Saturday, October 14, 2023




Where does it come from, this thing called 'anxiety'?  Have you felt it at times during your life?  What brings it on?  What chases it away?

In the late 1960's, when I was 9 or 10 years old, I had a lot of anxiety.  My sister had joined the group of women who would follow Francis Schuckardt.  From her letters home, there was much to be afraid of:  One World Government, 3 days of darkness (Biblical reference, supposedly.), and of course - the Communists.  We were going to be persecuted like none before us in history.  The devil was unleashed from Hell to wreak havoc on the world, and in 1976, in the person of Jimmy Carter, the anti-Christ would arrive.  Wow!  That was a lot of crap for a 9 or 10 year old girl to take in.  I didn't worry about those things too often.  They scared me.  From our farm in the country hills outside Kalispell, Montana, I would hear a group of motorcycles pass by on the highway, and it would scare me:  Hells' Angels, for sure.  

There was a lot anarchy and chaos in our country at that time.  Protests against the Viet Nam war; Civil Rights riots; Countercultural movements; political assasinations; the Beatles; and the emerging generation gap.  For some, it was a scary time.  Others lived through it as just a phase in history.

And then, there was my mother.  I believe that she was probably in the throes of a mid-life crisis at the time the changes in the Catholic church were introduced in our parish.  She had already been ultra conservative politically.  Then, Francis Schuckardt was introduced into her life - and, to her, the end of the world was imminent.  


And so, as her way of dealing with all this strife in the world and in her church, my mother would disappear for hours and hours of the day.  Dad was working, and she was just gone.   This caused me a lot of anxiety.  I had no idea what was going on when all of a sudden, she was gone.  From the way I remember it, it was usually on a Sunday that she'd would just leave.  I attribute that to the fact that we had completely stopped attending Mass at our local parish, and Mom was probably trying to process it all.  My sister wrote extremely strong-worded letters to Mom about attending that diabolical service, the new Mass.  In this new world of hers, the powers that be told her that it would be better for her to stay home and read the prayers herself instead of going to Mass.  And so, Sunday after Sunday, when she hadn't wandered off, Mom would sit my sister & me at the kitchen table and read the prayers out of her prayer book.  

When my Mom first started this behavior, I was scared.  I didn't know if anything had happened to her or what.  When she came home, she would say to me in a quiet, but threatening voice:  "Someday I just might not come home."   A.N.X.I.E.T.Y.  In spite of the difficult relationship that we already shared, she was my Mom and it scared me when she said that.  This happened several times.  Finally, something flipped the switch in my brain and in my heart.  The next time that she said those words to me, I distinctly remember thinking, "Good!  Then don't come home."  It seemed a game that she was playing with my head, because I never heard her saying that to my sister. At 10 years old, I had had enough.    Part of me felt guilty for feeling that way, but a larger part was proud of the fact that I wasn't going to let her mess with my head or feelings any more.

As the months passed, I got used to being left alone.  I would make my Dad french toast for breakfast.  If he got tired of it, he never said so.  He always made me feel like a million bucks for doing it.

I began this post by asking if you have experienced anxiety in your life, what caused it, how did you get over it.  I am sure that we all process it differently.  But, what are the lingering effects?  Anxiety continued to riddle my life for years.  First, it was the fear of being abandoned.  Then, so many other fears were pounded into my head, that every day was an anxious one.  Why wouldn't it be?  Every day could be the day that the communists showed up at the door and drug us off to a prison camp where they would yank our fingernails out with pliers?  WOULDN'T THAT MAKE EVEN THE CALMEST PERSON A LITTLE ANXIOUS?  Of course, rational people wouldn't fall for it.  But, unfairly, as a child, I didn't have the wisdom to understand that it was all a bunch of crap.

