Monday, October 29, 2018

Shame. On. You.

As I ran my hand under the automated towel dispenser in the cafe's bathroom FOR THE THIRD TIME, I could hear Sr. Catherine in my head.  I heard Mother Teresa.  (No, not SAINT Mother Teresa, a different one -a bipolar freak who was placed in the position of Sister Superior.)  I don't like these voices in my head.
If you've ever read about or been exposed to destructive cults, you know the tricks they use to keep their members in compliance.  Shame is one of their most effective tools.  It was used to try to bring me into submission time and time again.
Shame on you, Miss Urban, for using to much tape to hold together your May crown.  Kneel for class.
Shame on you, Miss Urban, for chewing gum.  Put that gum on your nose and leave it there till I say you can take it off.
Shame on you, Sr. Frances, for using too much water to rinse that lettuce.
Shame on you, Sr. Frances, for not being more vigilant and watching that garlic bread.  Now, it's all burned.  You will eat nothing else until you have finished it all by yourself.
Shame on you, Sr. Frances, for not using that kleenex until the entire thing is saturated with the discharge from your nose. 

I got a nasty cold a week ago, right after arriving in Hillsboro.  The final shame that I mentioned above has come back to me again and again.  As I blow my nose into the kleenex one time and pitch it into the garbage, it's kind of like flipping off all those voices in my head trying to shame me for being so wasteful.  I smile every single time. The young girl that was subjected to it didn't have the strength to react that way.  Fifty years later, I can.

It has taken a lot of work to get beyond the shame. It is interesting, because I no longer have anyone shaming me.  They did a good job.  For years & years, I could do it all by myself.  Shame on me for not being the perfect body type society expects.  Shame on me for not being perfectly put together every time I left the house.  Shame on me if the house wasn't perfect every day all day.  So.  Much.  Shame.

Thanks to a wonderful counselor that I met 2 years ago, I am shedding the shame, one incident at a time.

So, going forward, I will use as damn much water as I want to rinse my lettuce.  I probably won't burn the garlic bread, because that just makes the house smell bad.  And, with flourish, I will blow my snotty nose into a kleenex once and pitch it into the garbage while grabbing another.  And, tape?  Tape?  Just ask any of my family how damn much tape I use on their Christmas presents.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Things, they are a-changin!

Wow....... I am having a moment......
In 48 hours, I will be leaving Spokane to start a new chapter in my life in the Portland area.
I am so excited for all the new and exciting things to come.  I am totally in love with the new
home that Bernie bought, even though I haven't yet passed through its front door.
I am looking forward to lots of Meemaw time with Sullivan and Cassidy. 
I am looking forward to being so close to the ocean.

I have lived in this area for the last 49 years of my life.  That is a long time.  Many of those years
were not happy years.  I suffered a lot of physical and mental abuse.   These thoughts and memories still haunt me.  I have spent the last two years working through that with a therapist.  I have made great progress, but I am not yet where I want to be.  I am hoping that a complete change of venue will help.  This place brings up so many memories that I would rather forget.  I can't even tell you how many nights a week my sleep is disturbed by haunting dreams from the past.  It is not fun.  So many characters from THAT past.  Is it too late, at 60, to create enough wonderful memories to drown out the nasty ones?  I am going to give it a shot. 

But then, ...... there are a LOT of great memories here, too.   Meeting and marrying the love of my life, Bernie.  Giving birth to 3 of the most amazing sons ever!  And, on & on with our little family. The homes we shared.  The yards that Bernie turned into little paradises for us.  The vacations we took with the kids....

And, then, there are so many of you who have become dear, dear friends.  You don't make it easy to say good-bye.  I've spent the last 3 weeks saying goodbye to many.  I always have a huge lump in my throat when I leave another of you.  So many fun memories of times together.  So many laughs.  SO.  MUCH.  WINE!!!

So, to all of you who have traveled this journey with me:  THANK YOU!  Thank you for your love and your friendship.  Thank you for the ears you gave me.  Thank you for the shoulders to cry on.  Thank you for the hands that reached out to help me back up.  I love you all....
stay tuned for the next chapter.  It's going to be a doozy!!!

