Personal Development

Autobiography | Chapter 4: Eighteen and Single

Chapter completed Monday 3 July 2017

My 18th year was bittersweet.  After I was expelled from the Sanderson household  just a few days after I turned 18 for back-talking Grace, I stayed with one of my best friends for a couple of weeks.  In late January, I flew to Georgia to live with Clay and Amara (Grace and Dean’s son and daughter-in-law, whom I consider to be my brother and sister-in-law/best friends) for about five months.  After that, I lived in a transitional home for two months, then an extended-stay hotel for two weeks, then my own apartment for two months, then with my new boyfriend for the remainder of my 18th year (and beyond).  

Back-Story

During spring break of the previous year (c. March 2008), Clay and Amara came over from Colorado to visit us.  During their week-long stay, they invited me to live with them to help me transition into adulthood. I thought the idea was absolutely wonderful, however, Grace did not.  She thought that I would be a burden to them, since Clay had (and still has) a highly stressful career as a JAG in the Air Force. And their daughter, Marina, was a toddler at the time.  

I remember initiating an evening discussion with Grace about Clay and Amara’s invitation a week or two after they left.  I barely recall the actual discussion itself, but what I mostly remember is that Grace used my faults to illustrate why she felt I didn’t deserve to move to Clay and Amara’s.  I cried myself to sleep that night. And the next morning, during the process of getting ready for school, I cried more and hit myself as I sunk to the floor in front of my bureau, engulfed by feelings of inferiority, grief, and utter defeat.  

But, God had different plans.  A couple of months later (June 2008), after I wrote to Clay about the conversation I had with Grace, he reassured me that “we still want you to come live with us when you turn 18 – the sooner, the better.  So, if you can finish high school in the fall without hurting yourself academically for the future, we want you to come live with us as soon as you turn 18 in January.” Four days later, I replied to him that I would be able to get all of my required credits during the first semester to graduate with my advanced diploma, but I would have to be dually-enrolled in both high school and an accredited university for the second semester.

That summer, I went to summer school to retake a couple of classes that I had failed (Chemistry and Algebra II); and I was able to fly solo to Colorado to visit Clay and Amara in July for a week or two afterward.  Six months later, when I had only been 18 for a few days, I was expelled from the Sanderson residence for “back-talking” Grace on the way from one of my psychotherapy sessions after school. As soon as we arrived inside our residence, I called one of my best friends, Angelina. That evening is a bit of a blur, but by the end of it, I made it safe and sound to Angelina’s house.  

I lived with my friend, her awesome mother, her little sister, and her somewhat-estranged stepfather for two busy-but-happy weeks.  Then, the first semester of my senior year ended. On Friday, January 23rd, I was Georgia bound (Clay and Amara had moved to Georgia shortly after I left Colorado).  

A New Beginning in Georgia

I stayed with Clay and Amara at their house on Robins Air Force Base (RAFB) for five months.  That last week in January and the entire month of February was busy.  Amara especially helped me beaucoups – with college applications, including my personal statement; starting my own domestic services business, mostly on-base; registering for the Congressional Award; enrolling in online college courses for high school; and other adult tasks, like opening a new bank account.  (Maybe saying she “helped me beaucoups” is an understatement, though, because she actually went above and beyond during the various processes to ensure my success.)

College applications were started first, I believe, after I took the weekend to settle in.  I applied at 3-5 different colleges altogether – one or two in Georgia (Savannah College of Art & Design, maybe Valdosta State University) and the remaining in Virginia (Radford University, etc.) – but I can’t remember exactly how many or where, other than those two mentioned.  I remember I had to edit my personal statement a few times to meet the various word count guidelines. I eventually received acceptance letters from Radford, SCAD, and I believe one other college.

During the college application process, Amara helped me start my own domestic services business, which comprised of mostly child care (a.ka. babysitting), as well as house-cleaning and pet-sitting.  Most of my appointments were on RAFB. My first babysitting engagement was on January 29th from 12:30 PM – 4:30 PM for the parents of a four-year-old boy and eight-month-old baby girl. Over the course of the following 17 weeks, I  had one to four childcare engagements per week, cared for one child to six children for one to five hours at a time, and made an average of $29 per engagement. I also cared for a neighbor’s cat for about a week in February while they were away, and I cleaned a friend/neighbor’s house 2-3 times altogether.

