Archive for November 2012

Kylie’s Story

I grew up with Kylie Jenkins. She and sister used to come over to my house and we’d play together. I hung out with her once in a while in high school, but not too often. We have recently reconnected and she wanted to share her story of overcoming many obstacles in her life.

On October 11, 1997,Jenkins, of St. Marys, watched her 36-year-old mother lose her life to breast cancer. She woke up to her stepfather tapping on her shoulder telling her that her mother is gone. “I looked over at her to make sure it was real, and she laid there so peaceful with one tear falling from her left eye. At that moment, I lost it. I had never experienced anything so painful in my life of 18 years. I didn’t care about anything. I was in a zone where I felt like everything was a dream. All I wanted to do was go to her grave and lay there and when I wasn’t there, I had to be at home where she died because I felt closer to her there,” said Jenkins.

 At some point, her sister got Jenkins to leave and she never went back. She moved to Lima and began what would be some of the worst mistakes in her life. “I felt so vulnerable and so alone. I began drinking so much that I remember a time when I started crying because no one would give me money to buy beer. Everyone was talking about me and couldn’t believe I was so upset that I couldn’t have a beer. It was so crazy because I had never had an addiction to anything in my life,” Jenkins said.

 Soon after, she met someone who made her feel happy and wanted. “I actually felt okay for the first time since she died. A few months into the relationship, he began hitting me. I remember the first time it happened. I was so afraid. I never thought I would be in that situation. I thought it would never happen again, but I was so wrong. It got worse actually, and before I knew it, I was in so deep and I didn’t know how to get out.” 

This was the man Jenkins learned everything from - and by everything - everything she’d never imagined she’d ever see. She began drinking heavily and smoking weed.  Soon she began selling crack because he did, and she felt like this is what she needed to do to be closer to him and the people she began to consider my close friends and family. “I knew everything about crack. I knew how to cook it, cut it up, and weigh it. I’d spend all night selling with addicts running in and out at all hours of the night with not a care in the world. I wasn’t worried about getting caught even though everyone told us to slow down. All I knew was, I was making money,” said Jenkins. 

Eventually he went to prison and Jenkins was left all alone.  At that point she figured she should stop. Jenkins tried working but the money just didn’t come as fast as it did when she was selling drugs. So she began selling on her own again. “This time, I took it to a smaller town, my hometown. I was making more money than I ever thought. It was coming in so fast and going out even faster. I was making trips to Columbus 2-3 times a day because I was running out.” During this time, Jenkins met a couple boys from Columbus who she brought back with her. They had their own dope and started selling it out of her spot so she got mad. They weren’t giving her any of the money either, so she had to stop it. “I had a friend in Lima that was/is very much not afraid to hurt somebody or rob someone, so I set them up. I let him rob them and we split the money. I didn’t even care that I left them all alone in a city they knew nothing about, with no car and no phone. All I cared about was my money.”

Sooner or later though, Jenkins’ luck ran out. She was drinking down the street from her grandparents with a friend from Detroit and her sister called to tell her that the police were there towing her car and looking to serve her with five secret indictments for trafficking. “I knew my time was up, so I had my sister pack a bag and pick me and my friend up. He was going to take me to Detroit to hide out until I was ready to face my charges. As we were heading out of town, though, the police surrounded the car and took me in. I was questioned all night. They wanted to know who I was getting my drugs from. Of course I wasn’t interested in telling on anyone so I sat there all night. Eventually I was charged with five counts of trafficking in crack-cocaine. I was sentenced to 4-6 months in the WORTH Center, a rehabilitation center for non-violent offenders.”

 Jenkins wasn’t too thrilled of the thought of being locked up, but it was better than prison.  So she did her time and told them what they wanted to hear. At that time, she didn’t feel as if she had a problem. She definitely didn’t have a drug problem/addiction and that’s what most of the women were in there for, so it really bothered her. She often wondered why she was in there if she wasn’t addicted to drugs so the case managers called her addiction money. 