Monday, June 11, 2018

It Is Odd

It is odd.
Sometimes, I sit and wonder how things might have been so different.
What if my mother had never had the misfortune of meeting francis schuckardt?
What if?
How would my life have been different?  Would I have gone to college?  What would I have studied?  What would I have become?
I wonder about these things from time to time.
Tonight, June 11, 2018:  I am sitting on the patio of my son's home in Hillsboro, Oregon.  The family is fast asleep.  Traffic is buzzing by on the highway out front.  I am situated on a gliding bench in the rear of the house.  2 acres of land stretches behind me.  There is a river back there somewhere.  I hear the sounds of the evening birds and insects.  I don't want to go to sleep.  I am enjoying the beauty of all of this.  Somehow, right now, I don't want to remember where I've come from.  Life is good right now. I am cherishing this moment.
Would it have been different if I had gone to college?  What would I have become?  When I was a little girl, I wanted to be one of two things.  Promise not to laugh?  I wanted to either be a waitress or a librarian.  I loved how the librarians back in the 60's used those really cool stamps to indicate when my book was due.  And, I loved fantasizing about taking an order from someone who was hungry.  Hey!  Give me a break!  I was little and innocent and had not yet been exposed to the cruelties of the world!
When I got older, I thought it would be so cool to study psychology.  What is it that makes people do the things they do?  This was not meant to be, because in the cult of francis schuckardt, women had either one of two roles:  a religious sister, or a wife & mother ---women did not need education.
And so - I am grateful for the life that I have.  I am not going to look back with any regrets.  My gosh!  I met Bernie, the love of my life.  We had both come through the same horrific experiences of growing up in a destructive cult.  Together, we had three amazing, wonderful, loving sons.  They, together with their dad and their significant others, are the reasons I love life.  And, then there are Sullivan and Cassidy.  My heart can barely contain the love they generate within me.
So, what would I change for what I have now?  Absolutely nothing.  God is great.  My family is everything to me.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Trying to break through the chains...

"Lost and alone on some forgotten highway
Traveled by many, remembered by few
Lookin' for something that I can believe in
Lookin' for something that I'd like to do with my life
There's nothin' behind me and nothin' that ties me to
Something that might have been true yesterday
Tomorrow is open, right now it seems to be more than enough
To just be here today, and I don't know
What the future is holdin' in store
I don't know where I'm goin' I'm not sure where I've been
There's a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me
My life is worth livin', I don't need to see the end
Sweet, sweet surrender, live, live without care....."

I am going to go back a bit in time and tell you how I tried to break through the chains of mind control.  After my graduation from 'high school' in June 1976, I stayed in Coeur d'Alene.  I could live at the Villa Maria until I figured out what I was going to do.  Since I was a graduate, I was allowed to go places by myself now.  I don't remember much about the month or so after graduation, but I do remember that I was frustrated and lost and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do.
So, one day, I wrote a letter to my sister, Sue, back in Endicott, N.Y.  To say that I asked her if I could come stay with her would most likely be an understatement.  I am pretty sure that I begged.  I had no money, so I was depending on her to provide me the means of getting there.  I had written the letter in secret.  Only one friend knew that I had reached out.  The Villa Maria did not have a telephone, so I gave my sister the phone number of this friend.  (Isn't it convenient that there was no phone for the girls at the boarding house to call home and beg to get out of there?  Any phone calls that were made were made from the little book store where they sold all their schuckardt publications, etc.  And, every phone call was monitored.)   Within a week, I believe, I heard back from my sister.  She had made the reservations and sent me the ticket.  I was going to New York!
Oh my gosh!  It was so exciting to be flying across the country.  But, remember, I was still in the full garb of the cult.  I remember being SO proud of myself for navigating my way through O'Hare airport.  And, for all the years that I had been warned about the evils of the outside world, I wasn't afraid. 

