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......

Monday, February 26, 2018

Yes, Sister.

Why didn't I just say no?
Why didn't I refuse when told to bend over and take whacks?
Why did I put my gum on my nose when caught chewing gum? 
Why did I cover all my hair under my veil for 2 weeks when I was told I had too much hair showing?
Why did I let them throw away my John Denver music when they told me it was too worldly?
Why did I let myself be humiliated for using to much Scotch tape on my May crown?
Why didn't I just say no?

Others were braver and bolder than I.  They pretty much told the nuns to shove it.  I remember my friend, Tina, just walking out of the makeshift schoolhouse and walking away down the road.  I was thinking today - who do I admire?  I admire Tina for doing that.  It took guts.
I admire all of those stood up to authority and said no, not going to do it.
Why didn't I?  I was so scared, for years & years & years.  Bernie would tell you that I still am.  I would defend myself by saying now the fears are more real.  I don't want harm to come to my boys or daughters in law or my grandchildren.  I want them all to be happy.
I had no one to stick up for me.  My Dad had no idea what was going on behind the scenes, and I didn't tell him.  I prayed for him to be converted.  THANK GOD HE NEVER WAS CONVERTED TO THAT INSANITY!
Bernie and I were talking today.  I was talking to him about the time my mom called me in to tell me that the Radecki's were hiding out at our house in Montana.  Of course, I had assumed she was going to tell me that she and my Dad were getting a divorce.  What I told Bernie was that IF that had been what she told me, there would have been NO question about whether or not I would go live with my Dad.  No question.   Looking back today, my heart wishes they had.  My little Francie heart wishes that I could have had that choice to go and live with my Dad, where life would have been so different.  But, my Dad was a noble and gentle soul, and he put up with the craziness.  Little did he know.....
Still, I wonder WHY.... I am literally shaking my head as I type this.  What made Tina brave enough to walk out the door and down the road?  What made me cower and succumb to their every wicked command?  I wish I knew. 
And now I smile.  My life is not over.  I am strong now.  I would lay down my life for my family.  And if you try to mess with them, watch out.  Maybe it's been building up over a lifetime.  Not sure.
But, it makes me sad for that little girl who had such sparkle, such potential.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Trouble A-Plenty With A Mix of Fun

1974 began with a bang, you might say.  Mom had driven to Kalispell and packed up my sister, Pauline, along with her 5 children and spirited them away to Coeur d'Alene.  My sister's husband, the father of the 5 children, simply came home to an empty house on the evening of January 24.  It didn't take him long to figure out where his family had gone.  Mom had been working on my sister for months to join the group, for the good of her soul.  In my sister's defense, I think she was simply worn out and not thinking things through.  She had had babies in 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1973.  She had a huge garden every year, and canned tons of food to put away for her family.  My sister, Sue, remembers visiting PeeWee (that's what we called her) in the summer of 1973.  She was very, very pregnant with her 5th child, and she was out working in the garden.  But, her kids - oh, gosh!  How I loved her kids!  So, when Mom showed up at the Villa with PeeWee and the kids, my heart was so happy.  The girls at the Villa also fell in love with these little ones.

It wasn't long before Jerry started trying to get in touch with his family.  However, since my sister was now a member of our cult, everything was dictated by schuckardt.  He did not consider their marriage valid in the eyes of the church since it had taken place before a Justice of the Peace.  Pauline was not to see Jerry.  He was the enemy.  I remember him coming to the door of the Villa Maria, and knocking and ringing the doorbell, and being told to go away, my sister didn't want to see him.  One time, someone distracted him while Pauline and I took the kids and ran a few blocks to the home of another cult member, to hide them.  He found us and tried to get her to talk to him, but she would not.  It is sad now.  It was terrifying then. 