Eventually Jenkins was released. She didn’t even do the full four months because she successfully completed the program early. She was so happy to be getting out. All she could think about was her boyfriend, the one who she was told to stay away from. “I tried to focus, but something kept drawing me back to him,” Jenkins said. “I went back to my grandparents’ home to serve my probation. I found a job, but eventually took off and ran. I couldn’t stand the 9:00 curfew and not being allowed to leave town. I wasn’t ready to be under such tight constraints. The one person I was strictly forbidden to see was the one and only person I couldn’t bear to be away from.”

“I ran for two years, using friends’ names if I came in contact with the police, and not being able to stay at a job too long for fear they would find me by my social security number.  Of course I began selling drugs again because this was the only way I could survive. I started drinking a lot more as well as using other drugs while partying with new people I met,” Jenkins said.

“I’m so thankful I never really picked up a strong addiction to anything or I might be worse off. In this time, I was involved in two drug raids, but was never taken in. I still to this day cannot understand why I wasn’t caught. Maybe there was some hidden reason? Perhaps some things I still needed to experience (good or bad). I don’t know, but I was never caught.”

Eventually, Jenkins was caught. She wasn’t expecting it at all. She went into work one morning to set up before she opened. She was the only one out in the front when the door opened. She looked up, thinking, ‘What are these people doing? We’re not even open.’ It was her probation officer though, along with a few officers from the sheriff’s department. She asked how Jenkins had been and Jenkins asked her how long she was going in for. “I let one tear fall. It was a relief because now I knew I could get my life together like I’d always wanted to, but also I was sad because I did not want to go to prison for 2 ½ years.”

Jenkins did go to prison though, and it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t too scary though, either, like she’d imagined it to be. Nothing at all like the movies made it out to be. “It was actually more annoying than anything being surrounded by almost 2,000 women that had problems! I slept right beside women that were serving life sentences for murder. I remember entering into the gates like it was yesterday. It was raining that morning which made it even more depressing.”

“It looked like a little village or something with cottages and old buildings lining the sidewalks and people running around in a hurry, but in a hurry for what? We were in prison now, what could they possibly have to hurry for?” She soon found out though….  She basically used her time to her advantage. She worked, prayed, jogged, read, and listened to others’ stories. She wanted to make sure she was ready to be successful once she was released. After listening to some of those stories of those that had been in for the second, third, or even fourth time, she wanted to make sure she never made the same mistakes again. 

“After serving about five months, I was given the chance to prove myself to the judge by appearing before him to ask for an early release. The judge, however, did not think that I was too convincing and sent me back to jail.” Jenkins sat for another three weeks or so and then one day the officer walked into her cell and told her to pack my things up, “You’re going home.”

“I was so happy and thankful that I was given a second chance to make something of myself. After all, I had wanted this all along. So again, I was placed on very strict probation/parole and this time I took it very serious. I knew there was no way I could ever put this all behind me if I didn’t complete the probation. I found a job immediately and got my own place with the help of my aunt and uncle.”

Eventually Jenkins met her husband now of 10 years and went to college and had two wonderful children. She is so grateful for the chance to basically start over and be the woman that she had always intended on becoming. She now has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and an AA in Marketing. “I have since then gotten my record expunged/sealed and am now working for a very successful company and raising our children alongside my husband. Things haven’t always been easy, but we’ve made the best of it and continue to strive to be the best parents we can be. Not too many people can say they were given a second chance after committing crimes and society often looks down on those who have. For that, I am truly thankful. I know my mother would be proud of me now.”

Corey's Story

Corey Paul has been through a lot.  He went through seven surgeries in which he couldn't walk for two months each, because his tendons did not grow in his legs and he was extremely flatfooted.  Over the course of most of fifth grade through the end of his freshman year, he could not walk and was bullied.  “I was scared to go to school every day.  I kept telling my parents I wanted to move schools, but I never told them why,” Paul said.  “Every day when I went to school, my name was ‘cripple.’ I was pushed out of my wheelchair or pushed into lockers when I was on crutches.” Paul said people would take his book bag and empty it all over the hall or take stuff out of it that he needed.  He added, “I was slapped and hit a couple times. I have had death threats saying not to come back to school the next year.  When my grandpa died everyone asked me, ‘How's your dead grandfather doing?’”  

