About me

The precise events that make up my childhood are somewhat unclear.  I have only a handful memories before age 11, and some stories from others, but both can be fallible. 

When I was about 3 my mom and dad separated.  He’d had a vision that he was going to be a prophet, and was told to sacrifice me to prove his worthiness.  My mom thought that was a bad idea, packed up my sister and I, and we moved away (to his disappointment… but he’d show up later).

We moved to a small, inconspicuous town in Southern Utah called Panguich and “settled down” for a couple of years.  With my mom working as a hotel maid, we lived about as you’d expect – without much.  I remember starting school there, not fitting in, and not being very smart.  I remember my grandma pulling my hair to try to teach me my alphabet, probably the only way to get me to learn.

At some point, my mom remarried (“dad” #2).  I remember he was really severe.  We lived in the basement of a house, and I remember setting up traps (hangers dangling from a thread tied to my door knob) so I’d be awake to know whenever he’d come in my room.

At some point, my mom realized he wasn’t the right guy so we left.

We moved to another small, unassuming town called Oak City, and got a little trailer house.  My mom started singing and playing guitar for work.

By now I was in grade school.  I was the really poor kid, and was a loner.  I remember hiding at recess from the bullies, except once, when after school one of them pushed me down.  I grabbed a big rock (it seemed big to me at the time), and smashed his bike.  Then I ran home as fast as I could, terrified, but feeling vindicated.

My mom found another guy, and decided to get married (dad #3).  We moved to a tiny town in Montana called Marion where we were really poor.  In fact, I remember one time finding a dime on the road.  I went home and showed my mom, and she sent me down to the little town store, where I bought one of those Atomic Fireballs.  I brought it home, and we broke it apart and shared it.  At one time we lived for a while in a tent in the forest.  I remember once my mom brought home a box of Bisquick mix that was about a quarter full.  My step brothers and I mixed it all up and were preparing to cook it on our propane stove, but we never got that far.  We ended up just sitting around the tin bowl scooping it out with our hands and licking it off our fingers.  Bisquick never tasted so good.

My dad worked on an oil rig, and was always gone.  He’d come home on paydays, and would drink a lot.  He was a mean drunk, and so after a short time, we left him too.

We moved into a little trailer.  Money was tight, so my older sister went to live with my grandma.  The trailer didn’t have electricity, or running water.  I remember not showering in the winter, unless I could manage to stay at a friend’s house, so I’d go to school stinky.  As you can imagine, I was expertly avoided.  In fact, my teacher got this little partition and put it in the back of the room and put a desk in it.  When I arrived in the morning, she would send me straight back to my little desk, then close the partition around me, and I’d play with Legos or a Matchbox car I would have brought in my pocket.  I was always prepared.

One time I walked in and my teacher made some comment about my clothes, or my smell, I can’t remember now, but I do remember hauling off and punched her – again, scared but vindicated.  Of course that got me suspended, which wasn’t good, because the one thing about school, was that they provided lunch.

By now my mom was travelling a lot, and would be gone for several days at a time on singing gigs.  I’d be home alone in our little trailer, with some blankets and my best pal, a little dochsund named GiGi.  I remember often going to sleep cold and scared of the freaky noises inherent to the back woods of Montana.  I was about 11.

One day my mom came home early from one of her trips with some guy, we packed our stuff into 3 or 4 black garbage bags, put them into the back of his pickup, and drove away.

She dropped me off at my grandma’s house.  Eventually she told me she was leaving to try to get some money so we could be together again, and left.

My grandma and grandpa were already taking care of my sister, and I was a growing 11 year old boy who really needed a full-time dad (and some structure), so we drove to Idaho where we visited my Aunt and Uncle with their family (6 kids, an already large family). 

I didn’t know them very well.  In fact I only ever remember being with them on one Christmas at my Grandmas.  So here I found myself in another completely foreign place.  But alas, I figured we were only visiting, and at least I had my grandma, who seemed to be my one “constant” in life.

That made it very difficult when she pulled me aside to tell me that she was leaving me there.  Watching her drive away – my last vestige of familiarity was one of the hardest moments of my life.  That and the day I actually came to grips with the fact that my mom was never going to come get me. 

Now the point to all this…  Those two events were probably the most challenging of my life, but were probably the two most important things that ever happened to me.

