Monday, September 2, 2013

Thank you for being honest

It’s funny that we feel the need to thank someone for being honest, but I understand why. It’s hard to be honest—with our friends, family, strangers, ourselves. I never really understood the power of truth until I saw how much damage one simple lie can cause.

It’s no secret I’ve had some rough patches in my life. I also think women tend to carry more guilt than men when it comes to life. And I tend to carry more guilt than most women—as least I feel that way sometimes.

I know there are things about my life that some people will never understand. I also know that most people understand more about my life than I give them credit. I never knew how common the problems that caused my divorce were until I started being honest. 

We all have our secrets. Some are bigger than others. Some have the power to destroy not just one life but many lives.

I had the chance to interview former reality show star RubyGettinger last week. She made me realize the important of honesty and how much power just one secret can have on our lives.

If you’re familiar with Ruby’s story, you know that she cannot remember her childhood. That’s the power of a secret. It can make you suppress memories, it can make you hurt yourself, it can make you hurt others.

Some of you know that I’ve been working on a memoir. I’ve been back and forth on it. I decided a few months ago to finish writing the memoir but publishing it as a novel.

Why? Because I worry about my children.  I worry about how they will handle the truth. I worry what the truth will do to others, too. What about my parents? What about other family members? What will people think about me as a person? The guilt and shame I still carry is almost disabling at times.

But then I see how much damage a secret can cause and realize that the truth may be painful for a little bit, but it won’t destroy anybody’s life. It cannot even hurt anyone unless they want to hide behind their secrets forever.

So, to everyone who has always been honest with me, “thank you for being honest.” And I hope you will say the same to me one day, too.

Friday, August 23, 2013

A letter to that hurt child inside most of us

A good friend of mine wrote to me last night and asked if I could help her out. She remembered that I had written a blog about the feelings I had toward my bio dad and his decision to not be a part of my life. She asked if I could send her links to those posts so she could give them to her college-age daughter to read—she’s having similar issues with feeling abandoned by her father and trying to figure out her feelings.

I was surprised when I sat down to write a letter to her daughter how much advice I felt I needed to give her to help her to deal with such a painful part of being a young woman who feels like her own father doesn’t want to be around her. I began to slowly see every male relationship in my own life and realize how much that hurt and abandonment affects those relationships.

It brought up a lot of feelings I didn’t realize I still had. And it really made me look at myself and see how that one painful relationship paved the way for years of self-torture and self-deprecation.  

Combine that with a healthy dose of other bad relationships and it’s no wonder I ended up where I was—rock bottom and hating myself, embarrassed of the person I became.

I realized that feeling “less than” as a young girl, defined every relationship I had or will have. That’s why that John Meyer song “Daughters” is so powerful to me even though I think Mayer is a DB. We all know the power a father has over his daughter, but we don’t always fully appreciate how much damage can be done with an unhealthy father/daughter relationship.

I worry about how my own daughter will navigate the world—how she will deal with the constant “here today” and “gone tomorrow” her own father seems to bring to her life.  I pray the good outweighs the bad and he can turn things around with her and make her realize she’s worthy of love from a man.  

I can only hope that I am providing the healthy mother/daughter relationship that my children need to become “normal” adults with “normal” love lives.  I’m sure I’ve done a few things to screw up my kiddos, but I’m doing the best I can.
See, not all bad fathers produce bad kiddos

Here is a bit of wrote I to my friend’s daughter—maybe it will make you realize something about yourself, too.

Dear Young Lady,
Sorry to hear you have to deal with so much. It’s not an uncommon issue really, but I know you probably feel like most people don’t understand.
I remember when your mom …
I understand why she allowed you to have a relationship with your dad despite his selfish nature. Her brain doesn’t work like your dads and it’s hard to understand how anyone wouldn’t drop everything to be with his kids. I know my brain doesn’t work that way either.
You have to realize that his actions have absolutely nothing to do with you. It’s hard to understand that until you have children of your own. I know you adore your brothers and feel a responsibility to them, but it pales in comparison to how you will feel about your own children.
I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me—why would my bio dad not want to be around me? What could I do to make him realize I was a good kid?
I finally started to figure things out when I was about your age, but it never really clicked until I held my daughter for the first time and I realized there isn’t anything in the world that could keep me away from her—not even for a day. That’s how normal people think. That’s how my brain works. That’s how your mom’s brain works, too.
My advice to you is to define your boundaries so that you don’t allow yourself to get hurt.
…If they wanted to see me or the children, I would gauge the situation and see if it was something that would cause me stress. If it was complicated and required me to jump through hoops or make myself feel stressed or uncomfortable, then I didn’t do it.
And when they just showed up or called and wanted to see me or do something, I learned to say, “Let me think about it.” That gave me time to look at the situation. If they said, “just give me an answer now,” then my answer would always be “no.”
Take time to set up your life and find your routine, then you can decide where your dad fits into your life—you don’t need to fit into his. He is a grown man and your father, and if he really wants to be a dad, he can figure it out. He’s a smart guy. It’s amazing what people are capable of when they really want something.
Just remember, if he really wanted to do what it takes to be a good father, he would already be doing it and you wouldn’t be in this situation.
Always be honest with yourself and don’t worry about hurting his feelings by saying “no” or “I’m busy, maybe we can do something later.” From here on out you have to protect yourself so that you can have healthy relationships with other people in your life.
Your relationship with him is going to affect all of your future relationships, so you need to find a way to give yourself some kind of peace. I highly recommend talking to a counselor or social worker who deals with family counseling.
A counselor can see things you cannot. They also offer great advice and will help you find a way to articulate your feelings and come up with a good plan for how to deal with this part of your life. You are going to have strong days and weak days, and a counselor can help you with that.
You don’t want to end up like me and afraid that everyone is going to leave you and that you are not good enough for anyone—that you are not worthy of true happiness and real love, or that you are unlovable and understand why people can’t love you. You have to understand your feelings are just as important as anyone else’s.
You may not even realize you have these feelings inside you—that’s why I suggest counseling.
Just remember, everyone deserves to be happy. You are worthy of real love. You have to redefine your relationship with people who don’t treat you with respect and real love.
Trust me, your life is full of people who truly love you. Most of the people I am closest with in my life are not blood related to me. I learned to redefine the term “family” and choose my own family based on three things—they have to love me for who I am, I have to love them in a healthy way, and they have to treat me with respect.
Focus on you future and getting yourself to where you want to be in life. It may be that you have to deal with this situation with your father before you can move forward. But once you clear out the bad, you will be able to make room for good. And as long as you carry around the bad, you have no room for good.
And once you start clearing out the bad, you will probably find yourself crying for no reason—that’s good, it means your body if finally letting go of those hurt feelings.
Take care and please feel free to contact me any time you need someone to talk to.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Escalades, Entourages and Me