Paul said he didn't know how to handle it.  He went to bed every day soon as he got home from school. “I felt like I had no one.”  He said his mom came in his room one day and he was bawling, but he had never told her he was bullied. He eventually told her he couldn't take it anymore. Paul’s mother moved him from Shawnee High School to Spencerville High School.  He said his mom also suggested he start going to church, but she wasn't going to make him. “I moved to Spencerville and started going to church, and I had the biggest support group ever. All the seniors my sophomore year were my best friends, and everyone talked to me.  It was weird being the kid no one talked to, to everyone talking to me.”

Paul said he had wanted to tell his story for an assignment in speech class, and most
of his class was “amazed.”  He said none of the students would have ever known he used to be disabled. Said Paul, “My speech teacher, Mrs. Klosterman, has been such a role model.  She has trained me into going into motivational speaking. I'm currently trying to speak to different schools about bullying and helping other kids who go through bullying.”  

According to, “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.”  The fact that Corey Paul overcame this very sad, very prevalent occurrence is amazing.  Unfortunately, many in Corey Paul’s position are unable to rise above bullying and end up taking their own lives.  Paul said, “Most people don't even realize they get bullied.  It’s just getting worse and worse and people have to start standing up.”

Lastly, Paul said, “I have gratitude for everyone who supported me in my new school, and the news for helping me spread my story.  I am also thankful for my church group and the teen advisory board in Lima for helping me spread my story.”

Mary's Story

Mary Johnson grew up in a small town, in what she calls “an extremely supportive and what some would consider pretty ‘cushy’ household.”  High school, said Johnson, was “amazing” for her; she always had a lot of friends and has always enjoyed socializing.  Johnson said, “I probably started drinking when I was 16 or so, and it wasn't long after that, I would smoke pot. Smoking weed led to me trying mushrooms, ecstasy and acid. By the time I was 18, I had done pretty much every drug out there aside from opiates.”

Johnson said it might sound like denial, but she was always able to do drugs recreationally. “I could do some blow at a party and not want for it for another 6+ months, that sort of thing.” When she was 19 she decided to try college, so she went to the University of Michigan.  Johnson said that lasted a year because she was too interested in the social scene and sleeping in than going to school. She moved home and worked odd and end jobs. When she was 20 she met a guy from Detroit.  She moved in with him a month later.
Johnson’s parents and friends were confused and devastated. After a few weeks of living with “this pretty much complete stranger,” Johnson discovered that the guy was a hardcore heroin addict. Alone and embarrassed, she didn’t know what to do.  She felt trapped. “My decision to move so abruptly left me feeling like I couldn't tell anyone what was really going on, so I lied and faked as if everything was going okay and that we were making a life for ourselves in Detroit.”

 After almost a year of overdoses, physical and mental abuse, and insanity, Johnson gave up and decided to “show” her boyfriend what it was like to live with a drug addict. So she tried heroin for the first time. “It was surreal how low I had put myself. I didn't even recognize who I was anymore.” This was not the life her parents, friends, family or she had envisioned.  By the time she was 21, Turner was a “full-blown, need-to-use-every-day addict with no morals left.” 

Things took a turn.  Johnson said, “Divine intervention occurred and this guy got arrested, giving my parents a chance to swoop in and ‘rescue’ me.” For 2 years, they tried everything from methadone clinics, therapy, “lockdowns” at their house, “tough love.”  Turner said she would go a couple months clean and then relapse. “I could never make it past 2 months without ‘going back out’ breaking everyone's hearts for the millionth time.”
When she was 24, Johnson reconnected with a boy whom she had always had a crush on.  To everyone, it seemed that things were finally starting to turn around. She would still use occasionally on the weekends, but thought she had it under control and that she was “getting away” with it. After about a year, she moved to Ann Arbor with her boyfriend.  Within 2 months, she was using more than she’d ever used in her life. Turner said she was “spending every penny I made on dope. Conniving, stealing, doing whatever I could to feed my addiction.” She said her lifestyle was killing her and every relationship she had. 