For a long time, I used medication to help with my anxiety.  But, as life moved on, I found that I could rid myself of that feeling by taking advantage of things that make me happy:  Nature's beauty, a cozy fire in the backyard, visiting with a friend, deep breaths, petting my kitty, but the most therapeutic of all:  my family.  Bernie and the boys, and in more recent years, Sully and Cassidy.

My life is good.  I cannot complain.  When anxiety raises its ugly head, I think of all the positive things that I have, and it dissipates those worrisome feelings.

"Peace of mind:  The contentment of the man who is too busy to worry by day, and too sleepy to worry at night."  Woodrow Wilson



Saturday, February 11, 2023


When I was a little girl, my parents didn't have much money.  There were 7 of us kids.  Mom had a huge garden.  She baked her own bread - sometimes 20 loaves at a time.  From the garden, she either canned or froze fruits and vegies.

When Christmas came, Mom would make a dress for my sister and one for me.  She would blindfold us so we couldn't see what they looked like.  I don't remember any of those dresses.  I only remember standing, blindfolded, on a chair while she pinned and measured.  I wonder how she felt when she was doing that.  Was she excited to be making a surprise for me?  Did she have to sacrifice somewhere in her limited budget to be able to afford the patterns and material?  I don't remember it as being a fun or silly event - standing there blindfolded - she had a job to do and there was no messing around.  I remember trying to imagine the dress by running my hands over it, trying to figure out what the pattern was.  Then, when Christmas came, I don't even remember unwrapping the dress.

On the flip side, I remember my Dad either giving me mittens or slippers.  Once I got a set of Lincoln Logs.  I sit here and I picture my dear Dad going into Woolworth's or Penneys or Montgomery Ward to pick something out for me.  I can see him standing there, choosing something for me and my sister.  My eyes start to fill with tears.  Everything about my Dad was good.  He was so kind, so patient.  The love he made me feel with his "good night" whisker rub still moves me.  Dad wasn't outwardly expressive with his affection, but, boy, did I feel it.  I wish I could have known him as an adult.  He has been gone 41 1/2 years - and I still cry when I write about missing him.  I am so lucky and I am so grateful for him.  I just wish it didn't have to end when I was so young.

I married a man very much like my Dad.  Bernie is patient to a fault.  He is kind.  He doesn't express his love in big, demonstrative ways, but what he does leaves no doubt about it.

And so, when I got married, my  Mom gave me a quilt she had made.  She embroidered the date and "Mom" in the bottom corner. It was really a patchwork of many scraps of material she had saved over the years.  I suppose if I spent some time, I could go through each pattern and try to remember what she had made with that piece of material.  But, I haven't done that in 41 years, and so I don't see myself doing it now.

 Sometimes, when I want to grab a quick nap on my already made bed, I take that quilt out of the guest room closet and wrap myself in it.  For a long time now, I have noticed that I snuggle it up around my nose and inhale. After 41 years, I swear I can still smell the smell of the home farm house.  Being wrapped in that quilt and being drawn back home - could it be that the little girl in me imagines herself sitting on her Mommy's lap, wrapped in her love and that quilt?  Or, could it be that that is just what that little girl in me wishes when she breathes in "home"?  It is hard to imagine, because I can't recall once sitting on her lap with her arms snuggling me and smelling my hair and letting me know that she really, really loves me.  

I see little Francie, teeth brushed and pajamas on, standing next to Dad in his big, green chair, telling him good night, and feeling him draw me close and giving me his 5 o'clock shadow 'whisker rub'.  I giggle and run upstairs to bed.  It is my last memory of the day.  And, it is good.  And, it makes my heart happy.  "Good night, Daddy.  I love you."  "I love you, too, sis."

But, my Mom made me a quilt. It is very ragged and thin after all these years.  But, I just can't get rid of it.

Monday, April 18, 2022


And so, September 15, 1978, I met Bernie outside the Coeur d'Alene library.  He had his dog, Nicky, with him, and we walked around the city for a few hours.  I was 20 and he was almost 19.  We were already breaking the rules, and it was fun!  Dangerously fun.