I got my new insurance card in the mail Saturday. Robby, laughed and said, “Now you’re considered a real person in America.”

I haven’t had health insurance since I split with my ex four years ago. I’ve been lucky and only had a few minor trips to the ER and a few doctor visits during that dry spell. But what Robby said stuck a chord with me because I was treated differently when I didn’t have health insurance.

I couldn’t get a decent doctor to accept me as a patient even though I would offer to pay in advance—no insurance, no appointment. The doctor I did see was nuts, and I decided I was better off just hitting the urgent care office.

I don’t really understand what happened in our country when we felt it was okay to look down on people who can’t afford health insurance. As a matter of fact, I’ve realized this week how some people don’t think they have to treat other people with respect.

For example, I had to go to the T.I. concert in Savannah last week. I was the only media person invited and I was promised backstage interviews with all the talent—rapper T.I., EVE and Ashanti.

The EVE interview went great—she was very sweet and friendly and her handlers weren’t too bad.

Then with the Ashanti interview, I was turned away before the concert because they were running late. Then after the show, I had to wait for about 45 minutes and had to bully my way back into the dressing room. This is standard and I didn’t feel singled out—I just hate feeling like my time is not important.

Then, she wouldn’t turn to face me while I was talking to her—she was busy fixing her hair for photos. I said, “I guess I’ll just start asking questions and you’ll keep fixing your hair?”

Okay, I know I’m just a newspaper reporter, but come on now. Really?

I thought "she's one of those celebrities who refuses to make eye contact." I was relieved when she did finally turn around and look me in the eye while she was talking. I asked my three questions and left-- I realized I was getting tired and ready to go home.

T.I. still hadn’t shown up and I was really getting tired of being backstage. I started looking around and noticed that there are a couple of different groups of people backstage at a concert.

There was the entourage—of course that was the biggest group there since it was a hip-hop/rap concert. These are the people who don’t really have a purpose but find a way to seem important.

There are the people who are so star struck that every little glance at a celebrity makes them jump around and giggle—even grown men.

Then there are those of us who would just like to see the celebrities, ask a few questions, get a photo or two and go home, and if that doesn’t happen, then it’s no big deal.

I know there was definitely a time in my life when I used to look down on people. I didn’t understand that we have little control over our lives and the paths we may be forced to go down. I didn’t know that 
everything could change with the blink of an eye.

I never would have thought there would be a time when I was divorced with no health insurance and getting government assistance for my children’s health insurance. I never would have thought that I would have to start over financially and have to struggle so much. I mean, things like that don’t happen to good people who make good choices, right?

When you’re broke, it’s easy to envy people who have money. Sometimes I think, “If I just had a little more money in the bank, then life would be so much easier.”

I don’t doubt that’s true and I would be happy to try that experiment, but we all know life doesn’t work that way.

I would rather be broke than broken. I would rather be poor than treat people poorly. And I would much rather be right here where I am than back in my old life where I was miserable and not living the life I was meant to live—even though that life had a healthy monthly pay check, retirement fund and health insurance.
I never thought I would be backstage at a rap concert feeling sorry for the biggest star there—yes, I’m talking about T.I. who showed up very late and struggled to get out of his Escalade while everyone stood around staring at him in shock.  

Just because you pull up in a big shiny new Escalade doesn’t mean you have life figured out or that you are living it right. But, I’ll give T.I. and Tiny the benefit of the doubt and say maybe they were just exhausted from the tour.

I may not have much in my bank account, but at least I know I am a good person and I’m trying to live my life right.

But what’s more important, I now know that just because someone doesn’t seem that they are trying to live life right, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t trying. Maybe her downfall is not all her fault?

All I know is that you can keep your Escalades and the entourages. I’ll take my simple life and my little plastic insurance card. Of course, if money does happen to fall out of the sky, that would be okay, too.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

It's time to celebrate

I realized this morning that I hadn’t done something I needed to do. I never stopped this week to celebrate another milestone in my new life—I finally have a full-time job!

I did my typical routine and kept on going, never stopping to let it all sink in. I don’t know why I always do that. I am truly grateful for all I have, but I fail to see the big picture sometimes.

It really is pretty amazing to look back at these past 4 years and see how far I have come. It’s amazing I never stopped moving forward and I didn’t give up even though I wanted to give up many, many times.

I went from trying to fix a troubled marriage to realizing the marriage was over to trying to find a way to take care of my children and finding a way to live the kind of life I knew we deserved.

But stepping back and looking at the big picture makes me realize that nothing happens overnight. I didn’t get into that mess overnight and I couldn’t fix it overnight. Those really bad days seemed endless and there were times when I had no idea how I would make things work.

The hardest thing for me to learn along the way is that I can’t control everything. I can’t know all the answers or know how things are going to work out. I find myself in bed at 4 a.m. in a panic—wondering how I am going to take care of everything.

One thing has been constant in all this madness these past years—everything always works out the way it is supposed to work out. In the end, I really have little control, and most times things work out better when I just have faith and step back.

