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for The Devil.) And thats how the mountain got its name.

We grew up in the midst of the hippie counterculture movement of


the 1960s. It was all about the rebellion and rejection of established
institutions and traditions. There were several ways this was lived out.
Part of it was a sexual revolution by way of free love.
The term free love meant that one could have sex with anyone at
any time wherever they wanted without any regard to relationship,
commitment, or marriage. Another means of rebelling was taking
drugs such as LSD and marijuana to explore altered states of
consciousness and expand the mind.

Chapter 1
From the Womb through the Tomb
(High School, That Is)
Once in a great while, you hear of a love story that is so powerful
it moves you to the depth of your soul. It imprints on your heart and
you file it in the greatest love story of all time folder, storing it in
the deepest part of your memory. And every time you see or hear
anything that could be true love, this file is brought out, opened up,
and used as the measure of what true love really is. This is one such
true story.
Todd Andrew DuBord and Tracy Jeanne Cress (thats me) were
both born in 1963 in northern California. We grew up in the San
Francisco/East Bay area only fifty miles apart, with Todd in
Pleasanton and me in Antioch.
In between our two cities towered Mt. Diablo. I grew up looking at
one side of the mountain while Todd grew up looking at the other
side. There are many legends about how Mt. Diablo got its name. I
vaguely remember one story I heard when I was a child. It goes
something like this: A Spanish military expedition chased a band of
Indians up into the mountain,
where a battled ensued. During
the battle, a devil appeared and
defended the Indians. When
the Spanish soldiers saw it,
they ran away screaming, El
Diablo! El Diablo! (Spanish

1
Mt. Diablo in Northern California

Another method of rebelling was through political activism. Many


hippies and college students alike (mostly college students) protested
the Vietnam War. Did you ever hear the expression, Make love not
war? Or see a peace sign? Thats where they came from.
Most of the hippies didnt work. They lived on the streets, in
parks, and other places and basically just did whatever they felt like

Todd Andrew DuBord

doing. They coined the term, If it feels good, do it.


Men grew their hair long, and women burned their bras. They
dressed in any type of clothing that wasnt the norm or in fashion at
the time. Sometimes they even went nude. They traveled from place
to place in groups, and some formed communes. Many begged for
food and money to get by.
During this time, Todd and I lived in the East Bay area about an
hour outside of San Francisco. San Francisco became a magnet for
hippies. Thousands congregated in several different areas around the
city. Some of those places were parks located around the HaightAshbury district. My mom told me that my dad used to hang out there
with the hippies.
In 1967, a hit song was written by John Philips of The Mamas and
Papas and was sung by Scott McKenzie. It is called, San Francisco
(Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair). Its all about the hippies of
the counter culture movement that came to San Francisco.

Todd was born on July 27, 1963, at Saint Rose Hospital in


Hayward, California. He was the fourth of five children (three
brothers and one sister). Shortly after he was born, his family moved
from Hayward to Fremont for several years before ending up in
Pleasanton.
His father and mother married when they were both twenty years
old. She was a stay-at-home mom and never worked outside the
home. His father worked full time while attending college, and he
earned a degree in accounting.
Todd had a relatively happy childhood. With five children in the
family, there was always someone to play with him. He and his
younger brother, Mark, were only a year apart in age. Everyone in the
family and extended family referred to them as the little boys
because they were the youngest, and they were always together.
Todd was above average in intelligence. (I think he was, and still
is, a genius.) He also had an entrepreneurial spirit. He liked to grow
things, too. In kindergarten, he got a tomato-growing kit. It came with
soil and seeds. All he had to do was water it. Thats where it all
started.

All throughout his childhood,


he remembers always growing
tomatoes and other vegetables in
his backyard, even though he
didnt like to eat them until he
was an adult. Todd used his
expert salesmanship to sell seeds
from
the
American
Seed
Company. He went door to door
around the neighborhood selling
seeds to make money and win
prizes.
He loved doing magic tricks,
too. Todd used a magic kit he
owned to put on little magic
shows for his friends and family.
From an early age, he was

the top 40 songs played by Dr. Don Rose, who was a D.J. for KFRC
AM (channel 610) radio station out of San Francisco.
When he was a little older, he started a lawn-mowing business. His
dad made flyers for him to hand out in the neighborhood. He went
door to door and gave them to his neighbors until he had built up a
pretty good little business.
In between trying to make money and win prizes, Todd was a
member of unicycle club. He, his best friend, Scott, and another
friend, Russel, got unicycles and formed a club called Unicycle
Brothers. They road all over the neighborhood and up town. The
motto of the club was Unicycle brothers rank!
All in all, he will tell you he had a good childhood. He
experienced no major traumas or bad accidents, though his family
thought he was accident prone because he had to have stiches so
many times. But nothing scarred him for life, except for his parents
divorce.
Todd was nine years old when his parents divorced. His father
moved out of the house, but he quickly fought and won full custody
of all five children. That was totally unheard of in those days.
It was very painful for Todd to watch his mom move out of the
house so his dad could move back in. His mom told us that instead of
making his father sell the house and split the profits with her, she
gave up her half-ownership and interest in the family home. She told
Todds dad to use her half of the homes equity to pay for the
childrens college education. Unfortunately, that never happened.
His mom moved into an apartment across town for a while. Then
she got a job working in a factory in Fremont and moved there to be
closer to her work. Todd and his siblings would visit her on
weekends. Eventually, his sister, Kim, who was the oldest sibling,
went to live with their mother.
His father made a middle-class living. The children were provided
with the basics of food, clothing, and shelter, but his parents couldnt
afford much more. If they wanted anything else, they had to get it
themselves by whatever means they could. Christmases were pretty
meager. One Christmas, Todd and his siblings only presents were
electric blankets.