“Josh and I were fighting every day, my parents were so depressed they couldn't even come see me, sleep, or enjoy their lives.” She had just turned 25 in September, and a few days after her birthday, she overdosed for the third time.  Her boyfriend Josh found her in the apartment.  Luckily, she survived. Johnson said, “This being the final straw for everyone, we broke up, I moved home, and went through the most excruciating detox ever. I slowly began to piece my life back together. I went to meetings, began to make amends to my parents, reconnected with my old real friends, and began the long journey of building shattered trust.”  Days turned into sober weeks and sober weeks turned into months.  After getting many sober months under her belt, Johnson made the decision to fulfill her dream of becoming a nurse. She enrolled in school in September and is pursuing her passion.

 “I pass tests with A's, have the trust and love of my parents, have self-gratification, respect from my friends and family. And for the first time maybe ever, I can say every aspect of my life is good. I actually have a future,” Johnson said.  “And I got my boyfriend back!” she added.  “It has been a long, hard road, to say the least, but today life is good!”

Johnson recently celebrated a year sober from all opiates.
“I don't want to jinx myself,” Johnson said.  “Addiction is a wicked, terrifying thing.  I'm not saying I'm ‘fixed’ or safe. I sometimes will have dreams about using or catch myself fantasizing about it.” She added, “But what's keeping me going strong is knowing that I don't have to use. And regardless, I've come a hell of a long way from where I was.”

Gratitude for Our Veterans

My dad was in Vietnam.  He never talks about it.  The only time I heard him talk about it (until now) was when I was bartending (one of my many gigs) and this other guy at the bar initiated a conversation with my dad.  Between washing wine glasses and making mixed drinks, I caught bits and pieces of what my dad was saying.  I knew they were in an intense conversation when I saw that my dad was smoking.  (You could still smoke in bars then.)  He smokes cigars sometimes, but the only time I see him smoke a cigarette is when he’s in an intense discussion.

My dad was drafted into the Army in August, 1967, and served through August 1969, (active duty).  He was in transportation and drove a 2 1/2 ton truck.  From January 20, 1968, to January 20, 1969, he served in Vietnam.

Seeing actual combat and mounds of dead Vietnamese soldiers along the road left an indelible impression.  He said, “Children who were 9 or 10 years old were fighting in the war.  Thank God I did not have to face that situation.  The ones I dealt with wanted food, which we gave some of our C-rations to.”
He said, “I don't remember how early the day started, but usually it was about a 15-hour day on the average. Checked out our trucks to make sure the tires and everything were good and where we were going.  We hauled anything from artillery to beer, oil to food. After the trucks were unloaded we had to go to a holding area where many Vietnamese would gather to try and sell us clothes, junk or ‘themselves.’’  Then the long trip back…and if lucky no ambushes, which would be at least once every 3 days.”  He said once they got everything ready for the next day, they ate, showered, and had a beer to relax.

Walt Mangen (my dad) said, “When I was drafted, I, of course, was not thrilled, but was ready for the experience. When told we were heading to Vietnam, I was plenty worried since it was about the only thing on the news.”

Of his overall experience, he said, “That experience will change anyone, and some never have recovered mentally.  I think most people understand we live in a country that has more freedom, and are thankful to the veterans.”

Lou Pothast served in the Army from 1969-1971.  He was drafted and sent to Vietnam.  Pothast became a squad leader in the infantry.  Jungle combat was what Pothast encountered in his role in the war; he patrolled the jungle for enemy positions.
Pothast said of his feelings when he got drafted, that he was too young to know better or be scared.  He also said of the overall experience, “I learned to detach myself from feeling and situations.”  The fact that such an experience can still have quite a profound effect on someone 40 years later, I would think would make anyone grateful that we have such brave individuals in this world who would go through that for us.

Paul Anderson was in the Ohio Army National Guard from 2000 to 2008.  He was a Combat Engineer, but while in Iraq, assigned to do route clearance.  He said, “For our daily missions we would be assigned a route that needed to be cleared, and we would drive looking for IEDs, aka ‘road side bombs.’” 

