My Story, The Creation of my Psyche

I would like to start this off by saying I am not trying to paint my mother as a monster. She was, and is, a mentally unwell person. When I was younger, and up to about 2 years ago, she was a monster in my mind. But now, I can see why she was the way she was. She was abused by her mother, she does have mental health illnesses/issues, and she has had some heartbreaking traumas in her life that she could not mentally deal with. This made it to where she could not properly parent and raise us, this being said I will start. Also, I apologize if parts of this come out with a rushed or ‘drone’ feeling. I have never shared my life quite like this, and if I am being 100% truthful, it is a bit uncomfortable. This is also about the traumas in my life, there have been many moments of light and love. Those were the moments that gave me hope, gave me the strength to get past and survive. The words that follow are the darker parts of my journey that have left deep scars that I have had to learn how to live with.

My name is Anna Marie. I was born under the surname Thomas, but I have never felt a connection to any surname that has attached itself to me. Perhaps it is because I have had so many. I grew up thinking it was Retherford, even wrote that as my surname in elementary school. In the 4th grade, upon entering into the foster system, I was forced to use my birth name, Thomas. From then on I was Anna Marie Thomas, not Retherford. Which was a bit confusing for a good chunk of my childhood. It created a loss of identity within me and for most of my life, I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. Even now, at 36, this feeling still creeps its way in on occasion. I married young, at 18, just out of high school. From that time on I was Anna Marie Koonce, and I kept that name even through the divorce because it was my son’s last name. As time went on I remarried and adopted a new surname of Burdette. Now onto my second divorce, I kept the name Burdette because it is my daughter’s name. But it is different this go-round, I hate the name but don’t know what to change it to since I have no connection to any surname before. Perhaps I should make up a new one! But, on with my story!

I was born June 7th, 1983 in sunny SoCal IE (Southern California, Inland Empire to those who are not savvy to the lingo). I don’t remember much of anything before I was about 10, just snippets here and there. From the little I can remember, and from the stories I have heard from others, I have been able to piece together my childhood. I lived in California with my Father and Mother until I was about 3 or 4, my sister was about 1 or 2. During those few years I know this: my mother abused my father and me, she also was having an affair with my stepfather who, later I know for certain, was sexually abusing me. My mother was very rough with me as a baby. I met my biological dad when I was 25! He told me some things she would do, that was very much in her nature, and I had no reason to not believe them. For instance, to teach me a lesson for trying to climb the baby gate she would catch me mid-climb and drop me on gate right in between my legs. Later she blamed my father for sexually abusing me and he was convicted of sexually assaulting a minor because of evidence found on and around my vagina. I can’t say with 100% certainty that he didn’t do anything. I honestly just don’t know. But I know the character of my mother and stepfather, and I had the great opportunity to meet my biological dad when I was 25. He was an amazing man, but he was broken. My mother broke him in every way you could break a man. After the conviction of father, my mother and now stepfather moved all of us to Pueblo, Colorado. Growing up with my mother was not an easy streak, nor was living with my stepfather for that matter, but my mind has blocked most of that out. Perhaps I shall remember someday, but I don’t know that I really want to. Stephen King’s portrayal of Carrie’s mother is a pretty close likeness to my own mother, the difference being my mother was just a little more abusive and a little less fanatically religious. I remember my mother used to tell us things like “you better tell me the truth because if you don’t Jesus/God will” and she was dead serious. To paint a clearer picture of her mental health she had stayed for a stint in a mental hospital and I remember clearly the day we picked her up. She had a smile on her face as she joyously got into the car, looked at all of us and said: “that was such a nice vacation”.

I remember my mother teaching my sister a lesson or two growing up. One, in particular, was when she was about 7 or 8, she had left the curling iron on and my mother held it on her arm. She still has the scar. Her story, of course, was that she tripped and accidentally hit her arm with the iron. This is what my mother did, she made up stories of what she could mentally deal with and that was the truth of what had happened, no one could tell her otherwise. We lived like this for years. My mother freaking out and chasing my stepdad around the kitchen with a cooking knife. My sister and I were called Pollock Indians, heathens, sluts, whores, and the like.  I remember my mother clearly telling me that I was worthless and stupid. I can’t speak for my sister but I grew up thinking I was, in fact, a worthless piece of shit that no one could ever love. These feelings would later manifest in self-harm activities of punching myself and calling myself names, especially when I felt I had done something ‘wrong’. Growing up with this kind of abuse really took its toll on the view I held of myself, and it still affects me to this day. I don’t feel there is a need to go into every horror of my childhood at this point. And I am not telling you any of this to envoke pity, or for you to feel sad. It is simply a picture of where I have come from.

