Warning: The story of my life deals with subject material that may make you feel uncomfortable ... the sexual abuse of a small child starting at age three. The love story will lift your emotions to a higher plain. People have told us, this is one of the most inspiring narratives they have ever read. This Love Story is my journey from darkness into full light. Exit now, if you are unable to face the reality of child abuse.

Professional golfer and television personality Bruce Devlin's baritone voice with an Australian accent resonated in my ears when he said, "Mikki, Gloria and I want to commission you to paint a special dream of ours for our new home." It was not so much the voice or what he said, but the fact I finally felt comfortable chatting with a famous personality without giving it a second thought. He was simply a man needing a rather large vertical painting for their home. This perhaps sounds odd to you that I would begin my story in such a manner. Once you know how low my personal self-esteem was at one time, then you will understand the victory I felt that day. He was my equal, nothing less, nothing more. It was just one human speaking with another.

I had been told all my life, "Don't air your dirty laundry in public." I cannot begin to tell you how many well intending friends suggested, "If you don't think or talk about it, the pain will go away. Stuff the bad things inside ... don't talk about it ... don't think about them and they won't exist." There is a basic problem with the denial treatment of abuse. The deeper it is stuffed away, the more it spoils. The emotions are like rotten food left in a plastic bag. The longer it remains in the dark, the ranker it becomes. Place it out in the open where the Sun can shine on it and in no time the stink will dry up. Then it can be brushed away. Not the other way around. I will try to tell you how I went from a person who pushed the horrible things done to me as a child into my chest to the confident, full of living person I am today. I kept pushing the ugly inside, feeling like I was carrying a five-pound brick around. My chest literally hurt all the time. The deeper I shoved the abuse into my body to keep the secret, the sicker I became. I was literally choking myself to death. I could no longer eat. As hard as I tried, I simply could not swallow my food. My five-foot, eight-inch body was an emaciated ninety-two pounds when fully dressed and I was dropping weight daily. My trips to doctors had accelerated. My joints were so stiff I could not squat to pick up anything I happened to drop. I moved around like an old woman. I honestly think my life was getting near the end. I had restrained the secret as long as I could. My energy drained, all hope lost and my desire to live had vanished. Darkness, despair and despondence circled my tent waiting for my last ounce of courage to leave.

I just knew if anyone knew the real me, they would find out my horrible secret. If they knew the blackness, then they would not want to be around me. I felt worthless. Let me repeat...WORTH - LESS. I felt I was worth less than anyone. Finally, it dawned on me that morning, while discussing with Bruce his commissioned painting. I am WORTH SOMETHING. I am a special girl. I am equal to anyone. You will never know just how important it is to know you are not subhuman as the result of what sick people did to a small child.

There is a level of pain where the mouth will open, yet the voice is not strong enough to push the words past the vocal cords into the air. Many times as a three year old being sexually assaulted by my biological father, I experienced that Silent Scream. I learned at that young age, screaming and crying only brought his wrath. I had screams, but they were inaudible. No one seems to ever hear the voice of an abused child be it mental, physical or sexual. Society chooses not to hear; there is a 'mind your own business' attitude prevalent. It took a total stranger and thirty-four years for my pain to be heard.

Silent Scream is my story...the good, the great and the ugly. I plan to un-varnish the truth of child abuse and how it leaves the victim in a shattered state of mind. This will hurt for me to write, because I will have to see some of the horror in my mind once more. Yet, I am willing, because it is my hope Silent Scream will help someone else realize it was not his or her fault. They are not to blame. They did nothing wrong. They were not strong enough to say NO. I want to encourage them to put it in the open and stop pushing it deep inside. I recently read a report by Harvard Medical School, proving those who suppress the pain of abuse are prone to major illness. Many die prematurely trying to act like it does not matter. Living in denial will kill you. Living in denial is more destructive than you or your well-intentioned friends can possibly know.

SECOND WARNING: BEFORE YOU READ FARTHER. THIS IS A TRUE STORY AND CONTAINS DEEP PAIN ASSOCIATED WITH CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE. IT MAY NOT BE SOMETHING YOU ARE PREPARED TO DEAL WITH. IF THIS IS THE CASE, THEN EXIT 'SILENT SCREAM' NOW. It is also a wonderful love story that will leave you exhilarated.

My memory of the abuse was locked away in my mind for 34 years. If someone had asked however, none did. I would have said with much confidence, nothing ever happened to me. I had the perfect family. Lived the model life. My wealthy biological father was a pillar in the local Church, leader in the community and highly respected by all. That was the side of him the world knew. I accepted their perception and adopted it as being the truth. By stuffing the abuse in my chest, I was able on the surface to forget it ever happened. Note I said, on the surface. In my inner-self I knew. I just was unable to bring it up in my memory. It is called Repressed Memories. Frankly, I never knew the term existed until I began remembering the things that happened to me. We read a book on False Memory. It was being supported by those accused of sexual abuse by their children. The premise of the book was the children only made up their story. Their memories of sexual abuse were false. The perpetrators said psychologists and psychiatrists planted the false memories in the victim's mind.

The book got us to thinking. Perhaps it was true, I had only imagined the events. Before I confronted anyone, we had to know for sure it was not just false memories. Our first test was to phone my next-door neighbor where I grew up as a child through high school. He was the family doctor. Rather than put things in his mind, I simply asked for him to tell me what he knew about what went on in my house as a child and teen. He started by telling me, "I'm sorry Mickey. I put you on birth control pills when were twelve so your father would not repeat getting you pregnant. If I had it to do over, I would have reported him. Back then we didn't know what affect such things would eventually have on children when they became adults. Besides, it was not the law at that time to report sexual abuse to the authorities. I arranged for the abortion. I could not let you grow up carrying your own father's child." He talked for an hour begging my forgiveness several times during the conversation. There was nothing to forgive. I sincerely think he did what he felt was in the total best interest of our family at the time. I guess the most amazing thing is I never thought it strange that I started taking birth control pills at the age of twelve. I guess I just thought all twelve year olds were on the pill. I had few girl friends, so there was no one to share information with. It was not something you would discuss with a school counselor.

I did try to talk once with my seventh grade counselor. She only scoffed it off. She told me she was a member of our Church and saw all the 'good things' my parents were doing. She mentioned they had recently purchased the expensive new organ for the congregation. She reprimanded me for what I told her. Then consoling me, telling me it was natural to become angry with ones parents and make up stories. I never mentioned my problem again to anyone.

One of the first things Jack ever asked, when we began talking about me was, "How long have you been taking birth control pills?" I can still remember the odd stare he gave me. He repeated his question, "Twelve years or since you were twelve?" I nonchantly told him, since I was twelve. Mother put me on the pill to regulate my menstrual periods. At that time he only said, "We need to speak with your gynecologist about this. I am not sure it is a good idea to have been on 'The Pill' for so many years." This took place at least two years before I had any memories.

I constantly filled his head with the perfect family I grew up with. My brother was a war hero. The truth as I would later remember, my brother was kicked out of the Air Force for sexual behavior not suitable for the military. He was given a dis-honorable discharge. My perfect mother arranged the birth control pills and set the appointment for the back room abortion. There were no abortion clinics...it was illegal for a child to abort, even if the parent was the father of the unborn baby. I can still smell the dingy little room and the sweat of the old doctor performing the operation. My stomach turns inside as I try to write this part of my story. This is very uncomfortable for me...it is difficult to relive the past when it is so filled with evil.

