Making Connections: Penny in My Thoughts

Penny, Sharon, and Myself San Francisco Circa 1996

We were The Bania’s, a family of three. It consisted of my dad, Lou, my mom, Remy, and myself.

My dad found a niche as an electrician and refrigeration technician in San Francisco and the surrounding areas.

His accounts included Taco Bell chains, Pizza Hut, and Wolf Gang Puck on the Pier, and what he called “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants in China Town.

He had a little apartment over on Geary Street working three weeks on and one week off where he would come home. Long enough for my parents to get on each other’s nerves and then he would be gone again.

My mother worked full-time as an ESL teacher at Delta Middle School.

Something peculiar was occurring at the end of the street where my parents parked our 1991 Plymouth Voyager mini-van, white with a wood panel stripe that graced the sides.

It would become my future ride during my Senior Year at Delta High School, but that was still in the works. It was 1995, I was 15 and a Junior without a driver’s license riding the bus home.

Like any day after school, I took my time shuffling from the corner of North 500 West Street and West Center Street towards 350 West.

I lived at the dead-end gravel street on 350 West. There are three houses on this road, cookie-cutter ranch-style homes, three bedrooms, and one bath. A blue one (which for the life of me I can’t remember who lived there, I just remember the porcelain toilet that was used as a plant holder), the yellow one that belonged to the Fountaines’ and then my house, a milky chocolate house on the end.

This was the year I decided to cut my hair short like Monica the R&B singer. It looked good on her, why not me?

Billy and Cody Shumway’s mom was the hairdresser and said that I needed to style it every morning if I wanted it to look like Monica’s. Let me tell you, it was more work to have it short than long, but I’m getting off track. All I have to say is thank goodness my hair grows back quickly.

Back to the odd occurrence happening in my driveway. My parents were talking in the minivan. Odd.

Anytime they had a “discussion” it involved slammed doors with my mother going silent behind the closed door, usually with my dad heavy fist pounding the door yelling at her to come out.

This time they were calmly talking. They were both smiling, especially my dad.

When they saw me they exited the vehicle and walked towards the house saying they had something important to tell me.

The News

“You have a sister.” My mom said.

“I thought your mother was going to kill me,” my dad said all smiles.

“Why would I kill you?” she scoffed shaking her head at the thought. “It was in the past.”

Learning Lesson

From that moment and on through my own life I learned that someone’s past did not dictate their worth.

Back to the Story

I was in shock. I had a sister?

Growing up as an only child was B-O-R-I-N-G. Need I say more? My parents were older than most in the area, not to mention they weren’t Mormon. I was the odd girl at school and I was a Filipina Chinese girl living in rural America. I really could have used a sister.

Now I magically had a sister.

An awkward conversation revealed he had a one-night stand with Penny’s mother. Penny had called earlier that afternoon from Washington State and said that she was his daughter.

His reply, “Oh shit, she [Penny’s mother] was telling the truth.”

A New Sister

She was the spitting image of my dad, there was no mistake. She came for a short visit prior to Christmas and we met again in San Francisco and then I took a solo trip up to Washington the following summer.

Throughout the years we kept in touch. She met my fiancé, who would become my husband of 14 years (technically 15, but I filed for divorce our 14th year and it wasn’t finalized until November of 2014). Can you tell I get particular about the particulars?

I took a solo trip in the summer of 2008 to visit Penny and occasionally see her ever-busy husband, Mitch. 2009, following the Disney Marathon, me and the family came out for a visit. We visited the Brevard Zoo, fed the giraffes, and on a separate day, we spent it at Disney World.

The Call

Back at home in Orting, WA. Penny called. She told me my children had been ungrateful. Not thanking her for the dolls she had purchased for them at Disney. She said we had left the house a mess and said she had to call a cleaning service because her house was a mess.

“I was taught that you leave the house, better than you found it!” She yelled in the receiver. Yes, we still had a cordless phone back then.

I yelled back and told her I would send her a check for the maid service. I didn’t recall leaving the house a disaster. It was unlike me to do that. It was strange that she was incredibly upset. She had never yelled at me before.

I hung up the phone while she ranted. She called back leaving two irritated voicemails outraged that I had hung up the phone on her.

In her last voicemail, she said that she was sorry for yelling and plead for me to call her back.

I sent her a check for the maid service and didn’t call her back.

December 3, 2021

Remember that nasty car accident I was in? The dog’s name was Penny. I thought about my sister as the drunk driver called out her name over and over again.

December 5, 2021

I came across my journals and a picture came to the surface. The one my dad took in San Francisco. The same picture shown above.

December 7, 2021

I messaged Mitch, Penny’s husband, asking how I could get a hold of her.

December 11, 2021

He didn’t reply, but he added me as a friend on FB. I scrolled through his feed looking for any sign of Penny.

And then I found this…

Another Lesson

Sometimes we go through the pain of not learning the first time and God nudges us again, patiently waiting for us to relearn something He already taught us.

It is not enough to proclaim we are Christians when we aren’t willing to forgive. I do not claim perfection. I’m still learning how to forgive others in my life.

I Am a WIP (Work in Progress)

I thought I still had time, but now it was too late. I allowed pettiness to break up a relationship that was never based on the trivial.

Please let this be a lesson to you. Do not allow the pettiness of life to get in the way of relationships. As many have said before me, “Life is too damn short.”

I say to you, “Love yours, show kindness, and when it doubt be slow to anger and forgive others on a regular basis.” Yes, even to the drivers that drive like they own the road. We are all God’s children.

If they are toxic, love them from a distance and pray that they will feel your love and forgiveness.

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As always, thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my blog.

I appreciate the outpouring of support from my friends near and far.

May God be with you as He has shown up in my life even when I didn’t want to acknowledge His existence. He is as real as the air we breathe. Ever present yesterday, today, and forever.

Half Empty or Half Full?

I have read and used psychology throughout my life. Next month I begin my journey towards my Ph.D. in Psychology. Unfortunately, people won’t take me seriously without that paper that says, Desiree Sharon Haros, is certifiably able to say, “blah, blah, blah.” Listen to her because she has a Ph.D.

I have already joined the ranks of the overeducated with a Master’s in English and Creative Writing. I’m a better writer because of that degree. I wouldn’t have done it any other way.