About 4 years ago, I had to battle with my daughter’s school over a nurse who authorized a physical therapy evaluation in the foyer of the school without my permission—as a matter of fact, I had specifically told her not to do the evaluation. She thought she was smarter than me and did it anyway.

I scheduled a meeting with the principal to file a formal complaint against the school district. After days of planning what I would say at the meeting, I arrived at the school and realized I had left all my paperwork at home. All my notes were gone. All the planning and the script writing and the phone numbers with dates and times—everything was gone.

I started to panic and I thought I was going to lose my shit in the parking lot. My husband was leaving me to go back to Iraq and we were most likely going to divorce. My children were dependent on me to take care of them. I was broke. I had no nearby support. I was lonely. My life felt like it was falling apart and now I had forgotten my papers at home—it felt like the final straw for me mentally and physically.

For some reason, I caught my breath and closed my eyes and began to pray. I said, “God, please help me find the right words to say today. God, thank you for giving me a brain that works so that I can take care of my children. God, please take hold of me today and let the words that come out of my mouth be the right words to help my child. God, please help me.”

I calmed down and walked into the meeting. Everyone from the entire school district that had any interest in the case had already shown up and were waiting for me in a closed room.

I sat down and began to speak. The words never registered in my brain and for some reason they all came out perfectly. I said everything I wanted to say and more. I stood up for myself and my child. I had confidence and the more I spoke, the more I became sure of myself.

The meeting was a success for me and left the nurse and her counterparts in tears and apologetic.  
I realized that day that I don’t have control over most things in my life. I cannot control what others do around me. I cannot make things happen the way I want them to or when I need them to happen. I need to let others help and trust in a higher power.

I don’t know why it took so long for me to find this job—it’s actually the only job I didn’t apply for, it was offered to me.

I don’t know why I had to go to hell and back to find this life I have now. I don’t know why I have to keep 
learning the same lessons.

But I do know that I need to stop and smell the roses. I need to take in the victories and the blessings. I need to stop and take a deep breath and be thankful for what I do have whether it’s a brain that works (someone may question that fact) or hands that work so that I can write or having someone tell me “don’t worry, things will work out.”

So, today is going to be a day about celebrating the good and taking the focus off the negative. The negative will always be lurking. I choose not to acknowledge it today. If I’m smart, I will choose to ignore if more often and have faith that things seem to always work out so long as I don’t give up.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Laughter is the best medicine

I had actually written another blog yesterday about how it feels so weird to know I’ve been graduated from high school for 20 years. It was filled with sweet heartfelt stories about my former classmates and how we had this really great connection because they all knew the real me and where I came from…

I need to finish that one up because it had some good stuff in it, but I just don’t feel like I have the energy today to bring up serious emotions or reflect on the happy times of my youth.

Today was one of those days where life is almost so exhausting that I have to really push myself to take care of business. I took the day off work so my daughter could go ride horses—that was a high point of the day. I love to see my children truly happy and she is happiest when she is on a horse out in the county.

Then on the way home, reality began to sink in as I remembered why I took off the rest of the day—to take care of business.

I knew I had to call my attorney (again) and try to get a grip on a recent issue that has dinged my credit. After over an hour of phone calls, I realized it was going to be harder than I thought and this is going to take me weeks to file all the paperwork and make phone calls and once again fight to be treated with respect and dignity. *

The exhaustion that stress brings on began to settle on my body—I felt tired and my face felt old and wrinkled from scrunching up my face. I wanted to just go to bed and forget about everything I had to do to get this stuff resolved.

I also had to make more phone calls to push off my student loans a little longer and re-file paperwork so my children don’t lose their health insurance. I have more bills to pay and I don’t want to even start going through the stack of mail that continues to grow on the coffee table.

Then I started to think about how happy it made me yesterday to think about the funny stories I shared with my former classmates back in Dublin, Texas. Those memories make me laugh every time.

I think about all the crazy parties I used to throw when my parents would go out of town—which happened a lot. We floated kegs, invented some awesome drinking games, and laughed a lot—we actually laughed all the time.

One of the things that I love so much about Robby is that we laugh a lot. I forgot how much I missed 
laughing until I met him. We laughed so much on our second date that I wanted to just stay in the car and keeping driving around talking for a few more days.

I love to laugh like that. When I laugh like that, I forget about how crappy my day was or how tired I am from stress. I forget that there is unfinished business looming or that I don’t have any money.

I grew up very poor. Most of the people I went to school with in Dublin were also very poor. I don’t think any of us realized how poor we were—we didn’t care. It didn’t matter if you were poor and lived in Dublin because it was expected that you had to be poor or else you wouldn’t live there.  

It’s easy to not focus on the negative parts of life when you are surrounded by people who make you laugh—people who understand you and accept you just the way you are.

I was fortunate to have that experience in school—most people I know hated their classmates and vow to never go back to their hometown ever again. I used to hate Dublin and I hated going back there until a few years ago.

I finally realized that I couldn’t pretend to be someone else when I went back home—everyone knew where I came from and that I wasn’t any better than any of them. I couldn’t pretend that I was from somewhere else.

I wish I had the money to go back home and see my old friends for our class reunion. I’m sure we would laugh a lot. I’m sure I would forget about all the bad stuff for a few days and catch my breath. I would love for them to meet Robby and see my children.

I’m glad I have those memories. I’m glad I still have those friends. I’m glad I have new friends that make me laugh. I’m glad I can still laugh after everything I have been through these past years.

I guess I’ll know things are really bad if there ever comes a day when I cannot laugh. But for now, I’m going to wrap this up and wait for my husband to get home so I can tell him a funny story I’ve been saving up all day.

I’m sure he’ll have another one for me and we’ll laugh for a while and I’ll forget about the bad stuff and find the energy to keep moving forward and living my life the way I was meant to live.