Yet I understand, like in art, you cannot show the light shining on the satillo tiles without having some dark shadows. You cannot paint light without using dark. We must have night to enjoy the day. You need the dark night to be able to see the stars. King David said, "The darker the night, the brighter the stars will shine. I must tell you the black part of my life, for you to fully appreciate the illumination that is now mine.

My mind could not endure the hidden dark secret. It had to split, to handle so many traumas. A special compartment was formed to place the sexual acts when they were happening. They were being perpetrated on a different little girl. I could walk away in my mind and never remember a single thing that happened. I know to experience it on a conscious level would have eventually driven me insane. There is magic to the mind. When the pain becomes more than a baby can handle, it steps in and lets the child's mind go away. It's like sitting on a cloud and looking down watching a strange child being sodomized at the age of three. The little one being abused cannot scream, because the voice is sitting on a cloud above looking down. The horror and ugly are being done to a different person in the mind of the child being abused.

Worthless and Hopeless. Drawing was my only solace. Friends in school shunned me. I was never popular. I had few dates. If I did have a boy interested, my biological father would make short-end to that. It was not long before all in school decided to stay away from me. I think most of the kids knew what was happening. Not only was my biological father abusing me, my older brother joined in. He built a fort for his friends. They started taking me to the fort when I was five. Placing handcuffs on my legs so I could not run away, I became the toy for him and his older friends. Some of the boys were as old as seventeen. They obviously, over the years, told the rest of the kids in school. The more people shunned me, the deeper into myself I escaped." After high school, I attended two years at the local Community College. My parents didn't want me to move away. My biological father was still abusing me and my mother knew what was happening. They worked in concert to keep me available on weekends.

The suppressed pain had to go somewhere. I developed bladder cancer at the age of 19. On my website, I have photos of me when I only weighed 72 lbs. I know the dirty way I felt about myself, just had to burst out. I had pushed the ugly feelings inside as long as my frail body could hold them. The ugly can only be held down for a length of time. The body will rupture to let the stink out. The cancer was my escape, my way to let some of the pain out. After surgery, Chemo and five years of checkups, I have been cancer free since. It also gave me the opportunity to move away to the university for my last two years of study. Cancer freed me from my biological father's immediate control. I didn't know how to say, "NO." I had never been afforded the luxury to say no to anything in my entire life. My only hope was to be too far away for him to touch me. No one will ever know how desperately I wanted to die, or run far away. The shame was a burden too heavy to carry. I never felt normal. I always had the feeling there was something wrong with me. It is no wonder so many abused teens and young adults commit suicide. Many reports confirm, suicide and abuse are closely linked. I can understand their desire to escape from the shame. My shame would not even allow me to look people in the eyes. I always looked away or down. I was so scared, they could see into my face and know what I had done. My laughter was exaggerated, blushing through most of my giggles. My mask I put on, to try and look happy.

The Medical College of Georgia was even farther away. I lived at school year-round. I only came back home when there was absolutely no other excuse. My mother pushed and pushed. My biological father was pushing her. Those few times I returned, I still did not have the ability to say, "NO". I was fighting cancer with all the energy my thin body could muster ... saying NO to him was never an option. Yet, it is strange, I never remembered any of the ugly when I was home. I always returned to school with the perfect moral Christian parents. I blocked the real them, the moment the ugly event took place. Even as a young adult, I still sat on a cloud watching the other girl take the abuse. I escaped in my mind, but it was still part of my body...shame rode back to school as my guest.

I had three job offers when I graduated at the top of my class as a medical illustrator in 1979: Spokane, Tampa and San Antonio. Tampa was only thirty miles from my biological father. It was never considered. Please understand, I did not know or remember what was happening. I would immediately block any ugly thing as soon as it happened. I could not deal with the shame. I just knew I had to flee my parents. I flew to Spokane for an interview. They were kind. They met me in the snow and gave my shivering body one glance and knew I would freeze to death if I went to work for them. They explained that a girl growing up in Florida and never living in the snow might not adjust to the cold. That left San Antonio. The Texas Health Science Center hired me for $13,000 a year and I paid my moving expenses.

I owned a small Mazda station wagon. With my bike tied to the top and room to spare, I moved all my possessions to Texas. It rained, rained and rained for months when I first arrived. I hated it. Then spring came and brought with it, flowers. I can tell you with all sincerity, I have never seen anything so beautiful. Bluebonnets, Indian Paint Brushes and Buttercups bathed the landscape. I fell in love with Texas. My new job gave me distance. I didn't even go back home for Christmas my first year in San Antonio. I began to feel a little better about myself. I dated one boy two times. I am sure I drove him away before he found out the truth. Anytime, anyone showed interest, I pushed away first. I had a black inner secret. I knew if they ever discovered the real me they would walk away in disgust. I wanted to be the one who broke off the friendship; this way I could not get hurt. Finally, one young man who worked in my department showed some interest. My self-esteem was so low; I did not see how sick he was. I only saw he had several acres of land. I wanted to purchase a horse. He had a perfect place for me to keep the mare I had put a deposit on. He agreed to let me keep her at his place. He had five acres about twenty-five miles from the city in an area known as Grey Forest. Grey Forest was appropriately named. A somber area packed with huge live oak trees clinging to each other in the middle of nowhere.

Please allow a digression. Horses were always a part of my life. I worked as a baby-sitter to purchase my first horse at age nine. Horses were my vehicles to run away. I rode hours every day in the orange groves as a child growing up in central Florida. There were no fences like I found in Texas. I could ride for miles. I would get home from school and ride my horse until almost dark. They became my only friends. I had no playmates, no best girl friends and, as I said earlier, no boy friends. Looking back at my high school photos, I was a beautiful little girl. Yet growing up, I considered myself ugly and unattractive. Shame is impossible to explain; it robs your soul, kills your confidence and leaves you unable to associate with those you consider superior. Horses never judged me. They forced no shame on me. My horses accepted me as I was, not as damaged goods.

The young man asked me to move in with him and board my horse at his place. I purchased my mare and did so in spite of my mother's phone conversations daily, calling me a slut and other words not fit for nice people to read. I don't know if her drinking or my biological father's pushing her to make me move out caused her stroke. I do know her phone calls became more and more vulgar and her voice became more laced with stress. She died at the young age of 54, in 1981. Mother was a heavy drinker and smoker. I have never done either. I have never smoked anything and only drank a few partial glasses of wine in my entire life. I am not angry with my mother. She was sexually abused as a small girl. She was still in the cycle. Someone has to break the chain or it will go on and on. I suspect this is one of the reasons I never wanted children of my own.

Shortly after Mother's funeral, I persuaded the young man to marry me immediately. I somehow knew if I didn't get married, my biological father would insist I move back to Florida. He was already telling me he needed me back to take over one of his companies. I would not have been strong enough to say no to him. The truth of the matter is, he wanted me to take my mother's place in the bedroom. Fortunately the young man agreed. As bad as my new husband treated me, it was better than living in the shame and sickness I was being asked to return to. Once we were married, it took the pressure off me to move back to Florida. My biological father attended the wedding and was a real jerk. My husband accused us of incest on our wedding night. I assume my biological father did something that let my husband know how he felt. I honestly cannot remember those days. They are a blur in my mind. Since I had no conscious memory of the sexual contact, I told him he was crazy. My father was a perfect gentleman and a fine Christian.