I should have a Ph.D. in Ultra Running and Living if you know what I mean. This is the part where my husband comes in and uses his best Will Smith impression of, “You know what I’m sayin’.”

People hate/love relationships with honesty. When my husband is being honest, I tell him he needs to be less forthcoming. He replies, “So I can’t be honest.” He throws his hands up in the air (not to show that he just doesn’t care) but says, “I can’t win for losing.” He says something to that effect and I instantly know where that comes from. His father sees the glass as half empty.

Anthony was told he couldn’t show sensitivity, because that would make him appear weak. Instead, he’s now having to work through feeling his feelings rather than bottle it all up inside.

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My mom bottled her anger up for years when she was with my stepfather, who for all intents and purposes is the person I still call dad.

My dad passed away in December 2019 and I’m just beginning to unpack it all.

Unfortunately, because of a financial loss to the tune of $60K, my dad and I stopped talking. My mother kept the lines of communication open.

During one conversation with my mother, my father grabbed the phone and yelled into the receiver, “Where the hell is our money?” I told him that we didn’t have it. As far as I knew, we didn’t have anything near the amount he wanted…and he wanted to be paid back in full.

He couldn’t understand how a person could lose thousands of dollars. It was 2009, the economy had crashed and the real estate bubble exploded.

Petty?

“Yes!” Money cannot replace a life.

# # #

Throughout my childhood and as an adult, I thought he was an arsehole. Strangers, family friends, and even my friends saw a side of him that wasn’t always apparent to me. When he let his guard down, he acted in childlike wonderment when it came to Halloween candy distribution, Christmas lights, taffy, Disneyland, and car shows.

This photo was taken near Hawthorne, NV at a shooting range.

What I didn’t understand was that he was the best dad he could be for me because of his life experience. He and I didn’t understand what it meant to love unconditionally.

I never got the chance to tell him I loved him.

# # #

There were times throughout my life he was extremely mean to people, so much so he could make cashiers and waitresses cry. I call it the Bonaparte/ Short man Syndrome, but what it really was about, went back to abandonment issues he experienced from not having his mother in his life from the beginning of his life. get. He was born on January 27, 1942, in Lancaster, NY.

My dad- Louis Joseph Christopher Bania

He lived in two different foster homes. One of them was in Machias, NY, another small town outside of Ashford, not too far away from West Valley.

When he was 16 years old he found out where she lived and came knocking on her door. It was a shock to his mother. Her husband and two young sons soon found out she had a baby at 14 years of age.

He didn’t stay long. He thought she was overprotective and made his way to the West Coast. The twists and turns don’t end there.

Join me next week, when I talk about my sister, Penny. Bet you didn’t know I had a sister.

Circa 1960s, Seattle, WA. He’s on the far right, standing.

Lesson Learned

Forgive your loved ones and tell them you love them. Do not let the pettiness of material things thwart familial relationships.

Disclaimer: I understand some relationships are toxic, as my husband likes to say, “Babe, be the bigger person.” Tell them you love them anyway. Smother them with kindness…from a distance and pray for them always.

Coffee for the Brain

Image Creds: @suebeehonee

That accident shook me to my core. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, please take a moment to read my previous post. 

You have to listen carefully to understand.

No skimming.

I tell you this because I’m guilty of skimming. I like to get my information from my source as quickly as possible, but as I have learned taking things in slowly helps your brain slow down and absorb what is being said. 

Do you understand what I’m saying? 

What you see is not always what you should take at face value, literally and figuratively.

When my friends take a selfie on FB, I immediately “heart” the picture. But, if they appear to have some type of down-turned face I read what they have to say.

Usually, they are talking about something they are going through, but this is where it gets tricky.

I have also learned to see past a smile. If you are their “friend” take the time to read their post…especially the ones that make you click “see more.”

This is a plea from your friend. They want to be heard. Listen and comment. We are all people that have needs. Familiar with Maslow’s Heiarchy of Needs?

Maslow’s Hierarchy Pyramid

Do them a small favor. Slow your roll and read their post through the entirety. Sometimes they are talking about what they are going through, yet they are still smiling through the pain. 

It’s taken me a long time to take the dreaded selfie. The added baby weight that I’m still in the process of losing was a huge factor of me NOT loving myself. 

But somewhere in between the wake up from depression and the car accident and attending church, I instantly remembered who I was. It was like my life was stuck on pause until I understood my mental health better. Does this resonate with anyone? Please tell me if it does. Stop being afraid to live. The more you let go and let God, you can set yourself free from your own mental prison. I know all about that.

You are a bird that is meant to fly.

Stop living in the cage when the door is wide open. We have this one life to live. Do yourself a favor and live it well.

FLY!

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Thanks for dropping by. If you are feeling some Holiday cheer, Buy me a coffee.

This mama would really appreciate it. Hope to “see” you here again soon. I promise I won’t waste your time.





A Come to Jesus Moment or What Have You

Choice #1

Two nights ago, after a minor “discussion” with my husband. We decided it would be in our best interest, if we went to get some food…meaning fast food.

Choice #2

We saw Lexi and Lauryn (our two oldest) on the way out. Lexi had picked Lauryn up from work. Lauryn works at Wendy’s. She said they were out of fries. We were going to get fries for Brooklyn. I said, “Let’s go to Taco Bell!” Anthony says, “Yes, that sounds most excellent.” He didn’t say that, but he agreed that it was a good idea.

Choices #3

Insignificant choice, but let’s talk consider the time it took to go through the drive thru. I ordered 2 spicy tacos and he got the Grilled something box. Thankful we spent under $15. We headed home.

Choice #4

There are two routes home. One that takes less time than the other. It was foggy…like unusually foggy, so we took the short way home. We were nearly 5 minutes away from home when….

We heard honking, but couldn’t figure out why.

Choice #5

Headlights appeared out of nowhere, because the driver from the oncoming lane turned on his headlights at the last second, but he was in our lane.

Choice #6

Swerved left and the only thing that ran through my head was a clear male voice that said, “Hold on tight and brace for impact.”