Also during that first full month of February, Amara helped me start earning the Congressional Award (congressionalaward.org), which is the United States Congress’ award for young Americans (ages 14-23) for setting and achieving goals in four program areas: Expedition or Exploration, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and Voluntary Public Service.  There are certain requirements per program area to be met, along with a record book to document your progress.

For Expedition/Exploration, the objective was to “immerse yourself in an unfamiliar culture” and “to develop a spirit of adventure and discovery.”  So, I successfully planned and executed an itinerary for my first solo day-trip in Macon on Friday, February 13th. I had printed walking directions from Yahoo Maps.  Amara took me to my first location of Joshua Cup Coffee, LLC (which is now closed as of July 2012). Inside, I bought a cup of coffee and read a chapter or two from the book I had brought with me, More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell, in a beige armchair in the back until my second destination opened.  From the coffee shop, I walked to the Hay House for a tour. My third and final destination (which I also walked to) was the Sidney Lanier Cottage for another tour, given by an energetic and long-haired, blue-eyed gentleman named Marty.  When the tour was over, I called Amara to come get me. It was an adventure, indeed; and I felt such a satisfying sense of maturity.

The next day (Saturday, February 14th), the entire family – Clay, Amara, Marina, and I – took a spontaneous weekend trip to Florida.  It was so exhilarating! I remember walking along a boardwalk next to the bay in downtown Jacksonville – there was a statue of a sailor.  I remember one of the nights we stayed in old Navy Lodging. It was a one-bedroom place, so I slept on the couch in the “living room.” There, I explored behind our building – there was a rock composite embankment, with a narrow, rocky shoreline below on the other side.  I leapt down to the shore and explored along the wall. As I was exploring, red carnations came out of nowhere on the water and floated toward me. I picked them up out of the water and brought them back with me to our lodging. On the last day of our trip, on the way back to RAFB, we stopped at Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens for a fun-filled day of touring the various exhibits.  

{We also went on other fun trips during my stay with them, including Jekyll Island, Callaway Gardens, and Ocmulgee National Monument.  When we went to Jekyll Island, I remember wading in the water in my pink tankini, and when I walked out Amara noticed a cut that was bleeding above my ankle.  A few moments later, we noticed a commotion down the beach – a man had caught a small shark! While I was nonchalant about the incident, Amara and Clay’s parental concern caused them to practically swoon at the thought of allowing me to “swim” in shark infested waters!

In addition to these family outings, Clay and I had at least two sibling outings that  I can remember. He took me to the golf course on base as well as to a memorial museum.}

For Personal Development, the objective was to “expand your horizons while developing individual interests, and social and life skills.  The Congressional Award challenges you to pursue a new interest or advance in an ongoing interest…” So, I chose belly dancing as a new interest.  I took a class at Eagle Springs Community Center in Centerville on Thursdays and practiced at home for 10-15 minutes a few times a week. For practice, I used Egyptian Belly Dancing for Beginners with Hilary Thacker on Netflix.  It was such engaging fun to pursue that interest!  

For Physical Fitness, the objective was to “improve your quality of life through participation in fitness activities,” so I chose bicycling.  With Amara’s permission, I used her bicycle. If I remember correctly, I rode a few times a week at 15+ minutes per ride. I remember the very first ride  I took for the Award – a loop around our neighborhood that seemed to take twice as long than reality to get through, because I was so enervated. But, it got easier and a lot more enjoyable as I progressed.     

For Voluntary Public Service, the objective was to share your time and talent for the benefit of others, or provide a direct service that benefits the community at large – without pay, school credit, or any other compensation.  Political and membership in a religious institution or religious teaching responsibilities were not acceptable activities. I intended to see if my church on RAFB had any volunteer opportunities that met the Congressional Award guidelines, but I never got around to it.  

(And I never achieved a Congressional Award due to circumstances, but I surely had fun with the process and wish I would’ve continued after I had my circumstances improved.  Maybe one of my children will be interested in pursuing it when they reach the minimum age. Or, better yet, maybe I’ll finish what I started on my own?)

In March, I began my online courses at American Public University System.  I took four courses – all electives, since I had achieved my required credits to graduate during the first semester back at my high-school in Virginia.  They were Cultural Anthropology, a real estate course, a history course, and a course that was required by APUS based on Learn More Now by Marcia Connor.  These courses lasted until June.