People were nice.  They smiled.  I smiled back.  It felt so good.
From Chicago, we flew to Binghamton, N.Y..... I think.  I remember the fellow sitting next to me asked me where I was from.  When I told him Montana, he said, "Oh, your dad must be a sheep farmer."  What?  I was just glad that he didn't ask me about my outfit!
I loved, loved, loved being at my sister's house.  It was a beautiful little neighborhood, with lots of young families.  Sue & Doug had 3 little boys and there was always activity of one sort or another.  The boys kept me entertained with their hilarious personalities.  I believe her son, Matt, was 3 or 4 at the time.  One time in the car, he asked his mom:  "Mom, how do you spell relief?"  I was expecting to hear the Rolaids commercial, and then little Matt said, "G-A-S!"  (Uproarious laughter followed.)  I was living in such a different world.  I was away from all the eyes watching to make sure I didn't step out of line.  I took off the clothes I came in and wore my sister's pants.  I wish that I could say I was fearless doing this, but that would be a lie.  Even though I dressed like the rest of society now, part of me hoped and prayed that I wouldn't die in those clothes.  For surely, if I did, God would send me straight to hell.
I have wonderful memories from that time.  My sister and her husband were so kind to me.  Sue took me to Philadelphia to visit her inlaws and to see the sites.  They took me to dinner at a fabulous restaurant downtown.  We ate on the 26th floor.  I felt like I was on top of the world.
One evening, Doug broke out his motorcycle and took me on a ride in the incredibly beautiful hills of  upstate New York.  I recall that it felt surreal.  I wanted to embrace this new way of life, the wind blowing in my face, the sun setting over the gorgeous rolling hills.  But, there was that part of me that kept nagging that this was not right.  The turmoil in my soul was immense.  I tried to ignore it.  Before we headed back home, Doug stopped somewhere and bought me a drink.  Looking back now, I laugh.  I wonder what we talked about.  He had always been my favorite brother in law of the two I had.  I had absolutely no idea what to order.  So, Doug ordered me a Singapore Sling.  I'm pretty sure I haven't had one since.  I might just have to give that a shot again after all these years.
And, this is where it gets difficult to write.  Tears begin to fall.  Soft sobs become a little more than soft.  I remember exactly where I was standing when the phone rang in Sue's house.  It was my Dad! He told Sue that he had gone to the Thompson's house to use their phone so that Mom wouldn't know he was calling.  He wanted to talk to me.  Sue handed me the phone.  I don't remember much of the conversation.  What I do remember is this:  "Sis, you take as much time as you need back there.  There's no need to rush back."  I listened and I agreed.  After hanging up, I really believed that I could do that.  I even thought that I could learn to live back there.  There would be so many opportunities.  I knew that Sue & Doug would help me any way they could.  I was on the verge.  (I honestly cannot remember if I got any correspondence from my mom while I was in Endicott.  It is hard to imagine that she would have passed up the opportunity to warn me of the dangers to my soul.)
I was so close to deciding to stay.  It felt a little rebellious, and that felt good! 
From Billy Joel's  'Goodnight, My Angel':
"Goodnight my angel, now it's time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me
Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabies go on and on
They never die
That's how you and I will be."
 My Dad was never overly sentimental or verbose.  But, I can imagine those words coming through to his little girl in New York that day.
And, then, the phone at Sue's house rang again, a different day.  Remember the friend who had persuaded me to enter the convent in the first place?  It was her mother.  A full-fledged believer of all things schuckardt, she was on a mission.  I have no doubt that numerous minds got together and decided that she should be the one to call me.  I really liked this woman and valued her advice. Again, I don't remember the exact conversation, just the theme.  And it was this:  You absolutely cannot stay back there.  You have to get back out here, or you WILL lose your soul in that environment.  In THAT moment, a switch flipped.  I went straight into mind-control-mode.  I had an urgency.  I had to get back to Coeur d'Alene.  My poor sister.  She just did not understand.  How could she?  I was completely unreasonable.  I had to go!  She reminded me of Dad's call.  She assured me she would be there for me. There were some angry words.  There were a lot of tears.  In the end, she drove me to catch a flight to California.  There, I would join my friend, Lucy and her family, and then return to Idaho. 
I have no words to express the guilt I felt for years for asking for help from Sue, then turning around and going back.  I understand it now.  I know that is how destructive cults work.  She had exposed me to the real world.  It wasn't as scary as I had been told.  She loved me more than I knew.  But,in the end, her love and support were no match for the hold of the cult and the tremendous fear of losing my soul. 
Sue had every John Denver album there was, and I really loved his music and the words resonated with what I wanted but was afraid to pursue.  I will close with just a few from his song, It's Up To You:  "
You can do whatever you want to do
Wherever you want to go it's up to you
And wouldn't it be fine
Following your heart, playing your own part."
Yes, it would have been fine.  It would have been fine.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Another Trip to the Funny Farm, aka: Convent

