Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Stephanie Age 10-18

In continuing on with my life story posts  here is the next phase of my life.

So this phase of my life really begins with a drastic change that took place within our Dad got laid off from the company he worked for. This was a big deal for us younger kids because we were scared we were going to have to move from all our comfortable surroundings. My Dad is a good provider and he works hard. While he was looking for a full time permanent job he took many part time jobs to make ends meet. As hard as he and my Mom worked we were still pretty poor but we had enough for our needs. My parents had a lot of food storage so we lived off of that for a year and at times we survived off of the kindness of others. I remember going  with my Mom to get what we called DI food store. Our church has a program to help those in need by supplying families in need of canned and fresh food. We call it the Bishop Store House. We got a list of what we needed from the Relief Society president and then went to the store and picked up our things as if we were shopping at a real grocery store. I remember we really liked the peaches, ice cream, and the cream of wheat from the DI food. When Christmas came around my Mom kept telling all the kids that Christmas was going to be small this year so don't expect much as we had enough for our needs and that was enough to be grateful for. When Christmas day came our entire living room was filled with presents. Many anonymous givers from our extended families, ward, and neighborhood donated presents so our family could have a super Christmas. I remember my Mom crying tears of joy and gratitude as it became an unforgettable Christmas.

Unemployment was accompanied by fear. Fear that we would one day have to move out of Utah. We were very comfortable living there. We were surrounded by many childhood friends and most of our family. Every Sunday we would jump in the car and meet our cousins at Grandma and Grandpa Nelson's for some ice cream pie and Scripture charades. Finally the day came. By this time my 3 older brothers were moved out of the house. Carl was living on his own going to college/working, Monte was married, and Neils was on his mission in Washington D.C. It was just the 3 younger Stark kids. We were gathered around the table eating dinner when my parents made the announcement that we were moving to Michigan. Silent whimpers soon broke out into loud heaping cries and within minutes everyone was bawling their eyes out. I cried even more when I told my 2 best friends, Laura and Emily, the next day at school. We were graduating from 6th grade elementary school together and were excited to start Jr High at the same school. However this was not meant to be. Though we were grateful that my Dad had a full time job we were all bummed out about moving. It was the middle of the school year so Dad went to Michigan and flew home ever other weekend to see the family until school was out and/or the house sold. We hired movers to come pack and truck everything out. I remember insisting that nobody touch or pack my toys as they were precious and could only be handled by my delicate hands. I packed them myself.

The move was scary and sad and we all felt lonely at first. We did have each other and once we saw that the church building looked just like Aunt Rosemary's in Idaho the place seemed okay. We moved in June and were put up in an apartment until we found a house. Lorretta and I shared a room and Richard had to sleep on the couch. He said that sleeping on that couch stunted his growth spurt because he barely fit on the couch. The 8-12 weeks we lived there he said he could have grown another 3 inches. We enjoyed the community pool and there was another new family that lived in the next building, The Beus'. They were Mormon also and this was a new move for them within my Dad's company. They had 3 boys and 1 girl that were around my age and younger. Our families were instant friends.

We looked at 100 houses, I swear it. When we narrowed our findings to the top 3 houses Great Grandma Nelson passed away. My parents and brother returned to Utah for the funeral while they left Lorretta and I with a family in the ward so we could go to girls camp. I was mad that I was left behind at first, but afterwards I was grateful as I had a blast at girls camp and made friends. I felt bad for the family that hosted us however because looking back on it I think we were terrible house guests. When my parents returned the top 3 houses we sold so the house hunt began again. We eventually re-looked at a house we previously saw and got it. I loved this house. I have so many memories at this house.