*When you get a divorce, have a credit company run through your credit history and make sure you don’t have any joint accounts with your ex—there may be an old credit card on file that you haven’t used since 2001 and you forgot about. I called all the banks and asked them to check on my old joint accounts, but one of them told me the wrong information and now I’m totally screwed with an unpaid credit card bill that I had nothing to do with. A credit check would have solved that issue instantly. Don’t let yourself be too exhausted to take care of this before you sign your divorce papers.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Come on, get happy

It’s been one of those weeks and it’s only Tuesday. I haven’t felt this drained in a very long time.

I’m exhausted by life. I don’t understand why some people have the right to affect so many people? But more importantly, I don’t understand why anyone should have to live with so much stress.

I want to honestly pour out my heart and tell every tidbit of what is going on with me right now, but I can’t. I can’t tell anyone about what it is like to have to deal with insanity on an almost daily basis.

The backlash of what I write is not worth the struggle. I don’t have the energy to fight any more and I have had to resolve myself to just sit back and wait this out…again.

I’m torn. Part of me hopes this new “partnership” is the beginning of something positive. Maybe things will be different this time. I always believe people can change and I also firmly believe everyone deserves the chance to change for the better.

Then there is the bigger part of me that believes this is just another phase in the long line of “second/third/fourth chances.” These chances seem to come and go and I feel as though I have no control over them.

Control is the key word here. I strive to have control in my life. The other day while I was putting together my son’s birthday party, my husband pointed out to me that I like to control everything.

He thought he was pointing out something new to me, but he wasn’t. I don’t deny my need to control everything. I also don’t make excuses for it. I’m not ashamed of it and I don’t try to hide it.

Yes, it’s true. I like to control everything.

I know it is very unhealthy and I have really tried to change. I look at where I am today and I know it is starting to really wear on me…again.

I feel like I’m doing better, but at the end of the day, I can feel the exhaustion set in and I realize that my need to control everything is wearing me down.

But how I am supposed to turn a blind eye to what could possibly turn into a dangerous situation? What did I ever do to deserve to be treated this way?

How hard is it to treat me like a “person?”… A person who would move heaven and Earth to make sure my children are happy, healthy, and safe.

You can write what you want about me. You can try to convince everyone that I am crazy. You can continue to constantly point out how I am dangerous and “out of control.”

Sure, I’m sure you have a handful of people who believe you. I’m sure there are people who would stand by you and condemn me.

It’s okay. I realize I have no control over that. I don’t want to control that. I want you to move forward and have a better life. I want you to do the things you say you are going to do. And if you feel that making me look bad is the only way to do that, then go ahead.

I honestly do want you to be happy. I truly do. You don’t have to believe that, but if you would, things would be better between us.

Everyone deserves to be happy. Everyone deserves to experience a happy life.
You’re not happy because you choose not to be. I can only imagine why. I have a pretty good idea though…

My control issues have gotten me into this mess. I know I tried to control the wrong people to make them happy. I wanted them to be happy because I thought it would make me happy. The funny thing is, I was never more miserable.

Well, look at me now. Am I happy?

Yes, I am. I’m happy because I know I cannot control anyone else’s feelings. I can only control my own.

I choose happiness. I wish you would, too.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

(another) New Chapter

I’m so glad I decided to go through with my graduation ceremony Saturday. It was great to see some of my old classmates and catch up on where everyone is heading and what’s going on with others in our little group.

Even though there were 1,700 former students in the graduation ceremony yesterday, only four of those were WRITers (that’s what we called ourselves in the writing dept.) I was one of those four and two others didn’t participate in the ceremony.

I was a little embarrassed to go back and face them and admit how hard it has been to find a job. One of my friends said, “I heard you are an editor now at the newspaper—that’s so awesome.”

I had to inform her that it was only temporary and they had just hired someone permanently for the job—and guess what—it wasn’t me.

Everyone’s faces got serious. We are all in the same boat—big, expensive degrees with no full-time, permanent writing jobs.

I’m not sure why, but it seems that I tend to get to be the guinea pig of life for my friends. I was able to catch them up on the freelance community in Savannah and point them in the right direction for part-time work.

With the bad news behind us, we got to move on to the good stuff in our lives. We made it through graduate school.

I thought I was the only one who struggled. We compared notes on the number of times we got into bed and cried and wanted to quit. We laughed about papers we hated to write and how that weird guy with the bushy hair who looks like he’s always wearing pajamas keeps his job as an Art History professor.
I even got a little award...not too shabby

And when the ceremony started and the music played, we leaned in close to each other and teared up. For the first time in a long time, I felt really proud of myself.

I felt like I finally achieved something really great…actually I know I achieved something really great. I started something and I followed through with it. That’s not very easy to do these days.

It’s funny because with each new task and struggle, I realize how much I learned from my mother. Nothing was ever good enough for her—and I don’t mean that in a bad way.
She is always satisfied with the simple things in life, but she is always looking for a way to make a little more money or to turn an old piece of furniture into something really special.

When we were kids, she would make popcorn every Friday night and we would watch television. It was never simple popcorn—she would go around her humble kitchen and put together a mixture of whatever she thought would taste good. And it always did taste good—it was also a taste that could never be replicated by someone else.

When I got married the first time around, Mom wore a red, Asian-themed dress to my wedding. We lovingly called it her “Chinese hooker dress.” While my grandmother didn’t approve, I loved it. Everyone who knows me well, knows my favorite color is red and I was happy Mom honored that.

After a few years, she recycled the hooker dress into a chair cover for an old padded rocker she found at the flea market. It made for a beautiful chair and a keepsake for a special day.

I know there is something really amazing about the ability to take the old and unwanted and turn it into something beautiful and unique—something no one else can fully replicate.

Life gave me a crappy divorce and left me at rock bottom with two children to care for and no job or healthcare. Somehow I have managed to turn that unwanted, ugly thing into something beautiful and unique—something no one else can ever replicate.