When we are young the view of the world and of ourselves is formed, as well as where we fit into it. If it is full of abuse or neglect we will have unhealthy views of ourselves that we will battle with for the rest of our lives. I more often than not feel like an alien and that I don’t really fit or belong anywhere. There is a loneliness that I carry that not many know about and even fewer understand. I feel like no one will ever understand the beat of my soul. But maybe no one is supposed to. Strangely I am not always in this state of mind. It ebbs and flows, comes and goes. Usually when I am in a situation that is unfamiliar, like with love. I tend to flounder and I have to learn how to move through the anxieties. I have to learn to breathe and know I will be ok.

A week from my 11th birthday, June of 1994, my stepfather came into our bedroom and stuck his fingers into my vagina. This may not be what you wanted to read, and there was a time even saying it like this was very difficult for me to do, but this is the truth of it. Plain and simple, what happened. This is the only instance I remember of this kind of assault. I do remember feeling like it wasn’t completely wrong, which now looking at it as an adult I can see that is probably because it wasn’t the first time it had happened. I went to my school the next day and awkwardly told my 4th-grade teacher, Mrs. Dabney (she will forever be the superhero of my childhood), what he had done. I was embarrassed and felt silly telling her, and part of me felt like it wasn’t even that big of a deal. But for whatever reason, I felt like I needed to tell her. I remember her face draining of color and telling the class that she would be back. She told me everything would be ok and she walked me to the office. I sat in that office for what seemed like 12 hours. My mother didn’t believe me and said I was a troubled kid that was having flashbacks of when I was a baby. I am pretty sure she also told them that she couldn’t handle me living with them anymore. I was taken away from my brother and sister and placed in a foster home. But this was a positive turning point in my life that wouldn’t really set in until I was an adult. I was lucky, and I must have some angels out there that were trying to save me. I had the most amazing foster family anyone could ever ask for. But I had never been loved, never been shown what love looked like in a family. It was almost painful at times and they endured a lot of attitude and crap from me. I was a scared little girl who just wanted to run away from everything. Everything made me uncomfortable and I could not communicate with anyone very effectively. On a positive note, It was a time when I started finding my voice and finding ways to heal through art and music (specifically singing, it has always been healing for me).

I remember my caseworker forced me to have a visit with my stepdad while I was in the foster home. I hated every second, and it made me feel as though I had done a great wrong in telling anyone about what had happened. It made me feel like what he did was not supposed to be a bad thing. This is probably why I reached out to him when I ran away from the foster home. I missed my brother and sister, I wanted to go home. Even though there was abuse, it was familiar. I knew how to navigate in that world. Even today, as an adult, living in survival is an easy place for me to be in. I have it down to a fine art. It is living in a thriving life that I am trying to be at peace with now. When I ran away I was gone for 2 days, once again I had some angels watching over me because the situations I had found myself in were dangerous, to say the least. I left all I had at the location I was at and ran again. I called my stepdad and he met me at a gas station to talk and he then took me to my caseworker. I was around 14 years old, just starting 8th grade when I got to go back home. At this point, my mother and stepdad had divorced but he stuck around to help our mother and help take care of my brother. He became a savior for us about 2 years later.

