Monday, December 31, 2012

Good bye for now...

It’s New Year’s Eve and I guess it’s time to reflect on another year. I don’t think I reflect as much as I used to, but it’s probably because I don’t feel the need to.

I used to have to reflect at least once a month to see how far I had come in my life. I really don’t even remember the person I used to be a few years ago. I’m almost embarrassed at the person I used to be, but it’s a reality that I cannot hide.

I get small glimpses of the person I must have been whenever I have a run-in with my ex. We’ve had a few of those lately with the holidays. He becomes very demanding when he doesn’t get his way and makes demands without even flinching for a second.

I sit back and almost laugh a little and think to myself, “Was there ever a time in my life when people thought they could talk to me like that I would instantly fold and give in?”

The answer is “yes.” I just don’t remember that old me that used to give in and fold every time someone stomped their foot or made me feel uncomfortable. It’s sad to think I used to live that way for so many years.

I know we have to hit rock bottom sometimes to get to where we are destined to be in life. I hope that my rock bottom was 2009 and that there are no more rock bottoms waiting for me down the road. I truly feel that I am now living the life I was destined to live and I am thankful for that rock bottom that nearly destroyed me.

I am also thankful I started this blog a few years ago. I needed to write about my life and be honest with the rest of the world in order to move forward. I needed to connect with other people in the world who knew how I felt so I could quit thinking no one would ever understand me.

I started this blog to tell a story and to connect with other people like me. I feel that I have accomplished that task. I also feel it is time to move on to something else.

So, for now, I’m going to put my time into something else that will continue to help me move forward with my life. I’m going to finish writing the book I started over the summer. It is over half-way done and I know it will take all of my focus to complete.

I think we all have a story to tell. I think God blessed me with the ability to write for a reason. I need to honor that gift.

I hope you all will continue to write back to me and tell me your stories. I hope we all make it through this next year without another reason to bottom out.

But if we do find ourselves in another situation where we have to completely let go in order to find our true destiny, I hope we don’t do it quietly.

Thank you for taking the time to read my words. God bless and safe travels.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Letting fate take over

Confidence is such a fragile thing. I find myself constantly trying to protect my children’s confidence and my own. Once it starts slipping, it’s hard to get it back. Things just start fall apart and then next thing you know you feel even worse about yourself.
My Mama, the dance teacher

I never realized how bad my confidence was until I registered to go back to college over 2 years ago. Some people don’t know this, but I actually registered my first quarter at SCAD as an undergrad. I didn’t think there was any way I could get into a graduate program.

After a few weeks of classes with 19-year-olds, I quickly learned that I needed to be with grown-ups. The transfer from undergrad to graduate course work was seamless on paper, but my confidence still sucked.
Most of the art-based classes in SCAD do something called “workshops.” That’s where we hang up our drawings on the wall or email everyone in the class a copy of our written work and sit back quietly in class while everyone talks about our work like we aren’t in the room.

For the first year of school, I dreaded workshops. Most of the time I couldn’t hear what others were saying about my work because the voice in my head was saying, “Oh my God, you suck. I can’t believe you let anyone see that. You don’t belong here!” My favorite mantra was, “You’re so stupid.”

Yes, it was sick. I can laugh about it now. I even got to where I would tell my peers about it and we would laugh hysterically. I guess part of being an artist is that constant self-deprecating feeling that everyone thinks you suck but you have to show the world what you created anyway. An most importantly, you have to pretend to be proud of it.

My Daddy, the artist
I still have that voice, but I ignore it. Well, I guess I should say I ignore it on good days. On bad days I just tell him “yes, I know I suck, but I have to get this done and submitted so I can get paid.”

Lately it has been even harder to ignore the voice. I can hear it when I look in the mirror to check my outfit before an interview, “Yuck, you look so old.” I can hear it when I get another rejection letter, “Yep, they hated you.”

But despite the constant rejection and the very low bank account, I feel like I have learned to live with the voice. It’s almost like I need it to stay fresh or to work harder. I need that voice trying to prove me wrong so I can say, “You were wrong.”

I’m worried right now, but I shouldn’t be. I still don’t have a full-time job and I have no new leads right now. By some miracle, I stumbled upon some great freelance opportunities that will keep me afloat until something bigger comes along.

I’m living the life that I said I never would live. I’m self-employed. And it scares the hell out of me.

I grew up in a house with two parents who were self-employed and I hated it. I hated that we never knew when someone would pay for dance classes or artwork. I hated the way people would tell us, “Sorry, I can’t pay for dance this month because I have to buy Christmas presents for my children.”

I wondered why they didn’t understand that if they don’t pay, then we had no money for Christmas presents. It made for a turbulent childhood of feast and famine—most of the time it was famine.

I wanted to go to college so I could find a job—a real job. Not a self-employed, artsy-fartsy kind of thing that promised money then made you sit and wait for it. I wanted something different from my childhood.
Me, the writer

But just like everything else in my life, I find myself drawn to a life that I swore I never wanted. I find myself more and more sympathetic to my parents and their choices every day. I find myself walking down a path in life that scares me but excites me at the same time.

I guess the reason I say I shouldn’t be worried right now is because I know that the harder I try to fight the natural progression of life, the more frustrated I become. So, instead of fighting back, I’m going to sit back and enjoy this ride for a little bit and see where it takes me. After all, it’s the only time the voice quits talking and right now I need all the self-confidence I can hold onto. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I just can't say it right now...

It’s been a while since my last post. I finished school, celebrated Thanksgiving, and got rejected by several more employment opportunities. Life continues to move forward even though I don’t feel like I am.

