Tuesday, August 21, 2012


         Spencer, my 14-year-old son, and I arrived home one late afternoon to an urgent message from a neighbor who said Paso, her beloved horse, was missing. Spencer and I pulled on our cowboy boots, barn coats and gloves. Then, we walked to our neighbor’s pasture, with a couple lead ropes, positive we’d find Paso grazing on this lower portion of our neighbor’s ranch.
When we didn’t locate Paso, we jumped into the truck and headed to our neighbor’s home with the lead ropes. I pulled into her driveway and abruptly stopped when I saw my neighbor and barn helper standing frozen as statues. Spencer and I jumped out of the truck only to have our neighbor say, “Thank you so much for driving up here, however, I found Paso dead in the creek. I don’t know how he died. He somehow must have broken his neck.”
After talking with her a few minutes, Spencer and I made a slow drive back to our ranch. There, all the lights were brightly shining in our beautiful home and the wood for a fire waited. We knew our neighbor was in for one heck of a long, dark, cold night.
Sad, I posted this story for my animal-loving Facebook friends around the world. As always, they responded with their kind and thoughtful remarks:

Tati Santiago I am so sorry what happened to the horse, a hug from a distance my dear friend.
Tati Santiago Have a beautiful Thanksgiving Day in spite of what happened.
Ignacio Mogni Do you know the cause of death?
Lisa Woodcock I'm so sorry about your friend's horse :-(
James Sanchez ‎:-(
Kathryn Anderson What an incredible Mama you are to Spencer, opening his heart, testing his courage, faith, and willingness to risk and ASSIST someone ELSE. Those memories, experiences, and courage are life lessons that are the gifts from God, Deb. You are helping him "BE", the boy/man he is to be! Thank you for sending an incredible child into the world!!
Deborah Patterson-Gilson Hi Guys - Spencer and I will take our 4-wheeler up to the neighbor's ranch tomorrow to haul Paso out of the creek. I'll know more then what happened to him. I didn't want to ask my neighbor any questions about Paso's death. She was shell-shocked when we saw her late this afternoon. Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comments.
James Sanchez Kathryn said it all. "You're an incredible Mama."
Janelle Timmons Wow. I feel so sad about her horse....I am so attached to all my pets what a shock. Good thing she has you for a neighbor to assist her in such a trying time. And indeed, look at these wonderful life lessons of love and compassion u are passing on to your son. I mean I feel such pride when my 10 year old opens the door for someone. Spencer has got to be such a sensitive, compassionate young man. You share life with him...so awesome...Thanks for sharing this experience; some life experiences can be painful but shape us as we all grow older. Good luck tomorrow!


          Mad magazine was a constant source of amusement and howling entertainment for Ross, my eight-year-old brother, and me back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. As a nine year old, I believed Alfred E. Neuman, the fictional cover boy of Mad magazine, should have been President of the United States. Ross and I saved our allowance for Mad magazine and purchased the bimonthly release. After reading the wild antics of Alfred E. Neuman, I’d scan the back of the magazine gazing longingly at the items for sale.
There, before my big, blue eyes was the latest and greatest craze Alfred begged me to buy. For only $2.72, I could order my very own baby alligator and have it shipped from Florida! We had plenty of room on our 165-acre ranch for my new pet to grow up and roam. My summer was beginning to look promising.
I grabbed a pair of scissors from the kitchen, took the magazine into my bedroom, locked the door and began the instructed steps to ordering my baby. I cut the order form from the back of the magazine. Then, I painstakingly taped two one-dollar bills and the coins to the order form I’d filled out in pencil. I stuffed the required items into an envelope and addressed the front. I located a stamp and then walked 10 minutes up the driveway to our rural route mailbox. Walking home, I named my baby, “Snappy.”
Minutes turned to hours, hours turned to days and days became three weeks. Each day, I raced to the mailbox waiting for Snappy to arrive. Each day, however, my hope turned to disappointment.
One sweltering afternoon, my mother, Ross and I headed to town for groceries. On the way home, my mother pulled into the Post Office and told Ross and me to stay in the car. A few minutes later, she returned with a box in her hands asking, “Debbie, did you order something?” Inside, I thought I’d burst with excitement, while lying through my teeth, “No, Mama.” I wondered how she knew.
My mother took the wheel of our wood-paneled station wagon and began the drive home. Ross leaned over my shoulder and eagerly asked, “What is it, Debbie?” I put my first finger to my lips and whispered, “Wait and see!”
Carefully, I began taking the packaging tape off the shoe box. Then, I tore the brown paper away and gently lifted the lid. Ross’ and my eyes grew wide as we gazed into the box at Snappy, gasping for his life. He’d journeyed from the other side of the country without food or water!
Ross began bouncing up and down. I grabbed his arm and told him to sit still. He was bursting at the seams over Snappy. Putting my thumb and first finger at the back of Snappy’s head, I lifted him out of the box while his mouth snapped open and shut ferociously. The remainder of his six-inch body frantically waved back and forth attempting to be free.
I was sitting in the back seat behind my mother while she drove. Carefully and slowly, I set Snappy down on her right shoulder for their introduction. Ross screamed in hysterics and doubled over while Snappy latched his snapping lips onto my mother’s right ear lobe.
My mother grabbed Snappy, flung him onto the passenger floor and slammed on the brakes. Ross and I went sailing into the back of the front seats. When my mother turned around, she demanded, “Debbie, what is that and how did you get it?!” Sheepishly I replied, “Alfred E. Neuman sent my baby alligator from Florida.” My mother’s escalated voice demanded, “Who is Alfred E. Neuman?” I quietly said, “He’s my friend from Mad magazine.”
My mother turned the car around and said she was taking Snappy to the nearest pet store. I pleaded with her and said I had everything figured out for his home. I cried and told her Snappy could live in the bathtub until he was large enough to live at our pond. Sadly, it seemed my mother went deaf and became robotic. The 30-minute drive to the pet store felt like a death sentence.
My mother told Ross and me to stay in the car while she carried Snappy into the store in his shoe box. When she returned, I was still crying my big, blue eye balls out. Ross put his tiny, freckled hand on my shoulder to comfort me. He knew I was devastated at my loss.
I’ll never know what happened to Snappy, however, thankfully the purchase of baby alligators was banned. Although I maintain a close watch on animals and opt for them being in their natural habitat, Snappy and Mad magazine remain larger than life in my mind’s eye. 


