This month, we spoke with Monica. She was a student in our program years ago but has stuck with us to become our graphic designer. Her story is one of resilience, courage, and love, and it begins with her running wild in the forests of Massachusetts.
"As a child, I loved being outdoors. We did a lot of camping, fishing, hunting, and hiking. When we lived in Mass, I was frequently found running around in the woods with my English Mastiff, Luba. I built forts, caught snakes, and jumped in our pond after frogs. I didn't have many friends, I was kind of a bossy little turd, so Luba played the role of my best friend for many years."
A move out of the wild parts of Massachusetts, to the city just out of Hershey, PA, left Monica turned upside down. "I went from living in a place where I could roam around outside all day, to a place where I no longer could do these things. We ended up in the city, and that was where a lot of my life started to fall apart."
As an adult, she found herself in Colorado. The call came from her mother and step-father's move -- they fell in love with the state and moved here in 2012. With her mother being her biggest influence in life, she didn't want to continue without having her being close to her children. She applied for a job in the area, was instantly hired, and headed west to reunite with her mother. "We had a week to sell what we could, pack up, and move across the country with three children, and whatever we could fit inside our minivan."
"My life was a bit of a chaotic mess when I started the program. Prior to finding ourselves in Silt, which was in September 2015, my ex, my children, myself, our dogs, and a rabbit and guinea pig camped for 98 days. We chose to do this to avoid eviction from the condominium we had been living in. The idea was that we would camp and save money in order to find a place before winter. Eventually, due to some very unfortunate events during our experience, we received some unexpected help from Catholic Charities and found a place in Silt just as it started to get chilly at night. Almost as soon as we were out of the woods, quite literally, I found myself expecting our fourth child. Of course, we were barely standing and this was terrifying. "
After Monica was hospitalized for a medical emergency, nearly dying, she was put on light duty restrictions. This left her unable to perform her tasks at work, ultimately leading to being let go. Her husband at the time was unemployed, and this left the two of them with three children and no income. They went into DHS to see what their options were, and they were introduced to GarCo Design Works (then GarCo Sewing Works). When Monica first began in the program, GarCo was receiving pockets from an outside source. She had been doing design work for more than 8 years, and she was more than ready to help create the pockets in-house. She proposed doing the pockets for the program and the rest is history! "Being a part of GarCo has been amazing in so many ways, but I honestly have to say that the best part is that the women in this program have become a lot like family. These women have been there through my pregnancy with my fourth child and all of the problems I encountered through it, they were there for the birth of, now, two children, they were there supporting me and holding my hand through the testing and eventually the diagnosis of my fourth child, who has Angelman Syndrome and 1q21 duplication, they supported me through my divorce, stood next to me while I found myself and rebuilt my life after, and for so much more. There are days where I realize I may not have made it to where I am now without these ladies and without the program. I am so thankful to have them all in my life."
"The women and support of this program have helped me find a stronger, happier, healthier version of myself, and I cannot imagine this program not existing, not being here to help other women like myself. "
In 2017, Monica and her husband were divorced; she then moved to Rifle with her children. As a single mother, we had to ask, 'how do you do it?' "My days vary a lot being a single mom of 5. I am constantly on the move! My 3 oldest kiddos are enrolled in a home-based private school, my 3-year-old is in traditional pre-school, and my 1-year-old is just a smart little tornado, always ripping through the house. I run my own small apparel business, work for GarCo, and also dabble in photography. Somehow, I still manage to find a few minutes to myself each day to breath, re-focus, and pray, mainly for patience!"
When asked how she balances work, life, and motherhood, this is how she responded: "Balance. Well, that is a funny thought. I feel like my scale is constantly in motion, never actually leveling out.
There are some days where motherhood is 100% of everything I do, where there is literally not a minute to spare for anything else. Then there are days where I lock myself in my office and work until someone is banging on the door begging me to come out and do something with them! But in all honesty, I try to let each day play out on its own. We have a pretty basic schedule, meals, and naps at certain times, but we leave most of the day open. If there is something specific that has to be taken care of that day, i.e. a work project or something schooling related for the kids, then that will obviously take precedence over things like housework, but I have found that having open blocks of time not only allows us to make plans, but also allows us to do things on a whim, and sometimes those are the absolute best moments!"
Talking to Monica, we were reminded of why we have the people in GarCo that we do. Her optimism is infectious. Our community is necessary, but the people who are a part of it are a gift.
"As cliche as it may sound, what I would like to share with you is simply this - Never give up. Keep pushing. Find yourself. Find your own happiness. Stress less. Love life. Stay positive. No matter how bad things seem, there is always a better day coming to you. Things always get better, even when they seem like they can't or won't. Take a minute to find the positive in every situation. Once you stop focusing on the negative, the positive will be prominent in your life.
A few things that I have learned over the past few years that continue to help me through any hard times I encounter are first and foremost, create your own happiness. No one else can make you happy. It is your job to find your own happiness. Second, life is all about perspective. The way you react to things is the only thing in life you have control over. If you see everything in the world or everything that happens to you as negative, and you choose to react negatively to those things, negativity is all you will ever have. If you choose to find the positives, even in the negatives, you choose to react calmly, slowly, or thoughtfully instead of rash or emotionally, things will be much brighter for you. And third, my biggest piece of advice, do not spend too much time being upset about any one thing. After my divorce, I made a rule for myself. I used to dwell on negatives for far too long, which never allowed me to move on from what was hurting me. I decided that I was allowed to have 24 hours, and not a moment more, to be sad, angry, hurt, etc. about a situation, and then I absolutely had to move on and handle things logically, calmly, etc. After practicing this for the past few years, I have found that I am now able to approach these situations in a lot less time than 24 hours. It was a major change for me, and gave me a sense of control over my life again."