I was a Sophmore in high school and boy oh boy I had some fire in me, which may be putting it lightly, I hated to be told what to do and that is a hard place for a parent to navigate, even with a sane mind. One night things got out of hand. She started pushing me around (literally) and as I was walking to my room she drew her fist back to punch me in the back of my head. My little sister jumped on her back yelling “don’t you fucking touch her!”. It was one of the most epic moments for her and me, even if very sad. I love her for defending me and I hope she is ok with me sharing all of this. I remember them toppling over the couch, my mom in hysterics. She kicked us all out that night. That night we went to live with our stepdad. He took us all in, no questions. But he was moving to Washington State to be closer to his family. So, he made our mother sign over her rights so he could legally be our guardian. In the middle of my Sophmore year, I had to say goodbye to a big chunk of my heart. I had made bonds with people that I once thought could never be broken. But I have now found that no person is permanent in our lives. The only permanent is ourselves and even then we have an end at some point. But it was more good than bad, I got to leave a whole world of pain and suffering behind me. It was a fresh start and a new adventure. I always have loved adventures, even to this day!

Things were better, for the first time in our lives. I was on guard and uncomfortable with my stepdad at first, but I was also older, and as creepy as it is I was not his type anymore. I remember finding child porn on his computer once, this set in stone for me that I would never have to fear him like that again. Once again, I was was disgusted but there was also a sense of relief. I had a hard time opening up to people in school so making friends served to be challenging. I was quiet, dressed funny compared to my peers, and just kind of ‘blended in’. The friends I did make were a grade above me. They were strong positive influencers in my life at that time. So when my Senior year came around I felt alone again. I partied a bit too much and hung out with the wrong crowds. I had sex for the first time when I was 18 with a homeless kid in Seattle, thought I was in love until he became very possessive and I had to get away from him. Then there was Corey. We met through a friend, I didn’t know this at the time but he had asked her to find him someone who would have sex with him. I guess she just assumed that I would fit the bill. I am gifted with the ability to remember ALL of my drunken shenanigans. Well, I remember this, my feet in the air and talking to my friend who was having sex right next to us. I remember her telling me to be quiet. I don’t remember feeling anything, just seeing my legs in the air. I love my son, and I make sure he knows that he was no mistake and that I love him with all that I am. But looking back now at the young woman I was, that was NOT consent. I had no idea at all what was going on and was in no space to even say no if I wanted to. I became pregnant from that night. When I graduated high school I was 3 months pregnant, but at least I graduated. I was actually going to break up with him because we fought like cats and dogs, vicious screaming fights. But then we found out I was pregnant and he was from the South, and ‘if you get a girl pregnant you marry her’. I had zero confidence or self-esteem and I would crumble under any kind of scrutiny or pressure. So when he said we were going to get married, I went along with it. I had no choice in my mind at that time anyway. I remember him throwing a fit for having to pay $50 to the little marriage shack we got hitched in. Oh, the days haha. To make matters worse when I found out I was pregnant I also found out I had chlamydia from the homeless kid. I felt like a dirty whore telling him I had it, and he did a damn good job of making sure I continued to feel that way all the way up to me finally fleeing from the marriage 2 years later.

Where do I even begin with my first marriage? I will start off by saying, just as I said about my mother, I am not trying to paint a bad picture of my son’s father. It is all just stuff that happened. Things that have shaped my anxieties, fears, blocks, etc. Moments that have left scars. I was not an easy person to be married to, I know this, and he couldn’t control his temper. We both had issues. I couldn’t communicate and he couldn’t control his mouth or body. I think he also felt trapped, trapped in a marriage he didn’t want and wasn’t ready for. Either way, I was a victim of domestic violence. I didn’t think so at the time because it was all mental, but it was abuse. I thought this is what love was because this is what I was taught at a young age love was. I didn’t know any better. This was one of the lower times in my life. I was a wife and a mom. Nothing more. I couldn’t do anything without scrutiny and I was shamed daily. I wish I could hold that young woman and tell her right from the beginning that she deserved better. That she was so much more than this. I can go on about all the bad stuff that had happened but in the end, I left when it got to the point where he was telling me ways he wanted to kill me. This happened a few times before I finally found the courage and strength to leave. And this was in part due to the few family and friends I was allowed to talk to encouraging me to leave, convincing me that what was happening was not how it was supposed to be. I was terrified of him, and for years he held me in that space, even after I had fled with my son.