Jerry was persistent, though.  One day, as we were all walking home from our lengthy church services, a car drove by, Jerry jumped out and grabbed his daughter, Wendy.  He took her into the car with him and off they drove.  Wendy was 6 years old.  It was gut-wrenching for us.  Wendy was now in the hands of someone under the influence of the devil.  What to do?  For some time, Pauline and the kids were sheltered by a wonderful family on Ramsey Road.  I am not sure how long they stayed there.  After they left there, with guidance from schuckardt, Pauline tried to come up with a plan where she could go with the kids and hide away.  Jerry's family had a cabin at Ashley Lake in Montana, and she thought that she and I could go there with them.  I was kind of excited about that adventure, but as it turned out, schuckardt said no. In the meantime, Jerry had pursued legal action.  He showed up at the Villa one day with the police and a court order.  There was nothing we could do.  The kids were gone.  Our hearts were sad.  My sister, who had been nursing her 5 month old baby girl, cried and cried.  And, when her breasts swelled with milk for her little girl, she cried more.  They were gone.  Back to Montana with their Dad. 

It was not the first time situations like this had arisen in our cult.  schuckardt, ever the puppet master, dictated what should be done.  In the case of Pauline, he told her that she could return to live with the children and their father in Kalispell.  The "only" catch was that they could not live as husband and wife.  She would have to have a separate room.  And so, she returned to Kalispell, continuing to follow the dictates of a madman in Idaho.  And it was springtime, 1974.

Life at the Villa Maria returned to the regular routine before the 5 little kids had become part of our lives.  I turned 16 in April, and my big celebration was that friends gave me a box of Ritz, a 6 pack of Coke, and M&M's.  Dad came out to visit us for the Easter weekend, and I made him an apple pie.  I had never made pie crust before, and I was crying out of frustration at how difficult it was.  When he ate that pie, he told me, "Sis, this is the BEST pie crust I have ever had."  What a guy! 

In our group, there was a religious organization for young women called Handmaids of Mary.  You had to write a letter explaining why you should be allowed to join.  Then, you had to be approved and accepted.  It was kind of elite to get in.  You knew you were REALLY good if you got to wear the special dresses and sashes that the Handmaids wore.  It took me awhile to get in.  Shocking!  On my first try, I made the mistake of talking when I wasn't supposed to, and got paddled and kept on silence from my best friend for a year.  (We were supposed to have been admitted the next day!)  Anyway, during the summer this group of girls would get to go on various outings with a few of the nuns.  One of the places that they often went was to our farm in Montana.  They'd spend a day at Glacier Park, a day at Flathead Lake, and maybe a day back at the farm, climbing the hills behind the house.  It was fun.  I liked having company.  Most of my best friends were part of the Handmaids.  But, this summer would be different.  At the end of the summer, quite a number of them were going to be entering the convent.  I was really sad, because once they walked through that door, it was pretty much like the rest of us were dead to them.  I had formed really strong friendships, and school wouldn't be the same without them.  Oh, they would still come to the classes we took, but they couldn't look at us or talk to us.  Fun times, for sure.  I was not looking forward to it.

Summer passed and I survived yet another Espiritu Seminar at Twin Lakes, Idaho.  My friends had already left and joined the convent.  Life went on.  Same crap.  Different day.  Rinse.  Repeat.

In the fall of that year, the girls from the Villa Maria, and the girls who attended school there had a celebration for saints they honored during the month of October.  One of those saints is the archangel, Raphael.  In the Catholic church, he is an angel some folks ask to help them find a suitable mate for marriage.  I LOVED Raphael!  All I had ever wanted to do was get married and have a family.  However, marriage was discouraged.  Seriously.  schuckardt told us that very, very few people were called to the state of matrimony.  Most were meant to be nuns or brothers.  Everyone knew exactly how I felt about that!  No way was I meant to be a nun.  No way was I called to be a nun.  I was counseled that I had a very generous heart, and it would not be possible for me to include God in my life if I chose to marry and have children.  My heart was meant to be shared only with Christ.  During that celebration in October of 1974, I caved.  I said, "Fine.  I will give you my life, God."  And, on January 23, 1975, I along with 2 friends, entered the Convent.

