"By Faith and Guts"
By Doris Newnam
"Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen." Hebrews 11:1
"Guts", as in gutsy, plucky, daring, and perseverance in the face of opposition or adversity. Or in plain old Texas language, just sheer determination.
©2004 Doris Newnam. All Rights Reserved.
As the daughter of a minister, Faith was an everyday part of life. I learned about Faith long before the concept of Positive Thinking ever crossed my path. On the front of the pulpit was a small, but visible poster: "Have Faith In God" It is forever imprinted into my mental processes.
When the food pantry was getting skimpy and the pocketbook was mostly for a family photo or two and a driverís license, Faith was our source of refuge and our contact with God. And somehow God always provided the basic necessities.
These tough times were referred to as trials which would make us stronger, but we were also taught that God helps those who help themselves. We were expected to step out in faith and take action and trust that God would be there to see us through and provide the needs.
Two of Motherís philosophies were, "Canít never could, because Canít never tried." And "Where thereís a will, thereís a way." That coupled with my daddyís favorite mantra when faced with an unpleasant or difficult situation was to, "Back your ears, grit your teeth, and dive in." He often used the phase, "Do something even if you do it wrong."
With those attitudes instilled, I was age 22 when I suddenly had to put all of those ideals and every ounce of faith and guts into motion. For on a fateful July 3, 1960, Mother and Daddy were killed in a car wreck. Losing them was in itself horrendous enough, but I had no time to think of myself, for in the hospital emergency room lay my 11 year old brother, his head injured and his heart forever broken as he cried, "Dear Lord, please donít let me be an orphan." I will hear that heart breaking prayer for all of the days of my life. Along with that, I had to notify all family members, which included having the Red Cross notify my younger 17 year old sister, with her husband stationed in Germany, and who was also expecting a child, and to help get her home.
From that point, it was difficult to have Faith for a very long time. But as for the "guts", there really was no option. An eleven year old boy was emotionally destroyed and without parents. While I witnessed others wringing their hands and wondering what to do, I simply recalled my daddyís words to "back my ears, grit my teeth, and dive in."
I became an adult in my own right very quickly as I stepped into the role of sister trying to substitute as parents. The years that followed were not particularly easy. Frequently after being paid on Fridays at my job, I stopped at the grocery store and purchased food for my brother and myself for the week. I always included a few special snacks or treats and he knew that when those were gone that was all until the next weekís paycheck. I would then hide away and cry because there was just so little left until next payday.
A growing teenage boy inhaled food and had to have clothing and shoes several times during each of the school years. And along with school expenses, I made sure there were quarters here and there for an occasional movie with neighborhood kids. Fortunately, a nice family lived not too far away and were happy to have him play with their kids after school until I got home from work. There were no other options.
Somehow through the Grace of God and those sheer guts, we both survived his teenage years. And we both earned our rights to independence. But with independence comes responsibilities. Those we learned to accept as dished out to us and deal with, if not with know-how, we "dived in" and did the best we could with the situation.
Iím sure it was from these early experiences and parental attitudes that gave me the courage to never be afraid to try new things, new challenges, or new experiences, in spite of whether I knew what I was getting into, or knew what I was doing or not. I seem to always have a sense of wondering what is just over the next hill. And so I tend to explore, not because I know or understand the details, but with the spirit of learning as I go.
Along with my various regular jobs, in the early 1970s I decided to become a cosmetologist in the spirit of reaching for a better life. It took me about two and a half years to complete my schooling and get my license, for I could only go to classes in the evenings and on Saturdays. And during that time, I also had to drop out for awhile due to illness. But the day came when I finally finished and went to Austin, Texas to take my board exam. That went well and shortly thereafter I began work in a salon. I later changed to another one, and then within a year I had, through the generosity of a special lady who barely knew me, but believed in me in spite of the short acquaintance, got my bank loan for Doris Hair Fashions. I was proud of my accomplishment, but eventually sold it. I was glad I had tackled that challenge and am still proud of that experience, but it was time to move on to other things. The long hours and physically demanding work would not fit in with my new life as a wife.