comfortable being on stage, though On Halloween at eight years old


often shy in person.
Todd also made puppets and put on puppet shows. He not only
made the puppets, but he made the stage, too. The puppets were pretty
elaborate. He bought the instructions from the back of one of his
comic books. Todd made the puppets out of papier mache. He even
made a marionette once, and he installed a mechanism in its mouth to
make it move. Everybody said it looked like Howard Cosell.1 Heehee.
(Todd thought it looked like the papier-mache heads they used in the
1979 movie, Escape from Alcatraz, starring Clint Eastwood.)
One time, Todd even made a hovercraft. Yes, you read that right, a
hovercraft. Again, he bought the instructions from an ad he saw in the
back of a comic magazine. He used the parts of an old tube vacuum
cleaner to lift it off the ground (well, barely). And it really worked.
Everybody thought he was a genius.
At age ten, Todd got a job delivering newspapers for the
Pleasanton Valley Times. He woke up around 4:30AM, five days a
week, and while it was still dark, he rode his bicycle around the
neighborhood delivering papers. To keep him company while he was
alone in the dark, he brought along a transistor radio. He listened to

1

Howard Cosell was a popular American sports journalist and TV announcer who became
famous in the late 1960s.

A couple of years later, his father married a woman fourteen years


younger than himself, only six years
older than his oldest child. She came
to live in a house filled with four
boys. She wasnt the easiest person
to get along with. As the years
progressed, her relationship with the
boys grew worse. Todd spent as little
time at home as possible during those
years, especially once he became a
teenager. He stayed with friends as
often as he could and spent a lot of
time at Scotts house.
They would spend many hours in
Scotts room learning to play their
favorite songs on their guitars from
groups like Blackfoot, Lynyrd
Skynyrd, AC/DC, Molly Hatchet,
Boston, and Ted Nugent. Todd
learned to play his guitar so well that in high school his friends
nicknamed him Fingers. Heehee. He bought his first guitar when he
was sixteen. Even though he had a part-time job, he never bought a
proper guitar case. He barely made enough money to pay for his
guitar lessons and an occasional bag of weed (marijuana), plus some
spending money for the weekends. So he carried his guitar around
town in a cardboard box.
When he was in sixth grade, Todd began drinking alcohol. In
eighth grade, he started smoking marijuana and partied his way
through junior high and high school. He had many girlfriends from
fourth
grade
onward.
His
relationship with his girlfriend
before me lasted a year-and-a-half
and ended when he met me. I felt
sorry for her (but not for me). In the
eighth grade, he was so popular
with the girls that the student body
voted him the Biggest Flirt.
Heehee.

At fifteen years old, Todd took up kickboxing, which is a form of


karate. His friend, Kurt, was a kickboxer and asked him if he wanted
to join. For a year, Todd learned the sport and competed in
kickboxing tournaments. He
decided to quit when he got
the crap kicked out of him during a match at a tournament. He was
unevenly matched with a guy who 1980-Around the time he was kick-boxing
was nearly a black belt. Todd had
only been practicing for a short time. How they justified such an
uneven match was a mystery to everyone. He may have gotten the
crap kicked out of him, but it knocked some sense into his head. He
asked himself, why get beat up if you dont have to? So, he quit.
Heehee.
Todd barely graduated from Amador Valley High School in 1981.
By his senior year, his grades were so poor that he had to take an
extra class after the regular school day and two night-school classes to
graduate. But he did it. After the graduation exercises, his family
threw him a party and presented him with a . . . belly dancer!