It’s hard to know what will happen over the next few months. My ex-husband is taking me back to court, I’m desperately trying to find a job, and the holidays are in full swing. It’s a time full of excitement and happiness but the dark cloud is ever present.

It’s frustrating because I have so many reasons to celebrate. I have so many wonderful blessings to be thankful for. I should be on top of the world.

There are some minutes during the day when I do feel on top of the world. I’m so happy and full of energy. The children are happy and Robby is happy and I see their smiling faces and I want to be happy, too. But then that empty feeling sinks in and I feel anxious about all those dark clouds and worry about how things will turn out.

Over the past several years, I’ve worked hard on acceptance, forgiveness, and the need to let go of guilt. I have also realized that those actions have to be on a constant loop in order to keep moving forward in life.
I used to pray a lot. Now I find myself doing it less and less. I realize that happiness is harder to obtain the less I pray, the less I forgive, and the more guilt I take on. I know these things, but yet I have done nothing to restart that constant loop.

It’s time for me to refocus and concentrate on the realities in my life that I have been avoiding. It’s time to be humbled once again. It’s time to accept the things that I cannot change. It’s time to move forward even when I don’t feel like it.

A close friend of mine sent me an email over a month ago with the following mantra. She told me to say it over and over when I begin to feel the anxiety and worry about things I have no control over.
1)      I love you
2)     I’m sorry
3)     Please forgive me
4)     Thank you

I haven’t done it yet because I just can’t bring myself to say these words about a person that brings me so many frustrations and continues to disturb my happiness. How many times do I need to try to forgive? Shouldn't I be past this already?

My friend explained what the prayer is about.
1)      I love you…. The higher aspects (the Soul) of the person
2)     I’m sorry….. for having these feelings and thoughts / sorry you are having these feelings and thoughts / sorry I’m a part of this scenario….
3)     Please forgive me… for having these feelings and thoughts / for judging you….
4)     Thank you…. for clearing these feelings and     thoughts/ for allowing me to clear these feelings and thoughts

She claimed that by saying the abbreviated lines while thinking about him and while feeling God, I would open the doors for healing. But I’m skeptical because I've tried forgiveness so many times only to have the door shut in my face with a new problem that throws me back into the cycle of being angry and upset again.

I don’t know what the right answers are or who I should forgive and why or when. I don't know if I should be angry or if this is just the way my life is always going to be and I need to just accept it and continue to push it further and further to the back of my mind.

I don’t think there are any right answers in life. But I do know that life has a way of reminding you that you need to always protect yourself with prayer—even during the really great times. You never know what evil lurks or what evil has planned for you. 

I truly believe God has a plan for me and that all these bad things have to happen to get me to the place in my life that I moving toward. I guess I should relish in these trials because I know they will ultimately make me the person that I am supposed to be and my faith will continue to grow stronger.

But, today I just cannot find the way to say "I love you" despite what you continue to do to my family and me. But I can say "thank you" for making me the person I am today.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Maybe I'm Not a Loser?

I stumbled across some old drawings from the children the other day that made me stop and think about what is really important in my life. For the first time in a while, I quit feeling sorry for myself about not finding a job and being flat broke. I decided to even pat myself on the back and admit that I have done pretty well for myself despite the hand I was dealt.

I don’t see myself as a materialistic person. I try not to measure my success by the size of my bank account. But sometimes I feel like a total loser for not having a full-time job. Unemployment is beginning to wear on me and affect my self-confidence.

I’m worried that I won’t be able to follow through on my financial obligations and I’m even more worried that I am going to become a very large burden on my very sweet husband. I know he can handle it, but I like to think of myself as an asset and not dead weight.

But those little pictures made me remember that I am not a loser and that no matter what happens in my professional life, there are people in my personal life who will always love me. And while I really need that steady paycheck and health insurance, I will gladly settle for little reminders from two very special children who will always think I am the greatest mom ever.

So my advice today is to forget about your professional aspirations and accomplishments or your failure to reach those aspirations. Take comfort in the fact that being a good person far outweighs the tiny print on your business cards. Find a way to make peace with a dwindling bank account, gray hair, and an old worn-out minivan.

Luckily the world is not over yet. I still have time to make those career goals come to life, but for now, it’s just not working. The stress is beginning to take a toll my health. I’m taking a break from the chaos and the rejections and focusing on the things that I have control over. I’m going to sit back and soak in the fact that I have made a difference in people’s lives and that is worth more than a big title on my resume.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Master of my destiny

About once a month I get a day when I can lie on the couch and watch television while the children do their homework. It usually lasts for about 20 minutes, but I enjoy it. Yesterday was one of those days.

I watched a little of Katie Couric’s new talk show and Sharon Osborne was her guest. Katie asked Sharon if she believed that women can have it all—career, marriage, children, etc. Sharon’s answered shocked me because I figured she would say, “Of course.”

She said, “No, I don’t believe that and I wish I could go back in time and give up all the money and the traveling and spend time with my children because they needed me.”
Not everyone can be that honest—especially on television.

I don’t believe you can have it all either, because in order to do something really well, then something else has to be placed on the back burner. I can see it in my own life. I can see what I have neglected over the years and what I nurtured. I can see what has thrived and what has suffered on the back burner.

I passed my thesis defense today.  So, as long as I can remember to finish my financial aid exit counseling in the next few weeks, I will earn my Masters of Fine Arts in Writing from Savannah College of Art and Design. I almost didn’t make it this far—there were many times when I thought about quitting.