The real man my husband was came out the day of the wedding. He got falling down drunk on our wedding night and he stopped working the next day. He gave his notice on Monday after we were married on Sunday. He began to drink heavily the week following our wedding. I took responsibility. I was convinced that it was because I forced him into marriage. While we lived together, he only drank a little in front of me. He was considerate and was a good employee at the Texas Health Science Center. Mikki, the perfect enabler, never asked him to get a job. I did medical drawings to support us. FedEx and a fax machine was all I needed. I went into Helotes, a small village near us and purchased his fifth of Johnny Walker Red about four times a week. He did not drink until after 5:00 P.M. This way, he could say he was not an alcoholic. As regular as rain in Kauai, he began to find things to be angry about after 9:00 P.M. and usually before 10:00, he would end up slapping me around. This went on for eight years. We lived isolated in the country with the closest neighbor almost a mile away. The tall trees of Grey Forest surrounded our place. I was living in a cage. I thought it was normal. I just accepted the way we lived as being what all married couples went through. I was duplicating the pattern I grew up with. My biological father beat my mother when he drank. The one difference is my biological father worked hard enough to become a wealthy man.

I still had my horses. My mare foaled a colt, that I named 'Scooter'. His real name was one of those long ones given to registered Arabians. I cannot spell it without looking it up. I continued to ride to get away from my shame and sadness. I could not, because the twin "S's" always sat on the saddle skirt behind me. Please refer to my Photo Journal on my website and you will see just how important horses have always been to me. Even as a four year old, I dressed as a horse. Check out www.luvhorses.com. This will show you several samples of my equine work.

Call it chance ... destiny ... fate ... or God sending an Angel to a dying girl. In 1989, one great person came into my life. Jack had moved to San Antonio because his youngest daughter told him to. She was a senior at Trinity University and did not want to live on campus her final year. She was writing for the newspaper and carrying a large load. She was trying to keep her grade point average high enough to graduate Magna Cum Laude. She didn't want to train another roommate. She already had Jack very well trained. He obeyed and leased a two-bedroom condo, using the living area to paint in.

With a street named after him in the city, he was reluctant to visit small art and craft shows. The chance of some artist knowing him, because he was famous and him not remembering them was something he tried to avoid. He didn't want to hurt someone's feelings by not knowing their name, even though it may have been several years since he met them that one time.

I had started doing pencil drawings and became acquainted with a few ladies who had an art group. It was a way for me to get out of my self-imposed cage of trees. My husband never left the place. We only went out to dinner, one time a year. That was on our anniversary at the small café in town. The Art Group had a show at the Rolling Oaks Mall on February 4, 1989. I had my display set up along with about twenty other female artists. I had a series of equine drawings. Neatly framed and hanging on some doors that I had covered with carpet. Jack had heard an ad on the radio and decided to break his vow not to attend such events. He walked into our area about 1:30 in the afternoon. I could hear the whispers among the other artists. Someone famous has just entered our section. He chatted with each artist as he made his way around the display area. He took his time and was courteous, finding something positive to say in each booth. I was a nervous wreck by the time he got to me. I was the last booth in the circle.

I will never forget what he said, "Well young lady, you are quite the talent. You have such a confident pencil stroke. You look academically trained."
I think I answered, "Thank you, Sir. I did attend the Medical College of Georgia for Medical Illustration."
"Wow", he exclaimed. "A Medical Illustrator. You do plow in tall cotton."

The conversation lasted about five minutes. I was amazed he knew about medical illustration. I had never met anyone other than the doctors I worked with who knew what that was. I finally summoned up the courage to ask him if he could possibly take the time to look at my portfolio. He never hesitated. He told me where we could meet and set the time for an afternoon at a small taco stand across the street from his condo.

I showed up early. He had beaten me. He was drinking iced tea and just finishing a fajita. He stood and pulled my chair out, inviting me to have a seat. Summoning the waiter to serve me in the same motion as he took my portfolio from my hand. He made me feel each piece was important, even if they were mostly classroom drawings. He carefully examined each sketch, never asking personal questions, not even if I had children. His total focus was on my art. I think we talked for two hours. I say talked. I said less than a dozen words. When he had finished studying my art, he stood and waited for me to follow suit. "Young lady, will you allow me to say two things?" He waited for my response. I now know it is his way of selling. The first man to speak loses after you ask a question. I just stared at him. He never said a word, only smiled and waited. I blushed. My face burned. I didn't know what to say. Of course he could say anything he wanted to. I just had never been asked permission before.

I think I only nodded my affirmative. He reached out his big, warm hand and engulfed mine. "Young Lady, I want to tell you that you have a lot more ability than I do. In time you can become a much better painter than me. You have a natural flair to your drawings. A gift I have never seen equaled." He paused and watched me turn even redder. I tried to let go of his grip. He continued to hold my hand. Then he shocked me to the bones. "You are also a very sick girl." He saw what I had been able to conceal from even those closest to me. He looked into my eyes and saw the sorrow, deep hidden pain and the trauma of my soul.

I never believed either statement he made. Before you get the idea he was hitting on me, let me tell you what I looked like at that time. I weighed 92 pounds fully clothed in cowboy boots, two pair of boy's Levis, a turtleneck sweater and a denim shirt. My two front teeth were black from a blow by my husband's fist. My glasses were as thick as a Coke bottle bottom and my completion looked like a teenage boy. It was broken out in allergy pimples.

It was not love at first sight. Sparks did not flow. He did not immediately come into my life. I had such a low opinion of myself, I would never have dreamed a man so famous and handsome would notice me. Inside, I felt like the scum of the earth. I always felt dirty. I just knew if people knew the real me, they would discover the horrible truth. The abuse my husband inflicted on me was what I deserved for being so bad. Only a really bad person would have done the things that I did. Please understand, I did not actually remember any of the ugly ... I just had this horrible feeling about myself. I knew I was dirty, but I could not tell anyone why I felt like such a despicable person.

A series of events brought us together again a few months after our first meeting. In the meantime he learned from one lady artist about my abusive husband. She told the whole story, leaving nothing out. She had a big crush on Jack. Trust me, it was one sided. Jack was single, but not interested in her. She thought by his question to her about me, he was interested in me in an amorous way. Bless her heart; if she only knew the hoards of attractive and rich women who camped out on his doorstep, she would have been embarrassed at her actions. When we did see each other again at a meeting of the artists' group, he pulled me aside and said, "I know you need a friend. Here is my phone number. I am not interested in a physical relationship. I am not looking for a love interest. I just know you need a friend ... I will be that friend."

It took me a month to gain the courage to phone. We chatted. I worked on medical drawings and he continued to paint as we visited. Over a few months span, I opened up more and more. Then one day I told him I needed to go purchase groceries. "Where do you shop?", he asked. "At the HEB over on Bandera Road sometime, others at the small grocery store in Helotes."

"Which one are you going to today?" he immediately asked. "The big one," I responded.

Please remember, we had talked for hours over the telephone, but I had only met him two times in person. So when he walked into the grocery store and found me, I was in a state-of-shock. I could hardly talk with him in person. My vocal cords clamped down again on me. He walked the entire grocery store with me making small talk. Mainly he was just watching me shop and pushing my cart. To my knowledge, Jack was the first male to ever shop for groceries with me. After he loaded the food in the back of my truck, he told me he had something for me. He was parked near me and asked me to wait. Shortly he returned with a birdcage. The door was taped open. Inside the cage was a note. "I cannot pull you from the cage, but if you decide to fly out, then I will not let you hit the ground. From what I know about your life, you are living in a self-imposed cage." After he handed me the cage he said, "Caged birds are not free to sing." I stood holding the birdcage as he got into his car and drove away.