When Anderson was in Operation Iraqi Freedom, he was stationed at Camp Liberty in Baghdad.  Of anything that left a permanent impression on Anderson while overseas, he said, “The one year in Iraq definitely left a permanent impression. Just seeing how the people there lived, and how much hate the older generation there had against any foreigner.”
Anderson said, “The day-to-day routine was simple. Depending on what time your mission was, it was just like a day-to-day routine back home. Wake up, eat breakfast, get ready for work, go to work, return home (hopefully without incident), eat dinner, go to bed. There was 
some downtime throughout the day where we could call home, go to the store, or play 
Anderson said of his decision to join the National Guard, “I was very proud of myself. I would have never guessed that it would have changed the way I live my life.  Before I didn't have a care in the world. Now I am pretty cautious about certain things. I really hate crowded places now. I have seen what can happen in a crowded place and it isn't pretty.” 
As far as gratitude goes, one thing Anderson is thankful for is the money the National Guard offered for joining.

Many veterans do not like talking about their experiences, and I don’t blame them.  With Veterans Day approaching and seeing that we’re focusing on gratitude this month, I only saw it fitting to speak to at least a couple of veterans, because I think we can all agree on the amount of gratitude we have for the men and women, past and present, who have served for our country so that we can be free.

J. Crew, The President and Rural King

So there I was, crying in the middle of Rural King. 

Let me back up.  I found out I was able to see Barack Obama when he came to Lima last week. I was ecstatic - it’s not every day you get this chance.  I knew this would be something I’d never forget.  I found out all the information, where to go and when, and made sure it was okay with Andy, because it was his birthday.  Andy was cool with it.

I decided to wear J. Crew as a shout-out to Mrs. Obama.  I arrived at the school and excitedly/nervously went through all the check points.  Once I got into the gymnasium, my excitement skyrocketed.  The energy in the room was on full blast.  You could just feel it in the air.  Something magical was about to happen. 

As soon as the podium was being prepared, indicating Obama’s imminent arrival, the energy level went up even a few more notches. Several people spoke first before the president came out.  The woman who sang The National Anthem gave me chills that started in my toes and crept up my legs to the tips of my hair.  It was so clear, so full of feeling, and so beautiful.

Then it was showtime.

As soon as Obama started making his way to the stage, the electricity in the room soared.  I felt like a giddy school girl.  The feeling in that room is really indescribable.  Everything Obama said was met with fervent, thunderous applause.  There was such a sense of unity, of heartfelt expression from him, and of approval from everyone else.  I haven’t experienced that since I went to Gay Pride in Columbus a few years ago.  It’s hard to explain. 

Obviously there are tons of issues that we’ll debate until we’re blue in the face.  And we’re passionate about those issues – rightly so.  But when President Obama said things like, “We’re in this together,” and “Everybody has a voice,” it made me feel differently than those political attack ads make me feel – which is annoyed, disgusted, and annoyed some more.  His speech made me think more about all of us – every American – not just every liberal.

Yes, we’ll definitely have disagreements on various issues until the end of time.  I just wish we could all experience, and hold onto, the strong sense of unity, pride, and hope that I got to experience on Friday.

As soon as the event was over, I was on a high.  I felt great; I wanted to see someone, anyone, and tell them how amazing it was to see and hear the president.  Between a family gathering for Andy’s birthday immediately following, and Andy wanting to spend some of his birthday money right after that, I didn’t get a chance to talk about it.

Our family recently moved – like last week – and even though that’s a good thing, I think I’ve had a ball of stress imbedded inside me from that, from trying to meet all kinds of writing deadlines (and worrying, as usual, that anything I write is good) and I think the magnitude of getting to see the president live turned into this catalyst.  So I was at Rural King watching Andy try on various flannel shirts, and I just started crying.  I sort of have a flair for having emotional breakdowns at the most inopportune moments anyway…when emotions hit me, they just hit me, and hard…and I can’t help where I am or what I’m doing.  I think all the emotion that I felt at the event was inside me, waiting to spill over.  What had just actually happened hadn’t hit me yet.

