Better The Devil You Know: I’m Starving (Chapter 2)

My story continues…

If you would like to read Part 1 of Chapter 1 go here.

Note:  Right now I am digging through all of my mother’s photos of this period of time. She was an avid photographer and I’m looking for the best possible photos that will better accompany my story.  Interestingly, she is rarely IN a photo – most of her art was capturing other’s life events.  I posted a photo of her on my About Me page if you are curious.

Request:  If you are reading this on my Word Press site http://www.SaritaShoemaker.com (look at the URL) I would really appreciate comments.  Especially questions.

Chapter 1, Part 2

Better The Devil You Know:  I’m Starving

The Cult staffers came and went from the attic once in a while. The ancient door’s knob was replaced by a giant screwdriver and duct tape.  It was never open and I assumed it was a large closet.  I jostled the screwdriver quietly and pushed.

I crouched to adjust my eyes to the dim slice of light that fell across the floor. It was  a small room stacked from the floor to ceiling with legal size manilla folders packed with white tattered paper between 1 and 2 inches fat.
There seemed to be a organized system to the folders with names and numbers progressing upward.  I had never seen so many of these folders in one place.  This was where I discovered a narrow door that lead to a darkened unused staircase.

staircase-oil-paintingEvery wooden step creaked as I tip toed downward.  This was a servants route and not well kept.  The only light came from two windows the size of dinner plates  high above my head.  The dark green paint was peeling and two landings were missing floorboards.  I stayed on the inside edge hugging the banister tightly.

Making it down to the second story I heard voices through the walls.  I was now passing the sacred private session rooms and a strict Code of Absolute Silence was enforced.  You could hear a pin drop and I held my breath as a step creaked loudly.  I waited and counted to 60 all the while expecting a door to swing open.  I could hear my stomach growl loudly prodding me onward.

I heard a conversation and stopped again.

A man with a deep voice I recognized was talking.  I squeezed my eyes shut to hear better.  It was a Session.  Completely secret interviews between a Cult Auditor and a Public person.  Everything said would be written down verbatim and placed in those legal size folders that were stacked in the attic.  You were not allowed to touch your own folder and absolutely forbidden from looking inside of it.  

“Go to that incident and tell me what you see”, commanded the deep voice.
“I can’t see much.  Just a river and a my gun.  It’s hot and I’m not feeling very good” a new voice replied.  I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman.  
“OK.  Go to that incident and tell me what you see” Deep Voice repeated.
“I told you, I don’t feel very good.”
“I understand.  Go to that incident and tell me what you see” Deep Voice calmly repeated.
“I’m serious, I don’t feel good.  I want to stop.  I need to go.” This time I could tell it was a woman and she was anxious.
“OK, I got that.  We can stop soon enough. Now, about that incident near a river, go to that incident and tell me what you see.”

I decided I didn’t care what happened at the river, so I continued down to the first floor and into the giant kitchen which was only half of my escape plan.

This was a Member’s Only space, off limits if you were not a full fledged employee of The Cult.  There was the refrigerator that always had food in it, unlike ours.

The floor was checkered black and white linoleum tiles.  There were missing portions that exposed the weathered floorboards and nail holes.  The west side had two giant double-pane windows.  One was painted shut with a green clay colored sheet nailed at the top as a make-shift curtain and the other required Herculean strength to open and a broken off broom handle keep it that way.

Again, my stomach growled reminding me of my plan to grab a bite to eat.

gas-fridge-btdyk-c1-2The refrigerator knocked, pinged then hummed as I approached it.   I pulled the Vegas slot machine handle down very slowly to be as quiet as possible waiting for the click.  The pressure changed and the light popped on.  I peered in the crack and my heart sank when I saw it was empty except for a giant lightbulb in the back.  Dang it.  I’m so hungry!

I carefully closed the door and it clicked shut.  

Next to the refrigerator was the porcelain sink and a long counter with shelves above it, all of them missing the doors.  A few plates and bowls sat on the bottom shelf directly above the coffee maker and half filled pot.  I noticed the red Foldger’s can and sign taped on it that someone scrawled “Coffee 25 cents per cup, NO IOUs”.    