The family that took me in ended up being exactly what I needed.  As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy, for me or for them.  I came in as an 11 year old boy, with no structure, no discipline, and… well, a lot to learn.  I was now the oldest of the kids. 

Just try imagining that for a minute.  Picture an 11 year old boy that you know (think of how naturally awkward they kind of are at that age), now picture having that person come in to live with you, not for a while, but for the rest of their childhood, and when you already have 6 kids.  It’s a sacrifice they made that I’ll never fully appreciate nor understand.  And we didn’t always get along, for a long time I clung to the fantasy that my mom would come get me, and that prevented me from adapting better.

But I had reliable shelter, heat, food, clothes, and all the material stuff I’d never had.  But more importantly I had structure, and got to see a real family function.  And most of all, they introduced me to the church.  They taught me the gospel,  gave me my own set of scriptures (a copy with an upside-down cover – I still have them today), and set me on a path that would lead me away from my past.

Fast forward to today.  I’m married to a beautiful and inspiring woman.  I have 6 amazing kids (5 boys, 1 girl).  I’ve succeeded in business as an executive (VP) for one of the largest and most influential real estate software companies in the nation.  I served a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), speaking Mandarin Chinese in Sydney Australia.  I live in a beautiful house on the foothills of the Rocky Mountain range in the Salt Lake area. 

I could go on and on about the wealth of material blessings we enjoy, but those can be gained by anybody.  More importantly, I’ve been given perspective.  I’ve been able to see two polarizing sides of life.  I’ve lived and breathed poverty, and as such have a burning empathy that only comes from personal experience.  I’ve seen firsthand what broken homes do.  What broken marriages do.  But at just the right moment, at the most critical point in my life where perhaps I was at the tipping point, the Savior lifted me out of that life, and placed me in an environment that would show me the other side of life.

I did a post here about a cartoon that was once sent to me that I loved.  It shows a man carrying a cross along with a bunch of other people, each carrying their own crosses.  Along the way he keeps cutting his down to make it lighter and easier to carry.  But soon he comes to a chasm in the road.  The others, who had accepted the struggle of the crosses given to them, were able to use their cross to bridge that gap and cross the void, but his was too short.  It was followed by the statement “we often complain about the cross we bear, but we forget that it is preparing us for the chasm that only the Lord can see”.

The burdens I had have prepared me to be who I am.  I wouldn’t be the father I am today, nor would I have the testimony I have, had those experiences not been mine.  They have prepared me for life in a uniquely compelling way.

And finally, they have shown me that no matter what our circumstance in life, current or historical; we can overcome any and all obstacles.  It is not our past that matters.  No, our future is determined by far more substantial things than memories.  It’s our perspective on life, our perseverance, our will to succeed, our attitude, and most importantly, our ability to hope and to trust in God.  These are the things that shape our future.  Past is past.  Dwelling upon it only results in an ever inhibiting cycle of self-imposed limitations, as we convince ourselves that we are stuck within it, but we’re not.  Life is what we make of it.

My experience has taught me that. 

Rusty

P.S.  Feel free to comment here, but most of the comments on this page can be found on the posted version here, if you’re interested.  There I’ve explained a bit more about what happened with my biological father.

Subscribe to Ongofu | Get Ongofu by Email

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please bookmark it by clicking on the button below, and selecting a service so others can find it too. Many thanks.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Advertisements

40 Responses

  1. Your past has moved me to tears and despite all that, you’ve survived strongly and like as it is said, God above is always compassionate and omni-caring and He watches over you all the time though at that time of your life, you might not have known it.
    You’ve proven that in life that it’s not the bad past that breaks you but rather has challenged you in ways that you’ve championed on to greater heights in every way.

  2. Thank you for your comments, and I’m so glad you’ve found inspiration in the story. I’ve been truly blessed, and enjoy sharing it. Please feel free to do the same, and invite others to come read it as well.

    I hope to see you again.

  3. I like your photos. I think you have a really nice family. Its so amazing when you can survive to pass your childhood. Not everyone can do that. Keep fight! I hope one day, I can do the same thing :)

  4. I know you can! Afterall, you’re of noble birth.

  5. Amazing, your victory with the help of the Lord. Fabulous, inspiring example. Would like to meet you sometime!

  6. What an amazing story, wow! Your title Can Mormons swim make me click on your link. I am a Mormon and thought…what the heck, though I normally do not click on anything I think may be anti-mormon.

    From Rusty, well I’m glad you came. I hope to see you again!