I don’t like putting things on the back burner. I like to know that I am taking care of everyone and everything—I like to know that I am fulfilling my obligations. I also like to know that I am doing a great job and putting all of my effort into everything I do.

It was hard to find the right balance between school and home life. There were times when I couldn’t be at home for my children when they got off the bus. There were times when babysitters had to take them to their activities and sign my name on homework sheets.

There were times when I had to prepare to go to court the same week I had a major paper due. Just last week I was faced with Veronica’s trip to the emergency room for a fractured arm, my parents’ home in North Carolina burned to the ground, and my ex-husband told me that he plans to file a contempt charge against me and hopefully get me arrested.  This all happens the same time I try to finish my thesis, study for a test in another class, and try to complete my freelance work for my new job.

Luckily there is always room on the back burner for stuff I don’t have time to deal with. But I can’t always be lucky enough to put bad things on the back burner.

Some days I put Robby on the back burner and some days it is the kids. Some days it is school and some days it is work. But most days it is me.

I’m not trying to garner sympathy for the last statement. I think it is just the nature of most mothers. We tend to put ourselves last. Most times we never even realize we do it—it just comes natural. Perhaps this is why I don’t take many opportunities to lie on the couch and watch television.

Going back to school to get my masters degree was a decision that I made mostly for myself. I wanted to be self-sufficient and be able to take care of the children on my own. I couldn’t find a job with my bachelors degree, so it just seemed like the obvious choice to make.

Two years didn’t seem like a long time when I started the program. What’s funny is that I didn’t even enroll as a graduate student in the beginning. My self-esteem was so low that I enrolled as an undergrad. I thought I would spend some time getting my feet wet—I didn’t think there was any way I could get accepted to a graduate program.

But that only lasted a quarter and I put in my packet and started graduate school. Several months after I started school, I went to court to get my divorce and I asked for 2 years of alimony. “All I need is enough financial support to get through the next few years,” I told the mediator. My ex-husband agreed to my demands and the race began.

But I hit some major snags along the way. The children got sick sometimes. They had activities that required my attendance. I had my divorced finalized. Veronica got hurt and broke her legs. My bank account ran on empty and I worried about finding a way to pay the bills and buy groceries.

Two separate times I gave in to the pressure. I got into bed and cried. I convinced myself that I would quit school and find a job and maybe finish my degree later. I was tired of putting the children on the back burner. I was tired of being broke. I was tired of doing homework. I just wanted to be a good mom and have a normal life.

The last time I tried to quit, Robby sat me down and said, “I cannot let you quit. You are too smart to not have your masters degree. If I can finish my masters degree, then you can.”

For some reason, his words really struck a chord with me. Those words echoed through my mind for the next 9 months and carried me through to the end.

I’m not sure what the rest of my life will be like. I know that I still need to find a job and continue putting people and events on the back burner. I know I can’t have it all, but I also know that I don’t want to have it all. I just want to have what I have right now—healthy, thriving children, a happy marriage, and the confidence to hold my head high and know that I did something that makes me proud.

I haven’t been really proud of myself in a very long time—I can’t even remember the last time I felt pride about myself. Sure, I’ve been proud of my children or material objects, but not of myself.

Maybe pride is what has been missing all these years? I’m not sure, but I feel complete now and I’m more than happy to put my insecurities on the back burner. Hopefully they will simmer for a long time.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Trying to write...

I’ve had a hard time sitting down to write my blog lately. I blame it on my crazy schedule and trying to finish my thesis, but the truth is someone is trying to suck the joy out of my writing and he is starting to wear me down.

I was lucky as a child. I grew up in Dublin, Texas and I had some of the best classmates a kid could ever ask for. We were a very tight group—all 43 of us. I went to school with about 12 of those classmates from the time we entered kindergarten until we graduated high school.

I say I was lucky because I was never really bullied. I’m sure my experience is different than others from my school, and I don’t want to paint a rosy picture of Dublin. But I admit that I had it pretty darn good.

I think the worst thing that ever happened to me was when someone would make fun of my glasses or my crooked teeth or tell me my family was poor. I got made fun of for not going to church and for the fact that 
Daddy had a ponytail. A few girls called me a bitch behind my back and a boy threatened to kick my ass in the line at the snack bar, but that was about it.

So, perhaps my idea of bullying is different than others, but I feel pretty confident that I know a bully when I see on.

I believe a bully is a person who tries to scare you into doing something or tries to scare you into not doing something. A bully is the kind of person who threatens you if he doesn’t get his way.

A good bully knows your weaknesses and preys on them. A seasoned bully waits until you’re most vulnerable and then launches his attack.

I want to be that person who says, “Huff and puff all you want, I’m not afraid of you anymore.” Sometimes I do. But sometimes I get tired of fighting and looking over my shoulder all the time. Sometimes I’m exhausted and sometimes I start to believe that I am doing something wrong.

What’s even worse is when the bully believes what he is saying. He sounds so convincing that you begin to question everything you say and do.

That’s why I haven’t been able to write much. I feel like every word I type is being analyzed and criticized and it bothers me. It shouldn’t.

I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve never lied. I’ve never been malicious. I’ve never harassed anyone. By the way, a writer has to do all of those things in order to be charged with defamation.

But despite the fact that I know I have done nothing wrong, that little voice in my head keeps saying, “Just delete the whole damn blog and start over.”

The part that bothers me the most is that I find myself not writing about important topics in my life because I don’t want to share those thoughts with some people, but a blog is an open forum and I can’t control who reads it. I know I can delete this bully as a subscriber, but he will continue to read anyway.