Every relationship after this one was just part of a cycle. A cycle I am glad I finally recognized, caught, and changed. If I was with a great guy I fled, if I was with a manipulator I stayed longer (albeit most were of the manipulative type). I always felt so empowered after I ended those relationships. Like I had made it to some groundbreaking self-development inner epiphany. But I didn’t see the cycle, didn’t see I was still attracting abusive people into my life. It took me time, and devotion to myself, that didn’t come until after my second marriage fell apart. We also fought like cats and dogs, screaming matches and slamming of stuff galore! But he knew how to manipulate my emotions and I was always left in a space of feeling I was foolish for feeling what I felt. I also didn’t want to ‘fail’ again so I stayed in this one for the longest out of them all. Maybe one day I will write a book on the horrors of being in abusive relationships and how to recover and heal but for now, I will just say this: I gave to both until I had nothing left to give, and then I kept on giving. I became an empty hollow shell of a woman, and with that, I also became hypercritical and judgemental. I was past the point of unhappy. At the end of the first marriage, I fled from fear; at the end of the second marriage, I fled because I had gotten to the point I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I left for me, I left to save myself. I was lost, cracked, and hated myself for what I had become. I spent a whole year after my second divorce working on myself. Loving who I am and being completely happy being alone. I won’t say that my life is all rainbows and sunshine now, although it is the happiest I have ever been. I have learned tools along this journey that have helped me mentally massage the scars life has left on me. A little massage therapist metaphor there, any good massage therapist knows that to have a scar area be fully functional you have to massage it daily to keep you moving freely. The same is true with our minds and souls. There is no cure for our trauma but, with practice and a lot of love, we can have daily healing to keep us moving freely through life.

If you have made it through this whole read, I thank you for taking the time to get to know me a little better. I don’t post this lightly, in fact, I am a bit terrified to be posting it at all.  If I love you, I love you with my whole being and I know that I can be intense. It is the only way I know. I am also doubtful of when people do truly love me, it is ingrained into me. I will leave you with this: if you love someone who has trauma, don’t love them lightly. Be fierce! We need it the most, even if we push it away. We love you too, more than we can ever express, but we are also terrified by it and we don’t mean to be. We simply come from a different life and things affect us differently. To all my fellow kindred spirits, do the daily work to massage your scars. The world needs your strength, tenacity, and power for life. Be an inspiration, because you are in fact loved. You may not be seeing it. You HAVE to love you first. Love and light to you all during this hard time of seclusion and social distancing 💚 I know for me it is stirring up some old demons that I am trying to work through. I also apologize for my beautiful grammar… I like to pretend I know how to expertly use commas and the like haha

With Love and and Open Heart,

Anna Marie

My Life Focus, Art

Good morning, all my lovely readers, I am inspired. Life inspired. I have struggled with ‘who am I?’ and ‘why am I here?’ for my entire life. Over the past couple of months, I have gone through some drastic changes in my life, and my outlook on life. One of the first lessons I was faced with was brought up by a song, by Macklemore, I heard on the radio. I am horrible with names so I can’t recall the title of the song, but of the lines was ‘well at least you’re happy’ and he was talking about an ex that was trying to be friends after she broke it off with him because she wasn’t happy. He was talking about how he was miserable but at least she was happy. At that moment I realized that I have only ever taken into account my own happiness, I wholeheartedly want others to be happy as well but not at the expense of my own happiness.

I affect everyone around me, and my love, hate, anger, peace will ripple. When I make a choice it affects everyone. When I was unhappy it wasn’t because of some outside force, but that is where I was putting it. I put my unhappiness on my marriage, the feelings of being stuck, feeling like my kids hate me, etc. This was all in my head and I was going to run, yet again. Because running is the easy way out for me, running lets me start over. But, I am grateful for the situation we are in, I have no easy way ‘out’ and it has forced me to face myself head-on. What right do I have to destroy someone’s life because I am not ‘happy’, especially someone I love? That is the easy and horribly destructive path out. But I don’t want to be out, I want to be all in. I want to live on the edge with love, with acceptance, with truly being a caring human.

I love my life, I love my family, I love myself. How did I get here you ask? By taking care of myself. By cutting out things that were drastically hurting my body, like caffeine. I have also lowered my sugar drastically, I still consume it and have moments of overconsumption but it is not daily anymore, and I can now go weeks without if I have to. I have also begun managing my stress. I do this by communicating, writing, doing art, getting the task that needs to be done completed (still working on this one). My anxiety is still here with me, it always will be, but by sitting around and just letting it take me has created some health issues for me, along with some bad eating habits and weight gain.