The best part of the house was the backyard. First, there was a ton of grass. I loved mowing the lawn. With most of my brothers moved out I got to share the responsibility of keeping the lawn clean. There is something about grass that just makes me happy. Second, there was a big hill in the backyard that continued to slop down into the neighbors yard. They also had kids so when winter came we joined forces for sledding and shared the hill for extra downhill fun. Third, behind our backyard was a chuck of hilly property. It was full of trails, trees, and wild animals like deer and racoons. I had so much fun discovering this place and had many imaginary games take place there. Our house was very easy to break into, well for me it was. We never had a thief break in but I would always get locked out or leave my key in the house more times than I am willing to admit so I broke into the house through the laundry room window. My room was the coolest of cool rooms. It was big and the side walls con-caved towards the ceiling. I utilized this feature by decorating the walls with posters of the Spice Girls, then eventually Mormon Ads, and glow in the dark stars. My bedroom also had a secret hidden door that led to an attic space.

It was a split level home with a finished basement. When my Mom was the seminary teacher we held class in my basement. For a year I was spoiled and didn't have to wake up as early to travel to the church. I literally would roll out of bed and then walk downstairs. We also had a nice tree in the front yard. This tree was TP'd many times by friends and foe. Most of the time it was done by my friends when I opted to go on a temple trip during the weekend instead of kicking it with them. I never feared because I had my revenge on all of them at one point or another. The only thing that was cursed was the mailbox. It was hit and knocked down by cars so many times. After the first few times we kids pitched in for Father's Day and gave Dad a new fancy plastic mailbox and stuck in the ground. It seemed solid and sturdy. It got knocked down, so our neighbor helped us cement it into the ground. Weeks later it was backed into. It was an endless battle.

Once we got a house we needed a cat. Per my previous history post we lost a lot of cats when each of my brothers moved out. During our drive home from school we saw a sign at a house that read "Free Kittens." As soon as we saw it my Mom turned the car into the house. It caught us all by surprise. Not sure if she planned it or if she was doing it on a whim. I think she knew we needed a cat to complete our home. We got the last kitten. The people kept it for a few more weeks to finish weening it from its mother and to train it. We named the cat Utah. He was my best friend growing up. He was a smart and funny cat and he enjoyed our house as much as we did, especially the yard. I remember one day I was crying and he came to my rescue and curled up beside me. He must have known I was sad and tried to comfort me. Another thing I loved about my room was that the bedroom window over looked the roof. Utah got himself stuck there so many times and I was able to rescue him by letting him jump in through my window.

In Michigan they didn't have Jr. High, they had a middle school. My first year in Michigan I was in 7th grade. We went to Forest Hills Northern Middle/High School. I was extremely shy....seriously I was. I didn't talk much during the next two years at school because I was shy and insecure.  I was the "new" girl. Everyone thought I was a cowgirl because I was from Utah and had an accent. I didn't have the fancy Gap or Abercrombie & Fitch clothes. I wore "hand me downs" that weren't very stylish. I really didn't have a sense of how to make the clothes I had stylish. Apparently this was more important than personality, which I had a lot of once I got past my shyness. Needless to say I was made fun of by some of the kids and I was insecure about myself for a while. I also had no clue about mainstream music. I only listened to soft rock and kids station. This bothered other kids and I let it get to me. I did make a few friends until one day I was sitting at their lunch table and they asked me to sit somewhere else because I was a Mormon. I cried a lot that first year but tried to hide it at home. Eventually it built up and my Mom helped me through it. I was unsuccessful with popularity because I had the wrong clothes, didn't listen to the right music, and was Mormon, my next attempt to make friends was with humor. I thought I was an actress so one day in math class I pretended to have a heart attack and dramatically grabbed my chest and rolled off the desk onto the floor. This made some people laugh. One of the girls that laughed was named Lauren P. We found out we lived blocks from each other and became friends. She encircled me into her group of friends. She thought it was cool that I was a Mormon cowgirl and encouraged me to play volleyball with her for the school team.