I didn't understand what he meant about caged birds and singing back then. Now that I am free from the mental confinement of my self-imposed cage, my entire body is a singing vessel. Our back yard is an aviary, because we keep the local songbirds well supplied in seed. Listening to them, my soul joins in their melodious singing. I do sing with every fiber of my being these days.

Around Thanksgiving, I phoned to tell him I had left the cage. He asked where I was? I told him. He told me to park my truck. He could hear me crying over the telephone. I cried all the time, back then. I cried at times for no reason. Well, at least at the time, no reason I knew about. He came to me. We drove for two hours. I cried and he just listened to me cry. Finally, after the third time around the entire city of San Antonio he asked if I wanted to rent an apartment. Silence on my part forced him to ask again. I still was not able to speak, so I nodded my head, yes. He found a beautiful small apartment in a gated community, with a single car garage. I hired movers for the few things I took from the house. Jack helped me haul my registered Arabian 'Scooter', a ten year old; taking him to the Charro Arena. I gave him to a young Mexican girl. My ex told me I would be begging him to take me back within six months. After a week he was begging me and saying he would never drink any more. He would never touch me in a hurtful way again and even promised to get a job. His words were lost in the wind.

Jack started immediately trying to get me to begin painting. He suggested I begin my painting career with horses as my subject material. I knew horses, understood anatomy and, best of all, I loved them. Jack's axiom is, paint what you know and love. He finally purchased me an easel, set it up and brought me brushes and tubes of paint. We lived about a mile apart. In the evening, we would have dinner or go to a movie if he did not have previous plans. I was too numb to think about a physical relationship and he was not interested in one. He took me to movies. I had not been to a movie theatre in ten years. He even took me to my first Wal-Mart store. I got lost in the beauty of The Container Store. By the way, I still think The Container Store is the best and neatest place to shop. The closest one to us now is in Miami.

When he saw the easel was not tempting me to paint, he entered me in a contest for the cover of the San Antonio Telephone directory. He knew I would not miss a deadline. He stretched the odd sized canvas and placed it on my easel. The next day he called and asked if I had begun. I made excuses. He said, "Mickey, get your tail in there and start or, kid, you will miss the deadline." I spelled my name Mickey back then. Jack's oldest son is responsible for the way I now spell it. He said Mickey sounded too much like a man or an entertainment park. He wrote out MIKKI on a napkin and handed it to me. Jack and I thought it was a super idea, so Mickey became Mikki.

I completed that first painting and another after that. Jack just encouraged me not to piddle and didn't push me to get into painting as a vocation. He just wanted me to see what I could do with color. The ladies had a show set for April 1990 and asked if I wanted to take part. Jack also thought it was a good idea, so I did. I had completed five paintings. He showed up about closing time the first day. No one had sold anything. He immediately sold a bronze for the artist sharing my booth and then turned and sold my first painting for $200 to a lady judge. That day was April 21, 1990. Before the year of 2001 is over, he will have directed my career with sales of over three million dollars. But I am getting ahead of myself. Oil painting was not my goal at that time. It was only a release from the technical preciseness of medical work. It was not in the picture, career wise.

The San Antonio Spurs were in the final round of the NBA playoffs. He took me to a game. Back then I did not realize how impossible a ticket to the game was to get. He designed the uniforms for the Spurs and knew all the big shots. It was not to impress me. He just wanted me to enjoy what normal people get to see.

The next month, he had a trip planned to California. He asked if I wanted to join him. Of course, I said yes. The day we left, I started watching for him to explode and slap me. By the second day, since he had not raised his voice, I started needling and trying to get him upset., He ignored my efforts. I got frustrated. I had never been with a man who didn't get angry and beat me. What was wrong with me that I was not getting him upset? The trip took two weeks. Not once did he let my prodding cause him to even glance at me in an angry way. We stayed in the same bed, yet at night he only hugged me. He told me you need hugs, not sex. I just figured it was because I was so ugly and damaged goods. It was a long time before I realized he understood the need for unconditional love in my life. On the trip, Jack made a point to show me the California flowers and all the 21 Missions. I still treasure the photos of that trip. I remembered each roadside stop. It was the most unbelievable adventure I had ever been on. The best part, after five miserable days of trying to anger him...I gave up. I began to relax. Jack was different. He wanted nothing but for me to enjoy living. I honestly think that trip was the turning point in my life. We got closer after we returned. He finally allowed me to kiss him when we got back home. He had moved away from San Antonio, which meant I would see him less frequently.

I drove to see him a few times in my new Ford Explorer. Jack had done some research on them and suggested I test drive one. I purchased the third model ever sold in San Antonio. It was my very first brand new car. In September he took me to Hawaii for several weeks. We visited all six islands. It was while we were staying at the Manele Bay Resort on Lanai, he asked me two questions. It was during the last week of our trip. He asked, "Would I like to spend the remainder of my life with him, traveling and living where people go on holiday vacation?" The other, "Would I let him teach me to paint?" I never blinked an eye, saying "Yes", immediately. It is uncertain when his wanting to just help turned to love, but for me, it was that wonderful trip to California. I had given my heart to him, before we had ever actually kissed in a romantic way.

In October of that year, two life-changing things happened to us. First we decided to close his 6,000 sq ft artist's loft. It was a terrific space with, 18-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, huge north light windows with space ... lots of space. We gave away a wonderful leather couch/love seat, TV's, washer/dryer, VCR and clothes. The list was long. We condensed what we each independently owned into a tiny storage space. Mostly, this was to house the medical books I had illustrated; forty-seven in all. I know it must have been difficult for him to walk away from that dream workspace. The other thing that happened the week we were to leave was tragic. Two young illegal immigrants from Mexico were in a stolen car, fleeing the police. They ran a signal light, slamming into the side of Jack's new car. It was totaled. His right arm damaged. He was not able to lift it above his waist. What he said let me know he was the most positive person I had ever met. He got up the next morning, laughing, wearing his arm in a sling. He is right handed, so to not be able to lift his right arm meant he would not be able to paint. He told me, "Mikki, I can either learn to paint with my left hand or not paint. I darn sure don't plan to stop painting." He did learn to paint with his left hand. Later on, I will let you know how that changed the direction of my own style.

As newlywed's, we headed to Carefree, Arizona as our first destination. We choose it mostly because of the name. We were heading out on a carefree life. With street names like Ho Hum, Relax and Lazy, it sounded like the perfect location to begin our quest for bliss. With only the few things we both considered indispensable, we loaded up and headed west, Jack's right arm in a sling and my heart singing.