I formulated my new plan and headed to the coffee tin.  The plastic top had an opening cut in it that a quarter would easily pass through.  I tugged on it slightly to see if it would give.  It did and I peeled it back.  I didn’t want to move the can for fear of making a sound so I lifted myself up on the counter edge with both arms and peered in.  I could see the bottom of the can past the nickels and pennies.  Not one quarter.  I bit my lip and reached in carefully for the change.  

Onward, to find food elsewhere.

It was dusk and I could see and hear lights and cars passing in the distance out the open window.  I stuck my head and right leg over the waist high sill bumping the stick and immediately the window began to drop onto my shoulders. I was awkwardly straddling.  It was heavier than I thought.  I could change my mind and turn around or I could push with all of my might and wedge the handle back in.  I chose the latter then jumped the four feet into the bushes and spider webs, crouched down and scoped out my next route. The window stayed open and I planned to return on my same path.

The grounds around the mansion could be a set for a horror movie.  A massive dry fountain surrounded by dirt, fallen leaves and dead grass, enormous overgrown trees,  12 foot high hedges, bougainvillea growing out of control across windows and entryways.   Thorny bushes creeped all along the ground floor seeping into the four sunken basement entries.  
This was a problem because I was barefoot.

With thorns between my toes and in my right heel I dashed across the 100 yards of lawn to the road where I could hear traffic. Straight ahead I could see a corner store just beyond an abandoned parking lot.    It was getting dark fast.  The lights of the corner store were on.  I committed to my cult-law breaking escape and squeezed through the towering hedges on my stomach.

I was very hungry and I had 5 nickels and 2 pennies in my fist. I felt rich.

Dodging cars I raced across the road to the smokey dirty entryway.  I pulled with all my might to open the beat up cracked glass door. The overhead bell jingled in a broken melody.

I made it.  My first visit to 21st Street Market.  Despite the small size of the building there were aisles crammed with food.  I had to make some big decisions. Ten Tootsie Rolls and one Zero Bar.  I considered stealing some watermelon Pop Rocks but changed my mind feeling remorseful of the criminal that I’d become.  That left me 2 cents, which  I decided I’d put back in the coffee kitty.

This was my life now.  I was a squirrel trying to get a nut, by any means.  Five finger discounts became my way to survive.

The bell jingled again as I exited.  I used it as a Starting Gun and began counting seconds in my mind to see how long it would take me to make it back to the attic.  This time I hung a left at the tall hedge surrounding the perimeter where I’d squeezed through heading to the northwest corner of the property near a dark ally that led to the Carriage House.  It was darker and no one could possibly see me.  I maneuvered back to the open window and heard talking.  I crouched down and hid.  My heart raced and I stopped counting seconds. Now I had to focus on getting back into that window sill a foot above my reach.   I looked around for something to stand on but could not see, it was too dark.
Time to make a new plan, quick.

I’d passed mom’s car when returning through the staff lot.  It was parked in the closest of four spaces and the windows were down.  I dashed over to it and opened the passenger door quickly taking a seat putting my feet up on the dash.  I would wait for someone to come out and then let them see me exiting the car.  Then they would assume I’d been there the whole time.

I sat staring intently toward the front of the mansion where a porch with missing balusters wrapped the entire southwest side.  It was pitch black except for the bit of light that spilled from the overhead porch casting shadows onto the narrow walkway leading to the parking lot.

After ten long minutes had passed I saw a figure dash down the stairs quickly moving toward me.  It was Marlin, a staff member with a giant fuzzy fro and mustache.  He was a Course Supervisor and had a big ego.
He held a large folder under his arm and an unlit smoke in his mouth.  His pace slowed as I saw the flicker of light each time he attempted to light up.  Finally he was forced to stop and he saw me.  I felt a pang and then swallowed deeply sitting up and opening the door.

“What the fuck are you doing out here?” He asked still holding his smoke between his lips.  I lied without hesitation, “I was waiting in the car till now.” Walking past him breathing in and secretly enjoying the second hand smoke and catching the scent you get when its first lit.

“You are a fucking trouble maker aren’t you?”  It wasn’t a question.