I have also rekindled my spirituality, I draw an oracle card every day to set focus and I do tarot readings when I need them. I am trying to get back into my Yoga and I focus on positive intentions every day. All these have helped me crawl out of the hole I have been hiding in. Because I have in fact been hiding, I have been hiding since I was a little girl and it is time to emerge from my long slumber and set my mighty roar upon the world. No more hiding. I got a message the other day from some readings and it was ‘What would you do if you were not afraid?’ This message stuck with me for weeks! And last week I finally took the leap and went for it. I created a YouTube Channel, a Patreon page and I started converting my social media accounts to serve my artist purposes. I also started listening to friends instead of taking their constructive criticism as an attack. I feel strong, vibrant, rested, and I am ready to attack my world and make the best life I can. This being said, my passion is art or anything that lets me create. So come along the adventure with me as I document my art and the process that I go through to be who I am as an artist. I also talk about what I do and what helps me heal. I hope that my life inspires you and thank you for reading! ❤

My YouTube: Art with Anna, Dragonfly Rose

My Patreon: Anna Burdette is Creating…

My Facebook Page: Dragonfly Rose Art

Breathing Life

Life is the sun on my face through a passing window,

A hot cup of tea on an icy cold day,

Breath in my lungs,

Love in my heart.

I feel the glitter of goosebumps on my skin.

Every breath deeper and deeper,

My stress melts away.

And the heaviness falls,

Like the avalanche of snow off a mountainside.

The Darker Side of Me

7 months of insanity, of lessons. I feel my spirit growing thin, my passion fading. I am on a path currently where I am learning to balance the dark side of myself, that side that is extremely self-conscious, judgmental, angry, and sad. I do feed off the energy of others, and at times have a hard time differentiating between my own emotions and others, but I also believe the things we see in others, and hate or dislike, are things within ourselves that we do not like. I feel like I am falling into a depression, a big black precipice with no sign of light, but part of me is excited to jump in with both feet; as strange as that sounds. I hate it here, because there is something I hate within myself. It is deep and painful, and the hatred and bigotry of the people in this place are only fuel to that fire. Don’t get me wrong Kansas does have a beauty, I would never deny her that, but I long for the tree’s and the ocean; they heal a part of me that nothing else can seem to heal. I am realizing more and more that I need these two elements to survive. I know I will be with them again soon, but for now I am learning about the darker side of who I am, and struggling to learn to embrace her and find a healthy balance. I thought that living in a small town would be a nice change of pace, that there would be a peacefulness, a resting period for me. Instead I was greeted by hatred, gossip, lies, cold shoulders, fake smiles, and trash talking. I get it, to a point, here I come rolling into town from Louisiana with my California plates and sweeping up a newly single man. I get it, but it has been 4 months, and as people are starting to ‘warm’ up to me, I find myself being worn down by all the bullshit. I am from Seattle, I am of that kind of people, I realize that now. I am used to surrounding myself with loving hippie tree hugger types, like myself. How does one handle these negative energies, I feel lazy, I don’t even want to try anymore to be happy. Sure I could meditate, cleanse, smudge the house, etc. but I don’t. I just want to be a hermit, to never really leave home, unless it is to do something away from these little towns, away from these people and their judging glares. I can’t stand women who abuse their partners, or cheat, or lie, or are just plain bitches. Women who don’t support their partners, in all aspects of life, including their passions. What is wrong with people here? I just don’t get it, I have never had to live in such an environment, aside from when I was a child, it’s infuriating and makes me never want anything to do with the women around here. I am sure the lesson is in here somewhere along the lines of learning to accept people just as they are and that they are on their own path of lessons, etc. But I just can’t get to that yet. I can’t be around these people and pretend to like them, pretend that I don’t see what they are doing, and accept it… I would rather just stay away than see it. I used to preach about accepting each other no matter what, about unconditional love for everyone no matter what their choices, but at what point is it enough? At what point do you not accept it? I feel like accepting it is like telling these people it is ok to act and treat people in this way. It is not!! I feel like as a human I cannot accept this anymore, we will die as a species because of our stupid need for violence, religion, and segregation. Vanity, bigotry, hatred, envy, conceit, cheating, abuse…. We don’t learn as a people, we don’t join together, we only fight. How does one mentally survive this craziness? I don’t think we will survive as a species, if I am to be honest. I am tired of it all, I am tired of people, I can see why those men that we call ‘crazy mountain men’ are in fact mountain men. I don’t see them as crazy, I see it as survival.