Choice #7

Anthony hopped out of the car and ran to the other driver and asked him what the eff he was doing driving on the wrong side of the road. He scared the man so bad, he kneeled in front of his vehicle and put his hands behind his head and promised he wouldn’t move and asked if we were okay. He thought my husband was a cop.

Choice #8

I had to reign in my husband’s wrath, because he was about to beat the living crap out of that man. Not only that, my husband was going to get ran over by oncoming traffic because he was wearing all black. Meanwhile, the clearly inebriated man repeatedly called out, “Penny!!!” A little black and white puppy came running out towards him.

Choice #9

We made our way back to the curb once the police started showing up.

Choice #10

We called Lexi to come and pick us up.

Choice #11

The man pleaded with the cops to not take away his dog. Thankfully, he had someone pick up his animal. It was either that or they were going to take her to the pound. (disclaimer: the shelter is currently filled to capacity and there is a two week waiting list, one day I’ll explain how I know that.) My husband and Lexi said we couldn’t take the dog home. I made a momentary sad face.

Choice #12

After 1.5 hours we were able to go home. We sustained no life-threatening injuries and Lexi asked if we had any Taco Bell left because she was hungry.

Choice #13

We arrived home, tired, exhausted and incredibly grateful that our family was still intact.

Choice #14

Meanwhile, my mother confused her 81mg Aspirin for allergy pills. She took 4 Benadryl and slept until I woke her up the next morning to tell her about the accident. She is usually awake just as much as I am, but more on that later.

The Lesson Learned

We should have gone to Wendy’s.

I’m kidding. The lesson we learned was that life is too short to have “discussions” that last more than 10 minutes. We promised not to get petty as long as we both shall live, but because we said that we happened to get into another “discussion” yesterday. Not even 24 hours later we were “discussing” petty things once again. I thought he was being petty and he thought I was being petty. It turns out we were both being petty. Do you see how choices lead us to where we are today. We can play the blame game all day long, but where does that get us? Stuck on a hamster wheel.

We apologized for our behavior and I begged my daughter to not one day put me in a nursing home. I also apologized to the Universe for being petty.

The Blessing

Anthony went outside and finished fixing our van which has been out of commission for about a month-ish.

He put in the last part that needed to be replaced and we now have a working vehicle again. Our 2016 Nissan Altima is totalled, but we have a working vehicle and we are still alive.

The Conclusion

See the blessings in disguise and recognize when you are not being a very nice human. The sooner you straighten out, the quicker the Universe will work in your favor.

What ever you want to call the higher power, it is there and listening. I believe those who have passed on before us, meaning our ancestors are our guardian angels. That voice I heard in my head was perfectly calm. I listened. The question I have for you is, “Will you?”

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Thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate your support and hope you will take the opportunity to like and send me a comment or drop me an email. You can even buy this mama a cup of coffee so that I can continue to make you laugh, cry and jump for joy all at the same time with my clever wordsmithing. Remember to tell your loved ones how much they matter to you, because you don’t know when or if you’ll see them again.

Depression: The Big “D” Word

Let’s make that a double. This is Desiree on Depression.

I have talked about this sort of thing before, but not at this level. You can say “I’m leveling up.” -The Blue Shirt Guy, Free Guy.

I have been in a dark place mentally, which came with having my two little additions. They are 11 months apart! Once upon a time on the tiny isle of Desiree, I thought having babies 16 months was close. Life showed me what was up. Four months after Brooklyn was born, I was pregnant…again.

*Side note: So, you can get pregnant while nursing. Talk about one of thee worst myths created!!!!!

I have faced this issue time and time again throughout motherhood, but I didn’t realize that I was suffering from postpartum depression also known as baby blues.

The Dark Place

There was little motivation I could summon except the minimal which included writing, blogging, and finally finishing up my Master’s which was only supposed to take two years, but turned into five. I had TWO classes left when I stopped running and schooling in 2018. I am proud to say that this past year I finished up those classes because I have an ever-supportive husband.

Since I didn’t feel the drive to run anymore I just didn’t see why I was alive. Hey runners, I know you know what I’m talking about. A f*cking IDENTITY CRISIS Ya’ll. If I wasn’t a runner, who was I?

If I was mentally checked out on my children, how could I call myself their mother?

And if I couldn’t love myself how could I love my husband like I said I did? How could I be there for them and him?

My toilet bowl flush of thinking went on to believe that my children would probably do much better in life without me.

Depression made me feel like I wasn’t worth anything to anyone.

This was the worst stinkin’ thinkin’ that I had ever come up with.

I will not go into the rabbit hole of “normal” today. My family knows that terrible truth. Do you know that song by Taylor Swift called “Blank Space”? I can relate… a little too well I didn’t recognize the “dark place” for what it was. Depression clung to me like a noose, so much so that it came with my husband calling a mental health facility.

I wanted to kill myself…what I didn’t care to understand at the time was that during my rant, my two oldest daughters heard my yelling through their bedroom wall. They cried, while I screamed, yelled, and ranted. My husband hid all the sharp objects. while I screamed, yelled, and ranted.

Suicide isn’t the answer and because of my husband I got through the night and then the days slowly turned into weeks. I apologized for saying those things and thinking those thoughts, but I didn’t realize it hurt them. There are a lot of things I don’t realize when I end up in the wrong head space.

I spoke to my daughters individually and apologized for my behavior.

It’s difficult to put my thought process into words, let’s just say I was in the wrong head space. I didn’t give a f*ck and I’m not talking about Mark Manson’s version.

I could only see the worst in myself.

The Conclusion

I realize not everyone faces depression, but there are many people that do. I know I’m not alone when I say that I like to pretend everything is okay when it’s not, mostly because I don’t want to burden anyone with my problems.

Unfortunately, there are far too many women and men that don’t talk about the mental pain they are experiencing.

I can’t say this enough…TALK TO SOMEONE!!!! Real friends will listen. The Universe needs you. Please remember that you are not the only person suffering, your immediate family members will feel the pain of your loss every day and for generations to come.

We All Have a Purpose

I urge you to take some time for yourself and do some soul-searching. Bite the bullet and be alone with your thoughts. Turn off the music and stop trying to drown out whatever you are trying not to feel. Your soul is trying to tell you something. Now is not the time to be comfortable in the sadness. We are not meant to dwell there. Do yourself a favor and free your mind. What would you do right now, if you didn’t have the constraints of your j-o-b?

