The golden ticket essay

*One of my students, Jared Tickner, in Comp II this semester gave me permission to share this essay with all of you. This is his first essay for the semester; I read it after reading a stack of other essays that were good essays but didn’t quite measure up in one way or another. Some of the essays contained interesting content and fit the assignment criteria (write a 2-3 page essay explaining your core beliefs and how those beliefs impact your daily choices) but fell short in the grammar, style, and mechanics departments, or were more polished grammatically but somewhat boring or unorganized. I kept looking for my “golden ticket” essay–a real winner in each category. 

Then I read the opening line of Jared’s essay. I was hooked. I literally stepped out into the hallway and did a happy dance and announced that I’d found my golden ticket. I’m sure my fellow faculty members were thrilled by my discovery :). The essay isn’t flawless, but it’s beautifully written and impacted me upon reading it. 

Thankfully Jared agreed to allow me to share this essay with all of you. Thank you, Jared, for your honesty and the sharing of your gift of writing. As my former professor (and wonderful poet), Andrea Hollander, used to always say, “Keep writing!”


I saw my first murder when I was four years old. I don’t remember much about my childhood, but I remember that. I grew up in a town of 100,000 people in central California. My family tree is not one that would be considered ideal. I come from a long line of addicts and abusers. I am the only male in my immediate family who has not been to prison; therefore, I never had any good examples when I was growing up. I did, however, have plenty of bad examples. I never noticed just how abnormal my life was when I was a child. I never expected or strived to be different from anybody else, but what I’ve come to understand is that I am not ashamed by anything that I have done or anything that I have been witness to. The events of my past have shaped me into the man who I am today. I am not proud of some of the things that I have done in order to survive, but I am not ashamed of any of my actions either. I was physically abused by my father, and I watched my brothers quite literally attempt to kill each other.

I was fifteen years old the first time that I realized that I was destined to be a failure in life. My father had come to visit me for the first time in five years (he had been in prison). I was excited because I was old enough to attempt to get into his head and try to understand why he made the decisions that he had. I had gone through a multitude of questions that day while I was waiting for him to come over. When he finally showed up, he said hello to me and then ignored me for the rest of the time that he was there. My father chose to sit outside with my half-brother and talk to him. I could not understand why he didn’t want me, why he chose my brother who wasn’t even his biological son. I had never felt more unimportant in my life, and it made me angry. I decided on that day that I was going to accomplish everything in life that he wanted and failed at. That was the day that I began to live my life for all of the wrong reasons. That was the day that I chose to let my inner rage control me, instead of me controlling my inner rage.

In November of 2005, I lost my ability to know love. That month, my grandmother died, and I felt my sense of normalcy die with her. My grandmother is the women who truly raised me. I lived with my mother, but I spent all day with my grandmother. My brother was born with a very rare bone disease in his left leg, and he had to have it amputated when he was eight years old. My mother spent the majority of her time in San Francisco with him. When she wasn’t at the hospital with him, she was at work. When my brother was a teenager and into his early twenties, he made life hell for all of us. He had been addicted to morphine since he was eight years old and spent the majority of his time fighting, drinking, doing drugs or stealing my mother’s car. Due to his misgivings, he received all of the attention which I perceived as love. The only person who ever showed me unconditional love was my grandmother, and once she passed away, I felt alone. At this point, I felt wronged by my family. I had never been in trouble; I had never done a fifth of the things my brothers did, and yet all of the love went to them. I now understand that my mother did the best she could, but at that time, it just made me hate the world. My trust issues come from this time in my life. I felt that I couldn’t trust those closest to me because I was not appreciated. I had nobody left to turn to for help, so I turned to prescription pills.

Being addicted to pain pills is what changed my life. I was numbed to all of the outside world. I did not care about anything, and it was amazing. All of that changed on January 9, 2008. My fiancé at the time left me and took my one year-old son across the country. It was the first time I openly wept since I was a toddler. As my depression grew, I sank deeper and deeper into my vice until one day I put a loaded nine millimeter pistol into my mouth and pulled the trigger.

It did not fire. Something greater kept me alive that day, and I started to realize that I have a purpose in this life. I dropped the gun and cried even harder. I then looked in the mirror and decided I was no longer going to accept the stigma that comes with my last name. I stopped taking the pills, I stopped drowning in self-pity, and I started looking for my purpose in life. The thing I believe in is that nothing can guide me down a path that I don’t want to walk. I am the creator of my own destiny, and I refuse to accept anything but redemption and success.