Sedona and Back Again

The crisp early morning air of Southern California should have been a clear sign that further down the road would be very much cooler, but it didn’t stop or deter us from starting on our journey at the beginning of December. I was bound and determined to get to Sedona, Arizona, come hell or high water. I had wanted to go, and spend time there, for years, and I plowed my way there without much planning or stopping. I learned a lot from this first trip, which was supposed to take 3 weeks but ended up around 4 days.

We drove through all the familiar places, passed through Palm Springs (which was the furthest we had been in that direction) and found ourselves at our first stop, the Salton Sea. It was a very interesting place. Many warned us about the smell, but we arrived on a cool day and there was almost no smell at all aside from the smell of salty water, like the ocean. We enjoyed lunch here among the birds and the beach. It didn’t have sand like a standard beach would have had, although from a distance it looked like it was endless white sand, upon further investigation I found that it was tiny pieces of dead barnacles and fish bones. Like an aquatic graveyard, both surreal and a bit horrifying as I crunched over millions of little ‘dead bodies’ to get to the water, where I snapped some pictures of the hundreds of birds that flew and swam around the water.  *Don’t let my edited pictures fool you, there were hundreds!! I edited a bunch of them out of some of my shots because I was trying to focus on one certain bird.* It was a peaceful afternoon and I will most definitely be going back there again soon, in the early morning air though 😉

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We piled back in the car and continued on our journey. I wanted to make it to the Petroglyph Site in Southern Arizona before night fall. What was supposed to be a 6 hour drive was closer to 10!! I was ready to get out of that damn car! I had had just enough in cash for 2 days (this was including a ton of change) but we decided to stay only one night. First lesson learned, if you can stay somewhere longer, do it! I attempted to erect our tent in the evening wind, and the whole damn thing actually flew away from me a few times! I am sure if there were anyone else around I would have been very embarrassed, along with amusing as it would have been a silly sight for sure! The Petroglyph Site was interesting but we were expecting a lot more than a huge pile of volcanic rocks in the middle of a vast nowhere. There were some large mountainous hills in the distance, which if we stayed we probably would have tried to go up and explore them, but I let Cardin talk me into heading out the next morning. 2nd lesson, take in consideration the wishes of a 10 year old (almost 11) but don’t base decision solely on that! I think if we had stayed that 2nd night I wouldn’t have been as ragged, because I would have had a chance for a bit of rest.

After trying to get a good nights sleep on some pointy rocks the morning came and we ate some rice from the night before that tasted like dirt… Won’t be buying that brand again (also didn’t help that Cardin got some dirt in the bowls haha :D) packed up the tent and headed toward the Sonoran Desert National Monument, which I was never able to find. I drove and drove all over that damn place and I couldn’t figure out where the hell it was! So we kept driving, and when we reached a town I got gas and pulled out the trusty road map to figure out where the hell we would go next. I decided on the Petrified Forest, mind you it was now mid day and we were a good 5 hours away, but we went for it anyway. After endless driving through the Tonto National Forest I started to realize that we wouldn’t make it there by night fall, or it would be pretty damn close. So I looked where we were and realized that Sedona was the same distance as the Petrified Forest! 3rd lesson, take time to smell the roses. I should have just found a spot closer to where we were and enjoyed the area we were in. We pulled into Sedona after 5pm and it was pitch dark, I couldn’t find camping anywhere! It was too dark to see anything, I felt defeated and exhausted after driving around for a couple hours, we finally made ‘camp’ in the car. We have a very little car, after maneuvering items, Cardin had the back seat and I tried to sleep in the front seat in a seated position. Needless to say, I didn’t get any sleep. 4th lesson, make sure that, whatever vehicle we may be traveling in, we have equipped it for more comfortable emergency car camping.