I ignored him and walked slowly to the porch steps staying on the darker edge as I ascended into the brightly lit foyer.  The old glass door had been propped open so I slipped in pretending to look at the pamphlets left on display.

There were staff and public milling around talking gaily.  No one looked my way and I figured I was safe.  

I hadn’t even considered I would be accused of stealing from the coffee tin later that night.   At 10:05pm, after Indoctrination was over, I was pulled from to be dealt with and pay for my unproven and unethical behavior.

###

What do you think so far?

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Cleaning Your Instant Pot

My mother was a complete nag on a few topics (of which I am eternally grateful).
Clean your body every day, brush your teeth and floss, make your bed, change your sheets once a week, brush your hair, wear clean clothes and when I graduated to having my very own kitchen: keep your kitchen and its contents sparkling and in good condition at all time.
That’s why I am proud to say I have kept a Black and Decker Toaster for way beyond its lifetime expectancy. My pots and pans are in great condition and if my mom hadn’t mistakenly given all of her pots and pans to her employee, I’d have inherited the set she purchased in Germany before I was born (dang it…get yourself a Living Trust people).
I have discovered my Instant Pot has one bothersome flaw: the ring inside the lid absorbs the flavors of the dishes I’m making. That then transfers to my next meal.  
I called IP Tech
Support (yes, a live person answered and he was mighty nice) and he warned me not to take the ring out often. I’d been removing it, scrubbing it and letting it sit in soapy dishwater. That will erode the perfect seal.
DO

  • Wash with a soft and dish soap bubbly sopping wet rag.
  • Clean lid with the rag and pick out any food particles with a soft toothbrush.
  • Dry the lid upside down OUTSIDE IN THE SUNSHINE.
  • Order a second ring or even third. Switch out the ring with the food – sweet and salty – you cook.
  • Tilt the IP on its side next to the sink and clean out the mote between the outside and inside.
  • Pull out the water catch and rinse it then let it fully dry before putting it back.
  • Store the pot with the lid upside down (so air can get to all parts).
  • Clean your pot (and the rack) after every use sooner to the completion of your dish than later.
  • Dry the removable pot and rack (do not let them drip dry) immediately.
  • Wipe down the inside heating unit carefully with the above wet rag (squeeze it out before).

DON’T 

  • Use anything but dish soap and warm water.
  • Submerge the lid!
  • Remove the inner ring often.  

None of the DON’TS are disasterous.
The point is to keep your unit in good working condition (did you fill in your Warranty Card?) to last for generations if possible.
Happy Cooking and Happy Cleaning!
Great news!  Get $50 off your very own InstantPot by using Coupon Code 805BC at checkout.  You need to buy from Instant Pot’s website directly.  GO THERE NOW CLICK HERE

Homemade Cinnamon Applesauce: 4 Minutes Flat

Don’t throw out “old” or “tired” apples.  Make applesauce instead.  You can use applesauce to replace oils, sweeten a recipe naturally or just have as a snack.  
Ingredients

5 apples, cored (not peeled)

1t cinnamon

2T butter 
Directions

  1. Place all of your ingredients on the counter before turning on the InstantPot.
  2. Chop apples in medium slices. 1 apple should net you 6 cuts. Remove stem and seeds plus seed shells. If you really only have 4 minutes, cut apple into 12 chunks. Chunks should be same size.
  3. Set InstantPot to SAUTÉ.
  4. Add butter then count to 4 while it melts and add apples.  
  5. Stir butter and apples until they begin to sizzle (about a minute).
  6. Sprinkle cinnamon in and stir.
  7. Place lid on InstantPot.
  8. Reset to MANUAL mode.
  9. Timer at 4 minutes.
  10. Let pressure release naturally (if possible). If not, cut the apple chunks into equal smaller sizes (so one apple getting you 12 cuts for example).

I use a dry erase marker to indicate when I make a dish.
5 apples made this much chunky applesauce.

Apple sauce can be chunky or smoother. It can be used to replace oils in recipes and also sweeten food naturally.  
For a less chunky applesauce, place finished apples in a blender and pulse until you get the consistencies you are looking for.
Store in a air tight container.
Use before 3-4 days – it if lasts that long!  

I Cannot See The Stars Anymore

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I’m beginning to appreciate everything more now.