Tracy Jeanne Cress

I was born on June 11, 1963, at Concord Community Hospital in


Concord, California. I was the third child and only girl of three. We
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lived in what was then called Port Chicago in West Pittsburgh. (Now
it is called Bay Point.)
My mom married my dad when she was eighteen and he was
twenty-one. She had given birth to three babies by the time she was
twenty-one. Having three babies in just three years took a ravaging
toll on her body. Worse yet, she got the mumps four months into her
first pregnancy.
My mom and dad were surprised to found out she was pregnant
for the third time (with me) only two months after giving birth to my
brother. They were so shocked that my dad ran as fast as he could to
the nearest hospital and got a vasectomy.
After I was born, my dad begged my mom to go back to work full
time and promised he would help with the babies. (Mom said my dad
could never hold a steady job.) Reluctantly, when I was three weeks
old, my mom went back to work full time. My parents left one toddler
and two babiesages two-and-a-half, eleven-and-a-half months, and
three weeksin the hands of a babysitter who had recently lost her
only child in a car accident. When we werent with the babysitter, we
were left in the care of friends and family.
My brothers and I had many different babysitters when we were
young. From my earliest cognitive recognition, I recall feeling an
inherent distrust of them because a couple of them abused me. And
some were mean and scary. I remember always being afraid and
walking on eggshells with all of them. I was always stressed and on
alert for danger. It was a huge relief whenever my mother came
home.
Not my father, though. He was abusive also. I felt the same way
with him as I had around the babysitters. Aunt Linda, my mothers
sister-in-law, was the only babysitter with whom I ever felt safe. She
had three children about the same ages as my brothers and me. So we
had a great time playing with our cousins whenever she would
babysit. I was never afraid when Aunt Linda was around.
Unlike Todd, I had a childhood that was a mixture of good and
bad, happy and sad. I experienced many good things punctuated with
bad things.
One of my favorite childhood memories was when my mother
enrolled me in dance classes when I was about five or six. It was Mrs.
Marshalls Dance Studio on Pine Street in Martinez. She was an older

lady who turned her garage into a studio. Mrs. Marshall taught tap,
ballet, hula dancing, baton twirling, and tumbling.
Im not bragging when I say I excelled in all of them. I felt like I
was born to dance, like it was embedded in my DNA or something. I
had found the answer to the eternal question, Why? The meaning of
life was to dance!
I was so good, my teacher wanted to take me to Hawaii with her
dance troop when I was only seven years old. Its true. It was after I
danced in a recital that included a hula dance. Afterward, while I was
with my parents, my teacher came over and told them I was very
talented. She went on and on, telling them how good I was. Then she
said she was taking a dance troop to Hawaii to do an exhibition and
she wanted to take me as a part of the troop. I was so excited. I felt
very special. I didnt stop talking about it for days. Then, one night
when my mom put me to bed, she gently told me we didnt have the
money, and I wouldnt be able to go. I was crushed and started
crying. It took me a while to get over it, but I did. I continued to enjoy
dancing for the rest of my life.

Dance recital picture. I was around seven y ears old. Thats me, second
from the right.

I distinctly remember taking this picture. I was forcing a smile on


my face. I was very sad even before the recital began. When it started,
I danced. But my heart wasnt in it. There was no one, not one family

10


member, there to see me. The audience was full of family members
there for every other girl, except me.
The recital was during the week and in the afternoon, not a good
time of day for a recital. My mom took time off of work to bring me
down to the hall and get me ready. I found out while she was getting
me ready that she wasnt going to stay and watch me dance. I looked
around the room at all of the other girls mothers and knew they were
going to stay for their daughters. I started crying and begging my
mom to stay and watch me. I got all worked up, which got her worked
up until she finally said, Jesus Christ, Tracy. I took time off of work
to get you here and get you ready. I cant stay and watch you. I have
to go back to work. One good memory swallowed up by a bad one.
Unfortunately, this would become a recurring cycle for years to come.

Mercedes Benz. I love that song. Its one of my all-time favorites.


Now back to the past.
One bad memory of that babysitter was when she sent me to my
room for something I supposedly did wrong. My bedroom was in the
front of the house. My friends came over and wanted to play. I talked
to them through my open window and told them I got in trouble and
couldnt come out of my room. She heard me saying this and came
flying into my room, yelling at me to shut the window. Then, in front
of all my friends, she slapped me so hard that my head flew into the
window.
Of course, I didnt tell my parents. It only took one incident of
abuse by a babysitter when I was three years old to teach me not to
tell on the babysitter. After that babysitter finished abusing me, she
told me if I told my parents she would spank me. And thats all it
took, folks. I didnt tell my mother about it until I was a young adult.
Back to the Janis Joplin babysitter; after some time, she just
stopped coming over completely. By this time, we were used to it. We
became so used to it that we never even thought to tell our mom about
it. Somehow, Mom found out. But by the time she did, we had been
left by ourselves for so long that she figured we would be OK without
a babysitter.
When she was at work, she told us we had to stay in the house and
not go outside. She said if we werent by the telephone to answer it
when she called (which could have been at any time of the day), she
was going to come home and give us all spankings.
That threat didnt scare my brothers enough to stay in the house.
The temptation was too great. Just like a dog that runs away every
time the front door is opened, they ran wild all around the
neighborhood. Occasionally, I joined them.
There was a hillside in back of a row of houses in our
neighborhood. Someone had parked a trailer on the top of the hill.
One day, my brother, Steven, went up the hill and removed the stop
blocks from behind the tires. This sent the trailer flying down the hill,
through someones fence, and into their backyard.
I guess someone called my mother because a very angry mama
bear came running home, and it wasnt to protect her cubs. After she
dealt with the owners of the fence (my parents had to pay for the
damage), she came home and spanked all three of us. Talk about
getting punished for something I didnt do.