Find your PASSION and chase it down HARD. Think of yourself as a lion/lioness chasing its prey like it hasn’t eaten in a week.You can recognize it when it strikes a chord in your being. It makes you want to get out of bed in the morning. Do not confuse a person for that feeling. Remember that post I wrote about creating your own sunshine? Do that. You are your choices. Accept the good and the bad and as my husband says, “Keep it movin’.”

Everyone experiences those lows. Depression can strike the happiest of people. The key is to catch it before you hit what feels like the bottomless pit. Life is better among the living. Remember that YOU have a purpose.

Once you figure out what that is, write it out. Tattoo it on your forehead. Do whatever you need to do, so you can see it every day.

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Thanks for dropping by. I know and understand the value of time, so thank you for taking the time to read my post. I would love to hear from you, so please leave me a comment.

So I can keep bringing you the best version of myself through my wordsmithing, go ahead and buy this mama a coffee.

My Faith Crisis and How the Universe Stepped In

While I was prepping this post, I was surprised that more people weren’t willing to discuss religion. I heard from a few of you and I understand where you come from. I see both sides of it, but like I’ve told a friend, for reasons I won’t discuss here once you have seen what the LDS people/Mormons are warned against viewing (and I’m not talking about pornography), you can never go back to the Faith. This is where I find myself these days.

I’m just here to share with you my experience. I have no ill will for the church or its members and have the utmost respect for many of my friends who count themselves as firm believers. I am what you call a Post-Mormon. I was not ex-communicated, I wrote the the church headquarters and had my records officially removed. I have no regrets of leaving and my husband and I have even discussed moving back to Utah.

The Structure

Honestly, I miss the structure. Being LDS encouraged me to do what I needed to do everyday (read my scriptures, have individual and family prayers, and to teach my children to live the Gospel). My religion dictated where I needed to be on certain days and who I was to spend that time with. I’m sure some of the names have changed, but the activities remain the same. I am glad to hear that for the my devout friends that church is now only two hours long instead of the three hour block, I was accustomed to.

My days were filled with Family Home Evenings, Ministering (Visiting Teaching), Temple Nights, Enrichment Activities (Relief Society) and/or attending Young Women’s (Youth activities) as a leader. If I had a calling, I was busy fulfilling that calling. Preparing to give a well researched lesson filled references from past general auhorities or prophets, hoping my lesson would touch the hearts and minds of those participating in that class.

Living in an underpopulated LDS metropolis like Citrus County (tongue in cheek) members of the ward carry more than one calling. On the West Coast, I had one. Here I had three. If I wasn’t willing to accept the calling, I was told, “But don’t you want to follow the will of the Lord? And you know Sister Sant, the Lord never gives you more than you can handle.”

I accepted the callings, this was in 2012. Little did I know 2013 would bring more trials, literally and figuratively. I thought I was strong, but like all things our mental strengths are tested. We climb our metaphorical Mt. Everest time and time again.

# # #

Summer of 1996

I was leaving the only thing I thought I believed in since I bore my testimony on the beach at the “Res” (reservoir) in Delta, Utah during a youth activity for Hinckley 1st Ward. The sun was setting against the water. Brother Larson was leading the testimony meeting. I was 16 at the time. The feelings were there. I choked back my tears. I remember that evening clearly. We had all gone to middle school together and were in high school all attending Seminary. I felt a closeness to the teenagers I had grown up with like I had never experienced.

I bore my testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I had a testimony of the Book of Mormon and of Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. So this was what it was like to really feel the Holy Spirit. I felt an all encompassing love that evening, from the seen and the unseen.

Imperfect Me

I’m not going to say I was the perfect LDS girl, but I came pretty damn close when I was married to my first husband. I didn’t swear, drink coffee, alcohol or black tea or smoke.

I was very much into nutrition and wouldn’t dare give my children fast food. Heaven forbid they allow that garbage to enter their delicate systems. Lauryn and Lexi were 11 and 12 years old before I decided that we would no longer attend church.

Coincidentally, since my soon to be ex husband was no longer around and spending his days in a
Federal Prison Camp, I had to get a job and my children had to attend public school. Up until that point, I had homeschooled them from Kindergarten to Fifth grade. My girls had lived a sheltered life for sure. They attended gymnastics twice a week and went to all church functions, but they didn’t know what it was like to attend public school.

I didn’t allow them to watch Sponge Bob because I felt it was like bubble gum for the brain. They played educational games on the computer and watched shows that were church appropriate and not anything morally degrading.

When I ran ,I listened to ungodly music. Mainstream pop music (edited) was my act of rebellion. My husband hated it, but music and running was non-negotiable. I did my best to pick races held on Saturdays and only listened to my music through my headphones or in the car when my kids were not in it.

Life After the Church

When I left the church aka The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a couple people told me that it was a brave thing I was doing. Brave? I was scared shitless. Terrified. It felt like I was slipping out into the great unknown. I asked my former sister-in-law how she had felt after leaving the church, she said it took a couple of years to not feel guilty for leaving.

I suppose what I expected was hellfire and brimstone to cloud my life path. Or maybe God believed I deserved nothing but misery because of the choices I made in choosing to take my children from the only religion they ever knew.

While I wasn’t officially off church records, I was on my way to living a life of a non-Mormon.

I took off my temple garments, I had worn since I was 19. I imagined only bad things happening from here on out. When I had my first cup of coffee, that I drank black. Since then I have come to appreciate my French press, a good flavored creamer with a little bit of sugar. Lightening did not strike me.

After the Ragnar Relay in 2014 that took place from Key Biscayne to Key West, I got drunk with my boyfriend sharing a couple of fishbowls. I didn’t know my tolerance level, but quickly found out that evening. It didn’t and still doesn’t take much to feel tipsy.

That same night, I had the Ragnar logo affixed to my arm permanently. I realized now that there are far worse things I could have tattooed to my arm that night, I’m glad it was what it was. When I arrived home, my kids were shocked. Lexi said, “Mom?! You got a tattoo?!”

“Yes, I did. One day I’ll explain what happened.”