ANOTHER dear friend of mine passed away last week.  Mary Smith.

I wish I had a photo of us together.  I am always the one TAKING the photos of people I love, animals I love, places I love.

Up until she passed away, she  pushed me to “go for it” when we talked about plans and wishes and dreams.  She encouraged me with ideas and ways to make it happen.  Every time I saw her she had a boot camp exercise idea – and they sounded like fun and tough.

Our last lunch together we talked about camping and adventuring out on the mountains.  My husband is an Ultra Runner which means he runs all night and has been through some fun adventures I SORT OF want to experience too.

Mary, Dan and I loved listening to Randy tell us his ultra running stories.  Mary told us about some of her fun times too.

She treated us like her own family asking questions that dug deep and were personal.

Because of that, and the fact that we’ve been friends for over 10 years now, I decided to ask her a pointy question.  “Why don’t you and Dan leave this home (Assisted Living Facility) and travel the world?”

I saw her brows drop for a moment then she took a very deep breath and hugged her cereal-box sized black “portable oxygen concentrator” machine closer to her chest.  It looked like it hurt to just breath.  She winced as she exhaled and said louder than I’ve heard her speak, “I can’t see the stars anymore.”

“What?  What do you mean?” I asked.  I was sitting right next to her and felt her annoyed frustration.

“My eyes. My vision.  I can’t see much anymore at night.  My eyes are failing.”

This sunk in as I mentally faded out of the conversation imagining what she said. The three of them kept talking but I have no idea what about.  I was lost in my own thoughts with my life being close to over and not having seen the Aurora Borealis or Niagra Falls.

I checked back in when the Chef began shouting out what the Special Of The Day would be from the center of the dining hall we were in.

Tables of 4 and 8 filled this giant room we were in.  Each table had at least 2 elderly people propped up (mostly) to eat.  Not much conversation was happening outside of the tables where families had come to visit.  Those tables also included the squeal of toddlers and babies bored or hungry while grandma or grandpa fawned over them.

Carts of jello in single-serving glass dishes and carrot cake rolled by, the Attendant smiling anticipating choices.  Mary said they already know exactly what she and Dan would want so they didn’t have to order.  She was pretty stoked about that.  They’d only been in this place a few weeks so I was happy to hear they were getting treated especially nice.

I felt like I was in a chapter of Alice In Wonderland.

Without realizing it Mary’s comment woke me up from a fog.

I still don’t know what my “Dreams” are but I will decided right there I’d appreciate MORE what I have and try to figure my dreams out.  I’m pretty sure they have animals and the planet in them.  I need and WANT to dream outside of my box!  To be inspired to LIVE before my final day on this beautiful blue and green marble we call Earth.

If you have your mom around still, I’d recommend you find out what she would love to experience and help her do it.   I wish I could have done more for my mom.

I have met more people in the last 12 years of my life than the prior 47.  They have influenced me in many different deep ways.  They’ve shown me what life is like outside of my own, and I have more gratitude for what I have (and do not have) because of it.

This video below was very inspirational to me.

I hope you watch it all the way through and get LIVING.

Rest In Peace Mary Smith.

You have changed my life for the better.  Every moment I spent with you was incredible.   I don’t know what happens when we die but I hope to see you and laugh with you again long from now.   I’m going to figure out this LIVE thing as quick as I can.

 

Garbanzo Bean Black Lentil Stew in 12 Minutes Flat

Black Lentil Garbanzo Bean Stew In 12 minutes flat

More time is spent chopping the vegetables you want to put into this stew than it takes to cook it in the Instant Pot.
I think Instant Pot and recipes like this can inspire our kids to learn how to cook.
You’ll need

