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My name is Cassandra Butler. I was born in Great Falls, Montana and raised in what I would call a traditional household. Although, being the child of a white woman and black man in Montana in the 80’s was far from traditional for some. Both my mother and father filled our home with lots of love and are were very hard workers. They taught me about hard work at a very young age but also taught me family comes first always. With three younger siblings the youngest of which is 19 years old I had a lot of responsibility on my shoulders and learned how to multi task and how to do it well. Although I was always, a good student high school was a rough place for me and I fell in with the crowd that
forced me to choose a very different path in life. I had my daughter my senior year of high school which led me to get my GED and then marry her father in 1999. I had my son only a few years later and after having my son decided, I wanted to go back to school. Unfortunately, my marriage to the kid’s father ended in divorce but that did not keep me from pushing to my goal. I enrolled in college and worked full time all while caring for my children. I married again in 2003, spent four years in an emotionally abusive relationship, and once again, I found myself divorced in 2007. The pain I was going through during my second marriage didn’t stop me at all and I completed college, graduated with a BS in psychology and began working at the two jobs that I am at today. Despite all that I have been through I decided I wasn’t done with school yet and I went back and obtained my MS in Justice and Security Administration. Through it all I maintained my focus and those who know me will tell you that even today I balance it all keeping only one thing in mind, making sure that my family has what they need and that they are loved and are happy.
Today, I am a 35-year-old single mother of two beautiful teenagers. My daughter Tyanne Neil is 16 years old and my son Parish Neil is 13 years old. These two children are the reason that I get up each day and continue to strive to be the best that I can be. Today I hold two full time jobs. I work at the Social Security office as a Claims representative during the weekdays and three nights a week, I work overnight at the Alexandria’s house (a group home for pregnant and parenting teen mothers). I enjoy both of my jobs and they are both very rewarding but not nearly as rewarding as the time I get to spend with my children. During my free time I participate in my children’s sports activities by attending all of their games and also managing some of their teams. I also try to spend a lot of time with my nephew who is 5 making sure that he has a relationship with his father (my brother whom is incarcerated). This is very important to me since being a parent taught me that the relationship a child and their parent have will shape the people that they become. Through it all I maintained my focus and those who know me will tell you that even today I balance it all keeping only one thing in mind, making sure that my family has what they need and that they are loved and are happy.
Over the years, I have gotten many tattoos most of which have a great significance. When I was 16 years old, I got my first tattoo. It was just my initials but it represented my independence since that was the first time I left my parents’ home and lived on my own. After that, I just could not get enough. My next several tattoos I got during my second marriage. It was a way to express myself during a time when I did not feel like I could do it with words. I have a rose on my right calf that has the words “Faith, Love, and Struggle” wrapped around it. This described what I felt in that moment, the next was my children’s names on my shoulder blade to always keep them close to me, followed by a heart with barbed wire wrapped around it representing my struggles. Then, the word “Empowered” wrapped in a vine down my right arm that I got in 2007 when I finally got the courage to divorce my second husband. Following this in 2009 I got the words “My Family, My Strength” with the date 03/30/2009 below it. This tattoo matches my brothers’ tattoo. When he was shot on that day, the doctors told us that he would not live. I told him while he was in a coma that if he fought through this I would put that tattoo on my arm to match his so we would forever be bonded. He woke up and off I went. Although he will be in prison for the rest of his life he is still my family and I will never forget that day that I thought we had lost him. More recently I have a poem that goes the length of my back that represents the pain that I have felt in my life in several situations and that there is a better day to come. This was all put together with some beautiful flowers and now is the almost completely full back piece that I have. Tattoos to me have always represented a voice that I have but have not always felt able to use. It tells my story without my words.