I soon became a full-time wife so as to be free to attend functions and some travel with my husband in his business responsibilities. I then dabbled in various part-time jobs, or self-employment networking, and enrolled in music classes at the local community college. My entrepreneurial spirit grew as time progressed, as did my desire to write. I was often encouraged to write by a few friends who had been the recipients of various letters from me back through the years. My response invariably was, "Write what?" And so I experimented a bit with that, creating a few short stories. I also have had a few articles published in a college newspaper and then later in the small town newspaper where I was then living.
In the community college, I took on an assignment for a special article of my own choosing. Having noticed a number of students who were blind, I became interested in how they were able to function as students in an academic world designed for those of us with our vision. With a tape recorder, pad and pen in hand, I began to seek out the handicapped students, with a focus on the blind ones. My articles ended up being a three part series. But the greatest joy of that series was that it was responsible for calling attention to the fact that in our elevators, the blind students had to always ask someone to press the correct button for their floor in the nine story building. And because of that story, Braille buttons were installed in all of the elevators. The blind students gained a new sense of independence by being able to press the correct button for the floor to their next class.
From that experience, I was rewarded with the fact that a simple action on my part resulted in a lasting reward for not only the current students, but also for those that still attend even these many years later.
One action with long-term results. Sometimes we do not stop to think about how one person can truly make a difference. I started out to create an interesting story. Iím sure the story is long since forgotten by everyone except myself and perhaps a few of those blind students that I interviewed.
Some years later following my husbandís retirement, I suddenly found myself again facing a huge challenge Ė my husbandís life. Right before my eyes, in mid-sentence of a conversation, he passed out in his chair. Reacting as quickly as I could to reach him, it appeared that he had suffered a stroke. I grabbed the phone and called for help Ė that was before the 911 number was the thing to do. I just dialed operator. Our living room filled with emergency people shortly thereafter and I rode in the front seat of that ambulance to the hospital praying all of the way. It would be nearly 24 hours later before he spoke again. The siren of an ambulance still creates a haunting chill for me, for I had also heard that ambulance go for my parents that day many years ago, only I didnít know until the phone call that it was for them. But the ride that day with my husband passed out in the back was a chilling experience.
Meanwhile, I stayed by his beside and talked to him. We had been listening to motivational tapes and I had heard that although sometimes people were seemingly unconscious that they could sometimes hear you. And so I talked to him and I prayed. The nurses let me stay because I was helpful to them and to him. At one point I was so exhausted and didnít know what else to say. I sat down on a stool beside the bed, leaned my head over onto the bed-rail and hummed the tune Edelweiss. I chose that because we had recently been going to a class learning to play those little electronic organs. Since I already played the piano, it was mainly to give him the experience. And Edelweiss was a tune he had been playing. I walked from one side of the bed to the other throughout the night making sure he didnít pull the various wires loose. For although he was "out of it", he was constantly twisting and moving. I was to learn during this time that it was not a stroke, but a subarachnoid hemorrhage. The only medical reason he lived through it was because he was sitting up when the hemorrhage happened and the blood flowed down into his spinal column. Otherwise, it would have settled in his brain and that would have been that.
It was into the second morning when he finally responded to me. I straightened his pillow under his head, as I had already done repeatedly. And I simply ask again, "Is that better?" This time he answered, "Uh, huh." My prayers had been answered.
A couple of weeks later, I ask John if he remembered anything that happened or was said during the time that he was "out of it". He replied, "I remember you singing to me."
We had a rough 18 months ahead of us during recovery, but I can tell you that I personally was never the same. My world had been shaken once again as I had faced death, except this time we won.
Then one morning in 1991, my husband awoke me not feeling well. He couldnít tell me what was wrong. But as I quickly dressed to take him to the emergency room which was a short distance away, I knew in my heart that it was his heart. I can not tell you how I knew that, for there was no history or signs of a heart attack.
Because he walked in on his own at the emergency room, no one seemed to be in any hurry to take care of him. So I spoke up rather loudly and firmly, "Will someone please check him for a heart attack?" It was like I had punched the magic button. People reacted and a doctor showed up. Seconds later, the doctor spun around looking for me and said, "He is having an attack right now." I was instructed to head for the larger hospital over in Tyler, Texas where he would be care-flighted to. I called his brother who lived there and they met the chopper when it landed. I had over an hourís drive to get there. Once again, I had to call on God, Faith, and the Guts to face the upcoming ordeal. I wouldnít know until I reached the other hospital whether I was still a wife or a widow. Fortunately, I was still a wife, who was also once again the at-home nurse.