I’m going to try to keep writing and I’m going to try to keep writing about things that are important to me and to those who care about me. But a part of me feels very defeated today. An even bigger part of me doesn’t want to share my words, thoughts, and photos any more. I’m not sure what I am going to do about all of this, but I’m going to try to do what I tell my children to do—I’m going to ignore the bully and find someone who can take care of the problem for me.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Turn off the voices

I had my first job interview yesterday. I felt confident about the job. I know I’m qualified and I figured I would do okay with the question and answer part of the interview.

The owner of the company told me I seemed too quiet and shy to do the job properly. “I need to you to go out and speak to the press and make phone calls and I just don’t see you doing that very well.”

I almost laughed when he said that. “I don’t know why you feel that way. I do those things all the time and I do them very well.”

It made me think about how people perceive me. I guess I do come across to strangers as a quiet, insecure person who doesn’t like to make a fuss about stuff. But those who know me realize that I don’t mind making a fuss if I need to.

I asked Robby, “Is that what people think about me?”
He laughed and said, “I definitely don’t think that. I’ve been looking for your off switch since you first opened your mouth.”

We laughed about it and he told me that the right job would come along and that I didn’t need to change to get a job.

I don’t know if my quiet nature is a sign of weakness or not. But I’m just not that in-your-face kind of person. I guess I could have walked into that job interview and pretended to be this loud, pushy force to be reckoned with, but I would have felt silly acting like that. It’s just not who I am.

I probably won’t get that job. But I’m not sure that I really want it. I can’t spend the next few years trying to convince people I am someone I am not.

It has taken me many years to figure out who I really am. I am secure in the fact that I can be forceful and aggressive when I need to be. After all, I’m that lady who cut down trees in the middle of the night to protect my children on the street. That example probably wouldn’t have gotten me the job though.

I don’t know what example I could have given at the interview to prove to him that I am not some shy mousy wall flower. I guess I didn’t feel the need to go out of my way to prove him wrong, because I’m tired of trying to explain myself to people these days.

I know I do the best I can and that I always try to do the right thing. I also know that some people will never see myself the way I see myself. They just see what they want to see or what they expect to see.

I try to be okay with that, but there will always be that part of me that wants to show people they are wrong about me.  There will always be that part of me that kind of believes what people say about me. There will always be that voice in my head that says, “you suck” and “you’re stupid.”

Hopefully I can continue to move forward and not dwell too much on the negative words that continue to come my way from job interviews and people in my personal life. Hopefully some of the those voices will just go away and give me some peace and quiet for once.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dream job, where art thou?

Focus…focus…focus. I keep telling myself to just focus and get my work done, but my mind has been in a million different places lately.

Some of it is worry—I still have no job so I spend most of my free time scouring the internet for new job postings. I am running out of money. Luckily I’m thrifty, but someone has decided not to pay me the money he owes me so my small stash is almost on empty. Haven’t even started to think about how I will handle that situation—just add it to the list of things I have no control over.

Some of it is the fact that I have so much to do that I can’t decide what to do first and I waste time going from task to task instead of focusing on one task. My head seems to be in the clouds all day.

And some of it is because I’m focused on writing. Maybe this is what it is like to be a writer. I find myself daydreaming about how I should have written something different or what needs to be added or what needs to be cut. I guess it is better than writers block, but I know my children have got to be feeling a little left out these days.

So, then that adds guilt and now I am a complete overworked mom who feels like she is getting pulled in a million directions and I haven’t even mentioned my husband yet.
Robby is supportive as always, but I can tell he is starting to feel the pressure as well. Tread lightly seems to be his new catch phrase—kids, tread lightly, your mom has had another bad day.

Yes, I need to focus. But on what? Family, work, money, sleep, eating, cooking, cleaning, getting kids to do homework, feeding the dogs, finding work…

Sometimes I feel like I am my own worst enemy. I set myself up to be too busy. Yesterday, I wondered if I did it on purpose. Perhaps I did—maybe a little? I guess I was trying to distract myself from something that was lurking in the back of my mind.
When I decided to go back to school and get my masters, I promised myself that I would reach for the stars and that nothing would hold me back from my dream job. I thought my dream job was working for a magazine company in New York. I even pictured the apartment the children and I would live in and how we would need to live close to a park where we could walk the dogs. We would go to museums and shows and ride the subway. I wanted to give them an amazing life.

Last night I went to a job presentation by Conde Nast magazine corporation—they are the premier magazine publishers in New York and publish some of my favorite magazines like Wired, Vanity Fair, and The NewYorker.

I printed out my several copies of my resume, publishing lists, and writing samples. I grabbed a handful of business cards and put on a killer outfit. I made the decision to go for it. I knew Robby would never want to leave Savannah, but I had to find out if I could do this.

Everything went as planned until they began to play the promotional video about working for Conde Nast. I slowly began to realize that I have no interest in moving to New York. I have no interest in becoming one person in a sea of other writers and creative professionals. I have no interests in traffic, apartments, commuting, or uprooting my family.

For the first time in weeks, I became focused. I realized I don’t want to move. I want to make it big right here. I love this city, I love our home, I love my friends, and I love being a writer here. It may take a while to find that perfect job, but that’s okay.

I have a husband who adores me and probably would pack up and move to New York if that is what I wanted to do. For the first time in a long time, both of my children are really happy with their lives. And when 
I’m not distracted with my wants and wishes, I’m actually very happy with life here, too. And if I stopped moping around long enough, I realize I have the perfect life right now.

I got my focus back today. No telling what I will get accomplished now.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Getting so close...

