Everyone has a story. In order to really get to know someone, just start paying close attention to the little details. What brings them joy? Where are they from? What type of relationships are they actively involved in? What are their hobbies? What are their goals in life? What do they hope to accomplish in this life? It sounds like work, doesn't it? Relationship building. Well, anything worth doing is work. There are no shortcuts.
Humans on this planet that want to really live and experience this existence to its fullest, enjoy this gift of life, have discovered that we are all one. We are all Children of the Infinite Creator. We are all equal. We are each important to All of Creation. Each life has meaning, purpose and truly matters to our Maker. We should conclude from this realization that this should also be important to each of us as well. We should choose to make the effort to pay close attention to those brothers and sisters that the Creator brings into our lives.
Since you are here, now, reading this --- I shall take this to mean that you have chosen to go a bit deeper to learn more about my life and spiritual journey. One thing you will find is that it will be difficult to label me and my belief system by typical standards. With all of the things that have happened in my life, I find myself consistently in a refining stage. I'm a student of life. My experiences and conclusions are not yours, they are mine. And that's exactly how it is supposed to be. Thank you for stopping by and acknowledging me. Namaste.
Truth be told, I've owned so many successful businesses, been on several corporate board-of-directors, have been a marketing director for a couple of places -- do you really want to get to know me, or see a list of accomplishments and employers? If you came here to get to know what's in my heart and what my art is all about, why I paint, what is my passion --- then you're in the right place.
It's so difficult to express yourself in words when you are a visual person, especially one that focuses on heavenly things or matters of the spirit rather than the mundane duties and responsibilities we all deal with each day. But, this was not always the case. I think the best place for us to begin our new relationship is to start at the beginning.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
My parents were young when they married. That seemed to be the way it used to be. Today, people seem to marry much later, if they marry at all. Let's just say things were very different in the late 1950's. Basically, by today's standards, my parents were babies that had a baby. I am their only child.
I was raised in the Midwest with Midwest manners, traditions, and values. For the sake of trying to elaborate on my spiritual journey, I was raised Catholic. My Mother wanted to be a nun. I was raised in a strict household. Yet, the boundaries were like a security blanket for me. I knew what was what and I was very Loved. I stayed within the parameters my parents set. For the most part, I was happy.
As an artist, I use my maiden name to honor and pay tribute to my Mother. I think one of my clearest first memories was watching her using a pen and inkwell to draw a woman in a mink stole. The fur looked so real. I was fascinated! She encouraged me my whole life to be whatever I wanted to be. I wanted to be like her. I am claiming my heritage and going back to my roots.
My Mother set up an altar in our living room. It was actually a contemporary non-working fireplace. We knelt on the mantle area. Mother made it cushioned so we could say prayers or the rosary. I went to Catechism each week and was a good student. In school, I was known as "the teacher's pet" or "a goody-two-shoes." I was honest, dependable, reliable and responsible. Whatever they called me, I didn't care. At least I had morals. That was my way of thinking at the time.
I eventually found myself being troubled about my spiritual life. I had questions the priests couldn't answer and no matter how hard I tried, I felt that we were being taught to focus on our sinful lives and imperfections. I also felt that the message I was receiving was of doom and gloom. I would always let God down, each and every day because I made mistakes and sinned. I felt little hope.
As I matured, my unhappiness at church seemed to grow. The church told me in order to get answers to my questions, (I was finding much conflicting information), I should attend a local bible study class. I thought, "Well if I can't get answers from priests, what answers would I find at my local parishioner-led neighborhood Bible-study class? That made no sense to me.
I clearly remember one such conflict being why were we to call priests "Father" when Matthew 23:9 King James Version (KJV) clearly says, "And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven,"? I was also told that since I didn't have a Theology Degree, that because I had not studied Greek or Hebrew, that I should not read the Bible personally. I should just go to Bible study. I was stunned! Wasn't the Bible written for all of God's children?
That answer was right up there with my questions about going to confession. I never did receive an answer to this question, either. My question was if when I sin, it's against God, so why can't I go to Him directly in order to ask forgiveness? If I'm His daughter, why can't I talk to God myself? Why do I need a priest to hear my confession? This is probably the first example of when I learned that when everything around you is pushing you to move in a new direction, it's God setting your path straight. Thus, I set off on a spiritual journey to find the Truth.