Freshman year was easier than Middle School. By the time I was a Sophmore I didn't care what people thought of me and was able to be myself all the time. I loved that year in High School. Junior year was also memorable but my Senior year was the best. I was confident and friends with most people. I was mean to some people during High School and for that I am sorry. I am happy to report that anyone I hated then I am now friends with today, but over all I was friendly to just about anyone and I had my own close group of friends. This group consisted of Lauren P, Amy D., Sarah F., and Katie K. There were some other people but I don't remember their names first hand. We had our lockers together during our Senior year. We played tricks and jokes on each other. I was known as the Beanie Weanie Quennie because I always had a can of pork n'beans.  Sometimes we put a radio in my locker and left it on with the door closed. We would sit down the hall and watch and laugh at the people as they walked by the lockers with a confused look on their faces. We had stupid drama from time to time but at the end of the day we were friends and we would hang together outside of school. Lauren and I would hit up 7-11 on the way home for some slurpees and funions. Sarah saved me from the cat lady. Amy and I would leave messages on each others phone. To this day I still call Amy's home phone and sing to their answering machine.

School dances were fun. I went to all the dances my Junior and Senior year. I also went to dances at some of my friends at other schools. We would goof off mostly. The first few dances were about being with boys then I eventually grew out of that and just wanted to be with my girl friends. After the dance we would have a slumper party. Friday nights we painted the town and if one of us wasn't hanging out because of work we would take the party to them. Mostly we hung out at Bob Evans, where Amy was a server. Or we rented a movie from the local movie store. I can't even tell you how many times I saw While You Were Sleeping.

Richard was a Junior when I was a Freshman. I liked having an older brother at school. Not that he needed too, but I feel he looked out for me. Because he was such a good student teachers that we shared liked me by association. Another plus was that he drove us to school. Before that I took the bus and after he graduated I either took the bus or got rides with my friends. We didn't have a teenage car to use in the family but we lucked out with our schedules on occasion. One day they declared a snow day early in the school day. Richard found me and we headed to the car and I got to push the car out of the snow while he drove. Once we got going I hopped in the car and off we went. Richard commended me for having the strength to push and was impressed that the car was actually moving when I pushed. We were pretty tight and I missed him when he left on his mission. But this opened the door for my sister and I to get closer. We were friends growing up when we wanted to be, but after Richard left we didn't have anyone but each other. Her room was across from mine and I could always hear her talking in her sleep. It was the start of  a beautiful friendship that remains strong today.

I played volleyball for a year and then softball for two years. Then my focus at school shifted from sports to theatre and art. I took all the art and theatre classes our school offered. I auditoned for all the plays and musicals and never got a part. I didn't let this stop me. I wanted to be apart of the show so I joined all the behind the stage crews. I was on the set design, paint, and make up crew. The make up crew manager was a cool guy and he answered all the questions I had about make up and showed me some new things that weren't included in the show. While the show was running we were in the back painting our faces with new learned techniques. Eventually he took me on as his assistant and let me manage some of the shows. Finally my Senior year I got a part in the musical. I had a blast and I knew everything about the back stage.  To this day I still do theatre make up, mostly on Halloween.

I had many jobs in my youth. Once we moved to Michigan I got a paper route again. After a few years of this I wanted a break as this job was interfering with my social life. I quit and lived off of wages from babysitting. I even worked for a nice old lady who became my friend. I would clean her house and she talked to me about life, Eugene Timpson was her name. Eventually that was not enough to do all the fun things I wanted to do so I got a real job and a clothing store called Fashion Bug. I worked there for 2 years in High School. I saved my money and spent most of it in Europe after graduation. I enjoyed working but did miss out on some football games and stuff because I was working. At least I had a discount on clothes.

I remember when I was 12 my Dad asked me if I wanted an email address. An Email, whatever am I going to use that for? I said sure why not. He set me up and gave me a cutesy name for an aol account. I think it was "smilespice" or something like that. Shortly after he gave me a juno email account. I didn't do much with either but then as school demanded more research I used the computer for just that. Then I discovered the social side of it. Through my account on AOL I chatted with people from England and across the USA. One night my brother and I pretended to be someone else and goofed off. Little did we know that the amazing invention of the internet had many dangers. We were young and innocent. As I met new friends we began to exchange emails and this new thing had more use to it. It is crazy to me how quickly technology has blown up. I use my phone to access everything now and I am sure in my son's day it will do more wild things.