And now, I have to go have a glass of wine!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

To Insanity and Beyond, 1973

After the summer of 1973, Mom and I returned to Coeur d'Alene.  The Villa Maria was still in the same house at the corner of Indiana Avenue and 5th Street.  Of course, before school began, we were all required to attend the Espiritu Seminar at Twin Lakes camp.  Another week of lengthy lectures from francis schuckardt and various religious people about the imminent end of the world, the tortures we would all endure if we were to maintain our Faith, and the punishment that we would suffer if we were to deny our beliefs.  Hours & hours on our knees.  Hours & hours on wooden benches with no back rests.  Hours & hours of intense supervision.  30 minutes a day of "recreation", where we were allowed to talk to one another.  That was it.  There were probably 150 girls - and the bathroom situation was dire.  We were allowed 3 minutes to shower, and certainly not every day.  In the evening, after our day of indoctrination was done, we would stand in line in silence outside the bathrooms, waiting for our turns to wash our face and brush our teeth.  One night, in the extreme darkness, I was approached by one of the women appointed to be one of our counselors.  She pulled me aside and told me that she could see through my skirt.  I needed to get a thicker slip to wear.  I was in disbelief.  IN THE DARK, SHE COULD SEE THROUGH MY SKIRT.  The insanity of this now, as I recall it, just makes me shake my head.  It could easily be a fiction movie, couldn't it?  And, little did I know what was going on behind the scenes during this particular seminar of 1973.  Just wait until I fill you in.  It will blow your mind.

The school year began at the Villa Maria.  Every morning, after breakfast, we would set up the desks in the living room for our classes that day.  The bus would arrive and bring girls who lived near the City of Mary.   Religion class was usually first, as I recall.  Then, probably English and Math.  A lovely woman named Clare Krug succumbed to the charisma of schuckardt.  She was single and a retired teacher.  She moved to Coeur d'Alene and soon began teaching us English.  I really liked her.  She was stylish - as much as one could be - and she was real.  (She didn't last long!)  Nuns who had no education higher than 12th grade were trying to teach us French, Algebra, Geometry, etc.... If you were REALLY smart, then Dale Pivarunas would teach you Trigonometry!  (Thank God I never qualified!)

Mom still ran the Villa Maria, cooking and taking care of the household stuff.  And, again, it was just the 2 of us in our little room there.  Agnes was gone to the convent.

In November, when it was time for us to go home for Thanksgiving with Dad, Mom pulled me into our room and said, "Francie, there is something that I have to tell you before we go home."  I was, once again, numb.  I thought the time had come.  Dad could no longer support this insanity, and they were getting a divorce.  I was prepared for her to tell me that.  Instead, she told me this:  "The Radecki's needed a place to hide from their Dads, who were looking for them, and they have been at our place in Kalispell since September."  ..........  What did she just say?  I was all prepared for a divorce, and now this?  I was elated.  My Dad was not alone anymore.  He had company.  (I had NO idea who the Radecki's were!)  So, I was happy.  Mom & I boarded a Greyhound bus and set out for Kalispell for Thanksgiving.  I was super excited, because my sister, Pauline, had had her baby in September, and I was anxious to meet little Maria.  But, disappointment set in hard when we got to Bonners Ferry, and we were told the bus line to Kalispell was not running on the holiday.  Mom called home and filled Dad in.  We spent the night in a hotel in Bonners Ferry, and the next day my brother in law, Jerry O'Neil, rented a plane and a pilot, and flew to Bonners Ferry to bring us home.
We had a great Thanksgiving with family - and then....... then we went to our farm where the Radecki's were "hiding out".  The Radecki's were:  Catherine, with her 2 youngest children, Martha & Bernie; and Emily Radecki, with her identical twin sons, Mark & Mike.

Remember - it was strictly forbidden for boys & girls to spend time together.  So, I spent time with Martha, sledding and competing over who got to hold baby Maria Jennifer O'Neil.  The Radecki boys - well, I don't know what they were up to.  Bernie, at that time, was only 13.  I thought that he was hysterical.  He kept himself busy at our farm working on pieces of wood - whittling little guns and things - and, being 13, his voice was changing and I found it immensely entertaining listening to him. There was NO sign whatsoever at that point of any attraction between us.   I was so happy that my dad had people there to keep him company.

