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easy way to track down a person, “It took him three months to find us.” Unfortunately, her mother’s successive choices in men were not healthy ones. “Every man she was with beat her,” Mantelli said. “So we grew up with a lot of physical violence and a lot of stuff that kids really shouldn’t have to see.” “Naturally,” she said, “I had a lot of trust issues and unhealthy feelings about men. It took a really good guy to break down my walls.” All of this dysfunction took a toll on Mantelli during her teens and twenties. As a teen she engaged in “a lot of numbing. A lot of drinking and drugs. You don’t want to feel. All you want to do when you hang out with friends that are like you is to numb out. I didn’t care.” She kept going to school but was inconsistent with her schoolwork, and found out two weeks before graduation that she hadn’t completed enough work to officially walk in the graduation ceremony. “I left,” she said. “I took a job at a hamburger joint.” Dropping out of high school is one of her regrets and it pushed her to encourage her own daughters to take their schooling very seriously. She got married in her twenties but the relation- ship was dysfunctional. Their son passed away from a congenital heart defect when he was just two weeks old. It devastated her, but also provided some clar- ity: “That was my turning point of saying ‘Why am I in this unhappy relationship? Why did this happen to me? I walked out of that marriage with nothing; nowhere to live, no job.” She relied upon the kindness of a friend for a place to stay and help finding a job. While the stories of her trials are sad, Mantelli sees them all as part of her path to learning, which eventually would become deeply grounded in her spiritual faith. “I became a Christian at 35,” Mantelli said. After she married her current husband, and became pregnant with their second daughter, she said “I felt a strong pull to bless this child in my growing tummy… I felt a need to acknowledge how grateful I was to have this beautiful family.” A friend directed her to a new church. “As soon as I walked in, I felt something special and knew I felt at home in this place. I was completely changed by the time I left the church service.” Eventually, she began to speak about her experiences in church. “When I would share my story these girls would follow me to the coffee nook and say ‘Can you meet with me?’” She began to mentor these girls to help them heal. “In one instance, a mom came up to me to tell me GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN she and her daughter had mended their relationship in a big way. That’s not me, that’s God. I taught this girl to set boundaries and I said ‘Do not fall into the same patterns with your daughter.’” Mantelli had the opportunity to heal her relation- ship with her own mother, too. Her mother came back into her life after Mantelli was a mother, too, and she cared for her for 16 years, until she passed away from dementia. “I learned that rather than striking back at her, I would just take calm tones with her.” She realized that her mother’s abuse was grounded in a history of generational dysfunction that went back to her mother’s own childhood. “You cannot change generational dysfunction until you change the dysfunction in you,” she said. Though at times she had hoped to get her mother to admit that she’d put her children into dangerous situations, she realized that her mother’s denial around those events was too thick, and that she had to see her as incapable of any type of admission, due to her mother’s own trauma. “I came to the conclusion I wasn’t ever going to get an apology. I had to say to myself ‘She’s not capable.’” While “nothing was wrapped in a little bow” when her mother died, Mantelli whispered in her mother’s ear “I forgive it, you can go.” She feels she has broken that chain of dysfunction with her own girls and takes pride and joy in the bonded family she has created with her husband. The book interweaves her personal story with lessons that she has learned. While it does contain “snippets of how God worked in my life” she says it’s not only for the religious. “I want to reach seekers, the people who get stuck in their own heads.” Her own healing wouldn’t have been possible without her faith, she said, but she has a realistic view about it. “I’m not in a prayer closet twenty-four seven. I like being with people and I want to be relatable to all groups. At the same time, I want people to know if you have some sort of spiritual connection, life makes a little bit more sense.” december 2018-january 2019 gmhtoday.com 11