It doesn’t mean that my degree is better than everyone else’s because I feel I had to sacrifice so much to get to that graduation—there is no telling what other stories filled that giant civic center.

But, somehow I made it look easy. I found a way to make it work, and I found a way to make it my own.
I’m glad my mother taught me to be humble and to live simply. She taught me to find happiness in myself and my family. She taught me to take charge of my life and make things better even when the bank account is on empty and no one else knows how to help.

She also taught me to take a moment and enjoy what I made--and I plan to.

I have this renewed since of pride that I should have had when I finished classes in November. I realize now how important this degree is and how hard I worked for it.

I’m not desperate to find “just any” job now. To be honest, I decided to turn down any future job offers that aren’t worth of my talents and education because at the end of the day, I know I am worth more than an hourly wage desk job.

And, if no one wants to hire me, then that’s okay. I will just take another page from my mother’s untitled book and open my own business and create my own job—a job that no one else can ever replicate. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Graduation is coming

My graduation is coming up—Saturday to be exact. The entire idea of going through with the formal ceremony seems a little weird to me, but I’m going to force myself to follow through and try to enjoy it.

First of all, I don’t like people making a big deal over me. My sister and my niece are coming to town for the event and Robby and the children are very excited. My mom made me promise to take lots of photos and my last-living grandmother sent me a card and money and told me how proud she is of me.

Yesterday, I picked up my tickets for the event and I picked up my cap and gown. Needless to say, I was the oldest person standing in line. I was also the only person not wearing spandex and flip flops.
I felt silly. I felt out of place. I could hear that inner voice inside me saying, “You’re too old for this.”

But, I reminded myself that I needed to go through with this. I needed to come full circle with this journey I started back in September of 2010.

When I decided to go back to school in 2010, I didn’t apply for graduate school. I didn’t think I could even get in, so I decided to play it safe and take some undergrad classes and get back into the flow.

I quickly realized it was a mistake and switched to the graduate program the next quarter.

I almost quit twice. When I turned in my thesis in November and found out I was finished with my degree, I went to my car and cried.

Goodbye, SCAD
But I didn’t have long to celebrate—I had to find a job.

I’m still trying to find a permanent job but somehow I have made it financially and I have been able to establish myself as a professional in Savannah.

So, why is the graduation important? I guess a lot of people would say it’s because I accomplished something really great and I did something a lot of other people don’t have the courage to do.

But that’s not my reason. I want my children to see that all this hard work had a greater purpose. I want them to understand that hard work pays off in the future.

Children can’t see behind the next five minutes. My children hated the idea of me going to school and going to work. They wanted things to stay the same and for me to stay home with them.

I had to convince them that everything would be okay and I would still be around—and I was.

They were never late for school. They never missed an activity. I still ate lunch at school with them and volunteered in their classrooms. I stayed home with them when they were sick and made sure they always had their lunch and snack for school.  I hosted slumber parties and Girl Scout meetings. I sat through endless karate classes and play dates.

I hired the best sitters for the days I couldn't be at home after school or on weekends and they loved the time away from me--safely protected in their own home.

I still did everything that they were used to but I also went to school full-time.

I did mess up one time—I forgot to pack Jude’s snack for school one day. But that was it--the big mistake during those two years. I guess that’s not too bad...

I honestly don’t know how I managed to do it all. I didn’t put much thought into it. It’s just who I am.

I realize now that I was always as strong as I am now. How else could I have done all of that stuff?

Sure, I don’t need to wear a black gown and shake a bunch of hands to know I graduated. But my children need to see me—they need to see me in a different light. They need to see that moms are more than just homemakers and caretakers and free rides to the movies.

They need to see that moms are people who have dreams. Moms are people who still want to travel and stay in a hotel and order room service. Moms are people who have sexual fantasies and enjoy playing videos games in their pajamas every once in a while.  Some moms like to watch gross horror movies and get tattoos. And some moms like to go to Las Vegas every once in a while and drink one of those sweet drinks in the tall glasses with super-long straws. And moms want to be respected and feel like they have accomplished something great in life.

I think so many of us grow-up and only see our moms as “moms.” This is my chance to show my children that I am so much more and that they can be more, too—they just have to understand that if you live your life with good intentions and a good heart, you don’t have to sacrifice your family or your happiness.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Things are (not) going to be different this time...

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy, but I’ve also been indifferent about writing. Luckily, the wind is back in my sails and I’m ready to begin the next chapter.

A lot of really great things have happened in my life. I celebrated my first wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe there was ever a time when Robby wasn’t in my life.

I got to see my sister-in-laws get married. I love Mary and Christine. They remind me so much of my sister. 

To know I have two more sisters that I love to be around is such a huge blessing to me because the relationship I have with my sister is one of the most important relationships in my life. It’s also a blessing to be a wedding where people aren’t taking bets on how long the marriage will last—it’s clear these two are meant to be together.
Hard to believe it's been a year.

Work is going well and I get to finally celebrate my graduation from SCAD this weekend. Summer is here and life seems to be looking up once again.

The only issue I have is the same one that seems to plague me every time I think things are going to be okay, but I got it handled this time and I know I am going to be okay.

I had to go to court ordered mediation over a week ago. It wasn’t painful or upsetting this time. It was just the same old frustrating song.

What it really boiled down to is this idea that I am a bad person who is selfish and out to destroy someone’s life. It’s hard not to laugh at the idea, but I guess when you believe the world is against you, anything is possible.

After everything I have been through, the end result is always the same. But everyone else is so convinced that it will be different this time…

I walked away from mediation with the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders. I decided to start with a clean slate. I’m done with the fighting and the silly back and forth. Yes, I know, I’ve said it before but things are going to be different this time…

Well, the difference lasted for about two days and it was obvious we were back where we started. Nothing has changed and I have no confidence that things will be different this time.