Latchkey Kids
When I was six years old, my brothers and I became latchkey
kids.2 It was in the summer of 1969. We were off school for summer
vacation. My mom paid a teenage girl, who lived down the street, to
babysit us. She had a habit of coming late, so late that on several
occasions I walked down to her house and asked her if she was
coming over to babysit us that day. She always looked like she just
woke up. She would sit groggily and put on her shoes. Then we
would walk back to my house.
One good memory of her was when we sat in front of the stereo
and ate sunflower seeds while we listened to my dads records or the
radio. One record burned in my memory and I never forgot it. It was
the Janis Joplin album called Pearl. One of my favorite songs was
Mercedes Benz.
Fast-forward to the present. I have a bucket
list of things to do before I die. One of them is
to record some of my favorite songs for my
kids, grandkids, great grandkids, and on down
the line. The first song I will record is

2

The term latchkey kid referred to children whose parents worked full time, and the parents
were not at home when their children came home from school. The children were given their
own house keys to let themselves in and were left home alone, unsupervised, until a parent
came home from work.

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Another time, Steven set that same hill on fire. Even after this
incident, my parents still didnt get another babysitter. For the next
two or three summers, they shipped us off to my aunt and uncles
house in Washington State. It was fun. But, during the school year,
we were still latchkey kids.
None of the other mothers on our street worked outside the home.
It was very common in that era for mothers to stay at home. They did
not like my mom because she wasnt there to cage the wild monkeys.
Unfortunately, because my mom was a working mother, they didnt
like us, either.
Case in point: When I was in the second grade, occasionally I
played with a little girl down the street. She was a toddler, and I was
about six years old. Her mother would let me play with her. Mostly, I
played with her toys. Her mother was nice, too. One day, I came
home from school and sat down to watch cartoons. I found a razor
blade, the kind that was sharp on both sides, and used it to cut V
shapes into the tops of my fingernails. Well, the inevitable happened:
I sliced at least four of five layers of skin off the top of one of my
fingers. It started bleeding profusely, so I grabbed a paper towel and
wrapped it around my finger. I was crying while I tried to dial the old
rotary phone to call my mother, but I wasnt able to dial while
holding the paper towel on my wounded finger. I panicked as I tried
to figure out what to do.
Then I thought about the nice lady who let me play at her house. I
ran down the street, crying and holding my hand up in the air. I got to
her house and rang the doorbell. She opened the door and, through
my tears, I told her I cut my finger and asked her if she could help
me. She closed the door, came back a few seconds later, and handed
me a Band-Aid, still in the wrapper. Then she closed the door again
and never came back. I couldnt believe it. Even at six years old, I
knew how wrong that was. I guess thats how deeply all the mothers
on our street disliked my mother.

grandfathers. He hardly ever talked or interacted with us. He was an


alcoholic. He was always just there. It was ninety-five percent my
grandmother.
They spoiled us with toys. Between them and my parents, we had
so many toys that we couldnt play with them all. My grandmother
also sewed and crocheted clothes for me and my Barbie dolls. I
always felt very special when she made clothes for me.
Every time my grandparents came to our house for a visit, they
brought us a toy. When I was around seven years old, my mom had a
talk with them and explained that we had come to expect a toy every
time they came over, which we did. She wanted her kids to be happy
just to see their grandparents and not expect anything from them. So
she politely asked them not to bring toys when they came to visit.
The next time they came over, my grandmother got out of the car
holding a brown paper bag. As usual, we went running out to greet
them and see what they brought us. She showed us what was in the
bag. When we saw it, all three of us were so disappointed that we
dropped our heads, turned around, and walked away. It was a bag of
oranges! Talk about anti-climactic. It was the letdown of the century.
When I was around three or four years old, my grandparents
brought over new playground equipment and set it up in our
backyard. One was a mini roller coaster; another was like a whirly
bird kind of thing. It had four seats and bars for our hands and feet. If
we pulled the handlebars and pushed the foot bars at the same time, it
twirled around in a circle. It was tons o fun. And no backyard would
be complete without a swing set, so they brought one of those, too.
We hit the jackpot!