  1. Instant Pot (Pressure Cooker)
  2. Sharp chopping knife and cutting board (I use a different board for onion and garlic)
  3. 1t EVOO or 3T water (for sauté portion)
  4. 1 diced onion
  5. 6 diced garlic
  6. 6 cups vegetable broth
  7. 1t cayenne
  8. 1/2t cinnamon (optional)
  9. 1t turmeric
  10. 1 bay leaf
  11. 1 cup chopped carrots
  12. 3 celery stalks chopped
  13. 32 oz crushed tomato
  14. 1 1/2 cup rinsed lentils (I used black, any type work – the all turn brown)
  15. 1 cup broccoli chopped
  16. 1 cup cauliflower chopped
  17. 1 large sweet potato skin ON, diced
  18. 3 potatoes skin ON (regular) chop dice-size
  19. 1 can of garbanzo beans (rinsed)
  20. Place all of your ingredients on counter IN ADVANCE measured out.
  21. Turn Instant Pot on sauté mode
  22. Add oil or 3T of water
  23. Immediately add garlic, onion, carrots and celery and toss for 3 minutes (until softer or onions translucent)
  24. Add spices, stir well
  25. Add crushed tomato, stir
  26. Add lentils
  27. Add broth
  28. Add lentils
  29. Add remainder of ingredients
  30. Cancel InstantPot then immediate press MANUAL MODE
  31. Check the pressure knob is on “PRESSURE” setting
  32. Set manual mode to HIGH pressure and 12 minutes and allow pressure to reduce on its own

In a rush to eat? Cook for 14 minutes and release steam (BE CAREFUL it is super hot!)
I put all of these steps to make it easy to follow.

I hope you enjoy!
Great news! Get $50 off your very own InstantPot by using Coupon Code 805BC at checkout. You need to buy from Instant Pot’s website directly. GO THERE NOW CLICK HERE

Rinsing Black Beans

Am I Accused Of Voter Fraud? You Decide

 

header-blur-img-voter-fraud-marl-lunn-letter-dec-2016_0001

I was not the only person to have trouble at the Primary’s this year.

Did anyone else get this letter?

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Here is my response…I would LOVE to hear from anyone that had this same letter and experience.

10 December 2016

Assistant Registrar of Voters
800 South Victoria Avenue
Ventura, CA 93009-1200

Subject: Accused of Voting TWICE in the 2016 Primary Election

Dear Mr Lunn and/or Tracy Saucedo,

Thank you for your alarming letter I received Thursday December 8th, 2016.

I am more than happy to explain my “voting experience” this year.  As you can most likely see, I have been a voting citizen since I was given the privilege to cast my vote.

This privilege is very important to me and I spend time reading all of the Voter Information that is sent to me.

I don’t know how two ballots could have been received for me.  I did not Vote twice.

Unusual behavior did start in the Primary for me though.  

Here is what I can best recollect, starting then.  Mind you, I have NEVER had so much confusion connected to voting and I made it known IMMEDIATELY to the Officials at my Primary Voting Site.

EXPERIENCE

I was Registered as a ______.

I got my Primary paperwork and brought it with me to my established Polling Location (the Simi Valley Public Library).

I arrived EARLY (which is my usual plan).

My name was NOT on the list, yet I was holding the pamphlet and Polling Station information.
There was no one there to help figure this out.  I was handed a phone number to call and figure out what to do.  I couldn’t get through – the lines were jammed.  I went back into the Polling Station and someone told me the District Manager (I think that was the title, it was explained he was in-charge of all of the neighborhood polling stations) would be arriving very soon.  I sat on the steps of the Library waiting for him and continued to dial the Voter Hotline (never getting through).

An older gentleman arrived and determined I would fill in a Write-In Ballot.  He brought me into the Polling Station and the people checking voters in gave me a ballot then took my information down.

While I was there, by the way, I met 4 or 5 more people with the same exact situation.  They were registered ______ and their names  were not on the list.  Later in the day I talked with 3 other people that said the same thing had happened (I did not ask them what their Party was).
It was completely fishy, in my opinion.

I cast my vote and took the slip that was torn off.  I was concerned my vote would be counted and told to check the number on the ballot later in the day.  Approximately two days later I went online to check the code that was given to me and it said my ballot was received.  I forgot all about that.

Sometime in-between the Primary and Nov 8th, 2016 (closer to the Primary) I decided I wanted to change my Party.  So I went online and followed the directions.

I cannot remember if I chose to “Write In Vote” or not.  Personally I feel it is important to go to the Polling Station in person, thank the Volunteers, cast my votes, thank the Volunteers again and proudly wear my sticker I VOTED.  When you write-in, you don’t get the sticker.  I’ve collected these over the years with my Ballot Tabs and I have them somewhere in my storage.