Perhaps that idea should bother me, but it doesn’t. As a matter of fact, the realization that things will never change is the only thing that gets me through the day. It’s the comfort I cling to before I got to bed at night.

Expecting people to change is what bothers me the most. It never ceases to let me down and it never gets any easier.

I don’t expect anything different to happen this time around. I don’t expect people to be nice to me or to appreciate anything I do for my children.

I don’t expect a simple wave and smile when we see each other. 

I don’t expect anyone to quit bad mouthing me or for to stop this recent attack on my mental status. I don’t expect you to ever quit hating me or being mad at me. I don’t expect this power struggle to ever end or for anyone to make nice.

I don’t expect these things nor do I have any control over them. I only have control over myself.
I’ve kept my promises and done exactly what I was asked to do and what I said I would do. I have nothing to feel bad about. I’m not ashamed of anything I have done and I do not have to look over my shoulder every five minutes to see if my secrets are going to be put on display for the world.

It must be hell to live that way. I cannot imagine.

But I do have control of myself. I really meant what I said about clean slate. I’m not going to argue the past any longer. I don’t have to. I don’t get anything good out of it.

I have a new life and it’s pretty damn good. I have a clean conscious and I can hold my head high when I go out into the world.

I may be broke and I may be struggling professionally, but I am a good person. I have real love with real 
people. I am surrounded by good and I am happy. I am proud of myself. I have no shame.
So, be mad at me if you want. If that is what makes you feel good, then do it.

One thing I noticed at Mary and Christine’s wedding is that when you surround yourself with people who really love you and accept you for who you truly are you become safe. No one can really hurt you anymore. 
No one can make you doubt yourself and no one can make you hate yourself again.

And if they try, then God help them.

So, keep trying to make me doubt myself. It doesn’t work anymore. But when you are ready to get along, I will be here waiting. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013


Besides my family, friends, and my dogs, I have a couple of big loves.

·       Chips and salsa (probably go through 2 family size bags and a full jar each week)
·       Coffee
·       Foo Fighters
·       Red wine
·       Lunch at the beach
·       David Sedaris
·       Making Robby smile
·       Hearing my children laugh
·       Finishing a story two days before deadline
·       Packing for vacation
·       Laughing out loud
·       Really good sleep…

Okay, maybe the list is longer than I thought, but the point is, there are some things in my life that I know will always bring me joy. Days like today remind me I have to regroup and tap into those things that make me happy and remind myself how far I have come in the past three years.

Another thing that makes me feel happy is turning up the volume on my Dave Grohl playlist on Pandora and running on the treadmill until I feel like I can’t take another breath.

Sure Dave Grohl is a handsome guy in that grunge rocker sort of way that I usually find very sexy, but I’m not in love with him in that way. I’ve already got my big daddy.

For some reason, most of the lyrics to his songs seem to strike a chord with me during one of those runs where I’m desperately trying to find that calm place on the treadmill between reality and insanity. Today was one of those days.

Grohl directed a movie called “Sound City” where he teamed up with other legendary rockers and recorded new music at this old recording studio…the story is more complicated than that but it doesn’t have anything to do with this story.

As I ran today, I listened to one of my favorite songs on the soundtrack, “Mantra.”  Two different mantras are repeated throughout the song—“I will find a way to keep this moment for myself” and “and all of this will never be the same again.”

It’s no big secret; I have had some major financial woes lately. The fact that I have to go back to court again doesn’t help. I’m slowly building back up but I feel like I soon as I start to get on the right track, I get hit with something else like pending school loans, mechanic bills, summer camp dues…

Last night I kept having nightmares that I had all these other debts I had forgotten about and they were piling up and I was living my old life where I was broke and  alone and someone was only making it worse. I woke up even more exhausted than I went to bed. 

So, it was decided a trip to the treadmill was long overdue. As I ran and listened to the lyrics of “Mantra” I realized that I have all these really special moments in my life and I have the visual images of them locked in my brain that no one can take away from me. These are the moments that can’t be hauled away in repossession or taken away in court.

My life is different now. I don’t have the same demons chasing me that I used to have. I don’t have someone hanging around my neck like a dead weight any more. I don’t have to let things go the way they used to go. I'm not having to figure things out on my own anymore.

Every day, I get to wake up with most important people in my life. I get to see their faces and hug them. I get to laugh with them and hear their voices. These are moments I get to keep for myself. They don’t belong to anyone else but me and I don’t owe anyone money for them.

So, over the next few weeks as I’m forced to face my past again—the past I try so hard to put in the past—I will remember these priceless images and moments. I will find a way to keep this moment for myself… I don’t have to share them with you and you will never get to experience what I have.

And what happens after this battle is over? It doesn’t matter, because my life will never be like it used to be. I am happy and healed. I know my life is different now. I am different. That person who used to have so much effect over me doesn’t matter anymore. And all of this will never be the same again. I am a different person and I’m not scared of you anymore. I don’t need money to make my stand. I will never go away. I am not alone.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Back in the Saddle

I started a new job last week and another new job yesterday. It’s funny to see that I am back in the newspaper world again. I thought I would never go back.

I minored in journalism as an undergrad and I worked at our school newspaper. I loved the rush of going out to get a story and the panic of trying to pump out the right words before deadline.

After college, I worked as a copy editor and reporter while we lived in Fairbanks, Alaska. We moved to another state in 1999. I was pregnant with Veronica, so I left the newspaper biz and never looked back.

Reporting and copy editing can be very stressful. Sitting at a desk and scrolling through story after story about murder, deadly accidents, natural disasters and contagious diseases can wear you down after a while.

By the time I quit the paper, I was done with that lifestyle and ready to move on to something else. When I went back to school a few years ago, I purposely stayed away from the newspaper world. I thought my future would be better served in public relations or magazine writing.

What I discovered was that I enjoy reporting and that I don’t have to get bogged down in the serious side of news to work in news. When I was in my 20s, I felt smug around the older ladies at the paper who focused on feature writing and entertainment stories, but now I am one of those older ladies.

