The 10-Minute Luna Eclipse

If the name Luna also means moon and if yesterday was a full moon then it stands to reason that the squirreliest things would happen as we tried to rescue a German shepherd dog. Or does it? Here’s her story.

We have come to understand that there are some missing puzzle pieces to the story of this 2 year-old German shepherd named Luna. I found her on a pet rescue website and showed her to my husband, Steve. “There’s something in her eyes,” he noted and we both agreed with the ad that she is probably a “sweet dog.” But how could we know for sure? Our meeting of the owners in the parking lot of a frozen yogurt shop a 2-hour drive away from our home was largely uneventful. And cold! Luna was skiddish to meet us and the ad had already said this would be the case. D. and his wife just didn’t say much beyond the fact that she ate Pedigree dog food and sheepishly mentioned having taken her to a vet. But why wasn’t she chipped, registered, neutered, or vaccinated? All they said was that Luna was given to them around the same time as their AKC-registered GSD Lucian, a larger, black male. The pair both were described on the rescue site as “sweet dogs.”

The owners lived in the country until the landlord of their rental property had sold the house they were renting. Forced to move, the young family of five sought a new home in the city nearby that would accept their dogs. The new landlord said o.k. until his wife discovered that their insurance company considered GSDs an aggressive breed and instructed them to get rid of their dogs. This is all of the information we had until our meet-up. Then D explained before they left that “Luna just started her heat cycle.” He had told us earlier that she already had 1 litter of puppies when Luna and Lucian got together despite their best efforts to have their kids help to keep them separated. What would all of this mean for us? Steve and I would soon find out! We gave the couple our thank you gift of big chocolaty cranberry pecan cookies and parted ways with our FREE DOG . . .

Luna was shaking as she crouched down on the floor in the back seat of the truck cab. She accepted us touching her but also just stared at us. At times her nose was pressed into the door as far away from us as she could go. This is quite an accomplishment for a nearly 70-pound dog! She walked around the parking lot with us when we stopped at a pharmacy to use the rest room, albeit looking scared and hesitating to heel next to either of us. Back into the truck we all settled for the 2-hour drive home as the sun was sinking behind us. Steve and I made a plan for our first steps when we arrived home and had already prepared some things for her first night with us. What happened next was rather shocking!

Luna at her former home the morning before we met her.

Steve attempted to coax Luna out of the truck as she stared at him from the opposite side of the floor board. Once outside, she pulled this way and that on the leash then in a continued catty-wampas fashion, followed him into the darkness of the backyard. She did go to the bathroom once. Meanwhile, I cleaned up the vomit off the floor of the truck! Luna was very anxious so I offered to take her for a short walk to burn off some energy. Mistake! She pulled on her leash as I turned to face the driveway from the lawn where we were standing so I turned her in a circle to get control of the lead. By the time I had completed the circle, I lifted up the leash to shorten the slack only to find her collar dangling at the end of it . . . without Luna! She had slipped out of a snug collar without pulling on it at all! Like a bat outta hell she raced into the night and around the backside of the house. Steve tried to follow her but lost sight of her immediately in the moonlight. It all happened so fast! I headed towards the opposite side of the house in time to greet Luna racing towards me. She quickly turned around and zoomed back behind the house. Neither of us saw her after that moment. She was gone.

In just 10 minutes and before we could even get her into the house, Luna had escaped! First Steve then I slowly searched around outside in our backyard to no avail. She was hell-bent on getting away and sadly, succeeded. Where was she going to go? We live about 130 miles from her former home. More importantly, what were we going to do to try to find her? We looked at each other in shock as we continued to unload the truck from our day trip to get our supposedly “sweet dog.” We were only with her for just over 2 hours and now she was a LOST DOG. But why wasn’t she chipped, registered, neutered, or vaccinated? And how in the world do you go about finding a dog without any identification whatsoever?

Answer: you tap into social media, call the county sheriff and animal control, call the non-emergency number for the adjacent town, and start praying! We learned a lot right at the beginning from the Lost Dogs of Fort Wayne group on Facebook. We made public posts on our Facebook accounts and our local Next Door app. Then within hours the seemingly ill-fated post came through on Facebook: a young gal had driven by the scene of an accident in which a German shepherd dog was hit by a black sedan. She reported that the driver had stopped and was outside of her car with the dog; the dog was lying down then sat upright holding a front paw up in front of her. Our hero called her Mom, Lindsay, right away to check any “Lost Dog” posts on social media who in turn sent her daughter our picture of Luna. Yes, she said the GSD looked like Luna!

Immediately I contacted the authorities noted above and no one had a report of the accident yet. Within another hour I received a call from an officer who was covering for the officer who responded to the “crash” scene. The 2nd sheriff said that the dog had run off into the darkness once again. He didn’t specify into which direction she went. We later figured out that Luna was heading west and south, in exactly the direction of her former home. She had run 3 miles in that first hour before attempting to cross a 5-lane highway and got hit. Steve was already out looking for her but was unsuccessful. So was Dv, a family friend who felt a burden to find our new dog. Dv’s two kids had become friends with our former pup, Elle, and were heartbroken when we had to put her down very recently. To be honest, we were still missing her terribly as well. We love dogs! By midnight we were asking ourselves, “what have we done now? We should have known that a 2 year-old dog of the very loyal German shepherd breed could be difficult to separate from- and be relocated to another family. But what were we to do when that family passed her off to us when Luna was in heat? On the night of a full moon our GSD was a definite flight risk! Oh Luna, what is going to happen to you?