This was a long time ago, and I cannot even remember how we got in touch with each other.  But, somehow, we managed to get messages back and forth.  We had to be very discreet.  The rules under schuckardt were that "young men and women" were not allowed to see each other unless they had permission from him to "court".  (Oh, gads!  It gags me to use that term!)  So, first of all, you would join the group Cana Cell.  That was for individuals who were interested in finding a marriage partner.  It all seems so ludicrous now.  Most of the couples that I know who were part of it, had already met and were just jumping through the proverbial hoops.  There were some who joined without any idea who they would meet and possibly marry.  Bernie and I were not among them.

In spite of the fact that I had fallen hard for Bernie, it was a difficult time in my young life.  I had no place that I called my home.  Again, I moved from one friend to another.  When I got a job as a nurse's aide in Spokane, I  moved into an apartment with my friend, Kelly and her brother, Mike.  They had left the religion some time before.  Now, I had technically left it, too, because we were forbidden from living on our own until we were 25.  But, again, my head hadn't left it.  I did a lot of crazy, stupid, and fun things, but always felt the guilt weighing on my mind.  Bernie lived at home with his Mom in Post Falls, Idaho.  He was still actively involved in the religion.  He would get counseled that we had to stop seeing each other, and maybe we did for a couple of weeks, and then we'd find ourselves on a date.  We couldn't help it.  We liked being together.  We went to movies, dinner, and Christmas parties that year.  It was so fun, and my heart was so full. Within a couple of months, I had moved into my own apartment. But.... remember the phone call that I got while in New York, visiting my sister?  Not from my Dad, but from my best friend's Mom convincing me that I must return to the church for the sake of my soul?  Well, she reached out again.  This time, she sent her daughter, another of my friends to my apartment to try to talk me into coming to dinner.  One of the priests was there, and he wanted to talk to me.  I liked this one, and so I said I'd go.  What's the worst that could happen?  He told me that there was going to be a retreat in Phoenix, AZ., and I really should go.  It would be good for me.  Bam!  I was sucked right back in.  I called my Mom and asked her for the money to go.  She got it for me.  Kelly helped me empty out my apartment and I got on a bus to Phoenix.  She must have thought I had lost my mind.  

Without even getting in touch with Bernie to let him know that I was leaving, I was bound for Phoenix. Once I arrived, someone from the church picked me up and drove me to the hotel where the retreat was being held.  I remember attending one lecture.  That was all I could handle. Once again, schuckardt was on a rant about the end of the world.  I called friends in Colorado Springs and asked if I could come there.  And so, once again the wanderer, I was on my way to Colorado.

I stayed in the Black Forest with the Toussaint family.  There were two other girls there that I knew from Coeur d'Alene and the convent.  I got a job as a nurse's aide again.  But, I just couldn't wear the long dresses to work anymore.  I bought myself a uniform for work - and it was pants.  I would leave the house in a skirt and change in the car and then back again before going home.  Now, I was a 21 year old young woman trying to kind of sort of break free from some of the idiotic rules of the cult and their standards.  

When the school year had finished in Black Forest, Joyce, my friend from Coeur d'Alene, and I took a bus trip back to New York.  We visited my sister, Sue. Then, we took the train down to "the City"!  It was so exciting and frightening at the same time.  I LOVED the thrill of so many people all crammed into this small, but huge, area.  We went to Times Square, took a boat out around the Statue of Liberty, and saw a small play production.  (I don't think it was on Broadway.  We couldn't have afforded that.)  We also visited an aunt of Joyce's in the area.  And then, without much of a plan, we headed west on Greyhound.  I remember going through Toledo, Ohio, Bernie's birthplace, and being so excited.  (It was the middle of the night and there wasn't much to see.)  We ended up in Los Angeles, and I don't remember anything about that except that we were more terrified walking down the streets there than we were in New York City.  We parted ways after that trip.

