HOW I CAME TO BE WHO I CAME TO BE
By Jody Anne Bresch
I come from a long line of pioneers and founding fathers, men and women who were daring, adventurous and took risks to forge new frontiers in a rugged and raw new land.
According to family genealogists, my great great great great grandfather, was Mad Anthony Wayne, a Revolutionary War Hero, and a major player in the famous Indian Wars of the Northwest Territory. Wayne was notorious for leading daring and seemingly insane raids right into the front lines of enemy attacks and inspiring devoted loyalty in his troops.
Another ancestor, my great great grandfather, James Cahan Bown, left an Earlís title and a lucrative coal mine and iron foundry in Macklesfield, England, to immigrate to Burlington, Iowa, where he founded an iron foundry there in 1842. Yet another great great grandfather, Washington Miller walked from Tennessee to Adair County, Missouri in 1847, and took out the first land grant in the territory there.
On the other side of this family tree were some historical scoundrels. Oral tradition passed down by the story tellers in our family says that my great great grandfather on my motherís side, a Chiricauhua Apache by the name of White Horse, was a brother to the infamous Apache renegade warrior, Geronimo. Another infamous and nefarious relative, Pretty Boy Floyd, a second or third cousin to my father was gunned down October 22nd, 1934, in Kansas City, Floyd had renowned links to the Chicago mafia.
My mother and father were children of the Great Depression. They have lived a modest life, working hard, giving generously of themselves to many with hearth, home, and hospitality. In the 60ís and 70ís they opened their lives to more than 50 foster children, everyone of whom would tell anybody that they are better people because they knew them. Four of those foster children still think of them as mom and dad, and one of those four became my adopted sister, Debbie.
My parents instilled in me a sense of faith that there is something greater in this universe than any of us, and that inside of myself, I always know who I was raised to be.
Many people would say that it is what I do with my own life that matters, and I agree. However, it is at least significant to me that knowing something of my colorful family tree always inspired in me the deep-seated need to do something meaningful with my life and leave my mark on history.
My life has had its share of challenges and adversities. In 1984 my husband lost his job because the small company he worked for could not absorb the costs of increased costs of health insurance when our third son, Lucas, had a near dearth experience, and was put on an apnea monitor after an expensive and extensive stay in the hospital.
To help with family finances, I applied for a job as a church choir director, and upon being hired, I went into the local college to talk to a financial aide advisor about enrolling in some part-time music courses.
To my amazement, I discovered that because of our personal circumstances I was eligible for financial assistance and could go back to college full time. So at the age of 34 I went back to college to earn my BA in Music Education.
One Christmas while I was in college we ate our last meal in the house, a pot of great northern beans, and a pan of cornbread made from government commodity cornmeal I had stood in a line to get.
I learned to shop at the Salvation Army Store. While I no longer need to, I sometimes still do because I made lasting friendships with employees and volunteers there.
We practiced energy conservation during the energy crisis of the 80ís to the point of frugality, turning our thermostat down to 65 degrees, and wearing layers of clothing in the house during the winter because it was the only way we could pay our gas and electric bills.
In 1986 I was leading a pack of non-traditional students who were enrolling in colleges across the nation in droves. Because of our personal financial circumstances, I knew that excelling academically was critical to my success in acquiring my degree so I made it my business to excel and succeed.
I made history at William Penn College when I was nominated by not one, but two college departments, Music and Educaiton, for The Moon Scholarship, offered to one outstanding senior woman each year. I graduated magna cum laude from William Penn College in 1988, 2 months after our fourth son, Ian, was born.
My mission as a parent is to pass the same values and beliefs on to my five sons that my parents instilled in me.
Maybe I have. They can make mistakes, handle adversity, and tackle the solutions with courage and tenacity because I have seen them do some of these things already.
My work history includes a kaleidoscope of colorful experiences. Tops among them are the years that I worked as a substitute teacher in the public school districts of Ottumwa, Cardinal and Davis County, Iowa. If I had time to write it, there would be a very humorous book of anecdotes from these sometimes very entertaining and amusing reminiscences, like the day I subbed for a science teachers who was reading to his class, THIRTEEN WAYS TO SINK A SUB, and his class tried everything in the book to sink me, and then came up with a few of their own ideas. The memory still brings a smile to my face, and my life is far richer for having had these experiences.
I have also worked as a vocal music teacher and church choir director, done summer stock theatre, worked as a freelance writer for a local newspaper, as a clerk-receptionist, and switchboard operator, and as a supervisor at a recreational water park---I even managed a gas station once and at one time worked as a church janitor.
What inspires me to write? For one thing, like Benjamin Franklin and many of his great contemporaries, I love the power of words.
It is magical to me that when assembled in the right combinations and order, words have the ability to paint great and epic masterpieces, or to take a candid shot of a moment we want to remember forever.
I am inspired to write about things that draw strong emotions from me. Often it is something that pulls on my heartstrings. Sometimes it is something beautiful I see in a place that people donít ordinarily see beauty. The things that inspire me are real and basic and have a gut level pull.