There was nothing more we could do until daylight returned. Steve came home and went off to bed while I tried to answer questions about Luna online and continue to spread the word on social media. Many folks were praying as we were too. Luna was alone and scared out in what would become a low temperature of 9 degrees by daybreak. What were the chances that our pup was going to make it? To her favor, Luna reportedly loved to be outside and evidently spent a lot of time outdoors. Perhaps she would bed down somewhere along the road in a place where we could find her the next day? What I didn’t realize until later is that there would be other people looking for her as well. There are a lot of dog lovers out there who jump into action when they find out about a lost dog. One gal in our neighborhood. Two gals in the Lost Dogs group. Our friend Dv. As soon as I got up that Sunday morning, I prepared myself to search for her myself wherever the Lord may lead me. Please Lord, which way did she go?

I decided to head to the wide open spaces of the county fairgrounds first, just west of where she was last spotted. Just as I started wolfing down some food before heading out the door, the doorbell rang. It was about 10:00 a.m. There was a county sheriff’s car in our driveway and a sheriff at the door. Oh no. What does this mean, I wondered? “We found your dog!” the officer reported. He then asked me for more identifying information as the facts seemed to line up that the GSD they found trapped in a fence about 3/4 mile from our home was indeed Luna. SHE WAS ALIVE!!! The officer expected me to jump into the squad car with him immediately but I needed to get dressed for the cold. He didn’t seem to understand this nor that my husband wasn’t home at the time and that I wasn’t feeling well. Then he said that he was the captain of the shift and called over to direct the Animal Control Officer holding Luna to bring her over to us from the scene where she had been located. Luna was discovered by someone who had seen her wedged into a fence when driving by along the same highway, albeit 2 miles north, as the night before. We are so grateful to both parties, last night and this morning, who had contacted the sheriff’s office to report these two sightings of Luna. The police got involved only because there was damage to the car that had hit her; the driver has called the police, to file a report. That report helped further link us to our anonymous, evasive, elusive, scared, and now injured GSD.

Dollar signs floated through my head much of Saturday night into Sunday. Steve even more so. This was all looking a little crazy for a FREE DOG from a RESCUE WEBSITE! By now every possible authority had our contact information and our willingness to help out the driver of the damaged vehicle as well, if needed. “The officer will call you,” said another dispatcher, if the driver needed anything more from us. Soon back at home, another squad car rolled into the courtyard in front of our home and opened the back hatch. I peered inside to find one extremely frightened Luna pup. Awwww. Oh you dear dog. “How are you puppers?” I said to the blank stare of her big brown eyes. The very young, weekend Animal Control Officer slowly coaxed Luna to come out. Luna jumped down about 2 1/2 feet without a whimper from her injuries. But when she started to walk she was limping. No blood or wounds were visible (until later after her bath) but that left back hind quarter looked exceedingly painful. “She just wanted to get warm” explained the AC officer at the scene. They didn’t have to convince her to get into the squad car and out of the freezing temperatures; “she just wants to get warm” he said again as Luna headed directly for the house. Did you catch that? She was heading directly for a house in which she had never been inside. Our house was now the refuge she was seeking. I was so very glad.

We went into the laundry room by way of the garage. I made sure to close the garage door behind us as the Officer continued walking through to the front door to leave. “God bless you!” was the most of what I could say, still emerging from more shock from the morning’s developments. Steve and I had no idea that we would ever see Luna again! Steve came home from church early and soon went off to Petsmart to purchase a proper harness for use outside. (A snout harness is on order per the recommendation of Misfit Shepherds rescue. We already had a clean and stronger leash to use.) By the afternoon Luna had gingerly agreed to a bath to check for wounds and diminish the dirt and scent of a cheap date, not to mention heavy pheromones as her heat cycle continued.

Our home wreaked of more noxious odors for the rest of the day than I could have ever tolerated in the past. Thank the Lord that for some reason I have been having fewer convulsive episodes the over the past 2 weeks! But by Sunday night I was pretty loopy and having a couple of tic attacks, albeit nothing like what I have experienced for a decade before this January. It’s pretty amazing that this change would emerge as 1) Elle passed away earlier this month and 2) I had increased a new supplement of a type that my Doctor prescribed for brain and joint health but struggled to tolerate in the past. (By the way, the new Omega 3 supp is made from the same kind of plants that I have grown in our garden!) I was able to help Steve care for Luna this past weekend and even take the road trip yesterday to go meet her, bring her home. For all of this I am amazed, exceedingly grateful. Praise the Lord!

So to our beautiful-perhaps-still-scared and precious Luna, we are beginning a new journey together. Tomorrow, Lord willing, Steve and I will take you to meet your new Vet who will get you fixed up properly and evaluate your wounds from your accident. The emergency vet hospital staff didn’t think that you broke any bones but we do think your tender spirit was damaged a bit by your unfortunate escapade. Maybe this first crazy night under a full moon will serve to bond us all together a little more? We are here to love you and care for you, our sweet fuzzy girl. More fun adventures than you can ever imagine await you if you but give us a chance. We will be patient. I already love you so.

The spot where Luna decided to camp out her first night with us. That’s an ice pack on her hip.

What do I long for?

That night walking along the dock, arm in arm, before dinner with friends that hot July summer. I had quickly changed my clothes in the truck on our way back from the airport to the restaurant, into something I later deemed too cutesy for a woman nearing her 6th decade of life. It didn’t matter that night . . .

Perhaps it was the same night of the day when we paddled our custom, tandem Huki outrigger canoe on the great Lake Winnebago after the EAA air show: the biggest in the nation. Sometimes you get to feel cool. Riding around with a 24-foot OC-2 on your roof is definitely one of those days, anytime, anywhere . . .

OC-2, outrigger canoe, River Bear Racing, Hawaiin boat, married couple on the water, lake kayaking, lake canoeing, tandem canoe

In the crispness of the salty air waifing all the way to the east side of Tampa, I recall our relaxed stroll through the sales lot of the RV park where we were staying. Lazy Days indeed. We dreamed about upgrading our Tin Can Ranch, a dream that would be realized just a couple of years later for reasons that were more puzzling than exciting. Even so, that night was magical with you. Were we even supposed to be out there? Kind of weird in a way to pick this memory when a walk along the Sunset Beach would have held so much more charm and majesty. Well we did that too another night . . .

