The Jr. High Years ~ The Good, The Bad & The Ugly...

Hey, How’s your week going? Mine has been pretty good! I just started a new book for a book club that I’m in. It’s by Barbara Johnson, titled, Stick a Geranium In Your Hat and Be Happy! It’s really good so far and I love the subtitle… “Pain is inevitable, but misery is optional”. Isn’t that good?
It is so fitting and timely that I would be reading that, because “The Jr. High Years”, are by far the most painful for me to share. Even as I write and bring to light all the dark places in my life, I want to choose to be joyful! Christ has healed my heart in so many ways. I have so much to be thankful for. 

If you want to start from the beginning, these links will bring you up to speed.
A Child of the 60s &70s
Life in Hawaii

Today, I’m going to share the Jr. High School years. To me they were more "Bad & Ugly" with a little bit of "Good" sprinkled in there. Those were some of the toughest years for me. I thank God for my Grandma. If it wasn’t for her, my sister and I would have most certainly been put in foster care. These memories are really hard to share.  Through writing them, I have relived every one. I know that I’m not the only person that had it rough growing up, but knowing that fact doesn’t make it any easier to write and share my childhood. The embarrassment I felt then, still lingers today.  I am so incredibly grateful that my children had a safe and pretty normal upbringing.

So, here we go…This memory is in bits and pieces and doesn’t really make much sense to me, but it is ingrained in my mind.

My mom decided, for some reason, to take me and my sister out for a drive. We ended up at Echo Park in Los Angeles.  I have no idea what why we were at that park, but my sister and I were sitting at a picnic table. There was a huge pond with ducks and swans floating around, it was very beautiful. But, my mom was dancing around, and then stood on top of  the table, yelling and flapping her arms. I didn’t know what to do, I was scared and embarrassed. Someone must have called the police. I’m not really sure how or when, but my grandma came and got us. My mom was arrested, she was on acid/ LSD or something. It was awful. Yet, unfortunately, that wasn’t the only run in mom had with the police.

6th grade300
This was 6th grade…Hmm…not one of my best.

It was during 6th or 7th grade, that this incident occurred. Mom must have been high again. She was taking down all of the curtains and gathering them in a pile telling Grandma she was going to set them on fire. My grandma had no choice, she had to call the police. That was the worst day. The police came and I saw my mother being taken away in a straight jacket, screaming…. I was mortified, everyone in the neighborhood was out watching. I don’t even know how I dealt with it. I just wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. Well, the next day at school, all kinds of rumors were running rampant. It was awful. I was teased and made fun of. Kids are so cruel.

So, mom ended up staying in a mental hospital for awhile.  I remember going there to see her.  I wish I didn’t remember… There were some VERY unstable patients there. Plus, mom must have been on medication or something, she was out of it, acting really weird. It was pretty scary. Looking back, I feel I was too young to deal with that. I shouldn’t have witnessed that mess. I guess my Grandma thought we should go see our mom. I could have done without it.

Like I said earlier, I am so thankful for my grandmother. Where would my sister and I have gone without her? She took us in, loved us, cared for us, and took us to church every Sunday. It was a little tiny church and Grandma lead worship and taught Sunday School there. She loved God so very much, and I believe she was doing her best to live a good Christian life. Yet, there was a lot of legalism in her beliefs.

The definition of legalism is a strict adherence to a law, especially the letter rather than the spirit. Regarding legalism in theology, it is believed that salvation is gained through good works and/or the judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.

Let's just say, I didn't really want to adhere to any laws. I was a bit rebellious. Here's an example.... I wanted to go to the dance at school. All my friends were going. I asked Grandma if I could go, she said, "No, you'll go to hell if you go to that dance." Well, that was Grandma's answer for a lot of things.  By that particular time, I was kind of fed up.  I told her that I might as well go to hell, since she told me I was going there for practically everything I did or wanted to do. Seriously, I felt like I couldn't do anything right. Up to that point, I really liked going to church and Sunday School, but the "legalism" got very old. You know what's funny, I remember having this conversation with my grandma, but I couldn't tell you if I actually went to the dance!

Grandma was doing the best she could. This was so very hard on all of us. I can’t even imagine how hard it must have been for her. My mother was her one and only child. The pain she must have endured. She loved my mother very much, but through all of this, my grandma couldn't trust her anymore, with good reason. I'm pretty sure my mom stole from Grandma to help support her drug habit. Eventually, Grandma put a padlock on the outside of her bedroom door, and I’m pretty sure she locked it from the inside at night when she slept.

7th grade 400
The lovely gem is my 7th grade school picture… apparently I got my hair cut. What was I thinking?

Grandma lived in El Monte, and that was a pretty rough town.  There were a lot of Mexican gang members there. I don't know if there were all in one gang or if there were multiple gangs. All I know is, there were just a lot of gang looking people. The elementary school was just down the street from where we lived and my sister and I would go down there to play. Once we hid behind a block wall at the school, peeked over it, and watched new gang members get "jumped in". Basically, they beat the crap out of them. I can’t believe we used to do that!

I always tried to steer clear of the cholos (Mexican gang guys) and cholas (Mexican gang girls). Although, you wouldn't know it by the little stunt we pulled in the last paragraph! It was always better if the cholos and cholas never noticed you, and being a weda (white girl), that was kind of hard. Especially, when you're white, and live on the wrong side of the tracks in a predominantly Mexican neighborhood. Thank goodness, they left me alone for the most part, I just kept my head down and didn’t make eye contact.