Perhaps it’s because I have children now or maybe I’m just too tired to be bothered with hard news? It doesn’t really matter because in the end, I came back to what I was meant to do.

The universe is complicated. I don’t try to understand it any more. The more I try to fight destiny, the harder life becomes. I am old enough to know this fact, but yet I keep forgetting.

I’m glad I was drawn back to a life that makes me feel comfortable with who I am and what I am. I still panic when I am up against a deadline, but I don’t feel emotionally washed out when I turn off my computer for the day.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again—life is weird. Just when you think you have it figured out it turns around and proves you wrong.

I’ve given up trying to figure out what I was meant to be. I choose to just try to find a way to be happy with what I am given and to try to get better as time moves along.

Who knows what next month will be like or what next year will bring? I am almost afraid to ask the question out loud, but I know it doesn’t matter. Whatever is meant to happen will happen and I need to just enjoy the ride and stop fighting the universe.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Grateful for Life

The explosions at the Boston Marathon yesterday reminded me that life can change in an instant. An eight year old boy was among the three killed. Being the mom of an eight year old boy, this tragedy really struck me hard.

It’s hard for me to not put myself in the position of that child’s mother. I can’t even imagine how I would feel if I lost my child.

I never will understand fully why such horrible things have to happen in this world. Why do we have to have deadly school shootings? Why do children suffer from painful cancer treatments only to succumb to the deadly disease and pass on?

I get so caught up in daily stresses and uncomfortable moments that I forget how important it is to be truly grateful for every day I have with my children, my husband, my friends, my loved ones…

It’s hard to be grateful every day. I hate the fact that a deadly explosion has to remind me to look my children in the eye and tell them how much I truly love them before they leave for school in the morning.

But the reality is I lose focus on the big picture. As hard as I try to be reflective and aware of the world around me, I find myself focused on aspects of my life that are very trivial compared to the big picture of life and death.

While I know I cannot protect my children from everything, I can change my perspective and be grateful for every second I have them in this world with me.

My Dad always says, “You’re either working on your problems or your problems are working on you.” I desperately need to change my perspective. The problems I have are working on me and making me lose sight of the big picture.

It’s sad it takes death to remind me the stresses and problems I have are temporary. Life is temporary. I need to live it right.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

We are Damaged but It's Okay

During my hiatus from the blog, I experienced one of the coolest moments in my professional life and one of the most life changing moments in my personal life and now I get the chance to share it with you all.

Over the past year, I’ve had the honor to do quite a bit of freelance work with Savannah Magazine. They have been very good to me as a writer. With the help of one of the editors, Amy, I decided to pitch a story about The Lady Chablis.

If you don’t know who she is, let me explain. She is a real-life character from John Berendt’s book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” She plays herself in Clint Eastwood’s movie version of the book and she headlines at the infamous Club One here in Savannah.

I’ve been fascinated by her since I read the book and watched the movie when I moved here over 10 years ago. I remember seeing her face plastered on the brick wall on Jefferson Street near the entrance of Club One and I thought, “Holy moly, she’s real.”

Robby’s former-roommate and dear friend Dan was kind enough to get the Grand Empress’s email address for me. I emailed her about the story idea and never heard back. My editor told me to try again. The whole idea began to seem silly to me. Why in the world would someone like The Lady Chablis want to talk to me?

I emailed again and got a response and her cell number. My stomach did a flip flop and I thought, “I guess I’m gonna pick up my phone and call Lady Chablis now.” More stomach rumblings followed.

I sat at my table for hours writing down questions and avoiding the inevitable dialing of the phone. I finally called her and got her voicemail. The pre-recorded voice told me that the mailbox was full and I couldn’t leave a message for “Superbad!” I froze when I heard her voice yell, “Superbad!”

After more emails and missed calls, I finally spoke to her. All I could say was “I’m sorry to bother you…”
She told me to meet her at Club One for a performance and we would chat there. I had no idea what I would ask and more importantly I no idea what to wear.

I knew she was a diva and that I might only get a few minutes alone with her. I narrowed down my questions to a few, but looking back I can see how stupid those questions would sound to her—what’s your favorite kind of makeup? Yeah, I wrote that down….

I had no idea who she was and it never occurred to me that she was anyone besides the loud-mouthed diva I had heard so much about. I never saw her as a person—only a celebrity who was too good for me.
Me hanging out backstage.
Photo taken by Beau Kester.

The owners of Club One were excited for me to visit. I had to admit to them that I had never been to the club before. Tickets to shows are out of my price range and hanging out in a gay bar was too overwhelming for me—I knew I had nothing to wear. Still not sure why I thought gay men cared so much about what I wore?

I met the photographer at the club and we walked around to check everything out. We were told we would do the interview in the dressing room. I was excited. I imagined a glamorous den full of movie posters signed by John Cusack and big mirrors surrounded by glamour and glitz and lots of champagne. Perhaps cool swag to take home? Yes, please.

The owner let me kill time backstage with the ladies from the cabaret show (notice I don’t use air quotes for ladies.) I got to watch them go from regular guys to flawless-skinned beauties. Gorgeous doesn’t begin to describe these performers.

I walked around the dressing room looking at the dresses and the wigs and I noticed the rack of sparkling stilettos. I asked how they found heels in their size.

“You can find anything you need on the internet, honey,” they said in unison.

Everyone laughed and took a sip of their drinks.

“Where are you from,” someone asked me.

“I’m originally from Texas,” I answered. “But I moved here with my ex-husband about 10 years ago.”
Their faces got sad and someone asked, “Was he military?”

I nod my head.

“Honey, my ex-husband was in the military, too,” she said. “He cheated on me and left me all alone.”
Hanging backstage after the interview

The surreal nature of the moment struck me hard. Here I was talking to a group of drag queens/gay men/beautiful ladies/trannys/whatever and we were bonding over shared experiences.