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog. I've started some but erased them because they just weren't clicking.

I have 7 weeks of grad school to complete and then I’m done--hopefully forever—I hate homework.
In order to graduate, I have to write my thesis project. Our writing program is non-fiction based, so my thesis must be a non-fiction piece—it’s a story about my life.

I’ve spent weeks writing this thing and it is emotionally draining to say the least. I’ve been reading through old journals during the process in order to keep events fresh in my mind—that’s also emotionally draining.
It’s amazing what the brain chooses to forget. It’s also amazing to see how much I have changed in the past 4 years.

I guess I am most surprised by how easily I allowed myself to become a shell of who I really was. I wish I could turn back the clock and give my children the mother they deserved earlier in their lives and see how differently they would turn out—but there is no sense in putting those ideas in my head. I did the best I could at the time. I just had no idea that I had become that person.

I became a person who would fight battles for my children and my friends, but never fought for myself. I never made anyone treat me with respect. I’m sure a therapist would say it was because I didn't respect myself. But I don’t see it that way exactly.

Writing this thesis has opened my eyes to how broken I was before I even married to my exhusband. My life was a series of “getting so close to the prize” but always falling short because someone else put their needs ahead of mine—I put their needs ahead of mine.

As a mother, I feel like I should put my needs before my children. I think most mothers instinctively feel that way. But I put my happiness on the back burner for everyone else and it wasn't because they made me—it was because I felt comfortable with that arrangement.

I guess the biggest wish is to go back in time to find my child self and whisper in her ear—“You don’t have to feel guilty for being happy. It’s okay to get your way, too.” And while I know that I cannot do that either, I can just continue to whisper it to my adult self.

It’s not selfish to make yourself happy. As a mother, you should make your happiness the number one priority, because your children cannot be happy when you are sad—I know that first-hand.
I’ve also realized that I needed all of those bad experiences in my life to get to where I am today. I finally have my hands on the prize—there is no more “getting so close” anymore. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

We are worthy of love

I’ve always been told that my children are a reflection of me. I like to think of that reflection in flattering terms. A few weeks ago, I was hit with the reality that my children are indeed a reflection of me—a reflection that embodies the good and the bad parts of me. And just like how I cannot change my appearance in the mirror by saying “I don’t have wrinkles on my forehead,” I cannot change my reflection in my children by saying “Don’t feel like you aren’t worthy of love.”

We are having a hard time with Veronica. Sure, it’s normal for an 11 year old girl to be emotional and dramatic, but she seems to carry more baggage than normal. She just started a new school and it’s an art school that can kick her out at any time if she can’t pull her weight with grades and her artwork. That’s a lot of pressure for a kid. She also has the added pressure of wearing leg braces and using a wheelchair. That’s tough for any middle school student trying to fit in.

But for the first time, I noticed something I had never noticed before—she has picked up on a habit that I have been trying to overcome for several years now. She feels she is not worthy of love. I think she probably doesn’t even love herself that much.

It’s frustrating because I have done everything I can to make sure she feels love. I am happy now and I have the love of a great man who adores the children. Being happy helps, but I cannot undo the damage that was done to her. Feeling like someone you love doesn’t love you back is one of the most painful experiences anyone can have. But when a parent makes you feel this way, it affects every relationship you have for the rest of your life. I experienced this as a child. I never felt lovable. My parents have apologized for making me feel this way and I am working on putting this behind me, but it’s obvious I have passed this onto my daughter.

But I realize how that feeling of being unworthy caused me to make the choices I made in the past. I continue to make mistakes and allow people to bully me and make me feel guilty in an effort to keep the peace and make the children happy.

I know I have to change these habits in order to reflect a different person on my children. I have to reflect exactly how I want them to be treated by other people and how I want them to treat other people, but more importantly, I have to reflect how I want them to treat themselves.

Veronica is lovable and I love her dearly. Every time I feel myself get weak and begin to give in to the bullying, I just picture her face. I tell myself, “We deserve better than this. We deserve to be loved wholeheartedly, not when it’s convenient.”

To hear my child say, “It’s okay, I’m used to it,” breaks my heart. No one should have to be used to being treated badly by someone they love. And yet, I have allowed it in order to keep the peace and to do what I think is best for everyone. But it’s not good enough and I was wrong. Perhaps if I stand up to the bullying, then one day she will too. Until then, I have to find a way to make her feel worthy of real love.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The journey is almost over...

Two years ago today, I began a journey to make my life better. I enrolled in the writing program at Savannah College of Art andDesign. Although I have a BA in English, I chose to enroll as an undergraduate. The thought of trying to get in as a graduate student overwhelmed me. I had to have a portfolio to submit and I assumed they wouldn’t want me and everyone would be better than me.

After a few weeks of undergrad classes, I realized I made the wrong choice. I quickly submitted my application for the graduate program and I got in with no problems. The feeling that everyone in the program is a better writer than me or that they get published more than me or that I’m too old to start a new career is a lingering insecurity that will probably always haunt me. Perhaps it is the reason I continue to work as I hard as I do.

Today, I began the final leg of that journey as my final quarter at SCAD began this morning. I honestly don’t know have I managed to juggle my life and my studies, but I have done it and I am completely exhausted. I am excited to see the nearing end of homework, projects, and research papers, but I’m also worried.

I thought a master’s degree would ensure my job security and I would go to a few job fairs and submit a few applications and then bam! I would get hired and start paying my school loans off and begin saving for my future.

After my divorce, I was left with no health insurance, no retirement, and no savings. That has not changed and my job prospects are not looking so hot right now.