In early January 1974, the Radecki's left and returned to Coeur d'Alene.  I guess they figured that their Dads had given up looking for them for the time being.  A lawsuit was brewing.  Two Radecki brothers, Joe & Henry, had sued the schuckardt church for alienation of affection.  As members of the cult, we spent hours and hours on our knees asking for God to protect us from these sources of evil.  Initially, the Radecki brothers won.  However, in appeals, they lost.  schuckardt was victorious in continuing to persuade the vulnerable to follow him and his radical beliefs.  schuckardt was victorious in continuing to break up families.  schuckardt was victorious in continuing to convince people, particularly middle aged women, to leave all behind and follow him.  He was, after all, leading them all to God. 

Late January, 1974.  She had given me not hint about what she was about to do.  But, what joy it brought me!  My mother, and her dear friend, Irene, drove to Kalispell in late January to bring my sister, Pauline, and her 5 children to sanctuary within our cult.  I was surprised, but I was so happy to have my nieces & nephew there with me.  Mom brought them to the Villa Maria.  All of the girls fell in love with these adorable little children.... but, it was only the beginning of what these children would endure because their mother had fallen victim to the ideologies of a cult leader, and their father saw through the insanity of it all.....And, as I type this, again..... I shake my head......

Thursday, January 25, 2018

We Did Not Know Any Different

By now, we were starting year #4 as followers of francis schuckardt.  The school year was 1972-1973.

During the summer of 1972, my sister, Agnes, had attended a retreat for the religious followers of francis, the nuns & brothers.  I am sure this was highly encouraged so as to generate more vocations to these groups.  When my sister came back to Montana after the retreat, she did not give me any indication that she was going to become a nun.  I was relieved.

Agnes and I were about as different as night and day. While I enjoyed being outside all day, riding my bike, climbing trees, playing with the dog, she preferred to stay inside and read.   In the environment to which we had been subjected, she appeared more docile, much more compliant than I.  But, looks can be deceiving.  Maybe she was just wiser and chose to keep her cards close to her chest.  I don't remember ever having lengthy talks as sisters do about the insanity of it all.  We were both scared, scared to death of losing our immortal souls to the fires of hell if we rebelled in the slightest way. 

On a warm spring evening at the Villa Maria in early summer of 1972, the 22 boarders and staff ate outside on the sloped lawn.  It was an enjoyable time.  When my sister, Agnes, had finished her dinner, she tossed the remaining water from her glass onto the hillside.  Patty Klotz, who lost her temper very easily, scolded her for throwing her water at another boarder.  The house mother, our mom, told Patty, "You punish her as you see fit."  Patty told Agnes that she would do the dishes that evening all by herself.  THERE WERE 22 GIRLS PLUS the nuns, mom, and Patty.  I was furious.  I stood up, and I said, "No she won't.  I will help her."  Jaws dropped, and again, my mother spoke up.  "Miss Klotz, you punish Francie as you see fit."  And so, I was given the punishment of scrubbing the main floor bathroom from floor to ceiling.  I don't know what got into me, but I went and found the largest bath towel there was.  I put water in the tub, dipped the towel, squeezed the excess water out of it, and washed those stupid walls.  Within 10 minutes, I was done.  I was so angry.  Then, as I recall, I headed out to the kitchen to help my sister with the mountains of dishes, in silence.  We were not allowed to talk. 

We headed home for a brief summer break after that.  schuckardt liked to maintain as much control as possible over his flock, and so he scheduled summer school classes that were mandatory.  Maybe because of my mom's position in running the boarding school, he graciously gave us an exemption.  It was such a breath of fresh air to get out of there, and yet . . . .

I missed my friends at the Villa.  I had been gone from Montana for a few years by now, and am sure most of my friends from grade school had forgotten about me. Even if they hadn't, I sure did not want them to see me.  Even in Montana, away from the cult, we wore the required garb. We had formed friendships in Idaho that would withstand the test of time and insanity.  Some girls came and left the Villa shortly.  Their parents have obviously discovered what our little cult was all about, and chose the wiser.  Then they became the "enemy".  If we were ever to see them again, we were forbidden to speak to them.  Most had come from various parts of the country, so this wasn't an issue.  But, it was sad.