Never Fear, Grandma is Here


My brothers and I were the only grandchildren on my dads side.
He was an only child. Because of this, we were the lucky recipients of
all of my grandparents time, attention, and toys! Well, not really my

13

The "Whirly Bird"- The roller coaster is in the


background. C14
irca 1966 o r '67

When he did pick us up, he always took us to Grandmas house for


the weekend. He lived with her on and off his whole life. Even when
he did have his own apartment, he still took us to Grandmas. We
were always happy to go to her house. It was safe there. The safest I
ever felt was when I was with my grandmother at her house. Those
were some of the best times we had with dad. His explosive temper
mellowed somewhat. He seemed to be happier. I remember that my
brothers would get into wrestling matches with him. I would jump in
there once in a while, but they were all too rough for me.
Dad still went out partying in the evenings, though. It was OK
with me because, mostly, I wanted to be with Grandma. One night, he
was in the bathroom cleaning up to get ready to go out. We were all
in the living room watching television when out of nowhere we heard
the loudest, scariest scream of all time coming from the bathroom. It
felt like an atomic bomb went off and any minute the house was
going to be blown away. After we all just about jumped out of our
skins, reeling from the massive influx of adrenaline that pumped into
our bloodstreams, we ran to the bathroom to see what happened to
dad. When we got there, he was calmly shaving his face. It was a
joke.
All of us, including my grandmother, whom Id never seen angry
in my entire life, yelled at him. We told him it wasnt funny and that
he scared us to death. He came out into the living room with the most
perplexed look on his face. Like a clueless child, he half raised his
hands and asked, What? What did I do?
I think my dad was bipolar. I remember as a very young child
watching him play his piano with gusto. He would put one leg up on
the piano while he played and sang at the same time, just like Jerry
Lee Lewis.3 He would have jam sessions with his friend, Jim Moses,
who played the guitar. I was his biggest fan. At times, he was
exuberantly happy, energetic, and always joking around. That was the
fun dad.
Other times, he would be solemn and quiet, angry or irritated. That
was the scary dad. One time, when I was around three or four years

Grandma was a great cook. Whenever we were at her house, she


was always baking goodies for us. Every birthday, she baked our
favorite cake. Well, my brothers favorite cake anyway.
When I was about four or five years old, she baked a German
chocolate cake for my birthday. I didnt like it. But, because she
baked it especially for me, I didnt want to hurt her feelings by telling
her the truth, so I lied and told her I loved it. Well, that was a mistake
because for the next fifteen years my grandmother baked me a
German chocolate cake for every birthday. And every birthday, I
continued to lie and tell her I loved it as I choked down every bite.
Let this be a lesson to all you younguns out there. Honesty is always
the best policy. Heehee.

My beloved grandmother, Elma Louise (Buller, Gaede)


Cress. Circa 1950s

When I was five, our family moved to Martinez. We lived at 123


Dardenelle Court until I was nine. That is when my parents got
divorced. My father became what we now call a deadbeat dad.
(Well, he was about two or three steps above it.) He was an alcoholic
and drug abuser who never paid child support.
We were supposed to see him on weekends, but that didnt end up
happening very often. I lost count of how many times I sat on the
sidewalk in front of my house, waiting for him to pick us up.
Sometimes he would arrive up to six hours late. Sometimes he didnt
show up at all. It hurt so badly. I always wondered, Whats wrong
with me that my dad doesnt want to be with me?

Jerry Lee Lewis (born September 29, 1935) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and
pianist, who is known by his nickname of The Killer and is often viewed as rock and roll's first
great wild man. He was an early pioneer of rock and roll music and wrote the song, Great
Balls of Fire.

15

16

old, my brothers and I were dressed in our footie pajamas, quietly


watching television before we went to bed. My father walked in the
room with three brown paper bags. He gave one to each of us and told
us to go to our rooms. Once there, he told us to pack our clothes into
the bags. I knew it wasnt good and became terribly afraid. My
mother wasnt home.
Then he told us to get in the car. It was dark outside. We all
climbed in, clutching our bags. He drove us to a busy street
somewhere and, while we were still in our footie pajamas, he told us
to get out of the car. Then he drove off and left us there. I was
terrified! There was a lot of traffic. The headlights from the cars
shined in our eyes, and I wondered why no one stopped to help us. I
was comforted only by the hope that my six-year-old brother would
guide us in the right direction. I thought my aunt and uncle lived close
by. So if we could make it to their house without being kidnapped
first, we could go live with them.
We were just standing there, holding our bags for what seemed
like
hours, helpless and deathly afraid, when my father pulled up in his
car. He opened the passenger door and told us that this is what
happens to kids who dont do their chores. Then he asked us if we
were going to do our chores. We all nodded our heads up and down
and said yes. Then he said, Get in the car. Even though my father
had just severely abused and traumatized us, I was so thankful he
picked us up.
Another time, my brothers and I were left with my father for the
evening while my mother went to work. Before she left, she cooked
dinner and left it on the stove for my father to serve to us.
I was very hungry when he dished up my plate, and I asked him
for three biscuits. He asked me if I was going to eat them all, and I
said, Yes.
Well, my three-year-old little eyes were bigger then my stomach. I
could only eat one of them. I was too afraid to tell my father that I
was full and couldnt eat anymore. Instead I walked over to the
kitchen sink that was full of dirty, soapy dishwater and ever so slyly
slipped my plate along with the biscuits into it. I walked into the other
room where he was watching TV and told him I was finished. Then I
ran into the other room hoping he wouldnt catch me.