I was seven years old, when my mother remarried and her new husband legally adopted Ross, my six-year-old brother, and me. A year later, we moved out in the country to a 165-acre ranch. The following summer, I was walking through our alfalfa hay pasture alone to swim in the creek. I’d just reached the water’s edge when I noticed a downed black sheep on its side, breathing rapidly.
Not wanting to scare her, I slowly walked closer. I was horrified to see bloodied wool from deep puncture wounds around her neck. I told her I would get my “Dad” and we would help. Racing back home, I told my Dad about the hurt sheep, knowing he’d help as I believed fathers do.
My Dad told me to show him where the injured sheep was located. We raced through our alfalfa pasture to the creek side to the dying sheep. I cried, “Look, Dad!” She’s hurt and we can help her get better.” My father was a large, well-built man who stood 6 feet 2 inches tall.
Without hesitation, he leaned his massive frame over the sheep, grabbed it by a front leg and dragged it to the creek. While I stood in horror, my Dad held the sheep under water. After several minutes, he dragged the drowned sheep out of the water and onto the bank of the creek. I collapsed onto the dead sheep’s body and cried hysterically. Without a word, my Dad turned and walked away. My trust for that man was forever broken.
By the time I was 10 years old, I’d collected 16 cats, however, it was with Tootsie, my orange and white barn cat, I’d formed an especially tight bond. Many of the calves Ross and I raised were taken away and slaughtered while we were at school. Tootsie gave birth to six gray and white kittens and I was overjoyed with my newly expanded family. I didn’t want my Dad to know they’d been born, however. I couldn’t bear to have anymore of my animals killed. Therefore, I secretly moved Tootsie and her babies from under the house to the second story of our barn.
To maintain Tootsie’s strength, I  woke up earlier than my family and quietly took fresh milk upstairs to the barn every morning. Not seeing any of my family members as I made my way, I believed I was alone on my secret missions. Tootsie and her newborn babies rested in the hay bed I’d made for them.
            Tootsie’s kittens were now 10 days old and still their eyes were naturally closed. I made it a point to hold each close to my heart, all the while making sure not to pay too much attention to one in particular. My babies were equally special to me.
One Saturday morning after spending time with Tootsie and her babies, Dad surprised me by saying to bring the kittens to him. I wondered how he knew about them. I went inside the house and pulled the Easter basket off my book shelf. Nervously, I slowly walked passed him to the barn and gathered the kittens. I gently put them into my Easter basket lined with a tiny blanket so they would stay warm and continue sleeping. My stomach felt sick as I carried my babies down the stairs of the barn.
As I was close to the front porch, I noticed my father using the garden hose to fill a green five-gallon bucket to the brim with water. Once the bucket was filled, he told me to hand him a kitten. Gingerly, so I wouldn’t wake the baby, I gently lifted one out. Trembling with terror, I handed him one of my six kittens. Still, I didn’t know why he asked for them.
With his massive fingers, he held the kitten under water with a first finger and thumb firmly around its tiny neck. One by one, as I was forced to hand them over, he drowned each of my babies. Within minutes a pile of lifeless, wet kittens was on the sidewalk. Without a word, my father turned and walked away.
            I kneeled on the sidewalk and wrapped my scrawny arms around the dead, wet babies. Silently crying, I put the kittens back into my Easter basket and covered them with the tiny blanket. Carrying the basket in the crook of my left elbow, I walked to a burial site and lay down in the dirt doubled over in heart-breaking agony.
The loss of Tootsie’s kittens was the first of many disasters in her life. She loved to sleep in the wheel well of Big Red, our large tractor. One morning the tractor was fired up for work, however, this time Tootsie didn’t jump off at the sound of the engine. Instead, she remained unseen in her comfortable sleeping position. When the tractor rolled out of the barn, Tootsie’s hindquarters were crushed.
Locating her to say good-bye before heading to school, I lifted Tootsie’s mangled body to my chest and raced into the house. With his stern expression, my Dad flatly announced Tootsie needed to be destroyed at once. Noting the terror in my eyes, my mother told him she’d take care of it. As my Dad did every Monday morning, he left for his weeklong business trip to the Bay Area. Unfortunately, he returned late every Friday night.
            Heading down our long driveway, my Dad’s car faded from view. When I was certain he was gone, I asked my mother what she was going to do. I always trusted my mother as she, too, was an avid animal lover. She picked up the telephone and called the veterinarian in town. He told her he’d stop by later that afternoon.
Ross and I left to catch the school bus. I wondered what news I’d have when I returned later that day. Sadly, it turned out the vet said there wasn’t much he could do. I told my mother I’d take care of Tootsie. I knew I could help her recover from this injury.
A week later, Tootsie’s backend was infested with maggots. Once again, my mother called the vet. He said to flush the infected area with a rinse and keep Tootsie inside away from the flies. While my father was away on his weekly business trips, Tootsie was kept in the laundry room next to the kitchen. Before Dad returned home every Friday night, I moved Tootsie to the second floor of the barn.
She was unable to walk therefore, I brought her plenty of food and water. While my Dad was home, I didn’t visit Tootsie. One month later, Tootsie was healed, however, she lost her tail. This made no difference to me. Truly, a miracle had taken place. We never mentioned Tootsie’s outcome to my Dad.
The following year, Tootsie was pregnant again. Unfortunately, because her backend was so badly damaged in the tractor incident, she was no longer able to pass kittens through her birthing canal. Tootsie and her kittens died under the house and the smell is how I located them.
My Dad had to pull up the carpet in the office, cut a hole through the wood floor and gather their bodies to put into a plastic bag. I stood silently next to him as he removed the last of Tootsie and her babies and then carried them away. He didn’t realize it was Tootsie’s remains he was scooping out of the crawl space and I didn’t breathe a word about what I knew.
Many animals, and for that matter many people, don’t have a choice regarding where they live, with whom, and how they’re treated. Ones circumstances are often not their choosing, resulting in tragedy. As an adult, I’m the vital force for my family, our animals and myself. I vow to surround us with tender loving care. My life experiences taught me to accept nothing less.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Head, Hands, Heart, Health