School began for the new year after the dreadful Espiritu Seminar.  Agnes, Mom, and I still shared a tiny little bedroom at the Villa Maria.  We did not have to sleep in the big bedroom with all the other boarders.  Sometimes, I wonder if they resented us for that.  It didn't offer any really special privileges, except that we weren't awakened by Patty beating on a fireplace shovel with a kitchen knife.  Mom woke us up a little more gently.  And, I looked forward to Tuesday evenings, because Mom would take just the 2 of us away from the Villa for a few hours of family time.  We often would go to Undy's drive in and get their tacos, and go sit by the lake and eat them.  Other times, she would go to the store and buy Kippered snacks and crackers, and various other simple foods we shared in our car looking out at the lake.  As I type this, I am becoming extremely saddened.  My mother, at that time, was younger than I am now.  It is not even conceivable to me to take my children to live in these conditions.  I don't remember what we talked about on those evenings away.  I was always in the backseat, mom and Agnes in the front.  I know that I really, really missed my Dad. 

In late November of that year, 1972, my sister told me that she was going to enter the Convent.  I remember that I was numb.  I cried and cried.  While we had fought like cats and dogs as youngsters there was a bond there now.  She was my sister, and she was going to leave me.  Christmas that year was difficult.  I knew that when we returned to Coeur d'Alene, her departure was going to be imminent.  And so, on January 7, 1973, Agnes entered the Convent.  And, then, it was me....and my mom.  It wasn't the same.  Tuesday evenings became fewer, and they weren't as enjoyable with just the 2 of us.  You might not understand what all this meant.  Usually, when a girl leaves her family and enters the convent, she goes away somewhere.  Agnes lived just a few blocks away from the Villa now.  But, she was forbidden to look at her family, much less speak to us.  It was as if she had died.  I was so sad.

Time wore on that year.  The school year wrapped up, and Mom & I headed back to Montana for a break with Dad.  A bright spot in my life over those months was that my sister, Pauline, lived nearby.  She had 4 kids whom I absolutely adored.  I enjoyed spending time with them.  There was no judgment.  They didn't question why I wore the strange clothes I wore.  But, best of all, they were expecting a little brother or sister at the end of the summer, and I was beside myself with excitement.  I couldn't wait.

You might wonder when you watch documentaries on various cults, why the people come across as being so happy.  I know why.  They have given their hearts and souls to the group.  They believe so firmly in the message that THEY have been chosen, out of all the world, to receive.  They are special.  They do not know any different.

1973.  I was fifteen years old.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2017 Francie writes a letter to little Francie

I wrote this letter to the young Francie last summer:

Dear F, little Francie,
Wow!  Where to begin?  I knew you so, so many years ago.  What was it, like 1962?  I remember that that was a very hard time for you, because your big sister, who had been more like your mommy, left you and went way far away to college in Pennsylvania.  You didn't even know where that was - except that it was way, way far away.  You really missed her, didn't you?  That's probably when you felt kind of abandoned, right?  Now, it was just you and your Mom at home while your Daddy went to work and everyone else went to school.  That wasn't a fun time for you, I know.  You tried to survive on your own, to stay out of your Mom's way, because she was so harsh with you.  Do you remember any fun things you did with her when everyone else was gone?  You were her last baby, and she told everyone that she was sad she couldn't  have more babies.  I kind of thought she'd make the best of those times, since you were the end of the line.  But, you know, maybe she was one very frustrated woman.  Your family was pretty poor.  So, maybe she worried about how she was going to feed all of you.  And, then there were her own demons she had never exorcised, and I think maybe she just didn't want to have to deal with them.  I get that a bit.  It is hard for me to have to deal with things from my past.  I'd rather sit and drink a bottle of wine than sit and try to make sense of things that happened to me..IF sense can be made of them EVER.  Frustration with things that happened in one's past is no excuse to take it out on a small child.  It is sad to me that you suffered because your Mom didn't know what to do with such a lively, energetic, happy go lucky little girl.  I'm sorry for the abuse.  The face dunking in water... the whippings with a stick.... the soap in your mouth... she couldn't handle you being so happy.  It wasn't your fault.  You couldn't help yourself!  You were born happy.  How could you not be?  Daddy finally had his "dark haired baby", and there you were.  And the love you always had for your Dad was born then, too.