It was during this recovery time that I began reading some light romance novels. I would stay up late into the wee hours to check on him so that he could feel secure in going to sleep. And it was in the light romantic comedy genre that I finally felt that I had discovered my "Write what?" I had already had enough trauma to last me several life times, I didnít want to read, or to write traumatic material as entertainment. Hence, the birth of my fictional writings and forthcoming novels, "Professional Bride" and "Right Here, Lover".
In the fall of 1995, I discovered an Internet Service in another town. They were looking for customers. I wanted the service in our small town, for the Internet was brand new and unheard of in small towns. I talked with the providing company, but they were not too interested because of the small market. Eventually I convinced them that I and our town were worthy of their service.
In March 1996, as the new owner of what would later be named Texas D Net, the dial up access service went live. The irony of that was this gal barely knew how to turn a computer on. And that event was before Windows 95 and Internet Explorer. Some users who signed up were still in DOS and the more up-to-date of us were in Windows 3.1. It would take Tech Support on an average of 2 hours minimum to get one customer live and online. We had to install and use Trumpet Dialer to make the connection, Eudora for e-mail, and then Netscape 1.2 to access a web site. We later got upgraded to NS 2.0. We went online with about 40 customers and it took weeks to get everyone finally on and functioning. Barnum and Bailey's 3-ring circus didnít hold a candle to our "act".
However, in spite of my lack of know-how, on that very first day, as the owner, once I was online, I had Tech Support go over the basic details with me. I then began to walk the customers through to a certain point, and then refer them to the Tech Support number to finish up the connectivity. That action quickly resulted in reducing the 2 hour per customer time with the technicians to about 10 minutes each. My basic instructions helped the customers get their computers set up so that all the Techs had to do was finalize the connection.
NoÖ I didnít have to do that Ė I was paying for customer support. I really did not know how to do thatÖ until I tried it. I ran that service for 5 1/2 years and there were times when I was able to get a customer online that even the Techs couldnít. Why? Because I remembered all too well what it felt like to be new at something. And I had also discovered that mostly the Techs were going to stick with certain routines from a list of common problems, and where computers and Internet connections are concerned, sometimes "routine" just doesnít cut it. So when they couldnít solve it, I applied "Doris logic". A logic that was based on all of the daily little quirks that I kept encountering. And if "logic" didnít work, well, I looked for the "weird" - and believe me, "weird" came into play. For the things I never figured out, when it suddenly worked, I just said, "YES.. Thank you," to God or whoever or whatever had suddenly made it work and sent them on to enjoy their new world of the Internet.
It was while running this service that I realized that for what I lacked in knowledge, I was making up for in just sheer guts and determination. What I knew about computers and the Internet was not even a drop in the proverbial ocean. But instead of wringing my hands from being in over my head, I chose instead to not worry about what I didnít know. Rather, I took each new tidbit that I learned each day and built onto it.
I laughingly called it all "brain strain" and when I would finally figure out something that had been especially difficult for me, I tended to imitate Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady, with a joyful, "I did it! I did it! I did it!"
I will never forget the local librarianís amazement. She was one of many who, when I started the service, said that she didnít know anything about computers or the Internet. I told her and the others that I didnít either, but we could all dive in and learn together. As time went on, she enjoyed telling that story amid her still amazed respect for what I had accomplished.
During that time, I also began learning to create web pages. I discovered the enjoyment of being creative with them. And I also ventured into the publishing of my own off-line printed marketing magazine. With that, I learned to do lay-outs, creating my own formats and columns. I wrote the articles which included interviews with people involved in my particular subjects of interests. Stories included a series on The Texas Parks and some camping grounds. Another story was about the restoration of a historical courthouse in another town. There was also a story on the Commissioning of the USS Pearl Harbor LSD52 Landing Ship Dock in San Diego, California which I was privileged to attend. Her Sponsor was Beverly Young, wife of Senator Young, whom I had the pleasure of later meeting at the Pearl Harbor Survivors 60th Reunion in Honolulu, December 7, 2001.