Mind you, this was coming from a mother who once wouldn’t let her children put on fake tattoos, because the mere appearance of it would make them want to get one later. I did not tell them about the fishbowls, they would have thought I was drinking water from fishbowls with fish still in them. I was in my mid-thirties experiencing what 20 year olds were doing.

While I struggled with leaving the church behind, I would look into the mirror staring into my eyes, searching into the deep recesses of my soul. Saying to myself, “Des, what are you doing? You can’t leave the church. What will happen to your eternal family? How will you be able to see your children again once you pass through the veil of death?”

Honestly, the one question that looped through my head had come from another runner. “Excommunication? Why would your church abandon your husband during this time? Isn’t this the time when he needs God the most?

That was a good question. Why would Heavenly Father do that during a time of need? All blessings revoked? These thoughts made my head spin. None of it made sense, until I reconciled it within myself. It wasn’t finding justification for my “rebellion” it was a realization.

Like I said in a previous post, the last time I would set foot in the church besides one other time, I was asked by one of the counselors in the bishophric, requesting that I meet with the bishop. He wished to talk to me.

I went to this impromptu meeting. The bishop was all smiles, until he looked down at his legal pad and adjusted his pen just right before looking up at me.

“Sister Sant, you might want to consider running less and taking the time to be with your children.”

My world had flipped upside down. A couple months prior, at the insistence of my future ex husband and father of my three daughters, he strongly suggested I remain at a dead end receptionist job making $8.50 an hour working eight hours a day, five days a week, while the church took care of the remainder of mine and the needs of my children. I refused because our ward members were suffering more than my own family. We would get through it. Somehow.

I quit the receptionist job and decided to sell skirts through a brand new company called LulaRoe. I would later substitute teach for Citrus County Schools and eventually found a soul sucking job working full time with a title search company. We made it. I survived. Somehow. And it had nothing to do with God.

2021

My best friend since high school recently said, “You cannot deny those feelings you had as a member of the church.

“You’re right. I can’t.”

She wished me the best on my faith journey and we talked about other things. I am incredibly grateful for friends like her. Thankfully, I have been blessed to have many friends that still love me as I am.

The best way I can explain those feelings of the Spirit match those I have heard on a podcast I listen to off and on. It has been a great help during this time. If you’re interested, let me know. I am more than happy to share with you what I have learned.

It’s a Vibe

There is no doubt that there is higher power, but I no longer believe that it belongs to one Supreme Being. I believe that we are all interconnected in this vast universe, so much so that I can feel those vibrations through my entirety. The vibrations you give off are as real as the air you breathe, be it positive or negative that is exactly what you’ll attract.

I have seen it in my own life without attending a church or paying a tithe. I belonged to a non-denominational where I met wonderful people, but I couldn’t reconcile some things. I hope this resonates with you in some way as you grow and flourish in this life. I’m sorry if you think less of me because I no longer share your faith, but just know I am still the same Desiree at my core. In fact, I feel more like Desiree 2.0. I am more comfortable with myself than I have ever been. I suppose that comes with age and life experience.

# # #

As always, thanks for taking the time to read my post, and I hope to “see” you again. If you are interested, please don’t hesitate to “Buy Me Coffee.” Your donations help this mama out more than you know.

Atacama Extreme 100: Part Two

At pre-race check-in, the race director did a short slide show and showed us the unassuming dune. I thought, “I totally got this. I’ve ran 50k on the beach. I’ll be just fine.” Have you ever found yourself saying that last sentence?

Those are some gloating words. Sometimes we come into a race overconfident. Sometimes we come in overconfident because we are trying to hide how scared we are. Mind over matter, right?

Right.

Keep talking about it and just be about it already.

Have you ever ran on the the beach? If you have, you know that the footing is incredibly uneven.

The terrain in Atacama varies, there’s hard clay, crunchy dirt where your feet sink into the ground like you’re in snow, volcanic sand and the kind of sand I mentioned in my question.

Uphill at a 45-degree angle is a hell of a lot worse than your every day run on the beach. There are no foot holds and nothing to grab onto. It took me a quite a bit of doing to get up the sand dune. For every four steps I took, I only progressed two steps forward. It didn’t feel like I was making any headway. I wasted an incredible amount of energy going about it wrong. At first I tried walking straight up, but it was tiring and it felt like I was hardly moving. Then I watched as two other women ahead of me walked up sideways. You can see my sideways footprints behind me in the picture below.

It proved to be a success and I managed to finally make it up to the top of the mountain. It wasn’t that bad.

Reaching the top of the mountain.

I followed the orange flag markers until they vanished.

I retraced my steps and looked for the flags. Where were the flags?

The sun was rising high above me and it started to get warm. It was getting warmer and the time was slipping away. I only had sips of water left in my hydration pack. Those damn patatas fritas had dried out my mouth and my phone had lost its signal when I reached the top.

I needed to get off this damn mountain and I wasn’t about to go down the way I came up. I had lost so much time already.

The flags disappeared halfway through the mountain. Thankfully, the top was relatively flat with sporadic giant-sized stalagmite looking rocks (like the one pictured below).

By this time, I was on my third try of retracing my steps. On one particular rock, I found myself staring up at a man and his goat. He was wearing a Peruvian poncho and was waving at me. Naturally, I waved back. At last, maybe he could lead me off the mountain. I got closer to the rock and the man and his goat disappeared.

I realized I was in serious trouble.

I was hallucinating.

I thought about the things in my pack. A whistle. Who would hear me? A mirror. I didn’t know the first thing about making a fire, unless I had the aid of Google. A compass. Sometimes it would say my North was my South and vice versa. I didn’t have a map from point A to B, which would have been the one thing I should have carried. Instead, my life was dependent on finding those small orange flags.

The only thing I wanted more than anything was to end this “adventure” and see my children again. Before I left, I told my second daughter, “You know where my life insurance policy is?”

She laughed it off and said, “Mom, why would I need that?”

“Just in case. You never know,” I replied.

I didn’t want that to be my last words. I was not ready for my time to end.

On the fourth retrace, I kept walking forward. The other side was a steep drop off. Was I supposed to go this way?