I was a lost soul. After 9 years in the cult of francis schuckardt, I had no mind of my own.  I was 18 years old and doing what they would now refer to as "couch surfing".  I had no home in the Coeur d'Alene area.  I had no family living there.  When I entered the convent in 1975, Mom had returned to live with Dad in Montana, so if I was going to live in Idaho, I had to depend on the kindness of friends.
In the early months of 1977, I was living with a lovely family in Dalton Gardens, just north of Coeur d'Alene.  It was a lovely, large, and growing family.  The husband was an electrician, and the wife stayed home and took care of the children.  I did what I could to help them out.  The children were normal little kids - full of energy and pranks.  Looking back now, this was a happy time for me.    A friend of the family was employed by the Washington State Department of Employment, and mentioned there was a position open for a clerk.  He thought that I might be interested.  I got the job.  I remember that my friends were jealous of the $4.15/hour I was getting.  Now, looking back, I wonder how much different my life might have been had I stayed with this job.  But, I was SO unprepared for the outside world.  I was so afraid of breaking the rules that I dressed in full garb:  skirt to my ankles, sleeves to my wrist, a sweater or vest to hide the fact that there were breasts on my chest, and a headscarf to cover up most of my hair.  (schuckardt told us that a woman's hair was her vanity and her downfall. It should always be covered outside the home.)  I stayed with this job for several weeks, and then went back to Montana to try to figure things out.  Where was my life going?  I was a lost soul.  I was an 18 year old girl who had spent the last 9 years in a destructive cult.  I had no marketable skills. I could eat burnt toast for days in a row.  But, that wasn't going to get me very far.
Returning home to my mother, who was still 100% in line with the Community in Coeur d'Alene, was a mistake I soon realized.  Everything I did, she scrutinized.  I remember her asking me one time why I was taking so long in the bath.  I told her I was shaving my legs.  She shouted, "I am sure you didn't shave your legs in the convent!"  Um, no, Mom. In the convent, we braided the hair on our legs during recreation.  (Sarcasm here.)  Dad was working long hours at the Laundry/Convenience store that he co-owned.  I was sad that I didn't get to see him much.
I stayed with my parents for a bit, then returned to Idaho.
I landed with Carol, a friend who was originally from Kalispell.  She was a lot of fun.  I hadn't even been there more than a couple days when I was "summoned" to the convent by one of my good friends.  She was a year older than I was.  She had entered the year prior to me.  In fact, she is majorly responsible for me entering the convent in the first place.  She hounded me about the fact that I had a very big heart, and I should give it entirely to God, not try to split my love between God and a man.  Hmm.... but, I didn't WANT to be a nun.  So, here I am in early 1977, meeting her for a chat, I thought.  It turns out she pretty much had an ultimatum for me:  You aren't doing well out there on your own, so you either return to the convent or join the youth group for people who wanted to find a "mate" to marry for life.  Well, I didn't have to give that much thought.  In my mind, I was thinking of the guys that I knew of at that time who were part of the group.  Nope.  Not a single one was the least attractive to me in any way.  So, then and there, I said I would return to the convent.
She wasted no time setting things up for me.  (She was an excellent organizer and leader.  I wonder what she is doing these days.  She stayed for many years more than I, but eventually left as well.)   So, the following day, I reported back to her.  I had assumed, incorrectly, that I would be entering from the bottom level just like I did the first time.  Oh, no.... not!  She had it arranged for me to go and put on the whole habit just like I wore when I left.  I was horrified - but I had no recourse.  So, I went along - on the outside.  Inside, from that very first day, I was stewing, trying to figure out how in the world I was going to get out of there.  I remember that the day after I returned, one of the sisters walked with me to Carol's to get my suitcases.  Walking back down 3rd street, Sr. Laboure asked me if I was going to take vows in September.  I told her, "I'm not going to be here in September."  I will never forget it.  It felt so good to say it out loud!  I had no idea how I was going to get out.  I just knew that I would.  Little did I know what schuckardt had in mind for this lost soul.
At the point where I returned, I was no longer in school.  So, I worked around the convent.  I helped with putting out mailings written and directed by schuckardt.  I was so unhappy.  And then, just when I was adjusting to this mundane routine, my superior called me in.  She knew that I wanted to leave.  She had talked to schuckardt about it.  He had listened and decided that I had not yet experienced TRUE religious life.  So, under his direction, I was sent to the part of the convent called the cloister.  In the cloister, you get absolutely NO contact with the outside world at all.  You don't see your family for a year.  It is intense training in how to be a good nun - I guess.  I cried and cried.  All I wanted to do was leave.  I didn't know what I would do once I left, but I just wanted out.  The headaches returned with a vengeance.  I wanted out.  I was given 3 very large books to read on the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.   I never read them.  To condense this part of my blog, I will just tell you that it took me 3 months to get out.  Every fear tactic imaginable was put before me.  schuckardt went so far as to tell my superior that if I were to leave, I would surely lose my soul to hell.  The night before I left, we sat and watched the film "Anarchy USA".  It was terrifying, but I wasn't afraid anymore.  Not really.  My friend leaned over and asked me, "Are you prepared for that?"  The film depicted the race riots of the 1960's.  It was 1977!!  Yes, I was ready.  I had had enough.  I was a lost girl.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  But, I was no longer afraid.  I was intrepid.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Memories In The Habit