My mother caught wind of another animal-related tragedy and bravely set her intention. Leaving our ranch early one morning hauling a single-slot horse trailer, she told me she’d be home late that night with, “A surprise.” Unbeknownst to me, she’d set out on a ten-hour drive to retrieve an unwanted gelding, a neutered male horse.
Chesapeake Bay’s owner retired the bay gelding from the thoroughbred horse racing industry, deeming him “useless” at the tender age of four. My heroic mother had an enormous heart for neglected animals. With my nose pressed against the living room window, I finally saw Mom’s headlights coming down our long driveway, hauling a horse trailer filled with warmth, hope and love.
I charged out the front door to meet her and “the surprise” in the barn. With a pounding heart, I helped open the back door to the trailer. My large blue eyes grew wide as saucers in mesmerizing anticipation. My newly-rescued horse gingerly backed out of the trailer to find an extremely eager nine-year-old girl.
Being raised on a ranch, the familiar smell of a farm animal’s coat is comforting, whether it be a goat, sheep, cow, pig or horse. Their natural aroma is heaven scent and the smell of my gelding was instantly soothing. Slowly, I placed a hand on either side of his soft nose. We breathed into each other’s nostrils, beginning the bond of eternal trust. He closed his eyes and gently lowered his head into my awaiting arms. Resting my cheek against his forehead, I whispered, “Horsie, I will love you forever.”
            My mother suggested I join 4-H, the nation’s largest youth development organization. Their oath states, “I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country and my world.”  Knowing I wouldn’t raise a farm animal, which goes to market per the 4-H teachings, I said I would show horses instead.
Cindy Smith, the 18-year-old 4-H leader up the road, trained Horsie and me for competition. Horsie and I entered every racing event available. From Washington poll bending to barrel racing, Horsie and I took home first place trophies and blue ribbons. He and I were very close, even sharing chocolate pudding. Fascinated with the racing numbers tattooed into his upper lip, I’d tickle his upper lip with a piece of straw and then take a peek.
After a year of showing Horsie, my mother suggested we go to the auction and rescue another horse for me to show. Soon, we brought home a quarter horse mare I named Brownie. Horsie and Brownie became instant friends. A year later, Cindy offered her 28-year-old bay mare for me to show. She led Shanty, her older mare, out of her barn and I rode her home. My three horses and I took first place in every event we entered. Truly, I found my childhood niche’.
            By age 11, I was showing three horses who would have gone to dog food, glue and gelatin. Back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, this is what happened to neglected, unwanted and older horses. Horses found at the auction were either purchased by people such as my animal-loving mother or by “killer buyers” for profit.
            Today, America’s unwanted horses are either taken in by loving people for companion animals, rescued by horse associations, or exported to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, “While the HSUS and horse rescue organizations across the country work tirelessly to give every horse a second chance, thousands of American horses are still shipped across our borders each week for slaughter because the horse slaughter industry can outbid them. Ask your U.S. Representative and Senators to support The Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act (H.R. 503/S.727).”
To this day, I’m against the horse racing industry. Although it’s been 40 years since I last rode Horsie, Brownie and Shanty, their fond memories remain. As a middle-age woman, I’m maintaining the 4-H pledge to engage my Head, Hands, Heart and  Health in all life’s precious endeavors.
Debbie & Horsie
Tehama Totem Fair, 1971

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Learning to be Learning Disabeled