You have got to be fking kidding me right now. I continued to cuss the race director out in my head. This was nuts. Then again, I was the one who chose to do this. I had signed the waiver with confidence. I had enough races under my belt to finish this desert run. My mind reverted back to the movie Lion King. Simba says, “Danger? I walk on the wild side. I laugh in the face of danger. Hahahaha.”

Yeah, it turns out that I don’t like adventures that may cause death.

I turned around and tilted my head where I saw the last flag. Since the sun was directly over them, it somehow hid them from view, but when I looked at them in a different angle, the flags started to appear…and they led me towards the steep drop off. Again, no footholds.

I was going to die, but at least I wasn’t going to die there.

I made it off the mountain, practically scooting and sliding on the rocks and sand all the way down.

Lesson Learned

You can be prepared with every tool imaginable, but in the end everything can go wrong. Take a deep breath and follow your intuition. You’ll make it off your metaphorical mountain, but it may not be the way you imagined it. It never is.

# # #

Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my post. If you like what you read, please like and follow. Hope to “see” you soon!

Today is a Good Day

I’m not having an Ice Cube kind of day, but you know what I’m getting at. I apologize if you have already read this on FB, but for those of you who are not my “friends,” here I have some lovely news I had to share. I woke up with a low-grade fever that somehow broke, probably because as I was writing this, my two little ones were crawling up and down my my chair and fighting over juice drinks and those hair ties made out of telephone coil.

This was an exceptionally hard essay to write, but I needed to tell it. It couldn’t go left unsaid.

Only one of my daughters has heard it from my lips. She is the most mature out of all of them (too grown for her own good sometimes). I speak so highly of her, that it moves me to tears as I write this.

*Side Note: She is the kind of woman I wished I had grown up to be, confident, independent, organized, and full of love and just the right amount of life experience that she knows exactly what she wants and to never settle. Her voice also moves me to tears. I don’t hug her enough or tell her how much I love her everyday, but I hope this makes up for what I lack as a parent. I love you, daughter of mine. I am so proud of you. You were a happy little accident and a little slice of heaven.

As a mother, you can only teach your children from your own life experience and not make the same mistakes our own parents did. I do not claim to know it all. My kids know that I’m a fallible human, but I have enough experience to show them a thing or two. They also understand I will get on their case if they are not living up to their full potential. I have been blessed beyond measure.

I totally jumped off track, but again some things just need to be said.

In other news, my story has gone live and is officially published. Check out the link below. Thank you for taking the time to read it. And a special thank you to @herstryblg for taking an interest in my story.

Link: https://herstryblg.com/true/2021/11/16/not-me

A Partial Tale of Two Valleys: Part 2

Photo Credits: Laura Hanson (follow her @phoenyx1313)

Happy Friday everyone! Welcome to Part 2.

I grew up with no religious background. My father was raised Roman Catholic and referred to God as “The Man upstairs.” My mother believed in God but said it didn’t matter if we went to church or not.

“If you are a good person, you don’t need to worry,” she said.

What I learned about God, I learned from attending church with my friends. In West Valley, New York, I went to the protestant church with Erin, the Jehovah’s Witnesses with my neighbor Jon, and then to the Catholic Church, with Emily.

We occasionally attend Catholic mass, listen to the priest at the pulpit recite words in Latin, sit in wooden pews, and then on the kneeler. Back on the pew and a couple more times on the kneeler. I follow the rest of the family’s lead. I wonder how those circular wafers taste. I’m not interested in the wine. Emily says I can’t have a wafer because I am not Catholic, so I remain seated while the members go to the altar to partake of the wafer and wine. 

The experience I had at Emily’s church was unique. It filled me with a spiritual sense of wanting. I needed to learn more about God, but there wasn’t much I could go on. At the age of 10, I wanted to believe there was someone looking out for me, someone I could talk to when I was having a hard time, but none of the churches I attended made me feel like God was listening. When I think back on this time period in my life, it’s strange that I was that interested in finding a place to worship.

Here’s the continuation of the previous post.

I become friends with Dana, a girl with dark brown eyes, long lashes, thick chestnut hair, and a contagious smile. I meet her family. I see the same smile when I meet her mother and her mother’s mother, and her siblings. She has a younger brother and three younger sisters, one of which is a newborn. Her mother has just finished nursing the baby, and I turn my head in mortification while she covers herself up and adjusts her shirt. I have never been around a nursing mother. She places the baby on the sofa cushion and asks if I wouldn’t mind changing her outfit. I have never changed a baby, let alone been around one. I struggle with putting her tiny arms in the onesie. She begins to fuss. Dana’s mother sees the challenge I’m facing and says not to do it like that. She puts the baby’s arm through the armholes gently. I am embarrassed that I can’t fulfill a simple task. Dana’s sisters run through the house, chasing each other and laughing as they run into their room. Dana turns into the second mom and tells them to stop it.  

“Go outside!” she tells them. She shakes her head at them, annoyed, but I think about how fun it would be to have other siblings to interact with. I find myself coming over to her house after school when we have papers to type and print out, using her dad’s computer. My parents have never been interested in owning a computer and think the new technology is a waste of money. They provide me with a typewriter instead. It is not until I am moved out and in college when they decide to purchase one.   

Dana is the same girl who was assigned by the woman at the front desk at the start of the school year to show me around to my classes. We are provided a locker, and I struggle the first week with getting the thing to open. I spend my rides home on the bus memorizing how to open the lock. Turn the dial right to the first number, turn the dial left, skip the second number the first time, turn the dial right again, and go to the last number.  

The subject of religion comes up when we talk, and she tells me she is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They are LDS for short, but their religion is commonly referred to as Mormonism. Many of the families in the Delta area come from the pioneers that settled in the Salt Lake Valley with Brigham Young. She comes from one of those families. In school, I learn that only a handful of kids are not Mormons (referred to as non-Mormons). In my grade, there’s Billy, Gretchen, and Carlos, who are Catholic. My mother was raised Protestant, and my father grew up Catholic, but I am without a religion. There is an invisible wall that divides us non-Mormons from the Mormons, but it’s there. Mormon kids talk about their ward or how their parent is in the stake presidency. They speak about scripture study and Patriarchal Blessings. They laugh about what happened during Sunday school.   