Now, not knowing what I was going to do with myself once again, I returned to Montana.  My sister, Pauline, was living in a home on a hill just west of town.  I moved in with her.  She was sharing custody of the kids with her ex-husband.  I loved it when they would all come for their time with her.  By now, there was also a new niece in the area, and that was fun, too.  This time, I got a job working at a small factory that made sticks of incense.  It was called Campfire Memories. I worked there for a few months.  But, in November, I couldn't stand being away from Bernie, and I moved myself back to Spokane.  I was staying in a hotel, paying by the week.  One night, one of Kelly's sisters came to visit and I asked her to ask her parents if I could stay with them.  It was agreed.  I would pay rent to them and help out.  Once again, I found a job as a nurse's aide, bought a car from a friend, and settled in.  Bernie was only 20 miles away in Idaho.  I had confessed my "sins" of leaving the church, living on my own, putting myself in numerous occasions of sin by being alone with Bernie.  (I smile writing that.) So, being in compliance, I could now ask permission to join the group of young adults looking for a marriage partner.  I didn't have to look for long.  Soon, Bernie joined,, we were "legal".  Well, kind of legal.  The rules of our courtship will be another chapter.



Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Life Outside the Walls

 May, 1977

 I had finally convinced my 'superiors' that I must leave the Convent.  They used every tactic to try to convince me to stay.  Above everything else, they used FEAR.  I talked about that incredible fear permeating my life in a previous blog post.

I WAS scared.  I was convinced that the world was out go get my soul and drag it to the depths of hell.  The power of the devil was everywhere, and my name was at the top of his list.  Our President at the time, Jimmy Carter, was most likely the anti-Christ.  After all, how could a man whom so few had ever heard of, win the Presidency?  Every facet of government was out to indoctrinate us into the One World Order.  We couldn't even trust the leader of the Catholic Church, or any of its priests or bishops.  They had all succumbed to the temptations of Satan.  I wasn't sure how I was going to survive all these onslaughts, but I knew I had to go give it my best.

To say that I floundered would be an understatement!  I left Coeur d'Alene and flew to Colorado Springs where there was a small group of "remnant faithful" who would take care of me.  They had a small chapel in the community of Black Forest, and a small school for their grade school children.  I found them to be wonderful people.  Theirs was a close knit group and they all wanted to help me.  I stayed there for a few months before returning to Montana.  My sister, Pauline, needed help with her children that summer, and hired me for babysitting.  At the end of that summer, I did odd jobs - mostly babysitting - and then, was summoned by schuckardt.  He had a plan for me.  I was still so immersed in the mentality of his cult, that I felt really honored to be called to meet with him.  He had such an incredible power to make me shake in my boots.  While honored, I was also terrified.  When he told me that the little school in Colorado Springs was in need of a teacher, I accepted that as what I was supposed to do next.  I would live with 1 if the families and get a small stipend for my work.  Note here that I did NOT have any teaching experience, much less an actual degree in education.  That didn't matter.  

I spent the school year of '77 -'78 with those families, doing my best to teach their children.  I was provided with the same books that the cult used in Coeur d'Alene while I was in school.  It was challenging - since there were approximately 7 children in 4 or 5 different grades.  Thinking back, I just shake my head.  I know those kids learned to read and write and basic math.  That is about it.  We took some field trips and had some good times.  But, also, looking back, I regret that I wasn't more fun.  I definitely towed the line of strict obedience that was demanded of me when I was in school.  Ugh!  I was  TRUE believer still.  I just wasn't in a habit.

After the school year was finished, I went back to Montana.  I took a job as a NAC at the county home for the elderly and disabled.  Ironically, it was the same facility where my mother would take my sister and I, dressed in matching dresses, to cheer up the old folks at Christmas time.  I worked the "graveyard" shift.  I was good to those folks.  I still remember some of their names.  I remember Emma, whom I had to get up to poop during the night.  She was probably in the early stages of dimentia.  She told me to be sure to "mark it in the book" that she had an 'extra large bowel movement'..... some things just stay with you forever!  