It is fascinating to me how events, memories from our past don't simply go away, no matter how much we wish they would.

It was dark when I got up this morning.  As I left the bedroom and headed down the steps, I remembered:  "It's a rule.  schuckardt said you cannot go down the steps without turning on the light."  I turned on the light.  I didn't turn it on because HE said I had to, but I turned it on so I could SEE!  And, then I got to thinking about all his rules.  SO.  MANY.  RULES.  Why?  If you look into cults and how its members are manipulated, BINGO!  It is only common sense to turn the light on when you go down steps in the dark.  But, by making it a rule, he controlled one more little aspect of our lives.  Sometimes, I am quite rebellious, even now, and I just hold onto the hand rail and go down without turning on a light!  I'll show him!

I didn't have a regular task that was assigned to me while in the convent in 1975 - 1976.  Occasionally, I would be asked to help out in the kitchen.  On one occasion, I was in the process of rinsing the lettuce for salad at lunchtime.  The big cheese, Reverend Mother, happened to come through the kitchen and noticed that I was running the lettuce under a small stream of water from the faucet.  She raised her voice and told me that I was wasting water.  Of course, when scolded, you were to get on your knees before them and take it and then apologize.
On another occasion, I was making garlic toast to go with dinner.  Since it was quite the task of getting dinner ready for so many nuns, I forgot about the garlic toast that was under the broiler.  It was only the matter of a minute or so, but it burned.  Again, the Reverend Mother came through just at that time and told me how wasteful I was being, and that I would eat nothing but that burnt toast till it was all gone.  That took me a few days.  On top of being punished like this, there was always the humiliation that went along with it.  Everyone could see that all I had to eat was burnt toast.  You didn't talk about it.  You just did it.  You deserved it.  I don't really remember feeling sorry for myself, because on any given day, it would be some other poor nun who "transgressed" and felt the wrath of the Reverend Mother.
There were others who were, shall I say, less compliant than I.  I won't mention any names.  I know they read my blog, and I absolutely love them.  I wonder why I was so full of fear, and they weren't. It wasn't until years down the road that I learned how some of them would sneak off into the garage, where all the goodies were stored, and have themselves a party.  I applaud them now.  What balls they had!  I was so terrified of doing one wrong thing and thus suffering for eternity in Hell.  You guys know who you are, and I just love your spirit.  If you are so inclined, share a few of your stories.  I would love it.
Someone asked me yesterday if I was still finding it helpful to write this blog.  I said yes.  Some of the memories stir up feelings of intense anger at the way we were treated.  Others make me smile at the friendships that were formed back then that have never been broken after all these years.  I am saddened to think of the cruelty some of my friends and fellow nuns endured by being subjected to humiliation and ridicule by their superiors.  And, when I am done, I am proud of how far I have come, and the woman that I am today.
It seems surreal that in a short while, Bernie and I will fly back east, join my sister and her husband, and board a cruise ship for a 12 day cruise out of Baltimore.  Back in the day, I would never live to see this phase of my life.  I was sure of it.  Not a doubt about it.  And, so, yeah, I get a little emotional at what a wonderful life I have had in spite of the experiences of life in a very crazy cult.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Sister Frances