This is how things are around here, and nothing will change that, so I decide to learn about the church that discourages the use of “God” in everyday language. Dana tells me that I must take discussions presented by the Mormon missionaries to become a member. The missionaries are young men between the ages of 19-21 who sacrifice two years of their life in service to the church. The missionaries called to this area, and other parts of Utah know that it is oversaturated with Mormons. Rather than convert people to the religion, they are given the task of bringing inactive members back into the fold. They must convince people who stop going to church to return. They are the mouthpiece of Jesus Christ shepherding His members back into total activity and in charge of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelievers so they too can have eternal life. When they find out I am interested in learning more about the church, they are thrilled to be teaching a non-believer. I am their eager student. They call me the golden child.  

# # # 

The missionaries meet with me at my house each Thursday afternoon, right before dinner. We sit in the living room while my father stays in the kitchen reading the local paper. I can hear him rustling the pages now and then. During the first discussion, they provide me with a copy of The Book of Mormon. It is to be used in conjunction with the King James Version of the Holy Bible because this version is the most correct translation. I stare at the book with its soft blue cover and gold foil writing. I open it to the introduction. There is a section already highlighted in yellow for me that reads, 

We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Book of Mormon, vii) 

This book is an ancient work from inhabitants of North America, translated from a set of engraved gold plates by the church’s first prophet, Joseph Smith using the Urim and Thummim. I turn the words over in my head. I don’t know what the Urim and Thummim is, and I don’t ask. I file it away in my brain. Maybe I’ll ask Bart. The Book of Mormon and the story about Joseph Smith seem so extraordinary that I believe it must be true. It has to be. How could a boy of 14 create such a grandiose tale? I take their word for it. Why would anyone waste two years of their life volunteering for something that isn’t true? I continue to justify my reasoning because there are so many members. They all can’t all be wrong. 

The missionaries tell me that these scriptures will help me throughout my life. They say it is important to read this book each night before I sleep and when I finish it; I have to go back and read it again and again because they say certain verses will have a deeper meaning depending on where I’m at in life. They reiterate the power of prayer and promise that I can receive a confirmation of the truthfulness of what they teach me. I am neither skeptical nor a believer, but I take to the task of reading the pamphlets they provide me each week answering the questions in a notebook. I learn that there is a lot of praying. I need to pray over every meal, when I rise, before I go to sleep and when I make important decisions.

They talk about the Word of Wisdom, a law of health prohibiting the use of alcohol, coffee, teas, and any substance that is habit-forming or destructive. I know I won’t have a problem with the Word of Wisdom and I doubt this will ever be a challenge from where I live. Besides, I’m twelve, and none of these things are issues for me at my age.  

At the end of the last discussion, they ask me if I am ready to be baptized. I tell them I believe that the church is true, and I accept the invitation to be baptized, but first, I have to get my parents’ approval since I’m not of legal age to make that decision on my own. A year ago, I didn’t know anything about the Mormons, and now there is nothing more important to me than becoming one. I have limited knowledge about the church and haven’t really received any answer about the truthfulness, but I am tired of being an outsider. 

My father tells me he’ll talk to my mother about it. When he does, she asks to speak to me. The last time I spoke to her was at the airport in New York.  

“Hi, Mom.” It’s the first time I’ve called her that. I find it juvenile calling her Mommy at this age.  

“So, you want to get baptized?” She asks. 

Without a hint of hesitation, I say, “Yes, I do.” A flashback from another time comes back to me. These are the exact words I uttered to the dean in the Philippines, four years ago. I don’t want to tell her that I’m doing this to fill in a missing piece in my life. All I have ever wanted is to feel like I belong somewhere. I want to wear nice dresses with my hair perfectly brushed and attend church meetings each Sunday. I want to join in school talk about going to my youth activity at the church, like the other kids in school.  

“It is okay with me if that’s what you want to do,” I call the missionaries with approval. 

# # # 

My father and I drive out to San Francisco to pick her up from the airport. She has lost so much weight. She looks happy and healthy. I squeeze her tight and cannot believe she is here. She takes one look at me and asks my father what happened to me? When she left, my hair was longer, and I didn’t have any acne. She asks my father to stop at the closest drugstore where she purchases acne cream and barrettes for my hair. When we arrive home, I allow her to brush my hair and apply the cream to my face. She shows me the things she has brought home for me, a thin gold necklace with matching earrings and jogging pants sets that I will never wear out of the house because they are childish. I thank her. It is strange having her home again. I have missed this interaction with her. I didn’t realize how much I needed her here with me. Thankfully, after a few weeks, my hair is no longer a helmety mess, and my acne has cleared up considerably.

On the day of my baptism, I have a photo taken of me sandwiched between my parents in the white jumpsuit that I will be baptized in. Dana is also in attendance, and we take a picture together. Moments later, I am baptized as an official member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This significant event occurs less than a month after my 12th birthday. Dena presents me with another copy of the Book of Mormon. The cover is black with gold foil lettering. The edges are gilded with gold, and the pages are made from rice paper. They make a pleasant crinkling sound when I turn the pages.  

Each Sunday, the family that lives around the corner takes me to church. The Larsen’s are a family I wish I had been born into. Dave and Marge are like my church parents. The Larsen’s have six children. Melanie is away at college. Cory is on a mission in the Philippines. Robyn is a sophomore in high school. Layne is my age, Becky is a couple of years younger, and Katie is three. They have a shaggy dog named Peanut. They try to befriend my parents by bringing over homemade bread that Dave makes or desserts from Marge. My parents continue to keep their distance from the Mormons because they have no desire to join the church, and I wonder if they will ever accept the invitation to learn more about it. 

# # # 

There are nights when I can’t stand indoors, so I come out to look up at the stars. The nights are clear, and I embrace the solitude that I once despised. Life isn’t so terrible in the middle of nowhere. I look down from the sky and over to the Larsen’s. They live in a two-story house with lots of rooms. It’s a Monday night. Since 1915, the church has designated Monday nights as Family Home Evening to strengthen family ties. I can see the blare of their television bouncing off the walls in their family room, knowing they are all together, most likely watching a wholesome family show.  

