Alone a lot and un-mothered, I turned to books as one way to learn how to live life. Books in a way became my mothers.
I whiled away the hours reading Bird Girl, Sacagawea by Flora Warren Seymour, and Heidi, by Johanna Spyri, the story of a Swiss girl who is raised by her grandfather after her parents die.
At age 13, with my father remarried and both of us miserable, I started Junior High School. School was a crucial escape to me with its books, teachers, and the possibility of friends. I had no idea how to fit in, yet understood that fitting in meant survival. I found a dusty copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie in my father’s den and read it. I made a fool of myself at cheerleader tryouts, but did make a couple of friends – one who is still in my life.
When I was 22, just out of college, and now working as a newspaper reporter, I moved into my first apartment. I didn’t know how to cook. So I bought a Good Housekeeping Cookbook, followed its instructions, and cooked my first casserole. The cookbook is still in my kitchen, food-stained pages mostly intact.
Years later, married and with a newborn, I discovered that breast-feeding doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Once again I found motherly guidance in a book. My daughter Annie and I survived because of Karen Pryor’s Nursing Your Baby.
When I was 16, my father also died.
He was killed in a car accident teaching driver’s education. I adored him and was devastated by his sudden and untimely death. I was still an avid reader and had made a group of wise witty friends who met at a local café for sesame pork and discussions about the Vietnam War, and the books we were reading – Damian and Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, Catcher In the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, and the novella, Trout Fishing in America, by Richard Brautigan. It all helped enormously. But it wasn’t enough. Depressed and seeking comfort in reckless ways, I needed more.
My yearnings were met. Spiritual teachers began showing up in my life with profound lessons about coping with tragedy and loss.
One, a kind and loving mountaineer and science teacher, named Fred Miller, took me under his wing and led me on a three-day pack trip along with 16 other youth and adults to an alpine mountain meadow nestled behind The Grand Tetons in Wyoming. There he took me aside and taught me that all pain has a purpose — the possibility of transformation — if we will accept and trust, versus resist and doubt.
Making an expansive gesture with his arm, he led my attention to the majesty of our setting in the Grand Tetons of Wyoming – pristine lavender Lupine and bright red Indian Paintbrush carpeted the meadow which ran headlong into soaring snow-covered granite mountain peaks. Creation itself, he said, was a witness that I could trust my Creator. He wisely acknowledged the futility of trying to make sense of the profound loss in my life, but assured me there was something larger happening than what I could see.
I didn’t like what had happened to me. I missed my parents terribly and wanted them back. I wanted a different life. But on that mountain I began the process of creating a life I love, with the life I had been given.
It has been a journey with both darkness and light. But I have come to understand that despite difficulties, life can still be rich with peace, joy, empowerment, and love if I will live the truths I have been taught and open my heart to all that is possible.
Over time my greatest pain prepared me for my greater purpose. I discovered work which has brought meaning and passion into my life as a writer, workshop leader and later a professional mental health counselor. I met and married a man who has been willing to traverse the rocky terrain of my healing with me as a constant friend, companion, and my greatest support. Together we have created a loving family of six amazing daughters which is continually expanding with sons-in-law, and grandchildren.
I have come to realize that much of what I truly love about myself had its roots in those difficult days when I was young, struggling, and trying my best to find my way in life in the face of great loss. I am amazed at the Divine guidance I have received, the abundance of love and joy I have found, and of the life I have been blessed to create out of the tattered fabric of my childhood.
My gratitude is followed by a desire to share my experience and what I have learned about how to live life – a life with peace, joy, empowerment and love.
Thus, another book but this time I am the author.
It is my gift to you!
Tamera Smith Allred
Creating a Life You Love
is dedicated to my mother
Roma Gibbs Smith
Aug. 12, 1914 – Feb. 4, 1963
Around her, I experienced great peace, joy, empowerment, and love.
So here is the stuff people usually put in their “about the author section.”
Tamera Smith Allred
• Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Private Practice
• M.A., Counseling Psychology, Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR, 2003
• B.A., Communications/Journalism, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 1976
• Reporter for The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah 1976-1977
• Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize at age 23, for her stories on the famous Gary Mark Gilmore case, 1977
• Wrote On the Homefront, a weekly column for This Week Magazine, in Portland, OR, 1983-1993. The magazine had a circulation of one million. The column won both state and national awards with the National Press Women in the personal column writing division.
• Conducted workshops on time-management, goal-setting, change, spirituality, since 1984. She has done workshops for hospitals, schools, churches, mothers groups, and government agencies.