I’ve rarely felt smaller yet more in awe as when you showed me around Palisades Reservoir along the most southeastern corner of Idaho that one could go. After we launched, there was no one around for probably miles except for the moose you had seen the day before! Would we see them crashing into the water from the woods this afternoon too? The water was as blue as you could ever find: crisp and clear and oh so refreshing as it sprayed off our carbon paddles moving that OC-2 to parts unknown. Your confidence as a competitive paddler calmed my fear of flipping over in a place where no one would ever see or hear us. Did we have all we needed for a fabulous adventure? I think so . . .

The laughter burst forth easily as we took turns zipping along Lake Wauwasee on the jet ski we rented for your birthday. Daniel and Rebekah took turns as we all did, knowing that your other adult children Christina and Patrick would have had a blast too if they could have been with us as well. But it was our friends Ed and Kinsey that would end up joining us later at The Frog Tavern when we ran into them near the end of our outing. Imagine that! It was such a wonderful day . . .

The thrill was palpable as we zoomed in your Dad’s MG along the coast of Solana Beach and beyond. Dang that engine was loud and the clutch barely held a gear! It wasn’t too much for you my lover of all things that fly through the air whether on land, sea, and now THE SKY! Your kids were still a little weirded-out by our recent wedding then extensive travel together from Indiana to California two months later. Eventually they chilled some. Eventually I came to understand how meaningful that trip really would become in opening up the stories of your life to me as we stayed in your parents’ home. Let’s ride in a convertible along Highway 1 again sometime soon . . .

Waiting on the tarmac of the Kendallville airport that cool evening held much anticipation as you completed the FAA exam for your Private Pilot license. I wanted to be the first to congratulate you on realizing your lifelong dream to fly! The wind sock and other funky towers whose purpose I still don’t understand faded from view as the night sky filled the viewfinder of my camera phone. And then you came in for a landing: just you, pilot-in-command! What a privilege it was and continues to be for me to witness the desires of your heart taking flight. No experiences I have had in my past years compare to the calling to get behind your man when he is being blessed by the Lord. I pray that I get to be in the cockpit with you again soon my love . . .

So this night, when I can hardly travel at all with you nor fly nor paddle nor lie in your arms lest the wretchedness of illness take over, I long for another adventure with you. Is it the enduring the tumultuous trials of our times and the stretching of our souls that must suffice for the awesome view of a mountain lake, a $100 hamburger by way of a bumpy flight in the RV12, or the crisp scent of a beckoning water body virtually anywhere? Do the sometimes demonic trials that test all we know about life and love and faith and time and space earn us a better day when we can live freely in the moment, hand in hand, without a care at all? Lord willing, this side of heaven?

I do long for you my love. I long for all the more that we can wander through together without the pains of this life the Lord has allowed which sidelines them, albeit for His purposes. Will you hang in there with me? Please don’t ever stop asking me to join you in your adventures for one day I may be able to say yes! And do cherish me tenderly as you go. I am hurting from the trials of late. This too shall pass with proper care and perhaps more time than either of us would like. You are my intended beloved not just the one with whom I am somehow stuck by some vows. I do respect you. And I do love you dearly.

What do I long for? I do believe, he is already here . . .

The trials of discontent

Perhaps the greatest challenge a follower of Jesus Christ must face in his or her walk with the Lord is how to handle the evil that is in our world. When it touches our own lives in the form of discontent, when things are not as we think they should be and we are unable to accept it, then we may be tempted to break fellowship with the Lord our God. He has ordained the length of our days, the vessel in which we live, and every detail of our lives whether good or bad. Recently it occurred to me that not accepting His will for my life is a sin that keeps me from any form of peace. And now I know from wence it came.

A particularly horrific convulsive episode about a week ago left me whimpering on our bed. The searing pain in my neck and broken frame notwithstanding, I wondered for the several thousandth time, “how can I endure this level of suffering Lord?” My Jesus had shown me many incredible things through the trials of battling serious illness; my Jesus was always right there with me when I called upon His throne of grace. But like the old song goes, “Is this all there is?” Is this all there is to my life when entire beautiful days upon days are spent suffering in bed?

The truth that we see is not all that there is to know or behold in this life. Only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ do we come to understand what the fullness of life means. We will have both joy and sorrow. We confess our failings, surrender our will to the Lord, and receive the Holy Spirit, beginning our eternity right here in the midst of all the good and bad; He helps us endure all things for His glory. But I didn’t know all of this when I was 3 years old. All I knew is that a neighbor boy named Danny was babysitting us and molested me while I was taking a nap in my big girl bed. I knew where the pills were that my mother took. So at some point thereafter I crawled up onto the kitchen counter, opened the cabinet door, reached way up onto the top shelf, grabbed that bottle of pills and ate a bunch of them. The only other memory I have of the incident was feeling scared while lying on a gurney in a hospital. I must have been crying too because the images are unclear. I had to go to the bathroom. I asked if I could get up and go to the bathroom and a man said NO. I felt the warmth of the urine on my legs and underneath me as someone said something about pumping out my stomach. And then I was OUT.

In a single flash of a moment after that convulsive episode, I knew what the Lord was trying to tell me. Or at least I think I do! He was showing me that by taking those pills, even as a small child who knew she had been hurt badly by someone everyone trusted, I was trying to take away the pain and the life that God had allowed for me. My little mind could not bear what had happened to me. The reality that the ugliness of that scene was ordained by the same God who created me and crafted all of my days from beginning to this end was too much to understand. I would not have been old enough to say the words to my Mom or Dad describing what that boy had done to me nor felt safe doing so. My parents weren’t exactly touchy-feely type folks. Can a 3-year old feel shame? Dirty? Worthless? Overwhelmed? Traumatized? Terrorized? Surely! While I have known, grieved, and forgiven the players in this scene for a long time now, I didn’t know that my survival from that day forward in my own strength would be marred by discontent. Nothing in my life would be good enough, or so I thought, to make me truly happy or at peace EVER. The seeds of several of my character flaws were planted that afternoon. I know that it wasn’t my fault any of this happened. I was just a little kid. To survive abuse is actually a noble task and accomplishment. What IS my responsibility, however, is to figure out what to do with what happened to me, layer-by-layer as each level of understanding is revealed in my walk with the Lord over my lifetime. In due time we must all ask ourselves: Will I grow up damaged or will I heal and thrive? Fifty-seven years later, the wound from this particular scene finally healed completely.