When you were 4 and Sue left for college, could you ever have imagined how your life would change in just 5 years?  Wow!  I can hardly believe it.  Who could have guessed that your whole world would capsize when francis schuckardt was introduced in your young little, carefree, happy go lucky life?  Suddenly, your life changed dramatically.  I'm sorry.  Suddenly, you didn't just have to fear your mother.  You had to fear God.  You had to fear the devil.  You had to fear displeasing Jesus' mother.
You had to fear the world, because they were all a bunch of evil doers hell-bent on grabbing your very soul and dragging you into hell.  You were scared, weren't you?  I'm sorry.  I am so glad you got to find out later - how much later - how much your heavenly Father loves and loves and loves and loves you.

So, this new life - it was hard, wasn't it?  Probably the hardest thing for you was how it tore you from your Daddy, right?  I'm sorry.  It makes me sad just thinking of how much you must have missed him.  Guess what, Francie?  He missed YOU, too.  His life was gutted - his "sis", as he called you, was gone.  Your mom took Daddy's little girl and did her damnedest to break your spirit.  She had lots of help, too.  Can you even imagine what life would have been like if Janet had never joined francis?  No, you probably can't.  I'm sorry.  When Janet left in the summer of 1967, it was just the beginning.  Your spirit was about to be crushed - well, they sure tried, anyway.  I don't believe they succeeded, Francie.  I believe it always stayed alive - though hidden, and that makes me happy, because you were born with a beautiful spirit.  You had so much love and joy to share with the world.  I'm sorry that you were made to squelch that for so many, many years.  It was all so, so wrong.  I know that when it all began, you really hated it.  You had to dress so strangely - I know you were so embarrassed and didn't want anyone to see you.  That must have been hard for you.  And, as if that wasn't enough, you had to fear the eternal fires of hell IF you were actually ashamed to be seen in that crazy garb.  Geez!  You couldn't catch a break, could you?  I'm sorry.  It is no wonder that, as you grew up, you became so concerned - maybe a little too much - with what people thought of you.  It's ok.  I think that's how most people would have reacted, too.

I won't bring up all the things you went through in all those years in the schuckardt cult.

I want to tell you to hang in there, little girl.  It might look so hopeless right now.   It might look hopeless for many, many, many, many years.  I won't even tell you how many, because I don't want you to lose hope.  I don't want your amazing spirit to die.  I want you to keep it alive deep inside, ok?

Someday, you are going to enjoy a wonderful life, Francie.  It will all begin while you are still a victim of the cult - BUT - again, your spirit will persist and you will come out on top.  You always do.  I am so proud of you.  I'm proud that you never gave up your beautiful self.  For years, you had to hide it, but, because you are so strong, and yes, so stubborn, you will be a survivor.  I want to say that you'll be better because of it, but I really, really wish you had never had to experience the nastiness you did.

Just hang in there, you little doll!  An amazing life awaits you.

I have always loved you.  I am proud of you.  You are a gift.

                                                  Your older self,
(& Bernie, Matt, Kevin, Nate, Kara, Sully, Cassidy, Teresa, & so many, many friends - who all love you

Sunday, January 14, 2018

1972: It Just Gets Worse

francis schuckardt did his best to convince us that 99.9% of us were meant for the religious life.  Very seldom would God direct any of us to marry.  So, considering that, my sister, Aggie, attended a retreat over the summer of 1972 that was for nuns and brothers and those thinking about entering the convent or seminary.  Lots of teenage boys and girls attended.  Why wouldn't they?  They  were in fear of eternal hell fire if they didn't answer the call of the Lord.  I missed my sister while she was gone for that long week of isolation, prayers, and endless talks by schuckardt.  She filled me in on all the details after she got home.  She didn't say anything about becoming a nun.  I was relieved.  Knowing that I would soon be leaving for a mandatory week long seminar of my own, she gave me this advice:  "Francie, if you want to get ready for the Seminar, this is what you do.  You get some sand, and you sprinkle it all over the floor.  Then, you practice kneeling on that for hours a day."  I knew she wasn't kidding.