I realized that my story was not special. My pain was not special. Lots of people share my story—even people that don’t look anything like me.

We continued to talk about everything from divorce, how to find sexy stripper shoes, and cooking up chitlins.

I began to relax a little but my suit was too hot for backstage. I chose to look professional with the one pant suit I own, but I tried to sex it up a little with a low-cut navy tank. I couldn’t take notes and carry my jacket at the same time, so I opted to sweat it out.

I went to the meet and greet at the bar to wait for Lady Chablis’ arrival. Sonny Seiler, also a real-life character from the book, arrived in his trademark black suit and red shirt (Georgia colors). My stomach rumbled and I realized I’m not good around celebrities.

The owner offered me a drink again, and I finally took him up on his offer. Lady Chablis walked in and grabbed her fresh vodka cranberry off the bar. I ordered the same thing and guzzled it down as I struggled to find the courage to approach her.

My suit had become a sauna and I could feel a steady stream of sweat dripping down my back and rolling through the waistband of my slacks. The champagne fountain was calling my name but I had to focus.

I approached Lady Chablis and introduced myself as her stalker. Her stern look faded and she laughed out loud. “You have been stalking me, haven’t you?”

She began to explain to me that I couldn’t come to her dressing room. She wanted to meet for lunch. I envisioned us sipping vodka cranberries and chatting at her hotel.

Reality set in and I realized that the chances of getting to interview her were slim at this point. Maybe that would be my story—the interview that never was…

I started to walk off and she grabbed my arm and whispered, “Please don’t leave me. I don’t want to talk to all these people.” I noticed the line of people waiting to talk to her and then I looked at her eyes.

I realized I knew nothing about this person. It had never dawned on me that she was a real person with real feelings. Perhaps she had insecurities like me? Maybe she hated the outfit she picked for the night, too? Doubtful. She looked amazing.

All I knew was that she and I had a connection and I had to figure out what it was.

The next part of the story is here.

After the story was published on March 1st, I sat and waited to hear something from The Lady Chablis. I felt a true connection to her and I worried I made it up in my head.

I thought the publication of this piece would be the turning point for my writing career in Savannah, but it wasn’t. My phone never rang and no new jobs came my way. I felt like a loser. I had no job. No money.
And no one wanted to hire me.

Then out of the blue, I got an email from Lady Chablis. She loved the piece. She wrote that I saw the “real” her.

It was the validation I needed. I realized I hadn’t made up the whole story in my head.

I could see the “real” her because she and I are the same on so many levels.

Meeting again for hugs at Club One
We are both so full of love and we desperately want to share our love with people, but we tend to keep it to ourselves. Most people never get close to us or get to know the “real” us because we are afraid they will reject us—and we both know rejection hurts so badly.

But for some reason, when we are together, something clicks. I can tell her I love her and she says it back and it’s not weird or forced or watered-down. It’s real.

She’s real. I’m real. She’s damaged. I’m damaged. She says, “Two tears in a bucket, mother fuck it.” And I say, “Amen, sister.”

I confessed to Lady Chablis that I was scared to talk to her at first.

She looked at me and said, “I knew from the moment I heard your voice on the phone and you said you were so sorry to bother me that you didn’t believe in yourself.”

I shook my head and felt embarrassed.

“Keep your head high, baby,” she said. “Don’t let nothing stand in your way.”

Maybe most of us are damaged. Maybe somebody did something so horrible to us that we may never feel good enough again. Maybe? Who cares? It’s time to let it all go. Everyone has a story. The trick is to make yourself believe you have conquered your story.

I have to remind myself that I will conquer my story and leave it far behind. I have to keep moving forward and I have to quit listening to that voice in my head that tells me I'm stupid.

My head will be held high and I will walk this catwalk of life like I’m a diva in a sequin dress in four inch stiletto heels and a vodka and cranberry in my hand.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Getting off the roller coaster

It’s hard to think back that far, but there was actually a time in my life when I wanted to get pregnant. I wanted to be a mommy so badly.

We tried for several years, but I finally gave up and decided to focus on my career as a writer. My ex-husband was busy with his blossoming career, and it just made sense to put my energy into something else.

Trying to get pregnant is exhausting to your marriage and your state of mind. But people always tell you, “as soon as you stop trying, you will get pregnant.”

Yes, it’s true. As soon as I stopped worrying about getting pregnant, I found out I was carrying my daughter. It was such a relief to know that I was able to get pregnant, but the emotional roller coaster I had to go through to get to that point was hell.

I feel like that now as I look for a job. I finally reached a point last week where I decided to quit looking at want ads and LinkedIn and all those job sites. I decided to find my own job and make it what I want it to be.

I sat down and started emailing friends and professionals in town. I did the “just checking in” thing and then went straight for the “I have no job so if you need anyone or you know of anyone, please let me know.”

It was humiliating to admit that no one wanted to hire me, but as an adult you have to put your pride aside and take care of your family.

I sat and cried by myself in my kitchen when I was finished. But I got myself together and decided to never look back. The path I was on wasn’t working. I was once again stuck on an emotional roller coaster, and I needed to change my focus.

Things have slowly started clicking along and now I have several people in line to hire me for my writing services. I still have two more meetings in place to pick up new work. I pray this is the right path and that it leads to those bigger and better things everyone keeps telling me about.

I am the daughter of two parents who have somehow made a living under the title “self-employed.” I know that I can do this if I just put my mind to it and hustle like a maniac.

It’s either that or give up, and quitting is just not an option I can live with. I know I will learn something from this experience, and I know that one day I may even look back and laugh at this time of my life.

But right now it sucks. I feel like a failure. But if total humiliation is what it takes to get me to where I need to be in life, then I am okay with that.

One thing I do know is that nothing in life that is worth a damn comes easily. I also remind myself that the last time I took a break from the roller coaster I ended up with a beautiful baby girl. Who knows what I will get this time?