I grew up in what you would call a “blue collar” family. My Grandfathers worked in their respective trades: my Dad’s father as an auto mechanic and my Mom’s father as a maintenance man/operator in the boiler room of an ice cream factory. My Dad got a job at the General Motors Tech Center as a non-degreed draftsman. Each of them were very skilled at their respective vocations. My Dad in particular, would end up redesigning slot car motors to make them among the fastest in the world and co-authored over 30 clutch-assembly patents with Borg Warner later in his life. Although each of them would earn a living wage to support his family such that their wives could stay home and raise the children, there was always an attitude that it was not enough. I have come to call this mindset a “scarcity” mentality. The adults in my family never seemed satisfied with the income or the lifestyle or the relationships to which they acquired. First it was my Mother’s Mom taking the last of her grocery money to purchase tickets in the Irish sweepstakes. If only she would win then she would be happy! I think she did win a time or two. I don’t think it ever changed much of anything though.

The harder part of this dynamic for me came from my parents, especially my Mom. “If only we could win the lottery” she would say, “then . . . .” fill in the blank with some material gain of some sort that she thought would solve our problems and bring happiness. Without realizing it, I adopted this mantra as well. It sure helped when my parents got divorced or when my Dad missed a visitation or when my Mom wouldn’t come home at night from her carousing adventures with Parents Without Partners. If we had a windfall of cash then it would solve all of our problems, right? This was back in the days before there was common knowledge that most people’s lives are not better when they win the lottery! Family relationships tank when relatives come calling for money and out-of-control personal spending often leaves the prize winner in debt not set for life! Sadly this mindset and experiences of abuse and trauma contributed to addictive behavior in my teenage and young adult years. What became my addiction of choice that I thought was my winning ticket out of my inner turmoil? Work-a-holism. I nearly drove myself into permanent injury working so hard at school, the early days of my career in healthcare, graduate school, and one relationship after another. By the grace of God, He showed me a better way when I learned about addictions when doing contract work at a large mental health hospital. My years continuing to seek answers ultimately led to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A new level of healing and a less frenzied pace of life began in my thirties.

That wasn’t the end of my discontent, however. Somehow I still looked more outside of myself than to the Cross for meaning, healing, self-worth, hope. A handwriting analysis in my youth said I was a very determined person. Well, yes, and that was not necessarily a good thingy! I sought counseling and studied God’s Word which did help me in many good ways. Yet like breaking in a wild colt, it still took repeated heavy tragedies from 2003 to 2007 to soften me for the biggest gift and the biggest trial that were yet to come. I am meeting you here after both of them: 1) marrying my Intended Beloved Steve and 2) enduring a serious illness that brought thousands of seizures virtually every day over 9 the past years. I have been grateful for the former.

Steve is an amazing man of God who loves me dearly as I do him. The serious illness not-so-much. I had never accepted the Convulsive Disorder or Dysautonomia or Dystonia or Functional Movement Disorder or Non-epileptic seizures or whatever you want to call it. What I came to realize this past week is that not accepting this illness is not a form of defeat. Rather, it’s not accepting that this is the Lord’s will for my life for my best good. It is the journey for me that will bring Him glory. And how am I handling it? I am denying His will for my life when I reject the pain and suffering that goes with the numerous blessings. Instead, I must trust that like all of the trials that have happened in my past, this illness serves a greater purpose. I may or may not ever really know what that purpose is. The episodes and medical complications may never stop. If I am to succeed at letting go of my discontentment with a traumatic event in my life at age 3 years old, I must also let go of the other thing that I hate in my life. Believing otherwise is believing a lie: a lie from the author of human suffering, sin, and death himself, Satan. No magical thinking (like a lottery mentality) is going to cover or remedy this lie. I MUST DENOUNCE my discontent, leaving it for my Lord to redeem.

How about if I repeat that another way:

No happiness or peace will come if I hold onto discontent over the Lord’s will in my life.

I knew in an instant, why that memory of me as a toddler came to me while grieving after another seizure. Both sorrows were and are part of my Lord’s Divine plan for my life. He will redeem my suffering one day and it will end. He will make all things new and good, and right; I will be whole. In the meantime, I am a steward of the experiences, people, places, and things He ordains for my life. My responsibility is to accept them with no expectations, no exceptions, no deal-making (“if only this . . . then that”), no holding back. So that night I let both sorrows go and wept deeply for a good long while.

Sometime later I shared my inner story of this incident with my beloved Stevers. He is warm and tender at these times as if to be my Jesus with skin-on. I am so blessed to be loved by this man after God’s own heart. His response? He marveled at how long abuse can affect the life of an abused person. Years. Decades. That a person can carry hurt his or her entire life because of the evil actions of someone who hurt them when they were little. I agreed. Yet for me, the hurt is never the same each time I get to revisit it. Each time I get to grieve some more. I get to heal some more. It takes what it takes. I get to see how the Lord uses even the ugly stuff to give me tools for coping and a gift of compassion for others. If I had not developed work-a-holism and that health challenge of hypoglycemia then I would have become an alcoholic. How do I know? My siblings and Mother were alcoholics, my Dad was mentally ill. One brother who overcame alcoholism struggled to find meaningful work then tragically had a stroke and was never able to function independently again up until he died earlier this year. He suffered with unspeakable pain and spasms every waking hour of his life. He had traded his bottles for cigarettes. What I am trying to say is that each of us had horrific wounds to overcome. Today I am the only one still here of my immediate family to write the stories. Oh Lord, may these words yield some goodness beyond the tales of sorrow for the goodness that is there too.