“When the student is ready, the teacher will come.” This phrase was spoken repeatedly to me by my late mother a thousand times. This Buddhist proverb was written for those who attend the school of hard knocks. My mother said if I didn’t learn my lesson the first time, I’d see it again – and again. What in the world was she talking about?! Throughout my growing years, I was stubborn, hard-headed and adamant about everything, however, I was usually wrong. I’d never done well in school and my grades were printed proof. If I were to give an oral presentation, I’d do fine, however, when it came time for tests, I failed miserably. Truly, it appeared I was nothing more than a goof-off.  
At 18, I met the love of my life in Hawaii through a divinely-orchestrated intervention. Four months later, I left the comfort, security, safety and support of my family and childhood friends to be with him. With the promise of a forever future together, our love knew no bounds and transcended to another dimension. For a year, we were transformed by an Adam and Eve-type closeness in our land of Paradise. What we shared bonded our hearts and souls for eternity. We spent every moment possible wrapped in each other’s arms. Our love was a gift from Heaven.
Sadly, however, our union lasted just a year. He was forced to make career choices therefore, I decided to begin my higher education. We were thrown into the grown-up world and unprepared for these monumental life changes. Devastated by our loss, I made a firm decision to make my way without him. What I didn’t consciously realize was he and my family were my protectors until I headed to college. I was unaware I didn’t have what it took to fly solo. While attending the University of Hawaii-Manoa, I was instructed to enroll in the Learning Assistance Center. After a series of tests, it was discovered I didn’t retain necessary information and therefore, had no memory of what was being taught. When it came time for exams, I looked at the material as if seeing it for the first time.
I called my mother and asked, “Mom, what’s wrong with me? I can’t seem to learn anything.” It took seven years to obtain my Bachelor of Science degree, which normally takes four. I never would have completed my higher education if not for an understanding professor and math tutor, who signed off on my diploma even though I failed their business math course again. I graduated with a 2.0, straight-D average and couldn’t have been more proud. Still, I convinced myself I would show them all I could succeed and make something of my life.
It wasn’t until I was 30, my mother discovered a name for my learning disabilities: Dyslexia. While home visiting, she held up a local newspaper with fuzzy letters and asked if this is what I see when I read. I confirmed this to be correct, however, I told her there’s so much more to my situation, it can’t be just dyslexia. We went to see a man at the local dyslexia organization and I described what I believe happens when my brain receives new information.
I told him it’s as if my brain is like a pinball machine. The information is taken in as if shot like a pin ball, flies around the different compartments of my brain, however, where it lands is anybody’s guess. When it’s time for me to retrieve the information, it’s not where it’s supposed to be. When this pinball-like action has occurred, I’m hearing repeated information for the first time. Then, I’m frustrated trying to figure out what I should know and my mind goes completely blank.
Without the proper processing of the information, there’s a lack of memory, because the needed information is impossible to access. I can be told some pieces of information a hundred times and still not understand. The giver of the information is looking at me as if I’m an idiot. That’s when I know they’ve told me the same thing already. Panic then sets in as I begin frantically searching, grasping and hunting for the information locked in the wrong compartment somewhere in my brain. My eyes go up, move to the right and then to the left, searching for the information, which is always irretrievable. If I’m searching, it’s not available, however, I continue the hope-filled search. If I’m too tired, my impatience kicks into high gear and then I’m looking at them wondering, “What’s their problem?!” Having a learning challenge is exhausting from thinking and trying so hard to keep up with life. I’ve repeated more unfortunate life lessons than I care to discuss, due to a lack of memory.
Following a recipe is close to impossible. I once made a lemon cake with frosting, which had to be cut with a chain saw. I can take someone’s name and scramble it up to read something foreign. If you give me a road map instead of directions, I’ll end up in Texas instead of New Jersey. Doing math or anything with numbers is like learning one of the Chinese dialects. At the computer, I’m terrific with Microsoft Word, however, give the Excel spreadsheet to someone else. If I sit at someone else’s computer, that doesn’t work for me, either. I’m unable to log on at the library because the screen and keys are different.
Spencer, my 14-year-old son, helps tremendously in several areas of my life. He knows the most frustrating and complicated device for me is the computer. While looking at the screen, my eyes feel as though they have a film over them. I blink the entire time I write, trying to make my eyes focus. With new concepts, I become highly agitated when I’m unable to do something others don’t think about, such as signing up for NetFlix on the computer. Too, I mix up appointments and miss social dates because I don’t think to look at my day planner. Having too many of these incidents prompted Spencer to set up a Google Calendar for me, which presents events I need to remember. This way, I have a visual to engage my memory.
Spencer takes all my digital photos and puts them into my stories and onto my Facebook page. I’ve owned three digital cameras and gave them away. People are perplexed I’m unable to use something so simple. They’re instructions are interpreted by me as, “Oh, it’s so easy! All you do this, this, this, this and this. Then, you push that, that, that, that and that. The last step is to hit the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and you’ve saved your photo!” My close family and friends instantly know when my eyes glaze over. They watch my head nod up and down hoping the “easy” lesson will soon end. I’m thinking to myself, “Oh, for God’s sake, save it, you’re wasting your time” while saying to them, “Oh, right. I get it now. That’s great!”
Life for the learning challenged is a long, long road with many a winding turn, that leads them to who knows where. No matter what path I’ve chosen or what decisions I’ve made, countless have been blunders and some of them devastatingly serious. I’ve been emotionally and mentally tortured in order to instill some of my most vital life lessons. I’ve repeatedly made frustrating and often times harmful decisions. Throughout three decades of destructive turmoil, I’ve continued believing, “I can do this life thing and I don’t need anyone’s help. I’m capable of having a solid career to support Spencer, the animals and me!” It never entered my conscious awareness I’d been 100% wrong.
For 33 years after leaving the safety nest of my parents and former first love, I’ve continued scrambling to gain my footing. It wasn’t until March 29, 2012, I had an epiphany and realized why I’ve made the poor life choices I have. I’d always been guided and protected until I was 19 and headed off to college. I didn’t realize I still need a protective warrior, teacher and guide in my life today. There are often times no obvious physical signs a person learns differently. They don’t have pointed ears, a cone-shaped head or bolts coming from the sides of their necks therefore, understanding someone is learning challenged can be difficult to comprehend. They appear quite “normal.”

Debbie, 2011

In becoming “independent”, I never created a career even though I’ve had more jobs than I can count. Since my first love, I’ve made relationship choices better suited for others, not knowing what is right for me. I’ve left a trail of disaster because of my fictitious independence and blind faith. This naturally led me down a path of personal and financial devastation. I’ve been a difficult student in most areas of my life, however, Dear God smiled on me. Although I’ve been divorced over nine years, the perfect father and I created Spencer, our phenomenal son.

Last week, after paying a couple utility bills and filling the gas tank, I thought I had enough money for groceries. I was at the grocery store when it occurred to me I may not have enough money to pay for the grocery basket full of food. I took out a piece of paper and a pen to subtract the bills and gas. I didn’t have enough as feared! I raced around the grocery store putting half the groceries back. I hoped I wouldn’t see any of the employees I’d become friends with the past 23 years.