January 23, 1975
Jackie, Renee, and Francie enter the convent.  Renee had wanted to be a religious forever, and couldn't get in the door fast enough.  I was only 16.  Renee might have been 14 or 15.  She was really smart, but so young.  Jackie - I am not sure what was Jackie's reason for becoming a nun.  She was from a very large family, but had lost her Dad to drowning only a couple years earlier.  She was (is) really funny, and I am so glad she went with me.  Me?  Why?  I have asked myself that question a million times over the years.  Why on earth did I become a nun?  I had NEVER wanted that vocation.  I wanted to be a mom and have kids.  But, in 1975, the options for girls in the cult of francis schuckardt were very limited.  College was seriously forbidden, because it was co-ed, among other things.  If you had a particularly good reason for NEEDING to attend college, you could submit a request to his royal narcissist, and see if he would grant your request.  I suppose he'd grant the occasional request for someone to go to nursing school.  But, if a girl wanted to become something like an engineer, uh, no.  And, so, with that being the case, what was I going to do?  The previous August of 1974 about 10 of my good friends had entered the convent.  I missed them.  And, there, I think is where I find the answer to my question WHY?  I wanted to be with my friends.

IF ONLY SOMEONE HAD SLAPPED ME SILLY AND TOLD ME NOT TO DO IT!!!  But, you know how that would have turned out.  And, so - off I went.  It was not the best part of Francie's Excellent Adventure.

So, what is the first thing that happened when I joined the nuns?  The very first thing that you have to do is get EVERYTHING that you brought with you APPROVED for YOUR use by your superior.  I remember that the first thing I took for approval was my pillow.  It seemed kind of funny to kneel in front of Sr. Agnes and say something to this effect:  "In the spirit of humility and holy poverty, I have need of this pillow, and for the love of God, I beg the use of it."   A pillow.  A toothbrush.  A bra.  Underwear.  Shoes.  Comb.  Pens.  The list goes on and on.  We entered in the evening, and I sure as heck wanted to have MY pillow to sleep with that night.  How bad could this life be?

I was a Junior in the "high school" at the time I entered the convent.  So, every morning, we would get up, get dressed in absolute silence of the tongue and the eyes.  No looking around whatsoever.  To make eye contact was communicating.  We had a bit of time to dress and then the bell would ring, and we would all shuffle to the chapel for morning prayers and meditation.  I am guessing that between our prayers and meditation, it would average about 30 minutes.  Breakfast was next.  No one spoke during breakfast.  Instead, someone was chosen to read to all of us while we ate.  The only thing that I remember for that first breakfast was canned cherries.  I love cherries, and so I took a healthy serving.  Whoops.  These cherries still had the pits in them.  What is a brand new nun to do?  I couldn't ask.  We couldn't talk.  I bowed my head, and looked as best I could out of the corner of my eye to see what others were doing.  I didn't see anyone removing the pits.  So, I swallowed them.

Since I Jackie, Renee, and I were still students, we didn't get assigned jobs around the convent during the week.  We did all help with the dishes after dinner.  Then, study time, maybe some recreation where we were actually allowed to talk, then night prayers and off to bed in GRAND silence.  (That kind of meant that unless you were dying, there was no excuse for talking.)  Part of the rule in this convent was that we get EIGHT hours of sleep every night.  You can imagine how many times over the years, when I was up with a fussy baby, I thought about those nuns and their damned EIGHT hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Sr. Lucia was in charge of a lot of what went on in the kitchen.  During the week, she would pack lunch for all the nun-students.  There aren't many things I remember about those lunches.  But, I learned quickly that I better enjoy the hamburgers and cheeseburgers that were given to the nuns by McDonald's, instead of being discarded.  They really were a treat.  This poor nun had very little to work with as far as groceries, so she had to get creative for us.  Her worst creation that I remember was when she ground up sunfower seeds, mixed them with pickles and something else and created a sandwich for each of us.  In spite of the fact that I had swallowed cherry pits at my first convent-breakfast, I really, really gagged getting these sandwiches down.

