Cherish the Crisis

Two years ago I jumped feet first into a college career. I’m so thankful my Aunt Bonnie encouraged me to pursue a continuing education. College has been a life preserver! Giving me a focus I never would have imagined I needed in this season of life.

My life plans and goals have become clearer as I’ve studied Graphic Design at Academy of Art University and now Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. One dream that has come to the forefront is to design for good. Though I plan to have a career as a designer, working for a way fab firm, I want to use the gifts and talents I have for a good cause and to have an affect on social change. (More on this later.)

Ten classes into my college career, I have some real talent and skills emerging that I never would have imagined. Did you know I can actually draw something more than a pitiful little stick man when I put a decent effort into it? But I still can’t draw a dog…go figure!

I enjoy the change and the growth that comes from a challenge. I never would be fully experiencing this artistic creative side of me, had my life not taken a dramatic turn. Crisis moments will become cherished moments if we embrace them for what they are.

Be sure to visit my online portfolio at Behance to see what I’m creating.


Discovering Chiari Malformation

I have been assigned 3 self reflection papers for a class this session. September is Chiari Awareness month and I wanted to share my reflections with my instructor with all of my readers. I hope this helps you to see the significance of my battle with Chiari Malformation. I was healed, at least for the time being, by guided hands…there are few who are as fortunate and blessed.

This particular class requires a great deal of effort and academics on my part and thus far I am earning a solid A in the class. This paper below, as well as the one mentioned in my writings received 100% grades. I don’t take any of this for granted as I know many still suffer the frustrations, without end, that I now face only when I’m exhausted.


Almost 3 years ago I was thrust into the disorienting world of Chiari Malformation. Over the period of a few weeks, my neurologist had run a gamut of tests to determine the cause of my rapid neurological deterioration and non-stop headaches. My vocabulary was suddenly filled with acronyms–MS, CM, CAT, MRI, MRA, MRV, EMG, VNG, CDP, CSF, etc.– and an endless list of Latin based medical terms.

To say that I was overwhelmed would be to significantly understate my emotional state at the time. Each possible diagnosis researched on Google and WebMD escalated my anxiety beyond proportions of what any normal person could tolerate and remain in good health. To put it quite abruptly I was a literal basket case.

I doubt that I will easily forget the feeling I had when my Neurologist rattled off a few words that should have meant nothing to me. “Indeterminate cerebellar tonsillar ectopia measuread at approxiamately 5 mm…” This one short statement, documenting a discovery on a brain MRI, abruptly uttered with a matter of fact presentation, changed my life. For some reason the idea that I had tonsils in my brain caught my attention. I halted my doctor and asked for an explanation.

He quickly explained that I had a portion of my hindbrain herniating into my spine. As though that was no big deal, I was supposed to allow him to move on in telling me they still had not discovered the source of my ailments. I couldn’t get the significance of my brain not being where it ought to be out of my mind. I pressed for more information and he finally blurted out the words Chiari Malformation.

Thrust into the world of brain disorders and incurable diseases I researched and studied Chiari. I had to discover what made my enemy tick, where it was weak, and where it was strong. I learned this insidious condition destroys the lives of those it inflicts. It steals your intelligence, independence and strength leaving in its wake a fragment of the person who existed before it began the fierce onslaught of war.

This week when I received the email with the feedback from my decolonization paper, and later my grade, I realized the full significance of the healing I have experienced. Three years ago when I struggled to retain any new information and form clear thoughts I never dreamed that I would be in college, let alone doing so well.

I was challenged and overwhelmed by life last week, this week as well. I had to find a way to work fifty-five hours, at my old and new job, take care of my children and get through my schoolwork. I was not expecting to change jobs, and schools nearly simultaneously. Quite literally I wanted to cry many times.  My homework is being turned in later than I prefer but it is completed successfully. At the end of this week, although exhausted, I’m encouraged that I’m stronger and more focused than I realized. In my own small way I have conquered the enemy of Chiari Malformation.  

New Job

All of my friends know that I have been looking for a job within the graphic design field. I sent out about 30 résumés to design firms, printers and signage places. After the follow-up calls I have been added to outsourcing lists for 3 places, which should help me with my freelancing.

A certain someone’s choice to file bankruptcy last year, and my choice to avoid that at all costs, has left me with the mounting debt he chose to avoid. Clearly I need a regular income that pays more than my current old  job so I can get my head above water.

