I am an author, a CPA, a Court Appointed Special Advocate, a Foundation President, a website editor and an entrepreneur. I would like to think I am making the world a better place.
October 14, 2013
It was with more than a little trepidation that I slid into the front seat of my brother’s truck for the ride from my hotel to my mother’s house. I was in Fargo, North Dakota as part of a ten-day adventure to visit family and friends in the Midwest, and my daughter Angela was accompanying me on my journey back to my homeland. One of the goals of this trip was to say hello to my mother, or at least knock on her door in an attempt to find out if she was interested in talking to me. We had not spoken for eight years, and during that time I had published a book about my life and my childhood experiences on the farm on which I was raised. I assumed that she was not happy about the contents of my memoir, and so I expected that she may not answer the door, or perhaps she would slam it in my face. I had braced myself emotionally and mentally for either of those outcomes. What I had not prepared myself for were the events that would actually unfold.
My brother Frank also lives in Fargo, and he graciously offered to assist me in making the connection with my mother, by placing a telephone call to her to confirm that she was home. He asked my mother if he could stop over to take a look at something on her car, and I heard him tell her to make sure she was up and dressed. He said nothing to mom about me being in town.
My brother picked up my daughter and I at our hotel, and we made the short trip to my mother’s house. When we arrived, I exited his truck and stood in the driveway by the vehicle’s open door. My brother walked up to our mother’s front door and knocked on it. I saw it swing open, yet I did not immediately see my mother, as she remained inside. I heard him say to her “You won’t believe what the cat has drug in!” My mother stepped out, looked over at the truck, and then at me. A look of anguish came over her face, and I saw she was, to put it mildly, shocked. She hesitated for a moment, and then she proceeded down the sidewalk.
As the contorted look on her face started to gradually fade away, I focused more clearly on the 86-year-old woman walking towards me. I was struck at how much weight she had lost since I had last seen her, and the degree to which her face had aged. On the other hand, she was maneuvering quite well down the sidewalk towards me, so I was confused that this woman, with her life experiences now literally etched on her face, had maintained her physical health. This was all a bit disconcerting to me, and I was trying to take it all in as she approached the truck.
She stood directly in front of me, looking me squarely in eyes, making no further movement. I took the initiative to make the first move, and I reached over and put my arms around her and hugged her. Then I said something that I do not ever remember saying to her – “I love you, Mom.” She reacted to neither the hug nor my words, and I released my hold.
At that moment, Angela got out of the truck, and my mother went over to her, and gave her a hug. Obviously still flustered, she said “Well, I guess we should go inside.”
We all proceeded to enter her small condominium and Angela and I took our seats on the couch and she sat in her recliner. My brother then surprised me by saying, “You know, I have some errands to do, so I will pick you up in a couple of hours.” I was stunned at his words, and at first I was a little miffed. Then I reminded myself that it was me that wanted this experience, and I settled into our visit, leaving myself open to whatever was about to occur.
My mother was very talkative, and much of the conversation revolved around her life and what she was doing. She brought me up to date on what was happening with the relatives, her friends and the church. She spoke to Angela, and I paid attention as they engaged in conversation. For my part, I listened to my mother, and I answered any questions she posed to me. Our conversation was cordial and light, and we did not talk about the past, nor was any mention made of my book.
My mother stated that she was getting her affairs in order, and I commented that it was always good to have things set up the way you want them to be. I could tell from her comments that she has reached a point in life where she is divesting herself of her personal possessions. She offered me a box of old photographs that she had collected over the years, and I accepted them as graciously as I could, and said I would go through them when I got back to California. She asked Angela to pick out some teacups and saucers from her collection in the dining room china cabinet, as a remembrance of her. Angela chose two that appealed to her, and my mother was delighted when my daughter told her she was going to put them beside the vases she received from her other grandmother.
Then my mother asked me to pick out two sets of cups and saucers for myself. Almost instantly, the little three-year old girl still inside of me started to tell me she did not want anything from this person! So, in an attempt to appease that child-like part of myself, I declined the tea cups and gave my mother the excuse that they were fragile, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to get them back home safely on the plane. I watched my mother’s lighthearted expression change when I made that comment. At that moment, a piece of advice that I am accustomed to giving others came into my consciousness, and it immediately altered my thinking and the mood. I heard my mind silently speaking to me as it said “It is better to make the choice to be kind, instead of always needing to be right.” My mother was offering me a gift, and if I was going to walk my talk, I needed to take the higher road of gratitude and acceptance.