Scarlet Letter & Deceit

Amidst the flurry of activity, I met many of Clay and Amara’s friends on RAFB, who quickly became my friends, and a few of them became my employer-friends.  One person in particular, Coby, became a “crush” (as in the informal noun definition – “a brief but intense infatuation for someone, especially someone unattainable or inappropriate”).  He was married with two little girls. His wife, Amberlynn, was also my friend (and she still is to this day, by the grace of God). At the time, she was active duty military, while Coby stayed home with the girls.

Coby and I slowly began an inappropriate friendship that lasted for about two to three months.  It never became physically sexual, but it was still flirtatious with sexual tension, and I deeply regret that I allowed myself to act reckless with a married man.   We were alone together frequently, socializing and dallying at his house or at the playground. But because I was spending as much time as I could with with Coby, by late April, I began to fall behind on my APUS courses and somewhat on the Congressional Award (but not my employment).

Our neighbors started noticing Coby and I together, without Amberlynn.  Sometime in April, Amara asked me about “walking alone with Coby” and I could not remember, for the life of me, what she was referring to at the time.  Of course I eventually figured it out – Coby and I had taken his girls on a walk around the neighborhood, without Amberlynn. A neighbor had seen us and they had reported it to Amara and Clay.  I didn’t realize at the time that’s what Amara meant, because I didn’t realize how inappropriate that seemed to others. So, that walk with Coby and the girls didn’t cross my mind when I was initially questioned.

Even though by this point no one had evidence that anything truly improper was happening between us, I felt their misgivings and that was enough for me.  While I absolutely adored the attention I received from Coby, I cared more about what people and God thought about me more than a “fling” with a married man whom I barely knew.   I’m glad it was noticed and brought to Amara’s attention or I know it would’ve quickly become something unpardonable. Shortly after, I can remember sitting on the swing next to Coby and setting up relational boundaries with him.  Basically, we agreed to remain friends but that we should not be alone together anymore, that Amberlynn should always be present.

On June 7th, I was bound for Virginia for my high school graduation on the 13th.   I came back to Georgia on the 21st. Before I left, I hadn’t been honest with Amara and Clay about my coursework – I had been telling them that  I was caught up and passing before I left for Virginia so they wouldn’t worry or hassle me. In reality, I was behind and basically failing. My final paper in history was past due, with Real Estate assignments and research paper, plus several discussion boards and exams’ due dates rapidly approaching in my other courses.  By the the time I came back, I submitted my History final paper (about Hernan Cortes) and that’s it.

Clay and Amara found out I was lying to them about my coursework two days after I came back from Virginia, on Tuesday 23rd June.  Amara wanted to check my Real Estate Appraisal research paper, as well as to see my grade on my History research paper, since I couldn’t or wouldn’t tell her.  I reluctantly let her, with the hope that she wouldn’t be any more interested in my gradebook. I left to the kitchen to let her review my work as a nervous wreck on the inside.  Soon, Clay came in the kitchen to tell me that Amara wanted to see me. My heart fell into my stomach.

Amara found me out.  She looked at my gradebook and the message I had sent my history professor, which was a partially untruthful  sob excuse as to why I was late turning in my final. I walked back into my room, and the conversation began. I can’t remember any of it – just the rush of emotion, mostly shame, disappointment in myself, confusion.  I cried and couldn’t answer much of anything they asked me. So, Amara, trying to collaborate with me, took a different approach. She asked me to write what caused me to procrastinate. I wrote an answer on a piece of paper (which  I can’t remember) and handed it to her.

The next thing I remember is walking out the door and running toward Forest Park in my thin blue and white floral nightgown.  When I arrived, I sat in my swing (the second one to the right), swinging and contemplating life. Five to ten minutes later, Amara pulled up in her vehicle, and I slowed down my swing and waited for her.  She approached me and sat down on the swing next to me. “I’m glad you’re so predictable,” she told me. I don’t remember much of the conversation that ensued, just that it was fairly brief and just one other thing she said: “you must’ve really loved [Coby]” or something along those lines.

I don’t remember anything until four days later on Saturday 27th June.  (I do remember that I started to go to work with Amara and volunteer for her as punishment for being untrustworthy, which  I willingly accepted.) Clay, Amara, and Marina left for lunch around 10:30 that morning. I think they were meeting someone.   I was supposed to be rewriting my research paper while they we were gone since it was somewhat plagiarized. Then Amara would revise it when they returned.  But, I was having a difficult time with the task. I was just too burdened with guilt and shame from lying to them and disappointing them, as well as from my inappropriate relationship with Coby.   I felt like I was a disappointment and a burden to them, and I just couldn’t face them anymore. So, when they pulled in the driveway early afternoon, I fled out the back door, over the fence, and back to Forest Park.