A short time later he called me into the kitchen. He was standing at


the kitchen sink. I walked over to him with fear and trembling. He
sunk his hand into the dirty dish water and pulled out one of my
biscuits. My eyes got as big as saucers when he put it in front of my
face. Then he told me to eat it.
I took it and put it in my mouth. It was so soggy and slippery from
absorbing so much soap that the whole biscuit slid down my throat.
My eyes filled with tears that went rolling down my face as he pulled
out the second biscuit and made me eat that one, too. Afterward, I
walked away crying because I was too afraid to run. I couldnt get
away from him fast enough.
My mother was never around when he did these things to us. My
dad must have known what he was doing was wrong because he only
did them when my mom wasnt home.
Because my dad was not responsible and either unwilling or
unable, my mom took full custody of my brothers and me after their
divorce. To his credit, around ten years later, he would get sober and
spend the last twenty-five years of his life involved in Alcoholics
Anonymous. Even so, he never helped my brothers and me with
anything financially. Saddest of all, he rarely made an effort to
purposely spend time with us. I was always the one reaching out to
him. It was, for the most part, a one-sided relationship.
After their divorce, my mom bought a house in Antioch and
moved us there. During this time, she began attending a club called
Parents without Partners. She dated some of the men she met there.
I didnt like any of them. It was bad enough that my parents were
divorced. It was traumatizing to have strangers come into my house.
They were nice to us, but I didnt trust them. Seeing them with my
mom made me sick to my stomach.
We only spent a year in Antioch. At the end of the year, Mom sold
the house and we moved back to Martinez when I was ten years old.
For fifth grade, I attended Martinez Elementary School. It was
there that I learned to play the guitar. A teacher at my elementary
school announced that he was teaching a guitar class after school. I
asked my mom if I could attend. She not only said yes, she bought me
a guitar. I really enjoyed it. The teacher would tune our guitars before
class. If it went out of tune before the next class, I was out of luck.
Back then, the only way to tune a guitar was using a piano, and I

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didnt have one. It wasnt music to my ears to practice on an out-oftune guitar, Ill tell you that for sure.
When I was in high school, I got a John Denver music book and
learned how to play some of his songs on my guitar. They were
Anne, Leaving on a Jet Plane, and Sunshine on My Shoulders.
I could actually play the guitar and sing at the same time. What a feat.
It was when we lived in Martinez that my mom met a man she
really liked. Only a month after they met, he moved into our house.
Soon after, they married. It was May of 1974, one month shy of my
eleventh birthday.
Before he moved in, I remember my mom and him sitting me
down and asking if it would be OK if he moved in. I told them I was
fine with it, but inside I was screaming that it was not OK. I was
afraid to be honest for fear that my mother, or even both of them,
would get angry. I was always afraid.
I wished I had been strong enough to say no. I wonder how they
would have reacted. I dont think it would have made any difference.
Knowing my mom, she would have tried to talk me into it. And if I
still stood my ground, she would have gotten angry, said some unkind
things, and moved him in anyway. That was her pattern.
They had only been dating for about a month or so. It all happened
so fast. I didnt know him. He was a stranger, and I didnt trust him.
They bought a house in Antioch soon after they married, and we
all moved back there. That is where I finished my schooling and
graduated from Antioch Sr. High School in 1981. My inherent
distrust of my mothers new husband turned out to be valid. He was
verbally and mentally abusive, a real Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.4 He
was nice one minute, then mean, angry, and verbally abusive the next
minute. There was constant fighting, yelling, violence, alcohol and
drug abuse.
Through all of this, my mother was able to maintain her career as a
supervisor working for the Contra Costa County Elections
Department. We lived a middle-class lifestyle and never lacked any
material thing. Even so, we always had to buy clothes that were on

sale or at K-Mart (mostly K-Mart). We never had designer anything.


Everything we bought was a knock-off of designer clothing or
shoes. I didnt care when I was young, but when I got into junior high
and high school, it was embarrassing.

Loss of Innocence
My stepfather worked for PG&E (Pacific, Gas, and Electric
Company) in Antioch as a meter reader. Both he and my mother
worked full time and earned decent incomes. They bought a
truck/camper combo and a jet boat and joined a boating club.
During outings with the boat club, I learned how many women
obtained their self-worth. I watched as they strutted around in their
bikinis and listened as the men commented on which women looked
sexiest. The message I received was that my self-worth was directly
tied to how good I looked in a bathing suit. It was nothing more than
a meat market, and booze was always the marinade for the meat.
I started drinking alcohol when I was twelve years old. My
stepfather built a bar in the family room and kept it well stocked with
all kinds of hard liquor. I remember my parents once saying that if we
kids ever wanted to drink alcohol, we should do it at home so we
would be safe. We took that to mean we could drink the alcohol in
the bar, and we did. I guess thats not what they meant because my
stepfather started marking the bottles so he could catch us when we
stole his gold.
One night, while watching Saturday Night Live 5 with my two
cousins, we all got drunk. I remember downing, practically in one
gulp, a large Tupperware glass of bourbon. I was so drunk that when I
lay down, I became paralyzed and could hardly speak. Of course, my
parents werent there; they were out on their weekly Friday and
Saturday night bar-hopping route. The room started spinning. The
faster it spun, the sicker I got. Both of my cousins had fallen asleep. I
kept whispering to one cousin, who was sleeping right next to me, for
help. She never responded. I was about to throw up, and there was
absolutely nothing I could do about it but turn my head to one side. It
was a miracle I didnt choke to death. My cousin finally woke up and