I selected two sets of pastel cups and saucers, each decorated with the variety of a flower that you would find in a Midwest garden. As I held them up to look more closely at each one, I noticed how delicate they were. I also chuckled to myself as I wondered how long it had been, since the age of Starbucks and Coffee Bean, that anyone had used a saucer. I thought about the hundreds of cups of coffee they held and the various people who had enjoyed the porcelain decorations. As I examined them, I realized that they had held their beauty, even when most people would no longer consider them useful. A lot like we treat people, I thought!
My brother returned, two hours later, and suggested we all go out to dinner (they call it supper in the Midwest!). My mother was delighted to be asked, so we journeyed off to their favorite barbecue rib place, where I ate way too much food!
We drove back to my mother’s condo to drop her off after dinner, and I got out of the truck to walk her up the pathway, and make sure she got the front door unlocked and opened. As she was about to go in, I wrapped my arms around her and once again said “No matter what happened, I love you Mom.” She was silent, although she hugged me back.
And then, as I was walking down the sidewalk towards my brother’s truck, I heard my Mother’s voice calling out after me. “Marion,” she said, “This was a great day.”
For a split second, I thought about responding, yet my instincts told me to stay silent, for everything that needed to be said has been said. I turned around, smiled and waved goodbye.
I sat in silence in the front seat of the truck as my brother drove us to the hotel, and I pondered what has just transpired. I thought about my mother and her last comment. Before this trip, I was pretty sure my mother was wrong about anything of importance. My thinking was altered during this visit, as I now knew she was right about at least one thing.
Indeed, it was a great day!
April 28, 2012
Reading Little Madhouse on the Prairie was like taking a journey through my own life. There were pieces that were a bit different than my life and yet I felt connected, so connected in fact that I felt the need to contact the author directly and convey the message to her. Her book gave me ideas on how I might move forward in healing my own traumas and bring light and love to the parts inside that have been hurting for many years. For the first time in a long time I feel as though I have the opportunity to feel whole again.
If Marion can do it, so can I!
March 17, 2012
I have been away from my website the past month, dealing with a variety of personal issues. What a treat it was to return to my blog and find the following message posted, which the author agreed to share.
“First of all, thank you for writing your book, second for coming to our class at Oxnard College, and lastly, thank you for opening up and sharing your testimony with all of us. I read your book and loved it. I was leery and hesitant in reading it because of my own similar past experiences, but I am glad I got the courage to read it.
It brought me so much pain but yet so much validation and truth and release, all at the same time. I too had an alcoholic father and a very abusive mother. But oh how I loved her so. I was the oldest of six and had to help raise my siblings and mother too. She was very ill but yet still worked very hard to support all six of us by herself. I was born in the 50’s so you understand the parenting rituals of the parents back then. I am almost 60 years old and I am going to Oxnard College and taking courses of Alcohol and Drug Addictions, which have helped me so much, as well as your book. Thank God for my teachers there and for you, to help me finally see the truth, and myself, and most of all my mother and father and the reasoning behind their neglect and abuse. I thought I had overcome and survived it all when I never drank or did drugs or was like my mother. But I am finding out 50 years later that I am somewhat like my mother and I did not really overcome my issues. I just learned to hide them very well. And from time to time there are triggers and I find myself crying and feeling depressed. So because of you and my teachers, I am finding myself and getting help so that I can someday help others, just like you. Thank You, Marion…God Bless and much love… Rosie from California.”
December 1, 2011
A big shout out of thanks to Addiction Treatment Magazine in Los Angeles, California, for the wonderful review of Little Madhouse on the Prairie. Visit their WEBSITE if you or someone you love is involved in alcohol or drug addiction.
Book Review – Little Madhouse on the Prairie: A True-Life Story of Overcoming Abuse and Healing the Spirit
The title alone is enough to make you want to pick up the book, Little Madhouse on the Prairie: A True-Life Story of Overcoming Abuse and Healing the Spirit, by Marion Elizabeth Witte, and read it. But this is no charming story of a Laura Ingalls character. It is a heartfelt and often painful to read account of a childhood weighed down by abuse, alcoholism, incredible hardship and abandonment.
Having said that, the book is extraordinary in that it shows very clearly that it is possible to overcome such a dismal and unpromising past and go on to achieve a happy and normal life.