When Clay found me at the playground, he was very angry, and rightfully so.  He took me to Groome Transportation – they had already packed my bags. After he had left, I called Coby.  Coby called Amara (unbeknownst to me until later). And 20ish minutes later, Clay returned to invite me back, admitting that he should’ve given me time to form a plan of next steps before he just left me there.  I think Coby came to Groome, too. Since my options were to fly back to Virginia to be received as a failure or returning with Clay so that he and Amara could continue to help me, I chose the latter.

Amara and Clay were very helpful to me, but  I was still tormented inside. The following morning,  I tried to plan more of what I was going to do with myself, but  I was so confused and couldn’t focus. The tears would not stop. The pain from disappointment and guilt became too much for me to handle, so  I tried to pray, begging God to help me. I came to the conclusion that God couldn’t use me anymore since I felt like I had utterly destroyed my testimony.  I felt this inconceivable sense of separation from God, with an overwhelming darkness that enveloped my entire being, and I wanted out.

I slowly walked to the bathroom for a razor.  I cut my left wrist repeatedly and “slashed” my right side, trying to ease the the deep sorrow overwhelming me and redirect the pain away from my broken heart. That wasn’t enough.   I frantically searched in the bathroom medicine cabinet for some drug I could take to at least numb me. I found a bottle of NyQuil that was about ¾ full and drank it in seconds. I went back to my room, curled up on the floor near the closet, and cried, with Family Life Radio playing in the background.

Minutes later, I heard the radio stop and Amara’s voice.   I sat up to see both Clay and Amara. They came to talk to me about my plan and help me with it.  At the beginning of the conversation, Amara noticed my tear-stained cheeks and the band-aid on my wrist.  She asked me about it, already having an idea of what I had done to myself. Since she proceeded to ask me what I had cut myself with,  I reluctantly scooted over to my trash can to retrieve the pink razor and showed them.

Clay was the one who found out about the NyQuil.  We had moved on to talk about my plan when they noticed  that I was quickly fading. My speech became slower and softer and  I couldn’t seem to keep my eyes open; I felt very calm and sleepy. At first they thought it may be because my blood sugar was low (not because I’m diabetic, but because  I hadn’t been eating much of anything). I didn’t want any sustenance, though, because I knew that it wasn’t because of that. I finally suggested this to them so they’d quit offering and focus on the plan.  Amara realized what I meant and asked me if I had done anything else to harm myself.

By this time, Clay had already gone to the kitchen and back to bring me orange juice, and then he had disappeared again.  When he returned, he had the empty bottle of NyQuil in his hand. I was questioned more about what else I had done, so I told Amara about the minor cut on my side.  Concerning the NyQuil, they came to the conclusion that I was just “drunk” and directed me to bed to sleep it off, but I was too restless to sleep.

As soon as  I lay down on my left side, Amara lifted my shirt to inspect the cut on my right side, since I refused to show it to her at first.  I was too drugged to protest when she cleaned the cut, called the suicide hotline, and told me to get up so they could take me to the Emergency Room.   I stumbled out of bed and Clay supported me as we walked to their vehicle.

At the hospital, I vaguely remember intake.  The next thing I remember is laying in a bed, with Amara sitting in a chair by my side.  We were talking about something, and I was still restless. Everything else is a blur, but I know I was referred to the Phoenix Center for psychotherapy at the time of my release.  

Turning Point

Less than a week later, during my “initial evaluation” at the Phoenix Center, an employee (a nice lady with good intentions) referred me to Living the Light Ministries, which was a Christian housing ministry for felons, basically, when  I lived there. I’m not sure if it was the same day as the initial evaluation at the Phoenix Center, but I remember meeting the founder and owner, Lynette, and one of her volunteers/employees, Eliza. They met me there to discuss my situation and see how they could be of assistance.   I remember during our conversation they asked me about my financial situation, so I naively told them about the few thousand in savings I had (which I received for S.S.I. after I turned 18 and was saving, upon Amara’s savvy suggestion). I believe I went back with Lynette and Eliza that same day (June 30th or July 1st), but I don’t fully remember the transition.