Every other word of mine was, "I'm sorry." No matter what the case, I always would take blame and start saying, "I'm sorry." He may say, "The garbage truck is late today." I would answer, "I'm sorry." He would say, "Looks like rain." I would counter by saying, "'I'm sorry." Finally, one day Jack stopped me in the middle of, 'I'm sorry.' placing one of his strong hands on each of my shoulders. "Honey, you are not sorry. You are a good person. Each time you say, I'm sorry, you are telling Mikki that she is a sorry person. It is okay for us to apologize to each other if we have done something to merit it. Your every other word is, you are sorry." I have noticed, since I am now a survivor, most of those who are constantly saying "I'm Sorry" are still victims. A waitress will start apologizing for the slow cook in a diner. A check out clerk will start to apologize for the scanning bar not reading. Any excuse to take responsibility and claim blame for whatever goes wrong. The most used word of victims is, "I'm sorry." Jack worked hard for over a year before I started to slowly eliminate those two words from my vocabulary. Of course they are still there, but I only use them if it is required to correct a mistake and then very cautiously. I am not a sorry person. I now know I am a terrific lady. I am mentioning this, because if you are a person constantly apologizing and taking responsibility for the world's ills, then there is a great possibility you are a victim of child abuse either; mental, physical or sexual. You, in all probability, have repressed memories. We try to stuff those hurts and dirty feelings as deeply inside as we can. We do all in our power to forget. To remember brings back the original ugly and pain. Abuse makes us feel so badly, we do feel as if we are sorry. Sorry for just being alive. I am pouring my life out in front of you, praying you will reach out and find help, if you are still living the life of a victim. There is help. Not all of you will have a Jack drift into your life ... but there is a light at the end of the dark tunnel. There is a way out of your birdcage. I'm giving you permission to fly out. I am taping your cage door open. I cannot pull you out, but I implore you to have the courage to take wings and fly through the open door to freedom and eventual happiness.

Not all was roses, when we got to Carefree. I was not comfortable being treated so nicely. Jack started making me a special blend milkshake to help me gain weight. He helped me wash the dishes, took out the garbage, went with me grocery shopping and never raised his voice at me. I could not stand the special treatment. I started trying to pick a fight. This was not what I grew up with and what my marriage had been like in the past. I was comfortable being a nothing. He was treating me like I was a someone; a real person, like I was of real value. I would wake up wondering if today will be the day he discovers that I am a fraud. He will get to know the black and evil me. I knew I was worthless, and surely he would discover the same thing in no time. I wanted to accelerate the discovery process. Victims get comfortable, wallowing in the mire of no self-esteem. I wasn't just comfortable in the mal-treatment, I reveled it in. It was where I felt I belonged. I was like the pig taken from the mud, given a bath; he will jump back into the first pit of mire he sees. Since Jack would not lash back, I decided to nag him until he became the type of man I was accustomed to.

I guess we had been together about six months. He daily made the shakes and treated me as if I was extremely valuable. Then one morning, I woke up determined to break him, make him show me the other side of his personality. I started picking and picking. In the middle of one of my complaints, he gave me a look that would paralyze a small animal. "Mikki, I am not sure what you have been trying to accomplish these past six months, but if you think I am going to start beating you or choking you then you are with the wrong man. I have made up my mind unless you ease up I am going to leave. I didn't marry you to be my sparing partner. I want a mate that can share my life. I want to see you grow so, if there is no Jack in your life, you will not seek out another woman beater." He paused to let me fully grasp what he had said; he took my shivering body into his arms and let me cry until my eyes had no more water to spill out. That evening we went to our favorite mountainside spot and listened to the coyotes sing to the moon. We talked for several hours. We went back over all the various ways I had been trying to provoke a fight since we had moved to Carefree. Our six months lease was almost over. He explained he understood a little about spousal abuse. He showed me a book he had purchased and read since we had moved to Carefree. I was so oblivious to what was going on I never noticed the title of the book when we purchased it...I never even observed him reading it. I guess it was that night I knew if I continued, he was going to leave, or at least he convinced me that would be the case. Looking back, I think it was just his way of letting me know that no matter how hard I tried, he knew where the agitation was coming from and he would have weathered the storm until I got healthy.

It had been his goal from the very beginning to help me see myself in a better light. I remember not too long after I left my husband, I told Jack that I had big ugly ears. He never said anything, but the next week I got a stack of photos of models. He had purchased magazines like Vogue, Maribella and Elle, cutting the photos out of all the famous models he could find with larger ears than mine. On each one he made notations, telling me Cindy Crawford has larger ears than you; Kim Bassinger has larger ears than you; Cheryl Tiggs has larger ears than you. I got a package a week until I finally began to see my ears were normal. He had his dentist put caps on my two black front teeth, damaged by my ex-husband. He took me to Sak's and let their make up specialist show me how to put on make up. He bought me my first pair of contact lenses. He purchased me a feminine wardrobe. Jack tossed my boy's cowboy boots and got me two pair of girl's boots. A black pair and a red pair, with tall tops, higher heels, and nice small toes. Fixing the outside to show me I had beauty. No matter how many compliments I got from friends and strangers, I still felt ugly and UN attractive. Cleaning up the outside does not help the ugly inside. Until the inner issues are addressed, it is never possible to feel like a complete person. An automobile with a new paint job will not perform until the engine is tuned. The inside must be made right to compliment the outside. We made me attractive to the viewer, but I knew the real me, my eyes still told the story of a sad, sick, frightened little girl.

He married a new look, but the pretty girl still had the ugly and worthless interior. Neither he nor I understood the reason for the way I felt, nor did we know how to make the change. He knew he could not change me; I had to do that myself. He could only be patient and wait for me to do it on my own. We had moved to Las Vegas as our second stop. It was a neat apartment in Green Valley, a section of Henderson. Jack was getting pretty good with his left hand. He was selling all he could paint. I was making progress with my oils. We had my work in several lesser art galleries, mostly those dealing with equine or western paintings. My paintings were still very dark, but Jack remained positive and encouraging. After we settled in, several interesting things happened.

My painting subject matter ended up changing from horses to the genre I now do. I kept seeing Jack painting those large full of color impressionistic floral canvases. He had no choice; it was either that or not paint. His right arm was in a traumatic state. He still could not raise his hand above his shoulder. He would day after day just slap the paint on left handed with abandonment. The more he painted, the more I became interested in what he was doing. Horses are so exact and difficult to paint. The anatomy must be perfect. Anyone can look at a painting of a horse and immediately tell if there is something wrong with the autonomy. He had omnipotence. He could make flowers grow out of season...winter flowers were growing with summer flowers. One day I finally said, "That looks like so much fun." He gave me a smile indicating he was reading my mind, "Wanna try it?" He knew the way I was back then ... so he never waited for my answer. "Hey, why don't you take some of those mission photos we took on our first trip and paint you one," Jack said, as he reached for a small canvas leaning against the wall. He took the horse painting off my easel, replacing it with the blank canvas. I had the time of my life on that little painting. When it was complete, he shipped it to one of my galleries. To my shock they sold it while it was still in the box. They faxed and asked for another one. In the next couple of months, I produced seven more. All of them sold and the gallery didn't sell an equine painting during that time period. I took to the new style and subject matter like a newborn duck does to water. I felt as if I was home at last. My energy rose to a new level. It was not long after the last mission painting sold, Jack suggested we put the horses out to pasture. We informed the galleries, I was no longer going to be painting horses. Most were not pleased. We had developed a following for my horses. Nevertheless, it was the right decision. My success is proof we made the correct choice.

One day, while we were grocery shopping, he picked up a copy of Lear's Magazine. In it was an article on night terrors. I was constantly waking up screaming in the middle of the night. I remember kicking him out of bed on several occasions. He read and reread the article. I was in too much denial to even pick the article up. A few weeks later, he saw an ad that Marilyn Van Derbur, Miss America 1955, was going to be speaking on sexual abuse. He took me, but I think he had to drag me kicking and screaming. After all I had a perfect family and was raised in a Christian environment.

Marilyn told the story of her rich and famous father sexually abusing her until she was 19. She won the contest of being the most beautiful girl in America and still felt the same way I felt. She was telling my story. I was stunned. It was like she knew me. She had night terrors. She had repressed her memories until she was almost 40. When she confronted her father, he only said he loved her. Later on, when I confronted mine, he would say the very same thing.

