My Herb Farm on Fox Island and I had been married for two years already. We had spent those first two years in the wild mountains of Montana, exploring ghost towns and abandoned gold mines, pressing wildflowers and learning to fly fish.  It was heaven on the weekends, but Tom’s new job was not going as well. He had been hired to come in and turn a small company around. None of his ideas went over well with the sales team and one morning he called, his voice hushed, his breathing quickened.

“Guess what I found on my desk this morning?” he asked. “A bumper sticker that says, “We don’t care how they do it in California.” That explained a lot about the opposition to his ideas.

After a year of struggling to win hearts and minds, and watching that little company go on “credit hold” more times than anyone should be comfortable with, he made the hard decision to swallow his pride and go back to the company he had left in California…only this time, he would be helping out the Seattle office.

I was excited about the move, especially after I took one look at our new town, Gig Harbor, Washington, a picturesque New England whaling town look-alike with a view of the sound, a harbor, and a view of Mount Rainier that was to die for.

Within a year we were ensconced in a reproduction Victorian farmhouse on five wooded acres on Fox Island, about 50 miles from Seattle. It had a “barn” like building that had been designed to hold a small plane, a chicken coop, and a goat the owner attempted to persuade us to keep as a lawnmower. We had never been farmers, and did not keep the goat, but I fell in love with the property. I immediately put in a formal herb garden and set up shop in the barn. I painted it, hung herbs from the rafters to dry, and set it up as a school for women who wanted to learn how to make wreaths and topiaries from dried flowers and herbs. I called it “Little Fox Farm ~ Herbs and Flowers.” I took classes in market gardening and watercolor painting. I jumped on the ferry and went up to Seattle to wholesalers, buying things for my business. Life was good and I was living on my own little piece of heaven.

Unfortunately for Tom, his drive of two hours up and back in the rain from Seattle to Fox Island (traffic and weather), was not his little piece of heaven at all. That was back in Montana and he was not a happy camper. One year later, when the company arbitrarily decided they wanted us to move to Bend, Oregon, we moved back to Montana to start our own business instead. Never again would Tom be under someone’s thumb. But life back in Montana would take a series of turns that would both horrify us and fill us with joy.  Stay tuned!

That Big Expanse of Sky Called Montana

Adventure had never been a part of my life. While some of my childhood friends had come home from trips to the World’s Fair or from far away mystery places like “back east” to see their grandparents, my only claim to fame was that we had stayed at the Motel Fresno (located in farming country in Fresno, California) six years in a row.  It was a halfway point between Los Angeles, where we lived, and Oakland, where my grandmother resided, so my parents and my grandmother met there each summer. And it had a great bar.  My parents could get pleasantly drunk while hanging out at the pool, watching us kids get blistery sunburns the first day out.

So, when Tom asked me to marry him and move to Montana, you can bet I was ready for an adventure. Tom described Montana to me the weeks before he left to start a new job there.

“It’s a land full of mountains, rivers, streams, and waterfalls.  And there’s animals, almost everywhere you look.  Bears and deer, antelope and elk, moose and mountain goats, everywhere! And the sky, well you can breathe in that huge expanse of sky all day long.” So I packed up my meager belongings and flew out to Montana that June.  And he was right about Montana. I’ve seen all those animals and more, sometimes all in one day. I’ve fly-fished those rivers and streams, watched eagles dive for fish on a sunny summer day, while wearing waders in the middle of a premier trout stream, and I’ve viewed some spectacular waterfalls.

Tom had bought a house for us on a street that sounded intriguing to me…Upper Miller Creek Road. He told me to always call it “Upper Miller Crick” if anyone wanted to know where I lived. Me, being me, refused, and I’ve said “creek” when I mean “creek,” for the last nineteen years, but I digress.

