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?