Jackie was occasionally the cook on special occasions or weekends, I can't remember which.  But, to this day, I remember vividly the delicious jello salad she made with jello, coconut, dates, and walnuts.  I have wanted to replicate it over the years, but have not done so.  Might have something to do with seeing worms in the dates every now and then..... sorry, Jackie.  You know I love you.

The school year of 1975 progressed and came to an end.  Most of my friends who had entered the convent the previous August graduated.  I was now a Senior.  Various groups of nuns went to different places that summer for a week of 'vacation'.  I was in the group that went to Portland and Cannon Beach.  We really did have a lot of fun and good times.  In Portland, we stayed at the home of one of our Sister's parents, the Earps.  Mrs. Earp made sandwiches for all of us to take to the ocean.  This was the very first time that I had seen the ocean.  I was terrified.  It was so powerful and endless and strong.  But, all in all, it was a lot of fun.  I was with friends, and we did a lot of stupid stuff that made us laugh.  We were so innocent.  When we got back to Coeur d'Alene, our 2 superiors got in trouble because of the fun we had.  Apparently, because Mr. Earp had seen some of us not in our habits, it was a horrible scandal.  (head shaking)

That August, schuckardt once again conducted a rigid retreat for those of us in the religious life.  It was a week of much prayer and self-reflection.  It was also a week of endless lectures by schuckardt himself about what awful sinners we all were.  Barely any of us would make it to heaven.   When it was over, those of us who had entered in the past year became Novices.  We did not take vows, but we promised to live the life of the religious and prepare ourselves for that step of vowing to give our lives to God through vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  As Novices, we were now wearing a whole new garb - THE HABIT.  We also gave up our birth-names.  We had chosen three names, and schuckardt would tell us which one he had chosen for us during our ceremony of induction into our habit.  I was given the name Sr. Maria Perpetua of the Motherly Heart of Mary.  When I heard that last part, I thought inside myself - see?  see?  I am not supposed to be a nun.  I am supposed to be a mother.  And yet, I stayed.

After a few months in the convent, I began to experience incredible, debilitating headaches.  I saw numerous Doctors.  No one could put a finger on why I was experiencing such pain.  I saw neurologists and naturopaths.  I tried various diets.  Nothing helped.  I missed a lot of school.  Days and days would go by where I could not get out of bed and put that habit on, wrapping my head up in that veil.  The pain was real.  In March of 1976, schuckardt and my nun superiors decided that I should leave.  To say that I was sad to go would be a lie.  My headaches had been my ticket out.  I was a little grateful for those headaches.  I was greeted by my Dad at the bus station in Montana.  I felt his love and empathy, without him saying a word.  His embrace said it all.  I stayed for a while, then returned to Coeur d'Alene to finish my Senior year of high school.  June 4, 1976, I graduated from our faux high school.

That summer, I returned to Montana to help my sister, PeeWee, with her family.  She and Jerry were living in the same house, though not permitted by schuckardt to live as husband and wife.  It was such an awkward situation, to say the least.  Both my sister and Jerry had jobs, so I got to spend the summer babysitting my nieces and nephew.  I enjoyed it so much.  They were so special to me.  They still are.

After graduation, I stayed in Coeur d'Alene for awhile.  Then, I was instructed by schuckardt to go to Colorado Springs to assist there wherever I was needed.  I flew down and went to live with the Toussaints.  Phyllis was a young mom with a plethora of little ones.  We got along very well.  She introduced me first to Taco Bell, and then to authentic Mexican food.  The love affair continues to this day!

It has been difficult to write about this phase of my life in the cult.  It brings back the feelings and memories of how absolutely lost I felt at such a young age.  I was only 17 years old when I went back to Montana.  Friends and the powers that be put such fear in me that there was no way I could save my soul if I were to leave the convent.  I so didn't want to be there.

I returned to the Coeur d'Alene area in the summer, and schuckardt asked me if I would go back to Colorado Springs in the Fall to run their 'school'.  What was I to say?  I did as he asked.

The adventure continued......