Living the Light

From June 30th to September 16th (about 2.5 months), I lived in a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house in Warner Robins, one of the properties of Living the Light Ministries (LTLM).  At the time, the owners and operators of LTLM had at least three properties – one for female residents (where I stayed), one for their office (which was located next door to us), and one for male residents.  They may’ve also owned Vanessa’s residence, which was adjacent to their office.

My roommates were minor felons, but not once did I feel unsafe or threatened.   I did have my own room, complete with Batman bedding (which I chose because it was the only complete set in the linen closet).  I believe there were two or three roommates to begin with. Over the course of my short stay, they filtered in and out until it was just me and Caroline by September.

We were on a loose schedule, which was posted on a large cork bulletin board in the hallway.  Our days lasted from around 7 AM until around 10 PM. We started every day with group devotions at 8 AM and ended every Monday through Thursday in a church group (Monday: Bible study at LTLM; Tuesday: The Most Excellent Way; Wednesday: Bible study at Christian Fellowship Church; Thursday: Celebrate Recovery at Southside Baptist Church).  On Sunday mornings, we attended Christian Fellowship Church for worship service.

Our  primary focus was God; our secondary focus was to become employed.  I remember about two handfuls of trips to the Department of Labor, Goodwill’s Job Connection, and Express Employment Professionals.  I created my resume, filled out many employment applications, and even had an interview at Goodwill. Toward the end of July/beginning of August, I (along with a few others in our group, including Caroline) was hired as a temp (part-time every Wednesday) at Perdue Farms in Perry through Express Employment Professionals of Macon.  Two days of that and I quit – I couldn’t take the monotony of standing on the line for hours to watch cold, unbreaded chicken nuggets come down the conveyor belt and ensure they were all separated and laid out flat for the next step of the process.

I was allowed a lot more freedom than the others, especially the first couple of weeks.  I guess it was because I paid rent and other dues, and I was the only non-felon. In my free time, I thoroughly cleaned and organized our residence, which took me about a couple of weeks to complete.   I started with my bedroom on the first or second day, followed by our bathroom, kitchen and dining area, living room, laundry room, and linen closet. After that, our daily chores were so easy to maintain.

By September, I was ready to move on.  There were a few signs. I think it started mostly because Caroline had an influence on me.  She, along with our other roommates, believed that the LTLM staff, including the owners, were taking advantage of us.  When Caroline brought this to my attention, it made sense and I believed her. Looking back, I think LTLM had good intentions but  had not yet evolved professionally, and they seemed to have an unbalanced perspective – they seemed to be more focused on the business/money aspect of the ministry than on serving the people.

I am unsure about whether some of these were a real problem, but here are some of the examples that Caroline brought up:

  • Lynette’s husband told me that I would look sexy with short hair
  • Signing over all of our money (paychecks) and being told that we were in debt to the ministry
  • They charged us for transportation when we had to use Agape Transit services
  • There was a problem with Caroline’s glasses (they broke?) and LTLM refused to take her to get them repaired/replaced
  • There was frequent inconsistency in the rules
  • Impaired communication between staff and residents (ex: The van from Southside came around 5:20 pm to take us to Celebrate Recovery for the first time since I was there.  We had no idea because Vanessa failed to communicate with us, so we weren’t ready. Vanessa tried to blame us at first. This was on August 27th.)
  • Being late sometimes, especially when they expected us to be on time

After Caroline and I discussed these issues, I began to notice over the following weeks that maybe there were a few areas of minor concern.  Even though I paid $75+ per week for rent (and a total of $637.67+ for rent, transportation, and a few miscellaneous costs over the course of my stay – which was a lot of money for an unemployed 18-year-old),  I was only considered a “guest” in the “model house.” (After I worked so hard to thoroughly clean and organize the place, they were able to to show the house to potential donors with pride.)  As an unemployed guest, I was denied any privileges (such as personal calls). Overall, I was stuck at the house a lot, and it just became frustrating to have to be dependent upon the staff (for the most part, staff was only on-duty in the morning) when I had goals that I wanted to accomplish.

I kept my mouth shut, but other resident(s) complained and Lynette seemed to listen – she brought outside reinforcement (a nice lady from Christian Fellowship) to review and revise the entire “resident agreement” (the paperwork of policies, rules, etc. that we had to sign upon arrival).  We reviewed and signed the edited document once it was complete.