Since February, I applied for over 20 jobs and I have not received one interview. I’m not panicking yet, but my stomach gets a tad queasy when I look at my bank statement and wonder how I will manage with no job andno school loans to fill in the blanks.

But when I started graduate school, I promised myself 2 things:

1.     I will not accept work from a company that I do not respect

2.     I will look for work outside of Savannah before I will take a dead end job just to pay the bills.
I don’t know what is going to happen in these next 10 weeks of my final days as a student. But I just cannot allow myself to believe that I have done all of this work for nothing. I know there is a job out there for me that will give me what I need. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong place

Thursday, August 30, 2012

In with the good, out with the bad

Everyone knows that when something is full, you have to remove something to make room for something else. It’s harder to gauge these things when you can’t see them.

I realized this summer that my ability to “bite my tongue” grows weaker as I get older. I guess that it why older people tend to say what is really on their mind—your body gets tired of “holding it all in.” I’m tired of holding it all in.

"Happy" family--1979
When I was a little girl, things at home were a little rough. My parents suffered from extreme depression. They both worked from home, so it was hard to escape. But despite their mood swings and sometimes erratic behavior, I always knew they loved me.

We always had “party night” on Friday and we would make homemade pizzas with tortillas and spaghetti sauce. Mom had this enormous green Tupperware bowl that we would fill with hot popcorn and melted butter. We would sit on the floor (we had no furniture) and watch something on our little black-and-white 17 inch television and have ourselves a party. It was always fun—no drama, no depression, no screaming, and no crying.

Mom and Dad were always sure to tell us they loved us. They were always quick to say, “I know we have issues, but it doesn’t mean we don’t love you very much.” And it was true and I knew it was true.

But Mom and Dad were always hard to talk to. I didn’t have the luxury my daughter has to say, “That really hurts my feelings when you interrupt me when I’m talking.” If I had expressed my feelings several things might have happened—Dad would have lost his temper and yelled at me or Mom would have done something similar or she would have terrible guilt over hurting my feelings and then I would feel terrible for making her feel terrible. It was just easier to hold it all in.

The house where I grew up in Dublin, TX
Those habits formed early for me and stuck with me until a few years ago. Those habits forced me to hold it all in while I was married to my ex-husband. He also had a terrible temper and I felt it was best to hold it in rather than set him off. Of course, being secretly mad at someone doesn’t help an already flawed marriage.

The problem is that you can’t hold that stuff in forever—it has to go somewhere. When I started getting my life back on track after my ex-husband left,  I started replacing the bad in my life with good things. All that stuff that I had been holding in began to come out.

I would go for months and feel fine, and then I would have a day when I would just lie in bed and cry and cry and I didn’t understand why. I would think to myself, “My life is good now. Why I am so sad?” I finally realized it was my body’s way of finally dealing with all that hurt I had pushed down inside me for all those years.

After I met Robby and we began to fall in love, I began to have more of those days. My life was filling up with good and all that bad needed somewhere else to go. By the time Robby and I got engaged in December, I thought I was done with all that bad stuff. I thought it had finally been purged.

But then I had another episode this summer while I was in Texas visiting my parents.  We were sitting at the table at my aunt’s house eating breakfast when my mother began telling a story about a couple she had helped. It took everything inside me to not scream, “How can you help people who are total strangers, but not help me when I needed you?”

I tend to think these things in my head when I’m around my parents, but never has my inside voice been so strong. I had to leave the table and go to the bathroom to calm myself. I washed my face and looked at myself in the mirror and said, “You gotta get your shit together.”

I cried for days over the incident. I had nightmares for weeks. I finally realized it was time to come clean with my mom and dad. I realized the relationship I have with them is affecting all of my relationships—especially the relationship I have with my children.

My parents are in good places in their lives right now. They have spent the past 14 years talking to therapists and working on their issues. They are honest with us about their issues and they are regretful and reflective every day of their lives. They have always given me the freedom to tell them exactly how I feel or to yell at them about something that happened in my childhood. But I have never felt the need to do that, until now.
My family had issues, but atleast we weren't stacked up naked and forced
 to look happy that these poor children.
A few days ago, Mom called me. We were talking and then I felt we had reached a place in the conversation where I could let it all out. I didn’t scream at her or try to hurt her—I just talked. I talked and talked and cried and cried and she just sat there and listened.

And she gave me the best gift a mother can give her child—she validated my anger and she apologized.

She told me something profound. “The only perfect relationship we can have in this world is the relationship we have with God. But God put us together for a reason—you needed me as a mother to help you get to this place in your life. Perhaps without knowing such sadness and depression, you would have never had to fight so hard to get the happiness you have now. The fight is what brought you to where you are now.”

I know she is right. I know that God puts people in our lives to make us who we are. I just never believed He gave me the perfect parents—they aren’t perfect, but perfect for me. Yes, Mom and I have still have a lot of work to do, but we are moving in the right direction finally.

I need to fix this relationship in order to fully love myself. It’s just as important as building a healthy relationship with God. The relationship with my parents affects every relationship I have had or will have. I gotta get this right this time, so I can quit holding in the bad stuff and start holding on to the good.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


So, it seems the political climate in our country is about to go from boiling hot to mother-of-god-that-burns. I hate election years and I really hate this part of the election year. Facebook is no help either…the sidebar to the right keeps telling me which of my friends is voting for Mitt or Obama or likes Chick-Fil-A or likes things made in America.