Tom and I were both a little skittish about getting married. We had only dated for eight months, and I knew less about Tom than he knew about me.  I only knew that I was going to commit the rest of my life to him unless one of four things happened, and he knew what those four things were. On his part, most of what he knew about me was the stuff I told him early on when I was trying to scare him away.

Tom and I were staying in a campground for a few days until the house closed and the inhabitants moved out, which was supposed to be on Wednesday of that week.  Since Tom had to travel about four hours north for his new job, it was up to me to take some of our things over to the new house and meet Tom there in a couple of days.  I got up early, grabbed a cup of coffee to tide me over, and headed over to my new home. When I arrived, I saw that boxes and furniture filled the two-car garage from floor to rafters, and people were running in and out of the house carrying lamps, boxes, and more pieces of furniture to a rental truck.

Disappointed, I drove past.  It was legally our house as of that day and it didn’t look like they were in any hurry to vacate.  I also noticed that the gorgeous ¾ acre bright green lawn was now yellow and parched. Apparently once it was sold they decided they wouldn’t bother spending any more money on water. My stomach dropped, thinking about Tom and what he would say about this. I had never seen him angry, but I figured there had to be a temper hidden down in there somewhere. All men get angry easily, right?

I didn’t have a cell phone back then, and I knew Tom would be calling me on the phone we had already hooked up in the new house. I was in a new town, two states away from my home, family, and friends. I did not know one soul there, and I felt frightened, alone, and intimidated. I could not go to that house until those people were gone.

So, several times during that long day I drove back up Upper Miller Creek Road to peek at my new home. Each time, people were still there, carrying boxes and furniture to the rental truck. I explored the town, and finally, I decided to kill some time by taking myself to the movies.

Once the movie let out, I climbed back up Upper Miller Creek Road one more time, unsure of what I would do if they were still there.  It was six o’clock at night now, getting dark, and I was sure Tom had been trying to call me all day.

As I rounded the last curve and saw the empty driveway, I let out let out a sigh of relief. I drove up my new driveway and ran up to the house, used my new key to turn the lock, and opened the door. I did a quick glance around but then headed straight to our new phone.  I saw the light was blinking on the phone telling me there were six messages. As I listened to each one, I heard Tom’s voice sounding more and more worried. The sixth message sounded frantic. “If I don’t hear from you in fifteen minutes or so I’m going to drive back to Missoula,” he said.

I dialed the phone with shaking fingers. I knew how angry he would be. Who wouldn’t be angry? I probably did something stupid. I deserved his wrath. I should have marched into “my” house and told those people to hurry up and leave! I should have demanded to use my phone and let Tom know what was going on. Of course he’ll be mad…and he should be. Leave it up to me to cause a problem.

“Hello Tom? What happened was…” I reiterated the story, hoping he wasn’t regretting trusting me with something that should have been so easy.

“Oh, I’m so sorry that happened,” he said. “You must have felt so worried that you couldn’t call me and tell me what was going on. How about if I come pick you up and you can stay up here with me. We’ll drive down to the new house together in a couple of days.”

It’s been almost nineteen years since that first day in my new home in Montana. Over and over again, Tom has proven himself to be that kind, gentle man who was willing to drive four hours to come get me just so I’d be more comfortable. He has taught me more about God’s unconditional love than anyone I have ever known. And he’s never ever done one of the four things. Ah, I can finally breathe, and that big expanse of sky is a great place to catch your breath.

It Was A Dark And Stormy Night does a neglectful childhood in an alcoholic family, a stint in juvenile hall, The Beatles, gang-bangers and prostitutes, teen marriage and motherhood, the state mental hospital, gang rape, life on the streets, rock and roll and a decade of drug abuse, battering, serious mental illness, the suicides of a brother and father, divorce, a broken neck, and an inoperable brain tumor all have in common? One woman. Me.