The Espiritu Seminar, as it was called, was mandatory for any teenager planning on attending "school" in Coeur d'Alene during the upcoming year.  The irony was that, in advance of the seminar, we were all made to write an essay entitled, "Why I Want to Attend the Espiritu Seminar".  These had to be submitted to the Grand Poobah himself, well in advance of the end of August event.  I know that I wrote what was expected:  "I want to attend this seminar, because I am a wretched sinner.  I need to do penance for my sins."  I was 14 years old. 

The last week of August, my mom drove me to Coeur d'Alene .  We got all the items I'd need for the week, which wasn't much, shampoo, toothpaste, soap.  The seminar was held at a place in Twin Lakes, Idaho, called TwinLo Camp.  It was a beautiful spot on the shore of one of the lakes.  There were quite a few cabins, where we would sleep.  There was a cafeteria where we would have our meals.  And, then, there was the chapel/meeting hall, where we would spend most of our time.  Mom dropped me off on a Sunday afternoon, and I was pretty excited.  I wasn't sure what to expect, except for a lot of sand on the chapel floor!  I am glad now for that one time lack of knowing what the week would be like.  I wouldn't have that luxury in the years that followed.

They say ignorance is bliss.  In this case, that is true.  After my mom left, I stood with the rest of the girls in their long dresses and veils covering nearly all their hair.  The boys also waited - way far away, across the camp.  The nuns & brothers were careful to keep a lot of distance between the sexes.  Now, we waited to be told which cabin we'd been assigned to for the week.  There were about 8 cabins for the girls, and I have NO idea how many for the boys.  Most of the nuns were pretty cool to have as a cabin counselor.  But, you were REALLY lucky if you were assigned to the cabin where Mrs. Brazill was in charge.  She was a spunky little thing, and lots of fun.  She appeared to believe in the things schuckardt taught, but she was upbeat and always, always happy.  I wanted to be in HER cabin.  But, as fate would have it, I was put in the cabin that was the most dreaded of all:  Sr Mary Anne's cabin.  Sr. Mary Anne was hell on wheels.  She was mean.  I figured that I would just play it cool, follow the rules, basically keep my nose clean and all would be fine.  Right. 

The Espiritu Seminar ran Sunday - Sunday.  The day went something like this:  Rise.  Get dressed.  Go to chapel for morning prayers and Mass.  This would take probably 90 minutes or so.  All the while, you could smell the breakfast that the wonderful camp cook was preparing across the way.  After we were let out of chapel, we were made to line up in lines, 2 by 2, and walk with our eyes on the ground, and in total silence to the cafeteria.  When we got there, we would stand by our place in silence, not glancing around, until schuckardt or one of his cronies would lead us in grace.  Then, again in total silence, we would sit quietly and eat while someone read aloud from a previously chosen book on the spiritual life.  More times than not, the book from which they read was one called:  Preparation for Death.  It was written by some holy author and went into great detail his interpretation of what happens after a body dies.  Decay.  Maggots.  Just the kind of thing a teenager wants to think about at anytime, let alone when eating breakfast.  After breakfast, we cleaned up and headed to the lecture hall.  One after another speaker would get up and preach to us about the horrors of the world in which we lived.  We heard all about how our country would be divided into 8 different sections, each section assigned to a different culture from ours, with the intention of inflicting the  utmost pain upon us, hoping to cause us to give up our Faith.  Of course, when that happened, Satan would swoop in and take our souls to the eternal fires of hell.  He also made a point of instilling even more fear into us by telling us that the Pacific Northwest had been given to the Manchurians, the cruelest of all ethnicities.  Once a day, we'd have a quiz on the lectures of the day.  If you got 100%, your name would be written up on a giant chalk board.  (Bernie's name was always up there, smarty pants.)   Once a day, we were allowed to 'recreate'.  For the girls, that meant we could visit, or we could play volleyball.  I sat on the sidelines, all by myself.  I really felt lost.  One day, 2 girls walked over to talk to me, and to this day, one of my dearest friends is that girl, Lucy. 