With the remaining money, I breathed a sigh of relief knowing I could also buy a $20.00 bag of grain for my rescued farm animals. I went to the Self Check stand to avoid seeing any of the friendly employees in the event my debit card was declined again. I dreaded another humiliation. Slowly and quietly, I pushed my cart to the scanner and began. I carefully watched my items adding up. I still had too many items and secretly set them aside.
When my card was still declined, Rose, an employee, came up and offered to pay for my groceries. Doug, another employee, said he’d watch my cart if I needed to walk to the bank. Thurman, another familiar employee, patted my shoulder, while Hugh, from the almond milk section, offered to comfort me. The employees I’d known the past two decades came out of the woodwork to assist me. Thanking them and declining their generous offers, I felt my eyes well up. I grabbed my earth bags and went to my truck. Once in the privacy of myself, I cried and asked the rhetorical question, “What’s wrong with me?! Why is my life so difficult? Why can’t I find a job I am capable of doing?! Please show me I have something of value to offer.”
In the grand scheme in life, I feel as though I'm in a row boat with no oars, paddling in circles with my hands, lost at sea. There's no shelter from the storms and there's no compass guiding me to a safe harbor. I think many people with learning disabilities feel this way when they don't have an anchor, a buoy, radio communication, see a light tower or have a human guide with a life map. I've felt this way since I left for college in 1979 and on April 2, I’ll be 52 years old. 
Leaving my parent’s nest and then parting from the love of my life, I’ve never felt stable, safe or secure, which I didn’t consciously become aware of until March 29, 2012. It’s been a terrifying journey even though I’m the one who made the break away from home and my love. I didn’t realize at the time what my actions would cause and the ramifications of my choices. I felt compelled to try sailing, however, I didn’t understand my personal limits.
Life's been complicated and trying the past 33 years. I haven't learned how to navigate properly. I now realize I never will without a loving guide and teacher. I'm unemployed and raising my son to the best of my ability. I enjoy writing and hoped to create an income by teaching through my true life stories. When I ask for money, it sometimes comes, however, the unknowing has been beyond description. The other day, I let Spencer know I’m well aware his father can provide him with everything I’ve been unable to do. They went to see “The Hunger Games”, something I’d been looking forward to, only to discover I didn’t have the money. Although I’m grateful his father provides for him, it tears me apart knowing my inadequacies.
If I’m able to help another who has learning or any other life challenges, this will benefit me, too. I never believed I’d tell the world about who I truly am. I easily absorb and retain all information when it involves one’s beating heart. This applies to humans and all God’s creatures great and small. If it’s information on an inanimate object or other non-personal data, the pinball effect takes place. One’s Intelligent Quotient makes my eyes glaze over, whereas one’s Emotional Quotient catches my attention.
 Recently, the former love of my life and I made contact via email. I wrote him about my learning disabilities and he told me his daughter is in the same boat. He said she will need guidance to bring out the best in her. I pray I’m given another opportunity at a strong, protective and guiding love, bringing out the best in me, too.
Dyslexia is an umbrella term for a multitude of learning disabilities. As I’m aware, I don’t process all information properly. I don’t feel there’s a correct label for my mental capacity and difficulties. Some things I understand quickly by intuition or feeling and that’s when a beating heart is involved. Can a label be put on this? Should there be a label? I don’t want to be labeled. Although I’m unique, I want to fit in and feel a part of life’s journey. The past 33 years, I’ve stumbled 90% of the time. However, having a capable, loving guide in my life again, I know I’ll reach 100% of my destinations.  
There are a few positive qualities I can say about myself. I’m compassionate, loyal, accepting, extremely sensitive, aware, friendly and very loving. I believe through all my mistakes and lessons, there’s someone special for my special needs and also a “career” made especially for me.
I’m leery of new people and so-called opportunities. I never know when someone will take advantage of me again. My intuition doesn’t work with jobs, men, anyone renting my barn apartment or in doing business transactions. I have no idea why my gauge turns off and the person about to take advantage of me instantly knows this. Perhaps I project a naïve innocence, sometimes referred to as “stupid” or “gullible”? This is where I need guidance from my family and friends, however, sometimes my inside voice says, “I’m a mature adult and capable of making my own decisions.”
In despair the other day, I poured out my heart to Katy, a childhood friend, in an email letter. She’s watched me flail the past 33 years, knowing I’m exhausted, frustrated and terrified. She responded, “You are so very courageous and good. My heart hurts for yours. I look forward to knowing that happiness has consumed you and that hope and stability have been restored in your life. This is my prayer for you. I will ask for you to be given these things. I will continue to ask every day until they are bestowed upon you. I am here for you. Now I will wait to hear what happens next, OK?”
I waited 10 years too long to leave my ranch of rescued farm animals, believing I’d “make it” with a solid writing career to support Spencer, the animals and myself. I blindly waited for what I’d been taught, “Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow.” Spencer’s now living with his father, the ranch has been on the market four months, foreclosure is less than two months away and I’ve sold everything in my barn for food/gas money. I’m trying to “hear” what my late mother would tell me to do. I know now I’ve lived in a fairy tale world of trust, have faith and all good things will happen. With my disillusioned bubble burst, I feel my boat capsized by a tsunami, I’ve been drilled to the bottom of the ocean and I’m frantically thrashing about to find my way to the top for air. Will I live through another of life’s gruesome lessons? I will. I have Spencer waiting for me safely at the shore. I’m no longer hiding behind my smile and fake words, “I’m fine, thank you.” I no longer pretend in an effort to hide my shortcomings. I need guidance from my Family of Friends and I need it now. My white flag is flying high for all to see. By my experiences, I hope to finally learn life’s lessons and begin anew – again. I’ve made so many mistakes by not knowing my correct direction since leaving my first love at age 19. Perhaps my life map will be held by another loved one who will safely guide me again. With the exorbitant debt I gathered in waiting to “make it” these past 10 years, I’ve lost every dime I’d made for Spencer’s and my present and future. I didn’t know the difference between reality and fantasy. I had them mixed up and lost everything because I can’t tell the difference. I’m sharing my story in the hopes no one else experiences life without a loving guide.
When Spencer moved three months ago, I collapsed into a downward spiral. I realized, “Oh, my God. I’ve lost the most precious being in my life because I couldn’t navigate my way to success and financial freedom.” I thought I was making all the correct decisions for our well-being. In the end, I found myself completely alone wondering what in the world happened to us. My goal is locating a home in town so Spencer and I are reunited. I’m doing my best to keep my head forward and slowly finding my way to a life raft. I’ll be fine when I finally have my feet on solid ground – for life.
I’m hopeful soon I’ll have daily guidance again so Spencer may move on the next phase of his life free from concerns for my well-being. I’m most comfortable around children, animals, music, the elderly and those I’ve known. They would never deliberately hurt or take advantage of me. Feeling secure with my powerful prayer from Katy, this student named Debbie is finally ready for her loving teacher. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ready, Set, Go!

These six memoirs are ready to be published! I may be contacted via email: deborahgilson55@gmail.com or telephone: 650-747-9373. THANK YOU!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Aunt Shirlee's Angel