My one dream was always the same. I could see a closed door with the light shining underneath. I could see two large feet and part of the legs. It always stood next to my bed. Then I would wake up, broken out in sweat and screaming. Jack would hold me and shake me until I was fully awake. Some nights I would kick him out of bed and he would have to climb back in to hold me. My first repressed memory came in an unusual way. When I was 13, my parents brought two German exchange students to live with us for a year. One was a young man about 23, the other a younger girl. My mother would make me take the man horseback riding into the orange groves. He would have sex with me. That had been totally blocked from my mind. Then for some reason, out of the blue, he phoned my biological father asking how to contact me. He then phoned us and left a message on the recorder. I tried to call back and got his voice mail. We played phone tag over a two-week span. Then one evening, about 9:00 P.M. Las Vegas time, the telephone rang. I picked up the receiver and a voice asked in a thick German accent, "Is this my little friend?" Jack says I turned white as I answered him. I said, " Someone's at the door, I'll have to call you back." Jack sensed something. He got up, walked over to me, and put his arms around me. For those of you who are victims, you will never remember until you are in a safe environment; until you are safely with those who will not judge you and people who will not blame you for what adults did to you. Finally I felt safe enough with Jack for my memories to rise to the surface. I was able to remember what happened in the orange groves. I was even able to remember my own mother whipping my legs until I bled for refusing to take Armand into the groves. She knew what he was doing. She vicariously was enjoying knowing he was forcing her daughter to be sexual with a grown man. I still did not associate my biological father or my older brother with any of my bad dreams. Jack phoned Armand back the following day. Jack opened the conversation in a warm and friendly way allowing him to open up. When he was not expecting, Jack mentioned what a liberal family mine had been. Suggesting not many mothers would be so free with their daughters. Before he was aware of Jack picking his brain, he went on to say how much he had enjoyed living with us and he could not get those days of ridding in the groves with me out of his mind. "Pretty sexy. Right?" Jack probed. His answer shocked me, because he admitted to molesting me. Jack had lured him into a confession. We now had a starting point for recovering my repressed memories. This has nothing to do with the story, but his ex-wife left Armand, accusing him of molesting their two young daughters. Once a pedophile, always a pedophile.

The following months, we chipped away; one repressed memory after another. Jack purchased me a memory book. I began to record all the ones that came back. He would draw me a full tub of warm water and I would lay back and relax letting my mind go where it had never dared to travel before. Finally most of the memory of my childhood came back. I realized who had done what to me. I finally summoned the courage to confront my older brother and my biological father. They got with me on a conference call. Neither denied it. My older brother only grunted a few times, then he said it was normal childhood experimentation. My biological father told me he had only loved me.

The very early next morning, we received a frightening telephone call. My biological father's mother, my grandmother, told me with urgency in her voice, "Your dad has gone crazy. He has hired men to locate you and put you in a deprogramming clinic. He says Jack has brain washed your mind. He wants Jack eliminated. Honey, I'm sorry. I wish I had done something years ago to have stopped him." It was nice for her to let me know she believed me over her own son's denial. We had a pretty good idea what eliminated meant. We also knew his goons could kidnap me and put me in some clinic. We had seen too many instances on 60 Minutes or shows like it. I knew he had the money to have me plucked off the street and for them to do with Jack whatever eliminates meant. It was no prank; my grandmother was 93 at the time. She was an immigrant from Poland. She would not joke about anything as serious as this. We were packed and out the door in less than two hours. Even with his injured arm Jack did all the heavy lifting. We drove to San Diego and rented a motel room near the beach. Jack paid cash and used an assumed name. We purchased a phone card and started making calls using a pay phone. Thus began a three-year cat and mouse game. We kept staying one step ahead of my biological father's goons. Jack had known 'Angel' Ann all her life. He graduated from middle school with her older sister. She became our buffer. All of our mail started to go through her. We used her fax number for our telephone contact. Galleries were taught to fax 'Angel' Ann. She was the only person in the world that knew where we were. Money was scarce at times. We paid cash for our auto gas...we didn't use any credit cards. Yet, in spite of all the pressure his men put on to find us, we never let it keep us from enjoying each day. Jack would tell me constantly, "Any day they keep us from living to the max, they have won." We determined to never let my biological father rob us of any days. We moved a lot. I was able to persuade the Arizona drivers license department to give me a photo identity card under an assumed name. They had dealt with spousal abuse cases and felt mine was in the same category. From then on, we used that name to lease apartments and purchase utilities. With our telephone, electricity, gas, water and the apartment lease under a legal assumed name the trail became cold for them. We neither gave our Social Security number out to anyone, but the IRS on our income tax reports. The few times they approached Ann, they met the stonewall treatment. She stood strong. She saved our lives. During those days, Ann became known as 'Angel' Ann.

Our break came when we picked up a Miami newspaper. We had moved back to Las Vegas from Maui. Jack bought the paper to check out some football scores. Inside was a small article. It told of a girl who after twenty-five years filed criminal charges against her father. The judge ruled there was no statue of limitations on child sexual abuse in the state of Florida. The court sent him to jail for fifteen years. We had met a lady who was a State Attorney working in child abuse cases. She lived in Orlando. We met her on one of our cruises. I immediately phoned her. She confirmed the story. We made photocopies and FedExed them to my biological father's company attorney. I had known the company lawyer all my life. I told him, unless my biological father stopped trying to find me, I was going to file criminal charges and listed about thirty people who would testify for me in a court of law. One being his own mother, another the next-door neighbor ... the doctor who put me on birth control pills. I also told him I had a copy of my older brother's military records showing he was booted out for unfavorable sexual practices. We had names of many of those who abused me in the fort. I would add theirs and my older brother to the list of those I filed charges on. We had our attorney send the letter to them. I had already divorced the family right after the memories came back. I wanted none of his millions. I want no part of his filthy money. I had my name removed from all wills as soon as I remembered the abuse.

Never underestimate to what extent a perpetrator will go to protect his secret. I remember sitting in church as a small girl and worrying about the resurrection. My predator father had told me, if I ever told anyone, he would cut me into small pieces and bury me in little graves all over the vast orange grove behind our home. He told me when Christ returned he would not be able to find the pieces. I would be left when The Savoir came back for His Own. I would end up either not found or in Hell. I hated Easter, because it deals with the resurrection of the dead. It always made me wonder if my biological father did kill me, how would a loving God find me. The sick one, who robs children of their youth, will go to any extreme to protect their secret. I honestly think if I had tried to tell as a youth, he would have killed me and I still believe that today.

When we decided to phone and confront the two of them, Jack became concerned it may cause my biological father to have a heart attack. He said it would be too much for me to bear knowing we had killed him. He and I both thought when he knew his secret was going to be brought out in the open; the shock would promote his heart to fail. We contemplated on hiring a nurse to be at the office when I phoned. How wrong we were. We now realize the perpetrator will always deny that they did anything wrong. They will immediately shift the blame to the victim. You see, it is only very selfish and sick people who in the first place abuse children. They never cared about the child when they were defenseless; why would we think they would care to help in recovery. Most seldom are men enough to admit their wrong. I remember thinking what courage and caring Susan Smith's stepfather showed when he said, at her trial for the murder of her two small boys, he had sexually abused her. I don't condone his actions on her as a teen, but I do applaud his effort to try and save her life. He did what any decent person should do. He is the rare exception. Most will deny and deny and deny. Then they will go at great effort to say the child is mentally ill; someone else has put the idea in their mind. Remember both boys and girls are abused. It is not just girls.