  7. I added your blog to my site aggregator. Could you please help to attract new users to the Mormon Blogosphere aggregator?

    Copy and paste the following code into your HTML/JavaScript widget, then take out the # signs:

    Thanks.

    http://mormonblogosphere.blogspot.com/

    Dr. B.

  8. Powerful story and thanks for sharing it. God heals broken lives and put pieces together to create something beautiful. He is the only one who can broken lives as whole.

  9. hey there,
    what an awesome and inspiring story. I have recently started my teaching career, working in a tough inner city school. I have met characters much like yourself as a young man and hope that I have in some way been able to help them in their lives. Your story has given me hope that it is possible to help another! Thank you!
    RM
    p.s. I served in Germany

  10. Thank you Dr. B, Yilmaz, and Ross, I’m so glad you came by and took a moment to voice appreciation. I hope you come back often!

  11. I just decided to read this again. It’s amazing what you have overcome. No wonder you are willing to sacrifice your time, expertise and a lot more to do this. I’m sure I speak for many others, too, when I say if there’s ever anything I can do to help, just ask!

    From Rusty: You’re so kind. Just spread the word, as I know you do. Thanks for your kind remarks.

  12. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story! What a light you are to those around.

  13. I just read your story. It is really inspiring!!
    Wish you all the best,

  14. Your web is very good i like soo much, Im menber from Lima.
    Thank you for writing.

    Saludos de Peru

    http://elequilibrioperfecto.wordpress.com/

  15. Great!
    God has done good things in your life. It is the gift of god for the people whom he loves. You should be a living testimony to Lord Jesus Christ for ever.

    http://www.greatcancertreatment.com

  16. Beautiful family!

  17. I read the whole post about yourself… and the time I was wondering if things were going to get better….

    Wow… what a powerful testimony. Amazing! Reading your story, I could see the work of God in your life even as a young boy.

    Life was difficult. But thanked God, we have our Almighty Father.

    Beautiful pictures of your family. God is so good.

    Greetings from the Philippines

  18. My childhood experience in Asia was as dejected as yours … As a result of that, I have become less of a person I wish to be … Your words – “Past is past. Dwelling upon it only results in an ever inhibiting cycle of self-imposed limitations, as we convince ourselves that we are stuck within it, but we’re not. Life is what we make of it” will be my daily mantra …

  19. Your from-rags-to-riches kind of story almost made me cry. I can see how blessed you are just by looking at your beautiful family. I’m an LDS and I’m not shy to admit that there are questions about the Church that have been bothering me. Luckily, I found your blog while browsing at wordpress and the title “Sister Hinckley’s Challenge” caught my attention. I’ve found answers to most of those questions here. The Faith Fitness is very inspiring and encouraging. The visitors’ comments helped as well. Kudos to you and them :)

  20. Okay, tears in my eyes now. You have a beautiful family and a way with words, and a heart for loving your kids well. Amazingly difficult background. I am going to pray for you every night. I really want to win you over now, to the truth. You are so close, it seems to me.

  21. You’re too kind. But yes, I have been so greatly blessed. So much so that often I can hardly even believe it myself. My life has been led by god, and my most sincere hope is that I can show my gratitude by deeply loving my family foremost, but everyone as well, and by dedicating as much as possible of myself to teaching the gospel.

    But please do pray for me. I constantly seek the truth, for truth gives me power and perspective to perservere.

    Your heart is good, and we need more like that today.

    Rusty

  22. I am so glad God has blessed you as he has. It is sweet you call my heart good, but the only good in me is from the indwelling Holy Spirit. I still have the flesh as well and it is a constant battle. Online, I continually battle my own arrogance. If I dare to think I am not prideful, someone always brings it out in me. =)

    I have been re-reading a book I bought 13 years ago on Mormonism because I am rusty. All night I was thinking, “I am rusty,” and it made me smile since your name is Rusty as well.

    I will try to post something today or very soon in my blog about the differnces between Mormonism and Christianity.

  23. So touching Rusty!

    That’s the most impressive “About me” I’ve ever read !

    I love the 3 photos
    – what a happy family!
    “It is not our past that matters. No, our future is determined by far more substantial things than memories. It’s our perspective on life, our perseverance, our will to succeed, our attitude, and most importantly, our ability to hope and to trust in God. These are the things that shape our future. Past is past. Dwelling upon it only results in an ever inhibiting cycle of self-imposed limitations, as we convince ourselves that we are stuck within it, but we’re not. Life is what we make of it.”