For those of you just joining me, welcome!  This is a memoir blog, which means that it details the story of one incredible life (mine!) from childhood to present.  The posts are written so that you can jump in anywhere, but to get the true gist, starting at the beginning (the bottom of the blog after you open May 2012) is the best.  Feel free to browse and see if you would like to sign up to automatically receive my complimentary e-book, “Becoming What You Might Have Been,” as well as all future additions to the story.  If you were signed in to my other WordPress blog via your WordPress account, “Light At the End,” your information didn’t transfer over to this new one (I switched to so I could offer you the free e-book).  Please sign up again and you will continue to follow and get the e-book as well.  I don’t want you getting lost in the shuffle! If you signed up with your email address before, no need to sign up again.  If you would like your own copy of the e-book, let me know in the comment section and I’ll send it to you via your email address.

Following is an excerpt from my first post:

When I awoke from brain surgery on October 16, 2006, I could hear my breath twice for each one breath I drew.  And it was loud, like the roaring of a waterfall. The first time I heard it, I was actually taking a breath. A couple of seconds later, I could hear it again…in between breaths. I thought, “That’s odd.”

My optic, auditory, and facial nerves had been damaged in surgery and everything looked and seemed weird.  For one thing, I saw two of everything, and each image seemed four feet apart and a little up to the left. The pupil of my left eye had moved over towards my nose.  My perception made everything seem strange, and it would take several years before the feeling of everything being “off-kilter” would pass.

I had steroids pumping through my IV in order to keep swelling of my brain to a minimum. I was hyped to the max. All I could think was, “I’ve got to tell people about this!!” I pictured myself before vast audiences of people, regaling them all with the story of the miracle God had wrought.  Actually, I have wanted to tell the story of my life for almost as long as I can remember. I have experienced so much sorrow, and yet I am so amazed at my own sense of joy in living. This blog is my attempt at creating hope, sharing what God has done in one life. If one person latches on to it, it is worth it to me.  Because what God would do for me, he would most certainly do for you.  Enjoy! And please comment or ask any questions you would like.


Please Allow Me To Introduce Myself

Photo of meI’m hearing Mick Jagger in my head as I’m writing that headline. That’s kind of funny when you stop and think about it. People have been using that phrase as a conversation starter for, well, probably centuries now, and I’m hearing Mick Jagger in the background when I type it out above this post. I don’t have any sympathy whatsoever for the devil, but it says a little bit about my background. I am one of the lucky ones, who saw The Rolling Stones in concert around 1975. The entire Forum in Inglewood, California was decorated in Japanese lanterns and mid-show a huge dragon weaved through the audience dancing to Jumping Jack Flash or some other song. It was absolutely amazing.

For those of you new to my blog, I want to take this time to tell you a little bit about what I’m attempting to do on this site. By the way, I just switched from to I wanted to add more bells and whistles, such as the ability to offer some audio, video, and give away my free e-book, available on the right in the sidebar. I have some things in mind for the future too, so stay tuned.

I first decided to start writing this blog last May after mulling over writing a book about my life for many years. I know by the looks on people’s faces when I begin to tell my story that many find it very inspiring. Since my mission in life is to inspire folks…inspire them to get healthier…to reach for their dreams…to never give up…to make a difference, those looks mean a lot to me. So I thought, how could I inspire even more people all at once? My first thought was to go around the country (world?) on a speaking tour. One part of me said, “Yeah, right.” Another part of me said, “Never say never.” It was all I thought about for four days straight when I woke up for a very risky brain surgery in 2006. You can read all about this in the post, “It Was A Dark And Stormy Night,” from the archives, May 2012.

But then I discovered blogs, and one day, when I had enough time to figure out this thing called “building a website,” I began.

If you want to read this memoir as if you picked up a book, start at the beginning posts from May 2012 and move forward by date order. That may be somewhat clunky, I know, so I really am attempting to turn this into a New York Times Bestseller (yeah, right and oh,  never say never).

Next week I’ll be picking up where I left off from “The Man in the Parking Lot.”  Please leave comments and ask me any questions you have.  Let’s get connected!