My brother Neils returned home from his mission during our first few years. He served in Washington D.C. and we went to pick up him for our family vacation. It was a blast and we got to see many U.S. historical sites and Civil War sites. I was excited for him to be home. However, he did not stay for long, he said it felt like a transfer. He eventually returned to Utah and returned to school and a bachelors life. My brother Monte and his family came out to visit a few times and so did my Grandparents. I don't remember if any of our other family came. Because we were the only family living far away, with the exception of some cousins in Texas and California, we mostly traveled to Utah for family reunions every summer. I think we drove back and forth at least a dozen times. We had fun with it and even detoured to site see various places like Mt. Rushmore. To entertain ourselves in the car we played games, listened to the Tennis Shoes Among the Nephities books on tape, and played eye spy.

There was a lot going on in the world but I really could only see what was happening within my little world. Often the outside world would collide with mine. When the OJ Simpson case took place and the final verdict came out I remember watching it on t.v. at school. For the most part I just paid attention to what was in front of me until I got older and tried to become more involved in the world around me. I went through a women's rights phase. I made a big deal about this in my history class and wrote this amazing paper about freeing the oppressed women in Afghanistan. I even reached out to a support group for my research. The teacher was impressed but scared me off when he suggested he would nominate me for something and I would get interviewed by the school paper. I don't know why but I chickened out after that and was just a silent advocate in class. I also thought the Spice Girls were awesome and wanted to be apart of their group, I called myself Smile Spice. But I wanted to show them how to dress modest so we could be an example to other girls. LOL. My sister took me to the first showing for Spice World. We were 2 of 10 people in the theatre.

I had school friends but I also had really close church friends. Many of them I met at Girls Camp. Our stake was huge and covered many counties in West Michigan. When I was a beehive there were only a few other girls in my ward and we liked each other when we wanted to until we were Laurels, by then we were mature enough to get along and accept our differences. I met Elizabeth and girls camp. Another girl made me cry so I called her a butt face and Elizabeth backed me up by saying, "No wonder why I saw her wiping her face with black streaks coming down." It made me laugh and we became friends. She lived far away so we only go to see each other at church activities, but when we got together we were the crazy girls.

I met Karen L. at girls camp, she was a year younger than me but we just mashed. She invited me to her house all the time and it was only a 20 minute drive. My first time at her house I was looking at a picture and commented that it was a cool picture of her Mom. She and her Dad replied with a chuckle that it was her Dad with long hair in the 70's. LOL I was so embarrassed because I wanted to make a good impression being my first visit. They loved how innocently honest I was and we all got along. To this day I still keep in touch with her parents. She and I had many many sleep overs and birthday parties together. At those we would always turn on the video camera and play soap opera (Greg the Bunny), music video, and model runway. As we got older the activities changed from playing with clothes to going out with boys, school dances, driving around stalking boys, supporting each other in our school activities like sports or theatre, and attending most church activities.

Karin kept telling me about this other friend she had that she wanted me to meet. For years she told me about her and would invite her to activities but she was never able to make them. I often wondered if this girl was real. Finally one day I was able to put a name to a face, Kristina L. We clicked and the three of us became the 3 Musketeers if you will. We were always together doing everything we could together. Laughing and being silly mostly. We were inseparable until Kristina's family moved to Utah. It was such a sad day. Karen and I went to help load up their truck, as always we were having fun goofing around but then we had to part ways. We took pictures, hugged, cried, and kept telling each other until we meet again. We kept in touch through email, hey it is still handy, phone calls, and packages. It was not the end for the 3 of us and our paths did cross again. More on that later.

I was a boy crazy girl and dated guys on and off and had various crushes. None of them too serious until I got to my senior year. But like any young love relationship we thought we were the one for each other until we moved too fast and then later realized that we are not destine to be together. My favorite date was a to a dance with a boy from the ward. He was too short for me and I didn't like him in that way. I just thought he was nice and funny and it was the best date because we went as friends and were so genuine. A big turning point for me was when I asked my crush of 7 years out. He said NO, but I felt stronger for asking and felt like I could do anything after that. His loss.