On September 4th, I had a meeting at the office with Vanessa and Eliza regarding a rule violation.  I cannot recall how staff found out, but I was a lookout for Cathy and Caroline while they smoked cigarettes (which was prohibited on LTLM property).  I was going to sign the write-up and accept my punishment, but Eliza distracted me with a few questions that caused me to think before I signed: What are my needs?  Are they helping me meet those needs? How can they help?. I asked for and was granted permission to be excused to return next door to pray and think about the questions that were asked of me.

After I finished praying, I started reflecting on the past couple of months and jotting down my answers.  I discovered that my needs were: a closer walk with God, shelter, employment, and to be independent from others; that they were helping me to meet half of my needs; and that they had done all that they were willing and able to do for me.  Basically, I came to the conclusion that it was time to move on. With these things on my heart and mind, I walked back to the office, wrote and signed a letter of resignation from the program, and tried to call Amara.

The the thought that maybe now is not the best time crossed my mind, because I had to dial her number four times before I finally got an answer.  I can’t remember any of the conversation we had, just that she could not or would not take me back.  I was devastated, so I asked the staff to be excused back to the residence.

As I sat on the floor in my bedroom, crying and contemplating what had just happened, it dawned on me that nowhere on my evaluation regarding my needs I had just completed had I wrote “call Clay and Amara to rescue me again” in any way, shape, or form.  In fact, I had realized the opposite – that I needed independence. Furthermore, I realized that I had ignored the Holy Spirit’s still, small warning (maybe now is not the best time to call) and reaped unbearable heartache from the rejection.  But, Caroline and Sharon (Vanessa’s teenage daughter) arrived shortly to try to console me and pull me out of my despair, even though I just wanted to be left alone at first.

Despite any issues, which were all benign, LTLM was a positive experience for me.  Their program provided for both my spiritual and physical needs while I was recuperating from a “crisis.” I thrived on the structure and was able to fully recover.  And I am beyond grateful to them. But, like I mentioned, it was just time for me to move on.

Intowne Suites

On September 16th, Caroline’s parole officer came to our residence around 4 PM.  Caroline and I were the only two female residents left. We packed our belongings and he took us to Intowne Suites, an extended stay hotel, on Moody Road.  We stayed in room 103 for two weeks. Compared to LTLM, it was expensive – $538.74 for that fortnight.

In those two short weeks, Amara came to my rescue again.  I had written her and Clay an apology letter of sorts, with a plea for help included.  I was still feeling guilty about the way I mistreated them when I was living with them.  I had no expectations of them, but Amara helped me through both the processes to find employment and to find my very first apartment.  Her steady guidance and support were integral to my success.

I can remember Amara taking me to countless places to fill out application after application.  I was finally hired for a part-time position at Wendy’s on Moody Road, which was located in front of my hotel.  My first day occurred during the last full week of September (Tuesday the 22nd?). If it weren’t for Amara, I would have most likely stayed at that hotel until my resources were exhausted.  A week after I started my job at Wendy’s, on Wednesday the 30th, I signed my first lease for #M8, which was a second-floor apartment at Sandpiper on Leisure Lake Drive. I prepaid $1,550.00 for 3 months, with the intention of starting college for interior design at Valdosta in the winter.

Sandpiper

I remember those first several nights in my one-bedroom apartment were rough.  Caroline had become seriously ill at work (Perdue) one morning while we were still at Intowne Suites.  If I remember correctly, she vomited and fainted; she had to be hospitalized for a couple of weeks total, but  I cannot remember her diagnosis.

In addition to being lonely and scared at night until Caroline returned, I was also a bit uncomfortable – I slept on the floor with a couple of blankets for the first few nights until Amara bought me an air mattress.  But, I was too content to complain.

All I had with me when I moved in was my clothes and self-care basics, plus a baking set from my social worker back in Virginia when I  exited the social service system. During those first two to three weeks at my new apartment, I received a lot of help from Amara and Clay, and through the Agape Love Transit team.  Between those two groups of people, I collected everything I needed for my first apartment, including: a pillow or two, a pot with a lid, bathroom basics (shower curtain and liner, shower curtain rings, trash can), a beautiful Pier 1 coffee mug from Amara, cutlery, a couple of twin mattresses (mine was brand new, still in the plastic wrap), dishes, a loveseat, television, bath linens, a few other basic items, and even a barstool from Amberlynn.

I felt so blessed and content with life.  I had everything I needed – basic necessities and I was surrounded by friends and family.  To add to my happiness, in the middle of October (Wednesday the 14th), along came Ashton.

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