Cats are said to have nine lives. Humans have one, however, there’s one exception: my Aunt Shirlee. She’s seen more lives in her near-85 years than any cat on God’s green earth.
The other night, I called at her resident’s home to catch up. She pleaded to have, “The good Lord take me home.” I said I honor her wish. She apologized she couldn’t wait any longer for my dreams to come true. She said it was taking too long for my loving man to enter my life. She said she was sorry my writing career didn’t happen while she was still alive. I told her I understood.
Aunt Shirlee fell a few days ago and ended up in the hospital again. This morning in honor of Valentine’s Day, I went to the hospital to see about cheering her up. The moment I walked into her hospital room she said, “Listen, Debbie. This hospital stuff is getting to be old news.”
We talked an hour and a half when she said with a glimmer in her eyes, “Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. The nicest nurse visited me this morning at ten past four. She turned on a light, just bright enough for me to see her and that clock on the wall. It wasn’t glaring, it was just right. When I asked if she was here to give me more medication, she said she was only here to visit.” I let Aunt Shirlee know that was an odd time for anyone to just pop in for a visit.
Aunt Shirlee explained this was no ordinary nurse. I said, “Oh? Tell me about her.” Aunt Shirlee began describing her special nurse saying, “Well, she had blonde, crinkly, wavy hair to her shoulders. I asked what hours she worked and the nurse explained, she’s here for me 24/7. Whenever I need her, she’ll know. She told me her workplace is immediately outside my door on the right. She said there’s a group of offices and hers is the closest to my room.”
My antenna was on high by now. I let Aunt Shirlee know there were no offices outside her hospital door, only more hospital rooms. She asked me to double-check. I poked my head outside the door, looked down the long corridor and saw only what I’d seen walking to her room upon my visit. Aunt Shirlee’s face was visibly perplexed.
At that moment, a male Hispanic janitor walked in to mop the floor and empty the waste basket. I thanked him for coming in and Aunt Shirlee asked him, “Excuse me, could you please tell me if there are any offices outside my room?” He said, “No, ma’am. There are only more hospital rooms.”
Aunt Shirlee asked with a curious look, “Debbie, who came to my room this morning?” I gently said, “Aunt Shirlee, that was an angel.” Aunt Shirlee paused a moment and then asked, “Why did she come see me?” I explained, “The angel knew you’d been feeling alone and she’s here to let you know whenever you need a friend, she will be here.” Aunt Shirlee replied, “Well, she sure was pretty.”
At that moment, my Aunt Audrey called on Aunt Shirlee’s hospital phone. I knew it was time for me to leave. When her time is finished here on earth, I’ll be at peace, knowing Aunt Shirlee has an angel guiding her home. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Cliffs of Moher

              In 1895, I stood at the edge of the cliffs, looking 700 feet below to the massive rocks. I watched as the water crashed against the cliff’s base, throwing waves high into the air. At 19 years of age, my pregnancy and life were ending.
            In 1995, I was sitting comfortably in a chair during a regressive hypnosis session. I’d gone to learn about troubling parts of my childhood, which prevented me from healing emotionally as an adult. Lisa, the regression therapist, said to go as far back in time as my mind could remember. With eyes closed, I suddenly felt the chair shaking while my feet became unsteady with the movement of the floor. I nervously told Lisa, “We’re having an earthquake!” She instructed me to keep my eyes closed. The Loma Prieta catastrophe of 1989 was still fresh in my mind. The magnitude 7.1 earthquake severely shook the greater Bay Area where I live. My heart began pounding with terror once again.
            By now, I was sweating from the panic of the earthquake, while transitioning to the Cliffs of Moher. Lisa asked, “Debbie, what year is it, where are you and what is your age?” I responded robotically, “It’s 1895. I live in Ireland and I’m 19.” Lisa told me to continue my experience. She said she would guide me and I would feel no pain, regardless of what transpired during the regression.
I began telling Lisa of a previous life as a beautiful, 19-year-old peasant girl with waist-length, brown wavy hair. My parents and I lived in County Clare, on the West side of Ireland. I’d become pregnant by a man of royalty, whom I deeply loved. He was the king of his castle whereas, my parents and I lived in a one-room hut with thatched roof and mud floor. I walked five miles to his fortress to let him know of my pregnancy. His servant opened the door and when I asked to speak with the father of my child, was told he was unavailable. With a tremendous amount of hopelessness, I began walking south toward home. An instinct came over me to look back at the castle. There, in the window of the highest room facing north, I noticed my baby’s father watching as I walked away.
            Lisa asked what I did at this point. With my eyes still closed, I relayed the next phase of my regression. Barefoot, I made the five-mile walk back to my home. My parents were in the field, working the land. I hugged and kissed my pet goats good-bye. With tears, I walked down a narrow dirt path and stood at the Cliffs of Moher.
            I let Lisa know I was standing at the edge of the cliff and was about to jump to my death. She said to leave my body before I landed to avoid the pain. I promised I would.
Taking three steps to the edge, I dove forward and began my decent. I noticed the sea gulls flying against the cloudless sky. The warmth of the sun enveloped my sailing body. Just before I landed, I left my body and watched as I crashed onto the rocks. The powerful ocean splashed over my dead body. My long hair splayed across my face and onto the rocks.
Slowly, I began opening my eyes, leaving a tragic loss far behind and bringing myself back to present day. Moving forward in my life, I acquired goats and a host of other animals who’ve provided healing for me. Together, we’ve blessed and released the Cliffs of Moher. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