The most influential and guiding force in my life is my past. I am now able to reflect on the way I grew up and let all of the hate go. I am a better man than my father, and I have the ability to raise my children to better understand their emotions. My goal in life is to give my children every opportunity I had to sacrifice for. They will not grow up in a home where they are scared to go to sleep at night. My greatest fear is that my children will grow to be like me and not want to look at themselves in the mirror. That is a fear that will not come to fruition. I am no longer going to be part of a broken chain. I am starting a new chain with my family, and I will be the strongest link. I will raise my children to be confident and curious.

They will be loved, and they will know it.

–By Jared Tickner



The skinny clothes I kept

Just wheat

023I gained 60 pounds when I was pregnant. I was pretty sure I’d never lose it all, and certain that I’d never get back to my “skinny clothes” from when I met my husband. You know which clothes I’m talking about—the cutest clothes I’d ever owned. The clothes I’d danced in, flirted in, and okay, honestly spent several lonely nights in while reading classic literature on my own couch with cats crawling around in my lap.

In college, I never gained the freshman 15, but I certainly gained the Wallace 15 when I began dating my husband. After going through a stressful divorce, and quitting a rather stressful job, and after ending a very stressful period of financial woe, I entered into a true state of relaxation and ease and began to understand what The Eagles meant when they sang about takin’ it easy. My butt grew that year, but…

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Found it!

*Thank you, Debra Dickey, for another cat tale!*

This is a tongue-in-cheek rejoinder to an answered prayer….  Thanks God. . . . . juuust what I needed. . . . .

My cat sagas are in full swing again.

Gray kittenIf you have followed my cat tale posts, you will have an idea of what I’m up against, and where this is going.  I have six new kitties at my house now, probably one month old.  Knowing their penchant for disastrous reckonings, much time and energy has been expended to do head counts, and watch out for them in a concerted effort to keep them safe from flood waters, cars, tires and motors, etc.

Unfortunately, they must be little furry greased eels, because even with all that, they get ahead of even my best determinations, disturbingly bent on committing hari-kari, despite every precaution and stopgap I put in place!

After arriving home from work this particular day, I went outside to begin my chores, looked around and saw a tiny little head peeking out atop my car tire —-aaaarrrggghhhh.

I immediately got him down and shooed him back to the porch, noting that I would check my car when I finished, then park it away from the house for safety.  Returning shortly, I did just that, checked under the hood, the tires, underneath, all of it, then s-l-o-w-l-y backed out.  I heard a meowlp!, slammed on the brakes, and saw one scurrying away.  I hurried to check on it – not sure if it has injuries, maybe — so after cuddling it for a bit in anguish (mine), I created a cozy hidden bed with an added tarpaulin for protection from the elements, and placed him inside, checking on him numerous times, praying unceasingly for God’s watch- care and safe-keeping over him and for deliverance from any possibly mortal injuries to his little being. Parked the car FAR away and didn’t sleep very well.

Upon awaking, and dreading the worst, I pulled back the tarp with plans to feed him if necessary, and found to my delight, that his siblings were all nestled inside with him, all of them apparently being well-taken care of by the mom.  That’s a very good sign.  But wait, there is one missing . . .  oh dear, where can that one be?  Numerous possibilities, looked in the most obvious places, no sign of it, well, the mom is in charge, and it will probably be there by afternoon, as has happened many times already!  Still, I wonder where it can be?

Finish getting ready for work, go to my car, which is as you will remember, parked WAY out by the road, check under the hood, check the tires, check underneath, slowly drive away, stop to listen for kitties, slowly drive further, stop to listen for kitties, nothing, drive to work.  Praying, “God, please take care of the kitties for me today.”  “I still wonder where that one little gray one is?”  Park in the parking lot at work, turn off the car, and hear . . . . . ‘MEOW, MEOW, MEOW!!’    Aaaahhhhh….  Thank you . . . . I found it!

So today, I am sitting in my office with a little gray kitten in a box beside my desk.  Found makeshift food and a makeshift litter box to accommodate him as best I can.  It’s only 11:00 o’clock – it’s going to be a long day, for both of us . . . . . .