I got myself educated on all of the Candidates and Issues using the Voter Manual (I cannot remember what it is called).

On November 8th I went to my Polling Station (Township Elementary) and cast my votes with my daughter.

No where between the Primary to November 8th did I send in my Ballot or Votes.
I do not remember what Party I was categorized in when I arrived at Township on November 8th.  I do know my name was on the list and I was crossed off.

I walked home with my daughter and that was it.

I hope this helps.

My husband, by the way, DID get a Write-In Ballot which he returned on time.  

Thank you.

Sarita Shoemaker
Birthday
Address

Feel free to call me if you need to:  phone number

Better The Devil You Know: 1976 (Chapter 1)

It was 1976. I was 9 years old and The Cult was growing.

Daily visits to the Indoctrination Classrooms were required.  “Two and a half hours or more” barked the person who seemed in charge, “or your dedication will be suspect.”
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They said they had the answers, so she signed on the line.

She was officially “in” and nothing could or would stop her.

Things would need to change in order for this to work.  Mom held two jobs and received $180 a month from our dad in child support.   We had two sets of clothing and one pair of shoes which we rarely wore.  Food filled our refrigerator when she could find something decent in the back alley of the grocery store on Lane Avenue, always in the dark using the car headlights to dumpster dive.

Somehow the three of us were able to spend a lot of time together building forts, playing make-believe or at our athletic events.

With Public Assistance, we were included in  softball and soccer leagues from age 9 to 13 which kept us busy, hungry and tired.  Almost every game I hitched a ride with a teammate’s family and then waited for her to pick me up.  She was always late.  More times than not, the lights on the fields turned off and I sat on the curb in the empty parking lot hugging my glove between my knees scared to death.  She never apologized for being late or even acknowledged I was scared.
home-on-land-grandmas-house
We lived with grandma in small postage-stamp size two story house.  All of my family battled problems with drugs and drinking which is why there was never alcohol in our empty refrigerator.  We slept in my Uncle’s room, all three of us on two twin size beds among his hoarded electronics junk.

No one in her family knew what she was doing or why things dramatically changed overnight.

We moved into a subsidized housing development called Winchester Station and completely disconnected from everyone.  I was heartbroken.

Nightly, because she couldn’t afford a sitter,  she dragged us with her to mandatory classes from 6:00pm until 11:00pm at The Prentise-Tulford Manor, the Cult’s local “Church”.

Supper was a hard boiled egg or spoon of peanut butter and an apple which was never satisfying.  I often supplemented meals from the “Staff Only” refrigerator taking bites out of cold chicken,  old sandwiches or spooning yogurt before someone walked into the kitchen.  My arms were long enough to reach into the vending machines and grab whatever the bottom row had to offer which is how my love for Tiger Milk Bars began.

We parked in the back of the property with a few other cars where the old spooky carriage barn doubled as parking for paying parishioners and junk storage.

Because she was always running late we were hurried to the attic where 3 other kids would be stashed as well.  I was the oldest, but I wasn’t in charge due to my awful self-esteem.  10 years old and 111 lbs,  I was considered obese and weathered the taunts outside of my home regularly. My little sister was 6 and thin as a rail.

Day after day the routine was the same and I watched our family-time extinguished while time in the attic grew out of control.  Weekdays in the evening and weekends all day.

The Queen-Anne style 17 room mansion was built in the late 19th Century with gargantuan glass windows, tall ceilings, dark wood floor and decades of gaudy wallpaper peeling off the hacked up plaster walls.  It smelled like rotting death and our piece of this heaven was the top story where servants had lived.

Any improvements must have ended in the 1950’s because exposed wires with fabric casings poked out from the walls and only two of the four bathroom toilets flushed.  The painted doors had their original hardware and a giant staircase into the foyer transported you back in time when the wealthy Banker entertained his clientele.  Despite the bronze and crystal chandelier missing a lot of gems it still twinkled and along with the wall sconces it lit the foyer.  To me it was just an enormous haunted sparkling penitentiary.