We prayed and we prayed and we prayed.  And we listened, and listened, and listened.  In the evening, we would again go to chapel for more long prayers.  If any transgressions had occurred that day, schuckardt would rant and rave about it.  Transgressions?  Well, one day it was raining and we had to meet in the cabins for our recreation.  In Mrs. Brazill's cabin, they were playing charades.  Some of the girls got it into their heads to do a charade of Mary Magdalene.  So, while Mary laid on the bed, various girls acted out lots of people getting into and out of bed with the sinner, Mary Magdalene.  I remember thinking it was a pretty clever act.   Apparently, somebody had a qualm of conscience and reported it to schuckardt, and boy!  did we hear about it that night.  Anyone involved got a special punishment.  I don't remember what it was.

After prayers in the evening, we'd file back to our cabins 2 by 2 in complete silence, heads down.  We'd wait in line to use the bathroom, and then go back to our cabins to wait for more prayers before bed.  I remember one night kneeling beside my bed, eyes closed tightly, hands folded to my chest, praying along with everyone else, when out of the blue a hand slapped me hard across the face.  My eyes flew open, then immediately shut for fear of getting slapped again.  It was my cabin counselor, the dreaded, MEAN Sr. Mary Anne.  She never said a word.  After the slap, she just walked away.  To this day, I have no idea what provoked her. 

The Seminar concluded after a week.  I had survived.  My mom was there to pick me up, and I remember just hugging & hugging her so hard and crying and telling her I loved her.  I was so glad to be done with that week.  I think it is the most precious moment that I EVER shared with my mother in my entire life.  If only.....

Sunday, January 7, 2018

It Never Goes Away

Never.  Ever.  It's always there, somewhere.  Anything triggers it.

In 2014, I was working at my dream job at Total Wine and More.  All the hours on my feet on the concrete floors took their toll, and after only 6 months, I had to quit.  The pain in my feet and my right hip were becoming intolerable.  I have since undergone 3 surgeries on my feet and 2 on my hip.  I have been in Physical Therapy for a couple of years.  I would not say that it has been a piece of cake.  It has been challenging, to say the least.   I have experienced periods of deep, deep depression.  I had been a very active person all my life, and the limitations were frustrating.  So, as I was out walking my 2 miles this morning, I had to catch myself and focus on my form and my balance.  "Suck it in.  Walk erect.  No limping.  Steady gait."  And, I thought to myself:  "I am basically having to learn how to walk all over again."  And, there it was.  The comparison.  The reminder.

I became a victim of a destructive cult in 1967, when I was 9 years old.  As I have talked about in previous posts, for everything we did, there was a guideline provided by francis schuckardt.  It is fair to say that all decisions were made for those of us in the cult.  If we were uncertain, we consulted the "Grand Poobah" himself, and he would direct us as to what was the "will of God".  Even after he fled from Spokane in 1984, that mindset continued in those he left behind.  It then became Mt. St. Michael, CMRI.  They tried valiantly to distance themselves from their roots.  But, still there was that mentality, to some extent, of controlling the way their parishoners lived and believed.  So, from francis schuckardt in 1967 to 2005 at Mt. St. Michael, the way that I was to live was, in some degree, heavily influenced by whomever was in charge.  And, that was NOT me. 

You are probably wondering:  Where is she going with THIS?  From my physical injuries and surgeries, I am having to learn how to walk right again.  From 38 years of having others guide me, or even make decisions they determined to be in my best interest, for the past 12 years, I have had to learn to trust myself to make choices for myself.  If you grew up in a family where you were given choices, you might not grasp what I am saying.  There were probably times when you didn't make the best decision, but you learned from that.  That is how it is supposed to be.  Imagine then, trusting yourself at 45 years old to start making the right choices, things that are good for you and your family.  It is a challenge.  Imagine having your spirit beaten down for all those years, and then you discover that you're actually a pretty smart person, and you can choose for yourself......  but, that subject is for another post.

See?  It.  Never.  Goes.  Away.