The term Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde comes from a novel written in 1886 by Robert Louis
Stevenson called Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is about a good man who is a
doctor (Dr. Jekyll) and has a split personality. The other personality within him is the evil man
(Mr. Hyde). It has become a popular term to describe a person who has a split personality. In
this case, one good and one bad. Formal psychiatry labels this rare mental condition as
dissociative identity disorder.

19

Saturday Night Live is an American late-night live television sketch comedy and variety show.
It premiered in October of 1975 and is still going today.

20

said, Oooo, it smells. Im getting out of here! She just left me there.
Since I couldnt talk, I thought, Thanks a lot, Suzie.
After what felt like hours of watching the ceiling spin in endless
circles, my fourteen-year-old brother came in from his own night of
partying. He turned on the light to find me lying in my vomit. He
said, What the hell is going on around here?! He picked me up,
stripped me down to my bra and underwear, and then threw me out
the back door to get some fresh air. Right at my feet was a nest of
praying mantises. They started crawling up my legs. It took every
ounce of my strength just to stay standing. There was nothing I could
do about the meat eaters; I couldnt even move my legs to shake
them off.
My brother was my savior that night. He cleaned up my vomit and
put me to bed. I am still grateful to him. Thanks, Jamie.
Now, one would think I would have had a raging hangover the
next morning, but viola! Absolutely nothing. When my parents were
told about it, they didnt do or say anything. What could they say? I
did as they did. I didnt learn my lesson, though. It took two years and
several more occasions of getting so drunk that I would throw up in
my plate at restaurants and other places before I realized getting sick
wasnt worth the buzz. By the end of eighth grade, I quit for good.
Besides, I wanted to try out for the cheerleading squad in ninth grade,
and my reputation had to be squeaky clean.
In junior high and high school, I never had a serious boyfriend and
rarely dated. I wasnt able to date. My family was so dysfunctional
that I just didnt have the maturity, confidence, or know-how, and I
was always afraid. By tenth grade, I only got asked out on one date
that I can remember. No one ever asked me to go to any of the proms
at school. I wanted to be like the popular girls but never was. During
that year, I spent many weekend nights at home instead of out
socializing like everyone else.
I threw myself pity parties while listening to a certain song over
and over again on the record player. It was the theme song for my life
and summed up how I felt about myself that year. It was called At
Seventeen by Janis Ian from 1975. Some of the lyrics go like this:
I learned the truth at seventeen
that love was meant for beauty queens.
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles

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who married young and then retired


The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth ...
And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone. ...

Searching for Meaning


I struggled with depression in between episodes of mania. (I didnt
know it then, but I was bipolar. It wasnt until much later in life,
twenty-one years to be exact, that I was diagnosed and able to get
help.) I was so depressed by the end of the ninth grade that I started
searching for a deeper meaning to life.
On more than one occasion, I remember crying my eyes out,
curled up in a fetal position, leaning against my bedroom wall while
listening to my parents fighting. It was almost always about one of us
kids. I thought, I am in hell! And if this is hell, then there must be a
heaven. There had to be more than this miserable existence I was
living.
It was in the ninth grade that I met a girl in my choir class at
school. She seemed different. She exuded an inner peace, and peace
was the one thing I wanted more than anything in the whole world. I
knew she went to church, so I asked if I could go with her sometime.
And when I did, I found what I had been looking for.
I found Someone who would accept me just as I am, love me
unconditionally, and be the rock that I could cling to in times of
trouble. Someone who would build up my self-esteem, not tear it
down, who would never leave me alone and frightened but would
always be with me wherever I went. Someone who would give me the
strength to endure the pain I wasnt able to escape and, most of all,
give me a reason to be happy.