An Extra-Ordinary Trip Abroad

          Sometimes, it feels as though I can’t take myself anywhere. My encounters only lead to a comedy of errors and complications seemingly out of my control. Such was the case in 1999 when Spencer, my 16-month-old son, and I accompanied my husband on his business trip to Europe.
Spencer and I accompanied my husband on this business trip for a couple reasons. I didn’t want our family separated for an extended period of time. Too, I thought this was a golden opportunity for Spencer and me to absorb the culture of several European countries.
The massive 747 American Airlines plane reached Paris, France early in the morning 12 hours after leaving San Francisco. I felt nauseous from fatigue and the time change. We checked into the hotel and I was ecstatic at the sight of the bed, however, had been told not to sleep until the night to become acclimated to European time.
My husband headed to a business meeting and suggested I take Spencer on a sight-seeing stroll through the cobble-stone streets of Paris. Taking the keys to the hotel and some French francs, I put Spencer in a stroller and we headed out. I found a pâtisserie and eye-balled an array of mouth-watering pastries through the glass case. Having not taken the time or effort to learn one word of French, I pointed to several items while the kind woman put them into a bag. Having not taken the time to learn the local currency, I opened my coin purse and she gingerly took out the appropriate coins for me.
The weather was stunning as I pushed Spencer’s stroller and together, we nibbled our pastries. We stopped to peer into shop windows and wave to the owners inside. Continuing our journey for over an hour, I spotted a farmer’s market and purchased fresh fruit. Again, I opened my coin purse and allowed the stand owner to take the francs needed. When French was spoken to me, I politely smiled and said, “I’m an American, who speaks no French.” I was told an American can be spotted a mile away. The French people I met didn’t seem to care about my lack of effort to learn their language.
It was time to head back to the hotel for Spencer’s nap. As I rounded a corner leaving the farmer’s market, I looked to the left and then to the right. I wondered which way was the hotel. Standing there perplexed, a young Frenchman approached and asked, “Madame, you are lost, yes?” I responded, “I don’t speak French, sir.” He said, “I know. We can tell when an American doesn’t speak French. This is fine. Tell me, where do you wish to go?”
I dug my hand into a pocket for the wooden hotel key, which displayed the name and address of where we were staying. The kind young gentleman guided us back to our hotel, a 30-minute walk away. Truly, the Parisian folk couldn’t have been kinder.
The next day, I rented a car in anticipation of taking Spencer and myself for a cruise through the country. The gas tank was nearly empty so I pulled into a station to fill the tank. Pulling away shortly thereafter, we had the entire day to view the breath-taking scenery.
About 20 minutes after leaving the gas station, the rental car’s engine began to sputter. I checked the oil light and all appeared well. I learned all was not well when the car slowed to a stall. I found a pay phone near the car and dialed for help. Waiting in the car with Spencer, a tow truck arrived shortly thereafter. He asked whether I filled the gas tank. I assured him I had a full tank of gas as I’d recently left the gas station.
He asked whether I had a receipt for the gas, which I handed him. He looked down his nose at the receipt and in his heavy French accent announced, “I see you put gasoline in this tank!” I responded, “Well, that is what goes into a gas tank, isn’t it?!” He put his face to mind and said, “Ma’am, this is a diesel engine!” He towed my rental car to his lot where he emptied the tank and refilled it with the proper petrol.
After a two-day stay in Paris, it was time to catch a flight to Frankfurt, Germany. My husband had a business meeting there for the day and said he would meet Spencer and me in Montreux, Switzerland that evening. He’d hired a rental car for me to make the eight-hour drive with Spencer. With panic in my eyes, he assured me the navigational system would get me there with no problems.
The first problem was the G.P.S. system was programmed in German. Having learned no German before the trip, I motioned a passerby and asked him to set my navigational system to English. He obliged and with a button pushed here and another pushed there, the automated talking lady began guiding me to our destination.
While Spencer slept in his car seat in the back of the rented BMW, I “sped” along the autobahn, which has no general speed limit, however, the advisory speed limit is 130 kilometers per hour or 81 mph. I didn’t realize this, however, as I didn’t take a moment to read the German driving laws. My only focus was getting us to the French side of Switzerland by sunset.
With my hands firmly on the top of the steering wheel, I drove in the lane closest to the fast lane. Traveling the speed limit for the States, I set the cruise control for 65 miles per hour. The other drivers raced past me and were out of sight within seconds. Suddenly, a male driver pulled up on my left side and with fury in his eyes, pointed to the far right lane. Looking at him with confusion, he mouthed, “MOVE OVER NOW!” How in the world did he know I’m American?
I took mental note of the pristine highway with no road or advertising signs what-so-ever to mar the land. It finally dawned on me, however, I had no clue where we were. The navigational lady was speaking Gibberish. I pulled over to a vista point and found a small group of site-seers to ask directions. Within a few minutes, I was back on the highway, moving once again in the right direction.
The sun was beginning to set and I needed to stop for fuel. I used up the remainder of my Deutsche marks on gas and snacks. Pulling away from the gas station, I noticed a line of armed guards standing before the border between Switzerland and Germany. At that moment, I stopped frozen in terror as I had no money to cross the border. With Spencer awake in the back seat, I saw his large blue eyes wide as saucers as he stared at the guns held by the station soldiers. I calmly said, “Mama is going to cross the border now. Those guns are pretend, Honey.”
With my head in my hands, I prayed to Dear God for help. I held my breath as I struggled for the right words to reach my angels above. I promised Dear God I wouldn’t run out of the local currency again. As I slowly inched my car closer, I saw the armed men opening the doors to the car ahead and pointing for the passengers to get out. Their car was searched top to bottom, with a guard tearing the contents of the trunk to shreds. With their clothing pulled out of their suitcases and personal items strewn about, they were finally given the salute to proceed.
The terror in my eyes was visible to the man on Mars munching his green cheese. I slowly drove forward with my body frozen in place. I mentally prepared myself to hold my baby close to my heart as the contents of our luggage was surely to be invaded. I kept my head and eyes forward for the numerous armed guards.
The guard at my driver side window immediately swung his rifle over his shoulder, waving me through the gate and into the neutral country of Switzerland. I confidently nodded his direction and slowly pulled away. Thanking Dear God profusely for this unimaginable miracle, I allowed my shoulders to fall back into a comfortable position.
Pulling into Le Montreux Palace at 8:00 that evening, the valet team was at our car dressed as royal guards. My driver side door was opened and a hand offered to help me out. Spencer was gently scooped up by Karine, a beautiful hotel greeter, who carried him with loving arms and let him wear her uniform hat. 