    Thank you so much for sharing these excellent thoughts!
    Take care Rusty!

  24. Best regards from Shanghai China!

  25. I just wanted to thank you for your insightful blog. I stumbledupon it and I’m so glad I did. I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints this past May and ever since I’ve had so many questions and inquiries about the gospel that I’ve been afraid to ask local churchmembers. Your posts have provided much insight and I’m so grateful for it. Thank you.

  26. Marguerite,
    Congratulations on your baptism. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Rusty’s great at answering, but I’m sure your local leaders would be happy to help you, too. Speaking from experience, it’s important to go to your Bishop or Branch President when you have questions. That’s part of their responsibility.

  27. Marguerite,

    I’m so glad you found my blog, and that it was at least somewhat helpful. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions here. We’re happy to discuss all manner of topics!

    Also, as you’re a stumbleupon user, please make sure to “thumbs up” your favorite posts, that’s the surest and most effective way to help others find this blog as well!

    It’s nice to have you, and we’ll all hope to hear from you again.

    Rusty

  28. Hey, Rusty,

    Hasn’t your wife given birth yet? You should add an updated photo so we can see all 6 kids. They are all sure gorgeous kids–except one not so much.

  29. sorry, everybody, it was a joke. I didn’t mean it to be such a conversation stopper. Rusty and I are friends and happen to share the same mother-in-law–she has been known to say similar things. But when I’d ask her privately who the ugly one is, she wouldn’t say, but would assure me that it wasn’t me.

  30. Aha! I was wondering about that “one not so much”. Maybe that’s her was of keeping all of you wondering….

  31. LOL, yeah, I laughed when I read that, but didn’t consider that it might raise an eyebrow or two! Margaret, I think your assumption is correct. She keeps us on our toes. Besides, Ryan, as my brother-in-law, can get away with pretty much anything with me. We’re soulmates, except when we play tennis on Thursday nights, and then we can be bitter, bitter enemies! LOL.

  32. Rusty,
    I came across your site this morning during my scripture study. You provided great info! Thank you.

    Your story is amazing. It sounds all too familiar. My husband has a similar story. Mom with several men,(Abuse by them) being left at babysitters for months while sister is “safe” at grandmas, Dad living 2 blocks away and never visits, getting involved in drugs as a teenager and at age 16 taken away in a police car to Rehab. He was sent to “Foster Care” in an LDS home and his new life begins. Very sad, but he “clung” to the Lord and has grown into something great.
    One of his favorite quotes is the one about, “the greatest scientific discovery is that man can change.”
    This may seem odd to you but I was wondering if I could ask you a few personal questions? I think you could shed some light on a few things.
    You have a beautiful family, as well as testimony.

    Thanks for sharing.

    E.

  33. Dude… 4 months.. 4 looong months
    Waiting for the next post!

    Wasn’t Priesthood session of conference awesome?

  34. 4 months! Good heavens, am I a slacker or what!!!!

    But yes, conference was incredible. I don’t know if I was just in a particular stage of life where I really needed it, or what, but it did seem extraordinary.

    P.S. Hopefully I’m back now.

  35. I too have missed your posts, Rusty. I was just about to remove your from my list of blogs that I follow. Will you be starting up again? From one blogger to another I know it can be time consuming but you have something unique going here. Looking forward to more good stuff if you can get it going again. – Tim

  36. I am starting up again, in fact. I’m sorry I’ve been so absent… I’m glad you’ve been coming by, and thanks for the words of encouragement. They’re always helpful.

  37. I’m back too, Rusty! I just got called as ward mission leader and plan to get my ward involved in blogging, hopefully on this site. What else are they to do? 76 homes in our ward boundary–75 active member homes.

    More later,

    Ryan

  38. That’s great Ryan! Good timing too. I’m only a few days away from releasing my all new blog – it’ll still be here on WordPress (you’ll get to it the same way), but it’ll now be a self-hosted blog, which gives me far more control to do some really important things I’ve been wanting to do. Along with the change comes an all new redesign that will help expose important posts and (most of all) conversations from prior posts.

    Nice to see you again!

  39. Rusty-

    Beautiful resilient story. Reminds me of “A Boy Called It”..so glad I found your site.

    Best,

    Dave
    Tempe So Stake
    Tempe, Az.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: