What doesn't kill me makes me awesome(Originally published on Opinions for Nothing.)

I don't think I'm invincible, but I do think I'm unbreakable. I believe, with every ounce of my being, that there is nothing in this world that can happen to me from which I won't recover, emotionally. Nothing.

I consider all possibilities. What is the worst thing that can happen? How would I deal with it? I have the answers to those questions and, whether or not I am right, having thought about it gives me the strength to get through it. It's not morbid to think about those things. I am realistic and I know that the worst thing to happen isn't the likely thing to happen, but I want to be prepared. Loss of limb? Death of my spouse or my child or my sister? Loss of sight or hearing? Chronic or terminal disease? Loss of all of my worldly possessions? I've considered them all. I will be distraught if (when) one of those things comes to pass, but I will not be destroyed. One day, many days ahead, I will emerge on the other side.

Last year was the worst year of my life. At the low point of the worst year of my life, my mom was killed in a car accident. It was already bad before that, and it was worse after. 2010 was my nemesis, kicking me when I was down, throwing salt in my wounds, kneeling on my chest every time I tried to stand up. I don't believe that time heals all, but I know that every situation is temporary. My mom is never coming back -- that is permanent -- but every day since she died is a day that I lived, a day that has passed, a day that will never come again. Everything changes, and if I can continue to think, and act, and breathe, and be myself, then I can survive any situation. I may be changed, but I will also be whole, unbroken.

This life is the only one I get and I will never give up on myself.

My Dad

My parents' wedding day

(Originally published on Opinions for Nothing.)

My dad was 19 years old when he married my mom. She was 16 years old, and three months pregnant with me. My parents separated when I was five years old, and divorced when I was nine years old.

My dad wasn't known for his lawful behavior. He didn't make court-ordered child support payments. He infrequently took advantage of court-allowed visitations with his children. He did not adhere to laws prohibiting the possession, use, and sale of illegal drugs. Two of the three things on that list caused him to be in and out of jail for much of my childhood.

My dad was book smart without a college degree. After he left the Air Force, he was an engineering technician until the recession of the late-'80s and early-'90s. After that, he drifted from odd job to odd job, preferring those that paid cash so he wouldn't have to make child support payments. It's unfortunate that he never grew up.

When I was in college, I made peace with the fact that my dad was never going to change and never going to be the kind of dad I needed. He was family and I still loved him, but as long as I expected him to act like a father, I would be disappointed. I resolved to treat him like an uncle -- not even a favorite uncle. After that, we had a much better relationship.

Eventually, my dad paid off the back child support with an extended jail term. I was well into my 20s by then. When he was released, he moved to New Mexico to live with my retired grandmother. He had a steady job and had been promoted to a supervisory position when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Eighteen months later, at the age of 50, he was dead. Today would have been his 57th birthday.

An Obituary for My Mother


(Originally published on Opinions for Nothing.)

Priscilla Jewell died Tuesday, May 18, 2010 suddenly and tragically in a car accident in Camarillo, California.

She was born Priscilla Elaine Buchanan on March 28, 1957 to Stanley and Pauline Buchanan in Oak Harbor, Washington. Priscilla moved with her parents and her four older sisters to Point Mugu in 1959 and to Camarillo in 1962, to a brand new subdivision on Edgemont Drive, which was then surrounded by lima bean fields. She remembered walking home with her sisters one day and losing a shoe in a mud puddle in one of those fields, which is now the Camarillo Community Center on Carmen Drive.

Priscilla graduated from Adolpho Camarillo High School a year early in 1974. She married her high school sweetheart, Joseph Lino LeBlanc, Jr. and gave birth to her first daughter, Michelle, in 1974 in Colorado. Priscilla returned to California briefly and then moved with her husband and her baby to Las Vegas, Nevada, where her husband was stationed with the United States Air Force. In 1977, she gave birth to her second daughter, Marie. Priscilla returned to Camarillo with her two daughters in 1980.

In 1988, Priscilla met Roger Jewell at Harley’s Camarillo Bowl, where he was the manager. They were in high school together and had friends in common then and when they became reacquainted so many years later. Roger and Priscilla fell in love soon after they started dating. After a long engagement, Priscilla married the love of her life in 1997.

There is nothing Priscilla loved more than spending time with her family. She enjoyed the large family gatherings held at her childhood home on Edgemont Drive and later, at her own house, playing games at the dining room table, and watching her grandchildren and nieces and nephews play in the pool. She cherished the quiet moments, too; time spent shopping with her daughters, playing with her grandchildren, chatting with her sisters, visiting with her step-son Chris, and her step-daughter Jennifer.

In the thirty years of her banking career, all of it spent with local banks, Priscilla worked with so many coworkers and customers throughout Ventura County. Earlier this year, Priscilla was promoted to Sr. Vice President at California Oaks State Bank, in Thousand Oaks. Recently, she studied diligently for, and was proud of earning, the designation of Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager. Priscilla was a conscientious, meticulous employee who never left a question unanswered or a detail undocumented.

Priscilla was loved dearly by her family, friends, and coworkers. She was the glue that held her family together and her loss leaves a hole that can never be filled. She was smart, loving, generous, kind, and thoughtful. She would have gladly given her life for her children and her grandchildren, and they are heartbroken to have seen it taken from her. Priscilla was a daughter, a sister, a mother, a wife, a grandmother, an aunt, a cousin, and a friend. This beautiful woman will be remembered and missed be everyone who knew her.

Priscilla Jewell is survived by her husband, Roger Jewell; her two daughters, Michelle LeBlanc Magoffin and Marie LeBlanc Molina; her step-children, Christopher Jewell and Jennifer Colegrove; her four sisters, Patricia Robinson, Peggy Buchanan, Penny White, and Pamela Geisler; her seven grandchildren, Kenna, Olivia, Molly, Liam, Curtis, Zoe, and Evan; and her aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grand-nieces, grand-nephews, mothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, and sons-in-law. She is preceded in death by her father, Stanley Buchanan, and her mother, Pauline Buchanan, as well as her grandparents.

A funeral mass will be held for Priscilla on Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 10 AM at St. Mary Magdalen Church on Las Posas Road in Camarillo. All are welcome to attend the mass. Her ashes will be interred a few days later in a private ceremony at Conejo Mountain Memorial Park. Arrangements are being made through Griffin Family Mortuary in Camarillo.