Once inside the foyer, Karine asked how my drive from Germany was and I told her what happened at the boarder. In her perfect English, she let me know my rented car just happened to have Suisse plates! I knew, however,  the drive had been divinely orchestrated.
My husband joined us later that evening after his flight from Germany. The next morning, he headed off to a business meeting, while Spencer and I prepared for the short boat trip from Lausanne to Evian, France, across Lake Geneva. As I held Spencer on my lap, I took in the sights of the Chablais mountain range all the white sipping Evian water, feeling the effects of this beauty water I’d only heard about. For the two-hour boat ride, I made sure to drink as much of this healthy water as possible. Four bottles later, the boat docked into the tiny town of Evian and off we walked.
A pit stop was in order, pronto! I located a public restroom and waited in the long line. With Spencer on my hip, we finally walked into a stall, only to discover the toilet had been stolen! Walking out of the stall, I held up three fingers and told the women waiting in line, “The toilet in stall number three is gone! NO TOILET!”
I walked back outside to the end of the line and waited again for my turn. By this time, things had become urgent as the four bottles of Evian had clearly taken their toll on my bladder. We finally reached another stall only to discover that toilet, too, was missing. Standing in disbelief, I set Spencer down to rest my tired arms. There, on the cement floor, I noticed a faint image of painted feet, complete with toes. The faded bare feet were in front of a hole in the cement floor. It was then all the pieces of the missing toilet puzzle fell into place. I was stunned.
The next day, Spencer, my husband and I caught a flight to Istanbul, Turkey to visit my husband’s relatives. Although we were leaving the pristine, open-minded carefree, surroundings of Switzerland, I was excited to meet my husband’s Turkish family members. Dressed as the hip local women in Switzerland, I wore white jeans, a pink sleeveless top, black high-heeled sandals, large silver hoop earrings and a massive gray, stone cross on a long, black string. My nails were painted light pink and I had the lip gloss to perfectly match. I was set for Turkey!
On the way to the airport, I asked my husband, “Where in the heck is Turkey, anyway?” He said, “It’s in the Middle East.” With huge blue eyes I asked, “The Middle East?!” He nodded his head up and down.
We boarded the airplane for the four-hour flight. A sign at the front of the airplane indicated the smoking section. Anxiously tapping a flight attendant on the shoulder I asked, “Is there smoking on this flight?” She confirmed one of my worst nightmares and I showed her my ticket, saying there’s no way I could sit in that section. She calmed my fears by letting me know our seats were in the ‘No Smoking’ section.
Locating our seats toward the back of the plane, I noticed we were directly behind the dividing sections. Horrified, I nabbed another flight attendant and said, “You know, smoke doesn’t realize where the dividing smoking sections are located.” With a glare, she walked away.
The moment the flight took off, the four Turkish men in front of our seats lighted each of their cigarettes. Incensed, I stood up, leaned over their seats and held Spencer while saying, “B-A-B-Y. This is my bbbaaabbbyyy. Please put out your smokes our you’ll hurt his tiny lungs.” The four men stared at the six heads on my shoulders and went about their smokes – and conversation. My husband was understandably very quiet.
Sitting back down, I pulled a barf bag out of the pocket in front of me and breathed into it. I could feel waves of nausea overwhelm me as I covered Spencer’s face with the light-weight sweater I was carrying. I sat with my head between my knees the entire flight.
We finally landed in Istanbul after what seemed an eternity. I told my husband I would meet him in the airport. I grabbed Spencer and raced off that airplane as fast as I could without pushing anyone over. Once we deplaned, I looked into the airport at a sea of burkas. It seemed as though a thousand eyeballs stared at the site of my Madonna wannabe attire. With my bare arms and massive “cool” stone cross, I felt horribly naked.
With Spencer on my hip, I ran to find my husband at the suitcase carrousel. After locating him, I cried, “Why didn’t you tell me where we were going? I didn’t know we were going to that part of the Middle East! I need my suitcase to change clothes before I’m stoned to death!”
Holding Spencer and dragging my suitcase into the ladies restroom, I dug out a pair of Levi’s, a sweatshirt and tennis shoes. I pulled off my necklace and earrings, too. I took some toilet paper and wiped off my favorite lip gloss. Throwing the clothes back into the suitcase, I slowly walked out of the stall and looked to make sure the coast was clear.
My husband’s relatives were waiting for us in their car, thankfully parked right out front. We had a wonderful visit with them and my husband handled his business meetings near by. Two days later, we caught a flight to Israel where my husband had business meetings.
While he headed off to his meetings, Spencer and I jumped into the back seat of a hired driver’s car. I wanted to see anything and everything to do with Jesus. While sailing along in the back seat with Spencer, I asked the older Israeli driver about the various aspects of the Israel culture.
Feeling comfortable with him by now, I asked how in the world circumcision became a practice. I furthered, “I mean, here we are in the land of the holy, right? We’re born with our God-given perfect body parts, right? Then, someone decides to begin the ritual of slicing tender skin off newborn boys? This is only done in America and Israel. What’s up with that?!”
All of a sudden, the driver pulled our car off to the side of the road and skidded to a crashing stop. He got out of the car, came around to my side and opened the door. “Get out, right now”, he barked. With rage in his eyes, he explained no one argues with God! Very quietly and calmly I replied, “You know what? You’re absolutely right. What was I thinking?”
Off we went for the remainder of the drive to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. I put Spencer into a stroller while the driver repeatedly told me to stay close to him. After walking a mile deep with others waiting their turn, I scribbled my prayer on a piece of paper, rolled it into a tiny tube and shoved it into an empty hole.
The driver was having a smoke, so I pushed Spencer’s stroller on without him. In under a minute, Spencer and I were surrounded by a dozen teen-age Israeli students, all frantically trying to touch Spencer. Pulling him out of the stroller, I held him tightly.
From out of the blue, our driver appeared and yelled at the students in their native language. They all backed off immediately and ran in the opposite direction. Once again, I was in the dog house with our driver. He put his first finger to my face and said, “Don’t you ever wander off again. Do you understand me?” Nearly in tears, I asked him what they wanted with Spencer. He explained Spencer’s blond hair and blue eyes are unbelievable to those in the Middle East. They try to touch people who have these looks believing this will bring them good luck.
From there, I asked the driver if he would take us to the Mount of Olives, where many churches glorify Jesus’ acts in this part of Jerusalem.  I also said I wanted Spencer and I to ride a camel. He said, “I should have known.” While the driver waited in the car, Spencer and I rode a camel, which was great fun. From there, we walked into one of Jesus’ churches and sat there soaking up his spiritual energy through the rays of the stained glass windows.
By then, the day was drawing to a close and it was time to head back to the hotel. The return drive was quiet, while Spencer slept and I reflected back on the day’s events. Once back at the hotel, our driver smiled and said, “You are certainly the most fascinating person I’ve had the pleasure of driving.” I sincerely appreciated his kind-hearted words.
The next day, Spencer, my husband and I caught a flight back to Frankfurt, Germany where my husband had one final meeting. In the blink of an eye, it was time for our flight back to San Francisco. Sitting in our seats on the massive 747, I wondered who would occupy the empty seat on my left. Spencer and my husband rested comfortably in their seats to my right.
The very last passenger finally arrived and sat next to me. The older, 6’2 masculine-looking woman with red fingernails and lipstick slumped down into the seat on my left. Letting out a breath of exhausted air, she leaned over and said, “Hello, I’m Billie Felice. Am I ever in pain. I’m heading home after my sex change operation in Sweden.” Once again, I knew divine intervention had taken place.
Billie Felice relayed her entire life story during the flight to San Francisco. Touching down, I whispered to her, “I’m a writer of true life stories and I’d be honored to write yours.” Turning to my husband I said, “Thank you so much for an extra-ordinary trip abroad.”