Because there is much redeeming value in our stories beyond the sorrows. Nothing is wasted Gentle Reader, in God’s economy of time and space. Letting go of the sin of discontent, perhaps after grieving its root-cause, is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He will bring you to it and see you through it. Healing is complicated and can take a very long time to process. Be encouraged. I tell you as in the song of Peggy Lee, the BAD is not all there is to a fire or the circus of the circumstances in our lives or a long lost love! There’s even more to life than the happiness of a fleeting moment such as in a windfall or slow dance with your beloved. Just go to the Cross. There you will find a peace that transcends all understanding. The best gift of all is waiting there for you this day, this night. He promises. On this we can rely.

Will you? JJ

It’s not the same thing, Part 2

In Part 1 of this story, I disclosed a horrific scene that has plagued my mind and body for decades. The only way for the incident to have been true and for me to have survived without going completely MAD, is by the grace of repression. It’s a coping mechanism of our mind that we have to deal with severe trauma lest we fall into addiction, self-destructive, catatonia, mental illness, homicidal/suicidal behavior, or worse. Even though we may not “remember” what happened, the mind and body never really forget and for me, the stored memories of a fateful day has been revealed in bits and pieces over a very long period of time. A strong image, smell, sound, or new traumatic event can trigger a chain of events that brings it back and more recently for me that trigger has been convulsive episodes. The episodes revealed the truth.

A waking seizure attack comprises convulsive episodes for me that are not epileptic nor psychogenic. The seizure comes virtually anytime and, less than 1% of the time, a memory has gotten unlocked underneath it before the episode ends. It’s as if my brain freezes and goes back in time accompanied by a feeling of terror so intense that my brain feels like it is on fire; I cannot stop the screaming. There is horrific pain, gasping for air, and thoughts that slow waaaay down. An observer would describe it as a seizure followed by a nearly catatonic state when I cannot move or speak or breathe. Limbs often shake, one violently flapping then the other, then both legs involuntarily move very rapidly together-and-apart like that of a child in an autistic fit of sorts. I am awake; my eyes are closed but eyelids twitch or squeeze as if squinting (in one eye or both). I am always aware of my surroundings although I may or may not be able to speak when it stops. This electrical activity of my brain-on-fire has had the power to unlock images and scenes from my past that fit what I already recall in my history. It’s as if the terrifying emotion that I was unable to express at the time of the incident is finally released to the light of day. It is not fake. The memory always fits a scene that I do recall from my past, much like what happens when you finally locate a missing piece of a puzzle. A puzzle with edges fried by fire, that is. Finally you can see the full image albeit tainted by the horror of what you are now seeing more clearly.

I concluded Part 1 with two methods that my mentally ill father used to try to get me to forget what happened at his home when I was a pre-teen. Years later I would come to understand that he was 1) using methods that he probably had tried on himself to manage the thought disorder of his own paranoid schizophrenia, 2) experimenting with mind control methods popular in the fields of psycho-cybernetics and psychology of the 1970’s, 3) drinking a lot of wine, 4) not hiding what he was doing most of the time (i.e. there were witnesses who have corroborated pieces of every scene that I have recalled), and 5) trying to get me to forget what happened, perhaps knowing the damage that trauma in his own childhood had done to him. I believe that his mental illness was a consequence of ritualistic (i.e. continuous) verbal and physical abuse by his mother/passive father until he found a way out of the home as a young adult by marrying my Mom. But RoseAnne was fleeing her own abusive father/passive mother. Their marriage was doomed shortly after it started as abusive patterns repeated themselves between them, spilling over into the lives of little Julie, Michael, and Robert. Eventually my Dad ran away, came back, then ran away again for twenty-seven years. What a mess.

Sadly when those really bad things happened to me at his home, he wouldn’t know the difference between how to help me and how helping me ended up hurting me even more. To get me to forget a horrific murder scene, the maiming of his pet German shepherd in a satanic ritual, and the sexual abuse by two women ALL DURING THE SAME DAY of a visitation to his home, my Dad tried used a method of instilling intense FEAR. He wanted me to forget what happened by attempting to cover it with other intense emotions, images, and threats. Forget trying to talk about it!!! (I am aware that there are witnesses who were in the house at the time who have either been sworn to secrecy or were under the influence of so many drugs and alcohol that they have some level of amnesia as well. Maybe something will trigger their memories one day? Maybe one of them will try to find me through this blog?) My Dad was wrong. Subjecting me to more fear compounded the torture, the trauma even more. Eventually I remembered the most important parts of the story. I wrote about it to release it’s power over me and highlight the power of our Lord to overcome my dark hell on earth.

I describe one method my dad used to instill fear in Part 1: nearly drowning me in our backyard pool. The damage to my neck has continued for my entire life. Another method he tried was injecting me multiple times with a psychedelic drug that left pock marks on the inner surface of both of my elbows. Perhaps he thought that the altered mental state created by the drug would cover my memories? He was right: I didn’t recall most of it for two decades. The blisters that appeared right afterwards then later the scars raised repeated suspicion from our family doctor, sure that I was shooting up drugs but hey, I was just a kid at the time. I still have the scars to this day albeit distorted by the effects of aging. Another family member disclosed that some people in my dad’s circle of people used hard drugs in addition to satanic rituals such as seances; sadly he won’t tell me anything else, alluding to needing to protect his wife who I believe was also present. The seances were very likely held at a table right in front of the couch to which I retreated during that fateful day at his house. This exposure to the supernatural world opened me up at a tender age to demonic influences of the occult (that would be compounded by teenage curiosities with a Ouija board). The abuse, the occult, the psychedelic drugs, and perhaps even changing body chemistry of puberty created a lock-down in my mind and body that most people would never survive. I know. It took me a year in a healing prayer ministry to start to understand the power of the demonic and how to stand firmly with the power of Jesus Christ. And as I write this, I am the only surviving member of my immediate family, all tainted by various forms of evil known as abuse.