At the end of the summer, 1978, I again went back to Coeur d'Alene.  I was so lost.  Girls were not allowed to go to college under francis schuckardt.  Even boys were highly discouraged.  The objection was that the classes were co-ed, something completely forbidden under our dictator.  Of course, he never claimed it be his idea - he convinced those of us under his thumb that it had always been against the teachings of the Catholic Church.  And so, I did what I could to make a little money.  I did what would now be called "couch surfing".  So many friends were so good to me and let me stay with them.  It was during one of these stays that Bernie and I met on the sly.  I was staying with my friend, Dru.  While I was gone one evening, Bernie his best friend, Dennis, walked by the house.  Dru told me that they threw pebbles at her window.  When she opened it, Bernie asked if Francie was there.  I was not.  So, Dru told me that he said, "Well, tell her hi and give her my love."  Of course, when I returned a few days later, she told me this.  I didn't believe her.  I didn't even know Bernie.  What I remembered of him was when he was 13 years old, and hiding out at my parents' farm in Montana -- hiding from his Dad, who wanted to take him back to Ohio so that he could get a good education.

A couple of weeks later, Dru and I were walking up 7th Street, heading for Modern Drug.  Dennis, Bernie's friend, just happened to be walking his dog down the street. We stopped and talked.  Dru asked Dennis to confirm what had happened a couple of weeks earlier.  He did.  And, he told us that he was on his way to the library to meet Bernie, did we want to go?  I said no.  Dru said yes.  We went.  Dennis left us outside the library with his dog while he went in to get Bernie.  As soon as Dennis was out of sight, I kicked Dru and said, "I do NOT want to be here."  Well, then Bernie and Dennis came out and we spent a few hours walking around Coeur d'Alene.  You have to understand that, in spite of the fact that I was 20 years old, this was completely forbidden.  Young men and women must belong to a group called 'Cana Cell'.  (Note - wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle:  turning water into wine.  Thus, this name was chosen for those who wanted to get married.)   None of us belonged.  If we had been seen together, there literally would have been hell to pay.  So, we snuck around the dark side streets, Dru with Dennis, me with Bernie.  The only thing that I remember from our hours of conversation was this:  Me: "How old are you anyway?"  Bernie: "Love doesn't ask for an I.D. card."  (I can barely type the corniness!)  Late that night, Dru and I snuck back into their house and went to sleep in the basement.  The next morning, when we woke up she asked me what I thought of Bernie.  I said, "I am going to marry him."  Thus began our unofficial, totally forbidden, unapproved 'courtship'.

Monday, December 14, 2020

FEAR is the path to the Dark Side


It is paralyzing.  It is controlling.  It holds you back. 

I knew a lot of fear when I was a child.   I was afraid of the dark.  I was afraid to be by myself. I was afraid of the Hells Angels.  I was afraid of people who were different then me.  I was sure that there were "bad guys" around every corner.   They were just waiting to get me.  

I am now 62 years old and I have so. much. fear.  I don't want it.  But, it's there. 

I am in Rockaway Beach, Oregon, a place that I am so in love with.  Last night, I was here by myself.  Bernie had gone back home because he couldn't get today off.  I was alone in the house by the ocean.   No one was in the rental next door.  The owner wasn't downstairs.  I was looking all around for implements to put in the slider to keep the "bad guys" out.  (You do know they're out there, right?  Just waiting.)  I woke up during the night because I heard a "noise".  

When I was a child, I was afraid of so many things.  My mother, in the throws of menopause, would take off for the woods.  She would be gone for hours and hours, working through her personal demons.  When she would eventually come home, she would say to me, in a whispery, scary voice:  "Some day I am never coming back."  I was scared.  Did I cause it?