Over the next decade or so, my search led me to other religions, a lot of books and diverse information. I worked hard at being the best person I knew how to be. I was now married and we had 3 children. I was making progress.
One of the lessons I learned as a young Mother has to be shared. I laugh at my younger self now, but it is with Love. I was doing the best I could with what information I had at the time. When adversity came along, and it sure did come along, I always asked God to take it away. Adversity doesn't feel good. Adversity can hurt and cause stress. I wanted to relieve the pain. I thought praying for it to disappear was the way to peace. Now, of course, I know that those challenges were opportunities to grow.
What do I do now when adversity knocks? I ask Jesus, "What do you want me to learn from this?" I ask Him because if anyone knows about how to deal with adversity, He does! Then it's like I have acknowledged the challenge and asked for help. I learn my lessons and quickly move through the challenge with His help and guidance with a gold star at the end!
When we were able to connect to the Internet in 1996, I was overwhelmed! Just by typing in a URL, anything I wanted to know seemed to be at my fingertips! This really accelerated my search and spiritual journey. It also brought about another challenge. I had to pray for and learn to use discernment so that I would stay on my path to find Truth. I think it's important to clearly state here that my path is my path; my lessons and experiences will not match yours. We all have free agency, free choice and that has to be respected. I always say, "Respect the journey."
Since I'm not writing a book of fiction here, I will just touch on some of the adversities I have endured and worked through to become the person I am today:
I was always a good student, studied hard, followed my parent's rules and gave them no trouble. I never wanted my parents or grandparents to be ashamed of me. I don't believe they ever were. But, my parents didn't always get along and there was a great deal of fighting and arguing. I developed a fear of abandonment that would stay with me into adulthood.
Because I was a "goody-two-shoes," or good girl, that certainly didn't make me very popular. I was not willing to sacrifice my values to be popular, so I learned to live with it. I'm glad I remained true to myself. No wild parties, no getting drunk or high, no promiscuity. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't self-righteous and perfect, but I survived my teens pretty well.
My first husband was the Love of my Life. We met at 17, married at 20 and had 3 beautiful children. We worked hard to be good parents and sacrificed many things to try to do it right. In August 1989, God decided to bring him home. He was 31 years old. He died in an auto accident on the way to work. I was devastated. Since I am a visual person, I was at the bottom of a very deep dark hole with just a pinhole of light at the top. It took me quite some time to crawl out of this hole. Little by little, I climbed up and out of that hole. Little by little, I crawled further and further away from it. Eventually, I found my path and began to live once again.
Just one year later, I was sitting at a school bus stop at 4 pm on a clear sunny day on August 29th. I had a Pepsi between my legs (there were no cupholders back then). I was facing South and the bus was in the other lane facing North. I saw two little girls get off the bus. Look around, and then started to cross in front of my car. I reached for my Pepsi. The next thing I knew, my car was rotating, my left foot was crammed onto the brake pedal, and all around me were horrified faces. I heard glass shatter like it was an explosion. My bench seat was broken and on an extreme angle. My gas tank in my mid-sized car was shoved all the way up to my front seat. It took them 45 minutes to extract me from my car. I later found out that a young man was changing his radio station and "didn't see" the bus with its red lights flashing or me. He rear-ended me doing about 65 miles per hour.
I eventually had another person come into my life. I had such high hopes for a good marriage and a secure future that included Love once again. It was not meant to be. It was a devastating experience on so many levels that I could not put into words if I tried. With God's help, I was able to endure this time period with all of its disappointments, lies, deceptions, and abuses. Somehow, I found a way to forgive this person and move forward. The key to that forgiveness lesson was to sincerely pray to Jesus to show me this person the way He sees them. He showed me this individual as an 8-year-old abused child. He helped me to see that this inner child was innocent. Then I was able to completely forgive the adult, pray for them, and move on.
When my second husband came along, I truly did not want a relationship with anyone. (Not after the horrific experience I had previously). But, as I got to know him, I prayed and asked God if he sent him to me. I knew that I was beginning to care for this man a great deal. If he wasn't right for me, I needed to know ASAP. God assured me that He had sent him to me. He let me know that all would be okay. I was now 35 years old. And, I was afraid. I had to use all my faith and strength to move forward and marry this man. He was divorced and had 3 children. This brought many challenges, as you can imagine. Faith in God got us through all of the ups and downs with 4 teenagers. What a way to start a marriage!
