Finding Strength
by Erika Graetz

 Hi, my name is Erika Graetz.
I was connected to the Shinnyo teaching in 2001 through my guiding mommy Manami-san we met through the Mother's Club Manami-san was organizing.
At the time we were just moving to the Bay Area.
Before we moved to the Bay Area, we were living in a place called Orange County, CA where my husband was stationed there. (He was in the Marines.)
We just got married and had our first son. He was just 6 months old then.
When we moved to the US we had so many problems.
First our language issue.
I was 19 and just finished high school, didn't know any better.
So when I moved to the US I did not know how to be a mother, how to be a wife, how to be an adult.
So many days I was crying and felt sorry for myself when I thought about what happened then about my son about my husband.
I was just a bad, irresponsible mom and wife and as a person, I am really sorry for what I have done to my son and my husband. I been so selfish.

Back then my husband had friends caused so many problems.
He started to use very heavy drugs.
I did not know what he was doing or what the real drugs were like.
So whenever his friends got together they were smoking something, had these bad people in our apartment, drinking and smoking, go out in the middle of the night.
It was just a nightmare.
Once he had some person "wanted" (from other state police) in our house and stayed overnight.
This person accused my husband for stealing his friend's drug.
Then he was hit in his face really badly.
Then we called police tell them what happened.
At the same time I met first time with my parents-in-law.
I think something was helping us if I think of it now, that my son was alive, and me and my husband were alive.
After that we decided to go to new York where my husband and his family were from.
My husband stayed in CA because he needed it to look for work and to find the place we all could live.
A few months later he found a place in San Mateo, CA.
2nd son, we lived there for 6 years I never drove a car or anything that adult would do.
So my husband did everything: dentist, doctor appointments, paying bills, etc.
Except for cooking and cleaning, taking care of our kids.
 We were connected to Shinnyo-en in 2001, but never been active at the temple.
Living in a small apartment we didn't have to pay so many bills, so we were living pretty comfortable.
So our immaturity made us think that we had enough money to own a house.
Everyone doing it, so why not? We decided to buy a condominium.
So we moved to a place called San Leandro without receiving any sesshin, and I didn't do any "jokubodai" to my guiding parent.
Soon after we moved to San Leandro my husband lost his job for about three month.
Even then I did not try to look for a job.
I never wanted to go to work because of my selfish weak-self.
A few years later I started to work here and there but never full time or stable income to help my husband.
And caused so much stress on my husband that he got back doing his drug habit again.
That's when I sought for help from my guiding parent.
She was so caring and helped us in many ways even though she was having a hard time herself.
I am so sorry for all that worries that I cause to my guiding parent and my lineage parent.
Over the years we were having a hard time to pay mortgage and other bills.
We tried to sell our house took us take a long time to decide to either sell or not we had in market for about a year.
At the time there were many people just like us who bought the house.
But so many were foreclosed, some people had to go to a homeless shelter to survive.
We could really have been one of them. Today we are able to keep the house.
We received so much "bakku-daiju" from Shinnyo Soya-sama and Ryodoji-sama.
It took so many years to open my eyes and listen.
I still have a problem myself, but really (REALLY!) enough me enough me.
(Try to tell myself to think of others first.)

I don't know if I ever going to be like Shinnyo Soya-sama or Ryodoji-sama or Shinnyo Keisyu-sama.
But I really feel that this teaching made me a better person than before.
I will continue my practice until I die.
So it won't be another mistake in my sons' generations or next.
I thought my life I can't enough "zange."
But I will continue practicing the Shinnyo teaching no matter what happens in my life and keep this teaching and move forward for the world peace.

Thank you so much for reading my testimony today.