No, it isn’t easy. Getting over such a horrific past couldn’t possibly be easy and, as Ms. Witte is the first to say, it takes some doing on a continual basis. Not the getting over it, but the getting beyond it.
You see, there are the reminders that come along when you least expect it. You see a mother chastising her child in the store and you’re immediately brought right back to that painfully dark place in your memory of the time when you were so abused by one of your parents. It could be a harsh word that you hear or a certain look on someone’s face that you wince at because it makes you recall episodes where all you wanted to do was run and hide from an abusive parent or sibling.
Ms. Witte certainly takes the reader through those bleak days on the prairie, and her writing, while not overtly explicit in the painful details, is vivid enough that anyone can understand how difficult an upbringing she endured. How would any of us react to being locked in a dark and dirty cellar in the middle of winter, one crawling with mice and rats? Or being forced to sleep in our own urine-soaked bed when we’ve had an accident? Or forced to wear boy’s hand-me-down clothes (when we’re a girl)? How would we deal with an alcoholic father who abandoned us emotionally as well as physically? If he wasn’t there for us when we needed protecting, that’s abandonment, plain and simple. And Ms. Witte had to endure all of this. No wonder she couldn’t wait to escape, as so many children who are abused wind up doing.
But just getting out of the abusive household does nothing to eradicate the painful past. This is another lesson that Ms. Witte learned and passes along to readers. It seems that you carry the past right along with you, whether you like it or not. Of course, she tried to block out the memories, just as others who have suffered childhood abuse have done. But they are always there under the surface, ready to rise up and alter behavior today. That is, unless the individual goes into therapy, seeks the support and encouragement of others, and embarks on a journey of self-discovery and self-healing.
The funny thing about healing from childhood abuse, whether the abuse is physical, sexual, or psychological, is that it may seem to others that everything is fine. The individual may appear perfectly composed, capable, not at all troubled by the past, when what is really going on is that their emotions are in turmoil. They may be at a breaking point and not even know it. It may even turn out that, just like in Ms. Witte’s experience, their body will turn against them. If we ignore what is unhealed, we will continue to suffer.
Worst of all, our lives will continue to remain unfulfilled. We will sabotage relationships with those we love and end promising careers, thwart our hopes for future happiness, if we even dare to believe that we could ever truly be happy.
Healing, then, is something that those who have suffered abuse must work at, but they cannot heal by themselves. They require assistance from professionals, those trained in helping individuals overcome past abuse and trauma, learn new coping skills and behaviors, and begin, most of all, to believe that they are worthwhile and worthy of love.
Whether you are yourself the victim of childhood abuse or you know someone who is, this book will help you realize that there is a way out of the painful past. There is hope and promise available. The first step is to acknowledge that hope does exist. The next step is to go after it by seeking professional help.
Why did Ms. Witte write this book? Why did she reveal so much about her past? Her words are very direct: I offer my story as a confirmation of my belief that all events and circumstances in life have purpose. Sometimes we find out what the purpose is immediately. Sometimes we spend a lifetime trying to figure it out. And sometimes, I imagine, we never really do know. I humbly offer myself as an example that the human spirit can rise above any obstacles presented to it. I know my life has been divinely guided. And if mine has been, then so has yours.
Marion Witte also established the Angel Heart Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes personal healing as a primary step in the prevention of abuse. The Angel Heart Foundation carries the motto: All Children Deserve a Safe and Just World.
June 4, 2011
Frankie and Marion
Frankie and Marion
I don’t remember my brother holding on to me as we sat on the steps of our old farmhouse. The picture of the two of us would suggest that he was protecting me from falling off the landing. I think it also reveals some sort of special bond, or perhaps an unspoken secret between us.
I have a vague memory of my brother holding my hand as we stood on the sidewalk outside our great-aunt’s home in Grand Forks, North Dakota. He seems to be holding me back from racing ahead to some unknown danger on that street. Or perhaps it was from some personal danger that he knew all too well.
The next time I remember holding my brother’s hands was decades later, as we danced at his son’s wedding. He had developed farmer’s hands, weathered and calloused from years of working the soil, repairing machinery and enduring the bitter weather of North Dakota. It is not difficult to discern his occupation, for he wears it on his hands.