One time, my sister and I were with friends at the Fairgrounds in Kalispell, Montana.  We were running up and down the steps in the grandstand.  I don't know what caused me to say it, but I yelled to my sister, "You fool!"  When we got home, she told me that I had called her a fool.  Mom called me in and told that in the Bible it says that anyone who calls another a fool is bound for the fires of Gehenna.  Whoa!  That was pretty scary.  And yet, at the same time, I thought she was just a little crazy.  I was probably 8 years old.

When I would answer my mother with what she considered a "malicious" remark, she would tell me that there was a young child who was going to be in Purgatory until the end of time.  Why?  Because she had shown malice towards her mother.  I had no idea what that meant.  (I think she made it up.)

At this point, we had not even joined the cult of francis schuckardt.  So, really, I didn't even know what FEAR was coming. I was afraid of my mother.  I was afraid of the dark.  I was afraid of hell.  I was afraid of the Black Panthers (in Kalispell, Montana!!).  I was afraid of Communists.  I was afraid of Democrats!  (Isn't that hilarious?)  And, the Hell's Angels - whenever I heard a motorcycle go by on the Highway, I would be so scared.  For sure, they were coming for us.  And yet, this fear was infantile compared to what was coming my way.

When my mother joined the cult of francis schuckardt in 1968, fear took on a whole new dimension.  It was our EVERYTHING.  If you research cults, you will see that this is one of their major tools to keep their members under their control.

When I attended the annual Espiritu Seminar at Twin Lakes, Idaho, we had 7 solid days of indoctrination by schuckardt and his minions.  schuckardt was the BEST at instilling this fear into us.  He would stand at the blackboard and dissect the United States into 8 sections.  He would assign a different nationality to each section.  They were the ones who were going to come in and torture us, because of our Faith.  Our section was #8.  We would get the Manchurians - and they, he told us, were by FAR the harshest in torture.  F.E.A.R.

We had lecture after lecture about living our Faith in the "latter days".  (This was 1973-1974.)  References were made to various Christians/Catholics who were martyred for their beliefs.  Again, we were promised that the tortures WE would experience would be far greater than any other Christian in all time.  There were examples given of how Christians had died through the years.  The tortures were awful.  The one that sticks with me to this day a5nd caused me to shiver just now is the ones who had wooden spikes hammered under their fingernails.  

And, on and on it went from 1973 to the time that I finally left the cult and Mt. St. Michael's in 2005.  It is embarrassing to admit that it took me that long to free myself from those chains of fear.  

It was all brought vividly back to my mind tonight when I walked from our little place here in Rockaway Beach to Dos Rocas to pick up dinner.  Bernie will be here soon and I walked down to get our dinner.  It was dark outside.  I can't even tell you how my heart was pounding.  Surely, there was someone just waiting to jump out and assault me.  My mind knows that this is totally insane.  I am safe.  Rockaway is a wonderfully beautiful and safe place.  But, the memories of all the fears were right there.  I was so relieved when I arrived safely back inside the apartment and locked the door.  

Is it ridiculous?  Yes, it is.  Am I in danger?  No, I am not.  I am 62 years old.  I have never been assaulted.  I have never even been remotely in danger.

And, so ..... I pull myself together and tell myself that there is nothing to fear "but fear itself".  

I live in a beautiful world.  I am cared for by my loving Father, God.  I have the love of my husband, Bernie, and my sons, Matt, Kevin, and Nathan.  I have more love than I can describe with my wonderful Sullivan Bernard and Cassidy Rae.  There's Max and Fella - and my siblings who care for me, and I for them.   And friends ---- there are so many that are so wonderfully amazing.  I am grateful.

How do I rid myself of fear?   Surround myself with love.  I love you all!

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tears Make Rainbows in your Soul

I am not even sure that I remember how to do this blog thing.  It has been so long.

I last wrote in October of 2018.