Three More Methods

For most of my life I have had difficulty falling asleep. It used to take me up to 90 minutes to settle down enough to finally drift off to sleep or rather endure the difficult sequencing required to let go. The problem? Intensely fearful thoughts to the level of waking night terrors at times. If I’d ever had a nightmare more than once, my mind would often recall them again and again at random while I was trying to calm my thinking down enough to be able to sleep. Sometimes a scary scene would continue getting worse and worse then other times it would just keep repeating itself like a scene viewed from a broken piece of film flapping in an old theater projector. As I grew older I learned a technique of trying to re-write the dream or images to a happier ending. Sometimes it helped and sometimes it didn’t. Eventually I passed out anyways from mental exhaustion. Most of the abuse that I experienced in my childhood happened either at night or when falling asleep. No surprises here that I would need to work on this problem for most of my adult life: dealing with night terrors and waking nightmares, terrifying dreams overnight, then flashbacks of abuse.

Another problem was the black-and-white flashes of lighted psychedelic designs that spun in my mind’s eye or were thrust near-and-far at quick intervals before stopping. These occurrences happened every single night as I was trying to fall asleep, somewhere between the first and second stages of REM sleep. I thought it was normal. It was as if someone was focusing the beam of a flashlight on a toy pinwheel or a spinning saucer 2 to 3 feet in front of my face. The bedroom would be dark and my eyes closed after lying down to sleep but the lines and designs in my “mind’s eye” were as clear as a pen and ink drawing on bright white watercolor paper. There was no way to stop these images from coming to mind. They happened every single night of my life for decades. Even though I had taken psychology classes in college and worked many years as an Occupational Therapist in the mental health field, it didn’t register to me that this nighttime behavior wasn’t normal until I finally started getting counseling in my 40’s specifically for this type of abuse. Ritual abuse occurs when a person of influence uses a repeated, harmful behavior to control another person for the gain of the abuser, over an extended period of time. It can be spiritual, demonic, or other forms as well. Flashing black-and-white images in front of my face when I was falling asleep is the third method of ritual abuse that my Dad used to try to get me forget, to try to control me and my thought processes. (It’s actually related to a twisted form of psychocybernetics invented by Maxwell Maltz in the 1960s and described here.)

I cannot explain exactly when or why the nighttime “flash-treatments” began. I don’t know if my Dad said anything when he did this or when he eventually stopped them. How many times did it take for it to become almost permanent in my mind? There was enough repetition to cause harm. After I came to faith in Jesus Christ and about a decade of therapy, the images slowed then stopped. I don’t see them anymore when I am trying to fall asleep. Praise the Lord! In examining all of this, I realized that my dad’s use of strange rituals that were frightful to me as a child were not isolated events. In Part 1 I described how my dad tried to help my brother Mike via messages of his voice on a tape recorder that he played on a special speaker under his pillow as my brother was falling asleep. Those messages were intended to help my brother’s self esteem. Decades later Mike would tell me how much they damaged him, that his Dad must have thought so poorly of him that my dad had to repeatedly tell Mike via a cassette tape that he was a “good boy.” Why didn’t my Dad just say it to Mike’s face? Tell Mike that he loved him? Since I do not recall much affirmation from my Dad as the oldest sibling (who actually looked like a member of my dad’s family; Mike did not and this was an important point that my Mom told me many years later), I doubt Mike got any affection at all. But how could he? My father had none to give . . . Such realizations ultimately helped me to forgive my Dad and paradoxically paved the way to remembering more of my past, good and bad.

Perhaps this all sounds too crazy to believe. Maybe for you but not for me. My Dad’s experimentation didn’t end there though and it would be sprinkled in some manner throughout the years that my Dad was still around. One night when my parents were still together, my Dad had taken the crucifix down from the wall in my brothers’ room to make some kind of repair. When he didn’t come back with the cross right away, I snuck down the stairs to see what he was doing. I believe Mike followed sometime thereafter but I am not sure. The lights were on in the stairway but the basement was very dark, which seemed strange to me. The stairwell was placed in the middle of the basement area of our ranch home and my Dad had created two rooms on either side of it: a laundry room on one side and a workshop on the other. There was no door on either room so you could travel from one to the other underneath the stairs between the two rooms. The walls were a white stucco over concrete, the floor was poured concrete, and the entryway into each room was made of brown paneled walls with a light-colored wood trim around the edges. I spent a lot of time in both areas, fascinated by all of the tools in the workroom.

I slowly peeked around the edge of the paneling into the doorway of the darkened room and was frightened by the face of my Dad lit up by candlelight. What the . . .? He had a look of surprise on his face that I had come down there; evidently I was very quiet sneaking down the steps, dressed in my pajamas and socks. I came around to the width of the opening just long enough to see the cross propped up on a wooden table in front of the mirror of our old bathroom vanity (affixed like a cabinet to the side of the wooden staircase). The Jesus figure and front of the wooden cross shined in the glow of the candle held by my Dad. He was looking at the reflection of the cross in the mirror and doing something that I knew was weird and scary and that I shouldn’t be seeing at all. I don’t know if my Dad made his usual “Yaaaaarl” sound to get us out of there and back upstairs or if it was my sheer terror that caused me to turn and escape as fast as I could. Who knows where Mike was in all of this?! The rest is a blank slate in my memory. It was at least a day later before the cross was back on the wall in my brothers’ room. Seeing that nail hole in the wall without the Catholic cross hanging there sure was creepy until then. I don’t recall my Dad or anyone else ever saying anything about it ever again.