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My search was over. I found the father in God that I never had on
earth and a home in church where I never had to be afraid. I found my
inner peace in the person of Jesus Christ who said, I am the way, the
truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me (John
14:6), I have come to bring you life and life abundant (John 10:10),
and Come to me all you who are heavy burdened and I will give you
rest (Matthew 11:28-30).
I desperately wanted and needed all of those things. In Christ, I
received them. From then on, I put my life into His hands and devoted
myself to going to church four times a weekWednesday night,
Thursday night youth group, and twice on Sunday. I was all in.
The only drawback of this church for me (but I didnt know it at
the time) was that it was Pentecostal. (That isnt bad for millions of
other people, but it was for a bipolar person like me). Every church
service was focused on getting worked up into an emotionally
hyperactive state. People raised their hands in worship (nothing
wrong with that), they spoke in tongues (other languages), and
worked themselves up into such a heightened state of emotion that
some would start prophesying and giving words from the Lord.
This happened every service, except for youth meetings on Thursday
nights.
Being bipolar, I spent a lot of time in hyper-emotional states. I
would get so full of energy that it took me a long time to come back
down to earth. I was not only full of energy but also in mental states
of euphoria. If it wasnt that, then I would be depressed and crying
my eyes out over something. There was no in-between. I was like a
pendulum, always swinging from one side to the other. Thats why it
is called bipolar. One is either at the north pole or the south pole,
rarely at the equator.
Because of this, I often did and said things that were out of the
ordinary for the average person. I was that person people looked at
and thought, She looks normal on the outside, but after talking to
me for a few minutes, they would think, Theres something not quite
right about this person. Im sure everyone reading this book has met
someone like that at some point.
It was not enough for me to feel things normally. If I didnt get
emotionally hyped out about things, I felt I wasnt getting the most
out of every experience. Combine that with an emotionally stunted

mind from living in an violent, abusive, alcoholic, dysfunctional


home, and you have a recipe for disaster.6
Three times a week, I went to church and became hyped to the
point of pure exhaustion. I would come home, collapse in my bed,
and wonder how I was going to get up the next morning for school.
Although I loved my church dearly, it was the worst denomination for
my mental condition.

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What I Wont Revisit


I have a hard time writing about my childhood and teenage years.
It seemed like any good memory was overshadowed by one or two
bad ones. The good was swallowed up by the bad. Its like my brain
was hardwired to focus on the negative instead of the positive. (It still
is. I struggle with it to this day.) There was always an underlying
anxiety and fear in anything I ever did, whether good or bad. It was
exhausting. I have struggled with chronic fatigue and IBS (Irritable
Bowel Syndrome) my whole life, and I think thats part of the reason
why.
I learned from a very early age I couldnt trust anyone. My own
father told my brothers and me countless times while growing up
never to trust anyone. I also learned that no one would protect me but
me. So I locked up my heart and hid it behind a brick wall that was
bigger than the great wall of China. Even if I had to die to protect it,
by God, no one was ever going to break through to hurt me again,
never.
Because of my inability to trust, I was never able to have healthy
relationships with anyone. I was always skeptical of peoples motives
and intentions, always on guard. My modus operandi was, Shoot
first, and ask questions later. It was my way or the highway because
anyone elses way was too big of a risk of getting hurt. This behavior
would offend and hurt many people through the years, including those
with whom I worked.

6

According to The National Center for Biotechnology Information (Child Abuse Neglect, 2009
March 33[3]:139-47), When the experience of parental divorce is accompanied with child
abuse, the associations with some poor mental health outcomes are significantly greater
compared to the impact of either parental divorce or child abuse on its own[this is] one
possible mechanism to explain the relationships between child abuse, parental divorce, and
psychiatric disorders and suicide attempts.

24

Lifes circumstances constantly tried to mold me into being a


victim, but I was very strong-willed. I was always trying to break that
mold, always struggling but never quite able to break free.
I vacillated between being a victim and a victor. Victory for me
took the form of a bulldozer. I bulldozed through and over anyone to
get my way. It was the only way I knew how to protect myself. This
behavior would get me into a lot of hot water over the years, and
make me many enemies.
There are other things from my childhood I wont revisit here.
Suffice it to say, I feel it is important to explain that I was sexually
molested on three different occasions throughout my childhood and
pre-adolescent years. These experiences, combined with negative
messages about sex and sexuality I received while growing up, set the
stage for major obstacles and dysfunction later in life.
The molestations left me feeling violated and victimized. I was
torn between liking boys and being afraid of them at the same time. I
wanted to be loved but was confused about love and boundaries. My
mind was convinced that the only thing men wanted from women was
sex. My heart was already locked up and hidden behind a great wall.
Now, I had to protect my body as well by locking it up as tight as Fort
Knox.7
In addition to my sexual abuse, when I was growing up I
experienced enough instances of verbal abuse, violence, and neglect
to give my future psychiatrists and therapists sufficient evidence to
diagnose me with Borderline Personality Disorder and PTSD (Posttraumatic stress disorder) in addition to my Bipolar Type II diagnosis.
Thats where Todd came in.
He was the first man in my life who loved me unconditionally. He
never pushed or tried to control me. He never got angry or raised his
voice. He broke all of my stereotypes. He gave me the freedom to be
myself.
However, I was never free. The damage to my heart, mind, soul,
and body had already been done. It would take decades to work
through all my issues. But Todd never abandoned me. He waited
patiently by my side and supported me when I wasnt even able to
help myself.

What kind of love was this? He was a mirror of the unconditional


love, acceptance, and support that is only found in God through Christ
Jesus. It was a love of the highest order.
But with my background of abuse and only being sixteen years of
age, how would I recognize such love in the beginning? And how I
could I ever receive it?

Fort Knox is the depository of gold bullion for the United States Department of the Treasury
located in Kentucky. It is regarded as the most secure and impenetrable vault in the country.

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