All throughout my adult career, I had a focus on real estate. For some reason, it became "my thing." It wasn't really a conscious thing, but I got really good at "all things real estate" pretty quickly. At one time I was a mortgage broker, lender, personal credit expert, I also developed intellectual properties for real estate investors to hold title without a personal guarantee, became an author and much much more. One highlight of my career was that I was on a show called, "America's Best of the Best" in 1997 in Orlando Florida for an investment strategy I came up with. I was interviewed by Robin Leach. The strategy allowed my new husband and I to be able to buy a 2-unit investment property with only $200 out of pocket. Life was good but complex and overwhelming at times with a house full of hormones and teenagers. God helped us keep it all together. At one point in my later years, the best opportunity I had with our country's financial crisis led me to become a realtor. I always swore I wouldn't do that. But, I had to help earn a living. So, I became the best darn realtor I could. I did quite well. All of my sales were to out-of-state buyers that learned to trust me and bought properties from me without even seeing them first! I just created my own videos and virtual tours pointing out the pros and cons and what I would do with the property if I owned it. I have always taken the road less traveled and have been a bit unconventional. God blessed me through this career, too.
Knowing all about real estate did not prepare me for our bank making an error and simultaneously having my husband experience a mini-stroke. We were afraid for his health and he couldn't work for 6 months. He was 48 years young. We were dumbfounded on how these things happened. They were unexplainable and unforeseen. This was to be a starting point for more heartaches to come. We lost our farm because of these events. Our children found their own new places to live as they had jobs and wanted to start their adult lives. So much happened all at once that my head was spinning and my heart was breaking from the burdens placed upon it. My husband was never the same, but he did seem to mostly recover and was able to work again.
Fast forward to about 10 years. We left Michigan for an opportunity to live in Florida where my clients were. I was an independent consultant and my husband's trucking job was going nowhere. We had a new home to move into and it was a long drive taking all of our household goods, our pet bird, our dog, and our cat. But, once again, God carried us through and brought us safely there.
In business, I learned what the big wide world was all about. I traveled all over the U.S. doing Learning Annex Events. I experienced success, blessings, inspiration and new friendships. I was challenged to do things I had no idea if I could do or not! Along with that, I also experienced jealousy, back-stabbing, scheming, lying, betrayal, theft, and a one-unfounded lawsuit (that of course never went anywhere because I take meticulous notes and keep every email and document). This lawsuit was by a semi-celebrity and trusted associate. He tried to steal my investor-coaching system and website! I got to see firsthand what money does to people if they haven't a clue what we are here for. I saw the ugly side of what a capitalist society is. Through it all, Jesus revealed my enemies to me and kept me safe. All the while teaching me that the rose-colored glasses I had worn as a young adult had come off. I could now see clearly.
One of my children lost their first baby, there was a miscarriage. My Mother died on Easter Sunday morning in 2011 from complications from 4 major brain aneurysms. All inoperable. She could never give up smoking. This was so hard for me. That same Spring, my dog died from complications of diabetes having a seizure in my arms. My cat died from stomach cancer and had to be euthanized. What a spring that was.
After the big market crash of 2008 and 2009, all of my nationwide banking relationships and hard work building my own successful company, all fell like a house of cards. We eventually left Florida after my husband's company closed his location for good. We moved all the way to Arizona to make yet another fresh start.
Just trust me, there is so much more but I just don't have it in me to write about it and it would test your endurance to the maximum. It would be easy to give up. Pack it in. Create some type of unhealthy distraction or become addicted to some perverse thing. Maybe just do what everyone else does. Or, just get a 9 to 5 job, get a paycheck and go home. Some of us just weren't made to take these routes. I am one such person. Giving up is not an option. And, I am an entrepreneur to the very core of my being.
FINE ART BECOMES MY FOCUS
While living in the beautiful state of Arizona, God directed me to take up photography and painting. I had not painted since I was in high school! I had a good start back then, but I certainly did not have confidence that I could seriously paint. Well, He had other ideas!
Just as life was getting interesting with my photography and painting, my husband Rich's behavior became downright strange. At first, he had what I thought was depression, a mid-life crisis, or the unthinkable -- perhaps he was falling out of love with me for some unknown reason. All of these things were symptoms that proved to be something serious that we had never heard of.
He was working 65-hours a week at the time in Phoenix. It was so serious, we even tried marriage counseling (something I thought we would never need) to try to get to the heart of the matter. Why was he so apathetic? Why was he so depressed?