Bernie & I had just moved to Portland.  We were living with our son and his then wife and our beautiful grandchildren, Sullivan Bernard and Cassidy Rae.  Oh, and Baxter, the dog.  And tons of chickens.

Our first 2 houses fell through.  That was difficult.  But, looking back, I am so glad they did.  The house that we ended up in in Beaverton is EXACTLY what we wanted.  God was watching over us along the way.

We moved into our home right before Christmas 2018. 

At that time, Bernie was still working nights at Providence East Portland.  The commute from our new home was ONLY 1 hour vs. the 90 minutes it took him to get to work from Kevin's home in Hillsboro.  Life was pretty good.  However, Bernie's real desire was to find employment at St. Vincent's Hospital in Beaverton.  The commute would only be 10 minutes each way.  In March, he was accepted to join a new unit there.  It was a step-down from ICU.  There would be weeks and weeks of training and learning new things.  For 12 years, Bernie had been a cardiac nurse.  Now, he would be expanding his field to whatever patient came from the ICU to the IMCU.  From the start, something was wrong.  He was not eating.  I would make him breakfast, and he'd take a couple bites.  He usually brought home most of his lunch, uneaten.  As soon as he finished trying to eat dinner, he would hit the computer and study till he went to bed.  The next morning, the routine began again.  This went on for 2 months.  I was worried about him.  On May 2, 2019, our 38th wedding anniversary, I came home from a meeting to find him just standing in the garage, staring.  He had worked with a new mentor that day and she called into question the order in which he visited his patients at the beginning of shift.  After his shift was over, the charge spoke to him about the way he prioritized his patients that day.  He vehemently defended why he chose to see whom when.  It was not a big thing.  The charge just wanted to discuss it with him.  By the time he got home, during that 10 minute drive, he had lost all confidence in his ability to function as an effective nurse any longer.  He was overwhelmed.   There was no anniversary celebration that night. 
The next day, I suggested that we go somewhere for a walk.  It was a beautiful day.  We walked through beautiful forests and wetlands.  School children, out on outings, passed us on the trails.  All the while, Bernie's eyes were on the ground, his hands in his pockets.  I wanted to shout:  LOOK UP!  See the beautiful trees?  Hear the birds?  But, something kept me from doing that.  At the end of our walk, his charge nurse called and they talked for a long time.  I went walking on my own while they spoke.  Whenever I was within hearing range, I would hear Bernie again trying to explain why he chose to treat his patients the previous day in the order that he did.  His charge was very kind, but didn't back down a bit.   It was Friday.  Bernie had invited a co-worker from Providence East Portland over for dinner that night.  He was in no shape to entertain, but he tried.  Houston was a real friend, understanding, offering support where he thought appropriate.
Bernie went in the following week and informed the charge that he would not be returning to that unit.  She told him to look into taking medical leave, which he did.  The following weekend, I booked an Airbnb in Rockaway.  I thought some beach time would really help him.  I invited Kevin & the kids to come down, too.  I will just say that it was the saddest weekends of my life with Bernie.
His condition would be a classic catatonic state.  He could not enjoy the ocean.  He could barely get out of bed.  What had happened to this man of mine?  What had happened to the guy with the endless quips and deadly sense of humor?  How was I going to get him back?  Kevin and the kids went home on Sunday morning, and Bernie & I stayed one more night.  I packed us up as he wandered around aimlessly.  My heart hurt, but I loved him so much.  What was I going to do?
Kevin, who, at the time was seeing a counselor of his own, really, really encouraged Bernie to find a counselor.  It took a few days, but he got in to see Dr. Brunstein fairly quickly.  The first few visits were pretty uneventful.  Bernie was just telling him about his childhood and our life.  He filled him in on our years in the cult. 