The fourth method that my Dad used to get me forget became the seed of agoraphobia that would plague me my entire life. Sure, it’s normal to be afraid of spiders. What is not normal is experiencing a fear so terrifying that you KNOW you will DIE and have physical symptoms that appear to be fatal when faced with anything larger than a tiny bug on a bedroom floor. Then there are the nightmares for days afterward seeing one even in a movie or a TV show. The fear never, ever goes away or gets better with exposure, talking, desensitization techniques, or whatever anyone tries to do to help me get it to change. I know, I have tried. It’s just not that simple especially when the origin for me was the deliberate use of an already fear-mongering creature to scare me so badly that I would forget the trauma somehow associated with it. I am not even sure how the association was made, just that I knew I would DIE if I remembered what happened that fateful day at my Dad’s house; the phobia reinforced the amnesia. Layer it all with demonic oppression where satan himself uses the fear, the memory, the remembering, the telling, the physical symptoms against you with lies and a worsening of all associated types of pain. They call it spiritual attacks. Perhaps the Lord allowed him to inflict me with convulsive episodes all these years? Perhaps it’s now a tool to uncover the truth of what happened so many years ago? To let me know just how bad the scenes were that it would take thousands of profound electrical misfirings of my brain to uncover it? Talk about a lock-down . . .

Maybe you recall the scene in first Home Alone movie where an 8-year-old boy named Kevin McCallister was accidentally left home alone then tried to outsmart a pair of thieves? One of the booby-traps he sets for them includes letting loose his pet tarantula. I cringed in horror as I knew what was about to happen at some point when the spider met its intended victim. One of the bandits screamed in fear as the spider crawled on his face when he was lying face-up on the stairwell inside the home. Granted probably most of us would scream holy terror as well! But we would not go catatonic in an effort to avert death. A true phobia is not a rational fear, not a moment of screaming that resolves thereafter. My Dad put the large spider on my face to get me to forget the trauma of three horrific scenes of terror in a single day. Equally as traumatizing as the huge spider was the image of black beady eyes of that spider staring at me. I really cannot say anymore right now. It’s still quite disturbing to put all of this together here. This realization only came to me recently and I have just begun the work of unpacking it. The effects of using fear to control me has resulted in lifelong behavioral anomalies, irrational fear, supreme difficulty studying pests and insects as a Master Gardener, avoidance behaviors, nightmares, and more. That is what a phobia does to a person. It starts a survival mechanism of the mind then continues despite its harm. And in the end, it did not get me to forget forever what happened, what I witnessed. Eventually I did remember. In the end, it just inflicted even more harm.

A fifth method was hypnosis although I don’t think that it was applied directly to me. All 3 of us kids were in my Dad’s workroom with him one afternoon when I don’t think my Mom was home. She was often at church doing work as President of the Altar Society at St. Cletus Church. I remember my Dad sitting one of my brothers on a metal stool, the one with the red vinyl top on it, and dangling a chain with a pendant on it in front of his face. My Dad instructed him to keep his eye on the pendant as it moved from side to side. My other brother and I were watching intently as my Dad went through some kind of sequence in a slow, low, calm voice. “You’re getting sleepy” or something like that. I don’t recall if either one of them fell asleep or changed posture in any way; I know that I was able to look around the room shortly thereafter, feeling like it didn’t affect me at all. My other brother was next. I didn’t volunteer. I was curious but also just old enough to know that there was something not right about what my Dad was doing with us. I wish I could remember what the goal was, if there were any special instructions my Dad tried to “suggest” under the influence of hypnosis but I do not. I may have asked what it was used for? Funny how a child is curious about what he or she is seeing a parent do even when it is exceedingly harmful and never should have happened. At a gut level, this experience made me resist the offer of hypnosis from every therapist I have had in my life who wanted to “help me” remember the forgotten years of my childhood. No, no, never!

We should never experiment with mind control techniques on another person when we are not trained to do so and I believe rarely even if the person of influence is trained. The Lord will bring back the memories in His own way and in His own time when the person is ready for them. More importantly I can see no reason for even a trained person to use mind control techniques like hypnosis on a child! It doesn’t matter if it worked for someone else. It’s not the same thing to use a method or object or saying or rationale for mind control over someone else especially without the consent of the other person. A child cannot give such consent as he or she cannot understand the potential risks. I also disagree with a parent providing consent for a child to be hypnotized. If what anyone is doing runs the risk of violating another human being’s right of consent at any age then it may construe undo influence and potentially abuse. We must filter our actions as an adult with what is morally good, what is right, what is fair, and what our Lord Jesus Christ instructed in His Word for how we should live; consulting mediums and mind-altering drugs and ritualistic sayings/prayers are taboo! Tapping into the unconscious mind runs the risk of inviting the supernatural world of which satan rules. Satan only seeks to deceive and destroy. Don’t try to get ahead of God! Please do not yield to “whatever works” Gentle Reader!

Stated another way, we must not “experiment” on another human being, especially a child, hoping for a certain outcome when we can easily run the risk of hurting him, her, or even yourself and your relationship if we don’t get it right. How do we know we will get it right? Neural retraining and the like are popular now in the treatment of Non-epileptic seizures and many chronic illnesses these days. If you must use mind-altering methods, please choose degreed and certified professionals with proven track records and decades of success. Further, I contend that a parent must never treat his or her own child even if degreed or certified in a given technique. My Dad was one of the most extreme examples of the damage that can be done when this happens. My Dad inflicted immeasurable harm that damaged me and my brothers. Although mentally ill, he was still responsible for his actions as we all are. Knowing that he was mentally ill, struggling to overcome it, and abused as a child helped me much later to forgive him and begin to heal. If my Dad did not repent and come to faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, then God’s Word promises that my Dad will punished one day by a righteous God. He said that he came to faith in Jesus and I hope that is true; the Lord’s mercy and grace will cover him. I don’t like to think that my Dad will face eternal damnation; it’s just not for me to worry about as I focus now on what I have learned along the way and even some good memories that came forth with the bad ones. We did get to make our amends of sorts in 2011 and for that I am very glad, at peace. Further, I have come to understand that everything that happened to me was ultimately a consequence of a larger concept called “sin” and of living in a fallen world. This world is laden with evil led by satan himself. My ritual abuser willfully opened himself and even enlisted the power of satan and his minions not knowing that ultimately satan comes to destroy: he will not help you control your mental illness nor the unruly behavior of 3 innocent children! Sadly, my Dad battled mental illness his entire life.