The closest my family comes to time together is watching whatever show my father wants to watch. It’s usually a western with John Wayne or a crass comedy like The Bundy’s. I become more judgmental of my parents as time goes on. They drink coffee and tea. I decline to drink Oolong tea when we go to Chinese restaurants. My parents tell me there’s nothing wrong with tea, and I stop myself short from reciting the scripture about what the church thinks about it. My father likes to drink Guinness with his spaghetti. He has no problems swearing. Every other word is filled with expletives, and I worry about what my friend’s parents might say if they knew. I am taught in the church that swearing is not acceptable. Some of my friend’s parents don’t like it when they say, “What the freak!” because the intent to say the f-word is there. 

# # #

On one particular Sunday, I get into an argument with my parents when I came home from church.“Hey Dais, can you run down to the gas station and pick up a gallon of milk?” My father asks smiling ready to hand me the keys. It was an innocent enough request, but for me, it was challenging my belief system. The church strongly discourages shopping on Sundays. If any grocery shopping needed to be done, there were six other days in the week to satisfy that need. 

“No,” I replied. 

“Because the church doesn’t allow shopping on Sundays,” I say. It was the first time I stood up to my father and I wasn’t backing down. want to keep it that way.

“Well, I’m your father. I thought you were supposed to obey your parents.” He says. I know the commandment, but correcting him right now would make me sound like a smart aleck. I have learned in church that I should honor my parents when the way is correct. In this instance, I know what I should do.

“Dais, just go to the gas station.” My mother pleads. He has a temper and she doesn’t want to hear about it later. 

“I’m not going.” My heart is pounding.  He looks like he’s going to yell, but stops himself. 

“I’ll go my own goddamn self then.” He grabs his keys and he’s out the door. My mother disappears into the kitchen and I retreat to my room. My parents never asked me to run out to the store on a Sunday ever again. I am torn between obeying my parents and obeying the church, but it appears I have chosen to follow the way of the church. 

# # # 

As I get older, I will learn about the many other things the church leaders encourage the youth to do and what they prohibit. They discourage tattoos and body piercings. Dating is permissible after the age of 16. There is no swearing, and I am to remain chaste until I get married. Some of these things seem trivial. I thought God only looks in our hearts, but the leaders say we have an image to uphold. A clean appearance is what matters most.

I will begin going to the temple and participate in baptisms for the dead. I become a full tithe payer and attend Seminary. I earn my Young Women’s Medallion, equivalent to the Eagle Scout Award for a young man in Boy Scouts. My picture and the year I receive it are added to the plaque in the church’s foyer. It is strongly instilled each Sunday that we abide by church guidelines so that we can one day enter the Temple to receive our endowments (promises made to God, represented by special garments worn underneath everyday clothing) and then to one day be sealed to our significant other for all time and eternity, preferably to a young man who served an honorable two-year mission proselyting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the non-believers. I wonder what future challenges I will face. Will I be blessed enough to have a family like the Larsen’s? Only time will tell. 

The Choices We Make

We make choices everyday, some are more complex than others. Press snooze or get up? Eggs or a smoothie? Marry him or wait for the right one? 2 kids or more?

I can’t change the past, but I can choose to live better.

August 4, 2019

The obstetrician stopped me mid push when he noticed that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. He cut the cord. Why isn’t she crying? I searched my husband’s face for answers. He gripped my hand and looked on as the medical personnel worked on our baby.

It felt like time stood still laying in the hospital bed, waiting for a friendly face to provide us with the reassurance that everything was okay. No one was smiling. Minutes later we heard her first cry. Everyone in the room let out a sigh of relief. Brooklyn had arrived.

Brooklyn – August 2019

It’s hard to believe she is now two years old and the loudest. When she hears “No.” she’ll try harder to get her way. She tests the patience of everyone around her. I know her type of fighting spirit will serve her well when she’s older, but for right now we’re teaching her to reign in her tenacious ways. She is quite the little actress.

Brooklyn- October 2021

Brooklyn was four months old when we found out we were expecting another one. I was older than 35 which made this my second geriatric pregnancy. I cringe at the word geriatric, but it is what it is.

Kylie was born June 26, 2020. Zero complications. Thank the powers that be. Another healthy baby girl. My husband is outnumbered 7-1. He has more patience than me, either that or he’s better at ignoring the insignificant moments. I have come to believe that he sees the bigger picture much better than I give him credit for.

Kylie- June 2020

When Kylie hears the faint sounds of a melody her shoulders start to shift up and down and her hips begin to sway. She has an old soul that loves ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” Her two other loves are her thumb and her purple blanket.

Kylie- October 2021

80, 42, 30, 19, 18,  8,  2, 1…

This isn’t a number sequence or a countdown. These are the ages of everyone in the house.

Parenting two children is a challenge, but combine that with a very opinionated mother-in-law and 3 step children is anything but easy. We face a myriad of challenges at home. Different personalities, moods and disagreements pop up everyday.

What’s a day without drama? It’s not a day.

Timeline

Raised Mormon since the age of 12, I bought in the ideal timeline. Go to college, marry a returned missionary in the temple, multiply and replenish (have children) and live happily ever after. During my sophomore year in college, I met my first husband through a mutual friend. Within two months we were engaged and the following July we were sealed (married) in the Salt Lake Temple. My mother said I was too young. What did my mother know about life in America? She knew more than I did, but you can’t tell that to a headstrong 19-year-old.

Experience

I should have listened to my mother.

I am the type of a person that learns from experience. If you tell me don’t, I’ll take your thoughts into consideration and depending on the thing, I will probably do it anyway.

I was taught by my parents that my outward appearance was the most important. I learned through Mormonism that our hearts were even more important. Through my doing, I have learned to judge less (I never said I was perfect). I have been humbled countless times. I don’t have a problem telling my kids I don’t know, but there are days when I wish I had all the answers. My parents didn’t have all the answers. They were just making the best choice they could make based on their collective experience.

In personal essay writing I spend a lot of time reflecting. It is wrought with pain, shame, guilt, and forgiveness. Once I learned how to forgive myself, I could let go of the past. On November 16, 2021, my essay titled Not Me will be published online. I’ll share the link once it goes live. In the essay, I made a choice I NEVER imagined I would experience.

I write about my life experiences to share the things I have learned in hopes that it could lift another up and out.

We have this one life to live. I hope you choose to let go and keep on keepin’ on.