(picture from another adventure, just to show how small the car is)

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As the morning crept in, we sat and waited for the sun to continue rising and for the defrost to completely dry out the windows. I searched on my ‘not so reliable’ phone for nearby visitors centers, only one open for the season. We drove all the way there for it to be closed until 9 am…. Not knowing the area and stressing about cash flow I was leery on just going into some diner for warm drinks. Lesson 5, don’t think so much. Sometimes you have to let go and go with a peaceful flow, knowing everything will be alright, even if you have just one little decadence, like a warm morning drink until the center opens. When the visitor center opened we were told that the pass we needed could only be purchased from a ranger, and that they only came into the city during certain times. So, we drove a while longer to the nearest ranger station that was open to get the Beautiful America Pass (which also got us our campsite for half the price). Finally, pass in hand, we made our way all the way back, near the place we ‘car camped’, and setup camp at the Manzanita campground. Campfire roaring we made breakfast and then headed for a couple hikes.

I am not sure why the Manzanita campground got voted most beautiful campground. It was very pretty, but very small and there was no real way ‘out’ of the grounds. There were no hikes close by and we were sandwiched between two bluffs, so it was cold! Since we exhausted the extent of ‘hiking’ around our campsite we decided to try out one of the hikes that was further up the road, The Midgley Bridge trail. There were a couple different options to take with this trail but as it was nearing 2pm and the sun would be going down in a few hours we decided for the shorter loop. It was amazing, and so very beautiful. The hike also got our blood flowing so we were all nice and toasty! Which didn’t last long when we got back to our camp. We headed to bed as soon as the sun went down, so pretty early, which was fine because we were both exhausted! However, it got below freezing that night so Cardin and I tried to share sleeping bags with not much luck. We were both freezing all night, Cardin more than I as he decided to sleep in his undies.  Lesson 6, when it comes to warm clothing more is better, especially in terms of thick socks and super warm fuzzy pajamas! Maybe even a two person sleeping bag would be a good idea, since body heat is what got us through that night with a tad of sleep.

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The morning sun began to illuminate our tent, not bringing warmth but fear. Neither of us wanted to crawl out of the somewhat warm blankets and sleeping bags to brave the crisp frosty air. We quickly dressed in all of our coats and laced our shoes, and exited the tent with already frozen toes and fingers. Cardin was NOT happy, not one little bit. I did my best to start a fire quickly, but it wasn’t big enough to really heat us up, and he began to breakdown. Every two seconds he complained about how cold he was, and that his feet hurt so very badly. I didn’t know what to do, he wouldn’t stop. He started crying, so I finally decided to put him (along with Luna, who I have found also needs warm weather gear and doggie boots) in the car and turned on the heater. But that took a while to heat up and the entire time he wallowed in the car. Screaming and crying. I felt like I was going to lose my mind, I am very sad to say that I didn’t handle this situation very well at all. And to make matters worse the campers next to us were looking at me like I was some sort of child abuser. It was not a very good morning at all. Lesson 7, breathe and don’t get so upset. Try to be more understanding and compassionate, being tired and exhausted is no excuse. I packed the tent as best I could, put out the fire and decided to call this adventure done.  Feeling defeated, we started our journey back home. We stopped a couple times for gas and to eat but we made it back that evening. And I would like to add that the stretch of highway 10 from Arizona to California is the most torturous stretch of flat nothingness road I have ever been on, it felt like it would never end. I was so relieved when that stretch of road was done! 280 miles of straight dessert and very small towns about every 60 miles or so. This was by far a huge learning trip for us and a great reminder that we need to slow down, slow down a lot, and know that it is okay hibernating our traveling shoes for the Winter, and that planning needs to be more thought out and more in depth. We are going to be heading out again for Arizona and Utah mid April. Until then, we will be exploring Southern California a bit more ❤ I would also like to say thank you to Hanna Elaine Harmon and Ian Catchpole ❤ your donations covered most of our fuel cost along the way, we love you!! ❤