For me it was not the same thing to know what happened to me as it is to become free of the impact it had on my life. The former is exceedingly painful. The latter is freeing. It’s not the same thing decades later to have a seizure disorder of unknown type and 1) have Doctors claim then that it must be psychological, for some kind of personal gain (yeah right, how sick is that?!) vs. 2) the electrical activity of seizures jarring locked-down memories of horrific trauma. Thank the Lord that I did forget such horrific trauma so I could survive, focus as much as I could on living. Years later it was explained to me that I didn’t have a seizure when the abuse occurred so there’s no psychological reason for me to have seizures now. I had flashbacks of really bad things for twenty years before the onset of convulsive episodes eight years ago. Each memory came back to me when the Lord ordained the timing, when I was ready to handle more of the truth. It took time to work though each nasty piece, lay each one at the foot of the Cross, and figure out how to go forth after reclaiming the full picture of a mixed-up, dysfunctional family, a once mixed-up dysfunctional Julie.

I just wish that now that I can see how the Lord used the seizures for some good in reclaiming my past that they would stop already! I still deal with numerous abnormal lab tests and scans that all could be contributing to the convulsive episodes and tics, confirming an organic cause. Years of treatments have alleviated, changed the pattern of, reduced, and some days even stopped episodes. The latest contributing factor is Autonomic Dysfunction. This diagnosis confirms why vagus nerve stimulation techniques have helped me so much, particularly those of the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s no surprise that it is the opposite, sympathetic nervous system that gets revved up when abuse happens and, for example, would have contributed to decades of difficulty falling asleep at night. My mind and body are more calm now in general than ever before. So I guess I can say that these nine years of battling serious illness has become a serendipitous opportunity to free my life from the various things that trauma and the serious illness itself did to me. I have a long rap sheet of medical problems but my spirit is lighter now than ever before. Good things have happened! This is true even though I still have tics or episodes virtually every day. It’s just taking a long time to find the CURE for whatever is their CAUSE. Lord willing, one day I will be healed!

In the book of Genesis, Joseph professes to his brothers that sold him into slavery the following:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Genesis 50:20

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of a dream he had shared with them that one day they would serve him even though he was the youngest member of the family at the time. They faked his death! In the end Joseph survived, endured tremendous trials and years later, rose to fame in Egypt as second in command of the nation that saved the lives of many peoples because of his inspired leadership. When his estranged family came calling for help, Joseph ended up saving their lives as well in addition to reconciling with them. All was restored including his relationship with his beloved father who feared he would die if he lost another son. He didn’t. He gained a son he thought was once lost.

My Dad did very bad things at least partially knowingly what he was doing, akin to those of Joseph’s brothers. Then as the Lord showed me the abuse that my dad had suffered, our familial patterns of alcoholism and mental illness, and brought me to a saving relationship with His son, Jesus Christ, I was able to move from hurt and anger to forgiveness. That forgiveness had many layers as more truth came into the light and as I got to see him after TWENTY SEVEN years of estrangement from our family. I still didn’t know back in 2011 what I know now. The serious illness that developed into daily convulsive episodes came at the end of the year 2011 and after my dad had passed away. I cannot go back to my father and ask him about what has been opened up to me most recently. I simply have to trust the Lord’s timing in how all of this came together, put any pain at His Cross and leave it there.

Recently an expert instructed me how the Lord divinely sequences every detail in our lives. My understanding of this sequencing has not been the same in the past as it is now. I may weep in the moment but it doesn’t last very long. I try as best I can to live around this scourge, my thorn in the flesh perhaps. It is my firm belief that our God endorses and redeems everything we endure in this life as we prepare, we mature for our eternity with Him. Nothing that happens in our lives is wasted: not the good, not the bad, not the ugly. Nothing is hidden from our Heavenly Father either. He sees and He grieves for our suffering. He rejoices in our victories! I know that He will not only make all things right and new one day but also bring justice and reward for the faithful. The truth will come into the light. Believe it Gentle Reader! I do. JJ

Pics of my Dad as a boy and with my Mom

The times inbetween

Tis a time for more resting than doing

And it is unusual for me to give into the slower pace

But give in I must.

The rain garden project awaits an instructor’s touch

While our own landscape decides if bushes or an Amilsh “mini garage”

Will grace the outer banks of our bedroom.

Shall I attempt to rip out the red twig dogwoods,

My fav in garden beds here and the ‘burbs of Chicago

That don’t really like their sunny home but delight the view out the bedroom window til late summer?

The dog days of hot weather have sapped my zest for projects, most anything green

Or maybe it’s from having to stay home when hubby got to go without me

To his National paddling competition afar; yeah I was too tired to even go.

Yeah, I’m kinda down about all the failures these past 2 months —

Alas the Lord spoke to my heart; now maybe they shall give rise to something better for me?

The times in between the hills n valleys can bring a fresh new look

If I but heed the call to slow things down a bit, to rest

There are but a few tic zips here and there so I do believe something is going right at last!

Thank you Lord for seeing me through to this day

For allowing me to pass through the fiery tests, the times of despair, and hopelessness too

I may even get to go paddle locally tomorrow with my beloved River Bear.  Now won’t that just be saweet if I do?  JJ