And sadly I find myself silently judging those around me for their “likes” and “dislikes.” I’m a reformed conservative who called herself Independent from day one because I refuse to make a choice and align myself with an entire political party—I’m the most judgmental of the political parties unless you count Libertarian (which I won’t since their votes never seem to really make a difference in the race for president).

I find myself agreeing with both sides. I make myself feel good about it by reminding myself that I must be so open-minded to see both sides. Yes, it’s crap, but it makes me feel good about myself and this country is all about making yourself feel good about yourself—especially when you are on Facebook looking at pictures of yourself while talking about yourself and seeing what other people think and say about yourself.

But I realized something today and it made me angry—we are arguing over politics but what we really should be arguing over is money. Of course no one likes to argue over money—except maybe Libertarians and that’s only because they get the luxury to look at an issue rationally since they get to try to prove two parties wrong instead of blaming everything on a liberal or a conservative like normal people do.

I think it is bad that we have politicized things that don’t need to be politicized—abortion, same-sex marriage, education, and healthcare. Why should it matter what political party you are if you think that abortion is always wrong? Does that mean that pro-choice people are also pro-abortion? Does that mean you have to be pro-life to be a Republican? When did they get to put their stamp on pro-life? And who isn’t pro-life? We are all pro-life, aren’t we? No one that I have ever met is pro-death—and I have even met women who were raped that got pregnant.

Why do you have to be liberal to say that Obama care is a good plan? What if you are a Republican and you can’t get health insurance for your disabled child because your job doesn’t offer health benefits and you can’t get a private plan to cover pre-existing conditions and you make too much money to qualify for Medicaid? Then you should say, “My kid can go without because I’m Republican and I refuse to agree with a healthcare plan that covers pre-existing conditions.” That’s stupid. Healthcare is not political, but it’s hard to see that when you are not faced with loss of benefits or disabled children with no health insurance. As a parent who lost my coverage and couldn’t take care of my daughter’s medical needs for a year, I can tell you that Obama Care sounds pretty damn good and it would be nice to hear a Republican agree with me.

And yes, there is same-sex marriage. You already know how I feel about that. Is Dick Cheney less of a dad because he chose to align himself with his political party over his gay daughter? My answer is yes. Politics doesn’t belong in adult love. You know, the kind of adult love that isn’t considered “forcible sex.” Perhaps the Republicans would find it interesting to know that gay sex is the only sex that never results in pregnancy so perhaps homosexuals have no need to be pro-choice because they have no choices to make? Maybe they are all just pro-life? But wait, they can’t be because that would make them conservatives and we all know that if you are gay, you have to be liberal because politics has somehow made its way into consenting adult relationships.

And now on to education—the platform everyone seems to embrace but no one wants to do anything about. I will gladly admit that I mad as hell at Obama for doing NOTHING for education since he has been in office. There was that one week when he addressed getting rid of No Child Left Behind, but then we never heard another thing about it. Why is education a political debate anyway? I’ll tell you why—it’s all about money. And our money is not being spent correctly and we can’t figure out who is more wasteful with the spending because it’s everybody—Democrats and Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for what they have done to this country.

About 10 years ago, I sat at a table with my dad and we talked about politics. I told him that I truly believed we would begin to see a strong 3rd party emerge and all these democrats and republicans would have to change their tune. They would have to navigate to common ground or else the Independents would take over and win every election. I believed that notion—I thought I understood politics.

And now, here we are at 2012 and we are still a 2-party system with Democrats and Republicans tearing each other apart and polarizing our nation. I don’t like either one at this point. I can’t vote for Mitt because I don’t agree with his stance on social programs, same-sex marriage, abortion, or the economy. I don’t feel great about voting for Obama because he should have done something about education these past 4 years. I love his healthcare plan because it works for me (I understand it doesn’t work for everyone and I respect that), but he should have multi-tasked and done more. But then how could he do more with the Republicans blocking his every move. And they don’t block moves because they are right; they block them because they are polarized. The democrats did the same things to Bush.

So, I’m taking a break from politics for the next 3 months. I’m going to ignore your political signs and rallies and commercials. I’m going to just shake my head and nod and say, “I really don’t follow politics.”

Who am I kidding? I’m not going to do that. I’m going to keep getting mad and saying what I believe is true. We should all do that. We should all be mad at what politics and politicians have done to our country. And we should say what we believe is true whether or not our friends like it, because if we don’t say what we believe, then no one will ever know. Everyone will just continue to believe that hate abortion because you voted for Bush or that you hate gays because you ate a chicken wrap at Chik-Fil-A. They won’t understand that you like Chik-Fil-A because they offered you your first job when no one else would. They won’t understand that you lost a baby before it was born and that you can never agree with abortion. They won’t understand that you couldn’t provide health insurance for your child and so you like Obama Care. They won’t understand anything unless you explain it. Shout it from the rooftops if you have to. But just be honest—stop being political. And I will try to stop being so judgmental because I will understand that I asked you to just be honest with me.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I thought I forgot about you...

Life has a weird way of bringing people into your life that you “think” you have forgotten about. The truth is, of course, you never forgot about them, you were just lucky enough not to have to think about them for a while.

Before Robby and I got married, we made the decision that the children and I would leave our long-time home and move in with Robby in Savannah. They would leave the only school they had ever known and make new friends in a new school system.

But our old school system is probably one of the best in the state of Georgia. As a matter of fact, the schools are probably some of the best in the country. It was a tough choice, but as things began to fall into place, I knew it was the right decision.

The children also lucked out because they ended up with an extra 3 weeks of summer break due to the move. But with all the excitement of a move, a wedding, and life, I had failed to withdraw them from their old school yet.