One of the issues that Bernie discussed with Dr. Brunstein was something at work called "competencies".  There were 25 -30 areas in which each nurse was supposed to show their manager that they were COMPETENT in these areas.  Bernie took it very seriously.  Periodically, the unit manager would ask him how he was coming with his competencies.  He had, by this time, maybe got ONE checked off by his manager.  First of all, he was busy taking care of his patients.  Secondly, when he did have his manager observe, he said she took about 90  minutes to do it, because she wanted to go through everything and not just observe him doing it for her.  That was discouraging.  He asked his friend, Houston, if he had completed his competency check list.  Houston had been there for about 18 months.  He laughed and told Bernie that he had just taken them home and thrown them under his bed. 
After one session with Dr. Brunstein, Bernie came home just a little annoyed and said that the Doctor was trying to tie all this into his past with the cult, and Bernie thought that was ridiculous.  I suggested that he not push back, but go with it.  So, the next week, he and the Doctor pursued this avenue.  After much discussion, Bernie discovered that because of how we were taught that everything we did had to be 100% perfect, he had applied that to this list of competencies in his adult life.  Sounds insane, doesn't it?  And yet, it was very real for him.
And, so the months wore on.  Bernie was on medical leave from May through August.  I can't tell you how many days there were that he could not even get out of bed.  He kept the shades drawn in our room, and a pillow over his head.  I could not do anything for him - except be there.  On Memorial Day weekend, I bought him some plants and bushes, knowing how he loves to work in the yard.  When I brought them home, he was very sad.  I couldn't understand it.  He loved working in the yard.  He told me weeks later, that when he looked at them all he saw was WORK and he had no energy to take care of them.  Eventually, they got planted.  Every single one of them will always remind me of this time that we came through - together.  
Bernie continued to see his counselor over the next several months.  His other Doctor tried various medications with him.  None of them helped.  He was jittery, anxious, void of any energy or direction.  Finally, in December, he was able to see a psychiatrist.  She tried a few different medications, and they have worked well.
In late summer, Bernie decided that he would start looking for work again.  He was feeling a bit better and was not ready to quit nursing yet.  And still, he questioned his abilities as a nurse.  He put out dozens of resumes and endured some pretty awful interviews on the phone.  Imagine how hard it was to watch this man, a brilliant cardiac nurse, endure rejection after rejection after rejection.  Each time, he would try to be positive.  It just made me so sad.
Without dragging this on too long, I am happy to tell you that he applied for and has been hired as a cardiac nurse in Tuality Hospital - the same hospital where Sully and Cassidy were born.  The commute is about 20 minutes each way.  But, the best thing is that he is finding his purpose again.  He is so excited to begin this next chapter in his career.    March 9th is his starting date.
We should never underestimate what stress can do to our lives.  This move to Portland was a BIG thing.  Bernie had been happy and in his job for 12 years at Sacred Heart hospital in Spokane.  Life was really, really good.  The years went by, but he didn't really notice that whole aging thing, because life just WAS.  The newness of Portland brought that state of zen to a screeching halt! 
*Big city  "I hate big cities."
*Traffic  "I hate the traffic."
I sit here in Rockaway Beach today, February 25, 2020.  I ponder the things that have taken place since my post of October, 2018:
We moved into our beautiful little home in Beaverton.  Christmas.  Early 2019, the extreme, gut-wrenching heart ache of our daughter in law choosing to end her marriage to our son, Kevin.  My heart screamed:  WHY DID WE MOVE HERE?  WHY DID WE DISRUPT OUR COZY LIFE?  When I saw the pain my son went through, is still going through, the answer is clear:  God put us here for him and those 2 beautiful children of his.  And, our son was here for his Dad during Bernie's time of crises.  Family.  All of our family has just been amazing through all of this.  When his brothers heard of Kevin's situation, they were both here immediately in support of him.  It was beautiful.  We raised good sons. 
For those of you that have been with me through the past year, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all of your love and support.  I have felt it.  I don't know how I could have done this without you.  I love you all.

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.