The jr. high school was probably 2 miles or so away. There were no buses to pick you up. So, I always walked, I didn't mind walking. Although, in my neck of the 'woods' you had to watch your back, at least until you got closer to the school. There were some nicer neighborhoods around there, which brought in a good mix of students.

One day walking home from school, I almost wished some of the cholas were around. I was walking by myself and I sensed something was wrong. There was a big van that slowed down as it drove past me. Then it stopped a little ways up the road. My heart sunk... The road I walked on was a main road, but it was industrial with large business buildings here and there. There weren’t any houses around, that I could run up to. What was I going to do? For some reason, I was sure they were going to grab me. I just knew it. The only thing I could think of doing was to run into one of the business buildings and hope it was open and that someone was there.  As I started to run to the building, I heard the van’s tires squeal as it made a U-turn and sped away. After I saw them leave and they were out of sight, I ran the rest of the way home. I was so terrified.  I don’t even remember if anyone was in the building. I am so thankful that The Lord protected me that day. That was the second time, I was protected from being kidnapped. Since that incident, I have always tried to be aware of my surroundings.

8th grade250
This picture was somewhere between 8th grade and 9th grade. It seems I collected my senses and let my hair grown out.

I find it sad, that the memories that stand out to me are tragic ones.  But I guess those are the ones that impacted me the most.  I was struggling trying to remember one good memory. Then I decided to go through pictures again. My mom wasn’t the best at putting pictures in order. They are randomly put here and there, so finding certain ones means I have to go through practically all of them again. That turned out to be a good thing....I found these!
hiking mom400

I hadn't seen them before! Then I remembered, we used to go hiking up in Chantry Flats almost every weekend! That was so much fun!

Then some good memories started to flow... Yay!

I worked at a kennel. I'm pretty sure I was around 12 years old. I rode my bike a couple of miles to this little house, that had a large backyard. They had about 30 or more Miniature Pinschers. They looked just like Doberman Pinschers, only a mini version. I would clean out there individual sleeping cages, and put in fresh newspaper. Then I put each of them into their "bed" for the night. Next, it was time to feed them. They had a special diet, and I would mix this recipe of food for them, then feed each dog a certain amount. Work wasn't done yet, then I went outside and hosed down their runs. I enjoyed working with the dogs, and I also liked making some money. I couldn't tell you how much I made, but it gave me purpose.  I suppose I've always enjoyed being busy, and it gave me a break from all that was going on at grandma's house.

As I've been writing my life story, Hubby has been helping me edit and write my story with some sort of flow.  He has been a tremendous help!! The other night, he asked me don't you have any memories of playing with friends or playing outside or running through sprinklers? Hmm... I couldn't think of any... I'm sure I did some of those things. Then it hit me... I had a friend. We were in the same class. She was so nice to me. She had the coolest clothes. I love staying the night at her house, it was peaceful and in a good neighborhood. We would listen to music. The Bee Gees... And John Travolta was in Saturday Night Fever... It was awesome. I thought you might enjoy this, I did. :)

(Side note: when I hit play it said that there was an error, but if I gave it a few more seconds it played just fine.)

Eventually, mom got better. But the scars would always be a reminder of the pain we went through. She got a job and was getting on her feet. Which was good. Life was a bit more normal, not that I really knew what normal was…But life was better and that was good. I was getting ready to start high school, and I was mentally prepared to go to this one high school. You see, at the jr. high school I attended, half the school when to one high school and the other half went to a different one, depending on where you lived. Well, guess what…. we moved, right before school started. Which changed what high school I was going to … Well, wasn’t that just swell.  I was so upset.  All my friends were going to the other high school.

I survived….
Next time, I’ll share my high school years. Maybe I'll split it up... this one was really LONG...


  1. It must be so good for you to write things down, Lori, even though it's painful to recall these years. I know it makes you appreciate your grandma and also, the life that you have now.
    I think you were just a little doll in all your pictures, and you still are. Bless you for sharing with us.

    1. Hi Kitty! Yes, it really has been therapeutic for me to write it all down. Thank you for reading and for your encouraging words. You have no idea how much they mean to me! Blessings to you!

  2. Thank you for your story - mine is different but similar and I also remember the pain from the kids at school who thought they knew me and could make me so unhappy. I have two daughters now and even when they come home with stories of bullying it takes me back, but also makes me strong because I survived and I have the tools as an adult to help them. xx

    1. Hi Leanne! You are so right! We are stronger for what we went through. Thank you for reminding me of that! Oh how I pray your daughters will be strong, too! Thank you for reading and encouraging me with your comment! I truly appreciate it!!

  3. Thanks for sharing the second part,Lori! I am happy that you had your grandmother both for your sister and yourself. I like how you found some good memories: while working in the kennel, spending time with a good friend or listening to Bee Gees...good memories to heal the painful ones! And I am glad you have the support and love of a wonderful husband as you pen down your thoughts and memories! Praying that you continue healing and getting stronger every day! Warm hugs, Poppy

    1. Thank you, thank you, Poppy!! God is so good! He has made me stronger through the tougher times in my life. Can't wait to get to the good part! :)


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