Before I come across like the first few years that Jack and I were together hiding from the goons my biological father had hired were bad years, that's not true. Jack refused to allow them to disrupt our lives. He said over and over, "We can do anything we want to do, but just not everything we want to." I could not allow the galleries to advertise me in national magazines. I could not do art shows, because the goons may find out and show up. We received no mail direct to where we lived...it all had to go through Ann first, back in Texas. We were careful whom we phoned. We didn't dare use either of our credit cards. We did do some wonderful things though. We lived in Maui for six months in a condo right on one of the most beautiful beaches in the Hawaiian Islands. Leased another great studio/home in Morro Bay and again, it was on the ocean. Myrtle Beach was our next destination...and yes, this one was on the Atlantic shore. In Cocoa Beach we got to see the Space Shuttle launch two different times. Then we moved back to Las Vegas. This time, we lived in a gated community called Spanish Trail. We were living in the very same country club that Steve Wynn's daughter was living when she was kidnapped.

Beautiful things happened in Las Vegas. We met Dave and Lola. They owned two radio stations in Las Vegas and several more in cities scattered all over the country. Lola got us press passes to all the shows. We sat ringside for the boxing events. I mean we sat at the same table with the writers of Ring Magazine. I got to sketch Don King at least 10 different times. We witnessed all the heavyweight fights that year. They somehow, they got us press passes to the Kentucky Derby. We spent a week at the backside on Derby week. I got to sketch the owners, trainers, horses and jockeys. Jack purchased us a $2 ticket on 'Go For Gin' to win and 'Strodes Creek' to place second. We still have the winning ticket. It was too sentimental to cash in. Not many people ever pick the first two horses in any race, especially the Kentucky Derby. We went on our first cruise that year.

Jack never let a day end on an unpleasant mood. He taught me it is attitude, not circumstance that determines how a day turns out. During those days of flight, Jack suggested we make a calendar. We started putting an X on the bad days. I think that first year we had nine. A close call of them finding us would send me into a panic mode. Slowly but surely, he taught me, we could live one day at a time. Bad things may happen during that day, but it does not have to rob the entire day. If we are stuck in traffic we have the power to make a choice. We can find pleasant things to do, or we can fume and fret. We have the power to choose. People cannot make us unhappy unless we give them permission. By the time our attorney had convinced my biological father's lawyer I meant business, we had cut the Bad Days to zero. We have been seven years without putting an X on our calendar. Does that mean we don't have bad things happen to us? Of course we do, we are human. We just choose to deal with the situation at the moment and then move on. We refuse to let bad things mess up an entire day. I could write a book on No Bad Days. Jack has taught me to live one day at a time. Live it as if it was the only day we have, because the truth of the matter is, it is the only day we can be sure of.

I remember a gallery going bankrupt, owing us about $14,000. Everyone we knew said sue. We decided it would do no good. The gallery was bankrupt; suing would cause us nothing but worry and lawyer's fees. We turned the page on the loss and never gave it another thought. It didn't cause us to put an X on our calendar.

I now have a new extended family. My gallery owners are part of my family. Jack's friends are now mine. We have made friends that are ours together. I have a wonderful support system. If something were to happen to Jack, I would have all the support any person would ever need.

Healing has been erratic. Times I feel I am flying, and then, an old memory will pop into my head. I will go months without a night terror, and then, out of the blue, they will come in droves. I am sure I see something in a movie, read a story or bump into someone that lets the ugly slip past my filter. My hands will still turn ice at the thought of being cut up in small parts and scattered where I will not be found during the resurrection. If I think I have done something wrong, my hands will turn to frigid. As confident as I am, I still cannot totally free myself from the years of abuse. For instance: Jack may go to the store to just look at a pair of slacks. If he does not find what he is looking for, my hands will get cold. He has to assure me, it is not my fault he didn't purchase the pants. I have a meter built in that says I have to please or there will be consequence. I cannot count the times he has had to hug me and assure me it was not my fault. He will tell me you did nothing wrong. Please don't be scared. The wounds of child abuse never totally go away. At least now, we both understand why my hands become icicles.

The most important thing is, I now know Mikki Senkarik is a wonderful lady. I walk with confidence. I feel equal to anyone. I no longer feel dirty. I understand the dark childhood has allowed me to revel in the brightness of life as a happy adult. Without cloudy days we could not fully appreciate those filled with Sunlight.

I am selling more art than one person can possibly produce. I have sold over 200 originals a year for each of the past five years. Jack does everything, so I do nothing but paint. I walk to the easel in the morning and just begin putting oils on my canvas. He does all the business correspondence, ordering supplies, making the frames on my Signature canvases, boxing and dealing with the galleries. When all my things are complete, then he works on his own paintings. He has set his career aside to build mine. He tells those who ask, "We have a saying in Texas...it is hard for a sapling to grow in the shade of an oak." He knows it would be difficult to build my career if both of us were not working at it full time.

I am confident the one reason my work has been so popular is because people can feel my joy coming through in my paintings. I have exuberance for living. I wake with a passion for the day. Many call them, 'Billboards of Happiness', 'Expressions of Joy' and 'Color Boards of Pleasure'. My life is so complete; my inner peace no longer needs verbal words to tell the world of my ebullience for living. I float on the fragrance of an unspeakable happiness. Our motto is: Carpe Diem (seize the day).

I no longer fear the past. I feel no shame. Sadness is no longer a fellow traveler. I know, as sure as I know the rains will bring wildflowers, I was not responsible for what sick people did to me. Healing is not only possible ... it is a must. If you or a loved one is a victim of abuse either as a child or is continuing as one into adulthood, there is healing. There is hope. Healing will take work. You must be brave. Facing the demons of abuse is not a casual thing. However, unless you begin today, you may never have the courage again. You may not have a Jack reading fifty books on abuse trying to find help for you. You may not have a Jack holding your shivering body in the middle of the night when the big feet on the bottom of a pair of dark legs is standing next to your bed. You may not have a Jack, but there is help. You are not alone. You will find help, if you will reach out. No one deserves to live in an unpleasant world. We were all born to live a productive and happy life.

Now that I have told you my story of silence, allow me to share with you my current life and how a workday goes for me. We are up by 6:00 A.M. ... rare is the day we stay in bed until past 7:00 A.M.. Jack turns on the PC and reads the night's emails, while I make us a cup of coffee. We share one cup in the morning with the majority going to Jack. The beach is across, the street, so we head out for our morning walk. The gentle waves set the mood for a day's painting. By 8:30, I am in front of my easel and Jack is about his chores.