At one point, he walked in the door after working and driving for 15 hours talking on the phone with someone about payments. I immediately asked to have his phone so I could get the details of what was going on.
We were debt-free and weren't making payments on anything. I handled all of the finances for our household so I wanted to know exactly what was going on. It turns out he gave away all of our funds in our bank account to a telemarketer! All the fun and games stopped when I got on the phone. She canceled the transaction but hung up before she told me what company she was with. It took me a week to track down the funds and get it back. Thanks to God giving me a financial and banking background!
I asked him what it was for and why he took out his card and gave away all of our money. He said it was for a cruise. A cruise would be nice. I asked where this cruise was going to that it not only cost all of the money in our bank account but 6 months' worth of payments, too. He said it was to the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Las Vegas. I hit the roof! What cruise takes you to Las Vegas???
Why was he doing and saying such out-of-character things? At times, he was thoughtless, even cruel. He would raise his voice over absolutely nothing as far as I could see. He would even get right in my face. This was not my dear sweet caring husband at all. I was living with a complete stranger. It was terrifying!
To get to the point, he was fired one day over the phone by a new manager he had never even heard of. I have no idea what the details were but quickly rebounded to try to get his resume freshened up. There went our insurance package, including long-and short-term disability. I was in shock, to say the least. He was the only one working at the time.
I definitely knew it was not Alzheimer's but it was something just as serious. It turns out that eventually, my husband was diagnosed with a young-onset type of dementia. He is terminally ill with a little-known degenerative brain disease. It's called Frontotemporal Degeneration, or FTD. It turns out that it's worse than Alzheimer's.
Rich has been dealing with this for about 12 years. It could be 20 years if we go back to his mini-stroke. What else could have caused that? He has never smoked or drank alcohol and takes good care of himself. We made a 2400-mile move back to Michigan from Arizona because his family said they wanted to help. When we first arrived, they helped tremendously. I will forever be grateful.
OUR WORLD TODAY
Today, Rich is mostly calm and at peace. He is like an innocent child. He needs me for everything on a daily basis. How am I doing? I'm now dealing with anticipatory grief, the daunting task of planning his funeral and Celebration of Life while realizing that I will probably be a second-time widow. He has been in a steady decline for a year now. He's probably at the stage right before the severe stage. I am feeling he has about eighteen months or so. Of course, just as with my first husband, God will call him home in His time.
To make matters worse, due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, I am now his 24/7 Caregiver here at home with no one to help at all. We will be on lockdown for almost 3 months. At least that's what the news is currently. The more his disease progresses, the less the family communicates with us. So far during this Pandemic, we've only heard from 3 family members. Remember, people all have free choice. We have to respect that. It hurts, but we remind ourselves that if it's just Jesus and Rich and me, that is all we need.
Jesus never said it would be easy, only that it would be worth it. He regularly gives me visions to help me through these trying times. Through these experiences, I have learned to trust that He is absolutely right. We don't need to fear death. We look forward to being reunited with our Heavenly Family.
You may be asking yourself about now as to what my attitude is today after all of these struggles I've had in my life. My response is... I'm grateful. Grateful for the lessons learned, grateful for discovering all of the types of Love that exist, and the miracle of forgiveness. Building faith isn't easy. Loving people and forgiving people that seem truly unlovable and undeserving of forgiveness --- that is the true test, my friend. What is Christlike love? The only way to experience even a tiny bit of it is by mastering your weaknesses and staying on your path. When you need help or when you think you cannot endure the trials and challenges, turn to God in prayer with faith, believing. I have gained wisdom and found my Truth. This is the path to peace that I have found.
I have also found that looking too much at the past makes me sad for all that I've lost. Looking too far forward starts to bring about feelings of uncertainty and the beginning of doubt, so I stay focused on now. I can do something about today. The past is gone. The future is yet to come. I make some plans for my future. There is a life after FTD. I just don't go too far ahead. I want to stay open to the possibilities.
I am assured that I am not alone in these challenges. He is right beside me or carrying me when necessary so that I stay on my path. When He gives me a vision, I always feel His overwhelming unconditional Love for me... and YOU. All I desire is to follow the mission He has given me to the best of my ability. I look forward to returning Home to be with Him and my Family for All Eternity.
If you've read all of my stories and stayed with me, I hope we will get the chance to know each other better. Perhaps we will continue this Earth journey together.
Be well, be blessed.