Last week I was driving Jude home from karate class. My cell phone rang and I let it go to voice mail. When I listened to the message, I began to laugh out loud. “What’s so funny Mom?” Jude asked from the backseat of the car.

The message was from one of Veronica’s former teachers—she was calling to inform me that she would be Jude’s teacher this year. I had forgotten about her—or at least I thought I had. But as soon as I heard that name and that raspy voice, I knew exactly who she was. I replied to Jude, “You better thank Robby when you get home.”

Jude was confused until I said, “That was Mrs. H (I will keep her name private). She was going to be your teacher this year if we had not moved.”

Jude was horrified. He remembered that name very well. Mrs. H had tormented Veronica to the point that I almost pulled Veronica out of 3rd grade. And the ironic part was that Mrs. H was a resource teacher who was supposed to be “helping” Veronica raise her grades and catch up before state testing began.

Third grade was a lousy year for Veronica. I was getting divorced and my soon to be ex-husband had just suffered a partial amputation of his leg and was in the hospital in Texas. And to top things off, the cast of “Mean Girls” had apparently set up shop in Veronica’s homeroom. She was a very sad little girl and she hated going to school. She had constant dark circles under her eyes, she rarely smiled, and she never ate.

She was so depressed that her mind began to not work correctly. She couldn’t comprehend short stories she read and she couldn’t even add simple numbers together. I began sending Veronica to family counseling and her homeroom teacher began to send her to Mrs. H’s classroom for extra help.

I went to eat lunch with Veronica at school one day. I gave her money to buy an ice-cream and she had just pulled off the wrapper when she saw another classmate come into the lunchroom to fetch her for Mrs. H. A look of terror swept over Veronica’s face and she stood up and threw her uneaten ice-cream in the trash and said, “I gotta go.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “You still have over 5 minutes of lunch time left.”

She hurried to the door and said, “I have to go or Mrs. H will scream at me.”

I walked Veronica down to Mrs. H’s room and then walked across the hall to Veronica’s homeroom. “Why is Veronica not getting her full lunch?” I asked her teacher.

She looked uncomfortable. “Well, Mrs. H needs all the children in her room at the same time and some children have already had lunch.”

I told her I didn’t care. “Veronica gets her full lunch from now on or I’m going to the principal next time. Got it?”

The teacher looked scared. But I knew she wasn’t scared of me. I began to realize everyone was scared of Mrs. H.

Veronica’s teacher did fix the situation with lunch by sending her to the lunchroom 5 minutes early. I didn’t complain because I got what I asked for and I thought that would be the end of the situation.

Several weeks later, I was trying to help Veronica with her math homework. “Veronica, you got every single one of these problems wrong.” I wasn’t angry, I was worried.

She started crying. “I know. I’m stupid. I can’t do math. Mrs. H says I’m never gonna pass and I’m gonna be stuck in 3rd grade forever.”

I almost broke my front tooth from clenching my jaw so tightly. “She said what?”

Then it all came out. Veronica began to tell me everything from how Mrs. H screams at them to how she yells, “None of you will ever pass anything! You are horrible students!”

I put Veronica’s homework in her backpack and told her, “You don’t have to worry about that woman ever again. I’ll take care of this.”

Veronica cried off and on for the rest of the night. I was so angry with this woman. Here I was trying to do everything I could to restore my daughter’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth and this stranger was tearing down everything I had built up.

I sent a note with Veronica the next morning and told her teacher that under no circumstances was Veronica to go to Mrs. H’s classroom. My phone rang about an hour after school started.

“Hey, is this Veronica’s mom?” said a gravelly voice.

“Is this Mrs. H?” I asked.

“Why, yes it is,” she said with a laugh. “I think we have a misunderstanding.” She was laying on the sweet pretty thick.

“No we don’t,” I said. “Veronica told me everything. I will be at the school at lunch to take care of this, so I suggest you get your story straight before I get there.”

Later that day, I met Mrs. H. She looked the way I expected—she had those crazy bitch eyes that she tried to hide behind her fake smile. She informed me that her method of teaching was very successful and that children do better when they think they are going to fail.

“That’s the biggest bunch of crap I ever heard,” I laughed. I told her that she better treat my little girl like a princess and do something to turn her self-esteem around or I would make sure the school board knows she’s the kind of teacher who picks on disabled children. I pulled every card I had and I didn’t stop until I saw that woman cry. Then I went across the hall and I got Veronica and brought her into the room. I made her apologize to Veronica and explain to her that the state tests have no bearing on her ability to pass 3rd grade. I made her tell her she was wrong to treat her that way.

Veronica looked up at Mrs. H’s teary face and said, “It’s okay. I forgive you.”

Perhaps it was mean, but I wanted her to feel the way she made my child feel. I wanted her to feel stupid. I wanted her to feel like an idiot. I wanted her to feel like everyone was laughing at her. I wanted her to feel something besides entitlement and self-justification.

It worked. She began to treat Veronica the way you are supposed to treat a child. She praised her hard work. If she asked if anyone needed more time to finish a test, and Veronica raised her hand then she would say, “Take as long as you need, honey.”

Veronica’s self-esteem began to blossom again. Her grades went up and she not only passed her state test, but she blew them out of the water. And most importantly, I got my little girl back. I got to see that smile again. I was able to see those beautiful brown eyes again and they weren’t clouded with tears or sadness anymore.

But the name Mrs. H still evokes fear in Veronica. When I told her that Mrs. H would have been Jude’s teacher, she almost cried. She hugged Robby and said, “Thanks for moving us to Savannah.” I guess it was just meant to be.