So maybe it just sounds stupid.  And I didn’t start full-blown bawling right away…I really saved that for the ride home.  But there I was, in the middle of Rural King, fully grasping just how important and real this election is.  We hear it all the time, how important voting is…but seeing the president live, in person…I get it.  I really get it.  We are what make up this country…we are all powerful.  I’m not saying everyone should have a cathartic moment in a farming supply store.

But please vote tomorrow.

“When people tell me I’m a hero…I don’t think I’ve done anything heroic,” said Kathy Jeffries.  Last year around the end of October, Jeffries found a lump.  She had a mammogram and ultrasound done, finding a fluid-filled cyst.  The radiologist said they could give it six months and then see how it goes.

“I didn’t know what to do, I was nervous, scared. I’ve never been sick. Ever. Nothing…I asked the doctor if it was his wife, would he have it aspirated right away. He said yes. Looking back, this whole experience is frustrating. I was frustrated I had to put my life in these people’s hands, trusting him. He was factual. I was being emotional.”

“One in a hundred cysts have cancer,” Jeffries said.  “What did I do?  Because I’m so fat?  Because I drink?”  Jeffries biggest fear now is having it come back.  “There are so many unanswered questions…”

Before cancer, Jeffries said, “I was a workaholic… I am so much more chilled out about stuff.  I used to get upset about things, but it’s heping me take a breath and say it really isn’t that urgent. But in a bad way too, I feel my expiration date has been altered.  You know, that bucket list. We were talking about building a house…before I got cancer.”

Jeffries opted for a lumpectomy.  With chemo, she lost her hair, her skin got so dry, and her tongue was burned; she had to watch her mouth for sores.  “I was feeling tired and woozy. Upset to my stomach. I had mild symptoms compared to some people.”  Though her symptoms were “mild” compared to some others, “losing your hair, that’s what makes you a woman.  Having breasts,” Jeffries said.  After her first chemo treatment, it took “14 days, and all my hair was out. It started coming out in clumps, in the shower.  I just went and got it shaved. I started wearing wigs, keeping my head covered. I had a hard time looking at myself without hair. I felt very ugly. I wouldn’t look when I had my hair off. Looking in the mirror without hair was a reminder that I was sick.”
“People see me now and I’m exercising, trying to live my life…on the inside it’s been less than a year; I still have pains from the surgery.  I feel like my brain’s broken.”

Jeffries said, “I’m a caretaker. It’s the nature of who I am. It was really hard to let people take care of me. I felt weak, completely incompetent. I had to be okay with it.  It’s still hard. I should be focusing on my health and not worrying about little things. I worry that people see me as incompetent. I try to swallow my pride and say, life is different. It’s okay to let people do things for me.”

As far as how this affected her marriage, Jeffries said, “It brought us together closer as a couple. It’s completely changed us. I had to let him take care of me and be okay with it. And he did a fabulous job.  It made our relationship stronger…but there are strains taking care of somebody…”
As far as friends are concerned, Jeffries said, “Some stepped up, wanted to do whatever they could…other friends drifted away, didn’t want to talk about it…I don’t want it to define who I am, though it affected more than just my body.  It affected my relationships.”

“The biggest thing that helped me was knowing I’m not alone”, Jeffries said.  To someone who has just been diagnosed, Jeffries said, “Don’t do it alone. Cancer sucks.  I don’t want it to define who I am, but it’s part of my life.  Get checked every three months.  A year ago when I did a half marathon, that’s when I found it.  And now I’m gonna go get ready for my next half marathon.”

As far as gratitude goes, Jeffries said, “The gratitude in my heart is overwhelming. Everyone who’s supported me and helped me…it’s overwhelming. The love I feel… I want to try to pay it back. I’m trying to heal, my body, and my head.  I just want to try to repay everyone who’s helped me. I don’t know how, but I want to try. Just, when you hear the word ‘cancer,’ when it’s in your life, it changes your life forever.”

About Me

I have an MA in literature from Eastern Michigan University and I write a couple of regular columns for The Delphos Herald. I am the mother of two young girls, and the wife of a firefighter. I am also bipolar (with generalized anxiety disorder) which somewhat accounts for my occupied mind. I rely on sarcasm the way others rely on oxygen.
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