The local newspaper printed the issues for me in a tabloid sized format. It was a wonderful experience.
You can read more about that the commissioning at our web site:
Lest you think it was all roses, I had barely gotten the Internet service started when the house we were leasing was put on the market for sale. For nine months people traipsed through our house Ė where I was also running my end of the Internet service with walk-in customers Ė and all of that with a "For Sale" sign in the yard.
Did people trust me? Well, fortunately, the local police, the bank, and a few others around town spoke kindly of us. Later on one of the customers just shook his head about the irony of that and we had a laugh about it.
How do you run a business in your house when the house is for sale, a sign is in the yard, and real estate people are touring it with prospects? I kindly gave them my own version of a tour, discretely pointing out all of the flaws along with a few good points, and remembering what agents want you to do for them to show a house, I did the opposite. Housing was rather limited. Moving was not an option. Strange thing Ė nobody wanted to buy it. A Realtor finally bought it and kept us as tenants.
And meanwhile, once again, in 1997, also while running my home based company, I dealt with life-threatening situations. After supporting numerous doctors for several months, we finally found the right one Ė a cardiologist. John, my husband, was dying from heart attacks, but was being diagnosed with acid reflux. My refusal to accept the acid reflux finally got us to the right place. John was not in pain, just didnít feel well and was growing weaker by the day. We finally got him into the right hands and he had an 8 artery heart bypass.
The health saga continues still, but I wonít go into all of that here. The ongoing situations and results eventually led to my own emotional and physical exhaustion. I had stopped my magazine publication and I sold my Internet service and began preparing to move closer to a couple of his children. Hence, we now live in the central part of Texas.
Again, sheer guts had to surface, for the move itself was unbelievable. Although I had made the proper arrangements, they fell apart at the last minute. This gal ended up driving 3 different large U-Haul trucks over a two week period, one pulling a trailer with our garden tractor on it, each time at night, and twice was in the rain, and all over 180 miles each. I had never driven such before, but John was not physically able to do that, so he drove the car on those one-way hauls. We had to let him rest between each trip. I drove back for the next truck to do it again. Meanwhile, the owners had already moved in before I could get us moved out. So it had to be done. There was no one else available to do it. I did it. Not because I knew how to drive a truck, but I knew that it was made to drive, and drive it I would.
I then tried to take a break from life; to recover from so much trauma. For during that same year, 2002, along with Johnís illnesses, I also lost my older brother to cancer, and 4 other family members and friends within a 3 month period. And except for my actions, would have lost my younger brother to heart failure as well. Somewhere along the way, I had learned to listen to that "still small voice" that so often alerts me.
I retreated from any sort of business activities for awhile, wondering what to do with my life aside from living in doctorís offices.
Meanwhile, I was getting e-mails from Mike Litman, a NY radio show host and co-author of "Conversations with Millionaires." I had rather admired Mikeís achievements from afar. I had also signed on in his and John Di Lemmeís motivational and mentoring programs. I created my new motto: "Commit to Success 2004", although 2004 was still a month or so away and invited Internet friends to "come along with me". It was my way of taking action toward my new goal to "Become Financial Free and Mentally Secure. To move beyond retirement income, to enjoyment income.
Then one day shortly after that, an e-mail announced a special seminar coming up. A drawing would be held for 10 free tickets. I submitted my name and won a ticket. I knew then I had "cast my lot" for bigger and better things to come. I knew that something awaited me, I just had to go find it.
At the seminar, John Di Lemme had partnered with Mike as one of the speakers. It was an awesome and inspiring event. Toward the end of the seminar, during the networking and questions and answers session, I ask a question and moments later I was in front of the audience. In that split second, when Mike ask me to come to the front, I knew that I had found a new direction for my life. A direction that fits like comfortable shoes, because it was already in my heart and I had seen it in my mindĎs eye before Ė being on stage and sharing messages of hope and issues of social importance.
From that event, and their words of encouragement, I rediscovered talents seemingly buried by so much trauma. I have messages to share and my new mission is to encourage others to be the best that they can be. Although it is I who will benefit most in the process.
Having faced death of family and friends and life threatening situations so many times perhaps makes me especially aware that life at best is short on this earth. We owe it to ourselves to explore our God given talents; our God given rights to be all that we were born to be.