A couple weeks ago I interviewed for a job and was hired shortly after. A breakthrough…finally. It’s not in the design field but they use a significant amount of design in the workplace from posters, motivational banners, ads, informational design, and more. I’ve already put the word out that I would be interested in the in-house design as possible. Maybe this job, as a customer service rep (no, I’m NOT telemarketing) will be my foot into the door of a design opportunity that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise?

This past week I spent 40 hours training for this new position while working in the late afternoons at my old job. Plus I spent about 23 hours studying and working through classwork. By the end of the week I was completely spent. I get to do it again this week. I’m looking at it this way…now I can begin to catch up on my rent.  The bonus is that I have one more week with the babies I’ve cared for these past several months. I’ll miss them.

Another chapter in my life is opening and I’m thankful for the continued progress forward!

Critical Thought Paper

School is in full swing and I’m LOVING my new school, RMCAD. One of the first difficult assignments was to watch The Ghosts of Rwanda and write a paper answering some critical thought questions. I thought I would share my submission with you all in hopes that it will get you thinking, if you aren’t already, about how we can make a difference in critical times. 


I am sickened by the fact that I don’t recall with greater detail the genocide in Rwanda. I am aware now that Tutsis were a persecuted minority for decades. And a devious plan to exterminate them hatched by Hutu extremists, in power since the country’s independence from Belgium in the 1960’s, ultimately succeeded in the murder of over 800,000 people.  


Based upon the colonial era where a great ethnic divide was created with the Belgian rule and the eugenics movement in Europe. Measuring skulls, height and skin color, led to a belief that the Tutsi’s had Caucasian ancestry, and were therefore racially superior to the Hutus. A doctrine of hate and fear pushed upon the Rwandan people succeeded in convincing them that the Tutsis were foreigners in the land, and in fact had enslaved and tortured the Hutus. 

The history of Tutsi torture upon the Hutus may well be fully accurate, however this backstory was not used for the good of the people. Where the Hutus could have come about this from a position of greater good, in walking the high road of forgiveness, vengeance inspired greater hostility and mounted an atrocity upon their fellow citizens. 


I have been asking myself how it is that, in 1994 I was so wrapped up in myself that I was not stunned into disbelief and moved to call for action on behalf of the people being executed in Rwanda. I still don’t have the answer. What I do know is that I am appalled that my government had a debate about the word ‘genocide’. It is unimaginable to me how lawmakers and bureaucrats were locked into “the legal definition” of a word as though the unspeakable acts in Rwanda were just verbiage.


On top of this the Belgians also chose to stay out of the conflict. The concern from Europeans and America was great enough to launch a military rescue operation, but that compassion extended only to those with the right citizenry. Somehow they managed to turn their backs on absolutely barbaric acts. How could they?


Some nineteen years later, I sit on the comfort of my living room couch shocked into action and I can speak boldly and point my finger and proclaim, “YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE MORE!” But I must ask myself if I, in their positions, would have allowed the fears of overreaction in acknowledging the genocide in Rwanda to stop me in my tracks? I would hope that I would have taken a very demanding stance, sadly, I may too have responded in the same way.


I have been in the position of an expat living in a foreign country, with a high anti-American sentiment at times. When I lived in Uruguay I did so willingly. I was there to serve and minister to the people. In much the same way, and quite possibly greater, the Rwandan aid workers were there to help in some capacity. Though US government officials were there to serve the United States, over their time there they naturally developed relationships with the Rwandan people. During a particularly difficult Uruguayan presidential election there were fears over civil unrest should a certain party win. As a result I spent quite a bit of time in deep thought, asking myself hard questions over what I would do if Americans were to be evacuated. I can say that had something like this happened in Uruguay I determined to send my children to safety, and fight to stay in the country to help my friends and loved ones.


I was there because I wanted to make a difference in their lives for what I believed in. If I abandoned them in their greatest time of need all I had done to that point would have been for naught. I truly believe that the people who stayed behind and risked their lives to save Rwandan people did so because they so greatly valued human life it called them to action. That belief compelled them to stand against evil no matter the personal cost. I admire them greatly for their bravery and hope that I too would have a portion of their courage. 