We take a lunch break. Our diet varies little from week to week. We both love baked potatoes with fresh corn and black-eyed peas. One day, we will have 12-bean soup and the next we may have rotini and crushed tomatoes. Mid morning, we eat a banana and mid afternoon, a hand full of organic walnuts. Lunches are special, because we own all the Honeymooners tapes. We have a laugh break with Ralph and Alice. We watch and laugh at times so hard we cannot eat. Even though we have seen the shows over and over they only get better. We feel laughter is our best healing medicine. We neither smoke and only on occasions do we share one glass of wine. We take a caplet daily called, Super Juice. We get it at Walgreen's for about $8 a box. It contains all the ingredients you get if you were eating five fruits and five veggies a day. We neither have had a cold or flu in eight years. This is a wonderful health product. We make an effort to stop working by 5:00 P.M.. In the evening, we make sure to leave the house/studio and go to the movies, Sea World, Imax, Aquariums, XLF Football, Arena Football, Circus, Ice Shows, Tampa Buccaneers, horse events and any local art and craft shows that may be in our area. We love Busch Gardens, Cypress Gardens and Jungle Gardens as well as the zoo and botanical gardens. One or two times a week we try to have a picnic on one of the many great beaches in our area. We grab a salt free ham sandwich, a bottle of water and our beach chairs for an evening of wading in the water. We have one favorite spot where the majority of times we see a school of Dolphins feeding. We make an effort to go, even if it is just to jump into our new Cadillac Escalade (SUV) and drive until dark. Nothing is more thrilling to us than a drive over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge just as the sun is setting over the outer edges of the bay where it joins the Gulf of Mexico.

We make an effort to go on at least two cruises each year. We have driven through all the 48 states, visited the majority of major attractions, such as the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Niagara Falls, Statue of Liberty, Devil's Tower, Great Lakes, Foxwood Casino, Atlantic City, Gulf Port/Biloxi, White Sands, and all the known mountains. We went to the Super Bowl in San Diego and sat with the board of directors of the Denver Broncos; traveled to most of the Caribbean Islands, all over Mexico, Belize and Costa Rica; lived three different times in Hawaii and been on 17 cruises including one through the Panama Canal. This has been wonderful for me, because when Jack came into my life, I had never traveled. My longest trip was from the Medical College of Georgia to Texas.

I have met and became friends with many famous people: John and Bo Derek; Grant and Donnell Teaff, Executive Director of American Football Coaches Association; Tim and Amy Marcum, Coach and General Manager of the Tampa Bay Storm; John Niland, Seven time All Pro with the Dallas Cowboys; Tom Benson, Owner of the New Orleans Saints; The Late Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the Washington Red Skins; Bruce and Gloria Devlin; Jim Bates, Defensive Coordinator of the Miami Dolphins; Russ Bookbinder, GM of the San Antonio Spurs; Woody Kern, owner of five sports franchises; Susan Harding, editor of 8 equine magazines; Chris Robinson, Soap Opera Star; David and Lola Wagonvoord, owners of several CBS affiliated radio stations and the list expands almost daily. I have only mentioned a few people; there is no way to list everyone.

I don't have room to tell you all the wonderful places we have lived. However, I must at least hit the highlights. Carmel/Monterey was special. We lived on Ocean View Blvd. The Sun rose over Monterey Bay shining into our bedroom window. We could see the rays skipping across the pounding surf. Then in the evening we could sit in the studio and watch the same Sun drop out of sight into the depth of the Pacific Ocean. Our house was out on a point. We watched 11 Gray Whales playing on Christmas Day. Our next-door neighbor was Bill Walsh of the 49ers. We had an artist's loft on Galveston Island overlooking the Strand at the most important corner in town. The Mardi Gras Parade passed under our windows. We were on the top floor next to the famous Tremont Hotel. In Honolulu, we had an apartment on the 28th floor where we could see the entire city from Diamond Head to Pearl Harbor. In Maui and Kona, we leased condos on the water. We stopped in Midland, Texas, so Jack could let me feel the flavor of his state. No people in the world are friendlier than those in Midland/Odessa. We are living now on a secluded little Island off the coast of Florida. Sugar sand beaches wait for our footprints each morning, only to have them washed away before the rest of the laidback guests ever get out of bed.

If we won the Lottery or Mega Bucks nothing much would change. We probably would move to St. Maarten or Barbados to escape the hordes seeking money. We would try to replicate the privacy we have now. We would still get up and paint each day. Painting is our hobby, our avocation as well as our vocation. We love to paint. Painting is our actualization. We are painters, so we paint. Money would not stop us from doing what we love. Nothing else has been able to slow us down, so I can't see a few million in our bank account having much affect on us doing what we love deeply. We may not be as concerned with sales ... be in fewer galleries ... maybe give more art away. We would still be in front of our easels by 8:30 A.M..

The process of me painting a canvas is shown in photos under my button, 'Making a Senkarik'. More goes into it than just making a sketch. I must feel a passion for the subject. It starts as a germ in my mind, progressing into my emotions, ending up in my heart. My paintings are an extension of my feelings. This is why they express so much happiness. I keep saying over and over, my glass is full of 'Happy'; it will not hold another drop. Every day I splash some happiness and joy onto the canvas. Each new day, I wake with the glass magically refilled to the brim.

I have tried to give you a personal look at my life. I am the luckiest lady in the world. I get to work at what I would do for free, if I were rich. I have the most supportive and talented mate any woman has ever known. My life is free of Bad Days and Bad People. I live an X free life. My health is wonderful. We neither have been sick in years. The most amazing aspect of our lives is this: we are together 24 x 7 x 365 and have been for 12 years. We have never had even a small squabble. I am talking about not even one tiny fuss. Jack has never raised his voice at me. As you can imagine, I have never raised my voice at anyone, so I would not begin with him. Trust me, he does encourage me to share my thoughts. I am now having a few. The first few years, I had none. I know it must be frustrating on him when I agree too easily. He will go back and ask the same question in a different slant just to make sure he has not imposed his will on mine. Jack is a strong personality ... he could dominate me if he was of that mind set. I am so thankful he understands I need to grow into having a mind of my own. I was robbed of one for 34 years. I am better ... but he and I both know I still have to work on knowing what I want. Even if it is just which movie we are going to rent. It is wonderful to know my opinion has value. It never did, until that fateful day on February 4, 1989 when he walked into the Rolling Oaks Mall. I can freely say what I think and not have someone tell me it is the most stupid suggestion they ever heard.

Silent Scream is not a story written to make you feel sad for me. It is my desire you will be inspired to live one day at a time. You will find a lust for living. I want life to rage in your soul. Max out your day and pack it as full of joy as your body can handle. We are so busy living we don't have time to dwell on the past. I seldom think of the biological family these days. My time is filled with the moment. I am expressing my freedom onto canvases each day. When you purchase a Senkarik, you are buying part of my enthusiasm for living. With every new piece, I stick a little of my found joy into each brush stroke. I can now speak volumes with my oil paints, canvas and stack of brushes.

When you look at my work, know you are looking at art produced by a winner. I am no longer a victim. I have made 'Starving Artist' an oxymoron. My personal life is one of high self-esteem. I am not starved for love or money. I have more of both than I can possibly use. I know I am a wonderful, moral and productive human. I want Senkarik to be a word associated with a life filled with enjoyment and personal pride. I ask that you will join The Senkarik Team, not only to help me promote my painting career, but join with us in giving hope to those who see none. Together we can make a difference by lifting the hope and spirit of someone needing a friend.

This is the most important message I can give you. Mikki Senkarik now knows love does not have to hurt. Love does not need to be dark and ugly. For most of my entire life I was told I was being loved when the abusers were hurting me. I associated love with pain and darkness. Jack lifted me up and delicately nurtured me back to health showing light and true love to a dying girl. He has shown me love, patience and companionship. The Apostle Paul in Chapter 13 of First Corinthians wonderfully describes love. This short chapter in the Bible is well worth your effort to read. Paul says, "true love is not unkind, does not act in unseemly ways and without it we are nothing." He states at the end of the chapter, "Of these three; faith, hope and love, the apex is love."

For personal responses to my story, click: personal@senkarik.com

Permission granted to make copies of Silent Scream.