This spring, five years after that wedding, we were sitting at his kitchen table. No steps outside to sit on, no sidewalks to race down, no dance steps to follow. Now it was my turn to be the hand-holder, as I attempted to stop the tremors which neither he nor his medication seemed able to control. I gently reached over and patted his hand. I knew that my touch was but a temporary respite from the uncontrollable movements. The truth was, I was really making an attempt to let him know that I understood.
I find myself pondering why my brother was one of those unfortunate men who get Parkinson’s disease way too early in life. I have researched this illness, and discovered that its exact cause is undetermined, although theories suggest a link to genetic predisposition or perhaps an exposure to the many chemicals that are used by those in the field of agriculture.
I wonder about these things, as I have wondered about a lot of things the last few years. I do know that some little children, who experience things that no little child should experience, are forced to keep quiet and be still.
Lately I wonder if there is a time when the hands of those little children can no longer obey such a command.
I love you, Frankie.
December 17, 2010
It is with deep gratitude that I thank Independent Publisher magazine for the Editor’s Choice Award given today to Little Madhouse on the Prairie. This national publication represents the voice of the independent publishing industry.
Independent Publisher magazine recognizes the best of the newly released, independently published titles as reviewed by their editorial staff over the past few weeks.
“These books are honored each month for exhibiting superior levels of creativity, originality, and high standards of design and production quality. Being chosen as an Independent Publisher Highlighted Title brings well-deserved attention to the book, author, and publisher, and the credibility and recognition that can lead to further reviews, publicity, and sales.”
Independent Publisher Editor’s Choice
My deepest appreciation to Mark Bruce Rosin and Barbara Obermeier for what they brought to the book. This award really belongs to them.
December 12, 2010
Thanks to Rick Kuhlman, for the generosity of spirit he displayed in the wonderful testimonial he wrote for my book.
“Marion’s brave book comes out of the shadows of what we are not comfortable talking about and invites us into her honesty. This book had me thinking about people in my past who sent confusing messages, and now I feel that they may have been suffering silently all along. A strong, simple book of courage that speaks out about the complex human experiences of growing up scared.” Richard Kuhlman, Actor, Director and Writer, Los Angeles, California
I know Rick has a very busy schedule in Los Angeles, so it is an honor for me that he took the time to read my book and comment on it. I met Rick when he was directing a play, and I found him to be a very kind and generous man. I must say that his Facebook picture belies the devilish little boy that is just beneath the surface, ready to come out and play and entertain us all. Rick is a great actor and an incredible writer and director, and he recently landed a role in an indie feature film, The Discarded Boyz, which will be directed by Robert Townsend. He plays the head of an alternative school in North Carolina for end-of-the-line gang bangers and delinquents. Can’t wait to hear that accent!
Rick is a Second City (Chicago) alumni, and you probably have seen him in one of his many television appearances on Seinfeld, Moonlighting, Tales from the Darkside, Spin City and many others. He even played himself on Family Guy! You can find out more about Rick on his professional site or you can request to become his friend on Facebook (don’t tell him I sent you!).
Thank you, Rick.
December 3, 2010
I am in the process of working on the second edition of Little Madhouse, in which I will answer questions posed by readers and include letters and emails from fans and many of the professional testimonials I have received. Linda Purl, a veteran actor of the stage, screen and television, graciously wrote the following review for me to include.
“This is a most extraordinary book. I could not put it down. Marion firmly plants her footsteps and those of her readers on the healing path. Her book overflows with love, forgiveness, wisdom and strength. This is an important story, powerfully told! Recommend it to be read IMMEDIATELY.”
My purpose in posting this blog entry is to take the opportunity to thank Linda for the support she has given me with regards to this book. She was one of the first people to read it, to post a review on Amazon, and to make me believe it was worth the effort it would take to get it out into the world.
You may know Linda most recently from The Office or Desperate Housewives, or from her previous roles as the fiancee of Fonzie on Happy Days or Charlene Matlock on the Matlock series. She has over 100 film, television and stage credits to her name, and when she performs during her solo concerts, I think the true depth of her talent becomes even clearer.
Linda, in addition to being an incredible talent, is a kind, generous and loving human being, and I am honored to call her a friend. If you get a chance to see her in concert, you have a treat in store for you. You can read more about Ms. Purl at her Official Website.
I don’t mean to embarrass you, Linda. This just turned out to be the perfect chance for me to tell you thank you – and how much you have touched my life!