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I accomplished more than I ever imagined I could!

                                                                            

Before Stepping Stone, because of some bad choices, I gave up on a cleaning business that was a 2-time Super Service Award recipient from Angie’s List. While living in my Jeep, I tried to climb my way out of the mess I made of my life, but each action I took added to my feelings of defeat and a hopelessness I don’t remember ever feeling before.

Throughout my life, I’ve had a history of being in unhealthy relationships. Moving to Minnesota to have a fresh start, I found myself, once again, in an unhealthy relationship. At the time I did not realize how unhealthy it really was until I found myself at a battered women’s shelter. It is at that shelter I first heard of Stepping Stone.

At Stepping Stone I began my growth into becoming the person I am today. I was introduced to the word “NO,” and learned that I had every right to use it AND that it was ok for me to say it. This opened up a whole new view on life, a whole new way of “being.”

I could create a whole new me.

I would describe my time before Stepping Stone as sitting on a rose above the highest thorn and falling. With each cut, scratch and scrape, a bigger piece of me died. I was convinced that I would not recover from such a fall. I continued to fall and fail just like I always knew I would – at a very low time I even contemplated suicide. I never believed I had the ability to find success.

Than I found Stepping Stone.

When I arrived at Stepping Stone I began to feel a ray of hope, that there was a chance I could come back from such a massive fall, an epic fail.

I felt as if the pits of hell were keeping me in the darkness; a complete failure.

Stepping Stone gave me a mailing address which oddly enough was a HUGE deal for me! After all I hadn’t had one for quite some time. When I first arrived, I was initially excited to not only have a mailing address, but to have hot showers, and a bed under a real roof that was not on the floor or had to be packed up every morning. Living with many women was my biggest challenge. I was accustomed to being a “doormat,” but the other women taught me and gave me lots and lots of practice in utilizing the word “no.”

It’s amazing how difficult it is to learn how to say NO! But these women showed me how important it was to remember to take care of myself, that my needs had to come first, and I didn’t have to feel guilty about it.

If I didn’t take care of myself first, I could not possibly take care of anyone else or function as a contributing member of society.

I have always been someone who wanted to make a positive difference in the world, even in the darkest of times. So, no matter what, I always tried to keep a smile on my face and a positive attitude. I had to be the “bright spot” because if I didn’t, the light I started to see would have gone away not only for myself but for others as well.

Stepping Stone is where I learned that even with adversity and negativity, I was able inspire those around me. Let others know that no matter what, we have the power, within ourselves, to overcome our past.

The telling of my story gives me the ability to be accountable for the good things I have been blessed with and because of MY actions, I have what I have.

The staff played a huge part in where I am and how I got here. Just off the top. . . I have a level of confidence I had not ever experienced, at least not for any length of time. They showed me I was not nearly as bad as I thought I was, that it was perfectly OK for me to speak my mind or vent. I did a lot of that, and they listened without putting me down or dismissing me or my rants. I was treated with respect, rather than a homeless, good-for-nothing vagrant. I always had food, clean laundry, and support for issues I couldn’t get solved by myself.

They celebrated each achievement with me . . .
…getting my Jeep out from under a title loan company
…landing a full time job and the stress I put myself under during the process
…obtaining a CDL for that job
…encouraging the continuation of my art. They were instrumental in fact, because many times I put it on hold, telling myself that it was “just drawings.” When in fact, I had a rare talent and I should keep moving forward, to not give up.  My art was on display in a public library and now, as a direct result of the staff’s support and connections, my art hangs up at the Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts with the possibility for more locations!

I am most definitely not the person I was two years ago, or even one year ago!

Once a meek, self-loathing, always bad and wrong, undeserving human being is now a much more confident, self-respected and valued woman. Other people matter, but so do I. Because of that, I navigate through life in an entirely new way, new attitude, and overall a whole new way of BEING. I’m not going to fall over dead, and the world is not going to fall apart because I am who I am. I am in fact a special someone who has plenty to give and offer . . . not only to the world but to MYSELF.  The person I used to be seems to just not exist anymore. I take chances again, this time its constructive, and it has reason and value. I am no longer jumping from one fire pit to another. I rely on myself, believe in myself more and more each day, and look less for validation or approval from others.

Never in a millions years did I ever imagine I would be a school bus driver.

I feel honored to have so much responsibility, so many kids each with their own personality and my having to be straight up, firm, fair while being kind and respectful.  I do still worry and struggle with things like, “Are they mad at me?” “Am I being to mean?” or “Am I good enough?” What once used used to plague me with the intensity that once took over my entire being, now, these struggles lessen and lessen. If I had not gotten the time, space and guidance while at Stepping Stone, I’m not sure I would have been as successful in conquering these “demons.”

Now, I have a space of my own.

My biggest appreciation these days is that I get to turn the light on to get dressed for work whenever I need to and not worry about waking someone else up. I have a full time job, one that just this week showed me a love and support, I wasn’t sure really existed. A sense of family and, just like Stepping Stone, consistently reiterates I am not alone, I am loved, valued and have a great deal to offer in this world. That I deserve to be cared for and taken care of with the same value and importance as anyone else.

I’ve started drawing again, experimenting with different mediums.

I have had great difficulty putting color to a blank canvas. So, I’ve been using scratch art paper; removing the black and darkness, allowing the color underneath to show itself, to shine through. In this new world of mine, I have been able to finally put color to a blank canvas, as well as continue to create art on a black canvas.

                                                                             

I am and will always be grateful for Stepping Stone, both the residents and staff.
Without you I could not and would not be here or get to enjoy this new person,
which I am getting to know and learning more about.
This person I never knew was inside, this person who will no doubt be
the inspiration and positive influence I know I can be in this world.