New School Same Direction

What does one do when one is in a great school that becomes financially unbearable? It was a question I had to find an answer for when my college raised tuition to $785 per credit hour. Then I realized the government puts a cap on grants and I went into high-gear on research. 

The only answer I could find…I better find a different school to attend. And so, the exploration of schools and their degrees came in to play.

Online or brick and mortar or both?

Public or private?

Art or mainstream? 

BFA or BA?

All that led me to several schools.

One in Chicago, a brick and mortar, was very impressive! As much as I would love to experience playing in their computer labs, and photography studios, the cost was prohibitive. 

Another, online & brick and mortar, was half the current price but was a BA. Not a bad thing, however I would have to go through several math classes to get to Calculus. Um, NOT NOT NOT my thing. Who needs calculus to design? Really? 

So, that eliminated the BA degree and that particular school.

Another option was a normal state school where I could also pick up the state grant. Again I was faced with MATH. UGH! And being in an actual classroom, having to fit my work schedule around daily classes, and a family brought on a double UGH. And have I mentioned actually being in a real classroom? 🙂

Another school eliminated. 

Which brought me to my final school…Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. It is traditional brick and mortar, online and an Art school. Around half the cost of AAU including books and tuition, I can get through my BFA before my grants run out and with less student loan debt.

I should also have a degree in real-time, as I will study 4 classes a semester–2 classes per block. The study load will be similar to summer school but it sounds as though the intensity will be do-able. I will know soon enough. 

The only disappointment…I still have to take Math but, thankfully, not Calculus. Who knows, maybe I’ll finally understand what I couldn’t in high school. HA…fat chance!





Dear Me…Selfless Reality, Sing and Smile

This is the final installment to the Dear Me series. Thank you for taking the time to read my heart. I hope my transparency has helped others.

BE SELFLESS… with a healthy dose of reality.

Please don’t take this wrong but you are an incredibly. selfish. person. In a few years you will see this more clearly, and you will be disgusted with your self love.

Around this time you will come under some preaching that will, in the end, because of the sold out way you live, result in your becoming a voiceless drone. You will be taught in upfront and in round about ways that the way to be happy is to have no desires, rights, or voice.

Suffice it to say that you will come to the place where this mindset will only cause more abuse and hatred. Persuaded that you are to blame for everything  you hurt yourself to dull the pain. The pain, of course, only intensifies. Eventually you come to a place where you completely despise yourself.

This behavior only serves to give your abuser another weapon to use against you. All he has to do is convince you that you are to blame and allow you to punish yourself so he can hurt you without ever touching you.

Here’s where the healthy dose of reality comes in. It is never acceptable to be abused by anyone, yourself included. Nor is it right to be the only one devoted to a relationship at the cost of everything to yourself.

Eventually you do understand this and begin to stand up for your rights. Then the phone calls will begin. You will be surrounded in church by deacons and their wives and not allowed to leave until you acknowledge your wrong-doing. And will spend a few hours being chastened by pastors and their spouses. Scolded on all fronts for your “sins”, you’ll be told that your choice to believe God wants to protect you and allows for you to stand up for your rights is evil speaking.

While all his lies are believed you begin to lose everything, including your older children. Learn from my mistakes – don’t explain your decisions, just keep your mouth shut and remember it is not wrong for you to stand upon the truth. The people who truly love you will understand without explanation, in spite of the circumstances.

Thankfully a dear friend helps you realize that protecting yourself from harm isn’t selfish. And she walks the path towards reclaiming realistic selflessness with you.


Use the songs that come across the radio to cheer you, help you to grieve. Enjoy the fun. Bopping in your van will cause people in neighboring cars to look askew in your direction, but who cares. Sing anyways.

Music makes you happy. It ministers to your soul. It’s a balm.

Throw away all the silly man-made rules and live your life, one song at a time.


After all the serious heaviness of this letter I can only conclude on a happy note.

You will be 18 before your crazy, jacked up teeth reach near perfection. Those ugly metal braces will come off and reveal an amazing smile. I know that sounds conceited but from what everyone tells me, it’s one of your best features.

Believe me your smile will be something people around you will appreciate. There is just something about a person who smiles through their adversity that speaks louder than any words you can ever say.

Before I forget…let me remind you to wear your retainer. Just sayin’! 🙂

You have had, and will continue to have, no doubt, so many tragic things happen to you that you will be tempted to wear a frown. Don’t! 

