that is Saturday night). I hope we get there by then; It should only take a couple of days. I'll call you and say hi when we get home.

Now, why on earth would that Carl guy go to Iraq for? Are they making him, or is it his own thing? Just wondering.

I felt bad because the other day, a civilian guy came in wanting to turn in an ID. He said one of the guys in his team got killed, and that was his ID he was turning in (since it is a sensitive item it needs to be turned in). I looked at it, and I thought a lot of things.

I have been training for years in order to be here.
What kind of training did these guys get? They go outside the wire often. Some act like they are invincible, they walk around looking tough.
I'm not sure what they do, they have these uparmored SUVs and run amok.

I don't know this guy on the ID, but I wondered: who gets to explain this to his family?
Is his family going to receive a call from a cold corporate office in the United States? From a person who has never been outside their little world?
Or from this gentleman's supervisor in a more caring and compassionate manner?
Does he have a wife and kids? Parents? Did he come out here to give his family a better life?

I don't think these civilians are out here just to be greedy and make a lot of money, they must be here for a higher reason. Nobody in their right mind would go into a war zone for money, any amount of money.

I know some of the circumstances of the death, but I'll discuss it later when I get home.

I still wonder, who gets to tell his family?
And this is only one death, I cannot imagine all the others, the ones I do not know about. I try not to listen to the news, it's depressing.

But you see, at least when you see a soldier, you know that soldier knew what he was doing when he signed up; knew the dangers, and had a lot of training. Their families are more prepared, and have more support. These soldiers know they are not invulnerable, and they are careful.

I will carry this person's name in my wallet for now, and pray for him and his family. It is sad that he will not be remembered like a soldier would have been.
Not a hero, no medals, no ceremonies, even though he deserves them as far as I am concerned. Whatever his reasons, he was here too, and served his Country just the same. He gave his life for his Country, and for his team. He went down in a battle that will probably not be written about, or remembered in history books. He fought bravely, and he should always be remembered.

Well, hope to see you soon. I am not sad, I just wanted to share, I have not talked to anyone about this. Dwight keeps expecting me to be tough and not get sentimental, so I have not talked to him about this. I was just thinking about this man, not sad, just bewildered I guess.

Bye for now, if I don't stop writing it will get dark on me, and my guess is Dwight is expecting me sometime today.


P.S. Snowy never liked me

Add a question and answer or family text here.

Sensitive matters

I think people that come from other Countries to live in the U.S. should learn the language and adopt the culture. If they don't like it they can go back to wherever they came from.

And if you segregate yourself and "stick to your own" (ethnic group), don't complain later that you are being discriminated against.

I also believe in our freedoms. I am free to express myself, which means I respect your opinions, therefore I can expect you to respect mine. It doesn't mean we need to agree with each other, our differences are what makes this Country great.

And I also feel very strongly about the banning of God from our society. God was part of our Country when it was born, why are we trying to get rid of Him?

Little by little we are loosing our freedoms because we are so afraid of offending someone.

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