I learned how to drive in Michigan. I begged my Dad to take me out practicing once because I wanted to have some experience under my belt before starting summer driving school. He did just that and I did fine. I barely passed the summer driving test because I got nervous. With practice I got better and then eventually took the state test. I wanted a car. My Senior year my Dad told me that he had a surprise for me in the garage. I ran out there thinking it was a car but instead it was some nice luggage. I was pleased but sorta disappointed. I told him I thought it was a car and he laughed.

My testimony grew a lot in Michigan, which was perfect for as I was young and very impressionable at that time. I tell people I was born in Utah but am from Michigan but that is where I found out who I was. I had many joys and growth but also many struggles and challenges. I gained a knowledge that I was a daughter of God and through that testimony alone I was able to find joy in the hard parts of the journey. I had many opportunities for my testimony to grow there. I attended early morning seminary, had many missionary experiences, lived in the East part of the country where much of the restoration took place. We visited the temple in Chicago which was an entire day trip. When the Detroit temple opened I sang in the choir for the opening ceremony. I toured the temple and had many outstanding experiences there. I gained a testimony of temples, the prophet, and how friends and families are forever. Each Youth Conference was somewhere cool, like Hill Cumorah, Sacred Grove, Nauvoo, Carthage Jail, Palmyra, Adam-ondi-Ahman, Independence, Far West, Missouri, and Kirtland. One year they wanted to do a Original Pioneer Trek, but didn't have the means like they do in Utah so instead our leaders were innovative took us out into the wilderness for 2 nights with nothing. They gave us stuff as we went and each thing game with a lesson. We were divided into families and we faced challenges and had to support each other. At the end they had food for us and a letter from our parents bearing their testimonies to us. It was Richard and I's last Youth Conference together. It was the best experience and something I hold close to my heart.   I went to EFY in Utah during 2 of the summers. The first was with my 2 best friends and the last time was by myself. Besides church trips with the Ward we spend many family vacations visiting church sites and other cool places close to MI, like Canada. When we got to the border control booth the lady asked my parents if we were their grandkids. We all still laugh about that.

Change is the most constant thing. Just when I thought I was getting comfortable in life. I was good in school, had a job, had a boyfriend, things got shaken up in our family. My Dad found a new job in Utah in the middle of my Senior year. I cried and cried when they told me and begged them to let me stay so I could graduate with my class. They granted my wish and my Mom and I moved into a ladies house while the rest of the family went on to Utah. I had a few months of school left and then we rejoined the family. Our cat Utah kept running away back to the old house. The crazy cat lady we lived with got mad at me once because I came home without him. We loved the cat but knew he wouldn't move with us so we found him a home within our ward and you know what. He stayed with them and didn't try to run away. They sent us pics occasionally but haven't in years. I hope he is happy where ever he is. Before we could move I had prom, graduation, and then a Choir Europe trip that my Mom chaperoned. It was an amazing 2 weeks. Afterwards my Mom and I took our time driving across the country to begin a new chapter of life....

That concludes this section of Stephanie. Next Section is Age 18 to Present (29)


  1. This is so interesting to read for me, thanks for sharing! Its cool that I can picture just about everything you're talking about (at least during your MI time). It kind of helped me reminisce about my own time there! Although I know our experience were very different. I wish we'd spent more time together.

  2. I just read that whole post and there weren't even any pictures :). I wonder if we were at the hill camorah at the same time? Do I get to make it into the next part?

  3. Me too Whitney, but its cool. We hang out now. :)

    Yes Marly, You will have a cameo in the second part.

  4. Stephanie, I have always been impressed with your optimism. You are fantastic. I love that you wrote this post because I was in college when your family moved in, but I remember hearing about you guys. It was great to "hear" your perspective on the events in your life. Good luck on your move! <3


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