Two double-hung windows at the far end of the attic let a small amount of light in during the day.   That was the only connection to the outside world we had, and despite spending hours looking out I never saw one person even glance in our direction day or night.

The 200-watt bulbs dangling from the rafters cast shadows like a disco tech in every direction giving me the creeps thinking about what spiders, bugs and secrets lurked in the dark corners.

We slept, read, played card games and worked for the few cult staff members folding letters, stamping envelopes, filing or any other menial task you could trust a kid to do.  Every single adult smoked and had awful coffee breath.

Like Lord Of The Flies, we policed each other tattling on any unacceptable behavior to Bennick, the short, bearded local leader with beady blue eyes.  There was never a conversation to determine guilt or innocence.  He treated us like the Cult Holy Scriptures told him to and we were punished with a choice: manual labor or getting my mother banned from the group.

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I tried my best to lay low most of the time keeping occupied with stacks of books while my hatred for being forced to stay put for so long grew  every single day.   I knew this was abuse, but who could I tell?

Reading was my escape and seemed to be my mother’s as well.  Before 1976 she took her research with her in the bath flipping pages until she fell asleep often dropping the book into the tepid water.  I sat on the toilet perusing her pile of soul-searching materials asking questions about her life.  She never had a satisfying reply which kept me questioning.

Symbolism, Numerology, Palmistry, Astrology,  Scientology, Parents Without Partners, Alcoholics Anonymous, The Bible, Wicca, Christian Science, Homeopathy, Naturopath, Cupping, Coning and Reflexology.  Every trip to the library resulted in another topic.

There was one book I read cover to cover in one sitting.  At 9 years old, it changed the way I processed my thinking.

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“Have You Lived Before This Life”  with true experiences from real people.  This was a page-turner with each chapter telling a different tale taking me through life histories filled with crime and a few naughty bits.  Case Study after Case Study and 174 pages later, I believed it completely and began to put more significance in my own unexplained thoughts.  I opened my mind a crack.

There we were, one easily influenced mother and two little girls.  We renovated, protested, paraded, met with government officials and sold books authored by the cult leader. We always had quotas to make.  No matter what we were doing, mom was expected in the Indoctrination Room to meet her 2 ½ hour daily minimum or face the Ethics Officer.

Nothing was an acceptable excuse to avoid participation.  School, softball practice, homework, playing.  Childhood, as we knew it, was over.  I was told by a cult staffer, “You are not children, you are able members in small bodies!”

I began a protest that got my mother in a lot of trouble.

She needed us to stop all resistance and conform as well.  Her plan was to become a full time member and take us with her, wherever that meant we would go.  She told us we would be living in a lighthouse on the coast of Maine and brought home magazines and maps about the eastern seaboard.  It got me excited and willing to support her and temporarily stop causing trouble.  I would do anything to get out of the attic and away from the embarrassment I felt among my friends in the real world.

There was really only one big problem still looming.

Before my mother joined the Cult she was part of a competitor cult called The Mereta Group.   Because of that she would never be completely trusted. She was treated cautiously and watched closely by the local Executive Structure.  The slightest infraction was documented and she was called to the carpet by the Ethics Department to explain, in writing, what she did to cause the problem and how she would ensure it would never happen again, ever.  Until the Ethics Officer was satisfied with mom’s compliance, she would not be allowed back into the Course Room, which she craved.

servent-steps-in-mansion-oilMy sticky fingers and regular verbal complaints about our situation got her in trouble on a regular basis.  She begged me to knock-it-off and tried to convince me things would be alright.

Every so often she lectured us about responsibility and ethics at the start of our drive home in our beat up old blue Gremlin.  I had no concept of what she was talking about.

Our life now completely revolved around her required training time.  Kids in the attic and adults in the Course Room, every single weekday from 6:00pm to 11:00pm and even longer on the weekends from 9:00am until 11:00pm.

My attitude went from bothered to indignantly furious about spending so much time in that attic.  This was an unguarded prison to me.  I was embarrassed by my mother so I never told anyone about what was happening to us.  I wanted to escape.  So I did. thirteen times.

There were hidden doors and paths throughout the Mansion and I quietly sought them out.  It took me four tries before I could get from the attic to the kitchen without being detected.