Don’t you dare let your hurts and grief take over your heart and life. 

Smile through the tears! I know you can. I know you will.

Stay strong and keep looking up.

With Love,

The still smiling you.

me and silas grad

Dear Me…Never Ever Quit, Trying Isn’t Your Best, and Forgive


Simple. You already have a decent grasp on this. It’s in your DNA. Hard to get the perseverance of a Pioneer out of your blood.

Be a bold, strong woman of convictions. It’s OK. Really!

Life is hard, especially when you’re not a quitter. You see everyone walking away from commitments and know you have to give it one more shot. Give it your all.

Remember to live your life in such a sold out way that it takes the most dire and terrible circumstances to get you to walk away from a commitment. Be committed to relationships, jobs, your education, goals, or ________.



Sometimes you want to throw your hands up in the air and say, “I tried you should be happy with that!” or “They should be glad I tried.”

Please pay close attention here because this isn’t a matter of semantics. If you are just trying, it really isn’t good enough!

The person you are will never be satisfied with a casual attempt at anything. You can only be content with the knowledge that you did your absolute best.

Granted, you’re not perfect so your absolute best will fall short, a lot! Deal with it. However, living with the don’t quit philosophy will give you great peace of mind when you have done your best and you must leave those that don’t to their own recourse.



Such a foreign word to you right now. And an even more foreign idea. It will take you until you are in your 40’s to finally get a grasp on this but you’ll be ever so glad you forgave others. It really is the only way to not live in bondage to the cancer of hurts that will come your way.

You’re going to have a week when you will see the fruit of your ex-huSband’s hate for you. In one day, at a graduation open house for a friend’s daughter, you will see nearly everyone who willingly, and foolishly, set in motion the destruction of your family.

Your heart will beat out of your chest. As they appear in the distance. What’s more they will act as though you’ve been out sick for a few days. Refusing to acknowledge the pain they have caused.

You will want to give them a hearty peace of your mind. Don’t! 

Instead forgive them! Go home and cry your heart out, and leave them to God.



Dear Me…Never Ever Settle, Live With Regrets and Be Courageous

Part two to the Dear Me letter to my 16 year old self. You can find part one here.

Never. ever. settle!

You think you’re not beautiful, your happiness doesn’t matter, no one can love you, and your dreams are selfish. You couldn’t be more wrong!

This lack of belief in who you are will cause you to think you have the best you can get, which isn’t all that great.

Thinking you will always be alone and lonely if you don’t compromise, you settle. Compromise stinks, girl! Don’t do it!

You *will* see the light right before you make a permanent decision but you will already be so vested you can’t find the way out.

You will cry your way through your wedding, not because you’re happy, but because you know you’re settling and fighting the urge to apologize and run back up the aisle. Being a committed non-quitter you trudge forward and make one of the greatest mistakes of your life.



No, that’s not a typo. 

This is the hardest thing for me to write because there is no question that settling will give you regrets. Yet, there are some regrets worth having.

How is that for giving you mixed signals?!

Your older self will have…wait for it…8, yes, eight, amazing (!) children that she would go through every. single. pregnancy. every. single. birth. every. single. sleepless. night. every. single. day. of their lives. every. single. day. of her “settled” life to continue to have them in her life!!!!

As much as I wish I would have held out for someone much better for me, I know that 8 wonderful people might not be in my life had I done so. How then do I tell you to rob me of the most precious blessings I have ever experienced? I simply, and most selfishly, can’t.

Please, let me live with that one regret. I’m certain I can handle it.



When you are only 40 (I know it sounds old, trust me, it’s young. Very young.) you will be faced with something that will require a great deal of courage and faith. You will be told you have Chiari malformation. After weeks of research you will have to decide if you are willing to continue to degenerate physically, and neurologically, or take a huge risk with an open dura Posterior Fossa Brain decompression surgery.

Yeah, the vet tech in you thinks the brain surgery is cool. The human being in you thinks there’s no way you can be brave enough for it.

You come face to face with Mom’s death from a brain aneurysm nearly 30 years earlier.

You cry yourself to sleep every night, for weeks. Wishing and praying that you had a husband who loved you enough to walk the road with you.

Don’t lose heart because God is there, as He promised He would be. And this is all God giving you a 2nd chance that you needed. An awakening of sorts.