Jeri Kemple in Colorado

My life before my husband came into it was out of control. Divorce, incest, neglect, abandonment, promiscuity, alcoholism, drug addiction -- just to name some of the elements throwing my life out of whack. I could bore you with the details and the degrees of hurt and shame that followed, but expressing these issues is enough. It is enough explanation needed to express how miraculous it is that I am where I am now, unscathed. Functioning as a positive aspect of people's lives is my primary incentive. My purpose, regardless of where I live or what my job is, is to stay positive. I have one of my favorite quotes taped up on the cupboard in my kitchen: "Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome -- Booker T. Washington." This quote means many things to me. Success is relative to what one thinks is important to excel at. Success is crucial to happiness -- this is an important aspect of my personality, I am capable of becoming spiritless if I am not stimulated, nurturing my intellectual self. I associate achievement with improving my artistic ability as well. Being well-rounded and balanced is also an aspect of how I feel successful. Every day I focus on being the most positive person I can, for my family and myself. Some days I slip and become blue, but I realize different aspects of my personality and other issues to conquer.

I feel successful in my life. I have broken many dysfunctional patterns, as did my mother for me, and her mother for her. My sister is making life better for my nieces. Better than it was for us as children. I feel all parents should strive to accomplish this for their children.

I have done many things that make me feel successful in my life: I have lived abroad (Norway); I have gone to college (for two years); I have had two children (2 and 7 years old); I have two beautiful stepchildren (13 and 10 years old); I married the man of my dreams; I am close to my siblings; I have made artwork I think is beautiful (because it expresses emotion); I have nurtured my children; I have been steadfast in my life. (These few things are not in order of importance.) I have come far but still have a long way to go.

My children will get older, and my life will take on new meaning. I will once more be focused on what I want to do with the rest of my life, and I will have plenty of time -- I became a mother at 21 years of age. In some ways life will get easier as my children get older, and in some ways life will become much harder. I will need to face some of the issues that have kept me from continuing my education. Feeling incapable, or feeling overwhelmed, or wondering if I am choosing the right career path. I have wanted to become an art therapist since I was a young girl. I used to have an "art therapy help wanted" ad framed in my bedroom. I would look at it and dream about my future patients. People with autism or Alzheimer's, individuals fighting cancer or some other terminal illness, children whose parents have abused them, or children who have lost a parent.

My grandmother wanted to be an art teacher. She had the opportunity once; a man who admired her had offered to pay her way through college. She didn't take him up on the offer. Perhaps this is part of the reason that I want to be in the art field. I am certain I want to be in the field of psychology because of what I have come through. I am also positive I can help. I really want to help humanity see things more clearly. I want people to understand that what they do now affects generations to come. I also want to pay tribute to my grandmother, who helped to make a difference in the way her grandchildren help generations to come.

Maybe someday my husband and I will move to a city that has a university with art-therapy program. Or maybe I will realize that I should just give up on the notion -- chalk it up as one of those things you love but never do. Not everybody gets to have all of her dreams come true. Some lucky few do. I used to believe I was one of the lucky few. I still do, in some aspects -- like how beautiful my children are, or how lucky I am to be an American woman; that alone (in a worldwide perspective), is about as lucky as one can get.

I hope someday I can make my luck count and pay it forward, make someone happy by giving her an outlet to solve her problems. An outlet that helped me remain sane and happy through all of my unnerving experiences. Maybe someday I'll get into explaining these things, but for now, I am happy to keep moving on. Staying balanced and healthy.

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